Democrat Bakari Sellers is putting his support behind a new political action committee called Urban Empowerment Action PAC — a coalition of Black and Jewish business leaders.
This is raising questions about the PAC’s purpose, such as whether it’s a Black front for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Wall Street.
A PAC is an organization that campaigns for specific political policies and arranges for money to be given to political parties or candidates that support those policies.
Sellers served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for the 90th District from 2006 to 2014. He is the author of “My Vanishing Country,” a memoir about the lives of forgotten Black working-class men and women in the U.S. In 2006, Sellers made history when, at age 22, the Democrat defeated a 26-year incumbent state representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the U.S.
AIPAC is a powerful lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and executive branch of the U.S. AIPAC brings together pro-Israel industry leaders from Wall Street, real estate, and legal and venture tech fields.
The Urban Empowerment Action PAC (UEA PAC) said it believes that “creating real economic opportunities for African Americans requires the adoption of smart public policies rooted in empowerment and the reversal of harmful public policies” that affect education, public safety, workforce development, entrepreneurship, housing and health, according to its website. The UEA PAC said its aim is to unite individuals “to support candidates committed to advancing policies that will improve the lives of African Americans.”
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One of UEA PAC’s goals seems to be to oust progressive Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a member of “the Squad.” Rep. Tlaib has represented Michigan’s 13th congressional district since 2019, including the western half of Detroit, several of its western suburbs and much of the Downriver area.
UEA PAC is spending $1 million to get rid of Tlaib, who seems to be a target due to her calling out Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. The UEA PAC money is going to back Tlaib’s opponent, Janice Winfrey, in the upcoming Detroit-area election on Aug. 2.
Politico asked Sellers if UEA PAC’s targeting of Tlaib is due to Tlaib’s negative comments about Israel.
“It’s definitely high up on the list,” Sellers replied. “It’s not the primary focus. It’s not my primary focus. My primary focus is what I said it is. Our goal is to get Black folk in office, support them, give them the infrastructure necessary, and make sure the issues that we care about are at the forefront.
If she had not voted the way she did, would we be in this race? I don’t know. But, yes, we do care about the strengthening of that coalition. And we’ll do everything we can to continue to strengthen it.”
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Winfrey is a Black American currently serving as Detroit City Clerk. In 2019, Tlaib became the first woman of Palestinian descent voted into Congress.
Tlaib has been consistent in her criticism of Israel. She recently introduced a resolution in the House to recognize Palestinian Nakba — a term describing the displacement of Palestinians ahead of the 1948 establishment of Israel, Politico reported.
Sellers has been called out himself in the past for his strong ties to AIPAC.
Sellers was recruited by the AIPAC while he was student government president at Morehouse College, a historically Black university (HBCU). He has remained an AIPAC supporter and player throughout his career and is one of many Black U.S. politicians who has traveled to Israel on trips sponsored by AIPAC.
Photo: Attorney Bakari Sellers, a South Carolina lawyer and former state lawmaker, speaks with The Associated Press on Oct. 28, 2021 in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)