Articles & Interviews
The following transcribed phone conversation between two powerful Jewish New Yorkers: David Steiner, President of AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Jewish lobby group and businessman Harry Katz, appeared in Jim Keith’s (1993) book, Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History. This conversation chapter, entitled “CLINTON IS THE BEST GUY FOR US” (pp. 256-269), was included under the subheading “The Elite Controllers.” Indeed.
Jim Keith’s introductory note:
DURING THE 1992 Presidential campaign, New York businessman Harry Katz telephoned David Steiner, President of AIPAC, the powerful Israeli lobby, at AIPAC’s offices in Washington, D.C. Upset with the power and arrogance of the political action committee, Katz recorded his conversation with Steiner and sent out the startlingly blunt transcript to the media. Snippets of the conversation were printed in the Village Voice and made the wire services. Steiner was immediately forced to resign, sacrificed to spin control. AIPAC characterized Steiner’s comments as “boasts” that did not necessarily reflect the truth. But what is the truth? In a time of severe budget cuts and tax hikes, President Clinton has vowed not to touch one penny of the money earmarked for Israel. [from Secret and Suppressed]
(Following is a transcript of the Oct. 22, 1992 conversation with President David Steiner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recorded without his knowledge by New York businessman Haim (Harry) Katz. Its existence was first revealed to the Washington Times and its release triggered Steiner’s resignation.
December/January 1992/93, Page 13-16
David Steiner: L’chaim.
Harry Katz: Hello, how are you?
DS: Where are you located?
HK: I’m located in Queens, New York.
DS: Queens.. .Far Rockaway?
HK: Belle Harbor.
DS: Belle Harbor. I’m trying to get this list together. Would you ever get into the city?
HK: Sure, I do. Sure, you come frequently?
DS: Well I come in from time to time. I have an office there, at AIPAC in the city. You know, I want you to understand . . . where did you get my name and phone number?
HK: Oh, 1, um, I called AIPAC. . .
HK: And ahh. . .I know you’re the president of AIPAC…
DS: You should understand that, the political information that I gave you, those are personal choices . . .
HK: Sure, I understand.
DS: AIPAC does not rate or endorse candidates, does not solicit money. . .
HK: Yeah, look.
DS: I want you to understand that the choices I would give you are personal choices.
HK: I understand.
DS: I wonder if before . . . I want to get together with you next week.
HK: Next week would be fine.
DS: But in the meantime, I wonder if I can have one of my people get together with you and talk to you about it . . . They’ll want to meet you and know who you are and all this. I have a.. . maybe if I can have Seth Buchwald call you, my New York director.
HK: That would be terrific.
DS: And we have a guy out there, Joel Schnur. And, are you orthodox?
HK: Ah, yes.
DS: Okay, Joel is orthodox too. I am not.
HK: You’re reform or?
DS: I’m reform.
HK: Okay, let me just say. . .
DS: I was raised orthodox but I’m reform.
HK: Okay, let me just tell you that, I’ll just hold you a minute. I’ll be happy to meet with them, I know, I’ve heard the names, I’d be happy to meet with them, as a matter of fact I could, when I’m in Manhattan…Are you ever in Manhattan?
DS: Sure, today I’m going to be there, but I can’t. I’m meeting with the ambassador.
HK: Okay, I’ll just ask you very very quickly. You know, like, in New York, you know, this is your own personal opinion, like in New York we have Abrams against D’Amato.
DS: Well, let me tell you what my personal position is. Okay?
DS: From a Jewish point of view, I believe in political loyalty.
DS: And if someone has been good for Israel, no matter who, if my brother would run against them, I would support them because they’d been good to Israel because that’s an important message to people.
DS: What I’m going to be doing for you. . .
HK: Now D’Amato, has he been good for Israel?
DS: You couldn’t have a better . . . listen I think Abrams would be good too, but that’s not the message.
