Top Democrat’s speeches for terrorist group probed

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The Treasury Department’s counterterrorism arm is investigating speaking fees paid to a longtime Democratic Party leader who is among the most vocal advocates for Iranian dissidents designated as a terrorist group by the State Department.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell told The Washington Times that Treasury investigators have subpoenaed records related to payments he has accepted for public speaking engagements.

Mr. Rendell is among a bipartisan group of prominent former officials — including Cabinet-level Republicans — who have been paid for speeches calling for the removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The MEK, also known as the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, has long called for the overthrow of the Islamic theocracy in Tehran. The group, which the State Department says was engaged in terrorist attacks on Iranian government targets in the 1980s, has been on the terrorist list since 1997, when President Clinton put it there in an attempt to improve relations with Iran.

Mr. Rendell and others argue that the MEK should be removed from the list because it has not engaged in violence in more than two decades and shares a common enemy with the United States.

While support for its position is widespread in Washington, some observers have raised questions about the legality of accepting payment in exchange for providing assistance or services to a listed terrorist group.

Mr. Rendell, who asserts that he has done nothing illegal, said the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a Feb. 29 subpoena seeking “transactional records about what payments we received for speaking fees.”

The subpoena was sent to the office of Thomas McGuire, an attorney for the Los Angeles-based talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which handles all of Mr. Rendell’s speaking engagements, including those in which he has advocated on behalf of the MEK.

Calls to Mr. McGuire have not been returned.

‘Nothing to hide’

A Treasury Department spokesman has refused to confirm or deny the subpoena’s issuance, saying the department “does not comment on possible investigations.”

“But the MEK is a designated terrorist group; therefore, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with or providing services to this group,” the spokesman said.

Designated terrorist groups are subject to sanctions, and the spokesman added that “the Treasury Department takes sanctions enforcement seriously and routinely investigates potential violations of sanctions laws.”

Mr. Rendell said the subpoena seeks information “about any emails, any letters, any communications involving payment that we’ve received or sent back.”

“We’re absolutely cooperating 100 percent,” he said. “I’ve instructed my agent not to hold back on any emails or any documents. There’s nothing to hide.”

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

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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