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Tampa church directed staffers to make political contributions

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Posted on Wednesday, April 02, 2008 10:07 PM PT

Updated April 4, 2008 6:35pm

By the NBC News Investigative Unit

A Tampa megachurch under scrutiny by Senate investigators directed church staffers to make political contributions to a Republican gubernatorial candidate, according to documents obtained by NBC News.

A month-long NBC News investigation also found information indicating that the church's pastor, Randy White, seems to have lied about a business transaction in a deposition made under oath, and misrepresented his religious academic credentials.

Without Walls International, a megachurch founded by televangelists Randy and Paula White, is one of six tax-exempt religious ministries the Senate Finance Committee is examining, amid allegations some of the ministers misused church funds to enrich themselves. Last month, NBC News reported the results of its investigation into some of these allegations. 

Church directed political contributions?
NBC News obtained an e-mail (some identifying pieces of information in the e-mail have been removed by NBC) in which a Without Walls church staff member reporting to the Whites appears to direct other staffers to make political contributions to a Republican candidate for governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, who won the gubernatorial race later that year.

In the e-mail in 2006, the staffer writes, "Per our recent conversations…This is just a reminder that I need each of your checks for $500 made payable to: Charlie Crist for Governor.  I need to send these our [sic] tonight."

Florida state election records list several $500 donations to Crist dated days later, from individuals listed as recipients in the e-mail.  A spokesman for Gov. Crist told NBC News in an e-mail that neither the governor nor his campaign staff was aware that the Whites' church may have directed such donations to Crist's 2006 campaign.

The IRS prohibits tax-exempt churches from "directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for elective public office."  Without Walls International Church declined to respond to NBC News' questions about the e-mail.

[Update 04/04/08 6:35pm: On Friday, attorneys representing the Whites sent NBC News a new statement. "It is our understanding," the statement reads, "that no political contributions were solicited on behalf of the Church. If individuals solicited contributions for a particular candidate on their own behalf, they would have been doing so just as people who support a particular candidate would do in any organization – asking among their friends and colleagues at work."]

Church pastor lied about business deal under oath?
NBC News also obtained copies of audio recordings and documents which strongly suggest that Randy White lied under oath when testifying about a 2002 business deal.   

Todd Bates, a pilot and aircraft broker who owns Motor City Aviation near Detroit, sued the Whites' church in 2002 because, he says, Randy White reneged on a verbal deal he made to purchase a used corporate jet Bates had found for the church. 

In a deposition taken under oath as part of the case in 2002, White testifies that he never told Bates he would buy the airplane, and that he in fact never spoke to Bates by phone.  Here are excerpts from the deposition:

BATES' ATTORNEY: "You never had a conversation on the phone with Mr. Bates where you told him, I'm buying the airplane?"

RANDY WHITE: "Correct."

BATES' ATTORNEY: "You never were on the phone with Mr. Bates at all, to your recollection?"

RANDY WHITE: "Correct."

Then, a few moments later:

BATES: "So would it be fair to say that if, in fact, you did, say, have a [sic] conversations with Mr. Bates on the phone and did say those words to Mr. Bates, you're a liar?"

RANDY WHITE: "I don't lie."

At the time of the deposition, Bates says, Randy White was unaware that Bates had recorded his telephone calls with White regarding the plane deal. Bates provided copies of these recordings to NBC News. In a recording dated May 2002, Randy White seems to agree to buy the plane.

Click here to listen to an excerpt of a key exchange.

"If what you're telling me is, that you want this aircraft, and you want to do it, I will handle it for you, I will put together all of the details, and it will be dealt with, and it will be dealt with quickly, efficiently and then I will come down there and set up your flight department and get everything set up with your lease-back hours and everything like I said." 

"Cool.  That's where we want to go with it."

"...if you're telling me -- as you being the head honcho, top dog at Without Walls -- that this is the deal, then you and me as Christians and whatever are agreeing that we've got a deal, then we've got a deal and we'll work out the details later."

"Good.  Let's make it happen." 

