The Red Cross: A Question of Competence
The Christian Right
Mrs. Dole has been widely praised for her decision to volunteer her services for her first year as president of the Red Cross and to work for $200,000 a year after that. She agreed to this arrangement after the charity gave her permission to continue her lucrative speaking career, according to a former board member. But in 1992, when William Aramony, then president of the United Way of America, was forced to resign under allegations of mismanagement and financial corruption, Dole decided to give up her speaking fees as well. Although no one had suggested that Elizabeth Dole, who comes from a wealthy North Carolina family, had used her position for financial gain, she didn't want to take the chance of embarrassing her husband's campaign with such an allegation. So, following the Aramony scandal, when the press began to make inquiries about other charity executives, she pledged to donate most of her speaking fees to a Red Cross program for needy youth--after deductions for taxes, expenses and a contribution to her personal retirement fund. This was not an insignificant offer. Between 1991 and 1995, she earned almost a million dollars in speaking fees and donated about half that amount to a Red Cross youth-at-risk fund set up in her mother's name in her hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina. Dole placed another $292,950 in her individual retirement account, records show. (When the Los Angeles Times suggested that she had kept more than she donated, a Dole spokesperson came forward and said that her tax preparer had, in fact, overestimated her taxes on the speeches. After several other news stories reported the discrepancy, Mrs. Dole sent a check to the Red Cross for $74,635 in February, and has since switched accounting firms, according to her attorney, Bob Davis.)
Accounting problems aside, her nonpartisan speeches on behalf of the Red Cross were calculated to have maximum political impact. Of her dozens of speeches annually, many are before Christian right organizations or dovetail with Bob Dole's political trips. When the Senator spoke at an Archer-Daniels-Midland board of directors meeting in Fort Lauderdale in 1993, Dole rendezvoused with his traveling wife, and Dwayne Andreas's company picked up the tab for flying both of them back to Washington, according to Dole's disclosure forms.
For years Elizabeth Dole had traveled the country speaking to Christian right groups about her faith. By continuing to do this after she came to the Red Cross, she helped address some of Bob Dole's strategic political problems. Thus in a 1994 speech before the Here's Life group sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ in Jacksonville, Florida, Mrs. Dole told her audience about her spiritual reawakening:
I had built up my own little self-sufficient world. I had God neatly compartmentalized, crammed into a crowded file drawer of my life, somewhere between "gardening" and "government." That is, until it dawned on me that I share the predicament, that the call to commitment Mordecai gave to Esther is like the call which Jesus Christ presents to me.... Life is not just a few years to spend on self-indulgence and career advancement. It's a privilege, a responsibility, a stewardship to be lived according to a much higher calling--God's calling. This alone gives true meaning to life.
Even in her lectures to nonreligious groups, Dole's rhetoric often reflects that of the religious right. For example, in an address she made at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, in 1994, she said, "In our effort to create a more tolerant society--through government, our schools, our entertainment industry and elsewhere--we may be edging dangerously close to knocking out the moral underpinnings of a virtuous society, the checks on behavior that allow freedom to function. And as we do, we are in danger of losing the claim on the hearts of our children that America has always had on our own."
Pleasing the Christian right is of course important for the presumptive G.O.P. candidate for President. On April 2, Pat Robertson, head of the Christian Coalition, stated that Bob Dole would probably not be the Republican Party's nominee for President without the backing of his group, and indeed its support was seen as crucial in Dole's decisive victory over Pat Buchanan and his other rivals in the South Carolina primary in March.
In The Doles: Unlimited Partners, Elizabeth told why she decided to leave her job as Secretary of Transportation so she could hit the 1988 campaign trail full time for her husband. On the surface it appears her remarks could as easily apply to her current leave from the American Red Cross: "I was setting aside one important cause to take up another, to play a significant part in the drama of national politics and in the selection of the leader of the free world."
But as her actions, the documentary evidence and the professionals around her testify, she seems to have been playing that part during her entire four years at the Red Cross, making politics a true blood sport.