Tag Archives: congress

Time for Congress and States to Pass the Women’s Equality Amendment

It used to be called the Equal Rights Amendment. Now some are calling it the Women’s Equality Amendment. First passed by Congress in 1971, it fell 3 states short of being added to the US Constitution. Thirty five state legislatures passed it, including Washington State in 1973. Three quarters of the states or 38 are needed for passage.

The 15 states that have not ratified the ERA are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Notice the association of states not passing the amendment with our current list of Presidential candidates. John McCain – Arizona, Barack Obama – Illinois and Hillary Clinton who lived in Arkansas when her husband was Governor.

To date some 23 states have added equal rights amendments to their state constitutions. Washington State voters did so in 1972.

Action to pass the equal right amendment is proceeding on several fronts. The Equal Rights Amendment was re-introduced last year in Congress as the Women’s Equality Amendment. The proposed Constitutional Amendment “prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

The Women’s Equality Amendment has unfortunately languished in committee. It’s been 37 years and its time for the Democrats to use their majority to move the issue forward. As Eleanor Smeal noted in a talk on public radio “We’re the only industrial country in the world right now that has not ratified the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Sex Discrimination.”

In the US Senate the Women’s Equality Amendment is S.J. Res 10 and has 24 sponsors including Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barrack Obama, one of whom will be the Democratic nominee for President. The Republican’s most likely nominee, Senator John McCain is not listed as a sponsor.

Washington State Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are also sponsors.

The House bill, H.J. Res 40 has 202 sponsors. All of Washington’s Democratic Congressmen (Brian Baird, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee and Norman Dicks) are sponsors of the House Resolution but Washington State Republicans Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rogers and Doc Hastings are absent as sponsors. If Dave Reichert is defeated by Democrat Darcy Burner this November you will see another co-sponsor for sure.

As EqualRightsAmendment.org notes, the issue is still very much alive even without further Congressional action:

“A three-state strategy for ERA ratification was developed after 1992, when the so-called Madison Amendment to the Constitution was ratified 203 years after its passage by Congress. Acceptance of this ratification period as “sufficiently contemporaneous” led ERA supporters to argue that Congress has the power to
maintain the legal viability of the ERA’s existing 35 state ratifications. The ERA’s time limit is open to change, as Congress demonstrated in extending its original deadline. Precedent holds that rescission votes are not valid. Therefore, Congress could accept state ratifications that occur after 1982 and keep the existing 35 ratifications alive.”

It seems appropriate and timely to ask McCain, Clinton and Obama to use their campaigns to bring this issue to the forefront again and urge action by both the remaining states and Congress to pass the Women’s Equality Amendment. Let’s see some leadership in action. Let’s move America forward.

If McCain isn’t willing to support the amendment, the public has a right to know that. To date he appears not to, by his not signing on as a co-sponsor of S.J. Res 10. But if he is for it, he should let the public know.

Kucinich Exits Presidential Race, Makes Urgent Appeal for Funds for Contested March 10th Congessional Primary.

Facing the obvious reality that his long shot Presidential campaign was not going to take off, Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich has announced that he is ending his bid for the Presidency and focusing on getting re-elected to Congress.

You can view the video here where he announces his plans to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Kucinich frequently was at the top of various Internet polls of Democrats when people selected a Democratic candidate based on their positions on issues. Unfortunately while many Democrats felt he was right on the issues like getting out of Iraq, he lacked the funds and organization to put together a credible national campaign that could compete with Clinton or Obama or even Edwards.

Kucinich received less than 2% of the vote in New Hampshire and lost his main outreach platform when the media started excluding him from the debates. He was excluded from the televised debates in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. He was also excluded from an upcoming debate in California.

Kucinich was a former mayor of Cleveland, Ohio and is a 6 term Congressman in Ohio’s 10th Congressional District. The New York Times says that he is facing “a tough primary fight“. The Democratic Primary for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District is fast approaching on March 10, 2008. Kucinich is facing 4 Democratic challengers.

Running for President has left him open to charges of being a part time Congressman. You can read more about his re-election campaign here on the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Election Blog “Openers“.

Kucinich’s re-election website has video and an appeal for funds to help his Congressional re-election campaign. Please consider helping as it would be a shame to lose his voice in Congress.

Republicans Hastings, McMorris Rodgers and Reichert Record Votes Opposing Popcorn Worker Safety

Last week members of the US House by a vote of 260 to 154 passed and sent to the US Senate HR 2693 – the Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act. All three Republicans in the Washington State Congressional delegation (Reichert, McMorris Rodgers and Hastings) voted for an amendment to weaken the final bill. All of Washington State’s Democratic Congressmen voted to oppose the amendment as well as voting for final passage of the bill.

Hastings actively opposed the legislation in the Rules Committee ,voting against it coming to the House floor for a vote.