In a recording of another call (click to listen) dated several weeks later, Randy White appears to backpedal after Bates challenges him.

TODD BATES: "I assure you that there's nobody else I would have done this for.  Except, I would've thought that a pastor of a large church gives me his word that he's buying an airplane -- I didn't think I had to worry about anything else."

RANDY WHITE: "Right.  Well, it's not that I was lying to you.  At that time I was buying the airplane, but a better deal came along."

"I was stunned," Bates told NBC in an interview, "at the amount of lies and misrepresentations."

Bates settled with the Whites'  church for an undisclosed sum.  Since then he has pursued a public Internet campaign to discredit the Whites as frauds.

Church pastor misrepresented academic credentials?
Bates provided NBC News documentation supporting another of his claims: that Randy White has lied about his academic credentials.  In preparation for his lawsuit, Bates researched Randy White's background.  He wrote to two schools Randy White had claimed awarded him degrees, asking them to verify the degrees.  In correspondence, both schools specifically denied awarding Randy White degrees. 

A "Pastor's Bio" posted on the Without Walls International Church Web site in 2002 states that White received a Bachelor's degree in Ministerial Studies and a Master's Degree in Divinity from Lee College in Cleveland, Tenn., now known as Lee University.

While Bates provided the saved Web page to NBC News, NBC News independently confirmed its authenticity, finding the exact same text stored on an archived version of the church's Web site.

A representative from Lee University told Bates in a 2002 e-mail that Randy White "was only here for two classes and then left during our Fall semester of 1975.  He did not graduate from our institution with a degree of any kind…"

In his deposition in the lawsuit brought by Bates, White admits he obtained no degree from Lee, but claims he attended for two years.  In response to another question, he claims he received an honorary degree in "Humane Letters" from Virginia State University in recognition of his church work.

A representative from Virginia State University told Bates in a 2002 letter that Randy White's name did not appear on its list of honorary degree recipients from 1935-2002. 

NBC News double-checked with both academic institutions.  While federal law has changed since Bates' inquiries, and now prohibits schools from acknowledging any information without students' permissions, neither school denied the validity or accuracy of the correpondence Bates provided NBC News.  Elizabeth Gearhart, a staff member in the Registrar's office at Lee University, told NBC News in an email that "Bishop White has requested that no information regarding him be released from our institution."

The Whites declined to be interviewed by NBC News or to answer repeated questions about these issues.  They have denied wrongdoing, stating: "We take our financial responsibilities to our partners very seriously and to the best of our knowledge we comply with all tax laws."

Last month, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, told NBC News that the Whites had agreed to cooperate with the committee's investigation. On Monday, a Senate Finance Committee staffer issued a memorandum saying it had received an intitial submission of information regarding the Whites' church.

At the same time, attorneys for the Whites' church issued a new statement saying "the Church is committed to complying with the requests of those governmental entities lawfully entitled to receive what they seek" and that church representatives "expect to have further dialogue with the Senator's office."

Linda Fecteau and Luke Mayo contributed to this report.

Comments (these are comments of persons who read the article on the NBC website)