HK: So the message, so the message is that ah…l agree with you all the way, that if somebody’s been good for Israel, I’ll take D’Amato. But you have no complaints with D’Amato?
DS: I have no complaints with D’Amato.
HK: Uh huh, so and ah, you know, let me tell you, Abrams might be, might be too liberal. I don’t know if Abrams supported, let’s say the ah, the war against Iraq.
DS: Yeah, I don’t know, and ah, I don’t know. But all I know is if I have a guy who is there and he’s doing it, then I don’t want to change, you know?
HK: Right. Let me ask you this very quickly and then I will. . .
DS: I’m going to have Seth call you because in the meantime I’m going to be preparing this list, what I’m doing is, I’ve asked my friends in the various campaigns, I’ve made about 30 calls, what I’m trying to put together who needs it the most, you know? Because you could dissipate a million dollars, but the point is to put it where it’s going to do the most, I know Bob Kasten, who’s been an outstanding friend and needs it I know. . .
HK: Excuse my ignorance. Bob Kasten is what state?
DS: From Wisconsin. . .
HK: Okay, is he Jewish?
DS: . . .He’s for loan guarantees, he happens to be a Republican.
HK: Okay, and but, he’s good? He’s. . .
DS: You couldn’t have better.
HK: Is Kasten, Kasten’s been very, very good and he’s in trouble?
DS: He’s in big trouble. Les Aspin, who’s the Chairman of the Military Appropriations, a Democrat also from Wisconsin is really [unintelligible].
HK: You mean, Les Aspin is in trouble?
DS: In big trouble.
HK: I can’t believe it. I mean, I don’t, I don’t follow . . .
DS: Well see, what happened was, you know ah, when you get to know me, I’ll put you on my list and I’ll be sending all these things. A wealthy businessman decided to run, using all his own money. Aspin, ’cause they sit on the finance committee for Aspin. . .
DS: . ..programmed the last two weeks of, well the last month of the campaign, for TV. This guy came in two months early and we didn’t have the money budgeted, so we’re out scratching around to raise money for him. So we, heck, I told him, I said that I’d go, I’ll sign on the bank on a loan for you, you know, that’s how important it is.
HK: Unbelievable. You know I read, I won’t hold you long, but I’d just tell you this. . .
DS: That’s okay.
HK: . . .I’ll just tell you this, I read the New York Post, and I don’t even read the papers too much, I don’t follow politics . . . are you ready for this?
HK: Get ready for this. I read in the papers this morning, I think it was the (NY) Post, Barbara Boxer, in California. . .
HK: . ..do you know who she is?
DS: I know who…
HK: She’s originally from, ah. . . New York I think. . .
DS: A friend of yours?
HK: No, no, no. She’s not a friend of mine, but she, ah, I think she’s in trouble.
DS: Yean, that’s ah, in that race we’re okay either way, ’cause Bruce Herschensohn, who she’s running against, is Jewish, and he’s very strong on our issues.
HK: Okay, but Herschensohn.. .
DS: Herschensohn’s a very conservative Republican.
HK: You know, he’s come out of nowhere. He was like 30 points behind.. .
HK: He’s come out of nowhere with it.
DS: Because the truth of the matter is, she didn’t always vote for foreign aid. We had a big meeting, I had a program in L.A. I had all four senatorial candidates there, and he ripped her apart. She has always voted against foreign and.
HK: What about the one, in ah, the one in. . . um, what’s his name? I read it in the paper, it’s just a shocker, politics is a crazy game. The black woman in Chicago. . .
DS: Carol Moseley Braun?
HK: She was going to win by 50 points. . .
DS: Oh it’s down, she took the money, it’s a big problem.
HK: It’s a big problem with her. . .
DS: And we have a problem with another good friend. You know Daniel Inouye, from Hawaii he’s one of our best friends. It was Kasten-Inouye on the loan guarantees, Kasten-Inouye and Leahy.. .
