Campbell Defended Muslim Donor Who Rallied Support for Hamas, Hezbollah

The Los Angeles Times editorial page has decided to give U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell the benefit of the doubt — for now — on his past voting record on Israel and his numerous past associations with terrorist-linked radicals. But the editorial acknowledges that “His positions are fair game” and urges those who are concerned to challenge him within the confines of reasonable debate. I’m happy to oblige.

The editorial board was not pursuaded by Campbell’s relationship with Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who donated to the Campbell campaign and later pled guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (More on their relationship here, here, here and here.) But in the Al-Arian case, Campbell defenders can claim that when he defended Al-Arian on civil rights and academic freedom grounds, Campbell didn’t know the full extent of the evidence that would later link Al-Arian to terrorism. It’s much harder to make that excuse, however, in the case of many other radicals with whom Campbell was connected. Let’s take the example of another supporter, Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.

Here is a video (originally from the Investigative Project on Terrorism) of Alamoudi rallying a crowd at Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on October 28, 2000, declaring, “We are all supporters of Hamas” and “I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” 

Yet a week after the rally, Campbell publicly claimed that Alamoudi “had never supported violence nor encouraged anybody to engage in it.” From a November 4, 2000 San Jose Mercury News story (accessed via Nexis):

With his campaign for U.S. Senate struggling to emerge from obscurity, Congressman Tom Campbell spoke out Friday in defense of American Muslim organizations in the wake of a flap that caused New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to return more than $50,000 in campaign contributions.

“I will not insult a single donor to my campaign by returning their contribution because the American Muslim Council or the American Muslim Alliance was associated with raising it,” Campbell said outside the Islamic Center in Los Angeles.

Clinton returned money to donors associated with both groups after news accounts said that an AMC member, Abdurahman Alamoudi, had made statements in support of terrorist organizations, and that the Fremont-based president of the AMA, Agha Saeed, has supported armed resistance by Palestinians. Both men said their remarks were taken out of context and that they and their organizations condemned violence. But Clinton’s opponent, Republican Rick Lazio, accused her of having taken “blood money.”

Campbell, who has long enjoyed good relations with the American Muslim community and has advocated a neutral American position between Israel and the Palestinians, received a $1,000 donation earlier this year from Alamoudi. Both Clinton and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush returned $1,000 donations from Alamoudi last week.

Campbell said in an interview that he spoke with Alamoudi after the New York flap broke out and felt comfortable with his position.

“He had never supported violence nor encouraged anybody to engage in it,” Campbell said.

In his statement in Los Angeles, Campbell said Muslim Americans must not suffer “guilt by association” and defended their right to participate in the American political system.

Now, some may be inclined to praise Campbell for his tolerance toward Muslims, but clearly Alamoudi is another example of Campbell using the wrong person to make his stand. In 2004, as reported by the Washington Post, “A federal judge yesterday sentenced Muslim activist Abdurahman Alamoudi to the maximum 23-year prison term for illegal dealings with Libya that included his involvement in a complex plot to kill the Saudi ruler.”

What’s more, Al-Arain and Alamoudi aren’t the only instances of Campbell’s radical ties. As I reported yesterday, one month after Sept. 11, Campbell accepted a lifetime achievement award from a Muslim group at a conference in which speakers argued that America needed to rethink its policy of support for Israel. Agha Saeed presented him that award — the same Saeed who is referenced in the above excerpted article becuase he “supported armed resistance by Palestinians” (“armed resistance” being code words for terrorism). And when rasing money during his 2000 campaign from Muslim groups, Campbell touted his voting record of cutting aid to Israel — the same record he now claims is being misrepresented in an attempt to portray him as anti-Israel. And as Daniel Halper details, Campbell praised the work of Alison Weir at a time when she lamented U.S. support for Israel while claiming Palestinians were being “terrorized” in Gaza. She’s since moved on to pushing conspiracy theories about Israeli organ harvesting.

Excusing Campbell’s support for Al-Arian, the Los Angeles Times argued, “we’re inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt,” suggesting, “He was naive, perhaps, and gullible…” If the Times still wants to argue this, then Campbell would have to be the most naive and gullible person in American politics.

