The liberal lobbying group J Street, which has operated under the pretense of being pro-Israel, has really taken a hit in the last week. Eli Lake of the Washington Times uncovered that, despite J Street’s longstanding insistence to the contrary, the group has received significant funding from financier George Soros and his children. Additionally, the same report revealed that J Street received $811,967, from a woman named Consolacion Esdicul, a resident of Happy Valley, Hong Kong and an associate of Bill Benter, a hugely successful international gambler.
J Street's embattled chief Jeremy Ben-Ami
In other words, to borrow a phrase from J Street’s executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, the lobbying group accepts money from “foreign nationals.”
So it’s no wonder that the White House is now taking moves to distance itself from the foreign funded lobbying group, as reported by Eli Lake in today’s Washington Times. There’s another angle here, also: President Obama has previously distanced his stance on Israel from George Soros’s views on that subject. The real question is, why didn’t the White House do their due diligence before National Security Adviser Jim Jones attended J Street’s annual conference last year which was apparently funded, at least in part, by a foreign national?
Over the weekend, Ben-Ami took to his group’s website – and cross-published the same post on the Huffington Post website – to respond. Here, in part, is what he said:
Within the past 48 hours, you may have heard that the Washington Times published a confidential J Street tax return, containing private information about some of our donors.
I write to provide an explanation, to assume responsibility, and to put the whole matter in perspective in light of critically important events taking place this week on the world stage related to Israel and the Middle East.
You and I have built something spectacular in J Street. Our success has been phenomenal. In just two and a half years, our three legally independent entities (J Street, J Street Education Fund and JStreetPAC) have raised more than $11 million from over 10,000 donors.
As with so many non-profits, our work depends in part on the generosity and support of our largest donors. Among them are individuals who have provided six-figure financial support and foundations providing major grants to support the work of our Education Fund.
George Soros and his family decided to donate to J Street in the fall of 2008, well after our launch and two years after he publicly stated that it would not be helpful for him to assist in getting the effort off the ground. The family contributed an average of $250,000 per year over the last three years (2008-2010) and their support amounts to just over 7 percent of the total funds raised by the J Street family of organizations.
I accept responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros’ support once he did become a donor. I said Mr. Soros did not help launch J Street or provide its initial funding, and that is true. I also said we would be happy to take his support. But I did not go the extra step to add that he did in fact start providing support in the fall of 2008, six months after our launch.
J Street does not reveal the names of donors to its 501(c)(4) corporation or the amounts of their contributions. Neither do nearly all such entities in the United States. The law guarantees donors their privacy and confidentiality. Nevertheless, my answers regarding Mr. Soros were misleading. I deeply and genuinely apologize for that and for any distraction from J Street’s important work created by my actions and decisions.