Friday, March 09, 2018

Democrats Who Want Reform Should Start With Their Own Party-- As Orange County Progressive Sam Jammal Is Trying To Do


Sam Jammal is in a very tough race in northeast Orange County (CA-39). The district is ripe for a red to blue switch-- Hillary beat Trump 51.5% to 42.9% (and people hate him more now than they did then); the PVI went from R+5 to dead even; and the long time GOP incumbent, Ed Royce, saw the writing on the wall and announced his retirement. But... before Sam can take on whichever one of the 4 or 5 Republicans the GOP nominates, he has to contend with at least 8 Democrats, many not even living in the district. Meanwhile, Jason Bresler, the political director of the DCCC, the "brains" behind the Laura Moser fiasco in Houston, is trying to push all the Democrats out of the race to clear a path for the most ridiculous candidate in the race, corrupt "ex"-Republican lottery winner Gil Cisneros.

The problem is that the dysfunctional DCCC is looking for the same old types of members that created the environment for Trump in the first place. Take, for example, the wealthy self-funders who barely understand the communities they seek to represent. This is just the self-funding in CA-39... as of December 31-- 10 months to go:
Andy Thorburn- $2,335,900
Gil Cisneros- $1,352,762
Mai-Khanh Tran- $230,000
Phil Janowicz- $152,287
This is why people don't trust Democrats-- its extremely hypocritical to run a bunch of millionaires all the time while criticizing the other side for being the party of the rich. No one really believes that congressional Democrats really understand or care about them. There are exceptions, but this isn't a group that inspires or makes you think they have our backs.

Our side never speaks about the economy because we don't want to piss off our donors. Our party obsesses over money much more than you usually hear about from Republicans-- although... when push comes to shove the operatives for both parties are cut from the same vile cloth. Many in DC say the DCCC is basically a fundraising apparatus while the NRCC is under control of Republicans who demand it at least appear to be more of an arm of an actual political party.

This week, Sam Jammal released a compelling but, alas, a largely ignored, white paper, "Washington is Broken-- Here is My Plan to Fix It."
Americans do not trust their government. This was a problem before Trump that has only gotten worse. Too may families are falling behind while our elected officials are only focused on raising funds, living large or scoring a political point. This is a problem because our challenges will only get worse with the rise of automation, but we do not have an elected class capable of addressing anything.

I am running where I grew up because I am concerned about my community and country. I know how Congress and the Executive Branch work-- I served in the highest roles. I learned how to pass good laws and stop bad ones. And, while we need this experience to stop the Trump agenda-- what we need most are new voices who will fix our broken government and restore trust.

Our system is functionally pay-to- play and Members of Congress operate in the dark while making decisions that are making things so much harder for the rest of us. Ed Royce was a part of the problem, but this is about more than just replacing him with a Democrat.

To pass good laws, we need to make Congress work again. Here are my ideas on fixing Congress:

Fix How Campaign Finance Works: Money is destroying American politics. Whether its special interests like the NRA using their resources to block gun control or the parade of millionaires trying to buy and influence elections across America, our democracy is in real danger.
Repeal Citizens United – This must be the top priority of Congress. While it will take years for aconstitutional amendment to pass, the process must start immediately.
End Dark Money in Politics – While Citizens United opened the floodgates of money in politics, this doesn’t mean this money can’t be regulated or lack transparency. All donors and money spent to influence elections must be disclosed. Every Democrat must take a pledge to oppose any dark money spending on their behalf – we must show leadership otherwise we are no different than Republicans. I oppose any dark money used on my behalf in June and hope my Democratic opponents will pledge the same.
End the Self-Funding Circus that has become Democratic Politics –The Democratic Party must move away from its obsession with self-funders and institute a pledge from self-funding candidates to cap their personal donations at the same rate they would otherwise be able to support another candidate. A wealthy candidate for office should have to raise funds and build an operation like everyone else. This shows people beyond your consultants want you in office.

