Monday, October 22, 2007

TRAINING DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES TO... WIN ELECTIONS? BE GOOD LITTLE DCCC MEMBERS?

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This past weekend there was a meeting in Chicago that was put together by AFSCME, the New House PAC, Christine Pelosi, and the DCCC. Nancy Pelosi and Chris Van Hollen were there and Rahm Emanuel video-phoned in. The meeting was billed as an "internal training" for Democratic candidates and although I've talked off the record with several attendees, other than Christine Pelosi, I found the principals and organizers to be very squirrely about the whole shebang. Very hush, hush.

Just try to get a list of who attended-- let alone who invited them! The DCCC, of course, aren't responding and the AFSCME folks say they'll "get back" to me. New House PAC has an unlisted phone number and no e-mail address available online but I still managed to track down an officer. He was cold, secretive and... he'll "get back" to me too. When I asked him who the candidates who were invited were and how they got picked, the temperature on the phone dropped to 20 below zero, kind of like what happened when I asked the same question of the various AFSCME people I spoke with.

The background to the story starts with what I took to be a promise from Chris Van Hollen, the guy who became Chair of the DCCC when Emanuel went on to greater glory running the Democratic House Caucus. Van Hollen is a progressive congressman from Maryland who earned his seat the old fashioned way-- beating a Republican incumbent (after winning a hotly contested primary during which he was not the Insider Establishment favorite). I contrast that to Emanuel who, in effect, was awarded his seat by the corrupt Daley machine and the decadent Clinton Regime-- for services (like the heavy lifting among Democrats on Clinton's Republican-oriented NAFTA bill) rendered-- and had no Republican standing in his way, just a progressive Democrat, Nancy Kazak, in the primary, a primary handled, at least in part, for Emanuel by someone currently residing in a prison cell... for-- what a coincidence-- political corruption.

Oh, so the promise... I asked CVH on a blogger conference call if the DCCC would refrain from helping defeat grassroots progressives in primaries against insider candidates, the way they did while Emanuel ran the show. He assured me they would not interfere in primaries. Lately I've been hearing from some progressive, grassroots candidates from around the country that the DCCC is either recruiting conservative candidates against them or favoring their insider opponents. The DCCC folks I've talked to vehemently deny this-- sometimes convincingly.

Americans can't understand why, with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress there has been not an inch of ground won against the Bush Regime in terms of Iraq and that, with the exception of the minimum wage bill, there has been virtually nothing of real significance accomplished by Nancy "Off the Table" Pelosi since she became House Speaker. Well, look no further than last year's DCCC recruitment. If you examine the Progressive Punch scores, ranked by Democrats most likely to vote with the GOP in a tough roll call vote, you will find among the 20 most disloyal Democrats-- the ones who support Bush's policies and the toxic Republican agenda-- 10 freshmen (that's 50%, an astoundingly large figure). And just who are these ten freshmen? In order of bad to worse:
Tim Mahoney (FL), an actual Republican recruited by Emanuel who muscled a progressive, grassroots Democrat, Dave Lutrin, out of the way so Mahoney would have no primary.
Harry Mitchell (AZ)
Zach Space (OH)
Baron Hill (IN)
Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Heath Shuler (NC), another Emanuel recruit who, during his campaign, wouldn't even commit to voting for Pelosi for Speaker
Chris Carney (PA)
Jason Altmire (PA)
Nick Lampson (TX)

With "Democrats" like these it's no wonder we don't have an effective Democratic majority in the House to do the kinds of things we all many of us feel in our hearts Pelosi would like to do. I guarantee you that Dave Lutrin would have voted according to his heartfelt Democrat values, not the way Rahm's boy Maloney votes (according to his Republican values). So you can imagine why I'm so nervous about Van Hollen falling into the same wicked way that I hoped we'd gotten rid of with Emanuel. But, though hope may spring eternal, it and $2.50 get you a roundtrip ticket on the L.A. subway system or a latte at Stabucks.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine-- a DC insider, but a good guy-- who told me that Van Hollen, who he feels is a decent guy, would never in a million years have gotten the DCCC Chairmanship if he hadn't agreed to be Emanuel's "butt-boy." That makes me sad, even if it doesn't shock me. Of course, there are always more ways to look at any situation and I bet CVH doesn't see himself as Emanuel's butt boy. People who work at the DCCC who admire him and don't feel similarly about Emanuel disagree... strongly.

