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November 22, 1991 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

Duke's Defeat Aided
By Activist Jews

Better late than never, Jewish politicos
raised cash and sent workers to
Louisiana to give the Edwards campaign
a needed boost.

ewish activists played
a significant role in
last Saturday's defeat
of former Nazi and Ku Klux
Klan leader David Duke.
In the waning days of the
battle between Mr. Duke
and former Gov. Edwin Ed-
wards, a number of Jewish
political consultants made
the trek south to work in the
anti-Duke effort, including
pollsters and fundraising
specialists.
A belated effort to mine
the Jewish community for
contributions to the Ed-
wards campaign began just
two weeks before the elec-
tion and amounted to an at-
tempt to offset the heavy in-
flow of out-of-state money
into the Duke campaign.
The most successful fun-
draising operation was staff-
ed by Michael Lewan, the
top aide to Sen. Joe Lieber-
man, D-Conn. Mr. Lewan is
not Jewish, but he has work-
' ed closely with the Jewish
political network for many
years.
Working from a downtown
Washington office, Mr.
Lewan raised more than
$500,000 for the Louisiana
Democratic party, mostly
from the Jewish community.
"In a very short period of
time, we put together an
operation around the coun-
try," Mr. Lewan said. "It
was really a 'two minute
drill.' "
Mr. Lewan said that the
fund-raising effort, which
paralleled efforts in the
black community and among
progressive and labor
groups, was hectic but satis-
fying.
"This . was perhaps the
most stressful experience
I've ever had —mainly be-
cause of the time," he said.
"We had only two weeks to
put this thing together, to
explain what we were doing,
to get the money down to
Louisiana. But it was very
satisfying."
The well-oiled Jewish po-
litical fund-raising network
gave the pro-Edwards effort
an important boost, he said.
So did a group of Jewish
legislators, who tapped their
own networks of con-
tributors to add to the Loui-
siana effort.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.,
Sen. Frank Lautenberg,

j

D-N.J., Rep. Stephen Solarz,
D-N.Y., and Sen. Lieberman
made calls urging con-
tributors to help the Loui-
siana Democrats.
Another player in the Jew-
ish fund-raising effort was
Monte Friedkin, a leading
pro-Israel activist and Dem-
ocratic party official.
Sheldon Beychok, a mem-
ber of the Jewish political
community in Louisiana,
netted more than $100,000
with a single fund-raising
letter, using a mailing list
obtained with the help of the
National Jewish Democratic
Council.
But it wasn't just the big
spenders and high-powered
political pros who helped
stem the Duke tide.
Young workers from
several Jewish groups trav-
eled to Louisiana to stuff
envelopes, staff campaign of-
fices and provide transporta-
tion to the polls.
"I was in Pennsylvania the
week of the (Harris) Wofford
campaign," said Roger
Kossin, a legislative assis-

Out-of-state Jews
contributed
mightily — unlike
local Louisiana
Jewish groups.

tant at the Washington of-
fice of the American Jewish
Congress. "It occurred to me
that with this election com-
ing up in Louisiana, it was
even more important to get
involved."
Bonnie Dunninger, assis-
tant to the director of the Re-
ligious Action Center of
Reform Judaism, came back
more frightened than ever
by the Duke phenomenon.
"I went down because I
thought this was a historic
race," she said. "The fact
that a Nazi and a former
grand wizard of the Ku Klux
Klan has been elevated to
this position in American
politics is horrific."
Ms. Dunninger, who did
not go to Louisiana in her of-
ficial capacity, is convinced
that the election's results do
not represent a setback for
Mr. Duke.
"This is all part of his
plan," she said. "I'm con-
vinced that this man really

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