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Rabbi Pinto’s ‘Generosity’ Extends Up GOP Food Chain

In a recent post, I relayed a very smart theory posed to me by a journalist friend that Wonder Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto didn’t just decide on his own to come to the States and open an offshoot of his Shuva Yisrael movement in New York City.  In fact, so my friend suggested, he was sent here by some very powerful people inside Israel who wanted to help their friends in the GOP get elected so they could advance a pro-Israel agenda.  Those powerful people in Israel’s right-wing government already have plenty of supporters in the halls of Congress.  This is in part due to the well-oiled campaign finance machine developed by the Israel Lobby, which funnels hundreds of millions into the campaign coffers of selected pro-Israel candidates.

grimm netanyahu

Bibi Netanyahu and errand-boy, Rep. Michael Grimm (R.)

But if you’re greedy, as leaders like Bibi Netanyahu tend to be, you always want more.  What if Israel could open new ‘markets?’  Any Israeli who reads Forbes knows that Israelis and Diaspora Jews give $250-million every year to a slew of Miracle rabbis like Pinto.  One fine morning, one smart political operative may’ve woken up and said: by God, let’s send one of these guys to New York and we’ll make a killing.  We’ll raise millions more than we already do.   What’s more, we’ll have better control of the donors and candidates because they’ll be “ours,” not just the Lobby’s.  If this theory holds, then Michael Grimm might’ve been the model, the first guinea pig.  Pinto did very well by Grimm.  According to Ynet, his donors raised over half of the $1-million total the candidate raised for his first 2010 campaign.

But my friend suggested something else: he said see which other Republicans Pinto’s donors are giving to.  See how many, and see how high up the food chain it goes.  Well, it turns out that thanks to a comment of reader “J,” I find that Laura Rozen has already done this research.  She points a finger to the very apex of the food chain. to the top predator, none other than Eric Cantor himself:

Interviews and an examination of campaign filings by Al-Monitor show that Pinto also has ties to Cantor, the Virginia Republican who is the second most powerful member of the US House of Representatives.

…A Jewish community businessman who did not want to be identified told Al-Monitor…that in 2009, he spoke with Biton, seeking contacts who might be able to help him generate interest in his business. Biton allegedly told the businessman that Rabbi Pinto was in “close and direct contact” with both Cantor, a Virginia Republican, as well as with Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat who resigned in a sexting scandal in 2011. In subsequent conversations, the businessman said Biton directed him to a fundraiser for Cantor. “When I met Ofer …. he was saying Cantor is in very good contact with them, [Rabbi Pinto’s] Yeshiva,” the source said.

Al-Monitor has learned that the businessman was put in touch with Jerry Seppala, a Cantor fundraiser, who in turn put the source in touch with a member of Cantor’s staff. Seppala did not return a call left by Al-Monitor at his office in Wayzata, Minn. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that Cantor’s campaign paid Seppala’s firm, GR Seppala & Associates about $250,000 for fundraising consulting work for his 2008 and 2010 campaigns. Campaign expenditures in 2006 show that Cantor’s campaign paid GR Seppala $110,450, as well as $50,000 to Risdall Advertising Agency, a Wayzata-based advertising agency in which Seppala also serves as vice president. (In 2011, Seppala reportedly served as the fundraiser for Solutions 2012, the pro-Newt Gingrich SuperPAC, which received $20 million from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.)

The top seven donors to Cantor’s campaign are all Pinto followers and donors:

…Detailed examination of federal campaign filings by…indicate that the top seven donors to Cantor’s 2008 campaign are followers or associates of Rabbi Pinto. Together, the group of close Rabbi Pinto associates that made up Cantor’s seven top donors in 2008 gave about $330,000 to the Virginia Republican–almost 10% of the $3.9 million total Cantor raised for the 2008 race. None of them are from Virginia, and some had not previously given to US political campaigns.

So if you’re Eric Cantor and you know the FBI is coming after Grimm, what do you think Cantor’s doing?  Hiring a lawyer, I bet.  In fact, Rozen’s article hints that the agency has already questioned members of the House Whip’s staff.

