Friday, March 31, 2006

Covering the media covering Pombo

What does it take to get the media to ask hard questions? Pombo does not just spin the facts his way with the media, he tells baldfaced lies, and then accuses environmentalists of doing the same. In a recent KTVU TV interview from the fabled Pombo Ranch, Randy Shandobil allowed Pombo to call environmentalists "liars" when they say that he support increased offshore drilling, and then closed the interview so that was the last impression.

Where was the media when Pombo and Jim Gibbons lied about the mining bill last November/December? Only John Krist of the Ventrua Star took him at that time and only the PomboWatch blog provided a blogger's fact checking.

Where was the media when Pombo and Jim Gibbons lied in an official report putting Mercury in Perspective, published by the House Committee on Resources in early 2005? Only columnist Chris Mooney took on this issue, showing up the report's unsound science.

What we should all do is to email or telephone Randy Shandobil and let him know that we expect more of a political journalist than a puff piece of Pomboganda.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Join the Canvass April 15 & 29

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is getting revved up to spread the word about Richard Pombo throughout CA-11. We are currently looking for office space and staff, so that we can maintain a strong presence between now and November.

On Saturday, April 15 we will be going door-to-door in Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon. On April 29 we will be going door-to-door in Tracy and Stockton.

Defenders needs your participation in order to be effective. We will provide meaningful actions, sharp messaging, and sophisticated targeting. But all of this means nothing, without your involvement. The more of you that come out and take action, the stronger we will be.

Please come join us on April 15, on April 29, and many more times between now and November. To RSVP for the canvass email

I’ll give you more details over the next couple weeks as our plans firm up.

Check out our Pombo in their pocket site for more information on why you should expose the man who wants to gut the Endangered Species Act and sell off our national park lands.

And a big thank you to Matt for allowing me onto this blog.

Kevin Keefe
Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund

Contra Costa Labor Endorsement Redux

One of the most disturbing episodes that I have witness in this campaign was the machinations by which Steve Filson was able to secure the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council’s endorsement.  I bring this up today because last night I was able to talk with a officer of one of the SEIU locals who told me some of the salient details about the endorsement process that make it look even fishier.  

Importantly, this SEIU officer (I’ll refer to him as XY from now on) told me that Steve Filson would “have never received that endorsement” if things had been done on the up and up.  When I first wrote about this I had thought that the big problem was the appearance of impropriety and the rift that such an appearance might cause between the Democratic Party grassroots and Labor.  But now it looks like the process was rigged in a way that actually altered the outcome.  And XY agreed with me that all of this was most likely a gift to Steve Filson from his number one backer, Ellen Tauscher.  

XY told me last night that the Contra Costa County Labor Central Labor Council’s (CCC-CLC) endorsement vote occurred before SEIU had decided on which candidate to back. (Incidentally, XY told me that the local and statewide SEIU council had voted to endorse McNerney, so that an endorsement by the international is virtually pro forma).  In any case, since SEIU on the local level had not yet voted, their delegates to the CCC-CLC were not empowered to cast a vote one way or the other the night that the CCC-CLC endorsement vote was taken.  Had they voted, and voted for McNerney, he would have received the endorsement.  But since they abstained, the endorsement went to Filson.

Of course, there would be nothing wrong with this per se if it were SEIU’s fault for not endorsing before the CCC-CLC endorsement meeting.

But here is where it gets fishy.  SEIU officials had, like me, heard that the CCC-CLC was going to take a vote on the endorsement the night Filson came to speak.  And like me, they had heard that Jerry McNerney would not be invited to the endorsement meeting.  So someone in SEIU (representing the union in a professional capacity) called the Chair of the CCC-CLC, Pam Aguilar, and told her that a) the CCC-CLC shouldn’t only invite Filson to the endorsement meeting, but b) the endorsement vote should be delayed until SEIU had their internal endorsement vote for CA-11.  The person who called was told by Pam Aguilar not to worry, that this was simply a meet and greet and that no vote would be taken.  

This was NOT a regularly scheduled endorsement meeting.  There was no expectation that SEIU would have already voted.  In fact, XY believes, and I think it’s plausible, that the vote was taken that night precisely because SEIU had not voted internally.

In any event, when a vote to endorse Filson was taken after the “meet and greet,” SEIU was effectively disenfranchised from the voting process.  

Needless to say, this did not engender any sort of good will between SEIU and the people who were responsible for ramming Filson through the CCC-CLC endorsement “procedure.” And when I asked XY why Filson’s backers would do this given the ill-will it generated, he said it almost certainly had to do with Ellen Tauscher.

It’s something to think about.    

¿Dónde están los demócratas?


My Spanish is not very good, but if I was one of the Democratic candidates, I would be taking a crash course en Español right about now. Why? Because the Latinos are very angry with Pombo for voting for HR 4437, a bill that defines the phrase "draconian measure" when it comes to immigration policy.

Latino groups held a march attended by thousands last Saturday and a candlelight vigil that attracted hundreds Tuesday night. Both of these were in downtown Stockton, the heart of the 11th District. There were chants against Pombo, speeches denoucing him, signs against him, a man dressed in an el Diablo suit with the words "Hitler Republican" written on it, in reference to Pombo. I mean, these people are NOT HAPPY with him.

People there included Steve Gutierrez, 1st District Supervisor for San Joaquin County. As a Dem candidate, he is someone you mostly definitely want on your side. See his bio. Many other Hispanic leaders were there. Also, Margee Ensign, Dean from the University of the Pacific who was considering challenging Pombo back in November. On the Republican side, Pombo challenger Pete McCloskey, his wife, Helen, and volunteers (including Amanda Matthews, daughter of Tracy Press editor Cheri Matthews) showed up at both the march and vigil. McCloskey gave a speech and was busy registering and re-registering as voters Decline to State.

But where were the Dems? Only AJ Carrillo, McNerney's campaign manager showed up, and that was just for the march on Saturday. I give him credit for that, at least.

However, no sign of any Filson or Thomas supporters. I looked on Filson's calendar and he was busy with fund-raisers on Saturday and trying to get the South County Dem Club endorsement (which went to McNerney). But no one from his campaign showed up in any official capacity at either the march or the vigil, and he has several paid staffers, including Robert Kellar, his campaign manager who is from Stockton.

Here was a chance to show solidarity and to make a strong connection with an active political bloc strongly opposed to Pombo. Maybe someone should tell Filson that, while it is important to have money in the bank, voters vote. And there were many voters there at the rallies, who I am sure noticed who was standing with them and who was not. And it goes beyond that, since the march organizers are also influential in their communities and could pull in a lot of support and energy for a campaign the supports them.

McCloskey played it perfectly, attending both events, speaking to the crowd, setting up tables to distribute information. He also garnered press interviews, such as one on ABC last night, and other coverage of his campaign. I have said this before, but my take is that McCloskey does these things not so much for political gain as much he sees it as the right thing to do, to support people against an oppressive and wrong bill. People sense his passion and drive and warm up to what he has to say. He is not there as a cold political calculus, solely trying to gain votes.

Think about this -- a person running for office, at least the way I see it, should want to help people have better lives. There needs to be a compassion and empathy towards your fellow citizens that is conveyed in your speeches and actions. There needs to be an honesty and integrity and sense that you will do what is right and good for the people.

Of course, nowadays, we are all cynical and know that most pols are on the take, and only looking to get more money and enhance their power. The system in DC corrupts even the best of them. (Pombo was on the take right from the start, with the infamous Monsanto bribe in 1994.) But for our new candidates, especially when running as a Democrat, we want to see some passion and idealism and community action on the people's behalf. Yea, maybe if you get elected, after a few years, you will be feeding at the trough with everyone else, but we don't want to elect you that way.

The Dem candidates made a serious misstep by not showing up at either event. I know there are demands of travel and other events, but consider that McCloskey had a debate in San Ramon Tuesday afternoon, but still made it to the vigil in Stockton that night. Also, on Saturday, there was a Defeat Pombo 06 meeting that very afternoon a few miles away in Stockton, which the candidates as well as Dem activists attended. The march was at 9 am, and the meeting at 1 pm, so people already planning on being in Stockton could have made it there a bit earlier to be in the march. I intend that comment more for the candidates and their campaigns, to show up there "officially", like McCloskey did. Like I say, at least McNerney's campaign manager was there at the march, but how much this was noticed or appreciated it is hard to say, since he did not give a speech, and people generally want to see the "real deal" at an important event like this, not a surrogate.

I hope the Dems can overcome this misstep and make a connection with the Hispanic community. Otherwise, they will be seen as another bunch of East Bay gringos, coming hat in hand for their votes, but not standing with them at their time of need.

