The logo of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), self-styled as "America's pro-Israel lobby."
San Diego city hall lobbyist and Southwestern Community College District board member Humberto Peraza has been invited to a splashy event in Phoenix put on by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, more commonly known as AIPAC, self-styled as "America's pro-Israel lobby."
But the California Fair Political Practices Commission has advised him that he won’t be able to legally accept more than $460 worth of food, lodging, travel, and other customary gifts related to the confab.
That’s because, according to a July 16 advice letter to Peraza from commission general counsel Hyla P. Wagner, AIPAC, though nonprofit, is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, a status that allows it to lobby and engage in a wide variety political activities that are forbidden to more commonly known charities, designated as 501(c)(3)s.
As previously reported here, Peraza, onetime aide to Democratic congressman Bob Filner — who subsequently became mayor of San Diego before resigning during a 2013 sexual harassment scandal, — was greenlighted by the state’s political watchdog to travel to Israel in 2015 courtesy of the American Israel Education Foundation, an AIPAC affiliate. The foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization, and hence has been deemed exempt from the state’s political gift limits, according to an agency spokesman.
This year’s event, beginning August 26, is billed as AIPAC's first Hispanic Outreach Summit, according to the FPPC’s letter.
“Because the Summit will address 'critical issues facing the U.S. and Israel,' the trip to attend the Summit is reasonably related to issues of national or international policy. However, AIPAC, the organization offering to provide the trip, is a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. This type of entity is not specified [under the state’s political code]. Therefore, the requirements to meet this exception are not met. Accordingly, the travel payments to be provided by AIPAC would be reportable gifts subject to limits....
"According to your email invitation to attend the Summit, the purpose of the Summit is to 'allow you to reconnect with fellow Latino leaders who have been equally inspired by their discovery of Israel on previous AIEF Latino Missions,” Wagner's letter says.
"AIPAC's staff and citizen activists engage with decision makers to expand the United States-Israel alliance by cultivating relationships around shared values and by empowering pro-Israel leaders across America, including those from the Jewish, African-American, Hispanic, Christian, Progressive, Veteran, and student communities," continues the communication.
This month’s event "'will provide an engaging series of talks, discussions, and social activities,' and 'will give you a chance to revisit the critical issues facing the U.S. and Israel and discuss with one another how to strengthen ties between your communities and the only democracy in the Middle East.'"
More details of the meeting are provided by AIPAC on its website. "As the Hispanic community grows both in numbers and political activism, its leadership plays an increasingly prominent role in shaping national foreign policy.”
Adds the organization, "AIPAC’s Hispanic Outreach encourages Latino leaders to become educated on the importance of the U.S.–Israel relationship and to engage in pro-Israel activism. Hispanic Outreach focuses on congressional districts with Hispanic members of Congress and/or large concentrations of Latino constituents."
Peraza and partner John Wainio lobby the San Diego City Council and staff on behalf of the San Diego Police Officers Association, receiving $10,000 in the second quarter of this year, according to an August 1 disclosure filing.
San Diego County law-enforcement figures have been prime beneficiaries of free travel to Israel, courtesy of charitable nonprofits.
In March of this year, sheriff's investigation honcho Peter Callewaert received a free trip to the 2016 Western States Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Tel Aviv, paid for by the Anti-Defamation League. In October 2013, sheriff’s captain Michael Barnett traveled to Israel on a $5500 Anti-Defamation League-sponsored counter-terrorism tour.
Wrote the league’s regional director Tammy Gillies of that trip: “We made our way to the beautiful Assaf Winery where one or two group members seemed prepared to hang up their badges and work for the Assaf family making wine in this beautiful part of the world. After a fantastic lunch and wine tasting we asked the owner how he feels about being so close to the Border. He only half-jokingly told us that he feels he is so close that the rockets will go right over them. What a way to live?”