A group promoting United States-Israel ties is raising funds for Norm Coleman with an e-mail that opens by referring to Al Franken by the not-particularly-Jewish-sounding name “Franklin”:
We are making an appeal for one of our friends and steadfast supporters of US-Israel relations, Senator Norm Coleman. The election in Minnesota and its recount have been distressing to follow. Coleman won the election. After the recount, Franklin came out slightly ahead, but tragically this recount was filled with many irregularities and is now being contested in court.
Both Franken, a Democrat, and Coleman, a Republican, are Jewish — as were the last two men to hold the seat: Rudy Boschwitz, a Republican, and the late Paul Wellstone, a Democrat. A letter that Boschwitz sent just before Election Day 1990 to “Our Friends in the Minnesota Jewish Community” asserting that Wellstone “has no connection whatsoever with the Jewish community” is sometimes blamed for Boschwitz’s loss to Wellstone that year.
The NORPAC message (full text) doesn’t mention Israel again but instead focuses on Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election contest, getting Franken’s name right a couple of times before soliciting donations of as much as $12,300 (that’s 123 Ben Franklins). The effort comes just as an Internet database-leak scandal is roiling Coleman’s own campaign fund raising.
According to JTA.org, the e-mail was sent over the weekend by NORPAC, which bills itself as “the largest American multi-candidate political action committee that supports public officials who work toward the goal of ever-closer cooperation between the United States and Israel.”
NORPAC (a name that draws on the organization’s historic base in Northern New Jersey) gave $10,000 to Coleman during the 2008 election cycle but in 2002 did not fund any Minnesota candidate for U.S. Senate. The group gives to both Republicans and Democrats.
UPDATE: On Franken’s support for Israel, NORPAC President Ben Chouake said he’s “glad [Franken] has position papers and attended some rallies, but that doesn’t [equal] being involved with the Jewish community, not as a Johnny-come-lately. … You have to give weight to incumbents [like Coleman].” NORPAC sent its e-mail in response to an appeal from the Coleman campaign, “based on progress in the court case” — which Chouake termed “a travesty.” (In an interview Tuesday night, Chouake first referred to Franken as “Franklin” before correcting himself.)
JTA.org staff writer Eric Fingerhut, who provided MnIndy with the full e-mail text, explained to MnIndy that NORPAC bases
their endorsement on Israel, and their general policy is to support a friendly incumbent when possible. So their backing of Coleman is really less a comment on Franken’s position on Israel than it is the fact that they like what Coleman did/how he voted on the Israel issue while he was in office. And as [NORPAC president Ben] Chouake said, they believe in backing their candidates until the race is over.
In January, when Israel was taking criticism for military attacks in Gaza, the Senate rivals shared front-row seats and the podium at an event called the Twin Cities Israel Solidarity Gathering, where Franken claimed his support for Israel matched Coleman’s.
Coleman’s Senate term ended in early January. Later that month he took a consulting job with the Republican Jewish Coalition, although he was in court on most days during the seven-week election contest trial that concluded Friday.
(The trial followed a statewide hand-recount that gave Franken a 225-vote lead. Now a three-judge panel is deciding whether evidence introduced at trials warrants a different result.)
Also in January, fund-raising efforts on Coleman’s behalf by the National Republican Lawyers Association prompted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission by Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Last week the FEC issued draft advisory opinions that would allow Franken, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or both to raise money to cover recount and election contest costs under new contribution limits. Such an opinion would provide a precedent for Coleman and Republican groups to do the same.