Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Who Puts Up The Cash To Fund Climate Denialism?


Last cycle, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, one of the biggest funders of Climate Change deniers in Congress gave 82% of their contributions to Republicans and just 18% to Democrats. That's a big change from a decade ago when there were far more openly corrupt Democrats eager for bribes from groups like the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association as it was then known. Back then, corrupt Democrats were gobbling up 46% of their sewer contributions. Many of those Democrats-- like Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA), Don Cazayoux (Blue Dog-LA), Bart Gordon (Blue Dog-TN), Rick Boucher (VA), Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR), Nick Lampson (Blue Dog-TX), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK), Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS), Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA), Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL), Charles Melancon (Blue Dog-LA), John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)... have been defeated, died or switched parties.

Last cycle the only Democrats taking their bribes were Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Cedric Richmond (New Dem-LA), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Marc Veasey (New Dem-TX) and Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA).

Last week, the NY Times published a piece by Lisa Friedman and Hirono Tabuchi, Following The Money That Undermines Climate Science trying to track the money undermining Climate Science and funding climate denial. "Many of the think tanks that continue to question established climate science," they wrote, "are nonprofit groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors. That’s true of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market research organization in Washington that disputes that climate change is a problem. So, the program for a recent gala organized by the institute, which included a list of corporate donors, offered a rare glimpse into the money that makes the work of these think tanks possible."
Among the sponsors for the Game of Thrones-themed gala were groups that have long been aligned with fossil fuel interests, including the Charles Koch Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. The fuel and petrochemical group, which lobbies for gasoline producers, pushed to weaken car fuel economy standards, one of the Obama administration’s landmark climate policies.

But the program for the event, obtained by the New York Times and verified by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also included major corporations, like Google and Amazon, that have made their commitment to addressing climate change a key part of their corporate public relations strategies.

Those companies both signed a pledge of support for the Paris Agreement and joined a coalition that vowed to stick to the climate pact’s goals after President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from it.

A Google representative said the tech giant’s support of the gala did not necessarily mean it supports climate denial. “We’ve been extremely clear that Google’s sponsorship doesn’t mean that we endorse that organization’s entire agenda,” said a spokesman for the tech giant, whose manager for outreach was listed on the dinner’s host committee.

A spokeswoman for Amazon, where employees have been urging the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to adopt a climate change policy, said the company “may not agree with all of the positions of each organization,” but believed that its $15,000 contribution to the event “will help advance policy objectives aligned with our interests.”

Analysts at C.E.I. do advocate on a wide range of policies, including opposing antitrust laws, an issue dear to tech and telecom giants as well as other major corporations.

Still, the organization is arguably best known for its work disputing the science of climate change, and the corporations’ support comes at a time when the think tank has played an outsized role in the Trump administration. The head of the environment program at the C.E.I., Myron Ebell, led the Trump administration’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, spearheaded the opposition to the Paris Agreement.

How does the C.E.I. itself view corporate America’s support? In a statement, the organization’s president, Kent Lassman, was clear. The institute asks support from those, he said, that “share our values.”

Among the big sponsors of the event were Marathon Petroleum, which openly funds Climate Denialism. Last cycle, all of their biggest investments in Congress were for Republicans but they spent on some notoriously crooked Democrats as well:
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $11,500
Tony Cardenas (New Dem-CA)- $10,000
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $10,000
Cedric Richmond (New Dem-LA)- $9,500
Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA)- $7,500
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)- $7,500
Rick Larsen (New Dem-WA)- $6,500
Other sponsors of the Climate Denial dinner included Verizon, Phillip Morris, Uber, the Motion Picture Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters and Altria.


2020 Will Be All About Turning Out The Right Voters


Democratic Split by Nancy Ohanian

I find myself in discussions with Blue America candidates frequently about campaign strategy-- what to do-- spend their time dialing for dollars-- as the DCCC and EMILY's List demand-- or working to encourage turnout among voters by going out into the public and talking about policy. The DCCC and EMILY's List each demands weekly call sheets and then threatens candidates with excommunication if they spend too much time interacting with voters and not enough time on the phone begging wealthy strangers for money.

Outside of a wave cycle, money usually wins the race. But not always. A politically talented candidate-- rare among DCCC recruits, which specifically emphasizes fund-raising rather than anything else at all, let alone policy knowledge. Look at primaries where progressive grassroots reformers took on establishment candidates.

I've had plenty of discussion with Mike Siegel about this in the last three years. "Call time as a progressive can feel weird," he told me today, "given that I am often calling millionaires to give me money so I can get in Congress and probably take more of their money when we implement universal healthcare and tax reform. I mean, we are at a point in U.S. history with massive wealth disparities, when three billionaires control more wealth than half the country, and I'm taking the side of the people, not capital. So it can feel futile to even ask for support, and truthfully, with some exceptions, these folks don't love me anyway. On the other hand, the grassroots activists, the salt-of-the-earth rural Democrats, the university students, the rank-and-file workers, they get what I'm trying to do. They understand why we need Medicare for All, why we need criminal justice reform and immigration reform, why we need a massive national jobs program to confront the climate crisis and put Americans to work rebuilding the country. And they respond, with far more generosity than 99% of the people I interact with during call time. My biggest fundraising success was not a result of call-time, or outreach to donors, or any prescribed campaign activity. Rather, it happened when I got involved as an activist, fought for voting rights at Prairie View A&M University, sent my staffer to deliver a demand letter to Waller County officials, and saw him get arrested. After we elevated our fight on an issue that affects real people-- earning an appearance on Rachel Maddow to boot-- we earned $50,000 in donations in three days. So far this cycle, my opponents in the primary are taking dollars from small groups of hedge fund executives and corporate defense lawyers, while over 1250 individuals have donated to me, in much smaller increments, but in increments that are much more substantial compared to their means. I wear this as a badge of honor, one that I hope to continue to earn. By talking to the people, and going straight to the people, we can build a movement that can't be bought, and won't be defeated."

