Non-profit

National Iranian American Council Action

Website:

www.niacaction.org%20

Location:

Washington, DC

Tax ID:

47-3979683

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(4)

Executive Director:

Jamal Abdi

Formation:

2015

NIAC Action is the electoral and lobbying arm of the left-of-center National Iranian American Council (NIAC), an advocacy organization which purports to educate and advocate for Iranian Americans. NIAC Action pursues a wide range of left-of-center policies, specifically in immigration and foreign policy regarding US-Iran relations.

After the outbreak of pandemic COVID-19, NIAC Action joined a coalition of left-of-center and left-wing organizations led by the controversial Women’s March in order to advocate for vote-by-mail in the November 2020 elections.

History

NIAC Action is an offshoot of National Iranian American Council, which was founded in 2002 in order to address issues facing Iranian Americans in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. [1] NIAC Action was founded in 2015 in order to “build power for Iranian Americans and to champion the priorities of our community.” [2] NIAC Action supports a range of left-of-center and left-wing policies in foreign policy, immigration, and civil rights issues, in addition to supporting Democratic candidates for political office. [3]

Immigration Policy

NIAC Action works in favor of liberal expansionist immigration policy, both on issues which impact the Iranian community specifically and on general reforms to promote more lenient American immigration standards.

Trump Administration Admissions Bars

NIAC Action has worked for years in opposition to a series of Trump administration executive actions said to carry out President Donald Trump’s campaign promise a so-called “Muslim Ban.” In 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order 13769, followed by two other iterations of the order in the following years. The order barred entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens from seven countries, including Iran. [4] After several legal challenges from the political left, the Supreme Court ruled that the executive order did not violate the United States Constitution. [5]

Both NIAC Action and its sister 501(c)(3) organization have worked against the regulation through the “No Muslim Ban Ever” campaign. [6] In February 2020, the House Judiciary Committee voted on the NO BAN Act, a bill which would repeal the executive order if passed. [7] Even while praising the passage of the act through the committee, NIAC accused Republican representatives of “gaslighting” the committee by defending the order and of supporting a “discriminatory order in the halls of Congress.” [8] When the House of Representatives delayed the NO BAN Act vote in light of the need to pass legislation to provide economic relief in the wake of coronavirus, NIAC Action criticized the delay, claiming that the Muslim Ban is “racist” and “a crisis that threatens the fabric of our country.” [9]

Border Enforcement

NIAC Action has long been aligned with left-of-center immigration interests. In 2018, the United States State Department proposed a new policy of “extreme vetting,” which would collect additional information, including social media accounts, travel history, and travel funding sources, for individuals applying for American visas from countries deemed to pose a security threat to the United States. [10]

NIAC Action joined with other left-of-center organizations, including the Brennan Center for Justice, to send a public comment which criticized the proposal. [11] The statement alleges that collecting social media information from visa applicants will “chill free speech” and may be “discriminatory in impact and intent” when “considered against the backdrop of a broader ‘Muslim Ban.’”[12] In addition to publishing the letter, NIAC Action has called on Congress to enact legislation which would ban vetting social media and travel histories. [13]

In September 2019, NIAC Action joined a coalition of more than 200 left-of-center and left-wing organizations calling on Congress to cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) border enforcement programs, in addition to establishing congressional oversight on appropriated funds. [14] Specifically, the coalition calls on Congress to cut funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). [15] The coalition includes left-wing organizations such as the National Immigration Law Center, America’s Voice, and the Transgender Law Center. [16]

Foreign Policy Advocacy

NIAC Action pushes for conciliatory policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, most notably the ending of all sanctions on Iran put in place after the Iranian government violated its agreement with the United States and continued to work to expand its nuclear capabilities. In 2020, NIAC Action supported the Congressional Oversight of Sanctions Act, a bill proposed by left-wing Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) which would give Congress authority over sanctions. [17] NIAC Action has blamed President Donald Trump’s administration for using sanctions to “strangle the Iranian people,” rather than acknowledging the fault of the Iranian government in withholding key supplies from its people. [18]

In March 2020, Congress passed the Kaine War Powers Resolution clarifying that President Trump does not have authorization to continue to engage in hostile interactions with forces in Iran. [19] NIAC Action applauded the decision, and accused the Trump administration of being “likely to shoot first and figure out its legal justification later.” [20]

NIAC further places blame on the Trump administration and the United States government for domestic issues in Iran caused by the Iranian government. In 2019, following mass demonstrations in Iran, the Iranian government cut off internet access to its citizens in order to suppress the wave of protests. [21] Rather than criticizing the Iranian government, one NIAC petition claimed that “U.S sanctions have helped make this Internet blackout possible.” [22] The petition then called on supporters to contact their representatives in order to urge the lifting of sanctions. [23]

2020 Vote by Mail Campaign

In April 2020, NIAC Action joined a left-wing coalition led by members of the Women’s March calling for universal vote-by-mail for the 2020 presidential election. [24] NIAC Action argues that coronavirus may “continue to suppress votes in November,” citing the Wisconsin primaries as an example of lower voter turnout due to voter fear of catching the virus, though primary turnout numbers had yet to be released. [25]