So... who got invited to the bootcamp and who invited them? And who got left out? And why?

Many of the invitees make complete sense: consensus candidates with no primaries-- in other words, Democrats who are already battling Republicans like Darcy Burner (WA), John Boccieri (OH), Charlie Brown (CA), Jim Himes (CT), Eric Massa (NY), Dan Maffei (NY), Mary Jo Price (OH). But others are in hotly contested primaries. That's where the problem starts. Let me give you the full list of candidates who were there from what I've been able to piece together after interviewing people from early this morning.
*John Adler (NJ-03) who is fighting rubber stamp Republican incumbent Jim Saxton
*John Boccieri (OH-16) who will contest an open Republican seat
*Charlie Brown (CA-04) battling it out with Doolittle of whichever wingnut beats him in the GOP primary
*Darcy Burner (WA-08) driving the final stake into the heart of Dave Reichert
*Steve Driehaus (OH-01) battling Bush-fave Steve Chabot who is getting a Bush funder in return for his vote to sustain the S-CHIP veto
*Joan Fitz-Gerald (CO-02), an insider who is fighting grassroots Democrats Jared Polis and Will Shafroth
*Bill Foster (IL-14), Emanuel's Blue Dog millionaire candidate trying to push grassroots hero John Laesch out of the race
*Larry Grant (ID-01), the favorite in a primary race with Rand Lewis
*Martin Heinrich (NM-01), the favorite in a primary with Jon Adams
*Jim Himes (CT-04), busy putting rubber stamp Republican warmonger Chris Shays out of his misery
*Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15), putting the finishing touch of relieving the Republicans of representing this seat they're abandoning
*Bill Kennedy (MT-AL), Schweitzer's, Baucus' and Tester's candidate to take on Denny Rehberg, the last elected federal officeholder in this "red" state
*Bob Lord (AZ-03), fighting to retire far right extremist loon John Shadegg
*Dan Maffei (NY-25), in the last stages of ending the pitiful career of rubber stamp Republican James Walsh
*Betsy Markey (CO-04), the only one left standing to take on Marilyn Musgrave
*Eric Massa (NY-29), putting the finishing touches on the political demise of right-wing idiot Randy Kuhl
*Bill McCamley (NM-02), in a primary battle with Al Kissling
*Bill O'Neill (OH-14), the perfect consensus candidate to replace rubber stamp Republican Steven LaTourette
*Gary Peters (MI-09), in a brutal primary race against Nancy Skinner
*Jon Powers (NY-26), the favorite in a primary against proto-Republican Alice Kryzan
*Mark Schauer (MI-07), the favorite in a primary against last year's opponent to Tim Walberg
*Dan Seals (IL-10), the favorite in a primary against Jay Footlik
*Ron Shepston (CA-42), this year's dragon-slayer against lunatic extremist Gary Miller
*John Unger (WV-02), fighting rubber stamp Republican Shelley Moore Capito
*Dick Versace (IL-18), the Democrat/ex-NBA coach who will be running for the seat being abandoned by Ray LaHood.

In the middle of all this I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with Christine Pelosi; that poor woman. I wouldn't wish me on anyone, let alone someone so positive and enthusiastic and idealistic. She pointed out this was her training, not the DCCC's training... you know, like the one at YearlyKos she did. I think I persuaded her to come over to FDL in November to talk about her book, Campaign Boot Camp-- Basic Training For Our Future Leaders-- which comes out November 5. That said... Chris Van Hollen, Nancy Pelosi, Brain Wolff (the DCCC's political director), Rahm Emanuel (via pre-recorded video), Larry Scanlon of AFSCME and several others were at these sessions. It appears to me that there was great value to the sessions, something confirmed to me by half a dozen participants today. And here's what someone who wasn't an invitee has to say about it. Jared Polis, a grassroots candidate running in Colorado, whose primary opponent-- insider primary opponent-- Joan Fitz-Gerald was an invitee:
The Democratic establishment frequently stifles the voice of the netroots and grassroots communities.

