Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BIG ENERGY LOBBYISTS LEARN TO LOVE REACTIONARY BLUE DOGS AS MUCH AS RUBBER STAMP REPUBLICANS

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Harold Ford, one of the bad guys-- just like a Republican

I don't watch much TV, a little Comedy Central, CNN or MSNBC for 5- 10 minutes when I wake up (unless they're saying something really dumb) and the History Channel. The other day I flipped on the History Channel and it was a show on all you'd ever want to know about crucifixion. It was Easter but the show wasn't about Jesus' ordeal per se, just about the barbaric practice in general-- from the Assyrians (damned Iraqis) and Alexander the Great to the Romans and modern day demented Filipino religious fanatics. Crucifixion is far worse than any of the tortures Bush and Cheney have been responsible for. I mean given a choice, would you-- assuming you're not a Filipino fanatic-- opt for crucifixion or waterboarding. I'd pick the waterboarding too-- but that doesn't mean I want it; it's just the lesser excruciating torture. Similarly-- and all things being equal-- I'd pick a Blue Dog over a Republican. They're both horrible but the Republican is likely to be worse and most Blue Dog, Jim Marshall excepted, are good on something-- though not much.

Democrats and progressives have long clamored for more and better Democrats in Congress-- but also on TV. The media is chock full'o'GOP hacks no matter where you turn. Our demand for more and better Democrats on TV wasn't exactly satisfied this week by NBC deciding to make arch-reactionary DLC Chair Harold Ford an on-air analyst for their networks. Formally a Fox News Fake Dem, Ford will probably do far more damage to the Democratic brand on a more reputable network. Ford's loss to Republican dullard Bob Corker last year was the only high profile Senate race lost by a Democrat and the reason was because no one n Tennessee looking at Ford's Republican-lite positions realize he was a Democrat. Not much we can do about TV, unfortunately-- other than switch it off or change the channel. (Between Comedy Central, the History Channel and the History Channel International, there's usually something worth watching most of the time.)

What we have somewhat more control over, however, is getting more and better Democrats into Congress. And the "better" part of the equation is the only part that interests me. Why? Alex Kaplun at Greenwire did the heavy lifting today. He reports on something many of us were already painfully aware of-- reactionary Blue Dog Democrats and their ilk-- DLC, Bush Dogs, "pro-business conservatives," etc. are like Republicans in more than just the way they vote; they've been taking massive legalized bribes from big corporations to vote against the interests of consumers, workers, and middle class families. Democrats would do that, you ask? Not real Democrats, just the kind we like exposing here at DWT.

Given the nature of Greenwire the story focuses in on legalized bribes from Cheney's pals from the energy industry, folks who normally give disproportionately to far right Republicans. Well, lately they've discovered they can love-- and be loved by-- far right Democrats just as easily.
Data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show the overall industry and individual energy companies giving a larger percentage to Democrats than they have in a decade. Though powerful committee chairman are seeing a major share of those new industry dollars, a large portion is also flowing to rank-and-file lawmakers who have agreed with the industry on some key issues.

Observers say the industry is girding for energy debates in a Congress controlled by Democrats.

[WARNING: The Greenwire story continuously calls reactionary, Republican-lite Democrats "moderates." There is no basis in fact that their policies are in any way moderate. In fact they tend to be very right-wing on all matters pertaining to the economy, no better than Republicans, and many of them-- when it comes to substantive matters that divide along a partisan line, frequently vote with the GOP to rubber stamp Bush's toxic agenda domestically and internationally. Consider yourself warned.]
Industry officials acknowledge that Democratic control of Congress has spurred contributions, particularly for top lawmakers on key committees. But they deny there is a concerted effort to focus on moderate Democrats.

"It really is the fact that there are Democrats now on key positions on key committees," said Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for American Electric Power, a utility that has given more than $300,000 in the current election cycle.

But there is no denying the importance of moderate Democrats. They have already left their marks on pivotal debates, forcing party leaders to scale back legislative proposals on the renewable electricity standard, fuel economy and oil leasing.

Moderates are also poised to play critical roles in climate change legislation. The fate of any bill from the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, hinges on lawmakers who must weigh pressure from the party leaders and environmentalists with their districts' [wealthy campaign contributors'] economic interests.

Officials from utilities say their giving is aimed at supporting lawmakers who are receptive to their concerns. [That means they only pay the bribes to the members of Congress who will vote their way, which is honest, if cynical.]

A spokeswoman for Exelon Corp.-- the single biggest donor among electric utilities last year-- said the company backs "candidates in Exelon service areas as well as others in both parties who they believe do or will support sound energy policies."

Officials in the oil and gas industry say the same. "We support our issues and those candidates who are in a position to support our issues and the Democrats are in power," said Melanie Lyons, a spokeswoman with the American Gas Association.

