US Democrats mobilize against pro-Israel spending in primary election

Andy Levin is fighting to represent Michigan's 11th district in Congress and is facing opposition from another incumbent, Haley Stevens (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  July 25, 2022

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib rally behind Andy Levin, who is facing fierce opposition from AIPAC-backed Haley Stevens.

Progressive US lawmakers are mobilizing to combat the millions of dollars from pro-Israel groups being poured into primary elections ahead of a tense battle in Michigan between two incumbents vying for a seat in Congress.

Andy Levin, a congressman hailing from a family of American politicians, is fighting to represent Michigan’s 11th district in Congress and is facing opposition from another incumbent, Haley Stevens.

Over the past few months, the United Democracy Project, an AIPAC-affiliated Super PAC, has spent more than $3m in negative advertising against Levin in the race so far.

A “PAC” is a political action committee that pools member donations to disburse funds towards campaigns targeting candidates, causes or legislation.

In response, several progressives, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, have come out to support Levin’s bid for the seat, with Sanders having already declared a “war” with AIPAC this election cycle.

Sanders is heading to Michigan on Friday where he will attend a rally alongside Tlaib in support of Levin, while Warren led a phone banking drive this past Sunday.

The support, however, may not be enough against the pro-Israel group’s money, with Levin saying that he is worried the “avalanche of money and blanket advertising” on television and on social media will determine the outcome of the race, slated for 2 August.

“AIPAC has completely gone off the rails and they are trying to end my career because I won’t fall in line with their view of what it means to be pro-Israel,” he told MSNBC on Sunday.

Levin said he is “super concerned” about pro-Israel groups’ money having an impact on the election. Last week, AIPAC declared victory in a Democratic primary in Maryland, when former congresswoman Donna Edwards lost her election to Glenn Ivey, who AIPAC spent $6m in support of.

‘AIPAC lost its way’

Pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC’s UDP, have spent tens of millions so far in this year’s primary election cycle, and have helped a number of moderate Democrats achieve victory over their progressive opponents who are more critical of Israel.

The money being spent by these groups has been condemned by many progressive Democrats, namely because these groups have been receiving funding from Republican donors and the groups have been endorsing Republicans that refused to certify the election of President Joe Biden.

Even moderate and pro-Israel Democrats have taken to lambaste AIPAC and the UDP for funding negative campaign ads against their fellow party members.

Bill de Blasio, a former New York City mayor who in 2014 delivered a private and staunchly pro-Israel speech to AIPAC, has stated he no longer supports the group and that some of his donors and those active in the Jewish community have told him they also parted ways with AIPAC, without revealing any names. 

“To me, AIPAC lost its way, lost track of its core mission, and unfortunately veered to one side, politically,” he told The Forward. “It is a horrible precedent and counterproductive.”

However, ultimately de Blasio said he wished for the lobbying group to return to its former ways of operating in a more bipartisan manner.

“You can’t spend massive amounts of money to defeat progressives who have an organic constituency. And if they become a right-wing Republican organization, then they’ve just kissed goodbye to their entire concept.”