Friday, February 05, 2010

The party of Richard Shelby, Mitch McConnell, and "Susie Q" Collins has moved a long way from the party of Warren Rudman


"[T]he Republican tradition of campaign finance reform in which I stand dates to the trust-buster, Theodore Roosevelt. In his 1905 message to Congress, President Roosevelt proposed that 'contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.' His logic was straightforward enough: 'If [legislators] are extorted by any kind of pressure or promise, express or implied, direct or indirect, in the way of favor or immunity, then the giving or receiving becomes not only improper but criminal.'"
-- former NH Sen. Warren Rudman, in a WaPo op-ed today,

by Ken

We'll come back to Warren Rudman. While every day is a bad day for Republicans Behaving Shamelessly, today a bit of the doody has been hitting the fan.

Since Howie's report earlier today (in his post "Is There Something That Can Be Done About Ritual Obstructionism In The Senate?") about TPM's revelation last night that AL Sen. Richard Shelby put a "blanket hold" on at least 70 Obama appointments facing confirmation in the Senate (TPM has an update today), there was rather a bit of an uproar today, which led finally to confirmation of sorts from the senator's office.

In his WaPo "Federal Eye" column Ed O'Keefe quotes Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo saying that his boss "has placed holds on 'several pending nominees.'" O'Keefe adds: "The office of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Shelby's holds applied to more than 70 nominees; Shelby's office did not immediately specify the number. Is it a physical thing, do you think, that a Republican can't get through a sentence without lying?

And of course, like all Republican mouthpieces, this Graffeo fellow is an expert on terrorism:
"If this administration were as worried about hunting down terrorists as it is about the confirmation of low-level political nominations, America would be a safer place," Graffeo said, adding that Shelby has made the White House aware of his concerns "and is willing to discuss them at any time."

After all, these folks devoted every available second of the eight years of the Bush regime and every bit of energy in their frail carcasses to: (a) terrorizing the American people into political lockstep, and (b) doing everything in their fearsome power to swell the ranks of international terrorists and make the U.S. both as hateful and as vulnerable as they could possibly manage, while seizing the opportunity to incorportate as much of their fascist agenda into American daily life, just to make sure that in the end there's as little as possible in America to be worth saving. (It's not for nothing that American wingnuts boast of being "Hitler's children.")

Note that Senator Shelby "is willing to discuss" his extortion schemes, rather than doing his damned job. Of course, as our friends at Think Progress reminded us today:
Unsurprisingly, Shelby had quite a very different attitude when a Republican sat in the White House. In early ’05 — shortly after winning his fourth term to the Senate — Shelby complained, “Far too many of the President’s nominees were never afforded an up or down vote, because several Democrats chose to block the process for political gain.” He added, “Inaction on these nominees is a disservice to the American people.”

In Feb. 2005, Shelby specifically promised his constituents in Tuscaloosa that he’d do “whatever it takes” to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees, including killing the filibuster:
Shelby also pledged to do “whatever it takes” to confirm Bush’s judicial nominees. A vast majority of Bush’s appointees were confirmed in his first term, but a few controversial ones were filibustered by Democrats in the Senate.

At the time, Shelby indicated a willingness to support Senate rules changes to force that famous "up or down vote" he believed in so fervently if Democrats continued to filibuster. When so-called Senate "moderates" forged their compromise to avert the "nuclear option" threatened by then-Senate Majority Leader Doctorbill Frist, Senator Shelby wrote on his website:
I do not think that any of us want to operate in an environment where federal judicial nominees must receive 60 votes in order to be confirmed. To that end I firmly support changing the Senate rules to require that a simple majority be necessary to confirm all judicial nominees, thus ending the continuous filibuster of them.

So what is Senator Shelby's problem? The principle one is a demand that the federal government rig the rebidding of an Air Force contract for planes refueling to tankers so that it favors the bid of Airbus over that of Boeing. I think we can assume that there has been massive corruption on both sides in both rounds of bidding, but the key for Senator Shelby is that, while a contract for Boeing would generate vastly more American jobs, the American jobs held out by Airbus would be in Alabama. This is important for him, because in addition to justifying the bribes he stuffs in his oversize pockets, he has to wangle occasional pork for the folks back home, so that (a) he has patronage to distribute, and (b) he can fool his gullible constituents into thinking he's "bringing home the bacon" rather than selling out their interests at every opportunity to his megacorporate paymasters.

Marcy Wheeler has a great post today on this subject: "Shelby Tries to Shut Down US Senate to Benefit Foreign Company." Now I've heard from someone whose information I trust that the Airbus package is actually much superior to the Boeing one, and I'll admit that this may be the case, but I'd be surprised if Senator Shelby has any inkling of that.

Of course the Airbus jobs in Alabama would be non-union ones. That's important to God-fearing people who understand that labor unions are the work of Satan. Only Satan -- and his minions, libruls -- could believe that workers should have any leverage to help them secure decent wages and working conditions. God, that omnipotent hater of all workers, intended a system where workers are forced to accept their status as wage slaves of plantation masters who are subject to no kind of control whatsoever, unless you count the eternal hellfire their God has in store for them when they cross over.

