BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON -- A staffer for Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), in a threatening e-mail, tried to get the president of Tel Aviv University to pressure a prominent supporter of Democrat Dan Seals to back down.
The target of a July e-mail by Kirk district representative Caryn Garber was insurance magnate Robert M. Schrayer, who is the national chairman of the Tel Aviv University American Council and on the board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Kirk said Wednesday he reprimanded Garber and warned her that she would be fired if it happened again.
Her action "does not reflect my view. When I heard about it I was upset," Kirk said.
Kirk, in his third term, is facing a stronger-than-expected challenge from Seals, who, like Kirk, is a strong backer of Israel. The north suburban 10th Congressional District has a substantial Jewish population.
Garber sent the e-mail from her personal account to Sam Witkin, who is the president of TAU's U.S. operation. Witkin declined her suggestion that he get TAU President Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, to intervene.
In the e-mail, Garber wrote "that Itamar should call Bob and tell him his actions can have a very bad effect on the university." Kirk is a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Foreign Operations subcommittee, which handles grants to entities in Israel and other countries.
Garber added, "Revenge is a dish best served cold."
Schrayer said he took the note "as a threat in two ways," to pressure Rabinovich to get him to resign his position with the university -- which involves fund-raising for the school -- "and kind of a blind threat that because he is on the appropriations committee, that Tel Aviv University could be hurt.''
Schrayer had supported Kirk in previous contests. Kirk said, "I am in a difficult position" because Schrayer "is now a passionate supporter of my opponent."
© Copyright 2006 Sun-Times News Group