Sunday, September 28, 2014

Warren Asks for Money for Female Dem Candidates, But Leaves One Out

Earlier today, I received the following email from Elizabeth Warren's campaign asking me to donate to the new Democratic women running for Senate this year:
   
In 2012, we elected four new Democratic women to the United States Senate.

In 2014, it's possible that we don't add any. Yes, you read that correctly: Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I'm not trying to cry wolf, and I'm not saying that the sky is falling. The fact is, our strong, smart, and experienced 2014 Democratic women challengers in Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, and Montana all signed up for some of the biggest, toughest races of the year. None of these races is a sure thing.    
But you and I know a little something about long-shot campaigns. We know how to beat the odds and win: We get organized and we fight back with everything we've got. Not a week before the election, but right now.
Can you help Alison Lundergan Grimes, Michelle Nunn, Natalie Tennant, and Amanda Curtis fight back and win this November? Donate now directly to their campaigns before their September 30th fundraising deadlines.

Nobody is going to pull out a chair and invite our candidates to have a seat at the table. If we want to win in Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, and Montana, we're going to have to fight for it:
    Despite all the Super PAC attacks, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is polling neck-and-neck with Mitch McConnell. With your support, not only can we keep the Democratic majority in the Senate – we can send the #1 Republican in the Senate back home to Kentucky for good.
    Georgia remains one of the Democrats' top opportunities to pick up an open seat this November, thanks to our amazing Democratic candidate, Points of Light Foundation CEO Michelle Nunn. This race is a toss up, and Michelle needs your support to keep fighting.
    In West Virginia, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is running a tough campaign against Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito for the seat my Democratic colleague Jay Rockefeller has held for nearly 30 years. The financial industry would love nothing more than to send their friend Capito to the Senate to weaken the rules in their favor. If you care about holding the big banks accountable, Natalie needs your help now.

    Amanda Curtis is our new Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat in Montana that Democrats have held for decades, and she took on a hard climb. She needs our help right away to close the fundraising gap the last six weeks of this campaign. A state legislator and a teacher (woo-hoo!), Amanda is a smart and outspoken voice for Montana families.  
I don't want 2014 to be the year we stop adding – or worse yet, lose – Democratic women in the United States Senate. Not on our watch. On issues like raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and even access to birth control, we need women in the Senate now more than ever to stand up and be heard.

Donate now to Alison, Michelle, Natalie, and Amanda's campaigns before their urgent September 30th deadlines. Let's keeping moving forward, not back.

Thank you for being a part of this,
Elizabeth
Warren's email, however, leaves out one of the new Democratic women on the ballot this November: Shenna Bellows of Maine. 
 
Shenna, the former executive director of the Maine ACLU, is far more progressive than Michelle, Natalie, Alison, or Amanda. You can visit her website, which highlights her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the testing regime created by NCLB as well as her support for repealing the PATRIOT Act, ending the drug war, and expanding Social Security. (among other things)

However, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), despite endorsing Bellows back in March, has ignored the race ever since.

In 2012, Obama won Maine by 15 points. By contrast, he lost Georgia by 8, Kentucky by 23, Montana by 14, and West Virginia by 27. Maine, then, is friendly territory for Democrats and a fairly inexpensive media market.

Susan Collins, the Republican incumbent, has cultivated a reputation as a moderate. However, most of her votes belie that reputation. Consider, for instance, her vote last October to shut down the government, her vote against raising the minimum wage, and her vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Or countless others.

Perhaps part of the problem with the DSCC is that when Susan Collins is casting bad votes (outside of the purely party line confirmation votes), some Democrats are right there with her. Consider her votes for the Keystone XL pipeline, against restoring SNAP funding, or for raising student loan interest rates for future students. Or consider all of her votes for expanding the surveillance state and perpetual war state.

You can tell a lot about Susan Collins by the fact that she doesn't have an issues page on her campaign website. She knows that Maine voters do not agree with a lot of her positions, so she just won't talk about them.

