Thursday, May 12, 2005

Update: Jack Abramoff: Did he violate Kosher authority's rules? Klinghoffer: it's an attack on the Orthodox.

1 Comments:

At 8:54 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

see also:
http://jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2005/05/rabbi-david-lapin-brother-of-daniel.html#comments
and
http://jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com/2005/05/toward-tradition-director-jack.html

I would note the difference of opinion between Democratic Representative George Miller and David Klinghoffer:
a. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/29/politics/29delay.html?fta=y
...
"For years, Mr. Abramoff lobbied to protect a Marianas industry that exploited tens of thousands of women workers, many of whom were channeled into the island sex trade," said Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who called for the investigation of Mr. Abramoff's work in the Marianas.
...

b. (see full article below) http://www.forward.com/articles/3170
...
In considering the unfolding of Abramoff's fate, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that he has been singled out because, as a Washington Post writer with a Jewish name snidely said of him, he is "an Orthodox Jew who seemed to flaunt his piety (the Christian right loved it) the way other lobbyists flash their Rolexes." Another Jew who delighted in Abramoff's downfall, Frank Rich of The New York Times, referred to this "Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews."

If Abramoff were a secular Jew who directed streams of money to left-wing candidates, to liberal think tanks, to charitable causes like Planned Parenthood and PETA, do you think we ever would have heard his name? I don't.

1)
http://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/localstory.php?/wjw2/283283137744552.bsp

Abramoff restaurant ties murky
by Eric Fingerhut
Staff Writer

Did scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff own a nonkosher restaurant while he was the proprietor of the kosher Stacks Deli in the District?

Media reports about Abramoff's involvement in the Republican hangout Signatures make it seem that way, which would have violated the rules of the Washington area's kosher authority.

But a spokesperson for Abramoff says that the lobbyist has held an ownership stake in Signatures Restaurant only for the past year.

That means that the lobbyist did not own the restaurant when the speaker of the House and other Republican members of Congress were not charged for the fund-raisers they held there, possible violations of campaign-finance laws.

The connections, though, between Abramoff and those who apparently owned the restaurant while Stacks was open raise questions about how involved Abramoff was in Signatures, an establishment whose chef's favorite entree, according to Business Week magazine, is a caramelized, vanilla-based Maine lobster with truffle tapioca risotto.

When Signatures opened in February 2002, everyone from lobbying clients to acquaintances of Abramoff thought him to be an owner.

The Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington, the local organization responsible for kashrut supervision, does not allow someone to own both kosher and nonkosher restaurants, citing possible mix-ups -- from food deliveries to utensils.

So when Abramoff planned to open two kosher restaurants -- Stacks and Archives, which was in business only a few months -- just three blocks down the street from Signatures, the organization inquired about his connection to the nonkosher eatery.

Vaad Harabanim vice president Rabbi Barry Freundel said that Abramoff told the Vaad before Stacks opened that he had "divested himself" from Signatures. The Vaad, Freundel said, checked available records and could find no connection between Abramoff and the nonkosher restaurant.

Abramoff also told WJW in November 2002, just prior to the opening of Stacks and Archives, that he did not, in the past or present, have a connection to or financial interest in Signatures or any other restaurant in the Washington area. He now says otherwise.

"Mr. Abramoff has never represented that he had no connection to Signatures restaurant," Abramoff spokesperson Andrew Blum said in a statement. "To the contrary, he secured the current site of Signatures, 801 Pennsylvania [Ave.], to establish his kosher restaurant. ... This venue was later transferred to the Signatures restaurant group, which was led by prominent Washington attorney Jay Kaplan."

Abramoff then moved his "kosher restaurant enterprise" to 1101 Pennsylvania Ave., Blum said, but "retained an interest in the lease and security of the 801 Pennsylvania site after transferring it to Signatures. After Stacks closed its doors [in April 2004], Mr. Abramoff converted his interest and now only has an interest in Signatures restaurant."

Freundel said owning kosher and nonkosher establishments simultaneously would be a "serious violation" of Vaad policy. However, holding the lease to a nonkosher restaurant's property, but not actually owning the restaurant, would not violate the Vaad's rules.

While Abramoff's spokesperson indicates that the lobbyist did not have an ownership interest in Signatures until last year, the connections between the owners of Signatures and Abramoff are striking.

Signatures is owned by Livsar Enterprises, a foreign limited liability company registered in Maryland, according to D.C. liquor licensing records. According to Maryland tax records, the registered agent for Livsar is Yale Ginsburg, a Baltimore lawyer living in Silver Spring.

Ginsburg would not comment on his connection to Signatures. But he does seem to have an extensive relationship with Abramoff, with connections to other two other limited liability companies linked to the controversial lobbyist.

Meanwhile, Signatures group leader Kaplan has been named in connection with one of Abramoff's controversial trips with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

And then there are Signatures' and Stacks' similar billing practices -- or lack thereof. Just as Signatures failed to charge Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and others for the food and beverages consumed during fund-raisers they held at the establishment, the kosher deli failed to charge Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) for a fund-raiser he held at Stacks in January 2003. Cantor, like the others, eventually paid the tab after questions were raised by the media.

This story was published on Thu, May 12, 2005.

2)
http://www.forward.com/articles/3170

Thursday, May 12, 2005
Forward Forum
THE DISPUTATION: An Attempt To Arrest Our Alliance With Evangelicals
By david klinghoffer
May 13, 2005

The lobbying scandal that may lead to the downfall of Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — a conservative evangelical Christian purportedly sabotaged by his friendship with an Orthodox Jewish lobbyist, Jack Abramoff — is of interest for what it says about the value of honesty in the political and media elite.

Abramoff is depicted as the epitome of the mendacious, greedy Washington influence peddler. Two Senate committees are investigating him, and he may go to prison — for breaking laws, the precise nature of which remains largely unclear..

Accounts of Abramoff's sins center upon reports that he wildly overcharged Indian tribes that hired him in the hope of advancing their gambling businesses, and that he directly paid for junket trips for politicians, notably DeLay — a technical violation of Congressional rules. He was later reimbursed by groups that, had they paid for the trips initially, would have been entirely within the bounds of what's legal.

Meanwhile his e-mails have been leaked to the press. Abramoff, who conducted his business affairs electronically, used coarse words such as "monkeys" and "troglodytes" in discussing some Indians. He exulted in his earnings in a somewhat undignified way: "Can you smell money?!?!?!" He also directed clients to contribute to his favorite political and other causes.

His humiliation is nearly complete. Yet who among us would not be humiliated if a decade's worth of our email were leaked by Senate investigators to be dissected by journalists eager to carve us up like a Thanksgiving roast?

One Associated Press report honestly admitted, "A shorthand summary of Abramoff's alleged dealings tends not to sound too shocking: collecting big checks from American Indian tribes for whom he performed limited work; steering clients' contributions to outside groups in which he had a personal interest; sending politicians on junkets to curry favor."

How mundane Abramoff's activities really are becomes clear when you consider that, as the conservative magazine National Review's Rich Lowry notes: "House rules prohibit travel funded by lobbyists. That would be unconscionable. But they permit travel funded by corporations, trade associations and nonprofits, with lobbyists allowed to accompany lawmakers for the trip.... Golly. It almost appears as if Congress has created a system with an enormous loophole to satisfy its members' lust for all-expense-paid luxe travel." Abramoff, it seems, was not careful about respecting the finer points of the loophole.

Yet this unshocking litany has driven some in media and political circles to excesses of their own: predictions that the damage caused to DeLay could spark antisemitism and torpedo the alliance of conservative Jews and Christians.

Don't get me wrong; I'm under no illusions. Is Abramoff a saint, the John Paul II of junkets, the Lubavitch Rebbe of lobbying? No.

As one close friend and ally of his put it to me, "Jack is not a choir boy. It's funny, though, that there are no Ferraris, women, yachts or mansions in this story, and yet it keeps going." Why it keeps going is a question worth pondering.

Abramoff's guilt does not rise to the level of serious wrongs and crimes that would merit the intense personal scrutiny he has received. I am not going to shed any tears if those purer-than-spring-rain Indian gambling moguls got overcharged.

In a spirit of honesty, however, I admit that I'd like to see Abramoff left alone in large part because, instead of spending the millions of dollars he raked in on Ferraris and yachts, he lavishly spent it on causes that I think are good and important: an Orthodox high school he founded in the Washington, D.C., area, headed by a rabbi whose taped lectures I have long listened to with admiration; kosher restaurants (that lost a fortune but provided a public service); political organizations and candidates whose conservative philosophy I share, and so on.

Yes, I have a conflict of interest — and such conflicts, arising from one's political or moral value system, can be more powerful than conflicts that arise from the scent of money. I wish Abramoff's tormentors would be similarly honest. Let them admit their own wish to see the political consequences of the Abramoff affair that they, simulating disinterest, now predict — like, for example, the implosion of the Jewish-Christian alliance and the fall of Tom DeLay.

In considering the unfolding of Abramoff's fate, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that he has been singled out because, as a Washington Post writer with a Jewish name snidely said of him, he is "an Orthodox Jew who seemed to flaunt his piety (the Christian right loved it) the way other lobbyists flash their Rolexes." Another Jew who delighted in Abramoff's downfall, Frank Rich of The New York Times, referred to this "Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews."

If Abramoff were a secular Jew who directed streams of money to left-wing candidates, to liberal think tanks, to charitable causes like Planned Parenthood and PETA, do you think we ever would have heard his name? I don't.

David Klinghoffer is author of the recent work, "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History" (Doubleday).

 

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