A lobbyist who thinks nothing but money


Habilian Association
Linda Lou Chavez (born June 17, 1947) is an American author, commentator, and radio talk show host. She is also a Fox News analyst, Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, has a syndicated column that appears in newspapers nationwide each week, and sits on the board of directors of two Fortune 1000 companies: Pilgrim's Pride and ABM Industries. Chavez was the highest-ranking woman in President Ronald Reagan's White House, and was the first Latina ever nominated to the United States Cabinet, when President George W. Bush nominated her Secretary of Labor. She withdrew from consideration for the position when the media published allegations that she had employed an illegal immigrant a decade earlier. In 2000, Chavez was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.
Chavez has supported or worked for a string of rightist outfits, including the Manhattan Institute, the Independent Women's Forum, and the Center for Equal Opportunity. Joining neoconservative stalwarts like William Kristol, William Bennett, Daniel Pipes, Ken Adelman, Gary Bauer, Norman Podhoretz, Robert Kagan, Midge Decter, and James Woolsey, Chavez also signed an April 2002 letter from the Project for the New American Century urging President Bush to remove Saddam Hussein from power and ”to stand with Israel in its fight against terrorism.”[1]
A columnist for the Creators Syndicate, Chavez regularly tackles a host of issues of importance to conservatives, including foreign policy. Claiming in an October 2012 column that “Iran is four years closer to nuclear weapons” than it was at the outset of the Obama administration—a claim rejected by contemporary intelligence analysts in both the United States and Israel—Chavez wrote that while “international sanctions [against Iran] are certainly a step in the right direction, … regime change should be the ultimate goal of U.S. policy.” In addition to threatening military force, Chavez argued that the United States should assist dissident Iranian groups like the MEK, which was until recently considered a proscribed terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.[2]
Chavez has attempted to link foreign policy rhetoric to her anti-union activism. In a 2003 fund-raising letter for her advocacy outfit Stop Union Political Abuse, Chavez argued that "liberal politics" were aiding terrorism. Calling herself “Big Labor’s Worst Nighmare,” Chavez wrote: "AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney is an avowed Socialist, by his own admission. And he's put BILLIONS into pushing the Socialist agenda. … We can cripple liberal politics in this country by passing the Workers' Freedom of Choice Act. If we stop now, the terrorists win."[3]
Two years earlier, just after she withdrew her nomination for labor secretary, Chavez was singing a very different tune, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "I think organized labor, I think quite mistakenly, somehow thought that I was going to be their worst nemesis. I had a very nice talk with John Sweeney this morning, by the way, and I don't think … that would have been the case. I think I would have actually been very helpful in trying to bridge a gap that exists between the Republican Party and organized labor."[4]
In her one foray into electoral politics, Chavez challenged Democrat Barbara Mikulski in Maryland’s 1986 Senate race. According to author Victor Kamber, Chavez caricatured Mikulski, a lifelong resident of Baltimore, “as a ‘San Francisco-style liberal,’ using that city’s reputation as a haven for homosexuals to insinuate that the unmarried Mikulski was a lesbian.” Chavez also attacked one of Mikulski’s former staffers as “a radical feminist” who held “anti-male” views. “Fortunately,” wrote Kamber, “both attacks fell flat,” and Mikulski handily defeated Chavez.[5]
Political Action Committees and Non-profit Foundations
Chavez is the founder and chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank which focuses on three specific areas: affirmative action, immigration and bilingual education. In 2007, the Washington Post reported that between 1997 and 2003, her salary from that foundation ranged from $125,000 to $136,000. In 2004, the last year for which records were available to the Post, she was paid $70,000; that year the foundation also paid her son David $83,000. From 1998 to 2001, her husband, Chris Gersten, was paid $64,000 a year from the Institute for Religious Values, another foundation she helped start. By comparison, between 2003 and 2006, the two foundations, plus two others founded by Chavez and her family, raised about $350,000 per year, combined. Chavez said that "I guess you could call it the family business." [6]
The Post also reported that Chavez and her family, through political action committees they had created, including the Republican Issues Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union Political Abuse, and the Pro-Life Campaign Committee, had further family income. In 2001, the PACs paid Chavez's husband $77,000, her son Pablo $25,000, and her son David about $10,000. Then, from 2002 through 2006, the PACs paid Chavez and her family $261,000. The PACs raised $24.5 million from January 2003 to December 2006, with a total of $242,000 of that money being given to politicians. [7]
According to campaign finance records, the Pro-Life Campaign Committee was fined $150,000 in May 2006 for failing to file accurate records with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). In 2006, Latino Alliance negotiated a $2,500 settlement with the FEC for filing incomplete records. In 2007, the Republican Issues Committee paid a $110,000 fine for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and expenditures. In January 2008, Chavez and her husband said that they planned to shut down all of their PACs. [8]
Affiliations
Chavez is a Director of two Fortune 1000 companies, Pilgrim's Pride and ABM Industries. Pilgrims Pride is the largest poultry producer in the United States, and ABM Industries is the 2nd largest property management company in the United States. Chavez is a past Board member of Greyhound Lines as well as the Foundation for Teaching Economics. Chavez sits on the Boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, [9] and was named to the advisory board of the Bruin Alumni Association. [10]
Implicated in Fundraising Scandal
    Linda Chavez rose to prominence in the 1980s as a tart-tongued Reagan administration official and candidate for the Senate, eventually becoming a well-known Latina voice on social issues and President Bush's choice to lead the Labor Department. With her conservative celebrity came book deals, a syndicated column, regular appearances on the Fox News Channel - and a striking but little-known success at political fundraising.
