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Situational Democracy The Show Me the Green Party?

The Show Me the Green Party?

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

Early this year, CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair and I met with a couple of Green Party activists over lunch in Oregon City. Daniel Bonham is a Union organizer who decided that, with the Democrats continuing to back policies that hurt workers–NAFTA, GATT, WTO, etc.,–and Oregon leading the nation in unemployment and poverty, it was time to give the Greens a chance. He’d jumped in full on and was attending party meetings and plotting strategy.

Part of that strategy was to run the other fellow at our meeting; laid-off, high-tech software engineer Mitchell T. Besser for Congress in Oregon’s Fifth District, a position I ran for as Pacific Green Party (PGP) candidate in 1998. The seat has been occupied for seven years by the thoroughly uninspiring Centrist Clinton-Democrat Darlene Hooley, a member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

Since its inception, the Fifth has been one of the "swing" Districts, with a D, then an R, then a D, then an R and now a D. The one thing they have all had in common is: every winning candidate (all five of them) got divorced within a year of taking office. Hooley filed for divorce a couple months after taking office in 1997. Hooley’s predecessor, Republican Jim Bunn, who ran with major support from the Christian Coalition as a "family values" Republican, dumped his wife and five children for his 19-year-old, $97,500 per year chief of staff just months into his single term. His predecessor, Democrat Mike Kopetski left his family and took up with comic Paula Poundstone and would still be in office except for the little run-in he had with a couple DC hookers and the cops. (To his everlasting credit, Kopetski did push through a bill to end Nuclear Testing during his brief Congressional career.)

Mitch, We Hardly Knew Ya

Upon filing for his run, Besser was asked the question on a PGP candidate statement form that pretty much defines the Greens circa 2004, "If there is a progressive Democrat in the race, will you have an ‘exit strategy’?"

He truthfully answered, "There is no progressive Democrat in the race."

Fast Forward to August 23rd and Mitch Besser announces that he is pulling out of the race. "I certainly don’t want to be considered a spoiler," said Besser.

Besser was summoned to a meeting by the incumbent herself. Hooley then met with him along with her chief of staff and Oregon AFL-CIO president Tim Nesbitt last Friday and shortly thereafter Besser announced his withdrawal from the race.

The local Salem Statesman-Journal characterized it this way, "Pacific Green Party candidate Mitch Besser said Monday that he is pulling out of the race for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, providing breathing room for incumbent Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn."

The Pacific Green Party website states, "Mitch Besser withdraws from 5th District US Congress race after receiving concessions from Darlene Hooley." (Emphasis in original). A meeting follow-up letter from Hooley to Besser, called the "concession letter" by the PGP, is posted on their website. In a missive attached to the letter, Besser notes, "Please be sure to put a copy in a safe place just in case Darlene should go back on her word"

"This whole arrangement stinks," stated Hooley’s Republican opponent Jim Zupancic. "Hooley takes the state’s largest union President with her to meet with the Green Party candidate who just happens to be starting a new organization to unionize high-tech workers and shortly thereafter he drops out of the race? This raises serious questions. Hooley and Besser need to provide answers as to the nature of this agreement."

Follow the Money

Perhaps we can provide some of the answers: A quick check of funding sources reveals that Hooley’s main funders are Big Money (commercial banks, credit card companies, etc.) and Big Labor. She takes in about $150,000 from each per election cycle. She also was a major recipient of funds from Emily’s List–a PAC dedicated to funneling money to women candidates.

Big Money gets it’s money’s worth–Hooley has been a strong supporter of Bush’s tax cuts and against consumers. She takes all the usual positions on Emily’s list of concerns. But for Big Labor, it’s been decidedly little gain. Hooley has voted for so-called "Fast Track" authority for trade agreements. She voted for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, while voting against withdrawing from WTO. And, she is a strong proponent of and voted for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.

So maybe we can’t answer why Big Labor continues to shill for her and had a hand in whatever "concession" deals she made with Besser. But, as far as Emily’s List, the Democrats and the PGP, one need look no further than former Emily’s List Deputy Director of Major Gifts and Hooley fundraiser Marnie Glickman.

Who is Glickman?

Currently Glickman is one of three members of the national Green Party’s Coordinating Committee–the top spots in the organization!

Before she left the Democrats and Emily’s List (or did she?) and joined her fellow attorneys and East Coast carpetbaggers who have come to dominate the PGP, Glickman bragged of raising over $10 million for a host of Democrats, including Congresswomen Nita Lowey (NY), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Darlene Hooley (OR) and Elizabeth Furse (OR), as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Senator Paul Wellstone (MN). During the 1996 election cycle, Glickman was the Finance Director for Clinton’s hand-picked candidate Tom Bruggere for U.S. Senate (OR) (a sordid story in itself, which led to right-wing Senator-for-life Gordon Smith) and Nancy Kaszak for Congress (IL).

Glickman, along with yet another East Coast refugee/attorney and PGP co-founder Blair Bobier, has been a major behind-the-scenes actor in the undemocratic nomination of David "safe states" Cobb as the Green presidential candidate. Bobier serves as Cobb’s Media Director.

It’s understandable that Bonham and Besser would wash their hands of the Greens. These union guys’ foray into the inner circles of the Greens was not well received by the assorted self-promoters and Trust Funders who dominate the PGP. These guys are used to getting things done. The Green Party’s penchant for reams of discussion followed by inaction, no matter how important the issue, couldn’t have sat well with them. Perhaps they even got a decent deal from Hooley, though Besser’s lock box caveat is apt.

At any rate, Glickman’s chums in the Democratic Party must be pleased. Glickman, Bobier and the others in the inner circle of the PGP agreed to "not pursue a replacement candidate."

While the Oregon Libertarian Party is running for 32 elected spots statewide and even the Constitution Party is running a full slate, the PGP is running but seven candidates, none in the five Congressional Districts–four with Democrat incumbents. One candidate who was running against Furse’s successor Rep. David Wu (D-OR) in the First District changed over at the last minute to the Senate race where Democratic incumbent Sen. Ron Wyden faces little challenge from the GOP. The upshot is not a single incumbent Oregon Democrat member of Congress has any possibility of the PGP impacting their reelection. Add in Cobb’s current polling at 0% and some might say "Mission Accomplished."

Situational Democracy

We have also seen the unions, notably the SEIU here in Oregon, shamelessly (and illegally) go after Nader supporters as they tried to qualify Nader for Oregon’s presidential ballot.

In addition to hiring a big time law firm and filing nuisance lawsuits against the signature gathering efforts, the Democrats and the unions had their members pack a convention where Nader supporters tried to get 1000 signatures and thus qualify under Oregon’s arcane rules.

A few hours prior to the convention, Multnomah County Democratic Party official Moses Ross sent out an E-mail to Democrat and union lists urging them to attend and not sign, as did a number of Big Green honchos. Neel Pender, the state Democratic Party’s executive director, weaseled on the issue and said Ross was acting on his own and that the state party "disavowed" his efforts.

After taking up many of the available seats, the Unionists, Democrats and "greens" left without signing the petition, causing it to fall 50 signatures short. Of the 1150 people at the meeting, over 150 were Kerry supporters who did not sign.

"The dirty tricks of the Democratic Party have succeeded," Nader’s Oregon campaign chair Greg Kafoury said. "We were sabotaged."

So the Naderites went to Option B and set out to generate enough signatures to place the 70-year-old consumer activist on the ballot as an independent. With 15,306 signatures necessary to qualify, the unions went into top gear. A pre-emptive lawsuit was filed challenging the legitimacy of the signatures before they were even submitted. Petitioners were frequently harassed and signers were maligned. Some union folks who signed the petitions were called repeatedly at home by union staffers demanding that the signers deny they signed it or claim they were coerced into signing.

So, it’s hardly a surprise that fledgling unionist Mitch Besser withdrew from the Fifth District race. The combination of the AFL-CIO, the Democrats and Glickman’s PGP Democratic Caucus proved insurmountable.

This week, despite the odds, Nader’s folks submitted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. All that stands in the way is the series of anti-democracy lawsuits. The PGP has that "concession" letter locked away. Cobb, Glickman and Bobier are "playas" certain to get handsome sinecures with the usual pro-Democrat foundations. Cobb will get his 0% in Oregon. And, the PGP/Mitch Besser marriage to Hooley, even with the pre-nup, is certain to follow the usual Fifth District script.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR is a longtime forest activist. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s new book on the 2004 elections, A Dime’s Worth of Difference. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com