We continue with the third part of Joel Mowbray’s investigative series on Minnesota’s DFL-endorsed Fifth District congressional candidate Keith Ellison. If all goes as planned, we will continue the series with an additional installment later today and one tomorrow. Joel can be reached by email at [email protected] In this installment, Joel provides critical background on the friends of Keith Ellison and condemns the Star Tribune’s utter nonfeasance with respect to same:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is willing to condemn almost anything, from TV shows, such as “24,” to Israel to U.S. foreign policy. Just about the only exceptions are radical Islam and Islamic terror. And while CAIR is slick enough to avoid an overt embrace of terrorists, it has recently latched onto Keith Ellison, who is poised to become the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress.
Though one of his two main opponents in this Tuesday’s primary has made an issue of Ellison’s affiliation with CAIR founder Nihad Awad, almost all other major Democrats have been eerily silent. Neither the Minnesota nor the national Democratic Party has attempted to marginalize Ellison, even after the financial and other help from Awad surfaced. Given the opportunity to comment, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield didn’t call me as promised after our initial conversation—and she somehow subsequently missed a dozen total calls made to her cell and office phones.
It’s not hard to understand why Democrats are steering clear of Keith Ellison. How could they possibly defend his taking money and other fundraising help from a self-identified Hamas supporter, whose previous employer was found by a civil court judge to have been supporting Hamas? What could leading Democrats say about other Ellison supporters, including one whose organization in late 2004 participated in “A tribute to the great Islamic visionary Ayatollah Khomenei”?
At least one Democrat—the top party official in Minnesota—has come out swinging in defense of Ellison. Minnesota DFL Party chairman Brian Melendez attempted to stifle criticism by playing the bigotry card: “There are people in this world who hear Muslim and think terrorist. They’re bigots who wouldn’t vote for Ellison anyway.”
Melendez offered this astounding defense before the Awad-headlined fundraiser and Ellison’s latest FEC filings, which is when the full extent of the CAIR founder’s role became known. But ironically, his comments are all the more fitting now, as those very words could have been uttered by CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper himself. Actually, they pretty much were.
Mike Erlandson, one of two other main Democrats in the race and the longtime chief of staff of retiring Rep. Martin Sabo, recently attacked Ellison for appearing with Awad, whom he reportedly described as a Hamas supporter. The extent of the Star-Tribune’s research into this allegation was to call CAIR. Hooper whined, “It is unfortunate that a candidate for public office would stoop to anti-Muslim bigotry … by using long-refuted smears. Neither the council nor Mr. Awad supports any terrorist group anywhere in the world.”
When CAIR speaks, what matters is what the definition of “terrorist” is. CAIR does not view groups like Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists. To them, Israel is the terrorist. And since they don’t support Israel—this is almost certainly CAIR’s logic—they don’t support terrorism. CAIR has yet to condemn by name any Islamic terrorist organization, except for al Qaeda—which it did only reluctantly several months after 9/11. Even CAIR’s much-hyped fatwa against terrorism and extremism last year did nothing more than condemn two terms that intentionally were not defined.
Had the Star-Tribune reporter done so much as a Google search, she would have learned that Awad had publicly declared himself a Hamas supporter during a 1994 speech at Barry University in Florida. The remarks were captured on videotape, and the corresponding transcript was accepted into evidence in a civil trial two years ago. Instead, the reporter was hoodwinked by CAIR’s skillful phrasing.
Given how smooth Awad is said to be, it is understandable that someone not knowing his true nature could accept campaign contributions and other help from him. And Ellison is not the first to appear publicly with Awad. President Bush did so days after 9/11, as Communications Director Jim Leinfelder was quick to note. But it was precisely because of that incident that outcry over Awad and CAIR skyrocketed. And after the Islamic Association of Palestine–where Awad was an executive immediately before founding CAIR–shuttered in the wake of being found liable in a civil court in 2004 for supporting Hamas, focus on Awad has only intensified.
Everyone’s entitled to make mistakes. Awad is hardly the first shady character to contribute campaign cash. So if the answer is as simple as Ellison didn’t think to have his staff do any kind of background check on someone he’s known since his days in law school, then that’s fair enough.
But protocol dictates that when a candidate learns he took money from someone with whom he wants no association, he returns the cash or donates it to charity. Ellison has not done so. Now that his staff has been given full notice about Awad and several people he apparently persuaded to support Ellison, will the candidate do the right thing?
If Ellison decides to keep the cash Awad had a hand in collecting, then the Democratic frontrunner has made a clear statement about who he is.
Assuming Ellison wants to keep CAIR’s company—as his evasive behavior suggests–then both the Democratic Party and voters in MN-05 need to make an equally clear statement: No friend of CAIR’s can be a friend of ours.