Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes State Senator Jim Wilson (D-OK)

A labor union president once told me that the worst Democrat in Congress, at least from the point of view of ordinary working families, is Oklahoma reactionary Dan Boren. I've never been able to find anyone to persuade me that he was wrong. The video above should explain that pretty well.

Today Blue America is very proud to present the courageous populist who's decided Boren doesn't deserve a free ride from Oklahoma Democrats. State Senator Jim Wilson, long considered Oklahoma's most pro-family state legislator, made up his mind after Boren voted in favor of the anti-Choice Stupak amendment and then against the overall healthcare reform bill-- twice. Healthcare reform has been one of Jim's signature issues as a state Rep and state Senator. He'll be joining is for a free-ranging discussion below in the comments section.

Jim, whose political career has been dedicated to the most needy in his community and who has fought a long and unrelenting battle on behalf of public education, the environment and health care reform, decided to take the plunge into national politics when his congressman, Dan Boren, once again joined the Republican Party in trying to derail healthcare reform.

"I've been working on healthcare in the state legislature for 10 years," Jim told me. "Oklahoma ranks 50th in overall delivery of healthcare statewide... Health care costs are escalating at the compound rate of 6.7% per year. This year's increase for every man, woman and child, directly or indirectly, is $428. That represents income that can't be used elsewhere in the economy which removes, to some extent, discretionary spending which in turn hurts other business or quality of life segments."

There doesn't seem to be a resulting justification for the increased expenditures. One-third of health care spending doesn't seem to help or prevent sickness. If in Oklahoma we were to return the waste in health care to the people, the savings would be equivalent to all the state taxes paid by individuals and businesses. In Oklahoma we have in statute a floor of 60% for a medical loss ratio. The new federal reform legislation will require a medical loss ratio of not less than 85% for big groups and not less than 80% for small groups. The savings in Oklahoma will be at least $210 million.

Just automating health records in Oklahoma would save $800 million and 750 lives annually. Nationally we have one medical error per patient day and have an 80% error rate on provider billing. Cleveland clinic has to have 1,400 clerks to support 2,000 doctors-- and it's more cost effective than any other major provider with the possible exception of Mayo and the VA.

To improve quality of life for our citizens we should strive to improve disposable income. If we are resistant to increased pay or if increases in pay are mitigated by rising health care costs, we owe it to the citizens to make the health care system more efficient which will produce better health outcomes at less cost.

Jim, a former combat marine in Vietnam, who walked away with the valuable lessons of that tragic conflict, would be another voice of reason in Congress regarding Afghanistan. His astonishingly progressive record in Oklahoma shows what kind of a Member of Congress he would be. We can be absolutely certain we'd be trading in the worst Democrat for someone who will be giving Members like Alan Grayson and Raul Grijalva a run for their money! After Boren crossed the aisle again to support Boehner, Wall Street and the GOP in their jihad against regulating the money-changers in the temple, Jim issued a simple and direct statement that shows the contrast between the two of them:

“While driving around Eastern Oklahoma in my pickup truck, I have met thousands of people whose lives were ruined by the crash just two years ago. How can Dan Boren forget about those people and vote for his donors instead? It's a shame that he’s been in Washington so long he’s forgotten about the people in Eastern Oklahoma... This is common sense legislation. I have not met a single person on the campaign trail begging me to be compassionate to Wall Street. Dan Boren needs to spend less time in Washington with his Wall Street lobbyist friends and more time in Eastern Oklahoma."

The last two mangy Blue Dogs we're trying to dislodge in this cycle are John Barrow-- who faces off against Regina Thomas on July 20-- and then Boren, who will be facing Jim on July 27. If you can, please consider donating to his campaign so that Jim can continue getting out his message to Oklahoma Democrats. By the way, that labor union president I referred to above? Nowhere to be seen on this race-- or in Regina's. I guess we should be happy his union isn't endorsing their Blue Dog opponents this time.



Enter the Blue America Contest to fight against the new Blue Dog Think Tank

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Who Let the Blue Dogs Out? (Woof!) It was Rahm Emanuel, as everyone knows. Well, the Blue Dogs have now joined with K Street lobbyists to set up a shop that promotes their half-witted ideas.

Howie Klein writes:

Blue Dogs are often most reviled for crossing the aisle and voting with Republicans on key issues like healthcare reform and financial reform. Last November, when 39 Democrats voted against healthcare reform, for example, 25 were Blue Dogs. And when the reconciliation changes came to the House March 25, and 32 Democrats voted with the GOP, 25 were Blue Dogs.