On the House floor Congressman Wilson of South Carolina offered a weakening amendment “to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to wait until the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concludes there is sufficient data to support a recommended exposure limit and establishes such recommended exposure limit before issuing a final standard.

All three Republican Congressman form Washington State voted for this amendment. It failed on a vote of 189 YEA to 233 NAY. On final passage of the bill after the amendment lost, Reichert voted for the legislation. Hastings and McMorris Rodgers continued their opposition to the bill and voted against final passage.

Here is part of the discussion from the Congressional Record

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, today we have an opportunity to protect thousands of American workers from a serious, irreversible and deadly lung disease known as “popcorn lung,” a disease caused by a simple artificial butter flavoring chemical called diacetyl.
The alarm bells began ringing on this health crisis over 7 years ago when a Missouri doctor diagnosed several workers from the same popcorn production plant with this debilitating lung disease. In 2002, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health linked the lung disease to exposure to diacetyl used in the plant.
Scientists have called the effect of diacetyl on workers’ lungs “astonishingly grotesque” and likened it to “inhaling acid.” Hundreds of workers in popcorn and flavor production have become ill, several have died of popcorn lung, and many of the workers are so sick they needed lung transplants. Dozens of workers have sued flavoring manufacturers, winning millions in lawsuits and settlements.
NIOSH first connected popcorn lung to this chemical in 2002. In 2003, NIOSH issued guidance recommending that workers’ exposure be minimized. In 2004, the Food Extract Manufacturers Association, the trade association of the flavoring industry, issued similar guidelines. Yet 5 years later, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has failed to issue a standard to protect workers from exposure to diacetyl, preferring to rely on voluntary efforts.
Voluntary efforts, however, have not worked. Last year, California researchers found that despite the issuance of government and industry guidance for years before, many of those recommendations still have not been implemented in the flavor manufacturing facilities, and new cases of this debilitating lung disease have been identified. How does this bill address the problem? H.R. 2693 would require OSHA to issue an interim final standard to minimize worker exposed to diacetyl. The [
GPO’s PDFstandard would contain provisions of engineering controls,
respiratory protection, exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and worker training. The interim standard applies to popcorn manufacturing and packaging, as well as the food flavoring industry.
OSHA would then be required to issue a final standard within 2 years. This final standard would apply to all locations where workers are exposed to diacetyl and would include permissible exposure limit.
This bill should not be controversial. It is not another battle between workers and business about safety issues and alleged burdens of regulations. Over the past several months, we have built a wide coalition around this legislation from all sides, including industry, labor and scientists. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, the association representing the companies that make these flavorings, has joined with the unions that represent the affected workers to strongly support this legislation.
In fact, the only outside dissenters from this coalition are the usual anti-OSHA ideologues spouting the same old “sky is falling” rhetoric about regulations. Such
rhetoric may be music to the ears of the OSHA-hating ideologues in search of a talking point, but in the real world, this ideology leaves workers and their families to suffer from the preventable scourges of toxic chemicals. There are many reasons why industry, labor and scientists agree on this legislation. They all agree that we don’t need to wait any longer to act; indeed, we can’t afford to wait. I have a list of almost 30 major studies and reports showing that diacetyl destroys workers’ lungs. They agree that we know how to protect workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued guidelines in 2003 laying out the basic measures that industry can take to prevent worker exposure to diacetyl. In 2004, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association outlined in even greater detail the measures that members can take to prevent the employees from getting sick. This legislation is straightforward and merely requires that OSHA do what it could have done and should have already done, issue an emergency standard. There is precedent for this bill and for Congress stepping in when OSHA falters in its mission to protect American workers. In 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 2000, Congress moved to require OSHA to issue health and safety standards.
Earlier this month, in response to a report that a consumer of microwave popcorn has contracted popcorn lung, a few popcorn manufacturers have announced that they intend to stop using diacetyl. This is welcome news. It highlights how serious this issue is, but it is not enough.
Workers are still at risk because diacetyl will continue to be used in a variety of other food products. We can’t wait for consumers to get sick and hit the companies in their pocketbooks before the industry changes. Workers are getting sick now, and have for many years, and will continue to get sick unless we act.
Workers cannot wait any longer for our help. In the past several years, we’ve seen hundreds of workers become sick from exposure to diacetyl, and we’ve heard about young workers who need lung transplants, who are not expected to live to see their small children grow up.
It is time for us to act. OSHA has failed over 5 years. They’ve been on notice to do this, they have failed to do this. The only time they have shown any movement is when we’ve called a hearing or had some congressional action, they have responded to it.
The time has come for Congress to act and pass this legislation and stop ignoring the needs of these workers’ health and safety. And it’s time to get OSHA to do the job that they were constituted to do, and that is, to protect these workers and their families from this preventable exposure to diacetyl as the toxic substance that it has become.

Congresswoman Woolsey, the bill’s prime sponsor, added her comments including this:

The Workforce Protections Subcommittee held a hearing on OSHA standards in April. We heard from Eric Peoples, a former microwave popcorn worker, who has popcorn lung. Eric is in his thirties. He has a young family. He worked in a microwave popcorn facility in Missouri for less than 2 years. After that, he had to stop work because he had contracted popcorn lung disease. Popcorn lung is an irreversible and life-threatening respiratory disease. Eric has lost 80 percent of his lung capacity, is awaiting a double lung transplant, and faces an early death, all because he was exposed to diacetyl.
A standard regulating exposure of diacetyl is currently needed. While OSHA has known about the dangers of the chemical for years, it has failed. It has failed day after day, year after year to act to make this standard an actual reality. In fact, OSHA has done virtually nothing to protect workers against diacetyl.
Now there has been at least one or two other reported cases of popcorn lung in consumers. Wayne Watson, a 53-year-old man from Colorado, has been diagnosed with popcorn lung due to his daily consumption of microwave popcorn over a 10-year period.
In addition, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a 6-year-old child, the son of a popcorn plant employee who has popcorn lung, was showing signs of the disease himself. In that case, when the popcorn plant closed, the company told the employees they could help themselves to any of the company’s products. The father took home some butter-flavored oil containing diacetyl and used it for frying food. As a result, this 6-year-old child was exposed to the chemical, and it made him sick.
These are unintended and unfortunate consequences when OSHA refuses to act to protect workers. This is true, Mr. Chairman, even though the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers’ Association, the Industry that represents the food flavoring manufacturers, issued a report warning of the dangers to workers from exposure of diacetyl and recommended measures controlling that chemical.
OSHA does not seem moved to meaningful action, even though four of the Nation’s biggest popcorn makers have recently announced that they are working to remove diacetyl from their products. In my own State of California, CalOSHA is currently working on a standard to regulate diacetyl.

Congressman Wilson of South Carolina made his pitch which basically said let the Bush appointed regulators that haven’t acted since 2001 on this issue be trusted to come up with answers.

“…folks listening to this might be surprised that there actually is a process in place for rulemaking within OSHA. There is a process in place that maximizes workplace safety while it sets standards based upon the strongest and the most complete scientific information.
Now, today, the House of Representatives is considering a bill which bypasses this process, bypasses the process and sets a permissible exposure limit for diacetyl, making Members of Congress the ones who are the experts on scientific evidence.
As my friend mentioned, before I came to Congress, I was a physician. One of the things that concerned me greatly was that Members of Congress, many Members of Congress think that they know best about so many issues. One of them was how to practice medicine. In this instance, it’s what the level of appropriate exposure for a worker in this Nation ought be for diacetyl.
Diacetyl is an artificial flavoring commonly used for popcorn. It has been determined to be safe for general consumption, but the inhalation, the breathing in of large quantities may be harmful, although there is not any evidence that demonstrates that it can be solely harmful to an individual, which is what this bill actually assumes or presumes.
You have heard talk about the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH. NIOSH is the group that studies these kinds of things. In fact, they produced a study that concluded, “There is insufficient data that exists on which to base workplace exposure standards or recommended exposure limits for butter flavorings.”
Those are the folks that are the scientists that are involved in setting standards. We ought to listen to their recommendation. I commend the author and I commend the individuals who want to push the process forward more rapidly. I think that’s an appropriate thing to do. But by adopting this bill, Congress is effectively saying to OSHA that your rulemaking process doesn’t make any difference, that we don’t need to hear the folks who have the greatest amount of knowledge about an issue, and that Congress is about to set standards based upon incomplete scientific evidence.
Now that may not be of great concern to some, but it ought to be. It ought to be. Regulations of this nature should only be based on the most sound and thorough scientific data. Otherwise, Congress is coming back every 6 months, every year, every 2 years and revising what they have put in place because they haven’t based their decisionmaking on appropriate scientific information.
If this legislation is to go forward, then I would encourage my colleagues to allow
it to do so with the adoption of the Wilson amendment. This amendment would ensure that a final safety standard for diacetyl is in fact based on adequate scientific and complete review by NIOSH. The Wilson amendment will guarantee that the most effective worker protections are put in place with the backing of science rather than identifying one compound without complete information. If the goal here is workplace safety, if the goal is workplace safety, then we ought to make certain that that safety, those guidelines, those regulations are put in place and done correctly. Members of Congress should have a critical eye on the OSHA rulemaking process, without a doubt. But it’s important that we not implement mandates based upon incomplete scientific evidence and without all of the acts …

George Miller summed up the question before Congress in fairly simple form before the House voted:

“… I urge Members of the House to vote against the Wilson amendment and then to support the legislation. If we adopt the Wilson amendment, we’re going right back to the status quo, and the status quo is killing these workers in these facilities. And we have the ability to stop it with this legislation.
We should stop it now. We should not any longer empower OSHA to continue to drag their feet and ignore the health and the safety of these workers and their families.”