    In the years since she was forced to pull her nomination as Bush's labor secretary after admitting payments to an illegal immigrant, Chavez and her immediate family members have used phone banks and direct-mail solicitations to raise tens of millions of dollars, founding several political action committees with bankable names: the Republican Issues Committee, the Latino Alliance, Stop Union Political Abuse and the Pro-Life Campaign Committee. Their solicitations promise direct action in the "fight to save unborn lives," a vigorous struggle against "big labor bosses" and a crippling of "liberal politics in the country."
    That's not where the bulk of the money wound up being spent, however. Of the $24.5 million raised by the PACs from January 2003 to December 2006, $242,000 - or 1 percent - was passed on to politicians, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal election reports. The PACs spent even less - $151,236 - on independent political activity, such as mailing pamphlets.
    Instead, most of the donations were channeled back into new fundraising efforts, and some were used to provide a modest but steady source of income for Chavez and four family members, who served as treasurers and consultants to the committees. Much of the remaining funds went to pay for expenses such as furniture, auto repairs and insurance, and rent for the Sterling office the groups share. Even Chavez's health insurance was paid for a time from political donations.
    "I guess you could call it the family business," Chavez said in an interview.
    There is nothing illegal about running political committees the way she and her family have done, and Chavez said that none of the money has been spent for personal items and that she has done nothing wrong.
    Still, Chavez Inc. offers a revealing window into a largely unregulated corner of the world of political money, where few constraints exist on spending, candidates often benefit hardly at all and groups face little accountability from donors who remain largely unaware of where their money goes.
    More than 2,700 "multi-candidate committees" such as those run by Chavez and her family members are registered with the Federal Election Commission, and unlike the more conventional committees used by candidates to fuel their campaigns, the multi-candidate groups face few rules governing how they can spend money. Only about a dozen are audited each year. And they face little of the public scrutiny that confronts candidate-run committees because no opponent scours their spending reports for irregularities.
    "Nobody is looking at these," said Melanie Sloan of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "It would be nice to know if other people are doing what Ms. Chavez is doing."
    Even less information is publicly available about spending by politically oriented nonprofit foundations - such as those established separately by Chavez and her family members. The four foundations collected $1.4 million from 2003 to 2006 and paid many Chavez family members a steady salary, according to tax records.
    Chavez said the goal of her fundraising committees has been to advance her political agenda and nothing more. "I have never tried to enrich myself or my family and have consistently taken salaries from my organizations that were lower than the market, with very few benefits," she said.
    But the spending by Chavez PACs appears to depart from standard practices by some other issue-oriented groups, according to lawyers and ethics experts. The National Rifle Association's political committee, for instance, spent nearly a third of the $11 million it raised in the 2006 cycle on political activities, including $1.2 million in direct donations to candidates.
    In the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, Chavez's anti-union PAC raised $913,469 and spent less than a fifth on political activity. The Latino Alliance raised $1.2 million and spent 3 percent on political activity. The Pro-Life Campaign Committee raised $7.7 million and spent less than 1 percent on political activity, as did the Republican Issues Committee, which raised $14.6 million, the analysis found. Most of the money came from small donors.
