WASHINGTON — The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, gave more than $1 million during the 2016 US presidential campaign to a right-wing non-profit group that targeted voters in swing states with anti-Muslim advertisements.
The Center for Responsive Politics revealed on Thursday that Lauder, the heir to the Estée Lauder fortune, who’s also been a longtime donor to pro-Israel and Republican causes, was among the largest contributors to an ad campaign waged by Secure America Now, according to tax records obtained by the watchdog group.
A spokesman for Lauder said the Reagan-era diplomat began contributing to Secure America Now to “support their work in opposition to the nuclear Iran deal,” but was unaware of its anti-Muslim advertisement campaign.
“He had nothing to do with any of the group’s other activities,” the spokesman told The Times of Israel. “Mr. Lauder has consistently supported interfaith respect and dialogue. He would never be involved with insulting people of faith.”
Throughout the election, the right-wing neoconservative group released three mock advertisements that stoked fears of Muslim influence in the United States. They were designed as mock-travel ads promoting countries supposedly invaded by the Islamic State terror group.
One ad portrays the “Islamic States of America” with the famed Hollywood sign changed to read “Allahu Akbar” and the Statue of Liberty wearing a burka.
According to the report, Secure America Now used Facebook and Google to target specific voters in swing states like North Carolina and Nevada.
Lauder gave $1.1 million to the group. The largest donor was Robert Mercer, hedge fund investor and major backer of US President Donald Trump, who funneled $2 million into the effort.
Lauder’s longtime political adviser, Allen Roth, is the current president of Secure America Now.
The revelation immediately sparked outrage from at least one American Jewish leader. Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, called on Lauder to resign for “bankrolling a shameful and bigoted anti-Muslim advertising campaign.”
“His full embrace of anti-Muslim bigotry is a betrayal of the Jewish community and fundamental American values,” Moline said in a statement. “His actions disqualify him from leading an organization that represents Jewish communities around the globe.”