Expanding the base

Over the past months, the one consistent theme in my posts is the need to expand the base of opposition to the policies of Richard Pombo. I have talked about the hook and bullets crowd, about Latinos, about the California Delta. Today I would like to add one more idea, one more constituency that we should be calling on to have success in this campaign.

The media likes to focus on the differences between the positions of Pombo and challenger Pete McCloskey re the Endangered Species Act. This is an easy story. The author of the old vs. the man who would "improve" the act or "eviscerate" the act, depending who who is doing the spin.

There is one group that has been relatively quiet on environmental issues in recent years, and that is the Church. That too, is beginning to change. Within the past year we have seen the emergence of a movement among religious leaders of all faiths to take a stand about out custodianship of the planet. This includes our policies regarding endangered species. The movement is tied together in an organization called the Noah Alliance.

The Noah Alliance publishes a lot of material on their web site, from sermons to articles and essays to songs and hymns. The theme is clearly articulated in a publication of Creation Care magazine: Protecting God's Endangered Creatures.

This suggests that opposition to Pombo's policies may also come from the pulpit and we should work to make that a reality. A leader of one local congregation told me that he thought most environmentalists to be well meaning idiots. I wonder about whether he is truly living in God's creation.

The material available from the Noah Alliance comes from evangelical, Presbyterian, Jewish, Greek Orthodox and other traditions. Perhaps we all need to be talking to our pastor or minister about the church's role in preserving our creator's work.

Let me close this by quoting from Bishop Irineos Pop of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

But when we look today at our world, we see a very different picture. Humanity's rebellion, pride and greed has shattered the primordial relationship of Adam. It has ignored the Church's understanding of our role as priests of creation. By doing so, our world is facing a crisis of death and corruption to a degree never before experienced.

We must attempt to return to a proper relationship with the Creator and the creation, in order that the survival of the natural world can be assured. We are called to bear some of the pain of creation as well as to enjoy and celebrate it. That means to perform Liturgia "extra muros", the Liturgy beyond (outside) the walls of the church, for the sanctification of the world.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Time for Thomas to consider dropping out?

I have met Steve Thomas. He is smart, likable, a good public speaker, and well-informed. I respect his efforts and applaud his courage in running. He has put himself out and presented his ideas and concerns to those who would listen.

However, his campaign has little to no traction. It will only serve as the "Nader effect", pulling votes from McNerney, who now has a real chance of winning this primary. As a "grassroots" participant with no position of power in the Dem party -- in other words, as a fellow citizen, I am hereby asking Steve to graciously drop out of the race and support McNerney. This will be the best way for him to continue to promote his progressive values and concerns in the primary and general election. Now he can show real character by recognizing the reality of the situation. We all know just how difficult it is to mount an effective and substantial campaign. Steve has tried and I think we all respect him for that effort.

But there is no advantage at this point to pull votes off McNerney. I think the contest should be squarely between Filson and McNerney, as they are the most organized and funded operations, yet offer two distinct points of view for the Dems to choose.

"You have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them."

I agree with what Anonymous 2 cents said in an earlier post:

Mr. 2% of a buck again -- great post and comments; I just have one concern:

Someone said in an earlier post on this blog that Stevan Thomas would be lucky to get even 10% of the primary vote, OK, let's get real conservative and give him only 5%.

1) Those 5% are going to come out of McNerney's basket, not Filson's

2) In a real close race, we could have a result of:
Filson........48% (Winner!)

...instead of:
McNerney......52% (Winner!)

3) This is why it's not real good practice to have more than a two way primary race, since there will usually be two political "camps of viewpoint", and adding a third person to that mix will generally mean two people splitting the same "camp of supporters" (which is exactly what happened in IL-06 -- if a mere 2/3 of Lindy Scott's votes had gone for Christine Cegelis, she would be the nominee today)...

4) If it indeed appears that Thomas (nice guy, speaks well, means well, I think) can't get any traction at all in fund raising and/or organizing in the next 30-60 days, one of you progressives might want to "have a chat with him about how he doesn't want to be the reason...." You can fill in the words.

Sometimes, three IS a crowd.

$.02 out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Wes Rolley on the Democratic Primary

Wes of Pombo Watch just posted a comment in the previous thread that includes a message he sent to the Vote Pombo Out Yahoo Group. I think the message deserves greater visibility so I’m treating it as a guest post and reposting it on the main page. I am reposting it with minor typographical corrections. Besides those minor edits, everything after the dashed line is Wes’.

As you might be able to tell from my posts to this list, I have some partiality to several of the opponents of Richard Pombo. Maybe it is time that I follow Scott's lead and make my thinking clear.

It is very important that we take both opportunities to Vote Pombo Out. The primary choice is clear. In the Republican Primary, it must be Pete McCloskey. I enthusiastically endorse his candidacy and will providewhatever support I can to aid it.

If the primary follows normal patterns, there will be a low turn out affair and that means even relatively small numbers mean a lot. Matt and I have both called attention to the comparisons between the Illinois 6th CD primary and the ones in California. What neither of us stressed strongly enough is that even with all of the national attention and the strong infighting between Duckworth and Cegelis, the total turnout was low.

In the June 6 election, there are very few local contests in San Joaquin County that will draw out people. The most interesting one is the Republican Primary between Gerry Machado and Susan Tucker in Tracy (17th AD). This underscores that importance of getting everyone possible out to vote. If anyone is currently registered as Decline to State (DTS), we need to get them to the polls to vote for McCloskey.

I also agree with Scott that, if McCloskey can not knock Pombo out of the race, people will work for whoever wins the Democratic Primary. Still I think that it is extremely important that the right person win that primary. The right person will have to be someone who will motivate the Latino Community to get out and vote. I think that they will be more enthusiastic about McNerney than Filson or Thomas.

I do not believe that it is possible to ensure a victory against Pombo without a large turnout of Latino voters. In the past, they have not voted in relationship to their percentage of the population. The work has to be to register Latino's and to make sure that they are at the polls. Pete McCloskey recognized this. That is why he was at the head of the rally in Stockton this week. Jerry McNerney recognizes this, even though I personally think that he should have been at the March and had A.J. represent him at the endorsement meeting in Morgan Hill.

I have seen no evidence that Filson understand the importance of this group to his chances. He has ignored the issue from what I seen. I truly believe that the time to make that up passed when there was no evidence of his presence in Stockton this weekend.

I believe that McNerney has developed the rapport with a number of different communities, including the Latinos, but he has reached out to many others. I believe that this ability to reach out, to care, and to bring more people into the mix clearly separates McNerney from Filson as a candidate. I even understand the McNerney has talked with the California Farm Bureau, just to let them know that he is concerned, even though they have always backed Pombo.

If you follow this, it will give some people a problem, because there are very good reasons to register as DTS and vote for McCloskey in the Republican Primary and also very good reasons to make sure that McNerney wins the Democratic Primary. I won't tell you how to act. It is your choice.

However, at the beginning of this race I heard a lot of talk about the fact that Filson could raise so much money that there would be pressure for McNerney to drop out. Maybe the time has come for the powers that be in Democratic circles to realize that McNerney can bring more voters from more constituencies into the fight and that just maybe it is time for Filson, whose campaign seems to be sputtering, to drop out and save you all a little angst.

Two More Endorsements for Jerry McNerney

UPDATE 3/27: I have been informed that the vote at the South County Democratic Club was 67% in favor of endorsing McNerney.

This is just a quick update that the McNerney Campaign has received two new endorsements.

First, on Saturday, the McNerney Campaign was endorsed by the South County Democratic Club, which has members from Morgan Hill. This endorsement was first announced in this comment on Saturday, but I figured it should be brought up to the main page. I’m not sure what the vote was, but I have been told that the club has a 60% threshold to endorse, so it would seem like the club is solidly behind McNerney. We were told that Steve Filson gave a much better speech than McNerney at their candidates forum (in fact we were told that Filson “far outshined” McNerney), but I guess either the reports were overblown or else the club members considered different criteria than “shininess” when casting their votes.

Second, and more significant, the McNerney Campaign has just been endorsed by the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, which represents 250,000 workers in the state. The Teamsters are part of the Change to Win Coalition and so they do not participate in the California Labor Federation (AFL-CIO) endorsement process. Consequently, this is another big endorsement for McNerney. (Hat tip readers CN and Hobie Dog).

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Anglers upset over salmon

I was sent this press release about a meeting on Tuesday in Santa Rosa. It may not appear connected to the 11th CD race at all. However, fishermen, both recreational and commercial are very upset. For some, this will put them out of business. They blame it all on the Republican Congress and their manipulation of water rights on the Klamath, delivered to pototo farmers in the Klamath Basin and causing a large kill off of salmon in the Klamath. This was orchestrated by Karl Rove and has been supported since 2002 by Richard Pombo. The fisthermen know this.

