Washington Showdown with AIPAC

Prohibited activities again catching up with lobby

by , April 28, 2011

When former AIPAC director Steven J. Rosen interpreted the contents of stolen classified US national defense information to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler in 2004, he peddled it as proof that Iran was engaged in "total war against the United States."  Far from an investigative journalism scoop, Rosen’s propaganda was not only false, but another small component of AIPAC’s larger drive to militarily entangle the US with Iran. Mirroring the trajectory of Enron — another secretive corporation that suddenly collapsed — this lobby has racked up such an unbroken string of challenges to US rule of law that concerned Americans are again gathering to confront AIPAC on a massive scale on May 21-24 in Washington.

More than a creative protest during AIPAC’s yearly conference, participants are attending workshops and learning circles to discover how to effectively expose, confront, and roll back AIPAC’s most secretive, dangerous, and costly initiatives.  Participants will also network and leverage their contacts with activists from other states working to create lasting peace in the Middle East while reinstituting government accountability at home.  But why now?

A few observant Americans looked on in despair as AIPAC’s 1980s election law violations and 2004 employee indictments over classified information trafficking were recently unwound through attrition and curious moves by the courts and Justice Department.   The year 2011 is remarkably similar to a tipping point catalyzed by misdeeds that took place a half a century ago, when a coalition of fed-up Americans finally laid down the gauntlet and insisted on rule of law in America — breaking the back of AIPAC’s parent organization.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Jewish activists were appalled that AIPAC’s parent organization, the American Zionist Council, was illegally laundering funds raised for legitimate overseas charitable relief back into covert US public relations and lobbying activities in secret coordination with the Israeli government.  The American Council for Judaism and scores of similarly concerned Americans relentlessly lobbied Congress and the US Department of Justice for relief. Even then-Congressman Donald Rumsfeld took action for his constituents.

After uncovering and documenting some of the AZC’s most egregious activities, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered AIPAC’s parent organization — the AZC — to begin openly registering as an Israeli foreign agent on November 21, 1962.  Resistant to transparency and accountability, the AZC asked the Justice Department to keep its filed activities as a foreign agent secret, a subversion of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act transparency provisions.  The DOJ complied and refused to publicly release files about the AZC’s foreign agent filing until 2008.  This secret pact allowed the AZC to quietly shut down and transfer all key activities into its formerly unincorporated lobbying division, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  AIPAC incorporated just six weeks after the AZC FARA order, but has never registered as a foreign agent. 

According to newly declassified documents, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee notified[pdf] the Internal Revenue Service of its findings about how tax-exempt funds were laundered from Israel into nonexempt activities of the AZC and its AIPAC lobbying division.  But after a cursory investigation, and in spite of the DOJ foreign agent order, the IRS refused to revoke the AZC’s tax-exempt status[pdf].  In 1967, after landslide fundraising in the wake of the Six-Day War, AIPAC submitted its own application for IRS tax exemption editing out mandatory information[pdf] about the critical early support it received from the AZC and Israel.  The IRS granted AIPAC a tax exemption in 1967 — retroactive to 1953 — boosting the impact of the Justice Department’s prior cover-up of the organization’s true history.

Though again investigated as a foreign agent in the 1970s, AIPAC was soon free to spawn a network of coordinated stealth Political Action Committees designed to swing elections across the United States.  AIPAC board member Michael Goland was indicted and served a prison term in 1990 for corrupting the 1986 Senate race in California.  But like the AZC, AIPAC has proven highly resistant to accountability and responsibility for the actions of its associates.  Although the Washington Post exposed vast illegal campaign activity coordinated from AIPAC headquarters in the late 1980s, the FEC refused to regulate AIPAC as a political action committee, and the matter languished in court for decades until it was quietly and unceremoniously dismissed in 2010.

In 1984 the FBI also investigated AIPAC’s receipt of government-classified US confidential business data privately submitted by entities as diverse as the AFL-CIO and Monsanto to negotiate a better bilateral trade agreement with Israel.  Again, nothing came of AIPAC or the Israeli government’s joint covert violation of US advice and consent negotiations and the shocking FBI investigation file of AIPAC remained locked away from public scrutiny until 2009.

Fallout from criminal indictments of AIPAC staffers caught red-handed trafficking classified information in 2004-2005 that were quietly unwound under mysterious judicial rulings and even more DOJ acquiescence in 2009 has put AIPAC’s activities under a new spotlight.  AIPAC briefly considered a media campaign to smear US law-enforcement officials but instead cut its losses by dumping Rosen. This led to Rosen’s $20 million retaliatory defamation lawsuit which opened up shocking new insights about AIPAC.   In 2010, true to form, AIPAC let loose a salvo of pornography and prostitution charges — which succeed more in revealing AIPAC’s decrepit work environment than anything about its former top executive-branch lobbyist. But the secret that AIPAC is an organization that has been breaking US laws since its emergence from the AZC in 1963 is now officially "out of the bag."  The list of US classified documents stolen and misused by AIPAC grew larger in 2010, even as the IRS is again asked to retroactively revoke AIPAC’s tax exemption.

Rosen’s 2010 defamation lawsuit court documents (PDF) reveal that AIPAC’s classified information trafficking has been much more widespread than previously known.  AIPAC obtained a "secret National Security Decision Directive #99 calling on the Armed Services and Secretary of Defense to explore the potential for stepped-up strategic cooperation." AIPAC gleaned classified annual reports of secret U.S. arms transfers. AIPAC skimmed classified law enforcement files about North African financial transfers to African-American political activists, which it then used to sabotage Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign. AIPAC suctioned up classified U.S. intelligence about Khartoum. An AIPAC board member funneled classified raw U.S. signals intelligence into a lobbying effort, while another AIPAC employee solicited and received classified information about secret U.S. understandings with Saudi Arabia.  Such pervasive classified information-trafficking activities by a charity operating in the interest of a foreign government are simply not permissible under IRS and nonprofit regulations — irrespective of the motive.

In 2011, AIPAC is the number one obstacle to those seeking peace in the Middle East.  Today the lobby launders with impunity purloined US national defense information — rather than overseas charitable funds — to undermine peace.  It has forced concerned Americans of many stripes, liberal to libertarian, foreign policy novices to pros — to rekindle the spirit of the 1960s AZC accountability moment by again gathering in Washington May 21-24 at Move Over AIPAC.

Read more by Grant Smith