Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Does Obama campaign email indicate illegal electioneering in Ohio mosques?

In 2006, a group of local Democratic Party-aligned clergy sent a letter to IRS Commissioner demanding that World Harvest Church in Columbus be investigated for violating its tax exempt status because of their close ties to then-GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell. Thirty-one Columbus-area ministers and rabbis signed the letter to the IRS, making national news. Their attorney said that World Harvest had stepped so far over the line that it could be characterized as, “Here’s the handbook from the IRS on what to do and not do. They’ve done the ‘not do’ stuff right out of the book.”

These clerics later organized themselves in a campaign they called “We Believe” to promote the whole slate of predictable liberal causes (the Christian clerics apparently unconcerned about Jesus’ repeated condemnations of hypocrisy). The usual suspects (Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, Huffington Post, et al) all jumped on board to decry this supposed destruction of the wall of separation.

Now it is 2008, and after seven years out of the White House, Democrats are pulling out all the stops. Next week’s primary elections here in Ohio are make or break for Hillary Clinton, and a win in Ohio for Obama would probably secure his nomination. To say that this primary is important for both candidates would be an understatement.

But there are already indications that both campaigns may be skirting campaign and tax laws in their efforts to win the Buckeye State. The Columbus Dispatch reported just a few weeks ago how both the Hillary and Obama camps are targeting pastors in the area seeking their endorsements (yes, the same thing that World Harvest pastor Rod Parsley and his church were accused of) in anticipation of the Ohio primary next Tuesday. So it’s going to be interesting to see if the “We Believe” group of local ministers and rabbis who previously protested the supposed violation of church and state, and publicly called Rod Parsley and World Harvest “theocrats” and “Christocrats” for their alleged illegal political activity, will respond with the same outrage that Barack Obama’s camp is coordinating a massive primary election push this coming Friday at Columbus-area mosques.

An email is circulating from an Obama campaign official calling for volunteers to spread out to all of the area mosques in Central Ohio for afternoon prayers to bring in the vote for Barack Hussein Obama (thanks to my friend ***** who forwarded me the email):

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 14:37:04 -0500
To: [removed]
Subject: This is Ahmad S. Khan (Volunteering for Barack Obama)

Assalam Alaik-kum,

Thanks so much for volunteering to help Senator Barack Obama turn out the Muslim vote inshalla. On Friday March 29th we want to have Muslim volunteers pray at the Mosques during Juma at around 12:45. After prayer when people are socializing outside we want to have the volunteer pass out Obama civil rights literature, faith based literature, general literature, stickers and bumper stickers. In addition we want the volunteers to emphasize that the election is the following Tuesday and encourage them to vote. That way we can reach every Muslim that went to Mosque the Friday before the election inshalla. Attached is a list of every Mosque in Columbus, if we have missed one please let me know ASAP. In addition if there is a particular Mosque you would prefer to attend Juma at and volunteer let me know.

To accomplish this we need to have a training/meeting and have volunteers pick up the necessary materials before volunteers go to the Mosques. We will be having a training/meeting at 9:30 A.M on March 29th at the Obama campus office 2240 N. High Street Columbus Ohio 43201. I will be providing everyone with more information as we get closer to Friday. Please feel free to contact me through email, or call me at 352-874-1195. If my phone is not on please leave me a voice mail with you number and I will get back to you right away. Also please feel free to pass this on to any brothers or sisters who support Senator Obama and would not mind volunteering for just half a day. Thanks again for everything.

Ahmad S. Khan
[It’s not entirely clear if Khan meant to say February 29th — this Friday — instead of March 29th, or if they are planning something after the primary. My read based on follow-up emails is that he got the date wrong and this is planning a pre-primary push. I could be entirely wrong on that, but regardless of whether it is Feb. 29 or March 29, it doesn’t change the potential illegality of targeting tax exempt institutions.]

Now, there’s no way for the Obama campaign to distance themselves from this potentially illegal effort as the scheduled meeting will be taking place in the Obama OSU campus headquarters. While the mosques themselves might have plausible deniability (we didn’t know they were going to show up), it appears that the Obama campaign may be involved in illegal electioneering by deliberately targeting tax exempt institutions.

While that’s for the IRS to decide, it remains to be seen if the “We Believe” clergy are as enthusiastic in their denunciations and protests as they were in 2006. My money will be on “no”.