Columnist and Chicago Tribune editorial board member Clarence Page is taking heat for speaking at a MEK rally in Paris on June 23, for which he received a $20,000 fee:

Before a huge crowd waving portraits of MEK leaders Maryam and Massoud Rajavi as well as Iranian flags, Page called for the MEK to be removed from the official terrorist organization list.

Contacted about the appearance by ProPublica, Page said he has decided to give back his speaking fee for the event, as well as reimburse the cost of travel to and from France, which was paid for by a group called the Organizing Committee for Convention for Democracy in Iran.

“I thought they were simply a group of Iranian exiles who were opposed to the regime in Tehran,” Page said. “I later found out they can be construed as a MEK front group, and I don’t think it’s worth it to my reputation to be perceived as a paid spokesman for any political cause.”

Organizers assert  that 100,000 people attended the Paris event last month, but that figure has not been independently verified. In a speech, Maryam Rajavi hailed the “unparalleled bipartisan coalition which has challenged the official policy” that labels the MEK a terrorist group.

Others attending the event last month include Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, former Bush administration official John Bolton, and several former high-ranking military officers.

“When I got involved with it, I saw the stellar list of VIPs who were also on the program, and I saw this to be another conference with another speech,” Page said.

Page said the invitation to the event last month came through his agent Janet LeBrun Cosby and Bethesda-based Speakers Worldwide.

Besides violating the newspaper’s policy of requiring staffers to ask permission before speaking publicly, Page’s transaction with the MEK could constitute material support for terrorism under the PATRIOT Act, based on the precedent set in 2010 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

The MEK is now awaiting word from the U.S. District Appeals Court which must decide within four months whether or not to continue classifying MEK as a foreign terrorist organization.

Daniel Larison has written extensively about the MEK’s lobbying campaign: