Mystery of who funded right-wing "radical Islam" campaign deepens
A document obtained by Salon creates new speculation about who paid for a right-wing campaign to stoke Islamophobia Video
MONEYMAN FOR ANTI-MUSLIM DVD CAMPAIGN REVEALED?
By Justin Elliott
Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010 http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/11/16/clarion_fund_obsession_dvds/index.html
In the heat of the 2008 presidential election, an obscure nonprofit group called the Clarion Fund made national news by distributing millions of DVDs about radical Islam in newspaper inserts in swing states.
The DVDs, 28 million in all, were a boost to Republican candidates who were trying to paint Democrats as weak on terrorism -- and they arguably helped fuel the anti-Muslim sentiment that boiled over in the "ground zero mosque" fight last summer. The film, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War With the West," was widely criticized for its cartoonish portrayal of Muslims as modern-day Nazis.
But who put up the money to send out all those millions of DVDs?
Clarion, which has strong links to the right-wing Israeli group Aish HaTorah and is listed in government records as a foreign nonprofit, would never say.
Indeed, the group does not have to release detailed donor information because of its nonprofit tax status. We knew only that there was serious money behind the effort: Clarion spent nearly $19 million in 2008, the year it sent out the DVDs.
Now, just as Clarion is gearing up to release a new film hyping the threat of Iran, the money mystery has deepened: According to a document submitted to the IRS by Clarion and obtained by Salon, a donor listed as Barry Seid gave Clarion nearly $17 million in 2008, which would have paid for virtually the entire "Obsession" DVD campaign.
Nonprofit groups must submit financial information including the identity of donors to the IRS -- but ordinarily only basic revenue and spending data are made available to the public. In the case of Clarion, an extra page with donor information seems to have been inadvertently included in its public filing. See it here. (It was previously available on public websites that collect IRS forms submitted by nonprofits.)
There's only one Barry Seid Salon could find who might fit the profile of a $17 million donor to Clarion. That would be businessman Barre Seid (note the different spelling) of Illinois, a longtime contributor to right-wing and Jewish causes. But his representative flatly denied to Salon that he has ever given money to Clarion.
The elderly and press-shy Seid is president of Tripp Lite, a large Chicago-based manufacturer of power strips that got into the personal computer market on the ground floor back in the 1980s. Seid has personally poured millions of dollars into Republican campaigns and conservative causes, and his foundation has given generously to the Cato Institute, the Americans for Limited Government Foundation, and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This year, Seid received an honorary degree from Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv for his work "supporting those organizations which will fortify Israel's position in the world."
But Seid assistant Joan Frontczak told Salon in an e-mail: "Mr. Seid did not make any contributions to the Clarion Fund." And she added: "Mr. Seid is a very private person and doesn't seek publicity of any kind."
Furthermore, Clarion Fund spokesman Alex Traiman denied that the inadvertently released document is accurate.
"The sources of anonymous donations to the Clarion Fund in 2008 have been incorrectly identified," Traiman said in an e-mail to Salon. "As like many other not-for-profit organizations, we respect the right of private donors to remain anonymous."
But there's another wrinkle here. As first reported by Counterpunch, a right-leaning Alexandria, Va.-based outfit called Donors Capital Fund revealed in its 2008 IRS filing that it gave $17.7 million to Clarion that year, the same year the DVDs were sent out. Donors Capital Fund is what's known as a donor-advised fund: It offers various tax and other advantages to people who want to make large donations to nonprofits.
Whitney Ball, president of Donors Capital Fund, told Salon that the group acts as a charitable vehicle for individuals who give Donors Capital Fund money and tell it where they would like the money to go. "One of our clients made a recommendation for Clarion and so we did it," she said. Ball declined to identify the client or comment on Seid.
Seid's private foundation has in the past made at least one donation to Donors Capital Fund. Seid's assistant did not respond to a request for comment about whether he had made a donation to Donors Capital Fund and recommended that the money go to Clarion. So, for now, it's impossible to say for sure why the name "Barry Seid" showed up on Clarion's tax forms.
Finally, here is the trailer for Clarion's new film, "Iranium." It will be interesting to see if any donor steps forward to pay for wider distribution.
Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at email@example.com
BARRE SEID PLAUSIBLY DENIES FUNDING 'OBSESSION,' ALL THE WHILE DOING PRECISELY THAT
Barre Seid: $17-million for anti-Muslim hate fest film
Barre Seid: $17-million for anti-Muslim hate fest film
Justin Elliott has finally solved the riddle of who gave $17-million to Clarion Fund to distribute 28 million DVDs of its anti-Muslim porn (not as in sex) film Obsession during the 2008 presidential election. Well, to be more specific, we know who, or more precisely what gave the gift to Clarion: Donor's Capital Trust. But till now, we didn't know who gave the gift to that arch-conservative donor advised fund. Now, we know, thanks to Justin that it was computer power strip king (bet you didn't know there was such a beast, did you?) Barre Seid (bio). Here's Clarion's 990 form addendum documenting Seid's gift). This complicated funding process, designed to provide plausible deniability to Seid, thus allows his assistant, in the Salon story, to deny Seid funded the film:
"Mr. Seid did not make any contributions to the Clarion Fund."
She's right, technically. He didn't. DCT did. But DCT wouldn't have without Seid's gift to it. You see how these dudes operate? Is this legal? Should it be?
Elliott wouldn't have known any of this unless Clarion's accountant hadn't made a serious error in filing Seid's name on its 2008 IRS 990, something it didn't need to do. Now that it has done so, Clarion is seeking to walk the horse back to the barn, but with considerable difficulty. It claims that the information filed in its 990 is in error. Excuse me? I don't know what's worse, making an error by divuling information that gets you in the dog's house with a donor; or after the fact telling the IRS you goofed up the forms you filed with it. I know I wouldn't want to be sitting in front of an IRS agent explaining to him how the data I submitted under penalty of perjury was actually wrong.
I don't have any problem with anyone doing as Seid did for a project that is clearly non profit and non-partisan. But this specific project, distributing those DVDS during that election was a blatant political interference that usurped the IRS non-profit tax code. I hope to God some IRS agent is now reading this and putting in a call to Mr. Seid's attorney seeking some answers and perhaps even an audit. While they're at it they should haul in DCT and Clarion Fund as well. They both have some explaining to do.
In case anyone continues to doubt that the Barry Seid listed in the Clarion Fund filing is the same as Barre Seid, you could do any overlay of the latters private foundation with some of the DCT gifts to right wing Jewish charities. I'm betting that those gifts were donor-advised by Seid and that these are groups he also would've given to via his own private giving. Bingo. There's $450,000 in gifts over a 10-year period from the Seid Foundation to the Foundation for Jewish Camping, and a $10-million 2008 gift (see Schedule A, p. 2 of 4) to the same group through Donors Capital. Perhaps not a smoking gun, but a bit of powder residue.
Additionally, Elliot notes a $25,000 gift from the Seid Foundation to Donors Capital in 2005. Where there's residue there was smoke, and where there was smoke, well…you know what followed smoke–$17-million!
The next time you see a power strip or surge protector or any other product made by Tripp-Lite Power Protection or Trippe Manufacturing, don't buy it. You're only enriching Barre Seid and encouraging him to fund another Obsession.
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