As I talk to Democratic voters across my district, I find that they are increasingly fed-up with the way Washington DC Democrats keep giving in to Republicans. Whether it’s making it harder for working families to emerge from bankruptcy, ending the war in Iraq, leaving gender identity out of ENDA, or letting telcos off the hook for illegal surveillance, the Democratic establishment risks increasingly estranging itself from where our voters are, and more importantly where our values are. You would never know that Democrats held strong values if you look at what comes out of the insular DC insiders. We are the party of values; let’s start living them and celebrate dissent and diversity.

Christine, bless her heart, must have called the DCCC because-- BOOM!-- they just called me back. Jennifer Crider, the Communications Director had this to say (exact words): "Anyone from the D Triple C's participation at the event is not an endorsement of a particular candidate." I'm so relieved. Let me ask Jared Polis, Sharon Renier, John Laesch, Jay Footlik, Nancy Skinner and some of the others how they feel about that. I'm going to a lecture by Edmund White at the Library now but more on this later.


UPDATE: EDMUND WHITE IS MY NEW HERO-- AND IT'S ALL LOVE AND KISSES ON THE POLITICAL FRONT TODAY

Although my new favorite person in the world of politics advised me not to put crazy things in my blog-- for strategic reasons-- like when someone calls Van Hollen Rahm's "butt boy" (because it sounds anti-gay, not because of the implications of the political relationship), all the Insider calls regarding the above story were really good-- and even useful. Someone from AFSCME took responsibility for inviting Joan FitzGerald and said "Joan has already been endorsed by AFSCME and has regularly stood with and been a great advocate for working families. That doesn't mean that Polis isn't but she's been there with us." I got a chance to explain why Rahm Emanuel is a wolf in sheep's clothing for America's working families and that the reason he is even a congressman was a reward for the dirty job he did in pushing through NAFTA.

Someone from the New House PAC called and took responsibility for inviting the Blue Dog in IL-14 to the training instead of the progressive grassroots candidate, John Laesch. He asked me to make the case for why John should be the Democratic candidate and afterwards he said he wished he had spoken to me before the invitations went out and asked me to put him in touch with John.

Meanwhile I spoke with a number of candidates and read a blog post from Martin Heinrich on how great the training was, something almost everyone who hadn't gone to a Wellstone training echoed. Candidates seemed really enthusiastic about two speakers, David Brock from Media Matters and Fred Ross, Jr. from SIEU whose call for field operations and old fashioned grassroots organizing was a welcome reprieve from the constant drumbeat of "money, money, money." And, predictably, the lowpoint of the weekend was provided by Emanuel who-- in much the same way he told Democrats last year to play down the anti-war message, causing several who listened to him to lose their races-- demanded candidates inoculate themselves against expected GOP attacks by moving to the right on immigration. Emanuel, who has never had to face a Republican in an electoral fight and has demonstrated he knows nothing about it, can be most useful for Democratic candidates if he's used as a counter-indication on how to proceed. And as far as the immigration issue per se, Chris Bowers covers son of Israeli immigrants Emanuel's cowardly or xenophobic perspective very astutely at OpenLeft.

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21 Comments:

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

That person was right. The establishment gave PA-6 a sucky candidate in Lois Murphy. She let Rahm Emanuel run her campaign and it showed.

 
At 7:23 PM, Blogger PoliShifter said...

This is a great post.

We need more of it.

As soon as the democrats won in Nov 2006 Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emmanuel began making the rounds promising the incoming freshmen that if they played ball they'd get financial backing.

Steny set out to build his own version of K-Street.

We see where it has gotten us. We're stuck with Bush Dog, Blue Dog, Yellow Dog, and DLC Democrats that keep underming and sabotoging the will of the American People.

The end result if they continue on their disastrous ways will be an alienation of those who voted for change and feel abandoned. Those voters will either not vote next time around or drift back to Republicans.

We need a Progressive Demoratic Majority in both houses. We need to dump the DLC, Blue Dog, Bush Dog, Yellow Dog Democrats and as you have hear, call out the DCCC when they pull this bullshit of burrying a progressive dem in favor of one of their Bush Dogs.

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Zack from the SFV said...

