Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1992, Page 22

The 1992 Elections

Pro-Israel PACs Outspending Arab-American PACs 369 to 1

By Andrea W. Lorenz

During the first 12 months of the current 1992 election cycle, 58 pro-Israel political action committees have contributed $1,440, 210 to 191 congressional candidates. According to Federal Election Commission reports filed by the PACs through Dec. 31, 1991, campaign donation recipients included 169 incumbents and 12 challengers. The top 20 recipients were incumbents.

This follows the pattern in previous elections in which pro-Israel PACs, like virtually all special interests, have concentrated their donations on incumbents who follow the lobby's voting recommendations. Legislators are expected to vote for foreign aid, against weapons sales to Arab countries unless such sales are "cleared" by AIPAC, and to sign on to various "sense of Congress" resolutions or letters to the president inspired by lobbyists for Israel.

However, several features distinguish the pro-Israel PACs from those of other special interests. Because their uniquely non-descriptive names conceal their purpose, a candidate can list their donations without alerting constituents or watchdog groups to the fact that the funding comes from a lobby working for a foreign power. Further, because so many separate PACs have been established to serve only one special interest, they are able to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of legal limits on donations.

Nor, since their funds originate within the American Jewish community, are AIPAC and the pro-Israel PACs required to register as foreign agents, lobbying for Israel. These unique features make the pro-Israel lobby and its armada of PACs the most disliked, and feared, lobby on Capitol Hill.

The top 10 senatorial recipients of pro-Israel PAC funds during 1991 were:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) - $85,000
Sen. Richard Shelby (D-AL) - 61,300
Sen. Harris Wofford (D-PA) - 53,500
Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) - 51, 500
Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-CO) - 49, 215
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) - 48,000
Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) - 47,500
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) - 45,900
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) - 42,000
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) - 38,250

The top 10 House recipients of pro-Israel PAC donations in 1991 were:

Rep. Mel Levine (D-CA) - $64,200
Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) - 22,000
Rep. James Bilbray (D-NV) - 17,000
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) - 16,500
Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) - 15,000
Rep. Newton Gingrich (R-GA) - 14,500
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) - 11,000
Rep. Ronald Coleman (D-TX) - 10,750
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) - 9,500
Rep. Dick Swett (D-NH) - 8,250

Of the five registered Arab-American or American-Muslim political action committees, only one, that of the National Association of Arab Americans, NAAA PAC, contributed to any political candidates in 1991. According to NAAA Executive Director Khalil Jahshan, half of the candidates assisted by NAAA PAC were challengers. Although few incumbents are good on the issues that concern the Arab-American electorate, Jahshan told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, "We are witnessing a change. Many new candidates are willing to challenge conventional wisdom." He said that most candidates assisted by NAAA PAC have declared their support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

NAAA PAC, which contributed only $2,500 to congressional candidates in the 1990 cycle, had contributed $3,900 to 10 candidates in the current cycle as of Dec. 31, 1991. As a result, pro-Israel PACs outspent Arab-American PACs by 369 to 1.

In the 1990 election cycle, 95 pro-Israel PACs raised $10,670,206 and contributed $4,948,934 to candidates for federal office, outspending Arab-American and American-Muslim PACs by 105 to 1.

In the 1988 cycle, 78 active pro-Israel PACs contributed $5,432,055 to congressional campaigns, outspending 3 active Arab-American and American-Muslim PACs, which contributed $38,370, by 141 to 1.

In the 1986 cycle, 94 active pro-Israel PACs contributed $4,609,984, outspending one active Arab-American PAC, which contributed $61,147, by 75 to 1.

In the 1984 cycle, 81 active pro-Israel PACs contributed $3,772,994, outspending one active Arab-American PAC, which contributed $17,350, by 217 to 1.

Below are all congressional candidates who had received contributions from pro-Israel PACs by Dec. 31, 1991, as reported to the FEC by the PACs.

Andrea W. Lorenz is the features editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Laika Dajani helped compile the figures for this report.