Tuesday, May 08, 2007



Yesterday I joined 3 or 4 other bloggers on a conference call with DCCC chairman, Chris Van Hollen. He was waxing eloquently about the importance of the D-Trip's Frontline Program when I asked him a simple question about faithless incumbents*. I wanted to know if he felt it was kosher for the DCCC to ask unsuspecting Democratic contributors to give to this program not knowing that their hard earned dollars would be going to Democrats like Jim Marshall (GA) and John Barrow (GA) who voted with the Republicans to sustain Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill and like freshman Chris Carney (PA) who joined Republicans to vote against the Hate Crimes legislation last week. Chairman Van Hollen graciously suggested that it is up to the netroots to inform Democrats about where these congressmen stand on these issues. OK, let's take a look at Chris Carney (PA-10).

Blue America doesn't ask much of our prospective endorsees. On GLBT issues, for example, we don't ask them to promise to support a gay marriage bill; we just ask them if they will fight for gay equality, even if they have to exhibit some leadership in a tough environment. If they can't do that, we may still root for them to beat a much worse Republican, but we don't raise money for them. We expect the candidates we endorse and raise money for to support a woman's right to choice, to support serious campaign finance reform, to favor serious proposals to end the occupation of Iraq, to support gay equality-- and, like I said, to be willing to exercise leadership on difficult issues. I mean, sure, we want candidates who are for the minimum wage and who oppose the dismantling of Social Security, but those should be the easy issues for Democrats.

In the course of last year's midterms, I had several relaxed and pleasant conversations with candidate Carney and, unlike other netroots groups, Blue America endorsed him. We encouraged our members to volunteer for his campaign and to help raise consciousness in PA-10 about Don "The Choker" Sherwood... and to donate money to the campaign. 722 of our members made donations to Carney's campaign. We even made a 30 second spot sung by Rickie Lee Jones to help focus PA-10 voters on the issues at hand. And we were overjoyed when he won, convincingly, on election night.

We don't expect the men and women we support to necessarily support the same position we do on every single vote. But even in the short time Carney has been in Congress, he has moved further and further away from all the other Blue America endorsees who won seats. In terms of supporting progressive issues in general, he has established himself at the bottom of the barrel among the freshmen, along with candidates we chose not to endorse, like Jason Altmire (PA), Rahm Emanuel's Heath Shuler (NC), Nick Lampson (TX) and Brad Ellsworth (IN). Some of us were disappointed but none of the writers at DownWithTyranny, Firedoglake or Crooks & Liars chose to castigate Carney. And then something happened that has made us decide to speak up. We realized Chris Carney lied to us. When he wanted our support he told us he favors equality for the GLBT community, something he also made clear to the folks at Project Vote Smart, when he checked the little box that indicates he would like to "Require that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes."

So weren't we in for a surprise a few days ago when Congressman Carney joined 13 of the most die-hard reactionary Democrats in the House-- near-Republicans who almost always support a reactionary social agenda-- to vote against the Hate Crimes bill. The bill passed 237-180 and all but 14 Democrats supported... well, supported exactly what Carney promised in his campaign he would support, "that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes." I felt betrayed-- like I had been kicked in the stomach. Based on my research and interview with candidate Carney, Blue America had endorsed him and hundreds of our members had donated effort and money to his campaign. Some of these donors are members of the GLBT community and others have friends and family who are part of that community and others just like to think that the candidates they contribute to will support equality as a core value. Chris Carney let us down, violently.

I requested an opportunity to speak with him and went back and forth with his office a few times until they finally sent me this e-mail:
Hi Howie, I have a short statement for you that I hope will be sufficient. This statement has been issued exclusively to you. Please let me know that you received it. Thanks.

Congressman Carney has not wavered from his original position of equality. Treating people the same is one of his core values, creating separate constitutional classes detracts from that goal. This was overarching legislation that created too many classes of people, and Congressman Carney could not support it.

This was a difficult decision and some of our supporters will disagree. As always, Congressman Carney voted with what he saw to be the best interests of Pennsylvania's 10th District.

I explained that sending me the Republican Party talking points -- which have long and routinely been used by the party of hatred and bigotry to try to please their rabidly homophobic base while covering their asses is not satisfactory.

So what do I want from Congressman Carney? Well, I'd like him to publicly apologize for a vote that encourages and enables the bigots and haters and I'd like him to return the 722 contributions he accepted from Blue America members. I have had dozens of complaints from members already and at least one has sent Congressman Carney a letter, copying me, requesting a refund:
Dear Congressman Carney:

Apparently, we had a misunderstanding with regard to your support for equal rights for gay Americans when you sought Don Sherwood's seat last year. I supported your campaign, through BlueAmerica on the advice of Howie Klein of DownWithTyranny.com.

