Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) keynoted a Dayton Chamber of Commerce event today. After opening the floor to questions from the audience, I asked the senator about his support from J Street. After all, from 2007-2012, Senator Brown accepted $60,000 in PAC funds from the advocacy group, his largest single campaign contributor. While J Street claims to represent Israeli interests, its policy pronouncements often are at odds with Israel’s security concerns. The tendency on the part of J Street to criticize Israeli foreign policy explains why many concerned Jewish Americans distance themselves from the organization. J Street does, however, enjoy the financial support of the Saudi embassy. More disconcerting is the support J Street derived from Mehmet Celebi, producer of the anti-American, anti-Semitic film Valley of the Wolves.
After the forum, the senator mingled with audience members and answered questions. I patiently awaited an opportunity to follow up on my concerns with Senator Brown. At this point, I was instructed to leave the premises. The senator’s staff stood idly by as a concerned citizen was denied a chance to raise an important issue with an elected representative of the people. The gentleman insisting that this was “a private event” ignored the fact that I was admitted after registering with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and having received an official confirmation of my attendance approval. This was not a case of “crashing” a private event uninvited. I joined other citizens who had registered in advance to interact with Senator Brown. As the video clearly shows, this was an opportunity to talk with the senator about national policy.
The brash response by Senator Brown to an important question about political donations and the decision to remove a citizen politely inquiring about the matter should be of grave concern to all citizens desiring to hold government officials accountable. How ironic that Sherrod Brown has admonished about the importance of campaign funding, yet refused to defend the dollars flowing to his own re-election efforts.