Jewish Leader Defends Rich Pardon

From the article below:

Of his efforts on behalf of Rich, Foxman said it's normal that "a guy who gives you $100 doesn't get as much attention as a guy who gives you $10,000."

"It never dawned on me that anyone would think I was bought!" Foxman said of Rich's $100,000 donation.

DPS Question

How do you define"bought?" Mr. Foxman says that he pays more attention to big givers than to little ones. In this case he wrote a letter for an international fugitive and felon after ADL got $100,000 from the guy. Would Mr. Foxman have written the letter for a $10,000 giver? $5,000? What's the cut-off for letters on ADL letterhead? For approval by ADL's lawyers? In other words, as our late unlamented President might have said, "It depends on how you define 'bought.' "

Jewish Leader Defends Rich Pardon

Verena Dobnik - Associated Press - March 23, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) - American Jewish leader Abraham Foxman said Friday he suggested more than a year ago that Marc Rich's ex-wife ask former President Clinton to pardon him.

Foxman said he broached the idea to a top Rich aide just weeks after the ex-fugitive financier's foundation pledged $100,000 to the Anti-Defamation League.

The suggestion came at least eight months before Rich's lawyers filed a formal pardon application with the Clinton White House.

Foxman, national director of the ADL, a nonprofit organization that monitors anti-Semitism around the world, said he "made a mistake" in writing a letter on ADL stationery supporting the pardon.

Of his efforts on behalf of Rich, Foxman said it's normal that "a guy who gives you $100 doesn't get as much attention as a guy who gives you $10,000."

"It never dawned on me that anyone would think I was bought!" Foxman said of Rich's $100,000 donation.

Clinton granted the pardon in his last hours in office - about a year after a Paris dinner at which Foxman says he suggested the pardon to an ex-chief of Israel's spy agency who headed the Rich Foundation.

Foxman spoke to reporters at ADL headquarters. It was his first comment on the pardon controversy.

Clinton's pardons of Rich and others are being investigated by the U.S. attorney in New York and a congressional committee. They are looking into charges that contributions to Democrats by Rich's ex-wife, Denise, played a role in securing presidential clemency for Rich.

The Rich Foundation has donated about $250,000 to the ADL for projects including prejudice-reduction programs in Europe and Israel.

In January 2000, Zvi Rafiach, an Israeli businessman and friend of Foxman, called to say Rich Foundation head Avner Azulay wanted to meet the ADL director. That was followed by a note from the foundation pledging $100,000 to the ADL, Foxman said.

In February 2000, over dinner in Paris, Foxman suggested to Azulay that Rich seek a pardon.

"My suggestion then was, reach out to Denise Rich and ... have her approach the president and ask for a pardon," Foxman said.

He said he knew the Riches were estranged and "had suffered a tragedy" - the death of their daughter from leukemia. Foxman said he hoped that shared experience might influence Denise Rich to act on behalf of her daughter's father.

"We sat around dinner and brainstormed," Foxman said.

Foxman said he gave "guidance" and "wasn't asked to do anything."

Foxman said he had met Denise Rich only once, on Air Force Two while flying to Israel for the 1995 funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But Foxman said he was aware Denise Rich was "a socialite close to the White House" and a Democratic contributor.

In an e-mail on March 18, 2000, a month after meeting with Foxman, Azulay suggested to Rich lawyer Robert Fink that Denise Rich be sent on a "mission" to Clinton to help secure the pardon. "We are reverting to the idea discussed with Abe," the e-mail said.

Then, last December, Foxman said, Azulay visited the ADL's New York office with a draft petition, asking Foxman whether he could "do something." The ADL director wrote a letter in support of the petition after consulting with his legal team.

Foxman said he had suggested that Rich be pardoned for "humanitarian" reasons.

"I felt sorry for him," Foxman said of Rich, believing he couldn't enter the United States even to visit his daughter's grave without being arrested.

Since then, the ADL official said, he found out that New York prosecutors had offered Rich the possibility of returning to face the charges while staying free on bail.

In retrospect, "I wouldn't send the letter," Foxman conceded. "I felt I made a wrong judgment ... because it was not directly on target with what the ADL's mission is."

But, he added, "I'm not infallible, I'm capable of making mistakes."

  • See Also: The Clemency Page