Progressive Democrat Dana Balter ran for the Syracuse-center New York seat last cycle and nearly beat Trump enabler John Katko. She's making another try this time and just told me that "Running for office last time made one thing crystal clear to me-- our campaign finance system is fundamentally broken. The metric of how much money you've raised is way too important-- and it's clear that nothing short of a total overhaul of our campaign finance laws is going to fix it. It's ridiculous that the biggest time commitment of a congressional candidate is fundraising-- I didn't run for office to raise money. I ran for office to fight for my neighbors. I've always been proud to run my own campaign the way that is true to myself-- that means prioritizing community events in ALL neighborhoods and knocking doors for myself and for local candidates who need the help. Folks in DC may think that takes too much time away from fundraising-- but voters are sick and tired of the same politicians getting elected to office, going to DC, and immediately forgetting about where they came from."

  Goal Thermometer"In 2018 and in this cycle, this campaign has been about Nebraska voters and Nebraska values," Kara Eastman told us today. "My team and I knocked on over 200,000 doors in the district. This is all about listening to the voters so I can represent them in Congress. The things I hear at the doors include health care access, student loan debt relief, an unfair economy, and the climate crisis. It's unfortunate that some staff at some national groups choose to forget about this aspect of politics-- actually representing people-- and instead focus on setting fundraising goals that implicitly require reliance on corporate PACs and the donor class. The 2020 election will be determined by this important process: getting voters to the polls and getting them to vote for the progressive voice who will bring their values to DC." If you agree, please consider helping Kara and our other grassroots candidates by chipping in what you can at the Blue America 2020 congressional thermometer on the right.

Mark Gamba is the mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon and is all about policy. The DCCC is ignoring his campaign-- other than to threaten anyone who helps him against reactionary Blue Dog Kurt Schrader. "My experienced campaign staff," he told me, "has me doing call time about 10-12 hours a week, and they want it to be more-- and yes it's very frustrating. I would be a huge proponent for publicly funded, campaign contribution limited elections... We are doing house parties already, we may actually begin knocking doors by the end of the month."

In 2018, Joe Crowley, the ultimate establishment candidate, raised $3.2 million, while AOC spent just half that (including the money she spent for the subsequent general election against Republican Anthony Pappas). Exactly a decade early crooked establishment Democratic incumbent Al Wynn spent $1,522,814 trying to save his seat from primary challenger Donna Edwards-- who spent $1,443,942. Despite massive help from Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, he was polling so badly that he resigned to join a lobbying firm, ceding the seat to Edwards by default.

Progressives usually argue that turning out voters fed up with the two corrupt establishment parties is the key to beating Republicans. And, indeed, wrote Nate Con yesterday, "Democrats typically gain from a broader electorate in presidential races, but that pattern is not assured in the Trump era." That's from a NY Times piece, Huge Turnout Is Expected in 2020. So Which Party Would Benefit?, by Nate Cohn, asserting that "The 2020 presidential election is poised to have the highest turnout in a century, with the potential to reshape the composition of the electorate in a decisive way. But perhaps surprisingly, it is not obvious which party would benefit. There are opportunities and risks for both parties, based on an Upshot analysis of voter registration files, the validated turnout of 50,000 respondents to the New York Times/Siena College pre-election surveys in 2018, census data, and public polls of unregistered voters.
It is commonly assumed that Democrats benefit from higher turnout because young and nonwhite and low-income voters are overrepresented among nonvoters. And for decades, polls have shown that Democrats do better among all adults than among all registered voters, and better among all registered voters than among all actual voters.

But this longstanding pattern has become more complicated in the Trump years. The president is strong among less educated white voters, who are also overrepresented among nonvoters. And Democrats already banked many of the rewards of higher turnout in the midterm elections, when the party out of power typically enjoys a turnout advantage and did so yet again, according to 2018 Times/Siena data.

Nationwide, the longstanding Republican edge in the gap between registered and actual voters all but vanished in 2018, even though young and nonwhite voters continued to vote at lower rates than older and white voters.

At the same time, the president’s white working-class supporters from 2016 were relatively likely to stay home. Voters like these are likeliest to return to the electorate in 2020, and it could set back Democrats in crucial battleground states. Democrats have an opportunity to gain by tapping into another group: the voters on the sidelines of American politics, who haven’t voted in recent elections or aren’t registered to vote at all. This group, by definition, does not usually factor into electoral analysis, but a high enough turnout would draw many of them to vote. Analysts have speculated about a 70 percent turnout among eligible voters next year, based on the very large 2018 turnout-- the highest in a midterm since 1914-- and on polls showing unusually strong interest in the 2020 election. These adults on the periphery of American politics are probably more favorable to Democrats than registered voters are, but the story here is complicated as well. They are not quite as favorable to Democrats as often assumed, in part because polls of adults include noncitizens, who are ineligible to vote. A large increase in voter registration would do much more to hurt the president in the national vote than in the Northern battleground states, where registration is generally high and where people who aren’t registered are disproportionately whites without a college degree.

The voters who stayed home in 2018 were not much more or less likely to approve of the president than those who actually turned out, based on data from nearly 100 Times/Siena surveys, linked to records indicating who did or did not vote.

Over all, the president had a 47 percent approval rating among Times/Siena respondents who voted, excluding those who did not offer an opinion about the president. But he had a higher approval rating (48 percent) among all registered voters in the nearly 60 battleground districts and a handful of Senate contests surveyed ahead of the midterms.

The Republicans lost their typical midterm turnout advantage, even though they didn’t give up some of their traditional demographic advantages. Young and nonwhite turnout was markedly higher than it had been in 2014, but still lower than that of older and white voters. Registered Republicans were likelier to turn out than registered Democrats, according to data from L2, a nonpartisan political data firm.

These traditional Republican demographic advantages were canceled out, and in some cases reversed, by two new Democratic advantages. The low turnout among whites without a college degree bolstered Democrats in much of the country, allowing college-educated whites to make up a larger share of the electorate.

As a result, the voters who turned out in 2016 but stayed home in 2018 were more likely to approve of the president: He had around a 50 percent approval rating among those nonvoters in Times/Siena data.

The increase in turnout among the young in 2018 came overwhelmingly from anti-Trump voters, giving the Democrats a wide advantage among voters under age 45. The advantage was largest among those 18 to 24: The president’s approval rating was 28 percent for voters in that group, and 45 percent among those who stayed home.

It’s important to emphasize that the Times/Siena data is not representative of the country. The 2018 battleground districts were disproportionately white, well educated and Republican-leaning. Urban areas were almost entirely unrepresented, and black voters were underrepresented as well.

