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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.”

Name change

He stressed that he never directly accepts speaking fees, which are handled by his agent at William Morris Endeavor.

Mr. Ridge, who has not been issued a subpoena from the Treasury Department, said he believes the money comes from legitimate sources but that he was not sure what they are.

“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.

“That includes giving money to U.S. officials to speak on their behalf and speak in support of the MEK while pretending that the money is not coming from the MEK.”

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.