Posted tagged ‘Chris Van Hollen’

02.14.18 Rushern Baker is dead to me

February 14, 2018

Seventh State reports today that Democratic gubernatorial candidate (and current PG County executive) Rushern Baker has endorsed high-rolling liquor salesman David Trone for Congress in CD6. This is particularly remarkable because no part of CD6 is anywhere near PG! Then again, the Trone family’s $39k gift to Baker’s campaign makes the connection crystal clear.

I have written copiously about how awful Trone is (see the notes on the bottom of my most recent post).

Prior to this endorsement, Baker  had the reputation of being a middle-of-the-road, uninspiring, machine politician. But Baker himself already has the support of big-name Democratic establishment types, like Chris Van Hollen and Ike Leggett, proving yet again that a roto-rooter needs to be taken to this state’s center-right clinging-to-power-at-all-costs Democratic “old guard.”

While David Lublin’s (Seventh State) reporting is helpful, about half his piece today is about how great Aruna Miller is doing in CD6, as if she were Trone’s only rival. (The two progressives in that race are Andrew Duck and Roger Manno, who go completely unmentioned by in the blog post). Lublin fails to state that he has any allegiance to Miller, but it’s apparent he does. This is reminiscent of a flaw from the days when the blog was called “Maryland Politics Watch”: frequent shilling for candidates by cherry-picking facts that favor them, without revealing what side you’re on. (Granted, Adam Pagnucco, Seventh State’s other writer, has been much more transparent about his loyalties, recently.)

Rushern Baker must be stopped. Anyone who would align themselves with David Trone is not only unfit to be our governor, but coupled with Baker’s complete inability to inspire enthusiasm and we might be looking at a repeat of Anthony Brown’s devastating loss to Governor Bruce Hogan four years ago.

I am still undecided in the governor’s race, but my guess as of today is that progressives will need to coalesce behind Ben Jealous in order to send Baker packing.

©2018 Keith Berner

 

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08.12.17 Chris Van Hollen: thy name is political cowardice

August 12, 2017

Sorry, Dear Reader, but I’m not about to let go of my outrage over Ben Cardin’s bill to criminalize free speech (S.270).

I have now written three times to Senator Van Hollen via his official campaign website. I have now written three times to his foreign affairs legislative assistant, Afreen Akhter. I have not received a single reply; though I was cc-ed on a reply Ms. Akhter sent to someone else:

Senator Van Hollen has not co-sponsored this legislation. He does not support restrictions on free speech and is reviewing the legislation in light of those concerns.

And here is what I sent to her today:

Ms. Akhter:

During the Reagan years, Act Up responded to the administration’s inaction on AIDS with this slogan: “Silence = Death.”

S.720 is not a matter of life or death, but Chris Van Hollen’s silence regarding our fundamental civil liberties is tantamount to endorsing Ben Cardin’s bill. I played a key role in helping Chris get elected to Congress the first time, something he thanked me for thereafter. I did not work for his election so that I could hear “has not co-sponsored this legislation” as an excuse for silence — this is political cowardice at its worst.

Will you present my views to the Senator? Will he stand up for he First Amendment and explicitly oppose S.270?

I would appreciate the courtesy of a direct reply.

— Keith Berner

Please stand with me in persistent support for civil liberties: please let Van Hollen and the rest of the Maryland congressional delegation* know how you feel.

*These Democrats are shameful cosponsors of Cardin’s pernicious bill:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

©2017 Keith Berner

08.03.17 Ben Cardin: still wrong; Chris Van Hollen: still silent

August 3, 2017

Per my post a few days ago, I wrote to Senator Ben Cardin (MD) in opposition to his bill criminalizing political speech he disagrees with. I heard back from his office today. Here is his note (my reply appears below that):

Thank you for sharing your comments on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, S. 720. I appreciate your engagement regarding this piece of legislation, particularly your concerns over its potential impact on your constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.

I understand that the American Civil Liberties Union released a letter that may have caused your, and other Marylanders’ concerns over the impact of S. 720 on civil liberties. I want you to know that I would not support legislation that would infringe upon those freedoms, and I welcome the opportunity to engage with you regarding some of the misunderstandings about the bill.

