Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Trump's War Against Paul Ryan Is Having Ramifications Down Ballot-- Will Darrell Issa & Lamar Smith Be Among The Casualties?


In his Atlantic column on Sunday, David Frum dealt with the lesser-of-two-evils elections concept from a Republican perspective. "You don’t vote to send a message," he wrote. "You vote to choose a president... Look at how she’s coped with that maniac Trump on the debate stage. Couldn’t have been cooler. Despite yourself, you’ve been impressed. She’s smart and tough and open to reason. We could do worse. It’s four years—not even. She’ll perhaps be boxed in by a Republican Congress for the first two years; much more probably so in 2019 and 2020. By then, it’ll be time to try again, this time with a Republican nominee not suffering from a major personality disorder... [C]hoices are judged by their consequences, and the consequences here are stark: If not Hillary, then Trump. If not Trump, then Hillary. Since it can’t be Trump, it must be Hillary. You understand why people might evade that unwelcome reality. But you didn’t get where you are by evading realities. You face them, you meet them, you make the best of them. You'll hope for the best, but at least you’ll know you did all you could to prevent the worst."

Which is more than anyone could say about Paul Ryan. Getting clumsily entangled in Trump world-- much more so than, for example, the more wily, Mitch McConnell-- seems to have wrecked Ryan's political future. Polls are showing Republicans are turning Ryan's #BetterWay into a very #BitterWay, at least for him. An NBC poll released yesterday show that a majority of GOP voters prefer Trump over Ryan to lead the GOP. 63% of Republican voters say they trust Trump more than Ryan (who only garnered 31%). A week earlier a Bloomberg poll showed 51% backing Trump as the better representative of what the GOP stands for, competed to 33% who went with Ryan. Norm Ornstein outlined Ryan's problem with the base and concluded that "[t]he fact that Trump, his advisor Hannity, and a slice of his caucus are hostile to Ryan is less ominous in a sense than the poll result; it is clear that there is now a yawning gap between the Republican establishment leadership and the party rank-and-file. All of that will make governing by finding the necessary coalitions and compromises much more difficult. But it also suggests that the vote for Speaker will be one of the most fascinating and tumultuous post-election events."
Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Meadows (who led the charge to oust John Boehner,) said recently, “A lot of people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House-- they question the loyalty of the Speaker." Meadows and his allies are trying to delay the Caucus vote, scheduled for the week after the election, to mobilize opposition to Ryan. They might confront Ryan after the election and before the Republican Conference votes to choose its candidate for Speaker, demanding concessions that would include cutting discretionary spending even more sharply, returning to the use of the debt ceiling as a hostage to force the new President Clinton to capitulate to their demands, and refusing to cooperate with her on any area of public policy-- a set of demands Ryan could not accept without destroying his capacity to lead, along with deepening governmental dysfunction beyond its current sorry state.

...The best case scenario for Ryan: he skillfully and persistently works his battered caucus to understand he is their only realistic alternative, deflects non-negotiable demands, limps through to a victory on the House floor, and returns to the same dilemma he faced in 2016, and that his predecessor faced from 2011 on: the only way to make policy that can actually be enacted into law is to lose a sizable core of Republicans and replace them with Democrats. There are only so many times he can do that without facing a broader internal revolt. But the failure or refusal to do so means he has failed in his fundamental duty as a constitutional officer, the Speaker not of his party but of the whole House.
How battered that caucus will be-- and if it will be even in a position to elect a Speaker at all, or if the Democrats will win up doing that-- will be determined in 2 weeks minus a day. Last night we saw how suburban voters in purple Orange and San Diego counties in Florida have swung away from Trump and the GOP and are likely to dump Darrell Issa in favor of Doug Applegate. CA-49, however is an R+4 district where Romney only beat Obama by 20,000 votes-- 52-46%. In the Bexar, Travis and Comal county suburbs that make up much of Lamar Smith's TX-21, reliably Republican voters have also swung massively away from Trump and are likely to give Hillary a win in TX-21, though Obama lost it to Romney by 70,000 votes-- 60-38%. That would be one amazing swing! And will it be enough to end Trump-backing-Lamar Smith's career in Congress? Tom Wakley and his grassroots campaign sure thinks so. The DCCC and House Majority PAC have pushed $1,939,895 into the race against Issa (including $719,195 this week alone). So far the DCCC has spent zero against Lamar Smith-- the exact same amount Pelosi's House Majority PAC has spent. The only outside group spending in TX-21 is Blue America. We've spending around $15,000 so far with a phone-banking system and our mobile billboard and we've raised another $6,000 for his campaign in small contributions from our members. (Please chip in here for his Get Out the Vote efforts.)

Yesterday, Manny Fernadndez, reporting for the NY Times dug into the claims that Texas is winnable for the Democrats this year. Last time it happened was exactly 40 years ago (Carter vs Ford). Democrats see a large turnout by Latinos and African Americans and they see a lot of Republicans, turned off by Trump, staying home. This is likely to be truer in Bexar and Travis counties-- San Diego and Austin-- than anywhere else in the state and that bodes well for Tom Wakley.

In endorsing Wakely yesterday, the Daily Texan wrote that "Lamar Smith has abused his power as the chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to overburden climate scientists and state attorney generals whose work contradicts his denial of climate change. That, and his continued support for Donald Trump, are disqualifying. While his opponent, Tom Wakely, has never held office in this state, Smith has shown that he shouldn’t be going forward. He represents a swath from West Campus to San Antonio-- and also the Republican stronghold of Kerrville, which will keep him in place." But will it? During the last presidential election (2012) Smith did really well in Kerr County, 16,781 votes (78%) of the 20,788 votes cat there. That looks hard to overcome. Sure does. But Travis county gave Smith's opponent 61% of its votes, 48,104 of the 73,711 cast there. The decider will be Bexar, which Smith won big (64%) but-- thanks to Trump-- is very vulnerable in this year. Hillary's ahead in Bexar, Wakely's home county, and he's looking like he can extend his big win from the primary against a conservative Democrat into a close win in 2 weeks. He may even hold Smith down in Kerr and he certainly will in Comal, Gillespie and Hays, where voters in the environs of New Braunfels and San Marcos are seeing just how intertwined Lamar Smith and Donald Trump are. Yesterday, Smith-- who normally never bothers campaigning-- was on the defensive at the Comal County Senior Center in New Braunfels. This is what greeted him when he arrived:

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A study provides insight into contrasting Sandy recoveries between two areas with notable similarities


DNAinfo caption: "Flooding along the East River waterfront on the Lower East Side as Hurricane Sandy barreled toward New York on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012." (Photo by Chelsia Rose Marcius)

"While both areas have high concentrations of public housing residents and low-income households, the Lower East Side’s pre-existing civic infrastructure of community based organizations and social services fighting against development pressures enabled residents to recover more quickly, according to researchers who spent six months interviewing community groups in the area and 18 months in the Rockaways. "

Highlights of the Graham-Debucquoy study:
Urban development paths and dynamics influence the operationalization of resilience.
Local civic infrastructure is a key condition for community-based resilience capacity.
Legacies of anti-gentrification activism provide a foundation for resilience work.
Meeting present socio-economic needs may foreclose pursuing long-term resilience.

by Ken

It's clear that there are all sorts of caveats to be entered regarding the headline on this report -- notably that for all the similarities between Manhattan's Lower East Side and the Rockaways, there are (as noted in the article) important differences, and the ideological tilt of pre-existing activist organizations -- in this case gratifyingly progressive -- many not matter as much as the fact of their pre-existence. What's more, the article focuses on only one of the four report strands noted in the Highlights above.

All that said, even without reading the underlying report,* I get the feeling that there's substance here worth pondering for possible application to other areas and activist struggles.
Anti-Gentrification Work Helped LES Bounce Back Faster After Sandy: Study

By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo New York | October 24, 2016 7:41am

MANHATTAN — The low-income communities of the Lower East Side and the Rockaways both suffered extensive damage from Superstorm Sandy four years ago.

But advocates on the Lower East Side were able to engage more effectively in post-storm resiliency efforts than their counterparts in Queens because they already had a robust network of community activism in place from years of fighting gentrification, according to a recently published study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center. [See note below about accessing the source study -- Ed.*]

Researchers focused on the role of community organizations and being able to respond to the “climate change politics” of the city, which is increasingly important as the frequency of storms is expected to rise along with rising sea levels, noted Leigh Graham, John Jay environmental psychology professor and lead author of the study.

While both areas have high concentrations of public housing residents and low-income households, the Lower East Side’s pre-existing civic infrastructure of community based organizations and social services fighting against development pressures enabled residents to recover more quickly, according to researchers who spent six months interviewing community groups in the area and 18 months in the Rockaways.

The Rockaways, on the other hand, were at a disadvantage, not only because the area is more geographically isolated on the far edge of the city, but also because it’s more racially and economically segregated.

