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)

Summer Lee Calls Out Primary Opponent for Taking Right-Wing Money

"Her entire campaign is backed by Republicans, yet she says that I'm not a good enough Democrat," Lee said of Bhavini Patel during a debate Thursday night.

In a debate on Thursday night, "Squad" member and progressive Pennsylvania Rep. Summer Lee called out her Democratic primary opponent Bhavini Patel for taking money from Republican megadonors, including Jeffrey Yass.

Her remarks came the day after news broke that Yass had given more money to a super PAC supporting Patel Patel, after initially donating to the group in 2022 in support of conservative Democratic Rep. Jared Golden (Maine). Also on Thursday, 250 constituents from Pennsylvania's 12th District wrote to Patel urging her to disavow Yass and other Republican donors.

"Her entire campaign is backed by Republicans, yet she says that I'm not a good enough Democrat," Lee said on the debate stage.

"It feels like she is implying that there is enough room for Joe Manchin, but not a Black woman fighting for her own community," Lee continued.

"No candidate running in the Democratic primary should be primarily funded by Republican donors working to elect Trump."

During her remarks, Lee said Patel was "outwardly calling for people who are Republicans to vote for her."

"She is now backed by Jeffrey Yass, who is the richest man in Pennsylvania, who has spent all of his money eroding public education," Lee added. "He has eroded abortion rights, and right now he is on the shortlist to be Treasury secretary for Donald Trump."

News of the relationship between Yass and Patel first emerged last month, when the so-called Moderate PAC ran an ad backing the Edgewood, Pennsylvania, councilmember. Moderate PAC's only donor for all of 2022 was Susquehanna International Group, a trading firm that Yass co-founded.

Then, on Wednesday, Moderate PAC's president Ty Strong told Politico that Yass had donated additional funds in recent weeks after Strong spoke to him about the primary campaign against Lee.

"I went to Jeff Yass and made a proposal," Strong told Politico. "He knew nothing about Summer… He's a really wealthy guy, so he made a donation in line with his wealth. But there's other Pittsburgh people that are now seeing this and doing the same thing. And so it's not Jeff Yass, it's me and Pittsburgh who realized that this far-left member shouldn't be representing a D-plus-eight district."

Yet several district members are concerned that Yass is not the only Republican seeking to influence a Democratic primary. In their letter, the 250 constituents noted that Patel's only Federal Election Commission filing to date shows that more than 60% of her primary donors had also given over $100 million to MAGA Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Nikki Haley, and election deniers like Republican Reps. Scott Perry and Mike Kelly, both of Pennsylvania.

"Your Republican donors are part of the plan to pass a national abortion ban; attack our LGBTQ+ siblings; bankroll Big Pharma and the NRA; tear away our access to healthcare, workers' rights, voting rights; and ultimately end democracy in America," the letter reads. "They are actively undermining our democracy, promoting discrimination and hate, and endangering the lives and well-being of our communities."

The District 12 voters also pointed to reporting by The Intercept that Patel told potential donors at a fundraiser that her campaign would encourage Republicans and independents to register as Democrats to vote against Lee.

The constituents said they were writing to Patel to "express grave concern" about appeals to Republican donors and voters.

"This is a craven and undemocratic ploy to unseat Congresswoman Summer Lee," they said. "The involvement of Republican donors in your campaign is deceitful and deeply hypocritical. It undermines any hope of earning the trust of Democratic voters and the communities you claim to be running to serve. Accepting financial support from those who actively work against our values is unacceptable and incompatible with the responsibilities of a Democratic representative. We deserve better."

Lee also faces the threat of right-wing money being laundered through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has promised to spend $100 million to unseat Lee and other Squad members. Lee has been outspoken against Israel's genocide in Gaza and co-sponsored legislation calling for a cease-fire as early as mid-October. However, AIPAC also spent more than $2 million to unseat Lee in the 2022 election through its United Democracy Project (UDP) super PAC.

In response to Lee's debate performance, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner applauded her for "exposing the AIPAC grift for what it is: GOP-funded candidates who encourage Republicans to vote in blue seat primaries against progressives who dare to stand up for their communities."

While Yass had donated more money than anyone else to outside spending groups during the 2024 U.S. campaign season—shelling out more than $46 million to right-leaning groups—he has not given money to either AIPAC or UDP, Haaretz reported in March.

However, the 250 District 12 constituents said that Patel had sought the endorsement of UDP.

"No candidate running in the Democratic primary should be primarily funded by Republican donors working to elect Trump," the group wrote.

The constituents called on Patel to "take immediate and transparent action, pledging not to encourage Republicans and independents to re-register in our primaries and publicly demand that a Republican-funded Super PAC like AIPAC not spend money in our Democratic primary."

"The integrity of our democratic process and the voters' trust in PA-12 are at stake," they concluded.

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