Welcome to The Tell, the inside scoop on this week’s Jewish political news by Ron Kampeas, JTA’s Washington Bureau chief.(JTA) — Fifteen of the top 25 biggest political donors this cycle are Jewish or of Jewish origin.
I picked through the top 100 on the Open Secrets website for a glance at those 15, including Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Bernie Marcus and Donald Sussman. The biggest donor by far is Tom Steyer, the hedge funder-philanthropist who ran a presidential campaign this year and whose father was Jewish.
But scroll through the list of 100 and there are plenty of other intriguing stories behind the names: Daniel Abraham, the Slim-Fast diet mogul who emerged as a major advocate of the two-state solution during the Oslo process, is at 33 and listed as “solidly Democrat/liberal.” Stacy Schusterman, a scion of one of the most important Jewish charitable enterprises, is No. 74 and also “solidly Democrat/liberal.”
Steven Spielberg, the blockbuster film director and producer whose USC Shoah Foundation is preserving Holocaust testimony, is No. 35 and, you guessed it, is “solidly Democrat/liberal.” Seth Klarman, the Boston hedge funder who might once have been counted as a conservative on the list, is now listed as “solidly Democrat/liberal,” having been driven leftward by his disgust with President Donald Trump. He’s at 28.
Cherna Moskowitz, whose late husband was a major funder of the Israeli settler movement (and oddly joins her on the list despite having died in 2016) is No. 39 and “solidly Republican/conservative.”
No. 37 is Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul who, like Adelson, says concern for Israel is a prime motivator of his giving. The list was updated as of Sept. 8; expect Saban to shoot up with the new numbers.
Alienated in part by the perceived leftward drift of the Democratic Party, he did not start giving this cycle until recently and he is now all in for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, who has a solid decades-long record as pro-Israel and a moderate.
Saban was No. 13 in 2016, when Hillary Clinton, like Biden a moderate, was on the ballot.
Read more on the list here.
IN OTHER NEWS
A bittersweet new year
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman Supreme Court justice, died on Rosh Hashanah. Read our obituary by Sarah Wildman. Ginsburg is the first Jew and the first woman to lie in repose at the Supreme Court and to lie in state at the Capitol. And here are the three Jews on Trump’s 44-name court wish list. Not that they’ll make the cut when Trump announces a nominee on Saturday: He’s pledged to tap a woman, and the frontrunner is Amy Cone Barret, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, a devout Roman Catholic whose views on abortion Democrats have said they will scrutinize.
I wrote last year about the “motion to recommit,” one of a handful of tactics the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives has to disrupt legislation. It’s complicated, but here’s how it works: The minority advances a no-brainer amendment to a piece of majority legislation. The majority wants to vote against it for logistical reasons — if the House is advancing a bill that is supposed to be identical to a version in the Senate, a difference in wording can delay and sometimes bury the initiative. The result is that the majority looks bad for voting against a no-brainer concept, such as a condemnation of anti-Semitism, for example.
The Democrats routinely advanced motions to recommit when they were in the minority and routinely reject them now that they’re in the majority. My story last year was about an exception to that routine: Democrats shocked Republicans by voting en masse for a Republican motion to recommit condemning anti-Semitism. The Democrats were then able to turn the guns on the GOP because the party’s lawmakers subsequently voted against the broader bill.
This all happened again last week, with a slight twist. The Republican (minority) motion to recommit was a condemnation of anti-Semitism. Most Democrats voted against the motion, but enough voted for it to attach the motion to an actual bill. The Republicans then voted against the broader bill.
The Conservative media reported the story only up to the point that a majority of Democrats voted against the motion to recommit condemning anti-Semitism; not reported was Republican rejection of the broader bill. At the Forward, Amanda Berman of Zioness explains how the broader bill, expanding options for students on university campuses to file complaints about discrimination, in fact, includes Jews in its protections — even sans the motion to recommit. In any case, the bill will never be considered in the Republican-led Senate.
On Thursday, there was a new development: 26 of the 28 Jewish members of the House are Democrats, and they’re fed up. Twenty-two of them signed a letter to the House minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., saying “gotcha politics” “makes the fight against anti-Semitism harder.” A congressional staffer shared the letter with me.
They made McCarthy an offer: “Before a member of the Republican Conference introduces another motion to recommit on issues related to anti-Semitism, we invite you to meet with Jewish members of Congress to hear our perspective.”
A sticky issue
Current and former Trump administration officials anonymously told The Washington Post that Trump has expressed frustration that Jews “stick together” and are “only in it for themselves.”
Queasy about QAnon
WORTH A LOOK
At The Washington Post, Aaron David Miller, a Middle East peace broker for multiple administrations, says his cohort might have got it wrong by working on peace from a Palestinians-first posture, and that the Trump administration might be getting it right by working outside in — brokering deals between Israel and other Arab nations as a means of getting the Palestinians to the table.
TWEET SO SWEET
Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro shows us that whatever happens on Nov. 3, there’s something to look forward to (or dread) this Hanukkah.