United Democracy Project super PAC targets Lee, Bowman, Massie over anti-Israel votes
Election 2024Lee is now facing a Democratic challenger, Bhavini Patel

United Democracy Project super PAC targets Lee, Bowman, Massie over anti-Israel votes

The anti-Lee ad targets the Squirrel Hill representative for voting against a resolution standing with Israel and condemning Hamas.

Rep. Summer Lee (Photo courtesy of summerlee.house.gov/)
Rep. Summer Lee (Photo courtesy of summerlee.house.gov/)

This article was first published on Jewish Insider.

In its first major investment of the primary cycle, United Democracy Project, a pro-Israel super PAC affiliated with AIPAC, is now running a series of attack ads hitting two left-wing House members as well as a GOP congressman over their stances on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The bipartisan group is spending significantly to target Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Summer Lee (D-PA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), a libertarian Republican who frequently opposes pro-Israel legislation. Most recently, Massie was the only GOP lawmaker to join with nine Democrats, including Bowman and Lee, in voting against a House resolution standing with Israel and condemning Hamas — the main subject of UDP’s slate of ads.

The pro-Israel resolution won widespread support in the House, passing with 412 votes.

“Their constituents deserve to know that these members of Congress refused to vote on the House floor to condemn the horrific Hamas terrorism attacks on October 7,” Patrick Dorton, a spokesperson for UDP, said in a statement to Jewish Insider on Friday. “This is an initial six-figure buy in each of these three districts.”

The new ads represent an opening salvo from UDP, which spent millions last year, as it gears up for a heated primary cycle in which sharp divisions over Israel are already shaping a number of House races.

Lee, a freshman House member from Pittsburgh, is now facing a Democratic challenger, Bhavini Patel, who has fiercely criticized her positions on Israel. While Lee withstood nearly $4 million in spending from UDP last cycle, the group has yet to indicate if it will spend on behalf of her new opponent, who has won backing from Jewish and pro-Israel voters in the district.

“We will look carefully at each race where there is a detractor of Israel,” Dorton said in an email to JI on Sunday. “I don’t have anything to add.”

Bowman, for his part, appears poised to draw a formidable challenge from Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a moderate Democrat who could enter the primary as soon as this week, according to sources informed of his plans.

In recent days, UDP has begun running a series of similarly worded 15– and 30- second digital spots attacking Bowman and Lee, who are among the most prominent members of the left-wing Squad, for their votes on the non-binding House resolution last month.

“Fourteen-hundred Israelis slaughtered by Hamas. Women raped. Babies beheaded. Over 200 hostages. But Jamaal Bowman was one of just 10 votes in Congress against condemning Hamas’ terrorism,” a narrator intones in one of the ads now circulating in Westchester. “Tell Jamaal Bowman to stand with Israel.”

Bowman and Lee, who represent sizable Jewish constituencies, have each defended their votes, arguing that the resolution was flawed because it did not mention the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, among other issues. Their campaigns did not respond to requests for comment from JI on Sunday.

In addition to UDP, Democratic pro-Israel groups have indicated that they are preparing to spend heavily in the upcoming election cycle. Last week, Democratic Majority for Israel dropped a six-figure ad buy in Detroit hitting Tlaib for her anti-Israel votes. A super PAC funded largely by Reid Hoffman, the billionaire LinkedIn co-founder, is also scouting for potential challengers to Tlaib and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a vocal critic of the Jewish state.

UDP has, until now, exclusively targeted Democrats since the group was launched by AIPAC in 2022. In that context, the new Massie ads — a mix of TV, radio and digital spots that began running on Saturday, according to Dorton — are notable for UDP, even as AIPAC has long sparred with the veteran lawmaker.

In 2021, the pro-Israel lobbying group ran attack ads against Massie over his vote against legislation to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system during the last major flare-up of violence with Hamas. “How is THIS not foreign interference in our elections?” Massie responded on Twitter at the time, drawing accusations of antisemitism.

The congressman has more recently butted heads with AIPAC over his opposition to the pro-Israel resolution last month. “AIPAC always gets mad when I put America first,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, last week, after AIPAC accused him of aligning with the Squad on Israel. “I won’t be voting for their $14+ billion shakedown of American taxpayers either,” he added, claiming that AIPAC was “intentionally misrepresenting my intent and the resolution I voted against.”

UDP’s latest ad offensive shows that the super PAC is now taking the fight directly to Massie’s district.

“Every Republican voted to stand with Israel. Every Republican except for one: Kentucky’s Tom Massie. On Israel, Tom Massie votes with AOC, Tlaib and Omar over and over,” declares one 30-second video ad shared with JI, referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilham Omar (D-MN). “It’s a disgrace. Call Tom Massie. Tell him it’s time to stand with Israel.”

Massie, who represents a heavily Republican district in northeastern Kentucky, has yet to draw a GOP challenger this cycle.

In an email exchange on Sunday, his campaign refused to comment on UDP’s activity after JI had requested that the ads, one of which will run on Monday, remain confidential until this story was published.

Massie himself, however, was already seeking to get ahead of UDP’s attacks late Sunday afternoon — just a day before the ads were set to drop on TV.

“Lobbyists for Israel are running hit pieces against me this week on TV,” he said in a post on X, which also went after JI. “‘Jewish Insider’ asked me to comment on the ads, but won’t show me the ads they have in their possession unless I promise to keep the hit pieces confidential. Folks, you can’t make this stuff up!” PJC

read more: