Earlier this week, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar posted several tweets in which she implied that AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, influences American politics with its money. This is true—it’s exactly how lobbying works, and it’s why AIPAC is immensely powerful.
Soon, the entire American political establishment was in an uproar over a reading of Omar’s tweets as coded anti-Semitism. Top House Democrats released a statement condemning her comments, and Donald Trump, of all people, called for her resignation. Omar apologized and reiterated her original, correct point that lobbying is powerful and destructive, but that has hardly cooled the outrage.
But AIPAC, it seems, has survived this brutal attack and is doing just fine. Yesterday, according to journalist Mairav Zonszein, it sent out a fundraising appeal directly referencing Omar and her tweets.
Ironically, this email itself is factually incorrect. AIPAC’s influence is far from secret—in fact, it’s the group’s biggest selling point. AIPAC spent $3.5 million on lobbying in 2018, far more than any other pro-Israel group. And the organization’s members—who do the actual work of giving to candidates through local AIPAC groups or their own PACs—also wield considerable power around the country.
AIPAC’s website features a list of its “accomplishments,” which include “establish[ing] bipartisan opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran,” “enhanc[ing] U.S.-Israel defense cooperation by securing hundreds of millions of dollars each year for key U.S.-Israel defense programs,” and encouraging Congress to pass “dozens of congressional resolutions and statements of support for Israel’s right to self-defense.”
This is what lobbying is for—to push lawmakers to enact policy goals set by the lobbying group. But AIPAC is trying to play both sides, condemning Omar and asking for money to do the very thing she accused it of doing. It’s shameless, but completely unsurprising.