    The amounts the PACs spent on telemarketing could not be readily tallied. But an FEC investigation of the Pro-Life Campaign Committee turned up documents showing that the Arizona telemarketing firm Capitol Communications regularly retained as much as 95 percent of the money it collected, to cover its fundraising expenses. Chavez's husband, Christopher Gersten, said the firm handled fundraising for the Republican Issues PAC in the same manner.
    Over the past five years, Chavez's family members have been directly paid $261,237 from the PACs, according to FEC reports. In 2001, the PACs paid Christopher Gersten $77,190, her son Pablo $25,344 and her son David $9,687.
    Chavez and her immediate family members also earned income from executive positions they held in their nonprofit foundations, such as One Nation Indivisible and Stop Union Political Abuse. Her salary from her Center for Equal Opportunity foundation ranged from $125,000 to $136,250 between 1997 and 2003 and was $70,313 in 2004, the last year for which records are available.
    The foundation paid her son David $83,200 in 2004 as its vice president for development. From 1998 to 2001, Christopher Gersten was paid $64,000 a year from another family foundation, the Institute for Religious Values.
    Several of those who donated to the Pro-Life Campaign Committee, run by Pablo Gersten, said they were surprised to learn how little of the money was spent where they expected. David Barnes, 45, a typesetter from Williston, Tenn., gave the group $500 in February 2006, figuring "the money would go to back candidates who are pro-life." "I'm appalled," Barnes said. "I try to be a responsible giver. I'm aware that with many charities you have to be careful. I knew better. I contributed based on an outward appearance and didn't do my homework."
    Chavez and her husband began operating their first political organizations in the 1980s. They had met in college and moved to Washington, where Chavez worked for the House Judiciary Committee and Gersten was an intern and then the national director of the voter registration arm of the AFL-CIO. At 29, Gersten became the political director of the Operating Engineers International Union and helped build it into a powerhouse.  "I wrote the book on unions using the 'check-off' so their dues could be directed to political giving," he said in an interview.
    Chavez was the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985, giving her a prominent platform to talk up traditional family values, to criticize affirmative action and to debate comparable pay for men and women. Gersten, meanwhile, became political director of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel political committee.
    In 1986, Chavez unsuccessfully ran for the Senate on the Republican ticket in Maryland. By then, Gersten had launched a nonprofit group to build ties between Republicans and Jews and a second one to promote reform of the criminal justice system. The latter failed, Gersten said. "I was very amateurish." [11]
A Religious Turn
    The family took a break from politics when Bill Clinton was elected president, briefly operating a Mexican restaurant in Gaithersburg called the Santa Fe Express, with Chavez taping television interviews on politics during the day and working the cash register at night. The restaurant went broke. As Gersten recalls it, that was around the time the "partial birth" abortion issue attracted attention.  "I became a point man to organize the Jewish community on that issue," he said. "I knew enough about the Jewish law to understand that it does not allow for a late-term abortion. I got 250 rabbis to sign statements to support the ban on partial-birth abortion and made a lot of good friends in the pro-life movement."
    This led him to launch the Institute for Religious Values. Soon after, Pablo Gersten started the Pro-Life Campaign Committee. Christopher Gersten said he drafted solicitations in his kitchen and then, using a small vendor in Purcellville, experimented with mailings. "I couldn't afford to rent lists of 5,000 names, so I got the list vendors to send lists of 2,000 names. I realized I could do this," he said.
    Gersten was appointed as a mid-level official in President Bush's Health and Human Services Department and paused his political work. But in 2001, during the period after Chavez's failed nomination to be Bush's labor secretary, the family's political activity thrived. It founded three more PACs - the Republican Issues Committee, Stop Union Political Abuse and the Latino Alliance - all to pursue political agendas that had become the foundation of the family members' advocacy careers. The groups hired direct-mail and telemarketing firms based in Mesa, Ariz., and made solicitations nationwide for each of the PACs. The letters were often strident in tone. One that Chavez sent in 2003 seeking contributions for the Stop Union committee promised that the group would help pass the "Workers' Freedom of Choice Act." "If we stop now," she wrote, "the terrorists win." [12]
Prosecution
    Over the past two years, the FEC has fined three of the Chavez family PACs a total of $262,500 for repeatedly failing to file timely reports and for not promptly disclosing all the money raised and spent. Chavez notes that the FEC found no intentional wrongdoing. The Pro-Life Campaign Committee also briefly attracted the attention of state authorities. In 2003, recipients of its phone solicitations in Kansas complained about pushy telemarketers. "They were very aggressive - pushing for automatic withdrawals from a credit card," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the group Kansans for Life, which received complaints from its members. The Kansas attorney general brought a civil case against Pablo Gersten and the group, alleging that it had engaged in "deceptive solicitation." Gersten denied the allegations, and the case was dismissed three months later. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Paul J. Morrison declined to comment.
