Ohio: Franklin County treasurer attends Netanyahu meeting, steps up Israel Bond purchases
Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan (left) via her official Facebook page and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) via AP.

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan has demonstrated long-standing support for Israel Bonds—including sinking public money into the investment vehicle that provides cash to the Israeli government.

The treasurer has attended many of the company’s events, both before and during her time in office, including one that featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She has also been personally recognized by Israel Bonds at an event in 2019 for her investments.

According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, in August 2020, Sullivan proudly accepted an invitation to an Israel Bonds event from Kathe Turiel, a company representative. The virtual event, “Spectacular International Celebration of Heritage and Unity,” featured Netanyahu. Sullivan resolutely confirmed her attendance at the event, “I will most certainly be in attendance, and I am grateful and honored by the invitation.”

Michael Broidy (representing Jay Schottenstein, Israel Bonds Columbus general chairman), Municipal Court Judge Cynthia Ebner, and Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan. | Photo via Columbus Free Press

During his speech, the far-right leader celebrated the 70th anniversary of Israel Bonds, praised founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s launch of Israel Bonds in 1950, and celebrated investors for continuing to support the development of Israel’s economy.

Sullivan’s support for Israel is not just symbolic; it is clearly reflected in her investment portfolio for Franklin County. While Sullivan is not the first Franklin County treasurer to invest in Israel Bonds, she has greatly increased investment during her tenure. When Sullivan took office in 2017, Franklin County had $9 million invested in Israel Bonds, accounting for one percent of total investments, according to County Investment Reports* to the Ohio Treasurer’s office.

The reports indicate Franklin County’s holding of Israel Bonds remained consistently at or below $9 million from 2012 to 2017. In January 2018, investments reached $12.5 million, escalating to $20 million in February. The increased investments coincide with escalated violence and illegal settlement expansion by Israeli forces.

Gaza’s Great March of Return began in March 2018 when Palestinian refugees joined together weekly at Gaza’s border with Israel, calling for their Right to Return to the land and protesting the Israeli blockade. Within the first year of protests, Israeli forces killed 195 Palestinians, including 41 children, and injured 29,000, showcasing Israel’s deliberate disablement and debilitation strategies.

During the last few years, foreign investments have increased to 2% of Franklin County’s overall portfolio, which is entirely dedicated to Israel Bonds. In an email from Nov. 16, 2023, Kris McDaniel relayed the treasurer’s approval of $8 million in bond investments to Turiel: “The Treasurer wants to maximize our foreign investment up to two percent of our overall portfolio. Right now, that would be around a $8,000,000.00 purchase that we could make before the end of the year.”

As it stands, Franklin County holds $33 million in Israel Bonds, almost four times as much as when Sullivan took office. On April 1, one of these bonds for $1 million will mature, and the Treasurer’s office likely already has plans to reinvest in Israel Bonds.

Sullivan’s support of the Netanyahu administration and Israel Bonds corresponds with moves by state governments, municipal governments, and public pension funds in the U.S. that have collectively purchased $1.6 billion in bonds since Oct. 7.

Flyer for the event that Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan attended featuring Netanyahu.

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague has increased the State’s holdings to $262.5 million in Israel Bonds, maintaining Ohio’s position as one of the largest U.S. government holders. Sprague has also joined Israel Bonds’ new Government, Industry, and Financial Services Leadership Group, established in December 2023, advising other government and corporate investors to follow suit.

As credit rating agencies downgraded Israel’s economy to a negative outlook following Oct. 7, Sullivan, in step with Sprague, made it clear that investments in Israel Bonds are not a judicious financial decision but an expression of political commitment to Israel—in violation of Franklin County Treasurer’s own Ethics Policy.

*Note: The County Investment Reports tool emphasizes greater transparency and accessibility for the public to view county government investment reports and states, “The law requires that investing authorities in Ohio counties provide a copy of their monthly county investment advisory committee reports to the Ohio Treasurer’s office.” For Franklin County, reports are only available for 2012-2020, with many months missing within these years. By failing to report how tax dollars are invested, the Franklin County Treasurer’s office is breaking state law.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Columbus Free Press.

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Christine Whit
Christine Whit

Christine Whit is a member of the Mike Gold Writers Collective based in central Ohio.