Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG)

February 10, 2012

* Nonprofit organization dedicated to galvanizing Catholic and Christian voters to support progressive candidates, causes, and legislation
* Part of a network of leftwing religious-oriented organizations and activists supported by the Open Society Institute
* Claims that there is a moral equivalency between Catholic social teachings and social justice theory

Founded in 2005 by Alexia Kelley and a network of religious Democratic activists and closely affiliated organizations, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) is a political nonprofit group dedicated to generating support from the Catholic community for leftwing candidates, causes, and legislation. Its central mission is to frame Christian social teachings in terms of secular social justice theory as a way of creating a more powerful Christian Left voter constituency. Toward that end, CACG conducts “communications and grassroots outreach and strategic coordination” by means of newsletters, ads, political action campaigns, and Internet-based social networking initiatives.

CACG’s agenda is driven by collectivist, anti-capitalist convictions. The organization characterizes modern America as a society replete with “greed, materialism, and excessive individualism,” which are “among the most imminent threats to our national well-being.” CACG maintains that “every human has a fundamental right to…food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education and employment,” and that their access to these benefits is to be guaranteed “on a collective scale.” Although private property is a basic right according to CACC, the organization also believes that “no person should amass excessive wealth.”

CACG’s origins date back to a flurry of organized activity by leftwing religious groups and activists who were upset that George W. Bush had defeated John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. CACG co-founder Alexia Kelley had served as the religious outreach director for the Democratic National Committee during the Kerry campaign. Democrat Tom Perriello, who would go on to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, also played a role in launching CACG, which he viewed as “a political and social movement” aimed at injecting the Democratic Party and its agendas with new life.

At approximately the same time, Chris Korzen and other individuals involved in the Catholic Voting Project, which was pro-Kerry, disbanded their group and reincorporated as Catholics United (CU) in 2005. Korzen had previously served as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and as a volunteer with Pax Christi. He went on to become a full-time salaried employee for CACG in both 2006 and 2007. Also in 2007, he was the unpaid executive director of Catholics United, which maintained a continually interconnected relationship with CACG.

John Podesta, CEO the Center for American Progress (CAP), acknowledged that CAP worked closely with CACG. In fact, some some CAP members (including John Halpin and Fred Rotondaro) served on CACG’s board and advisory council.

In 2006, CACG and Pax Christi organized their “Called to the Common Good” campaign, just in advance of that year’s mid-term elections. This initiative was designed to help churches and dioceses “organize and speak out so that those progressive values which are rooted in our faith…play a central role in deciding the direction of our nation.”

Starting in 2008, CACG and associated groups launched a similar initiative — a series of pledges called: “Vote Out Poverty, Vote Out War, Vote in the Common Good,” which asked Catholics to cast their ballots for candidates who supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the reduction of global poverty by means of government-managed “social spending.” Other groups involved in the initiative were Catholics United; Pax Christi USA; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; and NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.

Also in 2008, CACG joined a coalition in support of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul bill. The effort was called “Faith for Health” and included participation from People Improving Communities through Organizing, NETWORK, Sojourners, Faith in Public Life (FPL), and Faithful America.

A notable member of CACG’s advisory council was Tom Chabolla, who also served as a personal assistant to Andrew Stern, then-head of the Service Employees International Union. Prior to working for Stern, Chabolla was an executive with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

In June 2010, Alexia Kelley was named director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Three months later, CACG closed its offices and released its staff — ceasing most, though not all, of its activity. Some CACG employees, such as senior writer John Gehring, were taken on board at Faith in Public Life.

CACG received grants totaling $300,000 in 2007 and $200,000 in 2008 from the Open Society Institute. The Tides Foundation issued a grant for $85,000 to CACG in 2007, and another grant for $30,000 in 2008.


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