The McCain Hezbollah "Connection" *

The campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., removed a man from his Michigan Finance Committee today.

It started after conservative writer Debbie Schlussel called Michigan businessman Ali Jawad not only a supporter of Hezbollah -- a group the US State Department labels a "terrorist organization" -- but also claimed he was a "key agent of the terrorist group in the Detroit area."

After Schlussel started asking questions the McCain campaign removed him from the finance committee for a May fundraiser.

"Apparently he is a well known member of the Arab-American community in Dearborn," a McCain staffer tells ABC News. "He is also a known Republican donor and former Bush finance committee member. When these rumors surfaced he notified the campaign and we removed him from the finance committee. The guy never raised a dime for us and he isn’t even a contributor."

Yes, that's right, the McCain campaign said they removed him because of "rumors."

Jawad is president of Armada Oil & Gas Company and founder of the Lebanese American Heritage Club.

In 1997 he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor insurance fraud. Prosecutors accused him of submitting names of non-employees to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to receive health insurance benefits and claims. He received two years of probation and he paid approximately $6,000 in fines and restitution.

In this 2002 story, Jawad is quoted saying he "rejects talk that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that should be shunned by the United States and other governments. 'Killing innocent people -- we reject that,' he said. 'Hezbollah does not fit this category. It has protected its people.'"

Read Schlussel's story -- she lays out many charges against him.

You will note in one photograph in Schussel's story, Jawad is sitting at a table with Michael Rosen, a lawyer and policy advisor with the U.S. Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes of the U.S. Treasury Department, and Andrew Arena, Michigan FBI Special Agent in Charge, and formerly in charge of Counterterrorism for the New York FBI.

This all seems a little odd to me.

Is there anyone out there who thinks McCain supports Hezbollah? Was McCain truly offended by the notion that an Arab-American businessman with sympathy for Hezbollah supports him? Or was today's move just to deprive Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, of some future rebuttal?

- jpt

* I don't mean "Connection" literally.

UPDATE: I spelled Schlussel's name incorrectly in this original post. Apologies to her; it has been corrected. Moreover, Schlussel says that there was more to the conclusion of USA v. Makki et al, than the small fine I reported. More than $252,000 was ordered to be repaid, most of which came from or Armada Oil, and one associate was sentenced to 8 months in prison and about $75,000 in fines and restitution.

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