Former Gov. Ed Rendell says he wouldn't risk his reputation for money, but that is exactly the impression he gave by linking himself to a shady organization that, whether he agrees with it or not, is listed as a terrorist group by the State Department.
But Rendell isn't alone. Others who have spoken out in support of the group of Iranian rebels called MEK, short for Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, include former Homeland Security Director and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, former FBI Director Louis Freeh, former National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, former CIA Director Porter Goss, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
They have joined an effort to get the terrorist label removed from MEK, which first acquired it in 1977, after the group was implicated in the killings of several Americans in Iran. MEK - described as a Marxist-Islamist cult - was also said to have supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by Iranian militants in 1979.
But that was then, and this is now, claim MEK's American supporters. They believe the group deserves U.S. backing because it opposes the theocracy that now governs Iran. In fact, MEK members fought alongside then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War.
A group with so many twists and turns in its history hardly seems worthy of gaining the backing of Rendell and the other Americans. But Rendell says he feels "passionate that nothing happen to those people," referring to the about 2,800 exiles still living in a camp in Iraq that Hussein gave them. The current Iraqi government wants them to leave.
It's difficult to understand how Rendell could become so passionate about a group he admits he knew nothing about until recently. "I got involved because they asked me," Rendell said. "I did extensive research and I looked at the other people who were involved and they were generals and former elected officials." So he joined the bandwagon.
The fact that he would be paid for making appearances and speeches on behalf of MEK had no bearing on his decision, said Rendell. He and his companions in this endeavor say their motivation is to have MEK's opposition to Iran's current regime counted against any of its past misdeeds against this country.
But it's hard to get past the money, believed to be $25,000 or more to each person recruited to speak on behalf of MEK. Oh, and don't forget the free trips. Rendell made four trips to Paris and two to Geneva in the last eight months on behalf of MEK.
Why the remarks of someone with no foreign-policy experience would be coveted in France and Switzerland is hard to fathom.
The former governor's compensation has also pricked the ears of the Treasury Department, which has reportedly subpoenaed his records. It would be illegal if any cash came directly from a designated terrorist organization.