By Madeline Fixler
Pro-Israel PACs reported millions of dollars in donations in August, including from billionaire donors with long track records of giving to Israel-related causes.
Kraft Group LLC, the company owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, gave $1 million to the United Democracy Project, the new super PAC affiliated with AIPAC, the powerhouse Israel lobby. George Soros’ Democracy PAC donated the same amount to the J Street Action Fund, the PAC affiliated with the liberal pro-Israel lobby.
Kraft, a prolific donor to Jewish causes who gave $1 million to Donald Trump in 2017, is the sixth person to break seven figures in giving to AIPAC’s super PAC, joining WhatsApp founder Jan Koum and five others to donate at that level.
United Democracy Project spent over $26 million in Democratic primaries this cycle, making it the largest spender and one of the most active super PACs in the entire country. Its preferred candidates prevailed in seven of the nine congressional races where it spent money.
Meanwhile, Soros’ donation was the single largest to J Street Action Fund, which has spent $1.7 million this cycle, including $100,000 to Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a progressive who staved off a challenger in his New York district on Tuesday. (Pro-Israel donors had lined up behind one of his challengers, but AIPAC’s PAC did not get involved.) In July, Soros’ Democracy PAC reported a $1 million disbursement to Planned Parenthood Votes, Planned Parenthood’s PAC, and another $2.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC, which funds Democratic candidates.
AIPAC took aim at J Street Wednesday for accepting the donation from Soros, who is widely reviled by conservatives because of his support for liberal policies on immigration, criminal justice and more. Criticism of him frequently reflects antisemitic tropes about Jewish influence over global affairs.
“George Soros has a long history of backing anti-Israel groups. Now he’s giving $1 million to help @jstreetdotorg support anti-Israel candidates and attack pro-Israel Democrats,” the group tweeted Wednesday. “AIPAC works to strengthen pro-Israel mainstream Democrats. J Street & Soros work to undermine them.”
Soros is a longtime supporter of J Street, which advocates for Israel to relinquish lands as a means of achieving a two-state solution and is reviled on the right as a result. The group obscured and downplayed Soros’ role as a funder more than a decade ago but subsequently acknowledged his support. Since then, criticism of Soros has become even more prominent among conservatives, including on the far right. The avowed white supremacist who murdered 11 Black shoppers in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May, for example, cited Soros as being “majorly responsible for the destruction of our White culture”; the 2018 shooter who killed 11 Jews in their Pittsburgh synagogue had demonized Soros on social media as well.
Right-wing Israeli leaders including former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fiercely criticized Soros, and some conservative Jews have said their opposition to Soros is not affected by the fact that violent antisemites have cited him as a reason for their attacks.
AIPAC, too, batted down criticism over its tweet on Wednesday.
“Our tweet simply pointed out that J Street accepted a million dollar donation from a funder of organizations which are persistent and hostile critics of the Jewish state,” spokesman Marshall Wittman said in a statement. “To defend the Jewish state against those who fund its detractors is noble and just. To attack those who are simply defending the Jewish state against its most persistent detractors is grotesque.”
The Federal Election Commission requires lobbyists and PACs spending money on elections to detail their donations and expenditures monthly.