HK: I heard, I saw it on, I know Inouye’s in trouble because of, he sexually harassed his hairdresser. . .
DS: We commissioned a poll and got some people, and I’ve got to raise $27,000 to pay for the poll . . . so I have, so what I’m trying to do is make a priority list, because I don’t know how far you want to go. . . how old are your kids by the way? . . . You had three children that could write checks, do they have their own checking accounts?
DS: Oh, so that’s not going to be. . .
HK: How old do they have to be?
DS: They can’t be one year old.
HK: I mean, could they be 18, 17?
DS: Sure, no problem, so they could make, nobody’s going to bother you, but if you had infants, a four-year-old, let’s say, it’s not a contest.
HK: Let me tell you, I was planning, I was planning to, to . . . Inouye, by the way, is in real trouble? He’s been there forever. . .
DS: Yeah! Well, we might lose him. There’s been such a sea change, such trouble this year, I can’t believe all our friends that are in trouble. Because there’s an anti-incumbency mood, and foreign aid has not been popular. You know what I got for, I met with [U.S. Secretary of State] Jim Baker and I cut a deal with him. I got, besides the $3 billion, you know they’re looking for the Jewish votes, and I’ll tell him whatever he wants to hear. . .
DS: Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don’t even know about.
HK: Such as?
DS: $700 million in military draw-down, from equipment that the United States Army’s going to give to Israel; $200 million the U.S. government is going to preposition materials in Israel, which Israel can draw upon; put them in the global warning protection system; so when if there’s a missile fired, they’ll get the same advanced notification that the U.S., is notified, joint military exercises—I’ve got a whole shopping list of things.
HK: So this is from Baker?
DS: From Baker and from the Pentagon.
HK: So, not so, not.. .
DS: Why did he do it, you know, why did he do it? Last year I was a bum. This year I said look Jim, we’re going to fight on the F-l5s. Israel doesn’t want to fight, I said, but some people on it are going to come up on the floor of the Senate and the House and they’re going to fight. If you’ll do this, I think I can hold them back. But you’ve got to do it right away. They didn’t want to fight. I said, “You don’t want a fight before the election. It’s going to hurt Bush. We don’t want a fight before the election. We don’t want to fight at all. Why can’t we work something out?” So we cut a deal. You can’t repeat this.
HK: You’re right. But you met with Baker. . .
HK: Personally. Because you know, he’s the one who cursed, who cursed the Jews.
DS: Of course, do you think I’m ever going to forgive him for that?
HK: Unbelievable. I said…
DS: Do you think I could ever forgive Bush for what he did September 12th a year ago? What he said about the Jews for lobbying in Washington?
HK: Do you think that Baker has a legitimate concern for the Jews? From what I hear, do you think he’s anti-Semitic?
DS: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. He’s a pragmatic businessman, he’s a very tough lawyer. He does whatever it takes.
HK: And that’s why.. .
DS: If we didn’t have an election this year, you would get [unintelligible] from him.
HK: Let me ask you a quick question. Just a quick question here. You know Perot, you know, I’m telling you this is scary. I don’t know what you think of Perot, but if Perot hadn’t backed out, I watched the debates. I thought Perot did marvelous in the debates.
DS: He doesn’t know how to govern. He’s not going to make it. And there was an incident where his daughter was going out with a Jewish professor at school and he said, “I wouldn’t have my daughter marry a Jew.”
HK: So Perot, they say that if Perot hadn’t backed out in July, and if he would have gotten himself a good running mate, you know . . .
DS: He wouldn’t win, but it would go to the House of Representatives. The Democrats would win in the House of Representatives.
HK: So if it goes to the House, the Democrats would win for sure.
DS: For sure.
HK: Okay let me ask you, last question and then I’ll be happy to meet with your New York people. . .
DS: You know, you sound like my kind of guy. How old are you?
DS: You’re a kid.
HK: I’m not a kid, I’m 42. . .
DS: I’m 63, you’re a kid.
