Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Worst Birthday Present I Got-- A Stinking Blue Dog Moves Into My District


Yesterday was my birthday and the "present" I'm referring to didn't come wrapped with a bow. It was delivered orally by a friend when I was out for my hike in the morning. I wasn't quite sure where the district lines left my house. I live up in Griffith Park in Los Feliz and all the congressmembers around always covet the area because it's filled with Democrats who donate a lot of money to campaigns. It's been part of the 33rd CD, a minority-white district, that Karen Bass represents. It gave President Obama 87% of its votes in 2008, more than any other district in California other than Barbara Lee's Oakland district (88%). My friend who I met while I was hiking told me it's now part of the new 28th CD, also safely Democratic, of course. It went for Obama with 70% and the district is 55% white. The bad news, though, is that the "incumbent" is Los Angeles' only Blue Dog, Adam Schiff.

In 2000 Adam Schiff was a state senator who decided to take on Clinton impeachment manager Jim Rogan, a far right extremist in a rapidly changing district-- rapidly changing from white and Republican to diverse and Democratic. I was president of Reprise Records at the time and I threw myself into trying to help Schiff raise money from the entertainment industry. I maxed out to his campaign personally and, it being a pre-Act Blue era, called everyone I knew and begged them to contribute to Schiff's campaign. I raised well over six-figures for him from friends and colleagues.

And he defeated Rogan. It was a glorious moment. California delivered for Democrats that year and almost allowed them to take back the House. Susan Davis defeated Brian Bilbray down in San Diego. Jane Harman beat Republican Steven Kuykendall in L.A.'s South Bay. In a primary progressive Hilda Solis beat Republican-lite conservative Dem Matthew Martinez and went on to win the general election with 80% of the vote, taking a dependable "bipartisan" vote away from the GOP. Mike Honda won the Bay Area seat abandoned by Republican Tom Campbell in his pointless bid for the Senate. And the Rogan loss to Schiff (52.7%- 43.9%) was the sweetest of all, primarily because of Rogan's role as a principle Clinton tormentor and because Rogan was so outrageously far to the right in all things and so out of step with Los Angeles area political thought.

I was naïve enough to think that because Schiff was a sweet-talking Democrat, he was also a progressive and shared my progressive values and ideals. I should have done my homework before I took out my checkbook and rolodex. Schiff immediately joined the reactionary, Republican-lite, Blue Dog caucus. Worse, he became a craven and avid supporter of Bush's war policies and backed his desire to invade Iraq on the flimsiest of pretexts. More recently, Schiff has been one of the most aggressive supporters of SOPA in the entire Congress, a reflection of the huge amount of money he still gets from the entertainment industry. (Yes, I partly blame myself.)

Schiff has inserted himself into the DCCC as another Blue Dog pushing the caucus to the right. His own Leadership PAC, United For A Strong America, raised 67,250 in the 2010 cycle and donated less than half the money to other candidates, mostly to some of Congress' most reactionary Democrats, almost all of whom lost their seats-- John Adler (NJ), Allen Boyd (FL), Betsy Markey (CO), Jim Marshall (GA), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Ike Skelton (MO), Charlie Wilson (OH), etc.

Since entering Congress, Schiff has voted with the Republicans against progressives something like 20% of the time-- one vote in 5, similar to that of other California Blue Dogs, Loretta Sanchez (who's slightly better than him) and Mike Thompson (who's fractionally worse). But for a Member in such a strongly blue district, Schiff is a disgrace and one can only assume he votes with the conservatives so often, not for political expediency, but because he is a conservative. In my district. He hasn't had a serious challenge since he beat Rogan. He has 4 or 5 opponents but none of them have any money and... I'm not optimistic that this is going to be the year we'll be able to add Adam Schiff to the pile of politically-extinct Blue Dogs. Maybe next year. I did talk to one candidate, though, an engineer from the Jet Propulsion Lab named Jonathan Kalbfeld (JRK). At least I'll have someone to vote for... and he sees the possibility that it will probably take more than one try to unseat Schiff.

One thing I have learned from my experience with Schiff is to thoroughly find out exactly who a candidate is-- not just which party they belong to. It's helped me put together the Blue America PAC, where our candidates aren't just Democrats, but progressives with a sense of integrity and whose vision goes beyond the narrow self-serving careerism of corrupt corporate hacks like Schiff.

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At 2:07 PM, Blogger James Salsman said...

Why not a primary challenge?!?

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm a co-leader of Occupy Democracy - Pasadena. We have done several actions in our community to raise awareness and support for a constitutional amendment to overturn "Citizens United".




Our congressman called us to get a meeting on the subject. We had a meeting with him 2-13 but were unable to convince him to co-sign HJR 90. His principle reason for not doing so is that "it's a slippery slope once you do a constitutional amendment, opening the doors for many other such amendments". We don't buy it.

If anybody on this blog has any suggestions on how we can overcome this and effectively push this issue to both get Congressman Schiff onboard AND create even more community awareness on this issue, please let me know.

We realize that he's a Blue Dog but surely there are some ways which we haven't yet thought of by which we can put significant political pressure on him to do the right thing.

Patrick Briggs,
Occupy Democracy - Pasadena

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous billl4 said...

So, you're the one responsible for Schiff. At least you've learned your lesson. ;o)) I think we've all learned a lot since that 2000 election.


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