Radio network gives Obama ad money to pro-life groups

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Under FCC law, Bott Radio Network -- an evangelical chain of stations covering 14 states -- was required to run political advertisements paid for by Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

The radio network, though, didn't have to pocket the money.

And so, in the weeks following Obama's election, Bott Radio Network distributed all of the revenue from the Obama advertisements -- about $4,000 -- to crisis pregnancy centers in Missouri and Indiana, the two battleground states which Obama's campaign targeted with the advertisements.

"We tried to find a way to take lemons and make lemonade," Rich Bott, executive vice president of the network, told Baptist Press.

The network's listeners, many if not most of whom are social conservatives, likely were surprised in October when Bott Radio Network began airing ads asserting that Obama shared the values of the listeners. After all, some of the network's programs -- such as "Focus on the Family," "Richard Land Live" and "Jay Sekulow Live" -- take positions that Obama opposes.

"I found [Obama's ad] particularly disingenuous, knowing that he had pledged to Planned Parenthood to support the Freedom of Choice Act," Bott said, referencing a bill that would overturn pro-life laws nationwide and guarantee that abortion remains legal. "You can't share our values and be in favor of killing innocent unborn children. We felt we had an obligation to clarify our position to our listeners. We aired editorials at the same time his advertisement was running explaining to our listeners that we were required to air those ads and that we objected to his position on life and gay marriage.... And, we pledged to our listeners that we would donate the revenue from those announcements to pro-life crisis pregnancy centers."

The revenue went to five crisis pregnancy centers: Thrive in St. Louis; Options Pregnancy Clinic in Branson, Mo.; Crisis Pregnancy Center in Excelsior Springs, Mo.; Lifeline Pregnancy Resource Center in Kirksville, Mo.; and A Hope Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.

It's not the first time Bott Radio Network has faced a similar dilemma. In 1996, President Clinton, running for re-election, ran ads on the network, which responded -- as it did this year -- by running editorials explaining the situation and donating the revenue to pro-life organizations.

Obama -- who opted out of public financing for the general election -- shattered previous campaign fundraising records by raising more than $700 million in the primary and general election seasons. In the final months, his campaign had so much money that it was even purchasing ads for online sports video games, such as Xbox 360's "Madden NFL 09," encouraging gamers to go vote early.

Some no doubt will find it ironic that, in a roundabout way, Obama's campaign helped fund crisis pregnancy centers.

"We spread his wealth around," Bott said.


Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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