Behind the Headlines Organizing for Political Action

The eroding support for Israel in the United States is of great concern to supporters of the Jewish State, Jews and non-Jews alike. Many of them therefore believe that it is now necessary, more than ever before, to elect representatives to Congress who believe that it is in the best interest of the U.S. to ensure the security of Israel.

Marvin Joseph son, a New York businessman with close ties to the entertainment field, believes that the most effective way to achieve this goal is through a political action committee and so he formed the National Political Action Committee (NatPAC). NatPAC. of which Joseph son is treasurer, hopes to be able to contribute to as many Senate and House races as the funds it is now raising will allow.

In a telephone interview from NatPAC’s headquarters in New York City, Joseph son noted that although PACs are more and more playing a major role in Congressional elections he, like most Americans, knew little about them until last spring.

SHOCKED BY ANTI-SEMITIC BACKLASH

It was then he attended a meeting with Sen. John Danforth (R. Mo.), a supporter of Israel who voted against the sale of AW ACS to Saudi Arabia last year. He said he was shocked by the “wove of anti-Semitic backlash” which Danforth described in the wake of the AWACS vote.

But he also learned about how the business firms which supported the AWACS sale all have PACs. Joseph son noted that firms doing business with Saudi Arabia include not only the oil companies but hundreds of other companies selling various products to the Saudis.

This led directly to the forming of the PAC as a way of activating the Jewish community. Joseph son pointed out that the United Jewish Appeal and the various Jewish communal organizations can not contribute to political campaigns, neither can the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But through NatPAC, individuals can contribute up to $5,000 and NatPAC in return can donate up to $5,000 to each House and Senate campaign. For those who cannot make large contributions there is an annual credit of 50 percent for political contributions on the federal tax returns, up to $100 on a single tax return and $200 on a joint return.

Josephson said he started by going to persons who could contribute the full $5,000 and this provided the “seed money” for NatPAC’s first ads in Jewish weeklies. The original supporters of NatPAC included Jews and non-Jews from the entertainment world as well as persons prominent in the Jewish community, among others.

The next step was a letter signed by Woody Allen to 200,000 persons seeking contributions. “By acting now we can translate growing concerns regarding Congressional ‘doubletalk’ on the Middle East into effective political action in each of the 33 Senate races and 435 House contests to be decided in 1982,” the letter said.

CLAIMS RESPONSE HAS BEEN GOOD

Josephson said the response has been good with about $400,000 received by October I. He said that there were some who said they would not give because of opposition to the actions of the government of Premier Menachem Begin.

To them, Josephson said, he wrote that they were being asked to support American interests, not the Begin government. Joseph son also noted that Democrats did not desert the U.S. when Ronald Reagan was elected President nor Republicans when a Democrat is elected. Israel will exist after Begin leaves office, he added.

Because NatPAC started late in the year it will not have the funds to contribute to all races, Joseph son said. It will contribute the full $5,000 to each race a donation is made rather than making a lot of smaller contributions with less impact.

A five-member panel, now expanded to six, will decide which candidates will receive the funds. The original members of the committee, headed by Josephson, also includes Barry Diller, chairman of Paramount Pictures; Rita Hauser, a New York attorney; Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic; and James Wolfensohn, on investment banker and financier. The sixth member recently added is George Klein, a New York businessman and leading Jewish Republican.

BASIS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

NatPAC has already donated to some 20 campaigns and expects to contribute to another 20 soon. The contributions are being allocated on the basis of priorities now. This means that Danforth, like Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D. NY) who is another close supporter of Israel, is not getting contributions because they are believed to be shoo-ins, Josephson explained.

Among those receiving support are Sens. Jim Sasser (D. Tenn.) and Lowell Weicker (R. Conn.) and Chic Hecht, a Jew, who is the Republican candidate in Nevada against Sen. Howard Cannon, a Democrat, in the House races, contributions have gone to Reps. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.),Sam Gejdenson (D. Conn.), Dante Fascell (D. Flo.), Sidney Yates (D. III.) and Jack Kemp (R.NY).

Support will not necessarily go to a Jewish candidate over a non-Jew who supports Israel for example. Danforth’s opponent is Harriet Woods, a Jew. In New Jersey, NatPAC contributed bath to the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Frank Loutenberg, a former national chairman of UJA, and his Republican opponent, Rep. Millicent Fenwick. But Fenwick returned the money because she doesn’t accept contributions from PACs, Josephson said.

Josephson said that by giving $35 to $50 a “broad number of people” can participate in NatPAC. In fact, while the base of the new organization is in the Jewish community he would eventually like to see the majority of contributions come from non-Jews.

In 1984, Josephson said he hopes that NatPAC will have the funds to compete in every Senate and House race. As NatPAC declares in a statement of policy and purpose, it was formed as “a political action effort for Americans of every political, religious and ethnic background who are fearful of the day when our government might no longer recognize this country’s stake in a viable Israel who are outraged by the aspersions cast on the loyalty of American Jews in this country, and who care enough about these issues to act in a realistic and effective manner.”

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