‘Tis a Puzzlement: Deciphering Carrick Flynn

A political unknown in Oregon not long ago, Carrick Ronan Morgan Flynn burst on the scene when he announced on Feb.1, 2022, he was running in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s new Congressional District 6 seat.

From that point forward his persona has been defined primarily by a barrage of television advertisements paid for largely by a political action committee, Protect Our Future PAC. The PAC is funded largely by a crypto billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old American “Master of the Universe” who lives in the Bahamas. 

The ads, including his first on Feb. 1, are largely slick campaign messages, delivering party and poll-tested messages and portraying his life to date as sort of a Horatio Alger story of hard work and achievement succeeding against challenging odds. 

But with only a few days left until the May 17 primary, and some ballots already cast, who is Flynn?

There’s a well-worn Washington saying, “The most dangerous place in Washington is between New York Senator Chuck Schumer and a TV camera,” portraying him as is a ham, a publicity hound, a quote machine. 

That doesn’t seem to be Flynn’s style.

He also tends to avoid the quick sound bite, seeming to enjoy an intellectual debate, even when it would be more to his advantage to be brief or shift the subject.

Only 35-years old, the baby-faced political neophyte recites his brief pre-packaged campaign messages fluently and in a practiced manner in his television spots. If anything, he comes across a little stiff, like he’s still learning how to appear sincere on camera instead of like a character in Madame Tussauds wax museum. 

Which I better, I guess, than Bo Hines, a Trump-backed 26-year-old former college football recruit often compared to Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. Hines is running for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina. As with Oregon, the primary vote is on May 17. In 2005, long before he could even vote, when he asked about his goals he responded, “Governor of North Carolina, and the ultimate goal would be president.” No humility there.

It may be too late to really figure out Flynn before the the May 17 primary vote, but I recently listened in full to a 49-minute Oregon Bridge podcast interview he did on April 13, 2022, that sheds more light on his thinking. 

In the podcast he is exposed as sort of an odd duck, more expansive and more real than in his television ads. A fan of the brief anecdote he is not. His rapid-fire delivery would have challenged any note-taking reporter trying to keep up.

He talked freely about re-energizing the economies of small towns, the opportunities presented by more work-at-home jobs, reshoring, the danger of the United States being too dependent on Taiwan for microprocessor production, bringing more small manufacturing work, such as medical manufacturing, back to the US, the benefits of free trade and more. 

Flynn also said he favors drug decriminalization (Putting people in jail and prison for drugs “is a huge waste”), marijuana legalization (“It’s pretty innocuous as a substance.”) and the relaxation of zoning ordinances to spur the construction of more housing stock. (“Some people think you need an enormous amount of money to build more public housing. No, you actually don’t. You really just need to rezone.”)

A lover of the sound bite and the brief anecdote he is not. Instead, he comes across as intensely curious and thoughtful as he ruminates about various topics. But that openness can trip him up, as other politicians who have mistakenly told the truth have discovered to their chagrin.

In the Oregon Bridge podcast, right at the start Flynn professed no initial ambition for elective office.  “It was not my idea,” he said. “I had, I think, five or six friends, independently of one another, tell me I had to run.” There’s some political wisdom in this comment because it serves to downplay any raw ambition on Flynn’s part,

At the same time, it strains credulity a bit to think he jumped into the race with no clear source of financial backing, particularly when the race featured some other much better-known opponents with deep Oregon roots and/or pots of money.

The Protect Our Future PAC came to his rescue with millions in spending 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.

True, the Carrick Flynn for Oregon campaign committee had also raised $910,100.43 as of April 27, 2022, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but I doubt Flynn would have broken through as he has without the jump-start from Protect Our Future.

The Oregon Bridge podcast also revealed another aspect of Flynn, a tendency to say too much.

A review of a book about fashion maven Anna Wintour told of how, when asked by then long-time Vogue editor Grace Mirabella what job she would eventually like to have at the magazine, Winter replied simply, “Yours.”  No such direct, concise answer to a question would likely come from Flynn.  

For example, asked to comment on the complexities of timber politics in Oregon, and the social problems that arose in timber-dependent communities because of spotted owl restrictions, Flynn offered a lengthy response:

“I grew up in the spotted owl days and it was terrible,” he said. “I think there is a part of me that still feels indignant or angry. The notion that you have these people in the city who are ‘Hey look, there’s an owl. Isn’t it cool? We’re going to destroy all of your livelihoods in your community because we like this owl.’ Well, wait, can we talk about it? No.” 

