Back on January 18, former Alaska State Representative Ethan Berkowitz spoke to the Mat-Su Democrats about his campaign in the Democratic Party primary for the AK-AL seat now held by GOP crook (and pervert?), Don Young. In the question-and-answer session after Ethan's talk, I asked him about Ray Metcalfe's claim to have delivered a packet of documents and information about former State Senator Ben Stevens, when both Berkowitz and Stevens were serving in the legislature. Ethan, in January, stated that his hands had been tied as a legislator, because of procedural rules, that APOC was investigating many of Ray Metcalfe's allegations, and that Ethan wasn't free to talk about some of the things he "might have done" with the information when he received it from Ray.
Back on January 18, Ethan also told me, "You could have called me."
Between last Thursday and Sunday, going through Ethan's 2008 first quarter Federal Election Commission, filing, I came across two donations that troubled me. The first was a $500.00 donation from Anchorage CH2M Hill director, Denis LeBlanc. CH2M Hill is Veco's successor, and has an environmental reputation in the lower 48 that stinks. The second donation, or set of donations, was the $10,000.00 the Berkowitz campaign received from Illinois U.S. House Representative Rahm Emanuel's PAC, Our Common Values.
Over the weekend, I got in touch with Howie Klein, one of the founders of BlueAmerica, an on-line funding group which raised about $13,000,000.00 for progressive U.S. House candidates in the 2006 election. Howie has done more to expose the insidious politics of Rahm Emanuel, than has any other progressive figure.
Klein isn't alone in this, though. I spent a few hours over the weekend with one of America's most inspiring progressives, Jeff Cohen, founder of the Park Center for Independent Media, and endowed chair/associate professor of journalism at Ithaca College. Cohen is in Alaska this week, and was a leading participant in the Alaska Press Club's J-Week conference. Cohen is another huge critic of Rahm Emanuel. He was appalled that what appears to be the biggest quarterly candidate contribution by a PAC since Veco was busted, was made by Our Common Values. As Cohen exclaimed, when I informed him of Rahm's donation, "This is huge!"
Saturday, Howie Klein wrote to me that he had written a recent article for Down With Tyranny about Rahm's PAC. In the article, Howie described his feeling, as he looked at the list of PAC donors. "I know some of these people. I feel ill."
The donors to this PAC who gave Berkowitz $10,000 in the first quarter of 2008, reads like a "who's who" list of supporters of war with Iran, defenders of the worst aspects of our health care industry, opponents of net neutrality, and enablers of the financial deregulation that allows hedge fund managers to be taxed very little, and who helped engineer the sub-prime mortgage industry meltdown. The list includes the producer of Bill O'Reilly's radio show, several Fox executives, war criminal Henry Kissinger's main business partner, and a whole host of other people who make Alaska's Corrupt Bastard Club look like a kindergarten roster.
Klein, in his article about Emanuel's PAC, notes that those who, in the past have benefitted from this funding source, have gone on to be the closest allies to President Bush among Democrats in the U.S. House. Jeff Cohen, speaking about Emanuel and those loyal to him, said Saturday, that "Emanuel isn't really a Democrat, and doesn't have a remotely progressive agenda."
Sunday, I decided to call Ethan and ask him if he knew what he'd walked into by accepting the largest quarterly contribution Rahm Emanuel has ever given an unelected candidate in a U.S. House primary. According to Ethan, he had no idea that Rahm is as despised on the left as is the case. He said that he hadn't looked at the list of donors to Our Common Values. He seemed somewhat surprised about this.
Ethan went on to say that he is very much for an open internet, with free access to information for all. For the first time I've heard him go this far, he stated he is categorically against a war with Iran.
Berkowitz added that he'll look into how Emanuel is viewed in the Democratic Party as a whole, and will take a look at the Our Common Values PAC donor list. He says that under no circumstances will he feel obligated to Emanuel for the latter's largesse.
I pointed out that "that's what every candidate says, Ethan." He replied that he'll get back to me on this once he's more familiar with the reasons for Jeff Cohen's and Howie Klein's concerns. He also explained that the donation from LeBlanc was from a longtime friend. LeBlanc was Anchorage City Manager before moving to CH2M Hill. Ethan says he doesn't expect to be getting any donations from the company itself, and would probably return them should they donate.
Rahm Emanuel caricatures courtesy of Howie Klein