The Ascendancy of Thomas A. Dine
In October 1983 President Ronald Reagan, faced with rising public opposition to the presence of U.S. Marines in Lebanon, sought help from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The terrorist bombing that would kill more than 200 marines as they slept in their barracks at the Beirut airport was yet to come. Still, four marines had already died, three by sniper fire, and congressional concern was rising. Democratic
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Congressman Sam Stratton of New York, a veteran known for his hawkish views, called the marines "sitting ducks" and predicted heavy casualties. He wanted them out of Lebanon.
Others cited the War Powers Resolution and questioned whether the president had the authority to keep forces in a hostile environment such as Beirut for more than ninety days without the express approval of Congress. Some congressmen began drawing parallels between the marine presence in Lebanon and the beginnings of the disastrous U.S. experience in Vietnam.
President Reagan objected, as had his predecessors, to the restrictions imposed by the War Powers legislation. If he accepted its terms, he would have to withdraw the forces within ninety days or get Congress to approve an extension. If he insisted that the law did not apply because the situation was not hostile, events might quickly prove him wrong. Regardless, he would have a rebellious Congress on his hands.
Reagan decided to finesse the problem. He asked Congress for legislation that would allow him to keep the existing force of marines in Lebanon for eighteen months. This would please the "strict constructionists" who felt that the chief executive must live with the War Powers Resolution. It would also suit his own needs, because he was confident that the orderly removal of the marines would occur within the eighteen-month period.
Thanks to extraordinary help from an unlikely quarter, Reagan's plan had relatively clear sailing in the House of Representatives. Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, the most prominent elected Democrat in the nation, gave the legislation his strong support. To O'Neill, it was a question of patriotism, and enough Democrats answered his call to assure passage of the legislation in the Democrat-controlled body.
But the Senate, although controlled by his fellow Republicans, posed a more difficult problem for the president. An informal "nose count" showed a close vote and probably defeat. The president decided he needed help, and he enlisted the cooperation of Thomas A. Dine, the slender, aggressive, dark-haired young Capitol Hill staff veteran who then headed AIPAC.
Reagan's appeal to Dine for support on the marine issue was without precedent. The pending bill contained no money for Israel, and AIPAC and other Israeli lobby groups had kept hands off the Lebanon
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controversy. Pro-Israeli forces did not want other Americans to blame Israel if the marines should encounter more trouble. Certainly Israel already bore enough responsibility for U.S. problems in Lebanon.7 It had discreetly but effectively helped to engineer the original marine presence in Beirut by agreeing to withdraw its forces from Beirut in favor of a multinational force, provided the United States was included. (The multinational force would have been unnecessary had Israel not invaded Lebanon in the first place.) Although AIPAC privately wanted the marines to stay in Lebanon, under the circumstances its leadership preferred to stay in the background.
The White House call to Dine was exceptional for another reason: Reagan needed help with Senators who were normally his most stalwart supporters.8 The president was unsure of the votes of twelve Republicans, among them John Warner of Virginia, Dan Quayle of Indiana, William Cohen of Maine, and James A. McClure of Idaho. All were generally regarded as hawkish on military matters and all except McClure were strong supporters of Israel. Learning of the presidential plea, one AIPAC staffer said, "If the White House is worried about those votes, the bill is going down."
Despite its reluctance to get publicly involved in the sensitive issue, AIPAC made the calls. Nine of the twelve senators, including the four mentioned above, voted with the president and helped him win a narrow 54-46 victory.9
AIPAC's role in the outcome was not noted in most media reports of the dramatic event, but an elated President Reagan called Dine personally to express his thanks. Michael Gale, then handling White House relations with the Jewish community, provided a transcript of the conversation with the suggestion that AIPAC publicize it. AIPAC declined, preferring to maintain its low profile on the issue, so Gale gave the text to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who at the time wrote for the Jerusalem Post and had previously written for AIPAC's Near East Report. The Post quoted Reagan as saying to Dine, "I just wanted to thank you and all your staff for the great assistance you gave us on the War Powers Act resolution. ... I know how you mobilized the grassroots organizations to generate support."10
"Well, we try to use the telephone," responded Dine. "That's part of our job. And we wanted to do it and will continue to do it. . . . We want to work together, obviously."
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Work together they did. The Reagan executive branch established a relationship with AIPAC of unprecedented intimacy. It was not the first time, however, that the White House or the State Department had turned to the lobbying group for help. Although these high level approaches are little known even on Capitol Hill, they actually occur every time foreign aid legislation is up for a vote. Whoever controls the White House finds that securing congressional approval of foreign aid is a challenge and, as the legislation includes economic and military aid to Israel, naturally looks to AIPAC for help. Except for a few humanitarian and church-related organizations, AIPAC serves foreign aid's only domestic constituency.
