ZOA Avoids Answering Questions About Mort Klein’s Compensation

Steve Goldberg sent questions to ZOA National Executive Director David Drimer regarding Mort Klein’s $1.5 million compensation in 2013, and Mr. Drimer refused to answer “under advice of counsel.” Read the correspondence below.

From: Steven Goldberg <stevengoldberg54@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 2:53 PM
Subject: Re: your query about Klein 2013 compensation
To: “David Drimer (ZOA)” <DDrimer@zoa.org>

   Thanks for the response.  I accept your invitation to ask further questions.  Here they are:
1.  Was the $1.5 million in total compensation for 2013 money that belonged to ZOA before it was paid to Mort as salary or put in the trust for his benefit?  Put another way, were ZOA’s assets reduced by that $1.5 million?
2.   Will Mort receive the $1.5 million? If so, when is he eligible to take it?
3.  When did the Board approve this compensation to Mort, and are there minutes?
3.  The Form 990 for 2008 reflects that Mort received total compensation of more than $1.2 million that year.  I thought that figure included money set aside for his retirement.  Is that correct? If so, how much, and why such a large amount again in 2013?
4.   Who was the 3rd party compensation consultant who recommended such a large payment to Mort, when was he retained, when did he make his recommendation, was it in writing, and was it ever shared and discussed at a board meeting before or during 2013?  If so, are there minutes of that meeting?
5.  Who was the ERISA attorney who “reviewed in depth” the compensation to Mort, did he actually approve the figure, who suggested it to him, did he ever issue a report in writing, and was it ever shared and discussed at a board meeting before or during 2013? If so, are there minutes of that meeting?
6.  My review of the recent Form 990s indicates that for the 6 years running from 2008 through 2013 Mort received total compensation of $4,942,112, which averages out to $823,685,333 per year. For the 13 years from 2001 through 2013 the Form 990s show that Mort received total compensation of $6,482,136, which averages out to $496.620.145,  Do you disagree with my calculations?
7.  Did the Board ever vote to approve such compensation? If so, when, and are there minutes?
8.  How does Mort’s compensation over the 6 year period from 2008 through 2013 compare to the compensation of presidents of other Jewish organizations?  Looking at the Form 990s, it appears that Mort’s compensation has comprised about 30% of the total donations do the ZOA during that time period.  Are there other Jewish organizations who have paid their presidents such a high percentage?  Is there any organization who has paid its president even 15% of total donations over that time period or in any one year?  Has the Board ever concerned itself with whether Mort’s compensation is reasonable as a percentage of donations as compared to other Jewish organizations? If so, when did it consider the issue, what was done to investigate it,  and what were the results?
9.  What was Mort’s compensation for 2014, when was it approved by the board, and what were total donations for the year?
     I understand why Mort is defensive about this, and you are doing an excellent job trying to justify a decision you did not make.  Nevertheless, a non-profit that pays its president more than $1.5 million in a calendar year without a board meeting needs to be able to explain why that happened.  If no present board member has asked these questions, it speaks volumes about the quality of board oversight.
      I look forward to your response.
From: “David Drimer (ZOA)” <DDrimer@zoa.org>
Date: February 6, 2015 at 09:47:40 PST
To: Steven Goldberg <stevengoldberg54@gmail.com>
Cc: Greg Lam <GregLam@cckc-law.com>
Subject: folllow up questions on rabbi trust
Dear Steve:

Under advice of counsel, I am not going to answer each of your questions individually. I can pretty much summarize all the 9 questions into one.  You apparently feel Mort was/is paid too much.  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but that opinion doesn’t jibe with the opinion of at least a majority of the Board – if not the entire Board — of the ZOA.

Mort did NOT receive excess compensation. The ZOA clearly intended to pay the compensation and approved the compensation – it’s reported in the 990.  It is a matter of public record.  This includes the clearly delineated amounts from the Rabbi Trust.

Many people within the ZOA have been involved in this, including outside counsel and compensation consultants, and the ZOA feels it has appropriately dealt with, approved, and reported Mort’s compensation.  Rabbi trusts are appropriate methods of dealing with deferred compensation – and his payments above base salary simply come from that trust arrangement.  I note again these were properly documented on the relevant schedules in the 990 over the relevant range of activity/timeframes.

