New York donors haven’t been particularly generous to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s mercurial presidential campaign. He’s collected just over $52,000 across the state as of Sept. 30, according to campaign finance records, a drop in the bucket compared with chief Republican rival Mitt Romney’s $3,592,231.
Even long shot Ron Paul has raked in more cash in the Empire State: $303,161, as did Tim Pawlenty, who is no longer in the race.
But Gingrich, who has benefited from the withdrawal of scandal-plagued Herman Cain earlier this month and is now the front runner in some key primary states, has one important New York ally in Lawrence Kadish, a Long Island-based real estate investor and co-founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who reportedly spent $250,000 to help George W. Bush in his instrumental 2000 Florida win. He is also a major soft-money contributor with a long history of six-figure gifts to Republican campaign committees.
Kadish, his wife, Susan and son Charles each donated the federal maximum of $5,000 to Gingrich ($2,500 each for the general and primary campaigns), Federal Elections Commission records show. Those donations, made before Gingrich’s recent surge, are the largest family contribution to Gingrich recorded so far in the state.
Kadish is president of First Fiscal Trust and a resident of Old Westbury. He serves on the board of the conservative think tanks Hudson Institute and Claremont Institute and supports the pro-Israel media-watch organizations CAMERA and MEMRI.
He is credited as an executive producer of a 2008 documentary film about energy independence, “We Have The Power,” which features Gingrich. He is also executive producer of a pro-life film hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Both films were produced by Citizens United, a conservative group that calls for limited government.
In an interview Monday, Kadish, who is New York’s male representative to the Republican National Committee, said he has been a longtime supporter of Gingrich.
“He’s the most knowledgeable person out there,” he said. “I’ve read his books, seen his videos, heard his speeches, met with him on many occasions. He has a real commitment to getting the country in order and protecting our allies.”
“He’s out front on energy independence and understands what has to be done. And he’s always been there for Israel.”
Kadish added “he’s the guy who can stand up to the Putins of this world,” referring to former KGB head and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who is poised to return to the presidency of Russia. “They might intimidate others but they’re not going to intimidate [Gingrich]. He is more likely to intimidate them.”
Of the Republican House members who served under Gingrich who have recently come forward to trash the speaker as tyrannical, Kadish said “When you are the speaker of the House people come to you and ask for things and you can’t give everything to everyone, or maybe they didn’t agree with the Contract With America.”
Kadish said he agrees “100 percent” with comments Gingrich has made recently doubting the viability of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, whom Gingrich dismissively called a “made-up people,” positions that could make him a tough sell among American Jews who overwhelmingly support a negotiated settlement.
That fact was surely not lost on Democrats. The head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, David Harris, told The New York Times, “What he’s saying is far to the right of the democratically elected Likud leadership of the State of Israel, not to mention established U.S. policy for decades. This is as clear a demonstration as one needs that he’s not ready for prime time.”
The remark about the Palestinians, in an interview with The Jewish Channel, drew rebuke from other political figures, including Romney. On Tuesday a leading pro-Israel senator, Connecticut independent Joseph Lieberman, said “to me, the important fact is that the Palestinians are a people today, and any resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has to be between two people, two nations.”
Following the Jewish Channel interview here, Gingrich’s campaign clarified his position, saying “Newt Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state.”
Gingrich has another powerful Jewish supporter in Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, who with his wife has given the maximum donation to Gingrich while contributing $7 million to conservative organizations associated with the former speaker, The Forward reported.
But Gingrich has not yet resonated well with New York’s Republican Jews. As the April 24 primary here approaches, it remains to be seen if that will change as he surges in the polls or if they will pump more money into Romney’s campaign, seeing him as more electable.
On Dec. 6, at the Hyatt in Midtown, Gingrich met with some 30 prominent Jewish New Yorkers, including Daily News publisher Morton Zuckerman, an ex-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; developer and Republican Jewish Coalition co-founder George Klein; Presidents Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein; National Council of Young Israel Executive Director Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, who lives in Pennsylvania, also attended.
“[Gingrich] was extremely impressive,” said Hikind, a Democrat, who has been said to be considering an endorsement of Gingrich, whose views are in line with many constituents of Hikind’s heavily Orthodox Borough Park and Flatbush district. “There are a lot of people from my part of the Jewish community that are pro-Israel that really like the guy. There’s no question that he is refreshing.” Referring to Gingrich’s admitted extramarital affairs, Hikind said, “Everyone in the world knows he comes with a lot of baggage. He has addressed it. That really doesn’t bother you much; people make mistakes.
“Obama before the election sat in a church and for a long time went along with the things being said. Nobody ever cried out about the issue of Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright, which was so much more important than the issues of Newt Gingrich.”
Asked if he thinks Gingrich could gain support in New York, Kadish said, “If they pay attention. New Yorkers are pro-Israel and they understand that we have a $15 trillion debt that will go up to $18 trillion under Obama. The way to deal with that is energy independence, and Newt is all over that.”
A prominent Jewish Romney supporter, Lee Cowen, who serves on the former Massachusetts governor’s finance committee, said Gingrich’s popularity was part of “a game of Whack-A-Mole” in the GOP primary.
“Romney is the best qualified candidate to be president and his campaign has been steady and strong,” said Cowen, a Washington lobbyist. “But you keep having these other candidates who are popular but flame out for one reason for another. I suspect that will be the case with Newt Gingrich. He’s a very smart person and a great visionary but I just din’t think he’s well-rounded enough for an executive role in terms of running the country.
“In the Jewish community and especially the Republican Jewish community, I suspect that’s the prevailing opinion.”
Jeff Wiesenfeld, a Republican and Jewish activist who is a trustee of the City University of New York, also said it was likely Gingrich’s rise would be a temporary phenomenon in the campaign.
“You have to presume that at the end of the day, when it all sorts itself out, it will be Romney, the establishment candidate,” said Wiesenfeld. “But when there is some excitement for someone like Gingrich who is in the highly conservative camp, it takes on a life of its own.”
He added, however, that “it would be quite a spectacle to see a debate between an individual like Obama who is ill-equipped to speak in a debate without reading cue cards and someone like Gingrich who can hold his own.”