Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Supreme Court Takes Up "The Case against AIPAC"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Supreme Court Takes Up "The Case against AIPAC"

Article excerpt

Supreme Court Takes Up "The Case Against AIPAC"

A June 16 Supreme Court decision to accept the eight-year-old "case against AIPAC" was good news and bad news both for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and for the six surviving former U.S. government officials who have filed a series of legal complaints against Israel's giant lobbying organization and against the Federal Election Commission for not forcing AIPAC to disclose its election contributions and expenditures. While the Supreme Court is considering the case, a decision of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upholding the complaint will be put on hold. But if the Supreme Court upholds the earlier 8 to 2 ruling against AIPAC, there will be no more excuses for inaction. The case will be argued during the Supreme Court's October 1997 term, and decided in 1998.

AIPAC, which openly lobbies for "any democratically elected government of Israel," is widely acknowledged to be the most effective lobby in America for either domestic or foreign special interests. Its extraordinary successes in steadily increasing the size of annual U.S. aid to Israel, which now consumes more than one-third of the entire world-wide U.S. foreign aid budget, were the subject of a best-selling book published several years ago entitled simply, The Lobby. That is exactly how AIPAC is referred to by members of Congress, one of whom recently remarked to a foreign visitor that AIPAC visits to his office are "the most unpleasant moments" of his congressional schedule.

AIPAC channels millions of dollars in campaign contributions to candidates for federal office through a network of political action committees established throughout the United States by members of AIPAC's national board of directors. These directors boast that for every dollar that enters congressional campaigns through the PACs, they can steer at least one additional dollar to friendly congressional incumbents, or to opponents of unfriendly incumbents, through contributions by individual supporters which they collect and present as a "bundle" to candidates they favor. In closed meetings for AIPAC members only, AIPAC directors have taken full or partial credit for the defeats of two former chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Charles Percy of Illinois and Democrat J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

AIPAC also takes credit for the "conversion" of present Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms. The North Carolina Republican topped AIPAC's "hit list" in the 1984 elections because of his unyielding opposition to foreign aid. AIPAC directed immense contributions into the campaign of a Helms rival, making it the most expensive senatorial race in U.S. history up to that time. Helms emerged as the narrow victor and a changed man. He immediately accompanied a group of Jewish constituents to Israel, where he was photographed wearing a yarmulke at the Wailing Wall. From that time he has never again sought to derail aid for Israel.

AIPAC refused to open its financial records to FEC investigators

Helms does not admit AIPAC's role in his drastic change of attitude, which includes supporting congressional maneuvers to provide Israel its lion's share of U.S. aid without members having to participate in an "up or down" (yes or no) vote on the issue. However, when less hypocritical legislators are asked why they participate in such actions, which their constituents certainly would not tolerate if they understood them, most simply reply: "The Jepsen factor." This refers to the defeat of Republican Senator Roger Jepsen of Iowa in 1984, for which AIPAC officers also took credit.

In presenting their initial case in January 1989 against AIPAC and 27 of the more than 35 political action committees (PACs) formed by its directors, the complainants submitted written evidence that AIPAC had closely managed contributions to candidates both through telephoned "advice" to the PACs and also through a tightly held "green book," which informed PAC directors and trusted AIPAC members which candidates were to be supported and which opposed, who faced tough opponents or close elections, how much each had raised at the beginning of each election cycle, and how much he or she would need by its end. …

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