Democrats should not be giving up a seat without a fight, especially when they are at risk for losing control.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bill Clinton Defends Corporate Tax Inversions at CGI

While Democrats in Congress have been trying to make a campaign issue about corporate tax inversions, and the administration has begun to take action, former President Bill Clinton is defending them:
“Like it or not, this inversion, this is their money,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
When asked whether inversions — the practice of American companies acquiring a small overseas rival and reincorporating abroad to lower their tax bills — are unpatriotic, as many critics say, Mr. Clinton said that publicly traded companies, in particular, “feel duty bound to pay the lowest taxes they can pay.”
“We have the highest overall corporate tax rates in the world, and we are now the only O.E.C.D. country that also taxes overseas earnings,” Mr. Clinton said. “A lot of these executives, even if they wanted to bring the money home, they think this is crazy.”
Although the corporate tax rate in the US is 35% on paper (or 39.2% when you add in state taxes), the average effective corporate tax rate for large, profitable companies was only 12.6% in 2010. Because of a variety of tax credits, exemptions, and evasions, practically no corporation pays that highest rate. In fact, some even end up with a negative effective tax rate because of all of the perks offered by Uncle Sam. 

It's not surprising that Bill Clinton would be so fond of corporate executives. CGI is pretty much just a way for him to claim humanitarianism while hanging out with rich people (and helping his friends enrich themselves). This is, of course, the president of NAFTA and of the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
The question then is whether Hillary, viewed as the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, is on the same page as her husband or the party. Given her post-State career, I'd guess the former.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gabby Giffords: Working to Keep the House Red

As you may remember, former Democratic representative Gabby Giffords and her husband started an ambiguously named PAC called Americans for Responsible Solutions to push for gun control legislation.

Well, Americans for Responsible Solutions is now working to keep the House in Republican hands:
The Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC (ARS PAC) is releasing a new ad in support of Fitzpatrick as well as a poll that shows him favored to win re-election.
… The group endorsed Fitzpatrick back in June and had previously indicated it would mobilize to support those candidates it backed.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to lead,” the narrator of the commercial asserts. “He’s working with Democrats and Republicans to keep us safe from gun violence.”
The thirty-second spot praises Fitzpatrick for authoring a bill to keep guns out of the hands of the mental ill (H.R. 329) as well as co-sponsoring a bill an act to prevent stalkers and domestic abusers from purchasing firearms (H.R. 1565).
“We can get it right,” the narrator concludes. “It just takes a leader. Like Mike Fitzpatrick.”
“We need more bipartisan leaders like Mike Fitzpatrick in Congress – leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to powerful special interests and to stand up for commonsense solutions to gun violence,” said Hayley Zachary, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. ”By reaching across the aisle to cosponsor legislation to close loopholes on gun sales, Congressman Fitzpatrick was not only showing some leadership, but reflecting the reasonable views of his constituents.”
ARS PAC also explained that this is a six-figure buy that will air in the Philadelphia TV market on broadcast and cable for at least the next two weeks.
Although it is viewed as a safe seat for Fitzpatrick this cycle, PA-08, a suburban district based in Bucks County outside of Philadelphia (where I grew up), is still considered the prototypical swing district. 

As of the last quarterly filing, Mike Fitzpatrick had raised almost 2.5 times as much money this cycle as his Democratic challenger, Kevin Strouse. He also had seven times as much cash on hand. Mike Fitzpatrick clearly does not need their help.

Moreover, he does not even deserve it. Mike Fitzpatrick can co-sponsor as many bills as he'd like, but there is really only one vote that matters for advancing gun control legislation: the vote for Speaker of the House. And on that, he fails.

A single issue group like Americans for Responsible Solutions should not be intervening in favor of a well-funded incumbent against a challenger who will, by basis of party affiliation alone, be more favorable to the group's agenda. If gun control is not a salient contrast between the candidates, then ARS should be sitting out.

This reminds me of how Big Green groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund and LGBTQ advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign always endorse Republican senator Susan Collins (R-ME) over Democratic challengers who are more pro-environment and pro-LGBTQ rights. They simply want to have a token Republican so that they can tout their bipartisanship, not matter how little it actually gets them.

That Giffords's group would be backing a Republicans appears less surprising as well when you remember that Giffords was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and was one of the most conservative Democrats in the caucus.

Friday, September 19, 2014

House Republicans Combine All Their Anti-Environment Legislation into One Big Bill. 9 Dems Join Them

Yesterday, while the Senate was busy voting for war, the House took a vote on destroying the environment.

