Portman, McCaskill Release Bipartisan Report Regarding State Department Grantee In Israel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 12, 2016
MEDIA CONTACTS: Kevin Smith (Portman) | 202-224-5190

John LaBombard (McCaskill) | 202-228-6263

Report Finds the State Department Failed to Adequately Guard

Against a Grantee’s Post-Grant Political Efforts Using Resources Paid for by U.S. Taxpayers 

Grantee Complied with State Rules, Which Placed No Limit on Post-Grant Use of Taxpayer-Funded Resources 

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), released a bipartisan report examining the U.S. State Department’s grants to OneVoice—a non-governmental organization operating in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  The group received nearly $350,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority over a 14-month grant period ending in November 2014.  In December 2014, Israeli elections were called following the collapse of peace negotiations. 

The Subcommittee’s investigation concludes that OneVoice Israel complied with the terms of its State Department grants. Within days after the grant period ended, however, the group deployed the campaign infrastructure and resources created, in part, using U.S. grant funds to support a political campaign to defeat the incumbent Israeli government known as V15.  That use of government-funded resources for political purposes after the end of the grant period was permitted by the grant because the State Department failed to adequately guard against the risk that campaign resources could be repurposed in that manner or place limitations on the post-grant use of resources.  

In service of V15, OneVoice deployed its social media platform, which more than doubled during the State Department grant period;, used its database of voter contact information, including email addresses, which OVI expanded during the grant period;, and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the federal grant, to support and recruit for V15.  This pivot to electoral politics was consistent with a strategic plan developed by OneVoice leadership and emailed to State Department officials during the grant period.  The State Department diplomat who received the plan told the Subcommittee that he never reviewed it. 

“The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” said Senator Portman.  “It is completely unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East.  American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.” 

“While this report shows no wrongdoing by the Administration, and should put to rest such allegations, it certainly highlights deficiencies in the Department’s policies that should be addressed in order to best protect taxpayer dollars,” McCaskill said.  

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