Hillary's Judgment, Alliances Questioned in Fundraisers

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's nominee for the US Senate seat from New York to be vacated later this year by retiring Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was interviewed for this week's issue of a publication by the UJA Federation of New York and has committed to march through the Big Apple in the Israel Day Parade on June 4th. However, writer Eli Lake of the weekly Jewish publication, the Forward, reports that Clinton is raising tens of thousands of dollars for her campaign from associates of Palestinian Authority Chief Yasser Arafat while courting Jewish voters in the Empire State.

Lake writes that on May 12th, Clinton attended a private fundraising reception at the Washington mansion of Hani Masri, a close associate of Arafat, reportedly raising more than $50,000. The event was not listed on Clinton's public schedule and was closed to the press.

One week later, on May 19th, the same day Mayor Rudy Giuliani dramatically announced his withdrawal from the Senate race, Clinton attended another fundraiser in Virginia at the home of Rafat "Ray" Mahmood. Her host is a Pakistani-American real estate developer who was in Islamabad during President Clinton's visit to Pakistan earlier this year.

The Mahmood reception, again not listed on Clinton's public schedule and closed to the press, raised a reported $70,000 for her US Senate campaign in New York State.

Mahmood told Lake that he supports Democrats and has no views on foreign policy other than that he supports peace. He said he had been in Pakistan on a family vacation that coincided with President Clinton's visit.

Masri told the Forward that, "both Bill and Hillary have done a great job. The president has done a great job in his foreign efforts."

Masri added that the President and the First Lady's leadership gives Israelis and Palestinian Arabs "hope to come to a peaceful settlement. For that reason, I'm supporting the First Lady," Masri said.

Masri told Lake that he was asked by Mrs. Clinton's campaign to host the fundraiser and that he complied. The event reportedly drew more than 60 people.

Lake's article indicates that Clinton's recent fund raising events are raising concerns among some Middle East analysts, Jewish leaders and advocates of campaign finance reform.

Lake writes that no impropriety is being implicated in these events, but questions are being raised about Clinton's political judgment and about the stance she would take on Middle East issues if elected to the Senate.

"This is part of the problem with Hillary Clinton. She just doesn't get it. She doesn't understand why many of us have this major problem with her positions. What can I tell you? These are exactly the kinds of things she needs to explain, and they are almost unexplainable," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat from Brooklyn.

The president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, Yigal Carmon, said of Mr. Masri: "I am not sure this is the best ally a candidate for the US Senate should choose," especially for someone running in New York, with its substantial number of Jewish voters, the Lake article in the Forward reported.

"Unfortunately, this is par for the course," said Jeffrey Cronin, the spokesman for Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog group, of Hillary Clinton's fundraising activities. "The problem with our current campaign finance system is that this creates the appearance that you have to donate or raise large sums of money to get access and influence with elected officials."

Repeated telephone inquiries by CNSNews.com for comments from officials at the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters in New York were not returned.

(ED NOTE: The Forward is a weekly publication based in New York City and has been in existence since 1897 with an overall objective of seeking social justice.)