Daily Kickoff: The Jewish Angle of Ken Vogel’s ‘Big Money’ Book; Clinton writes about Alan Gross in memoir; BuzzFeed on U.S.-Hamas back channel talks

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By Jacob Kornbluh & JI Staff

FIRST LOOK: Ken Vogel’s New Book – ‘Big Money; 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the trail of Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics’: “The main quote in Politico reporter Ken Vogel‘s new book is from Mark Hanna, an early political fundraiser who was famously quoted as saying: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.” Vogel’s theme throughout the book is “Forget the 1 Percent. Only a tiny elite really matter in big money politics.” It just so happens that the “tiny elite” includes a significant amount of Jewish donors on both sides of the aisle. Jeffrey Katzenberg, George Soros, and Haim Saban on the left. Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Steve Wynn on the right.

“It wasn’t just the political donors that received attention in Vogel’s book, political operatives were profiled as well. Vogel describes Charlie and Lisa Spies as “the power couple of Republican Jewish money in politics.” Charlie Spies was Romney’s counsel for his 2008 campaign, before deciding to leave the official Romney inner-circle to launch Romney’s Restore Our Future PAC, a super PAC that pioneered the trend of single candidate-focused outside spending groups. Vogel writes that immediately after Charlie registered Restore Our Future in October 2010, Romney hired his wife Lisa as Jewish Outreach Director. Vogel describes this “as one of the many arrangements in the new big-money politics that seemed to wink at the irrelevance of the rules [which barred coordination between super PACs and campaigns].”

“In describing the Obama super PAC Priorites USA’s difficulties convincing donors to part with their money, Vogel described a rare instance in which Bill Burton pitched Jewish donor Amy Goldman and after twenty minutes was unsure if he connected or not at which point Goldman responded, “I want to help you” and “glancing around her home office in search of her purse, then fishing around in it and pulling out her checkbook. She started to write a check, as Burton’s eyes grew wider with each successive zero, until it read $1 million.” Priorities USA staff generally had to reach out to donors several times before receiving a check even a fraction of the size but “Goldman was an easy sell and seemed to take quickly to high-dollar politics.”

“Vogel describes an Obama fundraising event where the President quoted his mentor, Abner Mikva, a former federal judge and congressman from Chicago. “Mikva told Obama that “being friends with a politician is like perpetually having a kid in college. Every year, there’s just more and more tuition.” Whether a coincidence or not, a significant percentage of this “tiny elite” on both sides of the partisan divide is Jewish and, as we approach the 2016 election season, look for them to continue to spend millions on ‘tuition’ against each other.” [JewishInsider]

2016 WATCH – American Jews Ready For Hillary: Democratic Jewish voters and activists now have a platform to to show their support for Hillary Clinton’s potential run for President. Ready for Hillary, the grassroots political action committee created to encourage the former Secretary of State to run for president in 2016, announced Tuesday the formation of Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary. Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary is organized by leading Jewish Democrats Marc StanleyFran Katz Watson and Steve Rabinowitz… “If you’re like me, a Jewish American who wants Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016, please sign up with Jewish Americans Ready for Hillary,” Stanley, the Dallas trial lawyer and immediate past chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said in a statement.”

— Money But Not Only Money: “This effort isn’t only about money,” Katz Watson, the Democratic political fundraiser and former finance director for AIPAC and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said in the press release. “But it certainly includes money. We want your names, we want your time, we want your enthusiasm, but we also want a little of your money.” [Press Release]

—Detention of Jewish contractor blocking US-Cuba thaw, Clinton writes in new book:“Efforts to ease decades of US-Cuba tensions were stymied by the detention of Jewish American contractor Alan Gross and Havana has used him to avoid rapprochement, Hillary Clinton writes in her new memoir of her time as secretary of state. Clinton said she suspected that some in Cuba are using the Gross case “as an opportunity to put the brakes on any possible rapprochement with the United States and the domestic reforms that would require.” [AP/ToI]

HAPPENING TODAY: Jack Rosen and NORPAC will host Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) at 9:00am for a breakfast fundraiser “with special guest Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)” at the offices of Rosen Partners.

