The largest individual donor to former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-Hawaii) PAC in 2021 is an apologist for Vladimir Putin who runs a nonprofit that aims to foster cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. Gabbard has long taken pro-Russian positions, most recently on Sunday when she gave credence to a baseless Russian-supported conspiracy about U.S. involvement in biological-weapons laboratories in Ukraine.
In 1983, towards the end of the Cold War, Sharon Tennison, an American activist, founded the Center for Citizen Initiatives. Its mission is to “begin a series of citizen-to-citizen initiatives and exchanges, buttressed by official media PR and social-media networks across America and across Russia,” according to its website. During its 40 years, the center claims to have set up exchanges, helped launch Alcoholics Anonymous in Russia, and taught business skills to Russian entrepreneurs. On a visit to Russia in 2016, the Federal Security Service detained Tennison for a few hours on suspicions of being a foreign agent, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
While advocating for peace, Tennison has repeatedly championed Russia’s dictator. For example, in 2018, she wrote, “Putin isn’t the problem, friends. The problem is the projection of our own ‘shadow’ on Putin and Russia.” In September 2020, Tennison observed, “Putin seems to ignore detractors and continues efforts to create venues to bring peoples and countries together despite vilifications.” And the day after Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Tennison posted, “I am deeply concerned about a NATO country being on Russia’s borders in Ukraine … As for Putin’s current dilemma, I’m sorry he felt he had to intervene in Ukraine!” Ukraine is not and has never been a NATO member.
The crux of Tennison’s political contributions have gone to Gabbard, the former Democratic congresswoman and presidential candidate who’s been a prominent Russian sympathizer. Since July 2016, Tennison has contributed $15,000 to Gabbard’s political committees, including $2,000 last December to Tulsi Aloha, the leadership PAC that emerged from her presidential campaign. Donations in support of Gabbard comprise 69% of Tennison’s total political giving, according to records with the Federal Election Commission. Tulsi Aloha reported raising a total of $45,000 in 2021.
A month after Gabbard dropped her $50 million defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton over her remarks about a potential “Russian asset” running in the 2020 race, Tennison contributed $2,000 to Gabbard’s legal expense fund.
Neither Tennison nor Gabbard immediately responded to inquiries.