Without AIPAC, foreign aid legislation would not have been approved at the $15 billion-plus level in 2001, and might have difficulty surviving at all. A candid tribute to the lobby came from John K. Wil-helm, the executive director of the presidential commission that made recommendations in late 1983 on the future direction of foreign aid.11 Briefing a world hunger board at the State Department in January 1984, Wilhelm, a career veteran in the Agency for International Development, said the active support of the pro-Israeli lobby was "vital" to congressional approval of foreign aid. (In the early 1960s, when aid to Israel was modest—less than $100 million a year—a foreign-aid bill squeaked through the House of Representatives by a scant five votes. But AIPAC was then in its infancy.)
AIPAC also crafted the strategy that produced a $510 million increase in 1983 aid for Israel—an astonishing increase, considering it came just after the indiscriminate bombing of Beirut and complicity of Israeli forces in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, events that aroused unprecedented public criticism of Israeli policy.
The administration opposed the 1983 increase but was outmaneu-vered. By the time Judge William Clark, who at the time was National Security Adviser to President Reagan, sent an urgent appeal to Republican Senator Mark Hatfield to block the increase, the issue was already settled. AIPAC had locked in support by persuading a majority on the Appropriations Committee that the increase was a simple question of being for or against Israel. No one wanted to champion the negative side.
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AIPAC had already confounded the administration on the House side, where the White House had argued against the increase for budgetary reasons, contending it would be at the expense of other needy countries. This argument was demolished when AIPAC lobbyists presented elaborate data showing how the extra aid to Israel could be accomplished without cutting support for other countries. An AIPAC lobbyist summed it up: "The administration lobbyists really didn't do their homework. They didn't have their act together." By 1984 the aid level had risen to over $2 billion a year—all of it in grants with no repayment required—and the approval margin was 112.
In February 1983 Secretary of State George Shultz named a "blue ribbon" panel of prominent citizens to recommend changes in the foreign aid program. Of the forty-two on the commission, twenty-seven were Senate or House members with primary responsibility for handling foreign aid legislation. The others had been prominent in administering foreign aid in years past.
Only one full-time lobbyist was named to the panel: AIPAC's executive director, Thomas A. Dine. To my knowledge, it was the first time that a lobbyist had been selected for such a prestigious government assignment, and Dines selection was particularly surprising because it put him in a close working relationship with the handful of people who formulate and carry out policy on the very matter AIPAC was set up to influence—aid to Israel.
A more enviable position for a lobbyist could hardly be imagined. Former Senator James Abourezk, head of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, commented:
It would make as much sense to let the president of Lockheed Corporation serve on a Defense Department board which decides what planes our air force will buy.
In November Dine took an even bigger step up the ladder of Washington prestige and influence.12 He was invited to the White House for a private meeting with National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, President Reagan's closest advisor on day-to-day policy in the Middle East. On the agenda were two foreign policy topics of great sensitivity:
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the Lebanese situation and the proposal to help Jordan establish a rapid deployment force. Both of these issues were, of course, of vital interest to Israel. Dine's invitation came just a week after he received the President's jubilant phone call thanking him for his help in getting the War Powers Resolution authority extended.
In January 1984 Washingtonian magazine listed Dine among the most influential people in the nations capital.
Dine's reputation has even stirred Arab capitals. In 1984 King Hussein of Jordan publicly blamed AIPAC, in part, for the decline of U.S. influence and leadership for peace in the Middle East.13 He also criticized the inordinate influence of the Israeli lobby on U.S. presidential candidates. He said the candidates had to "appeal for the favors of AIPAC, Zionism, and Israel."
One development especially provoked the king: For ten days beginning in mid-March 1984, Dine personally took part in direct foreign policy negotiations with Undersecretary of State Lawrence S. Eagle-burger and National Security Adviser McFarlane.14 During one session, Eagleburger offered to withdraw a widely publicized proposal to sell antiaircraft missiles to Jordan if AIPAC would drop its support of legislation requiring the removal of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
By then, King Hussein's sharp criticism of the United States—and AIPAC—had appeared in U.S. newspapers, and Dine knew it had strengthened congressional opposition to the sale of the missiles. At the time Eagleburger made his proposition, AIPAC already had forty-eight senators committed in opposition, and he received pledges from six more the next day.15 Thus, AIPAC was able to kill the sale without cutting a deal on other issues.
After he rejected Eagleburger's offer, Dine promised that AIPAC would cease active opposition to a proposal to help Jordan establish a rapid deployment force and would lobby to work out a compromise on the bill to transfer the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if the administration would take two important steps: first, refuse to sell Stinger antiaircraft missiles to Saudi Arabia; second, issue a public letter announcing that it would engage in no further indirect communications with the Palestine Liberation Organization.16 Although the public letter
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did not appear, the administration backed away from the Stinger sales to both Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Dine emerged from these negotiations with his prestige greatly enhanced. Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asia affairs and the official charged with the development and administration of U.S. policies relating to the Middle East, was not invited to the Eagleburger-McFarlane-Dine negotiations, nor was he notified of the administrations decision to cancel the proposed sale of Stinger missiles until twelve hours after AIPAC received the information.
