Arthur J. Finkelstein

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Arthur J. Finkelstein (born 1946) is a United States Republican Party political operative. He has directed a series of campaigns, considered to be quite successful, to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel in the past 25 years. He runs Arthur J. Finkelstein and Associates, a political consulting firm based in Irvington, New York, which handles his clients. He is widely known for being a gay Republican who has worked for politicians who have taken anti-homosexual political positions.

By 1972 he was working on President Richard M. Nixon's re-election campaign as a demographic theoretical analyst. In 1979 he rose to prominence as a pollster for Ronald Reagan during the Republican primaries leading up to the 1980 general election that made him President. In 1980, he engineered the surprising victory of former U.S. Senator from New York Alfonse D'Amato over incumbent Jacob Javits. The unexpected victory of Republican George Pataki over the Democratic incumbent Mario Cuomo in the 1994 New York Governor's race in the heavily Democratic-leaning state helped to cement Finkelstein as one of the most successful campaign managers working at the time. In 1996, Finkelstein had a hand in directing Republican strategy in 33 U.S. Senate races.

On 16 January 2006, Jeff Halper, an Israeli-American anthropology professor and anti-occupation activist stated:

(33:35 mark) Casting yourself as a victim is so effective politically, because, again, you are off the hook, you cannot be held accountable -- so that Israel didn't want to give it up. It tries to mix -- it is very hard to do -- it tries to mix this image of Shin Bet agents, effective spies, the Six Day War, defeating the higher Arab world, Israel as the ally of the United States in the war against terrorism, we are now going to nuke Iran, that whole thing that makes Israel a major player... But wait a minute, if we are a major player somebody is going to ask about the occupation. At the same time that we are the fourth largest nuclear power sending our missiles to Iran, we also have to present ourselves as the victims -- the little Jews in the ghetto that those bad bully Arabs are going to beat up. So, that is a very difficult sell, but I think that Israeli PR is so sophisticated. They use the most sophisticated American PR firms, specially a guy called Finkelstein that you have never heard of in the States, but he is the dirty tricks guy for the Republicans. When Karl Rove and the Republicans when they go through all the campaign and you start getting negative advertising, the dirty tricks, and the Swift Boats, the dirty-dirty stuff, that is Finkelstein. And Finkelstein always runs the Likud campaigns in Israel. And Paul Wolfowitz -- I don't know if people know this -- the former deputy Secretary of Defense, the architect of the Iraq war, today the president of the World Bank, the leading neocon, was Netanyahu's campaign manager in 1996. So, this is all a hand and glove type of a thing. So you use these American firms, like Finkelstein's firms, to get over this contradiction to show that Israel is a strong proud Jewish state, that is a strong regional power that could take on anybody, but at the same time sell the other image that Israel is the little Jew as the victim. And has done so successfully. [1]

Campaign style

Finkelstein is known for his hard-edged political campaigns, which often focus on hammering home a single message with great repetition. He is credited with helping to make "liberal" a dirty word in the late 1980s and 1990s by using commercial messages like this, intended to damage Jack Reed's image:

That's liberal. That's Jack Reed. That's wrong. Call liberal Jack Reed and tell him his record on welfare is just too liberal for you.[2]

He also helped create the idea for this commercial message about Minnesota U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone:

Paul Wellstone. Embarrassingly liberal. Decades out of touch.[3]

While often successful, Finkelstein's tactics have sometimes backfired -- such as in 1996, where his repeated attacks against Wellstone had the effect of galvanizing Wellstone's liberal grass-roots base. Republican U.S. Senator Rod Grams had to eventually condemn Finkelstein's negative ads against Wellstone for being excessive.

Homosexuality

In 1996, Boston Magazine outed Finkelstein as a homosexual in a feature story. In April 2005, Finkelstein acknowledged that in December, 2004, he had married his long time partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.[4] This prompted former President Bill Clinton to state that "I thought, one of two things. Either this guy believes his party is not serious, and is totally Machiavellian in his position, or there's some sort of self-loathing there. I was more sad for him."[5]

Stop Her Now

In April 2005, Finkelstein organized a political action committee (PAC) called Stop Her Now with the stated goal, "to shed light on the REAL Hillary Clinton and the danger she and her ideas pose for America."[6] The PAC planned to raise ten million dollars to defeat Clinton in the 2006 New York U.S. Senate race, thereby making a potential 2008 presidential run less likely. However, the PAC showed barely any activity [7], had no effect on the Senate race, and Clinton was easily re-elected by a wide margin. After the 2006 election, the PAC and website have since been taken over by Dallas businessman Richard Collins.[8]

Quotes

  • "The political center has disappeared, and the Republican Party has become the party of the Christian right more so than in any other period in modern history... Bush's victory not only establishes the power of the American Christian Right in this candidacy, but in fact established its power to elect the next Republican president." [9]
  • "From now on, anyone who belongs to the Republican Party will automatically find himself in the same group as the opponents of abortion, and anyone who supports abortion will automatically be labeled a Democrat." [10]
  • "She will put off Democrats from the center. In terms of the Republicans, Hillary Clinton is a wonderful candidate for the presidency." [11]
  • "When you allow people to choose between the corrupt and the stupid, they will go for the corrupt." (Said in reference to a 2003 Israeli campaign)[12]

Current and former clients

Finkelstein has worked for many politicans in a number of positions:[3]

  • Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms
  • Former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato
  • Former U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz
  • New York Governor George Pataki
  • Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan
  • Former U.S. President Richard Nixon
  • Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole
  • Terry Dolan's the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC)
  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
  • Former U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth
  • Far-right Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman
  • Former U.S. Senator Don Nickles
  • Former U.S. Senator Bob Smith

His firm has also done non-political work for a number of organizations:[13]

  • Time magazine
  • Scott Paper
  • McDonalds
  • Quaker Oats
  • The Trump Organization
  • The opponents of the new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan

Affiliations

Notes

  1. Source: MP3 audio
  2. Jonathan Karl, Arthur Finkelstein: Out Of Sight But In Control, Inside Politics, 10 Oct 1996, (accessed 17 Jan 2007)
  3. E. J. Dionne, Radical Realist, Washington Post, 19 Jan 1997.
  4. Adam Nagourney, G.O.P. Consultant Weds His Male Partner, 9 April 2005 (accessed 17 Jan 2007).;GOP Crony Weds Gay Partner
  5. Austin Fenner, Bill: Gay GOPer 'self-loathing', New York Daily News, 12 April 2005 (accessed 17 Jan 2007).
  6. Bill Berkowitz, Arthur Finkelstein is Hunting Hillary Clinton, Media Transparency, 9 Jan 2005 (accessed 17 Jan 2007).
  7. [1]
  8. [2]
  9. Said to the Hebrew-language paper Maariv, Nov. 2004 (dead web link)
  10. Said to the Hebrew-language paper Maariv, Nov. 2004 (dead web link)
  11. Michael Janofsky, G.O.P. Adviser Says Bush's Evangelical Strategy Split Country, New York Times, 11 Nov. 2004 (accessed 17 Jan 2007, subscription required).
  12. Aluf Benn, His mother said so, Haaretz, 02 Aug. 2005, (accessed 17 Jan 2007).
  13. ibid.