Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Badly Are Steve Israel And Debbie Wasserman Schultz Screwing Up? Don't Ask!


Normally DWT comes down on corrupt political hacks DCCC chair Steve Israel (NY) and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) because they always push wealthy, Establishment conservatives over grassroots progressives and working class candidates. But if it wasn't so sad, I'd be laughing about how badly the two of them cocked up a district that was once widely considered the easiest red-to-blue get in the whole country, FL-25, currently held by a freshman wingnut drowning in ethics abuses and endless scandals, David Rivera, the one who beats up women. McCain won the district in 2008 (50-49%) but the Republican-controlled legislature showed what high regard in which they hold Rivera by redrawing his district so that Obama would have edged McCain instead. The new boundaries are better for a Democrat than our old pal Joe Garcia could have ever imagined when he decided to pass on challenging Rivera again. We'll come back to that in a minute.

I've been told by a very good source that the Fanjul brothers-- the big bucks behind the American sugar industry and major financial players for corrupt conservative politicians on both sides of the aisle-- count on Wasserman Schultz to guarantee the political viability of their Cuban right-wing Republican protégés in increasingly Democratic South Florida. As chairman of the DCCC's red-to-blue program, Wasserman Schultz did exactly that for her pals, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart in 2008, willfully wrecking the campaigns of their 3 Democratic opponents. That earned her a nice promotion to the head of the DNC, where she's doing an even worse job... for Democrats. Wasserman Schultz enforces a hard-line anti-Cuban position for the Fanjuls and makes sure that Cuban sugar can't be imported and they can keep the price of domestic sugar artificially high. They help her build her political power inside the Democratic Party in return.

I was shocked and appalled last year when the DCCC recruited an abysmal, notoriously lazy candidate for the seat, Luis Garcia, a former member of the Democrats For Jeb Bush steering committee, who not long ago threatened to switch parties and join the Republicans after he voted for one of the Florida GOP's crazed anti-Choice bills! I couldn't believe they were going to inflict this crap on us-- and in a district even clueless imbeciles like Israel and Wasserman Schultz realized was so, so ripe for the plucking.

So now they've managed to compound the damage by actually going around the back on the lame candidate they recruited a few months ago (Garcia) to find an even lamer candidate and probably the most likely Democrat in Miami Dade to guarantee that Rivera is reelected, former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas.

As usual, the Miami Herald is on top of the story, with all the nuances-- although this story is pretty straight forward and it's hard to believe that even someone as clueless as Wasserman Schultz, who vaguely runs the Florida show for DC Democrats, isn't getting it. Remember, knowing he was first and foremost a hard-liner on Cuba, Wasserman Schultz and Israel pestered Garcia to run against Rivera last year. He agreed. But he's lazy and the DCCC hasn't helped and he hasn't raised even close to the amount of money needed for the race. He blames-- publicly-- Wasserman Schultz, who has refused to help with the big donors.
“Every step of the way, I have met road blocks -- road blocks -- from Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” Garcia said.

The final insult came this week when Garcia fielded a call from former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, who is mulling a run for the seat.

“Alex said that he had been called by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and that Steve Israel had come down to meet with him, all behind my back,” Garcia said. “I placed a call to Steve Israel. He hasn’t returned my call. I’m not very happy about that.”

In a written statement, the congresswoman's spokesman Jonathan Beeton said: "The DCCC asked the Congresswoman to make a call to another candidate in South Florida. She does many calls to candidates for the DCCC and this was one of those calls."

Garcia acknowledges the high-level help for Penelas “doesn’t bode well. But it doesn’t say a lot of good things about the national party. At the very least, I was handled disrespectfully-- maybe a little bit dishonestly.”

Garcia isn’t planning to go away.

“I don’t lay down for anybody,” said Garcia, a former Miami Beach city commissioner nicknamed “El Bombero" for his time as fire chief. "I'm not going quietly."

Garcia pointed out that, under Penelas, Miami-Dade lobbyists and friends of the mayor got rich off airport contracts. Also, he knocked Penelas for supporting a half-cent sales tax for transit projects that didn’t do much to help transit projects.

