Jewish Fundraisers Stick With Obama

Despite Taking Lumps, President Maintains Strong Support

Strong Support: Despite plenty of anecdotal evidence about tepid support among Jews, President Obama has maintained the backing of most key fundraisers from his 2008 election run.
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Strong Support: Despite plenty of anecdotal evidence about tepid support among Jews, President Obama has maintained the backing of most key fundraisers from his 2008 election run.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published December 19, 2011, issue of December 23, 2011.
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Top-level Jewish fundraisers from President Obama’s 2008 campaign are sticking with the president in 2012.

Despite reports that President Obama faces a loss of Jewish funders due to his Middle East policy, analysis of a list of elite bundlers from his 2008 race shows no defections among the president’s top Jewish supporters in 2012.

In 2008, Obama’s elite “bundlers” — fund raisers who collected more than $500,000 each for the president’s campaign — included many prominent Jews. Aside from those who hold government jobs that bar them from political fundraising, all of them have returned on the 2012 campaign’s list of volunteer bundlers, or are confirmed to be fundraising for the campaign. And a handful of new prominent Jewish bundlers has joined the elite group this year for the first time.

Jeffrey Katzenberg
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Jeffrey Katzenberg

The Forward’s findings don’t speak to support for Obama among Jewish voters, or to how the president will fare among rank-and-file Jewish donors who gave or collected lesser sums.

Indeed, some of those elite donors report that support for Obama may be thinner further down the ladder.

“The enthusiasm factor is down,” acknowledged Betsy Sheerr, a Pennsylvania Obama supporter who expects to be among the conveners of the campaign’s Jewish leadership council in Philadelphia.

But the 2012 list of volunteer bundlers does indicate that Obama has not lost the Jewish Democratic elite who made up a significant proportion of his support in 2008.

Republican-affiliated groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition have worked to drive a wedge between American Jews and Obama over Israel and Iran. Asked about the return of all of Obama’s 2008 top bundlers to his camp, RJC executive director Matthew Brooks said, “These people are the committed of the committed. The question is what success do these people have when they go to their Rolodex and try to get contributions?”

Alan Solow, a former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a major Obama fundraiser, said the would-be donors in his Rolodex are responding just fine. “I’ve made many calls to prior supporters of the president, including members of the Jewish community, and I don’t have any sense of any fall-off in support,” he said.

But Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Council for World Jewry, who hosted a campaign fundraiser attended by the president in November, said, “I think it’s a challenging time to do fundraising. In the Jewish community, it may not only be the fact that many Jews are concerned about the U.S.-Israel relationship, but also the economy. I can’t say that it wasn’t difficult getting people to contribute.”

Though lobbyists who collect donations on behalf of a candidate are required to report their activities to the Federal Elections Commission, non-lobbyist volunteer fundraisers are not. In 2008, campaigns released their own lists of their non-lobbyist volunteer fundraisers. The Obama campaign released lists of its 2012 bundlers, the most recent in early October.


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