AIPAC refutes idea that Democratic candidates boycotted its conference
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AIPAC refutes idea that Democratic candidates boycotted its conference

Members of pro-Israel lobby meet with four senators seeking 2020 nomination following progressive group’s boycott call

Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California meets with AIPAC activists in her office on March 25, 2019. (Kamala Harris/Twitter via JTA)
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California meets with AIPAC activists in her office on March 25, 2019. (Kamala Harris/Twitter via JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — AIPAC is pushing back against the notion that Democratic presidential candidates were avoiding the lobby.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee listed four 2020 hopefuls, all senators, who met personally with activists during the group’s annual Capitol Hill lobbying blitz on Tuesday.

“Senators Booker, Harris, Gillibrand, Klobuchar all met with AIPAC constituent delegations,” an AIPAC official said in a call to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Wednesday.

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey have announced their bids for the nomination. At least two of them posted their encounters on social media.

Missing from the list were Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) the only candidate to say he would boycott AIPAC; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who did not give a reason for not meeting with AIPAC activists, but whose foreign policy adviser met with the group; and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who did not return a request from The Washington Post to explain why she was not meeting with AIPAC. Gabbard told a recent town hall that she would consider returning money from donors who give to AIPAC.

MoveOn, a progressive grassroots group, had called on Democratic nominees to boycott AIPAC during its conference. Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, have said the candidates are observing the boycott, though without evidence. Conservative media picked up on the narrative that the candidates were boycotting.

More than 15 candidates are running for the Democratic nomination, but AIPAC’s statement was relevant to only the seven of them who are serving in Congress, which is the focus of AIPAC lobbying. Other candidates, including Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, have noted that they were not invited to attend the policy conference.

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