There’s a high concentration of poverty along the eastern part of the peninsula where the residents have suffered from decades of economic “malaise,” which in effect weakened and undermined their post-storm response, researchers found.

“The Lower East Side and the Rockaways had similar levels of exposure in terms of storm flooding,” Graham said, “but the Lower East Side groups were basically a partner in a lot of the resiliency efforts after the storm, in part because residents, who live there, have been fighting gentrification for 30 to 40 years and established a level of organization, trust and power, that they were able to get a seat at the table as important stakeholders.”

Community groups on the Rockaways did not have the same level of organization prior to the storm and remain more focused on meeting present economic needs than on pursing long-term resilience planning, she noted.

“They were really dealing with economic stagnation and hardship that only worsened after the storm,” Graham said.

“The Rockaways was in crisis before Sandy hit, it continues to be in crisis, it’s an economic crisis,” one affordable housing advocate said in the report. “And so the resiliency work doesn’t just sort of happen in a vacuum, it sits on top of what’s there already in that community.”

Also, Rockaway residents have long been more aware of their precarious position surrounded by water and may not have been as surprised at being hit so hard by the storm as Lower East Side residents — which also may have affected response efforts.

As a long-term Lower East Side community organizer said in the study: “Many of us have always seen ourselves as an organization that was fighting greedy landlords and luxury developers from taking over our community, we never saw a flood, that we would be fighting the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and storm surges.”

The organizer continued: “But after Sandy, it was clear to us that we couldn’t take these things for granted, so we had to adopt it as an issue and work on it in a long term way.”

Though Graham found that mobilization around resiliency lags in Rockaway as residents struggle with more immediate economic concerns, she is continuing to do research there and has been seeing changes.

The nonprofit Community Voices Heard is focusing on the climate change movement in the area, creating an organizing hub in Rockaway. The city is also investing $91 million into a revitalization plan for the area, and the Citywide Ferry is expected in a year.
Graham is hopeful these dynamics prop up the foundation of resilience work since, she said, storms and flooding will only continue.

“We know this is our new normal,” she said.


As you'll discover at the link for the Graham-Debucquoy study, only readers with credentials of various sorts can access the full text free.

The site does provide the Highlights cited above as well as this Abstract:
While (urban) resilience has become an increasingly popular concept, especially in the areas of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA), it is often still used as an abstract metaphor, with much debate centered on definitions, differences in approaches, and epistemological considerations. Empirical studies examining how community-based organizations (CBOs) “practice” resilience on the ground and what enables these CBOs to organize and mobilize around resilience are lacking. Moreover, in the growing context of competitive and entrepreneurial urbanism and conflicting priorities about urban (re)development, it is unclear how urban development dynamics influence community-based resilience actions. Through empirical research conducted on the Lower East Side, a gentrifying neighborhood in Manhattan, and in Rockaway, a socio-spatially isolated neighborhood in Queens, we investigate community organizing of low-income residents for (climate) resilience in a post-disaster context. Results show that both the operationalization of resilience – how resilience is “practiced” – and the community capacity to organize for the improved resilience of low-income residents are strongly influenced by pre-existing urban development dynamics and civic infrastructure – the socio-spatial networks of community-based organizations – in each neighborhood. The Lower East Side, with its long history of community activism and awareness of gentrification threats, was better able to mobilize broadly and collectively around resilience needs while the more socio-spatially isolated neighborhoods on the Rockaway peninsula were more constrained.

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Obama Administration Confirms Double-Digit ACA Premium Hikes


by Gaius Publius

It's not looking good for the ACA, commonly called Obamacare. From the AP:
Obama administration confirms double-digit premium hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama's health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That's sure to stoke another "Obamacare" controversy days before a presidential election.
We can pause here briefly. First, premiums will go up. Second, markets (choices) will contract. A feature of neo-liberal rule is an increase in monopolies and inflated prices. And without doubt the ACA is right up the neo-liberal alley. Even the much-wanted Public Option was killed by the way Obama and his people manipulated the Senate version.

But onward (emphasis mine):
Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.

Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.

"Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating, and that will lead to a tumultuous open enrollment period," said Larry Levitt, who tracks the health care law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
This all gives fodder to Republican opponents, of course, and the article points that out. The Yes-But from the administration looks like this:
The vast majority of the more than 10 million customers who purchase through and its state-run counterparts do receive generous financial assistance. "Enrollment is concentrated among very low-income individuals who receive significant government subsidies to reduce premiums and cost-sharing," said Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health[.]

But an estimated 5 million to 7 million people are either not eligible for the income-based assistance, or they buy individual policies outside of the health law's markets, where the subsidies are not available. The administration is urging the latter group to check out
One problem is that, as the plan is designed, it becomes welfare via the subsidies at the same time that it stops being a right that everyone can afford. It's one thing to subside low-income households; it's another to make the the products of the plan unaffordable without subsidies to middle-income households. In a slightly more extreme version, it would be a gift to the poor and only that. Again, welfare.

The Clinton solution to this appears to be more of the same, at least as the AP puts it:
Clinton has proposed an array of fixes, including sweetening the law's subsidies and allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance.
Is the ACA poised to collapse? It's hard to say. On the one hand, even the insurance companies are withdrawing from what looked designed as a "health insurance industry protection scheme," complete with mandated purchases. Increasing unaffordability and lack of market choice — with the resultant effect of little competition — are likely making this patched-together program (relative to Medicare or any single-payer alternative) quite unpopular.

On the other hand, the relentless Republican attacks on any health insurance plan offered by Democrats is bound to stimulate that "rally 'round our Party" enthusiasm on the part of cultural Democratic Party voters, which might allow it to limp along for a while.

Will ACA be fixed? Not with a Republican-controlled House and perhaps Senate, and not if Clinton restricts her proposals to increased subsidies. After all, the only real fix is to revert to the original LBJ-era plan — well-funded publicly-run health insurance for all citizens as a right (like the Sanders plan), or at the very least least, inclusion of a Public Option into ACA that simulates Medicare and is offered as a competing nonprofit alternative to private insurance products — or an insurer of last resort, if it comes to that.

As to the Public Opton, note this from last July:
Clinton Reaffirms Support For Public Option In Bid For Sanders Supporters

Sanders gushes, saying the health care proposals "will save lives.

Hillary Clinton reaffirmed her support on Saturday for creating a “public option” within Obamacare and allowing people to enroll in Medicare at age 55.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also called for a substantial increase in funding in medical clinics that serve low-income Americans, fully embracing a proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

While Clinton has long supported the creation of new government-run insurance options and reiterated that support several times this year, Saturday’s statement comes three days before she is scheduled to make her first joint campaign appearance with Sanders ― who has championed government-run insurance and federally financed clinics throughout his career and during his own bid for the presidency.
I read this as two proposals, one to offer a "public option" (described below) to everyone, and one to lower Medicare eligibility to age 55. About the public option:
The idea of the public option ― as first sketched out by Jacob Hacker, a Yale political scientist ― is to create a separate, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The hope is that this competition can help keep premiums for all the insurance plans low, particularly if the government-run plan has the ability to dictate low reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals, drugmakers, and other suppliers of medical care.
Definitely a step in the right direction. Will this actually be proposed? Perhaps, but it's a campaign promise, like Obama's promise to the unions to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which was introduced into an all-Democratic Congress in 2009 and then left to lie. If a public option proposal is introduced into this Congress, the odds of it passing are nil.

So to answer the original question — will the ACA be fixed? — I would say the chances are slim to none. Stay tuned; ACA may not be on thin ice now, but it could be getting close.


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When A Notorious Projectionist Started Calling Hillary "Crooked," You Had To Figure What Was Coming-- Trump's Foreign Campaign Money Scandal


Early Monday morning, I laughed when I saw the crackpot Trump quote below about the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign contributors, as though that was illegal. It isn't illegal and it wasn't something that they tried to cover up. The concept of a charitable foundation with an international mandate is beyond Trump's ken and beyond the ken of his sad-sack supporters. What is illegal though, is for an American political campaign soliciting money from foreigners. Historically, both parties seem to have done it over time-- and haven't been punished for it-- but no one has done it as blatantly and willfully as... yes, Trump, his crooked sons and his associates and staffers. We started covering what looked like a breaking scandal in July and eventually several good-government groups filed complaints with the FEC against Trump.

And then it kind of disappeared... until this week. Monday, over in London,, The Telegraph reported on their own investigation of Trump's illicit campaign solicitations of foreigners. It was done through Trump's Great America PAC, which assured a "Chinese billionaire" that he would have White House influence in return for a $2 million dollar donation to the Trump campaign.

