The Corporate Power Brokers Behind AIPAC’s War on the Squad

An In These Times investigation reveals the individuals behind AIPAC’s election war chest: nearly 60% are CEOs and other top executives at the country’s largest corporations.

On the eve of a high-profile Democratic primary in April, incumbent Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) wasn’t giving a speech or knocking on doors. 

She was at a Passover Seder. 

The representative and members of her campaign team joined supporters and their families at a home in Pittsburgh’s historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the site of a deadly 2018 attack where 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Congregation were murdered by a white supremacist.

At the Seder, as the U.S.-backed Israeli assault on Gaza raged in the background, Lee and her fellow peace activists reflected on the trying months since October 7, 2023. Organizers who criticized Israel’s brutal response to Hamas’ attack had been smeared as anti-Semitic and apologists for atrocities. Exhausted but optimistic, they spoke about creating a larger movement that would span race, class and age. 

It felt so palpable,” recalls Lauren Maunus, who was at the Seder. Maunus is the political director of IfNotNow, an American Jewish group opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. What we’re trying to build,” Maunus says, we are building in real time.” 

Lee tells In These Times that the Seder felt like a reclaiming of our movement.” 

There had been such an attempt to drive us, our communities, away from each other,” Lee says, using our pain, our traumas, our oppression.” 

The following night, Lee stepped up to a lectern to address cheering supporters as the first-term congresswoman beat her primary opponent by more than 20 points, with the race called less than 90 minutes after polls closed. 

It’s a good night,” Lee told the crowd, adding: Last time, two years ago, if you were here and you remember, it was a longer night.”

Lee’s victory two years prior was a nailbiter. She saw a 25-point lead evaporate as the United Democracy Project — a Super PAC created during the 2021-2022 election cycle by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — poured $2.4 million into a deluge of attack ads in the final month. Lee squeaked out a win by just shy of 1,000 votes. 

But the story of the two-year turnaround in Lee’s electoral fortunes is about more than one congresswoman’s career or one political contest. It is a tale about the intersection of the pro-Israel lobby and corporate, right-wing politics.

An In These Times analysis of the hundreds of people and organizations financing AIPAC’s push to elect conservative, pro-Israel Democrats shows the lobby’s electoral efforts are largely in line with the interests of Wall Street and other corporate actors — the same interests that have, for years, fought to maintain a status quo of free market fundamentalism.

Peace activists rally outside the New York offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on February 22 to decry the lobby’s influence on U.S. politics.
Peace activists rally outside the New York offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on February 22 to decry the lobby’s influence on U.S. politics. Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

It’s also a story about the progressive resistance to this onslaught of money poisoning American democracy, a pushback that may finally be weakening AIPAC’s influence. 

By training its sights on left-wing members of Congress, AIPAC is setting up a battle not just over U.S. policy surrounding Israel and Palestine, but for the soul of the Democratic Party — and a progressive future.


Hardline supporters of the Israeli government were confident that the political fallout from October 7 would finally spell doom for the Squad, the group of diverse, Bernie Sanders-inspired left-wing members of Congress that includes Lee and fellow progressive Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.). Members of the Squad had come under fire after calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, suggesting U.S. military funding to Israel should be conditional, and voting against a House resolution that backed Israel and blamed the rising Palestinian death toll solely on Hamas. 

This is a scarlet letter that far-left candidates will have to wear,” Democratic strategist Jake Dilemani told Jewish Insider at the time. 

Mark Mellman, another Democratic strategist and one of the founders of Democratic Majority for Israel — a Super PAC that, like AIPAC’s United Democracy Project, was created to boost pro-Israel primary challengers against left-wing congressmembers — believed the savagery of Hamas has moved the center of gravity in a pro-Israel direction.” 

After October 7, United Democracy Project (UDP) began running digital ads against Lee and Bowman, maligning them for their refusal to back the singularly pro-Israel House resolution. 

Eliding the fact that Lee and other Squad members had vocally condemned the Hamas attack, one such ad read: Fourteen hundred Israelis slaughtered by Hamas. Women raped. Babies beheaded. Over 200 hostages. But Summer Lee was one of just 10 votes in Congress against condemning Hamas’ terrorism.” 

Before long, Slate reported that AIPAC was expected to spend the gargantuan sum of $100 million during the 2023-24 cycle to unseat high-profile Israel critics in Congress, including Lee and other members of the Squad. 

AIPAC wading into elections was nothing new. The lobby has been a powerful and influential force in U.S. politics for many years — and, according to James Zogby, co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute, AIPAC coordinated the PACs that existed prior to dark money.” In such cases, Zogby explains, These 15 PACs will give to this guy, and these 20 to that guy, and by the way, each one of these PACs has someone on their board who’s on AIPAC’s board of advisors.”

But the sheer scale of AIPAC’s spending — enabled by Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed the distorting influence of big money in elections — and the tactics being used are more recent developments. These pro-Israel groups now directly intervene in Democratic primary races, flooding the airwaves with negative ads maligning progressives in the eyes of loyal Democratic voters. 

Former Ohio state senator and Sanders campaign surrogate Nina Turner was among the first targets of this strategy during her 2021 run for Congress. Much like Lee, Turner was the overwhelming favorite for an open blue congressional seat in northeast Ohio but saw a massive early lead vanish under a nearly $2 million avalanche of negative advertising by Democratic Majority for Israel that painted her as a disloyal extremist. 

The ads funded by the pro-Israel lobby kind of say the same thing: Here’s these radicals … who are scary, who are not aligned with President Biden,” explains Usamah Andrabi, communications director for Justice Democrats, a left-wing electoral organization.

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“They told me they didn’t recognize me anymore, that Palestinians have no rights [and] that if I didn’t ‘disavow’ the Squad, they were going to come at me with everything they had. And that is, in fact, what they did.”

Turner recalls a conversation with a former ally who does business in Cleveland: They told me they didn’t recognize me anymore, that Palestinians have no rights [and] that if I didn’t disavow’ the Squad, they were going to come at me with everything they had. And that is, in fact, what they did.” 

Since Turner lost that election, a spate of progressives have been ousted from their seats, including establishment-friendly politicians like former Democratic Reps. Donna Edwards in Maryland and Andy Levin in Michigan, whose sole offense appeared to be criticizing illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and supporting a two-state solution (both of which are stated positions of President Joe Biden and many mainstream Democrats). 

Levin, who comes from one of the country’s most prominent political and Jewish families, lost his seat in 2022 after redistricting pitted him against another incumbent for the new, open seat. AIPAC put more than $4 million toward defeating him. 

We were buried by [that] avalanche,” Levin recalls. 

Those backing Israel’s assault on Gaza now hope to deliver another bloody nose to the Left, in particular by defeating Bowman and Bush, the politically vulnerable duo that made up the Squad’s 2021 class and are also outspoken critics of the Israeli government. Bowman has referred to Israel as an apartheid” state, while Bush has condemned what she calls Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign” and atrocities against Palestinians.”

The most recent public polls (conducted by groups hostile to Squad members in March and February, respectively) show Bowman trailing his primary challenger George Latimer by 17 points, while Bush was trailing opponent Wesley Bell by 22 points. AIPAC’s PAC (a separate entity from UDP, its Super PAC) has already funneled $1.3 million to Latimer, in its largest total donation to any candidate this election cycle. The PAC also gave $555,000 to Bell. 

In mid-May, UDP made its first expenditure on the Bowman-Latimer race in New York, spending $1.9 million to place ads charging that Bowman has his own agenda” and refuses to compromise, even with President Biden.” By the end of the month, that spending figure rose to nearly $8 million, the most the Super PAC has ever spent in a single race. At the same time, UDP poured roughly $240,000 into the Bush-Bell race in Missouri, a number that’s expected to grow significantly in the coming weeks.

Democratic operatives familiar with both races told The Intercept in May that AIPAC is forecast to spend more than $20 million against Bowman and Bush in each primary, including through negative ads funded by UDP. Neither AIPAC nor UDP responded to In These Times’ requests for comment.

Since fall 2022, some of those in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have twice tried to ban Super PAC funding from primaries through a resolution to the Democratic National Committee. But the resolution was never even raised for debate, despite having 31 co-sponsors, including four state party chairs and two vice chairs. When it comes down to it, they want the option to interfere in the primary elections if they feel that’s in the interest of the [party],” says former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer, who co-authored the resolution. 

The impact of the party’s refusal to rein in outside spending has become apparent. As she competed for reelection this year, Lee apparently became a target of billionaire Jeff Yass, who put $800,000 into a group called Moderate PAC, which helped finance ads accusing Lee of opposing President Biden” at a time when abortion rights and democracy are under threat from former President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. 

The irony runs deep: Yass was not only reportedly invested in one of Trump’s companies, but he’s also a prolific funder of right-wing causes and the largest single campaign donor overall this cycle, with 99% of the more than $70 million he’s spent going to Republicans. 

Protesters march near AIPAC headquarters in Washington D.C. in support of a free Palestine on March 13.
Protesters march near AIPAC headquarters in Washington D.C. in support of a free Palestine on March 13. Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images
“This may have been pioneered by AIPAC, but Big Pharma isn’t stupid, the tobacco industry isn’t stupid, the fossil fuel industry isn’t stupid. Why won’t they just say: ‘Great idea, AIPAC. Thank you very much. We will pick the nominee of both parties and that’ll be great for us to advance our interests.’”

As a progressive and a Democrat, I don’t want to have Republicans coming in and picking nominees,” Levin says. This may have been pioneered by AIPAC, but Big Pharma isn’t stupid, the tobacco industry isn’t stupid, the fossil fuel industry isn’t stupid. Why won’t they just say: Great idea, AIPAC. Thank you very much. We will pick the nominee of both parties and that’ll be great for us to advance our interests.’” 

Or, as Bush recently explained to Politico, AIPAC and their Republican mega donors are targeting Black and brown Democratic incumbents with the same right-wing playbook across the country.” 

The data analyzed by In These Times shows these worries are not misplaced.


An In These Times analysis found that the 528 individuals and corporations who gave to UDP between January 2023 and February 2024 are largely top-level executives from the finance and real estate industries, along with a smattering of billionaires and other members of the 1%. Nearly 60% of UDP donors are high-level executives, including CEOs and other corporate officers. 

This dynamic is essentially flipped when it comes to those funding Squad members like Lee, Bowman and Bush, whose 2023-24 donor pool is made up of just 4% CEOs and other top executives, while 60% are non-executives. 

The list of donors to UDP includes dozens of current or former AIPAC officials, indicating their passion to maintain unconditional U.S. support for Israel. But a deeper look into the backgrounds of those funding the Super PAC suggests that foreign policy isn’t their sole motivation. 

It’s not just their personal pro-Israel interests that they’re advancing,” says Charlie Blaettler, senior campaign strategist at the progressive Working Families Party, which has supported several electoral campaigns of Squad members. A lot of folks are also advancing their own professional and business interests with these donations.” 

Many of the donors to UDP are true blue Democrats — donors like the Hillary Clinton-superfan Haim Saban (whose company once produced the Power Rangers franchise) and former Blackstone Senior Managing Director Steve Zelin (who backed the 2020 presidential campaigns of Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden). 

But UDP’s single biggest donor is Jan Koum, the multibillionaire former CEO of WhatsApp and prolific Republican donor. He has also been a major funder of groups like Friends of Ir David and the Central Fund of Israel, which fund and support illegal Israeli settlements. Koum’s propensity for sharing pro-Trump and anti-immigration stories from outlets like Breitbart and Fox News made news in 2018

UDPs Wall Street Base Donors to AIPACs Super PAC by Industry
Design by Rachel K Dooley
Nearly 60% of UDP donors are high-level executives, including CEOs and other corporate officers.

UDP’s heavy reliance on right-wing (even hard-right) oligarchs comes into stark relief when looking at its most elite donors. As of February, 43 individuals and corporations had given $200,000 or more each to UDP this cycle, accounting for $25.5 million, or 55% of total contributions. Of those, 26% are either primarily Republican donors or Trump donors (or both). Trump donors include the Kraft Group, helmed by billionaire Robert Kraft (the New England Patriots owner whose friendship with Trump goes back decades), as well as billionaire Bernie Marcus (the co-founder and former CEO of The Home Depot, who has promised to keep financing Trump’s presidential bid even if the Republican nominee ends up behind bars).

AIPAC itself has become increasingly aligned with far-right politicians. The lobby has notoriously endorsed hundreds of anti-abortion candidates and election deniers since 2021, including recent Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson in North Carolina, who has a long history of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic comments. 

Big money interests are always on the hunt for elected officials that will do their bidding,” Turner explains. Behind the curtain though, these groups could care less about the Democratic Party itself or the people who live in my district who need clean water, housing and jobs.” 

Nearly half of UDP’s donors work in what’s collectively known as the FIRE sector — finance, insurance and real estate. WinnCompanies, for example, founded by Arthur Winn, is a member of the National Multifamily Housing Council, a powerful landlord and rental housing trade association. It was part of an industry coalition that lobbied Biden in June 2021 to end the pandemic-era eviction moratorium, a moratorium vocally backed by members of the Squad and successfully extended (albeit temporarily) thanks in large part to the efforts of Bush, who spent four days sleeping on the steps of Capitol Hill to pressure the White House to prolong the policy. 

Squad members have also been highly critical of the private equity industry — a subset of the finance sector heavily represented among UDP donors — for, among other things, driving up housing costs. 

Private equity was, along with a broad crosssection of Wall Street and corporate America, also a fierce opponent of Build Back Better, the $2.2 trillion social spending bill proposed by Biden and championed by Squad members and other progressives. At least a dozen UDP donors, including billionaire Paul Singer, are top executives at firms that are members or directors of the trade group American Investment Council, which fought Build Back Better to its death over the legislation’s tax increases on corporations and executives. 

The failure of Build Back Better also came in large part because of the opposition of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (then D-Ariz.), who would do nothing at all on carried interest, so we’re just stuck on that,” according to one Democratic staffer complaining to Mother Jones. Sinema, long a magnet for finance sector cash, was also on the receiving end of the generosity of numerous UDP donors as she gummed up the works for what was supposed to be Biden’s signature piece of domestic legislation. One such donation, of $5,800, was sent to Sinema in September 2021 — the exact time she was actively working to block Build Back Better — from billionaire Trump donor Marc Rowan, whose firm Apollo Global Management is represented on the board of the American Investment Council.

UDPs Corner Office Cash VS The Squads Rank and File Supporters
Design by Rachel K Dooley


AIPAC’s recent big money onslaught isn’t just about defeating a handful of left-wing lawmakers; it appears to be in service of cultivating an aura of invincibility and enhancing AIPAC’s fearsome reputation as the one lobby you don’t dare cross on Capitol Hill. 

I’ve worked on campaigns where the candidate will say, I’d like to stay with you guys, but they’re threatening to spend this much money against me and I can’t do it, so I’m going to retract the statement that I made,’” Zogby says. 

Geoff Simpson, campaigns director for Justice Democrats, says potential attacks and spending from AIPAC are always one of the first things on candidates’ minds.” 

There’s been at least a dozen conversations with candidates or prospective candidates where AIPAC is one of the first things brought up,” Simpson adds. 

Andrabi notes that, recently, the message from some members of Congress is that what’s going on in Palestine is awful … I would call for a cease-fire, but I just can’t risk an AIPAC primary.”

It’s a reputation AIPAC works hard to broadcast, posting a nearly 100% success rate. On X (formerly Twitter) this April, AIPAC announced that all of its endorsements in Pennsylvania came out on top. 

But AIPAC also makes strategic choices to maintain that reputation — which suggests the lobby isn’t quite so unbeatable. 

As Andrabi explains: They’re desperate to spend money in races, even if it doesn’t really matter or it’s not that effectual, and then claim victory immediately.” 

