WASHINGTON -- If Frank Gaffney gets his way, Grover Norquist won't be at a high-profile conservative gathering known as the Conservative Political Action Conference in October. Not only that, but the anti-tax crusader and his allies will be totally discredited and branded as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gaffney is head of the Center for Security Policy and committed to raising the alarm about what he sees as the growing influence of Islam in American politics. Most recently, his work inspired Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and four other conservative lawmakers to write to federal agencies and ask them to investigate whether the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the U.S. government. Those accusations were harshly denounced by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, political pundits and a long list of religious and secular groups.
But long before he was going after top State Department official Huma Abedin, Gaffney was targeting two men connected with CPAC: Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and Suhail Khan, a former official in the administration of President George W. Bush. Both are board members of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC.
"Grover Norquist is credentialing the perpetrators of this Muslim Brotherhood influence operation. ... We are in a war, and he has been working with the enemy for over a decade," said Gaffney in a January 2011 WorldNetDaily op-ed.
Cleta Mitchell, a prominent conservative attorney who also serves on the ACU board, thoroughly investigated Gaffney's claims against Norquist and Khan and found them to be completely baseless. The rest of the conservative board unanimously stood with Mitchell, and Gaffney was essentially shut out of the conference.
He was not allowed to speak at the gathering, despite having done so for the past 15 years.
Gaffney is now out to redeem himself -- and to take down Mitchell, Norquist and Khan in the process.
The Huffington Post obtained an email sent by Gaffney on July 6 to fellow conservatives, outlining his strategy for raising a ruckus about the Muslim Brotherhood issue in advance of October's regional CPAC in Denver:
As we will discuss on today's Victory Coalition call, an opportunity has arisen to begin to push back on the insidious Muslim Brotherhood influence operation mounted by Grover Norquist and his Brotherhood-affiliated protégé, Suhail Khan. It comes in the form of the upcoming October 4 Conservative Political Action Conference in Denver. I believe that, by using this event as leverage, we have a shot at raising enough hell in Colorado and elsewhere about Norquist and Khan that we can force the ACU Board, at a minimum, to rescind the resolution it adopted last September condemning me and a endorsing them. If we create enough of a stir, it might even be possible to induce the Board to force their resignations and that of the third Board member who enabled that resolution, Cleta Mitchell, from the ACU leadership.
To that end, I am forwarding for your consideration a letter that might usefully be sent, individually or collectively, to the ACU's President, Al Cardenas -- who I have reason to believe would be personally sympathetic to such a campaign.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this initiative on the call today.
All the best, F
The letter drafted by Gaffney faults the ACU board for endorsing Norquist and Khan "despite abundant evidence that they have engaged in activities that American conservatives and others who love freedom would find abhorrent."
That behavior, according to Gaffney, includes "the enabling and conduct of influence operations by the Muslim Brotherhood as part of its 'civilization jihad' against this country and, in particular, targeted at the conservative movement and the Republican Party."
He takes fault with Mitchell's findings and asks the board to "correct the record, to repudiate Ms. Mitchell for misleading it or to disassociate the Board from the unacceptable actions of Messrs. Norquist and Khan."
Norquist told The Huffington Post he had not heard about Gaffney's latest effort.
"Frank's argument is, 'If you knew what I knew, you'd understand.' But the problem is the people who read all of his stuff are the ones who are the least sympathetic to his conspiracy theories," said Norquist.
Laura Keehner Rigas, communications director for ACU, declined to make Cardenas available for an interview.
"ACU is focused on our work to deliver a conservative message to America in this critical election cycle. We are not engaged in any distracting intramurals and have no plans to internally take on any of the issues about which you have inquired," she responded.
Neither Gaffney nor Khan returned requests for comment. Mitchell said she was unable to discuss the matter because of a "strict confidentiality rule."
Mitchell's September 2011 letter reviewing Gaffney's claims against Norquist and Khan was definitive in finding no support whatsoever for the allegations.
Regarding Norquist, for example, Mitchell wrote, "With respect to Mr. Gaffney's allegations against Grover, those are purely and simply character assassination. ... And I'm certain that Mr. Gaffney's hatred is further fueled by the fact that Grover is married to a Muslim-American woman (who also has worked for the United States government in very responsible positions, I might add!)."
Furthermore, Mitchell said she has personally tried to persuade Gaffney to stop his baseless allegations.
"I have tried to talk Mr.Gaffney into ceasing these attacks -- but to no avail," she wrote. "I have done everything I know to do to try and bring this to a halt, including private conversations and public appearances saying essentially what I have said in this letter. I have taken whatever official actions in my capacity as a board member of various organizations to vote against any motion that would support Mr. Gaffney's allegations and will continue to do so."
Not only was Gaffney barred from speaking at CPAC last year, but Slate's Dave Weigel reported that he has also been barred from the "Weyrich lunch," a weekly off-the-record gathering of conservative leaders. The reason? His public campaign against Norquist and other conservatives.
Last year, Gaffney also went after Virginia Del. David Ramadan (R-South Riding), who was running for office at the time.
In a Washington Times op-ed about Ramadan in August 2011, Gaffney wrote, "As we are seeing play out in the Middle East at the hands of Islamists of various stripes, democracy is no guarantee against people who are hostile to it -- some of whom are perfectly capable of concealing that hostility to advance their purposes."
Gaffney's allegations, however, were rebutted by one of the conservative movement's stalwarts: Edwin Meese, who served as President Ronald Reagan's attorney general. Meese endorsed Ramadan in part, he later explained, because of Gaffney's campaign.
"I felt that this was an unfair attack and persisted in my support of him because of that," said Meese, adding, "I think it's always serious when any American is disparaged ... solely because of their religion or their background when there's no basis for it."
Read the letter Gaffney is circulating for people to send to Cardenas: