Largely because Israel plays such a big role in U.S. domestic politics and the security of its future is always in question, it has attracted attention from a number of well-heeled pro-Israel interest groups and individuals as you will see in this posting.
One of these pro-Israel groups, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, is a force to be reckoned with in U.S. politics. By their own definition, AIPAC "....educate(s) decision makers about the bonds that unite the United States and Israel and how it is in America’s best interest to help ensure that the Jewish state is safe, strong and secure. Cooperation between the two countries is advantageous for both nations. AIPAC urges all members of Congress to support Israel through foreign aid, government partnerships, joint anti-terrorism efforts and the promotion of a negotiated two-state solution—a Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state."
Let's look at some of that "education" that AIPAC provides American decision makers.
Here's a graph showing how much AIPAC has spent annually on lobbying in Washington:
So far in 2014, AIPAC has spent $2.295 million on getting decision makers in Washington to enact policies from a pro-Israeli perspective.
What issues were of most interest to AIPAC in 2014?
1.) Federal Budget and Appropriations which includes Foreign Aid to Israel (H.R. 2855 and S. 1372) and overall Middle East policy issues (H.R. 5013 and S. 2499).
2.) Defense which includes House and Senate Defense Appropriations bills (S. 2410, H.R. 4435 and H.R. 4870).
3.) Energy which includes amendments to the Energy Independence and Security act of 2007 to improve Israeli-American energy cooperation (S. 1491 and H.R. 3683).
4.) Foreign Relations which includes economic and diplomatic tools to stop Iran's nuclear program (S. 462), the Nuclear-free Iran Act (S. 1881), the Resolution Supporting Israel's Right to Defend Itself (S. Res. 526) and the Resolution Denouncing the Use of Civilians as Human Shields by Hamas (H. Con. Res. 107)
5.) Homeland Security or United States - Israel Homeland Security Cooperation.
Just for fun, here is a complete copy of H. Con. Res. 107 that condemns the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas so you can get a sense of the power of the lobby:
AIPAC has 11 lobbyists, a relatively small number compared to many lobbyists with only one revolver (Washington insider), Bradley Gordon, who formerly served as Staff Director on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and as a Political Analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. While AIPAC is the largest pro-Israel lobby, there are additional smaller pro-Israel lobbyists as shown on this chart:
So far in 2014, the pro-Israel lobby and its 26 lobbyists have spent $2.929 million on lobbying compared to $3.816 million in all of 2013.
AIPAC does not make campaign donations, however, it does have a lot of sway in Washington. AIPAC backed the United States - Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 (S. 2673 and H.R. 938) , a bill that enhanced the partnership between the U.S. and Israel as shown in this promotional video by AIPAC:
Please note the inclusion of a Visa Waiver Program for Israelis and Americans who visit either country in Section 106 and the sharing of intelligence (which includes your personal data) with Israel.
While AIPAC gets off the hook when it comes to actual political campaign donations, here is a graphic showing the long-term trend of political contributions by pro-Israel groups:
Note that, over the long-term, the Democrats have generally been the recipients of more of the pro-Israel largesse than the Republicans, receiving between 48 and 78 percent of the total given.
Here are the top pro-Israel political contributors for the 2013 - 2014 cycle:
Two names that are missing from this list are Sheldon and Miriam Adelson of Las Vegas, Nevada. Here is a chart showing their political contributions during the 2012 cycle:
Out of the $92.8 million that he donated to the "Conservative Cause" (one way or another), you'll notice that $2 million went to the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund.
With all of this data in mind, the next time that we hear about an issue involving Israel from American politicians, we will have a good sense regarding the level of their independence from their pro-Israeli sponsors and how beholden they are to their monetary masters.