WASHINGTON (JTA) – The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is backing an action committee that plans to run TV ads in the United States pressing Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.
Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran is a 501 (c) (4), a tax designation that includes groups that advance political causes, and it launched its website on Friday.
The group is “dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability,” said Patrick Dorton, a Washington spokesman who frequently speaks for AIPAC, the preeminent pro-Israel lobby, which opposes the deal. “It is financially supported by AIPAC and other individuals and organizations.”
Dorton said the group’s reach and ethos is bipartisan.
“Democrats should be especially concerned, because this deal increases the chances of war, will spur a nuclear arms race and rewards an Iran with a horrific human rights record,” he said.
Democrats have become the battleground in the fight between the Obama administration, which backs the deal, and Republicans, who are sworn to kill it in Congress in the next two months.
Some leading Democrats, among them Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the U.S. House of Representatives minority leader, back the deal, while others have yet to announce how they will vote now that the deal has been reached and Congress has two months to review it.
The National Jewish Democratic Council on Friday strongly endorsed the deal. “This was a deal aimed at halting Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon, and we find it will do exactly that,” it said in a statement.
The Sunlight Foundation, a group that advances political transparency, first reported on the new group on Thursday, linking to filings that showed it plans on running a TV ad in at least 18 states.
A source close to the new group said the ads would eventually run nationwide and that the group had millions of dollars at its disposal.
The advisory board is made up of five former Democrats who have close ties to the pro-Israel community: Former U.S. rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), former U.S. sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and former sen. Joseph Lieberman, of Connecticut who ended his career in 2012 as an independent but who was the Democratic vice-presidential pick in the 2000 election.
Notably, the team’s media adviser, Mark Putnam, and pollster, Mark Mellman, are also Democrats.