Does it make a difference whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress? Well on final passage of the bill 213 Democrats voted for the bill and 8 against it. Voting No were 146 Republicans , with 47 voting for final passage. The final vote 260 YEA to 154 NAY.

The weakening amendment vote was much closer however. 189 Yea to 233 NAY

Darcy Burner and the U.S. Constitution

Darcy Burner is a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 8th Congressional District in Washington State. She narrowly lost in 2006 to Republican incumbent Dave Reichert. She is already running hard to beat him in 2008.

She is continuing her challenge not by being timid but by speaking up for her principles. Witness this just released web ad posted on U-Tube where she talks about the recent vote by many Democrats in Congress to support Bush’s expanded warrantless wiretapping in the name of fighting terrorism. She asks at what price do we give up the principles embedded in our country’s Constitution.

Watch it and ask yourself – isn’t this someone we need in Congress? Too many, including Democrats, are willing to cave in to fear at the expense of weakening protections in our Constitution. We need more elected officials willing to defend the Constitution.

To support Darcy Burner, you can go to her campaign website and make a contribution today.

Time for House Democrats to Enact Voting Reform!

Time is running out for voting reform by Congress says the New York Times in an editorial. What is going on? Why are Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives still not moving forward on correcting these problems?

From Democracy Now 11/26/2006

“In Florida, election officials in Sarasota County have begun a review of touch-screen voting machines used in the recent election. They are testing the machines in order to determine why more than 18,000 ballots in the county registered no votes in the highly contested Congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. The undercount was almost 15 % of ballots cast – far higher than in neighboring areas. Buchanan, with 369 votes more than Jennings, was certified the winner last week”

Time/CNN July 31, 2007

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.)—Florida’s optical scan voting machines are still flawed, despite efforts to fix them, and they could allow poll workers to tamper with the election results, according to a government-ordered study obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press …
The lab found, for example, that someone with only brief access to a machine could replace a memory card with one preprogramed to read one candidate’s votes as counting for another, essentially switching the candidates and showing the loser winning in that precinct. “The attack can be carried out with a reasonably low probability of detection assuming that audits with paper ballots are infrequent,” the report said.

Machinist.Salon.com 7/31/2007>

A team of hackers commissioned by California Secretary of State Deborah Bowen managed to hack into electronic voting machines made by three of the four largest suppliers in the industry, Diebold, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems. After thoroughly testing each of these systems, the team — led by Matthew Bishop, a computer science professor at the University of California, Davis — found “several scenarios in which … weaknesses could be exploited to affect the correct recording, reporting, and tallying of votes.”

As noted in the New York Times editorial:

Electronic voting machines in their current form simply cannot be trusted ….The most important protection against electronic voting fraud is the voter-verified paper trail, a paper record that the voter can check to make sure that it properly reflects his or her choices. There should then be mandatory audits of a significant number of these paper records to ensure that the results tallied on the voting machines match the votes recorded on paper. Mr. Holt’s bill would require that every voting machine produce a paper record of every vote cast in a federal election, and it would mandate random audits. It would also prohibit the use of wireless and Internet technology, which are especially vulnerable to hackers.”

Unfortunately as noted in the The New York Times on July 20, 2007, the House is proposing a compromise on the original Holt Bill.

“House Democratic officials say they are now working on compromise legislation that could allow hundreds of counties in 20 states to simply add tiny, cash-register-style printers to their touch-screen machines for the 2008 and 2010 elections, while waiting for manufacturers to develop better technology by 2012….the proposed compromise is a blow to some computer scientists and other activists, who would like to get rid of the touch-screen machines used by nearly 40 percent of American voters. They had hoped that a tighter deadline would force states and localities to quickly shift from touch-screens to optical-scan systems, in which ballots are marked by the voters themselves rather than being generated by computers”

Compromise and weakening of the Holt bill is not what is needed now. Voting integrity is critical to help ensure voter confidence and trust in the accuracy and validity of our elections. It is a sad commentary on the state of American democracy that we can’t even guarantee the accuracy of our electoral process seven years after the fiasco election of 2000 that found the Republican majority of the US Supreme Court selecting George Bush as President.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate have no excuse. They run the show now and are bungling a critical issue of electoral integrity and voter confidence in the US election process. I urge readers to contact their US Representative and US Senators and urge they act now to reform the electoral voting process in time for the 2008 elections.Urgethem not to weaken and water down the Holt Bill.

