Why Would Progressive Congresswoman Woolsey Endorse Pro-War Blue Dog Jane Harman?

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Marin) top left; Rep. Jane Harman (D-Palos Verdes) bottom left; Candidate Marcy Winograd, right.

It looks like the netroots is not exactly pleased with Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s recent decision to help raise money for Congresswoman Jane Harman’s re-election.

The controversy focused on Sonoma County’s Woolsey, who is heading to Los Angeles to speak at a Jane Harman for Congress event taking place at Danny’s Venice on Saturday, January 16th.

In most cases, the good-natured support of one Democrat incumbent for another would raise few eyebrows. However, this is not one of those cases. In fact, Brad Blog contributor Ernest Canning calls the planned appearance by the high-profile progressive “baffling.”

Why Is Harman Now Asking for Woolsey’s Help?
There are more than a few reasons why it seems quite odd that Woolsey, (pictured at an anti-war rally) and outspoken leader in the Out-of-Iraq caucus, and the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, would show up to help collect a hatful of shekels for Harman, who is about as hawkish as a Democrat can get these days without pulling a “full Lieberman.” The 2002-2006 Republican Congressional majority (remember those days?) was able to count on Harman as a loyal war funder under Bush, and the GOP has been content not to challenge Harman for her seat.

Money aside, there may be a good reason Jane Harman asked Woolsey to appear with her, and the answer may be “Marcy Winograd.” Harman undoubtedly has valid reasons to worry about the strength of her primary challenger, Marcy Winograd, who is a progressive Democrat campaigning on a platform reminiscent of parts of Paul Wellstone’s Senate run – jobs, jobs and jobs.

Multi-millionaire Harman doesn’t really need the cash which will be raised at Saturday’s event at Danny’s. However, “conservative Harman” may need to raise something money can’t buy: progressive credibility – which will be particularly important in a district that struggles with growing unemployment and foreclosures, and looks to new ideas.

Congresswoman Jane Harman: War and Money
An eight-term Representative to the U.S. Congress and 1998 candidate for California Governor, Harman is a member of the corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, which was founded in part by Neocon Patriarch Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Harman shocked many Democrats in 2002 by voting to give President Bush the authorization he requested to use the United States Armed Forces to invade Iraq — one of few Democratic votes in favor of the Iraq war.

Similarly, Harman’s consistent support for President Bush’s “emergency war funding” supplemental expenditures, (which are now coming from Obama) which number in the hundreds of billions of dollars, are not well supported by many of  the residents of the 36th Congressional district, which includes the very blue-collar neighborhoods of El Segundo, Torrance, and parts of Long Beach.

According to some in the anti-war movement, Harman’s votes have undermined the work of the Progressive Caucus to organize cohesive Congressional support to end the costly wars, and re-direct funding to domestic needs in job training, infrastructure, and manufacturing.

Congresswoman Harman, who once referred to herself as “the Best Republican in the Democratic Party” has been embroiled in many issues which have outraged many Democrats, including a goodly fraction of Congresswoman Woolsey’s own supporters, not to mention anti-war and pro-civil liberties voters across the country.

Clearly, there is no shortage of “Apples of Discord” with the left-leaning netroots and Ms. Harman. One moment of peak anger was Harman’s appearance on “Meet the Press” to defend Bush’s warrantless wiretaps – putting her in the same camp as reviled Alberto Gonzales. A second wave of blogger anger came with Harman’s introduction of her own bill H.R. 1955 , the Orwellian-undertoned “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” which, under the cover of a “war on terror” would establish government and private programs that would legitimize and expand a police state. With her connections to Strange-lovian RAND Corporation, (who appeared to have ghost-written HR 1955) Harman’s proposed legislation caused Richter-scale temblors of outrage to surge across both the libertarian and progressive continents of the blogosphere.

Homeland Security: The “New Defense Department?”
Money is another gulf between Woolsey and Harman – whereas the more frugal Woolsey (who knows what it’s like to be on welfare) has labored to dial down the trillion dollar Pentagon cash faucet,  Harman keeps turning it up. There’s a lot of money to be made by keeping wars going, and few members of Congress know that better than Congresswoman Harman, both on a campaign level and in her personal finances. According to her financial disclosures, approximately $6.26 million of Ms Harman’s estimated $236 to $558 million net worth is invested in companies with Department of Defense contracts, including weapons or surveillance-related interests — an investment that Harman probably does not have in common with the majority of her district’s voters.

Not unsurprisingly, Harman is strongly supported by donors from within the weapons and defense sector.

Critically, Harman serves on the Homeland Security Committee. While the defense spending had surged to dizzying heights under Bush-Cheney, the growth in new contracts is now reaching a plateau. Thus, many savvy defense firms are now targeting the budgets of the Department of Homeland Security to add “growth” to their bottom line, something that delights the Wall Street analysts which issue “buy” ratings for many weapons firms.

In America, everyone is allowed to try to pick up a buck or two when they can — and Jane Harman is within her legal rights to take campaign donations from whoever she feels are her constituents and supporters. Additionally, Harman can legally maintain her own personal investments in corporations that receive Pentagon contracts – and the defense sector is one of the few areas of the economy in which handsome stock returns are still coming in.

But it looks more than a little unseemly for Representative Lynn Woolsey, one of the few outspoken anti-war progressives in Congress, to be giving a public benediction to Harman’s re-election, a Blue Dog so closely connected to the defense-corporate establishment – and a snub to Harman’s challenger Winograd, who’s platform emphasizes withdrawal from Iraq and de-escalation in Afghanistan.

Given the above, Woolsey’s stumping has resulted in some seriously prickly outrage (See Howie Klein’s Blog for the first announcement about the Woolsey-Harman fund-raiser). Crooks & Liars blogger John Amato isn’t very happy, either — and calls for Woolsey to step down from her co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.

Mainstream progressive and anti-war political action groups across the nation are not-so-quietly calling for Woolsey to simply rethink her stance on the Harman for Congress appearance, and politely decline it. One proposal, made by the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, was that Woolsey simply provide equal fund-raising support to challenger Marcy Winograd, who received an astonishing 37.5% of the primary vote when she took on Harman in the 2006 Congressional race.

Winograd, who sent a letter to Woolsey expressing her dismay with the decision, will be busy elsewhere on Saturday discussing her strategies for creating new energy-efficient jobs in the district with what Winograd calls “A Green New Deal.”

We’ll see what Woolsey’s next move is. It would appear that an angry electorate — frustrated with Democratic Party inaction on ending the unpopular Iraq war — is in no mood for further betrayals.

Mike Copass

Mike Copass is a Progressive Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s 53rd District.

Republished with the author’s permission from its original source.

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