Senator Joe Lieberman recently announced his support for Republican John McCain for President. Lieberman is one of the strongest defenders of the Iraq War and will certainly lend McCain support on that front. What else does he bring? Money, maybe.
In 2006 Ned Lamont beat Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary race in Connecticut. But with the aid of an enormous influx of out of state contributions and a weak Republican candidate Lieberman beat Lamont in the general election.
Just how much did Lieberman raise in that election? According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) at (www.opensecrets.org ) Lieberman took in $20,219,460, with $17,562,711 coming from individual contributors. Of this, 80 percent came from out of state. CRP’s data also records $156,593 from pro-Israel PACs going to Lieberman.
I tried my own hand at confirming these numbers from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) detailed data that they make available for downloading. A simple sum over the individual contribution file gave a total of $15,870,612 for individual contributions to Lieberman. This is somewhat smaller than that reported above from CRP, but only contributions of $200 or more are included in the FEC individual contribution file. These $15 million in contributions were associated with 9,718 different individual names, an average of $1,633 each.
Next, a list of the individuals who contributed to the pro-Israel PACs in 2005-2006 was created. It was determined that those same persons contributed a total of $933,384 to Lieberman’s campaign. This tally, incidentally, includes only out of state contributions, those most subject to direction by some centralized financial planner (i.e., AIPAC). It has been alleged that the American Israel Affairs Committee (AIPAC) provides assistance to the pro-Israel PACs, such as guidance as to where they should direct their contributions based on strategic political calculations. If that is true, it is likely that the individuals who fund those PACs would also become aware of those instructions, helping them obtain the maximal impact from any additional contributions they may be inclined to make. It is therefore reasonable to conclude, based on these considerations, that instead of directing $156,593 to Senator Lieberman in his 2006 hour of need, the pro-Israel PACs and their supporters really sent him more like $1,089,977, the sum of the two amounts.
At this time (Jan. 28, 2008) the most recent campaign contribution data available from the FEC is for the end of the third quarter, 2007. Based on that data, only one presidential candidate thus far has received any pro-Israel PAC funds, namely Hillary Clinton, in the amount of $10,000. However, looking at all of the individuals who actually provided the funds to the pro-Israel PACs, it appears that $173,850 was contributed to Senator Clinton by them. Given that Clinton has already raised over $90 million, this may not seem like a lot. But it is interesting that no other presidential candidate received any contributions from these individuals during this same time period, demonstrating an extraordinary degree of discipline among the pro-Israel PAC/AIPAC network. The individuals only contributed to the one candidate that the PACs themselves contributed to, as of September 30, 2007. Will that same discipline be used to direct some of these funds to Senator Lieberman’s choice for President? Time will tell.
It was stated above that an estimated 9,718 individuals gave Senator Lieberman over $15 million in 2005-2006 for his senatorial contest. One might ask, to whom are these same donors giving money to in the current presidential race? Performing name matches between the list of 2006 election contributors to Lieberman and individuals who have made contributions to presidential candidates between January 1 and September 30 last year, the results, for the top 6 remaining presidential candidates, are as follows:
1. Senator Clinton received 2.6 times as much from these individuals as did Senator Obama, and 6.6 times as much as John Edwards. (Does this mean that the pro-Lieberman, pro-Israel faction believes Clinton will be more useful in providing further assistance and support to Israel?)
2. The average amount received by the Democrats was 42 times that received by the Republicans.
3. The total of the above amounts to the top six presidential candidates is $1,390,320. This represents just 9 percent of the total amount that those individual contributors gave to Lieberman in 2005-2006.
Question: How much of the remaining potential $14,480,292 can Senator Lieberman bring to John McCain?
- Will Lieberman caucus with the Senate Democrats next January?
- Will his decision depend on the party of the newly elected vice president?
- Will AIPAC use its influence in helping their favorite senator achieve his goal of electing a Republican president?
- Will AIPAC use its influence, in close Senate races, to try to maintain Lieberman’s pivotal role in deciding which party controls that body?
In the event that the Democrats should fail to pick up an additional Senate seat (but not lose any), and if Lieberman’s choice for president, John McCain, actually is elected, it stretches the imagination to think that Lieberman would again join with the Democrats in organizing that body. In that case, the Senate would be evenly divided between the Democrats (plus Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont) and the Republicans (plus Lieberman). The Republican Vice President, whomever that might be, would then become the Great Decider. To answer the main question, Senator Lieberman is worth a great deal to John McCain, if he can bring with him a significant portion of the financial support he received in 2006, and perhaps some of the Jewish vote as well. But what if he fails in this? What if John McCain does not get the Republican nomination, or if he gets it fails to win the general election? To whom will Joe Lieberman continue to be useful?
This last question brings up the subtext for this analysis. Begin by imagining a re-run of 2007 with anti-war Ned Lamont in the Senate instead of Joe Lieberman. Lieberman retained his seat with the massive influx of out of state money from pro-Israel PACs, their supporters and others who wanted to prolong the unhappy situation in Iraq and extend it to Iran. The new Democratic majorities in Congress were unwilling to stand up against AIPAC and the rest of the Israel Lobby. One result was passage of the Lieberman-Kyle Amendment, which basically was a green light to President Bush to bomb Iran. Both Lieberman and Kyle, are favorites of AIPAC and receive large amounts of pro-Israel PAC money. The only reason military action against Iran is temporarily off the table is because of unnamed but courageous members of the intelligence community who insisted that the main conclusions of their National Intelligence Estimate on Iran be made public. Maybe someday we will hear a full account of this episode. But those who were pushing for U.S. military action against Iran have not given up. They are only regrouping.
Word of caution: Numbers above that were obtained by performing name matches between a list of donors’ names and the names in the individual contributions files are not exact. This is because the names recorded for individual donors are written in many different ways and may appear differently on different contribution records. For example, middle names are not always used, middle initials likewise, and titles and modifiers such as Dr., Mr. or Mrs., Jr., III, etc. are used inconsistently. In most instances it is likely that an undercount will occur due to these variations. However it is also possible that different donors will have exactly the same name, which could give too many matches in some cases. In performing these matches, the donors’ states of residencies, as well as their zip codes, were used to try to minimize matches due to different donors having the same name. In short, the numbers obtained with name matches such as those used above will almost certainly not be exactly correct, but it is thought the results will have the correct orders of magnitude and will fairly reflect actual contribution patterns.