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November 01, 1985 - Image 42

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

42

Friday, November 1, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

HAVE-

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Continued from Page 40

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.

Ind.) has said, "is that Congress
defines what a contribution is•"
(Last Year, Jacobs was one of
eight House members who re-
fused to accept PAC money.)
Perhaps the most serious
charge against PACs is that
they "threaten democracy." To
the extent that the funneling of •
PAC money into a campaign
thousands of miles from a PAC's
home base influences elections,
"then local voters lose influ-
ence," said Washington jour-
nalist Edward Roeder, This
premium on money — and "out-
side money," at that — fosters,
said Roeder, "plutocracy, not
democracy."
But PACmen argue that their
groups encourage everyone —
even small contributers — to get
politically involved; that they
reward — not bribe — members
of Congress for voting certain
ways; and that they reflect the
ethnic, political and financial
diversity of America.
PAC critics are "like Chicken
Little," said William Armstrong,
president of the Public Affairs
council, an organization of cor-
porate public affairs executives.
"They ignore facts. They stir up
emotions. They tell people the
sky is falling on our political
system."
Undoubtedly, PACs do serve a
useful function. As University of
Southern California political
scientist Herbert Alexander
said, "Interest groups must sup-
port their friends and PACs are
the way to do that. People are
powerless unless they can com-
pete. PACs give everyone a
voice in Washington."
For decades, Jews didn't have
much of a voice in Washington.
If they did, it was muffled and
hesitant. But since the late
1940s, Jews have perhaps be-
come the most sophisticated of
ethnic groups in the country.
Despite this sophistication, Jews
came late to the PAC game. The
first pro-Israel PAC was not
formed until 1978. Then, Mark
Siegel left the White House as
Jimmy Carter's liason to the
Jewish community to form the
National Bipartisan Political
Action Committee. In its first
year, Siegel's PAC gave $31,350
to 42 congressional races. In
1980, Morris Amitay left as
executive director of the Ameri-
can Israel Public Affairs Com-
mittee (AIPAC) to form the
Washington Political Action
Committee. And in March 1983,
Richard Altman resigned as
AIPAC's political director to
head the newly formed National
Political Action Committee.
(Despite the "PAC;" in its
name, AIPAC, the leading pro-
Israel lobby in Washington, is
not a "PAC" and does not con-
tribute to political campaigns.
However, there have been
numerous reports that AIPAC
has helped form PACs around
the county and coordinates their
activities. This would be a viola-
tion of AIPAC's legal status as a
lobbying group. As sociologist
Amitai Etzioni wrote in his
1984 book, Capitol Corruption,
pro-Israel PACs "are reported to
work closely together to increase

their clout, and benefit from the
guidance of one lobby, the
American Israel Public Affairs
Committee."
AIPAC officials have denied
these charges.)
The new Jewish PACs grew
quickly. By 1980, two years
after the first pro-Israel PAC
was formed, 30 Jewish PACs
gave almost $1.6 million to con-
gression contenders. In 1984,
more than 70 Jewish PACs gave
over $3.6 million to federal can-
didates. Pro-Israel PACs were
considered crucial in Paul Si-
mon's victory last year over Sen.
Charles Percy in Illinois
($321,825 went to the chal-
lenger); in Rep. Carl Levin's
tight re-election victory in
Michigan ($170,388) went to
Levin); and in James Hunt's
media blitz against Jesse Helms
in North Carolina ($216,175)
was channeled to Hunt).
In the more than six years
since the first Jewish PAC was
formed, they have mastered the
game of campaign finance.
Speaking shortly after last fall's
election, AIPAC director
Thomas Dine said Jewish PACs
had helped produce the most
pro-Israel Congress in history.
The key to this victory, said
Dine, was money: "Early money,
middle money and late money."
(Dine was referring to PAC's
strategy of timing their contri-
butions in the early, middle to
late stages of a campaign. Since
a congressman is running for
re-election virtually from the
moment• he is elected, "early
money" may make him indebted
to a particular interest group as
he begins a new term. This
could color his voting habits in
Congress. "Late money" —
given near the end of a cam-
paign when money is always
tight — engenders an additional
sense of gratitude.)
Some Washington wags have
dubbed Dine's talk his "Let a
thousand PACs bloom" speech.
There will probably never be a
thousand pro-Israel PACs,
partly because the 12 million
Jews in the United States could
never support so many and
partly because some Jews would
complain that all those PACs
would focus too much attention
on the Jewish community. Al-
ready, many Jews are worried
that the prominence — and the
success — of their PACs has fos-
tered a new perception that
American Jews enjoy unparal-
leled political clout.
Jewish PACs have been
placed squarely in the limelight
recently. The Wall Street Jour-
nal has published two front-page
stories on Jewish PACs in the
last two years. In a new book,
former congressman Illinois
Paul Findley accuses Jewish
PACs of having the power to
oust him from Capitol Hill and
to censure other members of
Congress who speak out against
Israel. Attention was also drawn
by National PAC's full-page ads
in the New York Times and by
the cumulative effect of over 70
well-heeled Jewish PACs around
the country attempting to influ-

Continued on Page 44

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