Pro-Israel PACs: 2006 Winners, Losers and Other Curiosities

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In any given election year, the months between the end of July and election day represent a political action committee’s (PAC) final opportunity to fill in the gaps, correct oversights, respond to late-breaking developments, and in general get one’s ducks in a row. So year-end PAC reports to the Federal Election Commission can make for interesting reading.

The months leading up to Nov. 2, 2006 saw a dark horse emerge in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. Seemingly out of nowhere, one Ember Reichgott Junge suddenly was receiving contributions from a baker’s dozen of pro-Israel PACs, to the tune of $29,500—not too shabby for a House race. Indeed, the former state senator and broadcast commentator was the only candidate for this open seat to be deemed worthy of these PACs’ support. (Pro-Israel PACs often hedge their bets in races where there’s no incumbent.)

Reichgott Junge was running against—and lost to—one Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim American elected to the House of Representatives

It took only a quick visit to <www.opensecrets.org>, the excellent Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, to determine the impetus behind this last-minute largesse. Reichgott Junge was running against—and lost to—one Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim American elected to the House of Representatives. To add insult to injury, despite having raised a total of $676,477 (from all sources) to Ellison’s $795,047—far outdistancing the other candidates—Reichgott Junge came in third in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. Pro-Israel PACs took their money and went home, and Ellison went on to easily win the general election.

Playing Catch-Up

Elsewhere, pro-Israel PACs were actively playing catch-up. It’s no surprise that newly Independent (from the Democrats, anyway, if not from AIPAC) Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was the beneficiary of the most last-minute contributions from pro-Israel PACs, raking in an additional $65,093 for his race to retain his seat. Not too far behind, as predicted by National PAC chairman Mark Vogel (see November 2006 Washington Report, p. 32), was Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse II, who received an additional $47,000 for his successful bid to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Re-elected incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) received $37,724 in the campaign’s final months, for a total of $84,835.

In Ohio, it became apparent that AIPAC favorite Sen. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent, would not succeed in staving off a challenge from anti-Iraq war Rep. Sherrod Brown. Nevertheless, pro-Israel PACs contributed an additional $22,000 to DeWine, for a top 10 total of $74,000. Conscientiously hedging their bets, however, they also contributed $23,500 to Brown, for a 2006 total of $33,000.

Other recipients of generous last-minute contributions from pro-Israel PACs included Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH), $27,500; Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), $24,889; and former House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert (R-IL), $22,500.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: A Case Study

After years of doggedly trying to climb the ladder of House leadership, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) finally has made it to the top rungs. Despite his 2001 loss to Rep. Nancy Pelosi in a hard-fought race for House minority leader, Hoyer, like the Energizer Bunny, just kept going and going. Today he is House majority leader, despite Pelosi’s stated preference for Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). Like Pelosi, Murtha strongly opposes the Iraq war—Hoyer, not so much. Coincidentally, for his 2006 re-election campaign Murtha received no pro-Israel PAC contributions—compared to $44,500 for Hoyer.

It was not always thus. Over the previous decade, pro-Israel PAC donations to Hoyer were in the lowly four figures, averaging slightly over $3,500. Once it appeared that his persistance was about to pay off, however, pro-Israel PACs opened their pockets wide, contributing $37,500 to Hoyer during the 2004 election cycle. And, while it does not contribute directly to candidates, AIPAC may well have weighed in when Pelosi backed Murtha as her deputy. After all, what are friends for?

Janet McMahon is managing editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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Comments
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  2. […] separate lobby system, particularly AIPAC, is dedicated to intimidating elected American representatives. And other groups like MEMRI do […]

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