A group of prominent Americans filed a complaint Thursday against 54 pro-Israel lobbying and political action committees, accusing them of violating federal election laws.
Among the complainants are James E. Akins, formerly ambassador to Saudi Arabia; George Ball, who served as undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations; Paul Findley, a former Illinois congressman who contends he was defeated in 1982 because of a campaign by the pro-Israeli lobby; and Retired Adm. Robert J. Hanks, who headed the Navy's Middle East Task Force.The petition to the Federal Election Commission focuses primarily on the activities of an influential pro-Israel lobby called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It contends AIPAC violated the law by failing to register as a political action committee even though it allegedly targets political candidates for support and contributes to their campaigns.
The plaintiffs are demanding that AIPAC be forced to register as a PAC bound by laws of disclosure of its activities - a move that would greatly limit its effectiveness as a behind-the-scenes lobbyist.
Spokesmen for the FEC and AIPAC say no such complaint has been filed against the group in its 15-year existence.
The plaintiffs have long contended that AIPAC exercises undue influence over legislators and administration officials, skewing U.S. policy in favor of Israel and against Arab states.
"The work of AIPAC is so effective that it creates a broad level of intimidation which is very harmful for our foreign policy interests," Findley said. Excerpts from his 1985 book "They Dare To Speak Out," which chronicles his defeat, are included among the exhibits.
The complaint, supported by more than 100 pages of exhibits, also charges that 53 pro-Israel PACs made excessive contributions to candidates in the 1984, 1986 and 1988 election cycles.
Most of the other documents are newspaper clippings about AIPAC, as well as notes made by one or more unidentified people who attended several AIPAC policy conferences.
"The complaint is based almost exclusively upon press clippings and supposed quotations," according to a statement issued by AIPAC. "AIPAC members proudly participate in the political process and do so within the law. We are confident the FEC will expeditiously concur."
Citing a law barring discussion of cases before the FEC, AIPAC officials declined to further discuss the complaint.
The exhibits also include two memoranda written by former AIPAC officials, one of which urges a staff member to ensure that pro-Israel PACs around the country channel contributions to certain Senate candidates.