AIPAC’s Next Top Target? Rep. Jamaal Bowman

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is expected to launch its first ads in the coming weeks against its next top target this cycle: Rep. Jamaal Bowman in New York’s 16th Congressional District.

AIPAC’s super PAC, United Democracy Project, is expected to run new ads against Bowman, a member of the progressive “Squad,” as the Democratic primary election for the solidly blue House seat approaches next month, according to Bowman’s campaign and another source with knowledge of the race.

“We’ve heard from inside sources that AIPAC is planning to spend up to $25 million dollars against Congressman Bowman, making this the most expensive House primary in U.S. history,” Bowman campaign manager Gabe Tobias said in a statement to The Intercept. “Their MAGA billionaire donors are spending everything they have against us because they know that Jamaal Bowman speaks for a majority of Democratic voters — from a ceasefire in Gaza to Medicare for All — and that our Democratic coalition can only be defeated with millions of dollars spent to divide our communities.”

“Their MAGA billionaire donors are spending everything they have against us because they know that Jamaal Bowman speaks for a majority of Democratic voters.”

Bowman’s challenger, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, was recruited by AIPAC. The group has helped Latimer raise just under $1 million so far, including almost half of his total contributions in the final quarter of 2023 and about a quarter of his total haul so far.

Latimer has raised $3.6 million to Bowman’s $2.7 million, including from Republican donors and supporters of former President Donald Trump. The two will face off in the primary on June 25. (Neither the United Democracy Project nor Latimer’s campaign responded to requests for comment.)

AIPAC planned to spend at least $100 million this cycle to oust members of the Squad, who have led calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. military support for Israel. The lobby group’s threat would make it the largest player in the Democratic Party primary season. The group, however, has now distanced itself from the pledge after one of its top targets, Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., won her primary last week.

AIPAC spent $5 million against Lee in 2022 and had tried and failed to recruit at least two candidates to challenge her this cycle. AIPAC had reportedly been in touch with challenger Bhavini Patel’s campaign, but Patel has not said whether the group recruited her to run against Lee. And AIPAC withheld a formal endorsement in the race.

The lack of an endorsement allowed AIPAC to claim a total victory in Pennsylvania; after Patel’s loss, AIPAC celebrated without mentioning the Pittsburgh race. The group posted on Twitter that all six of its endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania had won their races. “Being pro-Israel is good policy and good politics!” AIPAC tweeted.

“The policies AIPAC stands for are deeply unpopular with Democratic voters, that’s why their ads don’t mention Israel ever,” Lee tweeted on Tuesday. “You know what Dem voters overwhelmingly support? A permanent ceasefire now. Conditioning military funding to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. Policies that we’ve led on from the beginning. AIPAC is livid that our Democratic voters are not aligned with their Republican megadonors who want to send billions in bombs & weapons to incite another endless war abroad. Being pro-peace and anti-war is what our voters want.”

GOP Cash, Attacking the Squad

Following Lee’s victory, AIPAC is now focusing its efforts on ousting Bowman, but other members of the Squad remain in its sights. The group is also targeting Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and backing her opponent Wesley Bell, but that primary won’t take place until August.

AIPAC is expected to spend at least $20 million in each race, according to Democratic operatives with knowledge of both primaries. The group was also expected to put significant resources into ousting Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. Tlaib has two challengers who have not yet had to report fundraising numbers, including one who was a write-in candidate in the 2018 primary that Tlaib won. Omar has far outraised her opponents, including her AIPAC-backed challenger from 2022, Don Samuels.

 Civil defense teams and citizens continue search and rescue operations after an airstrike hits the building belonging to the Maslah family during the 32nd day of Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on November 7, 2023. (Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images)

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Israel’s War on Gaza

“AIPAC started this cycle promising to take out every single member of the Squad and they have already failed at that goal with Summer’s resounding victory last week,” said Usamah Andrabi, the communications director of Justice Democrats, a progressive group that backs the Squad members, in a statement to The Intercept. “Now, their Republican billionaire megadonors want to go all-in to make up for their failures by trying to defeat a former middle school principal and educator because nothing is a greater threat to right-wing power than everyday people having a megaphone in Washington through a Congressman Jamaal Bowman and Congresswoman Cori Bush.”

Bowman is one of the reasons AIPAC started spending directly on elections after having been primarily focused on lobbying, one of the group’s longtime directors wrote in a blog post in 2022. Bowman’s ouster of longtime AIPAC stalwart Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., in 2020 came as a shock to the group, which launched its new political action committees the next cycle.

As AIPAC has started to spend directly on elections, the group aligned itself with far-right Republicans. During the 2022 cycle, AIPAC endorsed more than 100 Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Since then, AIPAC-supported Democratic primary candidates have taken support from the most extreme wing of the GOP, including donors who have supported Republicans like Trump; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; and Republican Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake. Patel encouraged Republicans to switch parties to vote in the primary against Lee, and an AIPAC donor urged Republicans to switch parties to vote against Bowman.

Latimer, for his part, has raised money from Republicans while trying to distance himself from the party. Trump fundraiser Steve Louro, who has given $5,000 to Latimer’s campaign, announced earlier this month that his Republican friend would host a fundraiser for Latimer in May. Latimer’s campaign distanced themself from Louro’s invitation and said they had no control over who hosts the fundraiser.

Latimer has raised more than $80,000 from donors who supported Trump and more than $200,000 from other Republican donors. One of more than a dozen Republicans who recently gave to Democratic Sen. John Fetterman’s campaign told The Intercept he recently switched his party registration to Democrat so he could vote against Bowman.

The post AIPAC’s Next Top Target? Rep. Jamaal Bowman appeared first on The Intercept.

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