By E.J. Kessler

Published March 04, 2005, issue of March 04, 2005.
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Kate’s Brooklyn Bundle: Rep. Katherine Harris, a Florida Republican, is refusing to return $20,000 in contributions she received from five individuals associated with the Postville, Iowa, Agriprocessors plant, according to a report in The Tampa Tribune.

The Postville plant, one of the largest kosher slaughterhouses in America, was the subject of an exposé last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which made a gory undercover film alleging that slaughter practiced there departed from the humane standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plant changed some of its practices, but a USDA investigation is ongoing. The plant is also being sued by federal authorities for an allegedly improper discharge of wastewater into an Iowa river, The Tribune reported.

Given the federal actions vis-à-vis the plant, Peta demanded that federal office holders return any contributions from individuals linked with the business because of potential conflicts of interest.

Harris’s spokesman said no way.

“If Peta’s allegations are confirmed, these practices should be terminated and those involved should be held accountable,” Harris spokesman Garrison Courtney wrote in a statement. “However, the alleged activity has nothing to do with the congresswoman or any campaign contributions she received.”

Among the donors to Harris was Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin, a relative of Rabbi Milton Balkany, the rabbi often called the “Brooklyn Bundler” for his bundling of political contributions. Another was Balkany’s son Menachem, The Tribune reported. In September 2004, the Forward reported that President Bush’s re-election campaign returned a donation from Rabbi Balkany, who was battling charges that he had defrauded the federal government of almost $700,000 in housing funds. That indictment subsequently was dropped.

Harris is best known for her role in 2000 as Florida’s secretary of state during the Bush-Gore vote recount.

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Dean Donnybrook: As the Republican Jewish Coalition circulates an appeal seeking to make money off Howard Dean’s accession to the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, the National Jewish Democratic Council is responding with an appeal of its own.

“Unfortunately, Jewish Republican extremists are continuing a pattern of gutter politics that has become all too frequent over the last few years. We need your help — today — to spread the truth,” the group wrote in its latest e-mail fund-raising appeal.

“During the last presidential election, one of these Republican organizations reached deep into the sewer to produce ads linking John Kerry with Yasser Arafat and Mahathir Mohammed, the notorious Malaysian anti-Semite. One group of Jewish Republicans even published three full-page ads in Jewish newspapers, claiming that the Democratic Party is anti-Israel. Now some of the same Republicans have launched a vicious new ad campaign against the Democratic Party, which features a full-page photograph of suicide bombers — claiming that Democrats are soft on terrorism and unsupportive of Israel….

“This smear campaign is so disgraceful that it has drawn condemnation from major Jewish organizations and leaders…. But they won’t withdraw the ad and they certainly won’t apologize, because this is part of their long-term ‘marketing’ strategy within the Jewish community.”

* * *

Baptist Brouhaha: The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — that is, one of the nation’s top evangelicals — is taking issue with former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, who was ousted last year for defying a court order to remove a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments from his courthouse.

“It is a direct challenge to the rule of law upon which this nation is based for any government official to claim to have the right to ignore laws he disagrees with, whether he’s the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court or the mayor of San Francisco,” Richard Land, head of the Baptist commission, said of Moore in an interview with the Birmingham Post-Herald. Land said Moore’s assertion that “the law is the constitution and every person taking the oath is entitled to his own interpretation” was “nonsense and a recipe for anarchy.”

Moore has been in the news because his autobiography, “So Help Me God,” was released this week. The darling of the right-wing Constitution Party, he is viewed as a potential rival of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, a Republican.

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