Politics

Jewish Liaison Flap Exposes Rift Between Chairwoman, Campaign

Gilbert was hired over staff objections, on Wasserman Schutlz’s insistence, three Democrats say. A denial from the DNC.

Underlying the story of a Democratic National Committee Jewish liaison in hot water for an over-the-top Facebook joke about Jews and money is a growing tension between the Obama re-elect and the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The liaison, Dani Gilbert, was hired after months of heated objections from top Obama campaign officials in Chicago and from Wasseran Schultz’s own staff at the Democratic National Committee, three well-placed Democratic sources told BuzzFeed. The campaign already has a more senior a full-time Jewish liaison, Ira Forman, who had been the longtime executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Coalition. And Wasserman Schultz’s staff was concerned about bringing in Gilbert, a staffer in Wasserman Schultz’s personal office who is the daughter of a Boca Raton wealth manager, Mark Gilbert, who is a top-tier bundler for Obama, and a major donor to the president, the Democratic Party, and to Wasserman Schultz’s own campaigns.

The staffers in Washington and Chicago, the sources said, viewed Wasserman Schultz’s insistence, over a period of months, on the hire as a matter of the chairwoman putting her own politics and fundraising ahead of the interests of the re-election campaign on one of the most delicate areas of politics and policy, Obama’s relationship with the Jewish community. They also worried that the daughter of a powerful donor could be a difficult fit in what was theoretically a junior role.

The Democratic sources described the episode as the latest in a series of tensions between Wasserman Schultz’s own agenda, focused on her Florida political career and her own broad fundraising base, and the interests of the re-elect. It was also the most recent incident in which the chairwoman, who Democrats had hoped would be a capable and visible spokeswoman for the president, has instead proved a distraction.

The years-old photographs from Gilbert’s Facebook page were reported by the conservative Washington Free Beacon” the same day her hiring was announced — sending Democrats again into damage control on Jewish issues. The photographs played to the worst stereotypes of Jews’ role in Democratic Party politics, picturing them clutching dollar bills and referring to themselves as “Jewbags” and the “Jew cash money team.”

Gilbert was not, however, fired over the story, to the surprise of some of her new colleagues.

Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse emailed BuzzFeed a statement flatly denying the account of the three senior Democratic sources who described Gilbert’s hire as a product of a rift between Wasserman Schultz and aides more focused on Obama’s campaign:

“Danni was not brought on here over anyone’s objections,” he said. “She has excelled in her role handling Jewish issues for the Chair in her Congressional office and was brought on here part time to do outreach to the Jewish Community. Like many in the age of social media, she had things posted on her Facebook page that she now regrets and which she has apologized for. Her employment both in the Chair’s Congressional office and at the DNC is a testament to her knowledge and professionalism and nothing more – and no smear driven by the right wing noise machine is going to impact her status as a trusted member of this team.”

Gilbert tweeted an apology for the Facebook posts Thursday.

“I apologize for any harm postings on my Facebook page made years ago may have caused anyone,” she wrote. “I meant no offense.

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