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January 31, 2012 4:48 pm

Republican Jewish Donors: Romney Has Numbers, Gingrich Has Adelson

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Newt Gingrich. Photo: wiki commons.

A 2003 veto of funds for kosher foods provided to the elderly Jewish poor in Massachusetts’ haunted Mitt Romney in Florida.  Although the legislature overturned the veto and provided the needed funds, the effects his action will have on Jewish support leading up to the 2012 presidential campaign remains unknown. Romney’s rejection of that $600,000 expenditure may prove to be an expensive one.

On the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich called his opponent “fundamentally dishonest,” and told Bloomberg News “I spent a lot of my energy just staying disciplined.”  Characterizing Romney as a tool of Wall Street, the former Speaker accused Romney of carpet-bombing negative ads financed by “Wall Street and Goldman Sachs.”  He pledged to stop big banking firms (such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.) from “rigging the game.” (Reported in Bloomberg News by Michael Bender and Julie Davis). Presenting his position as the  anti-Wall-Street-as-we-know-it candidate, Gingrich promised, on one hand, elimination of the capital gains tax and repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act and other banking regulatory legislation.

Is Gingrich’s concentration on attacking the banks misplaced?  Should he instead be concentrating on getting the cash?  Despite a $10 million dollar infusion of cash (Miriam and Sheldon Adelson each gave $5 million) the candidate was said to have little more than $600,000 dollars going into Florida primary.  Despite Gingrich’s statements of support for Israel and heavily publicized donations to a super PAC supporting him, financed bt several prominent Jewish individuals, the majority of Jewish Republicans are not sending him the financial support his campaign needs to succeed.

Romney is trusted by business.  He has been part of multiple business partnerships – including with Goldman Sachs (which manages much of his “blind trust.”)  The trust is not one sided: Goldman employees have made the Romney campaign more than $350,000 more solvent. His campaign has revealed the power of “the Wall Street elite” (code words of some sort?)  In the nominating battle, PAC’s promoting Gingrich called Romney a “vulture capitalist;”

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In the financial community, donors do not seem to mind.  Major donors in the financial world have lent their support to the former governor who has called for repeal of the Dodd-Frank legislation tightening oversight of Wall Street.    People in the securities and investment industry have given more money to Mr. Romney than from any other industry (Center for Responsive Politics) through donations to his supportive super PAC, Restore Our Future. Goldman employees fund the Romney founded Free & Strong America PAC.

Where is the Republican Jewish donor community putting its political money? January 24, 2012 data reported in the magazine, Tablet, looked at the campaign donations of 175 major Republican Jewish donors and found that many remain on the sidelines of the primary campaign.  Just over 40% have committed support to a primary candidate. Some “high-profile figures” like Pennsylvania real estate developer Richard Fox,” have not repeated the 2008 support given to Romney.”  Others are waiting for more defined policy positions to be stated.

Prior to the Florida Primary results, major Jewish donors, according to the Tablet analysis have been reluctant to commit to any candidate.  Speaking about Mitt Romney, for example, Republican Jewish Coalition board member Joel Hoppenstein, a Miami attorney told Tablet “I like him, but I’m just not sure which Romney’s going to show up, and I think that’s a problem a lot of voters have with him.”

Gingrich differentiates himself: “I’m totally unique,” he told an interviewer, claiming to run a “very idea-oriented, internet-based, constantly-evolving, organic” campaign.  Still, is Mitt Romney the fusion candidate who can unite social conservatives and fiscal conservatives?

None of the 2012 contenders has the draw to unite the Jewish donor community as did Rudy Giuliani, an early favorite in 2008.  The erratic Gingrich campaign has left many major donors (James Tisch, for example) unwilling to place their political bets.   This failure to choose makes the Sheldon and Miriam Adelson contribution all the more striking.  (Adelson backed Giuliani in the 2008 primary.)

At the time of publication, fence sitting remains common in the Jewish donor community.  Skadden, Arps Partner Ken Bialkin is quoted by Tablet saying “I think Romney is a fine candidate, and if he were the candidate, I’d cheerfully vote for him,”. I also think the same of Gingrich,” he added.  Where commitments have been made, Gingrich has garnered some significant ones.  Long Island investor and Republican Jewish Coalition founder Lawrence Kadish along with George Klein, investor and Republican Jewish Coalition board member have bolted to Gingrich’s camp.

As candidates leave the race, other commitments are being made.  In Florida, Mel Sembler, a Florida shopping-center developer and Sam Fox of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”, and Adelson’s one time partner Ted Cutler have joined the Romney camp.  They have been joined by Roger Hertog and Home Depot’s Bernard Marcus (both former Pawlenty backers) and Chris Christie funder Paul Singer.  From Texas, the Zeidmans, father and son, are leading Romney’s efforts in the Jewish community.

The perception of Mitt Romney as one who will respond with practical efficiency to real world problems and “get the deal done” gives him specific appear to Jewish Republican givers.  “He’s got a lot of common sense, he’s got a success pattern in his life,” Mel Sembler a Florida shopping center developer and Jewish Romney backer told JTA.

Many Jewish donors who would have automatically been assumed to join the Democratic campaign are said to be questioning supporting Obama because of the President’s perceived Middle East policies. Washington’s visible policy decisions during the next eight to ten months will unquestionably influence the placement of financial support.
Nancy Kaufman, former director of the Boston JCRC, now with the National Council of Jewish Women, commented on Romney’s willingness to cross party lines and “work with Democrats.” “We were all surprised by his leadership. It wasn’t what we expected.”

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