- 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" organizations
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. Each of
them max out ($10 x $9,200) and call 10 others for a total of 11. (111
x $9,200 = $1,021,200.)
- 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 percent
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 percent
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 pro-Israeli presidential
candidate 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 percent).
- 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 recognized as a legitimate state an enclave of Jewish extremists
who originally planned to settle in Argentina before putting their sights
- 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 refuelling 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 favours 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
- 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 Vietnam veteran, widely acclaimed author,
attorney, investment banker, educator and consultant to government, corporate
and union leaders worldwide; an adviser to policy-makers worldwide; former
counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. He is also the author of
numerous articles and books including his latest book Guilt by Association:
How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War. His previous books include
Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street From Wall Street and The Ownership
Solution: Toward a Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century.