J Street Endorsees in Congress Refuse to Support Iron Dome Funding for Israel

J Street funnels $92,387 to members who wouldn’t support Iron Dome

An Iron Dome missile interceptor overlooking Haifa, Israel / AP
August 21, 2014

Eleven lawmakers backed by liberal advocacy group J Street either voted against or refused to vote in favor of increased funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which has been a critical life-saver during Hamas’s latest assault on the Jewish state.

Congress overwhelmingly approved an emergency increase in funding for Iron Dome this month by a vote of 395 to 8.

Three of the eight who voted against the funding increase are J Street-backed lawmakers. Another eight abstained from the pro-Israel vote and also are financially supported by the group.

J Street’s political action committee (PAC) has already donated and bundled in this election cycle alone at least $92,387 to lawmakers who did not vote in favor of Iron Dome funding—which J Street itself claims is a priority for its endorsees.

The revelation that 11 of the 37 lawmakers who either voted against or abstained from supporting Iron Dome prompted outrage in the pro-Israel community and criticism of J Street for financially supporting lawmakers who take an explicitly anti-Israel line.

It also highlights an ongoing issue for J Street, which has attempted to garner mainstream credibility but has only attracted the support of far left fringe lawmakers known for their hostility to the Jewish state.

While J Street claims on its PAC’s website that to be "eligible for JStreetPAC endorsement" a candidate must support "robust American military aid to Israel," the most recent vote shows that the group it willing to violate its own tenets.

A J Street spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the Iron Dome vote.

Three of the House lawmakers who voted against funding for Iron Dome—Reps. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.), and Walter Jones (R., N.C.)—have received a combined $21,145 in this election cycle from J Street, according to publicly available Federal Election Committee (FEC) documents. 

The eight other J Street-funded lawmakers who abstained from the vote are Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), Susan Davis (D., Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D., Texas), John Garamendi (D., Calif.), Jim McDermott (D., Wash.), Raul Ruiz (D., Calif.), Jackie Speier (D., Calif.), and Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.).

These lawmakers have received a combined $71,242 via J Street in the most recent election cycle.

While J Street did not take a public position on the most recent Iron Dome bill, it has expressed support for the military alliance multiple times in the past.

Pro-Israel community insiders say that this is proof that J Street cannot even convince its own people to support a vaguely pro-Israel line

"I suspect that if J Street had its druthers, its few Congressional allies would have actually voted for Iron Dome funding, just to keep up appearances," said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

"But J Street's allies in Congress are genuinely dedicated to being anti-Israel, and so they're happy to take J Street money and then vote the wrong way, confident that the checks will clear," Pollak said. "It's embarrassing for J Street, but it's also the price of maintaining good relations with anti-Israel members of Congress."