After accounting for the differences between the battlegrounds and the country, the Republicans held a narrow turnout advantage on a national scale. The fundamental turnout shifts were similar, but the lower turnout among nonwhite voters hurt the Democrats more nationwide than it did in the relatively white battleground districts. Over all, the president’s approval rating was 45.3 percent among registered voters and 45.7 percent among likely voters, according to our estimates, based on national voter file data, the Times/Siena polling and a district-by-district estimate of the president’s approval rating based on national election surveys. The opportunity for Democrats, however small, is fairly clear here: It’s reasonable to assume higher turnout would draw from a pool of voters who are relatively likely to disapprove of the president. The opportunity for Republicans is somewhat more subtle, but clear as well. The voters who turned out in 2016, but stayed home in 2018, were relatively favorable to Mr. Trump, and they’re presumably more likely to join the electorate than those who turned out in neither election. In a high-turnout election, these Trump supporters could turn out at a higher rate than the more Democratic group of voters who didn’t vote in either election, potentially shifting the electorate toward the president. A high-turnout election would draw from another group of voters: those who aren’t yet registered.

These voters are hard to measure. They are underrepresented in public opinion surveys, and there’s reason to wonder whether those who do take surveys are representative of those who don’t. They are also less likely to hold opinions on current events, including on the president. (For ease of comparison, those without an opinion of the president have been excluded from measures of the president’s approval rating.)

With those caveats in mind, the president’s approval rating among nonregistered voters stood at just 37 percent in an Upshot compilation of 12 surveys, conducted between December 2017 and September 2018, by the Pew Research Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Mr. Trump’s approval rating was at 43 percent among registered voters in the same collection of surveys.

The data includes over 14,000 registered voters and nearly 3,200 voters who aren’t registered, allowing for a fairly detailed analysis and comparison of the groups.

The president’s weakness among nonregistered voters is consistent with a long record of polling showing Democrats fare better among all adults than among registered voters, including in today’s FiveThirtyEight averages.

The potential for Democrats is obvious. But in general, these figures-- and other polls comparing the adult and registered voter populations-- exaggerate the opportunity available to Democrats because they include noncitizens, who aren’t eligible to vote.

People who aren’t citizens represent 22 percent of the nonregistered adult population, according to the Current Population Survey, and they’re very different demographically from citizens who aren’t registered to vote.

Just 11 percent of noncitizens are white and non-Hispanic, compared with 59 percent of eligible but nonregistered voters. This means that the pool of potential but not-yet-registered voters is more white and non-Hispanic than it might appear.

And because the Pew/Kaiser data indicates that almost all President Trump’s weakness among nonvoters is attributed to demographics-- that is, nonwhite people tend to like him less-- the political difference between registered and nonregistered voters shrinks considerably without noncitizens.

Of course, not all eligible voters, or even all registered ones, will vote in 2020. It’s impossible to guess just who will; either side could draw a relatively favorable group of voters to the polls.

Even if every single citizen were to turn out, the effect on the presidential race would not be clear. The president’s approval rating would probably sink by around a point, compared with the 2018 electorate. But the effect on individual states could vary widely.

The major Democratic advantage among nonvoters, their ethnic diversity, would do little for Democrats in the Midwest, where the population is more white and where nonvoters are likelier to be working-class whites who appear to view the president relatively favorably. Democrats would gain more in the diverse but often less competitive states.

In the Times/Siena-based estimates, Democrats appeared to be at a turnout advantage in the Rust Belt in the midterms but at a disadvantage in the Sun Belt. The difference between the groups of states might seem small, but it is not. A hypothetical full-turnout election among registered voters would cut this difference in half, and a full-turnout election among all eligible voters might eliminate it entirely.

This is consistent with state-by-state surveys of adults, like a 2019 compilation of Gallup polling data that showed the president’s approval ratings in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all crowded together between 41 percent and 43 percent, a few points higher than the 40 percent he held nationwide in the poll.

The danger for Democrats is that higher turnout would do little to help them in the Electoral College if it did not improve their position in the crucial Midwestern battlegrounds. Higher turnout could even help the president there, where an outsize number of white working-class voters who back the president stayed home in 2018, potentially creating a larger split between the national vote and the Electoral College in 2020 than in 2016.

There’s nothing about the composition of nonvoters that means a higher-turnout election would invariably make it easier for Democrats to win the presidency, or for Republicans to keep it.
I asked Alan Grayson, who has always been very meticulous about polling and about election campaigns, and he told me that he doesn't think the Siena polling results apply to Florida, "the most important swing state. President Obama won Florida by one point in 2012. When I polled Florida non-voters in that race, he won them by 18 points. When I polled adults who couldn’t vote (mostly convicted felons), he won by 20 points. Universal voter registration and wider participation certainly would favor the Democrats, in Florida... If you insist that every congressional candidate do nothing but raise money by begging for cash, then you end up with a Congress that is good for nothing but raising money by begging for cash-- and that applies to both parties. Also, if the Koch Brothers want to spend $25 million to smear you, it really doesn’t matter how much time you spend on the phone." Grayson, as you probably remember, was one of the pioneers in online, issue-oriented fundraising. There are few members of Congress who have ever duplicated what he achieved in that area.

A Democratic fundraising consultant, Nick Daggers, wrote an opinion piece this week about why the old call-time method is still the way to go for most candidates (who are, unlike Alan Grayson, Ilhan, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren or AOC, uninspiring by the very nature of how they become candidates).
The way campaigns raise money, especially on the left, is leaving a lot of candidates questioning the wisdom of traditional call time, also known as dialing for dollars.

Some progressives believe that call time is a dark art, a time for candidates to schmooze long-distance with lobbyists and interests that rarely align with the core beliefs of most Democrats.

If you liked a tweet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently sent boasting of not having dialed a single time "this year," that's likely your view.

The problem is that, in 2019, not everyone has a devoted base of supporters on platforms like Twitter who can chip in $5, $10, and $27 every time they’re attacked by right-wing media-- or even leaders of their own party.

In fact, most likely this cycle 99 percent of Democrats running for Congress are going to have to spend a ridiculous amount of time dialing for dollars over the next 16 months as they work to hold the House majority. This is the unfortunate reality of our current campaign finance system.

