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Interview with Iowa candidate J.D. Scholten | More FEC findings | The ADL’s elite investigator infiltrating online hate groups

J.D. Scholten

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CANDIDATE INTERVIEW — The Iowa Democrat trying to unseat Rep. Steve King — by JI’s Ben Jacobs: In 2018, Democrat J.D. Scholten came close to unseating Republican incumbent Rep. Steve King in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Now, Scholten is returning to take aim at the seat once again. 

Despite the fact that President Donald Trump won the district by 25% in 2016, King only narrowly pulled off a 50%-47% victory two years later. This time around, Scholten is running against a weakened incumbent. King was strippedof his committee assignments in January after musing to The New York Times: “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” 

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Scholten — who formally entered the race earlier this week — said he had “unfinished business” after his last campaign. “When you come as close as we did in a district a lot of people [have] written off for a long time,” Scholten said he felt the need to return to the race. 

The Iowa Democrat said that he fully stands “for a two-state solution when it comes to Israel and was endorsed last time by J Street.” Scholten initially told JI that he did not know how he would have voted on the anti-BDS resolution that passed in the House earlier this month by a margin of 398-17: ”I didn’t read the bill to be perfectly honest, so I’m not comfortable answering that and I read more about farms and [agricultural] stuff.”

His campaign later provided a statement to JI, noting that Scholten is “not opposed to boycott, divestment, or sanctions initiatives that explicitly support a two-state solution, recognizing both Israel’s and Palestine’s right to exist and live in peace. Additionally, I don’t believe it’s the government’s place to dictate the right of people to free speech or protest. It’s protected under the First Amendment, and that has to be protected by our elected officials.”[JewishInsider]

TOP TALKER — Stephen Ross is facing backlash over his decision to hostan upcoming fundraiser for President Donald Trump at his Hamptons mansion on Friday. Some Equinox and SoulCycle customers are reportedly boycotting the high-end gym and cycling studio after learning of Ross’s political activity. Ross is chairman of The Related Companies, which owns Equinox, SoulCycle, and Pure Yoga. Equinox and SoulCycle said in a joint statement on Wednesday that they don’t have “anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it… Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of either business.”

Later Wednesday, Ross — who is also the owner of the Miami Dolphins — said in a statement“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

ADDITIONAL FEC FILING FINDINGS — As the JI team has combed through Federal Election Commission data this week, we’ve come across additional contributions of interest to JI readers.

Pete Buttigieg received maximum donations from media moguls David Geffen, Barry Diller and Emily Blavatnik, the wife of billionaire Len Blavatnik. Also backing Buttigieg is Hyatt Development Corp. CEO Nicholas Pritzker, and award-winning Broadway songwriter Benj Pasek, who donated $4,850.

Leonard Lauder, the chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, gave the maximum contribution to Cory Booker. Manny Friedman, who runs EJF Capital in Washington, D.C., also donated $2,800 to Booker. 

David Magerman, who departed Renaissance Technologies after a publicized dispute with Robert Mercer over the latter’s support for Trump, cut an early check to Booker as well. Magerman told JI in an email: “I love that he talks about God, and that he’s a positive campaigner, not willing to denigrate his opponents personally, even Trump. He’s stronger than most Democratic candidates on Israel.”

Florida donors Michael Adler, Turnberry CEO Jacquelyn Soffer, ABInBev’s David Kamenetzky, and lawyer Andrew Weinstein all maxed out in their support for Joe Biden. Joining them were Simon Property Group chair Herbert Simon, casino magnate Neil Bluhm, and Dallas-based former NJDC chair Marc Stanley. Back in New York, Chuck Schumer’s younger brother Robert, Ely Capital’s Hope Taitz (who also contributed to Michael Bennet), and David Tisch of BoxGroup each gave $2,800 to Biden.

