Thursday, June 5, 2008

Time For The Alaska Press to Question Ethan Berkowitz? Absolutely!

On Sunday, April 20, I called U.S. House Candidate in the August Alaska Democratic Primary, Ethan Berkowitz, to ask him some questions about the large campaign contributions he is receiving from a PAC run by Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel. Berkowitz is receiving the most support from this political action committee it has ever dispensed to an unelected Democratic Primary candidate opposed by a credible challenger in the PAC's history.

The list of donors to the inside-the beltway PAC is disturbing. Howie Klein, one of the Democratic Party's most influential progressives has read the list of Berkowitz PAC donors. In early 2008, he stated at his blog, Down With Tyranny, "I know some of these people. I feel ill."

When I told progressive educator, columnist and author Jeff Cohen that Berkowitz had signed on to Emanuel's agenda, when Cohen was in Anchorage, the latter replied, "Emanuel isn't really a Democrat, and doesn't have a remotely progressive agenda. This is huge!"

As I've written about here before, the PAC "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."

When I ran all this by Ethan in a telephone call on April 20th, he told me he'd get back to me once he'd done more research on Emanuel's PAC's history, and on Klein's and Cohen's concerns about what Emanuel demands from those he helps. When Ethan and I talked at the Democratic Party Convention in late May, I brought Ethan's promise up. He quickly changed the subject.

This story in the blog Politico.com (hat tip to Celtic Diva), reporting on an announcement today by the Barack Obama campaign, on the heels of Obama's clinching of the Democratic Party presidential nomination on Tuesday, is important in regard to my concerns about Berkowitz and his funding sources:

"Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is moving on two fronts to make transparency a linchpin of his campaign, opening his fundraisers to reporters and clamping down on the Democratic National Committee’s fundraising from Washington insiders.

"The moves, announced on his second full day as the party’s de facto presidential nominee, are designed to drive a campaign message of change versus more of the same, aides said."

Obama, who has not just broken all-time records for fundraising amounts, but has broken records for numbers of small donors, is declaring that we need to divorce progressive campaigns from old-school political machinery. Diane Benson, with a far larger donor base than Berkowitz, understands this important message. Berkowitz does not.

Ethan hasn't answered my questions, posed 47 days ago on what he may have promised for his unprecedented "inside-the-beltway" donations from a PAC that disturbs major progressives. Now that Obama has signaled his campaign will not solicit nor take such funding, it is time to ask Ethan a few questions regarding Emanuel's PAC:

1) Were you required to answer a questionnaire or something similar to receive these funds?

2) If so, will you release it?

3) What is your understanding of the premise of Rahm Emanuel's PAC?

And here's a question for the Alaska press -- Do you think Barack Obama's call for candidates to reject "inside-the-Beltway PAC funding" should be heeded by Ethan Bekowitz and other Democratic Party candidates?

And, Alaska reporters, you could ask Ethan the first three questions too..

Update - Friday Morning 8:00 a.m PDT: I received two other e-mails similar to this one in the past 24 hours:

"I just got polled by Sarah from Ivan Moore Research (survey ID SENE081) about my feelings for various candidates in upcoming primary and general elections.

"Strangely absent was any question about Diane Benson. If I remember rightly, Ethan Berkowitz was paired against both Don Young and Sean Parnell -- but there were no pairings involving Benson.

"I don't know whether this is Ivan Moore's pattern, or if there's a story there. But I thought you might like to know."

All three ask that their names be kept private.

the author of this article has volunteered for the Diane Benson campaign since 2006, and has donated to both Benson and Berkowitz campaigns during the 2008 cycle.

image of puppetmaster Rahm Emanuel courtesy of Howie Klein

20 comments:

clark said...

i'm really glad you're pushing this. there really seems to be a coordinated national blackout of diane benson's campaign. i've continued to point this out at daily kos and elsewhere. aren't all of these people going to be embarassed when she wins the primary?

Philip Munger said...

clark,

Celtic Diva is approaching aspects of this from another angle, but one of the responders to her ADN Community Voices essay relates to what Benson may be going through:

"As an Alaska Native woman, I have often found it difficult to find something of my own voice in the community. Your encouragement toward Alaska Native writers has quite literally prompted me into action, and – though woefully behind the times technologically – I signed up for a blog account this morning.

