Al-Arian Gave $8,000 To Members

Posted February 21, 2003 at 5:56pm

The University of South Florida professor arrested last week and charged as an alleged member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and his wife have given almost $8,000 to Congressional candidates — including two current Members — over the past five years.

Sami Al-Arian, identified by friends as the group’s U.S. leader and secretary of its worldwide council, was one of eight men arrested and charged in a 50-count federal indictment with supporting, financing and relaying messages for a violent Palestinian terrorist group blamed for the deaths of more than 100 people in and around Israel.

The arrest last week prompted at least one recipient, Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), to give the money to charity. Federal Election Commission records show that Davis received $200 from Al-Arian, a resident of his district, in October 1998.

“We didn’t think it’s exactly appropriate to return it to Mr. Al-Arian at this time, but we’ll make sure that it goes to a charity that can use it,” said spokeswoman Diane Pratt-Heavner.

Al-Arian and his wife, Nahla, have donated a total of $7,700 to candidates since 1998, according to a search of FEC data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Former Reps. David Bonior (D-Mich.), Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) received the bulk of the Al-Arians’ contributions.

Al-Arian and his wife gave a total of $2,200 to Bonior, then the House Minority Whip, in 1999. Sami Al-Arian wrote Bonior an additional $1,000 check.

Bonior’s former district includes one of the largest Arab-American populations in the country, and the couple’s son, Abdullah Al-Arian, was an intern in Bonior’s office.

When asked about the contributions from Al-Arian in January 2002, a Bonior spokesman told the Lansing State Journal that the Congressman, who lost a race for governor last year, had no plans to return the money.

McKinney, who was defeated in a primary tinged by the influence of Middle East interest groups last August, received $1,000 checks from both Sami and Nahla Al-Arian on the same day in April 2000.

Sami Al-Arian donated a total of $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 Senate campaign. Campbell was an original co-sponsor of a bill to ban the use of secret evidence to detain individuals suspected of terrorist activities.

Nahla Al-Arian contributed $1,000 to Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in February 2000, although she also listed a Tampa post office box address different from the couple’s street address. Nahla Al-Arian testified before the Judiciary panel in May 2000 in support of the Secret Evidence Repeal Act.

Al-Arian is a tenured computer engineering professor at the University of South Florida, although he was placed on forced leave and banned from campus shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He has consistently denied any links to terrorists, although there are videotapes from the late 1980s and early 1990s that show him saying “Death to Israel” in Arabic. Al-Arian has said that he has never advocated violence against others and that his words were a statement against Israeli occupation.

Amy Keller contributed to this report.