Supporting the political party of your choice may still be good for individuals, but heavy hitters are long past that. They move to ensure support for their program from the incumbent whoever that may be. They raise and contribute funds to ensure access–to make sure the legislator takes their call, listens to their story, and votes right. The granddad of post partisan lobbying may be AIPAC, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee. An excellent article about AIPAC and related maters, Friends of Israel by Connie Bruck, appeared in the September issue of The New Yorker. There is a link to Bruck’s article below.
Despite its name, AIPAC is not a political-action committee, and therefore cannot contribute to campaigns. But in the eighties, as campaign-finance laws changed and PACs proliferated, AIPAC helped form pro-Israel PACs. By the end of the decade, there were dozens. Most had generic-sounding names, like Heartland Political Action Committee, and they formed a loose constellation around AIPAC.
AIPAC bundlers may be unknown to the public, but contributions are significant, legislators know AIPAC is responsible, and they act accordingly.
AIPAC funds a lavish trip to Israel for nearly all newly elected legislators. About the trips Bruck explains:
Soon after taking office, Baird (a freshman legislator) went on a “virtually obligatory” trip to Israel: a freshman ritual in which everything—business-class flights, accommodations at the King David or the Citadel—is paid for by AIPAC’s charitable arm. The tours are carefully curated. “They do have you meet with the Palestinian leaders, in a sort of token process,” Baird said. “But then when you’re done with it they tell you everything the Palestinian leaders said that’s wrong. And, of course, the Palestinians don’t get to have dinner with you at the hotel that night.”
NY-23 voters should be aware that Rep. Reed and his wife made the trip which occasioned his disreputable midnight swim.
NAR, The National Association of Realtors, is another post-partisan political lobby. As noted in an earlier article cited below, NAR supports incumbents who are accessible and responsive to realty interests independent of party. According to Open Secrets, NAR, number five on the heavy hitters list, splits its funding nearly equally among Republicans and Democrats.
Post-partisan lobby groups have more clout than groups linked to one party. Groups that predominately support Republicans, the NRA or The U.S. Chamber of Commerce for example, may not like how a Republican votes, but all they can do is assign a low grade; there is little chance that they would back a Democrat. But if the Realtors are dissatisfied with Tom Reed, there is every chance that they might back his opponent. Indeed, they may have already contacted Martha to let her know that if she is elected she could be eligible for their support.
© William Hungerford – September 2014