Democratic fundraising consultants and finance directors don’t make candidates do call time because we are sadistic slave-drivers, although some candidates might think that’s the case. We do it because it’s the most efficient and logical way to connect with donors coast to coast.

...Donors are inundated with dozens of emails a day proclaiming all hope is lost, or telling you to kiss everything goodbye. Without a big name or viral video attached to an email, most of these messages will be lost in the shuffle simple due to overwhelming volume.

Often, the only way a candidate will stand out to a donor is to call personally to introduce themselves, share their story and ask directly for support. Donors should get that personal outreach from candidates. Reaching out directly is the only way to truly resonate with many donors short of that viral moment every candidate covets.

Let us make a prediction: like it or not, dialing for dollars will remain the most important fundraising tool candidates for Congress can utilize in what will undoubtedly be the most expensive campaign cycle in history.
His prediction is likely to be proven correct-- at least for the kinds of carefully-selected garbage candidates the DCCC and EMILY's List recruit and the kinds of candidates who use DCCC-- and consulting firms'-- e-mail narratives "proclaiming all hope is lost, or telling you to kiss everything goodbye."

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Will The Real Matt Gaetz Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up


Which Republican said this last week in a debate about prohibiting Trump to invade Iran without prior approval from Congress? "If my war-hungry colleagues, some of whom have already suggested we invade Venezuela and North Korea and probably a few other countries before lunchtime tomorrow; if they’re so certain of their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor. Let them make the case to Congress and the American people."

Justin Amash would be a good guess, but he had already quit to GOP and was already an independent. Amash voted for the amendment, as did 27 Republicans and the amendment carried, 251 to 170. (7 Trump-Democrats--Henry Cuellar, Josh Gottheimer, Stephen Lynch, Stephanie Murphy, Tom O'Halleran, Kathleen Rice and Jefferson Van Drew-- crossed the aisle in the other direction and voted to make sure Trump could start bombing whenever he wanted to. These 7 Democrats should be kicked out of the party and defeated at the ballot box, although it's worth noting that Cheri Bustos and Nancy Pelosi are working furiously to undercut the 3 women who are primarying Cuellar, Lynch and O'Halleran.)

The Republican co-sponsor of the amendment-- and the one chastising "my war-hungry colleagues"-- was none other than Matt Gaetz, the Florida Panhandle congressman who Mother Jones referred to as Trump's favorite congressman and his most sycophantic fanboy yesterday. And I admit it, we've called him worse. The Mother Jones piece wasn't about Gaetz infuriating Trump; it was about how similar their paths to government were. Stephanie Mencimer reported that Trump has lavished praise on Gaetz:
"President Trump says Rep. Gaetz is 'handsome, going places... fantastic' in Fort Meyers, Florida rally."
"President Trump holds rally in Pensacola, FL with Matt Gaetz."
 President Trump calls Rep. Gaetz 'an absolute warrior' in live Fox News interview."
"President Trump endorses Gaetz in the Republican primary, calling him 'one of the finest and most talented people in Congress'."
Trump isn't very popular in south Florida, but up in the Panhandle... he's huge. In 2016 he won Gaetz's district 67.5% to 28.2%, Trump's best performance anywhere in Florida. Last year Gaetz was reelected with virtually the same margin-- 216,189 (67.1%) to 106,199 (32.9%) for Democrat Jennifer Zimmerman.

Mencimer wrote that the 37 year old Gaetz "has earned a reputation for becoming one of the party’s highest-profile members by cheerleading for the president and emulating his public bullying and trolling. Gaetz seems to spend more time on Fox News than in congressional committee rooms, and when he does legislate, it’s sometimes for show. After Trump mocked the House Intelligence Committee chair, one of his chief antagonists, as “little pencil-­neck Adam Schiff,” Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson’s show to announce a resolution to boot the California Democrat off the committee. Gaetz called it the Preventing Extreme Negli­gence with Classified Information Licenses Act, or PENCIL Act."
"Matt Gaetz is living proof that Veep was less parody and more prophecy," says Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican political strategist and Trump critic. "To some degree, he's a character in the grandest reality show of all. He exists at the hinge of reality and alternative reality."

Gaetz is often described as Trump's protégé, someone who’s become a Fox News staple not just by sucking up to the president but by trying to out-Trump Trump with insults hurled at Democrats and anyone else with the temerity to challenge the president. But Gaetz hasn't simply been copying the president; he was cultivating a Trumplike persona long before anyone considered the possibility of a President Trump. And the two men share more than just a love of playground taunts. Gaetz's political ascent was also fueled by a rich father who paved his way, and a series uf unorthodox financial maneuvers.

The meanest member of Congress hails from a town called Niceville, a sleepy enclave of about 15,000 nestled on Choctawhatchee Bay, just off the Gulf of Mexico. When Gaetz was growing up, it was 90 percent white, solidly middle class and best known for hosting the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival-- in honor of the plentiful local fish, not the hairdo. The Gaetzes owned a second home in the nearby town of Seaside, where The Truman Show was filmed. Gaetz, who devoted his career to getting on television, spent much of his childhood in a house made famous by a character trying to get off TV.

The Gaetzes were conservative and religious, as was the surrounding community. (Two abortion doctors were murdered in the area during Gaetz's childhood.) Matt's mom suffered life-threatening complications while pregnant with his younger sister but opted not to have an abortion and was partially paralyzed as a result. Matt Gaetz has said her decision influenced his anti-abortion positions.

But if anyone is responsible for Gaetz's rise to political fame, it's his dad, whose deep pockets and even deeper connections in Florida politics are one reason Matt is known in his district as Baby Gaetz. "Matt would be an assistant manager at Walmart if it weren't for his father," says Steven Specht, a Democrat who ran against Gaetz for Congress in 2016.
Mencimer explained how he is a 3rd generation politician and how he honed his trolling skills early to help his father's career. His father was apparently popular and served briefly as state Senate president. Although Gaetz campaigned as an anti-healthcare fanatic, it was his father's hospice company (infamous for defrauding Medicare)-- and it's sale for $400 million-- that paid the bills.

Matt graduated from William and Mary Law School in 2007 and embarked on a small-town law career and in a race to collect drunk driving citations, during which time he earned a reputation as an entitled ne'er-do-well. Republicans are attracted to that kind of entitlement and when state House Speaker Ray Sansom was forced out of office for corruption, Matt was elected to his seat. All his dad's political cronies and donors contributed to Matt's campaign and he raised $480,000, five times more than any of his rivals. Although he only made $29,000 in 2010 as a lawyer, he managed to self-fund $100,000 in last minute (2 weeks) campaign expenses, more than any of his rivals spent in total.

