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PAC Watch

Pro-Israel PAC Expenditures Pass $3 Million As Election Day Nears

By Richard Curtiss

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

October 1996   pg. 36

Total expenditures by pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) in the 1996 election cycle had reached $3,875,184 as of June 30, 1996, according to the latest figures available from the Federal Election Commission, to which both PACs and candidates must report their campaign receipts and expenditures.

Of this total, $1,371,034 went directly to the campaigns of 203 individual candidates for Congress (see following tables). Recipients included 116 Democrats and 87 Republicans. An additional $2,504,150 in expenditures included disbursements to state and national party committees for use in the current campaign cycle.

These totals indicate extraordinary efforts to save some strong but endangered supporters of Israel in both the Senate and House, particularly in hotly contested Senate races in Michigan, Oregon, Kentucky, Montana and Iowa, and House races in Georgia and California.

The 61 pro-Israel PACs active in the 1995-96 cycle have reported receiving a total of $5,471,630 in contributions, meaning they have spent 70 percent of their receipts on the campaign to date. (In the 1993-1994 cycle, 61 active pro-Israel PACs collected $6,084,639, and spent $2,529,573 on direct donations to candidates.)

So far in the 1996 cycle, two Muslim- American PACs and one Arab-American PAC have been active, collecting a total of $22,969, but disbursing only $2,625 to one Republican and three Democratic congressional candidates. Thus, in direct contributions to date, pro-Israel PACs have outspent Muslim- and Arab-American PACs $522 to $1. (A complete table of Muslim- and Arab-American PAC donations in the 1996 election will be carried in a subsequent Washington Report.)

Pro-Israel PACs, the great majority of which have been established in their home states by national board members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, have been criticized on a number of counts. While other special interests normally have one, two or three PACs, AIPAC officers and allied pro-Israel groups have, over the years, established 128 PACs.

An individual can give only $2,000 to a single candidate and a PAC can give $10,000 to a candidate in a single election cycle. But if a single special interest has 61 active PACs, as is the case with the Israel lobby in the 1995-96 election, theoretically it has the power to concentrate more than half a million dollars on a single candidate.

In past elections, total pro-Israel PAC contributions of more than a quarter-million dollars to a single candidate have been common. And, since some PACs enjoin their members to make half of their contributions in $25 personal checks, which the PAC can fill in and deliver to a candidate in a bundle, perhaps only half of the pro-Israel contributions are recorded as such. When a candidate receives such a “bundle” of checks from a pro-Israel PAC, the FEC records show only the total of the individual checks, with no indication of their purpose. Not even the names of contributors of amounts of less than $250 are recorded. Therefore the recorded totals of direct pro-Israel PAC contributions in the following charts are estimated by some observers to be only half of the total amount of pro-Israel money normally poured into federal elections.

Another peculiarity of pro-Israel PACs is that very few of them refer in their names to Judaism, Zionism, Israel or the Middle East. Instead AIPAC-established and allied PACs bear such names as San Franciscans for Good Government, St. Louisans for Better Government (Missouri), Desert Caucus (Arizona), Beaver PAC (Wisconsin), Gold Coast PAC (Florida), Ice PAC (New York) and Chili PAC (New Mexico).

This deliberate adoption of deceptive names is unique to the Israel lobby. The camouflage helps members of Congress who accept donations from pro-Israel PACs to conceal this from their constituents.

Readers may be surprised to find some candidates whom they know to be pro-Israel not on the following compilation of those who have accepted contributions in the current cycle. In the case of senators, who have six-year terms, the significant PAC donations occur only during every third election cycle.

Many other pro-Israel candidates in prosperous states with large Jewish populations don’t have to accept pro-Israel PAC contributions at all, because they have enough wealthy pro-Israel residents to donate directly to them. Other senators, like expelled pro-Israel zealot Robert Packwood, have asked pro-Israel PACs for membership lists, so that they can conduct fund-raising activities with pro-Israel individuals directly.

These are some of the practices which, along with bundling, both conceal the total financial impact of the Israel lobby on the American political system and also protect recipients of pro-Israel contributions from being exposed to their constituents.

In the current cycle, two senatorial candidates have received more than $90,000 to date from pro-Israel PACs. In Michigan, Democrat incumbent Carl Levin has received $105,298, giving him a career total of $527,336. In Oregon, Democrat Rep. Ron Wyden, running for the Senate seat vacated by Bob Packwood, received $93,352 from pro-Israel PACs, giving him a career total of $164,045.

Not surprisingly, in the House, Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, a long-time Republican supporter of Israel, has received the highest total of pro-Israel PAC contributions to date in the current cycle with $23,750, giving him a career total of $94,622, an astronomical sum for a member of the House of Representatives.

Above are boxes listing the top 17 senatorial and House recipients to date, followed by tables listing all contributions to both incumbents and challengers reported by pro-Israel PACs in the current cycle. -- RHC

Top 17 Senate Recipients of 1996 Cycle Pro-Israel PAC Donations

 

Top 17 House Recipients of 1996 Cycle Pro-Israel PAC Donations

 

95-96
Total

Career
Total

 

 

95-96
Total

Career
Total

Levin, Carl (D-MI)

$105,298

$527,336

 

Gingrich, Newton L. (R-GA)

$23,750

$94,622

Wyden, Ron (D-OR)

93,352

164,045

 

Filner, Bob (D-CA)

23,100

59,700

McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)

83,625

280,425

 

Harman, Jane (D-CA)

13,592

38,270

Baucus, Max S. (D-MT)

77,998

232,748

 

Porter, John Edward (R-IL)

13,230

64,180

Harkin, Tom (D-IA)

70,515

438,715

 

Hamilton, Lee (D-IN)

13,000

98,450

Rockefeller, John (D-WV)

47,000

172,200

 

Estruth, Jerry Thomas (D-CA)

12,000

12,000

Cohen, William (R-ME)

40,094

162,462

 

Frost, Martin (D-TX)

11,750

92,150

Pressler, Larry (R-SD)

36,000

154,500

 

Gilman, Benjamin (R-NY)

11,500

58,375

Warner, John William (R-VA)

35,300

41,800

 

Fazio, Vic (D-CA)

10,852

62,702

Reed, John F. (R-RI)

35,000

166,300

 

Lewis, John, (D-GA)

10,500

57,150

Inhofe, James (R-OK)

25,500

48,750

 

King, Peter (R-NY)

10,000

14,000

Torricelli, Robert (D-NJ)

20,352

105,152

 

Paxon, Bill (R-NY)

10,000

43,700

Boschwitz, Rudy (R-MN)

19,200

296,425

 

Gephardt, Richard A. (D-MO)

9,000

80,130

Stevens, Ted (R-AK)

16,700

49,200

 

Obey, David R. (D-WI)

9,000

135,300

Durbin, Richard (D-IL)

5,086

177,285

 

Delay, Thomas (R-TX)

8,500

16,850

Craig, Larry (R-ID)

14,000

19,750

 

Livingston, Robert L. (R-LA)

7,000

27,750

Helms, Jesse (R-NC)

14,000

26,000

 

Molinari, Susan (R-NY)

7,000

18,750

© Copyright 1997 American Educational Trust
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