The person who said that Jesus never was involved in politics should read their Bible.  He may not held political office, but he ran in those circles as well as places other sinners hung out too.  As for the White's salaries not being taxed, it is the church that is exempt, not the Pastors that are exempt.  Not all ministries are corrupt, but the ones that are should take note.  I know for a fact that many Christians have been praying for years that corruption in all areas, business, politics, churches be revealed.  What is hidden in the dark (secret) will come to light. Notice almost daily corruption is being revealed in the media.
Last comment...for the stone throwers...let him without sin cast the first stone.  
Everyone, just don't use this example as an excuse to insult people of faith.  Okay?
Read the bible with modern eyes. About half of the ten commandments are all about keeping the priests well fed without competition.
Those are not temples of God. They are franchises.
Yes there is God,but I don't believe God is in most 'churches'. Being a priest or 'preacher' is good work if you have the stomach for feeding on another's faith.
All you sinless people are so perfect! If you find a perfect church, don't join or you will mess it up!!! We really need to put down our rocks and let God do the judging. There is good and evil in all and if there were no churches, evil would certainly be more prevalent than it is now. As for Obama, he isn't the only candidate to ever set foot in a church to campaign. They all do it. The problem occurs when the church openly promotes one candidate over the others. Know your facts before spewing your venimous hatred! I hope you never need prayer from any of the people you have such disdain for. Then again, they hated Jesus too and crucified him for only doing good. DE from Syracuse is right...HATERS!!!
to say that organized religion is total hypocrisy is nuts.  there are countless christians and churches who read an embarassing article like this and it makes them just as mad and sick as everyone else.  there are hypocrites in the churches, just like there are hypocrites outside the church.  if guilty of this stuff, the White's need to be punished.  I am a Christian minister myself.  This kind of [stuff] ticks me off just like everyone else.  Some people try to get rich off of Jesus.  Many other people are genuine and authentic in their worship of Christ.  Don't lump everybody together.  That's weak.
The MegaChurches particularly abuse the money and should be heavily audited and monitored to insure that the money they get is going to the places they say they are going to.  Joel Olsteen and the Lakewood Church should be reviewed next and then Willow Creek in Illinois.  Too much power does corrupt and there is also a perception that the megachurches views speak for all Christians. They are hijacking Jesus and distorting His principles and sadly giving Christianity a name it really doesn't deserve.  
The 1st ammendment only guarantees the freedom to practice your religion. If monies collected are not used for charitable causes, then that money is taxable income just like the money that I collect from my customers in return for the goods or service that I provide. I pay income tax on the money that I use to pay for my shelter and food for my family and an airplane if I choose to buy one and churches should as well. Get with it IRS, do your job and start making these scofflaws pay up.
Obama has been attending his church for 20 years. I'm sure he's made lots of friends at church - what's wrong with a friend helping a friend as he struggles to attain his goal?
Read the bible with modern eyes. About half of the ten commandments are all about keeping the priests well fed without competition.
Those are not temples of God. They are franchises.
Yes there is God,but I don't believe God is in most 'churches'. Being a priest or 'preacher' is good work if you have the stomach for feeding on another's faith.
Hey, guys!  The truth is that Man created God.  god did not create Man.  You will understand this only if you respect facts and are not foolishly committed to relying purely on "faith" that requires you to believe every single thing in an ancient book written when only one person in a thousand could both read and write.

Think!  You can do it - if your god gave you the brains to be able to do it - i.e., you aren't one of the "sheep" that Chrisianity wants you to be.
Hey, guys!  The truth is that Man created God.  god did not create Man.  You will understand this only if you respect facts and are not foolishly committed to relying purely on "faith" that requires you to believe every single thing in an ancient book written when only one person in a thousand could both read and write.

