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Tom Perez Stacks 2020 Convention Committees With 'From the Swamp' Nominations

Perez's nominations clearly show that the swamp seems in it to win for itself, regardless of the electoral outcome for the nation.

It will be interesting to see how progressive candidates and policies fare at this convention, given the makeup of these committees. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/Flickr/cc)

It will be interesting to see how progressive candidates and policies fare at this convention, given the makeup of these committees. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/Flickr/cc)

"Where would you stick the knife in?"—2020 Democratic Convention Rules Committee nominee John Podesta, referring to candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016

DNC chair Tom Perez recently presented his nominations for the 2020 Democratic Convention standing committees. The full list can be seen here.

If you think the Democratic Party as currently run is determined that no progressive will receive the nomination, the DNC and the superdelegates, who get to vote in all but the first round of voting, are the last bulwarks against such an outcome.

We'll have more to say about the superdelegates and what they may do later. For today let's consider how Tom Perez, Barack Obama's pick for DNC chair over Keith Ellison, is loading up the 2020 Convention standing committees with determined anti-progressives, Clinton and Obama loyalists and operatives, enemies of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, a bevy of corporate and national security lobbyists and high-dollar Democratic Party consultants and firms.

As you read the following, consider this:

  • Given the popularity of progressive policies in the actual country—that is, among people who vote—it certainly appears possible that the primary goal of the DNC is to guarantee the continuous flow of corporate dollars to DNC coffers and approved consultants and lobbyists. In that sense, the whole organization seems focused first on insider jobs and wealth security.
  • Only after the first goal is achieved is a secondary goal — winning elections — taken into account. 

Is this too cynical? Is this cynicism justified? Read on and decide for yourself.

The 2020 Platform Committee

Kevin Gosztola offers us a rundown of Perez's nominations in a series of tweets, many points with accompanying documentation. The tweets are here. I've summarized his main points below, absent much, but not all, of the documentation that he provides (emphasis and some reparagraphing mine).

Of the nominees for the Platform Committee, Gosztola notes the following:

[Co-Chair] Denis McDonough was Barack Obama's chief of staff during his second term. He also chairs Rework America Task Force, which launched Rework America Business Network with Heidi Capozzi, senior vice president of human resources at Boeing, in December 2018.

[The] Rework America Business Network that McDonough helped launch counts as its founding members the following: Aon, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Boeing, Duke Energy, Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Stanley Black & Decker, Walmart, & Zurich Insurance

Jon Hamm portrayed McDonough in 2019 film, "The Report," which told the story of Senate's CIA torture report through perspective of Senate staffer Daniel Jones. On behalf of the CIA, McDonough advocated for more redactions from the executive summary that was released.

[Vice-Chair] Danielle Gray, former Obama administration official, is the senior vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Gray was a partner in the New York law firm of O’Melveny and Myers, where she advised "health care companies, financial services institutions, universities, and clients in a range of industries on litigation, internal investigations, and government enforcement actions."

[Vice-Chair] Jake Sullivan is a member of the Alliance for Securing Democracy's Advisory Council. He was a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton's 2016 and 2008 presidential campaigns. Sullivan was also a national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

• Georgia State Senator Nikema Williams served as member of Obama Victory Fund 2012. She was one of "top ten influential African American bundlers for Obama."

Carol Browner is senior counselor for Albright Stonebridge Group, business firm founded in 2009 by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She worked on climate change policy in Obama admin.

Clinton's campaign appointed Browner to 2016 DNC Platform Drafting Committee. As a Clinton delegate, during the 2016 Platform Drafting Committee meeting, voted against a ban on fracking, Medicare For All, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), keeping fossil fuels in ground, and measure[s] to halt abuse of eminent domain by fossil fuel industry.

Mary Kay Henry is the president of SEIU. In 2015, she ensured the major union endorsed Hillary Clinton early. SEIU donated $1 million to Priorities USA, the primary super PAC that supported Clinton's 2016 campaign in spite of Clinton's reluctance to back a $15 minimum wage.

Charlie King is a lobbyist, close ally of Governor Andrew Cuomo, former executive director for the New York State Democratic Party, and a 2020 Democratic superdelegate.

Bakari Sellers was Kamala Harris surrogate and surrogate for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He has disingenuously insisted Bernie has long way to go with black voters, despite contrary polling.

See how Sellers welcomed Bernie to the DNC primary when he announced his 2020 campaign. [Sellers: "I don't have a problem with Bernie getting in the race, 'when is he getting out is probably a better question."]

