Financing Fascism

Supporters of British racists close shop, abruptly

The American Friends of the British National Party (AFBNP), a group that brought together American white supremacists of all stripes to raise funds for the neofascist British National Party (BNP), has gone out of business following an exposé by the Intelligence Report.

The article documented AFBNP activities that may have been illegal on both sides of the Atlantic. In 19 U.S. meetings over two years, AFBNP Chairman Mark Cotterill raised at least $85,000 that was apparently sent to the BNP to help the party, in his words, "reach its target" with "regard to fundraising."

Confronted by a CNN reporter with the findings of the Intelligence Report, Cotterill, a British national, resigned from both the AFBNP he helped to create and the BNP itself. The AFBNP's Web site was taken down as well.

A BNP news release later claimed that the AFBNP had been shut down because it was ineffective.

In the United States, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires any person who solicits money for a "foreign political party" to register with the Department of Justice and to document his or her activities. Neither Cotterill nor the AFBNP ever registered under the act.

In an August letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) General Counsel Richard Cohen asked that a federal investigation be launched into the group's alleged felony violations of FARA, pointing out that penalties against Cotterill could include "a fine, imprisonment, or deportation."

The Department of Justice has not responded publicly to Cohen's request.

In Britain, an election law that went into effect last February prohibits foreign political donations to domestic political parties over the amount of £200 (almost $300).

Yet when BNP head Nick Griffin was asked by CNN if the party had ever received checks as large as "$10,000 and $16,000" from the United States, Griffin replied, "We've seen some very useful donations, yeah."

When two members of Parliament called for an investigation into BNP finances based on the SPLC report, the United Kingdom's Electoral Commission contacted the Center for documentation of AFBNP's fund-raising activities. The Electoral Commission launched an official investigation into the matter on Sept. 3.

If found guilty of British election law violations, the BNP and Griffin could face civil and criminal penalties.