A New York congressman is urging US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to investigate the funneling of millions of dollars by an Iranian regime-controlled foundation to Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Columbia and Princeton.
"Did this foundation attempt to subvert American academic institutions?" Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), who represents the Staten Island borough, asked concerning the donations from the New York City-based Alavi Foundation, which critics say have funded anti-Israel and pro-Iran academics.
"We need to investigate this, and universities have to do a better job of vetting their donors," Donovan said on Tuesday.
The Alavi Foundation has disbursed more than $50 million in grants since its foundation in 1973. It says that its goals are to promote Persian culture and interfaith dialogue and insists that it operates independently of the Iranian government.
But at the end of June, a Manhattan jury determined that the foundation was controlled by the Tehran regimefollowing the culmination of a nine-year legal battle in which federal prosecutors successfully charged that Alavi's management of its prestigious office building on New York's Fifth Avenue violated US sanctions against Iran. As a result of the court's decision, the $500 million property was seized by the American government, which now plans to sell it and distribute a large portion of the proceeds to victims of Iranian-sponsored terror outrages.
The Alavi Foundation's publicly available figures for its donations to universities — which account for the period up to 2014 only — show that some of America's most renowned universities were recipients of six-figure sums, with Harvard awarded over $600,000. The foundation has also given more than $500,000 to Catholic schools, including the Catholic University of America and Sacred Heart University. Meanwhile, conservative journalist Jordan Schachtel reported earlier this month on a sharp increase in 2016 in the number of universities partnering with the Alavi Foundation, including Bard College, the University of Virginia and Brandeis University.
Among the many documents produced at the trial over the foundation's New York building was a 1991 letter written by one of its directors affirming that he would step down in accordance with a directive from Iran's supreme leader.
"Under the worst and most sensitive of political conditions between America and Iran, we have succeeded in fully protecting and expanding the foundation's interests, which in truth belongs to the people of Iran," the director wrote. "We were also able to successfully carry out cultural and Islamic activities in the country of the Great Satan."