In 2016, a congressional investigation concluded the State Department paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, under President Obama, to an Israeli group who planned to drive out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2015 Israeli parliamentary elections.
As The Washington Times reported:
Some $350,000 was sent to OneVoice, ostensibly to support the group’s efforts to back Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement negotiations. But OneVoice used the money to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign — all of which set the stage for an anti-Netanyahu campaign, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a bipartisan staff report.
OneVoice said they revealed their plans to Consul General Michael Ratney, but the State Department’s top diplomat claims to have never seen them.
Ratney reportedly says he often deleted emails that contained large attachments and he wasn’t aware that he was required to archive routine emails (email losses are fairly routine for Obama Administration officials).
The group’s spending of the U.S. taxpayers’ dollars wasn’t consider illegal because the State Department didn’t put any conditions on the money. Investigators also noted OneVoice waited to become political days after their grant ended.
“The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the investigative subcommittee, said. “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.”
The Washington Times also reported:
Sen. Claire McCaskill, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said the Obama administration followed the law.
But she said their investigation exposed “deficiencies” in the State Department’s policies.
OneVoice had been politically active in Israel’s 2013 elections, which should have been a red flag to U.S. officials to put strict controls on how American taxpayers’ money was spent, the investigation said.
While it wouldn’t have necessarily disqualified the group, the State Department should have written a specific prohibition against using American money to influence a foreign election, the subcommittee said.
It’s part of a pattern of bad behavior at the State Department. The Government Accountability Office reviewed more than five dozen department grants and found officials cut corners and missed red flags in 80 percent of them.