The Fellowship Foundation, a religious group that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, received money six years ago from the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), a defunct Islamic Missouri-based group that was raided by federal agents in October 2004, the Washington Post reports.
A group of Ohio pastors, part of a group called Clergy Voice, wrote a letter to the IRS commissioner on Wednesday requesting an investigation into the Fellowship Foundation for violating its tax-exempt status. The Foundation, based in Arlington, acknowledged that it received two checks for $25,000 in May and June 2004 from the Islamic American Relief Agency.
IARA and several of its former employees were indicted in March, 2007 for illegally transferring money to Iraq, falsely denying that an associate of Osama Bin Laden was an employee of IARA, among other charges. Mubarak Hamed, IARA's former chief executive, pled guilty to three counts of the federal indictment in June of this year. His guilty plea reveals that Hamed sent a $25,000 check to the International Foundation in May, 2004. Richard E. Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation, said the International Foundation is another name for his group.
The check covered the lobbying work of former Congressman Mark Deli Siljander (R-Michigan). In January 2004, a United States Senate Finance Committee list identifying charities suspected of funding terrorism included IARA. Hamed hired Siljander a few months later to try to get IARA removed from the list. Hamed transferred money from IARA to non-profits, including the Fellowship Foundation, which was then given to Siljander.
Siljander pled guilty in July to obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of IARA. He was an "associate" of the Foundation, Carver said, and it has been the practice of the organization to process donations for its associates and affiliated ministries.
The money given to the Foundation "probably came in at a time when nobody thought there was a reason for Mark to do something" wrong, Carver said.
Clergy Voice questioned whether some of the money the Foundation received from IARA could have been used to fund overseas trips by members of Congress. But Carver sent a statement to the Department of Justice by the group's accountant saying that "100 percent of the funds [from IARA]…were distributed" in Siljander's wages and benefits.
The Foundation has tightened its vetting of the group's donors and "hopefully, we would not see a repeat of this kind of experience," Carver said Wednesday.