The newspaper had "undercover reporters posing as consultants acting for a Chinese benefactor" approach both Trump and Clinton PACs with a proposal to circumvent the law by funneling foreign donations into the campaigns. The Clinton campaign ignored the approaches but the Trumpists, of course, did not. "Earlier this month," The Telegraph reported, "an undercover reporter spoke by telephone to Eric Beach, co-chairman of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, which has the backing of Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr Trump’s most senior advisers, as well as the billionaire's son Eric." The undercover reporter told Beach a Chinese client would give the campaign $2 million. Beach came up with a strategy about putting the money through one of the GOP fake "social welfare" organizations that are just a big loophole for dark money. A former higher up in Guiliani's PAC, Jesse Benton, (the Ron and Rand Paul operative who was convicted last spring for arranging bribes for endorsements) told the reporter he would be the go-between so that there would be no "paper trail" linking the Chinese contribution to Trump, to Eric Trump or to Giuliani. Benton, a notorious sleaze-bag and crook, "proposed channelling the donation through his own company to mask its origin. It would then be passed on to two C4s before being donated by them to the PAC, or simply used to fund projects the PAC had already planned. Benton said the $2 million, for which he would submit an invoice for 'appearances' would 'definitely allow us to spend two million more dollars on digital and television advertising for Trump.' The Chinese benefactor's generosity would be 'whispered into Mr Trump’s ear.' He said he had previously helped US donors conceal donations."

Taking to a podium in Colorado last week, Donald Trump resumed a line of attack he had long used against his opponent: “Her international donors control her every move.”

Yet fundraisers supporting his bid for the White House were in the process of finalising the details of a $2 million donation from a Chinese benefactor seeking unspecified future “influence” under a Trump presidency. Under US law it is illegal for a foreign national to make any contribution in connection with an election.

But when an undercover reporter telephoned Eric Beach, the co-chairman of the Great America PAC, one of the leading “independent” groups financing campaign work for Mr Trump, to convey his fictitious Chinese client’s desire to make such a donation, his approach did not appear unwelcome.

In an initial call on October 4 the reporter explained that the benefactor wanted to donate to support Mr Trump’s campaign, “but he’s not a US national.”

Mr Beach agreed that making such a donation to the PAC could be difficult. But he did, however, have a suggestion involving a 501(c)(4)-- a tax-exempt “social welfare organisation”-- which he described as a “non-disclose entity” through which the client could make a contribution for a "specific purpose."

Mr Beach’s response, along with his later statements on the matter, appeared ambivalent for someone who was clearly aware of the ban on foreign nationals making donations in connection with US elections. Despite warning about the need to know the origins of the money, he was already aware that the donor was a foreign national who would naturally be banned from donating for his stated purpose.

Political observers and campaign groups have raised concerns about 501(c)(4)s, labelling them “dark money” groups because, unlike PACs, they are not required to name donors.

A PAC with a “sister” 501(c)(4) could therefore encourage donors to give to that body. The 501(c)(4) could then contribute to the PAC, or simply spend the money on a project that the group would otherwise have funded.

That scheme was subsequently laid out to two reporters at a meeting in a New York hotel by Jesse Benton, a long-time Republican strategist, who emailed the reporter with the subject “From Eric Beach” and the opening line: “Eric Beach asked me to reach out.”

Mr Benton was a senior figure at the PAC until he was convicted in May in connection with buying a senator’s endorsement for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2012.

At the meeting on October 13, he explained that Mr Beach, 38, needed to maintain a “deliberate disengagement.”

Mr Benton's proposal was for the Chinese client to pay his $2 million, via the reporters’ Singapore-based communications consultancy, to Mr Benton’s own public affairs firm, Titan Strategies LLC, in order to mask the fact that the money was coming from abroad.

He set out the scheme in writing in an email on October 5 in which he said he had “checked with our attorney, and there is no prohibition on what I propose”, although “he is giving one final review for full legal vetting.”

At the meeting more than a week later, he explained how he would direct the funds evenly to two 501(c)(4)s which could donate the money to the Great America PAC in their name, or spend it on activities the PAC would otherwise have funded.  One of the organisations was Vision for America, which is run by Mr Beach.

“I’ll send money from my company to both,” Mr Benton said.

Mr Benton said: “I don’t know if you ever hear journalists wring their hands about ‘dark money’ in politics-- they’re talking about 501(c)(4)s.”

He told the reporters: “There’s no prohibition against what we’re doing, but you could argue that the letter of the law says that it is originating from a foreign source and even though it can legally go into a 501(c)(4) then  it shouldn’t be done.”

Discussing how the money would be spent on pro-Trump grassroots campaigning as well as television advertising, he warned: “You shouldn’t put any of this on paper.”

He suggested that the $2 million paid to his firm could be billed simply as “a large retainer” for consulting work. He then sent a $2 million invoice, for the sake of “appearances,” for his services providing “analysis of the American political and business landscape.”

In one of a series of telephone conversations over a two-week period, he explained that the work, which “doesn’t cost any money” apart from a “couple hours of my time” would be reports on the spending of the 501(c)(4)s and PAC.

“It would be one more way… for your client to have an assurance that quality work’s being done with his money. You know, it would give you a window into what the c4s and the super PAC are doing.”

And the fictitious Chinese benefactor’s generosity would not go unrewarded should the donor a require a line of communication to Mr Trump if he became president.

“We can have that whispered into Mr Trump’s ear whenever your client feels it’s appropriate,” he said. After a telephone conversation with Mr Beach, Mr Benton said that the PAC wished to invite the reporters to a party the group was hosting in Vegas on October 19, the night of the final presidential debate.

He later passed on a briefing on the event prepared by Mr Beach. Mr Benton warned that he would have to stay away from Vegas because “everything that we’re doing is legal by the book but there’s perceptions and some grey areas.”

Mr Beach also needed to be kept “deliberately ignorant” of the “exact arrangements.” But at the event the PAC's co-chairman clearly understood their client’s apparent request for an assurance that Mr Trump would remember his contribution.

“One thing he has to understand is, what you guys have to understand is: you can get credit, but don’t overdo it with the influence,” he said. The particular sticking point was the highly discreet method by which the client would be donating.

“I would just manage your expectations, say: ‘you’re going to get credit but your ‘non-disclosed’ [donation] is not disclosed.  Not just for your benefit, but for everyone’s benefit.’”

Then Mr Beach’s ambivalence, or possibly confusion, about the proposal appeared to return. “I would never let you guys give to the PAC, to give to the C4, because that’s illegal,” he added. “See the C4 is technically not illegal, but it’s not-- it’s just not the best way to go.”
Yes, indeed, drain the swamp. Perhaps The Donald, Giuliani, Donald, Jr. and Eric would be a good place to start-- and why did that Rand Paul operative get out of prison so fast? No real punishment and, of course, he's back committing similar crimes.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Trump Effect: San Diego And Orange Counties-- Bye-Bye Issa


This has been some week for Doug Applegate, the former Marine colonel who's running for the congressional seat in Orange and San Diego counties, currently held by the very unpopular Trump surrogate Darrell Issa. As we mentioned when Blue America endorsed Applegate in early September, CA-49 is a swing district that swung for Obama in 2008 and for Romney in 2012. It's become clear that this year it will swing back into the Democratic column. A new poll from Tulchin Research shows Hillary winning the district 49-36%. CA-49 is an overwhelmingly the kind of suburban district where mainstream Republicans and independents are turned off to Trump and Trumpism and are either voting for Hillary or staying home. That same poll shows Applegate beating Issa 46-42%. This ad is killing Issa with suburban voters who are just sick of Trump and starting to associate Issa with him.

Even before the polling was released, this looked like a good week for Applegate. Issa sent out a desperate mailer (below) implying he and President Obama, who is popular in the district, worked together as a team. The president didn't go for that and quickly endorsed Applegate-- and made it clear what he thinks of Issa and his deceptive mailer.

"Darrell Issa, a member of Congress who once called for my impeachment, who questioned where I was born, is now advertising claiming we worked together. We can’t let this stand. Luckily, we have an exceptional candidate running in California’s forty-ninth district. Colonel Doug Applegate is a true patriot. As a Marine Colonel, he served in combat in Ramadi, Baghdad, and Fallujah. Colonel Applegate knows true patriotism is about serving our country in any way we can. That our duty as citizens is to keep America strong and working for all of us. You know, my name may not be on the ballot this year, but everything we’ve accomplished over the last eight years is. So do me one last favor, please support Colonel Doug Applegate’s campaign for Congress any way you can."

That's more than a standard endorsement and Applegate, who's been busy fighting not just with Issa but with the Defense Department for announcing last week that they are seeking repayments on enlistment bonuses from nearly 10,000 California National Guard veterans and servicemembers. That's not something a man like Applegate is going to let stand, no matter which party the president is. "As a retired Marine Colonel," he told the press, "I understand the struggles our veterans face upon return to civilian life. These men and women put their lives on the line to serve our country and they earned and deserved these payments. It's outrageous that veterans are the ones who are suffering because of clerical errors made by others. The California National Guard and Department of Defense should immediately halt these collection efforts and Congress should immediately vote on legislation that will fix this unconscionable burden on our veterans. This is what happens when politicians spend more time fighting with each other than solving problems. Instead of picking partisan fights, Darrell Issa should have been fighting for our veterans."

Hours later he was celebrating his endorsement from Obama. "Barack Obama," he said, "has seen firsthand how Darrell Issa is at the center of what’s wrong in Washington. He knows that on the most important issues, Issa puts his political party ahead of his country and plays political games instead of doing what’s right for people here. That’s what we need to send a Marine to Congress to fix, because I’m not a career politician and I won’t be bound by any party or political group, other than the people I represent."

And tomorrow morning, Applegate is holding a press conference with the head of the San Diego chapter of the Human Rights Campaign at his Solana Beach headquarters to announce a big endorsement from the LGBTQ community. Issa, as you might guess scored a LIFETIME ZERO on LGBTQ issues by Progressive Punch-- a ZERO... for his entire career. Not even one lousy vote for equality or even AIDS funding. What a monster! Who gets an effing ZERO?

Want to help defeat Congress richest member-- and one of it's most odious? Doug is a bona fide progressive who will make a far better member of Congress than Darrell Issa ever was. Please consider contributing to his campaign here-- and keep your fingers crossed that we'll soon have seen the last of Darrell Issa and Donald Trump!

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Steve Bannon, Breitbart, Lenin, the Alt-right, White Supremacy, Donald Trump & Dave Brat: The Mainstreaming of Hate. VA-07


-by James Newton

By now you’ve heard the story, but a quick recap — two years ago, a little known college professor named Dave Brat pulled off a stunning upset in Virginia, defeating then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican Congressional primary in the Virginia 7th District — a defeat of a high-ranking party leader the kind of which hadn’t often been seen before in the history of American politics. Brat went on to win the general election, and now is up for re-election against a Richmond Attorney, Eileen Bedell. Brat is also closely linked to Donald Trump, having received campaign money from Trump, endorsed him, and is serving on the leadership of Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia.

If you had to boil it down to one issue, Brat won in 2014 by pushing anti-immigrant sentiments, a strategy that Trump has co-opted in the Presidential campaign. For Brat in 2014, other factors played a roll as well, as he was largely ignored by the political press prior to the primary, Eric Cantor didn’t take him seriously until too late, and Tea Party support Brat received helped push him to victory. His win shook the Republican establishment, moving them further right, and toward the hatefulness that has permeated this presidential campaign.

Helping Dave Brat then and now, and now Chief Executive of the Trump campaign, is Steve Bannon. Immediately prior to joining the Trump campaign, Bannon was the Chief Executive at Breitbart News, the best known mouthpiece of the so-called “alt-right,” the Republican party and conservative movement’s far right, if not extremist, wing. As is the modus operandi of extremists in the internet era, the alt-right sows seeds of racism without using traditional and obvious racist language or tactics, and instead it motivates its support and provides places to discuss via the web.

That Donald Trump is full of hate is a statement beyond reproach. But what isn’t as well known is Mr. Bannon’s hatefulness, as he prefers to let other people speak for him. Nonetheless, as time passes, a more complete picture begins to come into focus: that the mission of at least segments of the alt-right and Breibart news, and Steve Bannon, himself, is to further and make mainstream racism, and do so through stooges such as Donald Trump and Dave Brat. That Donald Trump is going to lose to Hillary Clinton seems likely. The same fate should befall Dave Brat. Hate, fear, and racism must be repudiated.

Recently released court documents discuss charges and the investigation of domestic violence and battery and witness intimidation filed against Bannon in 1996. The allegations related to altercations with his now-ex-wife, Mary-Louise Piccard, charges that were later dismissed when, according to the court documents:
[Ms. Piccard] skipped the trial after Bannon and his lawyer arranged for her to leave town. She said Bannon had told her the lawyer would make her look like the guilty party if she testified and the attorney told her she'd be broke if Bannon went to jail.
Next, in those same court documents, Ms. Piccard describes examples of Mr. Bannon’s anti-semitism, saying that Bannon did not want his children going to school with Jews, because they are “whiny.” Other Examples of anti-semitism follow Bannon, through those close to him. For example, one of Breibart News and the alt-right’s most public faces, Milo Yiannopoulos, has said that most anti-semitism is just for show-- trolls on the internet, if you will, having fun-- so it’s nothing to worry about; it’s just free speech.

That Mr. Bannon’s first foray into political campaigns was to prop up his friend, Dave Brat, against the highest-ranking Jewish member, ever, of Congress seems like too convenient a coincidence. Moreover, it’s not just persons of Jewish faith that seem to bother Bannon, as he is on record speaking poorly of Catholics and lesbians as well.

These examples, alone, perhaps don’t make the case, but there is ample other evidence to choose from. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that Bannon and Kelley-Ann Conway, another member of the Trump campaign’s leadership, are members of the Council for National Policy, an influential conservative group whose membership includes numerous persons reported to be racial extremists.

As for Bannon’s media arm,, he calls it the mouthpiece for the so-called “alt-right.” Inoccous sounding, the term “alt-right” was coined by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist leader. His organization, the National Policy Institute, is an organization that publishes articles with statements such as:
Much of the debate on the decline of Whites in their traditional homelands centers on “immigration,” and specifically the continuing arrival in the West of large numbers of colored “immigrants” from the poorest regions of the world
which is an obvious corrollary to Trump’s, and Brat’s, rhetoric on immigration.

Milo Yiannopoulos, when describing the alt-right, has said:
“’White identity’ and ‘white nationalism’ is a little misleading [in decrbing the alt-right]. I think it’s more accurate to say that the alt-right cares about ‘western supremacy’ rather than ‘white supremacy’.”
Such word parsing, while not without some validity, stills shows that underlying whatever is used as the title is nonetheless still riven with racism. Moreover, as recent article from the Washington Post has explained, white supremacists have adjusted their language and tactics to be less obvious, but they are still no less hateful. And Bannon has proudly provided them a microphone.

And now he is providing them with candidates for high office.

By way of review, there is evidence that Steve Bannon, who helped elect Dave Brat to Congress, and now runs Donald Trump’s campaign, has been accused of beating his wife and keeping her from testifying against him, doesn’t think well of Jews and other minorities, and has assisted persons who publicly-stated mission is to further divisions among the races, i.e. what is called racism, by providing them a media outlet, and at least two candidates for national office.

While those things paint a difficult picture to reconcile, perhaps even more fundamentally frightening, is Bannon, himself. He has said that he wants nothing less than to destroy America. How? By channeling the spirit of a person he admires, the Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, founder of the Russian communist movement, first leader of the Soviet Union, and creator of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat that murdered and oppressed millions during the 20th century.
“Lenin,” [Bannon] answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” 
Moreover, Bannon subscribes to using fear as a tactic. Quite simply, he seeks to employ the same chief tactic of terrorists. 
“Fear is a good thing,” he said in a 2010 interview, “Fear is going to lead you to take action.”
To further these ideas, Bannon found a willing stooge in Dave Brat two years ago, a friend he convinced to run on a platform that is summed up by recognizing the simple fact that Brat, during that campaign, sought the endorsement and money of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, an anti-immigrant hate group.

That Steve Bannon succeeded with Dave Brat two years ago was a confluence of good fortune-- the swelling of the Tea Party movement as well as an incumbent and press corps that missed the story. It provided him an important step toward moving racism, by whatever name, into the mainstream of not just American politics but American culture.

That Bannon’s message is now failing in the guise of Donald Trump is, one the hand, a testament to the American people, that we cannot be so easily swayed by manipulation and fear. On the other hand, Donald Trump is clearly a flawed candidate by all definitions, and there is no reason to believe that Bannon will not try again, perhaps next time with someone more savvy.

It is incumbent upon us all, however, to ensure that Bannon’s politics of fear-mongering is not only rejected in the person of Donald Trump, but also repudiated with the defeat of Dave Brat. Who knows, it could be that Brat is merely a stooge who was excited to tapped by Bannon, as hate doesn’t seem to flow through Brat like it does Trump. Nonetheless, his allegiances are clear and they must be rejected. It is no less than a battle over what it means to be American.

Thankfully the Virginia 7th District has a choice, a good one. Eileen Bedell is a lawyer, a small-business owner, a mother, and a spouse. In other words, she is real and understands how things work in the real world, not an ivory-tower, out of touch, academic propped up by Steve Bannon. Please support her if you can.

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How Strong Will Hillary's Coattails Be?


Another way to ask that question might be something like, "Will Trump's Negative Coattails Sink The GOP 2 Weeks From Today?" In a report Sunday for the NY Times, Alexander Burns and Amy Chozick emphasized that Hillary was in Charlotte that day urging black voters to "punish Republican officeholders for supporting Trump... going beyond seeking simply a victory over Mr. Trump, asking voters to strengthen her hand in Congress and repudiate not just Mr. Trump but also Republicans who have accommodated or endorsed him." She asked her supporters to replace Richard Burr with Deborah Ross and the day before she was in Pennsylvania asking voters to defeat Pat Toomey and elect Katie McGinty. A few weeks earlier she was in Haverford, PA with progressive congressional candidate-- and old friend-- Mary Ellen Balchunis helping her in a campaign against garden variety Republican Pat Meehan, despite Pelosi's and the DCCC's attempt to sabotage Balchunis' campaign after she eviscerated their Wall Street-friendly conservaDem in the primary 74-26%, humiliating Steve Israel, Ben Ray Lujan and Pelosi.

In Charlotte she excoriated Burr for being too cowardly to stand up to Trump and Trumpism. "Unlike her opponent, Deborah has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump. She knows that people of courage and principles need to come together to reject this dangerous and divisive agenda."
It is a sign of the extraordinarily lopsided nature of the presidential race that, even in a Republican-controlled state like North Carolina, Mrs. Clinton is in a position to exhort voters to hand control of the Senate to Democrats. Though she is still not broadly popular, Mrs. Clinton has cast her candidacy-- and now, perhaps, her party-- as a safe harbor for voters across the political mainstream who find Mr. Trump intolerable.

...For Republicans, blunting Mrs. Clinton’s ability to carry other Democrats into office has become the overriding imperative in the final weeks of the 2016 race. With Mr. Trump so diminished as a competitor for Mrs. Clinton, Republicans say they will now ask voters in newly explicit terms to elect a divided government rather than giving Mrs. Clinton unchecked power.

...In addition to trailing by a wide margin in national polls, Mr. Trump has fallen well behind Mrs. Clinton in states that are likely to determine control of the Senate, including North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Hampshire, and also in suburban areas around the country that are critical to the Republicans’ House majority.
Goal Thermometer You may be reading that Texas is now a toss-up state, but that doesn't mean Clinton has a real chance to run the state. She's ahead in South Texas but Trump is still way ahead in west Texas and beating her comfortably in North Texas and East Texas. Where Trump is failing is in central Texas. He's weaker than he should be in the Republican suburbs that normally give the GOP huge statewide majorities and in the district where that can actually turn a House race blue-- TX-21, which includes suburbs south of Austin (Travis County) and north of San Antonio (Bexar County)-- the DCCC is completely unprepared. Fortunately, the stung and well-organized grassroots campaign Tom Wakely has mounted is paying off-- for Hillary and for himself. The DCCC-- visionless as usual-- could never imagine defeating powerful reactionary Lamar Smith, the Science Committee Chairman who denigrates Science and who worships at the alter of Donald Trump. Smith was the first congressional committee chairman to endorse Trump and the first member of Congress to contribute money to Trump. Although in recent days he's tried hemming and hawing when confronted by voters about why he's still backing Trump-- claiming he's "not getting involved in presidential politics"-- Smith is widely seen in TX-21 as a Trump surrogate and it's looking more and more likely that-- even with a single return call from the clueless DCCC-- Wakely (a Berniecrat who defeated a more conservative Democrat in the primary) can, with Hillary's help and Trump's weight around Smith's neck, defeat a key GOP chairman... more than the DCCC is even trying anywhere in the entire country. (You can help Wakley's campaign, as well as Balchunis'-- by tapping on the thermometer on the right.)

Bexar County, Sunday afternoon

A few minutes ago, very accurate polling came out from Democracy Corps, showing Hillary not just winning, but winning big across the country in the suburbs-- and that includes the big suburban areas the GOP has counted on near New York, San Antonio/Austin, San Diego and Las Vegas. As you know, that;s exactly where Blue America is working to bring it home for progressives the DCCC has shown little-to-no interest in. The chart below shows Hillary's overall numbers. Even better, among suburanites, she's up over Trump 54-36%. That's going to be enough to bring home wins-- if they can get their messages out-- for DuWayne Gregory, Tom Wakely, Doug Applegate and Ruben Kihuen, ending the disgraceful careers of, respectively, Peter King, Lamar Smith, Darrell Issa and Cresent Hardy. How would you like to see that November 8th?

John Pitney wrote an interesting column for USA Today, also Sunday, with some bearing on this-- basically about how the GOP contention that they'd be able to "control" or even "check" Trump, were he to win is just fantasy. And that's a danger most Americans probably don't want to gamble with.
Although an unusual number of Republican lawmakers have come out against him, most have not. Several who called on him to drop out of the race have since said that they will vote for him anyway. Why are so many siding with a candidate who is so unfit? High on the list of probable motives is fear of a challenge in a future GOP primary. In recent years, some high-profile Republicans have either lost to a hard-line conservative (for instance, former House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia) or endured an unexpectedly tough battle (Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi). Trump supporters are vocal and zealous, so it is not hard to picture them working to oust Republicans disloyal to their man.

If GOP lawmakers are cowering before candidate Trump, how could they stand up to President Trump? In addition to his wealth and political base, he would wield the vast power of the executive branch. There is little doubt that he'd use it to punish those who displease him. After House Speaker Paul Ryan said he'd no longer defend his bad behavior, Trump hinted at a leadership purge, saying, “I would think that Ryan wouldn't be there.”

...The feebleness of congressional oversight has been problem even under a more-or-less normal person such as Barack Obama. It would be a disaster under a fanatically secretive person such as Trump. He won’t release his tax returns, and he makes his campaign aides sign non-disclosure agreements. The mind boggles at the information that his administration would withhold from Congress and the American people.

Congress has always been at a disadvantage in checking the president’s power over foreign policy and national security. On hundreds of occasions, presidents have used military force overseas without congressional approval. In 1973, Congress tried to curb such activities by passing the War Powers Act. Numerous military actions over the past 43 years suggest that this measure is not effective.

The law requires the president to seek congressional authorization within 60 days of starting military action. This requirement does not limit the president’s power to launch a nuclear attack-- a process that would take less than an hour. Since the bombing of Hiroshima, a dozen chief executives have held this power, with no real external check at all. Each of these 12 presidents made mistakes, and some of them did very bad things, but none was reckless enough to start a nuclear war. That is why we are alive today.

Trump probably does not hope for Armageddon, and it seems unlikely that he would strike at a friendly nation. But it is all too plausible that his ignorance and rashness could start a crisis that escalates into a nuclear exchange. No one should vote for him in the hope that Congress could stay his hand-- because it can’t.

UPDATE: Just In:

We just got this one minute clip from our driver in Suffolk County-- literally, just now. And, of course, I had to share it. Play it for your friends, especially your friends on Long Island! Please. We can do this-- even without the DCCC.

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"Final Death Blow" to Canada-EU Trade Deal as Delegates Hold Firm Against It


One of the many protests against the TTIP and CETA trade deals, this on in Berlin

by Gaius Publius

In our coverage recently of the European mass protests against the so-called "free trade" agreement TTIP, and its demise, you may have noticed another trade deal mentioned alongside it, something called CETA, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. CETA is a "trade" deal being negotiated between Canada and the European Union. As you can see from the image above, those mass protests in Europe targeted both deals, not just the one (TTIP) involving the U.S. Even though it doesn't involve us, doesn't mean the Europeans are any more in favor of it. They're not.

As you know if you clicked the first link above, TTIP is basically dead. TTIP is one of the three cornerstone corporate-friendly deals the U.S. corporate elite is using their well-funded office-holders to enact, the other two being TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal) and TiSA, the Trade in Services Agreement, which is actually the real killer. (TiSA, for example, would force the fast-tracking of imported non-union, very-low-wage foreign labor. Picture, if you will, the rapid demise of construction unions under TiSA.)

The death of CETA, if it holds, strikes another blow at the heart of the pro-corporate globalist project. This means that of three "trade" deals the Europeans are involved in, two have been killed. This leaves only TiSA, and while that one is much less further along, it's looking more and more possible that the Europeans will do us a favor and kill it too — leaving only TPP standing. Regarding TPP, we may be on our own.

From Lauren McCauley at Common Dreams on CETA:
'Final Death Blow' to CETA as Delegates Hold Firm Against Pro-Corporate Deal

"It's time for a fundamental shift toward international agreements that put people and the planet before corporate profits. That's the message from Europe today."

Dealing what campaigners say is the final "death blow" to the pro-corporate Canada-European Union trade deal, negotiations collapsed on Friday after representatives from the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to agree to a deal that continues ignore democracy in favor of multi-national corporations.

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland reportedly walked out of talks with the Wallonia delegation, which had ruled to maintain their veto against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after the parties reached a stalemate over the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.

"We made new significant progress, especially on the agriculture issues, but difficulties remain, specifically on the symbolic issue of arbitration, which is politically extremely important," Wallonia president Paul Magnette told the regional parliament. ISDS permits companies to sue governments over perceived loss of profits due to regulations or other laws.

