AIPAC stands for American Israeli Political Affairs Committee, America’s most influential lobby. Usually when people think of powerful lobbies, they have groups such as AFL-CIO (organized labor) or AARP (retired persons and seniors) in mind. Both of these appear on the news and in print on a frequent basis. Lesser-known groups are the NRA and Trial Lawyers Association. Still, these groups also, are pointed out in news stories pretty regularly. But none of these carry the clout that AIPAC carries and AIPAC doesn’t get much press. Most Americans have no idea they even exist.
AIPAC does exist however, and according to one seasoned reporter working out of Washington D.C Kelly Vlahos, when referring to the Congress’s support of the Israelis, “Widespread congressional support is rooted in more than just a long-term relationship (since 1948). It is traced to the power of the collective Jewish or pro-Israeli lobby, a well-organized, well-funded, extremely active, and extraordinarily connected group.”
Working along with AIPAC to deliver more weight with their punch is the American Jewish Committee, the American Defense League, the United Jewish Communities, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.
In 2001, AIPAC spent $1.1 million in lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. And according to the Center for Responsive Politics, pro-Israeli donors gave $28.6 million to Democrats and $12.7 million to Republicans. About $17.5 million came from Jewish PACs (political action committees) and $24 million from individuals
The money flowing in enables AIPAC to get some considerable work done on behalf of their cause. In May pro-Israeli resolutions, which included $200 million for the Israeli war chest, passed the House 352-21 and the Senate 94-2
Politicians are eager to receive invitations to speak at AIPAC meetings, which could mean a huge boost to their career. “The Jewish lobby is extremely influential in Washington,” says Steven Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “If you are a candidate and you get the pro-Israel label from AIPAC, the money will start coming in from contributors all over the country.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota is a favored speaker as well as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, A Republican from Texas. When DeLay spoke at a recent conference of AIPAC he concluded by telling the attendees to blanket Capitol Hill with their lobbying teams. During one week in early summer Israeli groups brought 100,000 people, including the Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, to Capitol Hill to speak on behalf of the Jewish State.
Former Clinton political adviser Dick Morris compares AIPAC to the war in Afghanistan. “It’s like the Special Forces teams who go in to fight in Afghanistan. They’re (AIPAC) on the ground, calling in bombers. The planes overhead are the pro-Israeli supporters across the country.” They jump when the call goes out for funding, or sending letters supporting Jewish causes to Washington or their local press.
Analysts note that while the Jewish population in the U.S. is only 2.2%, it is a very active 2.2%. They are a very cohesive group with a very strong sense of community. They don’t take their power for granted and they never get too comfortable with their successes. They know there is opposition to them and they never let their people forget it. Congress is their target, where the rules of the game are made.
AIPAC and their members will make sure the bucks keep rolling in, after all, courting a congressman can get expensive and there is much more at stake than a kiss at the end of the evening. Says Michael Barone, author of The New Americans. “It’s a big fund-raising community filled with people who are willing to give what ever they can.”