“A lot of the problems in the county go back to Penelas. He had a large staff,” Garcia said. “A lot of his flunkies went to work in transportation, for instance, and look at the state of Dade’s transportation system.”

Rivera, by contrast, had only kind words for Penelas. "I've always considered Alex a friend.  He campaigned for me when I first got elected.  We've worked together on efforts for pre-k education and St. Thomas University.  And his wife is a wonderful person."

Garcia said things were so different last spring when Charlie Kelly, the DCCC’s southern political director, went so far as to try to call Garcia’s wife to get him to run. Garcia was then flown to Washington and said he met with Israel.

“You have to do this for your country,” Israel said, according to Garcia.

“What do we need to do in the Hispanic Caucus to get you to run for Congress?” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra in a separate meeting.

Said Garcia: “I was really made to feel wanted.”

“The promised help never really materialized. The first time I was supposed to meet with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She kept postponing and postponing for two days and I couldn’t meet with her at the end because I didn’t want to miss my flight,” Garcia said.

He said he raised about $100,000 by mid-summer-- without Wasserman Schultz’s help. But Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer helped steer about $12,000 to him.

When he went back to a party event in Washington, he said Wasserman Schultz was offensively blunt.

“Boy, you guys are pathetic. You didn’t raise enough money,” she said, according to Garcia.

“It was embarrassing. I don’t know why,” Garcia said. “I thought I had a good relationship with Debbie. I thought she would help me with fundraising in South Florida. But she never did.”

And now Penelas, best known for having been called "the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the campaign anywhere in America " by Al Gore in 2004, is getting cold feet about running. He's now an anti-Choice absolutist-- he was vaguely pro-Choice when he ran his disastrous Senate primary (in which he got 10%, losing both Miami-Dade and his own precinct-- which one would hope would alarm the phony-baloney head of the DNC. who makes believe this issue is paramount-- at least when she's talking about anti-Choice Republicans.

He's embarrassed that Florida Democrats are already scolding Israel and Wasserman Schultz for Penelas' horrific record on the environment. Miami-Dade environmentalists rank him right along with the worst of the GOP corporate shills and hate him for his "build anywhere" policies. As mayor he moved the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) line several times, allowing developers to encroach on the precious Everglades. Much to the dismay of Democrats and environmentalists, he attempted to convert the dormant Homestead Airforce base into a commercial development including an airport and it took President Clinton to finally shut him down.

A few days ago we wrote about another horrible fake-Democrat running, this one in Maryland, John Delaney who is best known as a Loan Shark. Maybe Steve Israel likes loan sharks. An exposé of a recent Republican mayoral candidate and his loan sharking business also revealed that Penelas has also engaged in the practice as well. Penelas's 52% interest loans were made public when he had to foreclose on an apartment building in Hialeah. The documents were made public during the foreclosure proceedings but have not been reported yet in any of the news media since Penelas is now a private citizen and not yet in the race. As soon as he jumps in, the 52% interest rate and his loan-sharking will become an issue.

Israel and Wasserman Schultz, almost seem determined to wreck the Democrats chance to win back the House. They ought to know that polling in 2004 showed that a majority of Miami Dade residents considered Penelas "corrupt" for creating a pay-to-play atmosphere in county hall where only well connected lobbyists prevailed. (Of course they probably don't see that as a real problem, just something that needs to be papered over.) Penelas is despised by rank and file Democrats for Gore, his positions on issues and the perception of corruption. Rivera is under federal and state investigation, has been unable to do any substantial fundraising ($92,833 cash on hand as of the beginning of January and $134,000 in debts). The district is better for Democrats but the party cannot win with an ethically and issue challenged candidate who is loathed by the base. Israel at least had the good sense to go to Joe Garcia before he settled on Luis Garcia-- but that was before the new boundaries were drawn. Wasserman Schultz has tried to torpedo Joe Garcia in the past-- not hard core anti-Cuba enough for her and the Franjuls-- but he's the obvious candidate with the best shot of winning the seat and turning it blue.

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At 9:02 AM, Blogger Dan Lynch said...

Great story on the behind-the-scenes politics, Howie.


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