Washington Insider: Exclusive Interview with Matt Brooks; Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition

For the majority of his adult life, Matt Brooks has been involved in a leadership role within the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization that seeks to enhance ties between the Jewish community and the Republican Party. Although he’d been active since the 1980s, never had Matt and the RJC experienced as consequential a period than this past weekend, when their annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas featured a star-studded lineup, which included addresses by President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Once the dust settled, Ami spoke with Brooks about the experience.

Every year you get some really big names to your annual summit but have you ever had the president and vice president before in the same year?
No. We have not. First of all, we’ve never had the president at our Vegas conference. We have been honored to have the vice president before. It’s certainly the first time we’ve had both. It’s pretty unprecedented for any organization to have both the president and vice president not only address the organization but literally fly across the country to do it. So we are humbled and we are honored and thrilled that we had an opportunity to say thank you to this incredible president and incredible vice president.

Q: You’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, correct?
A: Thirty-one, but who’s counting?

Q: And this is the first time you pulled this off. What would you say changed this year that made you win the jackpot?
A: I think this is the culmination of a lot of hard work by our staff and by our lay leadership to help make this organization into what it is today. And it’s a testament to the RJC that the president and vice president and all the other speakers…the number of governors and senators and congressmen we had was unbelievable. I think it has everything to do with how the RJC has evolved into a major impactful organization in the Jewish community and the reputation we built for ourselves.

Q: You say impactful. There have been reports of Jews leaving the Democratic Party. First of all, would you agree with this assessment? And if yes, what sort of impact would you say the RJC has had?
A: We do know, because we made a strategic decision going back to the aftermath of George H.W. Bush’s loss in 1992. We got a record low vote in the Jewish community. He got 11% of the Jewish vote. That really set off alarm bells within the RJC and we dedicated ourselves to do whatever it took to invest and to build and to grow and try to affect the presidential elections. We’ve been very pleased with the inroads we’ve been making. Ever since that low point, we’ve been making inroads among the Jewish vote to the point where we’ve gone from 11% to 25-30%. So we’ve almost had a three-fold increase in the Jewish vote. And as I say often, I am very confident that in 2020 we will continue that trend and Donald Trump will do better among Jewish voters than he did in 2016.
In addition to that, there is what we do to elect Republican candidates to the House and Senate, what we do to support our friends and also to make sure the people who don’t share the views and values of the Jewish community aren’t elected. For example, like we did in the last cycle against Leslie Cockburn in Virginia with the election of Denver Riggleman, with our efforts to highlight why Scott Wallace was a horrible candidate for the Jewish community and how we helped elect Brian Fitzpatrick. We spent a million dollars in North Dakota helping to elect Kevin Cramer and defeating Heidi Heitkamp because of her bad vote on the Iran deal. In addition to our significant fundraising prowess, we also engage directly on the ground in helping to support our friends and defeat our enemies.


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