Dem Senate Candidate Says Israel Lobby Offered Him $20M to Run Against Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Chris Menahan
Nov. 23, 2023

Democratic Senate candidate Hill Harper revealed Wednesday that he was offered $20 million by a donor with the Israel Lobby to run against Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in Michigan.

From Politico, "Donor allegedly offered $20M to recruit a Tlaib primary challenger":
A Michigan businessman called Democratic Senate candidate Hill Harper to offer $20 million in campaign contributions if he agreed to drop out and instead mount a primary challenge to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, according to a source with direct knowledge of the call.

The source added that Harper declined the alleged Oct. 16 offer from donor Linden Nelson -- which would have split the campaign money between $10 million in bundled contributions directly to Harperís campaign and $10 million in independent expenditures. Harper declined to comment on the record about the alleged call from Nelson, a Michigan entrepreneur and past donor to candidates in both parties, but he recounted the call in the same terms as the source in a post on X after this storyís publication.

But the episode illustrates the intensity of the blowback toward Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, in response to her outspoken criticism of the Israeli government since its war with Hamas began. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in voting to censure Tlaib earlier this month after she invoked a pro-Palestinian slogan that's widely seen as calling for the eradication of Israel, and pro-Israel Democrats are still searching for a candidate to primary her.

POLITICO reached Nelson briefly to seek comment on the alleged call to Harper, but he ended the call after a few seconds and did not respond to subsequent calls, texts and emails seeking comment.

[...] Nelson has also previously donated to a group seeking to unseat Tlaib and has a history of involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has railed against her. He has donated to other Michigan Democratic candidates over the years, including Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) this cycle and Andy Levin in previous cycles, according to FEC records, as well as former Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.).

AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann said that the group "was absolutely not involved in any way in this matter. Also, our records indicate that this individual has not contributed to AIPAC in over a decade."

It's not clear if the alleged donation offer would have violated any campaign finance laws, had Harper accepted it. Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said that any potential coordination between a candidate and a donor floating that amount of financing would be illegal.

"It would be illegal for a wealthy donor and a person planning to run for office to essentially coordinate and line up $20 million in financing to support that person's candidacy; this would raise serious corruption concerns about the candidate being wholly within that one donor's pocket," said Ghosh.
Harper said he's running to "break the stranglehold wealthy special interests" such as "the Israel lobby" have on our politics.

AIPAC is reportedly planning to spend over $100 million in the 2024 election to unseat the few critics of Israel in Congress.

They've already begun running ads against Republican Rep. Thomas Massie for voting against giving Israel another $14 billion in taxpayer dollars and handouts.

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