The key question is whether the techniques and solicitors used in Grimm’s campaign match those used by Cantor.  If so, then the FBI is very interested in Cantor.  If Cantor was smarter than Grimm and didn’t use mafiosi to collect cash as Grimm did, then he may not get into trouble.  But the very fact that Cantor dipped into Grimm’s cookie jar so heavily is mighty suspicious.  Who knows where it will lead?

Now that the gag is lifted and Israeli media are reporting the Pinto story, interesting revelations are coming out.  You’ll recall, I was first to suggest that the “senior former minister” in the Netanyahu government who interfered with the FBI investigation by pressuring Pinto to withdraw his cooperation with the FBI was none other than ex-justice minister and personal attorney for Sara Netanyahu, Yaakov Neeman.  He gave me a cutesy-pie interview in which he purported not even to know about the article which first referred to “a former minister” who intervened in the case.

Now, Neeman’s changed his tune, offering Maariv (Hebrew) a more loquacious, but no less mendacious reply:

At the beginning of 2012, Rabbi Pinto was graced with a surprising visit.  Former Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman came to his Ashdod home.  The rabbi told law enforcement authorities in the U.S. that Neeman was especially interested in developments in the Grimm investigation.  He urged him [Pinto] to drop the whole matter.  Neeman responds: “I came to receive his blessing as I’ve done many years previously.  The subject of Con. Grimm never arose.  I’d never heard of this name before.  I have no connection to him.  Therefore, I never got involved in this.

Now, we have to ask a few questions.  If Neeman was sabotaging a U.S. government corruption scandal, why would he go out on a limb to do so?  After all, he’s a very smart man.  He’s one of Israel’s top lawyers.  To answer that question, let’s look at his client list.  At the top is the Netanyahu family, specially Sara.

During one cabinet meeting, his habit was to remain silent during them, Neeman spoke affectionate words for Sara’s recently deceased father.  Neeman once furnished Sara a room in his law office dedicated to writing her master’s thesis.  In 1993, Bibi acknowledged having an affair with a woman named Ruth Bar.  The individual who smoothed things over between them and brought the marriage back together was none other than, Neeman.  He has responded, calling this an “urban myth.”  But we’ve already seen examples of his “truthiness” (as Stephen Colbert would say).  A Neeman confidant acknowledges that he has Sara’s “full trust” and that the two are exceedingly close.

Sara is known as not just a major player in the Netanyahu government, but as his unofficial personnel manager.  You cannot win a major position in the Israeli hierarchy without her blessing.  As an example, I reported here several years ago that Yitzhak Ilan, would be named the new Shabak chief.  His promotion was signed, sealed and delivered.  But at the last-minute, Sara intervened and instead, the job went to Yoram Cohen.  He, Sara liked.  Ilan, not so much.

To be clear, I don’t have a smoking gun that points to Netanyahu involvement in sabotaging the FBI investigation.  But I do have a series of strong circumstantial evidence that leads in that direction.  But why would Bibi or Sara care about this enough to take such risky actions as agitating the FBI?  Let’s return to that grand strategy of electing even more Israel-friendly GOP members of Congress.  If Michael Grimm was their model to see whether Pinto was a new source of campaign cash, they needed to protect him if he might be going down.  Rather than lose their investment and shut down this conduit for millions in new campaign funding, they’d go to the mat to help Grimm.

More background on Bibi’s strategy in dealing with the U.S. political process: he’s found that presidents may not like him because they are slightly more independent than members of Congress.  But Congress is in his back pocket due to that campaign largess I mentioned earlier.  Bibi is hated in the White House but loved (or feared) in Congress.  When he can’t get an invitation to the White House, he goes over the president’s head and gets to address a Joint Session of Congress.

This is the same strategy he and the Lobby are following regarding the Iran sanctions legislation.  The president doesn’t want new sanctions.  Most sane members of Congress don’t want them either.  But the Lobby and Israel do.  They want a war with Iran.  So they want to sabotage Obama’s strategy of negotiating his way out of the impasse.  How best to do this?  Don’t confront Obama head-on because he’s an immovable object on this matter.  But do an end-around.  Activate all those pro-Israel IOUs in Congress.

So the more Michael Grimms there are in Congress, the more Israel has its own interests guaranteed in the halls of Congress.