HK: I wish I was…
DS: We’ll have to get you involved. I like you, we have a lot to talk about, about real estate, you know, I have so many great activities going on at AIPAC, you ought to think about coming to some of these things. I’ll have a dinner this fall. I’ll have 18-20 senators there. I run programs in Washington. We just had a, I had at Ted Kennedy’s house last month kosher dinner. I brought foremost caterers down. I had 60 people on the couch for dinner. Last year, I did it in Al Gore’s house.
DS: Those are the things you should be getting involved in and knowing what’s going on. . .
HK: Let me just ask you about Clinton. I want to tell you, you may not believe this, but I think that if Perot. . .
DS: Yeah, he would’ve given us a hard time. What’s the name of your company, what do you do business as?
HK: We do business as HK, Inc.
DS: HK, Inc.?
DS: Do you have a street address?
HK: Sure. 621 Beach 129th Street, Belle Harbor, Queens, New York, 11694.
DS: Yeah, because on my computer you only show a post office box. This is your house? You work out of your house?
HK: Yeah, out of an office in the house. . . Look, Mr. Steiner…
DS: David. My father’s Mr. Steiner.
HK: David, let me just ask you about Clinton. Honestly, what do you feel about Clinton?
DS: Well, I’ve known Bill Clinton for seven eight years. I think he’s got to be a lot better than George Bush. . . we have a lot of people in there. But he doesn’t need money, he really doesn’t need money. I’m a trustee of the Democratic National Committee. We collected $63 million for him so far.
HK: Who’s collected $63 million?
DS: The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign have raised $63 million.
HK: So they’ve already raised $63 million, so they don’t need money.
DS: No, we need money, like we got a guy, Byron Dorgan, in North Dakota, who’s going to be very good for us and we need money to make sure that he gets in. We’ve got people like that, because [unintelligible], whatever you give them would be a tickle on the elephant’s behind. But when you give $5,000 or $10,000 to Bob Kasten, that’s very meaningful.
HK: Let me ask you, I understand what you’re saying. Clinton, when Clinton first started running a year ago, did he need money at that time?
DS: Yes he did.
HK: I mean, did you help him out, ’cause that’s the time. . .
DS: I personally am not allowed, as president of AIPAC, to get involved in the presidential campaign, because I have to deal with whoever wins. You know, I’ve got to go see Bush if he’s there, but I helped him, we raised over a million dollars for him in New Jersey.
HK: For Clinton?
DS: For Clinton.
HK: And this was when, in the beginning?
DS: In the beginning, yes. After he won, before the convention.
HK: This is before the convention?
DS: Oh sure.
HK: Okay, let me ask you, you know, T
DS: We’ve also raised for other guys who are running too, because they’re friends. Harkin, the senator, you know you have to be with everybody.
HK: Let me ask you, [talks about getting cheated in business by Gentiles]. Let me ask you, Clinton, if he becomes, I mean what will he do for Israel, better than Bush, if he becomes, I know Bush gave you a hard time, this and that. ..
DS: I’II tell you, I have friends on the Clinton campaign, close associates. Gore is very committed to us.
HK: Right. Clinton if he, have you spoken to him?
DS: I’ve known Bill for seven, eight years from the National Governors Association. I know him on a personal basis. I have friends. One of my friends is Hillary Clinton’s scheduler, one of my officer’s daughters works there. We gave two employees from AIPAC leave of absences to work on the campaign. I mean, we have a dozen people in that campaign, in the headquarters.
HK: You mean in Little Rock?
DS: In Little Rock, and they’re all going to get big jobs. We have friends. I also work with a think tank, the Washington Institute. I have Michael Mandelbaum and Martin Indyk being foreign policy advisers. Steve Speigel—we’ve got friends—this is my business.
HK: I understand, David.
DS: It’s very complicated and the more you get into it, you’ll love it. You sound like a smart guy.
