Photo Credit: screen capture
The website of the parent entity of the anti-Bibi US-style political campaign in Israel, V15.

So why didn’t the fact that the American tax-exempt OneVoice used its funds to create the V15 political campaign effort gain traction, given that its admitted goal is to get rid of Netanyahu?

That should be at least one facet of the current bipartisan congressional investigation which was revealed by a leaked story to Fox News over the weekend.

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And it should be the one the committee leads off with, because it is a no-brainer. The law is clear. Tax-exempt organizations cannot fund political campaigns. Here is the language:

all 501(c)(3)s are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign supporting or opposing any candidate for elective public office.

This means ANY amount of political activity is grounds for loss of tax-exempt status.

The prohibition applies to all campaigns: federal, state and local, and extends beyond candidate endorsements. Actions that clearly violate the prohibition include contributions to political campaign funds, and making verbal or written public statements by or on behalf of an organization that favors or opposes any candidate for public office.

Distributing statements prepared by others that favor or oppose any candidate for public office will also violate the prohibition.That means that V15 can’t declare innocence just because it’s against Netanyahu, rather than really being “for” Herzog, Livni or anyone else.

Finally, allowing a candidate to use an organization’s assets or facilities will also violate the prohibition if other candidates are not given an equivalent opportunity.

WHAT ABOUT US LAW APPLYING TO FOREIGN CAMPAIGNS?

Does the fact that the political campaign takes place outside of the U.S. mean this rule does not apply? The answer to that question is also clear: the restriction against lobbying and the prohibition against political activity on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for elective public office (electioneering) applies with full force in a foreign context as well.

ABOUT THOSE STATE DEPARTMENT GRANTS…

But now let’s go back to the U.S. State Department grants to OneVoice, which the State Department spokespeople claimed were kosher because the grants expired prior to the official announcement of this recent Israeli election.

What were those grants for? The State Dept. tried to shrug off any accusations by flatly denying the grants were for elections, why, they were for promoting the “two state solution!”

Here is what everyone missed the first time around: according to IRS rulings, a tax-exempt organization cannot engage in efforts to influence or change laws of the U.S. or that of a foreign country.

Yet that is exactly what the State Dept. grants to OneVoice were for. During a State Dept. press briefing on Jan. 29, 2015,  a journalist asked the State Dept. spokesperson Jen Psaki for what purpose was the $233,500 grant (its most recent one) to OneVoice. Psaki said the grant lasted from Sept. 23, 2013 until Nov. 30, 2014, and that it was funding “to support efforts to support a two-state solution.”

Really? Apparently the State Department forgot that under current Israeli law there is no such thing as the country of “Palestine.” Israeli law would have to be changed to recognize such an entity, if it ever were to come into existence. Those laws would include nearly everything connected to the current Israeli Civil Administration, as well as many laws dealing with Jerusalem.

So the U.S. government was using U.S. taxpayers’ money to fund an effort to influence, and hoping to formally change, the law in Israel to force a solution it favors!

We know the U.S. uses taxpayer funds to help influence changes in foreign nations with hostile governments, but attempting to change the law through its own interventions, using Americans’ money, to defeat the position of the democratically elected leader of that nation?

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com