If even half of what I write above is true, it further supports the notion that Israel’s strategy of influence in American is corrupt.  If senior police commanders, Bibi’s personal lawyer and former senior minister can get involved in such a cockamamie scheme to save the skin of a corrupt Congressman, then what else might they have up their sleeves?  If I were Aipac, I’d be damn pissed at this.  It’s their job to help raise all this campaign cash to elect Israel’s GOP (and a few Democrats just to keep things honest) water carriers.  What’s Israel doing opening a sleazy new front in the campaign wars?  It might even draw unwanted scrutiny to the Lobby’s own campaign fundraising.  Not good for the Jews (as the saying goes), not good for the Lobby.

Speaking of the Lobby’s corrupt influence, Rozen reveals in her article that during the Israel trip during which Grimm and other Republican Congressmembers skinny-dipped in the Kinneret, an Aipac staffer picked up the bar tab that led to that little kerfuffle.  The Lobby will do anything for its guys, even get ’em drunk, which leads to embarrassing escapades like this one.

Ynet also reveals another new factor in the Grimm case.  I’ve reported about the second campaign fundraiser to be charged by the Justice Department.  She is a Texas energy company official, Diana Durand.  Now, we find out that she’s Grimm’s ex-girlfriend.  This explains why she’s hired a Grimm pal and ex-FBI colleague, Stuart Kaplan, as her attorney.  It looks like Grimm and Durand are closing ranks against the feds.  It also indicates that the FBI has targeted someone near and dear to Grimm, possibly to give him a message that this is gonna get down and dirty before it gets done.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Oui January 18, 2014, 4:29 AM

    Legal costs for Mike Grimm amount to over $500k, which is huge. Most interesting, it’s run up as a debt and his attorney is from Patton Boggs, (in)famous for its high-profile cases for the Republican party. I’ve come across these people many times:

    “Benjamin Ginsberg, chief legal counsel; Ginsberg is a partner at the law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, provided outside counsel to the Bush re-election campaign as well as to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.”

    In the Valerie Plame case and cover-up, it was PB partner Bob Luskin who was involved with the Bush White House and Karl Rove. My diary in 2005/2006 – Crucial Paragraph Viveca Novak :: Stands Out Like A Sore Thumb.

  • Oui January 18, 2014, 9:43 AM

    The original story how Grimm’s Jewish money got media attention in 2010. Follow the links, especially in the second article at the end from Room Eight – New York politics.

    McMahon fires aide over ‘Jewish $$’ flap

    STATEN ISLAND, NY (SI-live) July 30, 2010 — Rep. Michael McMahon fired his campaign spokeswoman last night for “inappropriate” remarks after the New York Observer reported that she tried to underscore Republican challenger Michael Grimm’s out-of-district donor base with a list of donors entitled “Grimm Jewish Money Q2.”

    In an effort to show that Grimm has lackluster support at home, the re-election campaign for McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) compiled a list of his Jewish donors, most of whom live off Staten Island. The 80 names on the list for the second quarter fundraising period mostly had addresses in Florida and Manhattan.

    Ms. Nelson told the Observer the list was created by Debra Solomon, the campaign’s finance director. “She herself is Jewish so she knows a lot of people in that community,” Ms. Nelson said.

    Only a few names on the list — which McMahon’s camp provided to PolitickerNY, a blog on the website of the New York Observer — call the Staten Island/Brooklyn district home.

    There also was a separate list indicating who had previously made contributions to the failed presidential and senatorial bids of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

    Grimm, 40, a New Springville resident, former undercover FBI agent and a Marine who served in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, was endorsed by Giuliani last month.

    McMahon’s re-election campaign fired Jennifer Nelson for circulating Jewish donor list

  • Oui January 18, 2014, 1:16 PM
    • Daniel F. January 19, 2014, 10:09 PM

      Yaakov Neeman is no longer justice minister, Tzipi Livni has served as justice minister for almost a year now.
      You will likely agree that she is quite different to Yaakov Neeman.
      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Richard Silverstein January 19, 2014, 11:39 PM

        Tzipi Livni “quite different?” Howso? She’s a woman for one. How else? She’s more honest, more moderate, more ethical, less mobbed up in the Likud context? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

      • Oui January 20, 2014, 12:31 AM

        I’m aware Neeman was part of the former cabinet. I tried to find the English version of Haaretz article linked under “smoothing things over” [Hebrew]. The Pinto affair manifested itself over the last 3-4 years.