Next week it will be one year since the House passed a hate crimes prevention bill that included the LGBT community. Seventeen Democrats crossed the aisle of bigotry and voted with the Republicans.

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...yesterday six of the most notoriously corrupt K Street lobbyists, including conservative ex-congressmen Bud Cramer (AL) and Charlie Stenholm (TX), formed a new corporately oriented anti-family organization called the Blue Dog Research Forum. Their goal will be to continue pressuring the Democratic caucus to move farther and farther right and to give up on ordinary working families and accept GOP and Big Business guidelines when formulating legislation.

In a letter to Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), who co-chairs the Blue Dog Coalition, Cramer and Stenholm wrote that they were establishing the organization to “ensure there will always be a forum in Washington to mark that middle ground when it comes to issues affecting the country’s fiscal health.”

The group’s goal is to be an incubator for policy ideas affecting the economy, such as energy, health care, tax policy, national defense and entitlements.

The research forum takes its name from the 54 fiscally conservative Democratic Members who have emerged as a powerful voting bloc on major legislation, but no current lawmaker has been involved in setting it up, according to Cramer, an original Blue Dog and president of the new research forum.

“They actually legally cannot dictate control or dominate what happens here,” Cramer said. “We can involve them. We can involve any Member in the policy forums we will carry forward, and we hope to be able to do that.”

However, as the lobbyists quietly set up the organization over the past several months, they have kept Blue Dog leadership generally informed. And Cramer, who now lobbies at Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, said the Members have been supportive so far.

Blue America set up an ActBlue page a while ago called BadDogs, which is there to support progressive primary challengers against Blue Dogs. And now we're running a contest for anyone who donates to the BadDogs page.

Digby explains:

Blue America has a fundraising campaign devoted to ousting these Bad Dogs and Howie has made an offer you can't refuse:

Today, in honor of the attempt by some of the shadiest lobbyists on K Street starting a new Blue Dog think tank to push the Democratic House caucus even further right and to divorce it entirely from the interests of ordinary working families, Blue America is going to give away a genuine RIAA-certified double platinum record award for "Who Let The Dogs Out?"

The award, which of course, can't be purchased, was given to a Baha Men supporter who gifted it to the Blue America PAC to be used to help raise funds to rid America of the scourge of corporate-oriented conservatism inside the Democratic Party. "We already have a Republican Party for that," explained a Blue America spokesperson. "Shouldn't the Democratic Party represent regular working families who don't hire lobbyists and spend millions of dollars to shape legislation to rip the rest of us off?"

Blue America answers, double yes on that rhetorical question and is offering the double platinum award today. Actually tomorrow morning there will be a drawing among all donors to the Blue America Bad Dogs page on ActBlue. To qualify all you have to donate is $1.00 at this website

The contributions can go directly to progressive candidates Regina Thomas, Marcy Winograd or Doug Tudor, all fighting reactionary Blue Dogs-- respectively John Barrow, Jane Harman and Lori Edwards-- with strong ties to unsavory corporate lobbyists. Or the donations can go into the Blue America PAC where it will be used in efforts to defeat Blue Dogs in primary elections.

You can join the drawing here.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of Blue Dog Democrats standing in the way of real progress and supporting the GOP and Big Business over working-class families in America by lying and calling their bloc "centrists". Nonsense. They are conservatives. And as you would imagine, the southern Blue Dogs are the very worst. Please join in the contest.



Blanche Lincoln's a lying liar: ads, attacks on Bill Halter based on blatant deceptions

Media error

(Audio via The Nation)

You can donate to Bill Halter's campaign on our Send The Democrats a Message page.

Blanche Lincoln must be real desperate at this point, and this article by John Brummett in Arkansas proves Blue America was right on the mark by taking her on when most people never heard of her back in 2009.

On the day that Lt. Gov. Bill Halter formally accepted the draft of national left-wing activists and announced he would run in the Democratic primary against U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a person close to Lincoln told me Blanche was going to get tough.

There is a difference, though, between getting tough and getting bogus.

Lincoln’s first salvo was dishonest. The second was a smear...read on

Brummett rips her badly, but accurately. The Nation then catches her lying in radio ads to the African American voters in her district on health care. She has the audacity to say that she stood tall on health care.

Describing Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln's position on healthcare reform as a flip-flop doesn't do justice to her political flexibility. During a year of contentious debate on President Obama's signature domestic priority, she's been all over the map.

In July 2009, she offered her support for Obama's healthcare plan and his inclusion of a public insurance option. "Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans," she wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."