    Chavez and her husband said the fundraising committees have been productive for their political causes. The Latino Alliance, for instance, "did lots of telephone calls in the 2004 elections," she said. "I believe we did some radio ads. We did outreach into the Latino communities to try and mobilize more pro-Republican votes." That's the whole point, Christopher Gersten said in a separate interview. "The PACs help Linda and me have a voice. To have a voice in politics in today's world, you really want to be able to leverage the money that you give," he said. As for why so little of the money wound up with candidates, Chavez said that is simply a reality of the fundraising business. The groups were not formed to make her family wealthy, she said, adding that if she or her husband were to join a K Street firm "to do some of what we have been doing on our own, we would make far more money." [13]
Support for the Rajavi’s Cult
Ms. Linda Chavez, former White House ‎Director of Public Liaison, in an article that was published on June 30, 2017 in Townhall website entitled A New Iran Policy wrote that the only solution to deal with Iran's ‘interference’ in the region is to recognize the abroad opposition of Iranian government:
“If the U.S. wants to stop Iran from interfering in Syria and elsewhere in the region and put an end to its nuclear program -- not just a temporary halt -- the most effective means would be to recognize the democratic opposition to Iran's theocratic regime flourishing both inside Iran and among the Iranian diaspora around the world” [14]
In continuation of the article, referring to the propaganda campaign of the MeK in Paris, which is held annually with the presence of the heads of the organization and people from different nationalities in Paris, she implicitly introduced the Rajavi’s cult as her considered opposition group, with which the United States must enter into negotiations: “On July 1, tens of thousands of Iranians will gather in Paris to promote "Free Iran." As I have been for the past six years, I will be on hand to emcee the event, which gathers dignitaries from several European counties, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. This year, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, former Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as retired U.S. military officials, will be among the Americans addressing the conference, which is sponsored by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, whose leader is Maryam Rajavi.”
CultNews in an article entitled “Why does Linda Chavez want to help a “cult”?”, reacted to the Chaves’ assertion that she would attend Rajavi’s gathering: “ But does Ms. Chavez know that the “convener of the Paris conference” she will emcee is a purported “cult” leader once officially recognized by the US as a terrorist? The event convener is Maryam Rajavi, wife of notorious “cult” leader Massoud Rajavi (rumored to be dead). The couple is known for their authoritarian control of the so-called “People’s Mujahedeen” (MEK), which was once listed by the United States State Department as a “terrorist organization.” That is, until 2012 when it was decided that the MEK be dropped from the list. However, Mila Johns of the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism told Wired, “The delisting of the MEK, following a well-funded political lobby campaign, creates the dangerous impression that it is possible for terrorist organizations to buy their way off the [terrorism] list.” [15] Chavez claims in the rest of his article that What distinguishes the 2017 gathering from previous years is “the concrete support of Rajavi inside Iran.”
The proof of this “concrete support” in his view is posters of Rajavi, which, according to him, appeared on the bridges and walls of Tehran, Tabriz and other major cities of Iran, during the May 2017 Presidential elections and called people not to vote for two main candidates. That's while 73.3% of eligible voters participated in that elections. [16] Chavez also announced in another dramatic claim that more than 7,000 protests against the Iranian government took place in 2016.
At the end of this article, Chavez recommends that Trump would recognize Rajavi's group as an Iranian opposition if it is serious reversing the Obama administration's Iran policy.
