Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Blue Dogs: Congress' Vote Auctioneers

Politico (emphasis mine):

As individuals, the 52 Blue Dogs have received the plurality of their 2009 campaign contributions from a traditional Democratic ally: organized labor. Labor political action committees have filled the Blue Dog campaign coffers with more than $1 million so far this cycle.

But it’s the Blue Dog PAC that reveals the most about how the coalition operates. As Blue Dog clout has expanded, fundraising has grown accordingly — and not just from traditionally Democratic contributors.

In the 2008 election cycle, as fundraising for the National Republican Congressional Committee declined by roughly one-third from 2006 and fundraising for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee grew by just 26 percent, the Blue Dog PAC more than doubled its take (from $1,239,516 to $2,636,273).

And it raised more than $47,000 per Blue Dog from other political action committees — more than twice the $22,000-per-member total from the 2004 cycle.

Some of that cash came from interests that aren’t necessarily in sync with labor or even with traditional Democratic constituencies. In just the first half of 2009, all told the Blue Dog PAC took in $1,058,750 in contributions from other PACs, including health care PACs, which have already kicked in $297,500; energy PACs, $162,500; and financial services PACs, $134,500.
The most frustrating aspect of the health care debate has been the level of anecdote, euphemism, and passive propaganda being repeated by Blue Dogs and the GOP to an extent that the motives and goals are blurred beyond comprehension. Perspective and understanding are lost to empty rhetoric and ideological strutting that is more about how much they can get the country to believe than it is reforming the systems we rely on.

Jim Matheson (D-Pfizer) has now made it known that on health care reform, he will side with the GOP over spending concerns, regardless of the expense to his constituents. But that stands as a glaring hypocrisy for the Congressman and his caucus, considering their silence on, and frequent support of wasteful spending in areas of campaign contributor's "national" interest (As if health care reform were not a national interest itself). Stealing from Sirota, who references the WSJ/Blue Dog meme asserting spending for social programs is a "parochial concern":
We can thank Seib for putting it so plainly. Evidently, Congress isn't giving into "parochial considerations" when it hands Goldman Sachs billions of dollars to fund the company's executive bonuses. Apparently, there's no "parochial considerations" at work when a Vice President directs massive defense contracts to a company that still pays him. Clearly, there's no "parochial considerations" at work when defense contractors line lawmakers pockets in exchange for military pork projects. However, the two programs that undergird the basic health, welfare and retirement security of the general population of the United States? Sorry, that's a "parochial consideration" that must be dealt with harshly.

Of course, this absurd logic is precisely why the Washington Establishment knows it needs an authoritarian commission to do its dirty work. You see, elected officials can't be expected to be able to go back home to voters and explain a plan to simultaneously slash Social Security and Medicare while preserving Pentagon waste and corporate welfare. Indeed, with polls already showing that the public thinks we're wasting way too much cash on bailouts and defense, if lawmakers come home with such a proposal, they'll get booted from office.
Remember the Blue Dogs joining with the Republicans recently to save the pointless F-22 spending? I do. Remember the Blue Dog outrage over spending or multiple war funding votes? Yeah, neither do I. Remember their vocal opposition to stripping oversight from the TARP bailout? No? But they're so fiscally conservative! Surely you must have just missed it in the excitement.

It's impossible to accept that this is an issue of fiscal responsibility for Jim and his caucus, when so many times the Blue Dogs have thrown that very notion to the wind when politically expedient to do so. What the caucus is attempting here in opposition to spending (and some issues completely unrelated, like stabbing unions in the back after cashing their contribution checks by opposing card check in the EFCA) is resurrect the "Reagan Democrat." And it's going to get hung around their necks like a rotting albatross.

Blue Dogs are either going to lose their new found influence quickly once they "own" the blocking of health care reform overall, as there are enough liberal and progressive house members to effectively stop a compromised and ineffective bill (read Bacchus "bipartisan" bill coming back from the Senate as a result of the Blue Dog opposition) until next year. Or it passes with a public option, and those voters who oppose a public option are not going to vote for you anyway. Blue Dogs have a choice: turn off those voters who wouldn't vote for even a conservative Democrat, or turn off every voter, by ensuring that no reform passes the house in 2009. If this passes with you in clear opposition, Mr. Blue Dog, the political cover of voting against this reform isn't going to sway a Republican, and will be remembered by very few independents who will never warm to ideological opposition for opposition's sake. Supporting the reform -- even if you must retain your contrived reservations about spending, when it bothered you so little elsewhere -- would at least allow you to say you contributed to the reform as much as you could, rather than just joining the GOP in obstructing it.

It's bad strategy, bad logic, and bad for constituents to oppose health care reform for such manufactured and transparent political calculus.

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