So which Democrats are lapping up the bribes? Yes, the 47 Blue Dogs, of course-- as well as other right-wing Democrats. The Blue Dog PAC accepted $96,000 in bribes last year from electric utilities, oil-and-gas companies and energy industry groups, according to the FEC. They'll suck in far more than that this year, now that the energy companies have seen they're getting their money's worth. So far this year the Blue Dog PAC has taken in over a million and a half dollars much of it going to shore up vulnerable incumbents who consistently vote against their constituents' needs in order to favor Big Business's demands. Among the slimy Blue Dogs who received $10,000 each so far are the two George Democrats who vote more frequently for the Bush agenda than any other Democrats in the House-- John Barrow and Jim Marshall-- the only two Democratic incumbents who came close to losing their seats in 2006, neither being able to inspire progressives to work for them or even vote for them. Other renegade Democrats voting with Bush over and over and being rewarded with $10,000 pops from the Blue Dog PAC are Chris Carney (PA), Heath Shuler (NC), Tim Mahoney (FL), Melissa Bean (IL), Charlie Melancon (LA), Nick Lampson (TX), Joe Donnelly (IN), Leonard Boswell (IA), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Zach Space (OH), John Salazar (CO), and Baron Hill (IN).

Aside from the Blue Dog PAC, sleazy corporate interests are giving directly to the Democrats most willing to pull their agenda in Congress and to break with the actual moderate policies being advocated by Speaker Pelosi. Now whatever tool of measurement you use, at the bottom of the barrel among House Democrats' voting records you find John Barrow, Jim Marshall and Nick Lampson, all 3, in effect, Republicans in Democratic clothing. Heath Shuler, Joe Donnelly, Jason Altmire, Brad Ellsworth, and Dan Boren are only fractionally any better; these 8 are the worst of the worst.
Consider Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, a second-term Blue Dog in a competitive district.

Barrow, who first ran successfully for Congress in 2004 against then-Rep. Max Burns (R), did not get a dime then from PACs of utilities or petroleum companies. Facing Burns in a 2006 rematch, Barrow received more than $17,000 from energy interests in that contest, but he still trailed Burns by a 2-to-1 margin in the race for energy cash.

Now, running as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Burns has received nearly $100,000 from energy interests this cycle, including almost $35,000 last year, according to data from Center for Responsive Politics.

It was love at second sight. Other Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who take the legalized bribes from energy interests are Jim Matheson (UT) and Baron Hill (IN). If Pelosi were serious about reform, she would kick them off those committees and put them on committees less influential in legislating in areas where lobbyists are most active. These people are killing Pelosi's agenda.
While those lawmakers are unlikely to take a lead role in drafting or moving major energy legislation, they are seen as potential committee swing votes. [And they only swing in one direction: towards the Bush corporate agenda.]

"Let's assume that you're a utility company and climate change policy is your number one concern on the Hill ... it doesn't really matter if you can move Nancy Pelosi," Cato's Taylor said. "What you need are votes. It's not necessarily incumbent that the people you give campaign contributions to are going to be in the leadership one day."

Last August, for example, 38 Democrats-- many of them Blue Dogs-- voted against an amendment to the energy bill to establish a renewable electricity mandate. Nonetheless, the amendment passed 220-190. Later that day, 11 of those Democrats also voted against a measure that sought to repeal some tax credits for oil companies.

Daniel Weiss, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress, said it is doubtful energy industry dollars moved any votes.

"They are all at the very conservative end of the Democratic spectrum in 2007-- a lot of them have voted against closing the oil loopholes," Weiss said. "They would have done that in 2006 without the money."

Democratic freshmen always ready to take corporate money and sell out their constituents in the same way Republicans do include Zach Space (OH), Brad Ellsworth (IN), Tim Mahoney (FL), Jason Altmire (PA), and, of course, Chris Carney (PA).

A few weeks ago we asked our readers to vote for the worst Bush Dog they would like to see Blue America hold accountable for voting against Democratic attempts to stop retroactive immunity and warrantless wiretaps. Although Heath Shuler came in second, the overwhelming winner was Chris Carney. We're working on the plan and he'll be hearing from us shortly.

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5 Comments:

At 2:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article except for the lead in.

Water-boarding and other asphyxia techniques are far worse that crucifixion, beatings, or mutilation type tortures. Nothing produces more intense suffering or severe anticipatory anxiety. Water-boarding does not simulate drowning. It is drowning. Without close (human experiment style) monitoring, it not uncommonly leads to death resulting in less suffering. But when done as intended it is halted near loss of consciousness or death with just CNS damage (permanent), hypoxemic organ damage (i.e. myocardial infarction) or pulmonary edema. That way it can be done multiple times a day or randomly over months or years so that the intense stress imposed is never relieved.

I am surprised that you have bought into the rightwing propaganda myth that it is torture light. It is torture, and as bad as it gets. Psychological studies with PTSD patients confirm this.

The widespread adoption of the language (lies) of the war criminal Bush regime must stop if we are to have any change to slow down or reverse this juggernaut train into tyranny and barbarism.

Peace, JK

 
At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

Howie,

I suggest that every Blue Dog who has voted to rubber stamp Bushes War be forced to watch Body of War.
If you only watch a little I suggest you watch Democracy Now if you can. You can always watch it online. Last night she had on the directors of Body of War (Phil Dona hue is one of them)

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/3/25/body_of_war_new_doc_tells

 
At 11:32 AM, Anonymous IludiumPhosdex said...

So how many Americans can really think of themselves as (so-called) "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices"?

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

Carney, again!

 
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