TEL AVIV – In a sit-down interview at his campaign headquarters down an alley and behind a building off of the posh Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, Nimrod Dweck, founder of a new voter mobilization effort making waves here, did not disguise his group’s ultimate agenda.
“We want to bring a change in the political sphere so that the center and left parties will form the next coalition. That’s our goal,” Dweck told WND.
Dweck’s group, which calls itself V15, short for Victory 2015, attracted U.S. media attention after it hired 270 Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior leadership is comprised mostly of former top staffers for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Dweck’s candid statement about working to form a center-left coalition, meaning a ruling coalition in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning Likud Party, stands in contrast with recent attempts by V15 to paint itself as nonpartisan.
Asked directly whether his group’s intention is to topple Netanyahu, Dweck replied, “Our goal is to do change.”
Dweck said V15 aims to mobilize voters who are “more likely to support our cause,” including by getting left-leaning young residents of central Israel to sign pledge cards to vote for “change” in the upcoming election.
“We’re calling homes, going door-to-door in central Israel in places we marked as potential voters of the center-left,” he said.
If Dweck’s call for “change” sounds familiar to a U.S. audience, that may be because the chief consultant for the anti-Netanyahu election effort is 270 Strategies founder and ex-Obama campaign staffer Jeremy Bird.
Bird served as a data analyst and a deputy director for Obama’s 2008 campaign and was the national field director for the president’s massive re-election machine.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Klein’s interview with Nimrod Dweck will air in full on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” this Sunday 7-9 p.m. ET. The show is broadcast on New York City’s Am 970 The Answer.
Dweck told WND that Bird’s organizing skills are central to designing the evolving V15 battle plan.
“Israelis don’t know how to run field (operations) as Americans [do], and that was the major contribution of Jeremy’s team,” he said.
Bird has provided “very professional help about how to organize, manage people, how to go door-to-door, how to talk to people on the street.”
270 Strategies’ team of 45 staffers includes 16 members who worked directly for Obama’s campaigns. Most of the former Obama staffers hold the senior posts at the firm. Others worked for the Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee or grassroots groups involved in progressive efforts, including a group to enroll Americans in Obamacare.
The involvement of Bird’s team has ignited reports in some conservative media outlets that Obama or his surrogate are attempting to influence the Israeli elections.
Dweck dismissed those claims as “bullsh–t.”
“It’s a matter of finding the right professionals,” he continued. “And if I need to pick the best professional in the world for the job, the guy (Bird) knows what he is doing. 270 [Strategies] is a great company.”
Besides the initial work to organize the group’s efforts, Dweck said he and V15 continue to consult with Bird and his firm on a regular basis.
V15 maintains a very public field office on Tel Aviv’s hipster Lilienblum Street. Inside the glass-encased front walls of the small, storefront property, one finds what appears at first glance to be the hastily organized, temporary residence of a grassroots mobilization effort.
During a visit to the Lilienblum site, WND was greeted by smiling, 20-something, field staffers who were manning a small folding table and helpfully distributing fliers and buttons. A few organizers were entering and exiting a smaller back room that serves as a meeting place.
The real brains of the effort, however, is located about one block away on the second floor of a decrepit building off Rothschild Boulevard.
To arrive at the headquarters, one most walk down an uninviting alleyway into a poorly lit entrance and up a flight of exposed concrete stairs.
Once on the second floor and past a creaky wood-colored door, one enters the bustling expanse of V15’s real headquarters – actually the offices of a U.S.-UK group calling itself “OneVoice.”
OneVoice bills itself as an “international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians.” It has a clearly leftist tone.
The office is divided into about 10 rooms, each of which brandishes a sign that announces the various activities taking place inside each section.
The signs read “digital,” “marketing,” “volunteers” “outreach” and more, demonstrating a highly organized structure.
OneVoice put out a press release Tuesday that was decidedly anti-Netanyahu.
“We believe that it’s critical that the majority of Israelis who are concerned about the numerous security and socio-economic challenges we face have their voices heard in the next election,” said OneVoice Israel’s executive director, Polly Bronstein.
“We need a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”
The release announced that OneVoice Israel and V15 “are working with premier grassroots consulting firm 270 Strategies to leverage the most cutting-edge mobilization techniques.”
Genesis of effort, hidden funding
Dweck explains it was One Voice that first contacted him to get behind his initiative and hire Bird’s firm.
He maintains V15 started as a “truly grassroots” effort when he decided to organize about 20 friends for a meeting to talk about voting for a center-left bloc after new elections were announced in Israel about a month and a half ago. The plans were advertised on social media, and, eventually, 300 people showed for the meeting, Dweck recalls.
He said he was contacted by OneVoice about a month ago, and things took off from there.
Dweck seemed genuinely surprised by the ballooning size of his organization. He said V15 currently maintains a staff of about 300 people, with more than 5,000 volunteers nationwide.
He became tight-lipped when asked where the funding comes from, only disclosing that his effort is funded by “private donors.”
One of those donors is clearly OneVoice.
State Department, Google partnership
OneVoice is reportedly sponsored by scores of nonprofits and received two grants in the past year from the U.S. State Department.
The State Department is also listed as a partner of OneVoice on the group’s website.
OneVoice development and grants officer Christina Taler told the Washington Free Beacon that “no government funding” has gone toward the V15 voter mobilization effort.
However, V15’s complete takeover of OneVoice’s Tel Aviv offices may raise some questions not only about the grant usage but about the State Department’s current partnership with OneVoice.
Aside from the State Department, OneVoice is also openly partnered with Google, the U.K. Labour Party and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
‘Obama army’ deploys to Tel Aviv
The conservative blogosphere is largely focusing on the involvement of Bird in the V15 campaign.
A closer look at Bird’s consulting firm as well as its working relationship with the Israeli groups finds he is just one of scores of former senior Obama election campaign staffers now working on the anti-Netanyahu effort.
Besides Bird, the 270 Strategies team includes the following former Obama staffers:
- Mitch Steward, a 270 Strategies founding partner who helped the Obama campaign build what the U.K. Guardian called “a historic ground operation that will provide the model for political campaigns in America and around the world for years to come.”
- Mark Beatty, a founding partner who served as deputy battleground states director for the Obama campaign. He had primary responsibility for Obama’s election plans for the battleground states.
- Marlon Marshall, a founding partner at 270 Strategies who joins the team after holding several key positions in national Democratic politics, most recently as deputy national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Betsy Hoover, a founding partner who served as director of digital organizing on the Obama campaign.
- Meg Ansara, who served as national regional director for Obama for America where she was responsible for overseeing the 2012 programs in the Midwest and southern states.
- Bridget Halligan, who served as the dngagement program manager on the digital team of the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Kate Catherall, who served as Florida deputy field director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Alex Lofton, who most recently served as the GOTV director of Cleveland, Ohio, for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Martha Patzer, the firm’s vice president who served as deputy email director at Obama for America.
- Jesse Boateng, who served as the Florida voter registration director for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Ashley Bryant, who served most recently as the Ohio digital director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
- Max Clermont, who formerly served as a regional field director in Florida for Obama’s re-election campaign.
- Max Wood, who served as a deputy data director in Florida for the 2012 Obama campaign.