Finding a Native voice in Anchorage , much less Alaska or the nation, is not a very fun affair. I agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but Google “Native health care” or “Alaska Native women” and the commentary is overwhelmingly ignorant, biased, and, many times, hurtful.

"A Native woman with an opinion is a very high tightrope to walk. Speak too loudly, and you’re just another complaining voice (and probably drunk, to boot). Speak too softly, and nobody hears you."

clark said...

that's an interesting perspective. my [white male] two bit take on benson is that she comes by her quirkiness and passions honestly and through experience, and embodies several social and political divides, ills and forgotten advocacies. disabled vets, natives, women, bush alaska vs urban alaska, arts and creativity, blue collar workers, protection of cultural heritage, thoughtfulness and inclusiveness -- all present in her positions and policy statements. i don't know how we could ask for too much more from a politician.
i see her future success as a stepping stone toward greater enlightenment of alaskans to native women, their potential and our record in recognizing and respecting their rights, status and achievements.
i have to believe my sense of all this is well-placed.
the republicans are trying to paint her as disaffected and having an entitlement mentality. i hope that isn't getting traction, but i have to wonder, given the situations you describe. maybe she doesn't resonate with progressives much for other reasons? who knows.

clark said...

that's an interesting perspective. my [white male] two bit take on benson is that she comes by her quirkiness and passions honestly and through experience, and embodies several social and political divides, ills and forgotten advocacies. disabled vets, natives, women, bush alaska vs urban alaska, arts and creativity, blue collar workers, protection of cultural heritage, thoughtfulness and inclusiveness -- all present in her positions and policy statements. i don't know how we could ask for too much more from a politician.
i see her future success as a stepping stone toward greater enlightenment of alaskans to native women, their potential and our record in recognizing and respecting their rights, status and achievements.
i have to believe my sense of all this is well-placed.
the republicans are trying to paint her as disaffected and having an entitlement mentality. i hope that isn't getting traction, but i have to wonder, given the situations you describe. maybe she doesn't resonate with progressives much for other reasons? who knows.

Philip Munger said...

Clark said "the republicans are trying to paint her as disaffected and having an entitlement mentality."

It isn't just the GOP painting that highly inaccurate picture. Adherents of both J. Metclafe and Ethan have done the same here and elsewhere in comment sections. Benson knew from the time she filed for the 2008 race that what the GOP tried to label her as in 2006 would be similar to some aspects of the inaccurate labeling of her by members of her own party in 2008.

brendan said...

one comment on Ivan's poll - i'm willing to bet it was paid for by the Berkowitz campaign, and whomever pays for the polling chooses the questions. so it's not surprising that they're comparing numbers Parnell v. Young, although it is presumptive.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that (1) Ivan's polls were indeed paid for by Ethan; (2) Diane was, in fact, included in the polls; (3) Ivan purposely has not released the Benson questions because they show Diane close, or better... I saw what Ivan did on the taxi permit thing and it was pretty obvious that his polls and advocacy show whatever he wants them to show based on who is paying for it.

Philip Munger said...

brendan,

nobody's surprised that ethan is polling his most likely november candidate, in the possibility he actually beats benson.

I doubt this is the first time the parnell-berkowitz matchup is being done. I'd be VERY surprised if this is the 1st time. We'll see whether or not moore publishes the ethan-sean numbers, eh?

Anonymous said...

Phil -- I'd like to point out a factual error in your recent post.

In today's post, you write When Howie Klein, one of the Democratic Party's most influential progressives read the list of Berkowitz donors, he stated, "I know some of these people. I feel ill."

However, that is factually incorrect. That quote from Klein comes from his DWT post about the donors to the Our Common Values PAC, not about Ethan. In fact, Ethan is never even mentioned in that post.

I can appreciate your ardent support for Diane, but this latest post stretches the truth a bit too much. Similar to the Cockerham Hearing Aid Fund post, I think your passionate support for Diane makes you misstate or misrepresent certain facts. Lord knows I get the same way when I am in the heat of a debate.

