Friday, February 09, 2007

More lawyerly bluster!

Friday night is developing a theme here at the Stool, boys and girls. While you're out painting the town, or canoodling or whatever else you do on Friday night, Spotty is collecting specimens. Specimens of what, you ask. Well, exemplars of blustery lawyers hoist on their own petard. Last week it was lawyer Jennifer and her exhortation on behalf of the defenseless National Pork Board. This week, it's lawyer Ansis trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube for the Living Word Christian Center and it mortgage banker. Regrettably, another adventure doomed to failure!

You can get the whole back story in excellent articles at Minnesota Monitor, here, here, and Spot's favorite, for reasons that will become apparent in a moment, here. But this is it in a nutshell: a north-suburban Twin Cities überchurch, The Living Word Christian Center, has apparently been really good to its senior pastor, Mac "The Winner's Way" Hammond. Probably a little too good. A report, prepared by a mortgage banker seeking participations in a proposed loan to the church, and which discloses substantial concessionary loans by the church to the pastor, as well as the church's assistance in keeping the sky pilot airborne has surfaced. The reverend is an insider you see, and this would raise eyebrows for any stock or membership company, but particularly for one that's a purported nonprofit under federal tax law.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) got a hold of the report and posted it on the web. It also filed a complaint with the IRS because of the church's tax exempt status. This one is probably going to leave marks, boys and girls. Some of you will recall Mac Hammond and his church are already the subject of a complaint by CREW claiming Mac & Co. endorsed Michele Bachmann for Congress last fall.

The church protests its innocence:

Hammond could not be reached on Thursday, but the church released a statement saying that all contracts and financial transactions are reviewed by its law firm and audited by its accounting firm and that it makes every effort to comply with tax laws.

"Living Word and those outside professionals involved in the conduct of our financial affairs remain confident any fair review of our dealings will reveal the validity of our effort to consistently be an accountable and honest ministry before God, our congregation and our community," said the Rev. Marc Redman, associate pastor.

So, did the faithful at The Living Word Christian Center know all of these things? If they did, there wouldn't be much reason to keep this information so hush-hush, would there? On the other hand, a church that keeps substantial information [cough] confidential: isn't that odd boys and girls? Spot thinks it is odd.

Now comes lawyer Ansis, saying remove that information! It's confidential and proprietary to The Living Word Christian Center and its mortgage banker, The Marshall Group. Remove it I say! If CREW fails to remove it, lawyer Ansis says he "must advise" CREW that The Marshall Group is "prepared to pursue all remedies available to it."

Spot actually likes lawyer Ansis' letter. When he says that he "must advise" CREW, Ansis sounds like he sincerely regrets having to threaten CREW. On the other hand, he probably does regret it, because he doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. CREW is not a party to any confidentiality agreement. On the contrary, CREW likes fresh air! When a media organization receives information by legal means, it is free to publish it. Ansis' letter has a plaintive quality to it entirely lacking in lawyer Jennifer's letter from last week.

Boys and girls, the letter that lawyer Ansis sent is called a cease and desist letter. That's a lawyers' term of art. CREW sent a response. The response was also a lawyers' term of art. It's called a go pee in your hat letter.

It would be really interesting to see what pastor Mac has to say this Sunday about the whole matter. Perhaps the service will be webcast. Avidor, you know what to do!

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