Islamist Campaign Donors Overwhelmingly Back Democrats

An analysis of federal campaign contributions finds that key figures at six of America’s most prominent Islamist organizations have favored Democrats over Republicans by a ratio of 12 to 1 since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This trend began with multiple donations to Cynthia McKinney dated September 11, 2001, reversing a previous pattern that had seen Islamist officials spend slightly more on Republicans. Their preference for Democrats has solidified during the past 13 years and shows no signs of waning. What does this say about the politicians who benefit from Islamist largesse?

Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, recently launched Islamist Money in Politics (IMIP), to monitor Islamists’ influence in the halls of power, inform the public about which politicians accept their tainted money, and hold accountable those who do. IMIP’s inaugural data release focuses on the national organizations of six Islamist entities — the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) — as well as CAIR’s many local chapters.

Names of important personnel, both current and former, were mined from the groups’ Internal Revenue Service filings and/or website listings, some going back more than a decade. The Federal Election Commission’s online database, which spans the late 1990s to the present, was then searched for donations to candidates, joint fundraising committees, relevant political action committees, and parties. IMIP employed biographical information to select only those contributions that could reasonably be attributed to the individuals of interest, rejecting ones likely to have been made by unrelated persons who share their names. See IMIP’s description of methodology for details and a discussion of the challenges.

As of now, the IMIP database tabulates nearly $700,000 in donations. Surely many more people and contributions remain to be added, but the data already constitute a large and representative sample that is sufficient for an initial pass at quantifying Islamists’ political affinities.

First, who contributes? Major donors tend to be board members rather than staffers. While many of the biggest contributors maintain relatively low public profiles, several are quite familiar. With outlays totaling $56,800, the most generous funder of politicians in IMIP’s database is Kenny Gamble, who goes by Luqman Abdul Haqq in his position on MANA’s governing body. An Islamist-aligned music and real estate mogul, Gamble is tied to the “Islamic paramilitary boys group” known as the Jawala Scouts and has been accused of working to build a self-contained “black Muslim enclave” in South Philadelphia. Also among the top 20 donors are CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, who has contributed under numerous variants of his name; former MAS president and current CAIR national board member Esam Omeish, who resigned from a Virginia immigration panel in 2007 after a video emerged of his speech touting the Palestinians’ embrace of “the jihad way” against Israel; and Zead Ramadan, the CAIR-New York board member who unsuccessfully ran for New York City Council in 2013.

With regard to recipients, the Democratic Party dominates. Leading the all-time list by vacuuming up close to one in every five dollars is Keith Ellison, the Islamist-leaning Muslim congressman from Minnesota who has a long history of collaborating with Islamist groups. Barack Obama, whose policies have been popular with Islamists, comes in second when direct contributions are combined with those sent to joint fundraising committees associated with his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Third is Cynthia McKinney, the far-left former congresswoman from Georgia who peddled conspiracy theories and harsh critiques of U.S. foreign policy in the wake of 9/11; that she ranks so high despite the fact that most donations to her were collected during a one-year, post-9/11 window testifies to Islamists’ endorsement of her adversarial stance at the outset of America’s military response to Islamic terrorism. Fourth is Indiana’s André Carson, the second Muslim congressman to be elected; he told attendees at the 2012 ICNA–MAS convention that educators should model American schools after Islamic madrassas. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rounds out the top five.

However, Democrats did not always prevail in the battle for Islamist cash. According to IMIP’s current data, Republicans actually received about 15 percent more Islamist-related contributions than Democrats did over the several years prior to 9/11. The Islamists’ favorite Republican of that period was Californian Tom Campbell, who contested a Senate seat in 2000. Campbell’s warm relationships with radical Muslims, such as terror operative Sami al-Arian, are thoroughly documented. Further, although IMIP features only a handful of entries from the 2000 presidential race, there is more money for George W. Bush than for Al Gore. This is not a surprise because Bush won the backing of the American Muslim Political Coordination Committee, an Islamist-heavy coalition.

But 9/11 and the subsequent Republican-led war on terror changed everything, even the destination of Islamist money. IMIP detects the first hints of a sharp left turn in the form of donations to Cynthia McKinney from three Islamist figures, including Nihad Awad, on September 11, 2001 — undoubtedly before the Bush administration had a chance to do much to upset the self-proclaimed guardians of the Muslim community in the post-9/11 era. IMIP records no other contribution to any recipient within two weeks in either direction, making the date seem less coincidental. Many more donations would be routed to McKinney from Islamists’ wallets in the months to come. Over the 365 days that followed the 9/11 attacks, IMIP measures an 8-to-1 ratio of contributions in the Democrats’ favor. A majority of them flowed to McKinney.