The Washington Post concluded that the episode "raised questions about the propriety of the administrations making deals on foreign policy issues with a private, special-interest organization." Dine had a ready response: "We think it's better to be strong and criticized, than weak, ignored, and not respected."
In part, the unprecedented presidential consideration was a tribute to Dines combination of ingratiating manner, tough, relentless spirit, and sheer dynamism. Under Dine, AIPAC's membership has risen from 11,000 to more than 50,000, and its annual budget had grown from $750,000 to more than $3 million.
Dine's influence was felt in power centers beyond the Oval Office. He received calls from presidential candidates as well as presidents, and he reported that former Vice President Walter Mondale "bounces ideas off us" before issuing statements on Middle East policy. And most congressional actions affecting Middle East policy were either approved or initiated by AIPAC.
Broadening the Network
To accomplish these feats for Israel—sometimes cooperating with the president of the United States, sometimes not—AIPAC's director utilized a team of hard-driving, able professionals and kept them working together smoothly. Policy lines were kept clear and the troops are well-disciplined. AIPAC's role is to support Israel's policies, not to help formulate them, so AIPAC maintained daily telephone communication with the Israeli embassy, and Dine's successor as executive director Howard Kohr met personally with embassy officials at least once a week.
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Although AIPAC has a small staff in comparison to other major U.S. Jewish organizations, it taps the resources of a broad nationwide network of unpaid activists. Annual membership meetings in Washington are a major way to rally the troops. Those attending hear prominent U.S. and Israeli speakers, participate in workshops and seminars, and contribute financially to the cause. The conferences attract top political talent: the Israeli ambassador, senior White House and State Department officials, and prominent senators and House members. Recent conferences featured Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and John McCain of Arizona, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, former and current Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, and Texas Governor George W. Bush—the year he was elected president.
The White House is also well represented at such conferences. While serving as Reagan's vice president, former U.S. president George Herbert Walker Bush assured AIPAC delegates that the Reagan administration would keep fighting against anti-Semitism at the United Nations and criticized three Democratic presidential candidates—Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and Jesse Jackson—for being "soft on anti-Semitism."
Ties to other interest groups are carefully cultivated. Christian outreach was announced as AIPAC's newest national program, and Merrie White, a "born-again Christian," was introduced as the director of relations with the Christian community. According to Art Chotin, Dine's deputy, the goal was nothing less than to "bring that community into AIPAC." He noted the presence of fifty Christians representing thirty-five states as evidence of progress already made toward this end. White helped organize the annual Religious Roundtable Prayer Breakfast for Israel the following February. Chris Gerstein, AIPAC's political director, came to the position after seven years as special assistant to the president of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
AIPAC's coast-to-coast outreach is enhanced by its speaking program. Its officers, staff members, and representatives filled more than 900 dates in 1982 alone. Receptions are held in scores of smaller cities. "Parlor briefings" in the homes of Jewish leaders across the country help raise money to supplement revenue from membership dues. Social events on Capitol Hill help spread the word to the thousands of high school and college students who work as interns in the offices of senators and congressmen or in committee offices.
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Tours of Israel, which other Jewish groups arrange, help to establish a grassroots base for AIPAC's program. For example, in April 1982, the Young Leadership Mission, an activity of United Jewish Appeal, arranged for 1,500 U.S. Jews to take one-week tours. "The visitors were given a view of the magnificence you will find in any country," observed an AIPAC staff member. He said the tour had profound impact: "It built spirit for the cause, and it raised money. The pitch for funds was the final event. It came right after the folks walked out of the memorial to the Holocaust." The effect was awesome. "The tour directors have it down to a science," he reported. "They know how to hit all the buttons." The United Jewish Appeal and Israel share the proceeds. Larry Kraftowitz, a Washington journalist who attended a similar tour, calls the experience "profound." He adds, "I consider myself more sympathetic to the New Jewish Agenda goals [than current Israeli government policy], but I must say I was impressed."
Tours are not just for Jews. Governors, members of state legislatures, and community leaders, including news media personnel, are also given the opportunity for expense-paid tours of Israel. Trips are also arranged for our nation's leaders, especially those on Capitol Hill. While AIPAC does not itself conduct the tours, it facilitates the process. Over half the membership of Congress has traveled to Israel, about half on what is deemed official business at the expense of the U.S. government. With few exceptions, Jewish organizations or individuals paid the expenses of the rest.
