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Illinois' First Arab American PAC Launches With Support From Local Lawmakers

Illinois' Arab American community is making a formal entry into the political world via its own political action committee.

The American Middle East Voters Alliance, Inc. Political Action Committee, or AMVOTE-PAC, held an inaugural dinner Thursday evening in Oak Brook with several local movers and shakers as well as lawmakers, including the Hon. Timothy Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and Chicago Aldermen Joe Moore (49th), Pat O'Connor (40th) and Debra Silverstein (50th), set to be in attendance.

The purpose of the PAC is "to enhance the civic participation and empowerment of Arab Americans by voting for those that are sensitive to discrimination issues," according to the group's website. "The organization will also advocate on behalf of the Arab American community through democratic and inclusive organizational structures, and through partnering with other The purpose of AMVOTE-PAC is not to advocate in favor of any particular political party, religious viewpoint, or foreign policy position."

Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and the Democratic National Committee's Ethnic Council chair, says he has "watched the community mature as they've gone through generational change" over the last four decades. In that time, he has witnessed an increasing desire for members of the community "to have more of a role in politics in a very American way."

Zogby says there are a number of young, politically-active people in the state's Arab American community who sought to form a PAC with the goal of ultimately helping people in their communities, while simultaneously boosting the efforts of candidates they hoped to see gain traction in obtaining legislative seats. 

The PAC, which will focus on local and statewide issues, is seeking to "expand the influence" of Americans with Middle Eastern ancestry from all religious backgrounds with a stated mission of creating equal opportunities in business, employment, government, education and "civil rights without regard to race, color, creed, and ethnicity."

But community empowerment is of most importance to the AMVOTE-PAC, according to Zogby.

"That's the basic crux of it," he explained.

On Friday, the PAC will continue down the political trail with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). The senator will join Zogby at the Chicago Ethnic Leaders meeting, which is being hosted by the DNC's Ethnic Council and the National Democratic Coordinating Council. The 2016 ethnic community outreach strategy for the current election cycle will be discussed at the gathering.

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