The Foxman Follies: ADL Director Admits
Deeper Involvement In Rich Pardon Effort

The Jewish Press - Week of March 30, 2001

After weeks of stonewalling, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said last Friday that his organization had received $250,000 in contributions from fugitive financier Marc Rich during a 16-year period, including a grant of $100,000 shortly after Foxman agreed to assist Rich in obtaining a presidential pardon from Bill Clinton.

Foxman also admitted that he was far more involved in the pardon effort than had previously been known, acknowledging that it was his idea to use Rich's ex-wife, Denise, a major financial contributor to the Democratic party, as a means of influencing Clinton.

The stunning disclosures came four days after Foxman was questioned in Washington by investigators on the House Government Reform Committee. Already under fire from ADL board members angered by his decision to lobby on Rich's behalf, Foxman this week came under renewed media scrutiny in the wake of the latest revelations, with New York Times columnist William Safire bluntly declaring that "Abe Foxman should resign to demonstrate that ethical blindness has consequences."

In a story posted last weekend on Newsweek's web site, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff noted that the timing of Rich's most recent grant to the ADL the one for $100,000, which came in early 2000, right around the time Foxman's help was enlisted "raised new questions about the role of Rich's financial largesse in securing crucial support for a pardon that is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors.

"It also seems likely to fuel controversy among American Jewish groups over the high-profile activities of some Jewish leaders, especially Foxman, in aligning themselves with Rich."

Foxman told reporters last week that "in hindsight" he now sees that he "made a wrong judgment." He insisted on his ignorance of the fact that Rich would not have faced immediate incarceration upon his return to the U.S. (the billionaire, under indictment on numerous counts of fraud, tax evasion and making false statements, would have been free on bail as he awaited trial), and dismissed any implication that money influenced his decision to help Rich.

"I really find offensive the idea that Abe Foxman was bought for a check for $100,000. If he gave me nothing or he gave me $10 million I would have made the same decision, for which I know say I made a mistake," Foxman said.

According to Foxman, his initial meeting with Rich occurred in Zurich in the mid-1980's at the time, Newsweek's Isikoff points out, "that Rich was actively thwarting efforts by the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service to bring him to justice."

Rich tried to elicit Foxman's sympathy by arguing that federal prosecutors had gone after him because he was Jewish a charge Foxman said he found baseless. But, as Isikoff wrote, "the Zurich meeting laid the basis for an ongoing relationship between the ADL and Rich," which included several grants to the ADL from the Jerusalem-based Marc Rich Foundation.

By the fall of 1999, though, when Foxman received a phone call from Avner Azulay, the director of Rich's foundation and a former Mossad agent, it had been years since the ADL had seen a grant from Rich. "I'd like to reinstitute the support of the foundation," Azulay told Foxman. "I'll try to make up for the years we haven't given."

It wasn't long afterward that Foxman heard from Zvi Rafiah, an Israeli lobbyist andformer diplomat, who arranged a meeting in Paris in February 2000 between himself, Foxman and Azulay to discuss Rich.

"But before he made the trip," wrote Isikoff, "Foxman got a written note from Azulay pledging a specific grant of $100,000 to fund an ADL-sponsored project in Europe designed to teach children about the evils of racial and religious prejudice. The $100,000 pledge was the largest the ADL had ever gotten from the Rich Foundation."

Foxman claimed last week that the pledge was never brought up during his meeting with Azulay. (Nevertheless, the Rich Foundation deposited the $100,000 in an ADL bank account a few weeks later.)

And Foxman said his suggestion at that meeting to use Denise Rich as a conduit to President Clinton was inspired not by a personal acquaintance with Ms. Rich, but by what he had read about her "in the tabloids."

  • See Also: The Clemency Page