January 14, 2010 (San Diego) -- It looks like the anti-war netroots is not exactly pleased with Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey's recent decision to help raise money for Congresswoman Jane Harman (Woolsey, Harman pictured).
The controversy is focused on Sonoma County's Woolsey, who is heading to LA to speak at a Jane Harman for Congress event taking place in Venice, California on Saturday, January 16th, at Danny's Deli on Windward Ave.
In most cases, the support of one incumbent Democrat for another would raise few eyebrows. This is not one of those cases.
Why is Harman now asking for Woolsey's help?
There are more than a few reasons why it seems curious that Woolsey, (pictured at an anti-war rally) known for her standing in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and leadership Out-of-Iraq caucus would show up to help collect a hatfull of shekels for Harman, who is about as hawkish as a Democrat can get these days without pulling a "full Lieberman."
In fact, Brad Blog contributer Ernest Canning calls the planned appearance by the high-profile progressive Lynn Woolsey "baffling."
Multi-millionare Harman doesn't need the money. However, the conservative Democrat Harman may be concerned about the strength of a primary challenge coming from Marcy Winograd, left.
Congresswoman Harman, who once referred to herself as "the Best Republican in the Democratic Party" has been embroiled in many issues which have outraged many Democrats, including a goodly fraction of Congresswoman Woolsey's own supporters, no to mention anti-war and pro-civil liberties voters across the country.
Certainly, there is no shortage of "Apples of Discord" with the netroots and Ms. Harman -- from her pro-war Iraq votes to her appearance on "Meet the Press" to defend Bush's warrantless wiretaps and her own bill called HR 1955, the Orwellian-sounding "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007."
Known for her connections the RAND Corporation, Harman's proposed legislation caused Richter-sized temblors of outrage to ripple across both libertarian and progressive continents on the blogosphere.
Who is Congresswoman Jane Harman?
An 8- term US Representative and former candidate for California Governor, Harman is member of the corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, which was founded in part by Neocon Patriarch Henry "Scoop" Jackson. Harman shocked many Democrats in 2002 by voting to authorize President Bush's request to use the US Armed Forces to invade Iraq -- one of few Democratic votes in favor of the war authorization.
Similarly, Harman's consistent support for President Bush's "emergency war funding" supplemental expenditures, (now Obama's) which number in the hundreds of billions of dollars, are not well supported by the relatively liberal residents of the 36th Congressional district,
centered around Torrance, and which includes the very blue-collar neighborhoods of El Segundo and parts of Long Beach.
According to some in the anti-war movement, Harman's votes have undermined the work of the Progressive Caucus to organize cohesive Congressional support to end the costly wars, and re-direct the occupation funding to domestic needs in education, infrastructure, and manufacturing.
Homeland Security: the "new Defense Department?"
There's a lot of money to be made by keeping wars going, and few members of Congress know that better than Ms Harman, both on a campaign level and in her personal finances. According to her financial disclosures, approximately $6,260,000 of Ms Harman's net worth of estimated $236 to $558 million is invested in companies with Dept of Defense contracts, including weapons or surveillance-related interests -- an investment that Harman probably does not have in common with the majority of her district's voters.
Harman is strongly supported by donors from within the weapons and defense sector.
Additionally, Harman (pictured with Pentagon brass) serves on the Homeland Security Committee. While the defense contracts have grown by leaps and bounds over the last 8 years, the growth is now "flat" -- no longer expanding rapidly. Thus, many savvy defense firms are now targeting the growing budget of the Department of Homeland Security for "growth" in their revenue, something that pleases Wall Street analysts who issue critical stock ratings.
In America, everyone is allowed to try to pick up a buck or two where they can -- and Jane Harman is within her legal rights to take campaign donations from whoever she feels are her constituents and supporters. Additionally, Harman can legally maintain personal investments in corporations that receive Pentagon contracts -- the few areas of the economy in which handsome stock returns are still possible.
But it looks a little unseemly for Representative Lynn Woolsey, one of the few outspoken anti-war progressives in Congress, to be giving a public benediction to the re-election of Harman, a Blue Dog so closely connected to the military and defense establishment, and a lightning rod for progressive criticism of the "wandering soul" of the Democratic Party.
(If you want to see some seriously prickly outrage over the decision, see Howie Klein's Blog for the reports on the announcement about the strange bedfellows Woolsey-Harman fund-raiser. Crooks & Liars blogger John Amato isn't very happy, either -- and calls for Woolsey to step down from her co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.)
Other anti-war and progressive political action groups across the nation are quietly calling for Woolsey to simply rethink her stance on the Harman for Congress appearance.
One proposal was that Woolsey simply give equal fund-raising support to Harman's anti-war primary challenger Marcy Winograd, who received an astonishing 37.5% of the primary vote when she took on Harman in the 2006 Congressional race.
(Winograd, who sent a letter to Woolsey expressing her dismay with the appearance, will be busy elsewhere on Saturday promoting her strategies for creating new jobs in the region with a "A Green New Deal.")
It would appear that an angry electorate -- frustrated with Democratic Party inaction on ending the unpopular Iraq war -- is in no mood for further betrayals.
It will be interesting to see what Woolsey's next move will be.
- Mike Copass, for the Copass Report