You can send an e-mail to your Representative here:

Electronic Freedom Frontier – “Tell Congress to Support e-voting Reform!”

Moveon.org political action- “Ban Paperless Voting”

Conspicuously absent from the list of 211 sponsors of Rep. Holt’s HB 811 is Congressman Brian Baird. Washington State’s other 5 Democratic Congressmen – Dicks, Larsen, Inslee, McDermott and Smith are sponsors of the bill. Baird’s nonsponsorship of the bill put him in camp with the other non-sponsors in this state – the Republican delegation of Reichert, McMorris-Rodgers and Hastings. Voters in Baird’s District of SW Washington need to ask him to become a sponsor of the bill.


Congressman, Can You Spare a Buck?

Despite 3 Congressional races in Washington State where Democrats were challenging Republicans last year, Washington’s six incumbent Congressmen ended the campaign year on Dec 31, 2006 with $2,693,833 in cash on hand.

It is not immediately clear why this is so because looking at the data on OpenSecrets.org and the Federal Election Commission shows that a total of $10,331,886 was raised by all Democrats running for Congress in Washington State in the last election cycle. And of the $10,331,886 raised, some $9,875,407 was reported as being spent by all 9 campaigns. The campaigns saw a net increase of $456,479 dollars as cash on hand not spent this cycle.

The startling truth is that the $2.7 million is the accumulated unspent cash on hand from all campaigns as of Dec 31, 2006, including the carryover from previous years. The 3 Democratic non-incumbent challengers had only $42,942 in cash left.

The $2.7 million represents some 21% of Democratic Congressional campaign money that was really available to be spent. Very little of this money came in after election day, but was available to help Democratic candidates.

One has to question why is such a critical year , when Democrats nationally were trying to regain control of the House and Senate, incumbent Democratic Congressmen in this state did not feel compelled, particularly by October, to spend everything they had available to help in the effort to regain control of Congress.

The November elections turned out to be a very close national referendum on Bush and the Republicans and the Democrats were picking up momentum. At stake was who controlled Congress and whether or Democrats would the Majority or Minority Party. Being the Majority Party meant having Democratic Committee Chairs, subpoena power and the ability to pass legislation. Being in the minority you weren’t even consulted by the Republicans on any bills.

This is not to say our six Democratic Congressman didn’t help but did they give it their all? Were they united in helping the Democrats fight to the finish or did they hold back? Except for Rick Larsen, they faced pretty weak opposition.

I will let you judge for yourself. Reported below are figures for each Congressman and their campaigns and the money raised and money spent helping other campaigns. Most of our Congressman helped in one form or another, just some did more than others.

Meanwhile in this state Democrat Darcy Burner and Republican Dave Reichert each raised just over $3 million in the WA CD-08 race last November. In the end Reichert narrowly edged Burner with 7341 more votes. Burner got 48.54% of the votes and Reichert got 51.46% of the votes.

Would Darcy Burner have won if she had received more money? We’ll never know but the issue is ripe for speculation. And what might a little more help for Peter Goldmark have done over in Spokane? Feel free to speculate.

Money raised by Democrats in Washington State in 2006 races ( most to least)
Darcy Burner CD-8 challenger………$3,060,927
Rick Larsen CD-2 incumbent……….. 1,456,945
Peter Goldmark CD-5 challenger… $1,194,878
Norm Dicks CD-8 incumbent………… $975,071
Jim McDermott CD-7 incumbent…. $888,559
Jay Inslee CD-1 incumbent………….. $883,376
Brian Baird CD-3- incumbent……… $834,003
Adam Smith CD-9 incumbent………. $739,885
Richard Wright CD 4 challenger…… $298,242
Cash on Hand – Incumbent Washington Congressman on Dec. 31 2006
WA CD-1 Jay Inslee, D………………………$803,362
WA CD-02 Rick Larsen, D…………………. $84,677
WA CD-03 Brian Baird ……………………..$784,972
WA CD-06 Norm Dicks, D…………………. $210,238
WA CD-07 Jim McDermott D……………. $422,848
WA CD-09 Adam Smith, D …………………$387,736
Total cash on hand 12/31/2006 …………….$2,693,833
Money raised by opponents to Democratic Incumbent Congressmen
Inslee opponent CD-01…………………. $43,733
Larsen opponent CD-02………………. $665,334
Baird opponent CD-03…………………. $150,237
Dick’s opponent CD-06………………………….. $0
McDermott 2 opponents CD -07 ……..$69,948
Smith opponent CD-09 …………………..$39,838
Total raised by opponents to 6 incumbent Congressman $ 969,090
So considering that the 6 incumbent Congressman raised some $5,777,839 plus had about $2 million carried over from previous years, and all of their opponents collectively raised less than $1 million dollars, how generous were they in helping the other three Democrats in Washington State challenging incumbent Congressmen?

