AIPAC on the rocks? Don’t bet the farm

A few readers took me to task for downplaying the threat to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying giant, posed by the surprisingly lurid legal drama centering on the defamation suit by Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC honcho fired after his arrest in 2005.

Well, I stand by my essential argument – that tales of office porn aren’t going to have much of an impact on a lobby that gets its power from its influence over networks of campaign givers, its understanding of the legislative process and its sprawling grass-roots operation – in other words, its effective use of the tools of pragmatic politics.

But there’s a big unknown here: just how far is Rosen willing to go in exposing the group that he helped shape and which he feels unfairly dumped him? Just how many AIPAC secrets will come out as its lawyers defend their group against his defamation suit?

I’m not suggesting AIPAC is hiding improper behavior.

But every lobby, or at least every effective lobby, operates close to some blurry lines, doubly so for foreign policy lobbies. Rosen, as one of AIPAC’s chief operatives for several decades, knows every one of them.

For years critics have complained that AIPAC is really an agent of a foreign government, not a domestic lobby, and that it improperly directs where pro-Israel political action committee money goes.  And there’s the question of obtaining and disseminating information the government regards as confidential.  Various investigations have been a mere nuisance for the group; what we don’t know is whether Rosen, in pursuing his defamation suit, has information on those issues that could be damaging – and whether he will make it public.

I’m still guessing not. We’ve seen this movie too many times before, with angry charges about AIPAC and appeals for government investigations; we heard the same predictions when Rosen and Keith Weissman, another former AIPACer charged in 2005 under provisions of the Espionage Act, went to a trial that went nowhere. And we’ve heard the crowing from critics that AIPAC’s comeuppance was just around the corner.

And all the while, AIPAC keeps growing in size and influence.

But I’ll concede that an angry, wounded Steve Rosen could prove very dangerous for the group. Stay tuned.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.