Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wall Street Already Chose New Dem Jim Himes As The Next DCCC Chair... But Will Pelosi Ratify Their Choice?


Isn't it time for an actual progressive DCCC chair?

People are starting to care about who Pelosi selects as the next DCCC chair. Given her track record for picking DCCC chairs, she's the last person in the world who should have that task. But Rahm won so many seats, you say? He recruited a pack of anti-working class Blue Dogs, presided over a wave election, and almost all of his awful GOP-voting recruits were subsequently defeated or forced to resign before being defeated. Chris Van Hollen is at least not a Blue Dog or New Dem, but his chairmanship was catastrophic. And then Israel...

Wall Street is already telling her they want their boy, Jim Himes in the job. Wall Street gave him and another New Dem corporate whore, Joe Crowley, the most money of any House Democrats. They gave Crowley, who helped water down Dodd-Frank in committee, $1,158,168 and Himes, who consistently works as hard as any Republican on behalf of the banksters, $1,120,688. Who got more than them? Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ($1,321,625), Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan ($1,523,331), Republican Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling ($1,665,486)... a bipartisan celebratory extravaganza of the anti-family vision of our country. It belongs on the other side of the aisle, not on our side.

Robert Kuttner addressed the problem in a HuffPo piece today, The Cure for the Democrats Woes-- Goldman Sachs!
After the Democrats' drubbing in the 2014 midterm elections, there have been fervent debates about whether the Party should embrace an economic populism to tap pocketbook frustrations-- or move further to the center in the hopes of capturing more independents.

One thing the Democrats did throughout Obama's nearly six years was move closer to Wall Street-- from the economic team Obama appointed, to the administration's premature embrace of deficit reduction promoted by financial moguls, to a bailout plan that shored up the biggest banks rather than breaking them up.

It was this coziness with big finance that allowed the far-right Tea Party movement to paint Wall Street and Washington with the same brush-- and to capture much of the populist rage on display against Democrats in the 2010 midterms and once again on November 4.

So the last thing Democrats need going forward is an even closer affinity with Wall Street, right? Well, the Democrats may soon get even cozier.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is one of the critical pieces of Party leadership. The DCCC not only raises money for House candidates, but also recruits them, and decides which ones to favor. The DCCC chairman thus has substantial influence over whether the future House Democratic Caucus has a more progressive or a more pro-Wall Street cast.

With current DCCC Chair Steve Israel (D-NY) stepping down, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will shortly name a new chair. One of the people running hard for the job is Congressman Jim Himes of Greenwich, Connecticut-- hedge fund country. Rep. Himes' former job, before taking his seat in 2009, was Vice President of Goldman Sachs. Of all Democrats in the House, he is probably closest to Wall Street.

As a member of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, one of Himes' prime goals has been looking out for the interests of hedge funds, private equity companies and other shadowy parts of the financial system, as well as big banks. Himes is a prime sponsor of a bill, H.R. 1105, which would exempt hedge funds and private equity companies from key disclosure protection provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Himes also co-sponsored H.R. 992, whose key sections were drafted verbatim by Citigroup. The bill amends Dodd-Frank by allowing financial firms to speculate in swaps without losing eligibility for assistance from the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Himes, if selected, would be one hell of a face for the post-2014 Democratic Party.

A vice-chair of the House New Democrat caucus as well as finance chair (chief fundraiser) of the DCCC, Himes would be following in the unfortunate footsteps of former DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel. While head of the DCCC from 2005 to 2007, Emanuel went out of his way to recruit Wall Street-friendly Democratic House candidates, even putting a thumb on the scale in some primary fights.

Once Emanuel-approved Democrats were elected and Democrats took back the house in 2006, Emanuel made sure to enlarge the membership of the House Financial Services Committee-- to load it up with anti-regulation Democrats. This was thought to be a clever way for Democrats to raise scads of money from the financial industry. In the long struggle to enact Dodd-Frank, House Committee Chair Barney Frank had a hard time getting key reforms through his own committee because it was so stacked with Democratic allies of Wall Street.

In this respect, Emanuel was repeating a strategy pioneered by Rep. Tony Coelho of California, who chaired the DCCC from 1981 to 1987-- namely, trade support of a big business agenda for big campaign donations. The slide of the Democratic Party to the right on economic and financial issues has many sources, of course. But at a moment when ordinary voters doubt whether Democrats still speak for them, do we really need the DCCC to double down on a Wall Street strategy?

If you think Himes is the wrong guy, another contender is Rep. Jared Polis of Denver. A tech entrepreneur, Polis is the sixth richest member of the House, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Polis, who is openly gay, epitomizes the strategy of moving the Party left on cultural issues and center-right on financial and economic issues.

This strategy badly backfired in Colorado, where many analysts say it helped bring down incumbent Democratic senator Mark Udall. Polis was a co-sponsor of the "Race to the Top" education act promoting standardized school testing. Like other libertarian tech Democrats, Polis is a big defender of Bitcoin.

There is one clear progressive interested in the DCCC job-- Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince Georges County, Maryland. She would probably raise less money from Wall Street, but more from regular people, and Edwards would beat the bushes to recruit progressives to run for Congress.

