GOP Bigwigs Skipping the Big Show
Four years ago, Jewish Republicans rallied voters and party insiders around the “Obama, Oy vey!” slogan. This year, it’s “Oy vey iz mir! “(Woe is me!).
Jewish donors, bundlers, and party insiders are staying away from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week, where delegates are set to nominate Donald Trump as the party’s nominee for president.
Since 1988, the Republican Jewish Coalition has hosted party leaders and rising stars at receptions on the sidelines of the national conventions. In 2012, over 20 elected officials and congressional candidates appeared at a reception attended by some 400 people. “For Jewish Republicans, it was a wonderful time to gather with like-minded members of the tribe from all over the country and talk politics,” Executive Director Matt Brooks wrote after the convention. “The caliber of speakers and the size of our events say a great deal about the place of Jewish Republicans in the GOP and how welcome our community is in the party of Lincoln.”
This year, however, the group is not expected to hold any grandiose or public events, according to JTA. One scheduled event is a “Salute to Pro-Israel Elected Officials – Featuring Governors and the Top Leadership of the House and Senate” reception, billed as a community event, on Thursday, July 21.
A Wall Street Journal report on Sunday quoted several Jewish Republicans who pointed to Trump’s recent comments as the reason for their continued resistance to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The paper also noted that RJC members have so far contributed a mere $5,400 to Trump’s campaign, compared to at least $16.5 million which they gave to Mitt Romney’s campaign and his super PAC at this time in 2012.
As part of its coverage of the Republican National Convention, Jewish Insider surveyed over a dozen Jewish donors, most of them board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who have been featured in this election season. Of those who responded to our inquiry, only three said they are going to the convention, and they each had a reason not related to Trump.
Houston-based Fred Zeidman, who sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition and is a longtime Bush family donor, told Jewish Insider he doesn’t have “any compelling reason” to go to Cleveland. “I was all in for Jeb (Bush),” he said, “and once he dropped out, I just decided to be a spectator.”
Jay Zeidman, his son, who also raised money for Jeb Bush and is close with George P. Bush, said he’s intentionally skipping the convention. “It is sad that so many people who spoke out against Trump are now willing to support him just because he’s the nominee,” Zeidman told Jewish Insider on Monday.
Donors, he said, should rather put their energy into supporting vulnerable incumbents in crucial House and Senate races than vote for an “egomaniac who uses Twitter bullying tactics to communicate his message of division, petty attacks, and lack of policy depth.”
Once described as “the power couple of Republican Jewish money in politics,” Charlie and Lisa Spies also confirmed they are skipping the convention.
While Mr. Spies cited business duties preventing him from taking the week off, Lisa Spies said she’s not attending the convention for the first time because she wasn’t able to find donors or Republican Jewish women willing to attend events in support of Trump.
“Usually, for the past several conventions, I go and I organize two types of events. One is for women and the other is for Jewish Republicans,” Spies explained in an interview on Tuesday. “Those seem to be one of the many groups that our current nominee hasn’t really shown affection for. Therefore there hasn’t really been a need for an event. It’s really hard to do a women’s group for Trump event when there’s no ‘Women for Trump.'”
At the 2012 convention in Tampa, as many as 3,000 people attended an event Spies organized for Ann Romney and Janna Ryan.
“I’m not sure if there’s a luncheon this time honoring Melania (Trump),” she remarked. “Nobody knows who she is and they haven’t really had a women’s effort. The only thing they’ve done with women is offend them. The only thing our candidate has done with women is offend them. I have not heard him say anything positive about women besides for ones that he thinks look good. That doesn’t warrant an event.”
Other donors cited business duties, offered no particular reason, or did not respond to our inquiry.
“Donald Trump, despite his life of privilege, represents a grassroots revolt against the donor class,” opined Michael Fragin, a GOP consultant, who is also skipping the convention. “He has gone out of his way to offend Republican donors, especially the Jewish ones at the RJC. Why attend a party that celebrates the defeat of the donor class?”
According to Spies, Trump can still mend fences with the Jewish community since he’s still largely unknown to them. “I hate the term never Trump,” she said. “Never say never. I hate that. But, he hasn’t done anything. The clock is ticking.”