Another group of potentially influential—but often overlooked— Washington functionaries that AIPAC tries to influence is made up of congressional staffers. AIPAC works with Israeli universities, who arrange expense-paid tours for staff members who occupy key positions. These annual trips are called the Hal Rosenthal Program, named for former Republican Senator Jacob Javits's staff aide, who was gunned down by a Palestinian terrorist on the first such trip.
AIPAC is as successful at keeping lawmakers from visiting Arab countries as it is in presenting only Israel's views. When the National Association of Arab Americans, working through the World Affairs Council of Amman, invited all congressmen and their spouses to an expense-paid tour of Jordan with a side trip to the West Bank in 1983, a notice in AIPAC's Near East Report quickly chilled prospects for participation. It
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questioned how Amman, without Israeli cooperation, could get the tourists across the Jordan River for events scheduled in the West Bank. It also quoted Don Sundquist, a Republican congressman from Tennessee, as expressing "fear" that if any of his colleagues accepted the trip they would be "used" by anti-Israeli propagandists. Only three congressmen made the trip. A 1984 tour was cancelled for lack of acceptances.
AIPAC's outreach program is buttressed by a steady stream of publications. In addition to "Action Alerts" and the weekly Near East Report, it issues position papers and monographs designed to answer, or often discredit, critics and to advance Israel's objectives.
The most controversial publication of all was an "enemies list" issued as a "first edition" in the spring of 1983. A handsomely printed 154-page paperback entitled The Campaign to Discredit Israel, it provided a "directory of the actors": 21 organizations and 39 individuals AIPAC identified as inimical to Israeli interests.
Included were such distinguished public servants as former Undersecretary of State George W. Ball, retired ambassadors Talcott Seelye, Andrew Killgore, John C. West, and James Akins, and former Senator James Abourezk. There were also five Jewish dissenters and several scholars on the list.
Seemingly unaware of the AIPAC project, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith almost simultaneously issued its own "enemies list," titled Pro-Arab Propaganda in America: Vehicles and Voices. It too was identified as a "first edition," and lists thirty-one organizations and thirty-four individuals. These books were nothing more than blacklists, reminiscent of the worst tactics of the McCarthy era.
A similar "enemies list" was employed in AIPAC's extensive program at colleges and universities.
They Get the Word Out Fast
Through its "Action Alert" mailings, AIPAC keeps more than one thousand Jewish leaders throughout the United States informed on current issues. An "alert" usually demands action to meet a legislative challenge on Capitol Hill, requesting a telephone call, telegram, or, if need be, a personal visit to a reluctant congressman.
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The network can have almost instantaneous effect. One day I whispered to a colleague in the Foreign Affairs Committee that I might offer an amendment to a pending bill cutting aid to Israel. Within thirty minutes, two other congressmen came to me with worried looks, reporting that they had just had calls from citizens in their home districts who were concerned about my amendment.
Paul Weyrich, who worked as a Senate aide before becoming a political analyst, details the effectiveness of AIPAC:
Its a remarkable system they have. If you vote with them, or make a public statement they like, they get the word out fast through their own publications and through editors around the country who are sympathetic to their cause. Of course, it works in reverse as well. If you say something they don't like, you can be denounced or censured through the same network. That kind of pressure is bound to affect Senators' thinking, especially if they are wavering or need support.17
This activism is carried out by an elaborate system of officers, committees, and councils that give AIPAC a ready, intimate system for political activity from coast to coast. Officers meet once a month to confer with Executive Director Kohr on organization and management. Each of its five vice presidents can expect to eventually serve a term as president. A large executive committee is invited to Washington every three months for briefings. A recent national council listed more than 200 names. These subgroups include the leadership of most major U.S. Jewish organizations.
The AIPAC staff is not only highly professional and highly motivated but also thoroughly experienced. Prior to joining AIPAC, director Howard Kohr was a management fellow for the Department of Defense, deputy director of the National Jewish Coalition, and assistant Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.
Lobbyists for AIPAC have almost instant access to House and Senate members and feel free to call them at their homes in the evening. Republican Congressman Douglas Bereuter of Nebraska, an exception, received no lobbyists, AIPAC or otherwise, but the doors were wide open to AIPAC lobbyists at the offices of almost all other congressmen. A congressional aide explained why:
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Professionalism is one reason. They know what they are doing, get to the point, and leave. They are often a useful source of information. They are reliable and friendly. But most important of all, they are seen by congressmen as having direct and powerful ties to important constituents.
The result is a remarkable cooperation and rapport between lobbyist and legislator. Encountered in a Capitol corridor one day, an AIPAC lobbyist said, "Tomorrow I will try to see five members of the House. I called this morning and confirmed every appointment, and I have no doubt I will get in promptly." Two days later, even he seemed somewhat awed by AIPAC's clout. He reported, "I made all five. I went right in to see each of them. There was no waiting. Our access is amazing."
