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.
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.