Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking whether U.S. taxpayers are funding a political effort in Israel to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office, and the question has erupted into a firestorm on social media.
“Is there anyone, ANYONE connected to Obama who is NOT a corrupt filthy sewer rat?” wrote Mark81150 of the issue, according to the Twitchy website and monitors Twitter comments.
Cruz’ letter to Kerry noted that OneVoice, a “U.S. taxpayer funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit” was actively working “with a campaign operation called V15, or ‘Victory 15,’ in an effort to influence the outcome of the elections in Israel on March 17, 2015.”
A key player for V15 is former Obama staffer Jeremy Bird.
Word on the developments has generated a wave of comments on Twitter.
“It’s OK for Jeremy Bird to meddle in Israeli politics but Netanyahu can’t return the favor?” wrote one.
Another said, “Jeremy Bird should be arrested as a spy for meddling in another country’s election process.”
WND reported this week from Tel Aviv that a consulting firm almost entirely composed of former staffers of Obama’s re-election campaign had been hired to run an election effort in Israel aimed at defeating Netanyahu.
The report noted it appeared that Bird, national field director for Obama’s 2012 campaign, is now working for the nonprofit group V15, on the campaign.
The report said Bird was just one of many former Obama campaign staffers on the project.
The report came at a time when the tension level is extreme between the U.S. and Israel because the Obama White House rejected an opportunity to meet with Netanyahu in March when he is in Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress.
The White House claimed it didn’t want to influence the Israeli elections.
Cruz’ letter, also signed by Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., asks for an investigation by the State Department’s inspector general to determine how much funding the U.S. has given OneVoice or other groups connected to the Israel campaign against Netanyahu.
It also asks who approved the funds, what oversight is there, how much funding has been provided and the reasons for providing money.
“Can the Department of State guarantee that none of these funds have been or will be used in the endeavor detailed above, namely the partnership with V15, or any similar effort to exert undue influence over the Israeli political process?” the letter continued.
And does the process violate the tax-exempt status of any groups?
The letter notes a report by the Israeli daily Haaretz of the “significant role” Bird is playing with the group.
“The Haaretz report makes clear that the purpose of this alliance is to advance a particular ideological agenda: ‘With the help of American money and a former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, V15 is trying to replace Israel’s government. The money and organization comes from V15’s partnership with OneVoice. … OneVoice is expected to merge with V15 before the March 17 election,'” the letter said.
“It’s time to change course and give people hope,” the report quoted a V15 spokesman saying.
“Of course private American citizens are free to engage in political activities according to their inclinations, but given the overtly partisan nature of this particular case, we are deeply concerned by the relationship that also exists between OneVoice and the U.S. Department of State. OneVoice lists the State Department as a partner on its website. In its 2013 annual report, the CEO of OneVoice touted the organization’s work ‘together in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem … made possible by two parallel U.S. government grants.’
“There appears to be a danger that U.S. taxpayer funds are being used to directly shape the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election – and specifically to campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu – something all would agree would be highly inappropriate.”
WND interviewed V15 founder Nimrod Dweck.
“Our goal is to do change,” he told WND. “We’re calling homes, going door-to-door in central Israel in places we marked as potential voters of the center-left.”
Besides Bird, the team includes the following former Obama staffers:
- Mitch Steward, a 270 Strategies founding partner who helped the Obama campaign build what the U.K. Guardian called “a historic ground operation that will provide the model for political campaigns in America and around the world for years to come.”
- Mark Beatty, a founding partner who served as deputy battleground states director for the Obama campaign. He had primary responsibility for Obama’s election plans for the battleground states.
- Marlon Marshall, a founding partner at 270 Strategies who joins the team after holding several key positions in national Democratic politics, most recently as deputy national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Betsy Hoover, a founding partner who served as director of digital organizing on the Obama campaign.
- Meg Ansara, who served as national regional director for Obama for America where she was responsible for overseeing the 2012 programs in the Midwest and southern states.
- Bridget Halligan, who served as the engagement program manager on the digital team of the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Kate Catherall, who served as Florida deputy field director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Alex Lofton, who most recently served as the GOTV director of Cleveland, Ohio, for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Martha Patzer, the firm’s vice president who served as deputy email director at Obama for America.
- Jesse Boateng, who served as the Florida voter registration director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Ashley Bryant, who served most recently as the Ohio digital director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Max Clermont, who formerly served as a regional field director in Florida for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Max Wood, who served as a deputy data director in Florida for the 2012 Obama campaign.