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November 01, 1985 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-11-01

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Friday, November 1, 1985


$ PAC S $

Continued from preceding page

the wisdom — to mend fences, win friends
and influence winners. They have the sav-
vy to channel funds into key races around
the country: One PAC expert estimated
that in 1984 almost one-third of all pro-
Israel PAC money went to only six can-
didates. And they have the resources to
raise enormous sums. Last year, for in-
stance, pro-Israel PACs contributed
almost $3.6 million to congressional can-
didates, a figure that dwarfs the $17,350
given by the only overtly pro-Arab
- political action committee, the National
Arab-American Association PAC(NAAA
PAC). Jewish PACs' wealth also means
that as a group they gave more during the
1984 campaign than did the nation's single
largest single PAC, the Realtors' PAC,
which gave $2.5 million.
To some extent, PACs have a
democratizing effect: They spread the
wealth. And the influence. The game that
used to be played only by Capitol insiders
over a hearty lunch with a senator at
Washington's Cosmos Club or by a fatcat
back home in a congressman's home
district can now be played by everyone —
anywhere — who can start a PAC. It is a
game that Jews have learned quickly.
And, by all accounts, it is one they have
learned well.
It is also a game that is having a major
influence on Capitol Hill's debate on the
Middle East, on the public's perception of
the clout of Jews. And on Jews' perception
of their own clout. The gentle arm
twisting, the impassioned lobbying, the
undeniable influence that greenbacks have
had on political careers since perhaps the
very birth of the Republic — all that,
through PACs, is now being participated
in by Jews.
This makes some U.S. Jews very proud.
It makes others very uneasy. The ambiva-
lence of some Jews toward PACs reflects,
in part, the generations-old wisdom that
is still common among U.S. Jews: Lay
Low. Don't offer an easy target. Some
Jews fear that pro-Israel PACs could pro-
vide handy fodder for critics who perceive
undue Jewish power and influence in the
body politic, for those who blame the
American Jewish community for an "irn-
balanced" U.S. approach to the Mideast.
The idea of PACs also disturbs many
Jews because, as a community that is still
overwhelmingly liberal, Jews often share
liberals' traditional distrust for that dir-
tiest of words — campaign finance. To
many people, funding someone's race for
the House or Senate still connotes outright
bribery: It can too easily evoke memories
of millionaires bragging about having con-
gressmen in their back pockets.
But abandoning the PAC field to pro-
Arab political action committees, however
weak they may be for now, makes even
those Jews who are uneasy with PACs
more uncomfortable. As Richard Altman,
head of National PAC, the largest pro-

Israel PAC, said, "To not participate is to
make an affirmative statement on the
other side. We don't have a Bechtel or a
Fluor or an Exxon to look to for help. We
must look to ourselves."

There is nothing new about PACs. They
have been around since the 1940's when
labor unions formed a fund to funnel
voluntary contributions of union members
to political campaigns. When the CIO
merged with the AFL in the mid-1950's,
its new Committee on Political Education
(COPE) became, according to one political
scientist, "the model for virtually all
political action committees."
While other interest groups, such as the
American Medical Association and the
Realtors Association, began to form
PACs, they did not flourish until the
mid-1970's. Spurred by the sordid tales
that came out of the Watergate scandals
— grocery bags of cash being passed to
congressmen in the dark of night, the
"laundering" of millions of dollars in cam-
paign funds — Congress went on a reform
binge. New laws limited an individual's
contributions to $1,000 and to a PAC to
$5,000. PAC contributions to a candidate
were limited to $10,000 — up to $5,000 for
each primary and general election. And a
ban was lifted on PACs formed by contrac-
tors to the federal government. Since most
large businesses either did work for
Washington — or would like to — scrapp-
ing this ban was a major boon to PACs'
In 1974, when these reforms began,
there were 608 PACs. Two years later,
they doubled to 1,146. By 1980, there were
2,551. By the end of last year, there were
4,009. Although this may sound like
there is a PAC in every town in America,
"only about 500 of these matter," said Ed-
ward Zuckerman, editor of the
Washington newsletter, PACs and Lob-
bies. "The rest are of little consequence."
PAC money has matched their growth.
In 1977-78, PACs gave over $35 million to
candidates. By 1983-84, they gave more
than $112 million.
PACs have been accused of everything
from boosting the price of a senatorial
campaign by 150 percent over the last six
years to corrupting the solons of Capitol
Hill. Few critics go so far as to say that
PACs actually bribe congressmen, but, as
Rep. rIbm Downey (D-N.Y.) said, "You can't
buy a congressman. But, for $5,000, you
can buy his vote on a particular issue."
When Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.) sought
the vote of a fellow House member for a
particular bill, his colleague refused. He
was obligated to a certain PAC, he explain-
ed, for a $10,000 donation. "If I vote the
other way," he said, "they'll give it to my
onnonent. Then I'll be $10,000 in the hole."
Ile only difference between a bribe and
a contribution," Rep: Andy Jacobs (D.-

Continued on Page 42




Of the more than 4,000 PACs in the
country, Jewish PACs have had the
most phenomenal growth. Since the
first pro-Israel PAC was formed seven
years ago, the number of Jewish poli-
tical action committees have increased
by 75-fold. Their contributions to can-
didates have swelled by over 11,880 per-
cent. In those same years, both the total
number of PACs in the country and
their campaign contributions barely
This mushrooming of pro-Israel
PACs has won kudos from even David
Saad, treasurer of the only PAC de-
voted solely to Arab issues, the Na-
tional Association of Arab Americans
PAC. "The Jewish community should
be admired for working sn well within
the system," said Saad. Their PACs
are so successful because they started
organizing long before the Arab-
American community did. We have to
do a heck of a job catching up with
them. They have a good 30 year head-
Much of this growth can be attri-
buted to what some PAC experts call
"the glamor PAC" — the National
Political Action Committee. Founded in
1982 by Marvin Josephson, head of the
giant talent agency, International
Creative Management, National PAC
was kicked off with a fund-raising let-
ter from the normally. reclusive Woody
Allen. Allen also contributed the max-
imum amount permisable by law —
$5,000. Also contributing were film
director Arthur Hiller, comedians Bob

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