The American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act is basically a rehash of bills that already passed the House and will go nowhere in the Senate. The House Republicans basically threw together all of the anti-environment legislation they've voted for into one bill:
The bill would declare that a presidential permit is not required for TransCanada’s revised proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline — which would allow construction of the pipeline across the U.S.- Canadian border to proceed. Further, it would eliminate the current requirement that proposed oil and natural gas pipelines and electric transmission line projects that cross the U.S. border with Mexico or Canada obtain a Presidential permit and create a new approval process that requires only the cross-border segment of a project to be subject to a National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) review. It would also require the Secretary of State (for oil and gas pipelines) and the Secretary of Energy (for electric transmission lines) to approve a project unless the narrow segment that crosses the border is deemed “not in the public interest of the United States.”
Additionally, the bill would open huge new portions of our coastlines to offshore drilling, and ignore other important uses of public lands, including conservation and recreation. The bill would severely limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act. It would also prohibit the EPA from finalizing regulations estimated to cost more than $1 billion if the Energy Department determines that the regulations will cause significant adverse effects to the economy.  This would effectively prevent EPA from finalizing any regulations and would give the Energy Department a veto over EPA's air and water pollution rules or any other rule interpreted to be "energy-related." The measure could also indefinitely delay EPA energy-related rules because there are no deadlines for EPA to submit its report or for the Energy Department to complete its study.

The bill would also block the Department of the Interior from issuing rules to protect streams from the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining and force states to adopt a Bush Administration rule vacated by the courts – while also prohibiting the federal government from establishing baseline standards for the safe conduct of hydraulic fracturing on public lands.
The House voted for it 226 to 191. The vote was largely on partisan lines, but with 9 Democrats voting for it and 7 Republicans voting against it. 

Here are the 9 Democrats that voted for it:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

Here are the 7 Republicans that voted against it:

Rodney Frelinghysen (NJ-11)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Both of MA's Senators Voted Against Arming the Syrian Rebels

Today, the Senate voted on the Continuing Resolution that passed the House yesterday, with the funding authorization for Obama’s plan to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

Last week, the New York Times had an excellent article on how defining clear-cut “moderates” in Syria is a near impossible feat, one asking for trouble:
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”
….

The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.
Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.
The C.R. passed the Senate 78-22. Both Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were among the 22 NO votes.

They were joined by only 8 other members of the Democratic caucus:

Mark Begich (D-AK)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Here is the statement Elizabeth Warren issued on her vote:
I am deeply concerned by the rise of ISIS, and I support a strong, coordinated response, but I am not convinced that the current proposal to train and equip Syrian forces adequately advances our interests. After detailed briefings, I remain concerned that our weapons, our funding, and our support may end up in the hands of people who threaten the United States — and even if we could guarantee that our support goes to the right people, I remain unconvinced that training and equipping these forces will be effective in pushing back ISIS. I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight. Therefore, at this time, I cannot support funding for this specific action.
If we look at the two votes (McKeon amendment and Continuing Resolution) from the House last night as well, then we can say that if you live in MA-02 (McGovern), MA-03 (Tsongas), MA-04 (Kennedy), MA-05 (Clark), MA-06 (Tierney), or MA-07 (Capuano), then your full congressional representation voted against this latest misguided move to deepen US military involvement in the Middle East.

The Dwindling Anti-War Caucus: Only 53 House Dems Took a Firm Stand Against War Yesterday

Last night, the House voted to provide funding to arm the "moderate" rebels in Syria to fight ISIS, deepening US military involvement in the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Last week, the New York Times had an excellent article on how defining clear-cut "moderates" in Syria is a near impossible feat, one asking for trouble:
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”
....
The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.
Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.
Nancy Pelosi did not go in full whipping mode to get Democrats on board, but she certainly pressured them to back the president's new war.

The resolution in question, offered as an amendment by Buck McKeon (CA-25), passed 273 to 156. 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted for it. 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats voted against it.

In other words, a majority of both parties just voted for war.

I go through the roll call votes here

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Obama Held Private Meeting with Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Other Journos Before ISIS Speech

Yesterday, Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported on a closed door meeting Obama held with a group of 15 journalists before delivering his speech on escalating military involvement in Iraq and Syria.
NEW YORK –- President Barack Obama met with over a dozen prominent columnists and magazine writers Wednesday afternoon before calling for an escalation of the war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in a primetime address that same night.
The group, which met in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in an off-the-record session, included New York Times columnists David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Frank Bruni and editorial writer Carol Giacomo; The Washington Post's David Ignatius, Eugene Robinson and Ruth Marcus; The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins and George Packer; The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart; The New Republic's Julia Ioffe; Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll; The Wall Street Journal's Jerry Seib; and The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky, a source familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also attended the meeting, according to the source.
Of the 15, I can identify at least 6 right away that supported the last Iraq War: Brooks, Friedman, Ignatius, Packer, Goldberg, and Beinart. I'd assume several others did as well. 

Regardless, it provides a window into how Obama thinks, and it's not pretty.