Lobbying group moves dinner from Eastcliff

by Patrick Hayes

A pro-Israel lobbying group announced it will host its annual reception at a Minneapolis hotel later this month instead of the University’s Eastcliff mansion, according to a statement issued Monday.
The decision came after University President Mark Yudof criticized plans last week to host the fund-raising event at Eastcliff.
Yudof did not know the event was a fund-raiser until two weeks ago when he received word that attendance required contributions. He was reconsidering his agreement when the story broke Saturday, said Sandra Gardebring, vice president of institutional relations.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee originally scheduled the event in April, which will be hosted by University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg’s wife, Amy Katz Rotenberg. Event organizers invited about 200 people and asked for a $200 minimum contribution.
“The president’s office told us that they were fully aware of the arrangements and that it was fine with them,” said Kenneth Bricker, an AIPAC spokesman.
Eastcliff is used regularly for fund-raising events for the University but rarely for private occasions.
Yudof reconsidered the agreement because AIPAC is an overtly political organization, Gardebring said.
“The president’s position is that there should be no fund-raising activity at Eastcliff that has any partisan political activity,” Gardebring said.
AIPAC stated that it decided to change location to avoid “any potential embarrassment to Mark and Judy Yudof.”
“No fund raising whatsoever was to take place in the Yudof home, and no public funds were to be expended for this event,” the statement said.
Considered to have an influential presence in the United States, AIPAC works with Congress and Israel to improve ties and promote peace in the Middle East.
The group has 55,000 activists in the United States, including former Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz.
Mark Rotenberg said he knew the group required an annual contribution to attend the meeting. However, he told Yudof in April that it would be fine to go ahead with the event if it met the Eastcliff policy regarding private events.
Mark Rotenberg also said he offered to find an outside attorney to advise Yudof on the situation because of his wife’s involvement. However, Mark Rotenberg said that Yudof expressed full confidence in his decision.
Amy Rotenberg has been associated with AIPAC since her college years and helped with the event last year when Gov. Jesse Ventura was the keynote speaker.
“My wife doesn’t get anything out of this, whether it’s Eastcliff or on the moon,” Mark Rotenberg said.