A major pro-Israel group spent big to influence one Oregon congressional race

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
June 21, 2024 12:34 a.m.

Filings show a political action committee tied to AIPAC spent $1.3 million on attacks against former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal in May while giving $1 million to a group supporting her opponent.

Susheela Jayapal was the subject of more than $3.2 million in attack ads during the primary race for Oregon's 3rd Congressional District.

Susheela Jayapal was the subject of more than $3.2 million in attack ads during the primary race for Oregon's 3rd Congressional District.

Courtesy of Hannah Love / Courtesy of Hannah Love

The nation’s most prominent pro-Israel group spent big last month to influence the race to replace outgoing Oregon U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.


New filings show a political action committee affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, donated $1.3 million in May to a group that spent more than $3.2 million waging attacks on one of three central candidates in that race: former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal.

The group also poured $1 million into a separate group that lavished more than $2 million in support on Maxine Dexter, the physician and state lawmaker who ultimately won the race.

Those efforts, combined with a surge in fundraising from donors with ties to AIPAC, provided a major boost to Dexter. She is now all but assured a seat in Congress next year as the Democratic nominee in the deep blue Portland district.

The $1.3 million contribution was reported on Thursday by an AIPAC-affiliated political action committee called the United Democracy Project. The money went to Voters for Responsive Government, an out-of-state PAC that surfaced in April, that has offered no reasons for its interest in the Oregon primary.


Voters for Responsive Government was required to file full details with the Federal Election Commission about the remainder of its funders by Thursday night. To date, the attack ads on Jayapal are the only expenses the group has reported. It wasn’t clear as of Thursday afternoon where the remainder of the PAC’s funding had come from.

Who bankrolled the negative ads has been one of the lingering questions from Oregon’s May 21 primary for Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District, which saw huge interest from Super PACs that spent to support or oppose candidates.

Dexter reaped more than $2.2 million in positive advertising from 314 Action Fund, a committee that supports Democrats with science backgrounds. 314 Action has downplayed any suggestion that it supported Dexter at the behest of AIPAC, after news outlet The Intercept reported such an arrangement. But Thursday’s filings show the AIPAC-affiliated committee gave the group $1 million.

Both that money and the contribution to the political action committee attacking Jayapal occurred on May 1, ensuring they would not have to be disclosed in federal filings until well after the May 21 election.

Political consultants connected to the CD3 primary race had long speculated that AIPAC and its allies would wade into the contest specifically to oppose Jayapal. Their reasoning: The candidate’s younger sister, Pramila Jayapal, is a U.S. representative from Seattle who has been a prominent critic of Israel.

The filing Thursday helps fill in the picture of just how much the ongoing war in Gaza served as a motivation for the spending bonanza in the Oregon race, but there were earlier signs.

Dexter, who trailed in fundraising early in the contest, saw a rush of contributions from donors around the country as election day neared, some of them with a clear connection to AIPAC.

“I did not for one second compromise my integrity or my values,” Dexter said when asked on Election Day about the contributions. “I said what I mean, and I mean what I said, and if people chose to support me, I’m grateful for that. But there’s nothing that I did to pander.”

Some of the Dexter donors who had supported AIPAC had also given in the past to Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump. Dexter’s campaign said after the election that it donated $11,300 from Trump donors to Central City Concern, a Portland social services agency.