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Federations lose top D.C. lobbyist

Charles Konigsberg, former top Washington lobbyist for the United Jewish Communities in a file photo. (Ron Kampeas)

Charles Konigsberg, former top Washington lobbyist for the United Jewish Communities in a file photo. (Ron Kampeas)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (JTA) — The departure of the Jewish federation system’s top Washington lobbyist creates a gap as the American Jewish community heads into a year in which the Bush administration is expected to push hard for budget cutbacks to domestic programs. It also comes days after the resignation of another key Jewish official, the head of the umbrella group responsible for coordinating the community’s stance on various public policy issues. Lobbyist Charles Konigsberg is protesting his apparent dismissal last week after little more than a year as vice president for public policy of the United Jewish Communities and director of its Washington office. The move occurred a week after Hannah Rosenthal resigned Jan. 19 as executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. In a letter to UJC’s compensation committee, obtained by JTA, Konigsberg, 46, noted his successes in bringing in millions of dollars for elder care, homeland security assistance and Medicaid. He urged the panel to reconsider his dismissal, given “the momentous issues facing our Federations this year,” among other reasons. Sources close to UJC management acknowledge some of Konigsberg’s lobbying successes, but say a host of management problems that he refused to address left the group no choice but to fire him. Officially, the UJC would not issue a statement beyond a terse release last Friday that Konigsberg had resigned — though Konigsberg’s private letter, written the same day, referred to his “termination.” Privately, however, UJC leaders say Konigsberg had problems managing his staff, delegating authority and preserving morale. Konigsberg, whose background is as a Senate aide on both sides of the aisle and as a lobbyist, said he improved employee morale during his brief tenure at the Washington office. A statement from Konigsberg’s lawyer said: “Mr. Konigsberg’s significant accomplishments on behalf of the Federation system, including the protection of funding for nursing homes, hospitals and Jewish family services, as well as significant new federal funding for the security of Jewish institutions, have been praised publicly numerous times by the current and former CEOs of UJC, as well as the current Chairman of the Board.” The UJC is seeking to maintain levels of federal and state support for its affiliates, which currently stand at $5 billion to $7 billion in federal and state grants. Projects sustained by the funds include Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities — a program that helps elderly people stay in their communities longer — transportation assistance for the elderly and assistance for elderly refugees. Konigsberg says his intense lobbying was key in a Senate vote last year that prevented $11 billion in cuts to Medicaid. He also took credit for leading successful efforts last year to win $25 million for homeland security assistance to nonprofit groups at risk, including many Jewish institutions.

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