Jewish Insider noted early in the campaign cycle that a sizeable majority” of AIPAC’s list of House endorsees were running for seats that the Cook Political Report rated as far from competitive. In Pennsylvania, all but one of the 13 candidates AIPAC endorsed this cycle ran unopposed in their primaries, and Cook rated seven as uncompetitive in the general election, with only two rated as toss-ups.

Most tellingly, AIPAC only ensured its flawless record in Pennsylvania by eventually deciding not to contest the Lee race, despite having attempted to find a challenger to bankroll. 

Lee’s opponent received neither the lobby’s endorsement nor the benefit of UDP’s outside spending. It was a curious move for an entity marshaling astronomical amounts to spend Israel critics out of existence, especially since Lee has accused Israel of carrying out war crimes” and has backed cutting off military aid to the country. 

We know of four or five people AIPAC asked to run against Summer [Lee] in Pittsburgh who told them no, because they didn’t think that Summer was beatable,” Simpson says. The sum AIPAC was discussing putting toward the race, Simpson adds, was between $10 and $20 million. 

“To be clear, AIPAC lost because they couldn’t win,” Lee says.
The Not So Democratic 200 K Club Top Donors 200 K to AIPACs Super PAC by Partisan Donation History
design by rachel k dooley

To be clear, AIPAC lost because they couldn’t win,” Lee says. 

A further examination of the electoral landscape reveals this race was just one of several high-profile failures for AIPAC this cycle so far. 

In March, AIPAC fell flat on its face in an early test of its power to shape Democratic primaries after the establishment-friendly Dave Min prevailed in the Democratic primary for Rep. Katie Porter’s seat in Orange County, Calif. UDP ran $4.6 million worth of attack ads against Min, whose pro-Israel stance is tempered with only mild criticism. He won by six points anyway. 

In Michigan, two people came forward in November 2023 alleging they had been offered $20 million to run against Squad member Rashida Tlaib. Both refused, even though Tlaib’s controversies since October 7 — including censure by the House for refusing to denounce the phrase From the river to the sea” — should have made her an easy target, at least by AIPAC’s logic.

I didn’t intend for a private phone call to turn public. But now that it has, here’s the truth. One of AIPAC’s biggest donors offered $20m if I dropped out of the U.S. Senate race to run against @RashidaTlaib. I said no. I won’t be bossed, bullied, or bought,” Hill Harper tweeted on November 222023

A spokesperson for AIPAC told Politico that they were not involved in the exchange with Harper. Five days later, Nasser Beydoun tweeted that he also was offered $20 million to withdraw from the senatorial race and to run against my friend @rashidatlaib.”

The lobby appears to, at least so far, be staying away from the race. 

Still, AIPAC has had a major impact when it chooses to spend. To the extent progressives have neutralized its influence, it’s been the result of deliberate, strategic efforts. Lee’s win, for instance, wasn’t just a matter of the politics around Israel changing at home; she was propelled into office as part of a progressive electoral wave that has reshaped Pittsburgh politics. 

It’s a situation where … if you’re going to run against Summer [Lee], you’re crossing Summer, but you’re also crossing Mayor Ed Gainey, the County Executive Sara Innamorato, and SEIU Healthcare, which has proven one of the biggest power players locally in Pittsburgh and across the state,” Simpson says. 

And, he adds, Lee and her team have focused on continuing to provide effective constituent services while delivering money to her district. They boast, for example, of helping deliver $1 billion of federal money to western Pennsylvania for projects ranging from infrastructure repairs and affordable housing to clean energy manufacturing and lead removal. 

We help the constituents with their passports and their Social Security and Medicare,” says Wasi Mohamed, Lee’s chief of staff. There’s a lot of this work that people don’t see.” 

As a result, Lee blunted the emergence of a viable challenger while winning the endorsement of not just progressives but AIPAC-backed centrists — including Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, who has emerged as an unapologetic supporter of Israel’s devastating assault on Palestinians. 

They polled extensively in this district,” Lee says of AIPAC, and last I heard, polls are not free, nor are they cheap.” 

