Sunday, September 30, 2007

Carson Aid Recounts Her AIPAC Experience

A former campaign and congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Julia Carson recounts at the PeoplesVoice.org how Carson went out of her way to win support and contributions from the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in her first bid for Congress, only to later struggle with the group's expectations of her when she cast votes on matters like foreign aid. The former aide's story exemplifies how special interest groups extend their control over our elected representatives:

A little over 10 years ago, I got my "formal" start in politics. I worked as the field coordinator for Julia Carson during her first run for the House. It was heady stuff for a wide-eyed kid who loved politics. Fresh of my experience from working for Jim Hightower, I wanted to get out there and take the House back from two years of Newt Gingrich maddness.

wmtriallawyer's diary :: :: Our race was one of those "top 25" targets Charlie Cook and gang liked to talk about. And because of it, we got quite a few Washington consultants coming out the campaign to give their advice and support. It was then I began to notice an alarming trend. Over and over, we began to hear about how we needed to tap into the "Jewish vote." Odd, I thought, because in my naivete I never considered the "Jewish vote" to be some sort of voting bloc. Then, however, the talk of the "Jewish vote" began to morph into the chase for "Jewish money."

This was a real wake-up call to me, because it sounded so insidious and seemed to reinforce a sterotype. We talked about reaching out to other interest groups for votes: African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and lesbians. But we never talked about getting "African-American money " or "gay and lesbian money."

Anyway, we were quickly told that the way to tap into the Jewish vote and money was to demonstrate unfettered support for Israel. So, some of our folks wrote up a few quick talking points, put out a one-pager, and voila! -- we support Israel. That should do it.

I wish it had ended there.

Later, after Rep. Carson was elected, I went up to Hill to work for her. Let me just pause to say it was always a dream of mine to work on Capital Hill. Nothing is so heady to a young person who is a politico to be able to work in the halls of Congress to see how government operations. It was amazing stuff.

Unfortunately, dreams and reality are two different things entirely. I began to see how the "game" was played, that the concern for reelection and keeping power was more important than using power to effectuate change. And that became starkly clear when AIPAC contacted my boss.

My boss went on an all-expense paid trip to Israel on AIPAC's dime. It was one of those educational junkets that interest groups paid for. I was a little concerned about it, but I paid it little mind. She had a wonderful time and learned a lot.

But as the saying goes, nothing in life comes for free. A few months later, Congress was voting on that year's foreign aid bill. As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Carson opposed the bill, because it contained far few dollars for Africa than needed to be in the bill. However, there was a substantial amount of money going to Israel.

After her opposition became public, and she voted against it, the calls started coming in from all corners of the U.S. Members of AIPAC called to say that Rep. Carson was wrong for opposing the bill because it helped Israel. She tried to explain, but in all honesty, some of the callers were really angry. Mind you, hardly any of the folks that called were her constituents...they were donors. And they thought they had a solid vote because of the Israel trip. And some of them were plenty rude on the phone.

Rep. Carson became frustrated and one day said, "I just don't know what they want from me." I was silent when I heard this, but I knew what they wanted. They wanted her vote. And in the back of my head, I was thinking that she shouldn't have taken that trip to Israel.

The whole experience on the Hill, because of instances like this, left me frustrated. I left politics and didn't come back for awhile, because I didn't see that things were going to change at all. Too many people with too many of the wrong ideas about how politics and our government were running the show.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is that Erin speaking?

Wilson46201 said...

A.I.P.A.C. actually stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Your error is a common one...

erin said...

Anonymous- nope not at all.

Erin

erin said...

And I would add:

1. The article is about AIPAC's attempts to influence members of Congress. This article could have been written about really any special interest group- though AIPAC is definitely one of the more aggressive groups. Gary, after reading the article, your summary is misleading. The Congresswoman didn't "go out of her way" from anything in the article. According to the article, "some of her folks put together a ONE PAGER". You don't see anywhere that the Congresswoman ran around declaring support for Israel or even that the campaign made an aggressive push for donations from the Jewish community. This article is about outside advice from DC consultants to the campaign.

2. Congresswoman Carson did NOT vote the way they wanted her to and attempted to explain that to them. They got nasty, she didn't back down.

3. The advice that the campaign (a freshman campaign) got that was at least questionable, in my opinion offensive, came from "Washington consultants". This is not the least bit surprising and I would imagine that most D and R candidates could describe similar experiences with the "DC people".

Anonymous said...

Whoever is writing this is right-on about politics and most of the people left standing in political office today.

That's why I, too, got out of that rat race. Politics itself has changed so much over the last 20 years, and not for the better by any means.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, did you and I read the same article? I agree the same applies to all special interest groups, but are you denying she didn't craft a position to lure campaign contributions? Are you denying she didn't accept a trip to Israel from AIPAC? The former aide writes:

"It was then I began to notice an alarming trend. Over and over, we began to hear about how we needed to tap into the "Jewish vote." Odd, I thought, because in my naivete I never considered the "Jewish vote" to be some sort of voting bloc. Then, however, the talk of the "Jewish vote" began to morph into the chase for "Jewish money."

"Anyway, we were quickly told that the way to tap into the Jewish vote and money was to demonstrate unfettered support for Israel. So, some of our folks wrote up a few quick talking points, put out a one-pager, and voila! -- we support Israel. That should do it."

"My boss went on an all-expense paid trip to Israel on AIPAC's dime. It was one of those educational junkets that interest groups paid for. I was a little concerned about it, but I paid it little mind. She had a wonderful time and learned a lot."

erin said...

Gary,

AIPAC arranges a semi-annual paid trip to Israel for freshman members of Congress- one for Rs and one for Ds. She went on a ONE trip with a group of freshman members. If you do a quick check, you will find that every IN member has been to Israel on the AIPAC dime.

As a matter of fact, the Congresswoman does support Israel's right to exist- not because of AIPAC, but because she believes that.

The part you quote- you left out the beginning which makes clear that is advice being given TO the campaign FROM DC consultants. They were repeatedly being told they needed to do that. The trip is not in relation to the campaign, but (see above) after she was elected in Congress. You also leave out that they then got mad because she voted AGAINST the bill they wanted her to support.

A quick check will also show the huge amounts of Pro-Israel money that flows into IN campaign coffers (largest recipients- Lugar and Burton). A vote check will also confirm (easily, please try) that the Congresswoman does NOT vote the AIPAC line. Why don't you check Lugar and Burton?? That is the real issue here, Gary. AIPAC makes huge donations in attempts to influence government pollicy on Israel. Is it working? Compare the votes with the donation amounts.

Finally, AIPAC provides talking points for members of Congress and their staffs. You can get access them on the AIPAC website. You will find that these are NOT the talking points of Congresswoman Carson. Is anyone using them verbatim (which happens all the time in all types of contexts, not just AIPAC)? Why don't you try and find out, Gary? That would be much more interesting than ooooh, the Congresswoman put out a one sheeter in 1996!!!!! She went on an organized trip in 1996!!!

Bart Lies said...

As a youth, when I watched 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' it was just a movie.

Today, whenever I watch it, it's like I'm watching a documentary.

erin said...

From the website of Mendy Ganchrow, former head of the Religious Zionists of America:

Friday, June 01, 2007
Cong Mike Pence (R. Ind)
Last nite, Sheila and I had dinner with Cong. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) at a small event hosted by
Mark Vogel ,Chairman of the Hollywood, Fla pro-Israel group NACPAC.
Pence is one of the ranking members of the House Int Relations Comm.,and a truly great supporter of the US -Israel relationship.A common friend of ours is Hart Hasten of Indianapolis.

Mike and I had a chance to discuss testimony this week by AID ,requesting money for "moderate Palestinians".I think he pretty much agrees with me, that the term is an oxy-moron.

Engel paid Pence a huge compliment by noting that when Pence speaks about Israel,you might mistake him for Engel.I pointed out how Tom Delay at the NY AIPAC dinner a few years ago, stated during his talk,that there was no one in Congress more effective on Israeli issues than Engel.
I predict that in a few years, when Sen Lugar retires,Pence will make the move to the Senate.


Monday, June 04, 2007
Cong Dan Burton
I joined for lunch today with a small group of S Florida pro-Israel activists, and Cong Dan Burton ( R.-Ind ). I was pleased to be able on behalf of Huvpac to present a campaigh check for his primary.He has a tough race ,because he is being challenged by a friend that he helped get started in politics.On every issue he has been there with us.
I have known him since 1982,when he was elected to Congress and we started Huvpac. He is the third ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Comm. ,and former chair of the Middle East subcommittee.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, I would personally find myself in agreement with AIPAC on many issues. That's not the point here. When I lived in Springfield, my congressman was Paul Findley. He made the mistake of saying he thought the U.S. should talk to Yassir Arafat and he in fact met with him in person. This enraged AIPAC, even though Findley proved to be a man ahead of his time on the issue. Dick Durbin used AIPAC to raise money all over the country, which was used to run commercials making it appear that Findley wanted to get rid of social security, which was patently false. It was more than enough to topple this independent-thinking member of Congress. Findley later wrote a book, "They Dare to Speak Out," which took on the AIPAC lobby.

erin said...

