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McAuliffe's Top Donor Touched by AIPAC Investigation

Amy Gardner

Haim Saban, a wealthy California media mogul and Terry McAuliffe's top individual donor in his bid for Virginia governor, was part of an effort to influence a Justice Department investigation of two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of spying, according to a report published this week in The New York Times.

According to The Times report, a caller captured on a National Security Agency wire tap is recorded telling U.S. Rep. Jane Harman that Saban would call House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and threaten to withhold campaign contributions if she did not make Harman chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The Times report focuses on the telephone exchange as potential evidence that the promise of a leadership post was part of an attempt to persuade Harman to intervene with the Bush Administration on behalf of the two lobbyists, who worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee until they were fired and indicted. The men, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, are expected to begin trial on espionage charges this year in Alexandria.

Today, Harman vehemently denied that she ever intervened in the case, although she did not deny agreeing to do so in the wiretapped call.

Saban has been a pro-Israel activist since the 1990s, and, according to campaign finance data, is, over the past decade, the largest giver to federal elections in the nation. He has given McAuliffe $276,064 for his gubernatorial bid, about $25,000 the cost of hosting a fundraiser for Mcauliffe and the rest a cash donation.

A Saban spokesman in Los Angeles did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. McAuliffe spokeswoman Delacey Skinner declined to comment.

By Amy Gardner  |  April 21, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Amy Gardner , Election 2009 , Terry McAuliffe  
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Top Democratic donor in the country and the fact that he donated to the ex head of the DNC is supposed to be a story? All based on supposed phone calls of politicians trying to move up congressional ladders? Nothing to see here, move on...

Posted by: bk1969 | April 21, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow, talk about trying to sweep it under the rug.

Terry McAuliffe's top donor tried to lobby the future Speaker of the House so she would appoint a Congressman to a position where she could reduce the sentences of spying on the United States.

This isn't about "moving up ladders". The only way there's nothing to see is if you have Terry McAuliffe-sponsored blinders on.

Posted by: VABlogger | April 21, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

With all due respect Ms. Garner, please provide a more balanced summary of the New York Times article. Some quotes from the article,

"David Szady, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s former top counterintelligence official who ran the investigation of Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman, said in an interview Monday that he was confident Ms. Harman had never intervened. “In all my dealings with her, she was always professional and never tried to intervene or get in the way of any investigation,” Mr. Szady said.

"The officials who were familiar with the transcripts, speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue involved intelligence matters, also said they knew of no evidence that Ms. Harman had intervened in the case."

To bring Mr. McAuliffe into this is like saying that if you are a Democrat, you are guilty of something yet to be defined except by innuendo. Should Ms. Gardner also have "condemned by association" some of the many recent Haim Saban contributors such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senators Barbara Boxer and Frank Lautenberg, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Mr. Saban is one of the largest donors to the Democrats. So let’s not forget the donation to the Chief of Police of the town of Buckeye, Arizona.

Let’s also keep in mind that the indictment in question is another Bush administration action during the tenure of some of the “shining lights” of the Justice Department including the now infamous Mr. Gonzales.

Posted by: Willis3 | April 21, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Gardner,

You write for The Washington Post, and not some Blog site where any one can write practically anything. Have you checked the list of recipients of the Saban family's generosity? Here is a link that might enlighten you and make you more objective in your reporting, and writing.

Haim Saban is a television and movie producer in California, and has been a longtime supporter of the Democratic party and has recently contributed to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senators Barbara Boxer and Frank Lautenberg, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to just name a few luminaries who have benefited from Mr. Saban's munificence.

Fortunately, there is very little Mr. Saban can expect to get from the Governor of Virginia, except perhaps hospitality if he encourages movie production in Virginia, which by golly, is exactly what WE want - we want more jobs in Virginia, and more movies to be produced in Virginia, so we will have better exposure of what Virginia has to offer visitors, and the increased tourist traffic to Virginia will stimulate our economy, our hospitality industry, our Universities and our communities.

VIRGINIA IS FOR LOVERS, and also for Seniors, Students, Manufacturers, Businesses, Entrepreneurs, and Visitors!

