Nearly every congressman, candidate has taken money from AIPAC

Nearly every congressman, candidate has taken money from AIPAC

Nearly every congressman, candidate has taken money from AIPAC

In the heated battle for the 3rd Congressional District in the March 20, 2018 Democratic Primary, which has one of the largest concentrations of Arab American voters in the country, incumbent conservative Dan Lipinski squeaked out a slim victory over liberal challenger Marie Newman. For the first time in many years, Arab Americans participated actively in this election, although oftentimes, the energy was driven by falsehoods and anger rather than by fact, commonsense or strategy. Critics said Lipinski received huge AIPAC donations, but the truth is nearly every Illinois congressman received AIPAC money

By Ray Hanania

It’s a fact that AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) donates money to nearly every candidate and member of the U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate.

It’s also a fact that despite the enormous wealth of the Arab World and Arab American businessmen, and many wealthy Palestinians, very few members of Congress receive much money from Arab Americans.

They do receive a lot of emotional rhetoric from many Arab activists, and AIPAC is used as a blind attack usually in debates that often veer away from fact and accuracy.

In the heated election battle that captured the attention of the nation, conservative Democratic incumbent Congressman Daniel Lipinski and his rival Marie Newman received support from Arab American activists and voters. In fact, who got more Arab American votes may have determined the tight election’s outcome.

Congressman Dan Lipinski, challenger Marie Newman, faced-off in the March 20, 2018 Democratic Primary election in Illinois's 3rd Congressional District. Lipinski won by a slim margin with 50.9 percent of the vote.

Congressman Dan Lipinski, challenger Marie Newman, faced-off in the March 20, 2018 Democratic Primary election in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District. Lipinski won by a slim margin with 50.9 percent of the vote.

The biggest criticism of Lipinski by Newman supporters was that Lipinski co-sponsored a bill in 2014 in Congress that targeted the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) movement.

The bill was sponsored by anti-Arab Republican racist Peter Roskam, an Illinois Congressman from the western part of the state whose anti-Arab rhetoric is notorious. Lipinski, who has said little about the Middle East conflict, co-signed the bill, H.R. 4009 (the “Protect Academic Freedom” Act) as did 134 other members of Congress. Roskam called Lipinski a “co-sponsor” in order to make it look like he had “bi-partisan” support.

According to Roskam, “This measure would block federal funding for American universities engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”

It’s an outrageous violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and libels the concept of “boycotts,” which has been used by African Americans in the past, for example, to challenge the oppression of Apartheid South Africa, and even by Jews in confronting rising Nazi influence in Germany prior to and during World War II.

Some people, however, believe the BDS campaign has gone far beyond the original goals of blocking economic support of the illegal and racist Israeli settlements, to also include a boycott of the State of Israel itself. In fact, in speaking with Lipinski, it was clear the intent was to block a boycott of Israel. Activist rhetoric has made the BDS boycott too broad, blocking peace.

So goes the argument.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Congressman Luis Gutierrez

The Roskam bill was introduced and sent to committee where it hasn’t moved. But that wasn’t the end of the anti-BDS legislation.

More than 20 states have adopted legislation to punish BDS supporters, including in Illinois. But worse, in July 2017, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and 43 colleagues in the 50 member Senate, sponsored the “Anti-Israel Boycott Act” which would “criminalize” anyone who supports a boycott of Israel. Again, the boycott focus was extended beyond the boundaries of the illegal Israeli settlements.

Believe it or not, many pro-Palestinian activists have defended Schumer.

The anti-Lipinski activists used the bill as a basis to fire-up political activism. But the bill wasn’t enough, especially since it hasn’t gone anywhere.

So, they came up with a new claim: Lipinski has received more contributions from AIPAC than most other congressmen.

Of course, an examination of the record shows otherwise. He did receive donations from AIPAC. But, so did 14 candidates in Illinois’ 15 Congressional districts. The only member who didn’t receive AIPAC funds was Congress Bobby Rush.

Abdul El-Sayed with Congressman John Conyers. Photo courtesy of El-Sayed's Facebook Page

Abdul El-Sayed with Congressman John Conyers. Photo courtesy of El-Sayed’s Facebook Page

Here’s the donation list from the 2017-2018 congressional term, as detailed by OpenSecrets.org of which congressional candidates received how much:

Schneider, Brad (D-IL)              $ 138,996
Roskam, Peter (R-IL)                 $   58,500
Bustos, Cheri (D-IL)                   $   42,473
Schakowsky, Jan (D-IL)             $   38,924
Krishnamoorthi, Raja (D-IL)    $   24,150
Quigley, Mike (D-IL)                   $  23,200
Lipinski, Daniel (D-IL)               $  18,150
Kinzinger, Adam (R-IL)             $  17,250
Foster, Bill (D-IL)                        $  11,600
Bost, Mike (R-IL)                        $   10,900
Hultgren, Randy (R-IL)             $     6,450
Kelly, Robin (D-IL)                     $     5,255
Davis, Danny K (D-IL)               $     3,000
Gutierrez, Luis V (D-IL)            $     1,266

By the way, despite the assertion that Republicans are more pro-Israel than Democrats, the list above shows that Democrats have received far more money.

