I'm just getting back on-line now after seasonal complications (Jewish holidays partially, though by no means exclusively) so I'm late on such excitements as Stuxnet (the computer virus that might -- I said "might" -- slow down the Iranian nuclear program -- see Alexis Madrigal for a useful summary); my mega-large, mega-late Iran follow-up; the possibly averted-for-the-moment defrosting of the Jewish settlement freeze; President Obama's sensible statement about America's ability to withstand terror attacks, which was immediately and capriciously taken wildly out of context by some usual suspects; various new developments out of Havana, etc. But this afternoon I'm mostly trying to figure out what the hell is going on at J Street, the liberal, pro-Israel lobbying group.
Eli Lake set off today's excitement with a report detailing the fact that George Soros, the billionaire investor whose hostility to Israel and Zionism is no secret, is in fact one of J Street's larger donors, even though J Street has suggested, time and time again, that Soros was not a supporter. But even more interesting news out of Eli's report is this: A woman named Consolacion Ediscul from Happy Valley, Hong Kong, gave $811,697 to J Street over a one year period. Who in hell is Consolacion Ediscul? Beats me. Ben Smith, who is on this story like kasha on varnishkes, reports that "Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her." A J Street spokeswoman told Smith (and Lake before him) that Ediscul is a business associate of someone named Bill Benter, a prominent J Street supporter from Pittsburgh. And who is Bill Benter? According to this Wired story, he is some sort of genius horse bettor. Seriously. More to come, soon, I hope.
UPDATE: Ouch. J Street apparently tried to spin -- wildly -- Chris Good, of this magazine, earlier today. Chris issues the necessary corrective here. An excerpt:
A set of half-truths, non-truths and ambiguities from J Street lead a reasonable person to conclude that the group tried to falsely conceal that George Soros has been one of its largest donors for years, and to falsely claim that it had been "open" about those donations over the past three years. J Street also seemed to distort the fact that it received a large donation from Hong Kong. Some of this happened on the phone with me earlier today.
Then there's this:
Last night, on its website, J Street had this to say about Soros donations: that Soros had not been a founding or primary funder of the group, and that it would be happy to take his money were he to offer it. Which implies that Soros was not giving money to J Street, even though he was.
From the J Street website:
Liberal financier George Soros founded and is the primary funder of J Street.
George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched - precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization.
J Street's Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.
J Street has thousands of donors, large and small. The supporters of the political action committee (JStreetPAC) can be publicly reviewed on the website of the Federal Election Commission. The top donors to J Street are members of the organization's Finance Committee - listed in its annual report on page 9 (PDF). Many of its major donors are also members of its Advisory Council.
The part of the website dealing with Soros had not been updated for three years, until last night.
J Street confirmed that it added a new "Myth" last night: that "J Street has said it doesn't receive money from George Soros, but now news reports indicate that he has in fact contributed." A disclosure of Soros' donations follows below on the page, which you can see here.
Which, to me, is quite different from being "open" about Soros' funding.
Asked later why J Street would falsely imply that Soros had not given money to the group, J Street spokesman Matt Dorf said the wesbite was accurate. He denied that the phrasing "should he wish to support the effort" implied that Soros was not already supporting the effort.
As I asked earlier: WTF?
UPDATE II: Here is Consolacion Ediscul with Jackie Chan. Don't ask: