This evening I attended a meeting at Bellevue City Hall of the 99% SuperPAC (People’s Action Committee).

SuperPAC-250square

The 99% SuperPAC is a program organized by Fuse Washington, in cooperation with Working Washington. Fuse bills itself as the largest progressive organization in Washington State. Last year it led a coalition of 100+ groups pushing for a fair budget. Working Washington is a year old “coalition of individuals, neighborhood associations, immigrant groups, civil rights organizations, people of faith, and labor united for good jobs and a fair economy.”

As described here, future meetings of the SuperPAC will be held as follows:

  • Boulevard Park: Thursday, August 23, 6pm, Boulevard Park Library
  • Central Seattle: Tuesday, August 28, 5:30pm, Douglas-Truth Library
  • West Tacoma: Tuesday, August 28, 6:00pm, Greener Bean Coffee

There was free pizza, fruit, and soft drinks.

After introductions, one of the Fuse fellows/interns described how she used to work in a minimum wage job in the fast food industry. One night she needed to go to the emergency room. Lacking insurance, she ended up with thousands of dollars in debt, setting her back years in her plans to further her education. The next day she found out she was fired, because she hadn’t notified her employer fast enough that she’d be late. What’s more, when she told a conservative friend about her dilemma, the friend said, “not everyone deserves to be healthy.”

That story reminds me of a Bill of No Rights that conservatives were passing around a while ago: “You do NOT have the right to free medical care, You do NOT have the right to a free education,” and so on.

The Heist

We watched a powerful 20 minute excerpt from the film Heist. It described how, starting about 40 years ago, a well-planned effort was undertaken by the 1% to turn back the clock on years of progressive taxation, regulation, and governance. Immensely profitable corporations such as ExxonMobil and GE not only pay no taxes, on some years, but even get rebates from the government. Though taxes were lowered on the rich, Social Security and Medicare taxes were raised on the middle class — something that conservatives often ignore when they complain about the supposed tax burden on the rich. They say that a large percentage of citizens pay no income tax.

The game is fundamentally rigged for the 1%. We’re witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich. Mostly this was achieved with the help of Reagan and Bush, but Bill Clinton signed the bill overturning Glass-Steagall, thereby allowing Wall Street to gamble with savings. And he signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which deregulated trading in risky financial instruments such as derivatives and credit swaps, which played a big role in causing the 2008 economic meltdown.

The Heist will be screened at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, Sept 12 at the Eastshore Unitarian Church in Bellevue.

The Petition

A main aim of the meeting was to get “pledge captains” to help gather signatures for a petition calling on candidates to support a list of progressive policy positions. The aim is to get 1000 citizens in each legislative district to sign an initiative calling on elected officials to promise to follow those positions. Many races on the eastside were won and lost by fewer than a thousand votes — Randy Gordon lost to Republican Steve Litzow by about 200 votes, due to Koch Brother funding — so if candidates and elected officials know that there are big blocks of progressive voters, they’ll be more likely to tow the line. Still, people seemed reluctant to sign up, partly because they were busy with other campaigns (this being an election year).

Mark Mullet

Another aim of the meeting was to gather people to staff a phone bank and to canvass for State Senate candidate Mark Mullet, who is running in the 5th LD. Mullet received endorsements from NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Washington Conservation Voters, and Fuse.  (I’m not familiar with Mullet.  Can anyone tell me more about him?)

Progressive Voter’s Guide

Afterwards., I spoke with some people from Fuse, who explained why the Progressive Voter’s Guide sometimes endorses so-so candidates, including even Republicans and corporate Road Kill Democrats. For example, for Lieutenant Governor, the guide listed endorsements for both Republican Bill Finkbeiner and corporate Democratic Brad Own (who is infamous for supporting Tim Eyman’s I-1053). The guide points out the weaknesses with the candidates. I suggested that they raise the standards on the organizations they partner with and on the degree to which the endorsed candidates can support bad policies. Politics is messy, was the answer. Fuse works with dozens of partner organizations and presents the various groups’ recommendations together. Some of these groups are single-issue groups (environmental, labor, women’s rights, gay rights), and candidates may be strong on some issues but weak on others. Some Republicans are strong on the environment or on human rights. Same with some corporate Dems. The Progressive Voter’s Guide clearly lists which partner groups endorsed which candidates, both with icons and with a list of the endorsing organizations for each candidate. Fuse itself endorses some, but not all, of the candidates on the Progressive Voter’s Guide.

I’m still perplexed about the guide. Fuse endorsed Craig Pridemore for State Auditor, for example. (Fuse’s name is listed underneath Pridemore’s photo and bio.) But Fuse’s name isn’t listed for McDermott, Cantwell, Bob Ferguson, or Peter Goldmark.

Single-issue groups (environmental, women’s rights, etc) are under tremendous pressure to show they’re non-partisan. So when a candidate has voted 80%+ for the right bills, the groups tend to endorse that candidate, regardless of whether the candidate is good or bad on other issues (e.g., economic justice).  This is a problem with single-silo advocacy groups.

Why doesn’t everyone just get active in the Democratic Party and work to support more progressive candidates and policies?!

Even House Budget Chair Ross Hunter is mixed. Though he worked hard to pass tax laws that benefit his ex-employer Microsoft, in other ways he has worked to raise revenue, I was told.

If an advocacy group is too purist with its endorsements and if it opposes “moderate” candidates, it risks alienating them and losing all influence.

Jim Dawson, Fuse campaign director, explained in an email: “We don’t endorse in most races only the ones where we plan to put resources into. So we haven’t endorsed in any federal races because we are pretty focused on state level races as that is where we think we can make the most difference.”

 

A good thing about Fuse and Working Washington was that everyone from those groups who showed up was young(ish). They’re effective at marketing and coming up with clever names like “99% SuperPAC.” I asked if they work with MoveOn (a similar, national group). Sometimes, they said. I didn’t ask about working with Occupy Seattle.

I asked whether there’s a campaign underway to oppose Tim Eyman’s latest super-majority initiative 1185 (similar to I-1053). It’s just starting, was the response. There’s not much money for the effort, and people are busy with other campaigns. If the State Supreme Court rules I-1053 is unconstitutional, I-1183 may be moot.

Fuse will be holding a march to Rob McKenna’s campaign office in Seattle to demand that he either renounce (or endorse!) the Romney/Ryan budget. Either way he acts he loses. The budget is unpopular. If McKenna renounces it, he make the Repugs look bad. If he supports it, he hurts his own campaign.