By: Elishama Marmon  | 

Unpack with YUPAC: AIPAC Sees Success as it Begins Endorsing Candidates

For the first time, AIPAC, the “largest bipartisan American organization that advocates for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” has begun supporting and endorsing candidates. Previously, the organization had focused all of its efforts on lobbying—taking its message and pro-Israel views directly to elected officials in the hopes that they would further the American-Israeli relationship by voting for bills and funding designed to strengthen it.

Now, in a significant move, AIPAC has launched a political action committeeAIPAC PAC—and a super PACUnited Democracy Project—to endorse and directly advocate for pro-Israel candidates in their elections. AIPAC PAC has endorsed and supported 329 House and Senate candidates this November.  As of June 30, United Democracy Project (UDP) has raised over $27.5 million and, as of Aug. 19, has spent over $26 million on supporting various candidates this cycle. AIPAC PAC has raised nearly $12 million and spent over $10 million, as of June 30. This makes the influence that AIPAC now has on elections quite significant, and allows it to pursue its goal, as stated in an email from AIPAC’s president Betsy Berns Korn, of being “able to ensure our friends had the resources they needed to win [their] primaries and their opponents faced insurmountable challenges to winning seats in Washington.”

This new model has already proved successful for AIPAC. AIPAC’s endorsed candidates have overwhelmingly won their primaries, with a success rate of 98 percent as of the middle of August. Meanwhile, in the eight critical races in which UDP has advocated for one of the candidates and worked against the other, six have gone AIPAC’s way. 

One of the candidates that AIPAC spent the most money supporting was Haley Stevens (D-MI), who defeated Andy Levin (D-MI) by a sizable margin. Levin was endorsed by JStreet and Rashida Tlaib. Other AIPAC-supported candidates who won their primaries were Glenn Ivey of Maryland, a progressive lawyer and politician who was formerly a state’s attorney, Valerie Foushee of North Carolina, a member of the NC State Senate, and Don Davis of North Carolina, also a member of the NC State Senate. Adam Hollier and Steve Irwin, of Michigan and Pennsylvania respectively, are the two UDP-supported candidates who lost their primaries, though the margins by which they lost were slim compared to initial polling in their races, potentially in part due to the contributions of AIPAC’s PACs. It is worth noting that while AIPAC has drawn some criticism from people on both sides of the aisle for UDP only intervening in Democratic primaries thus far, AIPAC is a bipartisan organization that will support candidates who are good for the American-Israeli relationship regardless of their other political opinions. The bias of their primary support is due to the simple political fact that there are a number of more radical Democrats who are outspokenly anti-Israel, and no seriously competitive Republicans who are. In the general election, they will support candidates on both sides.

So far, this new experiment of directly supporting and endorsing candidates and targeting key races with millions of dollars through UDP appears to be quite successful for AIPAC. The stated goal of this endeavor is to keep radically anti-Israel candidates, of the type who cannot be lobbied successfully regarding Israel, out of Congress. So far dozens of candidates with a range of anti-Israel views have lost their primaries in favor of their more pro-Israel challengers, in part thanks to AIPAC’s support.

Now that the 2022 primary season is over, AIPAC will begin focusing on key general elections. Specifically in closer elections, AIPAC will throw its support behind candidates who are either more pro-Israel or more outspoken champions of the American-Israeli relationship than their opponents, be they Republicans or Democrats. Whatever effect they can have on these races, the impact that they’ve already had on the primary elections has been palpable.


Photo Caption: The AIPAC-supported candidates who won their races

Photo Credit: AIPAC PAC