Mar 11, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Progressive groups vow to fight AIPAC cash in Democratic primaries

A group of female, POC members of Congress mostly wearing black and keffiyehs, holding up pro-Palestinian signs in the House chamber.

Reps. Summer Lee, Rashida Tlaib, Delia Ramirez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley. Photo: Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A coalition of progressive groups on Monday announced they intend to pool their resources to combat AIPAC's plans to spend $100 million campaigning against lawmakers critical of Israel.

Why it matters: AIPAC, the country's most influential pro-Israel group, is now facing an organized pro-Palestinian movement in the most fiercely contested and closely watched Democratic primaries in the country.

Driving the news: The "Reject AIPAC" coalition is made up of 25 left-wing groups, including the Working Families Party, Justice Democrats, Jewish Voice for Peace, Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution.

  • The coalition is planning a seven-figure "electoral defense campaign" to defend progressive members of Congress targeted by AIPAC, they said in a press release.
  • They also plan to lobby members of Congress to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and cut off U.S. support for Israel, as well as to sign a pledge rejecting donations from AIPAC.
  • "We have watched as AIPAC has done everything it can to silence growing dissent in Congress against Netanyahu's assault on Gaza ... Now is the time for the whole of the Democratic Party to Reject AIPAC once and for all," the coalition said in a statement.

Zoom out: Members of the progressive "Squad," a group of the most left-leaning, pro-Palestinian members of Congress, are facing some of the toughest primary challenges in the country this cycle.

  • Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who is also under fire for an incident in which he pulled a Capitol Hill fire alarm, faces popular Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
  • Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), under federal investigation for alleged campaign finance violations, is being challenged by public defender Wesley Bell.
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is set for a rematch with Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, who she beat by just 2 points in 2022.
  • Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) is being challenged by local legislator Bhavini Patel.

Reality check: While seven figures is a substantial sum in any congressional primary, it's a far cry from the nine figures AIPAC is planning to spend.

The other side: AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann said in a statement to Axios that the group "will not be deterred in our efforts by an extremist anti-Israel fringe."

  • "We believe it is entirely consistent with progressive values to stand with the Jewish state. In fact, our political action committee supports nearly half of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus. We are the largest [PAC] contributor to Democratic candidates."
Go deeper