J Street Action Fund, a left-wing pro-Israel group, is spending $100,000 on digital video ads to support Jessica Cisnerosa progressive lawyer defying Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.
The investment is timed to benefit Cisneros ahead of the Texas Democratic congressional primary on March 1, joining other national backers for Cisneros in the home stretch of his uphill battle against a nine-term incumbent. On Saturday, Representative Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) headliner of a rally for Cisneros in San Antonio, and on Monday Sen. Bernie Sanders (IN.Y.) endorsed Cisneros.
“Our effort is intended to show voters that while Rep. Cuellar fights for her self-interests and out-of-touch conservative views, Jessica Cisneros is a dedicated, dedicated leader who is prepared to fight for the true needs and values of her district,” Logan said. Bayroff, spokesperson for the J Street Action Fund, said in a statement.
Cisneros, an immigration lawyer, shocked election watchers with a rambling offer in the 2020 election cycle that came 4 percentage points to defeat Cuellar.
This time around, Cuellar maintains a balance biggest fundraising advance on Cisneros that he did not appreciate in the 2020 election cycle.
But one FBI Raid at Cuellar’s home in January, conducted as part of an investigation into Cuellar’s ties to the Azerbaijani governmentprovides an opening for Cisneros.
Cuellar insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing and welcomes the inquiry. No charges have been brought against him.
“Let’s be clear: I am a candidate for re-election and I intend to win,” Cuellar said after the raid.
Cisneros supporters seized the opportunity presented by the negative attention on Cuellar. J Street Action Fund is targeting voters in Texas’ 28th congressional district — a gerrymandered seat that stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley — with two video ads that invoke the federal investigation.
One 30 second spot is a contrasting ad that highlights Cuellar’s alleged corruption and conservatism, as well as Cisneros’ attributes, claiming that she “fought for South Texas families as a human rights lawyer man”.
A second 30 second video is uniquely an anti-Cuellar attack, citing the FBI raid and Cuellar’s opposition to abortion rights and pro-union legislation.
“Henry Cuellar doesn’t fight for Texas families, he cares for them,” the ad concludes.
Meanwhile, Pro-Israel America, a more conservative pro-Israel group founded by a former leader of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, endorsed Cuellar, praising it as a “strong supporter US-Israeli relations throughout his tenure in Congress. By the end of 2021, Cuellar had raised over $54,000 donors and pro-Israel groups.
J Street Action Fund’s intervention in the race speaks to how groups on all sides of the US-Israeli political debate are increasing their investments in congressional races. J Street announcement the creation of J Street Action Fund as an independent spending arm in January, marking the organization’s first foray into a world of large campaign spending unbound by federal candidate and PAC fundraising and spending limits .
Pro-Israel America, AIPAC and other like-minded groups have also increased their political spending. AIPAC previously relied on a network of affiliate groups to bolster its preferred candidates, but in December it announced the creation of its first-ever federal PAC, as well as a super PAC capable of raising and spending unlimited funds. .
“Hyper-partisanship, high Congressional turnover, and exponentially growing campaign costs now dominate the landscape,” AIPAC said in an email breaking the news to its supporters.
AIPAC and its right-wing allies are responding, in large part, to the incursions of pro-Palestinian forces into the progressive world. For the first time in decades, a contingent of at least a dozen federal lawmakers directly or indirectly supports tougher conditions on US military aid to the Israeli government.
Unlike AIPAC, however, which opposes efforts to pressure Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories or make other concessions to Palestinian demands, J Street has encouraged the United States to take measures to proactively facilitate a two-state solution. At the same time, J Street stops well short of the radical positions promoted by groups like the Democratic Socialists of America, which support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
In explaining the reason for his intervention on behalf of Cisneros, Bayroff cited Cuellar’s embrace of AIPAC-style opposition to more accommodating US-Israel policies.
“Whether it’s ongoing diplomacy with Iran or US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Representative Cuellar has repeatedly aligned himself with foreign policy hawks who undermine true American values and interests,” Bayroff said. “Instead of this kind of flawed, failed leadership, Jessica Cisneros is exactly the kind of talented progressive voice who will champion a more principled and pragmatic foreign policy in Congress.”