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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ben Ami: 'So I lied...'

Jeremy Ben Ami answers the charges made by Eli Lake in Friday's Washington Times.
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.
And he didn't go that extra step in the March/April 2010 edition of Moment Magazine. In fact, he outright lied about Soros not contributing to J Street in that publication.
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.
In other words, he's sorry he lied.
Some press reports have also noted a large contribution on our return from a resident of Hong Kong named Consolacion Esdicul. The explanation for this is straightforward. Bill Benter, a philanthropist and political activist from Pittsburgh, is a major supporter of and contributor to J Street. He is a generous donor to a range of causes related to his hometown, national politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a passionate advocate for peace.

As we were launching J Street, Bill committed to contribute and to help raise substantial funds for the effort should we get it off the ground. One contribution he helped raise was from Ms. Esdicul, a business associate from Hong Kong, where he lives for part of the year and has business holdings.

The Esdicul contribution represents a significant portion of the one tax filing that was leaked - and seems high when viewed in isolation - but it represents just over 7 percent of the $11 million raised by all aspects of J Street since it was launched.
Sorry, you buy a table at a dinner for a business associate. You buy a golden or diamond page in a dinner journal for a business associate. You sponsor an event for a business associate. But an $800,000 contribution from someone with no apparent prior or subsequent connection to Israel or the Middle East? Something smells rotten. Really rotten.


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