GOP leaders, civil rights groups condemn Donnelly’s conspiracy theories, defense of Confederate flag
In a move that’s been quickly condemned by civil rights groups and Republican Party leaders, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has turned to conspiracy theories and a defense of the Confederate flag to appeal to voters in his campaign for governor.
On Monday morning, the Twin Peaks Assemblyman posted a wild conspiracy theory on his Facebook page connecting his Republican opponent to an Islamic plot to bring Shariah law to the United States.
“Neel Kashkari supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code in 2008 when he ran TARP,” Donnelly wrote on his campaign Facebook page.
Conservatives, Southern Poverty Law Center discredit conspiracy theorist
To support its wild conspiracy theory, Donnelly’s campaign linked to an article authored by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., who has been criticized by both conservative leaders and civil rights advocacy groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Gaffney “the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist.” In 2011, the American Conservative Union criticized Gaffney for levying false statements about tax-fighting conservative icon, Grover Norquist. According to Think Progress, Gaffney has been barred from speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
“The U.S. Treasury Department is submitting to Sharia – the seditious religio-political-legal code authoritative Islam seeks to impose worldwide under a global theocracy,” Donnelly’s campaign quoted from Gaffney’s article.
The Kashkari campaign dismissed the ridiculous allegations.
“The US Treasury Department regularly invites delegates from around the world to Washington to advocate for free market principles,” said Kashkari campaign spokesman Aaron McLear. “The conference on Islamic Finance was designed to explore how free market principles could work in Islamic countries. It had nothing to do with changing America’s legal or financial systems.”
GOP leaders criticize Donnelly’s “fringe” views
Republican activists, party leaders and former GOP elected officials joined the Council on American Islamic Relations in criticizing Donnelly for his “fringe” views.
“The candidate is appealing to the lowest form of religious bigotry by exploiting ignorance and intolerance,” said Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley chapter. “We call on the California Republican Party to repudiate Donnelly’s extremist rhetoric.”
State GOP Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon, who has faced similar personal attacks and wild allegations in past campaigns, said that such tactics are “troubling and irresponsible.”
“As a lifelong Republican Party activist, I’m troubled by the tendency of some of our candidates to say unhelpful things,” said Dhillon, who as a party official is not supporting, endorsing or opposing any candidates in the June election. “Democrats do this too, of course, but with the liberal media bias, our candidates come under far more scrutiny.”
She added, “I would advise any male candidate who feels like expounding on how the female reproductive system works, or a candidate who wants to talk about Sharia Law but is neither Muslim not a recognized expert on Islam, to follow the advice of Smokey the Bear and stop, drop and roll, before they go up in flames and take other candidates who don’t share these views, with them on the pyre.”
That view was echoed by one of the state party’s leading conservative activists.
“Tim Donnelly speaks for no one but himself,” said Nathan Miller, chairman of the California Young Republican Federation, one of the largest volunteer organizations chartered by the California Republican Party.
Donnelly defends the Confederate flag
Donnelly’s Shariah law conspiracy theory comes on the same day that he cast the lone vote defending the sale of the Confederate flag on state property. In a 72-1 vote, the State Assembly approved Assembly Bill 2444, which prohibits the State of California from selling or displaying the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, except for educational or historical purposes.
Donnelly said that while he opposed the symbol, the issue was a matter of First Amendment rights.
“I am not standing here defending the symbol,” Donnelly said, according to the Sacramento Bee. “I am standing here defending the principle that the First Amendment should apply in all state buildings, of all places.”
He also defended his views on Facebook.
Experts on the First Amendment say that although the issue raises some free speech concerns, it is likely a permissible restriction under the First Amendment.
“What the state is doing is prohibiting its stores from selling a legal product,” said Dr. Craig Smith, director at the Center For First Amendment Studies. “I believe they have the right to do that, but people need to be aware that today it is the confederate flag, tomorrow it could be the Vatican flag, or Palestinian flag, or the Jewish flag.”
Similarly, the First Amendment would protect Donnelly’s right to circulate wild conspiracy theories.
“Islamists, having secured footholds via their parallel societies, inevitably use those to extend their influence over Muslims who have no more interest in living under authoritative Islam’s Shariah than the rest of us do,” the article linked on Donnelly’s Facebook page claimed. “Inexorably, it becomes the turn of non-Muslims to accommodate themselves to ever more intrusive demands from the Islamists.”
Donnelly’s damaging effect on California Republicans
Jason Roe, a Republican political consultant, described Donnelly’s campaign as a damaging caricature of a conservative.
“Tim Donnelly’s rhetoric is damaging to the conservative movement and demonstrates why we cannot afford to have him as the nominee in November,” said Roe, a partner at Revolvis Consulting. “Conservatives are thoughtful and compassionate and offer real solutions to the challenges facing this state but when the Tim Donnelly’s of the world resort to this kind of politics, the conservative message gets lost in the conservative caricature.”
Former Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman, who called Donnelly’s views “extreme,” said that Donnelly’s fringe views would likely backfire.
“Conservatives are not persuaded by that kind of argument,” Ackerman said. “Republicans want people to campaign on a platform, not conspiracy theories and fringe issues.”
Republican strategist Kevin Eckery called the campaign strategy both “sad” and “odd.”
“There’s no hope of Tim Donnelly winning the governor’s race,” he said.