Looks like Aipac has gone and jumped into hot water again. It seems like only yesterday when Larry Franklin, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman were front page news after it was discovered that Franklin shared information about U.S. policy toward Iran with the Aipac staffers under the watchful and supportive eye of a senior Israeli embassy officer. As an outgrowth of that investigation, Time Magazine reveals that the Justice Department and FBI are now investigating whether Harman enlisted the pro-Israel group to lobby House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi to reappoint the former to her current House Intelligence Committee post.
…FBI and Justice Department prosecutors…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…is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman’s behalf.
The Post and Haaretz are of slightly different minds about the legal issues involved. First, Haaretz writes that:
Attempting to influence the outcome of the election of Congressional representatives to committees is a federal offense.
While the Post says this about one of the important lobbying calls made on Harman’s behalf by an Aipac donor:
A congressional source tells TIME that the lobbying for Harman has included a phone call several months ago from entertainment industry billionaire and major Democratic party contributor Haim Saban…A phone call pushing for a particular member’s committee assignment might be unwelcome, but it would not normally be illegal on its own.
The key phrase here is “on its own.” In other words, if Haim Saban made the call unsolicited by Aipac, then it would be kosher. If not, then possibly (or definitely?) it would be illegal according to the terms laid out by Haaretz. I’ve got news for you–anyone who believes that Haim Saban did this of his own volition and without prompting from anyone in Harman’s or Aipac’s offices is either a member of Harman’s immediate family or a card-carrying member of Aipac. The rest of us know better.
The probe is covering an even more troubling issue:
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.
This sounds like a very difficult issue to prove in court. But if there’s even a hint of evidence that this might’ve happened, then Harman has doomed her chance to become chair of the House Intelligence Committee if the Dems become a majority. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful people don’t seem to recognize the fine line between assertiveness and overplaying one’s hand in the fine art of political gamesmanship. Pelosi clearly hated Harman’s pushiness and would be only too happy to replace her:
…Congressional sources say Pelosi has been infuriated by pressure from some major donors lobbying on behalf of Harman. In a story touching on tensions between Pelosi and Harman, an alternative California publication, LA Weekly, reported in May that Harman “had some major contributors call Pelosi to impress upon her the importance of keeping Jane in place. According to these members, this tactic, too, hasn’t endeared Harman to Pelosi.”
And lest you think it odd, out of character or improbable that Aipac would entertain such a request from Harman, consider what Aipac’s Steve Rosen offered to do on Larry Franklin’s behalf:
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.”
It’s the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” world of D.C. scrounging, bowing and scraping. It makes one wonder what else a beholden member of Congress might be willing to do for Aipac and its enabler (or “handler” if you’re even more conspiratorial), the Israeli intelligence service Mosad.
Billmon wrote a good piece on this story a few days ago.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.