House Democratic Leader Pelosi ascended the leadership ladder beginning in 2001, with the support of House progressives, narrowly defeating the centrist Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who had the backing of third-way types. Pelosi was a founding member of the House Progressive Caucus. She is hearing that Himes' appointment would please business Democrats and that Himes or Polis would raise a lot more cash-- but perhaps at further cost to the Party's soul and its broader electoral appeal.

Pelosi's decision will send a strong message about where the Democratic Party is heading-- and will also influence who Democrats send to the House in the future.
And speaking of Edwards, she's a tough cookie with an amazing voting record and a record of helping progressive candidates around the country. This morning she told me that "We are going to need to be smart about our singular goal of getting the House back and focussing resources on voter registration and voter engagement. Not just waiting until Labor Day 2016 to engage our base."

Alex Isenstadt tried making it into more of a horserace yesterday by throwing in some absurd names, totally inappropriate freshmen Joaquin Castro (TX) and Joe Kennedy (MA), two cautious centrists with biggish names who have done nothing to help elect fellow Democrats although neither had a competitive race himself. (Kennedy had no opponent at all; the GOP fielded a sacrificial lamb in Castro's D+6 district who won 24.34% of the vote in one of the lowest turn-out races anywhere. Only 87,000 people bothered voting. There was no enthusiasm anywhere in South Texas-- and Castro did nothing to combat that.) Remember, neither Castro nor Kennedy is a go-getter. Neither has done anything significant while in Congress, except for being a good-looking Hispanic and for being a Kennedy. Neither one knows anything about campaigning; neither one has ever had a difficult race. Neither one has had any significant contact with other Democratic Members. Yet they are both teacher’s pets, for no particular reason.

Even more random names Isenstadt threw out included Ben Ray Lujan, Lois Frankel, Chellie Pingree. Democrats who would do the job well, and aren’t being considered include Jan Schakowsky, Matt Cartwright, Alan Grayson, Mark Pocan-- the Democrat who has the single best voting record in Congress, got more votes than any other Democrat anywhere, and who raised the most money for his fellow Democrats among the freshman class-- Jackie Speier, John Larson, Mike Capuano, Keith Ellison, and Jerry Nadler. If Pelosi doesn't want to pick Donna Edwards, she should look at those names.

Below is how the 3 top candidates did in their own reelection efforts. Donna did the best of any Democrat in her state and she has the safest seat. Himes appears the most vulnerable and could easily be forced into a sleazy protection deal with the NRCC the way Steve Israel was.
Donna Edwards (D+26)- 126,633 (69.97%) to 51,721 (28.58%)
Jim Himes (D+5)- 106,690 (53.68%) to 92,080 (46.32%)
Jared Polis (D+8)- 191,733 (56.47%) to 147,779 (43.53%)
Wall Street has already made it's will known to Pelosi and the rest of the House Democratic leadership. They insist on Himes, clearly the second-coming of Steve Israel. Donna Edwards has asked Nancy Pelosi to consider her as well. She's been working diligently for Democratic candidates for the past 4 years. I remember when Steve Israel refused to assist Nate Shinagawa in 2012 and Donna went up to hi district anyway, gave him a check and worked the crowds with him. Nate's was one of the closest races of the cycle-- and had Donna been the DCCC chair instead of Israel, that seat would be in Democratic hands now. There's a Move.On petition to Pelosi you can sign here that makes the case for Donna.

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At 8:01 PM, Blogger Bruce Dixon said...

Let's not get it twisted by mistaking the purpose of DCCC chairs, as well as House and Senate majority and minority leaders in our federal and state legislative branches. These figures are chosen not to ensure that the PARTY wins, but to make sure that the corporations and wealthy individuals DONORS who bankroll the party's campaigns win.

The winners of these positions are not elected by their respective caucuses because they are "progressive" but because they are best suited to safeguarding the interests of donors, and can be trusted to redistribute the campaign cash donated to the party, or in to so-called "leadership funds" to fellow legislators and candidates who will also safeguard those interests. If you're a real "progressive" the DCCC chair will give national party money to the reactionary pro-war Democrat running against you in the primary. Same with the party leaders in state legislatures.

That's the job description of DCCC chair, and of house & senate majority & minority leaders. Their assignment, which they campaigned to accept, is to keep the "progressives" cowed or out of office, thus ensuring the Democratic party in the state or federal legislature serves corporate interests. Rahm Emanuel was actually a success because he kept pro-impeachment and antiwar Democrats from winning as many Democratic primaries as they might, and forced some of those who won their primaries against his opposition to spend money which would otherwise be available to help defeat Republicans in their districts.

Personally I was pretty disgusted when Rep. Edwards chucked single payer to shill briefly for the "public option" which she, a literal rocket scientist, knew full well was (A) untenable and doomed from the start, and (B) designed to melt away and leave Romneycare.... uhh oooops I mean Obamacare standing alone.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more time: is the DCCC chairperson Pelosi's choice exclusively, that is, without caucus "ratification"?

Himes is a former Goldman-Sachs VP?!?

That's ALL we need to know, isn't it !?!

The Dems, as a political party and as an electorate, along with their vile & corrupt leadership are a sorry satire of themselves.

John Puma


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