December 11, 2006

by Reb Yudel
Is Dov Hikind advertising a criminal scam in the Forward and Jewish Week?

Is Dov Hikind using anger at Ehud Olmert to illegally raise funds for his political ambitions?

That would seem to be the most logical -- albeit least charitable reading -- of the fine print of the full page ad in New York's Jewish papers this weekend, featuring the headline: "Prime Minister Olmert, PLEASE RESIGN!"

Because, after listing reasons why Olmert should resign (including calling him "arrogant, irresponsible, delusional" and several other apt descriptions of President Bush), the bottom of the ad has two pieces of small print.

On the left, a plea for funds: "If you support this message... please forward your tax deductible contribution to Yad Moshe, 1254 E. 35th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210".

And on the right: Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Committee in Formation.

This raises some questions.

For one, what is tax deductible about a manifestly political ad? IRS bans on political advocacy do not stop at the ocean; meddling in Israeli elections is as illegal for a non-profit as is meddling in American elections.

Second, what is Yad Moshe?

Finally, what is Dov Hikind's role in this?

I have no answer to the first question. But Yad Moshe is a congregation in Brooklyn to which the Dov Hikind campaign has in the past donated thousands of dollars. And Dov Hikind's role... is, at the least, to be opening the mailed checks, since the address in Brooklyn is not that of the Yad Moshe congregation, but rather of "Citzens for Dov Hikind."

Could it be that checks made out to a tax-deductible synagogue are being solicited to pay for partisan, non-deductible advertisements, and being opened by a politician? If such a dubious, convoluted fundraising enterprise was underway, do you think the politician might be taking a cut for his efforts? Or perhaps just compiling a list of generous Brooklynites? So many possible motives.... but I welcome suggestions of how funding such an advertisement could not be threatening the IRS status of the Yad Moshe congregation... or cementing Dov Hikind's already dubious ethical reputation.

Incidentally, the Jewish Week reported on these ads this week... but neglected to ask the obvious legal questions.

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