Top House Dems Give Mixed Signals on HC’s Next Step

Following yesterday’s summit, top House Democrats have been giving mixed signals on whether the Senate would have to act first in order to pass a health care bill.

In MSNBC appearances, House Majority Whip James Clyburn and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller both signaled a willingness for the House to act first.

But then Speaker Nancy Pelosi sung a different tune.

TPM reports:

“It’s up to them,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at her weekly press conference today, referring to the Senate.

Pelosi wants the answer to a few questions before she can proceed. “One, what is the substance. Secondly, what is the Senate able to do with a simple majority. And then we will act on that,” she said.

On substance, Pelosi needs the Senate’s affordability provisions strengthened. She wants the final legislation to close the prescription-drug donut-hole for seniors, to be stripped of the Nebraska Medicaid deal, and for the tax structure of the bill to be moved away from the controversial excise tax.

However, the House can’t act, she noted, until “we see what the Senate will be able to do.”

The problem as I see it is that even if Harry Reid were to assure Pelosi that the Senate could pass some sort of reconciliation bill to appease House members, it would be impossible to know ahead of time what they’d actually be able to do through reconciliation. The way the process works, it’s subject to a series of rulings by the Senate parlimentarian that can’t be predicted ahead of time.

Several Dems Call for Rangel to Give Up Chairman Post

The Politico reports:

After months of holding ranks, Democrats are finally turning on House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in the wake of an ethics committee finding that he violated House rules by accepting a Caribbean junket. 

Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright. 

Health care on the ropes and the Democratic Ways and Means chairman under a cloud of scandal. The parallels to 1994 keep getting eerier.

One Month After 9/11, Campbell Was Honored By Controversial Muslim Group

One month after the September 11 attacks, Tom Campbell accepted a lifetime achievement award from a Muslim group at a conference in which speakers cited poverty and U.S. policy toward Israel as the “root causes” of terrorism.

And in 2000, Campbell, who as now, was running for U.S. Senate in California, raised $35,000 from Muslim groups “grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel,” according to a newspaper account at the time.

The American Muslim Alliance held its annual conference in San Jose California on October 14, 2001, and an article from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, recounted: “In light of Sept. 11â€_ the convention’s focus shifted to urging that the U.S. government re-evaluate its foreign policy–specifically its positions on Israel and Iraq.”

According to the account:

American Muslim leaders have urged the Bush administration to address the root cause of terrorism and re-evaluate its foreign policy in the Muslim world in order to eradicate terrorism….

The U.S. needs to address poverty, illiteracy and other problems in the Muslim world. Speaker after speaker agreed that bombing Afghanistan, supporting a violent Israeli state and placing sanctions on Iraq is no way to end terrorism.

“Killing Osama bin Laden will not be enough,” said AMA vice-chairman Dr. Shabbir Sardar. “Unless we have a fair foreign policy the Osama bin Ladens will keep coming. Our foreign policy has been way too one-sided.”

The account says that Dr. Agha Saeed, leader of the AMA, presented Campbell with a lifetime achievement award. Saeed had already been a controversial figure at this time. In her 2000 Senate campaign, Hillary Clinton returned money raised by the group.

Here‘s the New York Times report from October 2000:

Mrs. Clinton said she was offended by remarks attributed to members of the organization, the American Muslim Alliance. The group’s president (Saeed) has been quoted as defending a United Nations resolution that he said allowed for the use of armed force by Palestinians against Israel, while other members have been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

During the conference at which he presented Campbell with an award, Agha Saeed declared, “an Osama bin Laden arises where there is poverty and other social ills.”

Back during his 2000 campaign for Senate, according to a Forward article from the time (registration required), the group also helped raise money for Campbell.

More from the Forward:

“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support Tom Campbell for Senate Fund-Raising Dinner…. Requested Donation $250 per person,” said an invitation to the event. The invitation praised Mr. Campbell’s votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.

So, in 2000, Campbell was raising money from Muslim groups on the basis of his votes against Israel and his views on foreign policy, and now he’s claiming those same positions are being misrepresented. Meanwhile, a month after Sept. 11, he was willing to accept an award from a group that was pushing the view that the root causes of the attacks were poverty in the Muslim world as well as U.S. support for Israel. Either Campbell was misrepresenting himself then, or he’s misrepresenting himself now. It can’t be both.