Eventually even the White House got into the act, with a wishy-woshy statement from Dan Pfeiffer on the White House Blog ("Another Day, Another Disappointing Political Ploy Obstructing Progress"), which seemed more sorrowful than angry, waggling a schoolmarmish finger but, astonishingly, not waggling it at anyone. As a colleague pointed out, the one word that never appeared was "Republican."

It's important to bear in mind that A key point in Howie's report was the reminder that the Republican program of obstruction has been, with only occasional exceptions, unanimous, and whatever whitewashing the Infotainment News Media may wish to perform, there are no Senate Republican moderates, and that means the biggest liars in that august body, the Maine girls, Olympia Snowe and Susie Q Collins. Maine voters love their girls, especially the more established and credible Olympia; it was probably our Miss Susie's "me too" attachment to her colleague that protected her from the reelection challenge of former Rep. Tom Allen last year, who was about 17 million times fitter for office. Apparently Maine voters didn't care that every word out of the mouth of their Susie was lying bullshit, that what she really wanted them to send her back to Washington for was so she could be a lockstep stooge of the most evil, corrupt, America-hating vermin in the Senate. In this regard, of course, her constitutents were right about there not being a dime's worth of difference between Miss Susie and Mount Olympia.

So when a pundit or pol says that "all it takes is 41 votes" to shut down the Senate, remember that the Maine girls can be counted on as reliably as the core Republican constituency in the Old Confederacy. They're an indispensable part and parcel of the Republican Campaign Against America, designed to reduce the country to such a shitpile that the thugs and goons who did the most to put us in this mess during their years of unchecked control of all three branches of the federal government will be summoned back to power.

There's a lot more to be said, but I'm tired, and you're tired, and I'm fed up and I'll bet you are too, and I did want to get back to Warren Rudman. I can't say I had much use for him while he was in the Senate, when he tended to blur with the standard-issue conservative slugs New Hampshire voters were electing, sludge like Norris Cotton and Meldrim Thomson and John Sununu (the first, that is), and God help us Bob Smith. (I shudder just at the mention of his name.) But after Rudman chose not to run for reelection in 1992, paving the way for the election to the Senate of that useless biped Judd Gregg, his occasional returns to public service -- not least giving us Supreme Court Justice David Souter -- evidenced a genuinely thoughtful and principled guy.

His WaPo op-ed today focuses on the issue of campaign spending and finance reform. He comes out with guns blazing, insisting, as we saw at the top of this post, that finance reform has always been a Republican issue. I think Senator Rudman would agree that his remarks apply to a host of other issues on which Republicans once had principled positions.

Republicans losing their way on campaign finance reform

By Warren Rudman
Friday, February 5, 2010; A17

When I arrived in the U.S. Senate 30 years ago, I was a proud member of a Republican Party known for championing moderation in Congress, restraint in the courts and good-government reform.

In fact, the Republican tradition of campaign finance reform in which I stand dates to the trust-buster, Theodore Roosevelt. In his 1905 message to Congress, President Roosevelt proposed that "contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law." His logic was straightforward enough: "If [legislators] are extorted by any kind of pressure or promise, express or implied, direct or indirect, in the way of favor or immunity, then the giving or receiving becomes not only improper but criminal."

The resulting Tillman Act of 1907 and Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1910 were the first laws limiting corporate money in federal elections and requiring strict disclosure of campaign funds. With the rise of organized labor in the 1930s, Republican Sen. Robert Taft and Republican Rep. Fred Hartley extended the ban on corporate contributions to unions. Those laws were dealt a serious blow by last month's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That such a rash and immoderate ruling could come from a chief justice once committed to respecting precedent, and win praise from leaders of my party, is beyond my comprehension.

It was congressional Republicans who led the 1971 effort to strengthen existing campaign finance law through the Federal Election Campaign Act. After the Watergate campaign finance scandal, Republicans in Congress joined with Democrats to pass far-reaching amendments to the 1971 law, limiting contributions and campaign spending and establishing a system of public financing for presidential campaigns.

In more recent years, my friend and former Senate colleague John McCain (R-Ariz.) took up the cause of reform with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), leading a decade-long effort to stem the flow of unregulated "soft money" from special-interest groups to political parties and to curb spending by outside interests.

That history of Republican leadership on campaign finance reform should remind Republicans in Congress today that it is not in our true nature to side with the moneyed interests against the interests of the American people. The Supreme Court has taken that stand.

It's time to return to our roots and take up Teddy Roosevelt's challenge from over a century ago by enacting the only real and lasting solution I know: citizen-funded elections. Under the proposed Fair Elections Now Act, sponsored by more than 130 members of Congress, money from special interests would be replaced by small donations from constituents and matching federal funds. Matching funds, raised through a fee on large-scale government contracts, would go to serious, hardworking candidates who demonstrate a broad base of public support and who say no to large donations.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress must work together to expand political speech for all citizens by replacing special-interest money in politics with small donations and public matching funds. Supreme Court opinion notwithstanding, corporations are not defined as people under the Constitution, and free speech can hardly be called free when only the rich are heard.

No, Senator Snowe, and no, Senator Susie, you can't claim the mantle of Senator Rudman. You're with Shelby and Miss Mitch. Sorry, but it was your choice.

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At 10:19 PM, Anonymous me said...

Warren Rudman is a representative of the old style of republican, which was merely bad.

The current style is outrageously horrible. They would consider Rudman a communist.

At 2:00 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

I think that's reasonably put, me!



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