There's No Organized Effort Among Progressives In Congress To Defend Themselves From AIPAC
The most evil of the Republican PACs is AIPAC’s United Democracy Project (plus their associated Democratic Majority for Israel), not just because they are intrinsically evil, which they are, but because they pretend to be part of the Democratic Party coalition and they are having some real success turning the Democratic Party more conservative— much more conservative. They are on the verge of installing their top congressional operative, Hakeem Jeffries, as the leader of the House Democrats and they have been knocking off progressives one by one. The progressives are frozen by fear and refuse to stand up to them as they decimate their ranks. They knocked off Marie Newman and are spending to do the same to Rashida Tlaib and Andy Levin now. Other progressive are either in a state of denial, a state of acceptance or a state of terror.
Democrats have feared AIPAC ever since they flexed their muscles against two African-American Democrats in 2002— replacing Alabama congressman Earl Hilliard and Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney with more conservative, more compliant shills. Over the last few days, I asked over a dozen members and everyone is too scared to talk about them— I mean like really scared— except for Marie Newman who they already defeated and who sent this tweet out this morning in response to a piece at the American Prospect buy Alexander Sammon, AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process:
And one congresswoman told me she didn’t want to comment on the record but said that “pointing the finger at Pelosi and Hoyer for inaction is not the answer. The best that one could reasonably hope for is to try to get them to stop interfering in primary campaigns entirely, not having them pick and choose based on who is doing outside spending. The more important response is what J Street is saying: develop a counterstrike force of some kind, and use it wisely. If AIPAC and DMFI start losing consistently, then they will stop. The only other way that I see this ending is that if it becomes visible that, in reaction to this, progressive Dems are coalescing around J Street positions. Which already is happening, I think. There are certain Dems— Grijalva comes to mind— who intuitively push back against anything that looks like pressure, from anyone.”
They spent a lot of money defeating Culver City’s progressive mayor Daniel Lee in his congressional race. He had no qualms about talking on the record. “When the same Super PAC that backs insurrectionist Republicans,” he said, “gets a pass from establishment Democrats for meddling in Democratic primaries it is hard to ignore the encroaching darkness.” He quoted a Guardian piece from March by Chris McGreal:
The US’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group has been accused of putting support for Israel before American democracy after it declared its backing for the election campaigns of three dozen Republican members of Congress who tried to block President Biden’s presidential victory.
But the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has defended the move by saying that support for the Jewish state overrides other issues and that it is “no moment for the pro-Israel movement to become selective about its friends.”
“Is not the very real threat to American Democracy posed by Republican insurrectionists and the well moneyed and very vocal minority that supports them,” asked Mayor Lee, “more important than appeasing the lobbyists for a foreign state? The nearly quarter of a million dollars spent against me in my primary is a drop in the bucket compared to the Queenmaker/Kingmaker/Royalty bestowing funds AIPAC and DMFI are pouring into races such as that of the once and future representative Donna Edwards. To her credit Speaker Pelosi finally rebuked the AIPAC ads against Edwards in June. But, what of the other races around the country where AIPAC and DMFI are targeting progressive challengers and centrist Democrats alike? A stronger leader would rebuke and disavow all of the dirty money spent on blatantly dishonest ads against all Democratic candidates rather than accepting their existence as the new normal. The more timid and silent democrats become the more the country continues to lurch to the right. At this point, many steps down the road to fascism. Or as white supremacists refer to it, freedom. A type of perverse freedom that is more concerned with order and conformity than acknowledging and protecting differing ways of life and forms of personal and community expression.”
One disenchanted Congressional Progressive Caucus member who has not been targeted by AIPAC, told me he thinks “it’s well-established at this point that the CPC can’t significantly influence the outcome of Democratic primaries, even if there is no outside spending. To expect them to thwart outside spending would be like expecting a cockroach to play the piano.”
In his Prospect feature today, Sammon reported that AIPAC “is dumping trainloads of money to influence the outcome of two particularly high-profile races: boosting [New Dem] Haley Stevens over incumbent Andy Levin in Michigan’s incumbent-on-incumbent 11th Congressional District, and Glenn Ivey over Donna Edwards in Maryland’s open Fourth District. On the surface, those campaigns break down along familiar ideological lines; Stevens and Ivey are the more conservative candidates, Levin and Edwards are progressives. But the Maryland race is especially notable for both the Democratic forces AIPAC is now opposing and for the stunning quantity of cash it has dedicated to the cause: Already, UDP has spent some $6 million boosting Ivey and opposing Edwards, by far the most money the super PAC has poured into any individual race in the cycle. And it’s not merely to knock off a Squad-type progressive: Edwards, who has already served a decade representing the same Fourth District as a Democrat, is a close ally of Democratic leadership and endorsee of everyone from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Clinton.”
