How Lobby Controls US
In the early 1960s, Sen. William J. Fulbright fought to force the American Zionist Council to register as agents of a foreign government. The council eluded registration by reorganizing as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has since become what Fulbright most feared: A foreign agent dominating American foreign policy while disguised as a domestic lobby.
Israelis and pro-Israelis object when they hear that charge. How, they ask, can we so few wield such influence over so many? Answer: It’s all in the math. And in the single-issue advocacy brought to bear on US policy-making by dozens of “domestic” organisations that now compose the Israel lobby, with AIPAC its most visible force.
The political math was enabled by Sen. John McCain whose support for all things Israeli ensured him the GOP nomination to succeed George W. Bush. McCain’s style of campaign finance reform proved a perfect fit for the Diaspora-based fundraising on which the lobby relies. Co-sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, this change in federal election law typifies how Israeli influence became systemic.
“McCain-Feingold” raised the amount (from $1,000 to $2,300) that candidates can receive from individuals in primary and general elections. A couple can now contribute a combined $9,200 to federal candidates: $4,600 in each of the primary and general elections. Primary elections, usually low-budget, are particularly easy to sway.
Importantly for the Diaspora, this change also doubled the funds candidates can receive without regard to where those contributors reside. A candidate in Iowa, say, may have only a few pro-Israeli constituents. When campaign support is provided by a nationwide network of pro-Israelis, that candidate can more easily be persuaded to support policies sought by Tel Aviv.
Diaspora-based fundraising has long been used by the lobby with force-multiplying success to shape US foreign policy. Under the guise of reform, John McCain doubled the financial resources that the lobby can deploy to elect and retain its supporters.
Fulbright was right. The influence-peddling process works like this. Candidates are summoned for in-depth AIPAC interviews. Those found sufficiently committed to Israel’s agenda are provided a list of donors likely to “max out” their campaign contributions. Or the process can be made even easier when AIPAC-approved candidates are given the name of a “bundler.”
Bundlers raise funds from the Diaspora and bundle those contributions to present them to the candidate. No quid pro quo need be mentioned. After McCain-Feingold became law in 2003, AIPAC-identified bundlers could raise $1 million-plus for AIPAC-approved candidates simply by contacting 10 like-minded supporters. Here’s the math: The bundler and spouse “max out” for $9,200 and call 10 others, say in Manhattan, Miami, and Beverly Hills. Imagine the incentive to do well in the AIPAC interview. One call from the lobby and a candidate can collect enough cash to mount a credible campaign in most congressional districts. From Tel Aviv’s perspective, that political leverage is leveraged yet again because fewer than 10 per cent of the 435 House races are competitive in any election cycle (typically 35 to 50).
Additional force-multipliers come from: (a) sustaining this financial focus over multiple cycles, (b) using funds to gain and retain seniority for those serving on congressional committees key to promoting Israeli goals, and (c) opposing any candidates who question those goals. “Jewish Achievement” reports that 42 per cent of the largest political donors to the 2000 election cycle were Jewish, including four of the top five. That compares to less than two percent of Americans who are Jewish. Of the Forbes 400 richest Americans, 25 percent are Jewish according to Michael Steinhardt, a key funder of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC was led by Jewish Zionist Sen. Joe Lieberman when he resigned in 2000 to run as vice president with Al Gore.
Money was never a constraint. Pro-Israeli donors were limited only by how much they could lawfully contribute to AIPAC-screened candidates. McCain-Feingold raised a key limit. The full impact of this foreign influence has yet to be tallied. What’s known, however, is sufficient to apply the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Of the top 50 neoconservatives who advocated war in Iraq, 26 were Jewish (52 per cent).
Harry Truman, a Christian Zionist, remains one of the more notable recipients of funds. In 1948, he was trailing badly in the polls and in fundraising. His prospects brightened dramatically in May after he recognised as a legitimate state an enclave of Jewish extremists who originally planned to settle in Argentina before putting their sights on Palestine.
That recognition was opposed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the bulk of the diplomatic corps, the fledgling Central Intelligence Agency and numerous distinguished Americans, including moderate and secular Jews concerned at the troubles that were certain to follow. Not until 1984 was it revealed that a network of Jewish Zionists had funded Truman’s campaign by financially refueling his whistle-stop campaign train with $400,000 in cash ($3 million in 2009). To buy time on the public’s airwaves, money raised from the Israel lobby’s network is paid to media outlets largely owned or managed by members of the same network. Presidents, senators and congressmen come and go but those who collect the checks rack up the favors that amass lasting political influence. The US system of government is meant to ensure that members of the House represent the concerns of Americans who reside in congressional districts — not a nationally dispersed network (a Diaspora) committed to advancing the agenda of a foreign nation. Federal elections are meant to hold senators accountable to constituents who reside in the states they represent, not out-of-state residents or a foreign government.
In practical effect, McCain-Feingold hastened a retreat from representative government by granting a nationwide network of foreign agents disproportionate influence over elections in every state and congressional district. Campaign finance “reform” enabled this network to amass even more political clout — wielding influence disproportionate to their numbers, indifferent to their place of residence and often contrary to America’s interests.
This force-multiplier is now wielded in plain sight, with impunity and under cover of free speech, free elections, free press and even the freedom of religion. Therein lies the perils of an entangled alliance that induced the US to invade Iraq and now seeks war with Iran. By allowing foreign agents to operate as a domestic lobby, the US was induced to confuse Zionist interests with its own.
Jeff Gates is a widely acclaimed US-based author, attorney and consultant
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