Thursday, June 19, 2008



Yesterday the DCCC released the third round of their Red to Blue candidates and there were some really excellent choices like Joe Garcia (FL-25), Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Bob Lord (AZ-03), and Glenn Nye (VA-02). There were also some natural choices, people who have finished their primaries and are now candidates who have met the ever-shifting and mysterious, ill-defined DCCC benchmarks. But then there are also some extremely bad-faith decisions. Earlier in the month we tried elucidating some of the DCCC's thought process as best we could, using AZ-01 as an example. It's a good example since the race pits a clueless insider shill, Ann Kirkpatrick, against a grassroots progressive, Howard Shanker. Needless to say the DCCC came down on the side of the clueless insider shill. The spirit of Rahm Emanuel lives on.

Today's list also includes an endorsement of hard core DLC poster boy Ethan Berkowitz against grassroots progressive Diane Benson. Blue America hasn't endorsed in that race yet but we've been looking into it and Benson is a far better candidate to go up against Don Young-- unless the DCCC thinks Alaskans will feel comfortable with Berkowitz because he and Young have so much in common.

But the race we're here to look at today is the only in NY-13, the Staten Island/Brooklyn district being abandoned by the recently infamous Vito Fossella. A few days ago I heard from reliable sources that the grassroots candidate, Steve Harrison, was dropping out and that the DCCC had endorsed Michael McMahon. I had been following the race from afar and I smelled a rat immediately. The DCCC often will tell donors and Democratic interest groups and the media that there is no primary when they want to rally everyone around their own anointee. It just took me a few phone calls to find out that my instincts were correct and that, again, the spirit of Rahm was alive and kicking. Harrison hadn't only not quit the race, he had challenged McMahon to 5 debates. The part about the DCCC endorsing him, though... that was true.

And what creeped me out about it was that McMahon had solicited the Conservative Party's endorsement. They liked him because of his pro-war stance and some other issues dear to the hearts of right-wing kooks. (I hear that since being informed that the Conservative Party has passed on him in favor of the Republican, McMahon is now claiming to be against the war. Glad he made up his mind.) We asked Steve Harrison to explain why the DCCC would endorse in a hotly contested primary, even though they claim that they don't do that.
The problem with the DCCC is that it’s set up like a corporate special interest but with the ability to make unlimited, multi-million dollar contributions to candidates of its choice. This puts it in a unique position not only to influence voters but also to coerce Democratic candidates to support the DCCC’s agenda. That agenda seems to be preservation of the Democratic power structure in Washington rather than the interests of the voters.

To a degree this problem was self-checked by the DCCC’s supposed policy of neither endorsing nor funding in a primary. This allowed the candidates to run and the people of a district to democratically choose their candidate without the DCCC’s “outsider” influence. Theoretically, the DCCC’s funding decisions in the general election would then be made based on its evaluation of a candidate’s post-primary electability, not his or her ideology, which would have been chosen by the district voters.

The DCCC now seems to have cast off any pretense of neutrality during primaries, going so far as to seek out, endorse and help fund candidates of their choosing, for their purposes. This raises the
specter of DCCC endorsees running negative ads against decent, loyal Democratic opponents. This is an anti-democratic approach to democracy and it violates the core values of fairness and justice held dear by our party.

For all practical purposes the DCCC is purchasing blocks of congressional seats for the benefit of Washington insiders rather than promoting the election of diversified Democrats individually responsive to the needs of their unique districts.

I see this at work in my own district where die-hard elected progressives have inexplicably fallen in line behind a DCCC endorsed blue-dog Democrat rather than a credible progressive. The dynamics of
this race are such that any Democratic nominee is likely to be elected. So why not let the people of the district decide the nominee? Is it because the blue dog is perceived as a compliant political insider willing to “go along to get along” in Washington?

I believe this shows the need for passage of a Clean Elections Law to take the money out of politics. It makes no difference if the money is coming from an oil company, an oil company PAC, a political party or a party PAC. Large dollars will always tend to have a corrupting influence on even the best of candidates. We must remove that influence freeing our elected officials to represent their constituents independently.

You can find out more about Steve, who came closer to beating Fossella in 2006 than any other Democrat ever had, and his anti-boss, grassroots campaign at his website.

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At 6:21 PM, Blogger Rosalie907 said...

I am a Harrison volunteer. I first met Steve when he ran against Vito Fossella in 2006. My association with several Progressive Groups allowed me to introduce Steve to them and boy, did he impress them. All of us worked hard on that campaign but unfortunately we were outspent by Fossella 13-1 (Steve even caused Vito to got $209,009 in debt to win and Vito's still paying that off).
McMahon REFUSED to run against Vito in 2006 and again this year until Vito's problems surfaced. He then strong armed the RCCC to win the nomination on May 28th (2 or 3 days after his buddy Dominic Recchia who was also term limited bowed out but that's another story).
What the DCCC is doing is disgusting and (and others) hope it backfires on them.
Steve Harrison is for the people, hasn't taken any corporate money and will fight for you and I. Looks like this scares the DCCC. McMahon is a right wing Democrat and as you said, was even looking to get the Conservative endorsement.

If you want to learn more about Steve Harrison please visit his web site and then donate to him so we can elect a true Progressive that will fight for us NOT corporations and special interest groups. Steve's Act Blue page is

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

Staten Island is a conservative place and McMahon was right to seek the endorsement of the Conservative party. The Democratic party has made inroads in more conservative places the last couple of years with more conservative candidates like Bob Casey and Jim Webb. There's nothing wrong with that- the Dems should be an umbrella party. Not every Dem needs to agree on choice, death penalty, war, etc. Besides, I've met Harrison and he's a terrible candidate- why do you think the party didn't get behind him in 2006?

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who told you Harrison was quitting? There is no reason to hide the identity of a source who spreads false information.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger SharonRB said...

This story sounds so familiar, only in our case, the more progressive candidate, Nancy Skinner, actually did drop out. We need to do something to really keep the DCCC from getting involved in primary races -- comprehensive campaign finance reform is well overdue.

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At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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