We continue with the fourth 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 final installment tomorrow. Joel can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In this installment, Joel takes advantage of our own research and combines it with his analysis of Ellison’s friends:
Even more so than most politicians, Keith Ellison has a credibility problem.
And when you have very serious blotches on your record that require an awful lot of generosity of spirit to view benignly, credibility is critical.
As Scott Johnson has proven with painstaking precision, the Democrat-endorsed candidate in Minnesota’s Fifth District was far from candid in apologizing for his Nation of Islam (NOI) past in a letter to the Jewish community earlier this year.
While he claimed that he was only somewhat involved with NOI for a period of just 18 months, Johnson has proven that on multiple occasions in the mid-1990’s, Ellison acted as the local NOI spokesman. And while in law school in 1990, Ellison wrote at least one column explicitly defending NOI leader Louis Farrakhan from charges of anti-Semitism, which strongly suggests Ellison was a member of NOI stretching back to the beginning of the decade.
Not that seven or eight years of membership in the NOI would necessarily be more unforgivably than 18 months’ worth, but when Ellison had the chance to come clean, he didn’t.
Based on my limited experience with the campaign over the past week, Ellison’s penchant for bogus denials seems to have taken root with his staff. I asked spokesman Dave Colling a simple question regarding CAIR founder Nihad Awad. The curt denial he sent back without any explanation was, at best, perhaps true only in a very narrow sense. But that’s the generous interpretation. It could be that Colling attempted to hoodwink me.
Careful examination of Ellison’s FEC filings reveals that a number of out-of-state contributions were received on July 22, 2006. In all, seven checks from VA and TX were registered on July 22, including $2,000 from Awad, who has known Ellison since the two attended the University of Minnesota together almost two decades ago. Additionally, one more check from VA was registered on July 23.
Of the eight total contributions from VA and TX on July 22 and 23, almost all are verifiably within one degree of separation from Awad, who has extensive professional ties in both areas. And given that Awad is both a community leader and an associate of Ellison’s for a long time, the only logical conclusion is that the contributions were “bundled” by the CAIR founder.
When he was asked simply to verify that Awad had “bundled” the checks totaling just over $10,000, Colling took a day to respond. His complete answer was: “No, checks were not ‘bundled’.”
What is an absolute certainty is that the checks were “bundled,” unless the checks were cut at a different fundraiser attended by Awad in July. Eight checks from out-of-state do not by mere coincidence arrive simultaneously at a campaign that has raised most of its money from in-state. Either way, it defies credulity to suggest that Awad was not a key player in raising funds from the two states where his professional ties happen to be the strongest.
Additionally, the executive director and director of government relations for CAIR kicked in a total of $1,500 to Ellison’s campaign, and a former CAIR board member in Texas added another $250.
Colling ignored follow-up questions attempting to nail down Awad’s exact role in raising the funds.
That Awad and his associates contributed significant coin in July also undercuts arguments by the Ellison campaign that they had nothing to do with Awad headlining an August 25 fundraiser. While it is at least conceivable that local Muslims could have reached out of their own accord to someone Ellison has known since law school, it is difficult to believe that Awad would have contributed personally, helped raise money, and headline a fundraiser all without being in contact with his old friend. As anyone with campaign experience can attest, someone who does that much only does so after being asked. Ellison and his people need credibility for their version of events to be believed, and quite simply, they have very little.
If Ellison genuinely did not know the true nature of his old acquaintance when he accepted Awad’s help, then he can be forgiven. But first, he needs to apologize. And to show that the apology is sincere, he must return the Awad-tied contributions or at least donate them to charity.
Until he does, his inaction is tantamount to an embrace of CAIR and its founder. Someone who knowingly chooses that kind of company has no business being in Congress.