Coming Soon: The Museum of Me

In another bow to ethnic division, on June 13, 2022, President Biden signed into law a bill (H.R.3525) authorizing a commission to build a possible National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) museum in Washington, D.C.

Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) in May 2021, the bipartisan bill cleared the House on April 26 and the Senate on May 18, both by unanimous consent.

The signing was couched as a way to counter Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders remaining on the margins of American education, with little mention in classes beyond the topics of Pearl Harbor, immigration and the U.S.’s territorial interests in the Pacific. A museum would be key to combating the stereotypes and misconceptions that drive anti-AAPI discrimination, supporters say.

If built, an AAPI Museum would follow on the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

It would also supplement the National Museum of the American Latino. Legislation calling for the Smithsonian to establish that museum passed in Dec. 2020.  “The new museum will be the cornerstone for visitors to learn how Latinos have contributed and continue to contribute to U.S. art, history, culture, and science.,” according to the Smithsonian. “Additionally, it will serve as a gateway to exhibitions, collections, and programming at other Smithsonian museums, research centers, and traveling exhibition services.”

At the rate things are going, today’s pandering politicians, who, as Blake Smith, says, eagerly “offer cultural victories instead of substantive ones,” will eventually advocate the creation of museums for every single ethnic group in America. Where they will be put in an already crowded mall is unknown. 

Some might argue that recognition of America’s diversity through such museums is a good thing. I’d offer a “Yes, but”… There’s no question that education about our multifaceted country can combat stereotypes and misconceptions, but excessive focus on identity is not such a good thing when it exacerbates divisiveness and encourage a splintering of the populace.

Oregon’s new K-12 Ethnic Studies standards, for example, were well-intentioned, but are a prime example of identity politics run amok. 

Kindergarten Standards, for example, include the following: *Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups” and *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability.” Good grief!

Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups. 

One problem with this kind of identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.

And that leads to an AAPI Museum.

As for highlighting Asian Americans with a new museum, one problem is they are far from a monolith. Instead, they have a complex history and cultures.  Even the term “Asian American” encompasses dozens of ethnic groups of Asian descent. Just Southeast Asians, for example, includes Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Hmong, Laotian, Burmese, Indonesian and Malaysian. 

 An analysis from Common App, a nonprofit that allows prospective students to apply to more than 1,000 member colleges using one application, noted that the term Asian American can refer to around 50 ethnic groups. “While Asian American was a term established by activists in the 1960s as a means to build political power, it’s also been criticized for obscuring the immense diversity among those it purports to cover…,” notes a Vox article, part of an Asian American identity series.

The analysis also points out a “prominent shortcoming” of the “Hispanic” category for completely concealing the racial identities of its members. The analysis found that, in 2021, half of the applicants identified as white.

What are craven politicians going to endorse next? A German Museum and an Irish Museum? The high immigration numbers in the 1800s were largely fueled by Irish and German immigrants.  A Hungarian Museum? The Hungarian revolution in 1956 led to a burst of Hungarian refugees coming to the United States, including some families who settled in my hometown in Connecticut. Maybe an Eastern European Museum?

The 1959 Cuban revolution drove hundreds of thousands of Cubans to the United States. Given their concentration in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other politicians seeking the Cuban vote could probably be counted on to endorse a Cuban Museum on the National Mall.

The way things are going, we’ll end up with a Museum of Me. Or a Museum of You.

Crypto Corruption: A Campaign Finance Cover-Up in Oregon

Like the notorious Anna Delvey, who came out of nowhere to seduce gullible New Yorkers, Carrick Flynn emerged from the ether in February 2022 to announce he was running in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s new Congressional District 6 seat. 

In the following months it came out that his biggest financial backer was a political action committee, Protect Our Future PAC, funded largely by a crypto billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old American “Master of the Universe” who lives in the Bahamas. 

Then, late in the race, the Justice Unites Us PAC, which said it was all about mobilizing Asian voters, pumped $846,000 in independent expenditures Flynn’s campaign, a white guy if there ever was one. Justice Unites Us identified itself online as “A project of the Family Friendly Action Fund, a section 50©4) social welfare organization.”

“AAPI people are literally under attack,” says the PAC’s website. “We need to build political power and ensure our voices are heard in the political process.”

Who was behind the Justice Unites Us PAC? Oregon voters didn’t know. 

