Sunday, July 09, 2017

How Do Candidates Afford To Run For Congress?


As you know, both the DCCC and the NRCC-- if anything, the DCCC is even worse than the Republicans on this-- look for rich candidates who don't have to worry about the financial repercussions of not working for 12-18 months during an election cycle. That might help explain why the majority of congressional seats are now held by members of the multimillionaire class-- often people with very different priorities and perspectives than those held by their middle and working class constituents. Union members and just plain regular folks are given short shrift by the congressional recruitment committees, these days-- part of what's gone wrong in the country. Usually, grassroots candidates can't afford to just take off from work for a year or so to campaign full time.

This year's model DCCC recruit is Gil Cisneros (who lives on millionaire row in Newport Coast in Dana's Rohrabacher's district but is running to represent a more middle class district-- CA-39-- further inland and currently represented by right-wing Republican Ed Royce). Cisneros basically has one thing going for him: he won the lottery-- BIG-- and knows how to grease the right palms. He's currently buying endorsements from corrupt elected officials-- watch who endorses him. The DCCC is selling him the nomination and giving up on defeating Royce, tragic because it is the Orange County district where Trump did worst last year. But Cisneros certainly doesn't have to worry about working... his $266 million lottery win guarantees that.

The history of the DCCC pushing values-rich progressives out of primaries to "clear the field" for just-plain-rich candidates-- often conservatives or even "ex"-Republicans-- has been an operative action item at the DCCC since Rahm Emanuel took over the committee in 2005. It's helped destroy the DCCC as a trusted or even an effective organization and it's helped destroy the Democratic Party brand. It continues, unabated, today. And not just in the case of the lottery winner from Newport Coast.

The DCCC has never backed Paul Clements' bid against hereditary plutocrat Fred Upton. Clements is "just" a professor, not a favorite profession among the members of the DCCC recruiting committee. This morning he told us that "For decades the economy has been tilting towards the 1%, and Congress is bought. We need campaign finance reform, then Medicare for All, free public university for working families, and a $1 trillion infrastructure program that puts Americans to work. We need to recover the soul of the nation and the Democratic Party-- for government that actually serves the people."

Randy Bryce, the Wisconsin iron worker and union activist running for the seat Paul Ryan holds, has become something of a spokesperson for working class leaders. He was very frank about the situation he faces in running for office in a highly competitive race. "Three weeks ago I was just a hacked off ironworker building America," he told us yesterday right after he went to Mark Pocan's "Where's Paul Ryan" town hall meeting in Racine. "Today I’m running for Congress against the ranking Republican in the House. I’m not exactly sure when I will be able to get back onto a construction site, but, it will probably be in the near future. I need hours to keep my insurance current. (After we get single payer it won’t be an issue for future candidates.) It is definitely going to be a sacrifice, not just financially, but with the amount of time I can spend with my son. Luckily our team is making sure that we schedule time together. Most of the members of Congress are millionaires and multi-millionaires. It’s easy for someone with that kind of financial means to do something like this. It’s not so easy for someone in my work boots. I’m doing this not just for my son’s future, but, for all of our children. It’s difficult for sure, but, it’s something that I feel compelled to do. It’s about 'doing the right thing.' In addition to making sure everyone has health care, I’m also looking forward to running as a working person in order to get other working people to join me. Who better to make decisions on our behalf than one of us? If your district needs good representation, please consider stepping up. We need more fighters. It’s not easy, but, nothing worthwhile ever really is easy. Let’s roll up them sleeves-- we have a lot of work to do!"

You remember Tim Canova, the selfless progressive who ran against Wasserman Schultz in South Florida last year-- and almost beat her! He's running again this cycle and told us that when he ran last time he was "teaching full time as a law professor, followed by an unpaid leave of absence. This entailed a huge personal sacrifice in terms of both time and money. Between full-time teaching and full-time campaigning, my time was severely limited and there was little time for personal needs or time with family or friends. The result was also a lot of sleep deprivation over a prolonged period of time. In addition, prior to becoming a candidate, I was saving up to buy a house. But instead of buying a home, I found myself spending from my personal savings, first about $15,000 to launch the campaign and then more of my savings to help pay my basic living expenses while on unpaid leave from my teaching job. In hindsight, I should have repaid the $15,000 as a loan to the campaign while we were raising nearly $3.8 million in small donations, but I never did. I was not really thinking about my own finances at a time when so many of us were putting such a supreme effort into the campaign. It will be much the same this time around. Already, I again put more of my personal savings into the start of this campaign. And I will again be teaching full time from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2018, followed again by an unpaid leave of absence."

Tom Guild is a dedicated Berniecrat running for an Oklahoma seat the DCCC doesn't even realize is vulnerable. The DCCC stopped thinking about winning in Oklahoma many years ago. In a way, Tom is lucky to not have them interfering with his campaign! This morning he told us that "it's unseemly that many working people can’t afford to run for public office, because they can’t support themselves and their families and also campaign for the 12-18 months required to be successful. I feel fortunate that I can rely on my savings to free up big chunks of time to knock doors, raise money, travel, participate in parades, and speak to groups throughout my district. Our average contribution is $25. It takes a lot of small and medium sized donations to compete with candidates who are financed by big corporations, wealthy individuals, the political ruling class, and PAC contributions. An enormous amount of time is needed to raise the money required to finance a congressional campaign. We need to seriously explore public financing of congressional campaigns to level the playing field and give hard working Americans a chance to represent our country in Washington. It is a difficult choice to choose between supporting yourself and the family you love and love for America and the desire to serve our country to pay it forward for all of the blessings our country bestows on us."

