US

CAIR collects millions from foreign donors thanks to non-profit shell game

At the time, both CAIR founders Awad and Ahmad served in leadership positions in a key piece of the Muslim Brotherhood’s network in the United States, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which was founded by Hamas political director Mousa Abu Marzook before he was deported from the United States.

In 2008 both the IAP and CAIR founder Ahmad were designated unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terrorism funding trial in American history, US vs. Holy Land Foundation.

CAIR and other Islamic groups sought unsuccessfully to petition the government to clear its name. In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis rejected their appeal and maintained their status as unindicted coconspirators, noting, “the government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR…with NAIT [North American Islamic Trust], the Islamic Association for Palestine, and with Hamas.”

Despite the group’s ties to Hamas and its court-documented origins as part the Muslim Brotherhood’s network in America, CAIR officials — including Awad, its communications director Ibrahim Hooper, and others — have appeared in media, been praised by politicians and continued to claim to represent the American Muslim community.

This last claim may ring hollow, though, as CAIR’s fundraising practices are constructed in a way that makes it impossible to trace large donations from overseas, including from foreign governments.

While behaving and referring to itself as a single organization, CAIR has taken advantage of the lack of donor reporting requirements for its de-listed 501(c)(4) non-profit to collect funds from large donors who remain anonymous, then depositing the funds into its 501(c)(3) entity. This practice is referred to in the federal criminal statutes as “laundering” of funds.

When foreign funds are laundered into a US political non-profit this way, it runs afoul of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a 1938 statute requiring “persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal.” Similarly, it is illegal under US law to shift funds from overseas in order not to report to the IRS.

More than a decade after CAIR obtained a 501(c)(4) certification from the IRS, it created CAIR-Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization to offer tax deductions to its American donors in 2005. CAIR-Foundation obtained 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in 2007.

The original 501(c)(4) CAIR then formally changed its name to CAIR-Action Network, Inc. The group never made this name change public, and its representatives have never referred to it as such.

Although CAIR-Foundation had obtained its 501(c)(3) status in 2007, it never filed required IRS 990 forms through 2008-2010, and was subsequently de-listed in 2011.

When attempting to get reinstated as a non-profit with the IRS, CAIR admitted the close relationship between the two groups:

“CAIR Action Network and CAIR Foundation have overlapping boards,” the 2013 reinstatement document reads. “CAIR Action Network donates office space to CAIR Foundation at no cost to CAIR Foundation. The Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network, Inc. (‘CAIR Action Network’), with which CAIR Foundation is closely connected, owns various trademarks related to the name CAIR and Council on American-Islamic Relations. The Organization has a license to use those trademarks from CAIR Action Network. The Organization does not pay any fee or royalty to CAIR Action Network for these licenses.”