“It’s sort of like The Wizard of Oz,” Zogby says. “Pull back the curtain and what you see is a pretty sordid mess: a little guy at a computer grinding out hostile ads. They know that Israel is not a winning issue."

By contrast, Bowman and Bush entered the political scene by emulating insurgents like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and unseating longstanding congressional incumbents, leapfrogging the process of moving up through local and state levels. That left them without the level of local party support Lee earned. And, unlike Lee, the two most vulnerable Squad members have also been tagged with scandals that pre-dated October 7. Bowman has been harangued in the press over his congressional censure after setting off a fire alarm in the middle of a House session in September 2023 (allegedly to delay proceedings, an accusation he has denied), while Bush has been fending off attacks over the alleged misuse of campaign funds for security services (accusations she calls simply false”).

According to Zogby, the threat of an AIPAC-funded challenge is intended to coax members of Congress away from the type of brazen progressive positions advocated by Bowman and Bush. 

It’s sort of like The Wizard of Oz,” Zogby says. Pull back the curtain and what you see is a pretty sordid mess: a little guy at a computer grinding out hostile ads. They know that Israel is not a winning issue. … They want to hide their own fear and project the omnipotence and power — We can’t be bucked, we can’t be beat, so you ought to come on board.’ Unfortunately, all too many members do that.” 

In early April, Bowman echoed this sentiment in a #ProtectTheSquad livestream event organized in part by Justice Democrats, saying that AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel cast a paper-tiger Wizard of Oz power.” Determined, Bowman added: We are gonna take down AIPAC this election cycle.” 

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who has called for a cease-fire in Gaza, speaks at a news conference with Rabbis for Ceasefire and other members of the Squad. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is making efforts to unseat the incumbent.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who has called for a cease-fire in Gaza, speaks at a news conference with Rabbis for Ceasefire and other members of the Squad. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is making efforts to unseat the incumbent. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images


Far from wilting in the face of these attacks, progressives are trying something new. In March, a group of more than 20 progressive organizations — including IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the Working Families Party and Justice Democrats — announced the formation of Reject AIPAC. The organization pledged to put forward a seven-figure electoral defense campaign” to defend AIPAC’s targets in Congress and launch its own lobbying campaign to counterbalance AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill, pressuring Democrats to reject an AIPAC endorsement. 

The coalition started coming together after AIPAC’s involvement in the 2022 election cycle. Over the following year, a core group of organizers researched, polled and discussed what the effort could look like, while bringing in more coalition members. The effort found new urgency in the aftermath of October 7 and AIPAC’s renewed focus on progressives. 

It’s taken months and months to get together,” says Andrabi. What accelerated it most definitely was the Israeli military’s horrifying assault on the Palestinian people.” 

Meanwhile, the Israel lobby’s post-October 7 escalation against the Left, coupled with the Biden administration’s stubborn support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, has had a galvanizing effect on grassroots support for progressives, particularly from Muslim and Arab Americans intent on proving that being pro-Palestinian isn’t a political liability. Muslim donors angry about the Democratic response to Gaza have stepped up in a major, major way for our candidates,” Simpson says. 

There’s always been a Palestinian solidarity movement, but not one that is also looking on the electoral track,” says activist and author Linda Sarsour, who helped organize the Reject AIPAC coalition. The Biden administration’s unequivocal support of Israel has forced Muslim Americans to think to themselves, We have money, we have voters in swing states — why do we not have any influence?’” 

Sure enough, many in the Squad saw their quarterly fund-raising totals more than double in the period after the violence broke out in Gaza. Ilhan Omar, a favorite target of the Israel-at-all-costs camp, saw a nearly fourfold rise in her fundraising haul in the final quarter of 2023, while going into the primary, Lee also raised many times more than the amount she had before October. Tlaib’s nearly $3.7 million total that was raised between October 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023, made up 80% of what she raised for the entire cycle, despite the manufactured controversy swirling around her.

