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AIPAC: The Convention

Nothing demonstrates AIPAC’s influence on Congress more than its annual three-day policy conference held in Washington, D.C. It’s an impressive production. Beside the sheer size of the event, which this year drew 10,000 delegates, and the pro-Israel advocates who pour in from all over the country, the convention brings the nation’s political stars to its stage. The speakers in May of this year included no less than President Barak Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). 

More than two-thirds of the Senate and almost two-thirds of the House attended the convention banquet this year. AIPAC proudly performed its annual “roll call” of each member of Congress present at the event. The scene matched the theme of the three-day affair and the mantra of the organization: “Join us, because we’re influential and we can help you help Israel.”

After the big shows, AIPAC showed promotional videos in the halls of the convention center that spoke of the special relationship its members have developed with Congress and its staff. 

“It blows me away that I make change. And it blows me away that I'm heard. And it blows me away that the chief of staff answers my calls and returns my phone calls and, um, the congresswoman knows me by name and knows my kids and knows what’s happening in my life,” said pro-Israel political activist Julie Gadinsky, from Los Angeles, in an AIPAC video from the conference.

A Sunday-evening presentation at the conference also emphasized the importance of growing and maintaining close congressional relationships. The presentation encouraged people to get more involved in pro-Israel politics, outside of their commitment to AIPAC, and make a financial committment.

When the presentations finished and the videos stopped playing at the end of the day, AIPAC held private gatherings where delegates could meet members of Congress in more intimate settings. 

On Sunday night, Talia Resin, a Los Angeles AIPAC leader who belongs to Beverly Hills' Sinai Temple, said she went to two different receptions to meet with members of the House. One was just for her temple delegation, which two House members attended. AIPAC also hosted a dinner for Resin and about 20 other members, which two other members attended, including Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier). 

Every year AIPAC finishes its convention by organizing a massive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. This year it made more than 526 lobbying appointments with members of Congress or their chiefs of staff, according to AIPAC's executive director, Howard Kohr, at the conference. Before pro-Israel supporters go to their appointments, AIPAC has delegates attend special training sessions on how to effectively deliver the organization's talking points. 

The lobbying campaign is a way for everyone to take action on all the things they’ve learned at the convention, says Resin. 

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