Like pop-up stores that show up during the Christmas holidays, the PAC only popped up on March 22, 2022 (FEC Committee ID #: C00810606). In its report to the FEC for the first quarter of 2022, the PAC reported raising and spending zero dollars. After the end of the quarter, it disclosed it had disbursed $846,581.14 on April 5, 2022 for “canvassing” in support of Flynn.

On April 15, 2022, the PAC filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so it could delay filing its next report and identifying its donors, until after the May 17 primary:

Flynn lost the race, but only now do we learn that every single penny of  the money Justice United donated to Flynn’s campaign came from a donation Sam Bankman-Fried’s Protect Our Future PAC  made to Justice United.

Why Bankman-Fried felt this subterfuge was necessary is unclear, since he was already publicly identified as the man behind Protect Our Future. Whatever his reasons, it allowed his money to hide behind campaign finance reporting rules and prevented Oregonians from full knowledge of Flynn’s backers.

Supposedly, Flynn’s campaign was unaware of the subterfuge, just as supposedly, Protect Our Future didn’t coordinate with Flynn’s campaign in producing a barrage of radio, television and digital ads, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls.

Voters deserve better. 

Chasing The Money: The Democratic Primary in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District

Are direct campaign contributions going to be the determining factor in the Democratic primary for U.S. House Oregon District 6 on May 17, 2022? How about money from Oregonians? Will it be critical?

The campaign committees of the nine ambitious people running in the primary had raised a total of $4,821,322.84 according to reports just filed with the Federal Election Commission covering up to March 31, 2022. Reports were due on April 15, 2022.

If you just look at the campaign finance reports for the official campaign committees, Steven Cody Reynolds is far and away the strongest candidate.

The reported totals for each candidate are as follows:

Ricky Barajas: No data available

Carrick Flynn:  $830,185.45

Greg Goodwin: No data available

Kathleen Harder:  $137,259.28

Teresa Alonso Leon:  $67,704.00

Steven Cody Reynolds: $2,506,917.65 (Includes $2,000,006.00 in loans and $502,186.65 in contributions from the candidate)

Andrea Salinas: $178,195.00

Loretta Smith: $297,478.00

(Includes $60,000 in loans from the candidate)

Matt West: $803,583.46 (Includes $400,000.00 in loans and $47,878.16 in contributions from the candidate)

But this is far from the whole story. All this data obscures millions of dollars of so-called independent expenditures in support of individual candidates.  

An independent expenditure is a political campaign expenditure that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a particular candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee  or the candidate’s party.

The Democrat’s House Majority PAC, the largest super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, has already stepped up to support Carrick Flynn with a $1 million independent expenditure.

House Majority PAC television ad for Flynn

On top of that, Protect Our Future PAC, funded largely by Bahamas-based crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has thrown its weight behind Flynn with about $6 million in expenditures on a wide range of activities, including radio, television and digital ad production and time purchases, lawn signs, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote phone calls.

Flynn is also benefiting from other independent expenditures. An independent expenditure of about $800,000 was just committed by the Justice Unites Us super PAC, which says it wants to engage and mobilize progressive Asian-American voters.

“In Congress, Carrick Flynn will be the ally AAPI voters in his district deserve,” said Minh Nguyen, Executive Director of Justice Unites Us PAC. “He knows what it’s like to grow up poor and has spent his career helping others escape poverty, an experience that is sadly shared by too many AAPI families across America. We know his perspective will lead him to advocate for a government that looks out for our most vulnerable, and we are excited to support his candidacy with this historic investment.”

The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund also announced several days ago it was investing in Flynn and already has an ad running on television. “We need more champions for wildlife and #climate action in Congress, which is why we’re significantly investing in Carrick’s race to underscore his leadership and what’s at stake for people and wildlife alike,” it said on Facebook.

By the way, the Salem Statesman Journal reported on April 15 that Flynn’s  campaign committee filings show just 2.5% of his direct campaign committee support has come from Oregonians. That makes the independent expenditures coming from outside Oregon crucial to his campaign, a clear demonstration of how money can undermine faith in our democratic institutions…and an insult to Oregonians.

It also raises a legitimate question. If Flynn wins the primary and then the election, to whom will he owe his fealty? We’re deluded if we think that fealty will be to the common people of Oregon.