Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Amnesty, HRW, IGLHRC Give Only to
'08 Democratic Candidates

The Center for American Progress think-tank held a forum on January 9 in Washington on the subject of human rights, with a strong focus on human rights outside the US borders, and the presidential race. There's a video of the long chat on the CAP site, but I have not watched it because of personal time constraints.
(Note to CAP: If you have a transcript of the forum, please share it.)
It's great such a discussion is taking place, and with an esteemed roster of speakers, but my interest lies more with the unspoken problem of some of the speakers and their colleagues in global human rights advocacy non-governmental organizations donating money to Democratic Party candidates and PACs.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear at this point. As old-fashioned as it may be, I believe international human rights advocacy groups should be above any hint of favorable bias towards one American political party, or politician, over another.
When Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other such groups issue their reports or action alerts, questions about whether the executives and researchers are helping to elect any politician, not just in the USA, but anywhere in the world really, should not be part of the part of the ensuing discussion.
That was the situation in June 2005 when Amnesty issued a report critical of the Bush administration's policies on war detainees at Guantanamo and I revealed William Schulz, then the head of group, had donated to Sen. John Kerry for president.
Two of the CAP panelists, Gayle Smith of the ENOUGH Project, and Bill Wasserman of M+R Strategic Services, are veteran human rights workers, and both have contributed money to Democrats, and nothing to the Republicans.
These three human rights executives are not alone in this regard. Using a variety of FEC search engines, I found that for the 2008 presidential and other races, executives at Amnesty, the Human Rights Watch, the Leadership Council for Human Rights , the International Human Rights Law Group and Human Rights First have all contributed to candidates and political actions committees, all of the Democratic Party persuasion.

Given these donations, how can the human rights paid-advocacy community approach, say, Republicans on the Senate and House foreign relations committees, and argue for a non- or multi-partisan approach to human rights abroad?
On the gay side of things, Paula Ettelbrick, head of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, follows the same pattern. She's given money only to the John Edwards for President Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
Even though the Human Rights Campaign, the gay wing of the Democratic Party, primarily focuses only on domestic gay human rights matters and pretty much ignores international human rights concerns, I still checked out the FEC files for HRC leaders. Sure enough, all donations from HRC executives and staff went to Democrats.
I certainly don't want to in any way squelch the right of human rights executives to send cash to American politicians, but my gut says they would be wise to stop making contributions and avoid the problems inherent when human rights advocates betray personal political bias.
Effective human rights advocacy demands that Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC, et al., are always putting human rights work first, without giving opponents of human rights the ammunition to dismiss their concerns because executives donate exclusively to Democrats.
It's not asking too much of these groups and their executives to keep human rights advocacy in the US non-partisan.

No comments: