Dark Money Flows Into the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary

Speculation began last fall that pro-Israel political action committees would seek to influence the race to succeed Earl Blumenauer. The Intercept says that money has arrived.

Maxine Dexter (Whitney McPhie)

How much?

$2.7 million

Who benefited from it?

State Rep. Maxine Dexter (D-Portland)

Who gave it?

314 Action Fund, Washington, D.C., and Voters for Responsive Government, Los Angeles

Why does it matter?

When U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced his retirement Oct. 30 after 14 terms in the House, three relatively evenly matched Democratic officeholders stepped forward to run for his seat: state Rep. Maxine Dexter (D-Portland), now-former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales. Each of the three has served long enough to earn a modest following.

But with Congress evenly divided (imperiling crucial military aid) and Jayapal’s sister, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), serving as the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, speculation began last fall that pro-Israel political action committees would seek to influence the race to succeed Blumenauer. Susheela Jayapal’s less-than-full-throated support for Israel after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks put a target on her back, as Jewish Insider first reported in December.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show that starting around April 10, 314 Action Fund spent $1.66 million in four separate independent expenditures to support Dexter.

To put that sum in context, 314 Action says it spent just $14.6 million in total since 2018 to support hundreds of pro-science Democrats. (Dexter is a Kaiser pulmonologist.) That means 314 Action’s support for Dexter is completely out of proportion to its previous spending.

On May 3, The Intercept, an investigative online publication, reported that two members of Congress speaking on background said the real source of the money is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

314 Action is using the money for so-called independent expenditures, which must be made without the knowledge or cooperation of the candidate they benefit. Nonetheless, Morales and Jayapal are livid that 314 Action is involving itself so heavily in a race in which the Democrat will win the seat because the district is overwhelmingly blue.

“Maxine Dexter claims to be for transparency in politics, but she and 314 Action are engaged in a dishonest and cynical ploy to obscure the donors propping up her campaign,” Morales and Jayapal said in a joint statement.

Dexter’s campaign manager, Nathan Clark, says Dexter is proud to get 314′s support and says her opponents are hypocrites for decrying perfectly legal activity.

“Maxine is the only candidate in this race who has championed and passed meaningful campaign finance reform,” Clark adds.

A new PAC, Voters for Responsive Government, has spent an additional $1.041 million against Susheela Jayapal.

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