Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Paid Off Fracking Proponent-- Tom Reed (R-NY)


When Eric Massa first took the economically depressed 29th CD in New York's Southern Tier, there was a longtime Republican incumbent and the district had a history of voting for Republicans. Bush won it with 53% in 2000 and 56% in 2004. But in 2006 Eric Massa came very close and in 2008, even with Obama losing to McCain 48-51, Massa took the district 51-49%, ousting the incumbent. The 29th has been redrawn and is now NY-23, a far bluer district. In fact, under the current boundaries, instead of that 48-51% loss Obama experienced, it would have been a 50-49% win for the president. It doesn't take much to figure out this might be a good target for the DCCC.

But there's a problem. The conservative corporate shill the DCCC favored lost the primary. Instead, a county legislator-- and one of New York's most dynamic and progressive young elected officials-- won, Nate Shinagawa. Suddenly Steve Israel lost all interest in the district and decided to abandon it to Tom Reed, the freshman teabagger. THIS Tom Reed? The one who investigative journalist Zaid Jilani found to be a corrupt pile of excrement who has been paid off to push a fracking agenda?
In August of 2011, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) faced a town hall packed full of his constituents who opposed the controversial gas drilling process of fracking. Here’s an excerpt of a local news article at the time detailing how Reed defended the practice to his angry constituents:

Reed made no bones about his view on the subject-- he’s in favor of fracking the Marcellus Shale if it can be done cleanly and responsibly, which he believes it can. “I am a supporter of the industry, natural gas,” Reed said.

His view drew ire from those in attendance. “Our town in Troy, Pa., is ruined” because of gas drilling, one woman said. “I could tell you horror stories. The things we live every day … They call it Gastown now. It doesn’t even have its name anymore.”

Reed’s constituents were enraged at his defense of fracking in their backyards. But maybe it wasn’t his constituents he was trying to appeal to. In the weeks and months following that town hall, gas lobbyists showered Reed with sizable donations from their political action committees (PACs):

• The National Fuel Gas Political Action Committee: This group gave Reed $2,000 on September 8th, approximately a week and a half after the town hall. This is the PAC of the National Fuel company, which not surprisingly has been operating in the Marcellus Shale area that Reed wants to expand drilling in.

• The American Gas Association Political Action Committee: This power-house D.C.-based group for gas companies and their lobbyists wrote Reed a $1,000 check exactly two weeks after the Natural Fuel Gas PAC donated to him.

• America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) Political Action Committee: This PAC gave Reed a $2,400 check on October 1st, 2011. ANGA is financed by a variety of natural gas drillers.

• Interstate Natural Gas Association of America Political Action Committee: This natural gas group gave $1,000 to Reed on November 15th, 2011.

Reed was no doubt feeling the heat from his constituents last August on this issue. But was not reported until now is that he may have had a reason to take this unpopular stand in favor of fracking. The $6,400 he received in a matter of weeks from various natural gas interests gave him an incentive to rebuke his own constituents in favor of campaign contributions.

And then there's Nate Shinagawa, a fracking opponent who's been endorsed by environmental experts Sandra Steingraber and Bob Howarth.
“As a hospital administrator, Nate has seen how drilling and fracking undermine the health of communities,” said Steingraber. “Better than anyone, he knows you can’t have a good economy without a healthy population. Nate has been a long-time advocate for moratoria, bans, and home rule to protect our water, food, and air from ruinous fossil fuel extraction. His ideas for truly sustainable economic development are needed in Congress,” she added...

“Nate has a record informed opposition to practices such as fracking that harm our environment and agricultural industry,” said Howarth. “As an active member of his community, a county legislator, and future Congressman, he is committed to engaging all sides in respectful, solutions-oriented conversations about fracking and alternative paths to economic growth and job creation,” he said.

Nate's compelling personal story is quintessentially the All American story. Like every last one of us, his antecedents had come to America, struggled, persevered and come to love and become part of their new homeland. His Japanese ancestors were interned in concentration camps while his grandfather joined the U.S. Marine Corps to fight for the country they loved. That story helped to define how Nate saw himself as grew into the best America has to offer itself. And that story led him to explain his campaign to me as one "about being brave and fighting for a government that provides for its senior citizens, creates opportunities for its young people, and protects the pristine lands and waters of this great country."

Tom "I got mine" Reed is a self-entitled freshman who insists he's both a teabagger and a multimillionaire. Before running for office, he was a medical debt collector who profited off of the misfortune of sick people and once he did manage to get into office-- as a result of the Eric Massa scandal-- he, in quick succession hired a former health insurance company lobbyist as his legislative director and voted to repeal mandatory funding for school-based health center construction. Reed, a huge supporter of Paul Ryan's plans to radically redraw America in an Ayn Rand image, proudly supports raising the Medicare eligibility age (rather than bring down costs by expanding coverage the way Nate is suggesting) and has publicly said that Social Security had to be "on the table" for cuts.

Nate is enthusiastically campaigning on a Prosperity Economics agenda, while Reed pursues the failed Austerity precepts that have been so catastrophic for the European countries that have adopted them. "I support the Prosperity Economics plan," Nate told us, "because it lays out a clear set of bold and thoughtful policies that will keep the American Dream alive. The austerity measures championed by Republican Congressional leadership goes beyond cutting the fat out of the federal budget-- it cuts the muscle we need to rebuild the American middle class. We need to invest in our infrastructure, focus on renewable energy, make education affordable, and fight to save our economy from outsourcing and Democracy from corruption in the Citizens United era. Prosperity Economics should be the way forward for our next Congress, and I strongly urge others to support these ideas."

But even more than being reactionary and into voodoo economics, Reed is plain old corrupt. Despite the congressional earmark ban, he's introduced earmark tariff bills that would only benefit individual companies that contribute to his campaign, exactly what less hypocritical and idealistic Tea Partiers said the ban was meant to put a stop to. In other ways, though, Reed, is more in line with kneejerk GOP dogma. He insists that the Bush tax cuts did not need to be paid for or offset in order to be extended and he has opposed every attempt President Obama has made to make the tax system fairer and to bring jobs back to America. If Nate's story is quintessentially the All American story, Tom Reed's is quintessentially the All Greed story. Last fall when Tropical Storm Lee devastated much of his own district with floods and FEMA funding was running out, he stood with Boehner and Cantor and not with his own voters, a standoff that brought us to the brink of a government shutdown. While Reed was playing obstructionist games and posturing about his extremist ideology, people's lives and safety were in danger. Ironically, Nate was Incident Commander at his hospital, coordinating the emergency response in communities affected by the flooding from the same storm, even buying $3,000 worth of water with his own credit card when the hospital sewer system went down!

Nate couldn't be more different from Reed. "We need leadership committed to building up the middle class again," he told us, "and making government work again for all Americans. Voters have seen the Republican Congress give more advantages to the already advantaged at the expense of their own communities where working families continue to struggle as our economy slowly recovers from recession. It's time to prove once and for all that the American Dream is our future, not our past." It must make Reed's skin crawl to hear Nate drawing attention to the profound differences the two of them have:
"I believe that the job creators in this country are everyday Americans. They are our teachers, nurses, firefighters, construction workers who work hard every day. They are our small businesses and our entrepreneurs. They are our farmers, our students and our senior citizens."

If you'd like to help replace Tom Reed with Nate Shinagawa, you can do that right here on the Blue America page.

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