Friday, May 15, 2009

Congressional leaders inadvertently expose Israeli lobbyists behind letter to Obama

GOP House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) circulated a letter to colleagues this week urging President Obama to support Israel when moving forward with any Israeli peace process.

Trouble is, they forgot to delete the name of the lobbying group involved in the letter from the document.

Attached to the email message they circulated when seeking signatures from other members of Congress was the document, titled, “AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009.pdf.”

AIPAC stands for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a powerful bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group. Recently, the group found itself in the news over allegations that two former staff members were involved in espionage — though the Justice Department recently dropped the case against them and no wrongdoing was alleged against the group itself.

The file name flub was discovered by The Washington Post’s Al Kamen in his “In the Loop” Column Friday.

The email to congressmembers seeking their support said they hoped they’d sign onto “the attached letter to President Obama regarding the Middle East peace process,” which argued that the US “must be both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel” and added, “Israel will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement.”

“Seems as though someone forgot to change the name or something,” Kamen quipped. “AIPAC? The American Israel Public Affairs Committee? Is that how this stuff works?”

The practice of lobbyists writing letters for congressmembers — to which they affix their names — is not uncommon. The custom was prominently in view during the scandal involving fallen power-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose staff were sometimes responsible for drafting letters that found themselves on congressional letterhead. Abramoff pled guilty to fraud and corruption charges in 2006.

An email to Hoyer’s press secretary was not immediately returned. The spokesperson for Cantor could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could a spokesperson for AIPAC.

The letter follows as a GIF. The PDF version can be downloaded here.

President Barack Obama spoke to the AIPAC Policy Conference in June 2008.