Soros-linked Jewish PAC will intervene in Senate races for first time
© Greg Nash

A progressive Jewish political action committee with ties to the son of Democratic Party mega-donor George Soros is intervening in Senate races for the first time, endorsing Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

The endorsements from Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC will involve fundraising support from the group, which makes direct payments to candidates running for office. It will also marshal what are known as “conduit” payments, linking its network of donors to the group's favored candidates.

“As American Jews, we’re disturbed by the dark turn American political discourse has taken in recent months, and deeply concerned about where our country will end up if we elect leaders who keep pushing us down this path,” said Alex Soros, a major donor to Bend the Arc Jewish Action PAC.

“That’s why we’re doing everything we can to help elect leaders this November who will inspire all Americans and move our country forward.

“In the Senate, that means electing leaders like Tammy Duckworth and Russ Feingold, leaders who will advance immigration reform, racial justice, and other priorities on the domestic progressive agenda that matter most to our community.”

Soros's father, the hedge fund billionaire George Soros, has already given at least $8 million to outside groups supporting Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE, but his son's activities through Bend the Arc are focused on congressional races.

Duckworth and Feingold will be competing in two of the hardest-fought Senate races in 2016 — a factor that led Bend the Arc to believe it could have the most impact in these contests, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, the PAC's director, said in a telephone interview with The Hill.

Bend the Arc is the only major Jewish political financing group that does not focus on Israel but instead focuses exclusively on domestic issues.

The PAC was launched in 2015 with a group of influential progressive donors and fundraisers including Alex Soros, lawyer Marc Baum, top Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing MORE fundraiser Paul Egerman and Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The group says it has since secured $225,000 in committed donations, and it is aiming to raise $500,000 during the 2016 cycle. 

Last year, the PAC endorsed 12 Democratic members of Congress: Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Alma Adams of North Carolina, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Barbara Lee of California, Mark Takano of California, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Rick Nolan of Minnesota, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill Calif. AG: Trump backs down on greenhouse gas rule Overnight Energy: California cities sue oil giants over climate change MORE of California, Mike Honda of California, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Yvette Clarke of New York. 

Kimelman-Block said one of the goals of Bend the Arc is to encourage elected officials to “pander” to Jewish audiences on issues beyond Israel.

Currently, when elected officials appear before Jewish audiences, they tend to talk exclusively about protecting Israel, Kimelman-Block said. And while he believes it is great that so many Jewish groups prioritize Israel, he said Bend the Arc was founded on the premise that progressive American Jews are far from a single-issue voting bloc.

“It’s great when politicians pander to certain communities,” Kimelman-Block told The Hill. “But we want them to pander to us to tell us how committed they are to a society that takes racial justice seriously, that takes civil rights and LGBT rights seriously.

“We want politicians to pander to our community on those issues as well.”