NBC News reports that a grand total of zero presidential candidates from the Democratic side of the aisle have committed to attending this year’s AIPAC conference—an annual event sponsored by the pro-Israel lobby. That’s a departure from the last three cycles, in which the nominee for each party attended and spoke at the conference the year of the election.
It’s not clear who intended to go in the first place, or whether some could announce in the future, but as of now, several candidates have publicly announced that they won’t be in attendance—including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and Pete Buttigieg. Of those names, only Sanders issued more than a flat “I will not be attending” statement through a staffer:
On Wednesday, the group MoveOn asked all presidential candidates to boycott the conference, and despite the timing of the many announcements a day later, it’s not clear what influence they had since none of the candidates cited their ask.
“It’s no secret that 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,” Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn Political Action, said in a statement provided first to Politico. Ali said the move should “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.”
Criticism of AIPAC has ramped up following the Ilhan Omar controversy which dominated the news cycle in early March, and which saw the Muslim-American congresswoman accused of anti-Semitism for criticizing AIPAC’s influence.