David Kuo

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J. David Kuo is the author of "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction", released October 16, 2006, by Free Press.

Kuo, who had served two-and-a-half years in the White House as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, resigned his post in December 2003 "with a statement that 'Republicans were indifferent to the poor' and that the White House had 'minimal commitment' to 'compassionate conservatism'." [1]

In his February 2005 Beliefnet column, Kuo wrote: "I have deep respect, appreciation, and affection for the president" but "that there never really was great concern over what he called 'the poor people stuff'" by senior White House staff, Nick Turse wrote November 27, 2005, in TomDispatch.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State stated in May 2005 that it "and others have long argued that the Bush administration's faith-based initiative had little to do with helping the nation's needy" and "noted that the administration has offered no new funds for social service programs and has shamelessly used the initiative to court new voters." This, at least, was confirmed by Kuo in his February 2005 Beliefnet column, in which he wrote "that Karl Rove and other political strategists have long seen the political benefits of faith-based initiative."

It would appear that Kuo's plan for "the 'poor people stuff'" was handing over federal funds to the religious right. On the October 10, 2003, edition of PBS's "NOW with Bill Moyers", NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reported that it was Kuo, when he worked at Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition as a "top adviser to the coalition's main political strategist", who in 1995 "helped draft the coalition's manifesto, the 'Contract with the American Family' [that] argues that the nation should 'abolish all major federal welfare programs' and turn them over to 'private and religious organizations.'"


According to the November/December 1995 issue of The American Enterprise, Kuo was then "senior policy director for Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri. On the side, he writes speeches for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. He is working on a book with Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition." In 1986, while in college, Kuo was a campaign volunteer for former Massachusetts Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy's first race for Congress. Kennedy retired from Congress in 1998. [2] Kuo "then interned for Ted Kennedy in the summer of 1989." [3]

Note that in May 1995, "Richard Berke of the New York Times' ... commented on how much the new Dole sound[ed] like the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed. It's not surprising," Rich Lowry of the National Review wrote. "Helping with Dole's speeches [was] former Bill Bennett advisor David Kuo, who has written for Reed."

His bio at Beliefnet states that Kuo, a Contributing Editor, "has worked for a diverse group of political leaders", which also included former presidential candidate Gary Hart.

Kuo "founded and launched The American Compass, a charitable organization designed to objectively evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of social service organizations"; "has written speeches and articles for various leading political and business leaders including Governor George W. Bush, Senator Bob Dole, Congressman J.C. Watts, and AOL Founder Steve Case"; and "has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers." [4]

"Kuo is a New York native who graduated from Tufts University." [5]


John Ashcroft, Ralph Reed, Century Strategies and more

"Ralph Reed's relationship with John Ashcroft is close," Lee Cokorinos, Research Director of the Institute for Democracy Studies, wrote prior to Ashcroft's confirmation as President Bush's first Attorney General in 2001.

This is "illustrated," Cokorinos wrote, "by the case of J. David Kuo, one of Ashcroft's top former aides. Kuo, whose resume sports a one-year stint as intelligence officer at the CIA, went from working as Ashcroft's policy director—a key strategic post—to become managing director of strategic communications for Reed's Century Strategies, from where he supported the Ashcroft for president campaign."

In his April 18, 1998, CNN interview with Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Ashcroft said "David Kuo, who is a part of Century Strategies, spent a year as an employee in my office. And it's been primarily with David Kuo that we've been working in terms of the Century Strategies operation."

"According to the Heritage Foundation," Cokorinos wrote, "Kuo co-authored Ralph Reed's [then] most recent book, Active Faith. Kuo also served on the start-up team, and as deputy policy director at Empower America, William Bennett's think tank, whose founding chairman was New York financier Ted Forstmann, and whose directors include Trent Lott and Bush Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld."

Note that Reed's Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics, published June 1, 1996, by Free Press (ISBN 0684827581), does not credit Kuo.

Cokorinos wrote that Kuo was a "longtime promoter of 'charitable choice'—a code word for the right-wing for giving religious institutions access to government social services budgets—also a major passion of Ashcroft. In January 1996, Kuo became executive director [6] of the Center for Effective Compassion, which was founded by Arianna Huffington and Marvin Olasky—G.W. Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' guru who is currently tipped to be head of a proposed White House Office of Faith-Based Programs."

Kuo founded the American Compass, "a Virginia-based operation partly funded by right wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife's Scaife Family Foundation" in 1996. American Compass, whose directors included Ashcroft and Olasky, "was designed to promote religious involvement in social service provision, which it did in part by sponsoring (along with Foster Friess, a Greenville, Delaware-based fund manager and member of the far right Council for National Policy) a tour of key right wing politicians supporting such measures, including John Ashcroft and J.C. Watts. The tour 'was timed,' according an article posted on J.C. Watts' website, 'to coincide with the beginning of welfare reform'," Cokorinos wrote.

Funding for American Compass from 1988-1999 included $100,000 from the Scaife Family Foundation "for the Samaritan Awards, which were designed to promote small religious charities that perform their activities without any government dollars. The Samaritan Award judges in 1997 included David Kuo of The American Compass, Jeb Bush of the Foundation for Florida's Future, Whitney Ball of the Philanthropy Roundtable, Kay Coles James of Regent University, Marvin Olasky, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico the president of the Acton Institute."