More thought should have been given to how to keep the owls alive and keep logging sustainable, Carrick said.  

Was placement of the spotted owl on the endangered species list a mistake? “I think the process and how it played out was terrible and the dialogue around it was really bad,” Flynn said, even if the spotted owl probably belonged on the list. Moreover, before something is put on the endangered list, the economic repercussions of the action need to be considered and minimized, he said. 

You might think his views on the spotted owl/timber issue are open-minded and balanced, but in the black-and-white world of much of today’s politics, his remarks outraged some environmental groups 

“We are stunned and deeply saddened to hear Carrick Flynn, a Democratic candidate running for Congress, make comments mocking critical environmental protections… and referring to our state’s iconic land use system as ‘insane,’” said a statement signed by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Wild Conservation Leaders Fund, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Renew Oregon Action Fund and RiverPAC of Oregon. 

“Flynn’s comments are far out of step from the values of Oregonians, who care deeply about protecting our natural legacy,” they wrote, saying Flynn’s comments were “disturbing.”

Left unsaid was that the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and  Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste had previously endorsed one of Flynn’s opponents, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, in the 6th District primary,

In an effort to recover, Flynn ‘s campaign manager Avital Balwit told Willamette Week that Flynn “… simply meant to express empathy with working families whose livelihoods have been disrupted,” but the damage was done. 

The fact is Flynn’s background is more that of a policy wonk/academic vagabond. As a Research Affiliate with the Future of Humanity Institute, he co-wrote “Policy Desiderata in the Development of Machine Superintelligence,” and as a Research Fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), he co-wrote “Multilateral Controls on Hardware Chokepoints.” Not exactly political fodder.

In many respects, Flynn seems better suited to a Washington, DC think tank conference room than the cramped office of a freshman congressman on Capitol Hill. We’ll see on May 17 what Democratic voters think.

Despite pledges, politicians fail to shed tainted donations. Surprise!

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he’ll offset $7,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein by donating an equivalent amount to anti-sex trafficking and anti-violence against women groups.

Don’t count on it.

In 2017, when multiple women went public with accusations that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed them, Democratic politicians, including Schumer, leaped to disassociate themselves from him. In particular, they promised to donate Weinstein’s now-tainted campaign contributions to charity.

schumer_corporate_taxes_0

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer was prominent among numerous politicians scurrying to say they would make amends. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Weinstein donated $20,700 to the Friends of Schumer campaign finance committee during 2013-2017.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the (Weinstein) contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Schumer, told the Washington Post in October 2017.

weinstein 4

Harvey Weinstein

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel praised Schumer  for doing the right thing.

She was too quick in her praise.

FEC records reveal that Schumer’s campaign committee didn’t donate one thin dime to charities supporting women in 2017 or 2018.

During that same period, Schumer’s committee also received contributions from the DNC Services Corp (Democratic National Committee), to which Weinstein had donated $203,458.

There’s no evidence that Schumer’s committee re-distributed any of that money to women’s groups either.

To its apparent credit, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said it would donate $30,000 of the funds it had received from Weinstein to three non-profits:

  • Emily’s List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office.
  • Emerge America, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network to Democratic women who want to run for office, and
  • Higher Heights, a national organization working to elect Black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies.

FEC records of the DNC’s expenditures in 2017-2018 reveal that it lived up to its promise.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the DNC sent Emily’s List $10,290.15.  (The DNC also sent $5,000 to Emily’s List on May 25, 2017, but that was before the Weinstein scandal erupted.)

The DNC also sent $10,290.15 to both Emerge America and Higher Heights on Oct. 30, 2017. It sent $1250 to Higher Heights on Sept. 29.

But there was a hitch. The DNC collected $300,000 in donations from Weinstein, not $30,000. It kept the other $270,000.

Other Democratic politicians, including some who are now running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, also had received funds from Weinstein and also made a lot of promises to send the money to deserving non-profits. The announced recipients, however, were largely organizations that would launder the money right back to Democrats and their causes.