Media Matters Falsely Claims I’m Wrong

Media Matters, in an item titled, “Right-wing media falsely claim that health care reform will increase premiums,” charges that I was wrong yesterday when I posted about the exchange between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander on the impact that the Senate health care bill would have on premiums. Let me take a moment to respond.

To start with, the post misrepresents what I actually wrote. It boldly proclaims: “Klein: CBO estimated that individual and group plans would increase under Senate health care reform bill.” Actually, if you read my post, you will see that at no point did I mention anything about group health care plans. Not a word. So that’s just demonstrably false.

Next, I want to print what CBO wrote, and compare it to what I wrote.

From the CBO blog:

The average, unsubsidized premium per person covered (including dependents) for new nongroup policies would be about 10 percent to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law.

And here was my take yesterday, right-wing propagandist that I am:

Sen. Lamar Alexander has called out President Obama on claims that health care legislation would reduce premiums, noting that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that premiums would be 10 percent to 13 percent higher in the individual market under the Senate bill than under current law.

From page 6 of the CBO analysis:

Average premiums per policy in the nongroup market in 2016 would be roughly $5,800 for single policies and $15,200 for family policies under the proposal, compared with roughly $5,500 for single policies and $13,100 for family policies under current law.

Prepare yourself for my outrageous distortion:

The CBO report, which was released in November, found that in dollar terms, an individual policy would cost $5,800 and a family policy would cost $15,200 in 2016 if the Senate bill were enacted, compared with $5,500 and $13,100 under the status quo.

The argument that Media Matters pushes is one that liberals have been making since November when the analysis first came out and stirred a debate in Washington. Since 57 percent of those in the individual market would receive government subsidies, according to the CBO, and thus pay less for insurance after the subsidies were factored in, liberals argue that it’s wrong to say that premiums would increase. 

Here’s how I responded to that argument at the time:

[S]ubsidies do not change the underlying cost of the policies — the only difference is that other taxpayers are picking up the rest of the higher tab. And 14 million Americans who earn too much to qualify for subsidies (the cutoff is $43,320 for individuals; $88,000 for a family of four) would see their premiums go up. The point is that when the health care push began, we were led to believe that legislation would reduce the economic burden of health care costs by lowering premiums and containing the growth of health care spending. But the current legislation does not accomplish that goal. If liberals still want to argue that helping more Americans obtain coverage is worth the costs, that’s fine. But saying that government will subsidize the higher premium costs created by health care legislation is a far cry from boasting that reforming our health care system will lower the actual price of insurance.

And I continue to stand by what I wrote. According to the CBO, average policies in the individual market will be 10 to 13 percent higher than under the status quo in 2016. Somebody will have to be paying those higher premiums, even if it isn’t always the actual policyholder who will be bearing the full cost.

Campbell Says He Goofed By Denying Donation from Terrorist-Linked Professor

On Wednesday, I wrote that Tom Campbell had made a demonstrably false statement when he denied receiving a political contribution from Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who subsequently pled guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As I reported, the Federal Election Commission database contradicted him.

Now, Campbell tells the Politico it was an “honest mistake”:

Campbell further muddied the waters on the Al-Arian issue this week by denying in an interview with the New Ledger website that he had ever taken any contributions from Al-Arian. Yet a Federal Election Commission report showed a donation of $1,000 on May 2, 2000, and of an additional $300 later reattributed to Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla. The candidate said Wednesday that he simply goofed.

“I apologize, but I made a mistake,” Campbell wrote. “I was aware that Sami Al-Arian had asked others to contribute to me, as I’ve stated plainly, so no one can claim I am attempting to hide it. I did not realize that Sami Al-Arian had contributed himself. It was an honest mistake, with no attempt to mislead.”

The Politico has more on the factor Al-Arian is playing in the California Senate race.

HC Summit Didn’t Change Anything

Despite 7 hours of talking, Thursday’s White House health care summit ultimately did nothing to change the dynamics of the debate. President Obama, at least for now, ruled out the idea of scrapping the current health care bill and taking “baby steps.” And Republicans won’t be willing to sign on to the current health care bill with a few mere cosmetic add ons to create the illusion that Obama wants to integrate GOP ideas.

