Seven critics of Israel, backed by an Arab lobbying group, have filed legal charges with the Federal Election Commission against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 27 pro-Israel political action committees and 26 of their officers.
In a 100-page brief, released to reporters this week, the complainants allege that AIPAC illegally coordinates the PACs’ contributions to various political campaigns. This is the first time charges have been filed with the FEC against AIPAC, the registered pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States.
The effort is being spearheaded by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The seven complainants include George Ball, undersecretary of state from 1961 to 1966, and former Rep. Paul Findley (R-III.), who has attributed his 1982 defeat to pro-Israel activists.
The basic charge against AIPAC and the PACs is that they engage in a “campaign of collusion” by directing PACs to contribute funds to particular congressional challengers and incumbents.
As evidence of collusion, the complainants cite similarities in funding decisions by various PACs, as well as a 1986 memorandum from AIPAC staffer Elizabeth Schrayer that they say suggests campaign contributions by nine pro-Israel PACs.
Responding to the allegations, AIPAC spokeswoman Toby Dershowitz said, “AIPAC members proudly participate in the American political process and do so within the law.” She added that AIPAC is “confident that the FEC will expeditiously concur.”
Once the FEC receives a complaint, it has five days to advise the target of the charges to respond, according to Fred Eiland, a commission spokesman. AIPAC and the 27 PACs would have 15 days to do so.
The six FEC commissioners then vote on whether federal election laws have possibly been violated. Four of the six must vote affirmatively to spur an investigation, Eiland said.
If the investigation finds “probable cause” that election law has been violated, the FEC can negotiate a civil penalty and pursue the case in the U.S. court system, he said.
AIPAC could not be charged with violating election laws unless the complainants proved that the lobby established, maintained, controlled, financed or administered more than one of the PACs, said David Ifshin, AIPAC’s counsel.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.