And to be fair to my side:

The "absolute security of the state of Israel is the foundation on which any Mideast peace will be built," according to Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana).

More than 1,000 Bay Area supporters of Israel turned out Monday to hear the staunchly pro-Israel senator, who spoke at a fund-raising luncheon sponsored by AIPAC's West Bay branch at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel.

In brief but pointed remarks, Bayh brought the crowd to its feet with his absolute support of Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as well as his take on America's looming war against Iraq. The senator also spoke at three other AIPAC events in Northern California.


You will NOT find such unqualified statements of allegiance to AIPAC from the Congresswoman. Period Gary.

erin said...

Gary, I don't agree with AIPAC so I am not there with you. However, I agree with the point about AIPAC targetting those who don't toe the line. The point is that going after the Congresswoman as an AIPAC vote is completely incorrect. That is simply not a point of debate. One of the reasons that I love and support the Congresswoman is precisely because of her independence and fairness on this issue. I know what I am talking about here Gary. The Ds and Rs alike, unfortunately, toe the AIPAC line, it isn't a partisan thing. But, to make that point by pointing to a person who votes AGAINST their bills doesn't work.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, again, you are missing the point. Carson used AIPAC to lure the money she needed to win her first race, which some might argue was her toughest race. I'm not disagreeing with you that she went against them later on. It simply points up that AIPAC expected more from her after she solicited their support. She can get by with going against AIPAC more easily than others because she is a minority. AIPAC is very reluctant to take on African-Americans unless it's someone like the nut down in Georgia, Cynthia McKinney, who was constantly fanning the flames of anti-Semitism. If Eric Dickerson had gone after AIPAC's support last year, he might have had some success at raising some decent money outside his district just as a way of sending a message to Carson.

Anonymous said...

Why dont we talk about all of the Cuban money that Danny Burton gets for selling out to the Cubans....he is a real sleazeball

erin said...

Gary, please provide evidence that the Congresswoman won her 1996 campaign from AIPAC donations. If that is your contention, the article you quote in no way provides the evidence for that. How much money did she receive- how much did her opponent receive? The article itself- if you go to DailyKos states:

Members of AIPAC called to say that Rep. Carson was wrong for opposing the bill because it helped Israel. She tried to explain, but in all honesty, some of the callers were really angry. Mind you, hardly any of the folks that called were her constituents...they were donors. And they thought they had a solid vote because of the Israel trip.

Not because of huge donations, not because they "won" her election, because of the Israel trip- direct opinion from the source.

Advance Indiana said...

"Mind you, hardly any of the folks that called were her constituents...they were donors. And they thought they had a solid vote because of the Israel trip."

She received donations from folks outside her district who would have never contributed to her but for her efforts to win AIPAC support. Erin, you just look plain silly trying to deny the obvious.

erin said...

Your statement:
Carson used AIPAC to lure the money she needed to win her first race,

SHE NEEDED TO WIN. Your words. Please provide evidence. Or you look silly making claims that you have no evidence of. Trying to change your argument when you can't back it up doesn't work.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, this is the last point I'm going to argue with you since it's like beating my head against the wall. You apparently weren't around back in 1996. Carson faced a stiff challenge from Ann DeLaney in the Democratic primary, who was heavily-financed. She then faced off in the fall against Virginia Blankenbaker, a moderate state senator who was successful in raising a lot of money. She needed all the money she could raise back then to get elected. Do you deny she raised money from these sources?

erin said...

Gary, you really need to read what you actually have here:

1. A one page sheet put out stating the Congresswoman's support for Israel. This is not in anyway inaccurate, the Congresswoman does support Israel's right to exist and considers them an ally. However, interestingly, you have no idea what that one sheeter actually said and have made no attempt to find out what it stated.

2. The Congresswoman received donations from out of state. This is also true. You go out of your way to NOT provide the amount of money, nor how much went to her opponents.

