Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a hearing

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks during a hearing on December 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

AOC Says $20 Million Offer to Unseat Tlaib Exemplifies 'Corruption of Our Politics'

Hill Harper rejected the offer from the Michigan businessman, saying he wants to "break the stranglehold wealthy special interests have on our politics."

Recent news out of Michigan, where actor and union organizer Hill Harper is running for U.S. Senate and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib has recently angered pro-Israel lawmakers and donors for her staunch support for Palestinian rights, offered an illustration of the "corruption" of the American political system, said one progressive House member late Wednesday.

As Politico reported, Harper recently rejected $20 million from an anti-Palestinian rights enterpreneur, Linden Nelson, who offered the money in exchange for Harper dropping out of his Senate race and running instead against Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her House seat.

The offer came on October 16, the day Tlaib joined Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in introducing a resolution to back an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Gaza. The blockaded enclave was then nine days into a relentless bombardment by Israel, which was launched October 7 in retaliation for Hamas' attack on southern Israel but had already killed nearly 3,000 Palestinian civilians, including 1,000 children, at the time.

The death toll has now grown to more than 14,500 people, including 6,000 children.

Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress, has been the subject of vitriol from lawmakers who believe the U.S. should continue supporting Israel regardless of what human rights groups and the United Nations have warned may amount to war crimes in Gaza. Earlier this month, 22 Democrats joined Republicans in voting to censure Tlaib for using the rallying cry for Palestinian rights, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

Pro-Israel Democrats are reportedly searching for a candidate to primary Tlaib, and last month, according to Politico, Nelson reached out to Harper offering $10 million in bundled donations directly to his campaign and $10 million in independent expenditures—if he would agree to be that House candidate instead of continuing his Senate run.

"The fact that in the U.S. just one wealthy person can make a call and offer millions to unseat an official they dislike tells you everything about the corruption of our politics," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Nelson has been involved with the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in the past, and has donated to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

AIPAC toldThe Hill that it "was absolutely not involved in any way in this matter" and said Nelson has not donated to the organization in over a decade, but considering the group's efforts to defeat other pro-Palestinian rights progressives in recent elections, Ocasio-Cortez expressed skepticism.

Harper, who is running for Sen. Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) seat against the more conservative Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), echoed Ocasio-Cortez, saying Nelson's rejected offer exemplifies a "broken political and campaign finance system that's tilted towards the wealthy and powerful."

"I'm running to be a voice for the people," said Harper. "I'm not going to run against the only Palestinian American in Congress just because some special interests don't like her. I'm running because I want to break the stranglehold wealthy special interests have on our politics, whether it's the Israel lobby, the NRA, or Big Pharma."

Harper himself has called for a "humanitarian cease-fire" in Gaza this month, saying in a statement, "The answers to ensure long-term peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians are neither simple nor pain-free, but one truth stands firm: violence against defenseless children, trapped and frightened, is abhorrent, regardless of who is behind it."

Saurav Ghosh, director for federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told Politico that Harper and Nelson would have broken the law if they had moved forward with the deal.

Nelson's offer, said Jewish-led anti-Zionist group IfNotNow, is "a clear example of how groups like AIPAC and [its super PAC, Democratic Majority for Israel] try to undermine the will of voters and attack representatives who truly represent our values."

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