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 CNS Story:

CAMPAIGN-QUESTIONNAIRE Oct-27-2004 (420 words) xxxn

Kerry, Bush both missed questionnaire deadline, says USCCB spokesman

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dropped plans for releasing a question-and-answer survey on campaign issues after both major presidential candidates failed to cooperate in answering the questionnaire, said Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, USCCB spokesman.

Msgr. Maniscalco spoke to Catholic News Service Oct. 27 after news stories cited a group called Catholic Voting Project as saying that President George W. Bush's campaign refused to answer the USCCB questionnaire.

"Neither campaign cooperated in answering the questionnaire as requested by the Aug. 2 deadline," said Msgr. Maniscalco.

Bush, the Republican candidate, and Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee, were sent identical questionnaires July 2 and given an Aug. 2 deadline to respond, he said.

The questionnaire contained 40 questions on 15 to 20 topics that are followed closely by the Catholic bishops, said Msgr. Maniscalco. The candidates were asked to respond only with "support" or "oppose" to the statement contained in each question, he said.

The conference waited until Aug. 16 before deciding to abandon the project, he said.

The Catholic Voting Project said it obtained a copy of an Aug. 16 memo sent to the Kerry campaign by the USCCB Office of Government Liaison, which prepared the questionnaire. It partially quoted the memo as telling the Kerry campaign not to respond to the questionnaire because the Bush campaign had intended not to respond.

The Web site of the Catholic Voting Project, www.votingcatholic.org, describes the group as an association of young Catholics opposed to what is called a focus among Catholics on a narrow range of campaign issues.

The USCCB provided a copy of its memo to the Kerry campaign to CNS. It said: "The deadline for responses to the questionnaire, Aug. 2, 2004, has passed. In the view of the fact that the Bush campaign has indicated that it does not intend to respond to the questionnaire, I wish to inform you that there is no need for the Kerry campaign to do so."

The memo added that because of the USCCB's status as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, the "USCCB cannot disseminate the questionnaire responses of only one candidate."

Msgr. Maniscalco said that the conference's tax-exempt, nonprofit status means that "it is prohibited from endorsing or opposing candidates but can address issues."

Msgr. Maniscalco said that for the first time since the questionnaire was started in 1988 the 2004 candidates were asked to respond only with "support" or "oppose." Previously, candidates were allowed to develop an answer within a reasonable word limit, he said.

END


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