This morning in the FDL discussion of yesterday's victory in Mississippi, people were wondering about the progressive commitment not just to "more Democrats" but to "more and better Democrats." One might ask, better than what, of course, but one thing liberals is essential, are more Democrats like Donna Edwards -- genuine and energized progressive leaders. Can reactionary Republicans (basically all of them) and reactionary Democrats -- Blue Dogs and DLC types -- be held accountable for the Iraq catastrophe and for the de-funding and the disabling of the federal regulatory agencies?
Many of us were happy to see far right Republicans lose in deep red districts in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. It is demoralizing and panicking Republicans; great. When grassroots progressives help beat reactionary Republicans, the Democratic Insider Establishment is as happy as we are. When I mentioned Al Wynn's political demise to Rahm Emanuel at a chance encounter in a bar a few weeks ago, I thought he was either going to lunge at me or have a heart attack. When Democratic reactionaries fall, you might notice rage in Beltway eyes. Democratic primaries are crucial for holding bad Democrats accountable and for electing better Democrats. Blue America is working hard to help trade in Bush rubber stamps Leonard Boswell (IA) and John Barrow (GA) for Ed Fallon and Regina Thomas. Another one of our favorite candidates this year, Leslie Byrne (VA-11), also has a primary coming up, but not against an incumbent. It's a primary pitting a proven progressive against a stealthy and reactionary puppet of war profiteers.
Long before Republican Tom Davis read the writing on the wall and announced he would not run for re-election, Virginia's 11th district was at the top of every Democrat's wish list. With Northern Virginia trending blue over the last two cycles, it's perfect for a red-to-blue turnover. But first we've got to make sure we don't elect another Blue Dog/DLC-type "corporate Democrat."
Fortunately, we have a great candidate in the field. Leslie Byrne has been a strong, progressive voice for decades in the state legislature, in Congress and as our nation's consumer advocate. She opposed the war in Iraq from the start, will fight to make health care more affordable and more accessible, and has always supported a woman's right to choose. Please check out her live blog session at FDL from last March.
As the Washington Post has pointed out, Leslie's opponent, Gerry Connolly, basically a Zell Miller/Joe Lieberman type Democrat, is trying to trick voters into thinking he's suddenly a progressive, just the way Lieberman persuaded Connecticut voters in 2006 that he had seen the light and had suddenly become anti-war. Let's go over why Connolly is such a terrible choice for grassroots and progressive Democrats.
First off, Connolly's record conforms to the worst stereotypes of the corporate Democrat and threatens to cost the party a long-awaited takeover. Connolly has been mired in questions about his employment with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), one of the worst of the major defense contractors, his cozy relationship with business developers and his general affinity for what most of us would call pay to play politics.
Connolly's most egregious offenses against the progressive agenda are only recently coming to light, largely due to his own hypocrisy on the Iraq war. Connolly, who was a proud "moderate" until the moment he declared for the House, has taken to touting his anti-war credentials by claiming that he's "been against the Iraq war from the beginning" and that he plans to "hold CEOs criminally accountable for wasting taxpayer's dollars."
So, why is this a problem? Well, it's an issue because Connolly's employer, SAIC, is one of the most secretive defense contractors in the world. Think about that: Connolly works for a war profiteering company that not only cheer-led for Bush's unjustifiable invasion but that makes much of its money by cheating taxpayers.
The War Profiteering Act that Connolly "claims" to support could devastate SAIC. If convicted under the terms of that act, the company could have to pay up to one million dollars in fines after forfeiting all property gained through the terms of the contract. Company officials involved in fraudulent behavior could have faced 20 years in federal prison. So we've got a congressional candidate claiming that he would vote for a law that could land his co-workers in jail for two decades and devastate his employer's profit margin -- and his stock options.
Gerry Connolly is running for Congress claiming that he plans to "hold CEOs accountable for wasting tax payers dollars" all while working for a company that made the case for the Bush Regime to attack Iraq and that has been accused of cheating taxpayers out of millions of dollars related to defense contracts.
Doesn't even pass the laugh test, does it? It sort of begs the question: Why would SAIC continue to employ someone who claims to support legislation that would have devastating effects to the company? Makes you wonder if maybe SAIC doesn't really believe Connolly plans to follow through, doesn't it?
Well, why shouldn't he be? He has a record of taking money from companies and then doing their bidding. He's already influenced local building projects as the board of supervisors chairman for local real estate developers. Why would one believe he wouldn't continue this influence for the war profiteers?
Right after Connolly was hired at SAIC, he pushed the Board of Supervisors to build a new Metro stop right by their property, raising its value by millions. Connolly talked about how important the new stop would be for SAIC. He didn't disclose the fact that he was now one of their employees.
When the real estate developer WestGroup wanted to build luxury town homes in his district without doing much for the neighborhood, Connolly voted for their proposal. He didn't think it was important to mention that he had been a consultant for WestGroup, making at least $10,000 after he went to them for work.
When Lerner Enterprises wanted to build a residential and office complex in Fairfax County, they wrote Connolly a series of checks for just under the amount at which they would have to publicly disclose. Gerry Connolly got their project approved.
Bad enough that he's trying to convince people that he wants to punish the company that pays his bills. But Gerry Connolly has spent years giving big developers everything they want if they were willing to fill his campaign coffers. Now that he's running for Congress, pay to play is suddenly the root of all evil instead of a fundraising strategy.
Yet, surprise, surprise, the mainstream media's not calling him on it. I suppose it would have taken some really hard-hitting, deep-digging investigative journalism to uncover all this, maybe even a Deep Throat from inside his campaign. Or they could have googled SAIC, Gerry Connolly, like I just did. He's gotten a pass from everyone so far, and he's hoping that it will last right up until Election Day.
Gerry Connolly: "Progressive change (unless it hurts my corporate backers)!" Now there's a bumper sticker I want on my car.
With only 27 days until VA-11's June 10th Democratic Primary, we can help send Leslie to Washington and give her a chance to clean up the mess made by the GOP and the corporate Democrats in power. I know she has the experience, the passion, and the courage to stand up and speak out on the important issues. Please stop by our Blue America ActBlue page and make a contribution of whatever you can afford. The netroots have a great opportunity to make a difference in this race. I hope you will join us.