Poltico has posted a PR article promoting NIAC lobby and claims that NIAC has 5000 members. Court documents show that NIAC had a few hundred members but Parsi knowingly and repeatedly lied about these numbers. In his private meetings with US officials he claimed 10,000 NIAC members while in public statements claimed anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 members.
On June 27, 2015, Politico journalist Nahal Toosi posted a pro-NIAC PR piece titled: “Iranian-Americans set up lobbying arm to counter pro-Israel groups” that contains numerous false claims and several outright lies.
NIAC, widely suspected as a lobby group for the Iranian regime, and its self-proclaimed leader Trita Parsi have previously been punished by the courts for making systematic false declarations. Two of NIAC’s expert witnesses in the defamation lawsuit, which NIAC itself filed but in the end lost, were both disqualified mainly for making false declarations.
Subsequent to the legal fiasco, NIAC has decided to continue its lobbying efforts albeit in a new format that satisfies some of the legal requirements. According to NIAC’s own documents released during the lawsuit, the organization used to “defraud IRS [and] did not report lobbying.”
But, as the law enforcement experts who reviewed some of NIAC’s internal documents in 2009 had declared to Washington Times journalist Eli Lake: “E-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif – and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act – offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.”
Eli Lake added that:
“The Times asked two former federal law-enforcement officials to review documents from the case showing that Mr. Parsi had helped arrange meetings between members of Congress and Mr. Zarif:
“Arranging meetings between members of Congress and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations would in my opinion require that person or entity to register as an agent of a foreign power; in this case it would be Iran,” said one of those officials, former FBI associate deputy director Oliver “Buck” Revell.
The other official, former FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism Kenneth Piernick, said, “It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests. Were I running the counterintelligence program at the bureau now, I would have cause to look into this further.”
In Politico article, the author tries to portray NIAC’s lobby as a fight against pro-Israeli organization AIPAC. This is NIAC’s usual tactic to divert attentions from its real agenda, mainly dedicated to defend the Iranian regime’s interests.
One of the glaring misguided claims in the Politico article is that “NIAC has some 5,000 dues-paying members, though it has around 45,000 Iranian-Americans signed up for its emails and events.” Since its creation in 2002, NIAC has always inflated its membership to give credit to an organization largely discredited within Iranian-American community.
Court documents related to NIAC membership produced until 2012 show unequivocally that NIAC has never had more than a few hundred active paid membership and the 40,000+ figure was merely a mailing list gathered from various sources with no direct link to NIAC.
The same documents show that Parsi knowingly and repeatedly lied about these numbers. In his private meetings with members of Congress or in his CVs sent to US organizations, he claimed 10,000 NIAC members while his public statements claimed anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 paid members.
A cursory review of some of NIAC’s documents related to its membership compared to its public pronouncements reveals that such claims are outright lies.
The minutes of the NIAC Board meeting in October 2007 states: “Trita reviewed the membership trends: 1,034 (2005) increased to 1,307 in 2006 and 1,680 as of today – citing these figures as absolutely unacceptable.” A good number of these members did not pay their membership dues and could not be defined as members. “Alex (Patico, NIAC board member) felt it would not be deceitful to mention NIAC as being comprised of 25,000+ members when dealing with the media and other inquiries.”
Patico’s suggestion to lie to the public was in fact the institutionalization of a falsehood that Parsi had already been disseminating for years. In several CVs that Parsi prepared for Amnesty International, Saban Center at Brookings Institute or Eurasia Fund, among others, he openly lied about NIAC membership.
Parsi’s résumé (in 2005) written by himself says: “Raised $450,000 and increased membership to 10,000 in less than one year.”
In 2006, his résumé stated: “Raised $800,000 and increased membership to 10,000 in less than one year.”
In a March 2006 meeting with Mark Silverman and William Ralph from Senator Chafee’s office, Parsi pushed the same insinuation in a very cunning and insincere presentation: “… Mark asked us detailed questions about the survey that NIAC conducted. Trita noted that the initial survey asking what activities NIAC should be doing was sent out to 10,000 members.”
It is noteworthy that only 193 NIAC members responded to that survey. The most example of Parsi’s lie about NIAC membership that was exposed during the lawsuit occurred in 2010 and 2011.
In December 2010, Parsi posted a statement on NIAC’s website proudly declaring: “Currently standing at close to 4,000 paid members and 43,000+ active supporters nationwide, our grassroots network provides 70% of our annual budget.”
Ironically, at the same time, NIAC was presenting to the court a report prepared by its own expert who evaluated the organization’s financial loss caused by articles written by the defendant. The report confirmed that NIAC had only 1,200 members. The expert wrote: “Membership statistics: typical membership rolls of 2000-3000 people dropped to 1200 current members. At a board meeting in 2008, 28% of members were not current in their dues. Recently, this figure has increased to over 50% not current.”
Another update indicates that a portion of 1,200 members had not paid their membership fees for many years and could not be considered active members. Moreover, NIAC has never had 2,000-3,000 members as the expert claimed. Ultimately, the NIAC expert was even disqualified by the court.
Now, consider the 40,000+ NIAC supporters that Parsi claimed in his statement and Politico reprinted almost verbatim. Here is an excerpt of the court deposition on May 11, 2011 asking Parsi to clarify his December 6, 2010 claim:
“Question: And you’re stating that here today under oath that currently — and this is as of December 6, 2010 — you had 4,000 paid members and 43,000-plus active supporters?
Parsi: We have — to the best of my knowledge, I don’t remember exactly what the number was at that time — close to 4,000 people that have supported us. Not all of them are necessarily current in their memberships. When it comes to 43,000-plus, those are the people on the mailing list.”
It should be added that Parsi and NIAC were severely censured by the courts for making numerous false claims.
Far from meeting journalistic standards, Politico article is a blatant example of political advertisement. In fact, NIAC seeks to gain credit as a genuine defender of the Iranian-American community, and use this credit to pursue its pro-regime lobby activities in Washington. This is what NIAC president Trita Parsi outlined in a memo to his lobby partner in 2002. This memo was released during the defamation lawsuit. In 2002, after Parsi founded NIAC, he was working with two Washington lobbyists to create a parallel organization to NIAC that would undertake lobbying while NIAC continued recruiting among Iranians. In his memo to lobbyist Roy Coffee, Parsi also explained the nature of these activities and why it is necessary to give a human face to this lobby:
“Although the mission of the proposed lobby should be to improve relations between the US and Iran and open up opportunities for trade, the initial targets should be less controversial issues such as visas and racial profiling/discrimination… Despite its predominantly business oriented constituency, it is essential that the lobby creates a “human face” for its aims and goals. AIPAC successfully painted the opponents of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act as “greedy businessmen who had no scruples when it came to doing business with terrorist regimes.” The oil companies failed to characterize their campaign with “human concern for the well-being of innocent Iranians stuck with a dictatorial regime” or “support for the poor mid-Western family father who lost his job due the sanctions. The human element is essential both when it comes to attracting support among Iranian-Americans and when it comes to winning the debate and the votes on the Hill.”
Source » iranian-americans