In my view, Republicans got the better of Democrats when it came to making the case against the current version of health care legislation. But even viewed differently, it’s hard to argue that Obama did any better than a draw. And he needed much better than a draw, because the public overwhelmingly rejects the Democratic health care proposals and many Democratic members of Congress remain skittish. (Just 25 percent of the public supports passing a bill similar to House and Senate legislation, according to a CNN poll.)

“The question that I’m going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, ‘Is there enough serious effort that in a months time or a few weeks time or six weeks time, we could actually decide something?'” Obama mused at the conclusion of his remarks. “And if we can’t, I think we’ve got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that’s what elections are for.”

It’s unclear whether this means that he’d give Republicans and Democrats six weeks to find a bipartisan agreement before proceeding to reconciliation or give Congress six weeks to pass something altogether. And after the six week time frame, it isn’t clear whether those “decisions” involve whether or not to use reconciliation, to pursue a smaller bill, or to scrap the effort and campaign against Republican obstructionism looking toward November.

But regardless, Democrats are still in the same place they’ve been in the weeks following Scott Brown’s election, and the same questions still remain. Are they willing and able to pass what they need to through reconciliation on the Senate side? And regardless of what’s possible in the Senate, are there enough votes in the House to pass anything? Earlier this week, I explained why health care legislation faces a tough road to passage in the House, and I think everything I wrote still holds. We’ll have a better sense of things in the coming days and weeks, as some key moderate Democrats in the House start to take public stances one way or the other. But if this summit doesn’t do the trick, that’s it. Obama is out of ammo.

Ryan on Democratic Health Care Budget Gimmicks

Here’s the video of Rep. Paul Ryan explaining the accounting gimmicks behind Democratic claims that their health care legislation would reduce the deficit and contain the growth in health care costs. The text of his remarks is below the jump.

We all agree that health inflation is driving us off a fiscal cliff.  The President has said health care reform is budget reform.  You’re right.

The sky-rocketing cost of health care leaves millions of Americans unable to afford coverage.

In addition to the balance sheets of families and businesses, the federal budget — due to the central role government already plays in health care — cannot sustain the status quo.

The problem is most acute in Medicare and Medicaid.  Today Medicare has an unfunded liability of $38 trillion over the next 75 years.  That’s $38 trillion in unpaid promises to our parents, our generation, and our children’s generation.

While federal Medicaid spending grows at 21 percent this year, the program continues to suffocate state budgets with trillions in future obligations and no means to pay for it.

Mr. President, you’re right to frame the debate on cost — and health inflation’s threat to our fiscal future.

In your address to Congress last September, you promised: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future.”

Because the Congressional Budget Office can’t score your bill because it lacks sufficient detail — but it tracks very similar to the Senate bill — let’s unpack the Senate bill’s CBO score.

When you look at the score by the Congressional Budget Office and the analysis from the Administration’s own chief actuary, the conclusion is abundantly clear.

This bill is does not control costs. This bill does not reduce deficits.  Instead, this bill adds a new health care entitlement when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have. 

It will enlarge government, expand obligations we cannot pay, and increase federal spending, deficits, and debt. 

Let me go through some of the details.

Gimmicks

The authors of the overhauls before us have worked tirelessly to load the legislation with gimmicks and tricks to game the cost estimates and fulfill the President’s deficit pledge.

The Majority Leader said the bill scores as reducing deficit by $131 billion over the next 10 years.

First a little bit about CBO: I work with them every single day; very good people; great professionals. They do their jobs well.  But their job is to score what is placed in front of them.  And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is fill of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors.

Now what do I mean when I say that?

First off, the bill has ten years of tax increases and ten years of Medicare cuts to pay for six years of spending.  The true ten year cost when subsidies kick-in?  $2.3 trillion.

The bill is full of gimmicks that more than erase the false claim of deficit reduction:

–       $52 billion of savings is claimed by counting increased Social Security payroll revenues.  These dollars are already claimed for future Social Security beneficiaries, and claiming to offset the cost of this bill either means we’re double-counting or we’re not going to pay Social Security benefits.

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–       $72 billion in savings is claimed from the CLASS Act — long-term care insurance. These so-called savings are not offsets, but rather premiums collected to pay for future benefits.  Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has called these savings, “A ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff proud.

