• Politics

    Meet the secret donors who fund AIPAC’s Israel trips for Congress

    For the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of Washington’s most influential lobby groups, trips to Israel for members of Congress play an important role in lining up support on Capitol Hill. Millions are spent every year ferrying dozens upon dozens of members to Israel for eight-day junkets.

    Who pays for these trips has, until now, remained largely a mystery. According to an unredacted tax filing for 2019 obtained by The Intercept, the financiers are a clutch of large foundations and nonprofits, some of which are family-run, that also give to a wide range of other political and cultural groups.

    The trips are organized through a cutout called the American Israel Education Fund, a charitable organization founded by AIPAC, from which it borrows its offices, board members, and even part of its logo. Like other tax-exempt nonprofits, AIEF must file a Form 990 every year with the IRS, but donors are redacted from the version that is made accessible to the public.

    According to the unredacted 2019 tax filing, AIEF drew millions of dollars from eight philanthropic groups, estates, and family foundations: the Koret Foundation, the Swartz Foundation, the Jewish Communal Fund, the One8 Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Paul E. Singer Foundation, Milton Cooper 2013 Revocable Trust, and the estate of Hedy Orden. These donors helped finance 129 AIEF-sponsored trips to Israel in 2019, totaling $2.32 million, according to the public records database LegiStorm.

    The all-expenses-paid trips are crucial to how AIPAC keeps both Republican and Democratic lawmakers firmly on Israel’s side. That allegiance has been on full display as the Biden administration and most members of Congress have backed Israel amid its war against the occupied Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians in the last five weeks. 

    “The trips clearly have an impact, as personal experiences in Israel often show up in congressional narratives justifying support for pro-Israel policies,” Yousef Munayyer, head of the Palestine/Israel program at Arab Center Washington DC, told The Intercept. “It’s part of a broader strategy to keep U.S.–Israel ties close.”

    In a statement, AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann told The Intercept, “AIPAC and AIEF are distinct entities and strictly adhere to all relevant governmental guidelines, regulations, and statutes.” (An email address for AIEF did not respond to a request for comment, and neither did any of the foundations listed as donors on the tax filing.)

    In addition to pro-Israel causes, some of the AIEF donors also fund a wide spectrum of other political initiatives. The Paul E. Singer Foundation, which gave AIEF $1.25 million in 2019, has been a prolific contributor to conservative causes in the U.S. for years. Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is a major donor to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, or FDD, a hawkish, pro-Israel think tank that pushes Israel’s national security perspective to U.S. policymakers.


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