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Bowman crushed by GOP-fueled AIPAC cash

Bowman crushed by GOP-fueled AIPAC cash

The pro-Israel lobby is effectively laundering campaign funds for Republican megadonors into Democratic primaries

Analysis | Washington Politics

Last night’s defeat of Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) by Westchester County Executive George Latimer in the Democratic primary was an undeniable victory by moderate Democrats who sought to retake Bowman’s seat — particularly in light of his alignment with the progressive wing of the party, and his sharp criticism of Biden’s material support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

But Latimer’s win also provided the most dramatic proof of concept for a controversial new strategy by AIPAC, the country’s biggest pro-Israel lobby: using its super-PAC, United Democracy Project, to funnel millions of dollars in Republican donor funds into a Democratic primary.

Put another way, AIPAC effectively acted to launder campaign funds for Republican megadonors into the Democratic primary, where the spending was generally identified in media as “pro-Israel,” not “Republican.”

By election day, Latimer-aligned groups had outspent Bowman’s backers by a margin of over seven-to-one, with UDP leading the spending, injecting approximately $15 million to support Latimer.

Most of UDP’s money didn’t come from Bowman’s district and much of it didn’t even come from within the Democratic Party.

WhatsApp founder and billionaire Jan Koum donated $5 million to the UDP in this cycle, making him the UDP’s single biggest funder, and the only instance in which Koum’s money appears to have funded a super PAC active in Democratic primaries. Other than the UDP, Koum is a down-the-line Republican donor over the course of his political giving.

In the less than three years he’s been an active political donor, Kloum has spent over $18 million, including $10 million to a super PAC supporting Nikki Haley’s presidential primary campaign and $1.35 million to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Other seven-figure UDP donors include Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, two of the Republican Party’s biggest donors.

While Koum, Singer, and Marcus are all supporters of hawkishly pro-Israel U.S. policies — reflected in their philanthropy as well as political contributions — UDP’s identity as a pro-Israel, AIPAC aligned, group has largely overshadowed the fact that Republican donors spent heavily to defeat Bowman.

While Bowman’s loss was clearly a setback for critics of AIPAC and for those questioning how providing largely unconditional military aid to Israel benefits Americans, it opens new uncertainties about the future of AIPAC’s influence within the Democratic Party.

If AIPAC must continue to rely so heavily on Republican megadonors to boost pro-Israel candidates, particularly within the Democratic Party’s own primaries, it may be symptomatic of a weakening pro-Israel consensus on the left side of the U.S. political spectrum requiring increasingly desperate attempts by AIPAC to assert influence, even going so far as to funnel Republican donor money into Democratic races.

People watch the poll results during Primary Election Night Watch Party for Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) in Yonkers, New York, U.S., June 25, 2024. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado

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