In a 2004 New York Times Magazine reported about the “cult-like behavior” of the MEK. Journalist Elizabeth Rubin wrote, “Every morning and night, the [MEK] kids, beginning as young as 1 and 2, had to stand before a poster of Massoud and Maryam, salute them and shout praises to them,” One former member told Rubin that the group was little more than a “husband-and-wife cult” that subjected its adherents to enforced celibacy and public confessions of sexual desires. Rubin reported that not unlike some of the most extreme cults MEK members were often extremely isolated within a compound where there was little if any access to “newspapers or radio or television” and that all devotees knew was whatever Mr. and Mrs. Rajavi “fed them.” [19]
Rick Ross, American cult specialist, and founder and executive director of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute, has stated in an interview with Habilian, Specialized Center for Research on Terrorism, that the MeK has all the characteristics of a cult: “In my opinion the MEK fits well within the three core criteria often used to define a destructive cult based upon the structure, dynamics and behavior of the group.” [20]
In a recent interview a former Rajavi follower Masoud Banisadr said that “In MEK, we were not even allowed to think of our children and their well-being.” He further explained, “You have to teach your children: instead of loving you, love the leader.” Banisadr is the author of the book Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery. [21]
At the end of his article, referring to a report released four years ago by the BBC, which has revealed that supporters of the Rajavi cult receive about $ 20,000 to speak in support of the group, Cultnews asks question from Chavez that It seems to us fine to end this post with:
“Why would Linda Chavez want to align herself with such a notorious group? Is it possible she is clueless and doesn’t know the group’s history and how the MEK has hurt and/or horribly exploited people?
Or is Ms. Chavez simply picking up a paycheck?
Four years ago the BBC reported that “the going rate for a pro-MEK speech seems to be $20,000 (£12,500).”
How much might the purported “cult” be willing to pay for a prominent emcee to imbue its event with a patina of authority?
Is Linda Chavez cashing in on her past status as the highest-ranking woman in President Ronald Reagan’s White House? Or is she trying to look important after the embarrassment of not being confirmed as President George W. Bush pick for Secretary of Labor?
Why would someone like Ms. Chavez want to help a “husband-and-wife cult” once listed as a terrorist organization?”

Sources:
1.    Project for the New American Century, "Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat and the War on Terrorism," Project for the New American Century, April 3, 2003, http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter-040302.htm. 
2.    Linda Chavez, “Regime Change in Iran the Real Answer,” Townhall.com, October 26,2012, http://townhall.com/columnists/lindachavez/2012/10/26/regime_change_in_iran_the_real_answer/page/full/.
3.    Quoted in NNDB, Linda Chavez profile, http://www.nndb.com/people/127/000051971/.
4.    Timothy Noah, "Whopper of the Week: Linda Chavez," Slate Magazine, http://www.slate.com/?id=2061126&.
5.    Victor Kamber, Poison Politics: Are Negative Campaigns Destroying Democracy? Basic Books, p. 152, http://books.google.com/books?id=BJWORPMpV48C&pg=PA152#v=onepage&q&f=false.
6.    Matthew Mosk, (August 13, 2007). "In Fundraising's Murky Corners: Candidates See Little of Millions Collected by Linda Chavez's Family". Washington Post.
7.    Ibid
8.    Matthew Murray (January 16, 2008). "Linda Chavez to Halt Fundraising". Roll Call.
9.    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Playing Catch-Up: How Children Born to Teen Mothers Fare Archived October 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
10.     "Bruin Alumni Advisory Board Member – Linda Chavez". Bruin Alumni Association. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008.
11.     In Fundraising's Murky Corners, Matthew Mosk, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, August 13, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/12/AR2007081201371.html
12.     Ibid
13.    Ibid
14.     A New Iran Policy, Linda Chavez, townhall, Jun 30, 2017, https://townhall.com/columnists/lindachavez/2017/06/30/a-new-iran-policy-n2348558
15.     Why does Linda Chavez want to help a “cult”, Cult News, 2016-07-13, https://cultnews.com/2016/07/why-does-linda-chavez-want-to-help-a-cult/
16.     انتخابات ریاست‌جمهوری ایران (۱۳۹۶) ، ویکی پدیا
17.    Marrëdhëniet SHBA-Rusi, aktivistja Chavez flet për Vizion Plus, February 25, 2017, https://www.vizionplus.tv/marredheniet-shba-rusi-aktivistja-chavez-flet-per-vizion-plus/
18.     خام خیالی فرقه ی رجوی درتبدیل آلبانی به عراق، ایران قلم، 11/12/1395
19.     The Cult of Rajavi”, ELIZABETH RUBIN, NY times, July 13, 2003
20.     گروه رجوی تمام مشخصات یک فرقه را دارد، هابیلیان، 4دی95
21.     “A Former MEK Member Talks About the Extremist Iranian 'Cult'”, vice, September 2, 2014
22.     An Iranian mystery: Just who are the MEK? Owen Bennett Jones, BBC News, 15 April 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17615065


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