What Jewish Voters Should Know About the Source of Those 'Support Israel? Fire Obama' Yard Signs
It would be logical to assume the "Support Israel? Fire Obama" yard signs (graphic below) come from an organization focused on Israel as an issue. They are not. The signs are from the nonprofit American Majority, a Tea Party outfit with ties to the Koch brothers. American Majority has also received substantial funding (over one million dollars in 2010) from a foundation that is headed by a member of the secretive Catholic prelature Opus Dei and shares the address of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM).
The focus of this national Tea Party group is radical free marketers and culture warriors - anti-union, anti-regulatory, anti-environmental, anti-feminist, anti-reproductive rights, and the list goes on. But it's not about Israel.
In early October American Majority opened a storefront office on Forward Avenue in the largest Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This is one of several campaign offices opened in swing states including Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio.
The American Majority Inc.'s purpose, as listed on its IRS 990 tax forms is to "create a national training institute dedicated to identifying, training, and mentoring political leaders." It is affiliated with the Valley Forge Alliance in Aledo, Texas, also formerly called the John Hancock Committee for the States and the American Liberty Alliance, and the Sam Adams Alliance. The organizations have worked closely with Glenn Beck's 912 organizations to build Tea Party networks.
In 2010 alone, the American Majority received over one million dollars in funding from the Wellspring Committee, headed by Ann Corkery. Ann and her husband Neil are Catholic leaders in the fight against reproductive rights and marriage equality. Both the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy are registered under Neil's name at the same Manassas, Virginia address as the Wellspring Committee. Ann Corkery is a self-declared member of Opus Dei.
The Wellspring Committee provides funding to the Susan B. Anthony, the anti-feminist organization founded as a counter to Emily's List. "Dark money" in the 2012 elections has been traced by journalists to the Corkerys, including something called The Annual Fund. ( Dark money refers to funding from groups not required to reveal their donors including nonprofits.) According to Propublica, The Annual Fund has funded the "Independent Women's Voice" and Citizens for the Republic, both of which have purchased political ads. In turn, The Annual Fund was funded by Ann Corkery's Wellspring Committee. The Independent Women's Voice is an affiliate of the Independent Women's Forum, an anti-feminist group.
The bulk of the funding for American Majority is reported to be from the Sam Adams Alliance, which describes itself as the "sponsor" of American Majority. The Sam Adams Alliance was founded by Eric O'Keefe, a former executive director of the Libertarian Party who worked for David Koch's Citizens for a Sound Economy and with Howard Rich's Americans for Limited Government. According to both the Center for Media and Democracy and Media Transparency, Sam Adams Alliance also provides funding to the Franklin Center and is at the hub of a network of Koch and Bradley Foundation-funded entities behind the growth of the Tea Party.
Other funding, including over $300,000 dollars in 2010 came from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, one of the major sources of rightwing think tank funding in the U.S. Harry Bradley was one of the original charter members of the John Birch Society, along with Fred Koch, father of the now famous Koch brothers. Founded in 1942, the goal of the Bradley Foundation as described by the Center for Media and Democracy is,
"...to return the U.S. -- and the world -- to the days before governments began to regulate Big Business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force."
American Majority and American Majority Action
American Majority Inc., a 501(c)(3) and its affiliated 501(c)(4) political arm, American Majority Action, were founded in 2008 by sons of former Congressman Jim Ryun (r-KS) Ned Ryun, a former writer for George W. Bush, and his brother Drew Ryun. American Majority is advertised as,
"operates Liberty Headquarters in five key swing states to serve as central nerve centers for conservative volunteers. Florida staff and volunteers conduct voter targeting, outreach, advocacy, and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities to mobilize voters on Election Day."
American Majority's goal is to "infuse new Tea Party blood" and is advertised as having trained Tea Party candidates successful at the state and local level including school board elections, and over 20,000 activists. American Majority was the sponsor of the 2011 "I Stand with Walker" rallies countering unions and supporting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.