He was an aggressive far right extremist in the legislature-- and made a name for himself as a nasty troll, He also learned how to use the military to advance his political career without actually having to enlist.

In 2016, when Jeff Miller, the local congressman decided to retire, Gaetz, self-funding with mysterious money again, ran and won. And it didn't hurt to have a superPAC funded by his father and his father's connections, throw half a million dollars into the race. He won and he continued drooling away, nearly winding upon real trouble for threatening Michael Cohen on Twitter. As Mencimer pointed out, "virtually everything Gaetz has done in Congress has been designed for maximum publicity. The first bill he ever introduced was a one-sentence measure disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency."

I reached out to Gaetz, who has never responded to any e-mails. I asked him one question (albeit with a few parts: "Mother Jones seems to have set out to paint a very negative picture of you as a Trump lackey-- just one week after you and Ro Khanna passed an historic war powers amendment that the White House probably isn't thrilled with. It appears that you brought over two dozen Republicans along with you-- not counting Justin Amash. Mother Jones asserts that you've been an unserious troll and points to your first bill-- to abolish the EPA in one sentence-- as a way of summing you up legislatively. And yet this amendment you and Ro passed is, arguably, the most important bipartisan legislation passed this year. Was there a change in attitude on your part? What made someone sometimes called 'the most right-wing member of Congress' work on an amendment with someone who is sometimes called 'the most left-wing member of Congress?' Has the White House communicated with you about the amendment? And... no luck. He didn't respond.

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The Most Important Question In Decades: Will Bernie Be President?


Netroots Nation happened. One of the guys who runs it, Markos from Daily Kos, told Vox that "Nobody’s excited about Biden. He’s old, tired, and elite." Nor was he there. Except for Elizabeth Warren, Markos' top pick, none of the front-runners showed up this year-- not Bernie on the left, Biden and McKinsey Pete on the right and not even Kamala from the identity politics lane lane. "While attendees have yet to identify which of those three candidates is their favorite, wrote Ella Nilsen and Tara Golshan for Vox, "it was clear the conference’s progressives had identified their enemy: Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the 2020 field. The weekend even featured a pop-up podcast titled “Why Joe Biden is the least electable major Democrat for president in 2020.”
[W]hile Sanders and Harris were absent, their surrogates and fans certainly were not. The same couldn’t be said for others like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg or Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), however.

“You had the Buttigieg boomlet earlier this year and you might have thought that might have continued into a place like this, but it really hasn’t,” Neil Sroka, a spokesperson for progressive political action committee Democracy For America, said. “What’s pretty clear is it’s Bernie, it’s Warren, and maybe it’s Kamala.”

...Seven months from when the first 2020 voters have a say in the Democratic primary in Iowa, progressives are winnowing down a deep field of candidates in a party that’s increasingly turned toward more left-wing ideals-- from public health care to wealth taxes and free college proposals.

But at Netroots, only three names had any meaningful energy behind them: Sanders, Harris, and, of course, Warren.

Across the street from the Netroots convention on Thursday, Sanders’s campaign co-chair Nina Turner took the stage at a protest outside Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital, a local institution that’s set to shutter in coming weeks. Among the protest’s attendees were local activists, physicians, and Netroots attendees showing solidarity with the movement. Sanders himself wasn’t in attendance, but it was a show of the political revolution he’s been trying to build a campaign around.

“With these hands we will save Hahnemann hospital, and with these hands we will elect Sen. Bernie Sanders as the next president of the United States of America,” Turner said to a crowd with raised arms chanting “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.” Sanders is scheduled to rally at the hospital Monday.

...Biden’s lead in the polls means progressive activists are approaching their choices in the primary with some caution.

“I like both of them-- Bernie and Warren-- I trust both of them. Ultimately, it will be where are they in January or February of next year?” Sroka said. “Who is up and who is down?”

...Progressives may not know exactly who they want to be the Democratic nominee in 2020, but they know who they don’t want: Joe Biden.

Some activists [keyword: "Some"] at Netroots conceded they would support Biden in a general election if they had no other choice. But as far as exciting the base at Netroots, Biden seemed to represent everything attendees disdain, particularly because, despite clearly trying to capitalize on his ties to Obama’s progressive brand, Biden hasn’t made an effort to cultivate a progressive base.

“Biden is using a strategy of running out the clock,” said Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party. “There’s a number of forums and spaces he could place himself in, in order to be scrutinized by the grassroots. Our job is not to coronate the person that the Third Way and elite media decision-makers think is most electable.”

“Biden’s campaign headquarters is four blocks away, and the only person I have seen come here is his digital guy,” Sroka said. “The fact that they are not even working to try and make the argument to this community is the sign of a campaign that doesn’t get where the future of the party is.”

The Biden campaign would not comment on their presence at the conference.

Underscoring the theme of there being a top-tier group of three, some Netroots attendees were gifted a six-pack of craft beers by event organizers. Warren, Sanders, and Harris were the only presidential candidates with a beer named after them: There was the “Professor Warren Perfect Plan Pale Ale” (a “quasi-session beer”), the “Kamala’s California Common” (a lager), and the “Bernie’s Barleywine” (“Gritty’s favorite beer”).

Joe Biden and the group of other moderate white men running for president, however, were symbolized by the “Average Centrist White Guy Cream Ale”-- “pale and not strong,” according to the beer guide handed out to attendees.

While progressives are only one segment of the Democratic electorate, Biden, and other candidates Netroots attendees were less than enthused about, could use their support. Particularly as it was progressives who helped energize the party’s base ahead of the 2018 midterm elections that saw Democrats retake the House of Representatives.
Goal ThermometerProgressives have grown sick and tired with the unabashedly biased way the corporate media covers Bernie and his campaign. As we noted last week, the NY Times coverage of the campaign is headed by rot-gut Wall Street shill, Sydney Ember, whose every piece reads like unadulterated Biden propaganda. Monday morning, Michael Calderone, posted a piece about that widespread bias for Politico readers. Bernie's campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told Calderone that some reporters, "attempt to hide their disdain and masquerade their commentary behind purported straight pieces that amount to seeing everything as a 'bad news for Bernie' moment."... "If Bernie Sanders’ team had its way," wrote Calderone, "every reporter covering the Vermont senator would put out a tweet disclosing their unvarnished, personal feelings about the candidate." By the way, that ActBlue thermometer on the right? That's so you can contribute to Bernie's campaign if you want to. Just click on it.
It’s not going to happen, but campaign manager Faiz Shakir thinks he knows what it would reveal anyway.

