Friday, April 16, 2010

Sending Democrats A Message: Draft Jonathan Tasini


You may have noticed that Blue America didn't jump on the Jonathan Tasini bandwagon. While Kirsten Gillibrand is no Jonathan Tasini, she is also no Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman or, more to the point, Harold Ford. When Blue America endorsed her in her first congressional run she never disclosed that she would join the Blue Dog Caucus. Since being appointed to the Senate she been somewhat better than she was as a Representative from a purple district. She has a lot of potential and the jury's still out. Tasini is another matter altogether. Were he to get into Congress-- the Senate, specifically-- he would be a game changer. He'd make it easier for the best members-- Jeff Merkley, Sheldon Whitehouse, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken to take significantly more progressive positions-- since none would ever catch up with him anyway... and he would surely provide the intellectual firepower and moral fortification for a progressive renaissance.

Likewise, he'd certainly be as key in the House, on a level with progressive giants like Barbara Lee, Tammy Baldwin, Donna Edwards, Alan Grayson, Jan Schakowsky, Dennis Kucinich, Raul Grijalva, and John Conyers. So, discouraged that New York State isn't going to elect him senator, I looked up to see what congressional district he lives in. Turns out, he lives not far from Ken up in northwest Manhattan, a part of town once represented by a friend of my grandfather's Socialist icon Vito Marcantonio and much later by the first Congressman I ever got to know and ever worked for, Bill Ryan, the first member of Congress to oppose the war against Vietnam. Seems fitting-- and fortuitous.

If the corporate paymasters who control access to the kind of finances someone needs to win in a state the size of New York have already decided the outcome of the Senate race, it would still be tragic to lose Tasini's voice and his unwavering willingness inability to not fight for progressive principles. Like Donna Edwards and like Marcy Winograd, Jonathan is a movement building progressive-- and he has been for a very long time. No one will ever need to twist his arm to make the right vote. He'll be doing the arm twisting, just the way Donna was doing during the fight for healthcare reform. He stood up to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2006 because like many of us he felt there had to be accountability for Democrats who voted for the Iraq War.

Many people know him as a labor leader and organizer who will never back down from challenging the dangerous sold-out shitheads-- the Robert Rubins of the world. And he has a wise view of foreign policy-- I see on his website he will not support another dime for the Afghanistan war and he is a passionate advocate for a two-state solution in the Middle East (you should read his personal story as a Jew whose father was born in Palestine and more...). And best of all-- he wants to take on Wall Street, the banks and the other corporate miscreants who have robbed Americans for the past 30 years. For real, not for the cameras. In fact it's more for that piece than for any other reason that I want to do something I've never done before-- I want to urge Jonathan to pack in his Senate aspirations for now and to take on one of the House's most corrupt members, his-- and Ken's-- own Congressman, Charlie Rangel.

What’s my beef with Rangel? It goes back long before his ethical transgressions-- including failing, ironically, while he was the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, to pay taxes on real estate investments (for which he soon may face federal charges). He has been a shill for corporate interests on trade, siding with the failed so-called “free trade” policies. In the district, he consistently sides with real estate powerbrokers over the community (ask the community activists who tried to keep their homes when Columbia University, a huge real estate owner, wanted to expand... Rangel sided with the university at the expense of the people).

And another point: Rangel’s ethics charges are going to appear in every Republican commercial around the country. Do we really need any more drags on Democrats?

Jonathan can win this seat. It’s very diverse-- white, black and Latino (mostly Dominican). The district had the biggest percentage of white gain of any in the entire U.S. (up 5.7% since 2000 to 22% of the population, just slightly smaller than the African American population, Hispanics being the biggest ethnic group by far). Jonathan has lived in the 15th CD for many years. Right now the press is talking up a huge primary battle pitting Rangel against Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, as well as other contenders. The battle is well-suited for a squeaky clean tribune of ordinary working families like Tasini to win.
Mr. Rangel has been admonished by the House ethics committee for accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean and is under investigation regarding accusations that he failed to pay federal taxes on rental income from a home he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of several rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.

Sounding out a potential campaign theme, Mr. Powell cast Mr. Rangel as an outdated creature of clubhouse politics and said he would answer to all of Harlem’s voters, rather than the Democratic party elite. “I am a man of the people,” he said.

But promoting himself as Mr. Rangel’s foil-- a political outsider with a squeaky-clean record-- could prove tricky for Mr. Powell. He is the son of a former Harlem congressman and has had several high-profile brushes with law enforcement, including an arrest two years ago on a charge of drunken driving, of which he was [partially] acquitted.

Powell is even better known for molesting female interns. The others in the race include banker Vince Morgan, a former Rangel staffer; Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell; and sterling progressive state Senator Bill Perkins. I doubt Perkins will run but if he does, it would be hard to imagine that Tasini would jump in too. Politically the two men are very similar. If Perkins doesn't get in, we should start a Draft Tasini drive.

UPDATE: Tasini Has A Good Suggestion For Gillibrand She Ought To Listen To

You've probably reda by now the earth-shaking news that the SEC has finaly gotten around to charging Goldman Sachs with fraud. Better late than never. Here's the complaint. Jonathan Tasini, who's been talking about this long before it's become apparent that these crooks need to be punished, just called on Kirsten Gillibrand-- though this should apply to all candidates to office-- to give back the "contributions" they've been using to buy fealty from both Republicans and Democrats.
Today, with the Securities Exchange Commission’s decision to charge Goldman Sachs with securities fraud, I am calling on my opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand, to give back the $23,800 that she has received so far from Goldman Sachs contributors. According to, my opponent is the number one Senate candidate recipient of Goldman Sachs cash in the country.

As I said in January, when I first called on her to give back all the corrupting cash she is pocketing from Wall Street, banks and financial services, my opponent continues to pocket huge amounts of corporate-influenced cash, particularly from the elite bankers and financial manipulators who engineered the collapse of our economy, robbing Americans of their jobs, savings and retirement.

By her actions, not words, my opponent stands side-by-side by the very corrupt interests who have hurt our country.
It is not a surprise that my opponent has refused to support the modest bank tax proposed by President Obama. She is in the pocket of Wall Street-- and her bank account shows it.

Since 1990 Goldman Sachs has doled out $31,612,375 in thinly veiled bribes to federal politicians. So far this year the renegade company has given out $693,675 to people running for Congress. The Senate candidates who have taken the most from Goldman Sachs this year, and who should all return the obvious bribes from these dangerous and serious criminals:

Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $34,600
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)- $23,800
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $22,600
Mark Kirk (R-IL)- $21,600

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