Archive for the ‘MD-8 Congressional Race’ category

09.25.16 Is Peter Franchot a Democrat any more?

September 25, 2016

Here (on the left) is Maryland’s comptroller, Peter Franchot, who hails from Takoma Park and used to call himself progressive. The man he is posing with is Dan Cox, the Republican running against Democrat Jamie Raskin to represent MD-8 in Congress, one of the most progressive districts in the country. Cox says that Raskin would “force America into socialist Marxism” and aligns with Donald Trump on immigration. And Franchot apparently likes this, as well as the backdrop of Trump and (Republican governor) Larry Hogan posters.




©2016 Keith Berner


04.27.16 Schadenfreude (election wrap-up)

April 27, 2016

Before I go negative, I want to acknowledge Jamie Raskin’s extremely important victory yesterday. His win not only sends a substantively excellent man to Congress. It also demonstrates that – at least in this district and this year – money can’t purchase victory. Passion, vision, and grassroots organizing won the day. Everyone in MD-8 can be proud of this result!

Now to my Schadenfreude* list:

  1. Washington Post: Both the editors and MoCo political correspondent, Bill Turque, did their best to discredit Raskin as a left-wing extremist. It’s downright fun to annoy the big-business-obsessed Post by voting for progressives who scare them.
  1. David Trone: The man spent over $12-million to sully the electoral process in our district, after he went around the country delivering over $150k to right-wing Republicans in order to “buy access” (his words), ala Donald Trump. It’s sad to think that he didn’t bankrupt himself in the process of this campaign, but one can hope he’ll never try this again.
  1. Kathleen Matthews: Without a public-policy or community-service background, this corporate shill became the most heavily PAC-funded congressional candidate in the country. After having overseen Marriott’s opposition to labor and $1-3/4 million in contributions to Republicans, Matthews tried to play on her husband’s connections (Chris Matthews is the star of Hardball) and her gender to steal our district. Her distant third-place finish should send her right back to the corporate world.
  1. Jonathan Shurberg of Maryland Scramble: The overwhelming majority of Shurberg’s posts are “just the facts”: links to primary sources, scans of candidate mailings, and the like. These are generally offered without commentary and make Scramble is a very useful blog, indeed. It’s the less frequent commentary that deserves criticism. In this race, Shurberg:
  • Excused Matthews’s and Trone’s lack of legislative background by pointing out that lots of members of Congress don’t have any (and what a great job they’re all doing, eh?). In defending the two moneybags, he also purposely ignored opponents’ arguments that neither had any background of public service.
  • Declared the money from one’s pockets or from corporate PACs to be no dirtier than money raised in small dollar amounts from inside Maryland and our district. Shurberg went after Matthews’s opponents for citing the difference and, thereby, demonstrated a (newly found?) love of big money in politics.
  • Forgave Matthews’s responsibility for Marriott contributions to GOP candidates and office holders
  • Explained away Matthews’s money from Hardball guests
  • Repeatedly attacked Raskin and his supporters in a tone that can only be described as mocking, gleeful, and morally superior. It is well known the Shurberg has never forgiven Raskin for the 2014 state delegate race, when Raskin didn’t endorse Shurberg. It was still remarkable that Shurberg couldn’t suppress his contempt borne of personal hurt.
  • Huddled with Kathleen Matthews during the entire J Street annual gala last week.

Clearly Shurberg wanted Raskin not only to lose, but to be embarrassed. He seemed to want Matthews to win (he certainly found ways to excuse nearly everything about her that progressives objected to) but wasn’t honest enough to come right out and endorse her. If Shurberg used to be a progressive, he sure sold out those values in this race and most likely did so in a fit of personal pique. The Progressive Neighbors Steering Committee should take note and remove him from their membership.