I acknowledge this is not as fulsome an answer as you had hoped, but re-creating the history of all of this would be overly burdensome given the other pressing matters I have to deal with.  Most importantly, Mort’s compensation has been appropriately reviewed by the appropriate bodies within the ZOA and transparently reported on its IRS filings.



David P. Drimer, National Executive Director

4 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016
Work (212) 481-1500 Cell (917) 929-6219


Mort Klein Hates This Website

Mort Klein hates this website and has retained a lawyer to threaten Steve Goldberg with civil litigation and criminal prosecution unless Steve takes down this website and gives Mort Klein the website domain name www.mortklein.com.

Steve Goldberg will not be bullied by Mort Klein and will not give up his legal rights. Please read the exchange of letters below if you wish to see the chain of correspondence:

Letter from Mort Klein’s attorney falsely accusing Steve Goldberg and demanding he take down this website

Response by Steve Goldberg’s attorney

Letter with more false allegations and a threat to prosecute

Additional response by Steve Goldberg’s attorney

Jewish Voice Obituary for ZOA

Read it below or in the Jewish Voice, here:

The mournful peals that could be heard from Philadelphia this past Sunday, May 9, 2014, did not come from the Liberty Bell. They emanated instead from the Hilton Hotel on City Avenue, where the Zionist Organization held its convention. What could be heard was the death knell of the venerable ZOA, as it reappointed the dyspeptic Morton Klein as its president.

We use the term “reappointed,” rather than “reelected,” because the process by which Klein maintained his title was hardly democratic. The ZOA members across the United States who donated money, time and energy were not allowed to vote unless they traveled to Klein’s hometown of Philadelphia. The delegates who did attend were locals approved by Klein and his friends pursuant to an antiquated and byzantine set of rules that were interpreted in ways designed to ensure that Klein would retain his grip on power.

The convention was sparsely attended, with only 124 voting delegates. Such a meager turnout for a convention that occurs once every four years is an embarrassment to the ZOA, but not as much as the reappointment of Klein, who has presided over the ZOA for the past 20 years and must bear responsibility for its implosion.

Once upon a time, long ago, the ZOA was a proud and influential Zionist organization, perhaps the most important in the United States. Its membership numbered 200,000 under the leadership of United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis during World War I and almost 250,000 in 1947 when led by the fearless Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver.

Since that time, including during Klein’s 20 year tenure, the ZOA has been in decline. Nevertheless, even as recently as 2005, the Encyclopedia Judaica reports that the ZOA’s membership was 50,000.

Recently, the ZOA has been in free fall. Although the ZOA’s website dishonestly represents that it has more than 30,000 members, the ZOA’s list of members includes fewer than 10,000 names. Of that group, the ZOA has e-mail addresses of only 1100, and approximately 25% of those e-mail addresses are no longer valid. Thus, at most, the ZOA has approximately 800 members. Such a pitifully small constituency is less than the critical mass necessary for an organization to have any relevance.

The ZOA’s financial resources are similarly paltry. Notwithstanding Mort Klein’s braggadocio about his fundraising prowess, an analysis of the Form 990s publicly available reveals that from 2001 through 2012, the donations to the ZOA have averaged less than $2.5 million per year. The ZOA is a dwarf compared to organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, and has also been greatly outperformed by relative newcomers like Stand With Us and J Street.

Even worse are the revelations that the ZOA’s demise is not the consequence of simple incompetence. The Form 990s that the ZOA belatedly filed, only after losing its status as a 501c3 status for two years, reveal that a grotesquely excessive share of the donations to the ZOA went into the pockets of President Morton Klein. In 2008 alone, Klein received $1,245,851, more than half of the ZOA’s total donations of less than $2.4 million. That was the first year the ZOA failed to file its Form 990 with the IRS, which meant that there was no public disclosure of Klein’s excessive compensation.

As noted in last week’s editorial, the ZOA’s Board of Directors is also complicit in its mismanagement. It is painfully apparent that the Board exercised no governance and oversight over Klein. The Board’s failure to fulfill its fiduciary duties enabled the ZOA’s disintegration. Perhaps one day the Attorney General of New York will investigate and hold the culpable parties responsible.

There was one ray of hope for the ZOA in the candidacy of Steven Goldberg, an attorney in Los Angeles and, as National Vice Chairman of the ZOA, the sole dissident among the ZOA Board, who became a pariah for demanding that Klein be held accountable for his actions. Goldberg mounted an audacious and effective social media campaign against Klein for the presidency of the ZOA, and in the process shined the light on the ZOA’s incompetent management and resulting ineffectiveness.

