Record Pro-Israel PAC Contributions Failed to Save Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's Seat

Article excerpt

Pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) added to their loss column in a big way when Tom Daschle (D-SD), beneficiary of a record $129,375 in pro-Israel contributions for a single campaign, became the first sitting Senate minority leader to be defeated in 52 years. His career total of $592,510 enabled Daschle to bump Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), with 5520,450, out of second place behind Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin (who has received a whopping 5657,887!) in the pantheon of panderers to Israel. Of course, since the careers of Harkin and Levin presumably are not over-neither was up for re-election in 2004-Daschle's second place standing may not survive the next Senate contest.

According to former South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk, 'AIPAC didn't play much of a public role in the election out here." In fact, in areas of the country where Israel is not a major constituent concern, the Jewish state seldom is an issue for debate-but the money is spent, and the candidate knows to whom he is indebted. In the case of Daschle, who already was vulnerable for having purchased a S 1.9 million mansion in the nation's capital-where his wife earns $1.5 million a year as a lobbyist-and declaring it his official residence, the appearance of even more distant loyalties was to be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps in homage to President George W. Bush, however, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its minions did not abandon their "Leave No Senator Behind" strategy, bestowing upon South Dakota's new Republican senator, John Thune, the rather less than princely sum of 56,750. The former three-term representative now can boast a career total of $12,230 in pro-Israel PAC contributions. (Ironically, it was to Daschle that Thune's mentor and first Capitol Hill employer, former Sen. Jim Abdnor, lost his Senate seat in 1986.)

In two states where an open Senate seat was being contested, pro-Israel PAC contributions were rather more even-handed (otherwise known as hedging one's bets). In Louisiana, Republican victor David Vitter received slightly more (516,500) than his Republican opponent Suzanne Haik Terrell ($15,000), but less than Democratic candidate Chris John ($23,000). …

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