The primary challenge is a vital part of a healthy democracy, helping us to hold our elected officials accountable and to ensure that they are receptive to the needs and desires of their constituents. But in the age of unrestricted dark money spending, they also provide an opportunity for outside groups to prop up “astroturf candidates” and wage ideological or prejudice-based punishment campaigns against Congressmembers who upset the wrong rich people.
Ever since making history and becoming the first Muslim refugee elected to Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-WI) has been a powerful advocate for progressive policies that uphold human dignity and protect society’s most vulnerable members.
Entirely undaunted by a psychotic and unceasing barrage of death threats, smear attacks, and truly shocking racism from conservatives, she has been courageously outspoken in her criticism of violent and racist institutions like the Minneapolis Police Department and Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing expansionist government in Israel.
In doing so, she has earned herself powerful enemies who have funneled $3 million dollars to her primary challenger, attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, who in turn has set up a disturbing dark money network in order to spend it all.
The Too Much Information Substack blog analyzed Melton-Meaux’s most recent FEC filing and discovered that Melton-Meaux’s campaign has paid more than 65% of his $3 million war chest to three anonymous companies, allowing him to conceal the vendors that he uses and conveniently sidestep the DCCC’s threat to punish any vendors who work to help primary Democratic Congressmembers.
The majority of the money — over a million dollars — was routed to a company labeled “WCPA” that does not shows up in any corporate registration records, however, a company named “WPCA, LLC,” was registered in Delaware on May 29 — right before the money started rolling in. His campaign has also been reported to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to two more Delaware-based LLC corporations.
“The law requires campaigns to report their spending so that the public can know how political campaign money is being spent. When 65 percent of a campaign’s spending is flowing through anonymous Delaware LLCs, the public is kept in the dark. Schemes like this hide which individuals or companies are working for the campaign, the nature of the work, and how much they are being paid,” said Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, to TMI.
As Democrats, we value transparency in our elections and fight for an end to the wild corruption that runs rampant in our political system, so it is deeply disturbing to see a Democratic candidate using these kinds of shady tactics to hide the way that they’re spending money to try and unseat high-profile and extremely valuable Democrats.
It looks even worse once you find out where a significant portion of the money is coming from.
Omar’s criticism that the pro-Israeli lobby wields too much influence in American politics proved prescient when it was discovered that two right-wing PACs, Pro-Israel America, and NORPAC, have poured nearly half a million dollars into Melton-Meaux’s war chest. Another right-wing PAC, “Americans For Tomorrow’s Future,” has been recorded spending $223,000 in mailer buys against Omar.
NORPAC has also given $160,000 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s war chest and one of its major donors, Steve Jonas, has donated the personal maximum of $5,600 to Donald Trump and $8,900 to the RNC. A look at Pro-Israel America’s OpenSecrets file shows that they also give money to Donald Trump’s loudest defenders, like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
While these lobbying groups donate money to right-wing Democratic candidates as well, it is clear that they are just as happy to see Republicans in power as they are Democrats — anyone will do as long as there’s never any change in America’s unconditional support for the Israeli government, no matter how appalling their treatment of their Palestinian minority is and no matter how far down the road to apartheid they may tread.
Standing up for the human rights of Palestinians and recognizing their humanity is a moral imperative but sadly, the treatment of Ilhan Omar shows how politically dangerous a thing this is to do.
While Rep. Omar certainly could have phrased certain things more judiciously and needs to be more careful with her words to avoid any anti-Semitic tropes, she has made it clear that her criticism comes from a place of love for all humanity and from a burning desire to make sure that nobody ever has to endure the suffering that she witnessed in a refugee camp as a child. Her ultimate political aim is a reimagined American foreign policy that “centers on human rights, justice, and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world” and maintains its credibility by “applying the same standards to our friends and our enemies.”
It is obvious that hysterical outpouring of accusations of anti-Semitism against her was nothing but bad faith prejudice from people who suddenly don’t have anything to say now that Donald Trump and the GOP are openly using Nazi symbology and anti-Semitic dog whistles in their campaign advertisements.
While Melton-Meaux has every right to challenge Ilhan Omar for her seat, we absolutely must demand answers for the dark money spending corporations he has set up to hide his use of campaign money and ask him why he thinks it’s acceptable to accept so much money from right-wing PACs that spend so much trying to get Republicans elected.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.