US Politicians Influenced by Foreign Agents?
How can America’s representatives declare that any other country’s fight — even one as close to us as Israel is — is our fight, its cause our cause, its values our values?
It’s precisely this kind of overidentification that George Washington warned against in his 1796 farewell address. “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils,” Washington said. “Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists… betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
To protect against this kind of passionate attachment, the United States has laws in place that forbid foreign governments from wielding certain kinds of influence or lobbying. Every foreign country represented in Washington by foreign agents must register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Under its terms, the country in question is absolutely banned from participating in or influencing American elections. Every contact the agents have with Congress must be reported to the Department of Justice, along with how and where they spend their resources.
This law applies to Canada as much as it does to Russia (although Russian interference in our political process is now one of the biggest issues in our political life). It also applies to Israel.
But it does not apply to the Israel lobby as represented by AIPAC, which is heavily involved in our political system, funding candidates who are perceived to be “good on Israel,” and defunding incumbents who fail to subscribe to the favored foreign state’s agenda.
How does AIPAC get away with it?
It gets away with it because AIPAC’s founder, I.L. Kenen, came up with a legal loophole by which AIPAC is defined not as a lobby for a foreign state but for Americans who support that state. It’s a critical distinction that makes AIPAC’s dominance over U.S. Middle East policy possible.