3. Based on apparently two sentences you come to the conclusion that the Congresswoman "lured" AIPAC money necessary for her win by, I presume you mean, mistating her position on Israel. This is not shown anywhere. Without any knowledge of what the one-sheeter said, how much money was actually donated to the Congresswoman or her opponents or evidence of any other attempts to solicite money from AIPAC or out of state pro-Israeli groups, you arrive at a completely unsubstantiated, illogical conclusion. Beating your head on the wall? You bet my friend.

For your info, I was around in 1996. For someone with your political background, your conclusions, I can only conclude, are based on a purposeful decision to ignore the political realities of fundraising, campaigning and contributions. That is unfortunate because it makes for intelligent conversation between those who actually are able to put things into context impossible. Too bad.

Advance Indiana said...

Look, Erin. She made a deliberate decision to solicit contributions from people outside her district who she had never met. She did it because she needed money, and she wanted to win. After she won, those folks expected her to vote a certain way and she acted surprised that they expected anything from her. That's what this story is about. What is wrong with you? Do you not understand? God, get a grip on yourself Erin.

Wilson46201 said...

American Jews tend to vote 3 to 1 for Democrats. Their political contributions would tend to the same ratio. Until recently, with GOP total control of Washington DC, AIPAC's activities tended to focus on the Republicans since it was the party in power.

I was there and intimately involved in the 1996 campaign - I recall no odd or special outreach to "Jewish voters" or AIPAC or "Jewish money". It was a hot national race - both sides received contributions from all over the country from donors supporting the 2 partisan candidates.

Senator Carson and then Trustee Carson was involved in a number of activities involved in strengthening Jewish-Black community relations. She was also a leader in local progressive politics. Congressional candidate Julia Carson was thus no stranger to the Indianapolis Jewish community!

erin said...

Gary, your Feb. 1, 2006 article on Eric Dickerson has been edited on your site. However, if you google Eric Dickerson + AIPAC it shows a sentence from Advance Indiana that is no longer accessible on your site. Though, just because you delete something doesn't mean it is deleted from web archiving (just so you know my friend!) : )
That wouldn't have been about him doing outreach to "people outside his district" would it?? What did that post originally say Gary?

Anonymous said...

As someone who was around in the 96 campaign, and donated heavily to Miss Carson, and attended multiple fund-raising meetings run by Lacy Johnson, held at the upstairs meeting room of Milano Inn, I can tell you:

Gary is more correct than Erin.

But not by much.

The plain and simple truth is, Julia needed to raise a respectable amount of cash. I gave and solicited others because she had paid her dues and deserved the nomination.

All the establishment was behind Ann Delaney. It was vicious. Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton's folks are mean, have nothing on Ann Delaney and her charges. Downright nasty. To this day, she won't speak to some Julia supporters. (True)

Julia raised some Jewish money, but most of it was tied up, via Marcia Goldstone and friends, by Ann. And, Indy has a disproportionate share of Jewish big donors. So the lists are there for the harvest.

Julia raised enough, in the end, to prevail. She stomped Ann Delaney. Mostly because she had the money to be credible, although she was outspent by Ann.

And every single consultant who came into that race, from DC, New York, or wherever, including some interesitng names who've gone on to fame, said the same thing: hit the Jewish lists. Why? Because they're used to getting hit on for money, and they understand the need for money in politics. Frankly, you'd get a "no" or "yes" without much trouble...unlike almost all other such fund-raising lists.

Doesn't make it right, wrong or indifferent. It just is.

Anonymous said...

Look, Erin. She made a deliberate decision to solicit contributions from people outside her district who she had never met. She did it because she needed money, and she wanted to win. After she won, those folks expected her to vote a certain way and she acted surprised that they expected anything from her. That's what this story is about. What is wrong with you? Do you not understand? God, get a grip on yourself Erin.


I love it. Gary is upset because a MOC didn't allow their vote to be sold.

Is everything ok with you Gary?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Gary but erin is more on point then you on this one. This is not about the congresswomen, its about ALL in congress.

Advance Indiana said...

Erin, Your assertion is a flat out lie. My only prior post on AIPAC concerned their opposition to an ethics reform proposal to end lobbyist-funded trips for lawmakers. I haven't deleted any of the old Dickerson posts. Why are you so upset at me? Shouldn't you be directing your anger at this former Carson aide who spilled the beans?

Advance Indiana said...