Even then, not all the politicians followed through on their commitments.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) said she’d donate $5,000 she received from Weinstein to Casa Myrna, a nonprofit group in Massachusetts. The FEC’s records on expenditures of the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund during 2017-2018 don’t show any payments to Casa Myrna.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she would donate $10,000 received from Weinstein to RAAIN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization. No such donation is reported in FEC records of expenditures by Gillibrand’s 2017-2018 campaign finance committees.
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he’d send Weinstein’s donations to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. According to OpenSecrets.org, Weinstein donated a total of $17,300 to Franken and his Midwest Values PAC. None of Franken’s campaign finance committees recorded on FEC.org show a donation to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center during 2017-2018.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she would give $5,000 she received from Weinstein to a women’s rights nonprofit, Equal Rights Advocates. FEC records on Harris’ campaign finance committees do not show such a donation during 2017-2018.
  • Bob Casey (D-PA) said he’d give $2,190 he received from Weinstein to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. FEC records on Casey’s campaign finance committees do not show such a donation.
  • The Clinton Foundation’s website says Weinstein has donated between $100,001 – $250,000 to the Foundation. In Oct. 2017, the Foundation announced it had no plans to return Weinstein’s contributions, saying they had already been spent on charitable programs. According to the Foundation’s Form 990 report to the IRS, it had net assets of $323,470,879 at the end of 2017.

Looks like a lot of politicians’ promises are no more than empty public relations gestures.  Surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Merkley drama: the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act

razzledazzle

Not one to miss a chance to put himself in the spotlight, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) grandly announced on July 11 that he led a group of 40 senators in introducing the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act.

Merkley was in so much of a hurry to claim leadership on the bill that he has issued a press release, a section-by-section breakdown of the bill (S. 2113) and a one-pagesummary, but the bill hadn’t even been written.  According to Congress.gov, text had still not been received for S.2113 as of July 16, 2019.

Nevertheless, the bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary Committee. Suffice it to say, however, the bill isn’t going anywhere.

One reason – not a single Republican has signed on as a cosponsor. In this, Merkley is continuing to earn his reputation as one of the Senate’s most partisan Members.

The Bipartisan Index measures the frequency with which a Member co-sponsors a bill introduced by the opposite party and the frequency with which a Member’s own bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party. The Index reflects how well members of opposite parties and ideologies work together.

According to the Bipartisan Index of senators released by The Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, Merkley had the third most partisan track record in the entire Senate in the most recent analysis covering the 115th Congress (2017-2018)

That was even worse than Merkley did in the 113th Congress, when he was ranked the 7th most partisan senator.

Another reason Merkley’s migrants bill is already dead in the water — – how many Republicans does Merkley seriously think are going to support a bill demanding that the Administration “Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children”?

Then there’s the expansive scope of the bill.

The bill would create “non-negotiable standards” for the treatment of migrant children, including:

  • Ending family separations except when authorized by a state court or child welfare agency, or when Customs and Border Protection and an independent child welfare specialist agree that a child is a trafficking victim, is not the child of an accompanying adult, or is in danger of abuse or neglect;
  • Setting minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations.
    • Requiring access to hygiene products including toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers, regular nutritious meals, and a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
    • Requiring children receive three meals a day that meet USDA nutrition standards.
    • Ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities.
      • Ensuring that temporary influx facilities are state-licensed, meet Flores standards, and are not used to house children indefinitely.
      • Expanding alternatives to detention and the successful Family Case Management Program.
      • Lowering case manager caseloads, mandating lower staffing ratios, and ending the information sharing agreement between ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
      • Ensuring unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and continue to be placed in a non-adversarial setting for their initial asylum case review.

Additionally, the legislation would provide resources to non-profit centers that are helping to provide humanitarian assistance.

It all sounds all very high-minded, but it would be onerous. For example, at a time when shelter facilities are bursting at the seams, ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities would mean rapidly securing replacements.

Then there’s the bill’s cost. But you won’t find that in the hastily issued press release, the section-by section breakdown of the bill, the one-page summary or in a text of the bill itself. That’s because as of July 16, 2019, a Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate for the measure has not been received.

But Merkley and the 39 senators signing on as co-sponsors don’t really care. They know the bill is nothing more than an exercise in stage management, part of legislative theater.

As they sang in Chicago:

Razzle dazzle ’em
Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous

Row after row will grow vociferous

Give ’em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture ’em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?
_________________

S.2113 is sponsored by Sen. Merkley and co-sponsored by Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ),Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The media as the resistance

NYTIMES

Jill Abramson, a former executive editor of the New York Times, has a few things to say about the paper’s coverage of President Trump. In a Columbia Journalism Review piece, she warns that the paper needs to be careful not to “create the appearance of a pile-on… that needlessly inflame Trump loyalists.”

“Precisely because of its influence, the Times’s tone and sense of proportion in covering the president must be pitch perfect,” Abramson says. She notes statements by the paper’s current Executive Editor Dean Baquet, “Our role is not to be the opposition to Donald Trump,” and by David Sanger, a Washington correspondent for the Times, that it would be “the biggest single mistake . . . to let ourselves become the resistance to the government.”