Keep up the thoughtful postings, and try not to let your passions get in the way of accuracy.

Philip Munger said...

2 #9,

I stand corrected. Just caught that myself in a read-through, and will fix it when we settle down this evening at our next stop - if they have wifi...

Steve said...

1) Moore would be acting unethically as a pollster if he published data paid for by a client that the client told him not to publish. The media who republish it should be asking why Benson isn't there.

If Berkowitz paid for the poll, why should he include Benson? He's interested in his chances in the fall, not hers. She can do her own polling on that.

This is all hardly illegal and I'd challenge you to explain what ethical principles it violates.

Now, when you find out that Moore sent the bill to Denis LeBlanc (and I don't mean to imply any comparison between LeBlanc and Allen) at CH2MHill the way Dittman sent Bill Allen the bill for Pete Kott's polling, then you have a story.


2) I think it is reasonable to ask Berkowitz whether he had to make any pledges of any kind and what they were to get his PAC money.

But "People connected to people I don't like gave money to this fund, therefore you should give all the money back" is not a serious charge. In your eyes Henry Kissinger may be a war criminal, but what happened to innocent until proven guilty? Did I miss the verdict?

Obama didn't tell Clinton to give back her PAC money (well, maybe he did, I'm not sure) but in any case, he just did a better job than she did of raising grassroots money. Let Benson do the same.

3) The national neglect of Benson is shameful They don't have to support her, but at least they should acknowledge that she's a credible candidate. But I suspect they see her as "just a Native woman" and not a Harvard grad that Lower 48 pundits can relate to. It could be seen as a legitimate reason to vote for her - to get people to listen to a Native American woman. But it would be a mistake to pigeon hole her that narrowly. That is only one of the many parts of her identity. Just like you and I, Phil (and I know you know this Phil), wouldn't want people to think that 'white male' sums up who we are.

At first I thought all this breathless passing on of gossip without thinking it through gives bloggers a bad name. But after a bit of reflection I now think the comments section lets this stuff get aired out and a reasonable sense of the event is achieved. Unless it's the ADN commenters.

Philip Munger said...

Steve,

I'm not saying Berkowitz should poll Benson against anyone, let alone in a hypothetical November race, as he often does. I'm merely curious as to why he hasn't published a poll of the only matchup he is actually in, since the one Moore published last year. I agree that Benson is responsible for her own polling.

Kissinger limits his travel rather severely, Steve. I'm not saying he has been convicted of war crimes, I'm saying that, like the man August Pinochet, whose war crimes Kissinger has proven to have abetted, KISSINGER IS A FUCKING GODDAM WAR CRIMINAL.

That's just one of Kissinger's many war crimes. There have been several trials in Italy and Spain over the fates of "los disaparecados" that have proven that Argentina's "Dirty War"s worst aspects were known by and approved by Kissinger.

My sister and her husband's adopted Cambodian children regard Kissinger as a very evil man, responsible - as much as anyone alive - for the destruction of their families.

And Ethan is mildly accepting his partner's money, every 45 days or so. I find that disgusting, and told Ethan that in April, an again in May.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ #9 - fixed it.

CelticDiva said...

Obama's direction for the Democratic Party simplifies the question:

As a Progressive Democrat, Ethan, will you continue to accept PAC money when the new leader of the Democratic Party will not and is no longer allowing the Party itself to do so?

That's one of my questions (worded better) on my candidate questionaire.

And thank you for mentioning "Writing Raven's" post. I have to admit, while I was reading it I couldn't stop thinking about Diane.

Anonymous said...

Phil -- I'd like to point out that your "correction" of an earlier factual error in this post is blatantly misleading.

Your original post read: When Howie Klein, one of the Democratic Party's most influential progressives read the list of Berkowitz donors, he stated, "I know some of these people. I feel ill."

That statement was factually incorrect. That quote from Klein is about the donors to the Our Common Values PAC, not about Ethan. Ethan is never even mentioned in that post.

Your "correction" still says that donors to Ethan's campaign made Klein feel ill. The revision is more than just misleading, it might be an outright lie. Has Klein actually read a list of contributors to Ethan's campaign? Who knows. Klein has never blogged about donors to Ethan's campaign.