In addition to helping directly, they could also have helped the effort to become the Majority Party in Congress by giving to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) or to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) nationally or directly to the out of state Congressional campaigns of other Democratic challengers.

While these figures do not give a complete picture of the Congressmen’s overall campaign involvement, because Congressmen can also help by hosting fundraisers for others or help solicit contributions through other PACS, they do reflect on the issue of the $2.6 million surplus left in December. Below are these breakdowns.

Breakdown of Contributions
2006 Congressional Campaigns by Washington’s 6 incumbent Congressmen
Brian Baird
Burner ……………………………………………… $4600
Goldmark …………………………………………..$1000
Wright…………………………………………………….. $0
39 other Congressional Candidates ….. $43,500
DCCC ………………………………………………$75,000
WSDCC …………………………………………….$10,000
total $134,000
Jay Inslee
Burner ………………………………………………………$0
Goldmark …………………………………………….$3700
Wright ……………………………………………………….$0
39 other Congressional candidates……….$66,100
DCCC ………………………………………………$210,000
WSDCC ……………………………………………..$82,000
total $361,800
Rick Larsen
Burner ……………………………………………….$1000
Goldmark …………………………………………………$0
Wright ……………………………………………………..$0
other Congressional candidates ………………….$0
DCCC ………………………………………………$12,500
WSDCC …………………………………………..$20,000
total $33,500
Norm Dicks
Burner ……………………………………………..$2000
Goldmark …………………………………………$4000
Wright …………………………………………………….$0
3 other Congressional candidates…………$6000
WSDCC ………………………………………….$61,100
total $454,100
Jim McDermott
Burner………………………………………………… $500
Goldmark……………………………………………….. $0
Wright ……………………………………………………..$0
other Congressional candidates ………………….$0
total $25,500
Adam Smith
Burner …………………………………………………$2000
Wright ……………………………………………………….$0
27 other Congressional candidates………….34,500
DCCC ………………………………………………$125,000
WSDCC ……………………………………………. $46,000
total $210,000
What stands out to me is the Congressional delegation did not make a full scale assault on winning back Congress because they ended the year with some $2.7 million in cash on hand. They did not even maximize out contributions directly to the 3 Democratic challengers running against Reichert, McMorris and Hastings.

In fact they seem to have done a complete boycott of the Wright/Hastings race. What is unfortunate about this is that the lack of Republican ethics was a high factor in voter’s decisions to oust the Republicans from Congress. Hastings was the Chair of the House Ethics Committee. His inaction and deliberate efforts to do nothing should have made him vulnerable to defeat.

In addition I am disappointed in Jim McDermott’s bottoming out in helping Democrats with fundraising. He is in the safest Democratic seat in the state, had a tepid race by weak opponents, and should have been able to help raise money for other Democrats. I have heard the excuse before that it’s his lawsuit with Boehner over the cellphone calls that is holding him back but that has been going on 8 years. At what point do you say McDermott’s decision to continue the fight is hurting his ability to help the larger Democratic cause in our country?
The issue goes for all the incumbents though. They all are easily able to raise money. Why do they think it was O.K. to end the campaign year with some $2.7 million in the bank? Will they be doing the same next year? Don’t they see anything wrong with this when it could have been used to help elect more Democrats?

The Reason We Are in Iraq is to "Support the Troops"?

There have been so many “reasons” given by Bush as to why we are in Iraq. But it is a sorry state of affairs when the rationale for Congress continuing to fund the war turns into a debate about who is “supporting the troops” and the Democrats continue to respond to the issue on these terms.

If the issue is really about “supporting the troops“, then bringing them home now is the best way to support them. We can certainly do a better job at home than having to supply them with food and weapons half way around the world.

Why is the main stream media and everyone else seemingly buying into the idea that what the debate is about now is “supporting the troops“? Is it because all the other rationales given by Bush no longer make sense and this is his last desperate attempt to try to tug at the heartstrings of America? Why can’t someone just tell the Pretender Emperor he has no clothes?

What happened to fighting terrorism or bringing peace and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan?This war is Bush’s war and it has turned out to have been made on false assumptions and false premises and false expectations. But Democrats make a big mistake if they continue to respond to Bush’s false pretenses and phony concerns and attempts to re-frame the debate now into a false issue of “supporting the troops“.

The debate now should not be about “supporting the troops” and never should have been. Democrats are wrong to engage in Bush’s phony attempts to change the debate. Get real. Debate what our goals are in Iraq and what we can or can not do. Whatever happened in the past is done – make your decisions based on the present reality and then act. But what the hell does “supporting the troops” have to do with this?

