09.16.16

Senators Demand Answers From State Department On Grant To Anti-Netanyahu Political Organization

“Our aid dollars should be going toward solving real problems, not contributing to the destabilization of allied governments.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today expressed deep concern over the State Department’s failure to properly vet grant recipient, OneVoice Israel, and questioned the omission of routine language in the organization’s grant agreement. 

OneVoice Israel deployed its grassroots political infrastructure, built with over $300,000 in State Department grant funds, to support a highly partisan movement aimed at unseating Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition government. In the letter the senators emphasize the complete breakdown of oversight by U.S. State Department officials during the vetting process for this grant and ask Secretary of State John Kerry how he plans to guard against such failures in the future.

“State Department officials failed to properly vet the OneVoice grant proposal because they failed to properly conduct an analysis of risks in the pre-award phase,” wrote the senators in the letter. “Unfortunately, it seems that inconsistency and apathy toward oversight of such grants at the State Department is not new. Our aid dollars should be going toward solving real problems, not contributing to the destabilization of allied governments.” 

Specifically, the senators ask Secretary Kerry to answer the following questions: 

  1. 1. Do you agree that this report highlights deviations from State Department policies regarding vetting and oversight of grants for civil society groups? If so, how?  
  1. 2. Given that State Department regulations and internal guidance requires documentation of a risk analysis in the pre-award phase of every grant, was a risk analysis not compulsory for the OneVoice grant? Why was a risk analysis not documented in this case?  
  1. 3. Is a group’s past political activity a factor used in consideration of a grant proposal? Is there usually “red line” language prohibiting funds from being used to influence a foreign election in State grant agreements, as the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs official indicated? If so, why was such language not included in the OneVoice grant contract and/or cooperative agreement? 
  1. 4. Do other State Department grants for civil society and encouragement of political involvement not contain protections for future use of infrastructures built using State Department grant funds? 
  1. 5. What disciplinary action has been taken against Michael Ratney and the other officials who were sent the OneVoice plan to defeat the Netanyahu coalition? 
  1. 6. What steps have been taken to implement the three recommendations of the July 2014 GAO Report regarding implementation of grants policies at State? Specifically, what steps has State taken since this report was released to develop processes for ensuring compliance with risk analysis and documentation requirements? If no action has been taken, please explain why. 
  1. 7. What steps will you take in the future to ensure that State Department funds are not used to build campaign infrastructures that can be later used to improperly attempt to influence the election of allied democratically-elected foreign governments?

View the letter here