If you added a link to the DWT posting, people could read his post and see that he never even mentions Ethan.

Instead, you leave out the link and blatantly mislead readers with paragraph two.

Come one Phil, I would expect better from you.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ #15,

I'm not sure whether you understand the history of this.

I e-mailed Howie soon after I read Berkowitz's 1st q 08 contributions lists. I asked if he had written about Emanuel's PAC. He wrote he had, but didn't remember when.

After speaking to Jeff Cohen about the PAC, I called Howie - I had found his article. We discussed the PAC and the unprecedented support it was giving to a candidate in a primary against a viable and demonstrably more progressive candidate than is Berkowitz.

At the time, Klein agreed that the list of contributors to the PAC were as he had characterized them in his DWT article.

I then related all of this to Ethan.

I haven't provided a hyper-link to the DWT article here because my browser freezes up every time I go to Howie's archives. Every friggin' time.

But you can try it. Go to my article in April called "PAC Puppet? - Ethan says "No!" The link is there. Maybe it won't freeze your browser, but I've passed the word on to Howie that it might effect other computers than my own. The link is in paragraph #5.

The donors to Emanuel's PAC who made Howie feel ill are the ones who donated to that PAC for Ethan. Not me, not my wife, and perhaps, not you. I'm sorry if you don't yet get that. I'm not referring to people who have donated to Ethan on their own.

Anonymous said...

Phil -- Anon#15 here. How can you say that the "donors to Emanuel's PAC who made Howie feel ill are the ones who donated to that PAC for Ethan"? Have you polled the contributors to that PAC to ask if they gave money to the PAC for Ethan? Do you and Klein somehow know what candidate(s) those individual donors are supporting?

I still say that is a stretch.

Look, I give money to a number of PACs and organizations. Those PACs and organizations then spend that money on candidates of their choosing.

Just because I give money to Emily's List who then gives it to candidate A does not mean I am giving money to that candidate. Most of the time, I don't know the complete list of candidates to whom a particular PAC or organization is giving money.

That's why I think you are stretching it a bit by saying that "donors to Emanuel's PAC who made Howie feel ill are the ones who donated to that PAC for Ethan."

But here's where you can qualify a statement like that: looking at the list of individuals who gave to Our Common Values, have any of the 2007-2008 donors given directly to Ethan? I don't know the answer to that, but that would be something interesting.

Philip Munger said...

anon - anyone who gives to or receives from a PAC has a responsibility of knowing who is on that PAC and should be willing to critically examine who the candidates are that are benefitting from it, and what conditions might apply to a candidate to receive funds from it.

Anything less is irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Anon#15 here again... I agree with you in theory, but the reality is this: [01] people are supporting a cause or idea when they give to a PAC rather than individual candidates, and [02] if you are going to research each and every candidate a particular PAC supports, then why not just give directly to the candidate?

But here is what continues to bothers me about your post: your post still contains a factual error. The original post said: Howie Klein, one of the Democratic Party's most influential progressives has read the list of Berkowitz PAC donors. In early 2008, he stated at his blog, Down With Tyranny, "I know some of these people. I feel ill."

You know that is not true Phil! Nowhere in Klein's post on DWT does he ever mention Ethan's name. I called you on it in an earlier post, and you changed it to donors to Emanuel's PAC who made Howie feel ill are the ones who donated to that PAC for Ethan.

That change, while still stretching the truth, was at least not an outright lie. But then you changed your post back to the original language.

I know this is a blog and there is no reason for you to ensure that things you write are factually correct. But c'mon!

Philip Munger said...

anon @ #19,

What the heck IS the purpose of Emanuel's PAC?

Why does it include so many people from FOX news and people from Newscorp? Why does it include so many hedge fund managers and executives who helped create the mortgage industry meltdown in the sub-prime area that hurt minorities so markedly? Why does it include so many people heavily invested in maintaining the health insurance industry exactly the way it so predatorily exists? Why does it include Henry Kissinger's main partner? Why does it include Bill O'Reilly's producer?

Don't you care abut any of that? Don't you think, that when they donate to Ethan more heavily than to any unelected Democrat engaged in a primary against another, more liberal and equally credible candidate, it matters?