Lee “Rosy” Rosenberg, a jazz recording industry veteran capitalist who accompanied U.S. President Barack Obama on his campaign trip to Israel two years ago, takes over on Sunday as the new president of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Rosenberg also served on the president’s national campaign finance committee.
The new AIPAC president hails from Chicago, the home state of President Obama, and also is on first-name terms with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior advisor.
Steve Rosen, a former 23-year, high-ranking AIPAC official, told the Chicago Tribune, “I don't think AIPAC has made any secret of the reality that his friendship with the president played a role in Rosy's rise. He's a guy who works very hard at fundraising [and] in the political arena. It was not as if he was plucked out of nowhere. He paid his dues. But I'm sure nobody was blind to the fact that he's from Chicago.“
Rosenberg is known as an expert in bringing in big money from powerful people who generally are not outwardly committed to Israel.
AIPAC claims more than 100,000 members and is considered the most powerful Jewish lobby in Washington. It opens its annual three-day conference Sunday and will hear addresses from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Their relationship has been sorely tested the past two weeks because of American and Arab opposition to Israel’s building for Jews in long-established Jewish neighborhoods in parts of Jerusalem that were resorted to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
“The fact that he [Rosenberg] and the president have had a relationship helps now,” Illinois Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley told the Tribune.
Rosenberg’s ventures have included real estate, a music recording company, and high-tech startups and investing in jazz documentaries.
He replaces Michigan-based David Victor, who recently signed an AIPAC letter asking Congress to “demand” that the Obama administration "enforce existing sanctions law and impose crippling new sanctions on Iran."