The question is one of how best to use this information to knock out Pombo. I know of some who are going to make it a point to vote for McCloskey in the primary, the first opportunity to Dump Pombo. I know that the leader of one of the groups is going to re-register in order to do that.

So, how many fishing licenses are sold in the 11th CD? Well, I know that Fish Sniffer magazine claims to have a circulation of 25,000 in the Central Valley.


Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA)
Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishing Association (SBSFA)


For more information:

Mike Hudson, President Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishing Association,

(510) 528-6575 (h), (510) 407-0046 Email:


Fishermen Will Stage Rally At Santa Rosa Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting, Cite Dam Removal As Part Of Klamath Solution

Santa Rosa, CA -- Fishermen are rallying on March 28 in Santa Rosa to demand real and permanent solutions to Klamath salmon declines. At Tuesday's Santa Rosa meeting of the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), dozens of fishermen, Native and non-Native, will rally to support restoration of the Klamath River so that it can once again support abundant fisheries. The rally begins at 5 p.m. at the Flamingo Hotel, 2777 4th St., Santa Rosa, CA.

Despite large over-all west coast numbers of chinook salmon, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) is considering a total ban on ocean commercial salmon fishing for 2006 for California and most of Oregon. That's because of extremely low numbers of Klamath River salmon, which intermingle with otherwise abundant stocks in the ocean. According to David Goldenberg, Manager of the California Salmon Council, Fisheries managers must manage all fisheries to protect the weakest runs.

For the second year in a row, weak runs of Klamath salmon will result in fishing restrictions all up and down California, this year far worse than last. Last year the salmon industry suffered severe fishing restrictions that cost the California and Oregon economies over $50 million in economic losses. If the season is cancelled altogether, the losses in 2006 could exceed $150 million.

Most fisheries experts agree that over fishing is not the problem. Ocean and in-river salmon harvests are already tightly regulated, and salmon are doing well in other nearby river systems. The problems in the Klamath are therefore in the river.

"Fishermen are being unfairly targeted. If you want to know why the Klamath salmon are struggling, look upstream to the dams that are killing this river," said Joseph Bogaard of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition.

Currently, fishermen and Tribes are focusing their attention on the antiquated complex of dams owned by Portland-based utility PacifiCorp. The dams have no fish ladders and so block over 350 miles of historic salmon spawning habitat, but also foster massive blooms of a toxic algae that produces powerful water-borne poisons that cause liver damage in humans and poison fish. The Klamath dams also block natural river flows, collect water in reservoirs where it heats up too much for salmon to tolerate, and creates ideal conditions which encourage the growth of warm water parasites that are fatal to juvenile salmon. Major juvenile salmon kills are now all too common in the river.

These dams are currently up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a decision on their fate must be made by early 2007. Although river advocates admit the Klamath suffers from many complex problems, the dams clearly have a major impact on deteriorating water quality. According to Karuk dip net fishermen Ron Reed, because of the dams half the river is now off limits to salmon. Their removal must be part of the solution. Since dams are relicensed only once every 50 years, fishermen and Tribes see the current relicensing as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore the river.

"As fishermen, we have already sacrificed a lot. We are simply asking that others across the region step up to do their part as well, and that means looking at all options including removing the lower Klamath river dams to develop real salmon solutions that don't put the full burden of recovery on the backs of fishing families," stated Mike Hudson of the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association (SBCSFA).

Currently fishermen, Tribes, conservation groups, farmers and agencies are discussing the fate of these dams as part of a federally mandated relicensing process. The survival of the Klamath may hinge on these negotiations. According to Glen Spain, Northwest Regional Director of PCFFA, "The four small dams we need to remove don't do anything well -- except kill salmon. They are not used for irrigation, they provide almost no flood control, and they are poor power producers. Removing them makes the most sense for bringing this dying river back to health."

Zeke Grader, Executive Director of PCFFA, also said its critical for there to be some fishing this year to maintain the infrastructure of this nearly billion dollar salmon fishery in the two states, and that an aggressive program should be implemented immediately in the river to protect the fish against the deadly parasite that continues to spread, until the long-term fixes in the basin can be made.

"Chief among those long-term fixes," said Grader, "is the removal of the four dams. We cannot continue to give power companies free reign over our rivers. It is costing fishing families their livelihoods and destroying salmon dependant Tribal cultures. It's time we fought back and held PacifiCorp accountable for the damage they have caused."

CA-11 and IL-06 Once More

Someone just alerted me that the Tracy Press had an article by Nick Juliano that covered the same topic I discussed the other day: namely, the similarities between IL-06 and CA-11. (Update: Wes from Pombo Watch also discussed these similarities in the Vote Pombo Out Yahoo Group). I bring this article up for two reasons. First, it shows that Say No to Pombo continues to bring up issues that are relevant and newsworthy, often before the local papers get to them (if they get to them at all). Second, the article contained some juicy quotes that merit attention, especially with respect to what they show about how the various sides frame the debate about the primary race.

I bring up the first point because I believe that it’s important to acknowledge those instances that demonstrate the fundamental credibility of this blogging endeavor. I like to think that my words and my ideas stand on their own merit. But sometimes some of the commenters are not content to address the substance of what I write, instead dismissing what I say as “ridiculous,” “naïve,” or what have you. Consequently, I want to take this moment to explicitly point to evidence that what I say is relevant to the race. I think that on this blog I give voice to a widespread, if often inchoate and unarticulated, perspective prevalent among the grassroots activists paying attention to this race. And I think this article both supports that notion.

That said, let’s move to the second point, which is much more interesting. First, look at the two quote Juliano got from McNerney supporters who discussed this race:

“I think they’re going about it the wrong way and picking the wrong people … I’m tired of the DCCC’s involvement,” said Gene Davenport, a labor union organizer in Stockton who supports McNerney.


Davenport said he and other activists in San Joaquin County were not contacted when national Democrats decided they wanted to target Pombo in this year’s election.

“A lot of the locals were quite resentful of the DCCC not consulting with them,” said Bill Casey, a former San Joaquin party leader. “The Democratic party needs to remember who Democrats are.”

Now I believe that a lot of the national Democratic Party leaders made their decision to back Filson in an information-poor environment. Certainly, I have seen no evidence that the DCCC or Rahm Emanuel ever discussed Filson or McNerney with any of the Democratic organizers on the ground in the district. And I have asked a lot of people about this. That has got to make you wonder.

I mean, I know that the DCCC might discuss the Pombo race with the members of Congress from the surrounding districts. And I do not think it’s inappropriate from Rahm Emanuel to talk about the Pombo race with Ellen Tauscher or Nancy Pelosi. But I think it’s the height of arrogance to discuss Pombo with Pelosi and Tauscher, for example, but not any of the Democrats who actually, you know, live in the district. And if Rahm Emanuel doesn’t understand what’s happening in his own backyard in IL-06, it kind of makes it seem more reasonable to believe that this is nothing more than hubris. I mean, forget actually following the dictate of the Gene Davenports or Bill Caseys of the district. Rahm Emanuel didn’t even pick up the phone and call them. Even a person with incredible political judgment still needs to make judgment based on the relevant facts if we are to say that their judgment is warranted. Otherwise it could well be a case of garbage-in-garbage-out.

Furthermore, had they actually talked with people in the district, they might have pulled apart the “moderate” label to distinguish social and economic moderates. For example, Steve Filson’s “moderate” views are supposed to be attractive to the district. We hear this a lot. But Rahm Emanuel might have learned something if he spoke to Gene Davenport who is a proud (socially conservative) Christian and a proud Democrat, a third-generation Stocktonian, a third-generation longshoreman, and a member of the San Joaquin County-Calaveras Central Labor Council. He is not alone in his socially moderate positions. The district passed Prop 73, which would have required parental notification for minors to have an abortion. But Davenport has told me that he supports McNerney because he believes Jerry McNerney will fight for the working poor, for people without healthcare, for the people who can’t afford campaign contributions. He does not have the same confidence in Filson. I mean, Rahm Emanuel can back whomever he wants. But what Gene Davenport could have told Rahm Emanuel might have been a piece of relevant information. At the very least, it could have allowed Emanuel to anticipate that Filson’s support, even among moderates, might not be as strong as one might imagine. But apparently he though he was wiser for the lack of information. Go figure.

Now let’s look at what Filson’s supporters had to say. (Interestingly enough, the only Filson supporters Juliano interviewed were Filson and his Campaign Manager. For someone with “growing grassroots support” you’d think they could have found one prominent grassroots Filson supporter be interviewed.) Anyhow, here’re the first two quotes I want to examine:

Filson has said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, encouraged him to run and introduced him to Democratic officials in Washington, but a Filson aide rejects the characterization that his candidacy was imposed on the district from above.