  1. The giant PACs and bigwigs who funded Matthews’s campaign: Money down the drain. Hah-hah! (sound file)
  1. Emily’s List: Sorry, gender isn’t everything. I get why Emily’s list doesn’t fund men. But they ought to be selective about the fights they pick. This year in Maryland, their outsized support of Kathleen Matthews and Donna Edwards put them on the wrong side of two men (Raskin and Chris Van Hollen) who have impeccable records on women’s issues. Again, money down the drain. And – in this case – money that could have better used elsewhere.

I’m really sad about how poorly Kumar Barve did in yesterday’s election (a little over 2%). In a race where all the oxygen was not sucked up by Trone and Matthews, this serious, accomplished legislator would have gotten a lot more attention. I still would have endorsed and worked for Raskin, but Barve was my clear second choice and I hope he will continue serving the public good. (I also feel sad for Ana Sol Gutierrez [5.5%], another good person.)

I can’t quite put Will Jawando (<5%) on my Schadenfreude list, because he’s not a bad guy (except for that Big Pharma money he took). But it would be nice if he would do some work in our area before he decides to run for another seat (he ran for state delegate in 2014 and lost badly). Simply having a story that is superficially similar to Barack Obama’s doesn’t really qualify him for office.

Final comment: If one accepts the probability that Trone and Matthews were fighting against each other for the same set of pro-business, moderate Democrats, we can thank Trone for helping Raskin win.

*My writing Schadenfreude with a capital “S” is not a symptom of the widespread disease I call “Random Capitalization Syndrome”; rather it is true to German grammar, where all nouns are capitalized. For more random linguistic tips or a dose of severe grammatical discipline, feel free to contact your blogger any time.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.19.16 In which Matthews takes umbrage at Trone

April 19, 2016

There’s a certain amusement in watching bad guys rip each other to shreds. Though the substance is frightening as hell, your blogger has chuckled as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio traded insults and sexual innuendo this primary season.

So it is in our own (MD-8) congressional race. As David Trone has thrown over $9-million (soon to be $12 million) at his pursuit of personal glory, he has taken out a couple of full-page Washington Post ads. Kathleen Matthews, for her part, doesn’t like Trone’s reference to her in one of these as a “local media celebrity.” So Matthews has issued a strongly worded retort. As Bill Turque reports:

“You can run as many ads as you would like, but when you do, I’d appreciate it if you clean up your act when referring to me,” Matthews said at the end of an indignant open letter to Trone released by her campaign.

This cracks me up. For one thing, as supposed policy credentials, Matthews has been touting nonstop her experience as a local media celebrity (er, I mean, her record as a reporter on WJLA TV covering one hard-hitting story after another). For another, while Matthews has (rightfully) criticized Trone’s attempt to purchase a congressional seat outright, last week she contributed $500k to her own campaign, making her again, “birds of a feather” with Trone.

Back to Matthews’s letter, she concludes:

I am proud of my work — all while raising three children with my husband of 35 years. . . . That doesn’t make me special, but it certainly doesn’t make me a ‘media celebrity.’ It is a derogatory term and, as a working mom, I find it offensive and uncalled for.

I get Matthew’s tactic of trying to appeal to women. But where, may I ask, did Trone disparage her child-raising or life with her husband? All he did was call her what she is. Except, of course, that he left out the part where Matthews spent a decade as a $1.4 million/year shill for the Marriott Corp,  overseeing campaign contributions to the GOP and helping Marriott in its efforts to crush unionized labor. Too bad Trone focused as little attention on Matthews as he did.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.17.16 Jamie Raskin for Congress

April 17, 2016

Jamie Raskin’s record of accomplishment is astounding. Let’s start with his 2006 campaign for the Maryland Senate from District 20. (Beginning there gives short shrift to Raskin’s career as a nationally respected professor of constitutional law at American University.) In launching the effort, Raskin not only took on an entrenched incumbent, Ida Reuben, who had been serving a decidedly anti-progressive party machine and big-business interests for decades. He also purposely took on a long history indifference to state politics by D-20 voters.

