Pro-Israel PAC Charts Show Which Candidates Are Getting AIPAC Money,
But Not How Much
By Richard H. Curtiss
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
JULY 2000, page 16
Every four months candidates for Congress have to file with the
Federal Election Commission a cumulative total of campaign contributions
during the current two-year election cycle. Individuals cannot contribute
more than $2,000 to a single candidate during a single election
cycle. Nor can they contribute more than a total of $25,000 to all
candidates in a single election cycle.
However, political action committees (PACs) can give up to $10,000
to a candidate in a single election cycle, and are not limited in
the total amounts they can contribute to all candidates. But the
PACs also have to file with the FEC a list of the campaign contributions
they make every quarter. All this makes it hard to cheat, because
the total amounts given by a PAC to a specific candidate should
match the total the candidate reports receiving from the PAC.
Over a generation, this magazine has compiled a list of some 128
pro-Israel political action committees. This has not been easy.
Most of them have been established by officers of the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee to get around the limitations AIPAC, as
a single PAC, would face in donating to a candidate. If one PAC
can give only $10,000 to a candidate, 50 like-minded PACs can give
half a million dollars. And usually there are at least 50 pro-Israel
PACs active in every election cycle. Interestingly, where most PACs
have descriptive names so that donors can discern what they are
supporting, the PACs established by AIPAC officers have non-descriptive
names, making no reference to the Middle East, Israel, Zionism or
Judaism. Among them are Badger PAC of Wisconsin, Beaver PAC of New
York, Desert Caucus of Arizona, Garden PAC of New Jersey, Southpac
of South Carolina, Gold Coast PAC of Florida, Elections Committee
of the County of Orange in Southern California, Americans for Better
Citizenship of New York, Citizens Concerned for the National Interest
of Illinois, San Franciscans for Good Government, Hollywood Womens
Political Committee, Tennesseans for Better Government and even
the wildly misleading Walters Construction Management Political
Committee (Colorado). You get the idea.
For over 20 years this magazine has worked with like-minded groups,
particularly Common Cause, Sunshine Press, the National Association
of Arab Americans and others, to spot these groups because some
are created and then abandoned almost as quickly as we can track
them down. There are many giveaways, but the first is the non-descriptive
name. The clinchers are in the voting patterns, because AIPAC has
to use so many satellite PACs to pile wildly illegal totals into
campaign coffers of reliably pro-Israel candidates who are in trouble.
Therefore, in publicly outing 128 of these PACs, we
havent been sued yet.
PACs are not limited in the total amounts they can contribute.
The full list is in our book, Stealth PACs, published by the American
Educational Trust (and available through the AET Book Club described
on p. 109 of this issue). The book lists the PACs by name and also
lists exactly how much every person who has run for Congress since
1976 has taken from pro-Israel PACs in each election cycle, and
their career totals.
It is those totals for this election cycle that are shown on pp.
17-19of this issue. They also show that as of March 31, 2000 in
the 2000 cycle 35 pro-Israel PACs have donated a total of $1,062,209
to 196candidates. Of these 120 were Democrats and 75 were Republicans.
The comparable figures, to March 31, 1998, for the 1998 election
cycle were 58active pro-Israel PACs had donated a total of $1,059,006
to 249 candidates. Of the 1998 recipients, 160were Democrats and
89 were Republicans.
This magazine also tracks donations from Arab-American and Muslim-Americans
PACs. The primary purpose is to show potential donors to these PACs
what percentage of donations collected actually are paid to candidates
by the individual PACs. None of these PACs have collected much over
the years, but the differences in how much they actually give away
are significant. It is perhaps noteworthy that in past years pro-Israel
PAC donations have outnumbered pro-Arab and pro-Muslim PAC donations
combined by 217:1 in 1984; 75:1 in 1986; 141:1 in 1988; 105:1 in
1990; 103:1 in 1992; 247:1 in 1994; 8,345:1 in 1996; 23:1 in 1998;
and 52:1 in 2000.
The charts always contain two surprises. The first is by how much
pro-Israel donations outnumber pro-Muslim and pro-Arab donations
combined. The second is the fact that in recent years the total
of pro-Israel PAC donations seldom reached $3 million, yet the result
was virtually total control of congressional Middle East-related
votes. One explanation is the lack of viable opposition.
But it is important to remember, too, that the PAC money is hard
money, and in recent years special-interest-directed soft
money, whose origins and purposes cannot be traced, probably
outweighs the hard money in all congressional lobbying.
Even before soft money which obviously should be outlawed,
assumed its present importance, AIPAC boasted that for every dollar
it generated in contributions from pro-Israel PACs, it could generate
at least another dollar in direct individual contributions to candidates.
The amounts of these individual donations over $250 could be recorded,
but the purposes of the donations could not, so we have never included
these in our compilations. Now the flood of soft money further complicates
Therefore it is impossible to demonstrate how much pro-Israel money
goes into the U.S. electoral system. Its probably three times
the total of hard money recorded in these charts. Its safe
to say, however, that the pro-Israel individual and soft money contributions
go to the same candidates who receive the hard money. Thus the individual
voter interested in knowing which candidates are receiving money
from the Israel lobbyand from Muslim- and Arab-American PACs
as wellcan find out from our charts. The only thing readers
cant find out is how much of that Lobby money the individual
candidates have received. Pending further campaign finance reform,
thats as far as we can go.
Richard H. Curtiss is the executive editor of the Washington Report
on Middle East Affairs.