Most of these solicitations are annoying, but having just worked on a Congressional campaign, I know that they are part of the electoral game. But a solicitation I received this week from Congressman Tom MacArthur was particularly galling.
The letter opened as follows:
I'm leaving for Israel tomorrow. I think that it is important that I go there, meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in person and get a firsthand understanding of just how bad this Iran deal is going to be.
This is wrong on so many levels:
- If Congressman MacArthur already has his mind made up that this is a “bad deal”, why go on a fact-finding mission in the first place? Then it just becomes another congressional boondoggle.
- Congressman MacArthur is using a critical and sensitive element of U.S. foreign policy not for any policy reason, but simply to raise funds for his re-election.
- He doesn’t even need the money. He raised virtually no money from contributors for his last election, instead self-funding his campaign to the tune of $5 million – the most expensive congressional campaign in 2014.
- The junket is not being paid for by the taxpayer, but instead by AIPAC, a far-right organization. MacArthur made no indication that he would also be meeting with any pro-Israel peace organization (such as the Israeli intelligence and military operatives who say that President Obama’s peace deal should be approved). Why travel all that distance without hearing all sides of the argument?
AIPAC invited every freshman congress member to this junket. Fifty-seven freshmen, from both parties, are going. Only three are not.
Those who are opting to attend by accepting AIPAC’s invitation are in essence taking a bribe – a trip to a wonderful historic and spiritual place. Since Congress writes the rules, this bribe is perfectly legal. But like many things in Washington (and Trenton) that are legal, the ethics of accepting this trip from a strong lobbying organization are dubious. Especially, as in the case of MacArthur, you are going there with a closed mind and using it to raise money.