Super PACs With Alleged AIPAC Ties Intervene in Oregon Dem Primary

The two PACs have spent nearly $1 million on the race in recent weeks.

Super PACs With Alleged AIPAC Ties Intervene in Oregon Dem Primary
Oregon Fifth Congressional District Democratic primary candidates Janelle Bynum (left) and Jamie McLeod-Skinner (right). (Images via Wikimedia Commons with Creative Commons 4.0 license)

A pair of super PACs recently began spending to support Oregon state Representative Janelle Bynum in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District: one with ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and one that is allegedly funneling money for the group. Neither of the super PACs present themselves as being focused on Israel. 

Mainstream Democrats PAC has dropped more than $750,000 on the race since May 2 on TV ads that support Bynum and oppose her opponent in the race, attorney and emergency response coordinator Jamie McLeod-Skinner. It’s the first race that Mainstream Democrats PAC has spent on this election cycle.

The super PAC, which says its goal is to “defeat extreme candidates whose stated goal is ‘to overthrow’ the Democratic Party,” is a sibling of the AIPAC-affiliated organization Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), which was established in 2019 to serve as AIPAC’s political spending arm before the group decided during the 2022 election cycle to set up its own PACs. The group pays DMFI for staff salaries, rent, and fundraising expenses, according to Federal Election Commission filings. It also pays the consulting firm of DMFI’s president, Mark Mellman, a former contractor to the AIPAC-affiliated charity that brings members of Congress on trips to Israel, the American Israel Education Foundation. 

Here Are the Top Recipients of AIPAC Money
The most complete, up-to-date view of AIPAC PAC donations to congressional candidates.

The Mainstream Democrats PAC was launched in early 2022 with a $500,000 donation from LinkedIn founder and investor Reid Hoffman, who has since donated a total of $1.6 million to the group. The largest donor to Mainstream Democrats PAC since 2022 is Deborah Simon, who has also been a donor to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) among other pro-Israel causes. In 2021, Simon’s Indiana-based foundation donated $500,000 to ADL Midwest for general operations and support, according to its tax return. Simon has given Mainstream Democrats $2 million. Democratic Majority for Israel, a “dark money” nonprofit, gave it $500,000 in May 2022.

Mainstream Democrats did not respond to a request for comment on their backing of Bynum with their first spending burst in 2024 contests.

Another group that began spending money in support of Bynum recently is 314 Action Fund, which says it aims to help elect scientists to the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Bynum has a degree in electrical engineering and she owns several McDonald’s franchises in the Portland area. 

Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief, recently reported that 314 Action Fund is secretly funneling money for AIPAC. Grim attributed the allegation to two Democratic members of Congress who are familiar with the arrangement.

In comments to Sludge, 314 Action President Shaughnessy Naughton called The Intercept’s report “inaccurate,” but declined to provide more information when pressed specifically on the AIPAC money funneling allegation. She also declined to provide Sludge with a list of the organization’s latest donors ahead of the next FEC deadline. Naughton told Sludge that 314 Action’s 501(c)4 nonprofit arm has not made any donations to its outside spending PAC during the 2024 election cycle.

314 Action Fund’s spending in support of Bynum has included $135,000 for advertising and production, plus $85,000 for direct mail pieces, according to FEC records.