"This isn't intended to be a sweeping generalization of all journalists,” he told Politico, “but there are a healthy number who just find Bernie annoying, discount his seriousness, and wish his supporters and movement would just go away.”

In the 2016 Democratic primary, Sanders’ complaint about the media was that he was ignored, especially early in the campaign, while a phalanx of reporters trailed Hillary Clinton and cable networks turned live to Donald Trump’s raucous rallies.

Now, he’s not having trouble getting airtime, giving interviews in just the last week on ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CNN. Among the Democratic field, Sanders ranks behind only Vice President Joe Biden in mentions in traditional news outlets this year, according to an analysis by global media and intelligence company Meltwater.

In the 2020 campaign, his team’s frustration has morphed, centering on what they see as excessively negative stories and dismissive commentary. Even though he’s consistently near the top in the polls, Sanders’ staff thinks pundits write off his chances. And they’re unusually vocal in calling out coverage they dislike on Twitter and on the media channels they’ve created in-house, fueling frustration once again among the senator’s supporters about whether he’s getting a fair shot at the White House.

On Sanders’ live-streaming show, The 99, three campaign staffers spent more than an hour last week discussing what they perceive as media bias, such as the tendency to focus on the shiny and salacious rather than Sanders’ decades-long advocacy for the poor and working class. “Standing up on these issues over 40 years is not new and exciting for people,” said chief of staff Ari Rabin-Havt.

...Rabin-Havt told POLITICO there’s something akin to a language barrier between political journalists and the campaign.

“They just will never buy that we don’t think it’s a game,” he said.

Sanders hosted a cable access show in the 1980s, and many of his campaign staffers have backgrounds at progressive news outlets-- Shakir was founding editor of ThinkProgress, Rabin-Havt served as executive vice president at Media Matters, Sirota wrote for The Guardian, and national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray was an editor at The Intercept.

They all share a skepticism of the “corporate media.” “The media work for huge multinational corporations,” Sanders told Rolling Stone last month, adding that “anyone with my agenda is going to attract a lot of opposition.”

He doesn’t have much patience for reporters who want him to talk about anything other than that agenda. Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos kicked off an interview Thursday by telling Sanders that voters want to know more about him as a person.

Sanders didn’t take the bait. Americans “have a right” to know about a person running for president, Sanders acknowledged, but “sometimes the media goes overboard on that and does not pay enough attention to what you are trying to do to transform the country."

On Sunday, he said on NBC’s Meet the Press” that he had no plans to change his approach.

“When the poor get richer and the rich get poorer, when all of our people have healthcare as a right, when we are leading the world in the fight against climate change, you know what? I will change what I am saying,” Sanders said.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Put it in perspective: How many child molesters do you know? Do you hang out with people like Jeffrey Epstein and Alabama Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore? Who would you nominate for the Supreme Court? But, like I said the other day, birds of a feather flock together. Epstein is Trump's "terrific guy" and "a lot of fun." I can tell you another thing: If I worked at the Trump White House and had a teenage daughter, I would never bring her in on "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" but then, what are the chances that a patriotic American like me would ever work for Trump? I don't even like Putin or Hannity. By the way, why does Kellyanne dress up as a toy soldier and Ivanka as a Barbie?

But what of outside the west wing and the oval office? Since Jeffrey Epstein and his "Lolita Express" party plane hit the headlines again, the Washington "elites" have been predictably silent about the matter, with one exception that I can think of: The office of Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) has announced that she intends to keep the money that Epstein has contributed directly to her campaigns. A frequent contributor to both parties, Epstein and his cash have all the bases covered, not just the lawyers and the courts. Epstein's kind of filthy money can buy a lot of silence and looks the other way. Alex Acosta, Trump's recently ex-Secretary Of Labor got the boot for protecting Epstein but so what. Acosta's forced departure was only made in an effort to get us to stop talking about the whole miserable thing as Washington slapped its hands together and said, "Well, that's that. Time to move on and please don't look under any other rocks around here."

Over the years, from time to time, we've heard brief murmurs of members in "our" congress abusing their teenage congressional pages; murmurs that nearly always get covered up in nanosecends. Boehner and Pelosi discontinued the House page system in 2011, citing the arrival of social media messaging systems as making the need for pages redundant. But the Senate, with the same technology available to them, and home to far fewer politicians, kept their pages.

With any other whiff of scandal, our politicians would be knocking each other over to get to the microphones in their efforts to express their (faux) outrage, but now... crickets. Apparently, if any one politician of either party spoke up, it might put them all in the spotlight and, hey, we wouldn't want that now, would we? This goes straight to the figurative top, to the oval office. So, what are we to think? I know what I think. The silence is deafening.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Trump Could Probably Get Pizzella Confirmed-- But Might Lose The Senate In 2020 Because Of It


Pizzella has no problem working for crooks and scumbags

Have you noticed that when Trump fires someone, he then tends to do two things: replace them with someone much worse and give them the title of "acting"-whatever. Acting this or acting that doesn't have to be confirmed by the Senate and even this McConnell-run Trump-enabling Senate wouldn't want to go on record confirming some of the criminals and fascists Trump is putting into government positions. Sunday, we took a look at the Democratic senators who voted to confirm Alex Acosta as Labor Secretary. Four of these Trump's-Democrats were defeated-- in the midst of a purported "blue wave." I don't doubt Trump and McConnell could get all his nominees through... but no one wants that on their record for the next time they have to face the voters. Take Acosta's unsavory replacement, Patrick Pizzella, a total slime ball lobbyist. "In the late 1990s, his clients included a Russian front group, the government of the Marshall Islands and a trade association fighting against the minimum wage in a U.S. commonwealth. For these and other clients, he worked with Jack Abramoff, who was at the forefront of a corruption scandal in the 2000s that ultimately resulted in 21 convictions and major reforms to lobbying laws." It also resulted in several members of Congress (Senator Conrad Burns and Rep. Richard Pombo, for example) losing their seats, more "voluntarily" retiring-- including GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay-- and at least one GOP committee chairman going to prison.