This experience contrasts sharply with the experience of most other lobbyists on Capitol Hill. One veteran lobbyist reflected with envy on the access that AIPAC enjoys: "If I can actually see two congressmen or senators in one long day, its been a good one."
Despite its denials, AIPAC keeps close records on each House and Senate member. Unlike other lobbies, which keep track of only a few "key" issues voted on the House or Senate floor, AIPAC takes note of other activities, too—votes in committees, cosponsorship of bills, signing of letters, and even whether speeches are made. "That's depth!" exclaims an admiring Capitol Hill staff member.
An illustration of lobby power occurred October 3, 1984, when the House of Representatives approved a bill to remove all trade restrictions between the United States and Israel; 98.5 percent (416) voted in the affirmative, despite the strong opposition of the AFL-CIO and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The vote was 416-6 on legislation that normally would elicit heavy reaction because of its effect on markets for commodities produced in the United States.
As they voted, few were aware of a Commerce Department study that found that the duty-free imports proposed in the bill would cause "significant adverse effects" on U.S. producers of vegetables.18 Because the White House wanted the bill passed, notwithstanding its effects on jobs and markets, the study was classified "confidential" and kept under wraps. One congressman finally pried loose a copy by complaining bitterly—and correctly—to the White House that AIPAC had secured a copy for its own use.
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"I Cleared It with AIPAC"
Until his defeat in an upset on November 6, 1984, Congressman Clarence D. "Doc" Long, a seventy-four-year-old Democrat from Maryland, exemplified the strong ties between AIPAC and Capitol Hill. He delivered for Israel as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, which handles aid to Israel.
The tall, gray-haired, former economics professor at Johns Hopkins University trumpeted his support: "AIPAC made my district their number one interest." AIPAC supported Long for a good reason: he held the gavel when questions about funding Israeli aid came up. The lobby wanted him to keep it. Chairmanships are normally decided by seniority, and next in line after Long was David Obey of Wisconsin, who earned lobby disfavor in 1976 by offering an amendment to cut aid to Israel by $200 million.19 "Doc" Long never had any misgivings about aid to Israel, and he helped his colleagues defeat Obeys amendment by a vote of 342-32.
Sitting at a table in the House of Representatives restaurant during a late House session in 1982, Long explained:
Long ago I decided that Id vote for anything AIPAC wants. I didn't want them on my back. My district is too difficult. I don't need the trouble [pro-Israeli lobbyists] can cause. I made up my mind I would get and keep their support.
The conversation turned to one of Obeys questions about the high levels of Israeli aid. Long said, "I cant imagine why Dave would say things like that." A colleague chided, "Maybe he's thinking about our own national interest."
In September 1983, Long led a battle to get U.S. marines out of Lebanon. He proposed an amendment that would have cut funding for the operation in sixty days. John Hall, a reporter who knew Longs close ties with the lobby, asked Long, "Are you sure this amendment wont get you in trouble?" Without hesitation, the congressman replied, "I cleared it with AIPAC." He was not joking. This was not the first congressional proposal to be cleared in advance with the Israeli lobby, but it was the first time the clearance had been specifically acknowledged in the public
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record. The proposal to cut aid to Lebanon provoked a lively debate but, opposed by such leaders as Speaker Tip O'Neill and Lee Hamilton of Indiana, chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the measure failed, 274-153.
Although heavily supported by pro-Israeli interests—eighteen pro-Israel political action committees chipped in $31,250 for Long's 1982 re-election campaign—Long denies a personal linkage:
Nobody has to give me money to make me vote for aid to Israel. I've been doing that for twenty years, most of the time without contributions.
The money and votes that Israel's supporters provided to Long's candidacy were insufficient in 1984. Although pro-Israel PACs (political action committees) gave him $155,000—four times the amount that went to any other House candidate—Long lost by 5,727 votes, less than 3 percent of those cast. A factor in his defeat was advertising sponsored by people prominent in the National Association of Arab Americans, who attacked Long for his uncritical support of Israel's demands. Obey, Long's likely successor as chairman, was the only Democrat on the panel who did not accept money from pro-Israel political action committees.
"They Have Never Forgiven Me"
On one occasion, Israel's U.S. lobby had a hand in putting a vice president out of office. In a letter to me dated April 20, 1988, former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew credited AIPAC and other elements of Israel's U.S. lobby with keeping him from becoming president. Before resigning the vice presidency over corrupt payments dating from his career as governor of Maryland, Agnew was the idol of conservatives. They loved his caustic and sometimes entertaining attacks on liberals, whom he once called "nattering nabobs of negativism."
