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Top Democrat’s speeches for terrorist group probed
Question of the Day
As to the extent to which accepting payments for such advocacy may or may not be legal, Mr. Ridge said it is a “moot question.”
“Assuming there may be a question, and we don’t think there is, the bigger question is: Does the MEK belong on the list?” he said. “It’s kind of curious that those who don’t like our advocacy are suggesting that we might be doing something wrong.”
Neither man would specify how much he has been paid for his speeches, although Mr. Rendell, who has traveled to Paris and Geneva five times to attend conferences calling for the MEK’s removal from the terrorist list, said that in addition to receiving a “substantial speaking fee,” his expenses have been covered in full.
A source familiar with the payments told The Times that a public figure of Mr. Rendell’s stature receives “in the ballpark” of $20,000 per speaking appearance.
Where the money comes from is unclear.
Mr. Rendell said payments for his speeches come from “money from citizens, both American citizens here and Iranian expats in Europe who believe in the cause.”
He stressed that he never directly accepts speaking fees, which are handled by his agent at William Morris Endeavor.
“It is my understanding that there is a very large diaspora of Iranian-Americans, and the diaspora is international, obviously,” he said. “There’s a very significant group of American citizens, and how they pledge their money and send it in and aggregate it to pay us, I don’t know.”
Trita Parsi, who heads the National Iranian American Council, said the money is connected to the MEK.
“Everyone on Capitol Hill knows that, once on the terrorist list, the MEK could no longer lobby under their own name, so they created organizations with the same individuals and used those organizations, which are not on the terrorist list, to do the lobbying,” Mr. Parsi said.
The website of the National Iranian American Council maintains a list of groups it claims are raising money for the MEK, and Mr. Parsi said officials from the State Department have privately told him that the MEK sets up “shell organizations” to raise money.
When asked about Mr. Parsi’s claim, a State Department spokesman declined to comment.
• Shaun Waterman contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.
His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.
Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...
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