Maxine Dexter reports a massive fundraising haul that appears tied to pro-Israel group

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
May 9, 2024 7:41 p.m. Updated: May 9, 2024 10:19 p.m.

Speculation has swirled for months about what role the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, might play in the race to replace Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Maxine Dexter, a state representative and critical care doctor, is vying for the Democratic nomination for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District in the upcoming primary on May 21, in this undated image provided by the campaign.

Maxine Dexter, a state representative and critical care doctor, is vying for the Democratic nomination for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District in the upcoming primary on May 21, in this undated image provided by the campaign.

Courtesy of the campaign

Oregon state Rep. Maxine Dexter reported a massive single-day fundraising haul in her campaign for Congress on Thursday, in a surge of cash that appears to be tied to the nation’s most prominent pro-Israel group.


A report filed by Dexter’s campaign committee shows the Portland Democrat took in $218,250 on Tuesday alone. That’s more than Dexter raised in the entire first three months of the year, as she looks to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer in Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District.

The money also appears to have a clear nexus in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. The vast majority of 66 donors listed in the report — most of whom gave the maximum $3,300 — have a history of giving to AIPAC, federal campaign finance records show. Some have also recently supported Republicans like House Speaker Mike Johnson and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Dexter did not answer questions about how the money made its way to her campaign or its connection to AIPAC.

“AIPAC hasn’t endorsed any candidates in this race,” campaign manager Nathan Clark said in a statement. “Maxine’s position has been clear for months — we need a cease-fire that brings the hostages home and rush humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Clark added: “We’re proud of the strong base of support and the momentum our campaign has generated.”

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Since late last year, Oregon political observers have watched for what role AIPAC or other pro-Israel groups could play in the race to succeed Blumenauer. Those groups have made plain they intend to oppose Democrats they see as insufficiently supportive of Israel.

In the 3rd Congressional District, that has seemed to mean Susheela Jayapal, the former Multnomah County commissioner who touts herself as the most progressive candidate in the race. Jayapal’s younger sister, Pramila, is a congresswoman from Seattle who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has railed against Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza.


In fact, Dexter and Jayapal’s stated positions on the war will look little different to most voters wondering where their next congressperson stands.

Dexter says she wants a “long-term, negotiated cease-fire that ensures the release of all hostages, the enduring defeat of Hamas and facilitates security in the region.”

Jayapal argues she is “the only candidate who has consistently called for a sustained cease-fire in Gaza, to protect civilians and put the region on a path to lasting peace and stability for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

A third leading candidate in the race, Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales, has been less vocal on the issue. Morales, who has traveled to Israel in the past, does not have a position statement on Gaza on his website, and typically does not refer to a “cease-fire” when asked about the matter, though he has said he wants hostilities to end.

Speculation has swirled that AIPAC might have a hand in a torrent of outside spending in the race that has funded ads supporting Dexter and attacking Jayapal, but little actual evidence.

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Dexter’s new fundraising report seems to offer the first concrete view of where the influential lobbying group stands. AIPAC did not immediately respond to an inquiry about its stance on the race.

But one of Dexter’s opponents wasted no time attempting to cast the fundraising in a negative light — relying particularly on the fact that some of the donors have supported Republicans.

“Well, well, well — after sounding the alarm on Maxine Dexter’s lack of transparency around her dark money support for weeks, it’s finally out in the open,” Morales said in a statement. “Her campaign is being propped up by hundreds of thousands of dollars from far-right Republican donors.”

The 3rd Congressional District stretches from the eastside of Portland to Hood River, and is among the most reliably Democratic districts in the country. That’s made the race to replace Blumenauer one of the most hotly contested on the May 21 ballot.

As of earlier this week, outside groups who cannot coordinate with any candidates had spent more than $2.7 million to influence voters. One of those groups, 314 Action Fund, has a stated goal of supporting Democrats with a science background, and has spent more than $1.6 million on ads painting Dexter in a positive light.

Another group, Voters for Responsive Government, has spent more than $1 million on ads and mailers attacking Jayapal. The group was created in April and to date hasn’t had to report any of its funders.

And while they have both decried the role of “dark money” in the race, Jayapal and Morales have both benefitted from outside spending in recent days. Most recently, a super PAC called The Impact Fund signaled its intent to spend $150,000 on mailers in support of Jayapal. Filings show the group is affiliated with another political group, the Indian American Impact Fund.