Joel Mowbray reports: CAIR’s Congressman? Part 2

We continue with Joel Mowbray’s investigative series on Minnesota’s DFL-endorsed Fifth District congressional candidate Keith Ellison. We will continue the series with additional installments tomorrow. Joel can be reached by email at [email protected] In this installment, Joel gets into the heart of the story:

Of all the political types I’ve dealt with as a journalist, Keith Ellison’s people were easily the most underhanded. Give them credit, though, as their bad behavior resulted in a negative story getting killed at the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

With the primary–the only election that matters in Minnesota’s very blue Fifth District–on Tuesday, Ellison could be just days away from all-but-guaranteeing his historic status as the first-ever Muslim Congressman. Which means that, should he win, not only will the media likely serenade him in coming months, but the Democratic Party will almost certainly exploit the opportunity to pander to a minority group.

But lost in the coverage so far has been an examination of the contributions Ellison has received from out-of-state fellow Muslims, some of whom just happen to be cheerleaders of Islamic terrorism.

As I always do when writing about someone, I attempted to interview Ellison. This was even more important, as the fair-minded editor at the Pioneer Press didn’t want a negative story running so close to the election without giving the candidate ample opportunity to respond. (I had tried to place something with the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier in the week, but the editor said, “With all due respect, we leave our reporting to our reporters.” Too bad their reporters haven’t been reporting.)

Ellison spokesman Dave Colling promised me early on Wednesday that, if Ellison had any time whatsoever on his schedule, I would get the interview. He didn’t guarantee any specific time, but he was crystal clear that the only reason I might not talk to the candidate was if he had no time. That afternoon, Ellison communications director Jim Leinfelder likewise assured me that every effort would be made to put me in touch with Ellison. Based on those pledges, the Pioneer Press editor and I agreed to hold the story, meaning it did not appear in Friday’s paper.

Lo and behold, late Thursday night–well after deadline–Colling e-mailed, informing me that a statement would be forthcoming in the morning. In other words, no interview. The campaign slow-rolled me. And though the Pioneer Press editor came close to running the story without Ellison directly answering questions raised by my reporting, he ultimately chose to hold off.

Though I disagree with the decision, the editor handled himself with the utmost professionalism. That’s more than I can say about Ellison.

In the interests of fairness, I expressed the specific concerns about Ellison’s supporters to Ellison’s staff. Usually this helps expedite the process, and even though I didn’t expect an apology, I naively believed that his campaign would at least attempt an explanation. That didn’t happen.

Though more details will be coming tomorrow, here are some of the key issues surrounding Ellison’s supporters:

· Nihad Awad, founder of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), personally donated $2,000, apparently as part of just over $10,000 in “bundled” contributions. He also was one of just two speakers besides Ellison at a fundraiser two weeks ago that Colling estimates netted $15,000 to $20,000.

Among other sordid facts about CAIR (which will be laid out–you guessed it–later), Awad said, “I’m in support of the Hamas movement.” This is not in dispute. It was was captured live on videotape as he uttered those words at Barry University in Florida in 1994.

· Shahzeb Gaziani gave $500 on July 22. He is an official with the Peace and Justice Foundation, whose president was a featured speaker at a December 2004 event titled, “A tribute to the great Islamic visionary Ayatollah Khomenei.” Khomenei, of course, called America the “Great Satan,” was responsible for the kidnappings of Americans at the Embassy in Tehran, and his regime helped create Hezbollah.

· Esam Omeish, who gave $500, is president of the Muslim American Society, which authorities believe is the political front in the U.S. for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the ideological forerunner of al Qaeda and many other Islamic terrorist organizations.

· Samir Abo Issa gave $500 on July 22. In 2003, he helped post bail for Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who is now facing trial on terror-related money laundering charges.

There might be a benign explanation, particularly Ellison’s own ignorance. But it becomes a lot harder to give the benefit of the doubt in light of the campaign’s behavior. The written statement, which Ellison’s campaign sent Friday, was stuffed with little more than platitutes. The best? “As part of Keith’s overarching philosophy of peace, he supports reaching across the ideological and religious barriers.”

What barriers? The ones that divide those who don’t support Islamic terror, and those who do?

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