Opinion

Mastercard Takes Aim At Conservative Nonprofits

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

David Horowitz President, David Horowitz Freedom Center

This story, like all those involving the Left’s effort to strangle the free speech rights of conservative organizations, begins with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which, since 1971, has amassed more than $449 million in assets by persuading many thousands of donors to help bankroll its fight against “hate and bigotry.”

That mission statement, of course, is a charade. The real agenda of the SPLC is to aggregate and associate conservative organizations with neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other actual hate groups and thereby stigmatize them as “racist” and even “fascist.”

Partly through credulousness, but mainly because they too want to see such a connection verified, the mainstream media and even corporate America have been ready to accept and act on the SPLC’s blacklists.

The entire strategy reflects what SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok has candidly stated about how his organization deals with conservative organizations, which is quite contrary to the alleged mission of impartially and objectively cataloging political hate: “Our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”

It was the SPLC’s ongoing slander of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC) as “white supremacist” and of myself as “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in America” that gave MasterCard the green light to recently stop processing all online donations to the Freedom Center. SPLC had previously tried to get organizations like Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter to ban DHFC from their respective platforms, as well. The effort failed at these organizations but worked at Mastercard and Visa.

Though MasterCard and Visa are separate companies, they act as a cartel; when MasterCard cuts someone off, Visa immediately follows and vice versa. And that is what happened a week ago when Mastercard — relying on the lies propagated by the SPLC — took the lead in trying to cut off the lifeblood of the Freedom Center by refusing to process its online donations.

Both companies have since reversed their decisions and have reinstated DHFC’s fundraising rights, at least temporarily, but there is every reason to believe that Mastercard will continue to channel SPLC’s slanders, which means that it will strike again — if not at the Freedom Center then at other conservative organizations.  MasterCard has clearly enlisted in the SPLC’s war against free speech for conservatives.

Why specifically did Mastercard accept SPLC’s assessment of our Freedom Center? Part of the answer, no doubt, has to do with the invisible (but inexorable) advance of political correctness in the corporate world.

This P.C. culture has helped create an environment based on virtue signaling and moral preening, particularly when it involves conservatives presumed guilty of the moral vices infamously enumerated by Hillary Clinton in her “basket of deplorables” reference: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”

But there’s more to it than the fog of progressive sensibility. Key executives who run MasterCard have an agenda that makes them active collaborators in the SPLC’s hate campaign.

Mastercard’s President and Chief Executive Officer, since 2010, has been Ajay Banga, who previously served as the CEO of Citigroup Asia Pacific. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a longtime supporter of Democratic Party causes, Banga gave $22,300 to the Democratic National Committee in 2016. He also has donated money to the political campaigns of such Democrat stalwarts as Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Hillary Clinton.

Banga’s ties to the Clintons are particularly noteworthy.

In 2006, for instance, he pledged to give $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative — the signature program of the Clinton Foundation— to pay for play slush fund. Ten years later, at a Women in the World Summit in New York City, Banga voiced support for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid. “You need women who lead countries,” he said. “I hope we have one soon. You can see where I’m going.”

Banga also has cultivated significant ties to former President Barack Obama, who, in 2015, appointed him to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. The following year, Obama appointed Banga to the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.

A more significant player in the politics of the MasterCard leadership is Seth Eisen, who has been an executive with the company since 2010 and its Senior Vice President of External Communications since 2016.

In the aftermath of the August 2017 “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, where a contingent of white nationalists clashed violently with Marxist-anarchists affiliated with Antifa, Eisen wrote, “We’ve been made aware of websites accepting our [Mastercard] products that could be considered as ‘hate groups'” and “We’re working with our acquirers to shut down the use of our cards on sites that make specific threats or incite violence.”

Although the DHFC has never even remotely expressed a scintilla of approval for violence or ethnic hate of any kind, it  has been stigmatized by SPLC as a hate group which is all that is necessary, in Eisen’s view, to justify “shutting it down.”

MasterCard’s leadership team welcomed yet another major figure this past April when Michael Froman, who previously had held several executive positions at Citigroup and had served as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, joined the company as its Vice Chairman and President of Strategic Growth. Froman’s history as a committed leftist is a long one. Over the past two decades, for instance, he has made large political donations to such high-profile Democrats as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Al Gore, John Kerry, Charles Schumer, and Barack Obama.

But Froman’s ties to the Democratic Party go still deeper. From 1993-95, he served in the Clinton Administration as Director of International Economic Affairs for both the National Economic Council and the National Security Council. From 1997-99, he was Chief of Staff in the Clinton Treasury Department.

Froman’s close relationship with Barack Obama is also significant.

The pair first met in the 1980s, when they both attended Harvard Law School and worked together on the Harvard Law Review. When Obama later decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Froman, according to POLITICO, “rallied immediately to the cause, advising and supporting the candidate as he was elected to represent the state of Illinois.”

Four years after that, Froman served as an Advisory Board Member for the Obama-Biden presidential transition team. From 2009-13, he was Assistant to the President in charge of international economic affairs. And from 2013-17, he served as Obama’s chief adviser and negotiator on international trade and investment issues.

Given the timing of the company’s recent decision to suspend DHFC’s fundraising privileges, it would appear that the newly arrived Michael Froman may have played a key role in persuading the MasterCard governing board to take that action. His closeness to Obama would make it easy for Froman to see as a hate group an organization like the Freedom Center that has been critical of the former president and his legacy, particularly where that legacy touches on matters involving race and Islamism.

Mastercard’s attempt to strangle the DHFC’s ability to do online fundraising is not an isolated instance. It is rather an early salvo in what is becoming a war against not only the free speech rights but the very existence of conservative organizations.

The forces waging this war involve a tightly networked juggernaut of the most powerful institutions in our economy—the censorship-prone social media; and now the banks. Their marching orders are issued by radical groups such as the George Soros-funded Media Matters and SPLC whose mendacious and hateful blacklist of alleged “hate groups” is their ammunition dump.

David Horowitz is the president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. 


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.