AIPAC Gave $60K to Group That Inspired Trump's Muslim Ban

The unusual contribution to the Center for Security Policy, headed by Frank Gaffney, was used for ads against the Iran nuclear deal.

Frank Gaffney at Capitol Hill, July 24, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite, AP

An organization operating under AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a right-wing think tank that has been accused of promoting a racist agenda against Muslims. The funds were donated to the Center for Security Policy in 2015, as part of the fight against the nuclear deal with Iran. The contribution was revealed Wednesday by the website Lobelog.

As part of its public fight against the nuclear deal, AIPAC set up in 2015 Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, an organization that invested close to $20 million in ads, publications and other initiatives meant to influence U.S. public opinion against the deal. Tax filings show that $60,000 of the group's budget went to the controversial Center for Security Policy.

An AIPAC official told Haaretz that the money was used for ads against the nulcear deal, stressing that it was a relatively small amount out of the organization's overall $20 million budget.

The CSP, headed by Frank Gaffney, has been accused by its critics of promoting anti-Muslim policies and conspiracy theories. Gaffney's work was cited by U.S. President Donald Trump during the Republican primaries in December 2015, when Trump first began calling for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. Gaffney later served as an adviser to Trump's transition team, and was involved in the push by some of the president's staff to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

The contribution from Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran to Gaffney's think tank is unusual, since AIPAC is known for its adherence to bipartisanship and tries to portray itself as a centrist group. Gaffney's CSP is considered far to the right of center, and is therefore an unusual candidate to receive such a contribution from a group operating under AIPAC – especially at a time when AIPAC is concerned about Israel's standing among minorities and liberal-leaning Americans.

Last December, Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer received an award from Gaffney's organization and used his acceptance speech to strongly defend Gaffney against accusations of racism. "I have known Frank Gaffney for many years, and while I don't agree with everything he says and believes, Frank is no hater and no bigot," Dermer said in his speech. Dermer also blasted the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks racism in the United States and has harshly criticized Gaffney's center.