Magnette had told reporters Thursday that the delegation had particular concerns over "matters affecting U.S. companies in Canada which will benefit from the system."
Seems even with a Canadian "trade" deal, the problem the Europeans have is what it allows U.S. companies to do. Still, the obviously pro-corporate Canadian negotiators tried to push it through. And when they failed, they blamed the Europeans for not being "capable" of "having an international treaty."
Friday's talks were held as a last-ditch effort to save the trade deal. After they fell apart, an emotional Freeland told reporters, "I've worked very, very hard, but I think it's impossible," referring to the impasse. "It's become evident for me, for Canada, that the European Union isn't capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada."
There's more in the article about the deep and widespread objection across Western Europe to each of these deals. All good news.

Next to Fall: TPP and NAFTA?

Assuming the deals involving the Europeans fail, there's only two more to go — NAFTA and TPP — and both have Withdrawal clauses. Clinton in 2008 promised to renegotiate NAFTA using the threat of withdrawal.

If she was sincere, the same would apply to TPP, which she has recently announced she opposes. I'll be interested to see how all this plays out. At the moment, though, the citizens appear to be winning.


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Clintonism: Re-Defining Progressivism, Populism And The Democratic Party-- And Not In A Good Way


Congressman Wright Patman (D-TX), chairman of the House Banking Committee, 1963-74, led the fight in Congress to stop the manipulators of the Federal Reserve System from 1937 to his death in 1976

It flipped me out earlier in the cycle when Obama sent out numerous communications-- including radio ads-- to Democratic base voters in Florida, particularly African-Americans, that reactionary New Dem Patrick Murphy is a progressive. The only relationship that Patrick Murphy has with progressives is that he opposes their agenda and that he was running against one, Alan Grayson. But, then again, maybe it's just about how you define "progressive." After all, Murphy doesn't mind if women get abortions or gays want to get married or even if lots of undocumented immigrants come over the border. If that's how you define progressive... ok, Murphy's a progressive. A look at his voting record, on the other hand, paints a picture of Wall Street's most devoted Democratic puppet in Congress, something borne out by Wall Street campaign contributions this cycle. Murphy has gotten more loot ($2,013,462) from the Finance Sector than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate-- more than any Republican and more than many incumbents. The banksters have given more to Murphy than to embattled allies like Ron Johnson (R-WI), John McCain (R-AZ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joe Heck (R-NV), Roy Blunt (R-MO), men who have served them faithfully for years or even decades and are now facing defeat. But getting Murphy into the Senate is a Wall Street priority, even if they love Marco Rubio and were a significant part of his aborted presidential campaign.

In fact, more than any other Democrat running for the Senate, Murphy is seen as the not-Elizabeth Warren candidate. He's the one who has worked in the House Financial Services Committee to help the Republicans with their efforts to undo all the consumer protections Warren was able to incorporate into Dodd-Frank. But if decades old battles for gay rights and women's equality is the ultimate definition of "progressive," maybe Obama wasn't as much of a liar as he sounded and maybe I was too hasty to point out that Murphy's parents' and Saudi allies' promises to help fund his presidential library-- surely a progressive place in the making, no?-- weren't really the motivation for the lie.

Notorious bankster errand boys Chuck Schumer and Patrick Murphy

Anyway, yesterday Matt Stoller, a Bernie Sanders Senate staffer, published the article of the day, How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul and the period he wrote about, the mid to late 1970s-- was actually just before Patrick Murphy was born. The liberal reformers who came in on the coattails of Americans' disgust with Nixonian sleaze, didn't understand that banksterism was the enemy either. And they screwed things up in a way to make it possible for Wall Street toadies like Patrick Murphy, Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) to thrive within the Democratic Party today.

It's entirely consistent with Stoller's nature to launch right into a defense of an old racist, pro-war congressman who few people outside of obsessed political junkies have ever heard of. "One of their first targets," he wrote, "was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead. Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence."
In reality, while the Watergate Babies provided the numbers needed to eject him, it was actually Patman’s Banking Committee colleagues who orchestrated his ouster. For more than a decade, Patman had represented a Democratic political tradition stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, an alliance of the agrarian South and the West against Northeastern capital. For decades, Patman had sought to hold financial power in check, investigating corporate monopolies, high interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and big banks. And the banking allies on the committee had had enough of Patman’s hostility to Wall Street.

Over the years, Patman had upset these members by blocking bank mergers and going after financial power. As famed muckraking columnist Drew Pearson put it: Patman “committed one cardinal sin as chairman. ... He wants to investigate the big bankers.” And so, it was the older bank allies who truly ensured that Patman would go down. In 1975, these bank-friendly Democrats spread the rumor that Patman was an autocratic chairman biased against junior congressmen. To new members eager to participate in policymaking, this was a searing indictment.

...Not all on the left were swayed. Barbara Jordan, the renowned representative from Texas, spoke eloquently in Patman’s defense. Ralph Nader raged at the betrayal of a warrior against corporate power. And California’s Henry Waxman, one of the few populist Watergate Babies, broke with his class, puzzled by all the liberals who opposed Patman’s chairmanship. Still, Patman was crushed. Of the three chairmen who fell, Patman lost by the biggest margin. A week later, the bank-friendly members of the committee completed their takeover. Leonor Sullivan-- a Missouri populist, the only woman on the Banking Committee, and the author of the Fair Credit Reporting Act-- was removed from her position as the subcommittee chair in revenge for her support of Patman. “A revolution has occurred,” noted the Washington Post.

Indeed, a revolution had occurred. But the contours of that revolution would not be clear for decades. In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government-- through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power-- that organized the political spectrum. By 1975, liberalism meant, as [Michigan's Bob] Carr put it, “where you were on issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.” With the exception of a few new members, like [George] Miller and Waxman, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism had vanished.

Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump.
In March, we spent some time talking about Thomas Frank's new book, Listen Liberal-- Or What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People. Stoller's analysis is very much in synch with the one offered by Frank, namely that the Democratic Party no longer prioritizes the interests of working families but instead super-serves the interests of the top 10%, a professional class for whom Wall Street is not as mortal an enemy as has proven itself to be to the working class.

Stoller lionizes the contributions of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who, he wrote, essentially formaled "the populist social sentiment of the late 19th century into a rigorous set of legally actionable ideas. This philosophy then guided the 20th-century Democratic Party."
Brandeis’s basic contention, built up over a lifetime of lawyering from the Gilded Age onward, was that big business and democracy were rivals. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” he said, “but we can’t have both.” Economics, identity, and politics could not be divorced, because financial power-- bankers and monopolists-- threatened local communities and self-government.

This use of legal tools to constrain big business and protect democracy is known as anti-monopoly or pro-competition policy. This tension stretched back to colonial times and the nation’s founding. The British East India Company was a chartered corporation organized to monopolize the tea business for its corporate owners and the Crown-- which spurred the Boston Tea Party. Alexander Hamilton’s financial architecture concentrated power and wealth-- which prompted the founding of the Democratic Party along more Jeffersonian lines, promoting private small-land ownership. J.P. Morgan’s and John D. Rockefeller’s encroaching industrial monopolies were part of the Gilded Age elite that extorted farmers with sky-high interest rates, crushed workers seeking decent working conditions and good pay, and threatened small-business independence-- which sparked a populist uprising of farmers, and, in parallel, sparked protest from miners and workers confronting newfound industrial behemoths.

In the 20th century, Woodrow Wilson authored the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Federal Reserve Act, and the anti-merger Clayton Act, and, just before World War I intervened, he put Brandeis on the Supreme Court. Franklin Delano Roosevelt completed what Wilson could not, restructuring the banking system and launching antitrust investigations into “housing, construction, tire, newsprint, steel, potash, sulphur, retail, fertilizer, tobacco, shoe, and various agricultural industries.” Modern liberals tend to confuse a broad social-welfare state and redistribution of resources in the form of tax-and-spend policies with the New Deal. In fact, the central tenet of New Deal competition policy was not big or small government; it was distrust of concentrations of power and conflicts of interest in the economy. The New Deal divided power, pitting faction against other faction, a classic Jefferson-Madison approach to controlling power (think Federalist Paper No. 10). Competition policy meant preserving democracy within the commercial sphere, by keeping markets open. Again, for New Deal populists like Brandeis and Patman, it was democracy or concentrated wealth-- but not both.

...Underpinning the political transformation of the New Deal was an intellectual revolution, a new understanding of property rights. In a 1932 campaign speech known as the Commonwealth Club Address, FDR defined private property as the savings of a family, a Jeffersonian yeoman-farmer notion updated for the 20th century. By contrast, the corporation was not property. Concentrated private economic power was “a public trust,” with public obligations, and the continued “enjoyment of that power by any individual or group must depend upon the fulfillment of that trust.” The titans of the day were not businessmen but “princes of property,” and they had to accept responsibility for their power or be restrained by democratic forces. The corporation had to be fit into the constitutional order.

Remember, it was the great bankers and managers of the “money trusts,” such as J.P. Morgan, who sat astride wide swaths of corporate America through their investment and lending power, membership on boards of directors, and influence over industrial titans. Among other things, they maintained a sufficient concentration of power to keep prices up, workers disorganized, and politics firmly within their grasp.