While our district is home to some of the most progressive voters in the country, many of our neighbors had only been focused on national and international politics. Year after year, Ida Reuben and her ilk represented us in Annapolis, keeping Maryland blue, but hardly better than center-right. Raskin not only trounced Reuben thoroughly (2 to 1) in a race he was supposed to lose. He also carried Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur with him as state delegates, in a progressive sweep. D-20’s powerful chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Sheila Hixson, got with the program, moving from cautious centrism to forceful progressive leadership, with Raskin as a guide and partner.

Jamie Raskin’s election, then, was not only about a single senate seat. He consciously sought to create a movement, providing the vision and voice that have given D-20 and our values the power we lacked in Maryland. This is leadership defined.

The list of legislation passed with Raskin’s authorship, contribution, co-sponsorship, or advocacy is too long to recount here. Same-sex marriage, gun control, environmental regulation and remediation, economic justice, campaign finance reform. Not everything Raskin has touched has become law. (There is more work to do in a state that remains far more conservative than its Democratic reputation implies). But so many laws would never have seen the light of day or gotten to victory without him in the trenches.

Raskin’s most recent success is his “Noah’s Law” the toughest anti-drunk driving measure in the country, which passed in the just-concluded legislative session, overcoming years of liquor-lobby opposition.

Another element of Jamie Raskin’s leadership is his compelling oratory. He generates enthusiasm and motivates action by walking into a room and opening his mouth. The legions of passionate volunteers who have served in his campaigns demonstrate this. In fact, it is the door-knockers and phone-callers who have made Raskin viable against two opposing campaigns flush with millions of dollars of dirty money. (Kathleen Matthews is the most heavily corporate-PAC funded congressional candidate in the country. David Trone has spent a completely mind-boggling $9.1 million in a blatant attempt to purchase personal glory.)

Indeed, the contrast could not be starker between Raskin, whose life has been dedicated to public service and the two moneybags candidates who have served only themselves and their business interests.

I have written previously about these birds of a feather, both of whom cared so little about policy and politics – prior to seeking their own renown in Congress – that they didn’t bother to vote in two of the last three primaries. Each has been responsible for massive contributions to far-right GOP candidates and officeholders around the country (see Matthews and Trone). Both claim a moral pass on this, because throwing money to bad guys in a corrupt system was what they had to do for business.

There is no moral exemption for helping bad guys in order to enrich yourself or your corporate masters. If you send money to the GOP, you are backing GOP policies, period. While Jamie Raskin has been working hard every day to clean up campaign corruption, Kathleen Matthews and David Trone are its very embodiment.

Your blogger is deeply offended by the mere presence of Matthews and Trone in this race. Their progressive rhetoric is superficial. Their lack of community service reveals their selfishness. Should either be elected, the best a progressive voter could expect would be general support for a Democratic agenda, without any leadership for progressive values. And we could expect both to advocate for the status quo regarding the role of big, corrupting money in our broken democracy.

Jamie Raskin is not the only worthy candidate for Congress in MD-8. Kumar Barve (D-17) has served honorably in the Maryland Senate, making a name for himself as an environmental leader, among other things. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) has been a reliable progressive vote in the House. But both lack Raskin’s power and results. Gutierrez seems in this race to be running solely on her Latina identity, a worthy consideration, but hardly sufficient to justify your vote.

Will Jawando is smart, articulate, and progressive. But he is tainted by having taken Big Pharma money, has provided little or no community service in the area, and seems to offer only his ethnic identity (as an African American) and brief, barely-relevant service in the Obama White House as rationales for his campaign.

Former State Department official Joel Rubin has contributed positively to the race, mostly by criticizing Matthews and Trone.

