Hill Harper, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), said a donor offered him $20 million to drop out of the race and challenge Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
“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 Rashida Tlaib,” Harper said.
“I said no. I won’t be bossed, bullied, or bought,” he added.
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. https://t.co/Ji76jwPE3X
— Hill Harper (@hillharper) November 22, 2023
A Michigan businessman called Democratic Senate candidate Hill Harper to offer $20 million in campaign contributions if he agreed to drop out and instead mount a primary challenge to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, according to a source with direct knowledge of the call.
The source added that Harper declined the alleged Oct. 16 offer from donor Linden Nelson — which would have split the campaign money between $10 million in bundled contributions directly to Harper’s campaign and $10 million in independent expenditures. Harper declined to comment on the record about the alleged call from Nelson, a Michigan entrepreneur and past donor to candidates in both parties, but he recounted the call in the same terms as the source in a post on X after this story’s publication.Advertisement
But the episode illustrates the intensity of the blowback toward Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, in response to her outspoken criticism of the Israeli government since its war with Hamas began. More than 20 Democrats joined Republicans in voting to censure Tlaib earlier this month after she invoked a pro-Palestinian slogan that’s widely seen as calling for the eradication of Israel, and pro-Israel Democrats are still searching for a candidate to primary her.
POLITICO reached Nelson briefly to seek comment on the alleged call to Harper, but he ended the call after a few seconds and did not respond to subsequent calls, texts and emails seeking comment.
“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,” Harper said.
“I’ve been fortunate: I’ve had a successful acting career, and I’m not someone who grew up thinking I wanted to be a politician. 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,” he continued.
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…
— Hill Harper (@hillharper) November 22, 2023
Detroit Free Press added:
The Free Press has not independently verified the exchange. If true, it would signal a move to challenge one of the most vocal critics of Israel in Congress. It also would be a “pretty sloppy” violation of campaign finance laws, according to one expert on the topic.
Harper is vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, whose seat is up for election next November. He’s one of several Democratic candidates for the seat, but the presumed frontrunner in the primary is Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing.
POLITCO reported Wednesday that Linden Nelson, former owner of the now-shuttered Michigan Motion Pictures studio, offered Harper $20 million in campaign contributions during an Oct. 16 phone call if he agreed to end his Senate campaign and instead challenge Tlaib in the Democratic primary.
“AIPAC is the acronym for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — the group says it lobbies on behalf of Israel in Congress and is a contributor to congressional campaigns of both Democratic and Republican candidates who are seen as advocates for Israel,” Detroit Free Press wrote.
“AIPAC said it contributed more than $17.5 million to pro-Israel candidates through its political action committee (PAC) during the 2022 election cycle,” the outlet added.