HK: I’m a smart guy, but I have a, maybe because I’m more orthodox than you are, I’ve had bad experiences with Gentiles. Let me ask you, you know what “tachlis” means?
DS: Yeah, sure.
HK: From a practical point of view, if Clinton wins the presidency, and I’m sure he will, I hope so at least, what will be the benefits to Israel better than Bush? From a very practical point . . . I mean, you just told me that Bush gave you everything you wanted. . .
DS: Only, not everything, at the end, when we didn’t want the F-l5s, that’s a terrible thing.
HK: Selling the F-l5s? If Clinton is elected. . .
DS: Let me tell you the problem with the $10 billion in loan guarantees, right? We only have the first year. We have authorization from Congress, but it’s at the discretion of the president every year thereafter, so if Bush is there, he could say, you know, use it as a club, you know. ‘If you don’t give up Syria, I won’t give you the money. If you don’t give up the Golan Heights.’ It’s at the discretion of the president. And that’s why we need a friendly president and we have Bill Clinton’s ear. I talked to Bill Clinton.
HK: And Bill Clinton has made a commitment that if he’s elected . . . ?
DS: He’s going to be very good for us.
HK: And he’ll go ahead with the loan guarantees?
DS: We didn’t talk about that specifically, listen, I didn’t ask him that, but I have full confidence that we’re going to have a much better situation. He’s got Jewish friends. A girl who worked for me at AIPAC stood up for them at their wedding. Hillary lived with her. I mean we have those relationships. We have never had that with Bush. Susan Thomases, who’s in there, worked with me on the Bradley campaign. We worked together for 13 years. She’s In there with the family. They stay with her when they come to New York. One of my officers, Monte Friedkin, is one of the biggest fund-raisers for them. I mean, I have people like that all over the country.
HK: So, I mean from a practical point of view. . .
DS: He’s going to be with us.
HK: I don’t say, this business, you say, Bush only went ahead with the loan guarantees for one year.
DS: We only have. It’s mandatory they give us the $2 billion for one year. After that it’s subject to the discretion of the president.
HK: You mean the other $8 billion?
DS: That’s correct. On an annualized basis.
HK: Also, I heard that. . .
DS: They don’t have to give it to us.
HK: But if Clinton is elected. . .
DS:… feel reasonably certain we’re gonna get It.
HK: He’s made that commitment?
DS: Well, he said he’s going to help us. He’s got something in his heart for the Jews, he has Jewish friends. Bush has no Jewish friends.
DS: Reagan had something . . . meshuga, but at least he had a commitment. He knew Jews from the film industry, he was one of the best guys for us. He had an emotional thing for the Jews. Bush doesn’t have it. That’s what it is really, if you have a feeling for our people, for what we believe in. Bush is, there’s a man with no principles. Absolutely no principles.
HK: I heard something about, but I never really understood it, with the scoring. One of my friends told me there’s a difference in the scoring, but I don’t understand. . .
DS: Scoring is like points that you pay.
HK: So let’s say, if Bush is elected on the loans . . .
DS: No, we’ve got the scoring arranged, it’s four and a half percent. It’s all done.
HK: That’s all done, even with Bush?
DS: Even with Bush. I’ve got that worked out.
HK: So that’s all done.
DS: It’s in the bill. It’s all passed. He signed the bill. It’s a matter of law.
HK: So it’s already four and a half percent?
DS: We could’ve had it less, but then we couldn’t. . .
HK: And Clinton, if he was president, he would give…?
DS: He could not change it, you cannot change it.
HK: No, but I’m saying, if he was president now, before the bill was signed, he would’ve given you the four and a half percent. . .
DS: I would’ve gotten less.
HK: I’m sorry?
DS: I would’ve gotten it cheaper.
HK: How much? Even two percent?
DS: Yeah, we thought we were going to get two percent. But Rabin gave it away.
HK: You mean Rabin didn’t bargain as good as he could have?