Coverage of this campaign would not be complete without commenting on pernicious role played by the Washington Post. It is hardly a surprise that the virulently pro-corporate, anti-union newspaper endorsed Matthews – they can count on her to do its bidding and serve its interests, if not explicitly, then certainly in style and attitude. (Another indication of Matthews’s likely fealty to big business if she were elected is her endorsement by former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, the prince of pavement.)

Even though the Post acknowledges that there is hardly an iota of stated policy difference among the candidates, it condemns Raskin for being “doctrinaire.” This flies in the face of his success in building bridges, not only across Maryland’s partisan divide, but also within the Democratic Party. (Raskin has managed to create an enduring alliance with hardly progressive Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller [D-27], a remarkable feat.)

The Post’s influence is more insidious than its editorials. While sole Montgomery County political reporter Bill Turque has done some good reporting on the race. He has also ignored Raskin (at times) or damned him with right-wing language that clearly reflects the Post’s editorial bias.

Jamie Raskin has an extremely bright future, not only as a movement leader, but as an effective legislator who will serve the public good for decades. And if Raskin ever decides to move on from legislating, look for him to serve in the judiciary or in a future Democratic administration.

Maryland D-8 voters must show we cannot be bought. We owe it not only to ourselves but to the country to keep Jamie Raskin on an upward trajectory in service to all of us.

©2106 Keith Berner

04.06.16 Loaded language in WaPo’s profile of Jamie Raskin

April 6, 2016

As part of a series profiling the Democratic candidates for Congress from MD-8, the Washington Post this morning ran Bill Turque’s piece on Jamie Raskin. While I am happy to see a mostly positive piece about Jamie Raskin in the Post, Turque’s use of loaded language once again demonstrates the lack of a line between WaPo’s editorial and reporting.

In endorsing the oh-so-corrupt Kathleen Matthews last month, the WaPo editors called Raskin “doctrinaire.” Today, Turque described Raskin as “furthest out to the left flank” in comparison to Matthews and David Trone. Compare that to other language Turque might have used, such as “further left” or even “furthest left.” The use of “out” and “flank” make Raskin look like an extremist – this is opinion-mongering in the guise of reporting.

Also, note Turque’s reference to Takoma Park as “ultra” progressive, which continues a long Post tradition of either condemning or ridiculing my home town. Wouldn’t “very” have sufficed? For the biased Post, the answer is clearly “no,” because anything less than fealty to the corporate elite is tantamount to Maoism.

Only after the subtle picture of Raskin-as-freak has been painted does Turque cite – at the end of the article –  Raskin’s record of working well with the GOP and others who don’t wholly share his politics.

©2016 Keith Berner

04.03.16 Can money buy MD-8?

April 3, 2016

Political activist and neighbor, Esther Siegel, shared with me her letter to Washington Post reporter Bill Turque and gave me permission to reprint it. Here it is, unedited.

Dear Mr. Turque,

Ever since your article (March 7, 2016, “Maryland candidates debate whether Congress is entry-level job”) was printed, I have been thinking a lot about the District 8 Congressional election.  At the time we spoke in Thurmont, I was leaning toward Jamie Raskin but felt I owed it to myself to be open minded and listen to why each of the other candidates believed they should represent me in Congress. One of the reasons I went to Thurmont was to listen to the questions from constituents not in my district.

I have now read enough and witnessed each of the candidates at several forums and I have made a conclusive decision.  But it was one sentence in particular in Keith Berner’’s Left-Hand View blog, of 3/12 that struck me as the most convincing reason District 8 ought to be represented by Jamie Raskin.

Berner lists what Raskin, Matthews and Throne, the three top contenders, as defined by the media, offer us based on their “resumes”.

Keith wrote, “While Jamie Raskin has been serving the public good, the others have been serving themselves”.

It is painfully rare that a politician comes along who is honorable, with unwavering integrity, that we are witness to his actions and who works tirelessly for his constituents.

The two other “front runners” are only so because they have brought to our primary something most of hoped would never happen to us – that is become an election about money.  Trone will spend “whatever it takes” to win, and Matthews is relying on her wealth and wealthy friends.

