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Pro-Israel PACs Gear Up for Significant Spending to Oust Progressive Congress Members in 2024

AIPAC wields $50M political clout, rebukes Israel critics, and eyes an anticipated $100M for the 2024 elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is welcomed to the stage by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) President Michael Tuchin during the committee's annual policy summit Grand Hyatt on June 05, 2023 in Washington, DC.

A November house vote to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was the latest effort to counter members of the progressive “squad” by politicians backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The squad, a group of eight lawmakers, mainly women, has been critical of Israeli policy and is calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Already one of the most influential political organizations in Washington, AIPAC created a political action committee in 2021, enabling the organization to contribute directly to political campaigns.

Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), who introduced the resolution to censure Tlaib for allegedly using anti-semitic rhetoric when speaking out against U.S. aid to Israel, received $10,000 from AIPAC in the 2022 election cycle.

AIPAC also donated to the campaigns of all but one of the twelve Republican cosponsors of the censure.

Tlaib has denied the allegations made against her. “Rather than acknowledge the voice and perspective of the only Palestinian American in Congress, my colleagues have resorted to distorting my positions in resolutions filled with obvious lies,” the congresswoman said in a statement released prior to the censure vote.

The Michigan Democrat became the second Muslim-American woman in Congress to be officially rebuked this year for her criticism of Israel. In February, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee for similar comments following a resolution introduced by Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio).

Miller’s campaign committee received $10,800 from AIPAC during the 2022 election cycle and another $10,900 this year.

All told, AIPAC and its affiliated PACs poured nearly $50 million into political contributions and independent expenditures during the 2022 election cycle — the same cycle it established its AIPAC political action committee. Slate reported that sources expect this figure to jump to $100 million during the 2024 primaries.

“We are reviewing a number of races involving detractors of Israel, but we have made no decisions at this time,” a spokesperson for AIPAC told OpenSecrets. The group declined to comment on the numbers reported by Slate.

During the 2022 election cycle, the AIPAC-affiliated United Democracy Project, a super PAC formed to help elect “strong supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” spent more than $26 million on independent expenditures supporting and opposing federal candidates. AIPAC contributed $10.5 million to United Democracy Project — nearly a third of the super PAC’s total funds.

United Democracy Project’s efforts in 2022 were focused entirely on Democratic races either supporting candidates with messages consistent with those of AIPAC, or opposing candidates they believe are obstructing congressional support for Israel.

The super PAC spent the most money — more than $4 million — on independent expenditures opposing former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD). Edwards ultimately lost the race to Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-MD), whose campaign received over $1.2 million from the AIPAC PAC in the 2022 cycle.

This year, United Democracy Project has already spent $31,300 on Google advertising and over $3,000 on Meta political ads. Several of their campaigns call on Reps. Summer Lee (D-Penn.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-MO) to “stand with Israel,” referencing their votes against a recent house resolution to condemn Hamas and solidify American support for Israeli security.

Another AIPAC-affiliated political committee called Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, or DMFI, ran ads against Tlaib’s reelection campaign following the vote to censure her. The hybrid PAC spent nearly $7.6 million on independent expenditures during the 2022 election cycle.

DMFI largely targeted the Democratic primary for Ohio’s 11th during the 2022 election cycle, spending nearly $1.6 million in support of Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) and over $1.5 million opposing squad-allied Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner.

Since late October, AIPAC itself has spent over $270,000 on political advertisements on Meta featuring general statements about the Israel-Hamas war, some of which including quotes from officials in the Biden administration.

AIPAC has also spent nearly $200,000 on similar ad campaigns through Google since the beginning of 2023.

Two ad campaigns specifically opposed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who has a history of criticizing AIPAC’s role in American politics.

A second Google ad ran through May 2023 supported Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), whose campaign has received nearly $368,000 from AIPAC in 2023.

AIPAC also uses X, formerly known as Twitter, as a platform to support or oppose candidates in particular races. In August, the organization made a series of posts attacking candidates supported by J Street, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-ME) and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Lee and Bowman.

A rival pro-Israel group, J Street lobbies for U.S. security assistance and aid to Israel but does support progressive lawmakers. During the 2022 election cycle, J Street contributed more than $5.4 million to Democratic campaigns, while the affiliated J Street Action Fund super PAC spent more than $1.8 million on independent expenditures.

Most politicians backed by J Street’s independent expenditures are progressive Democrats opposed by AIPAC and its affiliates, which support more moderate and conservative candidates in both parties.

In its largest allocation of the 2022 election cycle, J Street spent more than $700,000 to oppose the 2022 congressional campaign of Rep. Haley Stevens’ (D-Mich.). United Democracy Project spent nearly $4 million bolstering Stevens, who wound up winning the race. AIPAC is one Stevens’ biggest donors, contributing over $683,000 to her campaign during the 2022 election cycle, and an additional $28,000 this year.

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