This post first appeared on Open Left. An incumbent Democrat in the U.S. House lost a primary challenge last night.  Alan Mollohan, WV-01, was defeated by the more conservative State Senator Mike Oliverio.  With Oliverio scoring a comfortable 56%--44% victory, it seems that Mollohan's ethical troubles easily trumped charges that Oliverio was too conservative:
During the campaign, Oliverio focused almost solely on Mollohan's past ethical troubles in his TV ads, and highlighted CREW's designation of Mollohan as one of the 15 most corrupt members of Congress. Mollohan struck back and claimed DoJ cleared him of any wrongdoing. He also attacked Oliverio for participating in a group of conservative legislators that supports privatizing Social Security and outsourcing of U.S. jobs.
A quick look at the bio ad running on Oliverio's campaign website shows that his focus was on honesty and integrity, not on ideology. Oliverio did not even run on the health care bills, for which Mollohan voted.  The section of his website dedicated to health care is all of nine sentences in length, and clearly has not been updated for at least two months, as it notes that he has (emphasis mine) "serious reservations about the bills now before congress." He even left how he would vote on the health care reform bill vague. I think the main lessons from this campaign is that corruption will trump ideology almost every time.  It took down William Jefferson in a deep blue district, just as it took down Republicans in deep red districts like PA-10 and TX-22.  Given the role that corruption played in this campaign, I am not even sure if this can be chalked up to an "anti-incumbent" feeling. This is also why I think Democrats made a very bad move in Illinois when they nominated Alexi Giannoulias for Senate over the more conservative Doug Hoffman.  Democrats simply should not be losing a Senate campaign in Illinois, but a candidate attached to a failed family bank is going to be a very difficult mountain to climb this year.  It makes the rest of the party look bad, too, if they come to aid Giannoulias. Even as we work to build progressive power, we cannot support progressive Democrats mired in scandal over more conservative Democrats who are cleaner.  Corruption trumps ideology with voters, and defending corruption for the sake of ideology will taint our efforts as a whole.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Here is where financial reform stands right now:
  • No vote this week There had been talk of bringing the financial reform bill up for a cloture vote on the motion to proceed this week.  For example, Chris Dodd indicatedthat such a vote would happen on Wednesday or Thursday.  However, as of this afternoon, cloture has not been filed yet.  Further, talking with a source on Capitol Hill, it is not expected that cloture will be filed until after President Obama's Thursday speech and rally on financial reform.  Since there has to be at least two calendar days between filing for cloture and the actual vote, and since a weekend session is unlikely, this means the first big vote on financial reform will not happen until next week.
  • Senate Dems haven't dropped liquidation fund yet . Even though they were undercut by the White House's offer to summarily drop the liquidation fund, in ongoing talks with Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats are refusing to drop the provision unless it actually nets votes:
    Senate Democratic leaders plan to stand behind the $50 billion fund maligned by Republicans as perpetuating Wall Street bailouts, agreeing at a leadership meeting Monday that they wouldn't give it up without gaining GOP votes in return, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the discussions.
    The White House's offer to drop the fund was not helpful.  It gave credibility to the Republican argument that the bill contained more bailouts (it doesn't), and also gave Republicans every reason to believe they could jerk Democrats around as they pleased on the bill.  Even though Senate Democrats are vowing to stand by the measure unless it gets votes, the White House's offer may have permanently damaged that stance beyond repair.
  • Democrats talking with Republican leaders, but actually only targeting three Republicans.  Banking chair Chris Dodd is still negotiating with the ranking Republican on the Banking committee, Richard Shelby:
    Talks on financial regulatory reform between Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd and ranking member Richard Shelby have intensified, Senate leaders indicated today. Both sides are pressing for a deal even as they brace for a showdown cloture vote on a motion to proceed to the bill.
    However, the real negotiations are happening with the three actual Democratic targets: Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Bob Corker.  Collins has said she is currently opposed.  Snowe is making her usual noises about being open, but there are good reasons to be skeptical.  Corker says the bill isn't strong enough yet (a likely story), but is also criticizing his own party.
  • Corporate executives descend on Capitol hill to argue against the bill.  Executives from big corporations are lobbying hard against the bill today:
    Some two dozen executives from large corporations will be descending on Capitol Hill today to make the case against over-regulating derivatives. The "fly-in" is being organized in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through a group called the Coalition for Derivatives End-Users, according to the Chamber's Ryan McKee.
    And the banks are whipping their employees into action.  From an internal email of the American Bankers Association:
    ABA tomorrow will launch a 48-hour call-alert, asking bank employees to call their senator to express opposition to the Senate's current regulatory reform bill. The phone calls, which will begin at 9 a.m. EDT and continue through Wednesday, are needed in order to have maximum impact on the Senate's debate, which is expected to begin this week. ABA will provide contact information and talking points to assist employees in their calls. Please watch tomorrow's ABA Daily Newsbytes for more information.
    While corporate opposition to a piece of legislation does not necessarily mean that said legislation strikes a clean blow against the corporate capture of the country, it does mean that the bill is not just a pure corporate giveaway.
  • Financial reform sells better when "Wall Street" is mentioned.  Gallup has found that support for financial reform rises from a net +3, to a net +14, when the phrase "Wall Street" is included in the question.  As such, its no wonder the Democratic leadership in the White House and Congress has started called the bill "Wall Street reform" instead of the more abstract "financial reform."