The reason, the only reason they have brought this dimension into our District primary is because they have no “resume” of service.  They can only hope to win through money not through their service in our community.

If one of them wins, they will be bringing to our community, what the Republican Presidential primary is bringing, the sad reality that money can buy anything.  

Why they are not suited to represent us is exactly for that reason, that they care more about themselves and their status then what is best for our District.  We deserve to be represented in Congress not by the elite and entitled class, but by a person who has demonstrated passion for us, as constituents. (As an example, there is an issue with Amendment to SB198 (Pollinator Protection bill) and Jamie called us at 11:44pm the night before the bill was due in the Senate because he was called and wanted to respond to his constituents.  Several calls later, into the early morning, he had reached all of the constituents who had been frantically trying to contact him).

I knew that constituents call Jamie at all hours in need of help.  But I was witness to his responses.  He devotes his time to participating in meetings with constituents who are dealing with what might be considered mundane issues (stop signs, pot holes, navigating bureaucracy), time the other “front runner” candidates have not done. So we know Jamie will continue in the service he has demonstrated and bring his energy, capacity to work with his colleagues to ensure that our lives and needs are supported and well cared for.  We cannot say that about the other two.

In all fairness to the other candidates.  None of the other candidates who have not held office locally before have been able to convince me they are prepared for Congress.  I stand by my assertion that Congress should not be an entry level position for public service.  I just think people don’t really know, no matter how “close” they think they have been to Congress, what being an elected official is really about.  I would so prefer some of them who have passion and good ideas would run for local office before asking us to consider them for higher office.  And the other two elected officials just don’t seem strong enough to me.

If you are inclined, please allow my response to your question about who I support and why as a follow up in one of your columns.  I think it would be helpful for folks to go through a process of really understanding each candidate make informed and thoughtful decisions.  I hope this piece will encourage them to do so.


Esther Siegel

03.27.16 Kathleen Matthews: the face of political corruption (and GOP love)

March 27, 2016

Executive Summary

Kathleen Matthews has received:

  • more money from lobbyists than any Democrat running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country
  • more lobbyist money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country
  • more corporate PAC money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country

Both Matthews and David Trone have worked only in service to their own enormous wealth (rather than the public good). Both have funneled money to anti-progressives, giving themselves a pass because business interests obviously relieve one of moral responsibility for one’s actions [sarcasm intended].

+ + +

Kathleen Matthews is running a dishonest campaign for Congress in Maryland District 8. While clogging airwaves and mailboxes with liberal pablum, she is running away from her past and present. Since she has no legislative record, the only way voters can judge what she would do in Congress is precisely what she doesn’t want voters to know.

I stipulate that true progressives don’t write checks (or cause checks to be written) to candidates and members of Congress who oppose everything we believe in. It is well known by now (and covered by me) that David Trone, the other moneybags candidate in the race, has given over $161,000 to some of the worst Republicans in the country in the cause of enriching himself. Only in the past couple weeks has Matthews’s GOP love gotten the attention it deserves.

David Lublin at Seventh State blog reports that Matthews’s record is not only worse than Trone’s but is orders of magnitude worse than her infamous $2,600 contribution to anti-birth-control Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). In fact, Matthews has overseen over $700,000 in contributions to right-wingers, as chief lobbyist for the Marriott Corporation. (See partial list below.)

Jeffrey Hearn at Down with Tyranny blog digs even deeper into Matthews’s participation in leadership of American pay-to-play political culture.

Matthews’ [sic] title at Marriott International was Executive Vice President, Global Communications and Public Affairs. Her portfolio there included “[l]eading brand public relations, corporate communications, social responsibility, international public affairs, and government affairs.”

. . .

