Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Will Bill Owens Distance Himself from a Radical Group Called J Street?

Jude Seymour did a little post recently on J Street's endorsement of Congressman Bill Owens. The coverage was innocently reported, but not incredibly informative or well researched. Let me tell you why this endorsement is a major problem for Bill Owens, who describes himself as a moderate, and why Owens is making a big mistake by so closely associating himself with this particularly dangerous organization.

Mostly what we got out of Seymour's post report is that Owens, "will look to the leadership and principles of JStreetPAC to help inform his opinion on the Middle East conflict" and that Owens took money from the organization, which touts itself as a pro-Israel political action committee. However, you don't have to scratch much beneath the surface to see that J Street has created some serious controversy in the last several months that has been well reported and documented in the national press.

J Street is a very radical organization that is funded by Arabs who have a vested interest in keeping the US dependent on Middle Eastern oil and by Hollywood liberals with dangerous agendas. J Street has supported multiple federal candidates who are hostile to a peaceful US-Israeli relationship and has deep ties to George Soros, a liberal billionaire with anti-Semitic views. Furthermore, new reports were released that J Street has financial connections to Saudi Arabian oil interests and the National Iranian American Council, a group operating as a foreign lobby in violation of federal law and whose president has been called "the Iranian regime's man in Washington" and a man who "did a lot of leg-work for the Iranian regime."

When I looked at the leadership, the staff, and the donors of J Street I was shocked! J Street's leadership and principles are clearly at odds with mainstream thinking on US foreign policy. Ed Lasky at the American Thinker blog put it best when he said in a column that, "some officials note that this may be a smart way for Arab activists to try to influence American policy, because they can do so wrapped up in the shell of a group that can project an image of being a pro-Israel organization to Congressman less familiar with the reputation of J Street and who do not realize the Arab and Muslim backing J Street."

"I believe that J Street's public relations have misled the public by marketing the organization as something that it isn't. Many of my friends who were initially attracted to the group have left, disappointed because they felt that it was more anti-Israel than pro-peace. The situation has gotten so significant, in fact, that Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has weighted in, calling J Street a "unique problem." I don't have political sympathies for the right, nor do I want to forward a leftist agenda on this issue. Some in the media are too eager to frame this as a left vs. right issue... With such fierce opposition to the Jewish state, coupled with relentless external threats to the country's security, we don't have the luxury to divide ourselves into factions, and there is certainly no room for grandstanding. The group seems not to understand this point. In my opinion, it should stop being so pro-J Street and start being a little more pro-Israel."
The point is that J Street is not really a pro-Israel lobby group it portends to be. My initial reaction to NIAC and J Street would be who cares, except for that fact that the agendas being pushed by these two organizations undermines our foreign policy and threatens the stability of the entire Middle East. They promote the Iranian regime, a despotic theocrazy that is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and whose leader has denied the Holocaust and called for the Israeli state to be annihilated. J Street and NIAC even took very a public position in opposing increased US sanctions against Iran, a vote that passed the U.S. House with 412 votes less than two months ago.

Does Bill Owens have any clue what J Street stands for or who supports them? Does he know that J Street takes money from attorneys who represented the Saudi Embassy? Does Bill Owens really want to take advice from an organization that has seen dozens of elected officials, including Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, publicly distance themselves from J Street's radical ideology? Will Bill Owens distance himself and return the blood money he accepted from J Street? And will Jude Seymour do a little more research before he writes such a ridiculous puff piece in his sorry attempt to pull the wool over our eyes?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Groundhogs Day

Rise and shine little campers. Because today is Groundhog's Day! Please welcome my animal friend Marmota Monax, otherwise known as Phil the groundhog, as he comes out today to potentially see his shadow, which will determine whether spring comes early or later? The question today on when winter will end reminds me of the political atmosphere we are in.

Will Republican candidates for NY-23 announce their real candidacies in 6 weeks or in 10? Will Andrew Cuomo get into the Governors race sooner or later? Will Ford be getting into a primary fight today or tomorrow? While I love the winters up here and I hope that it stay cold and snowy for a bit longer, I can't wait for the political storms to start brewing.

We will find out soon enough, but don't forget your booties though because it's gonna be cold out there today!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Matt Doheny's Special Ties to Wall Street Money is a Double-Edged Sword

The Politico has an interesting top page story about New York Insurgents Standing up for Wall Street. It's an interesting read and needless to say, there are clear political advantages and disadvantages to being on the side of Wall Street in 2010. If you are on the side of big bankers and powerful Wall Street attorney's you can pretty much count on some $2,400 checks to your campaign committee. Ben Smith of the Politico goes to say that, "The warm words for Wall Street have one clear political benefit: Money." Conversely, if you are against the big banks you can use that message to fight for the middle class and win populist support.

And in the race for NY-23 there has certainly been some discussion about campaign contributions coming in from Wall Street to candidate Matthew Doheny, who announced his 600K war chest on this week. In fairness, I can't say how much of that 600K is from Wall Street because it has been written that Doheny loaned his campaign at least 650K so far. But it is true that Doheny has only listed only three reportable donors on his FEC report with an address within the boundaries of NY-23 -- all of them were from Jefferson County.

What I do know is that in the summer of 2009 Dohey raised about $190,000 from individuals for the Republican primary. However, he returned all the donations he sought in July of 2009 after Dede Scozzafava won the nod from the GOP county chairs. Now having spent $175,000, Doheny has garnered roughly 2% name recognition across the district and is going through an incredible financial burn-rate that is usually reserved for the final weeks of a campaign.

