by Jim Lobe
A week after the now-notorious “Adelson Primary” at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) convention in Las Vegas, the Washington Post ran the first of what it called a series of profiles of a “handful of wealthy donors” who are likely to give a ton of money — many tons, now that the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates of campaign cash in the McCutcheon v. FEC case — to political candidates in the current and 2016 election cycles. It chose hedge fund supremo Paul Singer as its first subject, a major GOP funder.
Actually, the Post ran two versions of the profile — one longer piece on its blog and a second, somewhat shorter piece printed in the newspaper. The blog post is more comprehensive. While it focuses primarily on Singer’s support — and substantial contributions to campaigns — for gay marriage around the country, it also mentions other causes that have benefited from his largesse, including his opposition to any form of financial regulation and Israel about which it notes only:
Like fellow Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, Singer is staunchly pro-Israel. He is on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which held its spring meeting last weekend. He was a member of a large American delegation that went to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008.
The print version of the profile, in contrast, focused almost exclusively on Singer’s LGBT rights advocacy; indeed, neither the word “Israel,” nor the phrase “Republican Jewish Coalition,” nor the name “Sheldon Adelson” appear in the more than 1,000-word piece. The only hint in the article — which is likely to be more influential in forming opinions about Singer’s philanthropy within the Beltway than the blog post — that he has any interest in Israel at all is found in the last paragraph in which it is noted that Singer sits on the board of the “conservative” [!!??] Commentary magazine. But then you’d have to know that Commentary is a hard-line neoconservative journal obsessed with Israel to figure out that Singer takes an interest in matters Middle Eastern.
In a blog post published Monday by The Nation, LobeLog co-founder and contributor Eli Clifton (who now lives in New York and thus doesn’t have ready access to the Washington Post print edition) noted appropriately that the Post’s blog profile had skimped over Singer’s Israel-related philanthropy, notably his generosity to the Likudist Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), to which he contributed $3.6 million between 2008 and 2011 and may have provided yet more since, albeit not through his family’s foundation. According to tax forms compiled by Eli, between 2009 and 2012, Singer also contributed about $2.3 million to the American Enterprise Institute which, of course, led the charge to war in Iraq and remains highly hawkish on Iran, although those contributions may have had as much or more to do with AEI’s laissez-faire economic theology as with its Israel advocacy. It’s safe to say that his current memberships on the board of both the RJC and Commentary – both staunchly Likudist in orientation — belie some substantial financial support, as does his previous service on the board of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) whose executive director, Mike Makovsky, yesterday co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging the Obama administration to transfer some B-52s and bunker-busting Massive Ordnance Penetrators to Israel ASAP for possible use against Iran. In the past, Singer’s family foundation has also contributed to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) — organizations which he may still be supporting, albeit not through his foundation, which is required by the IRS to publicly disclose its giving.
In other words, there is reason to believe that Singer’s Israel-related giving — it seems most, if not all of which, has been provided to hard-line neoconservative, even Islamophobic organizations — he told the New York Times in 2007 that “America finds itself at an early stage of a drawn-out existential struggle with radical strains of pan-national Islamists” — certainly rivals, if not exceeds, his entirely laudable campaign on behalf of gay rights.
One thing Eli left out of his Nation post was Singer’s role as kind of the ultimate “vulture capitalist.” As noted in this Right Web profile quoting Greg Palast:
Singer’s modus operandi is to find some forgotten tiny debt owed by a very poor nation. …He waits for the United States and European taxpayers to forgive the poor nations’ debts, then waits a bit longer for offers of food aid, medicine and investment loans. Then Singer pounces, legally grabbing at every resource and all the money going to the desperate country. Trade stops, funds freeze, and an entire economy is effectively held hostage. Singer then demands aid-giving nations to pay monstrous ransoms to let trade resume.
In one case he demanded $400 million from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a debt he had acquired for less than $10 million; in another he secured $58 million from the Peruvian government in exchange for letting President Alberto Fujimori flee the country in a private plane Singer had seized against payment of the debt.
More recently, his efforts to capitalize on Argentina’s debt (see here and here for IPS’ coverage) — which was touched on very briefly by the Post’s blog profile — have included the creation of an organization, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), that has taken out full-page ads in Capitol Hill newspapers linking the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to Iran and an alleged cover-up of the highly questionable Iranian role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, as well as the enlistment of FDD, AEI, and staunchly pro-Israel lawmakers, such as Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who have benefited from his campaign contributions, in his cause. Singer’s case has been opposed by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and a host of humanitarian and charitable organizations concerned that, if he succeeds at the U.S. Supreme Court, efforts to relieve poor countries of unsustainable debt may be set back by a more than a decade.
So, while Singer’s support for LGBT rights is certainly an interesting and newsworthy topic for the Post’s profile of this major Republican donor — after all, it is a kind of man-bites-dog story — it seems pretty irresponsible to completely ignore, as the Post did in its print version, these other dimensions of Singer’s political philanthropy, particularly given the chronological proximity to the “Adelson Primary.”
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