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Photo: Mike Chickey

On Thursday, January 9, about 40 people held a rally outside the LA district office of Congressman Xavier Becerra to protest his refusal to sign a letter pledging to vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP,) referred to as NAFTA on steroids and a global corporate power grab. 151 Democrats, three-quarters of House Democrats, and 23 Republicans have signed this letter.

I went to the Congressman's office an hour before the protest to tell them that we were coming but that we had no intention of storming the office and putting them on the spot. I said we had written a cute skit in which we outsource the Congressman's office. The premise is if the TPP passes, we won't need Congress, because corporate written laws in the TPP would trump that of any government.

Photo: Mike Chickey

Photo: Mike Chickey

I asked if someone could come out and watch the skit, give us a statement by the Congressman about why he refused to sign the letter and then meet with constituents. The constituent representative Gayle Greenberg had to keep going back to the director of the district office to ask what she could do. She finally said she couldn't issue a statement. That had to come out of the press secretary in DC. She couldn't meet with constituents, because we didn't make an appointment. But she could watch our protest as long as we didn't film her.

What ended up happening was quite different. Greenberg came out and told us she was not going to watch the skit after all. And afterwards, when constituents tried to go into the office to make an appointment, they were locked out by the private security guard who works for the Chamber of Commerce. For some reason, Congressman Becerra decided to locate his office in the Chamber of Commerce building. When constituents questioned this, the security guard called the LAPD who told us she needed to ask the Chamber of Commerce if we could come in and speak to the Congressman's staff. The LAPD then proceded to act as spokespeople for the staff, who refused to even come out and speak to us directly.


Photo: Barry Levine

What is noteworthy is that everyday the Congressman and his staff can develop personal relationships with Chamber employees as they see them in the halls, in the restrooms, in their respective offices. But constituents have no such access. And when they seek to address the Congressman's staff, they are locked out and told they have to contact Washington. Well, as I say in the video, the 99% do not have the money to fly to Washington to lobby the Congressman when they have an issue the way the Chamber and associated corporations can.

The upshot of the day was a constituent David Lara calling Gayle Greenberg on his cell phone from outside the office to make an appointment. He was told that she was "in a meeting" and would call him back. Seven days later, he is still waiting for that call.

Meanwhile Tom Donahue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce has stated that "The TPA (fast track) is the Chamber's top trade priority before Congress in 2014." So whose message is Becerra getting, the Chamber's, representing the largest multi-national corporations, or that of the 99%?

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Here is the video of our skit "Outsourcing Xavier Becerra."

And here is a video of our protest and what happened when constituents tried to make an appointment to meet with their Congressman's representative.

The next day, Lisa Kassner, who has written about the TPP for the LA Progressive, tried to get some answers from Becerra's press secretary James Gleeson. He responded to six specific questions by sending an article from Inside U.S. Trade with a highlighted quote from Becerra:

Becerra (D-CA) told Inside U.S. Trade after the meeting that he would vote against the Baucus-Camp-Hatch bill and that he is among the House Democrats who have been working with Levin on an alternative fast-track proposal. "I'm supportive of discussing and getting to a point of having a trade negotiating authority law, but this doesn't do it," he said, referring to the Baucus-Camp-Hatch bill.

When Kassner pressed Gleeson for answers to the other questions about the Congressman's reaction to the skit and the fact that constituents were locked out of his office by the Chamber of Commerce, the press secretary said, "No comment."

Regarding the questions on the Congressman's thoughts about the investor state dispute resolution clause being bad for democracy and the TPP threatening internet freedom, regulation of fracking, GMOs and other environmental and food safety issues, Buy America provisions and availability of low cost drugs, the press secretary said he would have to get back to Kassner. Two days later, she has still not heard from him.


If you would like to contact Representative Becerra as well as any of the other US Congress members who have not pledged to vote against fast tracking the TPP, please go to this site for more information

Lauren Steiner