“Steve is the one who decided he wants to run … it’s not because someone picked him or told him it’s a good idea,” said Robert Kellar, Filson’s campaign manager.

Someone should tell Kellar that what he says needs to be consistent with his candidate. Yeah, so Tauscher “encouraged [Filson] to run” but yet “it’s not because someone…told [Filson] it’s a good idea.” Hmmm…Me thinks Kellar overplayed his hand. Furthermore, the flackitude quotient goes way up once we see the obvious straw argument Kellar made. Some say Filson’s candidacy was imposed on the district. Kellar responds by noting that Filson’s candidacy was not imposed on Filson himself. If we were stupid, that would make sense.

Anyhow, I actually give Filson credit for being honest even though his CM was trying to spin. Tauscher encouraged Filson to run and brought him to the DCCC and encouraged them to take a look a Filson and get behind him, which they did. This is what we’ve been saying since the beginning. What Filson did not say, or perhaps he did and Juliano didn’t report it (although I assume it’s the former), is that after the DCCC decided to back Filson, Filson came back into town and basically demanded that the race be cleared for him to run against Pombo. Forget Gene Davenport and Bill Casey, who weren’t consulted to begin with. They were informed that they had the pleasure of backing Steve Filson whether they liked it or not because (as someone said in all seriousness today) “the real Democrats” were backing him.

And for those who think I bring up the DCCC obsessively, this is why I keep discussing their involvement in the race. They are not the real Democrats. We are. They want to walk among us as gods. But lo they stumble and they bleed. And I suspect that under all of their magnificence, they have feet of clay.

Democracy derives all of its moral force from the simple tenet that each person is of incommensurable worth. We say that everyone is “created equal” so much that it becomes banal. But “equal” is not a statement of our limitation, it is a statement of the infinite depth and value of each and everyone one of us as a human being.

And Democracy stems from the realization that we cannot all do whatever we want to explore and instantiate our unique and limitless value in a world of finite time and resources. So each of us is given one vote. No one is given more, no one is given less.

I know that there will always be power plays and hierarchies. And some will be legitimate and some will be illegitimate. And I never expect that a lone blogger will have the power of a member of Congress. But they are no more real Democrats than the rest of us. And to the degree that they essentialize and think that they are the real Democrats and that we are only real Democrats to the degree that we do their bidding, they have mistaken and reversed the natural order of democracy. Real Democrats? I worry more about real democrats.

This brings us to the second set of quotes I want to look at from Kellar:

Kellar accused Filson’s critics of conspiring “to denigrate elected officials” who have endorsed his campaign.

“They fought in the trenches; they know what it’s like to run and represent a district,” Kellar said, arguing their support shows Filson has the best chance of winning.

Now as a genuine critic of these elected officials, I can simply aver that the conspiracy, if it exists, has done a really crappy job at doing outreach. Otherwise I’d be one of their biggest supporters. But more to the point, is it really “denigrating” to ask whether folks who don’t live in the district know better than folks who live inside the district? Honestly.

Actually we’re in luck, Kellar answered this question for us. You see, the elected officials “fought in the trenches” (and what, the grassroots sip mai-tais on the lanai?) and the electeds “know what it’s like to run and represent a district.” Wow, they know to represent a district! What about THE district? They know anything about CA-11? Nope. But they know loads about CA-10, CA-08, and IL-05. Great, because as I was eating lunch today in Stockton I was overwhelmed by how similar it was to Chicago, San Francisco, and Lamorinda. I mean, I could hardly get them straight. I was like, wait, is this Stockton or Chicago? Moraga? They’re so similar. It was eerie. Really.

I know that was snarky, but I have a hard time treating this seriously. Are we to genuflect to those in power? Is that all there is? Isn’t it enough that they have power? Do we also have to say that they are wise? They want to walk like all-knowing gods among us. And yet they stumble and they bleed. And beneath their cloaks of power, I still say they have feet of clay.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What's Up This Weekend?

I’m going to attend the Dump Pombo meeting this Saturday.  What are you folks up to this weekend? Doing anything to fight Pombo?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What IL-06 Can Tell Us About CA-11

On Tuesday there was a much-watched primary race in IL-06 between Christine Cegelis, Tammy Duckworth, and Lindy Scott. Scott was never considered the front-runner, and the main focus on the race was the dynamic of Cegelis vs. Duckworth. Cegelis had run against Henry Hyde in 2004 with no Democratic support and had pulled a respectable 44% in a Republican district. After Hyde announced he’d retire in 2006, Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC decided that Cegelis wasn’t viable and went about recruiting another candidate. They settled on Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War vet who’d lost two legs when he chopper crashed due to enemy fire. Duckworth had an incredible resume (at least from a marketing perspective) but she had no ties to the district and no indigenous support in the district when the DCCC and the party establishment got behind her. Duckworth’s campaign was massively aided by Dick Durbin, Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment. This, despite the fact that Cegelis had managed to inspire the grassroots in a district with no Democratic elected officials and almost no Democratic Party infrastructure. I hope, in broad strokes, the parallels to CA-11 are apparent.

In any event, on Tuesday night Duckworth, who probably outspent Cegelis by about 6 to 1, narrowly eked out a 44% to 40% victory (the margin was just over 1,000 votes). And in the aftermath there has been a lot of post-mortem analysis. What’s interesting is that I have seen both Duckworth supporters, Cegelis supporters, and neutral observers all agree on one thing: that the DCCC was full of shit when it came to this race.

Chris Bowers of MyDD wrote:

At the very least, I, for one, would hope that this does at least some damage to the "Rahm Emmanuel is hyper-effective" meme for a long time to come. It hard to imagine how anyone could have fucked up a district worse than this. Well done man -- you built an utterly ineffective political operation in the area and simultaneously embittered every grassroots activist who could have helped breath some life into that operation. This just gives me loads of confidence for November.

Matt Stoller of MyDD wrote (the bolding of text is mine, the italics are in the original):

Like Chris, I screwed up on Cegelis. I didn't realize that the party establishment was as weak as it was, and I didn't get the basic dishonesty of the DCCC in this fight. The DCCC was squeezing donors hard to give to Duckworth, as did golden boy Barack Obama who appeared in Duckworth's commercial. But what offends me is not that they weighed in on Duckworth's side, but that they pretended like Cegelis did not exist.

Incidentally, for an example of the DCCC pretending McNerney and Thomas don’t exist, check out this post by Howie.

Now it’s important to point out that in IL-06 it was not just the DCCC that ran over the local grassroots. Some other people got suckered by the DCCC bullshit. To see how this worked, I think it’s important to read this excerpt from Daniel Biss, a Duckworth supporter (emphasis mine):

On the Duckworth side, the assumption was just that these people [i.e. Cegelis supporters] didn't know what they were talking about. From what I can tell, everyone, from the bigshots who pushed her candidacy in the first place on down, just assumed that it was all smoke and mirrors and when push came to shove, she wouldn't have a real organization.

We now know, of course, that the Cegelis camp was right (well, with a caveat; it's important to remember that turnout was godawful all around) [Ed Note: Turnout was higher than in the primary in 2004 and 2002].

But so anyway what really bugs me is the way the Duckworth supporters came to their conclusion. Their belief, ever since November of 2004 (and possibly before), was that Cegelis wasn't a credible candidate. I believed it. (I still believe it, in the sense that I still believe that she'd have no chance against Roskam.)

And because they believed that so strongly, they were perfectly content to assume that nothing about her organization was credible. Now, I'm usually hesitant to bandy about internet buzzwords like top-down/bottom-up, but this is literally the most advanced case of top-down sickness I've ever heard of.

And I think this is really corrosive, or at least represents a whole legion of missed opportunities. The problem wasn't, like some have suggested, that "the establishment" was scared of Cegelis, an independent Democrat. The problem wasn't, like some have suggested, that "the establishment" hates progressives. The problem was that people took a look at Cegelis, decided she was a bad candidate, and concluded there was nothing valuable about her campaign.

I've said from the beginning that Duckworth's candidacy was introduced in an avoidably awful way that did damage to grassroots morale (see Lynn Sweet's column in today's Sun-Times for her thoughts about this). But that bothered me in a mostly abstract way: I think it's never a good idea to punch progressive activists in the gut. I bought into the groupthink that while it was a little ugly, it wouldn't really matter in the long run, because surely the Cegelis team didn't have much to offer anyhow.

Well, we now know that was just wrong, and just dumb, and we found out the awful way, by in one fell swoop proving that a group of volunteers could deliver and simultaneously demoralizing them, perhaps irreparably.

