Saturday, July 22, 2006

Who Is Fred Zeidman and Why Should You Care?

A recent Washington Post article covering the conflagration in the Middle East lured me in with its title: "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step to Peace."
President Bush's unwillingness to pressure Israel to halt its military campaign in Lebanon is rooted in a view of the Middle East conflict that is sharply different from that of his predecessors.
The article goes on to quote several authorities giving their take on Bush's current policy toward the Israeli-Lebanon flare-up. It concludes with this interesting quote.
Fred S. Zeidman, a Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years, said the current crisis shows the depth of the president's support for Israel. "He will not bow to international pressure to pressure Israel," Zeidman said. "I have never seen a man more committed to Israel."
Now I'm just a blogger, not a journalist, but it seems to me that there is some context to that little paragraph that as a reader you ought to know. And since the author didn't see fit to fill you in, here ya go.

Zeidman's name might be familiar in Houston circles, where he was known as an old and close friend of George Bush. He was a Bush Pioneer in the 2000 presidential campaign and a Bush Ranger in the 2004 election cycle.

Zeidman has ties to another infamous Texan. In 2003, he accompanied House Majority leader Tom DeLay on his 2003 trip to Israel. The trip made headlines because, while there, DeLay contradicted the President's own policy on Israel, condemning cease fires as "vacations" for terrorists.
“He really made an impression,” Fred Zeidman, a longtime Jewish Republican activist and now chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said of DeLay. Zeidman took DeLay on his first trip to Israel in the mid-1980s.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Zeidman's son just got hired to represent the White House?
[Jay] Zeidman is the son of Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a fund-raiser for President Bush in the Jewish community. The younger Zeidman said he attended a lot of meetings with his father for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in Houston, and walked away with strong support for Israel and political activism.
Oh, by the way, Jay is 22. But don't be thinking his father pulled any strings for this appointment.
Both father and son acknowledge that some may try to depict the appointment as an act of nepotism. But Fred Zeidman said that after he introduced his son at the White House for the first time, he was on his own.
Nepotism? In the administration of the son of a former president? Oh, wait...

And of course, you've probably heard of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) because they were implicated in the indictment and prosecution of Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst on the Iran desk who plead guilty to passing classified documents to AIPAC regarding U.S. plans to destabilize Iran.

Oh, and if you're looking for the obligatory oil connection, that's there, too. Zeidman is the former Chairman of Seitel, Inc. a leading provider of seismic data and related geophysical expertise to the petroleum industry. When he was appointed, the company was trying to burnish its image after restating earnings in the wake of the Enron scandal, and SEC charges against a former CEO for abuse of company funds.

Okay, here's probably the most important thing to remember. In 2004 Fred Zeidman was appointed the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs to the lobbying firm of Greenberg Traurig. Greenberg Traurig was in the headlines recently, after one of its former lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, got in a little trouble over some PAC money.

Greenberg Traurig provided lawyers to the Bush-Cheney team during the Florida recount. And speaking of nepotism, the firm also hired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's son on election day 2000, just a few weeks before his father famously quashed the recount in a 5-4 decision.

And did I mention that Congress is opening an investigation into the ties between Abramoff and the White House?

Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) authorized a subpoena weeks ago to Greenberg Traurig, according to several of the law firm's former clients who have been notified that it is turning over billing records, e-mails, phone logs and other material that reflects efforts to lobby the White House. Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison on March 29, after pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that required him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

Representatives of four of Abramoff's former tribal clients said they have been notified by Greenberg Traurig that the firm is turning over records. In some cases, there were scores of phone calls or other contacts with the White House. It is not known whether any of those contacts resulted in improper aid to Abramoff. Several tribal representatives said they believe many contacts were with staff members at the White House office of intergovernmental affairs.

In a subpoena -- read to The Washington Post by a former client who received a copy from Greenberg Traurig -- seeks all firm billing records "referring or relating to matters involving Jack Abramoff or any person working with Jack Abramoff," as well as all records reflecting any contacts those lobbyists had with the White House. The subpoena seeks records from Jan. 1, 1998, to the present, though Abramoff did not begin work at Greenberg Traurig until early 2001.

So yeah, Zeidman is a "Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years." I guess it's accurate as far as it goes. Like Forest Gump, he has the distinction of showing up in the background at auspicious moments in history. Now I'm not implying anything by all this, mind you. I just thought you might like to know.


Anonymous said...

Tell me more about Zeidman and Seitel

Anonymous said...

Great that he took DeLay to Israel!
Thanks, Neal Hurwitz, NY, NY

Anonymous said...

Jay Zeidman is currently an MBA candidate at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice university in Houston TX.

Anonymous said...

Jay Zeidman heads this PAC with Jeb Bush's son now