As Democrat Amy McGrath was laying the groundwork for her Senate bid, she attended a dinner hosted by the Kentucky chapter of a radical anti-Israel organization that has been tied to funding of global terror networks.
The Kentucky chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known best as CAIR, posted multiple pictures of McGrath in attendance at its annual dinner on May 11, 2019. She is currently featured in the main photo of the group's Facebook page.
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McGrath launched her long-shot bid to unseat Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in early July. Her first filing shows, however, that the campaign was already in swing at the time of the May dinner, with staff on payroll and large contributions already filling its coffer.
The McGrath campaign defended the CAIR dinner as an "interfaith event."
"Amy attended an interfaith event joined by a rabbi and a Baptist preacher and sponsored by the University of Kentucky," McGrath’s campaign manager Mark Nickolas said.
The Muslim advocacy group has well-documented ties to terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator by the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation into how American charity networks were used to provide material support to Hamas. In 2014, the United Arab Emirates officially designated CAIR a terrorist organization.
McGrath, who first ran for a congressional seat in 2018, has not been vocal on Israel since launching her campaign to unseat McConnell. She has received substantial backing, however, from liberal anti-Israel group J Street, which bundled nearly $100,000 for her campaign in its opening months, according to FEC filings.
Kyle Shideler, an expert on Muslim extremist groups operating in the United States, called it an especially "bad look" for McGrath to participate in the CAIR event given her experience overseas fighting extremist groups like Hamas.
"The decision by elected officials and candidates to attend CAIR's fundraising banquets is always a bad look, but especially so for candidates whose experience in fighting terrorism overseas is a major part of their resume for public office," Shideler said.
"CAIR has an extensive history of support for terrorism, documented by the FBI and Department of Justice officials, and even designated by the United Arab Emirates," Shideler said. "Multiple CAIR employees have been indicted, arrested, and convicted on terrorism-related charges."
"All of this information is readily available to any candidate willing to do even a modicum of due diligence," he said.
McGrath's involvement in the CAIR event puts her in the same circles as anti-Semitic Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was caught by the Free Beacon attending a private fundraiser held by CAIR earlier this year. It was at the CAIR fundraiser that Omar used the phrase "some people did something" in regards to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties," Omar said. (CAIR was actually established in 1994, its own website states.)
McGrath's failed 2018 campaign received a $1,000 contribution from Omar.
CAIR has pushed back against claims that it supports terrorism, but it has also declined to denounce terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
A member of its leadership in California recently called for Israel to be "terminated." The same man, Hussam Ayloush, has compared Jewish people joining the Israeli military to Muslims deciding to join terrorist groups ISIS and al Qaeda.
An archived version of the campaign website from McGrath's failed 2018 House run shows she identified Israel as America's "closest ally in the region."
"After having operated in the Middle East for many years as a U.S. Marine, I’ve grown to appreciate the unique security requirements of our closest ally in the region, Israel," her website said. In addition to a section on Israel, the site contained a section on "radical jihadist extremism."
McGrath's current campaign website lists no policy positions.
"All those people who are protesting against Sharia Law, first of all are not aware of what Sharia Law is, or what it really stands for," Muhammad said. "I think the negativity that is being promoted has created a lot of fear among people and the fear is based on ignorance."
Shideler says CAIR regularly promotes speakers who are not only anti-Semitic but also have taken other illiberal positions, such as calling homosexuality a "disease" and a "quick way to earn God's wrath."
"It remains disappointing that candidates, and particularly progressive candidates are willing to ignore CAIR's ideological support for Islamism, and their routine endorsement of speakers who promote anti-Semitic, anti-homosexual, and misogynistic material," Shideler said.
McGrath's run against McConnell has been embraced by Democratic Party leadership, and she was able to raise nearly $11 million in the campaign's opening months.
McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. He won his last reelection effort in 2014 by about 16 percentage points.