“Our No. 1 volunteers were people who said, ‘I’m knocking on a thousand doors because you stood up for justice when it was hard,’” Mohamed says. “That, to me, was the story of this whole election.”

And it wasn’t just fundraising; ground game support also surged. Our No. 1 volunteers were people who said, I’m knocking on a thousand doors because you stood up for justice when it was hard,’” Mohamed says. That, to me, was the story of this whole election.” 

All Squad members, as well as Squad-affiliated progressive Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), have vocally supported a ceasefire in Gaza since October. Another progressive freshman associated with the group, Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), joined the call a month later. All were more recently part of the historic 37 Democrats to vote against sending $17 billion in weapons to Israel, and they also voted against the key rule-change cooked up by GOP leadership to get the bill passed through the House. The participation of Frost and Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) is especially notable: Both drew criticism two years ago for centrist positions on Israel that they apparently took to head off an AIPAC-funded challenge, and had declined to join Squad members in voting against the House’s pro-Israel resolution last October. (Reached for comment, Casar said, So much has changed since 2022, but I’ve always tried to work toward the safety and freedom of Palestinians and Israelis alike with a focus on human rights.”) 

It’s the movements that they’re a part of,” says Sarsour. These people are responding to the moment that we live in. They’re watching organizing happening all across the country, they’re watching mass mobilization.” 

Indeed, critique of Israel and opposition to unconditional U.S. military support is quickly becoming more common within the Democratic Party, as much of the U.S. public has shifted its views to align more closely with the Squad. 

Polls show majorities of Americans now support putting various conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel — only five years after Ocasio-Cortez was denounced for simply suggesting that cutting such aid can be discussed.” 


Just as the targeting of progressives by UDP donors is about more than Israel, the progressive fightback is, too. I was working for the Sunrise Movement during Andy Levin’s election and I saw these dynamics very clearly threatening the prospects of climate policy,” says Maunus. All the candidates Sunrise supported were under threat by AIPAC, he recalls, because they’re also the candidates that understand the realities in Palestine [and] are criticizing Israel.” Maunus would become central to forming the Reject AIPAC coalition. 

Lee notes that AIPAC and its donors are blatant in their actual agenda, [which] is less Israel and Palestine, and more how to keep the Democratic Party from being a party that reflects the interests of marginalized people, of working-class people, of labor, of our environment and of those who are desperate for Medicare for All.” 

This resistance to AIPAC’s onslaught and this fight, progressives warn, will last more than a single election cycle, and it will likely see defeats along the way. But its impact is already clear in AIPAC’s inability to unseat Lee and recruit a viable candidate to challenge Tlaib, among other ways. 

Simpson says that sometime between six months and a year ago people were writing that the whole Squad was in danger and were going to get wiped out, and now it’s really narrowed to Jamaal [Bowman] and Cori [Bush].” Reflecting on their power and strategy, Turner says the movement has got to play the long game.” She emphasizes: AIPAC has been doing this for decades.”

One part of that long game may look like an aspect of Lee’s campaign, when volunteers were knocking on doors this spring, days before Lee broke matzah at the Seder in Squirrel Hill. Door after door, Lee’s volunteers didn’t just speak to voters about her reelection but engaged in the kind of difficult conversations around the assault on Gaza that have been the source of such bitter division in U.S. society since October 7

Those conversations did not include just Jewish voters, but Muslim and Arab American communities, along with progressives who feel abandoned by the Democratic Party but remain determined to transform it — in part by planting the seeds of a new coalition capable of beating back the big money interests that further corrode democracy each and every election cycle. 

We have to go and talk to some people who maybe are not inclined to naturally come to us, or have fallen off because of the use of certain issues as wedges against progressives and people of color,” Lee says. Campaigns are not just a vehicle to win elections. They’re also vehicles to drive and create and sustain community.”

Research and fact-checking provided by Riley Roliff, Imani Sumbi, Andrew Ancheta, Eloise Goldsmith, Joshua Mei, Thomas Birmingham and Skyler Aikerson.

Branko Marcetic is a staff writer at Jacobin magazine and a 2019-2020 Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting fellow. He is the author of Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden.

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