Michael Bennet attracted support from several prominent Jewish leaders. Richard Sandler, immediate past chair of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), and his wife Ellen both gave $2,800 to the senator from Colorado (Sandler also contributed to the campaigns of Booker, Kamala Harris and Steve Bullock). John Shapiro, past president of the American Jewish Committee and the UJA-Federation of New York, and Harry Reid’s former chief of staff, David Krone, also maxed out to Bennet, as did Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan, Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn (who also maxed out to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand), Pershing Square Capital’s Bill Ackman (who Booker and Buttigieg also received max contributions from) and his wife, Israeli MIT professor Neri Oxman, along with former New York City Education Chancellor Joel Klein, who now works for Josh Kushner’s Oscar Health.

They were joined by Denver-based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law partners Norm Brownstein (who also gave the maximum to former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper) and Steven Demby. Oakland A’s owner and chair of the board of KIPP charter schools John Fisher also contributed $2,800 toward Bennet’s campaign. 

Amy Klobuchar also received support from Jewish leaders, including John Shapiro. Current JFNA chair and Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf donated $2,800 to Klobuchar and was joined by his brothers Leonard and Zygi. Zygi Wilf and his wife, Audrey, each donated $5,600. Former AIPAC president Lee Rosenberg gave Klobuchar $2,800 as well. Michael Sonnenfeldt, former chair of the Israel Policy Forum and The Humpty Dumpty Institute, also maxed out to Klobuchar. 

Republican challenger Bill Weld attracted support from Anheuser-Busch Inbev Chief Strategy Officer David Kamenetzky and Kind Bar CEO Daniel Lubetzky. Lubetzky also donated the maximum to the campaigns of Buttigieg, Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

Hollywood actress Amy Schumer donated to Elizabeth Warren, while Steve Buscemi contributed $2,800 to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

DRIVING THE CONVO — Two days after his scripted address to the nation in response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Trump said he’s concerned about the rise of “any group of hate.” Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn Wednesday morning, Trump said: “I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate. I don’t like it. Any group of hate… whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate, I am very concerned about it. And I’ll do something about it.”

CNN reported on Wednesday that the line condemning white supremacy in Trump’s speech Monday morning “was added by his staff at the last minute.” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denied the report, saying: “At the direction of the president, condemning white supremacy was in every draft of the speech.” 

In speeches and off-the-cuff remarks on Thursday, Democratic 2020 candidates voiced perhaps the harshest denunciations of Trump heard during the campaign so far.
Speaking in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump “has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.” He added, “We have a problem with a rising tide of white supremacy in America. And we have a president who encourages and emboldens it.”
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker gave his own speech at Mother Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, the site of a 2016 mass shooting by a white supremacist that killed nine African Americans. Unlike Biden, Booker did not mention Trump by name. Instead, he gave a searing indictment of what he described as the “profound contradiction” underlying the founding of the United States.
“Bigotry was written into our founding documents,” said Booker. “Native Americans in our Declaration of Independence were referred to as ‘savages’ and in our Constitution, black people are fractions of human beings. White supremacy has always been a problem in our American story — if not always at the surface, then lurking not so far beneath it.”
In an interview with MSNBC, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke said that Trump was a “white supremacist.” O’Rourke, a native of El Paso, represented the city in Congress from 2013-2019.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren told The New York Times Wednesday night that the president is undoubtedly a white supremacist. “He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists,” Warren said. “He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”
Trump responded to Biden’s speech on Twitter while traveling from Dayton to El Paso on Air Force One. “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy,” he wrote. 

Dario Aguirre, a Mexican-American immigration lawyer who identifies himself as a Republican, told The New York Times in a recent interview that many of his clients tell him that they feel like “the new Jews” by the way immigrants are now being treated. “It’s something new to my community. We are used to the basic darkness of racism, not this,” he said. 

SCENE IN JERUSALEM — On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation of 41 Democratic House members, led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Israel Katz and AIPAC President Mort Fridman also attended the gathering. [Video]

Netanyahu told the group that “there is an exceptional revolution taking place in Israel’s position in the world… We’re forging new agreements, 300 agreements in three years. Given that we have a lot of holidays here, that’s about one agreement every two days. Something very, very big is happening here.”

