• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Establishment Vs. the Elites

Establishment Democrats are none too happy with Howard Dean these days. He’s deviated from the script on a number of occasions, which has resulted in lashings from John Edwards as well as Joe Biden among others. But the larger story isn’t Dean’s verbal punishment; it’s the fact that the DNC’s top three fundraisers have left the committee for what many insiders see as a result of their differences in fundraising strategies.

Washington Democrats are linking the resignations to Dean’s fundraising style. Like his presidential campaign, Dean is focusing much of his energy on the Internet. He still believes that the grassroots can reenergize the party. Of course it is still not clear as to what Dean would do different regarding domestic or foreign policy, yet he still argues that Democrats have to look outside the Beltway for direction. Look for this attitude to change soon.

In the process of raising money, Dean has paid scant attention to the big Democratic donors. New York finance director Bridget Siegel resigned from her post last week while Lori Kreloff, finance director for the state of California, exited the DNC late last month.

The largest blow to Dean’s DNC came when the director of grassroots fundraising, Nancy Eiring, resigned, citing strategic differences with Dean aides, reported ABC News. Dean has indeed done a fine job of corralling his progressive activists who latched on early to his presidential campaign. But critics of Dean’s short tenure at the DNC note that he has yet to adequately reach out to the Democrat’s corporate block.

According to The Hill, Democratic fundraisers admit that there is “growing concern over what they call Dean’s lack of attention to major donors and that donors are much less likely to give money if they don’t have sufficient opportunity to meet with the party’s leadership.”

Dean’s affinity for the Party grassroots is really only a recent development, for Dean has hobnobbed with big business throughout his political career. An example: As Howard Dean planned his race for the White House; he must have thumbed through George W. Bush’s campaign playbook. Within the first four months of Dean’s announcement of his bid for the White House, he had amassed over $110,000 in donations from people with ties to the Fund for a Healthy America, a Vermont utility group. No, it’s not Enron, but it’s still dirty money, if only because of the conflict of interest.

On February 27, 2002, David Gram of the Associated Press reported: “One donor who gave Dean’s PAC the maximum amount allowed — $5,000 … is Robert Young … a top official at two utility companies that have had a lot of important business before state government during Dean’s nearly 11 years in office. Young is chief executive at Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and chairman of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp.”

Although Dean’s campaign spokesperson Kate O’Conner said it would be absurd for anybody to think donations to the Dean campaign bought access, Dean seemed to believe otherwise. “People who think they’re going to buy a contract … are mistaken,” he stated in 1996 during the campaign reform bill debates. “But they do get access — there’s no question about that … They get me to return their phone calls.”

Dean’s distinction allowed him to maintain a veneer of integrity: he claimed he was not for sale. But if such calls buy access, they buy the ability to help define the framework within which decisions are made, a framework that operates in the interests of industry, if not the outright interests of the individual firm from which the contribution comes.

And indeed they did. As Gram wrote, during Dean’s transition into the governor’s mansion, he called on utility executives to help with the change of office. It’s no coincidence that those executives’ businesses benefited greatly. Notes Gram:

*After years of pushing for the companies to absorb the excess costs of their expensive contract with Hydro-Quebec, Dean’s Department of Public Service agreed to let ratepayers be billed for more than 90 percent of what those excess costs are expected to be in the coming years. The extra costs will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

*The department also agreed to allow the utilities to sell Vermont Yankee to a Pennsylvania company for a price that was expected to be $23.8 million by the time the deal closed. Shortly before the Public Service Board was to make a final decision on that sale, another company stepped in and offered more than seven times as much. That sale to Entergy Nuclear Corp. is currently before the board

*After it became clear in the late 1990s that selling Vermont Yankee was a top goal of the utilities, the administration failed to heed warnings for more than two years that the money the nuclear plant was paying for emergency planning was much less than was needed. An administration official said there was concern about interfering with the sale.

So, Dean’s administration in Vermont went along with the sale despite the burden placed on taxpayers. Dean also allowed Vermont Yankee to be sold to an out of state corporation, even though it was not likely to benefit Vermont residents, only the executives of the corporation that got Dean to return their phone calls. Yes, those are the qualifications of a DNC chairman.

