An influential Orthodox rabbi whose former aide has been arrested in a federal campaign finance probe has ties to one of the most powerful members of Congress: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, I reported on the front page Thursday.
Indeed, further examination of federal campaign filings by Al-Monitor Saturday indicate that the top seven donors to Cantor’s 2008 campaign are followers or associates of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, an Israeli-born mystic rabbi who has acquired a devoted States-side following since he moved to New York in 2005, including among real estate developers.
Together, the group of close Rabbi Pinto associates that made up Cantor’s seven top donors in 2008 gave about $330,000 to the Virginia Republican–almost 10% of the $3.9 million total Cantor raised for the 2008 race. None of them are from Virginia, and some had not previously given to US political campaigns.
Josef Ben Moha, of New Jersey, donated $48,100 to Cantor’s Victory Fund on April 11, 2008–his only campaign donation in US records. Moha is listed as managing director of the company, Livono (or Livorno) Partners, whose CEO Ben Zion Suky donated $48,100 to Cantor’s 2008 campaign on the same date. Suky serves as the “right-hand man…. translator, gatekeeper and conduit to the outside world” for Rabbi Pinto, the Forward reported last year. He also owns property with Rabbi Pinto’s wife, as well as a porn DVD distribution business.
Haim Milo Revah, of California, donated $48,100 to Cantor on April 21, 2008. “When Haim Revah, a real-estate magnate who once owned the Lipstick Building where Bernard Madoff was a tenant, brooded about purchasing the Bank One tower in Dallas two years ago, the rabbi [Pinto] suggested a maximum bid that proved to be the winning price: $216 million,” the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2011, citing Revah: “I don’t know how the rabbi did it, but at the end of the day, it was the best price possible.”
Haim Binstock, and his wife Gallya Binstock, together donated $91,600 to Cantor’s campaign on October 31, 2008. (It was one of only two Haim Binstock campaign donations in US records, following a $300 contribution to the NRCC in 2004.) Binstock’s business partner Ilan Bracha, and his wife Mati Bracha, also donated $91,600 to Cantor’s campaign on the same date, campaign filings show.
In 2008, “Bracha, one of the city’s top-selling residential brokers, and his partner developer Haim Binstock paid $1.65 million” to buy a ground floor space in Manhattan’s the Heritage at Trump Place that “they plan to donate …for [a synagogue for Rabbi Pinto's] use,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Bracha, “also from Israel, met Rabbi Pinto shortly after moving to New York and struck up a close relationship,” the Journal report said. “‘He’s like a mentor and a father to me,” Bracha told the Journal in 2008 about Rabbi Pinto. ‘He has a red phone to God.’”
Rep. Cantor, the second most powerful member of Congress, is also one of its most successful fundraisers. Since the 2009 party-switch of then Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Cantor is also the only elected Jewish Republican in Congress.
But Cantor shared something else with the Rabbi Pinto followers who donated to his campaign in 2008: knowledge of real estate finance–at a moment when the US real estate and mortgage markets were crashing.
In 2008, when he was then deputy House Minority Whip, Cantor’s “personal ties to the mortgage industry helped him play a leading role in this month’s congressional debate over the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street,” the Culpepper-Star Exponent reported in October 2008. Cantor, who earned a masters degree in real estate finance from Columbia University, “handled real estate law at his family’s Richmond, VA law firm before he ran for Congress” in 2002.
“Cantor’s top industry contributors — real estate, insurance, and the securities and investment sector – account for more than $1.8 million of his campaign funds since he first ran for Congress in 2000 through Sept. 2, 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics,” the paper reported.
In his 2008 campaign, Cantor raised over half of the nearly $4 million from donors outside of Virginia, about a sixth of that from the seven Rabbi Pinto followers, almost all of them involved in real estate.
As I reported on the front page, a Jewish community businessman who did not want to be identified told Al-Monitor in interviews that in 2009, he spoke with Rabbi Pinto’s then aide Ofer Biton, seeking contacts who might be able to help him generate interest in his business. Biton allegedly told the businessman that Rabbi Pinto was in “close and direct contact” with both Cantor, a Virginia Republican, as well as with Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat who resigned in a sexting scandal in 2011. In subsequent conversations, the businessman said Biton directed him to a fundraiser for Cantor. [...]
Biton was arrested by the FBI on immigration fraud charges (.pdf) in Brooklyn last week (August 17). He is expected to be a possible government witness in a campaign finance investigation of Rep.Michael Grimm (R-NY), for whom Biton had served as a fundraiser.
Read the full piece here.
(Photo: US Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) (R) at US Capitol in Washington, September 29, 2008, after the U.S. House of Representatives ejected a Wall Street bailout bill that would have authorized the Treasury Department to spend up to $700 billion to purchase soured mortgage-backed assets from banks with the goal of jump-starting stalled capital markets.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.)