The 1990 Elections: Pro-israel Pacs Providing Funds to Candidates in Most Senate Races
Menu JTA Search

The 1990 Elections: Pro-israel Pacs Providing Funds to Candidates in Most Senate Races

Download PDF for this date

Sen. Jesse Helms’ battle to get re-elected in North Carolina may be drawing the most attention of Jews this election year, but to those concerned exclusively with electing as pro-Israel a Senate as possible, there’s much more at stake elsewhere.

The 35 or so largest pro-Israel political action committees have been pouring money into the vast majority of the 35 Senate races to be decided in next Tuesday’s general elections.

The overwhelming number of these groups are single-issue PACs that donate funds based exclusively on a candidate’s support for Israel. Because they feel more comfortable with incumbents with proven records, they usually refrain from supporting challengers.

By contrast, the half-dozen Jewish multi-issue PACs take into consideration a candidate’s record on various domestic issues. Generally, these PACs will not support a pro-Israel candidate whose domestic politics tend to be conservative. In such a case, they will sometimes take the risk of supporting a challenger.

In North Carolina, arch-conservative Republican Helms had received by Sept. 30 a total of $3,000 from two of the pro-Israel single-issue PACs: $2,500 from the Hudson Valley PAC and $1,000 from the Garden State PAC.

His liberal Democratic challenger, Harvey Gantt, had received $18,500, including $12,000 from three multi-issue PACs and additional money from two single-issue PACs: San Franciscans for Good Government and the Mid-Manhattan PAC.

Helms has a mixed record on Israel. He supports Israel on the peace process and takes a tough stand against terrorism, but opposes foreign aid in principle. Gantt has no proven record on Israel but is expected to be a strong supporter.


As a general rule, Jewish activists usually work on both sides of Senate campaigns to make sure that no candidate is truly snubbed.

The closest thing to a snub this year is in Oregon, where Sen. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, is seeking re-election. He has received no support from pro-Israel PACs.

His Democratic challenger, Harry Lonsdale, does not accept PAC money, but has received significant private support from Jews.

Hatfield has been criticizing Israel in the Senate for 24 years, “even before it became fashionable,” explained Morris Amitay, treasurer of the Washington PAC, one of the largest of the pro-Israel political fund-raising groups.

As for Lonsdale, “I have every reason to believe he would be a good friend,” Amitay said.

There are only a few races perceived as making a difference on key issues. The Hatfield-Lonsdale race is equaled in that regard by the race in Minnesota between two Jews, incumbent Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz and his Democratic challenger, Paul Wellstone.

Wellstone has received no pro-Israel PAC money, while Boschwitz has received $71,829.

Boschwitz is “one of the great heroes” on behalf of Israel, explained Rabbi David Saperstein, a contributor to the Multi-Issue PAC.

Wellstone, who is a “dove” on Middle East issues and was campaign manager for Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign in Minnesota, would be “a vocal Jewish critic of Israel,” predicted Amitay of the Washington PAC.

The only other Jewish incumbent up for re-election this year is Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Levin has received $160,800 from the PACs in his race against Rep. Bill Schuette (R-Mich.). Schuette received $5,000 from the Hudson Valley PAC.


If Levin and Boschwitz win, there will be at least eight Jewish members of the next Senate, the same number as there are currently.

A ninth appears to be an underdog. He is Republican Jim Rappaport, who is challenging Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Neither accepts PAC money.

Amitay said he is privately helping Kerry, adding that among Jewish contributors, “I know he’s getting a lot of support.”

In other races where the PACs are also heavily betting on incumbents, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has received $149,050 from the PACs in his race against Rep. Thomas Tauke (R-Iowa).

Amitay said there is a “big disparity in their records” on Israel, with Harkin more supportive.

Tauke has received $500 from the Modrn PAC, apparently the most Republican-oriented of the pro-Israel PACs, and another $10,000 in individual Jewish contributions, according to Matthew Brooks, political director of the National Jewish Coalition, a Republican group.

Pro-Israel PACs also favor Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) against his challenger, Rep. Lynn Martin (R-Ill.). Simon has received $161,156 from the PACs; Martin received $500 from the Modrn PAC.

Amitay said Simon has an “excellent record” on Israel, while Martin’s record is “mixed.”

Despite the PACs’ near unanimity on the races in Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, the single-issue PACs and their multi-issue counterparts are divided over a few incumbents.

In South Dakota, Republican Sen. Larry Pressler received $53,000 from pro-Israel PACs. Democratic challenger Ted Muenster has received $11,500, $9,000 of which came from two of the largest multi-issue PACs.

In Indiana, Republican Sen. Dan Coats received $15,500 from the pro-Israel PACs. His Democratic challenger, state Rep. Baron Hill, has received $3,000 from two multi-issue PACs.

In Texas, Republican Sen. Phil Gramm has received $10,500 from the PACs. His Democratic challenger, state Sen. Hugh Parmer, received $1,000 from the Multi-Issue PAC.


Likewise, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) received $30,000 from pro-Israel PACs and Rep. Patricia Saiki (R-Hawaii) got $7,500.

In Rhode Island, Democratic Sen. Claiborne Pell, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, received $107,850 from the PACs. His opponent, Republican Rep. Claudine Schneider, received $1,500 from two PACs.

The PACs are divided in two races in which incumbents are not running for re-election.

For the seat held by Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.), Rep. Hank Brown, a Republican, has received $41,000 from pro-Israel PACs. Josie Heath, a Democrat, has received $4,000, all from multi-issue PACs.

For the Idaho seat held by Republican Sen. James McClure, the PACs gave $21,000 to Democrat Ron Twilegar, while two PACs gave $3,000 to Rep. Larry Craig, a Republican.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund