February 20, 2007

Rush To Judgement?

The National Republican Congressional Committee took donations over several years from someone representing himself as Michael Mixon. Mixon donated over $15,000 to the NRCC before his actual identity as Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari became known -- and before Alishtari got indicted as a terrorist financier. Now the GOP campaign group has to decide what to do with the money, and so far, they seem to be getting it all wrong:

A New York man accused of trying to help terrorists in Afghanistan has donated some $15,000 to the House Republicans' campaign committee over three years.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to charges that include terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and money laundering.

From April 2002 until August 2004, the man also known as "Michael Mixon" gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and Jessica Boulanger, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, said if Alishtari is found guilty, the organization would donate the money to charity.

"We are extremely concerned and disturbed by these charges, but we need to be careful not to rush to judgment as the judicial process moves forward," Boulanger said.

Well, that's just not going to cut it. The NRCC should have acted immediately to distance itself from Alishtari, just on the basis of his deception. Assuming a false identity while making campaign contributions is illegal, and that should be enough for the NRCC to determine that the $15,000 won't cover the damage to its reputation.

The fraud doesn't appear limited to the NRCC, either. The indictment also details investment fraud, allegedly bilking investors in what appears to be some sort of Ponzi scheme. That could have helped produce the money that he transfered to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is not exactly the kind of guy one wants to have next to the party's candidates during fundraisers.

The NRCC has to take action now. Their return of the money, or better yet donation of it to a charity, will not reflect on the court case of Alishtari nearly as much as its retention will reflect on the values of the NRCC.


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