U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) blasted California State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for his recent comments accusing gubernatorial rival Neel Kashkari of association with Islamic sharia law during Kashkari’s tenure at the U.S. Treasury.
“There is no place in any public discussion for this type of hateful and ignorant garbage,” Issa said Thursday. “As far as I’m concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere.”
Donnelly’s latest controversy began with a posting to his campaign Facebook page, in which he said: “Neel Kashkari supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code in 2008 when he ran TARP.”
The Facebook post linked to a 2008 online article by noted scholar (and Breitbart contributor) Frank Gaffney, who was lit up because of a conference that took place back then, Islamic Finance 101, hosted by the U.S. Treasury Department and Harvard University.
I spoke with Kashkari about his role at the conference, and he said: “They were looking for a senior Treasury official to give the opening remarks at this conference, and I happened to be scheduled to be in the office that day.”
Kashkari went on to say: “These sorts of conferences were put on to help promote an understanding of how you can still have free market principles and open economics even in Islamic countries.”
My Breitbart News colleague, Joel B. Pollak, was actually at Harvard Law School at the time, and organized a counter-conference in protest, at which Gaffney and others spoke. Pollak was careful to point out that Kashkari’s involvement did not necessarily mean he condoned sharia law in the U.S.
“The problem with some sharia-compliant funds, whether controlled by governments or private banks, is that money from such funds has occasionally been laundered or donated to terror groups,” Pollak told me.
“However, not all sharia funds do that, and it is a fact that sharia-compliant banking is an increasing part of the international financial landscape, including foreign investment in the U.S. It is a big leap to suggest that Kashkari would have supported sharia law in the U.S. because he offered guidance on this issue.”
Regardless, in just a few weeks the relatively low-key battle between conservative firebrand Donnelly and the relatively moderate Kashkari will be in the history books. One of these two will emerge after the June election, will stare at the polling numbers against popular incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown, and parrot Roy Schieder in the 1975 movie Jaws: “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.”
As I mentioned in my analysis of this competition last week, while Donnelly, who is easily the more conservative of the two candidates, has a stronger message to take to GOP voters, his campaign is running on fumes and he lacks the financial resources to engage in paid voter contact such as mailers and cable television and radio buys. That said, he has enjoyed a lead in recent public opinion polls.
Kashkari has raised the better part of a couple million dollars to communicate directly with voters, and just recently dropped a half-million dollars of his own money into a statewide cable television buy, no doubt with a heavy rotation on Fox News.
Donnelly will be pinning his hopes on the idea that in a low-turnout election, he can win through personal appearances, word of mouth, and a succès de scandale earned media campaign–saying extreme things that garner attention on the theory that in his position, any publicity is good publicity.
But Issa, who has endorsed Kashkari, is pushing back. In addition to saying that Donnelly is no longer fit to hold public office, Issa added: “As an Arab American of Lebanese Christian decent, who faced similar baseless charges from an opponent when I ran for Congress, I was offended and outraged that someone who would run for the highest office in our state would resort to such hateful and disgusting rhetoric.
“It is crap like this that gives Republicans a bad name and there is no place in the Republican Party or in this race for someone like Tim Donnelly.”
Of course the ugly subtext to this whole baseless accusation is that Kashkari happens to be of Indian descent, and accessions of sharia can stoke the fires of xenophobia by some, who are appropriately concerned about many of the extremist doctrines of radical Islam. After all, the dictates of Sharia Law are very rigid and strict, and the punishments laid out are quite extreme. Some examples include proscribing under some circumstances the stoning of a woman who commits adultery, or the amputation of the hand of someone who is witnessed committing theft. Much violence has taken place around the world by religious extremists and terrorists who subscribe to more extreme devotions and interpretations of Sharia Law.
(For what it’s worth, Kashkari is not even Muslim, but Hindu.)
Since Donnelly brought this issue up via social media, I have received a couple of emails from conservative and Tea Party folks sharing the Gaffney article and “warning” me that we could have a GOP gubernatorial nominee who supports sharia law. Seriously.
Donnelly subsequently posted on this topic yet again, and also tweeted out a link to a Los Angeles Timesarticle on this particular controversy.
As Republican voters go, I’m as close to a spot-on target voter for Donnelly as you will find. I’m pro-life, believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, have read the U.S. Constitution at least fifty times, am critical of Common Core, and can break down, clean and reassemble my Smith & Wesson handgun practically without looking.
Kashkari’s policy positions, voting choices and professional resume provide plenty of ammunition for Donnelly to make his case to conservatives like me–without having to resort to tactics that diminish both his candidacy and the Republican Party.
Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at www.flashreport.org. His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.