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JNF: We didn’t pay Clinton

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JNF in America is making it clear it was British JNF that paid President Clinton $400,000 for speaking engagements. (Robert A. Cumins)

JNF in America is making it clear it was British JNF that paid President Clinton $400,000 for speaking engagements. (Robert A. Cumins)

NEW YORK, June 18 (JTA) — The Jewish National Fund is distancing itself from a news report that its British counterpart paid President Clinton a total of $400,000 for three speaking engagements last year. “We want our donors to know that it’s not JNF of America,” said JNF’s director of communications, Sarina Roffe. “We don’t believe, as an organization, that we should be paying large honoraria. It’s not something we do or have done for the last five years.” JNF’s executive vice president, Russell Robinson, said JNF does not rely on such events for fund raising, in part because “soft costs” such as staffing make these events less effective than personal fund raising. “Having dinners by paying major personalities is not the way we want to do it,” Robinson said. “I want people to raise money for JNF, not for a Lou Rawls concert.” JNF’s missive, to both mainstream and Jewish publications, came after a report published Saturday in The New York Times that said Clinton earned $9.2 million from speaking fees during his first year out of office. The story, which used material from The Associated Press wire service as well, said Clinton gave 59 speeches to investment banks, “Jewish and Israeli groups,” public relations companies, advertising agencies and others, according to financial disclosures by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). While the story did not mention JNF by name, it did include the full financial disclosure form, which showed that Clinton spoke with eight Jewish groups in all, including JNF chapters in the United Kingdom. On Dec. 10, 2001, Clinton spoke to the JNF chapter in Glasgow, Scotland, which paid him $133,334. The following day he spoke to the JNF’s Manchester chapter and on Dec. 12 to the London JNF, roughly the same amount he receives for his speech in Glasgow. Clinton also spoke to the Hebrew Home and Hospital in West Hartford, Connecticut, on Dec. 2, for $125,000; to the American Israel Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, on Nov. 11, for $125,000; to the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center in El Paso, Texas, on Oct. 3, for $125,00; to the Canada Society for Yad Vashem in Toronto, on June 25, for $125,000; and to Old York Temple Beth Am, in Abington, Pa., on April 22, for $125,000. In response to the Times story, JNF asked the paper and the AP for a “clarification,” Roffe said, in order to make clear that the U.S.-based JNF and the British JNF “are completely separate entities.” The AP filed a clarification on Monday. “Clinton’s speeches were paid for by the Jewish National Fund of the United Kingdom, which is legally separate from the fund’s American counterpart,” the AP said. Roffe would not say whether the group’s concern about The New York Times report was related to JNF controversies of the early 1990s, in which prominent figures resigned amid reports that a large percentage of donations to the JNF did not pay for its main mission of planting trees in Israel. “Every JNF, in every country, has to make decisions about specific operations,” Roffe said.

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