Bribery Scandal Almost Nabbed Newt

By Michael Collins Piper

In 1997, hardworking FBI agents in Miami were  on the verge (they thought) of snaring then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his second  wife, Marianne, in a $10 million bribery scandal  involving multiple ties to key elements of  the Israeli lobby in Washington. However, then-FBI Director Louis Freeh stepped in, and the impending  sting was called off.

This revelation appeared on page A-2 of The Washington  Post on Dec. 15, but it has not been mentioned  in The New York Times or been given any play in the  major broadcast media.

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While the Post downplayed the Israeli connection,  a limited rendition of the story in one brief UPI report —published in only a few  newspapers—never mentioned  the underlying pivotal, in-depth role of Israeli-linked  intermediaries in the matter.

Instead, the reports focused on international arms  dealer Sarkis Soghanalian’s ties to the affair, leading  many readers to think Gingrich was involved in arms trafficking. In reality, it was the arms dealer, a longtime  FBI informant, who was acting on behalf of the  FBI in the effort to nab Gingrich.

The Post story was based on a far more detailed  and revealing exposition of some 6,400 words by veteran intelligence correspondent Joe Trento, published  on his website at

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The entire scenario is complex, reflecting events taking place over several years time. But the bottom line is that Gingrich and his wife were allegedly attempting  to shake down Soghanalian for a $10 million  bribe and that, from the beginning, operatives for Israel  were on the scene, acting as middlemen for the  Gingrich duo.

Mrs. Gingrich first made a connection to Soghanalian  through her position as a former paid pitchwoman  for the Israel Export Development  Corporation  (IEDC)—a front for a group of Jewish billionaires eager to promote Israeli exports into the United  States. Behind IEDC were such big names as Larry  Silverstein, owner of the World Trade Center at the  time of the 9-11 attacks; Sy Syms of the SYMS clothing  chain; and Lawrence Tisch, who controls the CBS  media empire.

Soghanalian said he was first approached by Morty  Bennett of Miami, who told the arms dealer he had a  business associate who had an “in” with Mrs. Gingrich  and that it might be possible to use that connection on  Soghanalian’s behalf.

Knowing U.S. sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were preventing the arms dealer from collecting a legal debt of $54 million owed to him by Iraq, Bennett  told Soghanalian that Mrs. Gingrich could help arrange—through her husband, then the speaker of  the House—the lifting of the U.S. embargo so the  arms dealer could secure his debt.

Bennett’s associate, Howard Ash—who had  worked with Mrs. Gingrich at IEDC—was a major  fundraiser for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), a Jerusalem-based  think tank headed by Robert Loewenberg, who Mrs.  Gingrich has described as a “friend.” IASPS also included  another close Gingrich friend, former Rep. Vin  Weber (R-Minn.), among its “trustees”—a relationship  Weber now formally denies.

Following the contact from Bennett, Soghanalian—a longtime FBI informant who had worked  closely with Richard Gregorie, the assistant U.S. attorney  in Miami—reported the overtures from Mrs. Gingrich’s IEDC-IASPS associates to the FBI. The FBI  expressed interest, urging Soghanalian to maintain  contact with the group.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Gingrich visited Paris—under the auspices of IEDC and at the urging of  Loewenberg—in the company of Bennett and Ash, where she met Soghanalian.

Mrs. Gingrich now claims she was soliciting a donation to IEDC from Soghanalian. However, Soghanalian  told the FBI that Mrs. Gingrich told him in Paris  that she could use her husband’s influence to get the  Iraqi embargo lifted in return for “an understanding.”

Sometime later, Bennett came back to the arms  dealer, saying Mrs. Gingrich wanted $10 million to get the job done.

Soghanalian was told $5 million was for Mrs. Gingrich;  another $1 million was for Bennett. The recipients  of the remaining $4 million were not named, but  those who know how Capitol Hill bribery works presume this money would be used to help “grease the  wheels” among other members of Congress who would help Gingrich expedite the operation.

Soghanalian told the FBI he was instructed the  bribe was to be paid to the Washington office of  IASPS, which would, in turn, launder the money to  the Gingriches.

The IEDC-IASPS connection recurs throughout the  scenario. Not only did another IEDC associate of Mrs.  Gingrich, attorney David Yerushalmi, serve as counsel  for both IEDC and IASPS, but both organizations  also shared a number of employees and mutual funding  sources.*

The FBI insisted it was vital that Soghanalian seal  the deal directly with Mrs. Gingrich or her husband.  This would clinch the criminal case against them.

As directed by the FBI, Soghanalian insisted he  would not make the “donation” to the IASPS—the  bribe intended for Gingrich—until he could meet  Gingrich and his wife in private.

Pressured by Soghanalian, Ash told the arms dealer the House speaker would send “his own man” to  Miami to meet with Soghanalian to facilitate arrangements  for the meeting.

Gingrich’s “own man” was Ben Waldman. Closely tied to Netanyahu circles in Israel, Waldman—an associate  of both televangelist Pat Robertson and the  infamously corrupt pro-Israel Washington lobbyist  Jack Abramoff—had been Ronald Reagan’s liaison to  the Jewish community. But at the time of the bribery  conspiracy, Waldman was chief fundraiser for the  IASPS.

Finally, with everything in place, the FBI set the trap for Gingrich. A lavish reception was scheduled  for June 8, 1997 in Miami at a luxury home, which had actually been rented by the FBI for the sting.  Soghanalian was supposed to meet Gingrich there and  solidify the deal under FBI electronic surveillance.

However, at the last minute, FBI Director Louis  Freeh sent down the order that Soghanalian was not  to attend the event—which Gingrich did attend—  and the two-year-long investigation was brought to an abrupt end just when the FBI might have caught Gingrich agreeing to accept the payoff.

Journalist Trento quoted one FBI agent, who said:  “We got so close, and when the target was in sight, we  were stopped by Washington.”

In fact, both assistant U.S. attorney in Miami  Richard Gregorie and the FBI’s Miami attorney, Martin  King, had wanted to pursue the  investigation to  the end, only to be frustrated by the FBI director.

Soghanalian has since died. Bennett, Ash and  Waldman—and Mrs. Gingrich—all dismiss the reported  events as a tissue of lies. Gingrich has yet to  comment. FBI officials now assert there was never  any evidence Gingrich was aware a bribery conspiracy  was under way.
* Considering the revelations from the Gingrich bribery allegations, it  does not seem a coincidence that longtime Gingrich associate Yerushalmi is today the driving force behind the ongoing, well-financed national Muslim-bashing campaign focusing on the danger Islamic law—sharia— supposedly poses to America. In fact, The New York Times reported on  Dec. 21 that “long before he announced his presidential run . . . Newt Gingrich  had become the most prominent American politician to embrace an alarming premise: that sharia, or Islamic law, poses a threat to the United  States as grave [as], or graver than, terrorism.” The Times, however, did  not mention the bribery scandal, its links to IEDC and IASPS, or even  Yerushalmi, although it did point out that Gingrich and his ex-mistress—now his third wife—have produced a Muslim-bashing film.
Michael Collins Piper is an author, journalist, lecturer and radio show host. He  has spoken in Russia, Malaysia, Iran, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Canada and the U.S. He is  the author of Final Judgment, The New Jerusalem, The High Priests of War, Dirty  Secrets, My First Days in the White House, The New Babylon, Share the Wealth,  The Judas Goats, Target: Traficant and The Golem. You can order any of these books  with a credit card by calling AFP/FAB toll free at 1-888-699-6397.