Earlier in the day, the delegation met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. During the meeting, Abbas stressed “his rejection of American dictates and decisions related to Jerusalem, refugees, borders and security.”

ON THE HILL — Palestinian and Israeli discovered a shared past when they met as Washington interns  — by Ron Kampeas: “In its 10 years of placing young Palestinian and Israeli leaders with Congress members, no lawmaker asked New Story Leadership for one of each — until Jamie Raskin did. This summer, Eran Nissan and Mohammed Ahmad have been interning in the office of the Maryland Democrat, bonding over constituent work. No one knew until well into the summer, however, that the two young men had a deeper connection than they realized.” [JTA]

2020 BRIEFS — A new national poll suggests the primary could soon turn into a two-way contest between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren… Sanders campaign to host softball game against press at Iowa’s Field of Dreams… Julián Castro responds to Trump attack: ‘Joaquin and I will keep fighting’… Kamala Harris plunges in post-debate polling

TRAGEDY — The body of a 19-year-old IDF soldier in civilian clothing was discovered stabbed to death and dumped in the area of Gush Etzion Thursday morning. The soldier was identified as Dvir Sorek, a resident of the Ofra settlement and a student at the national-religious Machanayim Yeshiva in Migdal Oz. Netanyahu issued a statement saying that security forces were “in pursuit now in order to capture the despicable terrorist and bring him to account.”

Later Thursday, Netanyahu, visiting Beit El, said that when “reprehensible terrorists come to uproot; we come to plant. They come to destroy; we come to build. We will apprehend those who seek our lives and we will deepen our roots in all parts of our homeland.”

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu’s boxed in and could be finished at next election — by Gwen Ackerman: “Time may be running out for Benjamin Netanyahu. An unprecedented loyalty oath suggests just how rocky his standing might be. Weeks after becoming Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu seems no better positioned to form a government following the Sept. 17 election than he was after failing in May and calling a snap revote… if another coalition-building impasse emerges, he may be pressed to resign.” [Bloomberg

** Good Thursday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? 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 **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital makes first marijuana investment [BloombergForbes] • Leon Black’s Apollo scores victory over dissident investors [FinancialTimes] • WeWork’s latest pursuits? Martin Scorsese, an NBC show and Amazon comparisons [RealDeal] • WeWork revamp creates tax benefit for company insiders [FinancialTimes] • Strauss Zelnick, the interim chair of CBS, isn’t likely to stick around if CBS merges with Viacom [TheInformation] • Endeavor hires eBay executive Guy Schory as first chief digital officer [Deadline] 

MORE BRIEFS: Salesforce to buy Israel’s ClickSoftware for $1.35b [Reuters] • Hackman Capital partners purchases MBS Group for $650 Million [LABusinessJournal] • Silverstein Properties unveils New York City’s largest office terrace at 3 WTC [CommercialObserver] • Israel’s Teva Pharm profit falls less than expected, CFO to leave [Reuters] • Ment[dot]io wants to help your team make decisions [TechCrunch• Elbit wins $80m Asian tank upgrade deal [Globes] • Jeffrey Tarrant, pioneering hedge fund investor, dies at 63 [Bloomberg• American Airlines unveiled its summer 2020 international routes, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth to Tel Aviv beginning on Sept. 9 [Twitter]

