Photo courtesy AIPAC
The day after Barack Obama declared victory in St. Paul, he was at a podium addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which describes itself as "America's pro-Israel lobby."
And it wasn't just Obama. McCain did it. Hillary Clinton did it too. AIPAC is a notoriously influential lobby, with organizing skills that are the stuff of legend. Following the Obama address, The Daily Show satirized AIPAC's role in politics.
Jon Stewart began the piece by calling out: "Hey Barack Obama, you just won the democratic nomination, what are you going to do now?" Cut to Obama on the AIPAC stage where the man notorious for his aversion to flag lapel pins is wearing, well, as Stewart describes it: "the Siamese U.S.-Israeli flag double lapel pin--wow!"
It's a small symbol of AIPAC's ability to influence a candidate's message. And once a candidate wins office, the leading pro-Israel lobby is as good as any powerful lobby at tracking and pressuring politicians on key decisions. So how is the Minnesota Congressional Delegation looking from where AIPAC stands?
Well, the organization tracks which representatives co-sponsor legislation most important to its mission "to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that American support remains strong."
Recent legislation tracked by AIPAC includes House resolutions supporting divestment from Iran, condemning Hamas, blocking Hezbollah, and honoring Israel's 60th anniversary.
For each representative there is a list of AIPAC-approved legislation with a YES or NO next to each item indicating co-sponsorship.
Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar supported next to none of AIPAC's choice legislation (Ellison and McCollum both signed on to the 60th anniversary resolution).
None of the four representatives face any serious challenge to their seats in November, which may be a factor in their lack of sponsor-level support for AIPAC-favored legislation. McCollum's poor score on the AIPAC litmus, however, may well be symptomatic of an allergy to the organization that reaches back to 2006, when she took the unusual step of confronting AIPAC in an open letter over its tactics.
The letter was published in print and online by The New York Review of Books. McCollum was responding to an incident following her International Relations Committee vote on the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. The resolution was passed by the committee 32-2. McCollum was one who voted against it, reflecting her concern over restrictions of aid to the Palestinian people and obstacles to dialog with Palestinian officials.From McCollum's 2006 letter to the Executive Director of AIPAC:
During my nineteen years serving in elected office, including the past five years as a Member of Congress, never has my name and reputation been maligned or smeared as it was last week by a representative of AIPAC. Last Friday, during a call with my chief of staff, an AIPAC representative from Minnesota who has frequently lobbied me on behalf of your organization stated, "on behalf of herself, the Jewish community, AIPAC, and the voters of the Fourth District, Congresswoman McCollum's support for terrorists will not be tolerated." Ironically, this individual, who does not even live in my congressional district, feels free to speak for my constituents.
This response may have been the result of extreme emotion or irrational passion, but regardless, it is a hateful attack that is vile and offensive to me and the families I represent. I call on AIPAC to immediately condemn this un-American attack and disavow any attempt to use this type of threat and intimidation to stifle legitimate policy differences. I will not stand to be labeled or threatened in a manner that questions my patriotism or my oath of office.
Here's where McCollum and the Minnesota's Delegation stands in AIPAC's sponsorship tally today. Mostly, by this indicator at least, the delegation as a whole has been a less than ecstatic ally:
No: 13 Yes: 3
No: 10 Yes: 6
No: 6 Yes: 10
No: 15 Yes: 1
No: 15 Yes: 1
No: 9 Yes: 7
No: 16 Yes: 0
No: 16 Yes: 0
In the Senate:
No: 5 Yes: 4
No: 2 Yes: 7
Minnesota Delegation TOTAL:
No: 107 Yes: 41