DS: That’s right.
HK: Unbelievable. So, if Clinton is elected, that will be the best. ..
DS: I think that will be the best we could do.
HK: You know, I just want to tell you one last thing. Do you have parents that come from Europe?
DS: Yeah, of course, from Glolitzano, near Krakow. ,
HK: You’re kidding, your parents are from Krakow?
DS: Near Krakow.
HK: Guess what?
DS: You too?
HK: My parents are from Krakow.
DS: Well, we’re not from Krakow, but from near Krakow. My mother’s from Rudnick, my father from Gruns, near Tano. Do you know where Tano is?
HK: Yes. Let me tell you. . .
DS .. don’t have many left. Everybody got
HK: Let me tell you. The same with me. Let me tell you, my parents were the only ones who came out. Let me tell you, my. . .
DS: You’re a Holocaust survivor?
HK: Yeah, no, not me, my parents.
DS: That’s some experience, I’ve got two cousins, I’ve got one in Israel and one in France that came out of Mauthausen, I’ll tell you, and everybody else dead on my father’s side, in Russia. I just brought six of them from Koshkent to Israel last year.
HK: Right. Let me tell you that, you know what my father always says? My father was a rich man in Poland, and he says, he says, “Economic power is very good. You have to have money, but if you just have economic power and you don’t have political power. . .”
DS: “You’ve got nothing.”
HK: You’ve got nothing.
DS: If we had AIPAC in the ’30s and ’40s, we would have saved millions of Jews. We would have the political power. But Jews were afraid to open their mouths. They didn’t know how. HK: AIPAC started after WWII?
DS: Oh, sure.
HK And if you would have had AIPAC in the
DS: I feel we would’ve saved a lot of Jews. HK: And Franklin Roosevelt, he could’ve done a lot better?
DS: Sure, he could. The Jews never opened their mouths. They were afraid. We’re not afraid. They can curse me out, I don’t care if they hate me, just as long as I get what we need for our people.
HK: So if you had a little lamp, a wishing lamp and you could wish for either Bush, Clinton or Perot. . .
HK: Clinton all the way? And in terms of Israel having political power, between the three candidates, the one who will give us the most political power?
DS: Clinton is the best guy for us.
HK: He’s the best one.
DS: I hope you’re serious about what you told me.
HK: I am, I’ll tell you this [tells a long anecdote about David Souter promising to oppose abortion as a nominee and then reversing himself on the Supreme Court]. So I wish we had a Jewish candidate for president.
DS: I don’t think the country’s ready.
HK: If the country was ready, is there any Jewish candidate…?
DS:I wouldn’t venture to say anything.
HK: You know who? I don’t know him, I’ve never met him, Joe Lieberman.
DS: Oh, I’m very friendly with Joe. I’m having dinner with him Monday night.
HK: Let me tell you, I think Joe Lieberman would have, uh, would have, if he wasn’t Jewish, that’s the only problem he has. He’s highly respected.
DS: I’d like to see him on the Supreme Court. HK: If Clinton is elected, has he told you who he’s going to put on the Supreme Court?
DS: We’re talking now. We don’t have no commitments yet. We’re just negotiating. We’re more interested right now, in the secretary of state and the secretary of National Security Agency. That’s more important to us. HK: If Clinton is elected, who do you think will be secretary of state?
DS: We don’t know yet, we’re negotiating.
HK: Who are you hoping for?
DS: I’ve got a list. But I really can’t go through it. I’m not allowed to talk about it.
HK: But you figure, God willing, if Clinton’s elected . . .
DS: We’ll have access.
HK: You’ll have access and you’ll have a good input into who’s secretary of state.
DS: I do believe so.
HK: And the other position is. . .
DS: National security adviser.
HK: Those are the two critical positions.
HK: Gotcha. Well, David, thanks for talking with me.
W: And we’re going to get together next week. I hope you’ll have your checkbook ready.
HK: Will do.