After gaining media attention for its involvement in the campaign to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading up to Tuesday’s elections, a non-profit organization linked to US President Barack Obama’s administration has filed for a new tax status which would allow it to participate in some openly political activity.
The non-profit OneVoice bills itself as “an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two-state solution.”
It has 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, which restricts its participation in overtly political activity. In the months leading up to the Israeli elections held this week, however, OneVoice Israel partnered with Victory 15, a “non-partisan movement founded by young adults” working to oust the Netanyahu-led government.
Particularly problematic is the fact that OneVoice was granted State Department funding to the tune of $350,000, ostensibly to generate support for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative in the region. Peace talks collapsed in April, however, yet grant money continued to be transferred until August.
In January, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Lee Zeldin, (R-NY) sent a letter questioning the legality of OneVoice’s use of State Department funds. The US Senate is launching a bipartisan probe to investigate the claims.
Now, reports Fox News reports, OneVoice may have found a way around Cruz and Zeldin’s accusations. Just five days after their letter became public, a new funding entity called PeaceWorks Action, Inc. was registered under the 501(c)4 tax code, which also governs non-profit organizations but permits limited political activity. PeaceWorks Action Inc. is now listed on the OneVoice website as one of its funders.
A senior Congressional aide with the Republican party told Fox News, “No one is objecting to private American citizens participating in political activity,” referring to Obama’s former field director and others who are helping guide V15.
“At issue here is the possibility taxpayer funds in the form of the State Department grants were used for overtly political activity, especially in the period when the ostensible purpose of the grant — to promote Secretary Kerry’s proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue — no longer existed. The establishment of the 501(c)4 post-facto doesn’t really clear this issue up.”
Obama’s poor relationship with Netanyahu has been garnering headlines for some time now, most notably when the President and other senior figures refused to meet Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Congress earlier this month. Obama cited policy not to meet with world leaders in the time leading up to elections in their home countries, so as not to be seen as interfering.