GOP political strategist Arthur Finkelstein, who helped elect presidents, senators and two Israeli prime ministers, dies


(JTA) — Arthur Finkelstein, a Republican political strategist who helped elect presidents, senators and two Israeli prime ministers, has died.

Finkelstein died Aug. 18 at his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts of lung cancer. He was 72.

Larry Weitzner, spokesman for the family said in a statement issued by the family after Finkelstein’s death that: “Arthur, as everyone who has worked with him called him, had passion in his soul, poetry in his heart and brilliance in his mind. He set out to change the world and he did just that.”

He is credited with helping to elect U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Regan, and other U.S. political figures including: Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and New York Gov. George Pataki.

Anat Cohen at The Sheldon

He also worked on campaigns for Israeli prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. Other Israeli politicians appearing on a partial list of Finkelstein’s clients include Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“He brilliantly helped develop Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision for a “secure peace” and helped voters to view the hawkish war general Ariel Sharon as a leader who was also a trusted grandfatherly figure,” the statement from the family said.

In this century he spent more time working overseas and had clients in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo and Ukraine.

Finkelstein “pioneered sophisticated demographic analyses of primary voters and methodical exit polling, and of using a marketing strategy, called microtargeting, to identify specific groups of potential supporters of a candidate regardless of their party affiliation. He would bombard them with appeals to support a candidate through direct mail and phone calls, coupled with television advertisements that mercilessly exploited a rival’s vulnerabilities,” the New York Times reported.

He also is credited with transforming the term “liberal” into a dirty word during the 1990s, according to the newspaper.

Finkelstein’s parents were immigrants from eastern Europe and his father worked as a cab driver. He attended public high school in Queens, New York, and attended Columbia University, where he interviewed and helped produce radio programs for author/philosopher Ayn Rand. He later earned a bachelor’s degree from Queens College in 1967 in economics and political science.

In 2013, he was honored by the American Association of Political Consultants, and named to its Hall of Fame

In December 2004, Finkelstein and Donald Curiale, his partner of 40 years, were married in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts.

He is survived by his husband Donald, their daughters Molly and Jeni, granddaughter Maryn and brothers Ronald and Barry.