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Islamist Money in Politics

Donations from Individuals Associated with American Islamist Groups

About Islamist Money in Politics

Islamist Money in Politics (IMIP), an Islamist Watch initiative, illuminates a little-explored facet of Islamist political influence in the United States: campaign contributions by key figures in America's foremost Islamist groups. By tracking such donations, IMIP seeks to highlight this hidden concern and hold politicians accountable for accepting funds from individuals who, in the words of a Muslim Brotherhood memorandum, "understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within."

Methodology

Prominent Islamists. IMIP has created a list of current and former personnel of leading Islamist groups, including six national entities and the local chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Names were compiled from two primary sources:

  • IRS returns that many of the nonprofits file annually. These contain the names of board members and the most senior figures. Returns acquired by IMIP reach back more than a decade.
  • Organizational websites, which often feature the names of board members and staffers. Archived versions of the sites, some as old as the late 1990s, have been mined for the names of past officials and employees.

Interns, law clerks, and low-ranking staffers who exercise little control over the ideological direction of the groups have been excluded from the list.

Political donations. Records maintained by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), whose online database covers the late 1990s to the present, were searched for donations made by these Islamist-affiliated individuals. Beyond contributions to specific candidates, IMIP has included those directed to joint fundraising committees, which distribute funds to other committees and are often linked to particular candidates. Contributions to political action committees have also been included, but PACs that are largely motivated by business interests (e.g., the Renal Physicians Association PAC) have been ignored.

At this time, the IMIP database is limited to federal campaign donations, but the goal is to expand the analysis to the state level.

Challenges and caveats

Inconsistent spellings. A number of individuals have their names spelled multiple ways in the aforementioned IRS filings, websites, and so forth. Moreover, data processing errors by both the campaigns and the FEC introduce misspellings and typos in the FEC data posted online. A typical version of each name is used in IMIP's master list of potential donors. IMIP's searches of FEC records have attempted to take variants into account. Donations carrying slightly different names are noted.

Alternate names. There is the possibility that some names listed on Islamist groups' websites and IRS forms are not the names used for donations. For instance, Philadelphia-based Islamist Kenny Gamble goes by Luqman Abdul Haqq on the website of the Muslim Alliance in North America. Only by knowing his actual name was IMIP able to locate his campaign donations. However, contributions by others with unknown legal names could be lost.

Identity confusion. Is the donor in FEC records the Islamist-affiliated individual of interest or a separate individual with the same name? Personal information (e.g., place of residence, occupation, employer) derived from the IRS filings, websites, etc. is sometimes replicated on the donation stubs, leaving little doubt that the correct person has been found. Such donations are labeled as "high confidence" in the IMIP database. Likewise, a conclusion that there is only one person in America with that particular name eliminates name confusion and leads to a high-confidence stamp.

Other cases are not as exact. In some, more circumstantial evidence can produce a less secure, but still probable, identification. These contributions are labeled as "medium confidence" in the IMIP database. Finally, a number of Islamist-affiliated names are quite common and yield many hits in FEC records. If there is insufficient information to determine which, if any, donations belong to the person being sought, they are not included in the IMIP database.

Status. IMIP uses the most recent information available to distinguish between current and former membership in a group, but some of this information may be out of date (e.g., IRS filings from the previous year).

Future work

IMIP will continue adding names and refreshing its database with new federal contributions as they come in. Additional Islamist organizations and state-level data will be included in the future.

Feedback

To offer a comment, ask a question, report an error, or contest a finding, please contact Islamist Watch at islamist-watch@meforum.org.

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