Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2006, pages 26-29

Congress and the 2006 Elections

With a Few Key Exceptions, EMILY (Early Money Is Like Yeast) Rules Pro-Israel PAC Contributions

AS BEFITS A LOBBYING juggernaut, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s Washington, DC lobby, and its dollar-dispensing minions keep track of who their friends—and foes—are. Of course, only the former are financially remunerated.

Nor is the lobby’s largesse limited to dollar amounts. Based on the EMILY principle that “early money is like yeast”—it makes the dough rise—the majority of congressional Israel-firsters receive their rewards early on in the election cycle. According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, current golden boy Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), for example, received his entire $66,065 in 2005. Other perennial favorites such as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) also got their big bucks up front—from 16 pro-Israel PACs in Kyl’s case, half that many in Cantor’s.

Not that there’s nothing left to go around—heaven forbid! Many congressional recipients saw their totals increase by several thousand dollars. But not to worry: that still left enough in the kitty—or, more accurately, kitties—to respond to any last-minute oversights or emergencies.

House: Current Cycle Senate: Current Cycle
Kirk, Mark (R-IL)
66,064 Kyl, Jon (R-AZ) 84,500
Berkley, Shelley (D-NV)
38,250 Nelson, E. Benjamin (D-NE) 59,500
Hoyer, Steny (D-MD)
33,500 Conrad, Kent (D-ND) 57,600
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
30,500 Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI) 57,407
Engel, Eliot (D-FL)
29,500 Talent, James (R-MO) 55,010
Cantor, Eric (R-VA)
26,500 Nelson, Bill (R-FL) 53,611
DeLay, Tom (R-TX)
26,000 Santorum, Rick (R-PA) 52,000
Crowley, Joseph (D-NY)
24,000 Lieberman, Joseph (D-CT) 49,500
Shaw E. Clay, Jr., (R-FL)
21,005 Menendez, Robert (D-N) 48,111
Bean, Melissa (D-IL)
20,180 Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D-NY) 42,118
House: Career
Senate: Career
Berkley, Shelley (D-NV)
245,205 Levin, Carl (D-MI) 657,887
Frost, Martin (D-TX)
190,014 Harkin, Tom (D-IA) 520,450
Engel, Eliot (D-NY)
171,418 Specter, Arlen (R-PA) 488,973
Obey, David (D-WI)
152,600 Lautenberg, Frank (D-NJ) 434,078
Hoyer, Steny (D-MD)
125,775 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) 377,685
Lantos, Tom (D-CA)
120,250 Durbin, Richard (D-IL) 329,171
Kirk, Mark (R-IL)
119,382 Baucus, Max (D-MT) 321,348
Levin, Sander (D-MI)
119,227 Reid, Harry (D-NV) 320,301
Lowey, Nita (D-NY)
116,238 Lieberman, Joseph (D-CT) 286,258
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
114,990 Wyden, Ronald (D-OR) 277,562

Some of the latter can be explained by late-breaking developments. After all, not until Gov. John Corzine appointed Rep. Robert Menendez to succeed him as New Jersey’s now-incumbent senator were pro-Israel PACs able to swing into action and virtually double Menendez’ 2005 total of $24,500. Similarly, long-time Maryland Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin’s announcement that he would run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes prompted seven pro-Israel PACs to up his 2005 total of $17,500 to a more respectable $30,611.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), on the other hand, seems to be reaping the benefits of a job well done—for Israel, at any rate. As chair of the House Committee on International Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, she has been responsible for a series of pernicious and punitive measures, culminating in the recent “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act,” which punishes Palestinians civilians for having voted in free and fair elections. Apparently it was all worth it, however. Even though Ros-Lehtinen is running unopposed, her total of pro-Israel PAC contributions skyrocketed from a puny $9,500 in 2005 to a total of $30,500 as of April 30 of this year—enabling her to join gal pal Shelley Berkley in the list of top 10 current and career recipients of pro-Israel PAC contributions.

Other examples of surges in pro-Israel PAC contributions are a bit more mysterious. Sen. Daniel Ikaka (D-HI), for example, who was first elected to the Senate in 1990, received no money from pro-Israel PACs in 2005. Suddenly, eight of them teamed up in the first four months of 2006 to give him $26,500. Were they asleep on the job, or what? To give the lobby the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Ikaka’s campaign encountered sudden difficulties.

Speaking of difficulties, sudden or otherwise, longtime Israel-firster Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) is facing a serious challenge in his state’s Aug. 8 Democratic primary. Challenger Ned Lamont is running against the incumbent’s hard-line support for the Iraq war, which is quite unpopular in Connecticut. As the totals above indicate, however, Lieberman has some very good friends in the pro-Israel PAC community. As Dr. Ben Couake of New Jersey-based Norpac—hey, if it weren’t for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey would be neighbors!—told the June 23 Forward: “Given the recent turn of events, we have decided to become further engaged in this race. We’re going to contact our membership in the area, see if they can organize some voting drives on the ground, as well as do some additional fund-raising for his campaign.”

According to the Forward, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow’s New York-based Hudson Valley Political Action Committee “had not yet made a contribution to the Lieberman campaign because until recently, its leaders didn’t think that Lieberman was in any trouble. After recent polls showed Lamont gaining in popularity, its members decided to make a donation.” That contribution should show up in the PAC’s next FEC filing. 

Janet McMahon is managing editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.

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