Did AIPAC funding influence Democrats’ responses to Ilhan Omar?

The responses to Ilhan Omar about the influence of money from the pro-Israel lobby may back up her point. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Some accused the freshman congresswoman of antisemitism while others denounced “ugly attacks” on her.

By Tom Perkins | The Guardian | Mar 9, 2019

‘Money works both ways — donors give to those candidates they view as champions of their issues, but at the same time politicians know where their funding comes from and will likely take into account wishes of their donors when faced with a tough decision.’
— Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center

When the Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar claimed pro-Israel lobby money influenced American politics, in the way other powerful lobbying groups do, she ignited allegations of antisemitism and sparked a furious debate in her own party. But a look at House Democrats and 2020 presidential candidates’ responses to the resulting row seems to validate her claim.

House Democratic leaders who drafted a resolution initially aimed at condemning Omar’s remarks received millions from the pro-Israel lobby throughout their congressional careers. Congressman Eliot Engel, who accused Omar of using “a vile antisemitic slur,” has taken about $1.07m throughout his career, or about $107,000 per election.

Meanwhile, some of her staunchest defenders took little or no money from the lobby. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib received no pro-Israel lobby donations during her 2018 campaign, and tweeted that she was “honored” to serve with Omar, who was enduring “ugly attacks.”

Similarly, federal election records available on the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website suggest a correlation between pro-Israel lobby campaign contributions and Democratic presidential candidates’ position on the controversy.

Those candidates who have taken little money from the lobby defended Omar, while those who received the most money criticized her, or were quiet on the issue.

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