In the letter, Agnew said he was engaged in a second reading of my book, They Dare to Speak Out, and added:
Although you do not speak of my experience in your book, I trace the advent of my difficulties to a confrontation with this same lobby. In 1971, President Nixon wished me to visit Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to provide a little balance to the teeming of congressmen who run to Israel on the slight
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est pretext. The White House staff suggested that I also go to Israel, but I declined on the basis that doing so would substantially diminish the signal that my visits were trying to send to the Arab countries. AIPAC raised hell, and I received a torrent of letters and calls from Jewish friends and acquaintances as well as numerous requests for appointments with Jewish pressure groups. I stuck to my guns and did not visit Israel, and they have never forgiven me. And they made sure that I would not become president.
In subsequent correspondence, Agnew asked me not to place the text of his letter on the public record during his lifetime. In a curious twist to the Agnew history, I was among those who did not want him to succeed Nixon, but my reasons differed from those he ascribed to AIPAC. I was uneasy with Agnews brand of Republicanism in early 1973 and had a discussion with Senator Charles "Mac" Mathias (R-MD) and a few other Republicans over what, if anything, could be done to keep the vice president from becoming the party's presidential nominee in 1976. The question proved moot when, faced with corruption charges, Agnew resigned the vice presidency in October 1973. Richard Nixon resigned a year later. After serving a prison term, Agnew returned to private life as a business consultant. He died in 1996.
Outreach on an International Scale
AIPAC champions not only Israel s U.S. causes, but its international ambitions as well. The lobby recently began an international outreach program, serving Israels interests by facilitating U.S. aid to other countries. In 1983 it tried to help Zaire, Israels new African friend. Israel wanted Zaire to get $20 million in military assistance requested by President Reagan, but AIPAC decided against assigning the lobbying task to its regular staff. Instead, it secured the temporary services of a consultant, who buttonholed members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The amendment failed, but the effort helped to pay the debt that Israel incurred when Zaire extended full diplomatic recognition to Israel the previous year.
Columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak viewed the initiative as the first step in an Israeli program "to broker aid favors for other pariahs on the congressional hit list to enhance its influence." They described this new effort by Israel as "an exercise of domestic political power by a foreign nation that raises troubling questions."
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Beyond AIPAC to the PAG
AIPAC differs from most lobbies in that it avoids endorsing candidates publicly and does not raise or spend money directly in partisan campaigns. Campaign involvement is officially left to private individuals and pro-Israel political action committees (PACs). More than 3,000 PACs are registered under federal law, and most are clearly affiliated with special-interest lobbies. There are fifty-three PACs that focus on support for Israel, although none lists an affiliation with AIPAC or any other Jewish organization.
The first pro-Israel political action committees were organized in 1979. By 1982 they had mushroomed to a total of thirty-one. Pro-Israel PACs contributed more than $1.8 million to 268 different election campaigns during the 1981-82 Federal Election Commission reporting cycle, putting them in the highest political spending range.20 By mid-August 1984, the list had increased to seventy-five PACs, and they had accumulated $4.25 million for the 1984 federal elections.
These numbers dropped significantly by the 1999-2000 election cycle, in which fifty-three pro-Israel PACs distributed approximately $2 million among 316 campaigns. The reason for this decline is that individual fund-raisers have largely supplanted PACs as the primary means of raising pro-Israel money for candidates. The decline in the number of pro-Israel PACs does not, therefore, indicate a decline in pro-Israel activism. According to former Democratic National Committee head Steve Grossman, who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for pro-Israel candidates, "The record will show there is far more money going to pro-Israel candidates than during the days when PACs were created." This isn't to say that pro-Israel PACs have completely ceased their activities: "Since a contribution of $10,000 can't really make a difference, what we try to do is thank our friends," says Morris Amitay, who heads the pro-Israel Washington PAC.21
Few of these PACs bear names or other information disclosing their pro-Israeli interest, nor do any list affiliations with AIPAC or other pro-Israeli or Jewish organizations. Most choose to obscure their pro-Israel character by using a bland title, such as the "Committee for 18," "Arizona Politically Interested Citizens," "Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs," or "Government Action Committee." Yet all are totally committed to one thing: Israel.
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"No one is trying to hide anything," protests Mark Siegel, founder of the pro-Israeli National Bipartisan Political Action Committee and a former White House liaison with the Jewish community. He insists that the bland names were chosen because "there are those in the political process who would use the percentage of Jewish money [in a given race] as a negative." The PAC Siegel heads was originally formed to help in the late Senator Henry Jackson's 1978 presidential bid.
Norman Silverman, who helped to found the Denver-based Committee for 18, is more explicit, saying that the name selection became "an emotional issue." Some of the organizers, mainly younger people, wanted the committee's Jewish identity plainly set forth in its name. "Others," Silverman noted, "said they didn't want to be a member if we did that."
