The super PAC aligned with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) is the largest donor to a prominent progressive group that has thrown itself behind Valerie Plame’s congressional bid.
Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC, which is working to help Democrats win back control of the Senate, has donated nearly $8 million to VoteVets, the liberal group backing Plame in Tuesday’s contested Democratic primary in New Mexico’s Third Congressional District.
The relationship indirectly links Schumer, the Democratic Party’s top-ranking Jewish official, and his top outside allies to a congressional candidate who has struggled to shed her reputation as an anti-Semite. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman who has, like Schumer, been a reliably pro-Israel voice among Democrats, was among VoteVets’ largest donors in the 2018 cycle.
A spokesman for the Senate Majority PAC did not respond to a request for comment. A Bloomberg spokesman said the Democratic financier has yet to give money to VoteVets in 2020.
VoteVets, which dropped tens of thousands of dollars on advertising to boost Plame in the closing weeks of a crowded primary, received more than half of the $14 million it has raised in the 2020 cycle from Schumer’s PAC, according to the Federal Election Commission. The group has also defended Plame against an aggressive attack ad that used Nazi imagery to blast Plame as a "disgraced racist millionaire," calling for the ads to be pulled down.
The Democratic primary has taken on added significance because, given the district’s strong Democratic leaning, the victor will become a heavy favorite in November’s general election. Outgoing Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.), who is vacating the seat to run for Senate, won his 2018 race by nearly 30 points, and the district has not elected a Republican since 1997.
Plame, who faces six other Democrats in the June 2 primary, is the only candidate with a national political profile.
The ex-CIA official rose to national prominence in 2003 when her then-husband, Joseph Wilson, became an outspoken opponent of the George W. Bush administration’s war effort in Iraq. The couple was the subject of a 2010 Hollywood bio starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.
She faced blowback in 2017 after tweeting an article from a fringe website, the Unz Review, that accused American Jews of "driving America’s Wars." Plame, who had previously tweeted several pieces from the discredited site— including one that accused Israelis of celebrating the September 11 terrorist attacks—defended the tweet by urging followers to "read the entire article," before she said by way of apology that she had merely "skimmed" the article before tweeting it herself.
"Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish," she wrote in a September 2017 tweet before issuing a full-throated apology.
Plame, who has been boosted by a flood of out-of-state money, including donations from the Holocaust denier Pete McCloskey, is locked in a competitive race against Democratic attorney and activist Teresa Leger Fernandez, who has received endorsements from liberal groups including EMILY's List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Sierra Club.
Leger Fernandez won nearly 42 percent of the delegate vote at the party’s March convention, while Plame received just 5 percent. Roughly 89 percent of Plame’s campaign donations have come from out-of-state, while nearly two-thirds of Leger Fernandez's money has come from New Mexico residents, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Plame's financial backers include the Hollywood actors Bryan Cranston, Naomi Watts, and Michael Douglas. She also received multiple donations from McCloskey, the former California congressman who has referred to the Nazi murder of six million European Jews as "the so-called Holocaust."
VoteVets defended Plame in the face of an ad from the nonprofit Alliance to Combat Extremism that attacked her using Nazi imagery. The group called on Leger Fernandez to demand the ads be removed from the Internet.
VoteVets did not return a request for comment.