WASHINGTON (AP) A donor to U.S. Rep. David Bonior has apologized for speaking in support of anti-Israeli militant organizations.
Bonior, a Democrat from Mount Clemens, who is running for governor, said that should end the debate over whether he should give back two $500 donations from Abdurahman Alamoudi.
“This isn”t about money, this is about politics,” Bonior said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They are trying to smear someone by association. It”s not an unusual political tactic.”
Alamoudi, a board member of the American Muslim Council who lives in the Washington suburb of Falls Church, Va., said during an anti-Israel protest outside the White House on Oct. 28, 2000, that he supported Hamas and Hezbollah.
Hamas has taken responsibility for attacks on Israeli citizens. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the 1983 explosion at the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut that killed 239 people. Both are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. government.
“The words I spoke in 2000 were spoken at a rally in the heat of anger and frustration,” Alamoudi said in a statement distributed by the Bonior campaign. “I apologize for my intemperate and divisive remarks.”
After the rally, President Bush, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. John Sununu (R-N.H.) returned donations that Alamoudi gave to their campaigns. But Bonior has declined to take that step.
“What I can”t get over is why he doesn”t just refund it,” said Craig Ruff of Public Sector Consultants, a Lansing think tank. “It could just be a principled dogmatism. But he”s taking a one-day story and making it conceivably fodder for TV ads in July.”
Some gubernatorial candidates also say they are baffled by Bonior”s refusal to return the donations, which were made in 1999 during his last campaign for Congress.
“I was really shocked that he keeps the money and doesn”t send it back,” said former Gov. Jim Blanchard, who is running against Bonior for the Democratic nomination. “I think that”s really poor judgment. I don”t think this kind of money has any place in American politics.”
State Sen. John Schwarz of Battle Creek, a Republican running for governor, said it is up to Bonior whether to return the money.
“I can tell you absolutely, positively any money like that that came anywhere near me would go back to its source very, very quickly,” he said.
Bonior is getting support from one of his Democratic gubernatorial opponents, state Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith of Salem Township. She said Bonior should not have to return the money since the donors have never been convicted of being terrorists.
“I think it”s a real non-issue,” she said. “It”s just a chance for people to take a bite out of their opponent.”
Bonior said he has many contributors and doesn”t agree with all of their opinions. Receiving donations from Arab Americans isn”t unusual given his leadership on issues affecting them, including his support for a Palestinian homeland.
“I”m proud of my support from the Arab-American community,” Bonior said. “I trust the voters in this situation to sort out the facts.”
Bonior also received a donation from Sami Al-Arian, a former computer science professor at the University of South Florida who was fired last month amid questions about his ties to Islamic Jihad.
Al-Arian once headed an academic think tank and charity the FBI said were fronts for Palestinian terrorists. He has never been arrested for a crime and denies supporting terrorism.
Al-Arian and his wife, Nahla, gave Bonior $2,200 in his last congressional campaign.