Debate what we need to do next. Only after you’ve made that decision and come up with a plan to carry out with a time line do you discuss what you can do to support carrying out the mission. Only then do you discuss how to “support the troops” in their mission. But only after you reach agreement on a plan of action can you determine how to “support the troops“.

Bush really is saying, support what I am doing. The problem is Bush choose to ignore the concerns of Democrats and others when he started this war. He chose his own counsel and continues to this day to function in isolation, stubbornly ignoring concerns and suggestions of others, including the bipartisan panel on Iraq that he put together to deflect criticism and then whose recommendations he choose to ignore.

Bush seemingly has no end game or exit plan except to ride things out until his term in office is up. Then he can blame whatever bad outcome there is on the next President. Bush is praying that he will get lucky in the next year and a half but the chances right now seem worse than the odds on winning one of those Mega-Lotteries.

Seattle Times Does the Boy Talk about Girl Power

Girl Power- No Longer a Novelty” say the “boys” at the Seattle Times. This editorial appeared in today’s Seattle Times but was posted January 1, 2007 on the Internet.

We are the only state in the nation which has two girl Senators and a girl Governor, all a testament to “Girl Power” and our “true progressivism and open-mindedness” says the Seattle Times.

Yes, we have a girl for Governor – 59 year old Girl Governor Christine Gregoire (born March 24, 1947). We also have two girl Senators: Girl Senator Patty Murray (born Oct 11, 1950) who is 56 years old and Girl Senator Maria Cantwell (born Oct 13, 1958) who is 48 years old.

The Seattle Times notes that Maine and California also have two “female” Senators. But California’s Governor is not boy Arnold Schwarzenegger or male Arnold Schwarzenegger but “ever macho” Arnold Schwarzenegger. Why not in all fairness say “Not a Girlie” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger? That would be in context with the “Girl Power” headline. Maine’s Governor is asexual I guess because he is just “John Baldacci” He is not labeled as a boy or male. Maybe he is bisexual – in that case the girl power factor would put Maine at 2 1/2 instead of 2 out of three offices in the comparison above.

Our “Girl Power“according to the Seattle Times is because “Voters, as well as skilled politicians at several levels, understand that men do a very good job at a lot of things, and, quite often, women do, too I think they meant to say “and, quite often, girls do, too.” But there is more here.

I have a seventeen, almost eighteen, year old daughter who is off to college next year. As I read the above quoted sentence I can’t help but be angered at the bias that this sentence displays that I hoped we were overcoming in our nation. The phrase “…understand that men do a very good job at a lot of things, and, quite often, women do too.” is what bothers me. It reeks of sexism. Men, implying all men, as a class, do a very good job at a lot of things, it says. Without qualification, (all) men (politicians) do a very good job at a lot of things (in politics). But women don’t always do a very good job at a lot of things. They may “quite often” do a very good job at a lot of things but they don’t always do a very good job like men do. This is according to the Seattle Times interpretation of how men and women politicians are perceived by voters and I assume by the Seattle Times. Did no one proofread this editorial?

The Seattle Times editorial is off the mark in talking so condescendingly about “Girl Power” Maybe its because the Times editorial board itself has 8 boys and only 4 girls. But the fact is that the “girls” the Seattle Times talks about as a whole are shut out of power across the country. It’s time we talked about the reality that boys run this country. And boys outnumber girls two to one in Washington’s State Legislature. Is that a sign of “our true progressivism and open mindedness” that the Times talks about?

The Times editorial never once calls a man – a boy and never once calls a man – a male in its talk about “Girl Power“.

The Seattle Times editorial notes that “For many years, Washington has had the highest, or one of the highest, percentages of women in the State Legislature” We are now ranked third after Maryland and Delaware. We are actually tied for third with 3 other states – Arizona, Nevada and Vermont.

But the Seattle Times doesn’t give the figures for how many women are in the Washington Legislature which I think is important to this discussion. The Washington State Senate has 20 women out of 49 total Senators (15 D, 5R). The Washington State House of Representatives has 29 women out of 98 Representatives (19D, 10R) Women comprise almost exactly one third of our Legislature or 33.3% . This breakdown is part of an analysis done by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey.

Why is it not 50/50? Why do we not have some kind of parity or equality in numbers since women voters comprise about 50% of the voting population? While it is good to applaud the success of women in the ranks of Washington’s Legislators to date, it is not good enough to stop there. We need to challenge the parties and the voters to seek out and elect more women to the State Legislature. We need to rise to the challenge of fair representation. That is the editorial the Times should have written.

A closer look at the numbers of women elected to state legislatures nationally tabulated on the page of the Center for American Women and Politics says to me that women have hit a glass ceiling on rising to power in politics in America. ( See also my earlier discussion of the glass ceiling for women in politics)

Women in State Legislatures:

The trend is pretty obvious. Its like a mathematical equation where the line is approaching a limit of 25%.

