"Weapons of Mass Deception"


An AIPAC Primer

If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It (or Maybe Not): An AIPAC Primer

By Janet McMahon
To download Pro-Israel PACs Contributing to Federal Candidates 2004 Election Cycle, click here.

“One of the capital’s toughest and most effective behind-the-scenes lobbies.”
—The Washington Post, Sept. 5, 2004

“A political juggernaut and one of the most effective and controversial lobbying groups in the U.S. [with] close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Likud Party.”
—Sunday Herald (UK), Sept. 5, 2004

Israel’s “client,” one of the most “consistently potent and reliable…weapons in Israel’s policy arsenel.”
—Haaretz, Sept. 7, 2004

There seems to be little disagreement on the power and influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Contrary to popular perception, however, the Israel lobby’s big daddy does not make campaign contributions to elected officials. That task is carried out by its numerous innocuously named progeny (see chart at right).

Instead AIPAC treats congressmen to junkets to Israel, writes legislation such as the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, and keeps very close tabs indeed on who does and does not toe the Israel line.

The results of its scorekeeping are evident in the reports filed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by the baby PACs which dole out the money: after reading the reports of one or two, one can predict with near complete accuracy the recipients of all the others.

This does not mean, however, that AIPAC’s 50 board members—who, according to the Sept. 5 Washington Post, represent “a cross section of influential figures in Republican and Democratic politics and in civic affairs across the country”—are twiddling their thumbs. “Since 2000,” the Post reported, “the board members have contributed an average of $72,000 each to campaigns and political committees. One in every five…is a top fund-raiser for Kerry or Bush.”

Indeed, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry recently appointed former AIPAC board member and California congressman Mel Levine as his top adviser on the Middle East. Not to be outdone, at an AIPAC co-hosted fund-raiser in New York prior to the Republican Convention—and two days after reports of possible AIPAC involvement in Israeli spying on the U.S. first appeared—Bush campaign chair Ken Mehlman was introduced with the words, “We are honored that President Bush’s campaign is being managed by one of us.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, DC-based watchdog organization, “Since the 1989-90 election cycle, pro-Israel interests have contributed $41.3 million in individual, PAC, and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees. More than two-thirds of that total, or $28.6 million, has gone to Democrats.”

AIPAC reported spending $1.28 million on lobbying in 2003. Given its total annual budget of $33.4 million, one wonders what it does with the leftover $30-plus million. Surely that’s more than enough to pay for its staff of 165 and offices in Washington, DC, 10 states and Israel. With a membership of 85,000, the pro-Israel behemoth boasts that it holds more than 2,000 meetings with members of Congress and “helps” pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives yearly, according to The Washington Post.

Clearly, however, AIPAC—and Israel—are uneasy when the lobby’s fame spreads too far beyond Capitol Hill—at least when the reason is possible espionage (see article p. 26). In his article in the Sept. 9 edition of the Israeli daily Haaretz, “10 Ways the Pentagon Spy Case May Damage Israel,” Bradley Burston lists as number three “Undermining AIPAC.” “It has been suggested that a key source of AIPAC’s strength is its widespread image of unparalleled clout in affecting foreign policy regarding Israel,” he explained, “an image that the affair could sap.
“In fact,” Burston noted, “AIPAC’s very success in lobbying for Israel’s interests has also rendered the group…vulnerable to charges of undue influence in Washington decision making.”
Poor AIPAC—what’s a foreign lobby to do?
Janet McMahon is managing editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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Milton Frihetsson, 02:15


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