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What’s Wrong in Washington

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When it comes to Congress, polls show an odd fact: Congress as a whole has a very low approval rating, and yet people in congressional districts across the country approve of their own representative. This creates a huge incumbent advantage. In Congressperson Barbara Lee’s district, no one else even tried. Her name will be the only name on the June primary ballot. On the November ballot, however, there will be two candidates, and one of them could be Green!

How can we explain that odd fact of hating Congress but loving your congressperson? The problem is “the system.” It is a system where even the “good ones” like Barbara Lee take money from the corporations and the billionaires who back them. Congress is bought and paid for. See below for the list of money Lee has taken. Barbara Lee, who consistently gets vote counts of over 80%, doesn’t need all that money for her campaign, and so she donates it down the line for her “team.” Meanwhile, the system, and Barbara Lee, push the idea that in the United States all you need are two parties, and others “can’t win.” The Democratic and Republican players get elected and re-elected; and they trade back and forth. The result for the 99% is that after every election cycle, no matter which team gets in office, our schools, healthcare, justice, environment, and democracy just get worse. Generation after generation.

What can we do with our votes to affect this system? Stop playing along. Use every opportunity to both protest the system, and to support a growing alternative: candidates and political parties like the Green Party that take no corporate money. On your June ballot, write in Laura Wells.

In the terrible Top Two primary, the top two vote-getters advance to the November general election. Barbara Lee will be one of them. Write-in candidate Laura Wells could be the other.

Laura Wells has been a Green Party activist since the party became ballot-qualified in 1992. She has participated at the local, state and national levels: acting as a media spokesperson, editing newspapers, and serving on committees with the goal of building the Green Party so that it can be the strong new political party that people in the United States want. Her employment has been in financial systems, Pesticide Action Network, Women’s Economic Agenda Project, SEIU United Healthcare Workers staff, and in Alameda County healthcare departments.

Laura Wells ran as a statewide candidate for Governor and State Controller between the years of 2002 and 2014. In her campaigns, she helped introduce Public Banking to the state and nation. She has continually pointed out the detrimental effects of California’s old Prop 13 and the need to tax the rich, both to increase funds needed for essential infrastructure and services, and to reduce the power of the billionaire class..

Why should we not vote for Barbara Lee? Because that vote would perpetuate the system, where even “progressive” candidates like Barbara Lee do not align with their constituents. Here are five ways in which Barbara Lee is not aligned.

(1) First, follow the money. At the same time that voters realize more and more how important it is to know where candidates’ money comes from (“if you take their money, they are your boss”), the available FEC records make it harder and harder to find out. By poring over disordered records, researchers created the following partial list of
Barbara Lee’s funders: Jordan Wayne RE Developer from Oakland, $5,400; American Dental Assoc., $5,000; Covington & Burling LLP, $4,250; Microsoft, $3,000; Johnson & Johnson, $3,000; Gridiron PAC, $3,000; Google, $3,000; American Healthcare Assoc., $3,000; PG$E, $3,000; Ravi Patel of Patel Enterprises, $2,700; John P. Gooding (who fought the Hotel Workers’ Union in Emeryville), $5,400; JStreet PAC, $11,100; Willie Brown, $2,700; T-Mobile, $2,500; Intellectual Ventures (a cover organization that raised $5.5 billion from corporations like Microsoft, Intel, Sony, Nokia, Google, Yahoo, American Express, Adobe, eBay amongst others plus some Investment Firms. Double dipping?), $2,500; American Society of Anesthesiologists, $2,500; Gilead Sciences, $2,500; American Academy of Family Physicians, $2,500; Pfizer, $2,000; Motorola, $2,000; General Motors, $2,000; Clorox, $2,000; Viacom, $1,500; BioMarin Pharmaceutical, $1,500; GlaxoSmithKline, $2,000; Lockheed Martin, $2,000; Bayer, $1,000; BNSF Railway, $1,000; Safeway, $1,000; StateFarm Insurance, $500. Where does the money go? To things like catamaran fundraisers in Martha’s Vineyard Massachusetts, and down the line to other “team players.”

(2) Second, Barbara Lee does not endorse the best candidates for local and state office; she endorses team players! In some cases that has meant Republicans who recently switched to Democrat. In other cases that means she withholds support from Green candidates even though they are by far the best candidates (Dona Spring for Berkeley City Council). The second-rate candidates that she does endorse receive the benefit of her ability to raise funds, from dubious sources, beyond what her campaign needs.

(3) Third, speaking of endorsements, although Lee had spoken in favor of Instant Runoff Voting, she held back her endorsement until a couple weeks before IRV was up for voter approval in Oakland. The League of Women Voters and other activists could have used her powerful endorsement months earlier when other endorsers were being approached. Later, there was a celebration of IRV’s victory and who was the keynote? Barbara Lee.

(4) Fourth, whose side is she on? Barbara Lee sat on the sidelines in the 2016 Presidential Primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton — Lee refused to endorse either Sanders or Clinton during the primary season. True, the vast majority of Democratic Party Congressmembers did endorse Clinton, but Sanders received endorsements from 9 Congressmembers, including Keith Ellison (MN), Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Alan Grayson (FL), and Raul Grijalva (AZ). This was despite the fact that there was very strong support for Sanders in Lee’s Congressional District, and Sanders did end up winning more primary votes in the district than Clinton! So in other words, unlike the 9 Congressmembers who did endorse Sanders, Lee declined to be a progressive leader in the primary contest. (For more information, search for “Bernie Sanders presidential endorsers 2016.”)

(5) Fifth is her failure to take a strong stand on trade, and on Palestine — Lee voted against including strong language in the Democratic Party national platform regarding opposing the TPP and regarding supporting the Palestinians — for more info, please see: https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/12/failure-of-nerve-why-barbara-lee-doesnt-speak-for-me-on-tpp-and-palestine/ Seventeen years ago, after 9/11, Barbara Lee did represent her district in voting against giving George Bush extraordinary war powers against Afghanistan. Yes, that took courage, and it was also politically savvy. She represented the most progressive congressional district in the country, a district that might have voted her out if she voted with the crowd in Congress. A button at the time was “Barbara Lee speaks for me.” We need our representatives to act for us when it’s not so visible as well.

(6) Sixth, Barbara Lee gives occasional support for unnecessary military spending. The pattern is that when the Republicans control the House, Lee votes against their proposed Defense budgets. But when the Democrats put forward an excessively large military budget, she has supported it. For example in 2009, Lee was part of a 281 to 146 majority in support of the Department of Defense Authorization. Lee did NOT join in with the 15 Democrats who opposed that bill, including Dennis Kucinich and next-door (Hayward) Congressman Pete Stark.

There are solutions. The billionaires will not fund those solutions, and their paid-for representatives will not do what it takes to implement those solutions. There are alternatives.  Imagine a ballot in November 2018 with a Green Party candidate listed on the ballot. Write-in Laura Wells, and we have a chance.

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