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The chairman of the House education committee recently professed to be unaware of the Christian Coalition, a lobbying organization that currently wields significant influence in Republican Party politics.

Who is this group?" Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., was quoted as asking when a reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News in Pennsylvania asked him to comment on the group's "Contract with the American Family."

The contract is the Christian Coalition's 10-point social agenda for the rest of the Congressional session. Unveiled last month, it includes such items as a school-voucher demonstration program and a "religious equality" constitutional amendment that would likely affect prayer in public schools. (See Education Week, 5/24/95.)

Asked about the organization's widely photographed and quoted executive director, Mr. Goodling said, "The name Ralph Reed does not ring a bell."

A Patriot-News editorial asked whether the chairman of the House Economic and Educational Opportunities Committee, a former school superintendent who has served in the House since 1975, was "out of the loop."

Responding to the editorial in a letter, Mr. Goodling said he does not take campaign contributions from political-action committees and, therefore, does not know the names of "Washington-based lobbyists."

"The only lobbyists I know are the [560,000-plus] constituents I represent," he said.

Since becoming chairman, he said he has worked 80 to 100 hours a week, held 126 meetings in his district, held 30 committee hearings and 11 mark-ups, held 239 meetings in his office, and attended 57 meetings with the House G.O.P. leadership.

Mr. Goodling has always been considered a moderate on education and social issues. Many observers credit the Christian Coalition for pushing the G.O.P. to the right.

A Clinton Administration review of affirmative-action programs has "concluded that most hiring and other preferences based on race or sex are justified in employment and education," The New York Times reported last week.

The May 31 article, based on a confidential report obtained by the paper, was the first public account of the affirmative-action review since President Clinton announced the move in February.

A formal report from the Administration is expected this summer.

--Mark Pitsch

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