Additionally, the nearly half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts cannot be counted twice.  Medicare is in dire need of reform in order to make certain that we can ensure health security for future seniors.

Using Medicare as a piggy bank, it raids a half trillion dollars from retirees’ health coverage to fund the creation of another open-ended health care entitlement. 

The President’s chief Medicare actuary says up to 20% of Medicare providers may go bankrupt or stop taking Medicare beneficiaries as a result.  Millions of seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage they now enjoy.

Objections to the policy aside, you cannot use these savings twice — to both extend the life of Medicare and to pay for other spending.  The half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts are either to extend the program’s solvency or to reduce the cost of this deficit — but not both as its authors claim.

When you strip away the double-counting of Medicare cuts, the so-called savings from Social Security payroll taxes and the CLASS Act, the deficit increases by $460 billion over first ten years — and $1.4 trillion over second ten years.

Finally, one of the most expensive — and most cynical — of the gimmicks applies to Medicare physician payments, the so-called “Doc Fix.”

By your own estimate, the Doc Fix adds an additional $371 billion to the cost of health care reform.  With the price tag beyond what most Americans could handle, the Majority decided to simply remove this costly provision and deal with it in a stand-alone bill.

Ignoring this additional cost does not remove it from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending doesn’t reduce spending.

Cost Control

Beyond these embarrassing gimmicks, let’s examine the more fundamental problem: the failure to get a grip on costs.

Again, cost containment underpins the entire argument for reform.  You’ve all been assuring us: “This plan will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.”

Here again — the substance falls short of the rhetoric.

The most damaging assessment is from the Medicare’s chief actuary, showing the bill ultimately increases national health spending by $222 billion above current estimates, putting us on a trajectory even more unsustainable than the path we’re currently on.

Does this legislative effort bend the health care cost curve?

It does — but in the wrong direction.  It bends the cost curve up, not down.

Essentially, this bill chases ever higher spending with ever higher taxes.  The taxes never catch up, resulting in ever higher deficits.

Different Approaches

These debt and deficit issues we face today clarify the fundamental failures with the government-centered approach in the legislation before us.

But, the problem goes deeper than budget gimmicks or actuarial analyses.

We all agree the status quo in health care in unsustainable.  It’s too expensive. It’s bankrupting families with major illnesses. It’s bankrupting the government. We need to fix this.

The difference between us is this: we do not believe the answer is to put the government in control.  We want to put people in control.

We think the nucleus of a new American health care market should be the patient and doctor, not dictates from Washington.  We have been offering solutions all year long that do this.  Reforms to lower costs, to help those with pre-existing conditions, to give people more choices, not less.

Every American should have access to affordable health insurance, and the ability to acquire preventive health care and treatment — regardless of employment, health status, or income level.

We are all representatives of the American people. And the people are engaged.

And if you think the American people want a government takeover of health care, then I would respectfully suggest you’re not hearing them.

Let’s scrap this bill and start over.  Let’s fix what’s broken, without breaking what’s working.  Let’s focus on step-by-step, common-sense reforms that lower health care costs.  That’s what the American people want us to do, and we should start anew today.

GOP Doing Quite Well

Having watched every minute of the health care summit, I have to disagree with my co-bloggers. I think that Republicans have been, generally speaking, handling this very well. I’ve been very critical of the GOP throughout the health care debate, but Republicans have consistently made fact-based arguments on why President Obama’s plan will make our health care system’s problems worse, presented other ideas, and made the case for scrapping the current highly unpopular bill and taking a different approach. Paul Ryan just completely eviscerated the Democratic claims that the Senate health care bill would contain costs and reduce deficits, outlining the accounting gimmicks that Democrats used, as well as the actuarial study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found the Senate bill would actually increase health care spending. Chuck Grassley, while not the whiz kid that Ryan is, followed up by noting a CBO report that found Democrats cannot double-count the savings from the Medicare cuts to claim it will both reduce deficits and extend the solvency of the program both at the same time.

Conservatives need to chill out. The Democrats have lost this argument on the merits. A new CNN poll finds that just 25 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a bill along the lines of the House and Senate bills. Nothing I’ve seen today makes me to believe that this will change. The only question now is whether Democrats can convince enough of their members to take suicide votes to ram through legislation that has been overwhelming rejected by the American people.