The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is looking to invest up to $100 million in the 2024 election cycle and is targeting a Pennsylvania congresswoman among others.
According to Slate, AIPAC is aiming to assist candidates who can oust members of the so-called ‘Squad’ from Congress, including Rep. Summer Lee (PA-12).
Also on the list are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Presley (D-Mass.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Talib (D-Mich.).
What does this group have in common?
They are highly visible and popular progressive legislators of color – most of them women.
AIPAC states on its website that its mission is to further demonstrate the pro-Israel community’s support for pro-Israel members of Congress and candidates. It continues by saying that bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is essential to ensure Israel’s long-term safety and security—and its PAC reflects that core value.
The Squad – the most outspoken and unapologetically leftist contingent of the Democratic Party – has been vocal in its criticism of Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza following the Oct. 7 massacre of Israelis by Hamas. Members of the group have prominently pushed a cease-fire resolution in Congress; it now has 18 signatories.
It is not the first time that the Squad has taken on the Democratic establishment, advocating for such causes as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, police reform, and student debt relief.
AIPAC has a turbulent history with them, and progressives in general. In the 2022 midterms, the Israel lobby became the largest single-issue outside spender in Democratic primaries, pouring in nearly $30 million via the super PAC the United Democracy Project, and millions more via the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC. It was an astronomical amount of money, mostly directed at knocking progressives out of the primaries, largely in open and redrawn seats. Despite there being fewer vacancies in 2024, that money figure is expected to at least triple.
This is not the first time that AIPAC has targeted Lee. The group gave over $636,000 to her primary opponent – Steve Irwin – in the 2022 campaign, while the United Democracy Project spend $2 million in the primary and an additional $1.2 million during the general. Lee held off Irwin by 1,000 votes and defeated GOP opponent Mike Doyle, 61-39, in November.
1 PAC promising to spend 100 MILLION dollars against 5 working class, Black & brown reps in working class districts…is why we can’t have a representative democracy.
Idk what if we had governing that reflected our community’s needs instead of AIPAC’s? 🤷🏿♀️ https://t.co/eqd9qWipMh
— Summer Lee (@SummerForPA) November 15, 2023
Lee’s victory was one of few by candidates that were not supported by Washington’s biggest pro-Israel lobbying group.
AIPAC contributed $8.5 million to The United Democracy Project’s total of $31 million, as the super PAC targeted mostly Democratic primary races.
Several Democratic and Republican megadonors contributed to the Project, including Paul Singer, a Trump-backer who founded the investment firm Elliott Management, and Bernie Marcus, the former CEO of The Home Depot.
AIPAC endorsed 109 Republican members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 election during the 2022 cycle. The lobbying group clearly sees Republicans (and conservative Democrats) as more likely to push for unconditional military aid from the U.S. to Israel, and has, in recent years, seen some mission creep toward the advancement of conservative policy priorities more broadly.
Its endorsements of Republicans that have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election have been criticized by J Street, another pro-Israel lobbying group also advocating for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10), an AIPAC endorsee, has pushed the “great replacement theory” that White Americans are being replaced by immigrants, according to Slate.
Lee is being challenged by Bhavini Patel, who has served as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s outreach manager and executive assistant.
Patel criticized Lee for her post on X (formerly Twitter) immediately following the Hamas incursion, in which Lee condemned the attack on “children and innocent civilians” but also called for a “de-escalation and an end to this tragic cycle of violence. To achieve this, we must bring an end to the occupation and help broker a just and lasting peace.”
My statement on the escalating violence in the Middle East: pic.twitter.com/bf9wfKu66X
— Congresswoman Summer Lee (@RepSummerLee) October 7, 2023
Patel said her opponent has made it clear, time and again, that “she consistently operates at the fringes.”
“This is just another example of her operating on the fringes when the community expects her presence in the district,” she said. “As I said, when 1,300 people are murdered, it’s pure evil. Israel has a right to defend itself. This is just another example that shows she is out of touch with the people in the community.”
With six-figure ad buys already on the books against Lee, Bowman and Tlaib a year out, it shows that AIPAC means business. And with small-dollar donations lagging, the challenges facing Lee and other members of the Squad are apparent.
Note: corrected difference in Lee’s victory over Irwin.