👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview ATTN’s Matthew Segal about his company’s viral videos, and explore what a potential special election to succeed Rep. George Santos could look like. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Ritchie Torres, Joel Tauber and the Dee family.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) announced he will not seek reelection in 2024. Carper said he’d already spoken to Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), the state’s sole House member, and endorsed her should she choose to seek the Senate seat. Blunt Rochester got her start in Washington as an intern for Carper when he served in the House.
Carper’s departure sets up a domino effect that could see Delaware send the nation’s first transgender legislator to Washington, should Blunt Rochester mount a Senate bid. Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride is “quite likely” to enter the race to succeed Blunt Rochester, a McBride advisor said.
Carper was not the only East Coast senator to drive headlines yesterday. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) launched his 2024 presidential bid in South Carolina, stressing in his speech the need for the U.S. to use its military to curb the power of Iran, China and Russia, which Politico noted, was “[i]n contrast with [former President Donald] Trump.”
Scott’s launch came the same day as a Reuters report that revealed closer ties between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump who is under house arrest as he serves out his 20-month sentence for defrauding investors and various campaign finance violations. Parnas and DeSantis reportedly exchanged dozens of text messages during DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign, with the Florida legislator asking for introductions and fundraising assistance from Parnas.
The Reuters report came days after The New York Times did a deep dive into DeSantis’ recent travel at the expense of donors and political allies, including real estate developer Jeffrey Soffer, whose private jet DeSantis traveled on in February. Soffer, the Times noted, “has sought a change in state law that would allow him to expand gambling to his Miami Beach resort.”
And a leaked memo from Nikki Haley’s team, obtained this morning by Politico, refers to DeSantis as “Trump without the charm” and calls his campaign “far more disorganized” than Trump’s.
While DeSantis is not expected to launch his campaign until next week at the earliest, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is reconsidering a 2024 presidential bid, after ruling out such a move earlier this year.
Tonight in Washington, the Jewish Democratic Council of America will hold a gala featuring former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — who will receive the group’s “defender of democracy” award — and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Fariz Rzayev were among the top-billed speakers this morning at the Herzliya Conference. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi gave today’s keynote.
Speaking at the conference last night, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran of turning commercial ships into “floating terror bases.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have spoken twice in recent weeks — before and after last week’s Arab League summit — The Jerusalem Post reported last night. The calls come amid stepped-up U.S. diplomatic efforts to improve relations with Riyadh, and weeks after National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with MBS in Jeddah. The Saudi crown prince reportedly rejected an ask from Netanyahu for the two leaders to meet.
“You can probably count the number of people who would even know about these calls on one hand. The question then is who has what to gain by leaking it in this way to English-language right-wing press,” an individual with knowledge of regional normalization efforts told us.
Netanyahu, however, was invited, alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog, to attend COP28, the U.N.’s annual climate change summit in November, which is being held this year in Dubai.
In related COP news, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday in Abu Dhabi that Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with the International Renewable Energy Agency and “Global South” countries — nations that are considered to be underdeveloped or developing — ”to reduce political, technical & financial barriers to the energy transition.”
The media entrepreneur making antisemitism education go viral
After former President Donald Trump said in 2017 that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the violent neo-Nazi “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., former body builder, actor and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a short video: “Let’s terminate hate,” he said. His stated recipient was Trump, but instead the video — produced by a digital media startup called ATTN: (pronounced attention), which specializes in creating viral content with a social-justice twist — was viewed by millions. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch talked to ATTN co-CEO Matthew Segal about the company’s decision to spotlight antisemitism in recent years.
Sweeteners: “Our whole theory of change is, Can you find clever and creative ways, sometimes putting chocolate or sugar on vegetables, as they say, to get people to care about things that matter?” Segal said. “It’s catered to people who have shorter attention spans, which is the world we live in.”
Money-maker: Investors have bought into that theory of change — or at the very least, they have identified it as a sound investment decision. ATTN was acquired last year for $150 million by Candle Media, a Blackstone-backed company that operates the brands behind the popular Israeli TV series “Fauda” and Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s production company.
What’s the problem: Since ATTN launched in 2014, antisemitism in America has skyrocketed, leading Segal to feel a deeper sense of urgency to address the problem. “It’s become more important to me as I’ve aged, because you get out in the world, and you see how Jewish people are often portrayed or misportrayed. You see Jewish people who are maligned,” he said. “You see illiberalism on college campuses and throughout society that I think is dangerous for the Jewish people. You see attacks on Israel that really are thinly veiled antisemitism.
Former Rep. Suozzi looks to reclaim old House seat now held by George Santos
Even as Rep. George Santos (R-NY) refuses to resign amid a dizzying swirl of scandals and ongoing investigations, his recent indictment suggests he could be pushed out of office before the end of his term, triggering a possible special election to fill a vacant Long Island swing seat. But while a special election seems increasingly likely at this stage, the race remains highly unpredictable — and it could become even more convoluted should Santos leave office sooner than later. That’s because, if a special election were to be called, party leaders would choose the nominees themselves, adding uncertainty to a regularly scheduled primary that is already well underway, with five Democrats and two Republicans having filed to run in 2024, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Options open: “This is Alice in Wonderland and nobody knows what’s going to happen,” a longtime Republican operative in Nassau County told JI. “For both sides, it’s very frustrating.” Democratic leaders have begun laying the groundwork to pick a candidate if Santos is expelled from Congress or takes a plea deal requiring he step down, according to sources familiar with the process. The conversations have included Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the House minority leader; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party; and Jay Jacobs, who chairs the Nassau County Democratic Party — all of whom are said to wield varying levels of influence in the decision-making process.
Tom’s time? In recent weeks, the three party leaders have spoken with former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), a moderate Democrat who gave up the seat now held by Santos to mount a failed campaign for governor. People familiar with the former congressman’s thinking told JI that Suozzi is leaning toward accepting the nomination for the Nassau County-based district if it is offered, even if he is otherwise unlikely to enter the primary. He declined to comment, and Jeffries, Meeks and Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.
Rubio, Republicans reintroduce bill targeting supporters of Palestinian terror groups
Nearly a dozen Republicans reintroduced a bill last week directing the president to sanction individuals, entities and governments providing support to Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Convoluted history: The bill has been introduced in the Senate twice before, but has struggled to progress. It underwent some significant changes before its latest reintroduction last week. When first introduced in the Senate in 2019, the bill had significant bipartisan support, but was reintroduced in 2021 with only Republican support. In the House, companion legislation has maintained bipartisan backing, and most recently passed the House as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, but was not included in the final bill negotiated with the Senate. It had also passed the House in 2019 by a voice vote, but stalled in the Senate.
Making changes: The latest Senate bill, titled the “Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad International Terrorism Support Prevention Act,” includes a new provision that would create a process for the chair and ranking member of several congressional committees to nominate individuals and entities to be sanctioned, requiring the administration to evaluate whether to impose those sanctions and report back to Congress. The new legislation also places a time limit on presidential authority to waive the sanctions on governments supporting terror groups, limiting the waiver authority for those sanctions to two years after the legislation is enacted. After that point, the sanctions could only be terminated if the administration can affirm that the sanctioned entity no longer supports terrorism or will support terrorism going forward.
⚖️ Ritchie on Reform: In an interview with the Liberal Patriot, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) weighs in on Israel’s domestic debate over judicial reform. “But here’s where I have concerns, and my concerns are true not only of Israeli democracy but every democracy on Earth,” Torres said. “Every democracy needs an independent judiciary, and no legislature, whether it be Congress or the Knesset, should be empowered to overturn the decisions of the court by a simple majority. In a parliamentary system, the executive and the legislature are one and the same, so the need for a check on legislative power is even more important — not less. Those have been my constructive concerns about the particular reforms in Israel. Those concerns apply to every democracy on Earth. But again, it has no bearing on my view of the strategic importance of the American-Israeli relationship.” [LiberalPatriot]
👨🏿 Bowman’s Business: In New York magazine, Ben Jacobs spotlights Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY) recent fiery exchanges with Republican legislators as the New York Democrat settles into a second term in Washington. “Recently, some of the most attention-getting debates in Washington have been outside Congress. As in literally just outside Congress. That’s where New York Democrat Jamaal Bowman has had a number of widely shared interactions challenging and heckling some of his Republican colleagues over the past few months. Unlike the debates that happen inside the House chamber, these have not been encumbered by rules of parliamentary procedure. Instead, they are more like the everyday debates that Americans have with each other about politics, be they at the end of the bar or over a dinner table. They are impassioned and they are messy… Bowman says another part of what’s driving these encounters is his unique background. ‘I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a business person. I’m not a millionaire. I’m not a lifelong politician. I’m an educator, and, you know, a person raised in New York culture — but also hip hop culture. And I think what everyone is seeing is an authentic representative who’s not overly concerned with presenting as a traditional politician.’ He argued that this approach is important because ‘the regular everyday American can connect with what I’m saying, because I’m very serious.’” [NYMag]
🇮🇷 Iran Proposal: In The Hill, United Against Nuclear Iran’s Jason Brodsky suggests the U.S. set up a bipartisan panel to advise the administration on its Iran strategy, similar to proposals from Capitol Hill on how to address China. “Ironically, American legislators have had an easier time finding bipartisanship over the threat from Beijing, the most strategic challenge Washington faces, than from Tehran. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives formed a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. Its charge is to develop a holistic, whole-of-government approach as a framework to guide U.S. policy. Members of the U.S. Senate have likewise proposed the creation of a Grand Strategy Commission on China with a similar mission….This kind of framework should also be developed for Iran policy. A bipartisan, bicameral joint select committee or commission could be established to guide U.S. policy in how to counter the Islamic Republic comprehensively — both on nuclear and non-nuclear matters. Experts and activists should also be consulted, including the Iranian American community, which has demonstrated an unprecedented degree of activism on Iran policy amid the demonstrations in Iran over the last year.” [TheHill]
🇸🇦 Saudi Sojourn: The editors of Tablet magazine explain their decision to send a delegation to report from Saudi Arabia. “The future of the Middle East will therefore largely be determined by the technological and military capabilities of Israel on the one hand, and the economic resources of Saudi Arabia on the other —and the extent to which they can cooperate together against their common existential enemy in Iran. Although Israel’s military power and Saudi Arabia’s economic power dwarf all regional competitors, they can do very little independently — Saudi Arabia because it cannot defend itself, and Israel because it lacks the legitimacy to operate in an explicit leadership role within the Arab Muslim world. The future of the Middle East, in other words, will be determined by how much Israel and Saudi Arabia are able to work together to pursue their own interests. Failure to cooperate will leave the region vulnerable to even more chaos and violence than it’s experienced to date.” [Tablet]
👨 Counting Crow: The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood meets again with real estate developer Harlan Crow, whose friendship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has drawn scrutiny. “The liberal world thinks he orchestrates a vast right-wing conspiracy, because he is in fact surrounded by huge numbers of influential people, some who want his money and access to power, and some who are just friends. But Crow kept insisting that he has little power over the American political scene. Even with his fantastic wealth, he was incapable of preventing the rise of the politicians he most abhors, in particular Donald Trump. And although he often says he wants to go back to being just a normal guy, it is not obvious that a man is normal when he is standing with you in his house next to a life-size mannequin of Winston Churchill and makes no comment about it until prompted. In the one-minute walk to his home office we passed perhaps a hundred objects — paintings, death masks, statues, swords, and other curios — whose presence in any normal guy’s home would have merited a proud explanation. He said he stopped giving tours long ago, after realizing that ‘most people just want to see a rich man’s house.’” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
⏸️ AUMF Angling: Punchbowl News reports that efforts to repeal the Iraq AUMF — which already passed the Senate — are stalled as House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) looks to rewrite the post-9/11 counterterrorism AUMF.
✍️ Writers’ Wrath: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who received an honorary degree and gave a commencement speech at Boston University over the weekend, was booed and heckled by graduating seniors at the event over the ongoing writers’ strike.
🏠 Marked Down: An Aspen, Colo., home belonging to Joel Tauber sold to an unknown buyer for $65 million after being reduced from an initial $100 million asking price.
🏈 One-yard Line: The deal between a group led by Josh Harris and Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder for the former to purchase the capital’s football team is “not there yet” in terms of compliance with the NFL’s ownership rules, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said, but the parties are “trying to do everything we can do to make the deal work.”