We can’t put a “For Sale” sign on our elections and tie party support to the highest bidder. The obsession with self-funders is hypocritical-- how can we be opposed to unlimited funds from the Koch brothers but not from our own millionaires?
Cap Individual Donations and Corporate Donations the Same – The maximum for a corporate PAC is $5,000 in a primary. For an individual, the maximum is $2,700. This is backwards. Corporate PACs contributions should be capped at the same rate as individuals. I have pledged to not take PAC money from the oil and natural gas industries because I worked in clean energy and saw their undue influence. We must level the playing field.
Establish a Public Financing Match Program – Candidates meeting a certain threshold-- say $200,000 raised-- should be able to participate in public financing match. While I am not wedded to the base line number, there should be a minimum threshold that pushes the candidate to do the work of raising money and shows community support. At the same time, a job requirement of running for Congress shouldn’t be that you are a millionaire or have wealthy friends.
Ban on Contributions from Government Contractors – If you are receiving a contract from the federal government, you should not be able to finance the campaigns of those who fund these contracts. We spend so much money funding special interest projects when we really need to be funding our schools, roads and public safety. Banning these contributions will keep government hones and is critical as we face tighter budgets in the coming years.
Ban PAC Trips – An open secret to get around rules prohibiting private interests from funding congressional travel are PAC trips. Members of Congress in both parties will hold destination weekends where wealthy donors and lobbyists pay for a weekend getaway with the Member of Congress. The Member of Congress and their family receives a few nice meals paid for by their donors and a free vacation. This is wrong on so many levels and must be banned.
Fix How Congress Works: Congress is fundamentally broken and needs new rules to restore public trust. We are well past replacing Republicans with Democrats as the needed fix. We need steps to hold Congress accountable and make them responsive to us.
Establish Congressional Term Limits – No one should spend a generation in office, which was the case with Congressman Ed Royce. We need a government responsive to changes in our community. If elected and re-elected, I pledge to serve no more than 5 terms (10 years) in Congress. If you can’t make improvements to our country in 10 years, you have no business collecting a check from taxpayers. While there are examples of Members of Congress who have served for 20 years and contributed immensely, there are also dozens of examples of Members of Congress who literally do nothing other than show up to work, yet have the advantage of incumbency to prevent challengers. We cant do this anymore-- our country and economy are changing too rapidly to be a retirement home.
Ban on Member or Member Spouse Lobbying or Family Enrichment – Too many Members of Congress are enriching themselves and their family. Public service should be about helping your community, not a path to being a millionaire. There should be a 10-year ban on lobbying for any Member of Congress, their spouse and their children on the federal level. We also must fix our campaign finance laws to ban any spouse, child or family-owned enterprise from being paid by a candidate for federal office. There are already prohibitions on using congressional funds to pay family members, but too many Members of Congress get around this prohibition through their campaign accounts.
No Secret Settlements – Members of Congress must be prohibited from using tax dollars to settle sexual harassment or any workplace discrimination claims. Likewise, no campaign funds should be used for these settlements. If a Member of Congress is forced to settle a claim, the claim must be made public. Voters deserve to know if their Congressman is harasser.
No Budget, No Pay – In any other job, you don’t get paid if you fail to do your job. The same should go for Congress. If Congress fails to pass a budget and spending bills-- which is now the norm in DC-- they should not be paid until an agreement is reached. Likewise, if there is a shutdown, Members of Congress should be held responsible for paying the cost of maintaining their offices out of their personal bank accounts until an agreement is reached. Taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for incompetence.
Make Schedules Public and Hold Monthly Townhalls – While I can’t mandate this across Congress, I can lead by example. My schedule will always be made public because I believe in a transparent government. Voters should know who I am meeting with and when. I will also hold monthly town halls throughout the district to make sure everyone knows what government is doing and how we can fix it.
Allow Tele-Voting – Members of Congress should be allowed to vote remotely, which will enable them to meet with constituents before key votes, instead of lobbyist, congressional leadership and special interests. Backroom deals have undermined families in the 39 th district and across the country. We have the technology where Members of Congress can vote where they live-- let’s use it so Congress is connected to communities.
Cut the Size of Congressional Staff by a Third – As a former Chief of Staff, I saw firsthand how much we waste taxpayer dollars on oversized staffs who functionally do all the work for the Member of Congress. If you are in Congress, you should be competent enough to read legislation yourself and decide on how to vote. Some of the greatest legislative accomplishments in our nation’s history were driven by Members of Congress with very small staff. The growing bureaucracy in the legislative branch is only meant to make sure lobbyists can have their meetings taken, which, in turn, opens the door to campaign contributions. Congressional offices shouldn’t be a vehicle for fundraising. Staff should be focused on helping constituents, not serving lobbyists or doing the work for the Member of Congress.
No Congressional Pensions – For decades, Congress has failed to ensure our seniors have a secure retirement and now Republicans are trying to cut Social Security. Congress is willing to cut Social Security because their retirement is already covered by the taxpayers. If Members of Congress were forced to rely on Social Security like the rest of us, you can bet that they will make sure the program is solvent.
Sam seems almost to be despairing about where his own party is headed. But he isn't. He's optimistic that he and other reformers are going to clean up the DC Democrats. "I am running," he told us today, "out of concern over the direction of our country and Congress. Donald Trump is the most urgent concern, but I worked up there long enough to see how broken DC is. The truth is that Democrats haven't been much better or, at least, make it really hard for people to see that we are on their side. This doesn't work as so many families in my community are falling behind and don't trust our government. We need new voices that are willing to actually push for change and know how to do it." And this week Indivisible CA-39 conducted a poll showing the two grassroots progressives-- Jay Chen and Sam Jammal-- way ahead of Gil Cisneros, the feeble conservative who the DCCC is desperately trying to shove down everyones' throats. If corrupt right-of-center DCCC staffers like Kyle Layman and Jason Bresler insist on interfering and "clearing the field," they should clear out the one puppet they have in the race who will do whatever they tell him to, self-funding lottery winner and potato chip taster Gil "4%" Cisneros. By December 31, he had already let his consultants rip him off to the tune of $588,850-- for 4% of the vote! The DCCC should be ashamed for backing this foolish and unqualified man.

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At 4:04 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Their smears backfired on Laura Moser's race in Texas & it's going to cost them again in this one the Donorcrat Establishment is in big trouble.

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's that Einstein quote again???

There were D reformers in '81; called themselves the DLC; They found out that democrats, being disgustingly human and all, were easily corrupted by the smell of fresh cut checks and newly minted greenbacks.

Since '81 there has been a parade of 'better angels' who have sought to unreform the democraps back to being the party of FDR. They all found that billions of dollars will "trump" scruples and altruism every day and thrice on sunday.

But keep trying, Sam. Surely you'll be the altruistic straw that breaks the corrupt camel's back... if that camel's back only requires just a few straws.

At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like the term limits idea, it is a recipe for revolving door corruption. Prep school for lobbyists. Or whatever they will call themselves to get around any can't-be-a-lobbyist-for-x-years laws. I would support term limits if say the upper limit is 12-14 terms. It would have to be studied what is the best number.

In the current undemocratic state of the national party people aren't getting to vote for candidates that will represent their interests. That's a problem that's more about party reform than term limits.

So assuming some kind of successful party reform, I think anyone who can get reelected by representing their people well, should stay as long as they can get the votes to do so. But a high term limit may yield some benefits, who knows.

Without party reform, term limits will still, as I already said, create the swampiest swamp ever IMO.

At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Term limits are the solution for lazy voters who won't do their job as citizens to select their representation.


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