Leslie Wexner says Jeffrey Epstein ‘misappropriated vast sums of money from me’ — by Khadeeja Safdar: 
“In a letter Wednesday, [Wexner] wrote to members of his Wexner Foundation that the missing funds were uncovered after Mr. Wexner decided in 2007 to sever ties with Mr. Epstein… ‘We discovered that he had misappropriated vast sums of money from me and my family,’ Mr. Wexner wrote in the letter… ‘I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein… I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path.'” [WSJ]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Israel’s Black Mirror unicorn shows deep cracks — by Orr Hirschauge: “Yoram Kraus says his billion-dollar Israeli tech startup, Infibond, was born from his love of extreme mountain climbing and a fear of how his family would struggle if he ever had a fatal accident… His wild ideas — coupled with a natural charisma — have made Kraus, by some measures at least, one of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs. He has raised millions of dollars for Infibond, with a most recent valuation of $1.25bn, winning the company a place in Israel’s elite group of billion-dollar startup unicorns… [but] the firm faces a number of lawsuits from past investors, [and] has yet to find a first paying customer.” [Sifted]

Israeli woman convicted in $145M scheme to defraud investors — by Michael Kunzelman: “Lee Elbaz, 38, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 9 by a federal judge in Maryland following her conviction on three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud… Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison… Elbaz was CEO of Yukom Communications, an Israel-based company that operated in the ‘binary options’ industry under the brand names BinaryBook and BigOption. Elbaz trained employees to lie to investors and rigged the odds against them making and recouping any money.” [AP]

INVISIBLE STAR — Is is possible to stop a mass shooting before it happens? — by Andrea Stanley: “An elite investigator who tracks angry men online, she’s known to some in her field as the Savant because of her uncanny ability to suss out when, exactly, hate speech will morph into violent action… I’d heard about the Savant from one of her colleagues at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), where she works closely with law enforcement agencies. And after several weeks of discussion, she’d agreed to speak with me only if I promised to withhold major details, including her location and exactly how she does her work. Two weeks before I met her, I still didn’t know her name… When I ask Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, if there are other people like K, he tells me there are other people who do what she does but no one like her. Because it’s not just her intuition — it’s that she literally never forgets a face.” [Cosmopolitan]

DEEP DIVE — I found the outer limits of my pro-choice beliefs — by Chavi Eve Karkowsky: “I am an American ob-gyn. In most states in my native country, third-trimester abortions are illegal or nearly inaccessible… here in Israel, abortion is widely available and can be offered until delivery. A subtle abnormality, such as the one I saw in that ultrasound room outside Tel Aviv, can prompt a discussion of pregnancy termination. Even at 35 weeks. Within the American abortion debate, I am pro-choice in a concrete way… In Israel, everything was different — perhaps including me. In that dark room, I felt lost, as I confronted the outer borders of my pro-choice beliefs.” [TheAtlantic]

TALK OF THE TOWN — Philanthropists putting $1.5 Million toward prep for specialized high schools’ test — by Leslie Brody: “Two philanthropists say they are spending an additional $1.5 million on their campaign to preserve the admissions test to elite New York City high schools, this time by providing free test preparation and advertisements encouraging more students to take the exam. Billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder, a Bronx High School of Science alum, and Richard Parsons, former chief executive of Time Warner Inc., said through a spokesman they aimed to help talented low-income students in underrepresented communities get into the eight specialized high schools. ‘With this investment in free test prep, we will lift kids up to achieve their God-given potential,’ said Mr. Lauder in an email.” [WSJ]

Racial slurs, swastika painted near Ohio house that exploded; hate-crime probe underway — by Elisha Fieldstadt: 
“A house explosion in Ohio is being investigated as a hate crime after investigators found racial slurs and a swastika on the home’s garage and two of a neighbor’s cars… The house in Sterling, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, collapsed in the blast early Wednesday morning… No one was injured because the couple living in the home had moved out last month after an electrical fire.” [NBCNews]

A yearslong battle over Franz Kafka’s legacy ends in Jerusalem — by Isabel Kershner: “The notebook and materials arrived recently at the National Library of Israel from Zurich, where they had been held in safe deposit boxes. They are the final batch of a vast trove of original texts and manuscripts by the celebrated German-speaking, Jewish writer that had been entrusted to a friend. The retrieval of this last portion of the archive from a Swiss bank vault is the culmination of more than a decade of tortuous courtroom wrangling over the writer’s papers that many have likened to a Kafka novel, as well as a more scholarly argument between Israel and Germany over the ownership of the cultural legacy and its rightful home.” [NYTimes]