In 2015, Sellers became member of National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the notorious pro-Israeli government lobbying group. https://thetandd.com/news/sellers-selected-for-aipac-council/article_18a0c968-6592-58a2-8093-19cd76ff01c5.html. Mentioned here too: https://diversity.gatech.edu/Sellers_Biography.

Sellers drafted letter and spearheaded effort in 2016 to ensure the DNC platform did not adopt language Bernie Sanders supported, which would've acknowledged responsibility to confront humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza. https://d10onlizn351s5.cloudfront.net/uploads/2016/06/Bakari-Sellers-Letter-to-DNC-on-Israel-Platform-Statement.pdf

Dan Shapiro is the former ambassador of United States to the state of Israel. He backed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, if done the "right way." And here's Shapiro in November 2019 championing virtues of US military aid to Israel. https://jpost.com/American-Politics/Dan-Shapiro-Military-assistance-to-Israel-also-serves-US-interests-607352

Wendy Sherman is a senior counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a business firm founded by Madeleine Albright. She was Clinton delegate on the 2016 DNC Platform Drafting Committee, who voted against Medicare for All, opposing the TPP, and banning fracking.

While Sherman was lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal and has previously backed diplomacy with North Korea, during drafting of 2016 platform Sherman opposed language on Israeli occupation and suggested BDS movement "creates anti-Semitism."

Craig Smith was White House Political Director during President Clinton's administration. He was campaign director/senior adviser to Joe Lieberman's 2004 presidential campaign. Smith also was senior adviser for super PAC, Ready For Hillary, and later Clinton's 2016 campaign.

Meghan Stabler is a member of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel Democrats. She also served on the national board of directors for Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

FYI: The DNC Platform Drafting Committee will define the Democratic Party's policies and priorities for domestic and foreign affairs in 2020.

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That's a short rundown of 13 of Tom Perez's Platform Committee nominations. One of the two Co-Chairs is an Obama ex-chief of staff with corporate ties to "Aon, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Boeing, Duke Energy, Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Stanley Black & Decker, Walmart, & Zurich Insurance." This co-chair also advocates for CIA torture.

Of the four Vice-Chairs, one is chief legal officer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina and a health care lobbyist, and the other was senior policy adviser for the 2016 Clinton campaign.

Of the remaining 25 members, nine are either Obama bundlers; lobbyists opposed to "a ban on fracking, Medicare For All, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), keeping fossil fuels in ground, and measure[s] to halt abuse of eminent domain by fossil fuel industry"; 2016 Clinton supporters and delegates; and/or supporters of Israel's oppression of Palestine who likewise oppose the BDS movement.

All in all, this committee looks well stacked against any change to the corruption of the political process by money and stands strongly against any change to U.S. interventionism abroad, especially in support of Israel's national foreign policy objectives. 

The 2020 Rules Committee

Of the 31 nominations to the Rules Committee — two co-chairs, four vice-chairs and 25 members—Gosztola writes the following:

[Co-Chair] Maria Cardona is a 2020 Democratic superdelegate and a CNN and CNN en Español contributor. She also is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a lobbying firm that has fought on behalf of corporate interests against progressive reforms.

From [a] 2016 @theintercept story: Dewey Square Group worked on behalf of health insurance industry during health reform debate, even placing letters to editor in newspaper "under names of elderly Massachusetts residents without their knowledge or consent." https://theintercept.com/2016/02/08/hrc-inner-circle-lobbyists/

Maria Cardona wrote [a] column for Univision in March 2016, "Sanders Socialism Does Not Sit Well With Florida Voters."

She invoked Venezuela, ignoring how US policy has targeted and destabilized country since at least 1998 because socialism was incorporated into their democracy. Maria Cardona invoked [a] right-wing attack to discourage support for Warren or Sanders. (Dec. 29, 2019)[:] "If Warren and Sanders remain among top Democratic tier (they will), Trump will continue to try to paint all Democrats as radical socialists who want to turn US into Venezuela."

[Co-Chair] Barney Frank is former congressman, who currently is on board of directors of Signature Bank in New York.

In July 2018, New York Times examined how [the] bank was a go-to lender for President Donald Trump's family, as well as Jared Kushner's family. https://nytimes.com/2018/07/23/business/signature-bank-trump-kushner.html

Barney Frank argued against the Green New Deal in February 2019, even as the climate change threat rapidly intensified. "There’s an argument that you don’t destabilize a society by doing too much change at once."