More developments as they come in.  Even though there is no vote this week, it is still expected that the bill will pass the full Senate, and head to a conference committee, by mid-May.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. The short-term, 24-hour political news cycle is focusing on tax day and tea parties.  However, no matter the focus on conservative protests, the big news today is that Democrats will control the White House until at least January 3rd, 2013. This news came today when Tommy Thompson announced he would not challenge Russ Feingold for Senate in Wisconsin.  Some polling, mainly conducted by right-wing source, had shown that Thompson would have made the race extremely competitive.  He might have even started out with a lead, in fact.  However, now that Thompson is not running, it will be extremely difficult for the little-known Republicans, who trail Feingold by huge margins, to pull off the upset. For Republicans to win control of the Senate before 2013 now, they would have to not only sweep all currently competitive races, but also pick off a victory in a seat where they currently trail by double-digits and will be massively outspent.  Not only is winning every single competitive campaign extremely difficult, but the polling for those campaigns is currently dominated by Rasmussen, which is flooding the zone with polls.  In reality, the current polling outlook for competitive Senate campaigns is probably more favorable to Democrats than my forecast suggests. And, as I noted, they still need at least one extreme longshot on top of every single one of those competitive campaigns to take control.  That just isn't going to happen. Democrats will not be in control forever, and will likely lose the Senate in either 2012 or, at the latest, 2014.  But they will stay in control for a while.  They have a decent shot at holding the House in 2010, too.  With an improving economic picture, they might actually fare pretty well in the 2012 elections. And that is the biggest political story today.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Today, tea partiers will be protesting the lowest tax rates in decades.  Here are federal income taxes as a share of total taxes for the median family of four over the past few decades: And here is the share for the wealthiest households: And, at the bottom, nearly half of all U.S. households won't pay income taxes at all:
About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.
Taxes have been cut--for almost everyone.  They are at historic lows.  This is probably a contributing factor to why only 20% of the country think the share of taxes they have to pay is "unfair." But the protests will still dominate political news coverage today.  Hopefully, this broader context will get some airtime, too.
This post originally appeared on Open Left. Mitch McConnell declared his opposition to the financial reform bill today:
The top Republican in the Senate said Tuesday that his party couldn't support Democratic legislation aimed at overhauling financial-sector regulation, because it "institutionalizes" future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the floor of the Senate that the legislation would give the Federal Reserve "enhanced emergency lending authority that is far too open to abuse."
In a story that is in no way related to McConnell's declaration of opposition--and really, how dare you even think that!--it was revealed yesterday that McConnell recently travelled to New York City along with NRSC chair John Cornyn to meet with Wall Street hedge fund managers.  The meeting focused on the financial reform bill:
As a financial reform bill starts to take shape in Washington, two key lawmakers came to New York City last week to explain what it means for Wall Street, and how financial executives might help prevent some of its least market-friendly aspects from becoming law by electing more Republicans, FOX Business Network has learned. About 25 Wall Street executives, many of them hedge fund managers, sat down for a private meeting Thursday afternoon with two of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Congress: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas who runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, one of the primary fundraising arms of the Republican Party. The stated topic of the meeting: The Financial reform bill being sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd, the Democrat and chairman of the senate banking committee.
Oh yeah--and the meeting also focused on fundraising for Republican Senate candidates:
During the meetings, both predicted that the Republicans will likely add at least six senate seats to their current total of 41, meaning they would come up just shy of control of the Senate. They predicted victories in Nevada, unseating the unpopular Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, and said Republican Pat Toomey has a great shot at unseating Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. They also said that they have a shot at taking control of the House by adding 40 additional seats to their current total. In New York State alone, the senators predicted a six-seat pickup. But in order to assure those gains, and add even more, McConnell and Cornyn made it clear they need Wall Street's help.
McConnell's opposition to the bill is in no way related to this meeting with uber-wealthy Republican donors on Wall Street.  That McConnell brought Senator Cornyn, who runs the committee in charge of electing Republicans, is also unrelated.  That McConnell was asking for money, and that these donors are opposed to the bill is pure non-sequitor. McConnell's real opposition to this bill is because it doesn't go far enough in breaking up the big Wall Street banks and preventing future bailouts.  After all, no one wants to regulate Wall Street more than Wall Street hedge fund managers.
This post was originally published on Open Left. In just two days, Alan Grayson has piled up 50 co-sponsors to his Medicare buy-in bill, which is designed as a stand-alone bill rather than as an amendment to the health reform bill.  Here is the complete list of 50 co-sponsors:
50 CURRENT COSPONSORS : Bob Filner, Jan Schakowsky, Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich, Donna Edwards, Jared Polis, Chellie Pingree, Sheila Jackson Lee, Carol Shea-Porter, Diane Watson, John Lewis, Anthony Weiner, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Keith Ellison, Loretta Sanchez, Hank Johnson, Maxine Waters, Luis Gutierrez, Lynn Woolsey, Marcy Kaptur, Charles Rangel, Patrick Kennedy, Raul Grijalva, Donna Christian-Christensen, John Olver, Corrine Brown, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Marcia L. Fudge, Danny K. Davis, Pedro Pierluisi, Grace Napolitano, Alcee Hastings, John Hall, Shelley Berkley, John Conyers, Jim McGovern, Phil Hare, Betty Sutton, Jim McDermott, Gregorio Sablan, Maurice Hinchey, Carolyn Maloney, Barbara Lee, Elijah Cummings, Gregory Meeks, Edolphus Towns, Al Green, David Wu, and Rush Holt.
Every indication has always been that there is overwhelming support for a Medicare buy-in among Congressional Democrats.  This could very well pass as a stand alone bill, especially in 2011 once filibuster reform has taken place.  This is definitely one of the ways that progressives can viably continue the fight for real health reform no matter what happens to the current bill.