05/21/2010 10:07 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Conservatives Who Supported Bush's No-Strings-Attached Bailout Are Faring Badly

There's been a lot of rumble lately about how angry teabaggers -- the GOP electoral base-- turned on Senate Robert Bennett (R-UT) and ended his political career because of his support for George W. Bush's no-strings-attached Wall Street bailout bill in the fall of 2008. But Bennett was hardly alone among Republican senators giving their Wall Street campaign donors a big fat wet kiss with our tax money. In fact, most Republican senators, 34 of them, voted for it. There's some speculation that the unprecedented drubbing inflicted on Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson Tuesday was largely -- and correctly -- because he was perceived as McConnell's boy and that the overwhelming anti-Grayson vote that saddled the GOP with the unelectable kook Rand Paul, was an anti-McConnell vote. Remember, McConnell didn't just vote for the bailout, he, along with Jon Kyl, Lamar Alexander and Richard Burr, made sure it passed.

Another race that played out badly for a Republican incumbent Tuesday, one who had taken massive -- if thinly veiled -- bribes from the financial sector ($6.4 million), was in Pennsylvania. There 29 year Republican Senator Arlen Specter had been driven out of the GOP after voting for Bush's bailout, tried to seek re-election as a Democrat and was soundly rejected by Democrats in every county in the Commonwealth save three. Among the Republicans who are into the most peril in the November general election are bailout supporters Richard Burr (NC), Chuck Grassley (IA) and John McCain (AZ). Several other bailout supporters -- George Voinovich (OH), Mel Martinez (FL), Kit Bond (MO), Chuck Hagel (NE), and Judd Gregg (NH) -- have retired or are retiring rather than face angry voters.

Things are even more dismal for Republicans bailout supporters in the House. Please recall that when the bill was first voted on, September 29, 2008, Bush was only able to muster 65 Republicans and the bill failed 228-205. Between bribes (called sweeteners) and brute force (applied by bailout advocates John Boehner, Eric Canter, Pete Sessions and Paul Ryan) when the bill was voted on the next week, it passed 263-171, with 91 Republicans voting in favor. Many have already retired or gone down to defeat.

The first Republican to see his career evaporate because of his support of the no-strings-bailout was Chris Cannon (R-UT), replaced by extreme teabagger Jason Chaffetz, almost immediately after the vote. But Cannon is far from the only Republican House member who lost his seat -- or retired or is retiring now -- after voting for the bailout. Others include:

Barbara Cubin (WY)
Tom Davis (VA)- defeated in a bid for higher office
Vern Ehlers (MI)- retiring this year, afraid to face the voters
Mike Ferguson (NJ)
Vito Fossella (NY)
Wayne Gilchrest (MD)
Dave Hobson (OH)
Joe Knollenberg (MI)
Randy Kuhl (NY)
Ray LaHood (IL)
Jim McCrery (LA)
John McHugh (NY)
Chip Pickering (MS)
Jon Porter (NV)
George Radanovich (CA) -retiring this year, afraid to face the voters
Jim Ramstad (MN)
Ralph Regula (OH)
Tom Reynolds (NY)
Jim Saxton (NJ)
John Shadegg (AZ) -retiring this year, afraid to face the voters
Chris Shays (CT)
Tom Tancredo (CO)- defeated in a bid for higher office
Jim Walsh (NY)
Dave Weldon (FL)
Jerry Weller (IL)
Heather Wilson (NM)- defeated in a bid for higher office

Going into the general election, there are a great many Republicans in a great deal of trouble. Bailout champions currently looking to go on to higher office who are getting blowback for putting their Wall Street cronies ahead of their constituents are Gresham Barrett (SC), Roy Blunt (MO), John Boozman (AR)-- who will really get pounded if anti-bail out Democrat Bill Halter is his opponent instead of bailout queen Blanche Lincoln-- Mike Castle (DE), Mary Fallin (OK), Vito Fossella (NY, on the comeback trail in his mind), Pete Hoekstra (MI), Mark Kirk (IL), Adam Putnam (FL), Paul Ryan (WI), Zach Wamp (TN). Kind of tough for the GOP to claim that they are the party against bailouts when the absolute worst bailout ever was supported by every single House member running for senator or governor or, in Putnam's case, state agriculture commissioner.