In July 2015, early in [the] primary, Barney Frank wrote a column for POLITICO, "Why Progressives Shouldn't Support Bernie." He advocated against democracy because he believed if Sanders presented a formidable challenge to Clinton it would weaken her.

Viewed as "attack surrogate" for Clinton in 2016, Bernie Sanders demanded Barney Frank be removed as head of Rules Committee. That request was rejected.

Sanders believed Frank had "deeper professional, political, & personal hostility" toward his campaign

[Vice-Chair] Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms endorsed Joe Biden in June 2019. Even in November, as Biden's poll numbers sagged, she maintained he'd be the best nominee. "People have long underestimated Joe Biden, and he's been consistent."

[Vice-Chair] Chris Lu was Deputy Secretary of Labor for President Obama.

In 2016, when [the] issue of trade deals killing jobs was raised, Lu replied, "TPP is a great opportunity for US companies that sell products overseas," and jobs reliant on exports pay better.
https://voanews.com/usa/interview-top-us-labor-official-talks-job-creation-tpp

[Vice-Chair] Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker is vice-chair of the California Democratic Party. She endorsed Clinton. She is 2020 superdelegate (and also was one in 2016). Gallardo-Rooker is a senior adviser for Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign.

Charlie Baker is co-founder of Dewey Square Group (scroll to see some history of firm helping corporate interests undermine progressive reforms). Baker was chief administrative officer for Hillary For America. Also senior adviser for Kerry/Edwards, Gore/Lieberman, Clinton/Gore.

James Boland is president of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC). In September 2015, the union endorsed Hillary Clinton. He is also on board of directors of National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which Reagan setup after backlash against CIA for meddling in countries.

Daniel Halpern was appointed by DNC chair Tom Perez to be a DNC deputy national finance chair in 2017. This @PasteMagazine article details how Halpern fought against raising minimum wage. He was chair of Georgia Restaurant Association. https://pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/

Heidi Heitkamp is a former US Senator in North Dakota. She is a contributor to CNBC and ABC News. She is on board of the McCain Institute.

She wrote this column in May 2019 urging Democrats to remain opposed to expanding Medicare to cover all Americans. https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/heidi-heitkamp-democrats-dont-ditch-the-aca-for-medicare-for-all/2019/05/08/b77780cc-71a9-11e9-9f06-5fc2ee80027a_story.html

In March 2019, Heidi Heitkamp insisted Americans want "realistic" solutions. She does not believe Medicare For All or the Green New Deal should be part of Democrats' "messaging" to voters.

Here's Heidi Heitkamp in October 2019 drawing from her experience as a former tax commissioner to argue against taxing the rich. https://wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/10/21/heidi-heitkamp-impeachment-inquiry

Harold Ickes chaired Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992. He was Bill Clinton's deputy chief of staff. He was senior adviser and strategist for Hillary Clinton, including her 2008 campaign. Like many of nominees, he's 2020 superdelegate, and he was in 2016 too.

Elaine Kamarck is a director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution. She's 2020 superdelegate and also was superdelegate in 2016. She's one of those centrist liberals who claims to be an "expert" on exporting American democracy.

In May 2019, Elaine Kamarck highlighted five "minefields" to avoid. One was allowing prisoners to vote. She took [a] right-wing position, saying Democrats shouldn't "get rope-a-doped into giving rights to terrorists" by agreeing with Sanders on voting rights.

Kamarck also advocated against Medicare For All in that same May 2019 post. "...Telling those suburban moms who voted in Democratic members of Congress in 2018 that they will lose their private health insurance is a high-risk strategy."

Socialism was the fifth "minefield" Elaine Kamarck insisted Democrats avoid. Her argument invoked Cold War and urged candidates to cower in face of Republican scaremongering. Baby boomers hid under their desks out of fear of Soviets. We need to be sensitive to them, she said.

Claire Lucas is chair of LGBTQ Council at DNC and lauded by DNC for her fundraising. She has held leadership positions at World Bank. She worked as official at USAID, which uses "humanitarian aid" to undermine socialist & independent governments that challenge US foreign policy.

Regina Montoya is a former aide to President Bill Clinton. She recently ran for Dallas mayor. When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, Montoya was a "Hillblazer" (bundler), who raised over $100,000.

John Podesta was the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. In this leaked email from February 2016, he agreed in principle that Bernie needed to be "ground to a pulp."
"Where would you stick the knife in?" Podesta added.