Yet two months later, after the public option came under fire from insurance companies and Tea Partiers, Lincoln changed her tune. "I would not support a solely government-funded public option," she said on September 1 in Little Rock. "We can't afford that." She vowed to filibuster any healthcare bill that included the public option she once supported, even though 56 percent of Arkansans backed the provision.

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Now, in an attempt to court the Obama voters she's repelled throughout the past year, Lincoln is running ads on African-American radio in Arkansas claiming she "stood with our president to pass healthcare reform." The ad continues: "Even though the Tea Party and insurance companies attacked Blanche Lincoln, she never abandoned our president, nor you." Listen to the ads below.

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"Who is Blanche Lincoln trying to fool on healthcare?" says the narrator. "Here's the deal: she didn't stand up to the special interests, she worked for them. She sided with those Republicans who tried to kill President Obama's reforms unless insurance company profits were protected. Insurance companies and HMOs rewarded Lincoln with more the $800,000 in campaign cash...Senator Lincoln, my people aren't fooled. Bill Halter is the one who'll stand up for us." In addition to the healthcare ads, Lincoln has been touting her "A" rating from the NAACP, which the organization's Arkansas chapter takes issue with. "If I had to grade her even on health care reform she definitely wouldn't get an A," said Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas NAACP. "She'd maybe get a C minus.

Digby writes:

She deserves absolutely no support from her African American constituents. She voted for the Senate bill only after extreme coercion and we'll never know if she would have voted for the final conference bill. She didn't vote for the reconciliation fix, so I'm thinking probably not. In any case, she was an enemy of the kind of health care reform that her Democratic constituents preferred and made it more difficult to pass anything at all every step of the way.

She certainly does have chutzpah, though, in trying to send this message under the radar. I suppose she thinks that her Republican rivals won't use it against her because it's playing on black radio stations. Good luck with that.



End of the Quarter for Connie Saltonstall

Connie Saltonstall wrote a post over at Howie's place telling us why Bart Stupak should be ousted from Congress. Yes, he voted for health care in the end, but not before dragging woman's right through the mud with the help of the Catholic Bishops.

Mr. Stupak’s dogmatic insistence on inserting his own religious views into the legislative debate and threatening to deprive his constituents of needed healthcare reform eroded people’s trust in him. Throughout the debate there was the sense that our Congressman let us down and that sense has not disappeared with the change in his vote. For me and so many of his constituents, he crossed the line with his grandstanding.

Digby writes:

Howie Klein notes that today is the day you receive all those desperate emails for end-of-the-quarter donations from the Democratic party committees --- and that the money will almost certainly be spent on preserving the seats of Blue Dogs who vote against everything you care about. It's more than a little bit frustrating.

But there's something you can do about it. You can Send the Democrats A Message They Can Understand.

As I wrote yesterday, Stupak got punk'd by the lobbyist for the Catholic Bishops --- a Republican ally to such a degree that they were willing to deny millions of the working poor access to health care in order to help the GOPs cynical obstructionist agenda. Stupak was either too stupid to see it or too cynical himself to care. Either way, his behavior should not be rewarded.

Please feel free to donate any sum you can to Connie's campaign. She's showed real courage to try and take on a anti-choice incumbent Dem like Stupak. Good for her.



Blue America Welcomes Our Old Friend Regina Thomas (GA-12)

History will remember this week as the one in which a tremendous stride was made down the road towards universal healthcare. But reactionary Georgia Blue Dog, John Barrow, was on the wrong side of history. A stranger to his own district and out of touch with its people, he voted twice in committee and 4 times on the floor of the House against healthcare reform. He voted against the bill last Sunday, causing an explosion of anger among Democrats back home. And then he arrogantly voted against the Senate reconciliation on Thursday evening, one of only 32 conservative Democrats to cross the aisle and voted with the GOP. But voting with the GOP is his default position on most everything. Does that make sense?

Barrow was driven out of his own Athens-based district when it was gerrymandered to make a home for another Republican. He fled to Savannah, which has a strong Democratic base-- a base he has studiously ignored while courting the wealthy (Republican) power structure. Although GA-12 leans Democratic-- Gore won there with 52%, Bush and Kerry were in a virtual dead heat and Obama won with 54%-- Barrow consistently votes as though it were a deep red district and he's been one of the worst-voting Blue Dogs-- but, only when it matters; he supports Democrats when it comes to naming post offices or honoring sports teams.

