Unpack with YUPAC: AIPAC PAC’s Wrong Track
When AIPAC launched AIPAC PAC, its first political action committee, and a super PAC called United Democracy Project (UDP) in Dec. 2021, it indicated a massive policy change. Historically, AIPAC, a bipartisan organization that champions the American-Israel relationship, has insisted that they are simply a bipartisan lobbying organization. Instead of endorsing candidates and giving them funds, AIPAC relegated itself to convincing lawmakers of its viewpoint, while encouraging top donors to give money to pro-Israel candidates on their own. With these new PACs, however, AIPAC claims it is charting a needed new path forward. Since beginning to raise funds, United Democracy Project has collected and spent nearly $30 million on Democratic primaries, and many of the candidates supported by UDP have won.
While it's true that AIPAC and UDP-backed candidates have won more often than not, it is not clear that AIPAC’s money had a significant influence in these races, and the public relations hit is not worth it. By opening itself up to more attacks while accomplishing little to nothing, AIPAC’s big decision was a big mistake.
After a recent big victory by UDP-backed Haley Stevens (D-MI) against anti-Israel challenger Andy Levin (D-MI), AIPAC said the race was proof that “being pro-Israel is both good policy and good politics.”
AIPAC’s conclusion is far from clear. In recent polling, J-Street, AIPAC’s rival that supports politicians with radically left-wing views on Israel, found that only five percent of Jews had Israel as a top two voting issue. If this is true about Jews, it is even more so for the average Democrat. Furthermore, Stevens was backed heavily by pro-choice super PACs and centered her campaign on her fight to support Roe v. Wade, a more relevant issue for voters. AIPAC itself knows this, as it has resorted to ads that have nothing to do with Israel, hurting its overall credibility.
Stevens is just an example of a nationwide trend. Overall, UDP has spent under 5 percent of the total money contributed by super PACs in the 2022 election cycle. AIPAC’s argument that they are responsible for tipping the races is extremely difficult to accept. Given this fact, it's not hard to understand why Adam Hollier, a candidate UDP spent $4 million on, still lost his race.
Despite it being pretty clear that AIPAC spending isn’t the reason races are going in a certain direction, the media and politicians have been quick to lash out against it. All it takes is one simple “AIPAC” Google search to see articles with titles such as “AIPAC Defeats Andy Levin” and “AIPAC vs. Democracy.” A recent New York Times article claimed that AIPAC was creating the wedge between Democrats, as opposed to the myriad of other issues they disagree over. Who did Levin choose to blame when it became clear he would lose? He blamed AIPAC, of course, saying “AIPAC’s completely gone off the rails… they’re trying to end my career.”
As I explained, these attacks are ridiculous, but the reality is that they exist. As a Jewish and pro-Israel group, AIPAC will sadly always be under more scrutiny than your average political group.
For example, in February 2019, before AIPAC ever gave money directly to candidates, when asked why politicians often defend Israel, Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” When pressed what “Benjamins” she was referring to, she simply responded, “AIPAC!”. Some would say that AIPACs recent actions directly supporting some candidates and attacking others opens them up to having their credibility undermined by Rep. Omar’s argument.
While some may argue that AIPAC must ignore the attacks against them, the reality is that the attacks against AIPAC are more of a threat than any individual political race. Even if AIPAC were to lose one race by getting rid of its PACs, which likely wouldn’t happen, the results would be less devastating than AIPAC tarnishing its reputation in the long run.
Instead, AIPAC should go back to the way it used to run. It could still get the same money to the same candidates by telling its top donors how to donate without going through AIPAC, all the while avoiding the harsh criticism of its detractors.
I care deeply about AIPAC. That is why I want to see it do the right thing for its long-term outlook by getting rid of its PACs.
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Photo Caption: A sketch of the capitol building
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