Manhattan billionaire Ronald Lauder was once ambassador to Austria, but he’s been declared persona non grata and banned from some of the country’s most important Jewish sites.
That’s because the president of Austria’s most influential Jewish group charges that Lauder threw his millions around last month to manipulate its elections.
Oskar Deutsch, the man eventually elected president of IKG, the country’s leading Jewish lobbying and community organization, claims the heir to the Estée Lauder fortune pledged $6 million in donations to the pet causes of voting board members who opposed Deutsch.
Deutsch blasted Lauder’s actions as “illegal” and a breach of Jewish law in a letter he fired off to other European Jewish leaders.
“We considered R. Lauder’s action immoral and absolutely intolerable,” Deutsch wrote in the letter, obtained by The Post.
Deutsch called on the World Jewish Congress – the New York-based organization where Lauder serves as president – to take action against the billionaire.
Lauder – who served as US ambassador to Austria in 1986-87 and built four schools there – is accused of depositing more than $700,000 into a lawyer’s account to help sway three factions to support his candidate, psychoanalyst Martin Engelberg. Deutsch said Lauder promised millions more to the pro-Engelberg factions.
Engelberg doesn’t deny money that came into play in the election. But he told The Post that he asked Lauder – who is worth $3.4 billion, according to Forbes – for the cash in order to finance a synagogue for Georgian Jews and a school.
Engelberg said his platform advocated such social-service initiatives over what he said was Deutsch’s emphasis on archival research and the building of a new museum.
And Lauder admits he did intervene, but only to ensure a fair election. He claims Deutsch’s camp was unfairly withholding community funds to non-supporters so he pledged to finance opponents’ projects.
He denies pledging $5.9 million, although he would not say how much cash he did promise. He said he wanted Deutsch’s opponents to feel free to vote how they wanted.
“This is Tammany Hall on the Danube,” Lauder told The Post. Deutsch refused to comment.
Now Lauder is barred from schools and community centers controlled by the Vienna-based IKG.
This isn’t the first time Lauder has tried to influence an election. He was one of the most influential and deep-pocketed advocates in New York pushing for term limits for City Council members and the mayor.
But after a 2008 meeting with Mayor Bloomberg, he changed his mind.
Source: NY POST