Pro-Israel PAC spends big money in campaign to unseat Tlaib in congressional race

A coalition of Black and Jewish leaders is supporting Rashida Tlaib's opponent, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey

May 31, 2022 at 12:10 pm
click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib. - Phil Pasquini /
Phil Pasquini /
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

A pro-Israel political action committee (PAC) has pledged to spend up to $1 million to unseat U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first woman of Palestinian descent to be elected to Congress.

The Urban Empowerment Action PAC, made of Black and Jewish leaders, is supporting Tlaib’s opponent, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, ahead of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary.

Tlaib and Winfrey, along with several lesser-known candidates, are running in the newly created 12th District, which includes Dearborn, Livonia, Southfield, and west Detroit. Tlaib currently represents the 13th District.

The UEA PAC is endorsed by Bakari Sellers, a prominent Black Zionist, political pundit, attorney, and former South Carolina state lawmaker.

“This joint effort builds on the strong relationship between African American and Jewish leaders to uplift all communities,” Sellers said in a statement. “Instead of allowing our communities to be divided, history teaches us that when Black and Jewish communities stand together to fight for our common ideals — we create positive change in society. Our hope is for our electoral engagement to bear fruit through representatives who fiercely fight on behalf of those who need socioeconomic empowerment.”

The UEA PAC’s primary mission is to defeat Tlaib, who has been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and recently introduced a resolution in the U.S. House to recognize Nakba, the Arabic word for "catastrophe," or the expulsion of Palestinians from what is now Israel.

Tlaib’s campaign slammed the injection of outside money.

“This is yet another sad example of out of state billionaire interference in local races, spending millions to peddle lies and distortions, and pushing a pro-corporate agenda on a district that has consistently stood against the corporate greed hurting our families,” Denzel McCampbell, a spokesman for Tlaib’s reelection campaign, told Metro Times in a statement. “It’s flattering that someone who knows nothing about our district is so scared of the movement we’ve built that they'd spend millions of their own money to try to avoid paying their fair share in taxes."

Tlaib, who doesn’t accept corporate PAC money, has a sizable fundraising advantage, having raised more than $2.3 million, compared to Winfrey’s $236,000, according to federal election commission records.

Tlaib’s campaign is calling on Winfrey to renounce the PAC money.

“Outside Super PAC ads do not win elections, direct voter contact does,” McCampbell said. “If our opponent truly does care about our democracy, I hope that she will immediately disavow and condemn this type of Big Money attack on our democracy that only seeks to mislead voters and distort reality. Voters in Michigan’s new 12th district can see right through these desperate schemes, and we’re laser focused on returning Congresswoman Tlaib to Congress to continue building on her impressive record of delivering life changing services and legislation for her residents."

Metro Times couldn't reach Winfrey for comment Tuesday morning.

In a news release, the UEA PAC says it’s main focus is on unseating Tlaib.

“UEA PAC’s premier race will be in Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, where the group plans to spend upwards of $1,000,000 on TV, digital, mail, radio, and print advertising to support Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey in her campaign to restore infrastructure, improve educational opportunities in the district, and support the Biden-Harris agenda in D.C.,” the PAC said.

The PAC said it’s “dedicated to the educational empowerment and economic uplift of Black communities.”

For her inauguration in 2019, Tlaib wore a traditional Palestinian thobe and was sworn in using her Quran.

Her grandmother still lives in the West Bank. In 2019, Tlaib planned to lead the first Congressional delegation to the West Bank, but Israel would only let her come if she promised not to promote a boycott while on the trip. Tlaib canceled the trip out of principle.

Tlaib has also called on President Joe Biden to speak out against Israel violence toward Palestinians.

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