Right now there is a lot of discussion about what the Cegelis supporters are going to do. A lot of them feel very little inclination to support Duckworth in any substantive way. And consequently, Duckworth’s victory is somewhat pyrrhic from the perspective of electoral politics. (From the perspective of the pols who were trying to retain power in the party, her victory served its purpose).

Anyhow, I just want to bring this up because I think that IL-06 raised two pertinent questions:

1) Why ought we to believe that the DCCC is any less full of shit with respect to CA-11 than IL-06?

2) Suppose Filson does win. How do we avoid the ill will that will be generated at the grassroots?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pombo on the Ag Committee

I hate to post again, and take the spotlight away from VPO's most recent post. This is a very important step and deserves all of the attention that it can get, so if you have not read it yet, do so. Either just scroll down or click here.

Having said that, I want to comment on the very recent announcement that Pombo has been promoted to Vice Chair of the Ag Committee. Now, don't get me started about Pombo holding the Vice Chair. I will leave that to Leno and Letterman. Still, I want to bring up the agriculture subject again.

The California Farm Bureau was immediated ready with a supporting announcement, so immediately ready that you know they were in the know ahead of time. The Farm Bureau plays this up as a symbol of his strength. I don't. I take it as a sign that he understand the fact that he is in a real race this time, that there are things outside his control and he is trying to secure his base of support before things erode too far. The "promotion" was probably easy. He obvously collected a debt from the new Republican Majority Leader, Boehner for his support in that battle.

The timing of this indicates to me that he recognized that his opponents were starting to come over the hill. Both McCloskey and Benigno are or have been farmers themselves. So much for an advantage just by being a "rancher". He had to show more, just for the Primary.

Then, you take the fact that Jerry McNerney was one of the few Democrats who actually went and talked to the Farm Bureau. It probably surprised the hell out of them. And, we know the Filson flew over a farm once or twice.

So, this is a pay off from Boehner, and another shot at getting money from Industrial Agriculture. The problem with this strategy is that he still has to convince the small farmer, those who are struggling with family farms, that all of this is good for them. He still has to defend his lack of support of a good immigration bill that the Farm Bureau says that it needs.

I think that Pombo is convinced that American Food will be picked by Latin American Workers. Maybe they will be in the US or maybe they will be in Mexico and Chile. I think he likes the latter. He voted for an immigration bill without the provision for guest workers. He voted for NAFTA. Still, the Farm Bureau is convinced that he is one of them. I don't think so. He really wants to see all of that farm land developed by his good friend Frite Grupe. Maybe ConAgra likes Pombo, or the American Dairymans Association likes him. But, what about the guy with a few hundred acres and just his family to do the work. I don't think that Pombo cares.

Now, the task for the rest of you is to help me get that interpretation in front of more than just us.

Supporting McCloskey to Defeat Pombo

VPO endorses Republican Pete McCloskey for June 6th Primary, encourages Dems to re-register as Decline to State and vote in the Republican primary

I am encouraging 11th District Democrats to consider re-registering as Decline to State (no party affiliation) in time for the June 6th Primary so that they can vote in the Republican primary for Pete McCloskey and against Rep. Richard Pombo. The re-registration process is free and easy to do, and party affiliation can easily be changed back to Democrat after the primary. This will be the first real chance to vote against Pombo. Yours can be an important vote that could lead to his defeat in June.

It is easy to change party affiliations, from Democrat to Decline To State (and back again after the primary). All that is required is to re-register to vote. That can be done online or with any voter registration form: There is no cost to re-registering and it is simple and easy to do. Once you are listed as Decline to State, you can ask for either party's ballot for the June 6th Primary. By asking at the voting booth for the Republican ballot, you can vote for McCloskey and against Pombo.

It is clear to me that supporting Pete McCloskey is the best way we have from now until the June 6th primary to damage, and even possibly oust, Pombo. Look at it this way: in any case, one of the Democrats will win the primary. Then, for the general election, it would be Filson or McNerney versus Pombo (if he wins his primary) and that will be a long, hard battle, and obviously, all of us will be on the Democratic side. But supporting McCloskey now is where the most damage can be done to Pombo. There is even the possibility that if enough voters switch to Decline to State and vote against Pombo in the primary, McCloskey could take him out in the first round. McCloskey is putting out killer press releases that hit Pombo's corruption, negligence, lies, and ties to the Jack Abramoff/Tom DeLay lobbyist scandal. He is getting lots of free press. He is barnstorming the district, showing up at many events, and raising the overall awareness of Pombo's nefarious activities. He can make the case against Pombo as a fellow Republican who has a clear and compelling record of service to this country. McCloskey is addressing real issues and real people in the district. I believe he will make a significant difference in this race, even if he only has until June.

Also, McCloskey's platform is not all that far from what a moderate would like: ethics, honesty, and integrity in government, support for veterans, protection of the environment, smaller and more effective government, balanced budgets. However, the important point is that by voting for McCloskey you are not giving up your opportunity to vote Democratic in the general election in November. There is absolutely no obligation to stick with McCloskey after the primary if you do not want to.

As far as the oddity of voting for a Republican, it is more a case of voting against Pombo. Voting for McCloskey in the primary does not harm the Democratic candidates or party in any way. In fact, it helps them. If Pombo can be seen as weaker than expected in the primary, that will give Democrats hope and encourage them to mount a more vigorous campaign for the general election. It will also shake the money tree, as people will give more generously if they can see that their candidate has a true chance of winning.

Supporting McCloskey's campaign against Pombo is, in my mind, a very sensible course of action in these unusual circumstances, and I encourage all Democrats to consider switching to Decline to State so they can have their say in the June 6th Republican primary.

(Note: this is not an endorsement of McCloskey for the General Election. After June 6, there will be a Republican and Democrat running against each other. At that time, VPO will choose which candidate to support. Hint: It will most certainly NOT be Pombo.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

"Rahmbo" Has An Agenda

Jonathan Alter, has a new Newsweek piece out profiling Rahm Emanuel and his efforts on behalf of Congressional candidates around the country.

[Emanuel] thrives as an inside player, in touch with old-style operatives and the party's Internet vanguard. As chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "Rahmbo" is essentially managing 40 House races from a war room a few blocks from the Capitol, helping with candidate recruitment, fund-raising and "rapid response." One minute he's ordering a colleague to plant an editorial trashing a Republican front runner in his hometown paper ("Write this down!"); the next, he's telling one of his hand-picked candidates that the guy's stump speech lacks passion ("If you think that's inspiring, get out now").


Okay, we know all too well that Emanuel has an assertive, hands-on approach to his leadership role in the DCCC. So, of course, we should expect that he’s going to have a strong opinion on the unified message that his candidates should be trumpeting.

Alter continues:

Everyone agrees that the Democrats have to establish a positive agenda to win. Emanuel will weigh in with one in August in a book tentatively titled "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," coauthored with Bruce Reed, who ran domestic policy for Clinton.


The strategy for getting swing-district voters to fire their incumbents is already taking shape. Just as Harry Truman ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress," Democrats will run against the "Rubber-Stamp Congress," which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich.

By now, I’m sure everyone is familiar with the process through which Ellen Tauscher plucked Steve Filson from an obscure career as a commercial airline pilot and introduced him to Rahm Emanuel and her pals in Washington, who then interjected him into the Congressional race against Richard Pombo in CD-11. Filson, in turn, has been deferential to Tauscher and her positions, carefully attempting to package himself as a “moderate/centrist” candidate in her mold.

And that’s the problem I see with Steve Filson trying to follow Emanuel’s strategy to lure voters in the swing district of CD-11: How do you effectively run against a Congress “which pimped for K Street” when you’ve been feeding at the K Street trough? How do you criticize a Congress that “took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq)” when your Democratic mentor (the one you want to be just like) voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq? And how do you run against a Congress that “helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich” when, once again, the Democratic patron upon whom you are modeling yourself voted in support of Bush’s tax cuts?

Now, truly, I appreciate irony as much as the next person. And perhaps I'm missing something here. But can anyone out there explain to me how this plan is supposed to inspire voters to turn out Richard Pombo? If this is really the campaign strategy that Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC’s “chosen” candidates plan to implement, doesn't it seem like they’ll merely be running against, er, themselves?

Is this the best that Democrats can do? No wonder most Americans are tuned out and turned off.

Billionaires for Pombo

I understand that Billionaires for Pombo is soliciting others to aid and abet their nefariousl efforts. I would hope that none of you fall for this and actually go look at the material that they have plagarized, copied and are foisting on the general public as genuine. Just make sure that if you see this url That you NEVER click on it It is so like them to call this a solicitation. And the last thing that you want to do is to let them know of any event in the district. They might just show up and that would be so emarassing for some poor pigeon.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Primer on Primaries

It seems to me that Say No To Pombo has become a discussion list for the Democratic Primary. That is all well and good, but it does not recognize that there are two chances to take Pombo out. The first comes in the Republican Primary. However, as we look at this election, we have to make sure that both primaries deliver the best result. There are many who think that a McNerney - McCloskey general election would be a true win-win for the district. They may be right.

So, I would like to change the focus of this discussion to the idea that what happens in the Republican Primary is perhaps more important than what happens in the Democratic Primary, except to died in the wool some colored (blue or yellow) dog Democrats. Were McCloskey to win the Republican Primary would we change the name of this blog to "Vote McCloskey Down"? I don't think so. Maybe even PomboWatch would go away, having fulfilled it's purpose.

So, the true question is one of how to make sure that this election provides two chances to vote Pombo Out? One way to do that is to make sure that McCloskey gets his full audience, rather than ignoring him.

McCloskey is the one veteran in this race who is raising the issue that Pombo has voted for sending more troops to Iraq and then has failed every single time to support delivering the medical and health care that our veterans need. The VFW has given him a zero rating in terms of his votes for the past two years. He even voted against an ammendment that would increase funding for prosthesis research to better aid those who come back from Iraq or Afghanistan missing a leg or an arm. According to Nick Juliano in the Tracy Press, McCloskey is taking this issue to every veterans organization in the district. He was talking to the VFW in Morgan Hill this week.

Where the hell was the Democratic who says that his being a veteran will make him a better candidate? It looks like Filson has baild out on veterans just like Pombo. If he is truly a vet, he should be taking the same issue as McCloskey, supporting the effort to get rid of Pombo. Meanwhile, all that Pombo can do is to say he is helping build a visitor center for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Pombo is offering image over substance. McCloskey called him on it. Go gettem Pete.

I think that I have just given you a clue in two races. One, that McCloskey knows how to win a battle. The other is should be a clue as to how to vote in the Democratic Primary. Both primaries are important. Let's not short change one while we play games with the other. Let's get both primaries out of the clubs and on to the streets. That is what it will take. Remember, Pombo's campaign manager, Wayne Johnson, is good enough to get Pombo elected the first time when the TV stations did not even have his name on the election results board. He is very good at what he does.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Labor Endorsements and the Conventional Wisdom

I know I’ve been missing in action the last couple of days, and for that I apologize.  It’s been a very busy week for a lot of reasons.  Among other things, my mom came into town for my brother’s birthday.  As much as I love you all, Mom trumps Blog.  So it goes.  Anyhow, I’m in Folsom for most of today visiting with family, so forgive this hardscrabble blog post.  And forgive me for not responding to comments.  

Of course the big news I haven’t commented upon is Jerry McNerney’s endorsement by the California Labor Federation, which represents over two million Californian workers.  We have been discussing the grassroots vs. establishment nature of the Democratic primary, but I think this type of endorsement transcends that distinction.  

In California Democratic politics, Labor plays a huge role.  We saw in the special election how important Labor is to the Democratic Party coalition.  And the fact that the California Labor Federation lined up behind McNerney but not Filson means that McNerney has the support of, if not part of the Democratic Party establishment per se, at least a huge part of the progressive political establishment.

I know I’m being somewhat provocative, but I think it’s interesting to consider how perceptions would change if instead of being identified as the “grassroots candidate,” Jerry McNerney was perceived as the “union-backed candidate.” (I understand it might be a bit premature to identify him as such, at least until SEIU makes its endorsement.  That said, I highly suspect that SEIU will ultimately endorse McNerney and that he will unquestionably be the primary candidate with a hugely disproportionate amount of union support.)  

Anyhow, the reason I bring this up is because when Filson entered the race with the tacit backing of the DCCC and the active support of Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, he became widely perceived as “the establishment candidate.”  And as such, I think some view his entry into the race as somehow surrounded by an air of legitimacy and inevitability.  Of course, I was not a member of this group.    

From my perspective, when Filson entered the race and quickly garnered the support of a number of Bay Area congressional representatives, the conventional wisdom was that the Washington establishment crowd saw something in Steve Filson that the rest of us (who were not overly impressed with him) did not see.  We like to think that the members of Congress know the political score, so if they supported Filson so early, the thinking went, it must be because they knew he was a vastly superior candidate than Jerry McNerney.  And to put it more pointedly, I was told that the people in DC knew something I did not, that they were the experts and that I, along with a ton of local Democratic activists, were simply blind or naïve.  

And though I was skeptical about the aspect of the conventional wisdom that gave credence to the thought that people in DC know better what’s appropriate for Stockton than the people in Stockton, I think everyone recognized that the DCCC and Filson’s other Washington backers would at least provide him access to resources and funding that would be denied to Jerry McNerney.  So maybe even if the candidates were in fact equally viable opponents of Pombo, Steve Filson was given a boost by his supporters in DC.  So even if the people in DC were wrong about Filson, the natural result about their support of Filson would be consequences that would reinforce their belief that he was the right guy.  And, if nothing else, we can see this in the amount of money given to Filson by political PACs.  

Now let us think about this dynamic another way. Steve Filson went from being a political non-entity to being considered a credible candidate in the Democratic congressional primary all because some powerful Democrats in Washington vouched for his viability.  And this was before Steve Filson had to do anything to prove that he deserved their confidence.  Aside from Ellen Tauscher, whom I admit had some pre-established relationship with Steve Filson and his wife, the basis for this support came either from Ellen Tauscher’s confidence in Filson or from Filson’s resume.

And remember, one of those resume items that was so widely touted with Filson’s alleged activism in his union.  I saw “alleged” because some of his claims were disputed at the time (see point #4).  

But either way, I don’t think this looks good for Filson.  Either Filson was really a true union activist and the California Labor Federation failed to endorse him (which should kind of make you wonder what Filson would have had to do in order to be so odious to other Labor activists that they’d avoid even dually endorsing him along with McNerney) or, perhaps more charitably, Filson’s much-touted “activism” was never really there to begin with.  I do know that the inflated importance Filson gave to his “grassroots” political experience made me wonder about the other talking points we heard about his resume, including his union activity.  In any event, I cannot help but see as one of the implications of this endorsement that Filson failed to convince Labor that he is, in a relevant way, one of their own.    

Certainly, at the very least, I think this endorsement will put a big fat question mark after the notion that the people in DC really knew something that the rest of us were missing. Even if they genuinely saw something latent in Filson, he has, at least with respect to Labor, failed to actualize that latent potential.

In sum, I think this type of endorsement has the potential to alter the prevailing conventional wisdom. Furthermore, regardless of the perception this endorsement engenders, I think everyone will view this endorsement of McNerney as a big boost in terms of what it will concretely provide McNerney’s campaigns and what it will deny Filson’s campaign.  I think people who might have given money to Filson might reconsider it in light of his failure to secure any sort of meaningful district-wide endorsement from Labor.  And people who might not have given to McNerney might now do so given the strong support of Labor.  True, Filson has the endorsement of the Contra Costa Central Labor Council.  But that was one battle he won in a war he has so far overwhelmingly lost.  (Also, a lot of people will see the Contra Costa Central Labor Council endorsement as a result of Ellen Tauscher giving Filson the keys to that particular kingdom).  In addition, McNerney is now virtually assured enough ground troops and volunteers to run the type of campaign he needs to run in June.  People in Dublin, Pleasanton, and Sunol who are coming out to vote in the Assembly District 18 primary or the Senate District 10 primary will be reminded to vote for Jerry McNerney for the 11th Congressional District.  In San Joaquin County, the Central Labor Council’s endorsement will be supplemented by the efforts of the California Labor Federation, who have an interest in getting out the vote in support of their candidates for statewide office.  And the thing is, in Contra Costa County the Central Labor Council will be working at cross-purposes with the California Labor Federation and, frankly, with most of the Democratic clubs.

So unless Filson gets the support of SEIU or another similar large, organized group with members ready to do volunteer political work, I just can’t see who will man his campaign. And unless he is able just to raise an obscene amount of money this quarter, I don’t know how he’ll be able to afford to so much more political communication than McNerney. If Filson ends this quarter with $200,000 cash on hand like he has predicted he would, I can see how he might have enough money to be effective.  But otherwise, I really think we need to question how Filson is going to win the primary.  And consequently, we need to ask exactly what the people in DC thought they saw in Filson when they supported him, and whether we have any evidence that it is anything more substantial than his ability to attract support from Labor.  

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Who is defining the issues?

