Senators Take Money from Friends of IDF, Vote against Jobs Bill for American Veterans

By Toenjes, Laurence A. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November/December 2012 | Go to article overview
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Senators Take Money from Friends of IDF, Vote against Jobs Bill for American Veterans


Toenjes, Laurence A., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Like other elected officials, U.S. senators never miss an opportunity to tell an American veteran, "Thank you for your service."

This past Sept. 19, American senators had an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are by supporting The Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012. The bill would have paid out $1 billion over five years in order to "lower unemployment among military veterans, giving grants to federal, state, and local agencies, which in turn would hire veterans-giving priority to those who served on or after 9/11-to work as first-responders and in conservation jobs at national parks."

The proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), would seem to be a no-brainer. And indeed, most senators-58, including 5 Republicans-voted to consider it. But 40 Republican senators voted not to consider the bill, thereby killing it, on a point of order raised by Sen. JeffSessions (R-AL).

So do these 40 U.S. senators oppose supporting veterans? Apparently, for some, it depends on which countries the veterans served, and how that generates campaign contributions.

Nine of the Republican senators who voted against the Veterans Job Corps Act had received campaign contributions from board members of a U.S. tax-exempt organization called Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). Each year FIDF raises some $50 million in tax-exempt funds for the benefit of veterans-Israeli veterans, that is.

The chart above lists those Republican senators who voted against the jobs bill for U.S. veterans and who received campaign contributions from FIDF board members:

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who received more pro-Israel PAC contributions than any other congressional candidate in 2010, was unable to be present to vote on the measure, as he is recovering from a major stroke. It's fair to assume he would have voted against it, since, in addition to the $115,304 he received from pro-Israel PACs, he received $17,000 in 2010 campaign contributions from FIDF board members-far more than any other candidate, as the chart shows.

In addition, at least two of the senators who voted against the jobs bill received free trips to Israel, paid for by another pro-Israel "charity," the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), the tax-exempt arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), elected for the first time in November 2010, wasted no time in embarking on his free jaunt to Israel upon taking office the following January. The total cost of Senator Hoeven's trip was $24,536.28.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) also accepted a free trip to Israel, courtesy of AIEF, during May and June 2011.

As Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, has documented (see ), AIEF employees are really employees of AIPAC. Their salaries are paid for by AIPAC, and the two organizations share the same address. AIEF's board of directors, moreover, is dominated by 27 persons who also serve as AIPAC board members. Since AIPAC cannot use its own money and resources to pay for congressional trips to Israel, these in effect are laundered through AIEF, a so-called "educational" subsidiary.

The executive director of Friends of IDF is retired Israeli Gen. Yitzhak Gershon. His salary and other benefits total $516,996-again, paid for with tax-deductible dollars. According to the Charity Navigator 2010 CEO Compensation Study, Gershon's salary is at or above the very high end for administrators of charities of comparable size.

As readers of this publication are aware, the Washington Report has for decades been tracking pro-Israel PAC contributions to federal candidates. The above chart also shows how much the senators who voted against the jobs bill for American veterans received from pro-Israel PACs during the same election cycle (2010) in which they received contributions from FIDF board members.

But even that's not the whole story.

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