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Ajcongress Asks Justice Dept. to Investigate Saudi Gift

The American Jewish Congress has asked the Department of Justice to investigate a report about an Arab-American lobbying group that may have broken the law by agreeing to accept a $1 million gift from Saudi Arabia, although the group has failed to register as an agent of a foreign government.

In a letter to the chief of the foreign agents registration division of the Justice Department, Will Maslow, general counsel of AJCongress, cited a published report of a meeting in Saudi Arabia held last April between a delegation from the National Association of Arab Americans and King Fahd, who allegedly promised the group $1 million.

Maslow said that as a matter of law, if the group received the gift and is using the money to further the interests of Saudi Arabia, it must register with the Department of Justice and report its activities in the future.

When the association’s delegation returned from the Middle East, it embarked on a campaign to overcome Congressional objections to the sale of AWACS ground-support equipment to the Saudis. The association has chosen a professional lobbyist, George Moses, as its new president.

A spokesman for the Arab association in Washington said it was up to Moses to authorize any organizational statement on the issue, but that Moses is in New Orleans for the Republican convention and could not be reached for comment.

But the spokesman added that “it’s all news to us.”

In his letter to Joe Clarkson, chief of the foreign agents registration division of the Justice Department, Maslow noted that an article in the May 16 issue of Mideast Markets, a newsletter published by the London-based Financial Times, reported that the Arab association’s board of directors had been informed of Kind Fahd’s promise of $1 million.

The association was founded in 1972 and claims to be the principal political voice of Arab-Americans in the U.S. It registered as a domestic lobbying group in 1978 and reportedly has a membership of 4,000 as well as some 40,000 “supporters.”

Its annual budget is estimated to be $500,000, derived mainly from Arab advertisements in its publication, Middle East Business Survey, which is distributed in this country and throughout the Arab world.

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