Remember Al Capone?
He was the notorious American gangster who met his downfall by the inelegant and unexciting – but sometimes deadly – U.S. tax code. So, too, may be the ultimate fate of the ubiquitous and well-funded Obama-style campaign machine gunning for Netanyahu, known as V15.
That entity and its creators are barred under US tax law from attempting to achieve its two stated goals: defeating Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and changing Israeli law in order to create a Palestinian State.
For some reason the fact that V15 is an avowed effort to oust Netanyahu did not raise enough eyebrows when it was first announced.
The lack of sustained attention back in January caused some to scratch their heads. That V15 was run by the same folks, and in the same style, as U.S. President Barack Obama’s notorious street theater, in your face, take no prisoners-style campaign director, Jeremy Bird; that its financial, emotional and political source received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the U.S. State Department; and even though that same source is an entity which has tax exempt status in the U.S. – which means it cannot fund projects to either support or defeat a political candidate in the U.S. or anywhere else, did not lead to a long media shelf life.
The first two issues should have drawn attention to V15 not because political operatives are barred from selling their strategic skills – that is, after all, the nature of their job – but because it was so odd for someone like Bird to come all the way to Israel to sell his skills. Bird is not Jewish, and his only apparent connection to Israel was working for an anti-Israel American radical activist back in his graduate days.
But who was paying for Bird? Campaign funding is very strictly regulated in Israel. The strategist who managed Obama’s two U.S. presidential campaigns – in which billions of dollars were spent – was likely to have a very high price tag.
Then there was the matter of the U.S. State Department grants to OneVoice, V15’s “creator.” The airy dismissal that all State Department funding ended at the end of November, so there was no U.S. government money being used for the election — which was publicly announced in early December — was, incredibly, accepted without any further interrogation by the American (and most of the Israeli) press corps. Former Naval Intelligence officer J.E. Dyer pursues that angle with the kind of tenacity one should be able to expect from the seasoned press corps members who show up nearly every day at State Dept. briefings.
But the least interesting angle, at least to most, is the one that involves the Internal Revenue Service. Before your eyes glaze over, recall that the U.S. actually had what could almost be called a juicy scandal beginning nearly two years ago, that involved the IRS.
Quite a few politically conservative (and one pro-Israel) organizations claimed that the IRS was treating their applications for tax-exempt status in a discriminatory fashion. The initial response from the IRS was that many of those groups were not really entitled to tax-exempt status, because they were engaged in political, not educational or charitable, work.
That seemed to many like a reasonable response. The Internal Revenue Code states that even a non-profit organization cannot be exempt from paying taxes, and its donors will not be entitled to tax deductions, if the organization is involved in politics or lobbying.
But while much of the IRSGate attention has since focused on where are Lois Lerner’s emails and whether they are really gone forever or just deleted, hidden or irrelevant, the fact that tax-exempt organizations cannot engage in raw politics seemed to be one tiny aspect of American government that many people learned.Lori Lowenthal Marcus