A large congressional delegation is heading for Israel. During three weeks of recess, 55 Republicans and 26 Democrats will enjoy “educational” trips funded by the American Israel Education Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit located in the same Washington, D.C., building as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Absent AIPAC’s influence on pro-Israel campaign contributors, members of Congress would probably skip international travel this year to meet the pressing needs of their districts or to venture to places of actual importance to the U.S., such as Europe, China, or Latin America. Instead, because AIPAC is always watching members of Congress, our representatives go to Israel. But this raises an important question: Who is really behind AIPAC?
AIPAC’s last IRS list of contributors claims the organization now has only two major donors [.pdf]. As a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization (a category intended for civic leagues, social welfare organizations, and local associations of employees) AIPAC files an IRS Form 990. AIPAC has long structured its fiscal year end in such a way that it languidly files 2-year-old data while other nonprofits are rushing to report their previous year. Therefore, the AIPAC Form 990 listed as “year 2010″ at Guidestar.org, the officially designated website to consult such data, is actually year 2009 data [.pdf]. It also lacks the most important data in Form 990 — donor contributions.