We CAN Have A Better Congress-- And We Need To

Click the image to view Marianne Williamson previewing our Free Progressive Summit.

If yesterday's results are indicative of what it expect in November, it looks like Americans will be, once again, asked to choose between 2 really awful nominees... another less-of-two-evils election that is sure to turn off millions of Americans and hold down voter turnout. Who the hell-- other than what Trumpf calls his beloved "poorly educated"-- voters wants to be culpable for the kind of endemic corruption that would be at the heart of either a Trumpf or a Clinton Administration? Is he so much more than she is? Sure. She's the lesser of two evils, evil, but the lesser evil. Does that inspire you?

If you've been participating in the candidates progressive summit at SisterGiant.com, you've had a chance to meet candidates for the House and Senate who are not the lesser of two evils by any stretch of the imagination. Blue America and Marianne Williamson's organization have put together an on-going forum in which participants meet the stalwart progressive public servants.

Tuesday there were live interviews with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-MD), a state legislator with a record of accomplishment and a vision for America going forward; and Mayor John Fetterman, the alternative candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Before that-- and still archived, of course-- were sessions with Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin-- whose video below I highly recommend-- Tim Canova, the intrepid and courageous progressive in South Florida taking on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the embodiment of the heart of darkness; Nanette Barragán, a small town mayor who took on Bill Oil and beat them and is now taking on the whole corrupt Democratic Establishment in Sacramento to keep a South Bay L.A. congressional seat out of the hands of the toxic special interests; Mayor Bao Nguyen, who, when elected from his Orange County district, will likely be the most progressive Member of Congress since 1950, when Vito Marcantonio left Congress; Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, who has learned how to successfully build consensus around progressive values even in a legislature controlled by Republicans; Madison-based Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), the member of Congress with the strongest voting record of all; Alex Law, a millennial candidate willing to take on South Jersey's venal and corrupt Norcross Machine; DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature going up against entrenched neocon and Republican Peter King on Long Island; and fiery and dedicated Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), who has put his foot down against Wall Street's attempt to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate with another of their puppets.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.32.00 PM.pngClick image to see Jamie Raskin's great new video.

Last night in session 5, Marianne presented 3 progressive challengers to 3 Republican incumbents: Tom Fiegan, who is taking on Iowa obstructionist Chuck Grassely, the Senator and haughty Judiciary Committee chairman who has declared that there will be no hearings for whomever President Obama nominates for the empty Supreme Court seat; Paul Clements, an environmental activist taking on multimillionaire scion of a Michigan family that enriched itself by moving tens of thousands of jobs to Mexico and China, Fred Upton; and Angela Marx, a Washington state grassroots activist challenging GOP tool Jaime Herrera Buetler.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 11.37.42 AM.pngWasserman Schultz and Murphy-- you don't get any worse than this.

If you don't vote in primaries, and “off years” you wind up with corrupt faux-Democrats like Patrick Murphy and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, two "New Dems" who are sponsoring a bill with the Republicans on behalf of the pay day lenders that would further debilitate Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Zach Carter reported yesterday that "as the CFPB has moved closer to adopting new rules to shield families from predatory lending, the GOP has assailed the agency from every conceivable angle-- going after it's budget, attempting to tie its hands with new layers of red tape, fomenting conspiracy theories about rogue regulators illegally shutting down businesses and launching direct attacks on payday loan rules themselves." Now they have a handful of on-the-take, Wall Street Democrats-- Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Alcee Hastings (FL), David Scott (Blue Dog-GA), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX) and Lois Frankel (FL)-- working with them against protecting the public.

Wassermann Schultz's support for the right-wing Republican position, he points out, "undercuts efforts by liberals in Congress to draw contrasts with Republicans on economic issues." That's the special role Wasserman Schultz and, even more so, Patrick Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema always take on. Wassermann Schultz has been walking around the floor of the House trying to sweet talk other Democrats onto signing on, lying to them about a bill she helped write when she was in the Florida state legislature for which she has been handsomely paid off by the pay day lending industry, calling her bill a "model" for the industry. Every single consumer group has lined up against Wasserman Schultz's attempt to derail the CFPB's work in this area, especially consumer groups that seek to protect the minority communities the Republicans, Wasserman Schultz and Murphy are targeting as easy rip-off victims.

The Consumer Federation of America, the NAACP, The National Consumer Law Center, The National Council of La Raza, The Southern Poverty Law Center and hundreds of others wrote a letter to every member of Congress in December urging them to oppose the legislation.

"The problem here is that Florida's law is a sham," says Gynnie Robnett, director of the Campaign to Stop the Debt Trap at Americans for Financial Reform. "It was backed by the industry."

And by "the industry," they're including the crooked Members of Congress-- Republicans and rogue Democrats like Wasserman Schultz and Murphy-- who sell their services to the pay day lenders. Democrats have an opportunity to replace these corrupt conservative Democrats in primaries. Wassermann Schultz's opponent this cycle is Tim Canova and Murphy's is the indomitable Alan Grayson, both of whom are part of the Progressive Summit we talked about up top.

