Six contestants for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020 have announced that they will not be attending the AIPAC annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. next week. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, as well as Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, today joined Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in sharing their intention to steer clear of this year's confab at which 40 members of Congress, as well as the Vice President, are scheduled to appear. Several, including Harris, Castro, and O'Rourke, have attended in the recent past.
Today's announcements come on the heels of a new poll released yesterday by MoveOn which found that a vast majority of their members — 74% — want Democrats to skip the conference. Citing AIPAC's efforts to defeat the Iran Deal, its financial support for Islamophobic propagandists like Frank Gaffney, and the attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing multiple pending indictments and recently invited Jewish extremist factions to join his governing coalition, MoveOn is calling on all the candidates to forgo this year's event.
"It’s no secret that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage," MoveOn campaign director Iram Ali said in a statement. "We asked our members what they think so that we can make more informed decisions–and over 74% agreed that progressive presidential candidates should skip the AIPAC conference. This should also give a clear insight to 2020 candidates on where their base stands instead of prioritizing lobbying groups and policy people who rarely step outside of D.C."
While AIPAC does not normally schedule Presidential candidates to speak the year prior to an election, they often attend nonetheless to work the room in an unofficial capacity. For example, Harris, whose White House aspirations were well-known by 2018, held an off-the-record event at the conference last year, likely to build support in anticipation of her run. Though the decision to stay away this year indicates AIPAC's waning support among Democrats, the real test will be next March when the candidates are invited to keynote the summit.