Richard Altman, former executive director of the highly influential—and exclusively pro-Israel—National Political Action Committee, spoke candidly about PAC contributions to the political process: "Money makes the political engine run. To elect a friend, you have to pay for it— and we're not the only ones who know that."22
As a matter of fact, AIPAC sometimes drops all pretenses of staying apart from fund-raising. For instance, a pro-Israel political action committee was organized in Virginia in 1983 during a workshop sponsored by AIPAC. In addition, financial help does not stop at United States borders. Jewish Americans living in Israel are solicited for political action in the United States. Newton Frolich, a former Washington lawyer who moved to Israel in 1977, founded the Jerusalem-based Americans in Israel Political Action Committee. Through the committee, Frolich says, Americans in Israel can "keep making their contribution" to the U.S. political process. The contribution comes back, of course, in the form of enormous U.S. grants to Israel—greater than to any other country.
A lobby veteran who is now engaged full-time in fund-raising worries about appearances. AIPAC's former executive director, Morris Ami-tay, feels that smaller local PACs are best and fears that large, well-publicized, national PACs may create the impression that Jews exercise too much political power. He founded the relatively small Washington Political Action Committee, which dispensed $193,722 in 106 races during the 1999-2000 elections.23
Too much or not, Jewish influence in fundraising is widely recognized. Given recent campaign finance reforms, the "middle-sized"
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contributions of individual donors have become especially valuable. Laws banning "soft money" prevent huge cash donations from corporations and extremely wealthy individuals to political parties. The focus is thus placed on individual donors, who by law may only contribute up to $2,000 directly to a candidate per election cycle, and up to $10,000 to a political action committee. Since PACs may contribute $10,000 per candidate, individuals often contribute the $2,000 limit directly to a candidate, and also the $5,000 limit to one or more PACs supporting the same candidate. In all, an individual donor can effectively contribute up to $57,000 to one candidate per election. Jewish donors are especially sought after. According to the Jewish weekly Forward, "... in the 1999-2000 election cycle, some twenty of the top fifty individual donors of soft money were Jewish."24 That kind of generosity is not ignored by politicians.
In August 1983 the Wall Street Journalreported that "several ranking Congressmen—most of whom wouldn't comment on the record for this story—say they believe the political effect of Jewish PAC money is greater than that of other major lobbies because it is skillfully focused on one foreign policy issue."
Focused it is. The pro-Israel PACs concentrate exclusively on federal elections and focus heavily on Senate races and on House members who occupy key foreign policy assignments. PAC leader Mark Siegel says that the PACs concentrate on the Senate because it is the "real battleground" on questions of foreign policy. In 1999-2000, PACs invested $1,083,101 in Senate races, with $961,505 going to House contests.25
Guided by AIPAC, PACs choose their targets with care. In 1982 when Lynn Adelman, a Jewish state senator in Wisconsin, mounted the first primary election challenge that Democrat Clement J. Zablocki had experienced in thirty years, AIPAC recommended against an all-out effort. AIPAC was unhappy with Zablocki's record, but did not consider him a problem. Furthermore, it concluded that Adelman could not win. Adelman received only $9,350 from thirteen pro-Israel political action committees. The contest made national news, because Zablocki was chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, through which all Israeli aid measures must go. Despite AIPAC's low-key recommendation, a letter soliciting funds for Adelman cited two "gains" if Zablocki lost: "Adelman's election not only means a friend of Israel in Congress, but also that the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will have a friend
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of Israel as its new chairman," referring to Dante Fascell of Florida, the Democrat who was next in line to succeed Zablocki. Zablocki was reelected by a two-to-one margin.
After the 1982 election—a year before he was elected chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee after the sudden death of Zablocki, Fas-cell remarked:
The whole trouble with campaign finances is the hue and cry that you've been bought. If you need the money, are you going to get it from your enemy? No, you're going to get it from your friend.26
"Our Own Foreign Policy Agenda"
Much of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's work in 1982 centered on expanding grassroots support, enlarging outreach programs ro the college and Christian communities, and helping pro-Israel political action committees sharpen their skills. These efforts were largely aimed at increasing the lobby's influence in the Senate. AIPAC wanted no repetition of its failure to block the 1981 AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia.
One way in which AIPAC increases the number of its Senate friends is illustrated by its interventions in a critical race in Missouri. AIPAC stood by a friend and won. Republican Senator John C. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal minister, was opposed for re-election by a Jewish Democrat, Harriett Woods. In the closely fought contest, the non-Jewish Danforth found that an unblemished record of cooperation brought him AIPAC support even against a Jewish challenger. The help was crucial, as Danforth won by less than 1 percent of the vote.
