Eight years ago, a woman in Illinois wrote an impassioned letter to Jack Kemp asking that he not speak again before an organization connected to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
The woman, whose daughter is a member of the church, sent similar letters to several prominent politicians who had lent their names and prestige to Moon-sponsored groups. But of those she had appealed to, only Kemp wrote back, saying straight out that "I just wanted you to know that I agree with you." Kemp promised "that I will not appear in the future."
While Kemp may not have spoken again to the group that prompted the woman's letter, the American Leadership Conference, the Republican vice presidential candidate did speak to other Moon-sponsored organizations at least three times in the past 17 months, according to financial records disclosed by his campaign.
As recently as July 31, Kemp joined former presidents Bush and Ford and other luminaries in speaking at a Moon-organized conference on world peace. Kemp reported receiving $52,000 for three speeches between January 1995 and this summer.
"Mr. Kemp joined a number of very distinguished guests at these events, where the role of the Unification Church was very indirect and really irrelevant," Kemp spokeswoman Alixe Glen said in response to questions about the speeches and the letter.
Opponents of the Moon church, including parents whose teenage or adult children have been recruited into the organization, regularly beseech prominent figures not to bolster the church's credibility by accepting invitations to conferences and other events. Several parents say George Bush, for example, has not responded to repeated letters.
The Illinois woman, who asked to remain anonymous because her child still belongs to the church, was pleasantly surprised by Kemp's letter in 1988 but equally dismayed by his subsequent decision to speak to Moon organizations.
"I was very glad that he accepted our argument back then," the woman said, "but then people like him see George Bush and Gerald Ford appearing, so I think many of them just go along. And of course, there's the fees. Money talks, as they say."
This summer, Kemp spoke at a conference sponsored by three Moon-connected groups, including the Family Federation for World Peace, which paid him $16,000 for his address. Some prominent speakers at that session, including Ford and Bill Cosby, told The Washington Post at the time that they had been unaware of ties between Moon and the sponsoring organization when they accepted the engagement.
But organizers of the conference said it was impossible that any speaker could be ignorant of the Moon role in the groups. Larry Moffitt, spokesman for the Washington Times Foundation, one of the co-sponsors, said then that "we take great pains to let everybody know who founded this."
Kemp has made no argument of ignorance about the events' organizers.
Kemp also reported receiving $20,000 for a speech to the World Media Association last January and $16,000 for a February 1995 address to the Women's Federation for World Peace. Both organizations were founded by Moon.
Despite Kemp's 1988 letter expressing his discomfort with any connection to the Unification Church, he was quoted in an advertisement for the Moon-owned Washington Times newspaper last year, joining House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) in praise of the conservative daily. Kemp, whose financial disclosure statement put his assets at between $2.56 million and $6 million, has relied on the lecture circuit for much of his income in recent years. He generally charged $24,000 per speech, but often accepted lower rates from nonprofit groups.