“It’s like the Catholic Church is making a self-proclaimed atheist cardinal,” said Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Elise Stefanik is part of the threat to American democracy. It is a farce that she is on the board of an institution whose goal is to promote democracy. “
Stefan’s remarks have also caused internal tension in the Congress-funded, non-partisan organization. Following the January 6th Capitol riot, some NED officials circulated an internal letter expressing concerns about their position on the board, according to four people familiar with the matter.
“There was a lot of employee dissatisfaction,” said one of the people.
An NED spokesman confirmed that the group’s president, Carl Gershman, had received the letter and informed the board of directors of its contents. At the board meeting on January 8th, members discussed both the uprising and Stefanik’s position on the board for about half an hour. Stefanik did not attend the meeting and no formal vote or action was taken regarding their membership, according to a person familiar with the meeting. But some board members were reluctant to take on the staff who tried to interfere in the composition of the board.
“Who is on the board is a decision of the board and the staff has no role in it,” said an NED board member in a text message. “It is totally inappropriate for them to try to veto board members.”
Ultimately, the officers at NED didn’t move. Despite denouncing the violence in the nation’s Capitol, the group maintained a belief in the need for bipartisan representation in its ranks.
“The Endowment is a Congress-funded and authorized organization and, as such, has relied on and benefited from broad bipartisan support,” NED Chairman Kenneth Wollack said in a statement. “This support is even more remarkable given the polarized political environment in our country. We don’t have litmus tests on the views of individual board members. “
When asked for comment, Gershman, who will be retiring later this summer, said, “People are elected for three years and she is in her first term and that’s all I have to say about that.”
Ali Pardo, a spokesman for Stefanik, said the congresswoman was “proud to have one of the strongest balance sheets in the House of Representatives that supports and supports bipartisan efforts to fund the National Endowment of Democracy and the Mission to Support and Strengthen Democratic Institutions around the World leads “.
She added, “Congresswoman Stefanik is one of the most prominent voices against authoritarian regimes like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, particularly through her work on the House Armed Services Committee and the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”
The National Endowment for Democracy was founded in 1983 as an independent, but government-funded, not-for-profit organization with the aim of strengthening democratic institutions through the support of civil society around the world. In a 1982 speech, President Ronald Reagan called for such an organization to be created to “promote the infrastructure of democracy,” and Congress approved funding the next year.
Over the years, she has made small grants to thousands of private civil society groups and has built a reputation for supporting groups that promote democratic values and institutions in closed societies and emerging democracies. It spends $ 300 million annually to fund activists who work in around 100 countries to promote free and fair elections, free markets, and human and labor rights.
Stefanik was elected in January 2019 to the board. A Harvard graduate who quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican institutions, she was seen as an emerging, politically-minded conservative. She had worked in the Bush White House on the domestic affairs council and was a contributor to Paul Ryan’s 2012 vice presidential campaign; established personalities such as Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan campaigned for their careers. When she won a New York State Congressional seat in 2015 at the age of 30, she instantly became a star in the GOP firmament.
But within a year of joining the NED, the reputation of Congressmen changed. She played a prominent role in defending then-President Donald Trump during his first impeachment and even received a call to the White House following his acquittal from the Senate. After the 2020 election, she asked if the results of the presidential election in Georgia – a state that Joe Biden narrowly won – were fraudulent. saying that “140,000 votes came from minor, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters” in Fulton County. Such fraud did not take place, although Stefanik did not deny her original allegation.
“President-elect Biden has been certified, but this debate was important to the American people,” she said.
In the weeks and months since then, Stefanik has voted against the establishment of a commission to investigate what happened on January 6th. She also told Steve Bannon’s radio show in May that she “fully” supported the much-criticized Arizona election “audit”. in the presidential vote of this state.
Her alliance with Trump helped her rise politically. When the Republican Party ousted MP Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) As chairman of the House Republican Conference, its members turned to Stefanik as a replacement. When Stefanik got the job, she thanked them Trump for his support.
Stefanik isn’t the only incumbent legislator working with NED. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) And Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) Are honorary board members. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Is an NED officer serving as vice chairperson.
Stefanik is also not the only member of Congress who has voted against the election certificate in a body with bipartisan prestige. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), The voted against certification, currently serves on the Honorary Board of the Fulbright Association, an alumni organization of the Fulbright Program, the spoke out against it the January 6 uprising.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) has voted against certification and is also on the board of directors of Texas Christian University, where a short print campaign was launched to have it removed after the Capitol Rising.
Although NED focuses almost exclusively on promoting democracy abroad, the organization has taken the Capitol uprising into account. In a statement, called the event a “violent and seditious attack” and said that “after a free and fair election, and when the incumbents are defeated, there must be a peaceful transfer of power”.
“The integrity of the elections in this country is a real issue for the NED, even though it is not its focus, and I think respecting the integrity of the elections we just went through is something I am sure of the most wishes [board members] worry, “said former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, who served as chairman of the NED from 2001-2009. Weber refused to explicitly discuss Stefanik’s role on the board.
The Journal of Democracy – an NED initiative and jointly published by NED and Johns Hopkins University, April 2021 issue – run an article Called on the lies about electoral fraud in the US, saying it had “cemented the perception among tens of millions of Americans that the elections were ‘rigged” “and” generated suspicion “that had” deeply damaged our democracy “; the way to repair is not at all clear. “
One of the authors of this article, Charles Stewart III, professor of political science at MIT, said Stefanik was a “soft enabler” of Trump. But he also said he thought she could continue serving on the NED board of directors.
“I wish the Republicans hadn’t even taken the route of hard or soft denial of the election result, but it seems to me that when we have bipartisan bodies and commissions we will inevitably have people who defended parts of Trump’s denial.” he said, “That’s the two-party kind of thing these days.”