When it comes to the matter of contributors, James Dumont, a lawyer for the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, seems to have hit the nail on the head, contending: “They (Dean Administration) didn’t bite the hand that fed them.”

So in the coming months look for Dean to reach out to the party’s corporate wing. He’s done it many times before and he can do it again. The Washington Democrats think he’s done a fine job of corralling the grassroots; now its time to get big business back on board. Howard Dean won’t let them down.

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be published by Common Courage Press. You can pre-order a copy at discounted rate at www.BrickBurner.org. Josh can be reached at: Joshua@BrickBurner.org.

 

 

More articles by:

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

May 22, 2019
T.J. Coles
Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services
Thomas Knapp
A US War on Iran Would be Evil, Stupid, and Self-Damaging
Johnny Hazard
Down in Juárez
Mark Ashwill
Albright & Powell to Speak at Major International Education Conference: What Were They Thinking?
Binoy Kampmark
The Victory of Small Visions: Morrison Retains Power in Australia
Laura Flanders
Can It Happen Here?
Dean Baker
The Money in the Trump/Kushner Middle East Peace Plan
Manuel Perez-Rocha – Jen Moore
How Mining Companies Use Excessive Legal Powers to Gamble with Latin American Lives
George Ochenski
Playing Politics With Coal Plants
Ted Rall
Why Joe Biden is the Least Electable Democrat
May 21, 2019
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Locked in a Cold War Time Warp
Roger Harris
Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire
Patrick Cockburn
Trump is Making the Same Mistakes in the Middle East the US Always Makes
Robert Hunziker
Custer’s Last Stand Meets Global Warming
Lance Olsen
Renewable Energy: the Switch From Drill, Baby, Drill to Mine, Baby, Mine
Dean Baker
Ady Barkan, the Fed and the Liberal Funder Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
Maduro Gives Trump a Lesson in Ethics and Morality
Jan Oberg
Trump’s Iran Trap
David D’Amato
What is Anarchism?
Nicky Reid
Trump’s War In Venezuela Could Be Che’s Revenge
Elliot Sperber
Springtime in New York
May 20, 2019
Richard Greeman
The Yellow Vests of France: Six Months of Struggle
Manuel García, Jr.
Abortion: White Panic Over Demographic Dilution?
Robert Fisk
From the Middle East to Northern Ireland, Western States are All Too Happy to Avoid Culpability for War Crimes
Tom Clifford
From the Gulf of Tonkin to the Persian Gulf
Chandra Muzaffar
Targeting Iran
Valerie Reynoso
The Violent History of the Venezuelan Opposition
Howard Lisnoff
They’re Just About Ready to Destroy Roe v. Wade
Eileen Appelbaum
Private Equity is a Driving Force Behind Devious Surprise Billings
Binoy Kampmark
Bob Hawke: Misunderstood in Memoriam
J.P. Linstroth
End of an era for ETA?: May Basque Peace Continue
Weekend Edition
May 17, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Trump and the Middle East: a Long Record of Personal Failure
Joan Roelofs
“Get Your Endangered Species Off My Bombing Range!”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Slouching Towards Tehran
Paul Street
It’s Even More Terrible Than You Thought
Rob Urie
Grabby Joe and the Problem of Environmental Decline
Ajamu Baraka
2020 Elections: It’s Militarism and the Military Budget Stupid!
Andrew Levine
Springtime for Biden and Democrats
Richard Moser
The Interlocking Crises: War and Climate Chaos
Ron Jacobs
Uncle Sam Needs Our Help Again?
Eric Draitser
Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell
Peter Bolton
The Washington Post’s “Cartel of the Suns” Theory is the Latest Desperate Excuse for Why the Coup Attempt in Venezuela has Failed
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Analysis of Undecideds Suggests Biden’s Support May be Exaggerated
Peter Lackowski
Eyewitness in Venezuela: a 14-year Perspective
Karl Grossman
Can Jerry Nadler Take Down Trump?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail