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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Sherrod Brown’

J Street Boasting of Defeating Israel’s Friends, But its Relevance Is Questionable

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Given the large election majority received by President Obama and many other of their favored candidates, a reasonable morning-after position for a group such as J Street would be one of quiet satisfaction, or even – why not? – gleeful rejoicing.

But J Street, which has rarely met a critic of Israel it didn’t like, instead tried to promote itself as an integral part of the campaign, a driving wind propelling Democratic victories. So eager to claim a starring role, J Street released details of several exit polls they commissioned which, upon examination, tell far more about how little J Street matters.

But first, to refresh your memory regarding the quality of candidates supported by J Street:

In the Wisconsin race for U.S. Senator, the Democratic contender, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, defeated former Wisconsin governor Republican Tommy Thompson. Although Israel was not much of an issue in the race, the Emergency Committee for Israel, a staunchly pro-Israel organization with conservative political roots, aired an ad attacking what they called Baldwin’s anti-Israel position during her congressional career.

ECI said Baldwin was “nothing less than hostile to the U.S.-Israel alliance. She has accused Israel of war crimes, befriended anti-Israel groups, refused to sign bipartisan letters of support for Israel, and defended the libelous Goldstone Report.”

Yes, that was J Street’s candidate in that race.

J Street supported Cheri Bustos in the 17th Congressional District of Illinois, and she defeated Republican Bobby Schilling. Unlike Baldwin, Bustos has nothing whatsover to say about foreign policy. Her issues are jobs, the economy, Medicare and Social Security, and the second Amendment. But in losing Schilling, Israel has lost a great friend in Congress, with a 0 rating by the Arab American Institute.

There goes another J Street-targeted friend of Israel.

And, as was to by expected, J Street threw their support behind the CAIR and Hamas man in Washington, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He is a regular at CAIR fundraisers and pro-Hamas rallies. A former member in Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Ellison has also participated, later in life, in interfaith dialogue (mostly with Reform rabbis). Even if we were to discard past accusations of Antisemitism and his defense of Farrakhan – what business does a Jewish PAC have supporting him?

J Street also supported Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, one of the most widely recognized anti-Israel members of Congress. With a +3 rating by the Arab American Institute, Dingell voted No on withholding US contributions until the UN retracts accusations of Israeli war crimes, on opposing any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and Absent on a bill to ensure that United States taxpayer dollars are not used to fund terrorist entities in Lebanon. What point is J street making by giving him PAC money, and why are they so happy he won?

LITTLE ACTUAL INFLUENCE

The above short list demonstrates rather well J Street’s agenda in these elections, but the fact that candidates they supported have won does not mean that the organization’s contribution actually got them over the threshold.

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, boasted in an email sent out to thousands with the subject line “Astounding! J Street Goes 71 for 70 on Election Day,” but with respect to Jewish voters—whom J Street claims it represents, and whom it is trying to persuade—in very few of the campaigns in which it contributed heavily did the Jewish voters who were in play make a difference.

In an upstate New York race, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) was defeated by the man she herself had defeated two years ago, Dan Maffei. J Street backed Maffei, but the hot issue in that race was abortion, not Israel. Maffei successfully tied Buerkle to Missouri’s Republican contender for Senator Todd Akin, notorious for his unfortunate “legitimate rape” comment.

In Florida, Republican Rep. Allen West was defeated by Patrick Murphy in an extremely tight race. West was redistricted out of his comfortable seat, and Israel was far down on the list of issues on which Murphy focused.

In Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth defeated sitting Congressman Joe Walsh. Walsh is an ardent Israel supporter, but the district they battled over is a majority Democratic one, and Duckworth had received the endorsement of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The focus of her attention was energy, the economy and education – not Israel.

And in Ohio, where Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown handily won over his upstart Republican challenger Josh Mandell, a New York Times editorial written by Mitt Romney back in 2oo8 probably did more to defeat any Ohio Republican challenger for office in 2012. In this state, second only to Michigan for auto-related employment, Romney’s opposition to the automobile industry bailout and his op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” was just too much of a kick in the home state face to overcome. Even though what Romney actually called for was a re-structuring of the car companies, a “managed bankruptcy,” the details were swept away while the headline hung there and hanged the Republicans.

It is clear that J Street’s role in this year’s election was basically irrelevant, and certainly far humbler than its own superlative: “astounding.” While revealing just how unabashedly anti-Israel their choices are, Ben-Ami et al simply have not demonstrated that they mobilized the Jewish vote in a direction it wasn’t already following.

DISMAYING POLL RESULTS

The Republican Jewish Coalition also released poll results, in which they tracked the same few Jews, in virtually the same ways, and received pretty much the same results.

In the broadest terms: Obama won. He won big amongst Jews. No argument from either group. According to the RJC, Romney received just under 32 percent of the votes cast by Jews, according to J Street, Romney received 30%. Not such a big difference.

Where the information and the analysis did begin to differ, was in determining whether there was a significant decrease in Jews voting for Obama this election, versus 2008. While most agreed that Barack Obama received approximately 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, J Street is now claiming that a more recent calculation revised that number downwards to 74%. With the four fewer percentage points in 2008, and a two point lower estimate in 2012, the differences become more significant.

If, as the RJC claims, there was a 10% increase in Jews voting for the Republican presidential candidate, which amounts to a 50% gain (22% of American Jews cast their vote for McCain in 2008, and 32% of American Jews cast their vote for Romney in 2012), that reflects a recognizable and significantly growing trend, albeit with only two data points.

If you accept J Street’s sudden revision of historic facts, claiming that a greater percentage of Jews cast their votes for the Republican candidate in 2008, and, consequently, that somewhat fewer Jews voted for Romney this time around, the loss of Jewish voters to the Democratic candidate becomes only four percentage points, which means that over the lifetime of Obama’s “blocking back,” J Street, there have not been nearly as many Jews jumping from the Democrats’ ship.

Either way, of course, far fewer Jews cast their votes for President Obama this time around, and either way, of course, President Obama remains in office for four more years.

First, the information provided by the exit polls paints an alarming picture, even without looking at whom the respondents chose.

For Jewish Press readers, there’s a frightening picture that calls out for action: American voting Jews don’t care all that much about Israel, and they really don’t care about Israel’s number one concern: Iran.

The J Street and the RJC polls asked the question slightly differently, but either way, only about 10% of American Jews consider Israel to be an issue that drives their voting decisions (J Street poll), and for more than 21% Israel is of no importance in making the decision for whom to vote (RJC poll). To look on the bright side, slightly more than 75% consider Israel to be either very important (30.2%) or somewhat important (46.3%). But still, we are talking about Jews here, not the general public.

The denominational breakdown between the two polls is of vital interest: 11.9% of the RJC poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 31.1% identified as Conservative, while only 10% of the J Street poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 27% identified as Conservative. In both polls the largest denomination was the Reform movement.

Only the RJC poll asked about synagogue attendance, but the responses there were interesting. Slightly more than 25% of those answering the poll claimed they attend synagogue almost every day or once a week, but 13.9% said they never attend, and nearly 2% refused to answer the question.

One quirky finding is who received high favorability ratings. President Obama garnered a 60% favorability rating, the second highest of those included in the question (Bill Clinton received the highest). But Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a 59% rating, beating even Vice President Joe Biden, who came in with a 54% rating. And DNC Chair Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a 46% favorability rating — that’s far below any of the other Democrats, Netanyahu, or the Democratic Party as a whole.

Although Iran and Israel are not significant voting issues for American Jews, fewer than half of those polled think that sanctions and diplomacy as tools for dealing with Iran’s nuclear race should be given more time, and a full 35% think those methods have failed.

The RJC poll asked about respondents’ understanding of Barack Obama’s attitude towards Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Nearly 45% believe Barack Obama is more pro-Israel, 22.8% more pro-Palestinian, and 17.4 believes he is neutral, while a full 15.3 either refused to answer the question or said they did not know.

So, strangely enough, while J Street cannot show serious influence in this election, essentially cheering races that would have been won without them – the overall picture emerging from the polls of Jewish voters’ attitudes are an icy shower to American Jews with traditional Jewish values.

Yori Yanover contributed to this article.

Ohio Jew Tossed Out of Sen. Brown Event for Asking about J Street Funding

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

See an update at the end of this report.

In what originally was supposed to be a slam dunk, US Senator Sherrod Brown’s race for reelection in Ohio against the youthful Republican Josh Mandell may instead be turning into a squeaker, and Brown is none too happy about it.

Brown originally had as much as a 17 percentage point lead, but according to a report in Bloomberg, several polls last month showed the race to be deadlocked.  Mandell claims the race has become intense because Ohioans are increasingly turned off by the “ultra-liberal, hyper-partisan” Brown, while Brown claims that millions of dollars in negative ads have been run against him by “outside, undisclosed interest groups.”

One Ohioan found out just how testy this race has made Sherrod Brown. Following a talk he gave at the Dayton, Ohio Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, September 18, Senator Brown invited questions.  There were a few tough questions put to the Senator by business owners opposed to President Obama’s healthcare legislation, and a softball question about how to contact the Senator’s office.

And then 32-year old Ohio native Joel Griffith stood up.  Griffith said, “I’m a proud Jewish American and I’m concerned that the single biggest entity funding you is J Street.  J Street has given you $60,000, and as you know, J Street is funded by an attorney for the Saudi Embassy and has also been funded by the producer of one of the most anti-Semitic films ever made …” but Griffith was not allowed to finish his question. The Senator’s first response was that Griffith’s was “clearly a political question.”

True, but the Senator is a politician who was engaging in politics.   The political question doctrine only forecloses the judicial branch from addressing a particular issue.  In fact, political questions are reserved exclusively to the legislative branch of which Senator Brown is hoping to remain a part.

But as Griffith sought to continue asking his question, and paused to ask whether it was okay if he filmed the exchange, Senator Brown cut him off and told Griffith to “talk to that man in the back of the room who is Jewish,” because that Jewish man supports Brown and “knows that I am pro-Israel.”

On his third attempt to get out his question, the frustrated Griffith began once again, saying, “What do you say to those Jewish Americans who are very concerned…”  But again, Brown cut him off.  The Senator instead told Griffith what he should do before Brown would answer him.  Senator Brown told his constituent, “You find out where the $18 million came from that is funding ads against me,” and said Griffith could then come back and ask his question next year.  The Senator then wrapped up that portion of the program.

Griffith waited patiently while the Senator remained in the room speaking informally to others who were present at the event.  Just as Griffith was once again about to ask the senator about the J Street funding, a Chamber of Commerce official approached and told him he had to leave the premises because it was a “private event.” However, the event had been publicized, Griffith had informed the Chamber that he would be attending the event, and the Chamber had confirmed his response.

The Jewish Press caught up with Griffith the day after his failed efforts to draw out the Ohio Senator on his J Street funding. Griffith is a lawyer by training but is currently an investor with Avatar Securities.

The J Street funding issue was so important to him, Griffith said, because “J Street has been trying to promote policies that are inconsistent with Israel’s security and against America’s security, and yet politicians who work with them then claim they are pro-Israel because they are siding with a Jewish organization.”

Griffith pointed out that “J Street gives more money to Senator Brown than any other single entity, including Ohio State University,” which he thought was very odd, especially considering Brown’s complaint about outside money playing an outsized role in his opponent’s war chest.

Griffith is a political conservative and is very concerned about the role of anti-American and anti-Israel efforts on Capital Hill.  Although Brown has never opposed the funding of aid to Israel, Griffith was particularly bothered by his refusal to sign a bi-partisan “Peace Principles” letter that was circulated in 2009 by AIPAC and which was signed by more than three quarters of all senate members.

Jewish Senator Wannabe in FBI Probe over Campaign Donations

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel is returning $105,000 in campaign contributions, because those contributions may have been given in a fraudulent manner. The FBI is investigating possible campaign finance violations.

The Cleveland Jewish News reports that the donations in question came from 21 employees of the Suarez Corporation Industries in North Canton and from their spouses.

On the company website, Benjamin and Nancy Suarez tout their own philanthropic efforts on behalf of women, particularly breast cancer research and women’s shelters, which “give hope to thousands in need and inspire their associates to do the same.”

But their employees’ contributions to Mandel’s campaign raised suspicions, because they were made by individuals who never before had made campaign donations, and whose income didn’t appear high enough to enable them to be this generous.

FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson confirmed on Wednesday to the Cleveland Jewish News that the Bureau had interviewed the SCI employees in question and have already requested documents from the company and the campaign.

The FBI is also probing the campaign of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth), who received similar-sized contributions from SCI personnel.

Mandel Campaign spokesman Travis Considine on Thursday said the money was returned on Tuesday to the 21 individuals. Mandel, who was sworn into office as state treasurer in January, 2011, is running against Democratic incumbent Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer got hold of a letter from Mandel’s campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler, saying the campaign is giving back “any contributions that appear to be under investigation by federal authorities.”

“We believe we have no reason to be concerned with the contribution, but out of an abundance of caution and until the investigation is complete, we believe this course of action is most appropriate,” Ms. Kessler’s letter said.

Democrats were delighted Mandel had to give back the funds.

“Josh Mandel is a politician who can’t be trusted, and the fact he has been shamed into returning $105,000 in illegal contributions only after an FBI investigation became public goes right along with hiring unqualified political cronies and missing every single board of deposit meeting his first year in office,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Friends of Sherrod Brown.

Federal campaign finance law prohibits a donor from contributing in someone else’s name to get around the $5,000 limit. Election law also prohibits a corporation from reimbursing employees for their contributions.

Benjamin Suarez said his employees were not reimbursed by him or his company.

Josh Mandel is the 48th Treasurer of the State of Ohio, having been elected as the top vote-getter of all statewide executive candidates, winning 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Mandel enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 2000, where he graduated first in his class from Marine Corps Boot Camp and first in his class from Marine Corps Intelligence School. His Marine Corps career spanned eight years, including two tours in Anbar Province, Iraq. During both tours he was awarded the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal for “superior performance of his duties.”

Meet Josh Mandel, Rising Ohio Jewish GOP Rock Star

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Meet Josh Mandel, who won the Ohio GOP primary and will take on Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in the fall. A new-age GOP, his fiscal policy comes down to this: he says the country needs to undertake “sweeping regulatory reform.”

Mandel, 34, has been compared to the other dashing, young conservative, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.. Next week, Rubio is coming to Ohio to campaign with Mandel. “This guy is the real story coming out of Ohio,” one longtime GOP consultant in the state tells me. “He’s the rock star of the party.”

He has a serious battle ahead, against incumbent Brown, who holds a double-digit lead over the former Marine in polls. But he is not discouraged.

Brown will “still be beating us in the polls probably through the summer, maybe even into the early fall,” Mandel said. “The only poll we care about is Election Day and on Election Day, we’re going to win. He has an advantage in that he’s got great name ID. His name ID, his name recognition, is in the mid-90s. He also has a significant disadvantage in that everyone knows who he is but still less than half the people want to rehire him. Our challenge, our main obstacle, is building up our name recognition, getting known throughout the state of Ohio.”

The Atlantic’s Molly Ball asked what makes Mandel think he’s ready to be a U.S. senator. She reports: “Mandel looks me gravely in the eye” and responds:

“The Constitution,” he says, pausing for effect, “says that you have to be 30 years old. And I think the people who wrote the United States Constitution had a wisdom about them that was very special, and a vision for America that should be appreciated.”

Another long pause. “I served two tours in Iraq? In the Marine Corps?” he says. “I’m the treasurer of the state of Ohio, where, when the United States credit rating was downgraded for the first time in American history, and 14 government funds around the country were downgraded, we earned the highest rating we could earn on our $4 billion investment fund. Where we navigated the European sovereign debt crisis with a yield, rather than a significant loss like so many other — er, unlike so many other — a loss — you know what I’m trying to say. With a yield rather than a loss, when so many other corporations and organizations and governments lost money around the country.”

Mandel is a strong supporter of Israel. He and his wife Ilana were married in Jerusalem in 2008.

Mandel was a member of AIPAC at the Ohio State University. In 2008, he attended the 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C, where he gave an address, and was quoted as saying “It was inspiring, the young people so motivated and gung ho about strengthening the Israel-United States relationship…Israel is our best friend and ally in the Middle East and it’s important that we maintain a strong and lasting relationship with them.”

At that conference, Mandel stated Iran was a threat, and discussed his divestment initiatives as a legislator in Ohio.

In February 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli government issued a statement thanking Mandel for his support of the operation.

In May 2009, Mandel was a panel participant at the 2009 Awards and Installation Dinner held by the World Alliance for Israel PAC in the Los Angeles area.

In 2010 the OhioDaily obtained a copy of a letter sent to then Republican Treasurer candidate Josh Mandel from Canton, Oh. Rabbi Leah Herz, who scolded the young Mandel for race-bating:

Mr. Mandel, I do not question your heroism, and like all decent Americans I applaud your sacrifices while serving in our military.  As a Rabbi however, I say, “shame, shame” on the way you have behaved.  You are not a Nice Jewish Boy.

OK, so not everybody loves him…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/meet-josh-mandel-rising-ohio-jewish-gop-rock-star/2012/03/08/

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