Excellent Post! However, I have a question about one of the candidate's names (which might be a typo or mistake). In OH-15 I thought our candidate was named Mary Jo Kilroy. She ran in 2006 against Deb Pryce, the GOP incumbent who is retiring this cycle rather than being defeated by a Dem. I find it hard to believe that Mary Jo would have changed her name to one so similar to her former foe, unless it is a master plan to confuse the hell out of the Repugs.

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger TeddySanFran said...

Having that millionaire to a training when John Laesch poured his heart and soul into almost defeating Denny Hastert is absolutely criminal. Did they even invite John to attend this insider training?

And Christine might call it "her" training and not the DCCC's, but who would turn down the opportunity to pay her lotsa money for the training, given her last name?

 
At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zack Space (OH-18) is a good candidate, but I would be hesitant to endorse John Unger (WV-02). You'll find that he is more pro-life and anti-gay than you want.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Margot said...

Zack Space may have been a good candidate. He is certainly a nice young man.
I enjoyed meeting him at a debate at our town library.
But a good representative? Frankly, I have spent more time on the phone trying to get him to vote for perfectly sensible bills that help people, with very little success.
He may as well be a Republican.
If he hopes Repubs will vote for him, he is dreaming.

 
At 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said, however, there are some issues I have and believe that there were some over-simplifications:

First of all, there were alot of great candidates who have the support of both the establishment and grassroots who attended at at least one, Ron Shepston, who is not at all establishment. As far as your portrayal of Joan Fitzgerald as merely the "establsihment candidate" you should know that in leading the Colorado Senate, she has been a great progressive lawmaker and helped pull Colorado away from the Republicans. As for her opponent Jared Polis, I believe he'd be one of those millionaire candidates, who while good on the issues has more than enough issues to make him less than desirable. Just because he's "grassroots" doesn't make him the best candidate! As far as John Laesch goes, I liked him alot as a candidate, but the fact is he's lost twice and had help getting to his 40% in '06 from the paige scandal Hastert was involved with. I'm not a fan of Bill Foster, but fact remains that we need a better candidate. Both Martin Heinrich and Bill McCamley are good progressive candidates and so should be supported by the DCCC early in my opinion. As a side note, is Nancy Skinner even in the race for MI-09 anymore? As for Jon Powers, he's in a primary against a Republican-lite candidate so we should also be happy that the DCCC has chosen him over her. The DCCC has also done the same for Dan Seals over Jay Footlik who, like Emanuel, was in the Clinton administration and would very much be the establishment candidate!

So perhaps the DCCC shouldn't get involved in primaries, but in this cycle they seem to be choosing the right candidates overall, at least much more often than we saw in '06.

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

My name is Cynthia Pooler, and I have created an Internet Discussion Group for Democratic Congressional Candidtes. The candidates on this discussion group are the people who are disregarded by the DCCC. I would love to talk with you about your post "Training Democratic Candidates to...win elections? Be good little DCCC members. Please contact me at UnitedDems@aol.com

Cynthia

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger Sam said...

re be a good little candidate . . . In NM-1, which voted for Kerry over Bu$h and had a preponderance of Dem voters, Rahm handpicked Patsy Madrid - a Big
name - and groomed her and staffed her campaign and wrote her positions AND SHE LOST to a repub bu$h tool by less than 900 votes. She didn't contest!
30,000 Dems stayed home because the campaign was so ugly. Wall to wall campaign ads - all attack all the time.

Of Rahm's 21 picks in the cream puff races he had 9 losers. Maybe we should be glad about that. And I feel if Rahm had stayed OUT OF charli Brown's and Eric Massa's races at the end they would have won. Boyda of Kansas said please stay out and she won.

I always though of Rahm, the Pimp, who expected to have a string of 15-18 Dem votes that HE would control in a slim Dem majority, making him the most powerful Dem on earth. Didn't work out so well.

But Rahm claimed and was given credit for the new Dem majority. What a joke. A sick joke.

sam

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous TakeBackTheHouse said...

Polis Responds!

Jared Polis linked to this story and has a response up at the Colorado blog SquareState.net.

"I'm fine running against the way Democrats in DC have been operating. As I talk to Democratic voters across my district, I find that they are increasingly fed-up with the way Washington DC Democrats keep giving in to Republicans."

