Meet the pro-Israel donors who boosted Cory Booker’s Senate run

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 24 Comments
Incoming Senator Cory Booker in September 2012. (Photo: Jamelle Bouie/Flickr)

Incoming Senator Cory Booker in September 2012. (Photo: Jamelle Bouie/Flickr)

Senator-elect Cory Booker, who was boosted during his campaign by pro-Israel donors, is set to arrive in the halls of Congress on October 31.

Booker made his name as Newark mayor and won a special election to replace New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg last week. He defeated a Tea Party Republican though his campaign was rocky, marred by accusations that Booker was a showboat. A New York Times article, featuring political ethics watchdogs who questioned his large stake in a Silicon Valley company that could have made him rich, added to his woes. (He got rid of his stake in the company after the article was published.) Nevertheless, he won both his primary and general races easily.

Booker’s fundraising overwhelmed his opponents during the Democratic primary, and a group of donors with hawkish views on Israel helped him win the cash race, though foreign policy played little role in the election. The Senator-elect’s views on Israel have been shaped by his close ties to people like Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, so the money was more of a bonus than an inducement to push the cause of the Jewish state. As he enters the Senate, he could become one of its more outspoken pro-Israel members at a time when the body could vote on new sanctions on Iran and bills to upgrade the U.S.-Israel relationship even further.

In late July and early August, a newly formed Super PAC called the Mobilization Fund dropped $532,000 in cash on Booker. The money was used for the “pro-Booker ground game — canvassing operations, literature and telephone calls,” according to the Center for Public Integrity’s Adam Wollner. 

According to tax records I reviewed the Mobilization Fund only has six donors. They are all hedge fund leaders or corporate CEOs, and 4 of the 6 are big on Israel. Here they are:

- Hedge fund manager Seth Klarman, who gave the Super PAC $100,000, has given money to settler groups through the Central Fund of Israel and spends $1 million a year on Birthright. Klarman is also on the board of the Israel Project, gives a lot of money to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and is co-chairman of the David Project’s board, an organization promoting Israel on campus that has targeted pro-Palestinian professors.

- Michael Fux, the CEO of a sleep products company, also gave $100,000 to the Mobilization Fund. Fux has sat on the board of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which spends money on Israeli soldiers, since at least 2009.

- Cousins Laurie and Andrew Tisch gave a little less–$50,000– to the Super PAC, they’re likewise big on promoting Israel. Andrew Tisch was a trustee at the Jewish Communal Fund in 2001 when they gave over $76,000 to the media group CAMERA, which badgers news outlets to take a more pro-Israel view, and $102,400 to the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Fund. While he was president of the Jewish Communal Fund in 2003, $100,000 was given to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which promotes American Jews emigrating to Israel, including to West Bank settlements. Tisch has also been a trustee for a number of years at the AIPAC-spinoff think tank called the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

- Laurie Tisch, is the vice president of the Tisch Foundation. In 2005, the fund gave $15,000 to the American Jewish Committee and $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League.

Both Tisches and Fux also gave directly to Booker’s Senate campaign in addition to another pro-Booker PAC. Michael Steinhardt, another pro-Israel hedge funder who gives lots of money to Birthright, spent $5,000 on CoryPAC this year. And Booker was helped by NORPAC, a pro-Israel donor group. In April, for instance, NORPAC raised over $100,000 for the Senator-elect.

Booker could soon find himself voting on sanctioning Iran over its nuclear energy program. He may have the opportunity to vote on a new package of sanctions if lawmakers brush off the Obama administration’s objections to more punitive measures while the U.S. is engaged in diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. Considering his pro-sanctions rhetoric, Booker would probably vote yes–a vote that would please his backers.

Correction: The original article stated that Cory Booker got rich from his stake in a technology company. It has been corrected to make clear that Booker could have gotten rich from the company, and that he sold his shares in the company in the midst of his Senate campaign.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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24 Responses

  1. dms
    October 25, 2013, 5:02 pm

    Is it a factor? Sure. Obviously. (And personally I like it.)
    It’s politics.

    I hope that you are not suggesting anything sinister.

    So long as the Supreme Court is ruling (incorrectly I think) that there should be no limitation on contributions, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving to any candidate you like, with the express intent of supporting/influencing their outlook.

    (To be clear: YES, there should be limitations on campaign contributions throughout the American system. I am with Bill Moyers on this one.)

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 25, 2013, 5:48 pm

      “I hope that you are not suggesting anything sinister.”

      No, what is sinister is the whole process of zios bankrolling politicians in an effort to support and sustain an alien state, regardless of the interests of the US, which directly leads to oppression and destruction of lives in all parts of Occupied Palestine (Gaza, Pre-1967, West Bank).

      • dms
        October 26, 2013, 1:45 pm

        “Zios” — I like that.
        Thanks though I have a suspicion that you mean it disparagingly.