The Government Affairs Office is where the lobbyists are located at Marriott (the in-house ones, anyway). That office reported to Matthews when she worked there, and while she has recently attempted to distance herself from the Marriott lobbyistsshe has elsewhere acknowledged that she not only oversaw their work, but also “advocated” herself on occasion.

. . .

Government Affairs at Marriott was active on many fronts. Take labor issues for instance. Soon after Matthews arrived at Marriot, opposing the Employee Free Choice Act became a priority for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), the trade association that has described Matthews as a “key member.”

. . .

Opposition to the raising of the minimum wage was another important labor issue that emerged during Matthews’ [sic] tenure at Marriott. The AHLA opposed such efforts furiously whether they took the form of a proposed raise in the federal minimum wage or one of the many municipal ordinances being considered in various cities across the United States.

. . .

Kathleen Matthews has received more money from lobbyists than any Democrat running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Kathleen Matthews has received more lobbyist money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country (source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Kathleen Matthews has received almost three dozen contributions– totaling over $100,000– from corporate PACs, as of December 31, 2015. This is more corporate PAC money than any non-incumbent of either party running for the House in 2016 anywhere in the country has received. 

I began this post by accusing Matthews of running a dishonest campaign. Oppose Tyranny also sheds light on that.  Zephyr Teachout , who leads anti-corruption nonprofit Mayday PAC, endorsed Jamie Raskin recently and said of Matthews that she “has been a corporate lobbyist in D.C. She is running for Congress and isn’t talking about the most central crisis we’re facing today, which is our crisis of corruption.”

Rather than addressing the accurate charge head on, the Matthews campaign split hairs, by declaring that she had not been a “registered” lobbyist. Oppose Tyranny calls this a classic “non-denial denial”: while declaring their candidate not-guilty on a technicality, they purposely ignored her obvious corruption and support for the GOP

A non-denial denial is a statement that, at first hearing, seems a direct, clear cut and unambiguous denial of some alleged accusation, but on carefully parsing turns out not to be a denial at all, and is thus not explicitly untruthful if the allegation is in fact correct. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression.

There are pro-corporate interests (e.g., the Washington Post) and voters in MD-8 who have two great options in Kathleen Matthews and David Trone. Both have worked only in service to their own enormous wealth (rather than the public good). Both have funneled money to anti-progressives, giving themselves a pass because business interests obviously relieve one of moral responsibility for one’s actions.

Real progressives also have multiple choices in this Congressional race. But only one of those, Jamie Raskin, has a clear, effective legislative and public-advocacy record to get money out of politics and deliver our political system back to the people.

Thanks to Seventh State for this list of Kathleen Matthews-directed corporate contributions to Republicans:

2014 Cycle Total to Republicans: $148,500

Total to House Republicans: $92,000

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor: $5,000
  • Renee Ellmers: $2,500
  • Andy Harris: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $7,500
  • Paul Ryan: $5,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $56,500

  • Roy Blunt: $7,500
  • Joni Ernst: $1,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $7,500
  • Marco Rubio: $2,500

2012 Cycle Total to Republicans: $160,400

Total to House Republicans: $83,900

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,500
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $76,500

  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Mitch McConnell: $2,500

 2010 Cycle Total to Republicans: $152,700

Total to House Republicans: $56,200

  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $4,500
  • Darrell Issa: $1,000
  • Kevin McCarthy: $2,000
  • Paul Ryan: $2,500

Total to Senate Republicans: $96,500

  • Roy Blunt: $10,000
  • Scott Brown: $5,000
  • Carly Fiorina: $5,000
  • John McCain: $2,500
  • Marco Rubio: $5,000
  • Pat Toomey: $7,500

 2008 Cycle Total to Republicans: $220,300

Total to House Republicans: $144,800

  • Roy Blunt: $6,500
  • John Boehner: $5,000
  • Eric Cantor; $5,000
  • Paul Ryan: $1,000

Total to Senate Republicans: $75,500

  • Mitch McConnell: $7,000

©2016 Keith Berner