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Pressure Groups and US Middle East Policy

Pro-Israel and Pro-Arab Interests: The Money

The Center for Responsive Politics
April 24, 2002

Between the 1989-90 election cycle and 2002, pro-Israel interests contributed $41.3 million while pro-Arab/Muslim interests contributed only $297,000 to federal candidates and party committees.
Between the 1989-90 election cycle and 2002, pro-Israel interests contributed $41.3 million while pro-Arab/Muslim interests contributed only $297,000 to federal candidates and party committees.

Pro-Israel interests are a fixture in American politics, having developed an organized presence in Washington and across the country that is backed by generous campaign contributions and intensive lobbying.

On the lobbying front, the pro-Israel community is led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which Fortune magazine ranks as one of the top lobbying groups in the country. AIPAC spent more than $1.1 million lobbying in 2001, roughly the same amount it spent in 2000.

AIPAC is not registered as a political action committee with the Federal Election Commission and does not make campaign contributions as an organization. But its executive committee and board of directors have been reported to include some major campaign donors, and lawmakers considered by the organized Jewish community to be sympathetic to Israel can certainly expect to reap a harvest of pro-Israel campaign contributions.

Since the 1989-90 election cycle, pro-Israel interests have contributed $41.3 million in individual, PAC, and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees. More than two-thirds of that total, or $28.6 million, has gone to Democrats.*

The pro-Arab community is a far less visible player on the political stage than the pro-Israel community, although campaign contributions from pro-Arab and pro-Muslim interests have risen steadily over the past decade. Virtually all of the the Arab and Muslim communities’ political money has come from a small group of PACs, which have contributed nearly $297,000 to federal candidates and parties since the 1989-90 election cycle.*

This group is led by the Arab American Leadership PAC, the political arm of the Arab American Institute. AAI is headed by Dr. James Zogby, who is perhaps the most high-profile figure in the Arab American community.

There are just two organizations with a record of lobbying for the Arab and Muslim community — the National Association of Arab Americans and the American Muslim Council. Neither group spent more than $14,000 on lobbying in a single year between 1997 and 2001. (A third group, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, registered to lobby in October 2001 but has not yet filed a lobbying expenditure report.)

*Note: The Center categorizes individual contributions to candidates as being ideological only under strict conditions. For example, a contribution to a candidate will be considered to be pro-Israel only if the contributor gives to a pro-Israel political action committee AND the candidate has received money from a pro-Israel PAC. Thus, the contribution figures attributed to ideological groups, including pro-Israel and pro-Arab interests, may be artificially low.

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Additional Resources

Book – Against Our Better Judgment

Book – The Israel Lobby

AIPAC Speeches by Policymakers

Magazine – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Book – They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby

Book – Stealth Pacs: Lobbying Congress for Control of U.S. Middle East Policy

Book – The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement With Israel, 1947 to the Present

Book – The Lobby: Jewish political power and American foreign policy

Book – Fifty Years of Israel

Book – America and the founding of Israel: An investigation of the morality of America’s role

more resources


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

Council for the National Interest – Opposition to AIPAC

Anti-Defamation League

U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation

Muslim Public Affairs Council

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