HAPPENING SUNDAY: The Republican Jewish Coalition holds its annual Summer Bash featuring Texas Governor Rick Perry and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel…. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will address the American Jewish Committee’s Annual New Jersey Meeting at the Summit JCC

2014 PRIMARIES UPDATE: Jewish congressional candidate In New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, Mark Dunec, won the Democratic Primary on Tuesday with 77% of the vote. Dunec will be matched against current U.S. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen in the November election…. Jewish Republican Elan Carr advances in Beverly Hills race: With all precincts reporting midday Wednesday, Carr, a deputy district attorney, was sitting in first place with 22 percent of the vote. Carr will square off the fall against Democrat Ted Lieu to succeed Jewish stalwart Henry Waxman. Lieu will be favored in the solidly-blue district encompassing Malibu, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. [Politico]

**Good Friday Morning! Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email editor@jewishinsider.com**

WEEKEND READING: The Tower Magazine’s June Issue is out: Feature stories include “How Corruption is Ruining the Palestinian Future” by Aaron Menenberg; “Jazz from the Promised Land” by Aryeh Teppter; “The Anti-Zionism of J Street” by Aiden Pink; “Nightmare on Sunset Blvd: To Be Jewish at UCLA” by Tessa Nath; and “The Apartheid Libel, Demolished” by Eugene Kontorovich.[TheTowerMag

J STREET CONFERENCE PREVIEW: “In post-Kerry reboot, J Street to pen conference with ex-Palestinian PM”: “As a target of accusation, no major American Jewish organization can rival J Street. Despite, or perhaps because of, the dovish group’s avowed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” watchword, U.S. Jewish critics have demonized J Street as tantamount to Hezbollah, Nazi collaborators, and even Jews for Jesus. At least one accusation seems to have escaped J Street, however: That it is guilty of doing the expected. This weekend in San Francisco – in itself, an unexpected venue for major American Jewish events – J Street’s largest conference of the year is to open with an address by the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Joining Salam Fayyad at the Saturday night inaugural session will be Princeton Professor Daniel Kurtzer, who served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt during the Clinton administration and ambassador to Israel under George W. Bush, as well as jurist and former Israeli UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev.” [Haaretz]

JNF reluctantly agrees to limited transparency: “The board of directors of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) convened a few weeks ago to discuss an unprecedented challenge: two separate initiatives to impose outside supervision on the group, after years in which it operated with no such restrictions. Minutes of the meeting obtained by Haaretz show that some board members considered the initiatives a threat to the organization’s most sacred goals.” [Haaretz]

ICYMI B/C of Shavout: The Jerusalem Post’s List of the “50 Most Influential Jews of 2014”: 1. Jack Lew 2. Janet Yellen 3. Binyamin Netanyahu 4. Shimon Peres 5. Sheldon Adelson 6. Malcolm Hoenlein 7. Avigdor Liberman 8. Adina Bar-Shalom 9. Yair Lapid 10. Naftali Bennett 11. Elie Wiesel 12. Ronald Lauder 13. Steven Spielberg 14. Stanley Fischer 15. Shari Arison 16. Yechiel Eckstein 17. Tzipi Livni 18. Scarlett Johansson 19. Isaac Herzog 20. Ed Milliband 21. Yosef Abramowitz 22. Lynn Schusterman 23. Matthew Bronfman 24. Karnit Flug 25. Joseph Gitler 26. Nir Barkat 27. Natalie Portman 28. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner 29. Irwin Cotler 30. Jeremy Ben-Ami 31. Moshe Kantor 32. Hershey Friedman 33. Ephrat Levy-Lahad 34. Ephraim Mirvis 35. Jonathan Sacks 36. Abe Foxman 37. Idan Raichel 38. Lena Dunham 39. George Soros 40. Vladimir Sloutsker 41. Benny Gantz 42. Daniel Gordis 43. Ester Rada 44. Raphael Mechoulam 45. Dalia Dorner 46. Ofra Strauss 47. Chaim Chesler 48. David Golinkin 49. Marcie Natan 50. Mark Leibler [JPost]

BUZZFEED: The U.S. Has Been Speaking To Hamas Through Back Channels For More Than Six Months: “United States officials have been holding secret back-channel talks with Hamas over the last six months to discuss their role in the newly formed unity government, according to two senior diplomatic sources with direct knowledge of the talks. The meetings were held between U.S. intermediaries and Hamas’ leadership, which lives outside the Gaza Strip in third-party countries ranging from Egypt to Qatar and Jordan. Topics included the ceasefire agreement with Israel and the recently formed unity government between Hamas and Fatah. [BuzzFeed]

TOP-OP: David Horowitz – “12 ways the U.S. administration has failed its ally Israel”:“Washington’s rush to recognize the new Hamas-backed Palestinian government is only the latest in a dismal series of missteps, failures and betrayals.” [ToI]