Think!  You can do it - if your god gave you the brains to be able to do it - i.e., you aren't one of the "sheep" that Chrisianity wants you to be.
Randy and Paula White are predators. They prey on many kinds of people; those who are lost, hopeless, sick, desperate for relief or redemption. They prey on the elderly, the homebound, the lonely and poor. They tout their line of vitamins by proclaiming,"God WANTS you to buy our vitamins." Then they tool around in the Rolls Royce that God apparently wanted them to buy with the proceeds. Does the license plate really read "Big Daddy"? Seriously, that's what I heard from someone who lives in Tampa. Anyway, the only lives these two are improving are their own. Any question as to their conscience or as to what GOD would think of all of this is moot. Has their goal ever been to positively impact the spiritual lives of those searching or to provide for their fellow man? Does anyone truly believe that while walking around the Rolls and kicking the tires that Paula and Randy White asked themselves (or each other); I wonder how many four year old children we could send to pre-school on this sticker price? or...How many young mothers could we sponsor to attend parenting classes? or...How many houses could Habitat For Humanity build? They are con artists of the highest order which relegates them to a status that ranks so low that I am at a loss to categorize it within the animal kingdom...even the lowly earthworm has a vital task that necessitates it's turns manure into fertilizer. Granted, the Whites turn their manure into gold, but that nifty trick serves only to benefit them. Jackie Carmean, Milford, DE
To say Jesus was not a political figure is not completely accurate...I believe He said, "Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's."  
a comment, that our Savior is close to returning.I beg to differ, Messiah is not going to return as a wizard, and save us from ourselves on earth. Messiah will only return, once we have all allowed the freedom of the holy spirit to guide us mind, body and spirit.Other words if we are capable of walking in the WILL of our Creator in a Christ like way of life,and don't look for him to come AGAIN and rescue us from our sinful nature, only then will Messiah return.Remember what he said: after being beaten, and falsly accused, Father forgive them for they know NOT what they do,it is FINISHED. we remain corupt, and continue to condone murder, and killing fields in the name of religion
The kingdom of God is within, perhaps all of you above critical of the whites know this to be true, I believe there are many who have grown disqusted by organized religion and the horrifying display of a well oiled jesus they are marketing. That along with fear, keeps them wealthy with power...which is a Big dust storm in the wind.
The bright side is their coruption, has refined many truly loving closet believers(without religion). Just like the politician's who are corupt, the revealing dross is floating Love you! Grandma Moses, Columbia, Oregon
First of all, All Pastors, Bishops, Reverands, etc. have a duty to preach the Word of God!! Secondly, if that means teaching against abortion, against homosexuality, whatever is against the Word of God. Then they better do what God called them to do. By the way, there is always two sides to a story. Sounds like Bates got mad and jealous and decided to say something that shouldn't even be acknowledged. People don't get mad if Donald Trump decides to go with a better deal!! Pastors and Evangelists should have nice things and spreading the Gospel costs a lot of money. Read the Bible people! Jesus rode on a virgin donkey; back then that was like a brand new really expensive car. Jesus had a robe with no couldn't even find something like that today without paying a hefty price. People need to stop acting like Christians should be poor. You can't help people if you have no money!! Everyone needs to stop worrying about other people and "work out their own salvation!" That means if you were to die; where would you go??? Just because people don't think or believe in Heaven or Hell doesn't mean that they don't exist. I can't see oxygen..doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. I know for a fact that Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis Ministries are NOT fraudulant!!!! If people minded their own business, they wouldn't have time to mind someone else's."Judge Not, lest thou be judged" It is not up to us, it's up to God. You reap what you sow. If you sow will reap it; whether on Earth or when you die. Just something to think about.
the concept of non profit,is the tool of coruption. Self appointed wealth and power, and all they have to do is stand at any podium and preach on what they THINK G-d THINKs, and ask for money to pay for what they THINK G-d wants.. They built a megachurch on preaching properity, it is a megachurch, because the members are there for the same reason as the    defining G-d in any way shape or form, will never end well, Love you! Grandma Moses, Columbia, Oregon
Ah ... the beginning of the end.  Armageddon here we come!
Read your bible, in the New Testament, God says all of this will happen.....And if they are not doing right by God, he will take care of is not for us to judge or condemn them. I agree with is all coming to the end.
"Let God be God and His enemies be scattered" for
God just wants the Gospel preached to all nations
no matter what race they are. But, taking money