Pizzella has given thousands of dollars in legalistic bribes to Republican organizations and to Republican members of Congress and Republican candidates-- from Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, John Boehner, Tom Tancredo, Barbara Comstock and anyone else willing to trade votes and influence for cash. By not naming him actual Secretary of Labor-- forcing a contentious debate and Senate vote-- voters will never know, at least for sure, if vulnerable Trump allies like Susan Collins (R-ME), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Martha McSally (R-AZ), David Perdue (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) would actually vote for some as obviously unfit as Patrick Pizzella.
Pizzella, who has been serving as the deputy secretary of labor under Acosta, was appointed to the Federal Labor Relations Board by President Barack Obama in 2013. He previously served as the assistant secretary of labor for administration and management for eight years under President George W. Bush.

Prior to that appointment, Pizzella was as a lobbyist at Preston, Gates & Ellis, which would later combine with another lobbying firm to form K&L Gates. Abramoff also worked at the firm, whose dozens of clients included several foreign entities.

Documents obtained by OpenSecrets show that Pizzella was one of the lobbyists who worked on behalf of a shell corporation connected to the Russian government in the late 1990s. He was listed in a 1997 lobbying disclosure form as the “director of coalitions” for Chelsea Commercial Enterprises Ltd., a Bahamas-based organization working closely with the Russian oil company Naftasib, which was itself a close affiliate of the Russian government.

Working alongside Abramoff and others, Pizzella helped Chelsea Commercial advocate for “various commercial business enterprises, including investments in Russian businesses.”

The Department of Labor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pizzella’s lobbying ties to Chelsea Commercial Enterprises.

Another client that paid Preston, Gates & Ellis more than $2.3 million between 1999 and 2000 was the Western Pacific Economic Council, a trade association of companies with manufacturing centers in the Northern Mariana Islands.The archipelago located north of Guam is a U.S. commonwealth.

Low wages and little enforcement of labor laws made the commonwealth an attractive destination for garment factories, who could still tag their merchandise as Made in the USA. In the late 1990s, minimum wage on the islands was $3.05 compared to a federal minimum wage of $5.15, a concern for both humanitarian groups worried about inhumane conditions and labor groups who worried about outsourcing.

Pizzella was among the lobbyists from Preston, Gates & Ellis who worked to oppose two bills that would have extended U.S. minimum wage laws to the islands. Neither bill made it to a vote.

Pizzella’s connections to Abramoff and record on the minimum wage came up during his confirmation hearing to become deputy secretary in July 2017. In response to a question from former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Pizzella said he was not aware of any substandard labor conditions in the Northern Mariana Islands while his firm was lobbying there.

“I was not aware of any such thing,” Pizzella said. “I did not know. I just learned that 21 of Mr. Abramoff’s colleagues were also convicted of wrongdoing. I was not one of them.”

Abramoff and his associates ultimately fell into trouble after they conspired to swindle Native American tribes that had contracted the firm for help in establishing casinos. Abramoff’s tactics included coordinating lobbying against his own clients so he could ask for more money for their services.

Abramoff and his related organizations ultimately reaped $85 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Louisiana Coushatta tribe and other tribal groups.

Pizzella lobbied on behalf of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw in 1999 and 2000, but was never implicated in his former colleague’s wrongdoing.

Pizzella also registered as a foreign agent for the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 2000, working to convince Congress to relocate and compensate the indigenous peoples for damages stemming for atomic weapons testing in 1946.

The new acting secretary is the latest former lobbyist to gain a seat in the presidential cabinet. Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was a lobbyist for the defense giant Raytheon. Andrew Wheeler, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, lobbied for Murray Energy, the coal company owned by magnate Robert Murray. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry.

Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, oversaw lobbying efforts at drug company Eli Lilly but never registered as a lobbyist with Congress.
Maybe this kind of stuff helps explain why all 4 of the top Democratic contenders are beating Trump in the just-released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Republican voters don't care about this kind of thing at all-- it's part of being on a team-- but independent voters can't stand it and it's part of why Trump is doing so badly among them and why he's so likely oo lose in 2020-- even if the Trump Recession hasn't kicked in by election day.

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It Would Be Great To See Blue Dog Jim Costa Replaced In Congress-- But Not With Another Blue Dog


Sometimes people ask me who the single worst Democrat in Congress is. Until very recently, I had never even thought it was Pelosi. Last session it was unquestionably Kyrsten Sinema, the genuinely mentally unbalanced Blue Dog from Arizona, who is currently the single worst Democrat in the Senate. This cycle it has been Josh Gottheimer, Blue Dog, grotesquely corrupt Wall Street whore, New Dem, tool of the murderous Saudi regime and chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus. So far this session, Gottheimer's 26.32 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score can be compared to Justin Amash, a Republican until 2 weeks ago when he became an independent and whose score is 60.53.

But looking beyond just raw scores there are always 3 or 4 Blue Dogs on the band side of everything important, Trump enablers and enemies of working families and progressive values, Thank God just one is here in California, sex predator and Blue Dog Jim Costa, who represents the 16th district in the Central Valley. The district has a sweet D+9 PVI and Trump only managed 36.4% there. One of the poorest districts in the country (the 412th poorest out of 435), it is a Latino majority district (59.2%) and only 23.5% white.

Costa, like Devin Nunes, is the grandchild of Portuguese immigrants who went into dairy farming. He was elected to the state Assembly in 1978, where he was widely considered the worst and most right-wing Democrat in the legislature. When he was finally term-limited out in 2002 he became a corporate lobbyist. But then his local New Dem congressman, Cal Dooley, retired 2 years later to become a K Street lobbyist himself. Costa-- despite an arrest for hiring teenage hookers-- one of whom was an undercover cop-- and despite drug paraphernalia found in his home, won the primary.

