By Will Evans, Center for Investigative Reporting
The Secret Money blog is a joint project of the Center for Investigative Reporting and National Public Radio.
The blogosphere is alive with the sound of buzz—all about an inflammatory DVD on radical Islam being distributed to millions of households at the peak of election season.
Critics are calling the DVD, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” anti-Muslim hate, or politicking, or both. It doesn’t mention or even obliquely allude to the presidential candidates. It couldn’t, since it was made in 2006. But as whisper campaigns dog Obama with rumors that he’s a secret Muslim, the DVD showed up as an insert in some 70 newspapers, with an emphasis in swing states.
The obvious question: Who is behind it?
And the answer: The DVD is distributed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit set up by the film’s producer, Rabbi Raphael Shore. But not much is known about the group. It’s a 501(c)(3) charity, which means it can’t engage in partisan politics.
It did apparently have material on its Web site supporting John McCain, but then took it down.
Clarion has connections to Aish HaTorah, a strongly pro-Israel Jewish educational organization promoting Jewish identity and pride. Aish HaTorah has offices in Israel and the U.S.
Clarion’s corporate filings in Delaware list the same address as Aish HaTorah New York. Clarion’s two directors in 2006 were Shore and Jacob Fetman, who served as Aish’s CFO. In 2007, the organization listed its directors as Shore, Henry Harris and Rebecca Kabat. Rabbi Harris is educational director at Aish HaTorah NY and Kabat has also worked for Aish.
Shore himself has worked for Aish HaTora. He told the Washington Times in 1992 that he “went to Israel 10 years ago to try to ‘rescue’ his twin brother, Ephraim, from Aish HaTorah,” because he though it was a “big hoax.” Instead, Shore became convinced and joined the organization’s management. (Their other brother, David, created Fox’s TV show “House.”)
Aish’s Ephraim Shore has also been president of the organization HonestReporting.com, which, according to Aish’s Web site, helped to produce and promote Raphael Shore’s film.
But don’t ask where the Clarion Fund gets its funding. It’s not telling. And with its 501(c)(3) status, it doesn’t have to.
Scan of the "Obsession" mailer obtained by Truthdig
We managed to get ahold of one the mailers in question. Click here for a scan of the front and here for a scan of the back.