AIPAC also weighed in heavily in Maine, helping to pull off the upset victory of Democratic Senator George Mitchell over Republican Congressman David Emery. The Almanac of American Politics rated Mitchell "the Democratic Senator universally regarded as having the least chance for re-election." Defeated for governor by an independent candidate in 1974, he was appointed to fill the Senate vacancy caused when Senator Edmund Muskie resigned in 1980 to become President Carter's secretary of state. He had never won an election.
Encouraged by AIPAC, twenty-seven pro-Israel political action committees, all based outside Maine, contributed $77,400 to Mitchell's
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campaign. With this help, Mitchell fooled the professionals and won handily. In a post-election phone call to AIPAC director Thomas A. Dine, Mitchell promised: "I will remember you."
In another example, Republican Senator David Durenberger of Minnesota received for his 1982 re-election bid $57,000 from twenty pro-Israeli political action committees, with $10,000 of it coming from the Citizens Organized PAC in California. This PAC contributed $5,000 during a breakfast meeting four months after Durenberger voted against the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia, and added $5,000 more by election day. Directors of the PAC include Alan Rothenberg, the law partner of Democratic National Chairman Charles Manatt.
In close races, lobby interests sometimes play it safe by supporting both sides. In the 1980 Senate race in Idaho, for example, pro-Israeli activists contributed to their stalwart friend, Democrat Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but also gave to his challenger, Republican Congressman Steven D. Symms. One reason for the dual support was the expected vote in the Senate the next year on the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia—during the campaign both Symms and Church were listed as opposing it. With the race expected to be close, the lobby believed it had a friend in each candidate and helped both.
Symms defeated Church by a razor-thin margin, but the investment in Symms by pro-Israeli interests did not pay off. By the time the new senator faced the AWACS vote he had changed his mind. His vote approving the AWACS sale helped to give AIPAC one of its rare legislative setbacks.
In a post-election review in its newsletter, Near East Report, AIPAC concluded that the new Senate in the 98th Congress would be "marginally more pro-Israel." As evidence, it noted that two of the five new senators were Jewish: Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Chic Hecht, Republican of Nevada, each "with long records of support for Israel." It could also count as a gain the election of Democrat Jeffrey Bingaman of New Mexico, who defeated Republican Senator Harrison Schmitt. Voting for the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia and opposing foreign aid had given Schmitt bad marks, and AIPAC gave its support to his challenger, Bingaman, in the campaign.
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Because favored candidates need more money than PAC sources provide, AIPAC also helps by providing lists for direct mail fundraising. The appeal can be hard-hitting. An example is the literature mailed in early 1984 on behalf of Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota. Fellow Republican Lowell Weicker wrote the introductory letter, citing him as a "friend of Israel in danger." He noted Boschwitz s key position as chairman of the subcommittee "that determines the level of aid our country gives to Israel," and praised his efforts to block military sales to Saudi Arabia. The appeal included tributes by Senator Bob Pack-wood and Wolf Blitzer, then the Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.
AIPAC has convinced Congress that it represents practically all Jews who vote. Columnist Nat Hentoff reported this assessment in the Village Voice in June 1983 after a delegation of eighteen dissenting rabbis had scoured Capitol Hill trying to convince congressmen that some Jews oppose Israeli policies.27 The rabbis reported that several congressmen said they shared their views but were afraid to act. Hentoff concluded: "The only Jewish constituency that's real to them [congressmen] is the one that AIPAC and other spokesmen for the Jewish establishment tell them about."
An Ohio congressman speaks of AIPAC with both awe and concern:
AIPAC is the most influential lobby on Capitol Hill. They are relentless. They know what they're doing. They have the people for financial resources. They've got a lot going for them. Their basic underlying cause is one that most Americans sympathize with.
But what distresses me is the inability of American policy makers, because of the influence of AIPAC, to distinguish between our national interest and Israel's national interest. When these converge—wonderful! But they don't always converge.
After the 1982 elections, Thomas A. Dine summed up the significance of AIPAC's achievements: "Because of that, American Jews are thus able to form our own foreign policy agenda."28
Later, when he reviewed the 1984 election results, Dine credited Jewish money, not votes: "Early money, middle money, late money."29 He claimed credit for defeating Republican Senators Charles Percy of
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Illinois and Roger Jepsen of Iowa and Democratic Senator Walter Hud-dleston of Kentucky, all of whom incurred AIPAC's wrath by voting for the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. Dine said these successes "defined Jewish political power for the rest of this century."
Our allies are aware of Americas tendency to place lobby interests over the interests of the United States. After AIPAC blocked a $1.6 billion arms sale to Jordan, King Hussein complained, "The United States is not free to move except within the limits of what AIPAC, the Zionists, and the State of Israel determine for it." A Democratic senator conversing with a visiting European diplomat put it bluntly: "All of us here are members of Likud now."30
Stilling the Still, Small Voices