Costa's congressional district, CA-16, includes most of the city of Fresno, all of Merced County and a piece of Madera County. Aside from Fresno, the population centers are Merced, Madera, Chowchilla and Los Banos. Costa, who engenders zero enthusiasm among Democratic base voters, has been on shaky ground recently. In 2010, Republican Andy Vidak's challenge was so strong that, despite Costa outspending him $2,076,986 to $891,826, it took 3 weeks of recounts before Costa was declared the winner by 3,050 votes. 2014 was even worse for Costa. With no help from the GOP whatsoever, dairyman Johnny Tacherra-- outspent by Costa $1,116,677 to $342,204-- was declared the winner on election night. A shady recount in Fresno handed the final tally to Costa 46,277 (50.7%) to 44,943 (49.3%). Costa's foolish and dysfunctional response to these close calls has been to tack further and further right.

His Trump affinity score is 34.4%, second worst of any Democrats', having voted, for example, to support ICE, to roll back Dodd Frank protections, to allow guns in schools, to allow for racial profiling by auto finance companies, against opening impeachment hearings (twice), reauthorizing warrantless wiretapping of American citizens under FISA, for attempts to repeal Obamacare, removing antitrust exemption for insurance companies, for Trump's scheme to hobble regulatory agencies, for repealing a rule requiring energy companies to reduce waste and emissions, and against Climate Change efforts involving ozone standards... Whenever there are Democrats crossing the aisle to support the GOP, you can always expect Costa to be among them. After he voted for the TPP (which included $700 million in cuts to Medicare), Blue America sent our lovely accountability truck (below) to drive around Modesto, Merced, Atwater, Livingston and Fresno, you know,  to spend a couple of weeks reminding voters in the district what Congressman Costa is all about. We sent the truck out again when he was one of the only Democrats in Congress to continue funding the genocide in Yemen.

So... you'd think it would be a dream come true to see Costa with a primary challenge. And, in a way it is. First I heard Kim Williams, a college professor and former foreign service diplomat was taking him on and more recently Fresno City Council member Esmeralda Soria declared that she's running. (The Republicans have a real estate agent, Kevin Cookingham, in the jungle primary.) I've tried getting in touch with both Williams and Soria but neither has responded. As far as I can tell, Williams is a bit to the left of Costa and Soria is pretty much exactly the same, politically, as he is.

Late last week, the Fresno Bee took a look at Soria's announcement of her campaign. "Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria," reported Brianna Calix, "announced on Thursday she is running to represent California’s 16th Congressional District. Soria, a Democrat born to Mexican immigrant farm laborers in the Tulare County town of Lindsay, is in her second and final term on the city council. Soria’s political strength in Fresno could make her the most formidable challenge of Costa’s career."
After Soria’s announcement, Costa said he was disappointed in her decision and pointed to her past endorsements. He said in the last eight months they’ve met for lunch, coffee and social events and she never shared any major criticisms or disagreements with him.

Costa said his record will help him win again as it has in prior elections.

“I always work very hard every day to help people in our Valley,” he said in a telephone interview with The Bee. “…I always put my trust and faith in the voters of the Valley. This is my home and this is what my passion is.”

Costa’s victories over the years have come from his strong voter base in Fresno, while he lost ground in Republican-dominated rural areas like Merced County’s west side. Much of Soria’s council district in south-central Fresno falls within the 16th Congressional District, and she’s made allies with the other Democrat council members representing the southern parts of the city.

Soria also enters the race at a time when people of color are gaining traction in Fresno and challenging the political establishment in ways similar to what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accomplished in New York through grassroots organizing and community activism.

In an interview with The Bee, Soria never uttered Costa’s name, saying her congressional bid isn’t about her opponent or partisan politics. “I’m focused on who I represent,” she said. “People want a fair shot. They don’t want a handout.”

Costa, a 67-year-old Blue Dog Democrat, has faced one Democratic challenger since his first bid for Congress in the 2004 primary, Steve Hazei n 2010.

...Whether Soria can beat the veteran politician could depend largely on early fundraising. She said she won’t take any corporate money for her campaign.

Meanwhile, Costa in his last election accepted money from PACs and corporations such as Chevron, Google, Comcast, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, plus various agriculture or labor-related groups. Costa also is likely to receive fundraising support from other longtime and high-profile California Democrats.

Costa touted his long list of endorsements from the state’s top leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Many have committed to coming to the Valley to help him campaign, he said.

Soria may not be well-known outside of Fresno and her hometown in Tulare County, but the 37-year-old millennial said her background as the daughter of immigrants from a rural community will help her connect with voters in Merced and Madera.

Soria said she was inspired to run by her family’s personal stories and the ones she’s heard from city constituents, former interns and students she’s taught as an adjunct faculty member at Fresno City College.

“My family and the thousands of families here in the Valley that continue to struggle, they’ve worked hard, they’ve played by the rules and they give back. Yet, to this date, they’re barely making ends meet,” she said. “Things haven’t changed. The economy has gotten better. Our unemployment rate has decreased, but not enough. There’s still too many families that are struggling to make ends meet.”

On the issue of health care, Soria wants more affordable options, saying everyone should be able to have similar health care plans as representatives in Congress.

Immigration is a top issue for Soria, who once planned to be an immigration attorney. She called the immigration system broken and said she supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers, a guest worker program for seasonal workers, and condemned the current border crisis, saying “we can’t continue to allow these kids to be in cages.”

Affordable college and student loan debt is another top issue for Soria, who said she’s personally saddled with $150,000 debt from law school.

While Soria avoided directly criticizing Costa in her interview with The Bee, she added: “I wouldn’t be running if those issues were fixed.”

Costa pointed to his voting record to support water needs, transportation infrastructure, reducing prescription drug prices and working with state assemblymembers to bring a medical school to the Valley.

She touted her record at City Hall, helping spur job growth and fix neighborhood problems such as paving roads, building parks, advocating for affordable housing and holding more than 40 community meetings.

Soria’s council colleague Garry Bredefeld recently criticized her for a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met with Ocasio-Cortez. “AOC,” as she’s known online, has been described as a Democratic Socialist and also challenged a longtime Democratic incumbent in her district, where she represents Queens and the Bronx in New York.

While Soria vocally supports some progressive issues such as immigration reform and race-related issues, she’s also supported law enforcement and has been recognized for being “business friendly” while on the Fresno City Council.
The idea of Soria painting herself as a progressive is patently absurd. One actual progressive politician in Fresno told me she is basically Costa with a skirt and "every bit another Blue Dog-in-the-making."

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