AIPAC Endorsed 'Election Deniers,' but Its New Project Touts Democracy

The powerful pro-Israel lobby says its new PAC and super PAC – which declare two different goals – provide an opportunity to bolster 'the involvement of the pro-Israel community in politics'

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Israel's then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing remotely at the 2019 AIPAC Policy Conference.
Israel's then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing remotely at the 2019 AIPAC Policy Conference. Credit: Jose Luis Magana/AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

AIPAC, the most influential pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, has defended its endorsing of dozens of Republicans who refused to accept President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, even as its new super PAC declares the group's support for democracy.

In backing the 37 Republicans among dozens of other congressional endorsements, AIPAC cites its “single-minded” dedication to bolstering U.S.-Israel ties. The super PAC's mission statement, however, focuses exclusively on "democracy," without mentioning Israel once.

In December, AIPAC announced that it was launching two political action committees – a traditional federal PAC and a super PAC – officially entering the political campaign fray. Jewish community leaders and former AIPAC officials warned that such a move could endanger the group’s declared political neutrality and the bipartisanship that it has spent decades cultivating.

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Unlike federal PACs, a super PAC may raise unlimited amounts of money, including from corporations and unions, to campaign for candidates.

AIPAC's super PAC, dubbed the United Democracy Project, describes itself as “an organization comprised of American citizens, Democrats and Republicans, united in the belief that we are stronger as a nation when we come together in support of our democracy and other democracies around the world.”

The super PAC, whose focus on "democracy" was first reported by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, says it “works to elect candidates that share our vision of Americans coming together to support our mutual interests and belief in democracy.”

The federal PAC’s mission statement focuses explicitly on Israel, saying it “supports pro-Israel Democratic and Republican members of Congress and congressional candidates to secure the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing attendees at the 2019 AIPAC Policy Conference. Former AIPAC officials stress the two new PACs must support Democrats and Republicans alike. Credit: JIM WATSON / AFP

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told JTA that “the creation of the PACs is an opportunity to significantly deepen and strengthen the involvement of the pro-Israel community in politics.”

The United Democracy Project has received more than $13.5 million in contributions so far this year, according to the Federal Election Committee, including $8.5 million from AIPAC itself.

Super PACs cannot directly coordinate with campaigns but can solicit and spend unlimited sums to campaign for or against particular candidates and do not need to immediately report funding sources.

Federal PACs, however, have more strict limits to both transparency and size; for example, individual donations cannot exceed $5,000 per election.

AIPAC’s traditional PAC issued its first slate of endorsements earlier this month, including the 37 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. This backing provoked outrage from across the political spectrum, including from pro-Israel experts, writers and former U.S. officials, some of whom have worked with AIPAC for years.

“We have friends who are pro-choice and pro-life, those who are liberal on immigration and those who want to tighten our borders, and yes, those who disagree strongly on issues surrounding the 2020 presidential election,” AIPAC Chief Executive Howard Kohr and President Betsy Berns Korn wrote to the group's members, adding that “this is no moment for the pro-Israel movement to become selective about its friends.”

As they put it, “Why are we so single-minded? Because no one else is.”

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