Mega-Donors Give Obama a Boost

Saban and Jacobs Give $3M to Democratic Super PAC

Big Haul: President Obama is still way behind Mitt Romney when it comes to donations to nominally independent super PACs. But gifts from two wealthy Jews give him reason to hope he can stay close.
getty images
Big Haul: President Obama is still way behind Mitt Romney when it comes to donations to nominally independent super PACs. But gifts from two wealthy Jews give him reason to hope he can stay close.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published July 26, 2012, issue of August 03, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

President Obama’s re-election hopes received a major boost when two Jewish mega-donors ponied up a total of $3 million to pro-Democratic super political action committees.

Qualcomm founder Irwin Mark Jacobs and Saban Capital Group Chairman and CEO Haim Saban, who had been on the fence about backing Obama’s re-election, made separate donations to the nominally independent campaign groups in June.

The seven-figure donations weren’t nearly big enough to compete with the flood of dollars flowing to super PACs linked to Republican Mitt Romney. Buoyed in part by multimillion-dollar donations from Jewish casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the GOP-allied groups are raising money at a far faster rate than those tied to Obama.

But the addition of both of the two billionaires to the ranks of deep-pocketed Obama super PAC donors could help Democrats rest a little easier. Donations from the ultra-wealthy have taken on increased importance this presidential election cycle because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited donations to super PACs that maintain a veneer of independence from the presidential campaigns.

“The president has been tremendously successful raising money in the American Jewish community,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “This is just indicative of his broad and deep support within the American Jewish community.”

Jacobs could not be reached for comment. In a statement to the Forward, Saban said: “I have, and always will be, a champion of the Democratic Party, President Obama, and the Party’s elected officials.”

Obama’s campaign has $97 million in the bank, far more than Romney’s $22 million. But the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future reported $21 million cash on hand at the end of June, compared with only $2.8 million at pro-Obama Priorities USA Action.

The Romney election apparatus, which includes the Romney campaign, the Republican National Committee and Restore Our Future, heavily outpaced the Obama operation in fundraising in June. If the trend continues, it raises the possibility that GOP-aligned groups may have the financial upper hand as the campaigns battle in the final months leading up to the November election.

The Romney super PAC raised $20.7 million in June, including a $10 million splurge from Adelson. This compares with just $6.2 million raised that month by the Obama super PAC, including the gift from Jacobs and part of the gift from Saban.

Jewish private equity investors, hedge fund managers and real estate developers have played a major role in Restore Our Future’s fundraising efforts. Major Jewish Democratic donors like Penny Pritzker, meanwhile, have been conspicuously absent from Priorities USA Action’s donor rolls. Saban, who holds dual American and Israeli citizenship, is a longtime Democratic donor with close ties to former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Reports last year suggested that Saban was frustrated with Obama over his Israel policy. In an interview on CNBC in May 2011, Saban suggested he might not donate to Obama’s re-election effort.

Saban said that “he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations,” though he maintained that he would give if he were asked.

The interview came a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu objected to a call by Obama for a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders and mutually agreed upon land swaps. Saban’s CNBC interview was taken by at least one right-leaning outlet as a sign that Obama’s support among Jewish Democrats was weakening.

According to a February report in The Wall Street Journal, Democrats have been reaching out to Saban for months.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.