Shortly after he was instrumental in quickly passing a $14 billion aid package for Israel’s war chest, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson was rewarded with about $95,000 from the influential Israel lobbyists at AIPAC.
The American nonprofit news organization The Intercept notes that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) was Johnson’s top donor in 2023 and that the lobbying group “poured money into his campaign coffers just after he led the passage of a $14 billion aid package to Israel”.
In total, he received $104,000 from the organization – the lion’s share of which came after the Gaza war began and after Johnson was elected chairman in late October. That’s more than four times the roughly $25,000 the group gave to his last congressional campaign, when it was also his largest donor.
AIPAC is described as a major force in Washington, often funding lawmakers in both political parties to maintain or intensify pro-Israel policies.
“In recent years, the group has become a more partisan actor, training its sights on Democratic critics of Israel”, the paper writes, noting that lobbyists recruit their own challengers to more anti-Israel members of Congress and have spent “millions of dollars to help defeat Democratic candidates who express concern or support for the people of Palestine in any way”.
James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, says AIPAC’s campaign contributions have two clear purposes – to “reward candidates who vote their way” and to act as “a cudgel that is used to keep people in line”.
Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School and author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy agrees, saying that US foreign policy in the Middle East is the issue where lobbyists have the most influence.
– In terms of foreign policy, this is probably the one issue where money in politics has had the greatest negative effect.
– There’s no comparable groups on the other side There’s no set of pro-Palestinian or Arab American political action committees with anywhere near the same resources, he explains.
Dedicated friend of Israel
AIPAC and Johnson declined to answer questions about the funding, but the lobbyist payments reportedly began as small amounts of $10 to $500 each – and increased dramatically in November, when the president received a total of 71 payments of up to $5,000 each.
The newly appointed Speaker reportedly “fought” to speed up the US showering billions of dollars on Israel, including by separating it from the tens of billions of dollars in aid earmarked for Ukraine and using taxpayer money to fund it. After the bill passed the House, Johnson also urged the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.
– This is necessary and critical assistance as Israel fights for its right to exist, he argued at the time.
It is also noted that Johnson has made suspiciously high-profile trips to Israel and that the president is a staunch supporter of Israel, including several public denials of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.