Now that you have voted, with some of the most reactionary Democrats in the House of Representatives, against the Hate Crimes Bill, I have reconsidered my previous support of your campaign. I would like to have my contributions returned, please. I am disabled and on a fixed
income. I can only support candidates who support gay rights and, more importantly, keep their word to me and to those I trust to evaluate candidates.

I have provided my contribution information below and would appreciate your sending a check as soon as possible, as there are candidates who share my values who need my support. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

*Look at this list of Frontliners from last year; 9 of the 10 are reactionaries, most of whom desperately need help because they don't represent Democrats and are not more more than a gaggle of Republican-lite corporate shills. This year the list is way bigger, basically all the freshmen except grassroots purists Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and Nancy Boyda (KS)-- who asked not to be part-- plus unpopular reactionary holdovers from last year-- Barrow, Bean, Boswell, and Edwards, with the addition of arch-reactionary/warmonger Jim Marshall (GA), who nearly lost his seat for the simple reason that although he votes like a Republican, Republicans prefer to vote for actual Republicans and many Democrats actually prefer to vote for real Democrats, not fake ones like Marshall.


The two reactionary Dems from Indiana who voted along with Carney against the hate crimes bill will be blogging about their vote at Bilerico.com this week. Donnelly and Ellsworth will be trying to explain to the LGBT community why they bucked the party and voted against the bill. Donnelly will guest post on Wednesday and Ellsworth will guest blog on Thursday. Both Congressmen have agreed to respond to comments and dialogue with the community. Donnelly's entry will go live tomorrow morning at 8:30am, EST and Ellsworth's entry should go up around the same time on Thursday.

You have to admit, it's courageous for these two goofballs to face the progressive community knowing that most people won't be happy with their vote. It's a lot more than Carney did.

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At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Dems as well as repubs can be liars. Who'd'a thunk it?

Well, what can you do? Everyone makes mistakes. When the next election rolls around, get a strong candidate to oppose this prick in the primary, and support HIM.

If that fails, support the repub in the general election. That one could turn out just as bad or even worse than Carney, but he will be easier to get rid of two years after that.

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well let's hope he doesn't need any help with his reelection . . .

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Howie -

Please excuse my contacting you via the "comments" section. I knew you years and years ago in San Francisco (and on KALX); for a while there, you, Sally Mutant, and Jonathan Postal were my personal axis of cool. I just wanted to say I've been reading and loving your writing on line since I discovered it over a year ago.

I'd love to hear from you if you feel like it (and assuming, of course, you remember me - it was a long time ago in another world).

Benjie Elwood

At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops - my email is


(it's letters "elwo" then numbers "zero zero zero eight")

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Oklahoma Democratic Representive Dan Boren needs to explain his support of Bush's failing effort in Iraq. He has continued to vote with Republicans in sustaining Bush's vetos. He does not support the Democratic agenda.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Understood, Howie.

Personally, I think we should promise to fund -- and I mean FUND -- at least one primary challenger per cycle, and pick the person with the worst record to run against. Of course, this would also require us to scope out good candidates like, now -- so we can have them ready to go.

Anyone got a feel for Carney's district? Is it truly a situation where he's the best we could do? Or can we do better there?

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone reading this article is steaming mad, I urge you to click on the Spotlight or Digg | Del.ic.ous | Reddit networking links you might belong to and spread the word - Carney needs to FEEL the HEAT from all sides, and soon.

At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie doesn't seem to care much about women or the disabled.

His article is virtualy only about LGTB people.

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How dare someone not tow the party line!

At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for a little context here folks from Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

He wrote:
May 7, 2007

Last week, the House of Representatives acted with disdain for the Constitution and individual liberty by passing HR 1592, a bill creating new federal programs to combat so-called ìhate crimes.î The legislation defines a hate crime as an act of violence committed against an individual because of the victimís race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Federal hate crime laws violate the Tenth Amendmentís limitations on federal power. Hate crime laws may also violate the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech and religion by criminalizing speech federal bureaucrats define as ìhateful.î

There is no evidence that local governments are failing to apprehend and prosecute criminals motivated by prejudice, in comparison to the apprehension and conviction rates of other crimes. Therefore, new hate crime laws will not significantly reduce crime. Instead of increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement, hate crime laws undermine equal justice under the law by requiring law enforcement and judicial system officers to give priority to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. Of course, all decent people should condemn criminal acts motivated by prejudice. But why should an assault victim be treated by the legal system as a second-class citizen because his assailant was motivated by greed instead of hate?

HR 1592, like all hate crime laws, imposes a longer sentence on a criminal motivated by hate than on someone who commits the same crime with a different motivation. Increasing sentences because of motivation goes beyond criminalizing acts; it makes it a crime to think certain thoughts. Criminalizing even the vilest hateful thoughts--as opposed to willful criminal acts--is inconsistent with a free society.