A Doheny insider who is close to the action and asked not to be named for this report wrote to me that the campaign's goal is to intimidate Assemblyman Will Barclay out of the race with big name consultants, endorsements, and heavy financial backing out of New York City. But the aide said that some within the campaign are worried that Barclay won't fold if he sees Doheny's cash on hand number dwindle before the race even starts, ruining Doheny's strategy to take Barclay out of the race by mid-to-late spring. Hence the reason for Doheny's statement last week on funding. The source stated that Doheny hopes to have his cash-on-hand number above $1 million by the end of June in time for the second FEC report of 2010. And the campaign is working under the assumption that Doheny will have to loan himself another 400-600K to get there, putting his total personal investment in the race at over $1 million. In other words, he is trying to force Barclay out by buying the race early.

The unnamed source said that Doheny's willingness to loan more money to his campaign is dependent on how much Barclay raises next quarter. The source also said that many on the campaign were excited at the prospect of bringing on Cary Brick, Congressman McHugh's former Chief of Staff, but were also nervous that his high price tag might hurt their chances of keeping the cash-on-hand high enough to scare away young Mr. Barclay. But the all-in strategy is what Doheny is banking on because he recognizes his weak support among the grassroots across NY-23, even in his own backyard. Rumor has it that a dozen plus prominent Jefferson County Republican Committee members are set to announce their endorsement for Barclay in the next few weeks.

But still Doheny's communications team is pushing their candidate's image as a young man who pulled himself up from his bootstraps to make something of himself in the big city and who returned home because of his desire to enter public service. They frequently cite that the young attorney/finance guru drives a old beat up 94 Ford Explorer named "Bessie." It's a strategy meant to distract voters from his connection to Wall Street, an image the campaign is fearful may hurt at the polls. The Doheny source mentioned a Quinnipiac University poll from 2009 that found 79% of all New York voters backed taxes against those who earn more than $1 million a year. Worried that in 2010 voter sentiment against Wall Street is even higher now as people on main street remain frustrated with the current recession and double digit unemployment numbers, Doheny's team has sought to distance their candidate from his past.

However, Doheny's Wall Street connects will likely bring him some easy campaign cash, which will help in catching up in the name ID game. A quick glance at the FEC website shows that Doheny collected over 20K from Deutsche Bank last summer. Of the 120 individuals who have given to Doheny, over a quarter were finance lawyers, half of Doheny's donors listed addresses among the richest zip codes of New York City and an overwhelming majority were involved in the financial sector and private investments. But one of the most interesting highlights is that most of the donors on Doheny's report were consistent donors for Democrat backed organizations and powerful liberal members of the Democratic Party.

For example, Raj Bhattacharyya, who gave the maximum contribution allowed by law to Doheny also gave to Senators Gillibrand, Casey, Obama, Clinton, Specter, Feingold, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and several liberal Democratic house members from New York. Another donor, Michael Curreri gave to Representative Maffei and Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Chris Dodd. Josh Easterly of Goldman Sachs who donated to the DNC and President Obama also gave to Doheny. Doheny donor Mayar Lakhani, another Deutsche Bank employee, gave to Obama, Clinton, Menendez, Gillibrand, Specter, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruiter, Representative Steve Israel. Doheny even took money from two employees at the Blackstone Group whose CEO, Steven Schwarzman, recently lashed out at US Government officials and threatened to tie up credit and loans unless they get their way politically.

In addition, Doheny found almost 10% of his donors from the law firm, Quinn Emmanuel Urquhard LLP. That law firm happens to represent funds and fund managers before the US Security and Exchange Commission, as well as other government bodies in the US and abroad. According to their website, "Quinn Emanuel's White Collar Criminal Defense and Internal Investigations Practice Group represents prominent domestic and foreign corporations, special committees and boards of directors, as well as individuals, in high profile criminal investigations, administrative enforcement hearings, trials and appeals... attorneys in this practice group are regularly retained to represent witnesses, subjects and targets of grand jury investigations, enforcement actions and criminal proceedings in industries ranging from securities, defense, and banking, to health care, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, and technology." Some might question after getting almost $16,000 from the law firm's attorneys that should Doheny win a seat in Congress, he might use his political influence to help QEU's clients as they come before the SEC. Other notable donors listed TARP recipients, and big financial firms like Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Bank of America as their employers. The list of big money makers from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut goes on and on.

The real question for Doheny then becomes two-fold. First, is Doheny beholden to Wall Street interests and will he use his political influence, if elected, to benefit his donors and their clients? Second, why are so many of Doheny's close friends, associates and campaign donors so fond of the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, Obama, Feingold, Clinton, Gillibrand, Dodd, Specter, Israel, Richardson, Perriello, Menendez, Kerry, Casey, Arcuri, Maffei and others of the same ilk? Is it because Doheny has promised to be a strong voice for Wall Street over Main Street interests?

Can Doheny continue to file FEC reports without donors from NY-23 and remain relevant in a district that is suffering from the excesses of big bankers on Wall Street using TARP money to pay mega-bonuses to their corporate and financial heads? Will Doheny make a statement on his position on earmarks, the stimulus, TARP, bonuses on Wall Street and Obama's TARP tax proposal?

Why doesn't Doheny have a campaign website that lists his position on critical issues of importance to people across NY-23? Will Doheny continue to self-finance his race in an effort to scare Will Barclay back into his assembly seat? Will anyone in the mainstream media look at where Doheny's money is coming from and ask the tough questions?

The only answer we do know right now is that Doheny's Wall Street connections are a double-edged sword in his bid to become the Repubilcan nominee for NY-23.