By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Federal law enforcement sources confirmed yesterday that the FBI opened an investigation in 2005 into whether Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) improperly enlisted the aid of a pro-Israel lobbying group, but they cautioned that no evidence of wrongdoing was found.
The inquiry focused on whether Harman had made promises to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in exchange for its support of her desire to become chairman of the House intelligence committee if Democrats take control of the House, several law enforcement sources said.
Although the case is still considered open, officials said, the allegations have not been substantiated, and there has been no significant investigative activity on the issue in recent months. The inquiry was first reported by Time magazine.
Harman -- who has hired prominent GOP lawyer Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general -- told Time that the allegations were "irresponsible, laughable and scurrilous."
Sources said the Harman inquiry was an outgrowth of the ongoing criminal prosecution of two former AIPAC lobbyists who are charged with violating the Espionage Act in connection with receiving national defense information and transmitting it to journalists and employees of the Israeli Embassy who were not entitled to receive it. Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty to passing government secrets to the two lobbyists, was sentenced this year to more than 12 years in prison.
Time reported that investigators were looking at whether Harman -- who is involved in an intraparty dispute over who might head the intelligence panel -- promised to try to persuade the Justice Department to "go lighter" on the former AIPAC officials.
AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton said yesterday that the group "would never engage in a quid pro quo in relation to a federal investigation or other federal matter."