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