By the way, Congress writes the laws to explicitly exclude their own behavior from prosecution as bribery... even when the quid pro quo is as blatant as Wasserman Schultz's is-- not that she isn't completely typical of all the corrupt conservatives in Congress. Happy payday lenders have given her $68,000 in legalistic bribes since 2006, including $5,100 so far in 2016. She belongs in prison, not in Congress. Last night most Republican primary voters gave a big middle finger to their party's corrupt establishment. Last night most Democratic primary voters gave a big wet kiss to their party's corrupt establishment.

This is exactly the kind of issue that incenses Canova, who emphasized to Democrats in Broward County that "loan sharks should feel right at home in the party of Donald Trump, but con artists should have no place in the Democratic Party. Yesterday, he told his supporters that "predatory payday lenders stepped in to profit during the financial crisis. They targeted poor communities-- and people without access to credit from banks-- by offering them short-term loans at sky high interest rates. On an annual basis, these companies charge late fees and rates as high as 300 to 400% and many companies have even charged up 1,900% interest on loans, which is obscene. Worse, they target people-- particularly people of color-- who are unable to pay the loan back. If they fall behind, they are offered another payday loan to help cover the cost of the prior payday loan, with fees and percentages get higher and higher, trapping them in an process that never ends.

dark.pngClick the thermometer to help elect the Progressive Congress we need and deserve.
I have pushed for regulation of payday loan companies my entire career as a law professor and political activist. I worked with Senator Bernie Sanders and his staff on provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, and I was heartened when Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to do just that-- to provide some basic minimum standards in payday loans to prevent the poorest and most vulnerable among us from getting ripped off and trapped in a downward cycle of debt. This is a reform that has been championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and supported by President Obama. So why, then, is my opponent-- Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- introducing legislation in Congress to deregulate an industry that is already profiting from ripping off millions of Americans? Why is she fighting against Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, who are attempting to protect our neighbors from the worst abuses by payday lenders? The answer is simple: Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been taking millions of dollars from the same corporate interests that profit from payday loans. She recently reversed President Obama’s long-standing ban on corporate lobbyist donations to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), opening the door to influence peddling by the payday loan industry. Not only is Wasserman Schultz carrying water for an industry that is actively defrauding poor communities out of millions of dollars-- one company recently was forced to give $19 million dollars back to customers in illegal overcharge payments-- but she is actively convincing Democrats in Congress to do so as well. Which party does she lead again?

Today (Thursday) Marianne will sit down for sessions with Lou Vince (CA-25), Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Diana Hird (NY-18), each of whom is being opposed by the DCCC and the DC Establishment Democrats— and each of whom has to fight off a challenge from a Republican-lite fake Democrat before going to battle against the real Republican. Please check out all the sessions here and please consider contributing to the candidates who most appeal to you here.

And, one more thing... in Ohio, the Democratic Establishment has a tired old conservative candidate, Ted Strickland, running against progressive Cincinnati Councilman PG Sittenfeld. The winner of their March 15 primary gets to take on right-wing Republican and Trumpf-defender Rob Portman. Sittenfeld can beat him; Strickland will get slaughtered. Since Strickland is too scared to publicly debate, please watch the video below at the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Editorial Board endorsement interview. (This week the Plain Dealer endorsed Sittenfeld, pointing out that his "dynamism would give Portman a real race, the kind Ohio voters deserve.")



Ohio shouldn't be represented by someone working for China-- Help Justin Beat Boehner

It probably won't surprise you to find out that the DCCC is basically using all their resources to save the seats of anti-Choice, antigay, anti-healthcare, pro-Big Business Blue Dogs and doing nothing whatsoever to help progressive challengers take on the worst of the reactionary Republicans who are such a threat to our country. Here at Blue America we're working hard to give Justin Coussoule a fighting chance to beat the orange golfer who would be Speaker, John Boehner. But we've run into a little hitch. Actually a big one-- using the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a vehicle, China, Russia and several other foreign powers with a vested interest in seeing Boehner win the Speaker's chair have funneled millions of dollars into the midterm elections. Howie wrote extensively about this yesterday.

Because of Blue America donors we've been able to help put Justin on the map with our billboard campaign and a modest TV ad campaign in Butler County. Now we're ready to knock Boehner's block off. Can you help? Blue America's ad team are putting together what we think will be the blow that will hit Boehner so hard that just could actually win this race!

There are very clear differences between Boehner and Justin, differences that voters need to hear about. Boehner adamantly opposes a woman's right of Choice and would like to see Roe v Wade overturned. Justin is just as adamant that the government has no business interfering with this kind of difficult personal decision and that it's a matter for a woman, her family and her physician to work out. Boehner opposes equality for the LGBT community. More in tune with contemporary feelings on the subject, Justin feels no Americans should be discriminated against under the law. Boehner vociferously opposed the whole concept of Wall Street reform while Justin feels that a legitimate and necessary role of government is to protect consumers and workers from powerful predatory forces. Boehner has been a tireless champion of trade legislation-- from NAFTA and CAFTA to the WTO/GATT and most favored status for China-- that has shipped millions of American jobs to low wage countries. Justin is campaigning for incentives to create good paying jobs in America. I  have a feeling that based on the above, we could tell you an issue and you would be able to guess which side Boehner is on and which side Justin is on.

