ADL Took $250,000 From Marc Rich

Melissa Radler - Jerusalem Post - March 25, 2001

The Anti-Defamation League accepted $250,000 from Marc Rich over the past 16 years, including $100,000 pledged a few weeks before ADL national director Abraham Foxman broached the idea of a presidential pardon, Foxman said on Friday.

He was speaking at a press conference called to explain Rich's involvement with the organization and Foxman's reasons for writing a letter to former president Bill Clinton requesting a pardon for Rich.

"It never dawned on me that anyone would think I was bought by Marc Rich," Foxman told reporters. "I continue to be astounded," he continued. "I continue to say to you that I'm not going to be bought for $100,000. If I got nothing, or if he gave me $10 million, I would have made the same decision," he said.

Foxman said Rich pledged the money in December 1999 via telephone through a mutual friend who worked with Rich's foundation. In February 2000, Foxman met the head of Rich's Israel Foundation, Avner Azoulay, for dinner in Paris, where, at Azoulay's request, the two brainstormed over how to help Rich. Foxman said he suggested asking Denise Rich to approach Clinton with a request for a pardon for her ex-husband.

"My thoughts were that tragedy" - the death of the Rich's middle daughter from leukemia - "may have impacted on her and she might be willing to do it."

Foxman said he met Denise Rich just once, on a 1995 airplane ride aboard Air Force Two, which was bound for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin. Though Foxman sat across the aisle from Denise Rich, and said he recognized her from "reading the columns," he said they did not converse. "That was the extent of my suggestion, recommendation, and action in this manner," said Foxman.

He added that he has not spoken to Rich personally in the past five to six years, and that the last time he spoke to Azoulay, a few weeks ago in Israel, the pardon was not mentioned.

Foxman said he received the $100,000 Rich pledged within weeks of the Paris meeting, and that Rich has made no other pledges since that time.

This past November, Azoulay presented Foxman with drafts of Rich's pardon petition and copies of support letters written by Jewish leaders and organization. After reviewing the stack with his legal team at the ADL, Foxman said he decided to write a letter.

"There is a philosophical issue out there, it's been debated in Jewish sources - at what point do good deeds vitiate bad ones. I made a wrong judgment," said Foxman.

Since the pardon, details of Rich's case and background have come to light that Foxman said he was previously unaware of, including Rich's renunciation of his US citizenship.

Foxman expressed regret over writing a letter to Clinton in a press release issued last week, which the ADL leader said he had waited to release until after meeting on Monday with members of the House Government Reform Committee.

Foxman became acquainted with Rich 16 years ago at the request of the fugitive financier, who complained that the 51 criminal counts lodged against him in the US stemmed from antisemitism in the justice system. Though Rich's claims of antisemitism were never substantiated, Foxman said the two - who were born in neighboring towns in what is now Belarus - developed a rapport over the years, meeting approximately eight times in the past 16 years for lunch or dinner, speaking together in Yiddish about literature and their shared history.

On his pardon petition, Rich stated that he was born in Belgium.

The two men developed a working relationship when the ADL sought contacts in Romania to combat outbreaks of antisemitism after the fall of Nicolae Ceaucescu. Rich, who had business ties in the country, arranged meetings with Romania's new leader, Petre Roman, who soon publicly condemned antisemitism.

Rich's donations, which were made through a foundation to specific projects only, rather than to funding the organization as a whole, went to projects in Latin America, Europe, and Israel. The $100,000 donated in 2000, said Foxman, went toward prejudice reduction in Europe.

"In terms of 17 years, I would not consider that a lot of money," said Foxman of the $250,000 total, which he said amounts to a fraction of the $400 million the ADL raised during the same time period.

"Relationships are very important and yeah, he had access in places where Jews were in trouble. It was a relationship. If you look at all the letters, I don't think people wrote unless there was some sort of relationship," said Foxman.

  • See Also: Foxman: I 'Probably' Shouldn't Have Asked for Rich Pardon