Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has secured a comfortable victory in Michigan’s 12th Congressional District Democratic primary elections which have been dominated by the “dark money” funnelled by the influential pro-Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Tlaib won the Democratic Party’s nomination for a newly-drawn congressional district with 63.8 per cent of the votes cast. The 47-year-old was the first Palestinian American woman to be elected to Congress in 2018. In this latest election she secured 61,401 votes after 95 per cent of the votes had been cast. Her closest rival, Janice Winfrey, managed to get only 22.4 per cent.
The new district, which includes parts of Detroit as well as the suburbs of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights – home to large Arab American communities – is a safe Democrat seat. This suggests that Tlaib is likely to cruise to re-election in November.
For several other incumbent Democrat congress members, however, the primary elections have been anything but plan sailing. Next door to Tlaib, Andy Levin, a two-term Jewish congressman from Detroit, was defeated in a primary election in which AIPAC reportedly spent $3.3 million in recent weeks, mostly on negative TV and online ads against him.
Levin warned against what he called AIPAC’s “dark money” before the votes were being cast. “We need to get dark money out of elections. Billionaires and corporate interests should not dominate free and fair elections,” he said in a tweet commenting on AIPAC’s “Super Political Action Committee” (PAC) which led the hostile campaign against him.
Following his defeat Levin repeated the warning. “These Super PACs involve a double deception. They don’t say where the money is coming from — much of it is from Republican billionaires that are completely hostile to everything Democrats stand for — and then they don’t talk about the issue that they’re giving money for.”
AIPAC has dumped millions of dollars through its Super PAC — the United Democracy Project — to defeat progressive candidates critical of Israel, while undermining Democrats by endorsing 100 Republicans who embraced election falsehoods about former US President Donald Trump. The most controversial aspect of its strategy is the revelation that donations used to defeat progressive candidates critical of Israel come from Republican donors.
“It’s corrosive to our democracy. Democrats need to have a serious family discussion about letting our candidates take millions of Republican dark money,” added Levin. “Today it may be right-wing on Israel, tomorrow it could be Exxon Mobil or tobacco or big pharma, and we will lose control of our party’s values if we don’t stop this.”
Tlaib echoed Levin’s words when speaking to a crowd of her supporters last week. “Out-of-state billionaires and dark-money Super PACs are pumping obscene amounts of money into our districts. They’re trying to come here and tell us what to think.” She went on to accuse them of “running misleading ads, mailers full of lies and nasty social media ads. It just makes me want to work harder.”