Following news that federal authorities are investigating speaking payments to former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell from a network of affiliates of a group the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization, prominent MEK supporters are keeping mum.
TPM reached out to nearly two dozen high-profile speakers from past pro-MEK events, many of whom have acknowledged being paid, and who have advocated for taking the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e Khalq taken off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Most didn’t respond. Those who did, like former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had no comment. And those we managed to get on the phone didn’t have much to say either.
“I don’t plan to comment on any of that,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean told TPM. “It’s unfortunate because there’s been a lot of misinformation in the mainstream media out there. When the blogs start repeating Iranian propaganda, we’ve got a problem.”
It’s never been entirely clear who actually pays for the speeches, which are typically arranged through speaking agencies. Rendell told the New York Times he was under the impression that his speaking fees came from Iranian-American supporters of the MEK and not the group itself. That is in line with what TPM was told by an organizer of an August 2011 rally outside the State Department. “Some of them are paid, some of them aren’t,” Hamid Azimi told TPM, adding that people wouldn’t even be asking about the payments if MEK wasn’t on the list.
It is illegal for Americans to do business with designated terrorist groups or, thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, advocate for positions in coordination with such organizations. The Treasury Department isn’t commenting on the probe.
Rendell has also been a bit quiet since initially confirming that his speaking agency had received a subpoena, hanging up on a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer twice before leaving a voicemail message suggesting he reach out to former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. “Gov. Ridge was active in this even before I got involved,” Rendell said in the voicemail.