HR 1592 could lead to federal censorship of religious or political speech on the grounds that the speech incites hate. Hate crime laws have been used to silence free speech and even the free exercise of religion. For example, a Pennsylvania hate crime law has been used to prosecute peaceful religious demonstrators on the grounds that their public Bible readings could incite violence. One of HR 1592ís supporters admitted that this legislation could allow the government to silence a preacher if one of the preacherís parishioners commits a hate crime. More evidence that hate crime laws lead to censorship came recently when one member of Congress suggested that the Federal Communications Commission ban hate speech from the airwaves.

Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the Tenth Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason, and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government.

Because federal hate crime laws criminalize thoughts, they are incompatible with a free society. Fortunately, President Bush has pledged to veto HR 1592. Of course, I would vote to uphold the presidentís veto.

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous quoted Ron Paul who said on May 7 that HR 1592 was 'disdainful' for the US Consitution and personal freedom ... maybe so ... but since when did the aforementioned 'disdain' stop the US Congress from passing loads of laws which rightfully should have been left to the individual states?

1592 was just a more specialized version (for GLBT folks) of what Congress has always done. Why did Ron Paul and Anonymous choose to bitch about it this time around? It seems to me to be a very sophisticated way of denying gay people the same rights as everyone else all the while saying "Don't blame me for how I voted, blame the Constitution, it forbids the desired results". But the same constitution applies to gay people which also applies to black people and disabled people ... did Ron Paul and anonymous vote against the protections given to those other classes of individuals based on some shaky interpretation of the constitution?


At 5:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feel for Carney's District.

52% of the people in North'd County voted straight party. Carney won the county 56 to 43%. I worked for Chris on election day. After you leave parts of Wilkes-Barre and the Coal Regions the rest of the area votes like Alabama. These areas delivered for Chris big time, but the rural gun toting, sister marrying part could turn on him in a second.

At 5:22 AM, Blogger Coal Region Voice said...

Be careful what you wish for!


At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a great tip on geting your money back for contributions:

Call the credit card company that you used and file a DISPUTE of charges. The reason: false advertising of the product.

You can dispute any charge you like and the credit card company is obligated to contact the billing company (candidate) to investigate. And such dispute investigations? Probably doesn't bode well for the credit-worthiness of the candidate, imo. Looks real bad.

This worked like a charm for me. I forced Howard Dean to return a $250 donation. Yeah, I love Dean in his DNC position but I gave to his campaign early based on his support for lifting the embargo on Cuba and for his alleged support for the Palestinians. A couple of months later after he hit the bigtime (August 2003), he completely flipped. Sorry, not giving one red dime to pro-aipac aggression in any form.

Anyways, the Dean campaign dicked around with me for a month and pretty much laughed in my face about wanting a contribution back. I called AmExp to initiate the dispute investigation. Et voila, a week later, I got a campaign check refund.

Aside from those who think me pulling a contribution to Dean as blasphemous, give me a break here. The Dispute Investigation angle is a fast and certain way to make Carney really feel the consequences.

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as my information is correct.Indiana is one of only five states that doesn't have a hate crimes law.Therefore Federal protection is needed for all.
Perhaps you can ask Congressman Elsworth about that.

At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is why I have never given any contribution to the democratic party since Don't Ask Don't Tell. Sen Feinstein from CA is on the judiciary committee but she would not comment or give any indication on why she will not support the Uniting American Families Act that will give me the same rights as my straight brothers and sisters to sponsor my foreign born partner for a green card.

Everytime the Dem Fund raiser calls (and I received 2 phone calls yesterday), I repeat the same thing... I need to save my money for when I have to leave the country if and when my partner loses his job.... I have 10 days to wrap up my life here and move to Canada... who is welcoming US with open arms. Sen Feinstein always says that she is supportive of the queer community (and do note that it was the queer community who puts her where she is.... ) but so far her actions has been disappointing.... so no money to the Dems until they support equality.

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This guy was part of Feith's Office of Special Plans, folks. That's where the Intelligence experience on his resume comes from.

He was a stealth candidate and Rahm Emanuel should have known better...maybe he did and is laughing as he watches the Democratic Party implode.

All I can say is try to get rid of this guy but don't be surprised if he turnd out to be very well bankrolled from stealth GOP sources in addition to the DCCC.

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Edward wrote: "Be careful what you wish for!"

Edward is absolutely right about Carney and his support of Gay and Lesbian Rights. I live in the hinterlands beyond the coal-mining regions. People here actually voted for The Choker because of 'church issues' - Sherwood's adultery was forgiven donncha know, he's a Republicanforgodandcountry!

There is no separation of church and state here. Everyone tries to 'out-Jesus' each other and homosexuality is high on the sin list. They'll turn on him in a nano-second if they think the area is hell-bound. Many aren't thrilled that Carney's Catholic, btw. Catholics aren't really considered Christians in the eyes of many here, so his Christianity is suspect to begin with.

You really should be aware that Carney is the best thing you could get from the hinterlands of this district. The coal mining region and the two Valley areas are probably the only places where Dueling Banjos isn't a revered theme song next to Battle Hymn of the Republic.


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