Will Al Wynn Get His Comeuppance for His Corporate Fealty?
A lifelong Black progressive and a groveling tool of corporate power face off on February 12 -- a test of the power of the people to evict those who subvert their fundamental interest in peace and social justice. "Fat Albert" Wynn, the mis-Representative from Maryland's 4th Congressional District and supplicant to Big Business and nuclear power money, has stooped to describing challenger Donna Edwards and her supporters as a "left wing conspiracy" arrayed against him. But Fat Albert's desperate contortions cannot shake his past, especially his status as one of only four Black Caucus members to support War Powers for George Bush and one of ten who voted for the Republican bill on bankruptcy that has now come home to roost with millions of mortgage holders.
When "Fat Albert" Wynn, the notoriously corrupt congressman of Maryland's 4th district kicked off his re-election campaign seven months ago, he did what everybody else does. He called in his friends, he leaned on his network. Wynn brought in his political soul mate, the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council chairman and Fox News commentator Harold Ford, Jr., a Memphis politician so craven that in an appeal for white votes he once denied his own grandmother was Black. But Harold Ford stood with Al Wynn as one of only four African Americans in Congress to vote for the invasion of Iraq. Friends are friends.
Al Wynn's network has done a lot for him over the years, and the congressman has more than returned their favors.
When Big Oil, Giant Coal and the nuclear industry, joined by hedge funds and speculators demanding repeal of the laws that kept them from buying utility companies, they showered Congress with $115 million between 2001 and 2005. In return for his share of the loot, Congressman Al Wynn was one of a minority of Democrats to join Republicans in passing the 2005 Bush Energy Bill. Wynn voted $6 billion in federal subsidies to his benefactors in Big Oil; he put $9 billion in the Christmas stockings of giant coal companies, he bestowed another $12 billion in corporate welfare on the nuclear power industry, and voted for deregulatory steps that have already cost consumers and utility ratepayers additional tens of billions more in the short term. But hey, that's what friends are for.
In 2006 and 2007, mammoth phone and cable companies like Time-Warner, AT&T and Verizon invested a few hundred million in congressional campaign contributions to preserve their right to digitally redline black and minority communities nationwide. Congressman Wynn showed up for his cut, and faithfully repaid his donors by siding with House Republicans to keep broadband scarce and expensive in urban and rural minority communities.
On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, a Gallup poll showed Black America to be the nation's most solidly antiwar constituency, with opinion running better than 70% opposed to the coming invasion. But when George Bush needed a large Black exclamation point for his illegal and immoral aggression, Fat Albert Wynn was ready to defy the voters of Maryland's 4th district, in the mostly Black suburbs of Washington, DC.
In return for his share of another hundred million in campaign cash and favors from the banking and credit card industries, Al Wynn voted for Bush's odious 2005 bankruptcy bill, protecting predatory lenders, denying a fresh start to financially strapped families, and exacerbating the impact of the current mortgage meltdown. Wynn is such a loyal friend to the wealthy and powerful that he apes the political manners of Republicans, using staged interviews by fake reporters to field softball questions.
Fat Albert Wynn has worked to make it easier for his wealthy friends to dump ever larger sums of money into the campaign coffers of their favorite politicians. The 527 Reform Act which he co-sponsored with Republican Mike Pence was
"...designed to gut any limits on how much any single individual could contribute to political candidates and parties. As a June 24 Washington Post editorial noted, 'The Pence-Wynn 'reform' would let a single donor give more than $1 million to a single political party each election, not including checks to candidates themselves...'"
Wynn's friends nearly cost him the election in 2006. Since then, he has joined the Congressional Out of Iraq caucus, though he still votes for every war funding bill, and has cast a few token votes against atrocities like the Military Commissions Act. As mydd.com's Matt Stoller puts it,
"Wynn is pretending to change his stripes, and a lot of progressives are falling for it. Wynn is one of the key backers of the removal of the estate tax, and he's a genuine corporate corrupt Democrat... if you think he's changed, take a look through his FEC filings this year.
"Walmart, AT&T, Bellsouth, Firstenergy, T-Mobile, Pfizer, Edison Electric, Progress Energy, Sallie Mae, the US Chamber of Commerce.
"The US Chamber of Commerce! This is the group that is protesting dictionary-makers about the word 'McJob', trying to get them to change the word to "reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding ... and offers skills that last a lifetime."
Wynn's challenger Donna Edwards, whom he edged out by a razor thin margin two years ago, has a very different set of friends. Edwards is a former head of the Arca Foundation, the tag line on whose web site reads "creating real change by empowering people to shape public policy." True to its word, under Donna Edwards, Arca funded community and civic organizations that fought for good jobs at living wages instead of McJobs. The Arca Foundation donated money to community and civic groups working for a democratic and just media rather than a regime in which a handful of corporations own all our news, entertainment, along with the airwaves and pipelines that bring them to us. The Arca Foundation has aided organizations that counseled families facing foreclosure and eviction, that have fought for fairer credit laws, national health care and an end to the war. The Arca Foundation has enabled civic groups to document the amounts and sources of money poured into the political process by powerful interests that include the good friends of Fat Albert Wynn.
When you stack the friends of Albert Wynn up against the friends of Donna Edwards, the differences are clear and instructive. And in politics, you judge people by their friends.
With his career at stake in the February 12 primary election, Congressman Wynn filed a specious complaint against the Edwards campaign, claiming that a "vast left wing conspiracy" was in motion against him. When the Baltimore Sun asked an experienced campaign attorney to review Wynn's complaint, the attorney noted that "...the complainant doesn't really have a clear understanding of ... federal law." Wynn's complaint was dismissed by the Federal Elections Commission. Maybe that's not important, though. The congressman knows how to answer the dog whistle of his benefactors, and so far, that's been enough to get him over.
And he might be right, at least in part about that vast left wing conspiracy thing. The forces arrayed against Fat Albert are the people of his district and their core values of justice, equality, peace and democracy. They are vast indeed, and well to his political left. But those values and the Maryland voters who hold them are no conspiracy. They are the people and families of the 4th district. Prior to 2006, Congressman Wynn scored consistently low in every report card put out by CBC Monitor, the only organization that rates the political performance of the Congressional Black Caucus, and many of his constituents know it.
They're ready for a change.
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