TAMPA, Fla. – A Palestinian professor accused of leading a terrorist group's U.S. operations visited the White House under President Bush and former President Clinton and donated nearly $8,000 to members of Congress.
Sami Al-Arian, indicted last week for alleged ties to Islamic Jihad, was part of a 160-person group from the American Muslim Council that went to the White House in June 2001 for an outreach meeting.
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, briefed the group on the president's faith-based agenda and other issues, council spokesman Faiz Rehman said Monday.
"We have these Washington briefings every year," Rehman said. "Mr. Al-Arian was there at the meeting. He was a regular attendee."
Rehman said he believes Al-Arian also went to a June 2000 meeting at the White House under the Clinton administration.
Al-Arian, a tenured professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida, was arrested Thursday on racketeering and conspiracy charges. Three other people, including another instructor at the school, were also arrested. They could face life terms if convicted.
Four other men named in the federal indictment are overseas and have not been arrested.
Al-Arian and his wife, Nahla, gave $7,700 to five political candidates — three Democrats and two Republicans — between 1998 and 2000, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The indictment alleges that Al-Arian, 45, used the school as a cover to bring Islamic Jihad members to the United States on the pretext of attending academic conferences.
Of the congressional members who received money from the Al-Arians, former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., received the most — $3,200 — and their eldest son, Abdullah, served as an intern in Bonior's office. Bonior, who is now a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, did not immediately return a call Monday.
The Secret Service ejected Abdullah Al-Arian from the White House during a separate June 2001 meeting of Muslims, but the president later sent the Al-Arians a letter of apology. The Secret Service cited an overzealous guard and a new computer system for an unspecified mixup.
All five U.S. politicians who received money from the couple did so before Sami Al-Arian's alleged terrorist ties surfaced publicly in September of 2001. The others are:
— Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., who was given $2,000. She was defeated last fall and did not immediately return a call Monday.
— Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who was given $1,000 and passed the money on to charity once the allegations surfaced, said Jennifer Palmer, a spokeswoman.
— Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., who was given $200. Davis said he plans to give the money to charity.
— Former Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., who was given $1,300. He does not have a listed number.