The US ranks below a number of other countries around the world in having women in national Legislative office. Our two women U.S.Senators – Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell are only two of 16 women US Senators. 84 Senators are men. Women also comprise only 16% of the members of the US of Representatives.Internationally this ranks us 66th out of 151 national Legislative bodies around the world in the percentage of women holding office. Ironically this is lower than the percentage of women in the national legislature in Iraq (25.5%) and Afghanistan (27.3% and 22.5%).

“Woman Power” in America has a long ways to go to reach any fairness of women being represented in office. If anything Washington State is an anomaly both nationally and internationally. But even the numbers here do not suggest “a sign of Washington’s egalitarian nature.” Because that suggests some kind of equality which doesn’t exist. And it really is not a number we should be satisfied with.
We should be asking ourselves why aren’t we doing better, both here and nationally? Why isn’t there an approximately equal number of men and women in public office? Shouldn’t we be setting a goal to achieve a better balance? What do we have to do to achieve more women elected to public office? These are the questions that need answers.

Tell Congress to Index the Minimum Wage to Inflation.

In 1998 Washington State voters passed Initiative 688 to raise the state minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999 and then to $6.50 in 2000. We also became the first state in the nation to index future increases to inflation. This year the current minimum wage is $7.63.

On Jan.1, 2006 the Washington state minimum wage will increase another $.30/hr to $7.93. It will be the highest in the nation.

In 1998 the Federal minimum wage was $5.15/hr. Nine years have passed and it is still $5.15/hr.

Meanwhile members of Congress have voted several times to raise their salary for a “cost of living increase” during those same 9 years.. Their cost of living increase added $31,600 to their salary. This is equivalent to a $15/hr increase if one worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks.

The cost of living increase Congress voted for themselves is triple the salary per hour that a minimum wage workers makes. Congressional salary currently is $165,200 per year.

Democrats tried repeatedly to raise the minimum wage but were defeated by the Republican majority. It’s time now with the Democrats taking control of both the House and the Senate to raise the minimum wage. Its only fair.

The New York Times in an editorial Nov 15, 2006 asks “Will Fair Pay Have its Day?”The editorial notes that because the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation in the past that “the purchasing power of the wage has dropped to its lowest level since 1955“. It also notes that “come December, the minimum wage will have remained unchanged for the longest period since it was established in 1938.” The current inaction on raising the minimum wage coincides with Republican control of Congress.

But Democrats, out of the boot of Republican domination of Congress can do the right thing and make future increases in the minimum wage automatic every year to take inflation into account.

If Congress thinks it is necessary for them to keep up with the cost of living, then the same is even more so for someone making minimum wages.

Democrat Darcy Burner Concedes Election in WA-8

This morning Darcy Burner conceded her Congressional race to Dave Reichert. Vote counting reported last night showed Burner now behind by 4727 votes – too wide a margin to make up in the remaining ballots left.

Speaking at a press conference this morning Burner said, “The voters of the 8th District have spoken.” She noted that this “wasn’t an end but a beginning.”

Darcy Burner’s race was a study in running campaigns. She ran an aggressive campaign on the issues, including the Iraq War. Her main liability going in was that she had never run for public office before so she was learning on the job. As McGavick showed though, even running a winning campaign for someone else for the same seat doesn’t guarantee success.

Because Burner had not been involved in politics or other activist campaigns she had to build support from the ground up. And it didn’t help when it turned out she wasn’t exactly a strong voter herself.

A large part of her campaign was spent early on in trying to build credibility among people in her district and among the Democrats. She wisely got involved in establishing contact with and working with Washington state bloggers to increase her name familiarity and exposure to local and national blog readers and the media that read blogs. The blogosphere also helped her raise money.

Her lack of political experience was also one of her assets. She was a fresh face and could not be criticized for taking on a difficult task. She freely spoke her mind and exuded passion. She showed that she could rise to the occasion and became a barnburner in raising money, support and credibility.

Also hitting hard at the end was the usual Republican hit ads that twist the truth and lie about candidates, like saying Burner was for raising taxes on everyone. Her position was to raise the lid on social security taxes and not support tax breaks for millionaires. The truth doesn’t really matter though in attack ads..

Hopefully Burner will stay involved in politics and build on her successes to take Reichert on again in two years. Sometimes it takes more than one election to win. Seeds planted in the 2004 races finally saw fruition this year.

We strongly urge Burner to stay involved in Democratic politics and continue to build her base in the 8th. The Democratic Party needs more candidates like Darcy Burner. The election on Nov 7th was only a beginning as this country tries to undo 6 years of Republican catering to corporate America and neoconservative thinking.