    • Ellen
      October 25, 2013, 10:13 pm

      But it leads to and has become a system of Extortion in the political system of te USA.

      No different from the most corrupt banana republics.This is were we are now and this is a system that feeds Colonial Zionism among other crimes.

      link to nytimes.com

      • dms
        October 25, 2013, 10:26 pm

        Why the “but”? I am _agreeing_ that unlimited campaign contributions are a problem.

        (That is one of the issues with people of any ideology; they can’t realize when someone is agreeing.)

        Though as to “Colonial Zionism” — I laugh and call it cant.

      • Ellen
        October 26, 2013, 9:06 pm

        dms, I understand that you are calling out the inherent pre-programmed corruption built into te Supreme Court ruling by stating the fact of it.

        I am following your rhetorical lead with the “but”…

        Perhaps it is you that did not undertand the agreeable followup?

        There are many aspects to Zionism. Colonialism, and Colonialist ideology is one aspect of Zionism, especially early Zionism. I do not think any rational person can honestly dispute that.

    • Bandolero
      October 26, 2013, 7:18 am

      What sinister things may one suggest?

      The US has simply the best democracy money can buy.

  2. German Lefty
    October 25, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Terrible. Democracy is not supposed to be like that.

  3. Krauss
    October 25, 2013, 7:04 pm

    Booker is a showcase of a paid politician. While there is corruption everywhere, Booker’s really brazen with his corruption. He hardly even tries to hide it, maybe he even thinks it is okay.

    Those that foresee Booker becomming a president one day must reconcile themselves with the fact that he has risen in large part because he always pleases those in power, to a much greater extent than most politicians. It’s really extreme with him.

    You saw that play out when he attacked Obama for running negative ads against Romney’s hedge fund background. He even attacked gun control advocates saying “enough is enough”. Now all of a sudden, he is reversing his stance on gun control a mere year later. He’s like the Democratic version of Newt Gingrich. It’s ridicolously easy to bribe him and make him say whatever. The fact that he attacked a sitting Democratic president on the matter of hedge funds in the middle of the campaign was truly remarkable. In a democratic party that is shifting further to the left, will a guy like Booker who so desperately wants to please Wall St(and the Israel lobby) rise to power?

    The Times’ story is even more damning. The tech company is basically a flop, but is served as a hobby horse for rich and wealthy people. CNN’s president’s son – who is 14 years old – sits on their board. Booker gets a few shares in the company and a paycheck to cash in, as a way to give him a payout once the company gets bought by a giant to save themselves from the embarrassment of it going under.

    There seems to have been a shift in AIPAC’s strategy. Mark Kirk is still their #1 man among Republicans in the senate but increasingly they are relying on democrats. This isn’t strange. AIPAC has always been a mostly democratic institution. Menendez and now Booker. They are going for minority dems because that’s where the demographic profile will increasingly be. So they’re doing the rational thing.

    The question is: will the base like this? The GOP base is usually to the right of their pols on Israel. Most of the GOP grassroots have views not too different from the settlers in Israel. How will it be with the Democrats on Israel? Judging by the past 10 years, the liberal base have gone in the opposite direction.

    The Booker candidacy is important to follow going forward. I assume that he will try to run for the WH eventually. It will show the relative strength and weaknesses of the liberal base. Booker’s a likeable guy. But he is also a total sellout. How much discipline does the liberal base have? So far, what we’ve seen is not that hugely encouraging. Hopefully it will re-assert itself increasingly over the coming years, particulary for 2016 as more and more people understand we can repeat what happened in 2013 NYC for the federal election, where Clinton in ’16 will have the role of Quinn in ’13, the establishment favourite. And Booker could be the Thompson.

    So who would be the de Blasio?

  4. Obsidian
    October 26, 2013, 12:51 am

    Cory Booker walks the walk…

    link to csmonitor.com

    …when the rest of us just talk.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    October 26, 2013, 2:57 am

    FROM opensecrets.org (10/26/13):

    Pro-Israel: Money to Congress
    • Senators (top 20)
    • All cycles
    Candidate ////// Amount
    Lieberman, Joe (I-CT) $2,281,424
    Kirk, Mark (R-IL) $1,706,933
    Levin, Carl (D-MI) $1,661,835
    Specter, Arlen (D-PA) $1,376,605
    Obama, Barack (D) $1,371,325
    McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $1,339,348
    McCain, John (R-AZ) $1,303,682
    Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $1,234,741
    Wyden, Ron (D-OR) $1,058,857
    Durbin, Dick (D-IL) $954,203
    Schumer, Charles E (D-NY) $866,149
    Boxer, Barbara (D-CA) $861,013
    Cardin, Ben (D-MD) $824,865
    Harkin, Tom (D-IA) $822,685
    Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA) $807,666
    Daschle, Tom (D-SD) $797,141
    Kerry, John (D-MA) $718,535
    Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI) $717,621
    Nelson, Bill (D-FL) $707,461
    Reid, Harry (D-NV) $699,784
    Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ) $696,266

    SOURCE – link to opensecrets.org

    • Kathleen
      October 26, 2013, 10:20 am

      Surprised the money to Hillary is so low. If she gets in as Pres next stop will certainly be Iran. She is a serious warmonger. Great on domestic issues not as far right as Gohmert an Adelson on Iran but pretty damn close

      • DICKERSON3870
        October 26, 2013, 8:31 pm

        Contributions to her 2008 presidential campaign would not be included.