Goldberg also demanded a democratic election, and when the ZOA Board denied him, he had an independent website provider conduct a straw poll of ZOA members nationwide. Not surprisingly, Goldberg won the poll and aggressively publicized the result.

Klein panicked but he need not have. He and his supporters on the ZOA Board had an iron grip on the machinery for the selection of the next president at the convention, and Goldberg never had a chance.

The ZOA committed suicide this past Sunday, March 9, 2014. The ZOA will go through the motions of an active organization, but Mort Klein’s loss of credibility is irreversible. Now that the truth is out, it is impossible to take him seriously again.

Those of us who want a strong Zionist organization to help defend Israel in its hour of need must look for a new organization. There is no time to waste.

Rest in peace, ZOA. We will missyou, but we must move on.

ZOA’s Sham Election is Over

The ZOA’s convention on March 9, 2014 was every bit the sham that “Save the ZOA” predicted.

Mort Klein and his cronies had hand-picked delegates who were known to be personal friends of his. Spouses of friendly delegates were added to increase Mort Klein’s tally even if they were not on the ZOA membership list. The vote of the sham convention was 115-9. Frankly, Steve Goldberg was surprised to get even that many votes.

Mort Klein was allowed to speak for 45 minutes in the morning and then for 17 minutes in the afternoon while Steve was given just the 17 minutes in the afternoon. The Convention did not provide any time for debate.

Steve was repeatedly heckled and interrupted during his speech. Alan Mazurek, the Chair of the Convention, who was supposed to be scrupulously neutral, led a chant of “We Want Mort” after Mort Klein’s speech but before Steve’s. The elderly delegates who supported Mort Klein attempted to join the chant but lacked the stamina to maintain it for more than a few seconds.

During Mort Klein’s second speech, he cried repeatedly. The speech was largely a re-hash of old slanderous charges against Steve. There was one new outrageously false charge. Mort Klein actually said that Steve telephoned him and urged him to commit suicide. Bizarre as it may seem, most of the audience actually seemed to believe it.

“The treatment I received at this convention was equivalent to the treatment Israel receives in the United Nations,” Steve remarked. “When I was speaking, I felt like I was addressing the inpatients in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ only older.”

Mort Klein, his cronies, and the convention gave no consideration whatsoever to the wishes of the majority of ZOA members across the country, who were disenfranchised because they could not physically be in Philadelphia.

“I’m gratified that I won the votes of the vast majority of ZOA members,” Steve added. “It’s a disgrace that loyal ZOA members who have donated time, energy, and money have been disenfranchised.”

Mort Klein may have been reappointed President by his friends, but he has no legitimacy from the membership, and the ZOA’s credibility is further stained as a result. There is no hope for the ZOA becoming an effective pro-Israel organization again until Mort Klein and his rubber-stamp board have left the scene.

Steve Goldberg looks forward to continuing his pro-Israel advocacy in more effective ways, including as an Israeli citizen.

San Diego Jewish World Covers Straw Poll

ZOA challenger Goldberg claims straw poll victory

Posted on 05 March 2014.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO– Steven Goldberg, a Los Angeles attorney who is  national vice chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, claims he has overwhelming support in a straw poll of the ZOA membership to replace Morton A. Klein as the organization’s president.

Conducted over a three-day period, and sent to 1,099 members with an email address on record, ZOA’s national constituency favored him over Klein by a margin of 78% to 22%, according to a release e-mailed to media by Goldberg.

In response to a reporter’s inquiry, Goldberg said the actual number of votes “was 92/26 in my favor. The ballot was sent to all ZOA members who have e-mail addresses (1099). The vast majority are simply no longer active or interested. I sent the ZOA e-mail list to Survey Monkey and they sent it out. The question was simply, ‘Who is your choice for ZOA President?’ They were given two options, Steve Goldberg and Mort Klein.”

Elizabeth Berney, a campaign volunteer from Great Neck, N.Y.,  and spokeswoman for Klein, said the email list in question represented about 4 percent of the ZOA membership and could not be considered representative of members’ actual opinions.  She said an invitation to answer the survey question was included as a link in a campaign letter sent out by Goldberg in which he made many charges against Klein, all of which she described as false.  She said many friends and supporters of Klein, after receiving the survey, decided not to participate because it seemed to them to be unfair.

Read more in San Diego Jewish World

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