Gambling mogul and major Democratic donor Bill Benter is funding an effort in support of Chuck Hagel’s nomination for secretary of defense, according to Foreign Policy.
The Cable has learned that a large chunk of that pro-Hagel money is coming from one Democratic donor, gambling legend Bill Benter, who is working with the Podesta Group, a Washington lobbying firm, to support pro-Hagel advertising. Podesta facilitated Benter's funding of a week of ads in Politico's Playbook must-read daily newsletter, written by Mike Allen, a spokesman for Benter confirmed to The Cable.
This isn’t Benter’s first effort to use his fortune to advance the career of someone with a history of anti-Israel rhetoric. Benter donated to the world of liberal foundations, specifically the two anti-Israel groups J Street and Media Matters, following his horse race gambling success. Benter told the Daily Caller he has "been a contributor to Media Matters for many years."
Benter is suspected of donating to Media Matters in an attempt to install M.J. Rosenberg as the foreign policy voice at Media Matters.
M. J. Rosenberg was accused of being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic last year for using the term "Israel firster," for saying AIPAC "has Obama’s back to [the] wall on Iran," and for saying the Jewish "lobby" is pushing for war. Rosenberg left Media Matters in April 2012 after months of controversy.
J Street, the progressive organization focused on Israel, originally defended Rosenberg. J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said, "it’s a legitimate question" when Jewish Americans and Americans sympathetic to Israel are accused of putting the interest of another country before the United States. Ben-Ami later retracted his defense.
Benter is also one of J Street’s most important backers. He solicited and facilitated an $811,697 donation from an individual in Hong Kong for the group. The controversial anti-Israel group has faced questions since its founding. The organization denied ties to the controversial billionaire George Soros on its website but it was later revealed that Soros and his family had donated $750,000 to J Street. Soros has faced criticism for blaming the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe on the policies of the Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’ administrations and for writing that Israel was "the main stumbling block" for the Egyptian revolution.