Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

AIPAC Gave $60K to Architect of Trump’s Muslim Ban

AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

Lobelog

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been noticeably quiet about the Donald Trump administration’s slowness to denounce the spike in anti-Semitic attacks and bomb threats, its nomination of an ambassador to Israel who described J Street as “worse than kapos,” and its ties to ethno-nationalists like White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller. But AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.

In 2015, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran (CFNI). Expected to spend $20 million in July and August 2015, the group was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” spokesman Patrick Dorton told The New York Times. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.

Indeed, the group’s filing (viewable here) show that the AIPAC spin-off paid $18 million for “media related expenses,” $8.35 million for “phone program expenses,” and $58,200 for “survey expenses.”

Shortly after the group launched, my colleague Ali Gharib and I noticed that the group’s website featured two items promoting an exiled, ex-terrorist Iranian opposition group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq(MEK). CFNI even used b-roll footage from a press conference held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which the State Department deemed the MEK’s “political wing” (earning it a corresponding terrorist designation until the MEK was delisted as a terrorist organization in 2012).

After we reached out for comment, AIPAC’s anti-Iran deal advocacy group scrubbed their website of the MEK related materials, seemingly acknowledging a PR misstep. But the b-roll footage remained in their television commercials and on YouTube.

AIPAC’s flirtation with extreme groups appears to have gone even further than borrowing footage from the MEK.

Tax disclosures reveal that CFNI contributed $60,000 to “Secure Freedom,” a donation to a group with the tax-id number 52-1601976. That tax-id number belongs to Center for Security Policy, a hawkish think tank largely devoted to advocating for greater defense spending (it received funding from Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, and General Electric) and pushing completely unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about American Muslim and Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government.

The contact address for the contribution was a residential address in New Orleans belonging to Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) staffer Marsha Halteman. Halteman did not respond to questions about why her address appeared beneath the donation.

CSP is headed up by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney who baselessly claimed that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, and former George W. Bush appointee Suhail Khan were part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government. He also asserted that the Missile Defense Agency logo “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo” and helped launch an interfaith group to support Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda.

Gaffney and Trump aide Kellyanne Conway played a pivotal role in bringing about the administration’s efforts to ban immigration from seven (and now six) Muslim-majority countries.

In 2015, Gaffney commissioned Conway’s firm to produce a poll about Muslim attitudes. Released in June 2015, the poll found that 51% of Muslims agreed that “Muslims in America should have the choice to being governed according to Shariah,” among other findings. But the poll’s methodology was deeply flawed, relying on an opt-in online survey which industry experts consider unreliable. Conway’s own firm later admitted the data was not “statistically representative of the entire U.S. Muslim population.”

None of that stopped Trump from citing the poll as his justification for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” on December 7, 2015.

It’s possible that the funds went to support CSP’s advocacy opposing the Iran nuclear agreement. Nonetheless, AIPAC’s willingness to partner with an organization whose president, Frank Gaffney, was denounced by the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Conservative Union (which briefly banned him from their events after he accused political opponents of being part of a Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy) raises serious questions about AIPAC’s commitment to fighting bigotry, discrimination, and, in particular, Islamophobia.

Neither AIPAC nor CSP responded to requests for comment.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and is widely considered to be a future presidential candidate.


Laurence Silberman, a senior justice on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was a mentor to controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and has been a vocal supporter of right-wing foreign and domestic agendas, including the campaign to support the invasion of Iraq.


The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, advocates regime change in Iran and has strong connections with a wide range of top political figures in the U.S.


Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


Eli Lake is a columnist for Bloomberg View who has a lengthy record of advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policies towards the Middle East.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Josh Rogin is a journalist known for his support for neoconservative policies and views.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The contradictions in Donald Trump’s foreign policy create opportunities for both rivals and long-standing (if irritated) US allies to challenge American influence. But Trump’s immediate priority is political survival, and his actions in the international arena are of little concern to his domestic supporters.


While the notion that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic is decades old, it has been bolstered in recent years, by the campaign to add to the definition of anti-Semitism any criticism that singles Israel out and doesn’t apply the same standard to other countries. The bottom line is that this entire effort is designed not to combat anti-Semitism but to silence criticism. 


Short-term thinking, expedience, and a lack of strategic caution has led Washington to train, fund, and support group after group that have turned their guns on American soldiers and civilians.


Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


RightWeb
share