New Deal fears of bigness and private concentrations of power were given further ideological ammunition later in the 1930s by fascists abroad. As Roosevelt put it to Congress when announcing a far-reaching assault on monopolies in 1938: “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.” In 1947, Patman even commissioned experts to publish a book titled Fascism in Action, noting that fascism as a political system was the combination of extreme nationalism and monopoly power, a “dictatorship of big business.”

This basic understanding of property formed the industrial structure of mid-20th-century America and then, through its trading arrangements, much of the rest of the world. Using this framework, the Democrats broke the power of bankers over America’s great industrial commons. To constrain big business and protect democracy, Democrats used a raft of anti-monopoly, or pro-competition, policy to great effect, leading to vast changes: The Securities and Exchange Commission was created, the stock exchanges were regulated, the big banks were broken up, the giant utility holding companies were broken up, farmers gained government support for stable agricultural prices free from speculation, and the chain stores were restrained by laws that blocked them from using predatory pricing to undermine local competition (including, for instance, competition from a local camera store in San Francisco run by a shopkeeper named Harvey Milk).

Competition policy was also a powerful political strategy. Democrats lost the U.S. House of Representatives just twice between 1930 and 1994. To get a sense of how rural Democrats used to relate to voters, one need only pick up an old flyer from the Patman archives in Texas: “Here Is What Our Democratic Party Has Given Us” was the title. There were no fancy slogans or focus-grouped logos. Each item listed is a solid thing that was relevant to the lives of conservative white Southern voters in rural Texas: Electricity. Telephone. Roads. Social Security. Soil conservation. Price supports. Foreclosure prevention.

Foreclosures protected homes against bankers. Farm-to-market roads allowed communities to organize around markets. Social Security protected one’s livelihood in the form of unemployment insurance and old-age benefits. Price supports for family farms protected them from speculators. And rural electrification and telephones shielded communities from the predations of monopolistic utilities. Packaged together, these measures epitomized the idea that citizens must be able to govern themselves through their own community structures, or as Walt Whitman put it: “train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.” Patman’s ideals represented a deep understanding that sovereign citizens governing sovereign communities were the only protection against demagoguery.

The essence of populist politics is that political and economic freedom are deeply intertwined-- that real democracy requires not just an opportunity to vote but an opportunity to compete in an open marketplace. This was the kind of politics that the Watergate Babies accidentally overthrew.

The story of why the Watergate Babies spurned populism is its own intellectual journey. It started with a generation of politicians who cut their teeth on college-campus politics. In their youth, they saw, up close, not the perils of robber barons, but the failure of the New Deal state, most profoundly through the war in Vietnam. “We were the ’60s generation that didn’t drop out,” Bob Edgar, a U.S. representative from the class of 1975, told me. The war in Vietnam shaped their generation in two profound ways. First, it disillusioned them toward the New Deal. It was, after all, many New Dealers, including union insiders, who nominated Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and who supported a war that killed millions, including 50,000 Americans their age. And second, higher education-- the province of the affluent-- exempted one from military service, which was an explicit distinction among classes.

...For younger Democrats, the key vector for these ideas was an economist named Lester Thurow, who organized the ideas of Galbraith, Stigler, Friedman, Bork, and Jensen into one progressive-sounding package. In an influential book, The Zero-Sum Society, Thurow proposed that all government and business activities were simply zero-sum contests over resources and incomes, ignoring the arguments of New Dealers that concentration was a political problem and led to tyranny. In his analysis, anti-monopoly policy, especially in the face of corporate problems was anachronistic and harmful. Thurow essentially reframed Bork’s ideas for a Democratic audience.

With key intellectuals in the Democratic Party increasingly agreeing with Republican thought leaders on the virtues of corporate concentration, the political economic debate changed drastically. Henceforth, the economic leadership of the two parties would increasingly argue not over whether concentrations of wealth were threats to democracy or to the economy, but over whether concentrations of wealth would be centrally directed through the public sector or managed through the private sector—a big-government redistributionist party versus a small-government libertarian party. Democrats and Republicans disagreed on the purpose of concentrated power, but everyone agreed on its inevitability. By the late 1970s, the populist Brandeisian anti-monopoly tradition-- protecting communities by breaking up concentrations of power-- had been air-brushed out of the debate. And in doing so, America’s fundamental political vision transformed: from protecting citizen sovereignty to maximizing consumer welfare.

The Watergate Babies began to coalesce around their own sense of this new intellectual economic philosophy to deal with the stagnating economy around them. In an early sign of where it would lead, President Jimmy Carter deregulated the trucking, banking, and airline industries, with help from economist Alfred Kahn, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Kennedy’s young aide, future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Democrats then popularized supply-side economics in a Thurow-influenced and Democrat-authored 1980 Joint Economic Committee report, “Plugging in the Supply Side.”

In 1982, journalist Randall Rothenberg noted the emergence of this new statist viewpoint of economic power within the Democratic Party with an Esquire cover story, “The Neoliberal Club.” In that article, which later became a book, Rothenberg profiled up-and-coming Thurow disciples like Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbitt, Richard Gephardt, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, Paul Tsongas, and Tim Wirth, as well as thinkers like Robert Reich and writers like Michael Kinsley. These were all essentially representatives of the Watergate Baby generation. It was a prescient article: Most Democratic presidential candidates for the next 25 years came from this pool of leaders. Not all Watergate Babies became neoliberals, of course. There were populists of the generation, like Waxman and Miller, but they operated in an intellectual environment where the libertarian and statist thinkers who rejected Brandeis shaped the political economy.

Democrats and Republicans still fought. Neoliberals, while agreeing with Reagan Republicans on a basic view that the structure of corporate America should be as depoliticized and as shielded from voters as possible, still vehemently opposed Ronald Reagan on environmental policy, foreign policy, and taxes. But the very idea of competition policy, of inserting democracy into the economy, made no sense to them. Previously, voters had expected politicians to do something about everything from the price of milk to mortgage rates. Now, neoliberals expressed public power through financial markets. As libertarian and future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had written a decade before, “The ultimate regulator of competition in a free economy is the capital market.”

...When Bill Clinton took office as the 42nd president, the Watergate Babies would finally have their chance to govern... Clinton Democrats eventually came to reflect Dutton’s political formulation, more diverse and less reliant on the white working class. His administration looked like America-- with women, African Americans, Latinos, and gays and lesbians represented-- and most were educated at top universities. Thurow’s influence was also notable. Clinton stripped antitrust out of the Democratic platform; it was the first time a reference to monopoly power was not in the platform since 1880. Globalization, deregulation, and balanced budgets would animate Clinton’s political economy, with high-tech and finance leading the way.

And it seemed to work. From 1993 to 2001, GDP growth averaged 4 percent, up from 2.8 percent from 1981 to 1993. The median family income increased by $6,000, with the lowest inflation rate since the 1960s. Plus, 22 million jobs were created, 7 million people came out of poverty, America saw the highest homeownership rate ever, the national debt nearly disappeared, and interest rates came down. African Americans experienced pay increases for the first time since the 1960s. Goldman Sachs called it the “best economy ever,” and BusinessWeek lauded a “New Age economy of technological innovation and rising productivity.” The administration put this additional fat of the land toward third-world debt relief, student aid, empowerment zones, and community block grants. (When George W. Bush came into office after Clinton, The Onion’s headline read, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Over.’”)

At the end of his presidency, Clinton explained his success. He praised Greenspan’s stewardship of the Federal Reserve. He said that the key to noninflationary growth was ensuring that workers did not demand raises beyond the rate of productivity, while unleashing businesses to pursue the most profitable lines of investment through deregulation and globalization. He implicitly touted the theory of capital shortage: Inflation resulted from overregulation and deficits, which took money out of the hands of businesses. Putting money and power back into the hands of businesses with deregulation and a balanced budget led to low interest rates, massive corporate profits, productivity growth, and broad prosperity. Bork and Thurow, in other words, were right.

Clinton’s policy framework diverged with that of his Republican predecessors in many ways, not just on social policy but also on raising marginal tax rates on the wealthy. In terms of concentrations of power in the private sector, however, it was more a completion of what Reagan did than a repudiation of it.

From telecommunications to media to oil to banking to trade, Clinton administration officials-- believing that technology and market forces alone would disrupt monopolies-- ended up massively concentrating power in the corporate sector. They did this through active policy, repealing Glass-Steagall, expanding trade through NAFTA, and welcoming China’s entrance into the global-trading order via the World Trade Organization. But corporate concentration also occurred in less-examined ways, like through the Supreme Court and defense procurement. Clinton Library papers, for example, reveal that the lone Senate objection to the Supreme Court nominations of both Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg was from a lurking populist Ohio Democrat, Howard Metzenbaum, who opposed the future justices’ general agreement with Bork on competition policy. And in response to the end of the Cold War, the administration restructured the defense industry, shrinking the number of prime defense contractors from 107 to five. The new defense-industrial base, now concentrated in the hands of a few executives, stopped subsidizing key industries. The electronics industry was soon offshored.