Today Blue America is honored to formally endorse former state Senator Regina Thomas, a strong advocate for working families with a long record in her district and in the state capitol. Regina will join us in the comments section (below) at 2pm (EST/11am on the West Coast). She offers her neighbors in eastern Georgia a far different outlook than John Barrow. Regina's perspective on governance is pure FDR-- the government is there to protect us from forces outside of our own control, whether that be foreign enemies or domestic predators. If Barrow's #1 concern is holding down taxes for the powerful and immensely rich transnational corporations that have financed his political career, Regina's concern is that the rich and powerful pay their fair share so that the society that has enriched them continues to prosper and thrive for everyone.

Although Barrow often votes against Democratic initiatives-- and has done so with far more frequency since Obama was inaugurated-- Regina was still surprised he so blatantly voted against the interests of his own constituents this week when he, once again, joined the GOP in opposing healthcare reform. She told me she couldn't believe he "had the nerve" to do it. She drew an interesting parallel to the one place where Barrow does support Obama: war spending.

"The cost of the Afghanistan occupation and war is astounding-- and very harmful to our country. The Congressman from GA-12 did not hesitate to vote yes-- to send more troops to Afghanistan which equates to billions of dollars. And those dollars can be more usefully spent on providing health care for 119,542 in this district; or the money could be used to hire 11,946 public safety officers; or we could keep Music, Art and PE in our schools by hiring 7,727 teachers; or we can provide 94,664 scholarships for our college students, or 87,834 Pell Grants, Or how about if we provide 3,888 affordable housing units in the 12th district, or give 265,922 children health care? Another way to look at that cost is to think about how we would benefit as a society if 66,278 children were to attend Head Start... we need more teachers; we can in one year hire 8,040 Elementary School Teachers in the 12th CD. This district needs a Representative who is committed to standing up for democratic principles. Part of "Yes, We Can," means we can provide 366,568 homes with renewable Electricity for one year. There are many, many things that should be done for this area. But we have a congressman who caters to big Corporations, the Insurance Industry and K Street lobbyists. He votes for them, not for the families in the 12th District.

See that video up top? This is the first in a series Blue America is rolling out. Regina hasn't seen it yet and is seeing it for the first time today, just as everyone else is. Turning it into a TV spot will be our PAC's first political independent expenditure of 2010. When you contribute to Regina on our ActBlue page, please also consider making an extra donation to the PAC so we can get the spot all over TV in Savannah, Augusta and all points in between.



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[More of the same-- Heck and Baird, Inc.]

Brian Baird was one of the 39 disgruntled rogue Democrats who voted against health-care reform last November, along with a gaggle of mostly reactionary Blue Dogs-- from John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD) to Parker Griffith (Blue Dog, now R-AL) and Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC). Baird was the only Washington Democrat to cross the aisle and join John Boehner and Eric Cantor in trying to defeat healthcare reform.

State Senator Craig Pridemore, the Blue America-endorsed candidate for Baird's House seat isn't challenging Baird to a primary battle. Thankfully Baird is retiring from politics-- although not before endorsing a multimillionaire corporate lackey to take his place, Denny Heck. All the lobbyists, special interests and business-as-usual shills are backing Heck. Democratic grassroots and netroots activists in WA-03 are what's propelling Craig's campaign.

The video below explains Blue America's enthusiasm for Craig a lot better than I could in a few hyperbolic words. Please take a look at it as he explains why he supports a clearly flawed healthcare reform bill and how clearly he sees how corporate money is behind almost everything that's wrong Inisde-the-Beltway.

“As I’ve traveled around Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, one of the things that’s clear is that our citizens and our businesses are hurting. We need to step up and help our small businesses and workers succeed by implementing reforms to reduce their health care costs. The problem right now is that we have a health care system dominated by insurance and pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street.

“I believe we deserve a public option. It is essential that we encourage competition in the health care market place, and the only way to do that is to hold the special interests in Washington, D.C. accountable to the struggling families across our nation. I also know that the bill before us means progress. It will provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and end the inhumane practice of cutting off those with pre-existing conditions.

“What’s clear is that my opponent, Denny Heck, is standing on the sidelines when it comes to this issue. He wants to wait it out, see what happens, and then decide where he stands. Make no mistake, I support health care reform and I support a public option and when elected, will step up and do everything I can to lower costs and check the power of the special interests in Washington, D.C.”

What hacks like Baird and Heck don't want to understand is that less privileged, more exposed families than their own, right in southwest Washington very much need the reforms offered in the health-care bill neither of them is supporting. Yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Committee put out a report that shows how the bill would impact Baird's constituents:

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