Arthur Finkelstein

“Arthur Finkelstein Died on August 18, 2017 at age 72 Mr. Finkelstein was a reclusive political Svengali who revolutionized campaign polling and financing and helped elect a bevy of conservative candidates, including President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.” NY Times Read Obituary

WikipediaArthur Jay Finkelstein (May 18, 1945 – August 18, 2017) was a New York State-based Republican Party (GOP) consultant who had worked for conservative and right-wing candidates in the United States, Canada, Israel, Central and Eastern Europe over the past four decades.

With his brother, Ronald, he ran a political consulting and survey-research firm based in Irvington, New York. Finkelstein’s specialties were polling, strategy, message, media, ad placement, and advising on general campaign management. In 2013, he was honored by the American Association of Political Consultants, and named to its Hall of Fame, “the highest honor that the working members of the profession can bestow upon a colleague.”[1].

Beginning in 1975, Finkelstein was the chief strategist behind the most successful IE operation of this period, the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC).[17] Its Executive Director was Finkelstein protégé Terry Dolan. In 1981 New Right activist Richard Viguerie wrote, “NCPAC relies heavily on research and polling, a reflection of one of its founders, conservative pollster Arthur Finkelstein.”[18]

In 1978, NCPAC was instrumental in the defeat of Democrats Dick Clark in Iowa and Thomas J. McIntyre in New Hampshire. Both liberal senators were replaced by committed conservatives.[19]…Finkelstein concentrated these ad buys in closely contested Southern states (e.g., Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama), all of which switched from Carter to Reagan in 1980.[22].

Besides NCPAC, Finkelstein found particular success during this period in guiding individual Senate and House campaigns. Reagan backer and political unknown Orrin Hatch won a resounding 56% victory in Utah in 1976 against a three-term Democratic incumbent. In 1978, he was consultant to the successful re-election campaigns of Jesse Helms in North Carolina and Strom Thurmond in South Carolina[25] — the latter being Thurmond’s last seriously contested race (he served until 2002, age 100). That same year, Finkelstein shepherded Carroll Campbell to his first win in South Carolina’s Greenville-area 4th Congressional District.[10][26]

After a brief interlude early in 1979 as adviser to conservative Congressman Phil Crane,[27] Finkelstein returned as one of the pollsters advising Ronald Reagan‘s primary campaign.[28] His services were also reportedly sought by the George H.W. Bush campaign.[7]

In 1980, he engineered[29] the improbable Senate victory of Long Island supervisor Alfonse D’Amato over incumbent Jacob Javits, another three-way contest where the Democrat (Congresswoman Liz Holtzman) was favored.[4] He advised the successful campaign of 31-year-old State Senator Don Nickles for U.S. Senate from Oklahoma.[30] Most unlikely was the victory (aided by National Congressional Club allies) of John East in the North Carolina Senate contest;[31] East was a little-known professor who used a wheelchair, recruited for the race by Jesse Helms and elected through the efforts of Ellis, Wrenn, Finkelstein and the Helms organization.[12]

Besides Campbell, House winners included Duncan Hunter in California and Denny Smith in Oregon (both 1980), the latter toppling House Ways and Means Committee chair Al Ullman. Finkelstein also had his share of Senate losses, including two by previous client James Buckley (1976, New York,[32] and 1980, Connecticut),[33] and with Avi Nelson (1978, Massachusetts). Finkelstein was also pollster-strategist for Maryland Congressman Robert Bauman, who narrowly lost his seat after he was charged in DC with homosexual solicitation, one month before the November election.[34].

Earlier in 1996, he also helped Benjamin Netanyahu oust Shimon Peres as Prime Minister of Israel in a close upset.[129] According to The Jerusalem Post, “Finkelstein was largely responsible for the strategy that brought Netanyahu victory in the 1996 general elections.”[130]

According to the Times of Israel, “Finkelstein was behind the “Peres will divide Jerusalem” slogan that helped Netanyahu overcome Shimon Peres who had been forecast to sweep to power in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin the previous November. That election was credited with changing the tone of Israeli campaigns, bringing more American-style, aggressive and negative campaigning to Israel.”[131] But his expertise helped in subtler ways as well; biographer Neill Lochery wrote in 2016 that Finkelstein was behind such ideas as dyeing Netanyahu’s salt-and-pepper hair gray to give him a more statesmanlike appearance.[132]

Giuliani’s second Mayoral campaign in 1993 benefited from the resurgent New York GOP. He had made a point of endorsing the Senator for re-election,[102] and D’Amato and Finkelstein did not again back a primary challenger. This time, Giuliani ran a more effective race, riding to victory on a wave of discontent with incumbent David Dinkins, with even stronger turnout among ethnic Catholics and Jewish voters than in 1989, and in the same areas where D’Amato had done well a year earlier.[103]

In New York City in November 1993, Finkelstein and Ronald Lauder also guided to victory a measure limiting the terms of elected city officials.[104] The New York Times called this vote “a terrific defeat for the city’s mostly Democratic political establishment, which had fought in court throughout the summer to kill the referendum, only to have the state’s highest court order it on the ballot just two weeks [before the election].”[104]

Finkelstein had specialized in federal elections to this point, and it was uncertain how he would adapt to the localized issues and personal style of a gubernatorial contest. Reluctantly at first, and only after considering several alternative candidates, he and D’Amato settled on supporting little-known State Senator George Pataki of Peekskill for Governor in 1994.[105] They guided him through the State Convention in May, and to a smashing 3-to-1 primary victory in September over Nelson Rockefeller‘s longtime political wheelhorse Richard Rosenbaum.[106]

Pataki had a slight lead in public surveys when, on October 24, Giuliani endorsed Cuomo, with attacks on his fellow Republican quickly becoming a staple on evening news programs.[111] Poll numbers fluctuated wildly, with Finkelstein’s own tracking survey showing a Cuomo lead ballooning to 13 points within days.[112] It required a swift response. He elected to attack Giuliani’s endorsement as a corrupt deal with Cuomo,[113] the ad using headlines citing suspiciously timed New York State grants to the City to suggest the Governor had used taxpayer money to buy the Mayor’s backing.[105] Pataki relentlessly pushed this argument in public appearances.[114]

The pendulum swung back, with negative reaction to Giuliani especially strong Upstate and in the Metro North and Long Island suburbs.[115] (GOP protestors even chased the Mayor’s plane on an airport tarmac during a statewide flyaround for Cuomo.) Pataki closed the sale with an energetic tour of the state, appearing alone on a WCBS-TV Election Eve program when Cuomo refused a one-on-one debate.[116] The final result: Pataki defeated Cuomo by 4 points. In an historic Republican landslide year, Mario Cuomo was the most prominent Democrat to fall. As Todd Purdum of The New York Timeswrote that November, “For good or ill, Mr. Pataki’s campaign [wa]s almost entirely a creation of Mr. Finkelstein.”[43] Wikipedia