And then there are the one's who want to keep their seats. The five California Republican incumbents most likely to lose their seats are Mary Bono Mack, the hated nemesis of all West Coast teabaggers, Ken Calvert, David Dreier, John Campbell, and Dan Lungren, three bailout proponents going into an election cycle with contempt and fervent opposition from the Republican base. Bono Mack and perhaps Calvert will each be hard-pressed to survive their June 8th primaries. Of course, to be fair, it isn't only California Republican incumbents who sold out their constituents for their Wall Street benefactors. Blue Dog Jane Harman-- who calls herself "the best Republican in the Democratic Party" (although not so much this close to an election)-- is likely to lose her primary to Marcy Winograd June 8th. Last night I asked Marcy how she would have handled the request -- even pressure -- swirling around the financial sector problems that led to Bush's bailout. Noting that Harman, the wealthiest Democratic member of the House, didn't reveal -- let alone recuse herself when she voted for the bailout (of her own portfolio) -- that she owned millions of dollars in Goldman Sachs investments-- Marcy didn't back away from drawing the clear distinctions between herself and the incumbent from a policy perspective:

Before bailing out Wall Street, Congress should have bailed out the American people who were victimized by predatory lenders selling bad loans. Any bail out should have been tied to a moratorium on foreclosures and a 'First Right to Rent' rule, requiring banks to offer homeowners facing foreclosures a chance to rent their homes at market value.

Had the government included in the bail-out low interest loans for such homeowners, we would not be facing massive foreclosures, blighted neighborhoods, lower property values, and county coffers starved for money for social services. Instead, Washington politicians turned their backs on struggling homeowners and turned over the keys to our treasury to the same institutions that engineered our economic decline. All of this came at lightening speed, at a dizzying pace, with little time for thought or reflection or for demands that the recipients of the bail-outs funnel money back into local economies, into low-interest loans for small businesses, the most vulnerable to collapse.  

It was a lousy deal, one with no strings attached, that was sealed overnight. When dawn came and we looked around, Wall Street was still an unregulated casino. Had I been in Congress, not only would I have taken to the floor to argue for a foreclosure freeze but also for a return to regulation and limits on how big banks could become. No bank should hold more than 10% of our national deposits.

Otherwise we're back to square one, with banks too big too fail calling the shots on Capitol Hill.

Of course, needless to say, this isn't just a California problem for conservatives like Ken Calvert, Dan Lungren and Jane Harman either. Charlie Dent in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley is almost surely going to lose his seat over his extremely inglorious role in the bailout, as will Bob Inglis in South Carolina.

But what about Boehner, the architect of the whole operation to pass the bill after it had failed on September 29? Blue America is backing a straight-arrow West Point grad who's running for the western Ohio seat Boehner has been occupying for almost two decades of intense golf playing, Justin Coussoule. He has a very different perspective than Boehner on Wall Street bailouts and his whole campaign is about giving a hand to regular working families instead of special interests. He's what you'd call a Main Street Democrat to Boehner's Wall Street Republican. Justin:

To those millions who are rightfully angered by the bail out of Wall Street banks and financial institutions who violated our trust and created an economic disaster for American families, they should be reminded that the bail out was George Bush's and John Boehner twisted arms to pass the bill for his friends on Wall Street.

Although a response while our nation stood at the edge of economic collapse may have been necessary, a bail out without transparency, accountability and safeguards for American families was inexcusable. But 'Bail Out Boehner' chose to protect his friends on Wall Street and stiff working families, leaving them to pick up the tab."

Both Justin Coussoule and Marcy Winograd have been endorsed by Blue America. Marcy is fighting a Democratic corporate shill, Jane Harman, and Justin is fighting a Republican one, the aforementioned John Boehner, who spent one day out of three last year golfing and who was handsomely paid for his services to the financial sector, which has lavished $3,533,714 towards advancing his political career. Please consider contributing what you can to both Marcy and Justin-- on the same ActBlue page.

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