Top pro-Israel group boosted political spending after Oct. 7 Hamas attacks

WASHINGTON (Feb. 27, 2024)—In the months following Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, the preeminent pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States increased its political spending nearly threefold, according to an analysis of the organization's 2023 year-end filing with the Federal Election Commission.

"Our focus in (the) 2024 election is to broaden and strengthen the bipartisan pro-Israel majority in Congress—and to defeat anti-Israel detractors," Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), told Capital News Service in an email.

"In the aftermath of the Hamas barbaric attack and the mounting threats of Iranian terrorist proxies, the importance of a pro-Israel Congress standing with our ally is clearer than ever," Wittmann said.

AIPAC has been a political force lobbying on behalf of the state of Israel since 1961. The group established its political action committee (PAC) ahead of the 2022 primaries, enabling it to contribute directly to candidates' campaigns—which it did to the tune of over $17 million throughout the subsequent election cycle.

During the current election cycle, AIPAC's PAC has already spent nearly $23.4 million, including $18.9 million in contributions to political campaigns, records show. The committee spent nearly half of its yearly total in the three months following Hamas' attacks, primarily giving to lawmakers supporting aid to Israel.

The AIPAC PAC spent an average of over $275,000 every week in 2023 before October, according to its FEC filing. This average nearly tripled to over $740,000 during the fourth quarter of last year.

George Latimer, who is the main Democratic challenger to Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-New York, received the most campaign contributions from AIPAC during that quarter. Latimer's campaign received about a quarter of its total funding from the PAC from October to the end of 2023.

AIPAC-affiliated super PAC United Democracy Project also spent money in Bowman's district, running ads online that suggest the lawmaker "refused to stand with Israel" for voting against a House resolution supporting that nation and condemning Hamas.

However, a majority of the super PAC's funds went towards AIPAC's committee in 2023.

Other top Democrats on AIPAC's radar included Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada, and House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, whose campaigns each received more than $300,000 from the committee in the final quarter of last year. Both lawmakers championed a slew of legislation securing U.S. aid to Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks.

"Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state," Jeffries said in October. "The special relationship between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. Our commitment to Israel's security is ironclad."

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, was the top Republican recipient of AIPAC contributions at the tail end of 2023, receiving over $246,000 during that period, despite the committee only donating $5,000 to his campaign in the previous nine months. The dramatic increase reflected Johnson's rise to the House speakership on Oct. 25.

Most of AIPAC's contributions to Johnson's campaign came in November and December, after he facilitated the passage of an Israel-only defense package of over $14 billion.

The campaigns of Maryland Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer and Glenn Ivey's received $32,300 and over $17,000, respectively, in contributions from AIPAC during the same period, while Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris' campaign received over $6,000.

In tandem with the group's increased spending after Oct. 7, AIPAC's fundraising also increased significantly during the last quarter of 2023.

Compared to the first nine months of the year, the committee raised more than twice as much per week on average—nearly $750,000—after the Hamas attacks.

AIPAC also increased its spending on lobbying the federal government, as evidenced in its fourth quarter lobbying disclosure form for last year.

The group spent over $800,000 during the final quarter of last year on lobbying for various bills and resolutions regarding U.S. cooperation with Israel and condemning Hamas and Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis.

Since the end of January, the committee has spent nearly $600,000 on Meta ad campaigns urging members of Congress to speak out against Hamas' continued holding of Israeli hostages.

"Congress must continue its strong bipartisan support for Israel in its battle against Iranian terrorist proxies on its borders and to force Hamas to release all of the hostages," Wittmann said. "The purpose of our ad campaign is to give greater visibility to the plight of the hostages and the urgency to gain their freedom."

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