Keith Ellison is the DFL (Democratic)-endorsed candidate to succeed 14-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. Ellison is a current state representative; he was endorsed at the Fifth District DFL convention on May 6. The Fifth District includes the city of Minneapolis and is thought to be one of the safest Democratic seats in the country. If so, the DFL endorsement is tantamount to election.
However, Ellison’s endorsement by the Fifth District convention on May 6 will be contested in a September primary by candidates including former state DFL chairman Mike Erlandson, former DFL state Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge and others. I should think that Ellison must be considered the favorite to emerge as the winner of the primary and proceed to the election in November, where he would face Republican Alan Fine and a Green Party candidate.
Ellison’s candidacy has attracted national attention given Ellison’s identification of himself as a Muslim. Of greater interest to many, however, is Ellison’s past participation in the Nation of Islam. Ellison has only acknowledged “ties” to the Nation of Islam for eighteen months in the mid-1990s. Instead of examining the veracity of his attempt at damage control, Minnesota political reporters and columnists seem more interested in acting as his stenographer and running interfererence for him until his coronation as Fifth District Congressman.
In her incredibly lazy reporting on Ellison, for example, Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson has described the Nation of Islam as “an organization that is aimed at improving conditions for black people but has been criticized as being antiwhite, antigay and anti-Semitic.” It’s a description that indicates Olson’s heart isn’t in a serious look at Ellison’s involvement with the Nation of Islam, and she has not lifted a finger to ascertain it. By the same token, Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow contributes today’s puff piece on Ellison: “To those who ask about his past, Ellison’s first words often are, ‘I’ve grown.'” Ellison’s first words are the beginning and the end of Grow’s investigation; they’re good enough for Grow.
Ellison’s public advocacy of the tenets of the Nation of Islam and its leading personalities dates to his first published columns as a third-year student at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1989 and extend to his first campaign for office in 1998. Ellison freely spouted the Nation of Islam’s racist venom, supporting the Black Law Student Association’s sponsorship of the vile talk by Kwame Ture at the law school in 1990 and defending the proposition that Jews are among the most racist white people in the United States as a practicing attorney and Nation of Islam spokesman in 1997.
Ellison’s troubling causes do not end with the Nation of Islam. As a practicing attorney, Ellison has been an active member of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Ellison, in fact, has served as a member of the Guild chapter’s steering committee.
The National Lawyers Guild appears to have acted as a Communist front organization through much of its history, and it was recognized as the legal bulwark of the Communist Party in the United States by the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities in 1950. Even Walter Goodman’s The Committee, an unfriendly history of HUAC, provides evidence (at page 407 note 8) that tends to support HUAC’s characterization of the Guild.
In recent years, the Guild has embraced “every anti-America, anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-Israel, and ‘anti-imperialist’ cause in vogue among the far left and declare[d] itself ‘dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system.'” In Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, David Horowitz describes the Guild as an organization with a long history of “political agitation on behalf of radical and terrorist groups accused of violating [federal internal security measures].” A good example illustrating Horowitz’s point is the Guild’s active support of Palestine Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian.
Another good example is the Guild’s support of Minnesota’s own Sara Jane Olson (formerly Kathleen Soliah, hereinafter referred to as “Soliah/Olson”). Soliah/Olson is the former Symbionese Liberation Army member who participated in the 1975 Crocker Bank robbery in Sacramento that resulted in the murder of Myrna Opsahl. Following the robbery, Soliah/Olson attempted to murder police officers in Los Angeles with three pipe bombs planted under two police cars.
Soliah/Olson was indicted for the attempted bombing in 1976. Not long after the attempted bombing, the SLA broke up for good and its members went their separate ways. Soliah/Olson stayed with the SLA gang to the bitter end and then forged a new identity, calling herself Sara Jane Olson. She had her name legally changed to Sara Jane Olson after her apprehension on the Los Angeles charges in St. Paul in 1999, twenty-four years after the crimes for which she had been indicted.
Soliah/Olson became a cause célèbre for Minnesota radicals, Minnesota members of the National Lawyers Guild foremost among them. John Hinderaker and I dubbed Soliah/Olson’s Minnesota supporters “Kathy’s Clowns” in a 1999 column. At a February 2000 National Lawyers Guild fundraiser for Soliah/Olson, Keith Ellison declared Soliah/Olson “a black gang member” with the implication that she was the subject of politically-inspired persecution by law enforcement authorities.
A contemporaneous St. Paul Pioneer Press report on the fundraiser quoted Ellison:
Asked whether he supported Olson, Minneapolis lawyer and panelist Keith Ellison replied: “I’m a supporter of anybody who’s subject to political prosecution based on their being in a vilified group. Your chances of getting a fair trial are low…. I’ve been waiting for the evidence against her. I don’t think they would not cheat to prosecute this woman.'”
In a November 2001 interview, Ellison pursued the same theme, again impugning law enforcement authorities prosecuting Soliah/Olson: “I think it’s dangerous to prosecute people for their political views and their political associations. I think you prosecute people for what they do, for their acts.”
In October 2001, Soliah/Olson pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing explosives with intent to commit murder in the long-pending Los Angeles case. In January 2002 Soliah/Olson and four other SLA members were charged with the murder of Mrs. Opsahl in Sacaramento in the Crocker National Bank case. Soliah Olson pleaded guilty to the murder charge in November 2002. Since November 2001, Ellison has not to my knowledge been heard from on the subject of Soliah/Olson, either condeming her or apologizing to the law enforcement authorities he had wrongly impugned.
To his various Nation of Islam personas including Keith Hakim, Keith X Ellison, and Keith Ellison-Muhammad, we now add Ellison’s role as a radical member of the National Lawyers Guild and as a member in the fraternity of Kathy’s Clowns.