Terry, go get more contributions from others like Mr. Saban, so you can entertain them in the Governor's mansion and your hospitality and graciousness of your wife will bring new investments to Virginia, new jobs to Virginia, and help pull us out of this recession!

Posted by: alankrishnan | April 21, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know where and from what source the Washington Post staff writers obtain their information about Terry McAuliffe's donors to his campaign. Have you asked Mr. McAuliffe about this before writing and posting this story. I have word from one of Mr. McAuliffe's staff members that he thinks that the Washington Post is trying to make a scandal out of a non-story.

It is a well known fact that all political campaigns need to raise money. In these tough economic times all politicians are actively seeking the resources they need to win an election.

It is common journalistic practice to verify the facts before writing and posting a story. In this case, I think that some journalistic fact gathering and reporting steps have been omitted. In your disclaimer commenters are allowed to challenge articles posted at the website. The purpose of this comment is to challenge the factual reporting of this article.

Posted by: M-Representative | April 21, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Why in the world is Terry McAuliffe's biggest donor not a Virginian? What are the Californians like Mr. Saban really buying with a contribution of $251,000 to McAuliffe's campaign? That's more money than McAuliffe raised from EVERY county and city in Virginia except for Fairfax.

If McAuliffe's defenders think criticism from Deeds and Moran over fundraising is unfair, they're pretty naive. If Democrats make the mistake of nominating McAuliffe, a man with NO history of public service in Virginia or anywhere else, this is only the begining.

I for one don't want to risk the progress Virginia has made with Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

Posted by: fakevirginia | April 21, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

M-Rep, you can clearly read:

"McAuliffe spokeswoman Delacey Skinner declined to comment."

The McAuliffe campaign was made aware of the story and given a chance to respond, and they opted not to.

Posted by: VABlogger | April 21, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Are we getting confused?

There appears to be sufficient documentation about the amount donated. That is not the point.

So what? If a California movie producer donates big bucks to McAuliffe campaign, perhaps he wants to consider doing some work and business in Virginia? Perhaps he will consider setting up a studio on Virginia? Why not? We have some of the most beautiful natural trails and in some parts of Virginia, costs are almost negligible! I believe Virginia can produce movies and TV shows at a much lower cost than California can, and with all the talent in the East Coast, Virginia could become an alternative to Hollywood.

There is a lot of international cinema that can be produced in the United States - Virginia could provide the infrastructure for this initiative, and wow, we will have new jobs! Virginia is way ahead of California (certainly Hollywood) in software technology and so this could be used to advantage.

Broadway, NYU and other centers for the performing arts will provide abundance of talent that could work closer to home, in beautiful Virginia.

That is the point. McAuliffe has demonstrated that he can interest movie moguls to invest in Virginia, by supporting his campaign. Once he is elected Governor of Virginia, perhaps McAuliffe can make deals with leading movie producers in the United States and overseas to operate out of Virginia studios that we can set up in areas that are desperate for jobs, and can provide hundreds of acres of land for a pittance (as compared to Hollywood).

Posted by: alankrishnan | April 21, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

President Obama said recently words to the effect that he likes to get his facts straight before commenting. Ms. Skinner was correct in not commenting before she got the facts.

Ms. Gardner could have gotten the facts by more carefully reading the articles from yesterday's Wall Street Journal and New York Times. It appears that her article is factually inaccurate. The old open mouth insert typewriter.

Starting yesterday in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and now in the Washington Post this morning not only does the "Bush league" litigation seems to be on its last legs, but Congresswoman Harmon has stated that the earlier "leaks" are factually inaccurate.

It appears that some wish to "get" Mr. McAuliffe no matter the facts. He is called a "carpetbagger" Last I checked these were the words used against both Senator Warners. First, when John ran for the Senate and was married at the time to Ms. Taylor, and then Mark when he ran for governor. Two gentlemen who have given great service to Virginia. Let's compare that service to a "real Virginian" Mr. Gilmore. I can’t think of a nice thing to say of his time as governor.

Mr McAuliffe's economic plan calls for good jobs for Virginia. Let's not turn our nose up at anyone who will work tirelessly to bring good jobs to Virginia.

Posted by: Willis3 | April 22, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

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