Republican Jewish Coalition Calls Obama Out for “Donors” Mention

The Republican Jewish Coalition can hardly be accused of mission creep. If there’s any misrepresentation at all, it’s probably in the RJC’s name; its use of “Jewish” when, by all appearances, the organization exists solely to convince American Jews that Democrats are harmful to Israel.

The RJC’s latest release—”What Exactly Did President Obama Mean By That?”—takes such an aggrieved posture that you’d think the president had referred to “powerful banking interests” or, while praising the caterers for the delicious matzoh, casually referenced the disappearance of Christian children. Nope:

According to today’s New York Times, at the Democratic Senate retreat yesterday President Obama urged Democratic lawmakers to resist sanctions against Iran and said that “he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others.”

It was reported that one Senator in particular, Robert Menendez (NJ), stood up and took “personal offense” to the President’s assertion.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

“What exactly was President Obama suggesting when he said opposition to his Iran policy is due to ‘donors’?  No one would say opposition to his Russia policy is due to ‘donors,’ or his Cuba policy is due to ‘donors,’ or his general foreign policy is due to ‘donors.’  So why did President Obama single out those who seek tougher sanctions on Iran and say their viewpoints are based on ‘donors’?

It’s important to note, for context, that Menendez himself drafted the bill (along with Republican Mark Kirk) that Obama was speaking in opposition to.

For Brooks, the math is simple: Iran sanctions (i.e., for the RJC, protecting Israel) + mention of “donors” = Obama’s implication that a secret cabal of wealthy Jews is controlling American policy!

Of course, it’s dicey to imply that Israel is the primary interest for the US in managing the threat of Iran, what with Jewish “dual loyalty” being another anti-Semitic trope.

But setting that aside, who over the age of 12 doesn’t believe that donors aren’t (and aren’t often evoked as) a powerful motivating force in American politics? Take Brooks’ own example of Cuba (since “foreign policy” is a bit too broad to locate a single interest group for).

Start with the political editor of the Tampa Bay Times last month who (in a piece asserting that a different group of donors helped change US policy) wrote: “while Miami politicians and campaign donors may have dictated U.S. policy to Cuba for decades…” 

Also from last month, there’s the Miami Herald which wrote, in a piece on Jeb Bush telling the US-Cuba Democracy PAC that the embargo should be strengthened rather than lifted, that “[t]he crowd of donors [was] the backbone of Cuba’s exiled elite.” A meeting with the former Florida governor, brother and son of presidents, and likely 2016 presidential hopeful? That’s donor power.

Then, from 2010, there’s the widely disseminated report from Public Campaign described, quite directly by the Huffington Post as one that “raises the question of whether hard-line Cuban Americans will succeed in stifling further changes in U.S.-Cuba relations through their campaign contributions to members of Congress.”

Or, if you prefer a good old fashioned book, there’s Esteban Morales Dominguez and Gary Prevost’s United States-Cuban Relations: A Critical History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), in which the Cuban intellectual and St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict professor write, of the group that Jeb Bush recently met with:

The [US-Cuba Democracy] PAC has raised about $750,000 since it opened its doors, and according to the Center for Responsible Politics, has given $214,000 to 113 House candidates and $54,000 to twelve Senate candidates with the understanding that they would reject any legislation that would ease sanctions against Cuba. Of these members 33 had consistently voted to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba in previous years. After accepting an out of state campaign donation these members reversed their support for measures easing the travel ban in 2005. It appears that campaign contributions, in the absence of any changes in the Cuba situation, “bought” the support of representatives who had formerly favored restoring at least some important relationship with Cuba.

The next sentence tidily brings us back to the RJC’s Menendez mention:

The work of the PAC continued in 2006 with large donations to two pro-embargo Senators who won tough reelection battles, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

In fairness to Menendez I have no idea how he voted with regard to Cuba before and after these donations. But, going back to the RJC’s knee-jerk Iran-Israel connection, it does look as though Menendez received more “pro-Israel” money than all but 2 Senators between 2006 and 2014. Number one on that list, incidentally, is his co-sponsor on the current Iran sanctions bill, Mark Kirk.




  • GMG248 says:

    Alas, perhaps we are doomed to only dream of a day when our politicians will speak sincerely and rationally about American policies rather than “his (the President’s) policies.” Brook’s and Menedez’s instantaneous outrage brings Shakespeare’s words to mind: “Me thinks thou dost protest too much”. What the President was doing is what all intelligent and constructive persons should do – respectfully acknowledge the elephants in the room. One of those elephants is the reality that the national “In God We Trust” motto should be more accurately stated and may best be replaced by the words “Show Me the Money!” Intelligent people also recognize the complexity of our society and our world. They also recognize the fragility of the human race and its bumbling responses to the present avalanche of national and global challenges and conflicts. Well written, Evan. May your kind of logic and insight prevail!

  •' Corey says:

    Must Always Be The Victim

  •' Carl says:

    “In fairness to Menendez I have no idea how he voted with regard to Cuba before and after these donations. ”

    That’s kind of an embarrassing thing to say. It’s public record. If you’re going to insinuate “donors” have this influence (rather than voting blocks, which is a different thing entirely – I’m pretty sure that is more relevant to the Cuba debate, for example), at least take the time to see if there is evidence (or counter-evidence). I think the point that only Iran had the mention of donors does at least open itself to the perception that there is something going on there…

    I have no doubt donors have some influence on politicians, but often the donations follow views rather than cause them.

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