Dirty politics in the Sixth

Special Commentary by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

I know that politics is a dirty, dirty, dirty pursuit. I just ran a local city-council campaign, so I’m not speaking about this from an academic or philosophical perspective, but from personal experience.

I’m saying that now so you can understand where I’m coming from regarding the issue being raised (again) with Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nominee Sam Rasoul and contributions made to the Rasoul campaign by two Northern Virginia men under investigation for the past six years for possible links to terrorist groups in the Middle East.

The matter first came up in the blogosphere back in April, and has come to our attention again with a post earlier this week on the Roanoke-based Star City Harbinger. The gist of the story is that Rasoul has received campaign contributions from a man named M. Yaqub Mirza, the president and CEO of the Herndon-based Sterling Management Group, and another man named Jamal Barzinji, the vice president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, also based in Herndon. The IIIT and a network of charities associated with Mirza were the subjects of a 2002 federal raid that was part of an investigation into an international terrorist-financing network. The investigation, according to what I have been able to discern from a quick bit of research, seems to have gone cold in recent years. The most recent reference that I could find to news regarding the matter came in an October 2006 article that focused on the anger in the NoVa Muslim community that the raid was nothing more than a fishing expedition by the feds, who continued to insist that the investigation was still ongoing, and a November ’06 update that offered a lot of the same in terms of details.

So naturally, what we’re getting in the blogosphere is a series of calls for Rasoul to return the money from Mirza and Barzinji, with a healthy insult or two from Star City blogger Hank Bostwick about what Bostwick views as evidence of inexperience and ineptitude on the part of the Rasoul campaign thrown in for good measure. These opinions are being based, interestingly enough, on allegations spurred by the Bush Justice Department that were initiated in the runup to a war that the same Bush administration based on allegations and innuendos that proved to be less than true at best and evidence of some serious cooking the books at worst, one; and two, I mean, come on, they’re six years into the investigation, and what do they have? Other than allegations and innuendos?

And now Rasoul’s critics want him to respond to their allegations and innuendos by falling on his sword and giving the contributions back? And they consider this helpful advice?

A rhetorical question comes to mind here. Does anybody in the Dear Abby set – and I’ve been told that Rasoul’s one-time nomination opponent, Drew Richardson, is another working behind the scenes to push Rasoul on this – think that giving the money back is truly going to make this issue go away? Or that Republican bloggers are going to make any less hay with this story post-return than they could now?

And speaking of that, where have the Republican bloggers been on this the past two or three months? I’m not a regular reader of the righty blogs, but I just scanned a few of what I assume to be the most-read Sixth District conservative blogs, including SWACGirl, Spank That Donkey and Augusta4Goodlatte, and my site searches came up with nothing – nothing – on the topic.

So the Republicans don’t seem to care – frankly, they’re viewing Rasoul as little more than a housefly trying to stop the steamroller that Bob Goodlatte appears to be once again in the Sixth. And even if they did, all Rasoul would do by conceding the point to his critics would be to give them fodder that they could use to paint him as some kind of extremist Muslim who has no business being elected in the Sixth District.

I’ve got to think that Rasoul’s critics are aware of these kinds of things. They’re all a lot smarter than I am, after all. All I do, really, is ask questions, and I’ll ask one more here. If Republicans don’t care, and if they were to for some reason start caring then were to make hay with the issue either way, what are we really doing here?

Dirty, dirty, dirty politics. That’s what we’re doing here.


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