Hospital emergency room physician David Gill isn't a DCCC favorite either; they always recruit well-connected conservatives to run-- and they always flop badly. This year they intend to run some family friend of Durbin's Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a professional fund-raiser. "I believe," he told us today, "that the primary reason the DCCC impedes my election to Congress is my position on issues-- they do not care for my passionate support of single-payer health care, a $15/hour minimum wage, tuition-free public universities, and the cessation of most of our military activities around the globe. However, your point is also true: the DCCC has made it very clear that they would prefer that I stop working while I campaign for Congress. Their stance on this is completely incompatible with my life, and I think that it represents bad politics as well. My father died when he was 37 years old, so I did not grow up as a man of independent means. I started working when I was 13 years old, and I worked my way through college and medical school, and I continue to work hard as an emergency department physician and the father of six children. And I believe that voters appreciate my working background- I think that my life story is one of the reasons I lost in IL-13 in 2012 by only three-tenths of one point, while subsequent Democrats have lost the seat by nearly 20 points. I am fortunate that my work in the emergency department is shift work, and that I can make my own schedule, and cut back on the number of shifts that I work depending on the needs of my campaign. But I cannot afford to stop working altogether, and I would not choose to do so even if I could- my work allows me to interact with patients of all backgrounds, and I have no doubt that being in contact with 'real life' in this way also makes me a better candidate than I might otherwise be."

Katie Hill is running against a right-wing crackpot and rubber stamp in a district that takes in the northernmost part of L.A. County and the Simi Valley section of Ventura County. Her story, except for the details, is a familiar one: "As someone coming from a middle class background, I do not have the luxury of taking 12 to 18 months off from work to campaign and fundraise full time. I have to keep my full-time job as the Executive Director of a large nonprofit, which, fortunately, is incredibly flexible in terms of schedule, etc. That means, as a campaign, we have to be really creative and nimble. My finance director literally drives with me everywhere so we can do fundraising call time in the car on the commute to and from work or between meetings. Campaign events and meetings happen at odd hours whenever we can fit them in, so my whole team has to be willing to operate like that. Knowing we have a simple shortage of time, we just have to be more innovative and effective and work even harder than people running full time. Thankfully, I always worked while going to school (two jobs in high school, and full time for my undergraduate and master's degrees) so I'm used to burning the candle at both ends, but I'm not going to pretend it's easy.

"It is an unfortunate reality that money is so pervasive in politics that candidates from wealthy backgrounds have an enormous advantage. I feel like coming from a middle or working class background is really prohibitive to running for office, both in terms of being able to fundraise from your personal network (who just don't have the same giving capacity) as well as having to continue to work while you run. This creates an unfair system that greatly under-represents the people that government was designed to serve. I am lucky to be in a position that I can run, given my background, and I hope to be a voice for all of those who can't."

In her uphill battle for the North Carolina seat held by hateful GOP bigot Virginia Foxx, school teacher Jenny Marshall knew the day would come where a serious, underfunded grassroots campaign was going to mean she couldn't continue working. This weekend, she sent her supporters a message: "This week I resigned my job as a teacher to focus on this campaign full time." She knew she had to do it but she described it as "a bittersweet moment, leaving a great school and career in teaching that was as rewarding as it was challenging. I became a teacher to help those kids who fell through the cracks because I wanted to advocate for them, their education, and their future. So, it shouldn't be a shock to learn that I teach from a justice oriented perspective and believe when there are injustices you must stand up and fight back. You take it to the school board, to the city council, to the legislature, and to the streets if need be." She went on to explain what went into her decision:
Goal ThermometerIn 2011, while I was living in Indiana, the GOP decided to attack public education, something we are far too familiar with here in North Carolina, and, more specifically, the teachers' union. My fellow educators and I stood up to their assault and several of us created spaces where we could actively push back against their agenda and build solidarity. It was then that I started a Facebook page that grew to over 9,000 people and focused on policy and lobbying for public education. It became a go-to page for people who wanted their voice heard and also empowered people to take action while creating a cohesive team amongst workers who continued to come together and collectively fight for a better future.

We worked with labor unions and civic groups to create rallies, town halls, letter writing campaigns, and whatever was needed to effect change. We ended up thwarting some of the horrible things they were trying to pass with our grassroots efforts and by bringing working class people together to fight for what was in their interest.

Then, the very next year, they attacked organized labor turning Indiana into a right to work state. You bet I was there in the statehouse standing in solidarity with many others against this anti-union legislation which sought to divide working people and their families. We must be willing to stand up for each other in times of prosperity and need, especially when we witness grave injustices. We are all brothers and sisters in this fight against corporate greed and wealthy elitism, and in order to win we will need all of us.

Labor used to have a heavy influence in the Democratic Party and because of this, the party represented working people. Remember when we had the largest and most thriving middle class in the world? However, over the decades big business and the wealthiest of our country, who don't represent the interests of working people, have drown out our voices and we now have one of the smallest middle classes and largest income inequality gaps in the developed world.

We need people who know what it means to stand strong for labor, build solidarity, effect change and bring working families together. That is why I resigned to run for Congress. I resigned to stand up for justice and represent the working people and the most vulnerable of our communities, not the greedy interests of the 1%.

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At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yep. the grand canyon is deep and wide and you know you need to get to the other side very soon or it blows all to hell. But you don't want to try building a bridge or chartering a helicopter. You just keep tossing in handfuls of dirt thinking "just a few more and I'm there".

just a few more.

At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fine telling of the best justification for public campaign funding and very limited campaign seasons.

We're ruled by of and for the rich. And this is a big reason. You can't run if you aren't rich. There are very nearly no exceptions.

And Patty Murray ran/won and THEN corrupted herself. So sometimes it goes in THAT order.


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