In Maryland, AIPAC has poured $4.2M into a congressional primary where Israel is not an issue

Published date14 May 2024
AuthorRON KAMPEAS/JTA
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
No one is sure why, including Elfreth

"I'm uncomfortable with dark money as well," she told Maryland Matters, a political news site, regarding UDP, which is a super PAC. She made the comment in April after three of her opponents staged a press conference decrying the huge injection of outside money into the race to replace Rep. John Sarbanes, who is retiring. Super PACs may spend unlimited amounts of cash on a race, but are barred by law from coordinating with campaigns.

"I don't like it, Elfreth added. "But I'm not in a position to say no to people who want to amplify my message."

Polls show Elfreth and Harry Dunn, a former Capitol Police officer, leading the crowded field. Dunn physically battled with rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, when former President Donald Trump spurred his followers to mob the US Capitol in order to overturn his defeat.

Dunn and Elfreth started the campaign with virtually identical positions on Israel, backing emergency defense funding for its war against Hamas, a bottom line for AIPAC.

In direct campaign funding, Dunn is beating Elfreth, $4.5 million to $1.45 million. But the UDP funding has given the two candidates similar war chests.

Opponent echoes critics

The effect of the unsolicited giving has been to drive Dunn to accept the endorsement of J Street, the dovish Jewish Middle East lobby that is AIPAC's chief rival. He is also echoing UDP's harshest critics, who say the super PAC is a front for wealthy Republican donors who want to meddle in Democratic races.

"Candidates who receive this support accept the endorsement of an organization that has backed candidates and members of Congress who incited the rioters I fought on January 6th and tried to overthrow our democracy," Dunn said last month.

UDP's spokesman, Patrick Dorton, said in an email that the lobby wants to give her the best chances of winning. But he notably did not mention Israel.

"She's one of the most effective legislators in Maryland history, is supported by Senator Ben Cardin and former Senator Barbara Mikulski, and is endorsed by dozens of Democratic officials as well as the teachers, the firefighters, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and others," he said. (Cardin boosted Elfreth last week as "ready for the job" when they appeared together at an event, but has not endorsed her.

Haunting the race is UDP's recent outing in California, where it spent $4.6 million in an unsuccessful bid to keep a state legislator, Dave Min, from advancing in a...

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