Gazans struggle to protect antiquities from neglect, looting — by Fares Akram and Khalil Hamra: “Hamas has done little to protect Gaza’s antiquities and in some cases actively destroys them… Ayman Hassouna, professor of history and archaeology at Gaza’s Islamic University, blames Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas equally for not protecting the territory’s cultural heritage. He says Israel confiscated artifacts from archaeological digs in the decades it occupied Gaza and did little to prevent antiquities trafficking. Palestinian authorities governing Gaza since 1995 have ‘attacked many archaeological sites — either intentionally or not,’ he said.” [AP]

DESSERT — Miami Beach has a smokin’ new barbecue spot — and it’s kosher — by Shireen Sandoval: “Smoke ’em if you got ’em. And that’s exactly what a new barbecue joint in the 305 is doing with a twist… Located inside South Beach’s Lincoln Eatery food hall, Smoke’d is all about the quality of its meat, like with their burgers.” [WSVN]

REMEMBERING — David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains) dead at 52: “David Berman, the poet and songwriter known for his projects Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, has died… Berman formed Silver Jews in the late ’80s with Pavement members Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich. The group went through multiple lineup changes and released six studio albums between the years of 1994 and 2008. Berman remained the only constant member of the band during that time period.” [Pitchfork]

BIRTHDAYS: U.S. Ambassador to Israel since 2017, he was previously a NYC-based bankruptcy attorney whose clients included Donald Trump, Ambassador David Melech Friedman turns 61… Professor emerita at the Graduate School of the City University of New York and mother of Bill Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb turns 97… Chair emerita of the Drug Free America Foundation, she has been married to Ambassador Mel Sembler since 1953, Betty Sembler turns 88… Actor and director, with a career in film, television, and theatre, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer and in 1989 for Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman turns 82…

Arlington Heights, Illinois resident, Elizabeth Gordon turns 76… Dutch diplomat and politician, he served at the Dutch mission to the UN (1970-1977), then as a member of the Dutch House of Representatives (1982-2006) including the last four years as Speaker, Frans Weisglas turns 73… Greenwood Village, Colorado resident, Robert M. Schwartz turns 70… Tampa, Florida resident, Roy D. Pulliam turns 66… Vancouver, Washington resident, Juliana E. Miles Bagherpour turns 62… CEO of BusinessGhost, a ghostwriting firm that has written and published over 700 books, including 18 national best sellers, he has completed more than a dozen triathlons since 2002, Michael Graubart Levin turns 61…

EVP and general counsel at Revolution, he was previously a Chief of Staff to both VP Al Gore (1995-1999) and VP Joe Biden (2009-2011), in 2014-2015 he served as Ebola “Czar,” Ron Klain turns 58… Film director whose works include 9 Disney films, Jon Turteltaub turns 56… Founder and former CEO of D.C.-based Connections Media (2004-2018), Jonah Seiger turns 48… Orthodox Jewish blogger (Torahmusings) who serves as the book editor and a member of the editorial committee of the Orthodox Union’s “Jewish Action” magazine, Rabbi Gil Ofer Student turns 47…

MLB pitcher (2005-2018) and now director of strategic initiatives for the Chicago Cubs, Craig Breslow turns 39… Peoria, Illinois native, now a senior strategist at West End Strategy Team, Sarah Garfinkel turns 30… Manager of content development at Omaze, a Los Angeles-based fundraising firm, Morgan Furlong turns 27… Internet celebrity and fitness model, Jennifer Leigh “Jen” Selter turns 26… Skokie, Illinois native, now the Director of One-Trip Cities at Honeymoon Israel Foundation, he was previously the Michigan Associate Area Director for AIPAC, Zachary Pellish… Jack Baum… Rob Schwartz… 

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