WASHINGTON — Here’s something you might not know about U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: She’s an advisor to a Charles Koch-funded foreign policy think tank based at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
One of the reasons that’s a surprise is because it’s nowhere to be found on her latest financial disclosure form.
The revelation comes in a new report from Sludge, an investigative news site that tracks money in politics, that highlights the Koch connection to the university’s Center for the Study of Statesmanship. The center was founded in 2017 through a $2.35 million grant from the billionaire’s foundation.
Gabbard, who’s running for president in the Democratic primary, is one of a dozen advisors to the center with strong ties to the Charles and David Koch network — which the author calls “The Kochtopus.”
The billionaire brothers have used their wealth to reshape American politics by pushing far-right, libertarian policies through the use of campaign donations and dark money.
They also spent millions trying to infuse their ideas into institutions of higher learning, from Catholic University to Florida State and George Mason.
As the article points out, Gabbard’s affiliation with the Koch-funded Center for the Study of Statesmanship might seem odd given her public pronouncements about swearing off donations from political action committees and the need to overturn Citizens United.
But the center’s viewpoint also appears to align with Gabbard’s anti-interventionist viewpoints that revolve around keeping the U.S. out of regime-change wars.
“Gabbard, a military veteran, has often opposed U.S. engagement in overseas conflicts, including in war-torn Syria, so she is not out of place among anti-interventionists,” the article says.
“But for a Democrat — especially a 2016 Bernie Sanders surrogate who has progressive views on campaign finance reform and single-payer health care — to accept a position at a think tank funded by Koch and staffed with several Koch-linked individuals is unusual.”
Gabbard’s congressional spokeswoman Lauren McIlvaine defended her boss’ affiliation with the center in a statement to Sludge. McIlvaine also highlighted the fact that Gabbard is a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard and has served two tours of duty in the Middle East.
“The mission of CSS is aligned with the work that she has dedicated herself to, which is why she agreed to serve on their Council of Advisors,” McIlvaine said.
But it’s the financial disclosure omission that sticks out.
Gabbard’s financial disclosure from 2017 — which is the most recent one available — shows that the congresswoman held positions within three organizations: The Sanders Institute, the Healthy Hawaii Coalition and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Profile in Courage Award Committee.
The congresswoman was on the advisory council in 2017.
According to the House Committee on Ethics financial disclosure guideline, members must report any positions they held with organizations, including educational institutions, regardless of whether they received compensation. The guidelines, however, do provide an exemption for honorary positions.
Civil Beat asked Gabbard’s office for an explanation as to why the congresswoman didn’t include the position on her 2017 financial disclosure, but did not receive a response.
This wouldn’t be the first time Gabbard has been caught for not filling out her forms correctly.
In January 2017, Gabbard and her husband, Abraham Williams, travelled to Lebanon and Syria as part of what she described as a secret “fact-finding” mission.
While in Syria she met with the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who has been accused by both the U.S. and others in the international community of using chemical weapons against his own people.
The congresswoman was harshly rebuked when she returned by both the left and the right for meeting with Assad. She also initially refused to disclose who paid for her visit.
It was later revealed that Gabbard travelled to Syria with Dennis Kucinich, a former congressman from Ohio, and two brothers, Elie and Bassam Khawam, who said they funded the trip even though it was officially sponsored by the nonprofit, AACCESS-Ohio.
The Khawams have been described in various news articles as supporters of the Assad regime.
Gabbard did not initially disclose to the House Ethics Committee details of her trip to Syria, and after the controversy became public, amended her official travel disclosures. Amid the backlash, Gabbard also said she would reimburse all the costs of her visit.
Like Gabbard, Kucinich is also a member of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship Council of Advisors.
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