  6. Mike_Konrad
    October 26, 2013, 3:41 am

    Where did this guy come from? I never heard of him before.

    I am in favor of spending caps. Money distorts democracy.

  7. tokyobk
    October 26, 2013, 4:27 am

    Point of fact: His stake (which he got rid of) in that company did not make him rich. It did not make him anything. You should look back into that and correct that.

    Point of opinion (based on knowledge): You can disagree with CB’s ideas about Israel (which I happen to) but they are his own. Booker drives the relationship with his donors not the other way around and its always been this way since he was city councilman. He is not a dupe or for sale. He also has one of the most diverse support base of any candidate serving which is why he has been so successful in his campaigns– even his first failed bid for mayor represented a unique base of Dems, GOP/Libertarians working people and multi millionaires.

    CB will be a uniquely public senator with out a doubt and also with out a doubt he will be pro Israel because that is indeed his pov. The assumed relationship you have here is not only wrong but has always smelled a tad racist to me. As I said, anyone who knows, knows that Cory has created a donor base that from the beginning feels privileged to support him not one to which he scrapes and bows and amends his positions for the buck.

    • Cliff
      October 26, 2013, 6:31 am

      Prove it then. Prove he is sincerely Zionist.

      • tokyobk
        October 26, 2013, 1:40 pm

        I speak from the experience of spending countless hours with him. You are welcome to disbelieve me or my conclusion but I am telling you he is a sincere Zionist and moreover any of his public statements confirm this.

    • Woody Tanaka
      October 26, 2013, 8:35 am

      Well, I am sceptical of all these pilticians positioning themselves as unique, not your average politician, etc. Politicians know rhere is a lot to gain politically from that stance. Booker is a politician.

      But that being said, if the choice is between a politician who would whore out his vote or a true beleiver, on an issue like this, I’d rather have the whore. If Booker came to his love of israel on his own, it tells me he is either blind and uninformed or has a willingness to embrace evil. In either case, he has no business holding any elective office.

    • just
      October 26, 2013, 10:06 am

      Really? That’s what you think?

      He’s a bottom feeder and an opportunist. Period.

      He does not represent the Israelis– he supposed to represent Americans.

    • Alex Kane
      October 26, 2013, 10:25 am

      Hi Toby,

      I should have said “could” make him rich. Will correct.

      When did I suggest he was a “dupe for sale” ? As I wrote: The Senator-elect’s views on Israel have been shaped by his close ties to people like Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, so the money was more of a bonus than an inducement to push the cause of the Jewish state.

      What’s racist about pointing out pro-Israel donors?

      • tokyobk
        October 26, 2013, 1:43 pm

        Alex,

        Others have been worse than you (and dupe for sale is directed generally– see kathleen below) on this but the implication that he is a blob of clay molded by his friends and donors does in my mind come more easily to some because of a disbelief that a young black man would be a more powerful force than old rich Jews and other whites. This also feeds in to the innocent Dick and Jane model.

        CB is his own man and his donors are shaped by him as much or more.

        That positioning is uncomfortable to a particular kind of white “liberal” critique.

        And no, the company could not make him rich because he divested and it is all but inactive.

      • Donald
        October 26, 2013, 4:04 pm

        “the implication that he is a blob of clay molded by his friends and donors does in my mind come more easily to some because of a disbelief that a young black man would be a more powerful force than old rich Jews and other whites. ”

        I don’t think he’s some weakminded person–I think he’s a politician doing what successful politicians do. Clinton was a master at this-I’ve read that if you met him in person his charisma was overwhelming and he’d make you think he was listening seriously to everything you said.

        My problem with him is what Krauss pointed out above–the attack on the Obama campaign in 2012 on behalf of Romney and Wall Street. I don’t think he was tricked into doing this–he did it by choice. He might also be a sincere Zionist–in my real life I think most of the Christians I’ve known would be Israel supporters almost by default. The theological conservatives would assume God was on Israel’s side, and the liberals would think it was our duty to support Israel because of centuries of Christian antisemitism. Palestinians are just an embarrassment, so they are overlooked or demonized or said to be the victims of their own leaders.

  8. Kathleen
    October 26, 2013, 10:17 am

    Israel and the I lobby buying another vote in our congress.

  9. SQ Debris
    October 26, 2013, 4:00 pm

    “Michael Fux, the CEO of a sleep products company”
    Alex, why so cagey? Tell us which sleep products company so we can vote with our wallets too.

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