Monday, October 26, 2015

Courage Campaign Exposes The Rot In California's Democratic Party


Nanette Barragán and HUD Secretary Julián Castro talking about bringing federal resources to California

The other day I heard KPCC interviewing California's new Assembly Speaker, Anthony Rendon. He sounded great, especially on the environment.
KPCC: Please tell us about your district. It’s strung together by the 710 Freeway. There's a refinery and an aircraft parts manufacturer not far from your office.

Rendon: We still have one of the few steel plants left. In addition to the manufacturing presence that we have here, we are also bisected by the 710, the 105 and the 91 freeways. The Alameda Corridor project goes by the district as well. We are exceptionally close to the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. So a lot of the attendant environmental problems related to the proximity to all those things very much impacts the district, and the residents of the district.

KPCC: You've made your mark as an environmentalist. What took you there?

Rendon: I ran a series of nonprofit organizations here in the district that I now represent. We found that a lot of the problems that we had, whether they were problems relating to health or even problems relating to learning and education, were linked to the environment. Some problems relating to groundwater contamination, a tremendous amount of problems relating to asthma and air pollution. So those types of environmental problems led to problems that I had to address as a nonprofit executive director.

KPCC: When you went into the Assembly, did you come with an environmental agenda in mind? What this something you wanted to tackle having already worked in this area?

Rendon: Yes, certainly. Environmental issues, environmental justice were things I was interested in. But I also spent about 15 years in early-childhood education, so that was important. I think what is important is the intersection between all these issues, and how they all relate.

KPCC: The perception of the environmental movement in Southern California has typically been that it's more of a Westside movement, typically white, based in places like Santa Monica. You’ve done some bridging of the two. Can you tell us about that?

Rendon: I like to think of myself as a bridge between a lot of the Westside environmental organizations and the Eastside or Southeast Los Angeles County environmental justice folks, and environmental justice groups.

What's interesting about that perception is that if you look at public opinion polls, for example, the recent PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) poll on climate change, you find that communities of color are more concerned about these issues that the general public is, statistically speaking. So there is a disconnect between the formal environmental organizations and the communities on the Eastside. But the people themselves on the Eastside are very much affected by these issues, and very much concerned about that.
I got so excited I wanted to call him immediately and talk to him about Nanette Barragán, the progressive, pro-environment congressional candidate in his part of town (and a Blue America endorsee). But then I checked to see if he had already endorsed her anti-environmental opponent, California's most corrupt legislator, Isadore Hall. They served together, so Rendon endorsed the guy who is likely to do the most harm--as he already has-- on the issues Rendon says he cares about most.

Yesterday the Courage Campaign sent out an e-mail that mentions neither Rendon, Hall nor Barragán, but that goes a long way towards explaining this kind of bizarre endorsement. "The world, they wrote, "was hoping California would set a new global standard with bold action to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. But in one fell swoop, Big Oil-- backed by its corporate Democratic cronies-- forced California Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon to gut his historic bill and remove its call for a 50 percent reduction of our petroleum use by 2030." We covered this in a couple of posts in August and September. The Courage campaign was even clearer:
The other two parts of Senate Bill 350-- a 50 percent increase in our investment in clean energy and a 50 percent increase in buildings’ energy efficiency-- made it through thanks to the activism of Courage Campaign members. However, we cannot claim this as a full victory until we hold the morally bankrupt, corporate Democrats accountable for blocking the policies necessary to protect our children from the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

If we expose the corporate Democrats for ALL their constituents to see, we will change their selfish political calculations and pass this critically important legislation next summer. If we don't, nothing will change.

SB 350 had a wide range of support from elected officials such as President Barack Obama; top scientists including Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina; celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Halle Berry; and notable businesses including The North Face. A representative from the United Nations even visited Sacramento to support California's climate change bills!

Despite the outpouring of support, a group of twenty renegade Assemblymembers calling themselves “moderate” Democrats, led by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno), held the bill hostage. The Sacramento Bee explains, “the definition of moderate has less to do with wavering on social issues and more to do with owing one’s elections to campaign spending by big business interests including oil.”

The pressure from Big Oil and the group of "moderate" Democrats worked. Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins delayed the vote on SB 350 until it was gutted-- “an indecision [that] gave the bill’s opponents the cover of not having to cast votes that would have defined [moderate Democrats] as siding with the oil industry."

Even more outrageous, after the defeat on the Assembly floor, R.L. Miller, Chair of the CA Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus, caught a Chevron lobbyist writing thank a you note to a Democrat who voted against the bill.

...But the biggest and most problematic twist from all of this is that many of these Democrats represent progressive districts-- some of the most polluted areas in our state-- and districts with constituents most impacted by climate change. The asthma rate in Fresno, Assemblymember Henry Perea's district, is 38% higher than the state average.

Prior to the vote, when we simply asked Assemblymember Perea to see if he would stand up to Big Oil to protect the health and well-being of his constituents-- Assemblymember Perea blocked us on Twitter! 

For years, Big Oil has dominated the political dialogue in California. While this certainly isn’t news, there is a growing trend of Democrats voting in favor of corporate interests over the people they represent.

For example, since 2011, Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) has received over $160,000 in contributions from Big Oil.

As the Sacramento Bee revealed, "One of Gray’s amendments was, word for word, the same as what [his corporate donor] proposed.”

And corporate Democrats not only get their campaign donations from Big Oil, but they raise “twice as much from alcohol and tobacco interests [when compared to] other Assembly Democrats.”
Anthony Rendon is NOT one of those kinds of Democrats. But by endorsing state Senator Isadore Hall, who certainly is, he is betraying everything he stands for and believes in. It makes me as sick to my stomach as the environmental catastrophes he fights against and Hall fights for. If you're in a fighting mood, you can help Nanette Barragán beat Hall here.

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