Saturday, October 21, 2006
The Department of Justice is investigating whether Rep. Jane Harman and the pro-Israel group worked together to get her reappointed as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee
"Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That's the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.
The sources tell TIME that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman's behalf.
The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending, and to a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin. Franklin pleaded guilty a year ago to three felony counts involving improper disclosure and handling of classified information about the Middle East and terrorism to the two lobbyists, who in turn are accused of passing it on to a journalist and a foreign government, widely believed to be Israel.
The sources say the probe also involves whether, in exchange for the help from AIPAC, Harman agreed to help try to persuade the Administration to go lighter on the AIPAC officials caught up in the ongoing investigation. If that happened, it might be construed as an illegal quid pro quo, depending on the context of the situation.
In this same investigation, the Justice Department has previously suggested that AIPAC had questionable motives in trying to help a valued government contact remain in a sensitive national security post. The Justice Department alleges in its indictment of Franklin that he asked one of the two AIPAC lobbyists to "put in a good word" for him in seeking assignment to the National Security Council. The document says the AIPAC official noted that such a job would put Franklin "by the elbow of the President" and said he would "do what I can."
A congressional source tells TIME that the lobbbying for Harman has included a phone call several months ago from entertainment industry billionaire and major Democratic party contributor Haim Saban."
ISRAEL LOBBY? WHAT LOBBY?
What is very interesting is that in the Democratic Party primary, Harman was challenged by a progressive Jew: Marcy Winograd. Winograd opposes the war and the occupation of Iraq, while Harman is supported by (in addition to AIPAC) the "defense" industry.
Winograd is so opposed to aggressive Israeli policies that she and a group of Jewish women picketed the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles to protest Israel's invasion of Lebanon. With AIPAC and the merchants of death (arms industry) opposing her, Winograd was unable to defeat the well-entrenched Harman.