The Chinese Communists are desperate to make John Boehner Speaker of the House. We want to make sure they fail. On this page you'll find a slot to donate to Justin's campaign and a slot to donate to the PAC for our ad buy. Legally we can't coordinate our buy with Justin's campaign and the money that goes for his campaign can't be used for the ad buy. The best scenario is to split whatever you feel like contributing between the two efforts.

Thanks again,

digby, Howie, and John and the Blue America team



John Amato: I hope you'll join Blue America in donating what you feel you can to the Coussoule campaign.

The idea of tobacco lobbyist John Boehner replacing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House is not something many Americans would like to see happen. But today Blue America is proud to introduce you to the young man who plans to make sure it never happens, the Democratic candidate for Congress from western Ohio's 8th CD: Justin Coussoule.

16b&w_de8d3_0.jpgJustin will be answering question in the comments section below. You'll find an exceptional young man, a West Point graduate and former Army officer, married for 10 years-- he met his wife when they were both at West Point-- and the father of two young children. An attorney, he worked as a legislative assistant for outstanding progressive Rep. Maurice Hinchey, started and ran a small business and currently works for Procter & Gamble.

On Monday he did a guest post about John Boehner's role in trying to make sure we never hold Wall Street accountable. Read it; it'll give you some background about how he thinks and where he's coming from. On other issues, Justin comes across as a populist looking out for regular American families:
At the core of our national character is the belief that we all are entitled to a fair opportunity to achieve the American dream. Embedded in that belief is the notion that we all benefit and achieve as a society when we further the ideal of succeeding together. I believe that implicit in each of the topics above, including strengthening the middle class, preserving our economic and national security, reversing climate change, and reforming health care, is the American value that we all succeed or fail together and we must work to ensure we all have the opportunity to lift ourselves up.

And when Justin says "all," he isn't excluding anyone based on race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.

His strong stand against Boehner's obstructionism of financial reform has drawn the attention of one of America's most knowledgeable spokespeople for reform, Barney Frank, who was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Justin's campaign.

I support ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and finding ways to simplify the tax code to prevent the wealthiest corporations from exploiting tax loopholes.... I support re-regulating Wall Street to protect middle-class families from predatory loan practices and from paying for another bailout for banks whose irresponsible greed and lack of oversight directly led to the financial meltdown and Great Recession of 2008-09.
That was Justin. This was Barney, chairman of the House Financial Service Committee and voted, year after year, the smartest man in Congress by the Washingtonian this morning:

"I am pleased to endorse Justin Coussoule as someone who understands the necessity of passing financial regulatory reform to avoid repeating the current economic situation. Justin's support for this is especially important because his opponent, John Boehner, led House Republicans last year to vote unanimously to kill any kind of financial reform."

No one's kidding themselves that winning in a district that was gerrymandered specifically to be a safe seat for a Republican is going to be easy. But it isn't beyond hope either. Boehner has never faced a serious opponent since he slipped into office in 1990 by winning a primary against a typical Republican incumbent, "Buz" Lukens, who was caught on camera arranging to have sex with a 16-year-old girl. (Lukens later went to jail for fondling a House staffer in an elevator, and Boehner went on to make a name for himself as the go-between for GOP congressmen and the tobacco industry and was once caught on the floor of the House handing out lobbyist checks to his colleagues during a vote! He hasn't served time yet.)

(Please scroll down below the fold to read Alan Grayson's awesome take on this election and support for Justin Coussoule.)

Continue reading »



Jean Schmidt Is A Lying B****!

Well, duh. But this time, it's one of her fellow Republicans talking her down.

TPM:

Every now and then we like to check in on the latest antics surrounding GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt -- the Ohio Republican who called Jack Murtha a coward on the House floor. And boy oh boy, her latest doesn't disappoint.

Schmidt is now enmeshed in a bitter feud with another Ohio Republican, who's so furious with her that he called her a "lying b----" and a "despicable person" who would "sell her mother" -- and expressly told us we could print that!

The issue? GOP State Rep. Tom Brinkman, who founded an anti-tax government watchdog group, is charging that Schmidt's House staffers frequently work on her campaign for re-election.

"You can quote me anywhere you like. Jean Schmidt is a lying b----," said Brinkman, who lost his primary challenge to her this year by a 58%-40% margin, in an interview with Election Central. "She would sell her mother to promote herself. She is a despicable person. She will go any length possible to win, to get what she wants."

Yikes!

Schmidt is running against Blue America's Victoria Wulsin. Please help if you can in her campaign against the ethically-challenged Mean Jean.



Late Night Music Club with Red Smear

Today's NY Times made it clear that the WGA strikers were the stars of last night's Golden Globes ceremony-- and that NBC just did a bumbling and inauthentic job in presenting a situation that wasn't pre-packaged or TV-simple. Blue America collaborators, Iowa-based band Red Smear and award-winning film makers Traveling Light Media, put together this song and video for us. It looks like Red Smear will be traveling up to Illinois to play at a labor rally for John Laesch and then to Ohio to do one for Vic Wulsin.




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