from a church coffer is stealing from God's own
money. Tithe is given to the church to keep it going and to save souls most of all. Jesus said,"Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's and unto God what is God's." He said nothing about
giving to a political party or anything about a
Sheep Director (Pastor) letting a church buy Him
an Airplane with the funds collected by the church. But, He did say something about helping the poor, widows, etc. Too many Pastors are trying
to make a name for themselves rather than feeding
their own flock what they really need.... The unabridged Word of God. "Let God be God and His enemies be scattered." The Whites are only a small part of the problems in religion today. How about the controlling Retreats sponsored by churhes today which change personalities of some of their members to keep them from being able to
really be themselves. These retreats have changed many of my old friends in ways that even Jesus would be ashamed.
Contolling people to keep them in a certain church is not the way to keep ones flock. Feed them the Word of God and they will know how to control themselves in a way that is pleasing to God and to the church. Feeding the flock the Word
is the only way people can learn how to be good examples to people who are unchurched. Too many of Pastors are feeding the church Psychology or lead by a Psychologist instead of a Bible Believing Pastor. We find many churches will not hire someone with real credentials...they just seem to want the ones with an Edge so they can use them for their own selfish desires. But, we can still find Pastors who are still doing a good job getting souls saved and preaching the Word as they should. So, don't let's throw out the good with the bad.  
J.Shattuck, Anderson, S.C.
There are so many more lies to uncover.  I hope someone does a complete investigation into the background of both Randy and Paula White.  Their actual history is quite different from the version they created and preached from the pulpit.  I encourage people to investigate the truth about their lives in Frederick, MD before they left their respective spouses and ran away to Florida to set up their sham church.  
This nation was established w/ the intent of being a safe haven for people of christian faith. how is it then that we've created new rules to govern our lives when God and the Bible already had it in place? The people want a free life, apart from God and his rules. Let them govern themselves. But now that those that are called out of the world will return to the law of God and live by it THRU faith. Jesus is not of this world... just like he overcame it thru obedience, listening to the Father, AND DEATH, so shall we. die to this world so you can live. The law brings death (whether this world's or the next), its the Spirit of God you need. Galatians 3:24, Galatians 5:16-18, Matthew 16:24-28, Romans 1:1-32, Revelations 12:11, 1 Peter 4:1-2, 1 John 4:4, Hebrews 5:7-9, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Acts 20:28-30, Galatians 6:7-10, 2 Peter 3:1-14, Romans 6:14, Ephesians 2:8....
And, when will they be investigating Trinity United/Irreverent Wright, REv Meeks and the Catholic preach in Chicago that are promoting candidates from the pulpit?
The public has been duped into believeing these so called "churches" are churches at all. they are not recognized by law as churches because they gave up the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ to get favors from the government, namely tax exemption through the 501(c)(3) status. when they do that they agree to abide by IRS rules and state laws governing corporations. They at the same time subordinate the "church" to the state and come under it's authority, a position christians have historically been persecuted for not submitting to going back to the days of Rome when roman catholicism merged pagan beliefs and practices of the day with the then persecuted church. it was a compromise born from Hell and resisted by all true christians through out history. The 501(c)(3) was invented by a devious criminal christian hater who hated the ministries that were exposing him for the immoral criminal he was when he ran for the senate. He later became president his name was Lyndon Baines Johnson. True churches will never submit the church under government control because it can not. Christ is the head of the true Church. The churches Inc. as they should more honestly be called have agreed when they incorporated and got their 501(c)(3) status to rules the states and the IRS made as a condition of their tax exempt status and if they violate them they should go to prison for it and exposed for what they really are, CREATIONS OF THE STATE not God. Jesus  Christ said "I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it", he didn't say the state would build it. These have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, they sold out to the world, the world sees it and despises their hypocrisy. The true church gave up their birthright of being tax immune for a mere privlege of tax exemption. One is a right given to the church by God the other is a privelege given by the state rights are forever, priveleges are conditional and temporary (at the whim of the state that created them). They (churches INC.) violated their ungodly agreements and should be held accountable. Their greed has nothing to do with true Christianity and I believe prevent many from receiving the truth of the gospel.  

