In a recent development, it has been reported that Linden Nelson, a businessman from Michigan, reached out to Hill Harper, a Democratic Senate candidate, with an intriguing proposition. According to a source with direct knowledge of the matter, Nelson allegedly offered $20 million in campaign contributions to Harper. However, this financial support came with a significant condition – Harper was expected to withdraw from the race and launch a primary challenge against Rep. Rashida Tlaib instead.
This purported offer, made on October 16, included a detailed breakdown: $10 million would be directed as bundled contributions directly to Harper’s campaign, while the remaining $10 million would be allocated for independent expenditures. Despite the substantial nature of the offer, Harper reportedly declined, as revealed by the same source. Harper himself refrained from providing on-the-record comments regarding the alleged call from Nelson, an entrepreneur from Michigan and a past contributor to candidates across party lines. Nevertheless, after the story’s publication, Harper did acknowledge the call on X in a manner consistent with the information provided by the source.
This incident sheds light on the heightened tension surrounding Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the sole Palestinian American in Congress, due to her vocal criticisms of the Israeli government, particularly in the aftermath of its conflict with Hamas. Tlaib faced censure from both Democrats and Republicans after invoking a pro-Palestinian slogan perceived by many as advocating for the eradication of Israel. Pro-Israel Democrats are actively exploring potential candidates to challenge Tlaib in the primaries.
Despite attempts to reach Nelson for comment on the alleged call to Harper, Politico could only briefly connect with him before the call ended abruptly. Subsequent attempts to reach him through calls, texts, and emails went unanswered. Notably, Linden Nelson has a history of involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and has previously donated to groups aiming to unseat Tlaib.
The political landscape also reveals challenges for Hill Harper, who, despite positioning himself as a progressive, faces difficulty gaining traction in the Senate race to succeed the retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Furthermore, Harper’s advocacy for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza, while aligning with some congressional Democratic progressives, does not necessarily position him as an ideal candidate for those seeking a more pro-Israel stance.
Additionally, the geographical aspect comes into play, as Harper’s Detroit residence falls within the district of Rep. Shri Thanedar, not Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s constituency, which covers Dearborn and its sizable Arab American population.
Tlaib’s spokesperson declined to comment on the alleged call between Nelson and Harper. Tlaib herself has called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a stance gaining increasing support within the Democratic Party as casualties rise in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
As the Democratic Party grapples with internal divisions over its stance on Israel, exacerbated by the U.S. ally’s military response to Hamas, progressive incumbents are seeking support from party leaders to counter the interest of pro-Israel Democrats in primary challenges against lawmakers viewed as insufficiently supportive of the war. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has already endorsed the reelection of Rep. Ilhan Omar in response to this dynamic.
Nelson’s previous contributions to a group aiming to unseat Tlaib and his association with AIPAC raise questions about potential motivations behind the alleged offer to Harper. AIPAC, however, clarified that it was not involved in the matter and indicated that Nelson had not contributed to the organization in over a decade.
The legality of the alleged donation offer remains uncertain. Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal reform at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, pointed out that potential coordination between a candidate and a donor offering such a substantial amount could be illegal. He emphasized the risk of the candidate being perceived as unduly influenced by a single donor. The promise of a future donation, even if routed through an outside group like a super PAC, might still be considered a contribution under campaign finance laws, potentially qualifying as an excessive contribution.
As of now, Nelson has not responded to inquiries regarding the potential legality of the alleged offer. The situation adds a layer of complexity to the ongoing discussions surrounding campaign finance regulations and the broader dynamics within the Democratic Party.