An article yesterday reported that Sen. Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R-Wis.) opposed the 1984 Grove City bill that would have strengthened civil rights enforcement. Although Kasten voted to table the bill, which had the effect of killing it for the session, he voted earlier to end a filibuster against the measure, and later cosponsored compromise legislation.
Pro-Israel political action committees (PACs) gave more money to Republicans than to Democrats during the first six months of this year, a sharp break from past contribution patterns and one that has triggered a debate among Jews about the costs and benefits of single-issue politics.
In 1983-84, Democrats received nearly 80 percent of the $3.5 million distributed by the nation's 70-odd pro-Israel PACs, which are the fastest-growing sector of the campaign-finance industry.
This year, Republicans are getting 55 percent of Jewish PACs' money. The leading recipient has been Sen. Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R-Wis).
Kasten has been a staunch supporter of Israel as chairman of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, but his votes in favor of prayer in public schools, against abortion and against the Grove City bill to strengthen civil rights enforcement place him at odds with most of the Jewish community on those issues.
In addition to supporting conservatives such as Kasten, leaders of the pro-Israel PACs have been engaged in a low-key campaign this year to discourage two Democratic Jewish members of the House -- Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- from challenging powerful Republican senators, lest they endanger the Israeli lobby's blossoming relationship with Republicans.
These efforts have raised with new intensity an argument about the uses of political money that has been going on in the U.S. Jewish community since pro-Israel PACs began proliferating in the early 1980s:
Should a candidate's support of Israel be the sole criterion for awarding "Jewish money," or should it be a test that, once passed, leads to consideration of the candidate's record on other matters of concern, such as civil rights, religious tolerance and economic justice?
The vast majority of pro-Israel PACs take the position that support of Israel is all that really matters.
"We are single-minded about being single-issue," said Thomas Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which does not raise funds but which gives cues to many of the Jewish PACs on whom to support.
That strategy has led to an increasing courtship of Republicans this year, even to the point, in some instances, of trying to keep potential challengers away from powerful Republican incumbents.
Glickman said in an interview that he has "been given the message that it would not be automatic that I would get money from PACs concerned about the survival of Israel" if he were to challenge Republican Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) next year.
Democratic sources said that even stronger signals have gone out to Wyden, who is contemplating a race against Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the Finance Committee. Pro-Israel PACs are grateful to Packwood for his solid support and for his leadership in the failed effort to block the 1981 sale of U.S. radar warning aircraft to Saudi Arabia, a bitter defeat for the pro-Israel lobby that triggered the explosive growth of Jewish PACs.
Glickman and Wyden are thought to be leaning against running for the Senate, in part because "it's not easy to sail against your money base," in the words of one Democrat close to both.
Richard Altman, head of National PAC, the largest pro-Israel PACs, acknowledged that Wyden or Glickman or, in New York, Elizabeth Holtzman would be as strong on Israel as the Republican senators they are thinking about challenging. But according to Altman, the long-term political self-interest of the pro-Israel lobby is best served by rewarding incumbents for past support.
"What kind of signal would it send if we have a Republican who has been 100 percent for us, but we abandon him the minute a liberal Jewish Democratic alternative comes along?" Altman asked.
Leaders of the pro-Israel lobby, mindful of the generations of distance between Jews and the Republican Party, said they are eager to nurture their new and growing relationship with the GOP. For the first time, the chairman of the AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby group, is an active Republican, Robert Asher of Chicago.
"The survival of Israel is too important to become the caboose on some ideological or partisan train," AIPAC executive director Dine said in a speech this spring in which he extolled the value of bipartisanship.
In the first six months of 1985, the 10 largest pro-Israel PACs, which account for roughly two-thirds of Jewish PAC giving, contributed $167,150 to Republican candidates for the Senate and the House, and $139,450 to Democrats.
In 1983-84, those 10 PACs, along with some 60 smaller ones, gave $3.5 million to congressional candidates and favored Democrats over Republicans by 79 to 21 percent.
The partisan shift in contributions in part reflects the homage that Jews are paying to the cardinal rule of PAC politics: Go with incumbents. Republicans will be defending 22 of the 34 Senate seats contested in 1986. Moreover, "it happens that most of the 'good Republicans' -- those with strong records on Israel -- are up this time," said Morris Amitay, a lobbyist who founded Washington PAC, one of the largest of the pro-Israel PACs.
But when conservatives such as Kasten and Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) wind up as leading recipients of pro-Israel PAC money, other quarters of the Jewish community express concern that the logic of single-issue fund-raising is imposing an uncomfortable political straitjacket.
"I've tried to sensitize these PAC managers to the fact that Jews are concerned with a broad array of social and civil rights issues . . . but the response I get is that we've got to reward our friends on Israel," said Marc Pearl, Washington director of the American Jewish Congress. "It's frustrating."
A report issued this year by the American Jewish Congress, the nation's largest Jewish civic group, warned that Jews were in danger of imposing a "self-ghettoization" on their contributions to public affairs by using their PACs only to promote aid to Israel.
Last year, Robert Schrayer of Chicago formed Multi-Issue PAC, one of a handful of pro-Israel PACs that has a policy of looking at other issues as well.
"When we've got the whole question of the separation of church and state being challenged by the radical right, it seems incredible to me that we as Jews would only focus on one issue," he said.
Some Jews argue that the PACs are not only diluting the Jewish voice in other areas but are ultimately weakening the case for Israel as well.
"It is a strategic error of monumental proportions to tie being pro-Israel to campaign contributions," said David Cohen, codirector of the Advocacy Institute, which teaches underrepresented groups how to lobby in Washington. "The support for Israel rests on the merits of the case. If we make PAC fund-raising the essential glue that holds together the pro-Israel coalition, we are doing ourselves as Jews a great disservice."
Amitay, a former director of AIPAC, disagrees. "If anything, American Jews are overrepresented both in numbers and in financial support in the civil rights, pro-choice, nuclear freeze and similar movements, and certainly need not apologize to anyone for their lack of involvement," he wrote in a column that appeared this fall in several Jewish publications.
"What has been lacking, however, has been organized political activity specifically on Israel's behalf. This activity is almost 100 percent Jewish, and there are no potential coalition partners who will be willing to expend the requisite energy or resources, simply because they do not share the same passionate commitment."
Amitay predicts that there will be 100 pro-Israel PACs by next year. Long before the advent of PACs, Jews have been among the nation's most active political fund-raisers, with most of their donations going to Democrats. They also supported Democrats at the polls. Last year, Jews by 2 to 1 voted for former vice president Walter F. Mondale, the Democratic presidential nominee, over President Reagan, according to network exit polls.
Some have suggested that readiness of Jewish PACs to support Republicans may indicate the growing conservatism of the American Jewish community.
But Theodore Mann, head of the American Jewish Congress, said that while the community may have shifted to the right, so has the nation, and that he believes Jews remain roughly the same distance left of center as always