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Speaker Pelosi Declines To Comment On Super PAC Spending In Michigan Primary

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TAYLOR, Mich. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wouldn’t comment on the tens of millions of dollars in super PAC spending transforming the Democratic primary between two members of her caucus — Reps. Haley Stevens and Andy Levin of Michigan — when asked about it on Friday afternoon.

After a panel discussion Pelosi hosted touting Democrats’ work to pass microchip laws, HuffPost asked the House speaker whether she had any response to the tens of millions of dollars in super PAC spending in Michigan’s eleventh Congressional District and Levin’s call for Stevens to reject the help of United Democracy Project (UDP), an excellent PAC erected by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Pelosi responded first by condemning the 2010 Supreme Court decision enabling outside groups often known as super PACs to spend unlimited sums in campaigns as long as they don’t coordinate directly with candidates.

“Let me just say, I assumed that Residents United was probably the most undemocratic decisions within the history of our country,” Pelosi told HuffPost at a Detroit-area United Auto Employees union hall where the microchip laws event took place. “It empowered every kind of massive money to suppress — to attenuate the impact of other voters. However it’s there and we cannot tie a hand behind our back. If any individual’s getting attacked, they’ll probably fight back in kind.”

HuffPost followed up briefly to see if Pelosi had a selected comment on the spending in Michigan’s eleventh.

“I don’t know exactly what’s occurring here so I can’t speak with any authority on that,” she said before an aide intervened to finish the interview.

Within the wake of redistricting, Stevens and Levin, each incumbents, are competing for the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s newly drawn eleventh district in suburban Oakland County outside of Detroit. The first election is on account of happen on Aug. 2.

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), foreground, talks with Rep. Dan Killdee (D-Mich.) at a UAW panel on Friday. Her opponent, Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), background right, speaks to House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

Brittany Greeson for HuffPost

There are a lot of super PACs spending on each side of the Levin-Stevens race.

UDP is the largest spender by far, nevertheless, investing greater than $3.3 million to assist Stevens win the first within the Democratic-leaning district.

Although Levin is Jewish and Stevens isn’t, AIPAC objects to Levin’s support for added U.S. pressure on the Israeli government to hurry up an end to occupation of Palestinian lands conquered in 1967. Levin has introduced laws that might bar Israel from using U.S. aid dollars to entrench its occupation of the West Bank and other lands.

UDP’s big spending in Democratic primaries has elicited criticism due to AIPAC’s ties to Republicans.

Specifically, Levin has seized on AIPAC’s endorsement of greater than 100 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, and UDP’s reliance on million-dollar contributions from Republican mega-donors, as grounds to reject their support.

“To have them pouring tens of millions of dollars into this race to defeat me, whilst they’re supporting for reelection [Republican Reps.] Jim Jordan and Ronnie Jackson and Scott Perry and even that [Barry] Loudermilk guy who was giving the tours to the insurrectionists of the Capitol on Jan. 5, the day before the attack — it’s just unconscionable,” Levin said at a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Royal Oak earlier on Friday. “It will be great if my opponent would step up and do the best thing and switch away this money and denounce this sort of interference in our politics.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, joined Levin on the Friday press conference to echo the appeal to Stevens.

Pocan argued that UDP’s intervention was fundamentally different in nature, each due to its use of resources from Republicans and the proven fact that its advertisements don’t give the slightest hint that the group is targeted on U.S.-Israel policy. He warned that other well-heeled Republicans and company interests could copy from AIPAC’s playbook for influencing Democratic primaries on a variety of various policy priorities.

“It’s stealth campaigning combined with dirty oppositional money to create a Trojan horse inside a Trojan horse, so to talk,” Pocan said of the spending.

Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), left, and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) called on Rep. Stevens, Levin's opponent, to renounce support from a pro-Israel super PAC on Friday.Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), left, and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) called on Rep. Stevens, Levin’s opponent, to resign support from a pro-Israel super PAC on Friday.

Brittany Greeson for HuffPost

Levin and his allies haven’t called on Stevens to reject the support of EMILY’s List, which backs pro-choice, Democratic women candidates. The group’s super PAC, Women Vote!, has spent over $2.2 mililion on Stevens’ behalf.

Levin has also benefited from the support of J Street, a more liberal pro-Israel group. J Street’s super PAC, the J Street Motion Fund, has invested greater than $700,000 in support of Levin’s bid.

On the Friday press conference, Levin rejected any equivalency between AIPAC and J Street’s spending, arguing that J Street’s intervention was a “purely defensive” measure in response to AIPAC. He also said that if J Street took big contributions from Republican mega-donors, he would reject their support.

AIPAC and UDP have justified their endorsement of Republican election deniers on the grounds that they’re a bipartisan, single-issue organization. UDP also notes that it has received big checks from Democratic mega-donors, including entertainment mogul Haim Saban, who gave $1 million to the super PAC.

When asked about AIPAC’s support for Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, Stevens campaign spokesperson Larkin Parker reminded HuffPost earlier this month that AIPAC had also endorsed Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and a majority of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Rep. Stevens is happy with her unequivocal support of the Jewish State,” Parker said. “Her support from AIPAC solely on account of that view.”

Given Pelosi’s longstanding relationship with AIPAC, HuffPost asked Levin and Pocan whether or not they would also call on Pelosi to sentence the group’s involvement in the first. Even when pressed though, the 2 progressive Democrats refused to achieve this.

“I’ll let Speaker Pelosi speak for herself, but I do know that she campaigned for [former Rep.] Donna Edwards,” said Levin, referring to a recent Maryland primary where UDP spent over $6 million to defeat Edwards. “I assume she’s not super blissful concerning the way that that massive sum of money rolled in there.”

Pocan argued that the onus is on Stevens, not Pelosi, to handle it.

“Haley Stevens is in the right spot to rise up to this money,” Pocan said. “So it’s really incumbent on her to take that motion.”

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