Forward Thinking

Shining Light on 'Dark Money'

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced plans to shed light on the so-called “dark money” groups that spent millions during the 2012 election cycle.

The move follows demands for regulation by good government groups - and by this newspaper.

A proposed rule change that could go into effect by the 2013 elections would force not-for-profit groups that spend more than $10,000 on local and state elections in New York to disclose their donors to the state’s Attorney General.

“There are proposals in Congress to deal with this, they haven’t gone anywhere,” said Viveca Novak, the editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “This is a significant step by a state attorney general to try to address it. New York is just one state, but it’s an important state.”

As was widely noted during the 2012 election cycle, certain nonprofits fall into a quirky regulatory loophole that allows them to make almost unlimited political donations without disclosing where they are getting their money. The phenomenon was the subject of a blockbuster expose by the investigative journalism shop ProPublica, which used the Republican Jewish Coalition as an example of one tax exempt group spending money on the presidential election and not revealing its donors.

In an editorial in the Forward calling for closing the “dark money” loopholes, Jane Eisner highlighted other Jewish groups taking advantage of the loose regulations, including the Emergency Committee for Israel.

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Bomb Iran, Says Bill Kristol's ECI

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

The United States should bomb Iran today, a new advertisement released today by the Republican-linked Emergency Committee for Israel says.

The ad, first posted by the website Buzzfeed, hits President Obama for failing to order military strikes on Iran.

“President Obama has spent four years talking,” the narrator intones. “Iran has spent four years building.” The ad ends with a clip of a fiery explosion. “Talking isn’t working. It’s time to act – before it’s too late.”

The video is the latest in a series of advertisements by ECI, a hawkish pro-Israel group, to condemn Obama’s Middle East record. In January, ECI executive director Noah Pollak told the Forward that the organization would focus throughout the 2012 cycle on Obama’s Israel policies.

“We’re going to remind people of what a truly terrible president he’s been when it’s come to Israel, the way he’s increased Israel’s isolation, coddled Israel’s enemies,” Pollak said.

The organization’s political output stand in contrast to remarks made by ECI founder and board member Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, in a debate at an Upper West Side synagogue in May.

“I am happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree,” Kristol said, stating that the president had “moved back to the center” on Israel.

According to Buzzfeed, ECI plans to air the Iran ad in New York and Washington, D.C. beginning today.

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A New Yorker Cartoon Says It All Too Well

By Gal Beckerman

I think I just found an image for the Passover cards I was planning to send to Bill Kristol and Noah Pollak over at the Emergency Committee for Israel.

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Dershowitz Raps ECI Ad — For Good Reason

By Jane Eisner

The ECI ad

I opened my New York Times this morning over breakfast to read one of those most virulent anti-Jewish advertisements I’ve ever seen. And it came from other Jews.

Paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel, the ad goes after two liberal organizations with the verbal equivalent of a firing squad. The Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank which generally writes about issues such as tax policy and immigration reform, and Media Matters, an unabashedly liberal group, are labeled anti-Israel extremists and bigots in the ad, which took up an entire page of the front section of the Times.

What’s more, the ad lists foundations that apparently fund CAP and Media Matters, and urges readers to call and complain. Just to be helpful, phone numbers are included. And it uses quotes from two Jewish leaders, Alan Dershowitz and Spencer Ackerman, who were not consulted and disapprove of the ad.

And what are the crimes committed by CAP and Media Matters that deserve this public punishment?

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J Street Staffer Circulates Slam of ECI

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Liberal Jews have taken turns over the past few weeks whacking at the Emergency Committee for Israel’s advertisement alleging anti-Semitism at the Occupy Wall Street protests. Eliot Spitzer called the ad “despicable” on Slate; Richard Cohen called it “reprehensible” in his Washington Post column; and J Street said it “slandered” Occupy Wall Street.

A new wave of condemnations arrived in reporters’ inboxes yesterday with a press release headlined “Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smears of Occupy Wall Street.” The release, signed by 15 prominent Jewish liberals, amounted to a renewed attack on ECI:

“It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause…One particularly vile example was a television ad…paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel.”

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