Wilson said, "I was there and intimately involved in the 1996 campaign - I recall no odd or special outreach to "Jewish voters" or AIPAC or "Jewish money". It was a hot national race - both sides received contributions from all over the country from donors supporting the 2 partisan candidates."

I thought you were working full-time for the Trustee's office as a clerk? I guess now we know you were spending your time working on Julia's congressional campaign.

Anonymous said...

Erin authored the post on DailyKos. She doesn't like the treatment it is being given so she's running around the blogs doing damage control. She is not fooling this reader. Think before you put your thoughts to pen next time Erin.

erin said...

Gary, you are correct and I apologise for my accusation. The cache I looked at collapses posts over a period of time making your multiple February posts look like the earlier one about Dickerson contained a sentence about AIPAC which was, as you point, out from a later post in the same month. Again, I apologise.

I actually don't see any problem with Dickerson appealing to AIPAC for monetary support based on his position on Israel vs. the Congresswoman's voting record. I don't know if he tried, but that would have been perfectly acceptable in my opinion. I believe Brose McVey did try to do just that, though I don't think he got much traction.

Anon- that is very funny. I do not write on Daily Koz and am not a trial lawyer. I have also never worked for the Congresswoman in DC. In 1996, I was committed very visibly to State Rep. John Day. I do not know who the author of the Daily Kos post was though after looking at their post they do state that they took a 20 (or possibly 10- don't have it in front of me) year break from politics because of their disappointment in the system. I am not that old.

erin said...

Duh, 10 being that it is 2007. Again, not me.

Wilson46201 said...

Gary Welsh said: "I thought you were working full-time for the Trustee's office as a clerk? I guess now we know you were spending your time working on Julia's congressional campaign."

Of course I was! Many people volunteered - there were very few paid staffers. Lawyers aren't necessarily good at arithmetic. There are 168 hours in a week but 40 hours in government job. That leaves plenty of time to volunteer. Life is not all "billable hours" - sheesh!

Anonymous said...

I just find it naive the Carson was shocked to find out a doner would want her to vote in their direction.

Pike voter

Wilson46201 said...

AdvanceIndiana seems to forget that Julia Carson was elected to the Legislature in 1972 after 16 years of union and congressional staff work. When elected to Congress in 1996 she was no naive newcomer to campaigns, legislating, fundraising or lobbyists. Her ex-staffer was. She knew how to handle constituents and donors - she was not surprised at the pressures of satisfying many competing interests.

Wilson46201 said...

It took me halfway through the original article to deduce who the author was - it's not Erin!

Advance Indiana said...

Well then, Wilson, why don't you tell us who "she" is?

Wilson46201 said...

If the writer had wanted you to know his identity, he would have used his name. Instead, he adopted a pseudonym which is one step up from AdvanceIndiana's multitudinous nattering anonymous nobodies of negativity.

Advance Indiana said...

Quoting from Spiro Agnew now, Wilson? How far can you sink?

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Informed folk know that memorable phrase was actually written by speechwriter Bill Safire - quite a wordsmith!

btw, I made a paraphrase, not a quote.

Advance Indiana said...

Wilson, I thought it was Pat Buchanan would penned the quote for Agnew.

Anonymous said...

The 1996 congressional election was not won on money alone. If they do not come out to vote you don't win. It does not matter how much money you have, you MUST get them out to vote. This is what was one in 1996 and continued throughout her campaign. The GET OUT TO VOTE is key

Jason said...

I know Julia's been in congress a long time but I think it had more to do with good-natured ignorance than anything else.

This reminds me of people on the left who think George Bush is a complete and total idiot, but also think he was able to orchestrate 9/11 and pull off the greatest government hoax in world history. People on the left, you can't have it both ways. People on the right, if you really think she's that far off, you've got to give her a margin of error when it comes to connecting the political dots. Even back then it wouldn't surprise me if she was having problems. After all Reagan had Alzheimers for half his presidency right?

Wilson46201 said...

Jason: Julia Carson has been elected 14 times. Voters know her very well. That's why she continuously wins...

Republicans know she cant be defeated on her voting record -- that's why they have to resort to innuendo and personal cracks. Sadly.

wmtriallawyer said...

For the record: no, my name is not Erin.

As to the original post on Daily Kos, it should be noted that the point of the post, again, was not to disparge Rep. Carson, AIPAC, or any other entity.

It was to demostrate the problems with our system, and the influence of special interests as a whole.