The Washington, D.C. Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League plans to give its annual achievement award to a businessman who is running in one of Maryland’s most hotly contested political primaries, raising questions about one of the country’s most prominent Jewish organizations.
The ADL sent invitations for its May 12 event to donors a few weeks before Maryland’s April 26 primary. The honoree: David Trone, who is a Democratic candidate for Maryland’s District 8 congressional seat.
“How is it possible they could do this before the primary?” ADL donor Rosalyn Jonas of Bethesda told WJW after receiving an invitation. “This amounts to a mailing for David Trone. It’s unseemly, and it reflects badly on the ADL.”
Jonas emailed her concerns to ADL regional director David Friedman.
“It is really unseemly to honor him just two weeks after the primary election, since the publicity for your event is well in advance of April 26, and it provides Trone with still more ammunition in his efforts to court Jews on his way to buying a seat in Congress,” she wrote.
Other Democratic candidates in the nine-way race have been courting Jewish community support, including state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-District 20) and former State Department official Joel Rubin. The congressional seat was left open when incumbent Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, decided to seek the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring.
Friedman responded by assuring Jonas that the ADL had selected Trone as its award recipient before he announced his candidacy.
“No matter how worthy an individual, had we known someone was intending to run for office, we would have waited to invite him or her to be honored,” he wrote.
Jonas wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t know how long ago the decision to honor him was made, but I’m sure Trone didn’t wake up one morning and just decide to run,” she responded. “He had to file by the beginning of February, and he had to have been thinking about it long before that, because he was really ready to roll with his campaign staff.
“It leaves a very, very bad taste in my mouth,” she continued in her email, “and does not reflect well on an organization whose work I admire.”
Trone’s brother, Robert, is listed as a co-chair of the ADL event.
Neither Friedman nor David Trone returned phone calls from WJW seeking comment.
In an email to WJW, Friedman said that as a nonprofit organization, the ADL does not take a position on any political candidate.
“We are proud to honor David Trone for his community involvements and achievements,” he wrote, reiterating his explanation that the decision was made prior to Trone seeking political office. “Our honoring him is not an endorsement of his candidacy.”
Ron Karp, a member of the ADL’s Washington regional board, agreed.
“My guess is that had the ADL known he was running for Congress, it wouldn’t have done it,” Karp said.
“I don’t think this should be looked at as an endorsement of Trone. ADL doesn’t make endorsements.”
Managing Editor David Holzel contributed to this story