Lipinski is right in the middle, 7th out of 14 recipients.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who led the endorsement of Marie Newman against Lipinski, received donations from AIPAC, ranking 4th and more than double what Lipinski received.

Another celebrated champion of anti-Muslim and pro-Arab activism, Congressman Raja Krisnamoorthi, received $6,000 more than Lipinski, yet Arabs and Muslims rallied around Krisnamoorthi’s candidacy.

Congressman Danny Davis, also often identified with pro-Arab and pro-Muslim activists, received about half of what Lipinski received.

In nearby Michigan, which has a larger concentration of Arab Americans, two of the most pro-Arab congressman lead the pack in receiving AIPAC donations in the 2017-2018 term. Here’s the list:

Dingell, Debbie (D-MI)         $4,500
Conyers, John Jr (D-MI)      $2,256
Lawrence, Brenda (D-MI)    $2,000
Kildee, Dan (D-MI)               $1,000
Bergman, John (R-MI)         $ 500

Even Betty McCollum, who introduced legislation slamming Israel for imprisoning and detaining Palestinian children, received money from AIPAC. In the 2017-2018 term, she received $1,250.

It may not sound like a lot, but, what is “a lot” anyway?

You can go back in time and look at the history of AIPAC donations to congressman.

The 2015-2016 term is even more interesting. Lipinski was near the bottom of the list.

Duckworth, Tammy (D-IL)     $322,534
Dold, Bob (R-IL)                       $149,763
Schakowsky, Jan (D-IL)           $ 89,514
Foster, Bill (D-IL)                      $ 82,590
Bustos, Cheri (D-IL)                 $ 61,871
Roskam, Peter (R-IL)               $ 60,237
Quigley, Mike (D-IL)                $ 37,000
Kinzinger, Adam (R-IL)          $ 35,900
Bost, Mike (R-IL)                     $ 20,350
Kelly, Robin (D-IL)                  $ 19,267
Davis, Rodney (R-IL)              $ 15,200
Hultgren, Randy (R-IL)           $ 14,200
Lipinski, Daniel (D-IL)            $ 14,000
Gutierrez, Luis V (D-IL)          $   8,500
Davis, Danny K (D-IL)             $   6,250
LaHood, Darin (R-IL)              $   4,750

As you can see, the largest donations went to US Senator Tammy Duckworth, $322,534 while Lipinski, Gutierrez, Davis and even Illinois’ only Arab congressman, Darin LaHood, ranked as the 4 lowest recipients on the list.

In the 2013-2014 term, Lipinski was the lowest recipient of AIPAC funding.

Schneider, Brad (D-IL)           $366,094
Bustos, Cheri (D-IL)                $  82,550
Duckworth, Tammy (D-IL)    $  74,651
Foster, Bill (D-IL)                     $  73,050
Schakowsky, Jan (D-IL)          $  70,450
Roskam, Peter (R-IL)               $  67,450
Enyart, William (D-IL)            $ 55,736
Schock, Aaron (R-IL)               $ 27,150
Kinzinger, Adam (R-IL)           $ 22,150
Quigley, Mike (D-IL)                $ 21,850
Kelly, Robin (D-IL)                   $ 15,750
Davis, Rodney (R-IL)                $ 13,700
Hultgren, Randy (R-IL)            $  8,700
Gutierrez, Luis V (D-IL)           $  7,000
Davis, Danny K (D-IL)              $  5,000
Lipinski, Daniel (D-IL)             $  3,950

Candidates in Michigan also received money during that term, and few cared or complained:

Walberg, Tim (R-MI)          $ 12,400
Kildee, Dan (D-MI)             $   8,735
Levin, Sander (D-MI)          $  7,750
Lawrence, Brenda (D-MI)  $  7,500
Dingell, Debbie (D-MI)       $  7,500
Conyers, John Jr (D-MI)    $  7,000
Huizenga, Bill (R-MI)         $  6,000

There are two ways to engage in politics. One way is to clamp down on an emotional issue and use that to bully your community into activism. That’s been the pattern of many Arab activists who have no experience in politics, but who act more like dictators than leaders of democratic principles.

The other way is to look at a politician and understand all of the issues they embrace, not just one or two. You then decide can you defeat someone or will they have a difficult uphill fight? Then you define a goal. I think the most important goal is to ensure that the candidate you back keeps the door open to your community.

I don’t like the fact that Lipinski was involved in the sponsorship of the anti-BDS bill, even though I have openly criticized some BDS activists for taking a legitimate movement against Israeli settlements and turned it into a personal hatred of Israel. For some BDS activists, it’s not about peace, but rather about extremism and fueling the conflict in the hopes that they can “win through conflict and suffering and violence.”

What s the real lesson in all this? Well, unlike Palestinians, Israelis don’t give up on politicians who don’t agree with the pro-Israel agenda 100 percent. They keep the door open and pick and choose battles resulting in a far more effective political strategy that has clearly resulted in huge results for Israel.

In contrast, the pro-Palestinian Arab and Muslim activists really have achieved little in lobbying the Congress.

The successful lobbyist gets their agenda achieved not by anger, emotion and rejection, but by lobbying in an effective and open-minded manner. The goal is to win an American politician over to your side, not push them into the hands of your enemy where they will thrive.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist and author. Reach him at his website at www.Hanania.com or send him an email at rghanania@gmail.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.