NIAC Action advocated for all states to adopt vote-by-mail programs, forcing individuals to vote through a paper ballot shipped through the United States Postal Service prior to election day in November. [26] NIAC Action further alleged that any opposition to vote by mail by Republicans “emboldens the same elected officials…who for years have been advocating for voter suppression.” [27] Though NIAC Action dismisses criticisms of vote by mail as “voter suppression,” countless legal experts have warned of the risks of the procedure, including increased risk of disputed elections, risk of administrative delays leading to discounted votes, and increased risk of litigation over absentee ballots. [28]

Support for Democratic Candidates

NIAC Action frequently endorses Democrats for public office and critiques conservative policy goals. In November 2018, NIAC Action praised the election of left-of-center representatives during the midterm elections. [29]  The press release argued that elected Democrats would place a “check” on President Trump and end the “discriminatory Muslim ban.” [30] The release went on to note that Republicans “either cheered Donald Trump on or stood silent” in the face of a “concerted assault” against immigrants, and claimed that NIAC Action had a “key role” in electing the Democratic representatives. [31]

In February 2019, NIAC Action spoke on behalf of left-wing Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), claiming that President Trump and Republicans are brought together by “Islamophobia” and that President Trump defended “neo-Nazis.” [32] Later that year, NIAC Action expressed approval for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) presidential campaign after Warren stated her desire to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal established by the Obama administration. [33] In 2020, NIAC Action endorsed a slate of Democratic candidates, including far-left Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). [34]

Independent Expenditures

The group spent just $9,929 between its founding in 2015 and 2020 on independent expenditures related to political campaigns, all on behalf of Democrats and in opposition to Republican candidates in races for the United States House of Representatives. [35] As of April 2020, NIAC Action had not made an expenditure report since December 31, 2018. [36]

Most of NIAC Action’s reportable expenditures were made on media, with over $7000 spent on web advertisements and other miscellaneous media items. [37] NIAC Action spent $2,600 on Facebook advertisements alone. [38] NIAC Action’s PAC is funded entirely by small donations, with the largest donor spending just $250. [39]

People and Funding

NIAC’s former president and founder is Trita Parsi, who now works at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a left-of-center think tank. [40] During his time with NIAC, Parsi was frequently accused of lobbying on behalf of the Iranian government, including by left-of-center publication The Atlantic. [41]

Jamal Abdi serves as both executive director of NIAC Action and president of NIAC. [42] Abdi formerly served as a NIAC’s policy director beginning in November 2009, after working as in the United States Congress as a policy advisor. [43] Abdi has a history of political organizing in national congressional elections. [44]