But who could argue? The concentration of media and telecommunications companies happened concurrent with an investment boom into the newest beacon of progress: the internet. The futurism, the political coalition of the multiethnic cosmopolitans, the social justice of the private centrally planned corporation-- it worked. Clinton’s “Third Way” went global, as political leaders abroad copied the Clinton model of success. A West Wing generation learned only Watergate Baby politics, never realizing an earlier progressive economic tradition had even existed.

Despite this prosperity, in 2000, the American people didn’t reward the Democrats with majorities in Congress or an Oval Office victory. In particular, the rural parts of the country in the South, which had been a traditional area of Democratic strength up until the 1970s, were strongly opposed to this new Democratic Party. And white working-class people, whom Dutton had dismissed, did not perceive the benefits of the “greatest economy ever.” They also began to die. Starting in 1998 and continuing to this day, the mortality rate among white Americans, specifically those without a high school-degree, has been on the rise-- leaving them scared and alienated.

...By 2008, the ideas that took hold in the 1970s had been Democratic orthodoxy for two generations. “Left-wing” meant opposing war, supporting social tolerance, advocating environmentalism, and accepting corporatism and big finance while also seeking redistribution via taxes. The Obama administration has been ideologically consistent with the Watergate Babies’ rejection of populism. Modern liberal political culture epitomizes Dutton’s ideas. And its accomplishments are impressive. As late as 1995, a majority of Americans did not approve of interracial marriage. Today, gay marriage is the law of the land, and intermarriage rates are high and growing. Culturally, the United States is a far more tolerant and open society.

Dealing with a financial collapse in the early years of his administration, Obama’s political-economic framework supported concentrated yet regulated financial power. From 2009 to 2010, the administration prioritized the stability of a concentrated financial system over risking an attempt to end the foreclosure wave threatening the American housing market. In the last seven years, another massive merger boom has occurred, with concentrations accruing in the hospital, airline, telecommunications, and technology industries. Progressive corporations like Google are key pillars of a cosmopolitan liberal culture. This is the world of the Watergate Babies and the libertarian and statist thinkers who shaped their intellectual understanding of it.

But what intellectuals like Thurow, Galbraith, Greenspan, Bork, and so forth didn’t foresee was political disillusionment on a vast scale. In 2014, for example, voting rates in some states dropped to levels unseen since the 1820s (when property-franchise laws were in force). Meanwhile, American soldiers once again find themselves in a quagmire; this time, in the Middle East. Despite their best efforts, U.S. institutions seem as out-of-control and ungovernable as they did when the 1975 class came into office.

For most Americans, the institutions that touch their lives are unreachable. Americans get broadband through Comcast, their internet through Google, their seeds and chemicals through Monsanto. They sell their grain through Cargill and buy everything from books to lawnmowers through Amazon. Open markets are gone, replaced by a handful of corporate giants. Political groups associated with Koch Industries have a larger budget than either political party, and there is no faith in what was once the most democratically responsive part of government: Congress. Steeped in centralized power and mistrust, Americans must now confront Donald Trump, the loudest and most grotesque symbol of authoritarianism in politics today.

“This,” wrote Robert Kagan in the Washington Post, “is how fascism comes to America.” The nation is awash in commentary and fear over the current cultural moment. “America is a breeding ground for tyranny,” wrote Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine. Yet, Trump’s emergence would not be a surprise to someone like Patman, or to most New Dealers. They would note that the real-estate mogul’s authoritarianism is not new in American culture; it is ubiquitous. It is consistent with how the commercial sphere has developed since the 1970s. Americans feel a lack of control: They are at the mercy of distant forces, their livelihoods dependent on the arbitrary whims of power. Patman once attacked chain stores as un-American, saying, “We, the American people, want no part of monopolistic dictatorship in … American business.” Having yielded to monopolies in business, the nation must now face the un-American threat to democracy Patman warned they would sow.

Americans have forgotten about the centuries-old anti-monopoly tradition that was designed to promote self-governing communities and political independence. The Watergate Babies got rid of Patman’s populism for a lot of reasons. But there was wisdom there. In the 1930s, Patman said that restricting chain stores would prevent “Hitler’s methods of government and business in Europe” from coming to the United States. For decades after World War II, preventing economic concentration was understood as a bulwark against tyranny. But since the 1970s, this rhetoric has seemed ridiculous. Now, the destabilization of political institutions suggests that it may not have been. Financial crises are a regular feature of the U.S. banking system, and prices for essential goods and services reflect monopoly power rather than free citizens buying and selling to each other. Americans, sullen and unmoored from community structures, are turning to rage, apathy, protest, and tribalism, like white supremacy.

Ending the threat of authoritarianism is not a left-wing or right-wing problem, and the solution does not reside in building a bigger or a smaller government. Restoring political stability means structuring society’s public and corporate institutions so they can be governed by human beings and communities. It means protecting the property rights of citizens and not confusing property with arbitrary tollbooths erected by tech billionaires. And it means understanding that protecting competitive markets and preventing concentrations of power are essential components of democracy.

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to remember what was once lost. Senator Elizabeth Warren often sounds like she’s channeling Wright Patman. Senator Bernie Sanders stirred enormous enthusiasm in a younger generation more in touch with their populist souls. Republicans even debated putting antitrust back in their party platform. President Obama has begun talking about the problem of monopolies. Renata Hesse, the head of the government’s antitrust division, recently gave a blistering speech repudiating Bork’s corporatist ideas. And none other than Hillary Clinton, in an October 3, 2016, speech on renewing antitrust vigor, noted that Trump, while a unique figure, also represents the “broader trends” of big business picking on the little guy.

Restoring America’s anti-monopoly traditions does not mean rejecting what the Watergate Babies accomplished. It means merging their understanding of a multicultural democratic society with Brandeis’s vision of an “industrial democracy.” The United States must place democracy at the heart of its commercial sphere once again. That means competition policy, in force, all the time, at every level. The prevailing culture must be re-geared, so that the republic may be born anew.

When he was still Chairman of the House Banking Committee, Patman once famously asked the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Arthur Burns, testifying in front of his committee, "Can you give me any reason why you should not be in the penitentiary?" A year after being deposed in a 152-117 caucus vote in 1975, Patman died of pneumonia and was replaced by an ultra-conservative Democrat, Sam Hall, who was later nominated for a judgeship by Reagan, making way for the district to turn red. It is now one of the most Republican districts in the country, Obama getting only 25% of the vote there in 2012; 24% of the population is black or Latino. When people talk about Hillary gaining on Trump in Texas, this isn't the part of Texas they're talking about. They're talking about well-off suburbs around San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Forth Worth, traditionally Republican areas, not traditionally Democratic areas that have been left behind and have slipped into the Republican orbit. 

Mary Hoeft is the progressive Democrat running for the northwestern/central Wisconsin congressional seat (WI-07), currently held by Trumpist and former reality TV character Sean Duffy, who currently earns his campaign funds as chairman of a House Financial Services Sub-committee on Investigations and Oversight by pointedly not providing any oversight or doing any investigations of crooked (albeit generous-- at least to Rep. Duffy) banksters. Last night, after reading Stoller's article, Mary drew a sharp contrast between herself and crooked members of Congress from both parties who put Wall Street's interests above the interests of their own constituents.
I refuse to balance Patrick Murphy's advocacy on behalf of Wall Street with his advocacy on behalf of reproductive rights, gays, and undocumented workers. To do so would be naïve. Pope Francis spoke out against the naivete of those who believe good will come as droplets of water trickle down from the pool of riches our wealthiest bathe in. Americans are drowning in those droplets. My opponent Sean Duffy is an easier enemy to see coming. He advocates against reproductive rights, gays, and undocumented workers. But Murphy is equally responsible for the chasm that now divides our wealthiest from the rest of America.
Needless to say, Hoeft is one of the progressives who won her primary, only to be promptly ignored by the very conservative and very Wall Street-friendly DCCC. They're not helping her, even though her district is very swingy and was only recently held by a Democrat, Dave Obey (who is campaigning for her), and was won by Obama against McCain, 53-45%. Please consider contributing to her grassroots campaign by tapping the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer

And An Update For Capitol Hill:

Today one of the congressmembers who helped write Dodd-Frank sent me a note:

Dear Howie:

Even when we were writing the Dodd-Frank Act, in the wake of the financial meltdown, there was only mild attention to what might be done to prevent another meltdown, rather than any focus on the distribution of wealth and financial power. That latter subject is essentially verboten; instead, we scold the GOP about bathroom laws and personal indiscretions. On the contrary, Democratic candidates ritually and habitually deny any motivation to “penalize success,” especially when talking to wealthy donors.

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