Israel Lobby Spent Over $20 Million to Stop Iran Deal and Got Almost Nothing for It

This week, Senate Republicans failed to reach cloture on a vote to stop the diplomatic deal with Iran, which dooms their efforts to sink the agreement. The vote came after over $20 million of spending from Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a front group organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the main Israel lobby group, demanding that lawmakers reject the agreement.

The failure by AIPAC to swing votes in its favor marks a low-point in the lobby's influence; in the end, it retained only four Democratic senators, including three long-time staunch allies: senators Schumer (NY), Cardin (MD) and Menendez (NJ) and the caucus's most conservative lawmaker, Senator Manchin (WV).

A closer look at how the organization spent its money reveals just how desperate it was. According to records filed at the Federal Communications Commission, over the past two and a half months it spent over $220,000 on the Portland-area media market, one of America's most progressive cities. Despite all this spending, all four senators from Oregon and Washington supported the Iran agreement, and every Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives did as well. 

The logic behind wasting so much money in a progressive city is likely explained by one of two theories: AIPAC thinks it is much more powerful than it actually is, and believed it could swing some of the country's most anti-war and pro-diplomacy voters to its position; or it knew it could not win but spent so heavily as a ruse to pump dollars out of its donors. Either way, this shows that AIPAC is far from the all-powerful organization many in DC believe it to be. It even outspent its closest competitor, J Street, which reportedly has spent $1.8 million so far. It even lost its long-time ally Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who came out for the deal despite his boast of a strong relationship with AIPAC leader Howard Kohr.

Lawmakers and activists should learn from this failure. When facing off against a president who stands his ground and a progressive community that chooses to oppose its aims, AIPAC just isn't all that powerful.

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