Jewish Republican donors staying away from funding Trump

The 2016 race in its entirety is expected to cost roughly $5 billion.

August 26, 2016 15:27
3 minute read.
Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump

Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about the results of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primary elections during a news conference in Jupiter, Florida. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton is storming through New York’s Hamptons this weekend, set to appear at nine big-ticket events to rake in millions of dollars in the tony seaside communities over the course of three days.

The Democratic presidential nominee’s continued fund-raising blitz – which builds on a 72-hour California swing last week that brought in $19 million for her campaign – is sure to widen the gap between her war chest and that of Donald Trump, currently half as full as hers.

The disparity is particularly glaring among a class of wealthy Jewish donors who, in recent elections, have evenly split across the political aisle. Not so this year, as several Jewish Republican bundlers are refusing to fund the GOP nominee’s flagging campaign.

While several Jewish hedge fund managers have donated significant sums – including investor Carl Icahn, Trump’s old friend, and Cerberus Capital Management CEO Stephen Feinberg – most major billionaire GOP donors have held out, including Elliott Management Corporation founder Paul Singer, Baupost Group founder and Times of Israel backer Seth Klarman, head of TRT Holdings Robert Rowling, mega Florida auto dealer and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles Norman Braman and CAM Capital chairman Bruce Kovner.

Several of these men are instead focusing on competitive races that may tip the balance of power in the Senate.

One billionaire Jewish supporter of Trump is also a survivor of the Nazi regime: Martin Selig, a fellow real estate billionaire based in Seattle. Born in Germany, Selig fled for the US (via Poland, Russia, Korea and Japan) in 1939 after learning that he and his family had been labeled “undesirable” by the Nazi government.

Asked by The Seattle Weekly to explain why he supports Trump for president, Selig replied: “The fact that these are the two people who have been nominated for president, you have to live with that.”

He rejected comparisons between the Trump campaign and fascist political movements that brought Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to power in Germany and Italy in the 1930s.

“That’s so poppycock,” commented Selig, who will host a fund-raiser for Trump on Tuesday. “It’s just a lot of talking. I really don’t see the comparison.”

Leading Trump’s fund-raising efforts is a Jewish man, Lewis Eisenberg, who himself has donated only a fraction of the near half a million dollars allowed by law for a single gift. Last month, the head of the Trump Victory Fund – a reliable donor to Republican candidates and causes – gave $11,000 to the effort.

Others in Trump’s corner include wealthy Florida developer and finance chairman for former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign Mel Sembler, former chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition Sam Fox of St. Louis, and venture capitalist Elliott Broidy of Los Angeles.

On the whole, RJC board members have given far less than the $12m. they offered Romney’s campaign in 2012. They reflect their skeptical membership, which has in turn been reflected in the RJC’s campaign strategy: Not once since May has the organization mentioned Trump’s name in its advertising material.

Perhaps the biggest question for Trump is whether Sheldon Adelson, the largest donor in the 2012 race, will follow through on his commitment to deliver major donations to his campaign.

As of now, Adelson has not donated a dime, despite publicly endorsing the nominee in May and pledging financial support.

Clinton this weekend will mingle with stars such as musicians Bon Jovi and Jimmy Buffett, as well as with Loews Hotels CEO Jonathan Tisch, one of the many Jewish figures bundling campaign cash for her surging campaign, alongside venture capitalist J. B. Pritzker, Israeli-American media proprietor Haim Saban, director Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Qualcomm CEO Irwin Jacobs, and business magnate George Soros.

Yet Federal Election Commission filings show – as if proof were necessary – that political preferences don’t run in the family: While Tisch’s cousin Andrew has written of his concerns with Trump’s brand of economic isolationism and hostility to free trade agreements, his son and daughter-in-law, Alexander and Bara Tisch, together gave $10,800 to the Trump campaign in June.

That amount falls somewhere between the small gifts that campaigns hope to secure on a regular basis from voters, and the $33,000 price tag per head of a ticket to Clinton’s luncheon in Bridgehampton, Long Island, this weekend.

America’s biggest bundlers – those donating to third-party organizations and to super-sized political action committees working toward the election of one candidate or another – spend in the millions. The 2016 race in its entirety is expected to cost roughly $5 billion.

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