References

  1. “Mission and Vision.” NIAC. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/mission-and-vision/#mission. ^
  2. “Mission and Vision.” NIAC. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/mission-and-vision/#mission. ^
  3. “Mission and Vision.” NIAC. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/mission-and-vision/#mission. ^
  4. “One Year After the SCOTUS Ruling: Understanding the Muslim Ban and How We’ll Keep Fighting It.” National Immigration Law Center. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.nilc.org/issues/immigration-enforcement/understanding-muslim-ban-one-year-after-ruling/. ^
  5. “One Year After the SCOTUS Ruling: Understanding the Muslim Ban and How We’ll Keep Fighting It.” National Immigration Law Center. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.nilc.org/issues/immigration-enforcement/understanding-muslim-ban-one-year-after-ruling/. ^
  6. “NIAC Action Applauds House Judiciary Passage of Muslim Ban Repeal.” NIAC, February 12, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-applauds-house-judiciary-passage-of-muslim-ban-repeal/. ^
  7. “NIAC Action Applauds House Judiciary Passage of Muslim Ban Repeal.” NIAC, February 12, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-applauds-house-judiciary-passage-of-muslim-ban-repeal/. ^
  8. “NIAC Action Applauds House Judiciary Passage of Muslim Ban Repeal.” NIAC, February 12, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-applauds-house-judiciary-passage-of-muslim-ban-repeal/. ^
  9. “NIAC Action Statement on Delay to NO BAN Vote.” NIAC, March 12, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-statement-on-delay-to-no-ban-vote/. ^
  10. “NIAC Action Joins Civil Rights Groups in Opposing Expansion to ‘Extreme Vetting’.” NIAC, May 31, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-joins-civil-rights-groups-in-opposing-expansion-to-extreme-vetting/ ^
  11. “NIAC Action Joins Civil Rights Groups in Opposing Expansion to ‘Extreme Vetting’.” NIAC, May 31, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-joins-civil-rights-groups-in-opposing-expansion-to-extreme-vetting/. ^
  12. “NIAC Action Joins Civil Rights Groups in Opposing Expansion to ‘Extreme Vetting’.” NIAC, May 31, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-joins-civil-rights-groups-in-opposing-expansion-to-extreme-vetting/. ^
  13. “NIAC Action Joins Civil Rights Groups in Opposing Expansion to ‘Extreme Vetting’.” NIAC, May 31, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-joins-civil-rights-groups-in-opposing-expansion-to-extreme-vetting/. ^
  14. “NIAC Action Joins 200 NGOs to Tell Congress: Cut ICE And CBP Funding.” NIAC, September 13, 2019. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-200-ngos-tell-congress-cut-ice-and-cbp-funding/. ^
  15. “NIAC Action Joins 200 NGOs to Tell Congress: Cut ICE And CBP Funding.” NIAC, September 13, 2019. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-200-ngos-tell-congress-cut-ice-and-cbp-funding/. ^
  16. “Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations.” NIAC. September 12, 2019. https://www.niacouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Defund-Hate_NGO-Sign-on_FY20-DHS-Priorities_Sept-2019-1.pdf ^
  17. “Halt Washington’s Sanctions Addiction: Support Omar’s Sanctions Oversight Bill.” NIAC. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/campaign/halt-washingtons-sanctions-addiction-support-omars-sanctions-oversight-bill/. ^
  18. “Halt Washington’s Sanctions Addiction: Support Omar’s Sanctions Oversight Bill.” NIAC. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/campaign/halt-washingtons-sanctions-addiction-support-omars-sanctions-oversight-bill/. ^
  19. “Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution.” NIAC, March 11, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/statement-on-house-passage-of-kaine-war-powers-resolution/. ^
  20. “Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution.” NIAC, March 11, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/statement-on-house-passage-of-kaine-war-powers-resolution/. ^
  21. “Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution.” NIAC, March 11, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/statement-on-house-passage-of-kaine-war-powers-resolution/. ^
  22. “Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution.” NIAC, March 11, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/statement-on-house-passage-of-kaine-war-powers-resolution/. ^
  23. “Statement on House Passage of Kaine War Powers Resolution.” NIAC, March 11, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/statement-on-house-passage-of-kaine-war-powers-resolution/. ^
  24. Farvard, Donna. “We Need Vote by Mail to Protect Our Democracy.” NIAC, April 9, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/we-need-vote-by-mail-to-protect-our-democracy/. ^
  25. Farvard, Donna. “We Need Vote by Mail to Protect Our Democracy.” NIAC, April 9, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/we-need-vote-by-mail-to-protect-our-democracy/. ^
  26. Farvard, Donna. “We Need Vote by Mail to Protect Our Democracy.” NIAC, April 9, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/we-need-vote-by-mail-to-protect-our-democracy/. ^
  27. Farvard, Donna. “We Need Vote by Mail to Protect Our Democracy.” NIAC, April 9, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/we-need-vote-by-mail-to-protect-our-democracy/. ^
  28. Foley, Edward B. “Opinion: Why Vote-by-Mail Could Be a Legal Nightmare in November.” POLITICO, April 7, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/07/danger-moving-vote-by-mail-168602. ^
  29. “After the Midterms: Across the Country, Iran Warmongers & Muslim Ban Defenders Lost Big.” NIAC, November 7, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/across-the-country-iran-warmongers-muslim-ban-defenders-lost-big/. ^
  30. “After the Midterms: Across the Country, Iran Warmongers & Muslim Ban Defenders Lost Big.” NIAC, November 7, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/across-the-country-iran-warmongers-muslim-ban-defenders-lost-big/. ^
  31. “After the Midterms: Across the Country, Iran Warmongers & Muslim Ban Defenders Lost Big.” NIAC, November 7, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/across-the-country-iran-warmongers-muslim-ban-defenders-lost-big/. ^
  32. “NIAC Action Stands with Representative Ilhan Omar Against Partisan Attacks.” NIAC, February 13, 2019. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/niac-action-stands-with-representative-ilhan-omar-against-partisan-attacks/. ^
  33. “Senator Warren and the Return to the JCPOA.” NIAC, March 1, 2019. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/warren-and-the-return-to-the-jcpoa/. ^
  34. “Announcing Our First Wave of 2020 Endorsements.” NIAC, February 16, 2020. https://www.niacouncil.org/news/announcing-our-first-wave-of-2020-endorsements/. ^
  35. “NIAC Action Independent Expenditures.” OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/indexpend.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C90017690. ^
  36. “NIAC Action Independent Expenditures.” OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/indexpend.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C90017690. ^
  37. “NIAC Action Independent Expenditures.” OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/indexpend.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C90017690. ^
  38. “NIAC Action Independent Expenditures.” OpenSecrets.org. Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/indexpend.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C90017690. ^
  39. “Browse Individual Contributions: NIAC Action.” FEC.gov. Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?committee_id=C00710764&two_year_transaction_period=2020&min_date=01/01/2019&max_date=12/31/2020. ^
  40. “Trita Parsi.” Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://quincyinst.org/author/tparsi/. ^
  41. Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Trita Parsi, Lobbyist for Iran?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, November 13, 2009. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2009/11/trita-parsi-lobbyist-for-iran/30133/. ^
  42. “Jamal Abdi.” NIAC, February 6, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/staff/jamal-abdi/. ^
  43. “Jamal Abdi.” NIAC, February 6, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/staff/jamal-abdi/. ^
  44. “Jamal Abdi.” NIAC, February 6, 2018. https://www.niacouncil.org/staff/jamal-abdi/. ^
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National Iranian American Council Action


Washington, DC