September 25, 2014

My two favorite senators are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They both have phenomenal records, not just on voting, but on leading. No one's perfect though. Bernie, for example, endorsed anti-choice Michigan reactionary Jerry Cannon, the former commandante of the Guantánamo gulag. What does that say about Bernie? Not much; just that he's human and makes mistakes. Sherrod Brown would be on that list too-- making it a trio-- if not for a crucial vote he took approving torture… a bridge too far. (He's still my third favorite senator.)

So what about Elizabeth Warren? Not many imperfections I've found, especially after reading A Fighting Chance a couple of times. I do wish she would have endorsed Shenna Bellows and helped her out the way she's been helping conservative Democrats. (Come to think of it, maybe Bernie could have done the same thing instead of digging up the gulag guy in Michigan.) It's disappointing Warren would have decided she doesn't want to piss of Beltway belle Susan Collins-- and "jeopardize" some supposed Maine-Massachusetts fishery pact. I was much more heartened when I noticed that Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree came out swinging on behalf of Shenna this week:

I’ve represented Maine in the U.S House of Representatives since 2009, and believe me, passing good laws is as hard as it’s ever been. That’s why it’s so important that we elect Shenna Bellows to the U.S. Senate this November. Shenna has shown herself to be a proven leader on issues that matter to American families. She’s been at the forefront of the fights for marriage equality, voting rights, and civil liberties here in Maine, and she’ll continue to show that kind of leadership in Washington. I’m standing right beside Shenna in this election… In the last decade, we’ve seen a recession, underwater mortgages, rising student loan debt, and a growing retirement crisis. I’m voting for Shenna because she has what it takes to offer real, urgently-needed solutions to our greatest challenges.

That's not something I'll forget any time soon-- just like Sherrod's torture vote. Please join Pingree (and me) in contributing to Shenna's grassroots campaign for the seat Collins is making a mockery of. In the ad up top, we take a look at the problems people, like Collins, who've lived in DC get into when they start avoiding transparency as though it was their right. She seems to have conveniently forgotten her pivotal role in voting twice with the Republican extremists to shut the government down last year. Collins' purposely misleading new ad, painting her as a heroine in ending the shut down, omits her own record, ignores the shutdown's impact on Maine's economy and glosses over her role in creating the problem she claims to have helped solve.

Last year, Collins voted on Sept. 30, and again Oct. 1 in favor of a crackpot House Republican demand to defund the Affordable Care Act as the price of continuing government operations. Polls at the time showed the overwhelming majority of Maine voters opposed this ploy and the government shutdown. An OpEd in the Portland Press Herald noted that Collins "was already on record calling it flawed strategy that endangered the entire U.S. economy [but] fell in line and once again voted to keep those conditions intact."

Meanwhile, the Bellows ad at the bottom of the page features Lillian Lake, a Republican from Wilton and a former Susan Collins campaign volunteer who supports Shenna this year because of Collins' consistent and unpopular rightward turn over the past several years. Like more and more Mainers, she notes that "Collins has been voting with Washington Republicans on issues that matter most to me and my family. Collins voted with Republicans to block the minimum wage increase and against equal pay. These votes matter. Maine needs a senator who will stand with middle class families like mine. This year I'm voting for Shenna Bellows for Senate." The Bellows campaign followed up with the facts that back up what Mainers are feeling in their guts about how Collins has changed, particularly since Olympia Snowe has retired.

Lake's concerns about Collins' consistent votes against public opinion and the interests of Maine families reflect what's being felt across the state.

Paycheck Fairness Act

Collins voted in April and again in September against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would shield employees who raise legitimate questions about workplace pay equity, among other features. Bellows has consistently called on Collins to support the bill-- which Collins also voted to filibuster in 2010, 2012 and earlier this year-- and has made support for the measure one of the centerpieces of her campaign.

A February national survey found 60 percent of voters are more likely to support a candidate who supports fair pay for women, a higher minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. The survey also found that women are less likely to receive paid extended leave than men.

Republicans have been uncomfortable discussing the issue all year, leading to an MSNBC story on the GOP's shifting explanation for why the bill keeps getting filibustered. Collins said in 2012 without citing evidence that it would lead to "excessive litigation."

Minimum Wage

Collins stood with Washington Republicans in April against increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which translates to $21,008 per year for someone working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Afterward, Collins put out a statement bemoaning the fact that the proposal "does not have the votes it would need to pass the Senate."

Maine voters support "raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour and indexing future increases to inflation" by a 63-36 spread, according to a July poll by the Maine People's Resource Center.

In 2007 the Senate voted 94-3 to increase the federal minimum wage in stages to its current level of $7.25 an hour, a far cry from today's partisanship.

Campaign Finance Reform

Collins is also out of step with public opinion on campaign finance reform. A CBS poll in May found voters support "limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns" over "allowing individuals to contribute as much money to political campaigns as they'd like" by 71-25. Collins has voted in lockstep with Washington Republicans against both the DISCLOSE Act, which would publicize the sources of large political contributions in a timely way, and the Udall Amendment, which would give Congress and state legislatures the power to regulate campaign spending.

Bellows held a press conference before the Senate's recent Udall Amendment vote calling on Collins to support the measure. As of June 30, according to OpenSecrets, Bellows had outraised Collins in small grassroots contributions $357,713 (27 percent of Bellows' total) to $123,536 (2 percent of Collins' total).

With not much over a month to go, how about chipping in whatever you can afford to help Shenna turn out the vote with what we hope will be the biggest and most effective field operation in the history of Maine. You can contribute here. If elected, I have every reason to believe Shenna will be the single best member of the U.S. Senate.

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