State Dept. Investigated over Anti-Netanyahu Campaign
As Israelis were voting for their next prime minister Tuesday, American lawmakers were demanding to know if U.S. taxpayer dollars helped fund a campaign to oust current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S. State Department allegedly donated $350,000 in taxpayer funded grants to the OneVoice Movement, a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to a two-state solution for Israel. OneVoice, in turn, donated the funds to its subsidiary in Israel, Victory 15 (V15). Victory 15 is a grassroots movement to unseat Netanyahu.
Media outlets first started to report on the questionable use of State Department grants to fund V15 in January.
Now, 20 members of Congress are urging the State Department and Obama affiliates to come clean on the possible funding of an anti-Netanyahu campaign.
"As members of Congress, we are greatly concerned to hear allegations of our own State Department spending American tax dollars that were then used to influence foreign elections. Israeli elections should be left to the citizens of Israel and not the influence of U.S. taxpayer-funded grants which may be considered illegal," the respresentatives said in a joint statement.
"We implore that OneVoice provide the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Rob Portman and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill a full accounting of their funding of Victory 15 and their political campaigning which appears to have as its objective to impact the outcome of the Israeli elections," they continued. "Promotional and website information, including their slogan, 'replace the government,' provide clear indication of election organizing, beyond the legal status of a not-for-profit organization."
V15 recruited Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign strategist, as one of its consultants for the upcoming election. V15's office in Israel also neighbors OneVoice.
"We were approached by OneVoice to give us a donation and we were so thrilled that successful businessmen want to invest in Israel's future," V15 co-founder Itamar Weizman told CBN News in February.
"Our whole purpose is to go door by door and to call supporters and to call voters and to pledge people not to vote for Netanyahu," Weizman said.
The State Department has denied any taxpayer money given to OneVoice went to V15. If grants did go toward actively supporting campaign efforts against Netanyahu, that is a direct violation of U.S. law.
The representatives behind the Congressional inquiry are Reps. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., Mike Bost, R-Ill., Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., Steve King, R-Iowa, Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., Billy Long, R-Mo., Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Bill Posey, R-Fla., Tom Rice, R-S.C., Dennis Ross, R-Fla., Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Joe Wilson, R-S.C.