Report claims wealthy Michigan donor offered candidate $20 million to run in primary against Rep. Tlaib

November 23, 2023

The virulent antisemitism of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) may score her points with the anti-Israel far-left progressive base of the Democratic Party, but it hasn't gone over particularly well with more moderate members of Congress and the party's donors.

In fact, it has been reported and seemingly confirmed that a wealthy Michigan businessman offered $20 million in campaign contributions to a particular Democratic candidate on the condition that they mount a primary challenge against Tlaib next year, according to Politico.

The candidate targeted with that offer declined to accept it, and the report suggested that the donor who made the rejected offer may have violated federal campaign contribution laws in doing so.

Reported offer seemingly confirmed by would-be recipient

According to the Politico report's anonymous source, Michigan businessman Linden Nelson, who has contributed to candidates from both parties in the past, made a phone call on Oct. 16 to actor Hill Harper, who is a Democratic candidate for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat in 2024, and offered him $20 million to exit the Senate race and declare himself a primary candidate against Rep. Tlaib.

That offer would have supposedly split the $20 million in half with $10 million in the form of bundled donations directly to Harper's campaign while the other $10 million would be used for "independent expenditures" on behalf of Harper's candidacy.

Harper did not respond to a request for comment, but after the Politico report was first published, he shared a link to it and tweeted, "I didn’t intend for a private phone call to turn public. But now that it has, here’s the truth. One of AIPAC’s biggest donors offered $20m if I dropped out of the U.S. Senate race to run against @RashidaTlaib. I said no. I won’t be bossed, bullied, or bought."

In a follow-up tweet a few hours later, Harper wrote, "For me, this isn’t about one person or one phone call. It’s about a broken political and campaign finance system that’s tilted towards the wealthy and powerful. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because I believe the wealthy and powerful have too much representation in Washington. I’m running to be a voice for the people. I will not be bought, or bossed, or bullied."

He added, "I’m not just running for the title. 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."

Tlaib censured by House, including several fellow Dems, over antisemitism

If the Politico report is accurate as far as the phone call between Nelson and Harper occurring on Oct. 16, then that would place it directly amid the controversy sparked by Rep. Tlaib when she blindly accepted and doubled down on Hamas propaganda about an Israeli airstrike blowing up a Gaza hospital that was quickly revealed and confirmed to have been the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket that fell well short of its intended target in Israel.

That particular incident, combined with her repeated history of antisemitic and anti-Israel statements -- not to mention her use of the genocidal "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" chant that calls for the total destruction of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants -- earned her a rare censure by her congressional colleagues earlier this month.

According to Axios, 234 members of the House voted to formally censure and admonish Tlaib -- a number that included 22 Democrats who are either Jewish themselves, are vulnerable moderates in swing districts, or represent states with substantial Jewish populations like Florida and New York.

$20 million offer may have been illegal

With regard to Nelson and his $20 million offer to Harper to run against Rep. Tlaib, Politico reported that he refused multiple attempts to elicit a comment for the record in the report.

That could be because, according to the outlet, the offer may run afoul of federal campaign finance laws as it would greatly exceed the legal limits on individual contributions to a particular candidate's campaign.

As for Nelson's purported ties to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as alleged by both Politico and Harper, while records and reports suggest some involvement in the past, a spokesperson for the group distanced it from Nelson and told Politico that AIPAC "was absolutely not involved in any way in this matter. Also, our records indicate that this individual has not contributed to AIPAC in over a decade."

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