Skip to content

National Prayer Breakfast Group Has New Leadership

The Cedars estate in Arlington, Virginia, headquarters of the Fellowship Foundation.


(Image: Photo by Eric Byler/TYT Investigates.)

At some point during a tumultuous year for the Fellowship Foundation--famous for the National Prayer Breakfast and ties to more than one national scandal--the influential group got a new president, according to tax documents obtained by The Young Turks.

Started in 1942, the Fellowship Foundation for decades has hosted the National Prayer Breakfast, a high-profile annual event co-chaired by members of Congress from both parties. The group found itself in the national spotlight a decade ago during scandals involving two of its members, then-Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and then-Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who is now a member of Congress.

More recently, the Fellowship appeared in an FBI charging document against accused Russian agent Maria Butina, who attended the 2016 and 2017 National Prayer Breakfasts and allegedly sought to network with American officials and influential figures through connections with unnamed persons in the Fellowship.

Rep. Bob Aderholt (R-AL), who has ties to the Fellowship, was identified by the FBI earlier this year as having met with lobbyists secretly working for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on behalf of Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych. TYT previously reported that Aderholt also met with Yanukovych himself and wealthy patron Rinat Akhmetov in Ukraine on a trip paid for by the Fellowship Foundation.

The Fellowship suffered a significant loss last year with the death of its spiritual guiding light, Douglas Coe, a long-time friend and counselor to many of Washington’s most powerful in both parties, as well as the patriarch of a core group of Fellowship associates, employees, and volunteers.

The Fellowship’s new president is Katherine Crane, who has never been an officer, but joined the board of directors in 2008. Officers are unsalaried and typically put in minimal hours per week on Fellowship work. Crane is married to Douglas Crane, a former member of the board and now an employee drawing a $47,000 salary, according to the filing. Douglas Crane is not listed as an employee in last year’s 990 filing. The filing, dated Nov. 15, has not yet been made public but was provided by the Fellowship’s legal counsel in response to a request by TYT.

Tax filings provided to TYT by the Fellowship Foundation show the group's leadership has changed.

(Image: Excerpt of PDF of 2017 form 990.)

As the group’s new leader, Katherine Crane replaced William Dabbs Cavin, who served as the Fellowship’s president from 2011 through 2016. Cavin remains on the Fellowship’s board, which he joined in 2009. Cavin is an executive at Mountaire, a large poultry company owned and run by CEO Ron Cameron, a prominent Republican donor who sat on the Fellowship’s board through 2008. Cameron was previously identified as having donated millions to the Fellowship through another organization, according to documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The timing of the change in leadership is unclear, and the group’s 2016 form identifies both Crane and Cavin as president, suggesting Crane may have replaced Cavin in late 2016. In addition to the presidency shift, the group last year also got a new treasurer, Merle Smith, who has been on the board since 2008. Both the number of board members and employees went down last year. The group reports having 120 employees around the world, down from 129 last year.

In 2016, 12 of Coe’s relatives were listed as receiving compensation from the Fellowship Foundation, ranging as high as $113,000, and four of them were also provided housing. Last year, only eight Coe relatives got paid by the group. None of them are listed as receiving housing.

Although recent public versions of its filings have disclosed neither who its donors are nor the amounts of individual donations, Schedule B of the 2017 version provided to TYT does list some amounts given by individual contributors.

The Schedule B filing provided to TYT indicates five contributors. However, because their identities are not included on the public form, it’s not clear whether some contributors may have been listed more than once under varying names or entities.

According to the form, the contributions came in the following amounts: $300,000, $300,938, $385,100, $593,218, and $3,340,770. In all, the group reported almost $13 million in grants and contributions--including one gift of $147,213 worth of publicly traded securities--out of $15 million in total revenue. The Fellowship reports spending no money on fundraising.

TYT originally sought the group’s 2017 990 tax forms at the Fellowship’s Arlington headquarters, known as The Cedars. There, TYT was told the forms could be accessed at its accountant’s offices in Bethesda. Employees at the accounting firm, CohnReznick, first denied entry to TYT and then hung up on a TYT reporter who called to request an appointment to view the documents. A subsequent call to CohnReznick’s New York headquarters led to a lawyer for the Fellowship sharing the new 990 with TYT electronically. The Fellowship reported paying CohnReznick $462,000 for accounting services last year.

The Fellowship lawyer, Chip Grange, said in an email that the group will make its filings available to the public at The Cedars. The Fellowship’s spokesperson was said to be traveling internationally and did not respond to a request for comment.

Jonathan Larsen is TYT's managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.

Follow TYT Investigates on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to stay on top of exclusive news stories from The Young Turks.

New page: National Prayer Breakfast Group Has New Leadership -