Outside Groups Spent $285,000 Backing Jamaal Bowman. AIPAC Alone Just Dropped Nearly $2 Million to Attack Him.

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC has launched its first ads attacking Rep. Jamaal Bowman in the Democratic primary in New York’s 16th Congressional District. The ads claim that Bowman “has his own agenda” and refuses to work with President Joe Biden. 

United Democracy Project, the AIPAC super PAC, bought its first set of ads this week for $1.9 million, disclosing that it planned to spend the money in a week, to oppose Bowman in the race against Westchester County executive George Latimer. The primary election takes place June 25.

Latimer, who was recruited to run by AIPAC and has received huge contributions directly from the group, has had nearly a million dollars of support from outside groups before AIPAC weighed in. Bowman also has outside support, but it’s a fraction of AIPAC’s spending so far for Latimer. Known as “independent expenditures,” outside groups can weigh in on elections but not in coordination with campaigns. 

With the new AIPAC money to attack Bowman, outside groups in the race are spending nearly 10 times more in Latimer’s favor — with roughly $3 million total for Latimer and against Bowman, and Bowman supporters spending only about $285,000. 

Latimer is also raking in more cash than Bowman in direct campaign contributions. His campaign itself has raised $3.6 million so far to Bowman’s $2.7 million. Latimer’s haul includes major support from Republican donors — almost a quarter of it was bundled by AIPAC. In the last quarter of 2023, almost half of Latimer’s contributions came through AIPAC. 

“Trump Republicans are funding a $1.9 million ad spend to distract us from their attempt to buy our seat.”

“NY-16 Democrats are united in rejecting MAGA’s threat to our freedoms, which is why Trump Republicans are funding a $1.9 million ad spend to distract us from their attempt to buy our seat,” Bowman campaign spokesperson Lawrence Wang said in a statement to The Intercept. “But voters know the truth: if MAGA’s top priority is unseating Jamaal Bowman, ours is to re-elect him.”

United Democracy Project did not respond to a request for comment.

Latimer has courted Republican donors and held fundraisers hosted by Republicans, including a major GOP donor to former President Donald Trump. Another AIPAC donor has been encouraging Republicans to switch parties to vote against Bowman in the primary — one Republican voter told The Intercept he recently switched parties just to vote for Latimer. Latimer’s campaign distanced itself from the GOP-hosted fundraisers and said he had no control over who hosted fundraising events.

The big outside spending push by AIPAC helps cement its status as one of if not the biggest spender in Democratic Party primaries. The pro-Israel lobby planned to spend $100 million this cycle to oust members of the Squad who have been critical of U.S. military funding for Israel and led calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

After failing to unseat Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., AIPAC’s next top targets are Bowman and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. AIPAC recruited Latimer to run against Bowman and has backed Bush’s challenger, Wesley Bell. Its super PAC is expected to spend up to $20 million on each race. 

Known as “independent expenditures,” outside groups like PACs can spend unlimited amounts on elections but are not supposed to coordinate with campaigns. In practical terms, however, a system of winks and nods can help campaigns point outside spenders to ideas about messaging — a tactic AIPAC has availed itself of.

AIPAC’s Primary Occupation

The race between Bowman and Latimer has been a chaotic one. Latimer’s campaign came under scrutiny when it first launched for leaving the Bronx, part of which is in the district, off of his website and only mentioning Westchester County, which is a primarily white suburb. Latimer was also criticized for comments claiming that Bowman took money from Hamas. Latimer told City & State that he wouldn’t be able to win if more Bronx voters were drawn in as part of redistricting. 

Bowman has had his own share of snafus. His decision to pull the fire alarm in Congress over the summer has plagued the campaign and become fodder in new attack ads. Critics have also raised questions about conspiratorial content he follows on YouTube, though it’s unclear whether he has watched or engaged with the videos. 

In a Twitter thread posted Thursday, Lee, the Pennsylvania representative who just won her primary, criticized AIPAC for targeting Black Democrats while using its support for members of the Congressional Black Caucus as cover. “While the biggest threat to Black America is white supremacist policymakers, they financially support the folks causing us the most harm,” Lee wrote. 

AIPAC supported several candidates of color last cycle, including Glenn Ivey, Adam Hollier, Henry Cuellar, Shontel Brown, Valerie Foushee, and Don Davis. Almost all of AIPAC’s independent expenditures against Democrats in the 2022 primaries were spent against candidates of color. The rest was spent against former Rep. Andy Levin, a Jewish member of Congress

Usamah Andrabi, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats, which spent at least $165,000 on mail and digital ads supporting Bowman and attacking Latimer’s GOP ties, said that Republicans were using United Democracy Project to target Democrats of color. The Working Families Party has spent $118,000 so far to support Bowman, with plans for additional spending. 

“This is the same tactic we’ve seen across the country, Republican billionaires using AIPAC’s super PAC to spend millions of dollars targeting Democrats of color in Democratic primaries,” Andrabi said. “Voters should know that every ad they see attacking Jamaal Bowman or defending George Latimer is being funded by the same GOP megadonors who want to ban abortion, defend insurrectionists, and elect Donald Trump.”

The post Outside Groups Spent $285,000 Backing Jamaal Bowman. AIPAC Alone Just Dropped Nearly $2 Million to Attack Him. appeared first on The Intercept.

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