The “American Knesset” – Their Money, Our Votes
by Sami Jamil Jadallah
When I first began to use the term “American Knesset” I did that knowing well, when it comes to Israel, there is much more freedom, more robust, more challenging and engaging debate in the Israeli Knesset, than here at our own “American Knesset”.
While in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu receives shouts and insults, but he receives a standing ovation over and over every time he appears in Congress. That should tell us something about the “instilled fear and intimidation” of AIPAC and pro-Israeli groups, as they exercise unchecked power and influence. Simply put, members of Congress are “afraid to death” — so is everyone in media or academia.
This should remind us of the shocking, if not troubling, statement of the former head of AIPAC, when he told a reporter that he can present a “napkin” and get 80 US senators to sign off on it. I doubt if any one in Israel can say that about members of the Israeli Knesset willing to sign off on a paper napkin.
The power and influence of AIPAC over Congress has put America’s security and interests at grave risk, with human, financial and political consequences that will take years to repair, and will never bring back the lives of all those who died for “Israel’s Wars”.
Since the costs of getting elected to a national office are getting higher and higher, with the average cost per Senate seat is $10.7M (NY Post), and $1,689,580 for House members (Maplight), with members of congress needing to raise $2,315 per day. It cost Senator Elizabeth Warren over $52 million to win her senate seat.
Though AIPAC does not contribute directly to the financial campaigns of political candidates, its associates do, and they contribute hundreds of million each election cycle. However, with an average of $5 billion or more voted in aid for Israel each year, the return on investment is at least 1000%, if not more. No American citizens group or state can match that.
AIPAC and its affiliates are not the only major contributors to members of congress. It is all about money, and money is not for free — it buys influence, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either stupid or a liar.
With each election cycle costing billions, it became necessary for corporations, organizations and special interests groups to contribute. Citizen groups, no matter how organized they are, could never match corporate or special interests’ contributions.
The costs of national elections keep going higher and higher, from $1.69 billion in 1998, to $3.66 billion in 2008, to a staggering $6.2 billion in 2012. After the Citizens United court decision, it is expected to go even higher.
Although AIPAC is a major player in the election campaigns, other organizations, associations and rich individuals play a key role in congressional and presidential elections.
These are some contribution figures for selected groups and organizations:
– Service Employees International Union: $222 .3 million
– National Education Association: $92.6 million
– American Federation of Teachers: $ 69.5 million
– Las Vegas Sands: $69.4 million
– Carpenter Union: $ 69.4 million
– Goldman Sachs: $51.8 million
– Soros Fund Management: $ 45 .7 million
– Koch Industries: $28.2 million
However we also need to keep in mind that, in addition to these organizations, rich individuals also contribute generously to elections and to SuperPacs, advancing and promoting their own social and ideological agendas.
Leading the pack were the Koch Brothers contributing $290 million in 2014, with Tom Snyder contributing $74 million and the Israeli Firster, Sheldon Adelson, contributing $93 million — even going further by having his own Republican/Israel-First primaries.
Contrary to what we all believe, the American Congress was never a place for a “citizen” from Main Street, but was always an elite place, with the rich and powerful always well-represented.
In the early days of the Republic, 1787 delegates (not just members of Congress) were considered wealthy, with strong educational backgrounds as politicians, jurists, statesmen, soldiers and diplomats.
Though “term limits” was discussed, it was never adopted formally, with Thomas Jefferson leaving it to “voluntary” rotations. While term limits will never be decided by the Supreme Court, it is always decided at the voting booth. The “seniority” system also does not help advance “term limits”, since only senior members of Congress have all the influence over committees and budgets. Hence, the high return of incumbent members of Congress.
Our Congress is becoming rich and richer, with millionaires counting for over 50% in Congress. It is really the “Rich Man’s Club”, deciding benefits for their fellow rich, such as the passing of $858 billion in tax breaks for the rich during the lame duck session of 2010. With the composition of Congress, you know damn well the poor and Main Street are poorly represented, with hardly any voice, and we can see that every day.
Both Democrats and Republicans consistently fail to represent Main Street, but we must not feel helpless. We can and shall make a difference at the polling booth.
The need for a Third Party is more urgent than ever — not a Tea or Coffee parties — but a well-organized party, with paying members in the tens of millions of people who have a mission to elect only their own members to Congress — one seat at a time.
For more specific amounts of contributions to members of Senate and House from pro-Israeli sources, please visit this link. See how much your senator or congressperson collected.
Always keep in mind that money and military aid to Israel is never debated, but always approved in a few minutes on a voice vote. No one dare to be absent that day.