by Eli Clifton
The Democratic Party has latched onto the message that critics of the Iran deal are spending big money over the next 60 days to kill the agreement in Congress. Last Wednesday, for example, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented that, “I know there’s tens of millions of dollars lined up against the agreement.” And Obama, interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show last week, criticized “lobbyists” and “money” working against the deal.
Indeed, the operating budgets of groups opposing the deal are massive. I published a post last Tuesday totaling the 2013 budgets of eight of the most prominent groups dedicated to defeating the deal.
To recap: the combined 2013 budgets of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Anti-Defamation league, The Israel Project, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Zionist Organization of America, Republican Jewish Coalition, United Against Nuclear Iran, and Emergency Committee for Israel came to approximately $145 million, according to their publicly available tax filings.
But that figure by itself lacks context. So here’s a rundown of eight of the most important groups that are actively promoting the deal and their annual budgets in 2013:
2013 budget: $7,216,478
Pro-deal statement: “The global security foundation Ploughshares Fund hailed today’s Iran nuclear agreement as a groundbreaking triumph for U.S. diplomacy and security, strongly urging Congress to support this historic step to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.”
2013 budget: $7,117,701
Pro-deal statement: “J Street welcomes news of the agreement struck today by the United States and its international partners with Iran to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
2013 budget: $5,614,211
Pro-deal statement: ““The diplomatic negotiations between the United States and five world powers have yielded a strong, verifiable deal with Iran. MoveOn members are going to fight like hell to defend it and to stop opponents from dragging the U.S. into yet another costly, deadly war of choice.”
2013 budget: $4,839,769
Pro-deal statement: “This is a good deal and a historic opportunity to win without war. Unfortunately, Congressional opponents of ANY deal with Iran will stop at nothing to scuttle this agreement and put our nation on the path to yet another war in the Middle East. We have seen this movie before and we know how it ends. We will not stand idly by while those who pushed for war with Iraq try to push us into war with Iran.”
2013 budget: $4,471,743
Pro-deal statement: :The Friends Committee on National Legislation welcomes the historic breakthrough between six powers and Iran, and calls on Congress to support this accord, which guards against another nuclear-armed nation and war in the Middle East.”
2013 budget: $1,996,386
Pro-deal statement: “We heartily congratulate President Obama and his P5+1 partners, and their indefatigable teams of expert negotiators, for the historic achievement announced today – an agreement that, when implemented, will verifiably roll back Iran’s nuclear program, limit Iran’s nuclear activities going forward, and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “
2013 budget: $1,125,588
Pro-deal statement: “The agreement—known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons and promptly detecting and deterring possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons in the future.”
2013 budget: $895,242
Pro-deal statement: “The United States and Iran have turned the tide on decades of enmity and instead have secured a nuclear deal that promises a better and brighter future. Major world powers and Iran have sealed a final nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – and heralded the greatest diplomatic achievement of the new millennium.”
Of course, much like my list of anti-deal groups, this is a small selection of organizations devoting considerable resources to supporting the deal. But they are some of the best known, best funded, and most vocal groups working in this arena.
The combined 2013 budgets of the eight pro-deal groups came to $33,451,805, or less than one quarter of the combined budgets of the eight anti-deal groups.
That disparity may help explain why, despite ad buys by J Street and other groups supporting the deal, they are likely to be overwhelmed. The opposition is already buying sponsored tweets, running Internet banner ads, blanketing the airwaves with television and radio commercials, printing full-page newspaper ads, and organizing expensive rallies in Times Square.
And those bigger budgets will, no doubt, be put to use over the course of the deal’s 60-day congressional review, to try and shift public opinion. According to a Cato Institute/YouGov poll released last Monday, 58% of Americans support the deal, while 40% oppose it. It’s safe to predict that tens of millions of dollars will be spent over the next two months to reverse those numbers.
Of course, these budgets of both the pro- and anti-deal groups have been devoted primarily to basic day-to-day operations and weren’t all spent on lobbying or campaigning on Iran-related activity (NIAC excepted). And they do not take account of extraordinary funding for the specific goal of persuading Congress to reject or support the Iran deal (which, in any event, didn’t exist in 2013). No doubt, huge sums are now being raised, as this is being written, for those specific purposes. Indeed, J Street has announced that it has raised $2 million from donors to support its campaign in support of the agreement. But that, of course, is only a fraction of the $20-40 million that AIPAC’s new spin-off, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, is expected to spend on advertising and other efforts over the next two months.
Indeed, although the nearly 5:1 ratio in the 2013 budgets of the anti-deal groups versus those of the pro-deal organizations reveals the disparity in the financial resources of the two forces, it almost certainly understates—and by a considerable degree—the massive funding advantages the opposition will enjoy over the next 60 days.
Photo: Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund