An investigation by the 10News I-Team found some of California's politicians are taking money from a man tied to a dictator accused of murdering his own people.
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Dr. Hazem Chehabi, is the Syrian council general in Southern California, a kind of ambassador. He has contributed $66,700 to American politicians while his critics say he has been supporting a brutal regime killing its people.
Among those who accepted donations from Chehabi is Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, who accepted $2,500 of Chehabi's money. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County accepted $9,600 from him. (Click here to read a PDF of Chehabi's contributions.
Chehabi has contributed to both Republicans like Issa and Democrats like Sanchez. He gave President George W. Bush $1,000 when he first ran for president and Ralph Nader $2,000 for his 2004 campaign.
Chehabi's largest contribution went to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Chehabi gave $12,700.
The Syrian American Council, which represents thousands of Syrian-Americans and is dedicated to promoting civil liberties and human dignity in Syria, is asking anyone who took money from Chehabi to give it back.
"Dr. Hazem Chehabi represents the Assad regime," said Rashad al-Dabbagh, the communications director for the Syrian American Council.
Chehabi has admitted a childhood friendship with current Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. The United Nations claims Assad is murdering his people to retain control.
Chehabi is a Syrian immigrant whose medical practice gave him wealth and prestige in Southern California. He has given generous donations to UC Irvine and now leads the school's non-profit foundation. (Click here for a link to the UC Irvine Foundation.
Multi-faith organizations in Southern California and the UC Irvine student government have called for Dr. Chehabi to step down or cut ties with the Assad regime.
Chehabi recently told National Public Radio he was outraged over the violence in Syria. However, he refused to have his comments recorded.
Chehabi did not respond to 10News' requests for an interview. According to staff at his Newport Beach clinic, he has been out of the country for nearly two months.
Issa's spokesman told 10News he does not plan on returning Chehabi's contributions. The spokesman released the following statement to 10News:
"Congressman Issa has long been a critic of the regime in Syria, including human rights abuses committed in both Syria and Lebanon. While the Congressman certainly agrees with the Syrian American Council's opposition to Bashar al-Assad's regime, returning campaign contributions of a U.S. citizen from many years ago would have no effect on the government in Damascus."
Neither Sanchez nor the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee answered 10News' requests for comment. Neither said whether they would give Chehabi's money back.
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