S. 720 seeks to amend the Export Administration Act (EAA), a 40-year-old law that prohibits U.S. persons from complying with unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by foreign countries. The prohibitions of the EAA have been consistently upheld as constitutionally sound. The new legislation amends the EAA to extend its existing prohibitions to unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations, such as United Nations agencies or the European Union.

I want to highlight that this bill does not limit the rights of American citizens or organizations to express their views on Israeli or American foreign policy; nor does it limit the rights of American citizens or businesses from engaging in boycott activity of their own accord. I hope you will read my response to the ACLU, which is attached with this letter for your review. As I state in that letter and repeat to you now in this correspondence, I welcome healthy dialogue with constituents regarding the purpose and importance of this legislation, and I sincerely hope that this letter has addressed your concerns.

Thank you again for reaching out to me to share your thoughts on S. 720. Please do not hesitate to follow up with me should you have any additional questions or concerns regarding this bill, or any other matter of importance to you.

My reply:

Your assurances re my free-speech rights are empty until/unless I see further advice from the ACLU on this matter. The fact is that you once before prominently demonstrated your prioritization of Likud’s interests over US interests, when you opposed the Iran nuclear deal two years ago. You burned your credibility on matters touching on Israel at that time.

I will oppose your reelection and will continue to engage with Chris Van Hollen, Jamie Raskin, and other elected officials to defeat completely your misguided attempt to legislate your personal views on Israel and speech.

PS. I am Jewish and see you as a clear threat not only to my American civil liberties, but also to my ability to separate my ethnic identity from the horrific policies of the Israeli state.

In other news, Chris Van Hollen’s office still has no position to report, but this time his staff did give me the direct email address of his foreign affairs legislative assistant – please join me in writing to her: afreen_akhter@vanhollen.senate.gov.

I spoke again with Jamie Raskin today and he confirmed his opposition to S.270 and that he would produce a public statement on it before Congress returns from recess in September.

Finally, in a move that shows the lie in Ben Cardin’s email today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) has withdrawn her cosponsorship of Cardin’s bill due to the ACLU’s analysis.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.31.17 Democrats seek to criminalize free speech (with friends like Ben Cardin, who needs enemies?)

July 31, 2017

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin introduced S.270, the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” on March 23. It attracted little attention until the past couple of weeks.

This blog post is not about where you or I might stand on Israel. I have written plenty on that topic, including how Jewish-American politicians contribute to anti-Semitism through their support for the country.

Rather, I’m writing about free speech, a right enshrined in the First Amendment and a fundamental underpinning of US democracy (indeed of democracy itself). That is the issue at hand here: S.270’s purpose is to criminalize (with shockingly severe penalties) my right to hold political opinions that the bill’s many sponsors happen to disagree with.

As I wrote to Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) last week:

Principled opposition to this bill is something quite apart from one’s particular views on Israel.  If you believe in civil liberties, you support them. Our fundamental freedoms should never be sacrificed to the interests of another country (any other country). Once that principle is agreed to, you can have whatever debate you need to about Israel.

Just in case you’re a fan of the ACLU, here’s what they have to say about this pernicious bill: How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights.

Take another look now at the S.270 link and that of HR.1697, the House’s equivalent. There are 46 cosponsors in the Senate and 249 in the house. That is, half of our elected officials are ready to toss aside the First Amendment because they think servitude to Likud and settlers is worth it.

We have become sadly accustomed to GOP assaults on democracy, particularly in the form of voter suppression, but not to exclude theft of Supreme Court appointments and more. But note this: 14 of those cosponsors in the Senate and 71 of them in the House are Democrats, including such “liberal” luminaries as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand* (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), and Maria Cantwell (WA).

It gets worse, Maryland voters, as our own Hall of Shame is well populated. Apart from Cardin, here they are:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

Out of Maryland’s seven Democratic members of the House, only Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Raskin are not trying to undermine our constitution.