  • Oui January 18, 2014, 2:01 PM

    Kabbalist Under Fire For Missing Millions Blames
    Aide, Notorious PR Flack
    Dec. 20, 2011 – Rabbi Yoshiyahu
    Pinto’s spokesmen are blaming Pinto’s estranged fundraising
    assistant and 5WPR head Ronn Torossian for the disappearance of
    milllions of dollars of Pinto’s charity’s money, and Torossian’s
    company is reportedly responsible for sockpuppeting false
    information about Pinto on Wikipedia. In 2008, 5WPR sockpuppeting
    for Agriprocessors and Sholom Rubashkin was exposed by
    FailedMessiah.com in a story that made headlines Ronn Torossian, president and CEO of 5W Public
    Ronn Torossian is the founder, President
    & Chief Executive Officer of New York-based 5W Public Relations. Under his
    direction, the PR Firm has achieved tremendous growth and success
    and is ranked as one of the largest independent U.S. PR Agencies.
    At 5WPR, Ronn Torossian has worked on PR
    programs for clients including Cantor Fitzgerald, Coca-Cola,
    Pepsi-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Tropicana, Microsoft, XM Radio,
    celebrities including Pamela Anderson & Snoop Dogg, and
    government entities including the President of Serbia, Government
    of Israel, and Tourism Ministries of Morocco and Canada. He is a
    regular commentator to media outlets on public relations and
    marketing. Ronn Torossian was born and raised in New York City and
    resides with his family in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of
    Manhattan. He is an active board member of numerous

  • dickerson3870 January 18, 2014, 2:32 PM

    RE: “Rabbi Pinto’s ‘Generosity’ Extends Up GOP
    Food Chain”
    can’t use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must
    take a stick and hit him on the snout!”
    ~ From
    ‘The Education of Henry
    (winner of the 1919 Pulitzer Prize), By
    Henry Brooks Adams, 1838-1918 (American
    journalist-historian-academic-novelist; grandson of President John
    Quincy Adams; great-grandson of President John Adams) •
    The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams –
    link to gutenberg.orgThe Education of
    Henry Adams: An Autobiography
    (Google eBook) –
    link to books.google.com

  • Oui January 18, 2014, 3:32 PM

    Interview Ronn Torossian: One on One: ‘It’s all about shaping a story’

    (JPost) May 8, 2009 – ‘One of my first teachers in PR was Avi Weiss,” Ronn Torossian says, referring to the activist American rabbi who had an impact on his early years. It was Weiss who taught the young follower – and subsequent national president – of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Revisionist Betar movement the importance of being “as close as you can to the cameras to further your message.”

    It was thus that the 34-year-old founding president and CEO of the New York City-based 5W Public Relations “was on the cover of every daily paper in Israel, two days after moving here in 1997,” at the age of 23, shortly after graduating from college. Ironically, the occasion for this instant publicity more than a decade ago was the activity surrounding the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud. Torossian accompanied the first group of residents moving into a building purchased by none other than Miami-based philanthropist Irving Moskowitz.

    The photo-op was only the beginning. During what would turn out to be a two-year stint in this country, Torossian was one of three founders – together with fellow Betar alumni and peers, today Likud MK Danny Danon and Kadima MK Yoel Hasson – of Yerushalayim Shelanu (Jerusalem Is Ours), a secular organization promoting the right of Jews to live anywhere they choose in the city of Jerusalem.

    Among his past and present clients in the Israeli business world, Torossian has worked with Nice Systems, gaming mogul Noam Lanir, Moshe Gaon, “oligarchs” whose names he is unwilling to disclose publicly, Ahava and a number of hi-tech firms.

    Incompetent superflack Ronn [sic] Torossian thinks Israel should kill “a thousand Arabs for every Jew they kill”

  • Anony January 18, 2014, 11:19 PM

    The suggested “conspiracy theory” can be corroborated by the FBI’s apparently out of proportion interest over the matter.