If you truly are a professor, you would understand that law is derived from morals. Morality must be legislated to have a truly free society. While unchurched people may have a solid moral system, it is usually based on a moral system (whether conscious or subconscious) derived from a particular religion. Without religion, sir, there are no laws; there is only anarchy.
Why is it ok for Hip hop entertainers Football,Basketball players Hollywood, Wall street CEO's actually anybody but a pastor have a right to take people money without all the uproar.This country is about to deflate because of the mortgage crisis and I do not hear any of these negative comment addressing this issue. Many family were sucked into loan they could not pay. Why are we not hearing people voice their disdain for what has happened to millions of people in this country and counting. Are you as ready to judge the mortgage brokers as you are to judge pastors.These people actually took financial wellbeing from many families and many may never recover. Be careful about wanting these pastors to be exposed, fined or sent to jail because life has a strange way of exposing our sins.
Jezebel and Ahab.....look at them go.

These two are dangerous.

Without Walls congregation it's your responsiblity to kick this spirit out of your church.  Stand up to these two and save your church.  God will bless you for it!

If you don't know what the Jezebel spirit is....write to me read "Unmasking the Jezebel spirit.

Don't forget....David had five stones to kill Goliath.  One stone for Goliath and four stones his four brothers.

You only have two people to deal with.  Save Without Walls and kick this evil spirit out!!!!

It's Your Responsiblity - Intercessory Pray is needed to bind this spirit and kick it out!! You have the authority in the name of Jesus Christ and HIS BLOOD already made it done deal.  Trust in the LORD with all your might and you will see the REAL glory of God come down on Without Walls.

Those churches such as the White's that get a tax exempt status must abide by the laws that they agreed to when the set up their church corporation.  If we are following the example of Jesus, we see that even he paid a temple tax.  The church is not to be a corporation.  The church is the individual - the eclesia or the called out ones.  Called out of the world and doing worldly things like setting up corporations.  This is contrary to Christ or anti christ.  And for those that equate U.S. fundamentalist christians with Islamist - I don't hear a daily rant of death to anyone from that group of christians.  I don't hear of them going out and chopping heads off.  I don't hear of them kidnapping or committing acts of terror.  I hear repent from your sins so that you can have a fuller life - an expression of real love.
The Bible tells us the truth that in the last days men (and women) will be lovers of self.  2 Timothy 3:1-5.  It also warns us that there will be Apostacy, or a "falling away" 2 Thesselonians 2:3 and it is all happening before our eyes.  We are seeing even the very elect be deceived and turning people in the wrong direction.  Matthew 7:13  "Go in through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is spacious that leads to destruction, and many people are entering by it."  I pray that there will still be those who find Jesus Christ as the way to eternal life and not get caught up in all the weird works and false doctrines.  Blessings,  Roxy
Churches are already tax-exempt without being 501c3 - many don't know this but it is contained in the IRS laws.
Also, scriptures say "you shall know them by their fruit..." I think Paula and Randy's fruit is quite evident here, it is rotten!
I guess we don't need an investigation, a trial,jury, or judge, the verdict against the Whites are already in! Thank you people. You've just saved our justice system a hunk of money. As for me, I'll go along with Samuel (1 Samuel 15)and allow the church judges to determine whether the Whites should be found guilty.

Oh, here's another thought. The church is guilty, you were mistreated and cheated, Jesus isn't real, all the preachers are crooks and the people in the church are hypocrites. Republicans can't get elected without church donations. Christians are imbecile's who can't think on their own and shouldn't be allowed to voice their opinion about anything in public.

Ok. people, you're right. Now-who will you blame for your victimization? Who will now be responsible for your illegitmate children, your drug habits, your unpaid bills, your wayward children, your homeless dad, and your brother in prison? Who will you now blame because you lost your home to the bank and your car to the repossesor? When your democrat candidate finally convinces the majority that they are the answer, yet, your life doesn't change, then who will you blame for all of your sorrows?

MercyProf, Oklahoma City, Ok (Sunday, April 06, 2008 9:13 PM)
Who paid for the church building? Not the Whites. They sat, in study, under the Clarks, who also divorced and attempted to sell thier church, Living Waters. I left when I realized Pastor Randy intended to build his kingdom, and not God's.
No one has mentioned the two biggest church frauds on this planet, Mike Murdock and Benny Hinn.  They are two of the biggest thieving things.  The IRS and the FBI have had interests in these two.  So there are others besides the Whites.  Just remember their day with our heavenly father is coming and they will NOT get past him.  I would NOT want to be in their shoes for NOTHING!!!