I called Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s and Jamie Raskin’s offices last week to find out where they stand on Cardin’s bill. Both told me that the members were “still considering it.” Here’s what I sent to Van Hollen:

I’m not sure how much study one would need to determine that a piece of legislation like this elevates another country’s temporal interests over our fundamental civil liberties.

I called Van Hollen’s office again today and was told exactly the same thing as last week. It is apparent that Chris Van Hollen is ducking his responsibility to stand up for the First Amendment. This goes beyond political cowardice – since his reelection to the Senate is damn near guaranteed for life. In fact, I can think of no explanation for it at all. I urge you to write him and call him (202-224-4654) to get him to do the right thing.

Because I have a personal relationship with Raskin, I called him directly last Friday and was gratified to hear him denounce the measure unequivocally. When I told him that his staff didn’t know his position, he said he would take care of that promptly and issue a written statement. When I called back today, his staff still didn’t know his stand and had not seen a statement. I urge you to write him and call him (202-225-5341) to get him on the public record.

We learned two years ago, when Ben Cardin and Chuck Schumer were two of only three Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, that they will always prioritize Likud’s interests over American interests. This is a soft form of treason, in my book, and neither of these men deserves to be in elected office. (They are entitled to their opinions — no one is entitled to be an elected official.) What amazes me this go ‘round is how many additional Democrats are willing to swear allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu instead of to the Constitution of the United States of America. Please remember this in 2018.

*Kirsten Gillibrand seemed like such a hero in the winter when she led Dems in the number of Trump appointments she voted against. Oh well.

©2017 Keith Berner

01.29.17 To Chris Van Hollen: You voted for Ben Carson?!

January 29, 2017

This is what I just sent to our supposedly progressive senator:

Dear Chris:

I’m outraged to discover that you voted for Ben Carson to serve as HUD secretary. I don’t care if you think he is less bad than other potential nominees (the excuse Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown have given). Every single time a Democrat votes for a Trump appointee, the Democratic Party takes partial ownership for resulting policy. (I’m also disappointed by your votes for Sec. Def. and UN ambassador.) If the people of Maryland cannot trust you to do the right thing, whom can we trust? And if you will not stand firm against all GOP appointments and legislation, we have no hope of taking back our country.

—Keith

I note that even the more moderate Benjamin Cardin did not vote for Carson.

©2017 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

04.16.16 Chris Van Hollen for Senate

April 16, 2016

This is a long piece. If you don’t know Chris Van Hollen well and have not been following the story of Donna Edwards’s lies about his record, you’ll learn by reading all of it. Otherwise, the executive summary is clear: Chris Van Hollen is an unusually effective progressive leader. Donna Edwards is unusually ineffective and lacks the character to be in public office.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-8) is a superstar. He offers a rare combination of deep progressive values, legislative expertise, and being part of the Democratic Party leadership. His talent is demonstrated by the fact that it took very few years after his election to Congress in 2002 to become a member of the leadership and that he did not have to become a corporate sellout to do so.

There have been times when your blogger has disagreed with Van Hollen. Two instances I recall were when he floated a potential unilateral concession to the GOP during budget talks several years ago, a move that I found distressingly similar to Barack Obama’s long period of negotiating with himself, while the GOP gave nothing. Another instance was when he briefly sided with the anti-privacy Senator Diane Feinstein regarding the NSA.

Otherwise, Van Hollen has been a champion of almost everything progressives hold dear: the environment, political reform (more on that, below), gun control (more on that, below), women’s rights, gay rights, Wall St. reform, responsible foreign policy. You name it, our congressman has been far more than a sidelines cheerleader. Rather he has provided real leadership over and over again.

Part of leadership is seeking compromise in service to the public good. Guess what? You cannot move legislation (or negotiate an arms control treaty), without giving up something to get agreement with the other side. There are limits to what concessions moral leaders can make. But ultimately, good compromise means calculating that what you’re winning is worth more than what you’re giving up.

