AIPAC Bares All to Quash Lawsuit
Sex, spies, and videotape
(AntiWar.com) -- by Grant Smith --
On Nov. 8, 2010, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) filed a massive 260-page motion [.pdf] in the District of Columbia Superior Court. It asks Judge Erik Christian to dismiss former AIPAC employee Steven J. Rosen’s $20 million defamation suit. In October the court dismissed all counts of the March 2009 lawsuit except for Rosen’s claim of harm over AIPAC statements to the press that he did not uphold its standards of conduct. Rosen and AIPAC have – until now – abstained from filing damaging information about the internal workings of AIPAC in court. AIPAC’s willingness to publicly air some extremely sordid and revealing content to get the remaining count thrown out before an alternative dispute resolution hearing begins in December is a sign that AIPAC is now fighting for its life, or – as one former AIPAC attorney put it – “reason for being.” If Rosen proves in court that AIPAC has long handled classified information while lobbying for Israel, the worn public pretense that AIPAC is anything but a stealth extension of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs – from which it emerged in 1951 – will end forever.
Rosen filed his civil suit after adverse judicial rulings made his (and coworker Keith Weissman’s) prosecution under the Espionage Act unlikely. Col. Lawrence Franklin pled guilty to passing classified national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it while Rosen and Weissman were indicted in 2005 for their role in the espionage affair. Although prosecutors reluctantly dropped [.pdf] their indictment in May 2009 – as AIPAC carefully notes in its filing – Rosen was never acquitted. Outstanding questions in the defamation suit about classified-information trafficking have now placed AIPAC in a bind. If AIPAC financially settles with Rosen, it will signal to the American people and attentive law enforcement officials that it is honoring a previous compensation deal to pay Rosen off after the spy flap subsided. On May 11, 2010, Rosen revealed an e-mail to Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein asserting that AIPAC promised “when this is over we will do right by Steve.” But it’s now far from clear whether AIPAC has the financial wherewithal or donors willing to honor such a – possibly illegal – commitment.
AIPAC’s massive filing is mostly derived from transcribed videotaped depositions taken during a lengthy discovery process. AIPAC’s confrontational lead counsel, Thomas L. McCally, forced Rosen to admit that after AIPAC fired him, he tapped some of its biggest donors for cash. Through conduits, bundlers, and payments carefully structured below the gift tax limits, Daniel Abraham, Haim Saban, Newton Becker, Larry Hochberg, Fred Schwartz, Walter Stern, and other angels ponied up almost $1 million to Rosen between the moment AIPAC fired him and the day he joined the Middle East Forum as a visiting fellow. Rosen’s solicitations may have permanently broken such donor ties to AIPAC. Between 2007 and 2008 AIPAC’s revenue plunged 14 percent from $71 million to $61 million during a period the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported record donations to internationally oriented nonprofits. In 2008, AIPAC had to tap some of its $50 million in reserves to cover a $2.8 million budget shortfall.
AIPAC is firing its best shot now because it needs to get the case thrown out before Rosen can unleash a return salvo of “about 180” internal AIPAC documents showing that it routinely gathered “inside” (Rosen’s preferred euphemism for classified) information from U.S. government officials. Rosen can now immediately file his own sliced and diced depositions and even some of his stash of documents to prove his contention that AIPAC slandered him by claiming he was unique and thereby keep the case moving forward...MORE...LINK