AIPAC super PAC launches ads opposing former GOP congressman

The Indiana ad buy against John Hostettler is the group’s first-ever foray in a Republican primary

Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN)

United Democracy Project, the AIPAC-linked super PAC, is making its first move into a competitive Republican primary, launching a more than $500,000 television ad campaign opposing former Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) that will run for at least the next two weeks.

The ads will highlight Hostettler’s anti-Israel voting record while he was in Congress. Hostettler, 62, served in Congress from 1995 to 2007 and is reentering the political arena to make a bid for the open seat in the 8th Congressional District held by retiring Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). The ad is set to begin running on Thursday.

A source close to AIPAC’s political operations told Jewish Insider that the group decided to launch the campaign because it believes Hostettler’s return to Congress “would be detrimental for the U.S. and detrimental for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” describing him as “one of the most anti-Israel Republicans in Congress” during his time on Capitol Hill. The source described Hostettler’s record as out of step with voters in the district, based on polling conducted by UDP.

“John Hostettler voted against giving aid to Israel over and over again,” the ad will state. “Hostettler is one of the most anti-Israel politicians in America. With Israel under attack, we can’t send John Hostettler to Congress.”

The ad and the source point to a series of votes by Hostettler including a vote for an amendment reducing U.S. aid to Israel, a vote against expressing support for Israel and condemning violence against it at the outset of the Second Intifada, repeated votes against foreign aid bills and a vote against funding for the Wye River Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

After his time in Congress, Hostettler, who opposed the Iraq war, self-published a book, Nothing for the Nation: Who Got what Out of Iraq, in which he claimed a primary motivation for the war was protecting Israel, according to the Indianapolis Star

He specifically traced the war to Jewish officials in the George W. Bush administration and political support from Jewish voters and donors to congressional Republicans.

Then-Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman, in a review of the book, summarized it as blaming the war on “Individuals in government, who always have Jewish surnames and Israeli connections” who “were concerned not with the American republic but with Israel’s security.”

Foxman said the book invokes dual loyalty tropes and “repeats age-old slanders of Jewish disloyalty to their countries and outlandish notions of secret Jewish cabals pulling international strings.” The review describes him as “a conspiracy theorist of the first order.”

During his time in Congress, Hostettler also opposed efforts to investigate antisemitic discrimination and coercive Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy as part of a “long war on Christianity in America.”

There are a total of nine GOP candidates running in the May 7 primary, including a Republican state senator, and AIPAC is not currently backing any of them. 

The source said that UDP conducted polling in the district, centered around Evansville, which showed Hostettler to be potentially beatable; the source said polling showed that half of the electorate has never heard of or has no opinion of the former congressman, only 16% of voters have a favorable view of him and 55% of voters are less likely to vote for him when informed of his record on Israel. 

The source said the poll showed Hostettler losing by a 2-to-1 margin when his record overall was presented to respondents, but would not say which candidate was leading in those surveys. The source said the polling was conducted in early March, with a sample of 400 likely Republican primary voters.

This is not the first time that AIPAC affiliates have organized against Hostettler — in 2006, “a loose network of donors, many of whom have strong ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee” was a major backer of Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), who ultimately unseated Hostettler, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

This won’t be UDP’s first spending against a Republican — it ran ads criticizing Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) for votes on Israel-related legislation, but Massie never drew a credible primary challenger.

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