The Samaritan Awards do not appear to be the same as the Samaritan Project, which was an initiative launched in 1997 by Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition and "a number of black and hispanic ministers", including Rev. Earl W. Jackson, who became Project president. [7]

Cokorinos wrote that the "longstanding relationship between Kuo, Reed and Ashcroft, [was] important enough for Ralph Reed to mention in his announcement that he was leaving the Christian Coalition:

"'I'm going to be working closely with the American Compass and with my good friend Senator John Ashcroft and Steve Largent at that organization. (...) Secondly, I'm going to be forming a new company called Century Strategies, that will offer and provide, at affordable prices, quality consulting services for campaigns and for pro-life, pro-family and pro-free enterprise candidates at every level of government. I expect this new company to be very active in the 1998 elections, first on dozens of campaigns, and eventually on hundreds of campaigns across the country. Our main focus will be on building a 'farm team' of state legislators, school board members and other local officeholders who I believe hold the key to the future of our country.'"

Value America and the religious right

In June 1999, Kuo, described as "a veteran communications and political strategist", came to e-tailer Value America from Century Strategies, "where he served a range of clients including Microsoft, America Online, International Paper and the Cellular Industry Association." [8]

Kuo left Value America "in February 2000 when the writing was on the wall but almost a year before its eventual death." [9]

"Religion always had a place at Value America," Carrie Johnson wrote in a October 18, 2001, Washington Post article on the "Rise And Falling Out Of Value America."

"Company leaders, from founder Craig Winn to chief executive Tom Morgan, explained in Kuo's job interview that they were committed to building the online marketplace on a foundation of unwavering integrity. Winn declared that 1 percent of the company's revenue would go to charity. Eventually, a small group of executives began meeting for voluntary prayer sessions one day each week at 7 a.m.," Johnson wrote.

"The Rev. Jerry Falwell made regular visits to headquarters to ink deals with Value America and another Winn business to create a retail Web site for his flock. Former Reagan-era education secretary Bill Bennett, a mentor to Kuo and a vocal supporter of school prayer, became a member of the company's board of directors. Prominent consultant and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed journeyed to Virginia to advise Winn on his political and business ambitions," Johnson wrote.

The Fellowship, Michael Jackson and Value America

In October 2002, "while in town for a benefit concert for victims" of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, pop singer Michael Jackson and his children stayed at Cedars, a mansion that "sits at the highest point of the Potomac River, with spectacular views of Washington beyond the pool and tennis courts," owned by The Fellowship, "the nonpartisan Christian group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, Lisa Getter wrote in the September 27, 2002, Los Angeles Times.

Getter reported that "Jackson's visit came about as a result of a call from 'a friend from the White House'," according to The Fellowship leader Douglas Coe. "The call came from David Kuo, deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, who helped put together the United We Stand concert. When Kuo learned that Jackson needed a place to stay, he thought of Cedars. 'It's a private unknown place that offers anonymity in a peaceful environment,' he said. 'Part of the whole Fellowship belief is you can help people who are down and out by helping people who are up and out.'"

The group "United Brethren", which appears in the e-book In the Company of Good and Evil by Value America founders Ken Power and Craig Winn, is admittedly fictitious. However, it may be inferred that the "United Brethren" is related in some way to "The Fellowship".

Power and Winn write on page 309 of their book, in the Chapter entitled "Failure to Communicate", about David Kuo's arrival at Value America. Nikki Norton introduced Kuo to Craig and Kuo replaced her as the company's vice president of communications:

"It may not have been completely David’s fault, but something got lost in the translation. David seemed bright enough. He had the contacts, too. He’d been around the horn, working over the past five years for the CIA, Ralph Reed of Christian Coalition fame, Bill Bennett’s Empower America, Senator John Ashcroft, and even for his own charity, The American Compass. But both Craig’s and Value America’s public presence diminished precipitously immediately after David came on board. David was connected to a group of religious power brokers in Washington called the United Brethren. Tom Morgan’s spiritual advisor, Goose Godfrey, was also an active member. He was a former officer in the Reagan White House. Morgan told Craig on many occasions that Goose was his mentor, his 'conscience.' He said Goose was one ofthe most connected people in America, which wasn’t suprising. They made a point of 'ministering' to the rich and powerful. ...
"Godfrey was a glad-hander. He, like Kuo, loved to hug everyone in sight. He always had a series of syrupy platitudes ready to slather all over those with whom he was seeking favor. It was how he earned his living. 'I love ya, bro, you know I’m praying for ya,' he said with irritating repetition. Made Craig want to take a shower after each encounter. None of this 'positive reinforcement' came cheap. Morgan had 'employed' Godfrey at US Office Products. And he did so again at Value America—to the tune of twenty grand a month. Morgan needed the constant reinforcement and praise that Godfrey was all too willing to lavish upon those who paid for his services. The Brethren—Godfrey, Morgan, and Kuo—soon began to cast a dark shadow across our company."

On page 310, they talk about the members of the Value America board and how Bill Bennett came to join it:

"With one exception, the board was now set. It included our co-founders, Craig Winn as Chairman and Rex Scatena as Vice Chairman. ... Not to be outdone, David Kuo encouraged his former employer, Bill Bennett, to join the 'most illustrious board in dot-com history.' ...

And, on page 315, they once again mention Kuo's relationship with the United Brethren:

"Through Godfrey’s United Brethren in Washington, [Morgan] bonded with David Kuo ..."

Published Works by David Kuo

Articles, Commentary, Interviews, and Testimony by David Kuo

Contact Information

  • Website: American Compass—"The Conservative Alternative". Access requires registration.

Related SourceWatch Resources


  • Amy E. Black, Douglas L. Koopman, David K. Ryden, "Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives" (Religion and Politics Series (Georgetown University) (May 2004), ISBN 1589010132 (Paperback). (7 references to Kuo in book.)


  • Bio: David Kuo in "White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Agency Centers" (see page 4 of 16-page pdf).
  • Author: J. David Kuo, WritersReps.com.

Articles & Commentary