Top Lobbying Group for Iran Deal Hosts Duckworth Fundraiser

J Street has targeted pro-Israel Mark Kirk for defeat

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth / AP
April 18, 2016

The left-leaning Middle East activist group J Street, one of the key groups that lobbied in favor of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, hosted a fundraiser for the Senate campaign of Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.) in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

Duckworth is running against Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, a critic of the nuclear deal and architect of the U.S. sanctions against Iran. The fundraiser was held at La Tasca in Washington, D.C. and seats topped out at $5,400 per plate, according to the invitation.

The fundraiser is part of a concerted effort by J Street to target lawmakers who opposed the Iran deal, particularly pro-Israel stalwarts like Kirk. The group announced in January that it would focus on defeating Kirk and Sen. Ron Johnson in 2016, two of the more vulnerable senators up for reelection.

Although J Street describes itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" organization, it has sought to unseat many of Israel’s top supporters on Capitol Hill and financed the campaigns of the Jewish state’s main critics.

In past elections, J Street targeted pro-Israel legislators such as former Reps. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) and Allen West (R., Fla.). The group previously helped bankroll campaigns for many signatories of the 2010 "Gaza 54" letter, a congressional letter that criticized Israel’s military response to Hamas rocket-fire.

Although J Street enjoys a close relationship with the Obama White House, its vocal opposition to Israel’s defensive military action and support for the Iran nuclear deal has also alienated many Democrats. A number of prominent lawmakers asked J Street to remove their names from the group’s conference host committee in 2009, including Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand.

Kirk’s campaign criticized Duckworth on Monday for accepting money from J Street and tied her support for the "dangerous" nuclear deal to her involvement with special interest groups.

"After Tammy Duckworth voted in favor of the dangerous Iran Nuclear Agreement, J Street pledged to raise millions to support her campaign and launch attacks on her opponent Senator Kirk," Kevin Artl, Kirk for Senate campaign manager, said. "Rep. Duckworth continues to demonstrate that her voting record is shaped by special interest groups and political support."