The National Review got hold of a 144-page internal document drafted for the Michelle Nunn campaign in December. It includes plenty of juicy revelations on campaign strategy, including a potentially serious issue with a Points of Light connection to a charity that has ties to Hamas, which is now at war with Israel.
The revelation came from an internal examination of the nascent campaign's potential weaknesses and how Republicans could attack them.
Points of Light, through a service called MissionFish, helped validate thousands of charities for EBay users who wanted to auction items and donate the proceeds to a specific charity. One of those groups was Islamic Relief USA, which got $33,000 from individual donors through the Points of Light-validated system. Islamic Relief USA provides funds for emergency relief and other programs overseas. It has worked with the American Red Cross.
Islamic Relief USA states on its website that it "is an independent affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Islamic Relief family of charities. We are completely separate legal entities that work together under the Islamic Relief Worldwide umbrella to provide aid." It also says it shares a "common mission, vision and family identity" with the other "Islamic Relief" groups.
The worldwide group is where the politically explosive Hamas connection comes.
Here's NRO's Eliana Johnson:
Islamic Relief Worldwide has ties to Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. In June, Israel banned the charity from operating in the country because, according to Israeli officials, it was funneling cash to Hamas. In 2006, Israelis arrested Islamic Relief Worldwide’s Gaza coordinator, Ayaz Ali. They said he was working to “transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations.” Ali admitted to cooperating with local Hamas operatives while working in Jordan and, on his computer, Israeli officials found photographs of “swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols,” and of Nazi officials, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Islamic Relief USA highlighted the work of Islamic Relief Worldwide in Palestine in its 2012 annual report, in which it talks generally about the work of Islamic Relief charities in the region without drawing a distinction between the branches. The organization has raised eyebrows before. According to a 2012 report, its bank account was closed by UBS and it was “under constant scrutiny by other banks due to nervousness about counterterrorist regulations.”
The group’s terror ties extend beyond Hamas, according to a former Israeli intelligence official. He says that Islamic Relief Worldwide’s country director in Palestine, Muneed Abugazaleh, met in April 2012 with Dr. Omar Shalah, a leader of the terror group Islamic Jihad and of the Riyad al-Saleheen Charitable Society, which is affiliated with the group. He is also the brother of Ramadan Shalah, the leader of Islamic Jihad.
The Nunn campaign notes that Points of Light did not actually give the money -- even though it was listed for bookkeeping purposes on the non-profit's IRS forms -- but rather validated Islamic Relief USA as a legitimate charity for others to give to. And the campaign emphasized that the USA and Worldwide groups are legally separate.
Islamic Relief Worldwide "categorically denies any links with Hamas." Islamic Relief USA said the only project it worked on with the worldwide affiliate in 2012 was in the West Bank and it works with the U.N. in Gaza. According to a spokeswoman:
"In all of our grant agreement language, it incorporates US Treasury Department language on US sanctions, and requires partners to abide by all applicable US regulations and laws. We have carefully checked procedures to make sure that they are in keeping with industry standards on vetting and risk management. IRUSA has an excellent working relationship with the US government and follows all applicable US laws and regulations."
Nunn campaign manager Jeff DiSantis had this to say about the document as a whole:
"This was a draft of a document that was written eight months ago. Like all good plans, they change. But what hasn’t changed and is all the more clear today is that Michelle’s opponents are going to mischaracterize her work and her positions, and part of what we’ve always done is to prepare for the false things that are going to be said.
"Michelle has always sought to run a campaign that brings people together and gets Washington focused on the real challenges the country faces. And that’s the kind of Senator she’ll be."