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Summer Lee speaks to the press outside of a polling station

Pennsylvania Democratic congressional candidate Summer Lee talks to the press outside of a polling station on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

AIPAC Super PAC Throws in Against Progressive Democrat Summer Lee

"Seems like AIPAC and the GOP have the same agenda," responded one progressive campaigner.

Jake Johnson

Having tried and failed to prevent Summer Lee from winning the Democratic nomination for the open U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District earlier this year, a super PAC formed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is now spending against the progressive candidate in her race against Republican Mike Doyle.

According to new federal filings, the United Democracy Project (UDP) has dropped nearly $80,000 on mailers opposing Lee, who overcame millions in UDP spending to win the district's May primary over corporate lawyer Steve Irwin.

During that race, UDP—which is funded by prominent Republican billionaires—attempted to cast Lee as insufficiently loyal to the Democratic Party. In one ad, AIPAC's group slammed Lee for "fighting Democrats," pointing to her past criticism of the party's leadership and direction.

But UDP's campaign to ensure Lee's defeat to a Republican in the general election further exposes its primary attacks as cynical.

As Haaretz reported Monday, UDP's general election intervention represents the group's "first-ever spend in a Democrat vs. Republican election battle."

"UDP came under significant scrutiny during the primary cycle for its tactics, all while being significantly bankrolled by gifts from Republican megadonors," the newspaper observed. "It spent a total of $26.2 million—exclusively on Democratic primaries—with $10.5 million funding attack ads in the nine races in which it directly involved itself, making UDP among the greatest spenders this cycle."

Usamah Andrabi, candidate communications director for Justice Democrats, wrote in response to news of UDP's spending against Lee that it "seems like AIPAC and the GOP have the same agenda."

UDP's general election spending was disclosed just over a week before the November 8 midterms, in which Democrats are looking to keep their majorities and expand their margins in the U.S. House and Senate.

Axios reported Sunday that the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP's House campaign arm, is making a six-figure investment in Pennsylvania's 12th District, an indication that the party sees the contest as winnable. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also invested in the race, as has House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's PAC—though the latter has donated just $2,000 to Lee.

Fueling Democrats' concerns about the contest is the peculiar fact that the GOP candidate has the same name as retiring 14-term Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), prompting some reports of voter confusion—and accusations that the Republican Doyle is attempting to capitalize on possible mix-ups.

"They say, 'I'm not going to vote for Summer Lee because she's running against Mike Doyle,'" said Katie Forsythe, a member of Westmoreland County's Democratic Committee, relaying voter statements she's encountered while knocking on doors for Lee.

Earlier this month, outgoing Democratic Rep. Doyle announced his retirement for the second time in an effort to make clear that it's not him on the midterm ballot.

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