WASHINGTON - Liberal Jewish lobby group J Street has received sizable donations from multi-billionaire George Soros, the Washington Times reported Friday. The American financier has in the past criticized J Street's rival AIPAC for being too hawkish.
The daily reported that it had obtained tax reports by Soros and two of his children, Jonathan and Andrea, who had donated some $245,000 to the organization between July 2008 and June 2009.
A spokesman for Soros did not deny the contributions and said Soros had never concealed his support for the group. J Street told the Washington Times that the Soros family has contributed to the organization $750,000 over the past three years.
"The contributions represent a third of the group's revenue from U.S. sources during the period," the Washington Times said. The paper also reported that a Hong Kong donor had provided as much as 50 percent of the organization's revenue in the same period.
Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish American, is one of the world's wealthiest people and one of its top philanthropists. He voiced support for J Street as early as 2008, when the organization was set up.
J Street was formed by center-left American Jews aiming to counterbalance pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, seen by critics as hawkish and right-wing.
"I accept responsibility personally for being less than clear about Mr. Soros' support once he did become a donor," J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in response. "I said Mr. Soros did not help launch J Street or provide its initial funding, and that is true. I also said we would be happy to take his support. But I did not go the extra step to add that he did in fact start providing support in the fall of 2008, six months after our launch."
"Those who attack J Street over the sources of its funding are not good government watchdogs concerned about the state of non-profit financing in the United States. If our critics are really so concerned with transparency of funding, then I challenge them to reveal the sources of funds for the organizations with which they agree," Ben-Ami said.
J Street spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick told Haaretz "We never denied that Soros gave us money. C4 donors are supposed to remain private by law [to protect their privacy] .... No C4 discloses its donors," she said, referring to tax-exempt social welfare organizations."
"What we did make clear was that, despite the rumors, Soros was not a founder or the primary funder of J Street. We always said we'd be happy to have his support and are indeed proud to have it."
Spitalnick noted that the J Street family of organizations had raised $11.2 million from more than 10,000 donors in the last two and a half years.
"J Street has always said that George Soros did not found J Street and did not provide its initial funding - a decision about which he was very public before the organization's launching in 2008," she said.
"In fact, the organization has received around $250,000 a year in funding from the Soros family since launching. We are not clear whether the Soros family will fund our work in the future, though we hope they will choose to do so."