One of the activist training sessions was secretly videoed by an Australian filmaker, Taki Oldham, who went undercover to determine if "astroturfing" was real. Astroturfing, as described on the film's website, is the "practice of manufacturing citizens groups for the purpose of delivering corporate messages." Oldham secretly taped an American Majority training session on instructing Tea Party members on how to manipulate online media such as book and movie reviews. The filmmaker came to the conclusion that astroturfing is indeed real and,
"on a scale greater than he could have imagined, threatening not only the health of American democracy, but that of its citizens and the planet as a whole."
A short clip from the film is embedded below.
American Majority Action's 990 IRS tax forms list grants for "get-out-the-vote" efforts to both Tea Party and Religious Right organization, including the Tampa 912, Doylestown Kitchen Table Patriots in Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Family Institute, associated with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
American Majority is also the founder of "Media Trackers." The Center for Media and Democracy describes Media Trackers as "an attack dog organization with scant regard for the facts." Unknown donors have provided funding to expand Media Trackers from a project in Wisconsin in 2011, to Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Montana.
Media Trackers was the original source of the now debunked stories about Kyle Wood. Wood, a gay Republican was working as a "full-time volunteer" for Wisconsin congressional candidate Chad Lee, when he claimed to have received threatening emails from the husband of the opposing candidate Mark Pocan, who is also gay. Wood then claimed he was assaulted and choked at his home, a story that received national coverage before Wood recanted his claims to police. Media Trackers has removed the original stories, but the inflammatory claims headlined ""Mark Pocan's Husband Told Beaten GOP Operative 'You're A Marked Man,' Threatened and Harassed Via Text Message" went viral in the rightwing blogoshere. The Center for Media and Democracy has described the story as " libelous."
Publications including Mother Jones have described Media Trackers as "mangling the truth." Media Trackers claimed in November 2011 that young African American women signing the Gov. Scott Walker recall petition were underage and offered cigarettes for their participation, another claim promptly proven to be false. A November 1, 2012 Crooks and Liars post titled "Lie Until You're Caught" notes that the false claims of criminal wrongdoing appear to be a formula for Media Tracker, followed by denial if the scheme unravels.
The Squirrel Hill Office
The American Majority Action temporary storefront office in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh might have received little notice if it weren't for two incidents of spray paint vandalism, ostensibly by supporters of President Obama and caught on video. The signs were altered including changing "Support Israel, Fire Obama" to read "Hire Obama." The incidents have been fodder for Tea Party and other rightwing websites across the nation. Local press has reported the incidents with no reference to the background and other activities of the organization.
The Squirrel Hill office is headed by Josh Wander, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel. Wander is a local Tea Party leader, certified trainer for the NRA, and founder of Jewish Preppers. This is Wander's Jewish variation of a survivalist group, although he takes pains to separate himself from "right-wing militiaman preparing for Armageddon in the boondocks of Montana."
Wander bases his modern day survivalist motivation on his fear of "Jewicidal" behavior and refers reader of his website to the Gates of Vienna. This Virginia-based website is known for its "counterjihad," anti-Muslim, and anti-multiculturalism writers, some of whom are considered heroes of the new international far right. Gates of Vienna drew international attention because of its reported influence on the Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik, who frequently cited the blog. The website's anti-Muslim screeds and claims that Christian Europe is being overrun, bear a startling resemblance to the anti-Jewish propaganda of the post-World War I period.
Impacting Jewish Voters
American Majority also has campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach and has conducted training in conjunction with Glenn Beck's 912 organizations in Florida locations including Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, Venice, St. Augustine, Lakeland and Port Charlotte. In addition to the Pittsburgh office, Pennsylvania headquarters are in Chester County in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Ohio, American Majority has offices in Steubenville and Cincinnati and is working in Columbus and Cleveland.
There are Zionist and other Jewish organizations, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, that are spending millions of dollars to try to impact American Jewish voters. They claim that Obama "has thrown Israel under the bus," but this is disputed by leading Israeli politicians, including former Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. Barak described Obama's support as "unparalleled" in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in July, stating,
"But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past."
Other Israeli politicians and military leaders have also voiced similar opinions about the Obama administration.
Regardless of one's view on what is best for Israel's future and security, Jewish voters should not be fooled by the "Support Israel, Fire Obama" yard signs. American Majority's agenda is not about Israel.