With the Iowa caucus just days away, Democratic Majority for Israel’s PAC (DMFI) has launched a negative ad in the state targeting presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
The PAC has reportedly spent almost $700,000 to run a television spot that questions Sanders’ health (the Vermont Senator suffered a heart attack) and claiming that he’s not electable. “I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’s health considering the fact that he did have a heart attack,” says one person in the ad. “I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” explains another, “I just don’t think Bernie can beat Trump.”
The ad does not mention Israel or Palestine at all.
DMFI was formed in 2019 by Democratic insiders and donors to stave off growing pro-Palestinian sentiment within the party. The organization has repeatedly attacked Sanders for alleged anti-Semitism within his campaign. If elected Sanders would become the country’s first Jewish president.
“I think for many months now, the consensus has been that he really didn’t have much of a chance at winning the nomination,” said DMFI president Mark Mellman in a recent interview, “We looked at the situation a couple of weeks ago and decided that assumption was no longer valid — that he really does have a chance to win the nomination. And we thought that would be bad for Democrats, in terms of our ability to defeat Donald Trump, and bad for the issues that we care about.”
Although DMFI has branded itself as a more liberal lobbying group than the average pro-Israel organization, it maintains close connections to to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Although members of the group have avoided talking about these links, a recent article by Alex Kane at The Nation points out that 11 of the 14 board members at DMFI have worked for, spoken at, volunteered with, or donated money to AIPAC. “It’s a rebrand for AIPAC, which has been losing progressives over the past decade,” IfNotNow national coordinator Emily Mayer told Kane.
Sanders campaign co-chair Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) sent out a tweet condemning the ad. “For a Democratic SuperPAC to attack health is beyond the pale of decency,” it read, “Imagine the outrage if a Dem group had run attack ads about FDR’s polio. Every Presidential candidate must denounce this & call for the ad to be taken down.”
For a Democratic SuperPAC to attack @BernieSanders health is beyond the pale of decency. Imagine the outrage if a Dem group had run attack ads about FDR’s polio. Every Presidential candidate must denounce this & call for the ad to be taken down. https://t.co/6BPZFbs3nT
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) January 29, 2020
DMFI is stacked with members of the Democratic establishment. In fact, board member Meghan Stabler was just Democratic National Convention Platform Committee by DNC Chair Tom Perez.
A truly inspired choice of an inspiring woman
— Democratic Majority for Israel (@DemMaj4Israel) January 26, 2020
As the investigative reporter Alex Kotch pointed out on Twitter, DMFI co-chair Ann Lewis previously worked for Hillary Clinton and co-chair Todd Richman has been a fundraiser for Minnesota Senator (and current Sanders opponent) Amy Klobuchar, as well as the conservative West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
Co-Chair Todd Richman
-Managing Director at JP Morgan
-Fundraiser for Amy Klobuchar, Joe Manchin pic.twitter.com/wD64AfgS5Q
— Alex Kotch (@alexkotch) January 28, 2020
DMFI’s concerns about the shifting views of Democratic voters are well founded. Recent polling indicates that a large majority of Democratic voters support conditioning aid to the country over its human rights abuses and that almost half of the Democratic voters who have heard of the BDS movement are supportive of it.