Rendell under investigation for speaking fees earned stumping for terrorist group
By: STEVEN NELSON
The Treasury Department is investigating Pennsylvania’s former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell for possibly breaking the law by accepting illegal payments from the Iranian terrorist group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.
Rendell acknowledged Monday that William Morris Endeavor, a talent agency that books his speeches, was issued a subpoena last week from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces economic and trade sanctions, requesting records of payments for pro-MEK speeches.
According to the New York Times, Rendell said that he has collected approximately $150,000 to $160,000 for speaking on behalf of the MEK. He said, however, that he believed the money was coming from supporters of the group, and not from the terror group directly.
Among the MEK’s crimes are the murders of at least six Americans during the Iranian Revolution, participation in Saddam Hussein’s attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq in the early 1990s and terror attacks that continue to kill civilians in Iran.
The group has been primarily based in Iraq since the 1980s. After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the MEK came under de facto protection from the U.S. military. After the last U.S. troops left the country in December, MEK members at Camp Ashraf — the group’s longtime base north of Baghdad — have been awaiting a pending relocation plan to other countries.
The MEK is led by a couple, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, who are often compared to cult leaders. The State Department listed the group as a terror organization in 1997, describing the group in a report to Congress as “fundamentally undemocratic” and “not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran.”
Despite the MEK’s murderous past, it is believed to be playing a role in undermining the Iranian nuclear program, possibly with Israeli assistance.
Within the United States, an unusual hodge-podge group of former high-ranking officials have called for the State Department to remove the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations.
In addition to Rendell, prominent MEK supporters include former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, former General Wesley Clark, former Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Although the MEK’s lobbying activity has apparently been enormously successful, the Rendell subpoena may represent a move to crack down on associations with the group.
Rendell said “no comment” and hung up twice when the Philadelphia Inquirer called him seeking comment on the investigation. According to the Inquirer, he later left a lengthy voicemail message saying, “I feel passionate that nothing happens to those people” remaining at Camp Ashraf.