Emmy Ruiz is Democratic strategist. She was Hillary Clinton's state director in Nevada and Colorado in 2016. She was senior adviser for Kamala Harris' 2020 campaign.

Dennis Speight is a Democratic insider and 2016 superdelegate, who backed Hillary Clinton. He is the political affairs director for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

Michael Steed is founder of Paladin Capital Group, which invests and helps homeland security companies secure government contracts. New York state accused Paladin of “pay to play” involving pension fund investment business. In 2010, Paladin settled.

Additionally, Michael Steed is founding board member of National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is a project of National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In August 2019, @TheGrayzoneNews reported on NDI's role in fomenting protest in Hong Kong[:] "Behind a made-for-TV Hong Kong protest narrative, Washington is backing nativism and mob violence — Hong Kong's increasingly xenophobic protests are devolving into chaos with help from US government regime-change outfits and a right-wing local media tycoon with close ties to hardliners in Washington"https://thegrayzone.com/2019/08/17/hong-kong-protest-washington-nativism-violence/

Of the two co-chairs of the powerful Rules Committee, one is a health care lobbyist, opponent of "socialism" and strong supporter of U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

The other, a Democrat, nonetheless sits on the board of Jared Kushner's family's "go-to lender," is a vocal opponent of the Green New Deal because he doesn't want to "destabilize society" with "too much change," and served as such a vigorous "attack surrogate" for the Clinton campaign that Sanders asked that he be removed from the 2016 Rules Committee for having had a "deeper professional, political, & personal hostility" than was normal. 

Of the four vice-chairs, three are either current Biden supporters, former Clinton supporters, TPP supporters, or all three.

Of the 25 remaining nominees to the Rules Committee, 12 include 2016 Clinton senior campaign operatives, supporters or bundlers; strong opponents of "socialism," Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and raising the minimum wage; lobbyists, and/or proponents of foreign intervention (one on behalf of his high profile clients).

One of the Clinton senior campaign officials even wrote in a leaked 2016 email "Where would you stick the knife [into Sanders]?" Yet he sits on the Rules Committee for the 2020 Convention.

The 2020 Credentials Committee

The important Credentials Committee also contains two co-chairs, four vice-chairs and 25 members. In his examination of just the co-chairs and vice-chairs, Gosztola writes:

[Co-Chairs] Lorraine Miller and James Roosevelt [also] co-chaired the Rules Committee in 2016, and remember how Bernie Sanders wanted Barney Frank removed? He also wanted Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy removed from Platform Committee Chair. Miller and Roosevelt denied that request.

[Vice-Chair] Tonio Burgos is a veteran lobbyist, who has been a member of Democratic National Committee for over three decades. Williams Companies previously paid Burgos' firm nearly $1 million to help lobby for fracked gas Constitution Pipeline in New York.

[Vice-Chair] Shefali Duggal is deputy national finance chair at Democratic National Committee. She was on Rules Committee for 2016 Democratic National Convention and was part of Hillary For America's National Finance Committee.

[Vice-Chair] Elizabeth Bagley has raised millions for Democrats. She was a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns. Her late husband was the heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune. Bagley also is a National Democratic Institute board member.

Both co-chairs and three of the four vice-chairs of the Credentials Committee sit squarely in the "For-Clinton Never-Bernie" camp, at least as Gosztola sees it.

The Establishment or the Nation?

It will be interesting to see how progressive candidates and policies fare at this convention, given the makeup of these committees.

My guess is that even if a progressive gains a plurality of the delegates (a likelihood), they will face a strong, perhaps determining, challenge in the second round of balloting. And if a progressive does manage to become the nominee, they will still be opposed by a Party and Convention infrastructure strongly aligned against every principle and policy they stand for — a true rear guard challenge — and that all of this will be independent of the acual preference of voters, that the Convention pick and back a candidate with the strongest chance of beating Donald Trump.

The battle is on between the lobbyist/consultant-driven Party establishment and the insurgent voter energy that does indeed want to drain the Party in particular and the DC swamp in general of most of the people listed above.

Perez's nominations clearly show that the swamp seems in it to win for itself, regardless of the electoral outcome for the nation. Stay tuned. These are epic times.

(If you wish to support Gosztola's excellent work, you can do so here and here.)

Thomas Neuburger

Thomas Neuburger

Thomas Neuburger is an essayist, poet and story writer. He has published political analysis under the pen name Gaius Publius since 2010.

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