He has noticed that AIPAC’s deployment of millions of dollars from Republicans and other conservatives “has, in just a few months, remade the reality of Democratic politics.” In her defense of Donna Edwards, “Pelosi notably didn’t didn’t condemn AIPAC’s virtual takeover of the Democratic primary process, or condemn party candidates for accepting money from a group heavily funded by Republican donors, one that has simultaneously used its influence to endorse over 100 Republican candidates who refused to certify the 2020 election results. Similarly mum has been fellow Marylander Steny Hoyer, who is second-in-command in the House as majority leader, and has even endorsed Edwards in the past. Indeed, Hoyer, known to be a close ally of AIPAC, endorsed Edwards over the exact same Glenn Ivey in a tight House race a decade ago. But this time he’s remained silent as the group has poured millions of dollars into attacking Edwards. His office did not respond to a request for comment.”
“Until leaders in the Democratic Party stand up and say this is unacceptable to take this money or any money like this, or until election laws are changed, the opportunity is there for a group like AIPAC to do this,” said Logan Bayroff, vice president of communications at J Street, the pro-Israel nonprofit group that advocates for diplomacy-based solutions. “We don’t know where it ends. I wouldn’t be surprised to find other Republican-aligned groups deciding to play in Democratic primaries going forward.”
AIPAC’s role in Democratic elections has changed drastically in just a handful of months. For many years, the group claimed to be a bipartisan entity, and didn’t officially endorse candidates. Until this election cycle, the group didn’t even have a super PAC; now, it’s on pace to spend nearly $20 million in the 2022 Democratic primary cycle alone, making it by far the most influential individual political group in Democratic electoral politics.
The group’s ability to influence the outcome of those Democratic races has drawn close attention from Republican mega-donors. In May, GOP billionaires Paul Singer and Bernie Marcus donated $1 million each to AIPAC’s super PAC. Marcus famously gave $7 million to President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
Crucially, AIPAC’s United Democracy Project super PAC has not been similarly active in Republican primaries, even in races where Republican candidates have been widely criticized for antisemitic comments. Representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who infamously claimed that Jewish space lasers were behind California’s 2018 wildfires, has not faced any UDP-backed primary. “Have you seen them spend a dime in a Republican primary?” asked Bayroff. “What would a million dollars have done helping MTG’s primary challenger?”
AIPAC has, however, endorsed numerous Republicans in their general elections. Among that slate of endorsees are Elise Stefanik, Barry Loudermilk, and Scott Perry, who famously compared Democrats to Nazis.
The emergence of AIPAC as a Democratic kingmaker has led groups like J Street to become more active in electioneering as well. Prior to this election cycle, that group also did not have an independent-expenditure operation or a super PAC. Now, in an attempt to blunt the influence of AIPAC’s multimillion-dollar blitz, the group has committed to six-figure ad buys for a handful of Democratic politicians in UDP’s crosshairs. On Tuesday, the group announced a $700,000 ad buy on behalf of Michigan’s Andy Levin, which criticized his opponent Haley Stevens for her acceptance of AIPAC money. The group has also committed $660,000 to supporting Edwards.
Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to the money being put up by UDP, but it remains consequential. Progressive candidates who can patch together support from a number of groups, as Summer Lee did in Pennsylvania, have a chance of pulling out a victory even while getting massively outspent. But progressive groups are also being pulled in a number of different directions at the moment, and with donations flowing to urgently needed programs like abortion funds, it can be difficult to marshal enough resources to do battle with the near-infinite funding of deep-pocketed Republican billionaires.
For House Democratic leadership, the prospect of more “moderates” (if not crypto-Republicans) might be welcomed. They have long quarreled with progressives, and leapt at opportunities to blame the left flank for the party’s woes. Those impulses, compounded by Democrats’ inability to pass campaign finance reform as part of their doomed democracy reform package, have created a huge opportunity for Republicans to commandeer the party’s own democratic process, one that they are seizing more and more with each passing primary.
But it’s ultimately toxic for the party leadership to tacitly welcome a group currently endorsing a Republican who compared Democrats to Nazis. If Pelosi and company do nothing to combat right-wing entryism in their own party primary process, even as Republican funders target mainstream Democrats with close personal ties to the party’s elite, AIPAC will only be emboldened further. If Pelosi doesn’t speak up soon, she might be targeted herself.
The Democrats behind AIPAC’s targeting of progressives are not octogenarians Pelosi or Hoyer. The hand behind the curtain is corrupt Wall Street and AIPAC suck-up Hakeem Jeffries, the party leader-in-waiting and, likely, the man who will bring on the collapse of the big Democratic Party tent.
The UDP’s biggest source of income is laundered from AIPAC itself— so far over $8.5 million this year. This is especially interesting because AIPAC has long been suspected of illegally and surreptitiously taking large sums of money from a far right foreign political party, Israel’s fascistic Likud. These are the donors who have given UDP at least a quarter of a million dollars this cycle (not counting their often much, much bigger contributions to AIPAC itself and not counting their contributions to the even shadier Democratic Majority for Israel, also rumored to be taking illegal foreign money):
Paul Singer- $1,000,000
Bernard Marcus- $1,000,000
Haim Saban- $1,000,000
Amnon Rodan (of the Rodan + Fields pyramid scheme crooks; also an AIPAC director)- $500,000
Helaine Lerner- $500,000
Michael Leffell- $500,000
Linda Rubin- $500,000
Michael Hackman- $250,000
Donald Friend- $250,000
Robert Friend- $250,000
Ed Levy, Jr- $250,000
Anthony Davis- $250,000
Victor Kohn- $250,000