    Fundraising irregularities or immigration cheating are quite common offences. One may wonder whether the vast interest, the resources allocated, being involved in a brawl with an “ally” state and its cooperating agencies and so on can be explained by the alleged illegalities alone?

    Unless there is something more. It may be the case therefore that it is the very intervention of a foreign state yet “an allied” one coupled with what is perceived as a systematic attempt by the Israeli top brass to influence politics and the democratic procedures by unlawful means.

  • Oui January 19, 2014, 12:27 AM

    In several articles, the names of Bracha and Arbiv were interchanged. Here is a new article …

    Comptroller Shapiro: Ties between senior police commander Arbiv, Pinto were unethical

    (JPost) – The links between Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto and police Asst.-Ch. Menashe Arbiv, head of “the Israeli FBI,” were “an example of relations that were not prohibited by the law, but about which there were potential ethical issues,” State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said on Friday.

    Pinto, founder of the Shuva Israel Yeshiva network, is under investigation for wrongdoing in the US by the FBI in one case, may be a victim of extortion in another US case involving Rep. Michael Grimm of New York and is under investigation for possible involvement in bribery cases in Israel.

    Regarding the case in Israel, the rabbi has reached a preliminary deal with the Justice Ministry, having provided information regarding the investigation of senior police officials. He may eventually arrive at a plea bargain, depending on how useful the information he provided turns out to be.

    In 2012, Pinto was arrested along with his wife after he allegedly gave a briefcase full of cash to Dep.-Ch. Ephraim Bracha, who reportedly, either was recorded during the meeting or told his superiors about Pinto’s attempted bribery, or both. Bracha now heads the police’s National Fraud Squad.

    The Justice Ministry reiterated on Thursday statement that it had cleared Bracha.

    From “J”‘s link – Eric Cantor Tied to Rabbi Whose Aide Is at Center of ProbeAug. 23, 2012
    The same family name, is there a relationship with Ephraim Bracha?

    Real estate broker Haim Binstock, and his wife his wife, Gallya Binstock, together donated $91,600 to Cantor’s campaign on Oct. 31, 2008. Binstock’s business partner Ilan Bracha, and his wife, Mati Bracha, also donated $91,600 to Cantor’s campaign on the same date, campaign filings show. In 2008, Binstock and Bracha Manhattan property they planned to donate for use as a synagogue for Rabbi Pinto, they told The Wall Street Journal last year. [WSJ – A Rabbi Gets a Helping Hand]

    Ilan Bracha is headquartered at the 725 Fifth Avenue office of his development company, B+B Investment Group

  • Oui January 20, 2014, 2:28 PM

    Former FBI Agent Michael Grimm sought leniency for New York-based developer Tommy Kontogiannis

    (NY Daily News) Feb. 26, 2012 – In 2005, federal authorities began investigating Randy “Duke” Cunningham, an eight-term congressman on the committee in charge of defense funding. The probe revealed that two contractors had given Cunningham more than $2 million in exchange for help winning defense contracts.

    Kontogiannis laundered money intended for Cunningham through a real estate transaction. He also overpaid in buying a yacht from the congressman even though he did not “particularly wish to have a boat,” according to his agreement to plead guilty.

    Grimm, a former Marine, spent 11 years in the FBI. He resigned in in 2006 to start business ventures, including a restaurant and a biofuel company, before running for Congress in 2010.

    In his sentencing pitch, Grimm wrote that he met Kontogiannis through “mutual friends” while in the FBI, and that their initial acquaintance was “purely social.” Later, he told the judge, “the relationship merged” with Grimm’s work as an undercover agent.

    The New Yorker: FBI Indercover agent Mike Grimm and Josef Franz Prach von Habsburg-Lothringen (May 2, 2011)
    NYT – Congressman’s Business Ties Are at Odds With Upright Image

  • TMC January 22, 2014, 11:01 PM

    Guess who’s worried about Sochi? link to washingtontimes.com

    Grimm also used to be a biofuel CEO in Texas. :)

    • Richard Silverstein January 23, 2014, 2:22 AM

      @ TMC: Which is where he met his former flame, Diana Durand, no doubt. Thanks!

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