Which brings us to Chris Van Hollen’s sponsorship of a campaign finance reform package in 2010 in the wake of Citizens United. The bill would have forced transparency regarding contributions to and expenditures by PACs. In order to gain support from red-state Democrats, the bill exempted the NRA (and, to appease other Dems, the Sierra Club) from its provisions. Most pro-gun-control Democrats supported the measure (which ultimately passed the House, but failed in the Senate) because the finance transparency to be gained was far more important than the potential lost insight into the NRA, whose agenda and actions were hardly a secret to start with.

Fast forward to the Maryland Senate campaign of 2016. For weeks, Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-4) has been portraying Chris Van Hollen as being in bed with the NRA, based on the 2010 bill, which had nothing to do with gun control. Given Van Hollen’s “F” rating from the NRA (which Edwards shares), your blogger considers this beyond distortion: it is an outright lie. Edward’s own advertising has featured this libel.

This past week, Edwards’s libel gained national attention, as a heretofore little-known PAC called Working for US, featured Obama’s image in a new ad making the same spurious claim about Van Hollen. The ad implied (1) that Obama opposed to the 2010 campaign-finance bill (he did not) and (2) that Obama had endorsed Edwards (he had not).

The President does not usually intervene in primary races between Democrats. But, the PAC’s ad (as put by the Washington Post in an April 14 editorial) was “beyond the pale.” Barack Obama publicly called for the ad to be pulled. In short order, House and Senate Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) followed suit. (Van Hollen is part of Pelosi’s and Reid’s team. Would they be likely to work with Edwards now?)

If Donna Edwards had not already been spouting the same lie as the PAC promoted, she might have been able to distance herself from it. She can’t and, in fact, has reasserted it in recent days.

Party because the 2010 campaign-finance reform bill didn’t become law, it’s not easy to understand a PAC’s inner workings. Nonetheless, John Fritze at the Baltimore Sun reported on April 14 that the major funder of the noxious ad was a Maine-based hedge fund manager, S. Donald Sussman. (Kudos to Jonathan Shurberg at Maryland Scramble for pointing me to the Sun article.) Fritze writes:

Van Hollen’s campaign found irony in the fact that the ad was paid for a hedge fund manager. The Edwards campaign has said for months that Van Hollen is too cozy with Wall Street.

“Chris Van Hollen has been leading the fight to close the loophole that lets hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than working people,” Van Hollen spokeswoman Bridgett Frey said. “That she claims to take on Wall Street is clearly the height of hypocrisy.”

Your blogger worked hard to get Chris Van Hollen elected in 2002. I have remained a fan over the years, but entered 2016 also positively inclined towards Donna Edwards. Her voting record is nearly identical to Van Hollen’s and she offers the bonus of adding much-needed diversity to the overwhelmingly white, male US Senate. What Maryland progressive would not be proud to be represented by an African-American woman?

At the same time, I was disturbed by the pervasive stories of Edwards’s apparent inability to get along with others. Her lack of support in this race from the Congressional Black Caucus or many Prince George’s County political leaders has been striking. Various analyses have deemed Edwards among the least effective members of Congress, in terms of legislation passed or contributed to.

Nonetheless, I flirted with political neutrality in the contest between Van Hollen and Edwards. Van Hollen’s effectiveness is highly compelling. So is Edwards’s stated commitment to principle – I don’t mind having some progressive bomb throwers in power.

Edward’s despicable campaign decisively ends my flirtation. She is a hypocrite on campaign finance. Her claimed purity about the NRA helped damage an effort to do something about the issue.

It’s worse: her inability to get along with anyone makes her not a Bernie Sanders figure (who is rather pure, ideologically, but has a record of being able to work with those who don’t agree with him on everything). No, Donna Edwards is the Ted Cruz of Maryland progressive politics. Bomb-throwing that inspires a movement can be laudable. Alienating produces no value for anyone. The mendacious, hypocritical campaign Edwards has run saps any remaining attractiveness from her candidacy.

Your blogger feels almost guilty for toying with a decision not to endorse Chris Van Hollen. Racial and gender balance are important objectives. But they cannot outweigh the substantial differences between candidates for a single seat. Chris Van Hollen has the character, the skills, and the record of accomplishment Maryland needs in its next senator.

©2016 Keith Berner