Article by Jeremiah Goulka '01 on the Mujahedin-e Khalq from "The American Prospect"

Excerpted from

The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is in the news again. Images of Newt Gingrich bowing to the Iranian dissident group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, after speaking to MEK members at a Paris rally, and ChicagoTribune columnist Clarence Page’s unauthorized, paid speech at the same event have brought renewed attention to the MEK’s expensive (and possibly illegal) lobbying operation in Washington. 

Gingrich and Page aren’t the only high-profile figures the MEK has enlisted in its bid to get off the State Department’s foreign terrorist organization list. The group has persuaded a number of onetime officials, including former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Adviser Francis Fragos Townsend, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, to argue its case.  These public figures have taken money, in some cases more than $30,000 per speech, to speak on the group’s behalf. As a result, the U.S. Treasury Department has begun to look into the fees, because, according to the Supreme Court, “advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization” constitutes the federal crime of “material support of terrorism.” The speakers have also failed to register as lobbyists under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, and there is an increasing push for criminal investigations. 

As it turns out, however, many of the public figures openly admit that they did not know much about the MEK when they agreed to attend the events. Many were invited by suspected MEK front groups with names such as the Organizing Committee for Convention for Democracy in Iran and the Iranian American Community of North Texas, and they approached the ex-officials through their agents. Former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission Lee Hamilton, who also spoke in support of the MEK, told TheNew York Times, “I don’t know a lot about the group.” Clarence Page told ProPublica that he thought he was giving a talk on promoting democracy and regime change in Iran. 

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