To put it mildly, I’m far from a Trump loyalist, but I’ve seen the Times’ blatant bias in its coverage of Trump’s recent package of immigration proposals.

“White House Makes Hard-Line Demands for Any ‘Dreamers’ Deal”, the NY Times screamed on Oct. 8.

DACA PROTEST

The paper went on to say Trump’s “demands” threaten a bipartisan solution.

“WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday delivered to Congress a long list of hard-line immigration measures that President Trump is demanding in exchange for any deal to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, imperiling a fledgling bipartisan push to reach a legislative solution.”

The Washington Post blared on the same day:
“Trump administration releases hard-line immigration principles, threatening deal on ‘dreamers’ “

RealClear Politics fell in line, too. “ “An array of hard-line immigration priorities the White House outlined to Congress Sunday were quickly rejected by Democrats as complete non-starters, jeopardizing the chances of striking a deal to shield hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

 The Boston Globe, the L.A. Times, USA Today and multiple other news outlets piled on with the same “hard-line” cliché.

 Wait a minute. Why are Trump’s proposals “hard-line” and not the Democrats demands?

A little history is in order.

When President Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals   (DACA) program in the Rose Garden on June 15, 2012, it hardly reflected a middle-of-the-road consensus. If anything, it represented hard-line hard-left thinking, but the media didn’t describe it that way.

This despite the fact Republicans vigorously denounced the move as an abuse of executive power. The action is “a politically-motivated power grab that does nothing to further the debate but instead adds additional confusion and uncertainty to our broken immigration system,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

And when Obama said in 2014 that he intended to expand DACA so more people would be eligible, 26 states with Republican governors went to court to stop him. Resistance broke out as well when Obama took executive action to grant deferred action status to illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States since 2010 and had children who were either American citizens or lawful permanent residents.

In both cases, courts blocked Obama’s actions and in June 2017 the Trump Administration officially rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans order.

In other words, Obama’s actions were pretty hard-line. But the media didn’t describe them that way.

Trump’s current package of immigration proposals includes a dozen proposals grouped into three broad areas — border security, interior enforcement and merit-based immigration. Key elements are:

  • Build a southern border wall and close legal loopholes that enable illegal immigration and swell the court backlog.
  • Enforce our immigration laws and return visa overstays.
  • Merit-based immigration system. Establish reforms that protect American workers and promote financial success.

The Democrat’s reaction? Immediate, unqualified, harsh, hard-line dead-on-arrival rejection of Trump’s plan. “This list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer  and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”

Why do the media label Trump’s proposals “hard-line”, but not apply the negative appellation to the Democrat’s outright rejection of them and insistence on their positions? Why aren’t the opening positions of both sides simply described as starting points for negotiation? Then we can decide what we think of them.

That would be more responsible than the major media becoming the resistance.

Wall St: embedded like a tick in politics

For all the talk about Hillary Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, she’s hardly the only presidential candidate Wall Street is investing in.

No matter who wins the Democratic and Republican nominations and the November election, the securities and investment industry will be embedded like a tick in Washington.

occupy-wall-street-political-cartoon-lobbyistsThe industry is one of the top interest groups supporting members of the 113th Congress so far during the 2015-2016 election cycle, with $157,708,874 in contributions that have been spread on both sides of the aisle like honey.

For example, the campaign committee and leadership PAC of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have taken in $2,244,256 while the campaign committee and leadership PAC of Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) have collected $1,342,094.

In 2015, the securities and investment industry contributed $102 million to all the candidates and their super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, the industry led all industries tracked by the Center in terms of contributions.

This continues a pattern begun in the 2012 election cycle when the securities and investment industry became the single largest source of political contributions. In that cycle, the industry was responsible for $283 million in contributions, most of it coming from individuals who work in the industries, rather than corporate PACs, according to the Center.

Considering just the current candidates, the industry was the top donor to Clinton ($17.2 million) and Rubio ($9.9 million) in 2015 when their campaign committees and super PACs are combined. In addition, the industry’s contributions represented a significant share of total contributions to Cruz ($12.2 million).

The industry was no slouch in supporting some of the candidates who have dropped out either. Ron Paul took in $4.3 million and Fiorina $2.8 million from the industry, though the industry poured the most money down the drain with Bush, contributing $34 million to his campaign.

So don’t count on popular angst about Wall Street’s role translating into diminished influence for Wall Street after the 2016 presidential election.

Just sayin’.