Ted Cruz woos pro-Israel coalition as backers seek to build on momentum

Pro-Cruz Super Pac and members of the Republican Jewish Coalition mobilize on the heels of Texas senators Wisconsin victory

Right after Ted Cruz gave a major address on Saturday to hundreds of pro-Israel Republican Jewish Coalition members at the Las Vegas resort and casino owned by the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, approximately a dozen wealthy board members of the RJC which is mainly underwritten by Adelson hosted a roundtable deliberation with the Texan, giving him a chance to woo donors in a more intimate setting.

The pro-Cruz Trusted Leadership Super Pac had in recent weeks also arranged to hold a three-day retreat at the Venetian resort and casino, where the annual three-day RJC event was being held. On Friday night, the Trusted Leadership Pac threw a bash that drew several rich RJC donors who had recently become Cruz supporters after their first choices had fallen out.

The overlapping Las Vegas events underscore how a pro-Cruz Super Pac, and a number of RJC allies who are raising fund for the Cruz campaign, are moving fast to capitalize on presidential candidates big win in Wisconsin for fundraising and political gains, as the Senator tries to sustain his momentum and overtake Donald Trump in the Republican race.

To be sure, Cruz has long been popular with a number of RJC donors and Adelson primarily because of his stanch backing for Israel, the number one issue for the 40,000 -member conservative RJC. A key example: last September, Cruz spearheaded a rally of conservative groups at the Capitol which also featured Donald Trump as his special guest to oppose the Iran nuclear bargain, a top priority for the RJC and other pro-Israel groups.

The Cruz train is looking appealing, said Michael Epstein, an RJC board member and commercial estate developer from Maryland who only recently joined the campaigns finance team, after initially backing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and then Florida senator Marco Rubio.

Epstein told the Guardian he and a dozen other board members including the California venture capitalist Elliott Broidy, the New York real estate investor Ben Heller and the Houston businessman Fred Zeidman organized the roundtable, which described about 75 people, dedicating Cruz a chance to welcome everybody to become advocates. Obviously money is important, and were talking to everybody else about the campaigns requires, he said.

Epstein also attended the Super Pac event Friday evening. Im sure the Pac people will be happy to take our checks, he quipped.

Sheldon Adelson. Photograph: John Locher/ AP

But while Cruzs hawkish postures on Israels security needs have endeared him to many RJC donors and fundraisers, ambivalence and concerns are palpable too: the Texans hard right views on immigration and some other social issues coupled with his slash and burn political style, have caused heartburn for several of its big fundraisers and donors who tend to be more moderate on domestic issues.

Im supporting Cruz solely on the basis of Israel, said Jay Zeidman, another Houston businessman and the son of Fred Zeidman. Theres no better ally of the Jewish nation and security and safety needs, he added, but stressed that I dont agree with him on immigration and other social issues.

Both Zeidmans, who were early backers of Jeb Bush and are known for their fundraising prowess, only opted in late March to support Cruz.

A number of prominent RJC board members, including the Florida shopping mall magnate Mel Sembler, who was a major fundraiser for a pro-Bush Super Pac, have shied away from picking other candidates. Several RJC board members are dissatisfied with the current options and the acrimonious nature of the campaigns.

Still, a growing number of the 50 -plus wealthy RJC board members whose ranks include two former ambassadors under former George W Bush, the former senator Norm Coleman and the former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman now find Cruz as their best option to regain the White House, despite what they consider his flaws.

Epstein, who introduced Cruz before his big Saturday speech to 500 RJC members attending the annual springtime session , noted in an interview that Trump and John Kasich were also invited to speak to the RJC, but only Cruz accepted.

I think were a little surprised, he added, with a touch of understatement, when asked why Trump and Kasich didnt come.

Along with other nominees, all three addressed an RJC gathering in Washington in December, at which Trump drew harsh reviews for commenting that he would be a neutral player in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, an idea that many RJC members scorn.

Trump reportedly declined an invitation to a private dinner that Adelson had for the RJC board on Thursday at his Las Vegas mansion, leaving some board members puzzled.

Cruz and other nominees have aggressively courted Adelsons big checkbook and political is supportive of months, and the Texan( along with Rubio, before he fell out) has been near of the upper part of the billionaires listing, say Adelson friends. The frenzied chase to woo Adelson whose net worth is close to $28 bn is barely surprising: in 2012, the casino owner and his wife, Miriam, poured virtually $150 m into a mix of Super Pacs, which must disclose their donors, and not-for-profit organisations, which dont “re going to have to”, making them the GOPs leading contributors.

But unlike in 2012, when Adelson and his wife dedicated $15 m early on to a super PAC backing their longtime close ally Newt Gingrich the former House speaker who fell out of the primaries after launching some damaging assaults against Mitt Romney the couple have been much more cautious this year. They want to back a candidate who can win in November, and they may not make any big fund commitments before a nominee is picked, say RJC sources.

Adelson, whom many GOP operatives deem mercurial, and his wife each devoted $2,700 to the Cruz campaign last November. But in February, in a recording of comments Adelson made at a gala honoring the former NYC mayor and current Trump advocate Rudy Giuliani, Adelson suggested hed back Trump if he wins the nomination by saying: Why not?

This weekend, the Adelsons even left the RJC meeting early to attend a wedding in Baltimore.

Despite Adelsons departure, both the Cruz Super Pac, which takes unlimited checks, and the campaign, which can only accept donations of $2,700 per person, were poised to do well in Las Vegas.

Among the Super Pac leaders in Las Vegas was Alice Hanley, the treasurer of the Trusted Leadership Pac, which was launched in March to bring in new big donors. Hanley did not respond to requests for comment.

Trusted Leadership has become the political vehicle for raking in new limitless donations following on the heels of few other Super Pacs under the moniker Keep the Promise that were formed in 2015. Three of these Super Pacs were largely bankrolled by a few someones dedicating at least $10 m each.

A 1 April email to potential donors from Kate Doner, a top fundraiser for the new Pac, indicated that all the other Super Pacs had been rolled into Trusted Leadership to optimize resources and talent.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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