|Former Sen. Rick Santorum, shown campaigning in Iowa on Jan. 2, was reaching out to pro-Israel fundraisers in the wake of his strong showing in the state’s caucuses, insiders said. Norpac president Ben Chouake calls him “a great legislator, a leader on our issues.” IowaPolitics.com via CreativeCommons|
Old friends. They are the ones hanging in and local supporters are pleased.
The Republican presidential field narrowed this week with the departure of Rep. Michelle Bachman.
With the notable exception of Rep. Ron Paul, who came in third in Iowa, the field is increasingly filled with people who are friends of the pro-Israel activists at Norpac.
Based in Englewood, Norpac is the largest pro-Israel political action committee, having raised more than a million dollars in the 2010 election cycle.
As of Sept. 30, it spent nearly $700,000 for the 2012 election cycle, more than it did for all of the 2008 elections.
“For presidential elections, as long as the candidate is reasonable, we try to get to know as many as possible,” said Dr. Benjamin Chouake, president of Norpac.
Different Norpac members have organized fund-raising events for various candidates this year.
“We had an event for Romney, hosted and chaired by one of our members,” said Chouake. “That was mostly an effort to get to know the candidate and facilitate our exchange with him.”
The host of that event had known Romney for years, said Chouake, and traveled with him to Israel.
Some Norpac members went to an event for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Many members went to an event for President Barack Obama, said Chouake, but that was not an official Norpac event, “because Obama doesn’t do PACs.”
Chouake himself was a major supporter for the Republican candidate in the 2008 election, helping to raise $100,000 for Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Chouake said this primary campaign vindicated a decision that brought him grief many years ago.
“My first political event was for Newt Gingrinch in 1997, when he was speaker of the house. Not many people were raising money for Republicans in those days. I looked at him and said, this guy is great, he’s strong on our issues, he’s very important, people should be involved with him.
“We ended up with like 300, 400 people at the house. And word spread around that the Jewish community would raise money for Republicans if they’re good on the issues of U.S.-Israel relations,” said Chouake.
“Eight months later, Gingrich was out of office, and goodness did I get grief. You have all these donors and eight months later the guy resigns. What I said then, and what I continue to say, is you never know what’s going to be. These guys usually stick around and they always have a voice. Doing something to support people who are good on our issue and facilitate their careers goes way beyond their day in Congress.
“As it turns out, Gingrich has been using his bully puplit on these issues. Originally after 9/11, when [President George W.] Bush left Hezbollah off the terrorist list, he wrote a letter and [the list] was changed immediately. You hear how strong he is now on the issue, and that’s a national platform,” he said.
So too with Santorum, who, as a senator, attracted Norpac attention – and contributions – years ago.
“We supported him through his elections. He’s surging now in the polls. I know him. He’s been at the house a few times. He’s a great legislator, a leader on our issues, one of the authors of the Syrian Accountability Act. When Iranian sanctions were coming to the legislature, he was ahead of the curve. He understands the Middle East,” said Chouake.