 
At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting column, but Chris Van Hollen's behavior is much less surprising than you think, in view of his past record. A major issue in the district is a planned light rail line that would run through the golf course of a fancy country club whose members include leading Washington lobbyists. The project has overwhelming support in the district, and is backed by environmentalists, labor, minority groups, and business. But Van Hollen opposed it as a state senator, and now plays both sides of the issue as a representative.

For background see www.innerpurpleline.org

 
At 4:17 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Thanks for this update, Howie.

I don't know whether the Laesch camp has been contacted by New House PAC, but we have taken notice of at this blog entry.

 
At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

van hollen is my rep, I've written to him several times, and I intend to keep an eye on him. I've been concerned since I learned of his 'new' job following Rahm, and hope to help keep him 'honest.'

 
At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Foster is just another Millionaire who wants to buy a campaign. Bush is a millionaire who bought his campaign, Cheney is a millionaire who bought his campaign, nearly every congressman or senator in washington is a millionaire and look what they have done. They DO NOT support the middle class or the poor.

Bill Foster is a liar and an egotist and has no social skills what so ever yet he's a "front runner" because he has money.
This is one democrat who will activelly campaign against Bill Foster.

 
At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did they invite Joe Serra to the training? Did they invite Stein or LAesch? NO They are not millionaires who BOUGHT the likes of the criminally connected treasurer of Illinois and the criminally connected Rahm.

Hello Green PArty? Here's another Democrat coming your way.

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don’t understand Dan Seals’ anointment by the DCCC. Seals has no chance to defeat Mark Kirk. He got within seven points in 2006 because all the Democrats turned out vote their anger with Bush and the war while many Republicans stayed home.

So, in the biggest Democratic year since 1964, Seals ran the 50th most competitive race in a district no Republican Presidential candidate has carried in more than 20 years. If the DCCC were serious about defeating Mark Kirk, it would pressure Seals to drop out and get behind Jay Footlik.

Footlik was a special assistant to President Clinton and has developed a superb foreign policy expertise. He will neutralize Kirk’s strengths and force a debate on the domestic issues Democrats usually win.

Footlik has the tools to defeat Kirk while the only thing Seals will have over his predecessors Hank Perritt and Lee Goodman is that he will be a two-time loser. Maybe then he will go away for good and we can get a real candidate to defeat Mark Kirk.

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s so disappointing to see Dan Seals as the establishment candidate in this race. I thought he was a progressive, but if Rahm Emmanuel and his crew are behind him, how can he be?

 
At 6:08 PM, Blogger Daniel S. said...

Jay Footlik is the progressive candidate in this race. He is the one who is for universal health care for all while Seals does is only want to talk about it.

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean Mary Jo Kilroy is battling a Republican in Ohio... Deborah Pryce. And may Kilroy win!!!!

 
At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All,

I a political independent. However, I have no doubt that this blog is joy to Republican eyes. Leaving gender out of the ENDA? Prosecuting telcos for successful anti-terrorism operations?

With friends like you, the Democrats will be a minority again in no time.

 
At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

News to the Footlik posters here, who I'd guess are like Jay and 95% of his donors in that they do not actually live in Illinois:

Dan Seals is a hero to Democrats in the 10th CD. The 2006 race was not on anyone's radar as even being competitive until the last week. There was essentially no press coverage of the race. DCCC provided no support. He had to meticulously build a grass-roots campaign, house by house. It took courage to run against a popular incumbent, and where was Jay Footlik? He wasn't even living in the state, living where no one quite knows--Israel or DC? And working as a lobbyist.

To win, Mark Kirk had to empty his budget the last week and race-bait with code words like "doesn't represent north shore values." Most candidates for election do not succeed on their first run for office, including Bean, Obama, and most of the presidents elected in the 20th century. Dan comes back with his grass roots support, financial strength, and now the press, DCCC as well, and the presidential campaign as well.

Dan Seals can win the race in 2008 if the 10th dist dems are united behind him, and it is truly a shame that Jay Footlik is using DC lobbyist money and out-of-staters to attack Dan Seals. "Neutralizing Kirk's Strengths" = Being like Kirk.

 

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