After revelations earlier this month that he received $20,000 from a group that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, Ohio gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich announced on Thursday that he would be returning the money.
In a letter to Cleveland.com, Kucinich announced that the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees — which paid for Kucinich to speak alongside genocide deniers and pro-Assad lobbyists in London — “did not identify itself as having any interest other than human rights and never specifically mentioned to me their interest in or position regarding the Syrian regime… Accordingly, having only recently learned of their advocacy, I am returning their fee.”
Added Cleveland.com, “Kucinich never explicitly apologized in the letter for taking the money.”
The group that paid Kucinich to speak in London is run by a Sept. 11 conspiracy theorist, and acts as a parent organization for the Syria Solidarity Movement — which has called chemical attacks in Syria a “false flag” operation and described groups like Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International as American proxies in Syria. Kucinich withheld information about the group’s payments on his initial ethics filings.
Earlier this week, the AP reported that the group’s treasurer also revealed that “his work has included dealings with members of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, and individuals formerly associated with al-Qaida.”
As it is, Kucinich — who has also recently appeared on Russian propaganda outlets like RT — has largely refrained from answering any questions about why he took money from the pro-Assad group in the first place, an organization that he’d previously described as a “civil rights advocacy group.” As the Columbus Dispatch reported earlier this week, “On Saturday, Kucinich’s spokesman continued to ignore questions about whether the candidate has received money from people or groups linked to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin or Assad.” (Kucinich’s campaign did not respond to ThinkProgress’s questions.)
The announcement also comes after a separate series of revelations in Huffington Post this month, which found that “[Kucinich’s] political apparatus received thousands of more dollars from two brothers involved in multiple efforts to bring Kucinich and Assad together since 2007.” Kucinich has made no announcement about returning the funds from the brothers, Elie Khawam and Bassam Khawam.
In his letter this week, Kucinich said that he is not an “apologist” for Assad. But in 2017, Kucinich met with Assad, later saying, as Cleveland.com described, that Assad was “trying to keep a pluralistic society alive.” In a blistering editorial on Thursday, Cleveland.com wrote that the fact “[t]hat Kucinich continues to take money from pro-Assad groups is shameful.”