In the heat of the 2008 presidential election, an obscure nonprofit group called the Clarion Fund made national news by distributing millions of DVDs about radical Islam in newspaper inserts in swing states.
The DVDs, 28 million in all, were a boost to Republican candidates who were trying to paint Democrats as weak on terrorism -- and they arguably helped fuel the anti-Muslim sentiment that boiled over in the "ground zero mosque" fight last summer. The film, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War With the West," was widely criticized for its cartoonish portrayal of Muslims as modern-day Nazis.
But who put up the money to send out all those millions of DVDs?
Clarion, which has strong links to the right-wing Israeli group Aish HaTorah and is listed in government records as a foreign nonprofit, would never say.
Indeed, the group does not have to release detailed donor information because of its nonprofit tax status. We knew only that there was serious money behind the effort: Clarion spent nearly $19 million in 2008, the year it sent out the DVDs.
Now, just as Clarion is gearing up to release a new film hyping the threat of Iran, the money mystery has deepened: According to a document submitted to the IRS by Clarion and obtained by Salon, a donor listed as Barry Seid gave Clarion nearly $17 million in 2008, which would have paid for virtually the entire "Obsession" DVD campaign. (More)