🪖 Military Might: The Washington Post’s Max Boot, writing from Kiev, suggests that Ukraine, boosted by Western military support, can emerge as the victor from the conflict with Russia.
🇮🇱 Good Example: Western powers are considering a security arrangement similar to that of Israel’s in order to continue supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia.
🎙️ Public Apology: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour issued an on-air apology to Rabbi Leo Dee after saying last week that Dee’s wife and two of his daughters, who were killed when Palestinian terrorists accosted their car, died in a shootout.
🕵️ Spy Scandal: Iran replaced its top security official, Ali Shamkhani, a key architect of the 2015 nuclear agreement, after a series of corruption scandals and ties to a recently executed British-Iranian citizen charged with espionage.
🇱🇧 Hezbollah Headache: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned Hezbollah’s recent military exercises in Southern Lebanon, in response to a question from United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka.
🇹🇷 Backing Erdogan: Sinan Ogan, who placed third in Turkey’s election last week, endorsed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming runoff against Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
➡️ Transitions: Former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) is joining Oaktree Solutions, the consulting firm started by Frank Carone, a former chief of staff to New York City Mayor Eric Adams. David A. Sherman was named as the new board chair of Israel Policy Forum, succeeding Susie Gelman. Liz Leibowitz, a Hill alum and, more recently, a senior adviser at USAID, joined the One Campaign as senior director of U.S. government relations.
Pic of the Day
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (left) and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the chief rabbi of the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue, write a letter in the new Torah at the Abrahamic Family House synagogue in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Monday. Sarna and Abdulla Al Shehhi, director of the Abrahamic Family House, gave Bloomberg a tour of the interfaith complex during his visit to the region this week.
Founder and chairman of law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, leading DC super-lobbyist but based in Denver, long-time proponent of the US-Israel relationship and national board member of AIPAC, Norman Brownstein turns 80…
Emeritus professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard, Gerald James Holton turns 101… Businessman, attorney and philanthropist, he acquired and rebuilt the iconic restaurant in Miami Beach, The Forge, Alvin Malnik turns 90… Billionaire businessman, optometrist, inventor and philanthropist, Dr. Herbert A. Wertheim turns 84… Former dean of the Yale School of Architecture and founder of an eponymous architecture firm, Robert A. M. Stern turns 84… British fashion retailer and promoter of tennis in Israel, he is the founder, chairman and CEO of three international clothing lines including the French Connection, Great Plains and Toast brands, Stephen Marks turns 77… Special counsel in the NYC office of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan focused on election law, he was in the inaugural class of Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Jerry H. Goldfeder turns 76… Award-winning television writer and playwright, Stephanie Liss turns 73… Israeli diplomat, he served as Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria and as consul general of Israel to Philadelphia, Uriel Palti turns 69… Editor of a book on end-of-life stories, Catherine Zacks Gildenhorn… Israeli businessman Ofer Nimrodi turns 66… President of Newton, Mass.-based Liberty Companies, Andrew M. Cable turns 66… Best-selling author and journalist, whose works include Tuesdays with Morrie, he has sold over 40 million books, Mitch Albom turns 65… Resident scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Reuel Marc Gerecht… Chairman of the board of the Irvine, California-based Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook turns 62… Actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician, H. Jon Benjamin turns 57… Former ski instructor, now rabbi of the Community Synagogue of Rye (N.Y.), Daniel B. Gropper… Film and television director, Nanette Burstein turns 53… Australian cosmetics entrepreneur, now living in NYC, she is known as the “Lipstick Queen,” Poppy Cybele King turns 51… Prominent NYC matrimonial law attorney, Casey Greenfield turns 50… Member of the Knesset for the National Unity Party, she served as Israel’s minister of education in the prior government, Yifat Shasha-Biton turns 50… Retired attorney, now a YouTuber with 564,000 followers and 151 million views, David Freiheit turns 44… President of the Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust, Dylan Tatz… Tech, cyber and disinformation reporter for Haaretz, Omer Benjakob… Professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, Morgan Pressel turns 35… Senior manager of brand and product strategy at GLG, Andrea M. Hiller…