During the recent years of controversy at the World Jewish Congress, much attention has been paid to the financial relationship between the organization’s president, Edgar Bronfman, and his professional lieutenants. Now, as cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder bids to take over Bronfman’s position, tax documents shed light on Lauder’s relationship with his lieutenants in the Jewish world.
According to recent tax forms, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation made a 2005 payment of $50,000 to Malcolm Hoenlein, who is the professional head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Lauder was the chairman of the Presidents Conference from 2000 to 2002 and continues to be involved with the organization in his capacity as president of the Jewish National Fund. The service rendered by Hoenlein to Lauder’s foundation was “money management,” according to the tax forms.
Harold Tanner, who recently finished his two-year stint as chairman of the Presidents Conference, told the Forward that he knew about the payments. Tanner said the larger conference was not informed about the payments but declined to comment further.
Lauder’s spokesman did not return calls for comment.
Hoenlein said that the $50,000 was for work he did in reorganizing the foundation’s finances, which was a “special effort that required extensive involvement on our part.” It was understood, Hoenlein added, that he would give the money to charity, though he declined to say where he directed the money. According to the tax documents, other members of the board of Lauder’s foundation have not been given similar payments in recent years.
The payment from Lauder’s foundation is not the first reason that the Presidents Conference has drawn attention during the controversies at the WJC during the past year. In April, a letter was leaked to the press that reflected poorly on the current management of the WJC. Some members of the press received the letter from the fax machine at the Presidents Conference.
At the time, Hoenlein told the Forward that he had looked into the matter and learned that a person who had nothing to do with his organization had been in the office for a meeting and asked to send the letter from the conference fax machine.
“I’m not finished looking into it,” Hoenlein said. “It’s not an organizational leader — it was a person attending a meeting on our floor.”