Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Conspicuous by His Absence: Who's Not Getting Money from Pro-Israel PACs

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Conspicuous by His Absence: Who's Not Getting Money from Pro-Israel PACs

Article excerpt

As this magazine has demonstrated since 1986, monitoring the contributions of pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) to House and Senate candidates is critical to identifying which members of Congress may be working to protect the interests of a foreign country, rather than of their own constituents. (Perhaps this is the time to bid farewell to the Senate's two top career recipients, who are not running for re-election this year: Carl Levin of Michigan and Iowa's Tom Harkin.)

Particularly in open seat races, however, where there is no incumbent, it can be equally important to identify the good guys and gals who are not receiving pro-Israel contributions. A case in point: South Dakota, where Democrat Rick Weiland, a former congressional aide and regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is running a populist campaign against former Gov. Mike Rounds for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Johnson. Weiland, who is in the midst of a second visit to all of South Dakota's 311 towns, is campaigning against big money, and has received no pro-Israel PAC contributions-and little support from the national Democratic Party. Rounds, on the other hand, announced his intention to raise a $9 million campaign warchest. (Weiland informed supporters in May that the median contribution to his campaign was $9.)

While Rounds has received a relatively modest $7,500 in campaign contributions from pro-Israel PACs, his words and actions attest to the object of his affections. In May of last year he and his wife visited the self-proclaimed Jewish state with South Dakota State Sen. Stan Adelstein-one of 345 Jewish citizens in the state, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, or less than .1 percent of the would-be senator's constituents. That August Rounds attended a pro-Israel event in New Jersey hosted by NORPAC-one of some two dozen deceptively named pro-Israel PACs. "His visit reaffirmed his belief that U.S. aid to Israel and supporting her against hostile nations is critical to our nation's foreign policy," reported The Jewish Link of Bergen County. "He further stated that Jerusalem should be officially recognized as the capital of Israel and that the administration should comply with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 which would relocate the U.S. Embassy to Israel's capital."

Weiland has been focusing more on domestic issues-although some clearly have international implications as well. On the back of his business card are the words of a constitutional amendment Weiland vows to introduce on his first day in the Senate: "So that the votes of all, rather than the wealth of the few, shall direct the course of this Republic, Congress shall have the power to limit the raising and spending of money with respect to federal elections."

Could Weiland's call for campaign finance reform explain his lack of support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other members of the Democratic establishment?

Rewarding Pro-Israel Incumbents

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell clearly is the favored candidate, with $41,500 so far in pro-Israel PAC contributions. Indeed, with the departure of Levin and Harkin at the end of the year, McConnell is slated to become the senator with the highest career total in pro-Israel PAC contributions-assuming he is re-elected. There does seem to be some support for his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, half McConnell's age (and "not an empty dress"), as evidenced by a token $4,000 contribution. …

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