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US: Jewish megadonors spend millions, but divided over Republican candidate

While Trump leads in current polling, Jewish donors have spent more on other Republican primary campaigns
Former US President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a campaign rally in Windham, New Hampshire, on 8 August 2023.
Former US President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a campaign rally in Windham, New Hampshire, on 8 August 2023 (AFP)

While former US President Donald Trump has a comfortable lead over the rest of the candidates in the Republican presidential primary election, a closer look at the donor landscape shows a much more complicated picture.

In a review of where Jewish megadonors are placing their money in the race, Haaretz found that there is a divide among Jewish donors in choosing a clear GOP nominee to face off against the incumbent, President Joe Biden, in 2024.

Trump's Make America Great Again super PAC has received $1m in a donation from Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Charles was also one of the last people that the former president pardoned before leaving office.

Alex Adjmi, a Syrian-Jewish real estate executive and another person pardoned by Trump, donated $100,000 to Trump's campaign, and his brother Harry also donated another $50,000.

Saul Fox, a California-based private equity investor, made donations amounting to over $150,000.

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These numbers, however, pale in comparison to the amount of money that Jewish megadonors have poured into the campaign of Nikki Haley, who previously served as US ambassador to the UN under Trump.

Haley's super PAC, Stand for America, has been given $5m by WhatsApp creator, Jan Koum. The Kyiv-born billionaire made headlines last year for donating $2m to Aipac's United Democracy Project super PAC last year.

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She also received $230,000 from Elizabeth Stern, the widow of Hudson Institute chairman, Walter Stern; $236,400 from New York billionaire and real estate executive, Leonard Stern, and his wife, Allison Maher Stern; and nearly $150,000 in contributions from Minnesota auto supply magnate, Elliott Badzin.

Haley has been a popular candidate amongst the Republican Jewish Coalition, receiving donations from at least eight RJC board members. Three RJC board members previously referred to Haley as "the best candidate for Jewish Republicans, the Republican Party and America".

Her super PAC has also received funds from Roger Hertog, the chairman of the Tikvah Fund, the think tank that was behind the plans for Israel's judicial overhaul.

Another member of Tikvah, board member Jay Lefkowitz, donated $26,600 to Haley-related funds.

A level of uncertainty

Similar to Haley, Ron DeSantis, a frontrunner in the Republican primary who is trailing behind Trump, has also seen millions given to his super PAC from Jewish donors.

American business magnate and billionaire Jeffrey Yass donated $2.6m to DeSantis' super PAC, Never Back Down.

Fox, who gave donations to Trump's campaign, also provided funds to DeSantis. Both Fox and David Millstone, CEO of a global industries business, gave $1m in donations to DeSantis.

Hertog, chair of the Tikvah fund, donated $25,000 to the DeSantis super PAC.

Other significant donations to DeSantis' super PAC include a $256,650 gift from Texas-based real estate developer Ira Mitzner, who is involved with Yeshiva University, Israel Bonds, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The patterns of donations, which include donors providing funds to multiple candidates, reveal a level of uncertainty in the upcoming primary election, with Trump currently being bogged down by numerous legal issues.

As of 30 June, Trump had more cash on hand than any other presidential candidate, with $22.5m, besting even President Joe Biden’s $20.1 million, as well as DeSantis’ $12.2m.

Trump has, however, had to dedicate significant resources to paying off his legal fees. A grand jury in Georgia indicted Trump earlier this week, levelling 13 charges against him over accusations of trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

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