Sen. Lindsey Graham's hard line on sanctions against the Iranian government is bringing numerous contributions from supporters of a leftist group pushing to overthrow the country's regime — but his re-election campaign has returned all the donations.
For example, in August, when Masood Abooali gave Graham's campaign a $2,600 donation, he received his refund the next month along with an explanation that the South Carolina Republican's campaign was "uncomfortable" with some of his associations, reports Politico.
Abooali, who left Iran 30 years ago and is now a U.S. citizen, supports the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a group of exiles pushing to overthrow the Iranian government, but insists he's not a member.
Last year, the MEK was removed from the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, but Graham's campaign is still wary about accepting donations from donors who "had associations the campaign was uncomfortable with," said campaign spokesman Tate Zeigler.
"In an abundance of caution, the contributions were refunded," said Zeigler.
Abooali, a 56-year-old engineer living in Northern Virginia, said he's a former political prisoner, but his past is clear of any violence against the United States.
"I’m a hard-working family man concerned for my family that I left behind, concerned for my mother who I haven't seen in 30 years," he said. But he also thinks the "politics of appeasement" is hurting the United States, and he admires Graham's denunciation of Iran's human rights abuses and his stance on sanctions.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is pushing for even tougher sanctions on the Iranian government
, while the Obama administration works with other nations to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In addition to Abooali's donation, the Graham campaign refunded 24 other donors' contributions totaling $44,825, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Not all the refunds were because of contributors' associations, Zeigler said, because some refunded money went back to donors who "had exceeded their federal limit."
But Graham's refunds also went back to two names who matched those signing a 2011 letter that urged then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reverse the MEK's designation as a terrorist organization. Still more donations were refunded to people who had made online comments supporting the MEK, or who had signed petitions in favor of the organization.
Graham's campaign donations have totaled $1.2 million in the last quarter and $6.2 million for the entire re-election cycle.
He's gotten a personal contribution from Former President George W. Bush
, along with money from defense contractors Raytheon, General Atomics, and BAE Systems.
Abooali said he is not angry about the refund. He has also contributed to other lawmakers for their positions on Iran, with $2,600 going to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and another $1,000 to Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Neither has refunded Abooali's contributions.
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