WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (JTA) – A forthcoming edition of Fortune magazine ranks the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as the second most powerful interest group in Washington. The magazine, which based its findings on a survey of Washington political players, said AIPAC – along with the Association of Trial Lawyers and the American Medical Association – owes its high ranking in part to its “substantial campaign contributions.” But, it said, interest groups are valued more for “the votes they can deliver.” The pro-Israel lobby, which the magazine called “calculatedly quiet,” has for years been successful in encouraging members of Congress and the administration to support U.S. foreign aid to Israel and other issues related to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Contrary to the article in the Dec. 8 issue, AIPAC does not contribute money to political candidates. However, in response to a lawsuit, the Federal Election Commission found in 1992 that AIPAC spent money in an effort to influence congressional elections. AIPAC maintains that the specific expenditures were permissible under campaign finance laws. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon weigh in on that issue, with arguments scheduled for Jan. 14 in a case involving AIPAC’s legal status. Reacting to the Fortune ranking, a spokeswoman for AIPAC said, “If we are as successful as portrayed, it’s due to the profound interest Americans have in ensuring the strong bonds between the U.S. and Israel, and their willingness to roll up their sleeves to do something about it.” The poll, which asked Washington policy wonks to rank the clout of 120 leading interest groups, was distributed to members of Congress, top congressional staffers, senior White House aides, top officers of lobbying organizations and professional lobbyists. The American Association of Retired Persons got top ranking in the Fortune survey, which was conducted this fall by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. After AIPAC, the AFL-CIO, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America rounded out the top five. The National Rifle Association, the Christian Coalition, the American Medical Association, the National Education Association and the National Right to Life Committee completed the top 10 list.
Fortune survey ranks AIPAC No. 2 among interest groups