VPO and I have been using different examples to make the same point. This is a difficult election and, in the words of George Lakoff, you have to be the one who frames the issues. At this, Pombo is clearly winning right now. Even this blog is not doing a very good job of framing the issues that differentiate Filson and McNerney other than the incessant back and forth bickering over grassroots vs. imposed by the DCCC.

When Pombo puts out a press release concerning supporting a Vetereans issue, he scores points. Someone needs to take those points off the board.

I am not sure why Filson, the self proclaimed veteran in this race, does not have letters to the editor in all of the newpapers in the area focusing on Pombo's failures to support disabled vetereans. It appears that this veteran has deserted his post. Maybe he should be pointing this out to every American Legion and Disbled American Vets chapter in the district. Take the battle to Pombo's territory.

When Pombo brings a congressional committee out to Stockton to talk about the status of the delta smelt, he shows interest in one of the most important local issues in California and, because there is an environmental concern, maybe blunts some of the anti-environmental arguemets. Someone needs to be telling the truth about Congressional Failures at finding a solution.

Pombo has an automatic advantage in that he can get in the press almost anytime that he wants to just by manipulating the timing of events. It takes work to overcome that. I come back to the question as to why it takes VPO and I to dig out these issues and to bring them to the attention of everyone. Both of us have other things to do with our lives and this is not full time.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pombo sells out our health to do bidding of big food corporations

VPO here. I am following Delta's lead below and "encouraging" the Dem candidates to pump up the volume on attacking Pombo. Pombo served them a softball this week with his vote to override state food labelling laws. This is clearly a vote FOR big corporate campaign donors and AGAINST our health, and the health of our children. See SF Chron article. I have not seen a single press release or comment from Filson or McNerney on this, yet the Republican challenger, Pete McCloskey had one out hours after the vote. Quotes from the Chron article, showing just how outrageous and egregious Pombo's pro-corporate vote was:
"The purpose of this legislation is to keep the public from knowing about the harm they may be exposed to in food," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, a chief critic of the measure.

A major target of the legislation is Prop. 65, which was approved by two-thirds of California voters in 1986 and requires labeling of substances that may cause cancer or birth defects. The law has inspired other states to follow suit with their own rules on food labeling that are more stringent than federal standards.

California officials said the new legislation would reverse the gains made through Prop. 65. Many companies, fearing the warning labels, have changed their food to meet the state's tougher standards. Bottled water companies have cut arsenic levels, and bakers have taken potassium bromate, a potential carcinogen, out of many breads, doughnuts and other bakery goods."We've had a lot of success in getting them to reformulate," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Pombo clearly ignored the will of the 2/3 of Californians who voted for Prop. 65. The food corps and others, like Monsanto, mounted a vigorous campaign to defeat Prop. 65, but it got 2/3 of the vote anyway, showing just how strongly people here want safer food. Yet Pombo votes for his corporate masters, giving his home state a big fat middle finger.

This is an issue the Dems should be all over, especially since it should resonate with soccer moms and independents, and really anyone concerned with health and well-being. Pombo sold us out on this, but not a peep from Dems so far on this. Dems, where are you? If you want us to elect you, we need to see you out there fighting for us!

Being a veteran is more than waving the flag

I continue to wonder who is running the campaigns for the Democratic Candidates. While there are many issues in this campaign, there needs to be a volunteer in each of those campaigns who at least reads PomboWatch every day just to keep up on what is going on with Mr. Pombo. I know that that they can't staff a Dick Morris / Karl Rove type war room, but come on, there are just too many golden opportunities that they are missing.

PomboWatch picked up on this one:

March 7: Pombo tries to garner favor with Veterans Groups: A number of Congressmen, including both Chairman Pombo and Ranking Minorit Member, Rahall (D. WVa) put out a press release concerning a Vietnam Veterans Visitors Center. While I agree with this issue, the red tape referenced in the release always means higher costs, I find it a bit disengenuous considering that there are many who feel Pombo is anti-veteran in his voting. In fact, for the last two years, Pombo has earned a zero rating from the Disabled American Veterans for his voting record. It seems that he wants to appear to champion veterans to appeal to the patriotism of his constituency, but hs is not willing to spend a dime doing what needs to be done

There are several veterans in this campaign. Only one of them has really taken on this issue. Figure it out for yourself. It is the one who doesn't make his sevice the reason to vote for him.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Caveat Lector

Some of you may have read a diary on Daily Kos entitled “Steve Filson and the question every Democrat needs to answer” on January 8. It was a superficial piece attacking Jerry McNerney full of all sorts of strawmen about the campaign. And the author, these5janks, simply refused to back up his assertions with anything of substance. But don’t bother looking for it now. The diary has been deleted. Which makes sense because the author is Steve Filson’s new Finance Director Colin Bishopp.

Now the entire diary started its life as a comment on another diary, and therefore it has been preserved for posterity. In fact, the comment included one telling sentence that was omitted in the diary. Since it started as a comment, I think it’s fair enough to post it here (the sentence in italics is the one omitted from the diary).

Pombo is done. The guy is ripe for a beating and we've got to give it to him. The guy to do it is Steve Filson. Both Pelosi and Tauscher support him and are working to transform him into a powerhouse. So what if he hasn't yet figured out how to navigate the blogosphere? So what if he's not a proficient Kos-poster? He will be soon.

We all know this race is critical. We need to back a candidate who can win in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and San Joaquin County. That candidate is Steve Filson. We all need to understand that this isn't about who has the "right" to run or which candidate "deserves" the party nomination. This is about winning. The fact is Jerry McNerney cannot win. He is a dedicated and quality human being who simply cannot win votes in San Joaquin county [sic]. Steve Filson can and will. Indeed, I am so sure that he will I am moving out from Chicago so that I can be there to help him.

This McNerney/Filson noise is the typical Democratic Party bull. Everyone's logging
on to their blog to whine about this or that and wants the world to recognize how perverse and unjust it is that centrist Democrats "neglect" the party's base principles. The Republicans figured out a long time ago that winning is what matters. We need to stop talking about how good a guy Jerry McNerney is and start talking about winning.

In every corner of the country, dedicated, life-long Democrats are going to have to accept that in order to take back the House and Senate, they will have to step aside. This will hurt, but it's the truth. We need to rally behind the best candidate in every race even if it means that a good guy has to take the back seat. I'm sorry Jerry. You're a good guy but you're not the best candidate. Steve Filson isn't a perfect candidate, but he, too, is also a good guy. He's also a life-long Democrat and a quality human being. But what is critical is that he can win. Pelosi and Taucher [sic] obviously think so and so do I. And I'm willing to spend the next eleven months
of my life doing everything I can to see that he does.

I have just one question for the Kos community: What's more important, patting McNerney on the back for running an uphill campaign two years ago or beating Richard Pombo? Democrats all over the country need to start asking themselves this question and they need to start now. And they better come up with the right answer soon, or the Republicans will continue to run things around here for a very long time.

The reason I bring this up is two-fold. First of all, this is pretty typical of Filson’s outreach to the netroots. You get people attacking McNerney and failing to engage in a substantive discussion about Filson, all while hiding behind their aliases. To be clear, people are allowed to have their beliefs and they are allowed to express them anonymously or pseudonymously. But I think it is outrageous that all of this effort is spent criticizing McNerney and criticizing other bloggers instead of actually putting forth substantive arguments for Filson. In any event, this diary is more egregious because it was written by one of Filson’s top people. And yet when asked about his connection to Filson, Colin Bishopp dissembled.

Note, when the diary was deleted, the comments to the diary were deleted as well. But I have a hard copy of the diary and a lot of the comments.

A member of Daily Kos using the name Wu Ming responded to both the comment and to the diary itself. Wu Ming was suspicious of the tone of the diary and Bishopp’s unwillingness to address certain substantive issues about Steve Filson. This prompted Wu Ming to ask, “How much are you being paid? Or are you coming from Chicago to volunteer?”

These5janks responded (emphasis mine):

Wu Ming: I came to Chicago for grad school and am coming back to California
because it is home. No one is paying me anything. I will walk precincts and make phone calls for Steve Filson for nothing. If I can do more, I will. But I plan
to help other Democrats too. I just happens that I hate Richard Pombo and I want
to contribute to his defeat in any way I can. I’m young and not tied-down so I
can afford to move around and start from scratch.

The clear implication is that he is going to volunteer for Filson, not that he’s moving back to California to join Steve Filson’s staff.

I, for one, find this type of diary really unhelpful. And I’m not the only one. In case you think that I’m the only one who thinks this diary was out of line, I’ll refer you to a couple of comments.
RonK Seattle wrote: “Better diary if you told us something about Filson. Anything. Just sayin’.”

Elwood Dowd wrote:

Please note. I follow politics reasonably closely. I hadn’t heard of Filson or
McNerney until this post.

Thanks to you, my first impression of Filson is: this guy is running a negative campaign against another Democrat, and is touting his endorsements.

With friends like you…


Hilltopper wrote:

Diary No [sic] helpful.

I live near CA-11 and plan to contribute time and money to whichever candidate wins the primary. At present, I am listening to both democrats and seeing is there is a reason to support one over the other.

Your diary gives us nothing. I suggest that you tell us about Filson’s background (navy pilot, United pilot, active with the United union) and tell us where he stands on some important issues. We may also enjoy hearing a few facts about Pombo while you are at it.

In any event, it’s completely consistent with the level of behavior I expect from Steve Filson’s team. There is a lot of unscrupulous stuff happing and I cannot discuss most of it. But it’s maddening to see it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Help Environmental Groups Fight Pombo

There’s been a lot of discussion recently on this site about the Democratic primary. For all of you chomping at the bit to fight Pombo without concern for party politics, there are plenty of opportunities for you to help out in the coming days, weeks, and months before the primary election.

I’ve been speaking with folks from Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund and the Sierra Club about ways the anti-Pombo crowd can help them in the near term to take on Pombo.


The Sierra Club is still officially running an “accountability campaign” which means that they won’t talk to voters about voting Pombo out of office. Instead they'll talk to voters about the fact that a) Pombo is their rep and b) that Pombo is bad on certain issues. So the aim will be educational and issue-based and will NOT delve into electoral politics. That said, the Sierra Club is running a serious canvassing and phone banking operation in the district for the next month and I imagine that this will lay the groundwork for a serious electoral campaign come the summer. I know that they’re collecting signatures and I imagine, although they haven’t said so explicitly, that if the Sierra Club decides to target Pombo in November, then those signatories will become targets for their anti-Pombo message. If you want to help in the anti-Pombo effort and you’ve never canvassed before, I encourage you to try to make it to their Saturday canvasses in Pleasanton. They’ll train you how to canvass and you’ll have those skills for later even if you decide to work for the Democratic campaign instead of the Sierra Club.

Anyhow, the schedule from now until mid-April is:

Canvassing every Saturday in Pleasanton.
Phone-banking in Berkeley every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-9 PM.

I’m going to be at the phone banks this Thursday. I hope some of you guys join me. Please RSVP to the Sierra Club activities by calling Christina Armor at (510) 848-0800.


Right now it looks like Defenders is still in the process of setting up an anti-Pombo campaign operation in the district. They’re looking to hire a campaign manager and I’ve included a job description at the bottom of this post in case anyone an experienced campaigner who’d want to run an anti-Pombo campaign. More interesting (to me at least) is that they’re looking for someone with an RV to follow Pombo around when he’s in the district and remind people that he took a family vacation on the taxpayers’ dime. If you own an RV that they can use or if you’d like to join the RV at Pombo appearances in the district, email Kevin Keefe.

Now here’s the job description from Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund:

Campaign Manager - Northern California Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is looking for an experienced campaign professional to help us run an independent expenditure issue campaign in the 11th Congressional District in California. The ideal candidate will have field and communications experience and some management experience.

  1. Run day-to-day activities of the campaign on the ground while working closely with DC based consulting team.

  2. Help develop voter contact for the campaign.

  3. Implement earned media plan: organize events, represent DAF with key reporters

  4. Run sophisticated weekend canvass operation and ID phone banks, including recruiting and training volunteers and continually shaping message and program to compliment paid and earned media.

  5. Network and coordinate efforts on the ground among environmental groups and other constituencies.

  6. Recruit and build the activist list for media and internet activities.

  7. Set up systems and manage accounting and compliance for the operation.
Position available immediately through November 20, 2006. Competitive salary offered along with a chance to work on a great campaign with strong team. Contact Kevin Keefe at for more information.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Feeding red meat to blue dogs

Just a short reminder for folks. Yesterday, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision (well, 8-0 since Alito had not heard the original testimony) voted to uphold an act that said Universities that accept Federal Money can not bar on-campus military recruitment.

This was originally referred to by the names of it's co-authors: the Pombo - Solomon Act.

This will surely play to Pombo's strength among district Republicans.

The War Within The War

Someone posted a comment here a while back that said something about “wheels within wheels.” I was thinking a little bit about “wheels within wheels” yesterday. Sure, there is a war to be waged against Richard Pombo between June and November; nobody here questions that, just as nobody here questions that Pombo is a menace to the American way of life. And suggestions that Democrats would support Pombo over Filson, were he to win the primary, are frankly ludicrous. No one has lost sight of the ultimate war to be fought.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn't a war within the war. In one of his comments to my most recent post jbmendel made the following statement:

That said, I generally don't have a problem with the posts that give (Filson) a hard time, because even when people criticize/attack, everyone here can take a step back and remember that we're on the same side.

The same side? Well, no. Maybe in the final war, but definitely not in the initial battle. You see, that’s where the history of the 2004 race against Pombo comes into play. For those of you who weren’t involved in that race and don’t understand its relevance to where we find ourselves today, here’s a little history.

In 2002, Elaine Shaw, another Tauscher protégé, ran a well-financed race against Pombo, complete with DCCC support. She lost by nearly 20 points, and subsequently the DCCC officially abandoned CD-11.

In 2004, the Democratic Party was content to cede CD-11 to Pombo, preferring not to go to the trouble of recruiting a candidate and providing funding for a challenge to what they saw as an unbeatable incumbent. But a funny thing happened in 2004. Slumbering Democrats throughout the region suddenly started to shake off their stupor and refused to be ignored by the political insiders in Washington, DC. In CD-11, Jerry McNerney, realizing that there was no candidate opposing Pombo, mounted a last-minute write-in campaign to get on the ballot as the Democratic nominee. I know that the talk of grass-roots progressives has come to be somewhat of a cliché in this current race, but it is a simple fact that lots and lots of local activists, when confronted with the clear fact that the Democratic Party was not going to support its own candidate in CD-11, took matters into their own hands and mounted an essentially self-financed and totally volunteer Congressional campaign. With not one red cent from the Democratic Party. And with that, they got almost exactly the same percentage of the vote as Shaw, with more actual votes than any other candidate had ever received against Pombo. And let me stress again –- with not one scintilla of help from the Democratic Party.

Now, I have never hidden the fact that I was a McNerney supporter in 2004. As I’ve previously stated, I sure didn’t support Pombo; so that means, a prioi, that I supported McNerney. But I have also never maintained that McNerney was the greatest thing since sliced bread. As a candidate, he has many flaws: his presentation is wooden; he is often inarticulate. But he was willing to challenge Pombo and the Democratic Party establishment when no one else would, even going so far as to take out an additional mortgage on his house, because he believed that the people of CD-11 deserved a choice on their ballot when they went out to vote in November.

Ah, but what a difference a year makes. Suddenly, in 2005, when it became apparent that Pombo’s outrageous environmental stances and clear pattern of corruption had made him an attractive target in the 2006 election, the Democratic Party sat up and took notice of CD-11. But they just couldn’t let that upstart McNerney be their candidate; he was too much like that uncool kid who dared to crash the cool kids’ party.

And that’s the crux of it. It wasn’t that McNerney had lost in 2004; it was that he and his supporters had challenged the top-down hierarchy in Washington, DC. You see, they don’t want average citizens getting all uppity and taking politics into their own hands; you have to realize that at a certain level, the sole function of the parties, both Republican and Democratic, is to hold tightly to entrenched power.

So it was no accident that Steve Filson, supporter and protégé of Ellen Tauscher –- Blue Dog Democrat, member of the DLC, and diva of corporate cronyism –- was parachuted into CD-11 as the “favored” candidate of the DC establishment. And it’s no accident that incumbent Democrats from all over the Bay Area rushed in to prop him up with their endorsements as the PACs made their donations. It was a stick in the eye aimed at the progressive grass-roots. A message writ loud and clear: “Go home. We’re in charge here. This is OUR party.”

So, jbmendel, while I believe Democrats will join together for the war, regardless of the outcome of the primary, I think it’s clear that they are not on the same side in this battle; and, yes, some of them are pretty angry. Between now and then, they will be fighting like hell to take their party back from the Boss Tweed contingent in DC. Steve Filson appears to have chosen his side in this battle; I don’t think it’s an accident that he has cultivated party insiders and failed to engage with the grass-roots. Likewise, it’s hardly surprising that local activists view him with suspicion and dislike. And if you think they’re being mean to Filson by expecting him to be accountable for his behavior, his actions, and his (mis)representations, so be it. But everyday citizens have developed these quaint notions that integrity and fair play and a government that works for their interests is something worth fighting for. Maybe one day they’ll learn to step aside and let the “professionals” run the Democratic Party. But not just yet.