CLIMBING THE HILLS OF JERUSALEM: On the Capitol, Israeli Ambassador Calls For US Embassy to Relocate in Jerusalem: Israel’s ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told representatives at the May 29 event marking Jerusalem Day, organized by the Israel Allies Foundation, that it’s “finally” time to the U.S. to move the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem…  “Who knows, maybe one day very soon you will decide to move your embassy, finally, to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem,” Dermer said. “In doing so you will not undermine the prospects for peace, you will strengthen the chances for peace because for peace to hold in our region it has to be based on truth…. The decision in the United States, the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, would be a statement in favor of truth and if we have that type of truth, if we make clear to the world the connection of the Jewish people to the Jewish land, the connection of the Jewish people to its capitol in Jerusalem, we will be laying a very, very strong, powerful cornerstone for peace… The best way we can do that is by beginning to speak the truth, by defending Jerusalem and defending the eternal connection that we have to our ancient capital.” [Free Beacon]

— Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) reiterated their support for moving the embassy as well. “I look forward to visiting with you in the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem,” Sherman told the audience.

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Reichmann Real-Estate Dynasty Keeps Feet in Mexico’s ‘Sandbox’:“Most of the developers putting up new office buildings in Mexico City have names that would be known only in Mexico. But there is one name in Mexico City that is known in real-estate circles around the world: Reichmann. The Reichmann family spent the second half of the last century amassing a real-estate empire worth billions of dollars and developing well-known properties such as Canary Wharf in London and World Financial Center in New York. They lost most of it when the recession of the early 1990s drove their company, Olympia & York, into bankruptcy. But the family continues to invest in real estate on a smaller scale under the name Reichmann International, and one of its most active offices is in Mexico City.

“Currently, Reichmann International is developing the 33-story Torre Diana, an office building that will overlook El Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s central boulevard. Torre Diana is due for completion in 2015 in what some real-estate analysts say could be a soft market due to unprecedented office construction around Reforma and weak economic growth in Mexico. In the years after the 1985 earthquake that devastated Mexico City, the Mexican government invited Paul Reichmann, the leader of the family, to consider projects downtown. Despite the Mexican peso crisis in 1994, Mr. Reichmann didn’t give up on Mexico City. While he sold the land he had purchased in Santa Fe, he pressed ahead with a 55-story building called Torre Mayor on Reforma, which opened in 2003. In the past decade, Reichmann International also has invested in student housing and senior housing in North America, but has only been associated with major developments in a few cities including Mexico City and Jerusalem. Mr. Reichmann died in October. His son, Barry, remains active in the business.” [Wall Street Journal]

—Extell, Brookland tap Israeli bond markets to fund NYC projects [RealDeal] — JDS Development & Chetrit Group snap up Downtown Brooklyn site for new tower [DailyNews] — Suit: Art dealer hid $20M painting stolen by Nazis [NYPost] —Lawyer accuses Las Vegas judge of racism, anti-Semitism [ReviewJournal] — For Kentile Floors Sign, Star of Brooklyn Skyline, the End Seems Near [NYTimes]

LETTERS TO WSJ EDITOR: “Don’t Confuse What Kosher Means”: “Shmuly Yanklowitz (“Why This Rabbi Is Swearing Off Kosher Meat,” Houses of Worship, May 30) is entitled to swear off meat if he chooses, but not to pass off his reasons for doing so as having anything to do with Orthodox Judaism. Jewish religious law prohibits the infliction of avoidable pain on animals, and the vast majority of kosher slaughterhouses, overseen and inspected by both governmental agencies and rabbinic supervisors, are entirely sensitive to that law and its implications. “Kosher,” however, has nothing to do with health or “ethics.” There are Jewish ethical laws and Jewish ritual laws. Kashrut is entirely in the latter category. And it is simply not “Orthodox” to contend otherwise.” Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel of America.

—Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher: “The example that Rabbi Yanklowitz brings of downed calves—calves that are too sick or injured to rise to their feet—if anything, demonstrates that kosher slaughter is more stringent than USDA rules. Under USDA regulations, certain downers, as these animals are called, may not be slaughtered, and Rabbi Yanklowitz cites the loophole that slaughterhouses exploit by shocking or lifting the calves to bring them to slaughter. To the extent that these abuses exist, they don’t involve animals slated for kosher slaughter. Under Jewish law, no downer is kosher, period. If Rabbi Yanklowitz chooses no longer to eat kosher meat, that is his choice. To declare kosher slaughter inhumane and unethical should not be his choice. Quite simply, the assertion is untrue.” [WSJ]

REVIEW: Rolling Stones heat up Tel Aviv: “”Good evening Tel Aviv, Happy Shavuot, We are the Rolling Stones!” front man Mick Jagger said in Hebrew, smiling into the microphone. A minute earlier, he discarded his jacket, which was too warm for the sauna-like conditions. Then they were off, and there was no stopping them.” [IsraelHayom]

That’s all folks, have a great Friday!

**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**


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