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[Steve Porter joins us in the comments today to discuss his candidacy for the PA-03.  Please give him a great FDL welcome!  As always, please stay on topic in this Blue America thread and please be polite.  Thanks to Steve for dropping by to talk with us today. -- CHS]

I've been having a difficult time figuring out exactly who Steve Porter is. I mean politically I have it all figured out: brilliant, progressive true believer, hard-headed idealist, dot-every-i-and-cross-every-t idea man. But personally… well he was in a pop-rock band called Free Press long, long ago and he's written 18 books and he reminds me of my college friend Helen's father, the guy who helped me understand what it meant in the real world to be progressive.

The contest in PA-03 is a rematch of the 2004 race pitting a pretty pathetic Republican rubber stamp nonentity, Phil English, against Steve. The district gave Bush 53% in 2004 and English beat Steve 60/40, after blanketing the district in mud, going so far as to have a Young Republican Club denounce Steve, a scholarly Jewish professor, as a Nazi and a supporter of forced sterilizations. PA-03 is the extreme northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Erie's the biggest city. It's about 40% rural and it's overwhelmingly white and considerably poorer than Pennsylvania in general. The district could hardly be more poorly represented.

In fact when I asked Steve to tell me why he felt English is unsuitable for his job, he talked for 30 minutes, eloquently and factually, without coming up for air. "Phil English is a lockstep supporter of the war in Iraq," he began, "and he has never questioned anything about the misuse of intelligence or the misappropriations of billions of dollars."

Like so many Republican incumbents English's "I support the troops" line is just a meaningless slogan and he regularly has voted against extending assistance to our fighting men and women. Because of the composition of the district English tries to pass himself off as a moderate, which is patently absurd if you look at his extremist voting record and notice his complete subservience to the bought-and-paid-for Big Business agenda. An F/zero from DMI's analysis of legislation meant to help the middle class barely even begins to tell the story about English's disgraceful career at the public trough.

"Whenever there's a critical vote that the Bush Administration needs," explained Steve, "Phil English is available for his arm to be twisted. He always complies. Three important examples: HR-1 (Medicare, Part D)." [This is particularly significant in PA-03 because in 2000 English claimed he would fight for cheaper drug imports from Canada and it helped him win re-election]… He was the deciding vote on CAFTA– after promising the Erie Central Labor Council that he'd vote against it. [Previously the AFL-CIO has supported English, although this year they have endorsed Steven]… And he was one of the deciding votes on HR-2045, the Budget Reconciliation Bill, the bill that is trying to fund the deficit created by the war in Iraq and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans with cuts in funds for education, senior citizen housing, anti-drug school programs… It passed by 2 votes, 216-214."

But even with all that, Steve says the residents of the district have other things they are up in arms about. Out-sourcing of jobs has devastated PA-03 more than most districts and Alan Tomelson, author of Race To The Bottom, calls the district ground zero for the exportation of American jobs. "Phil English's votes on trade have cost– according to the Department of Labor this district 9,700 jobs. "This guy has voted to give tax breaks to companies that outsource! He authored HR-767, euphemistically called the Homeland Investment Act, which allows American companies which have made profits overseas to bring the money back to the U.S. at a federal tax rate of 5.25%." If the companies had made the profit inside the U.S., the tax rate would be 35%. Obviously, this is a gigantic incentive for companies to ship business and jobs overseas.

Steve is well aware that English is a crook and a liar but he prefers to talk only about issues. The fact that English takes legal bribes from Big Business and then votes for the corporate agenda against the interests of his constituents is fair game. The fact that English has had more trips paid for by the taxpayers than almost any other member of Congress– even more than the disgraced Bob Ney– is fair game, as is his unbelievable taxpayer-funded dining bills– more than what the next 10 big eaters charge the government combined– is fair game. But even in light of yesterday's resignation of Mark Foley, Steve won't make an issue out of the widespread knowledge that there's a child predator scandal or two rattling around in English's closet.

Steve knows exactly what he wants to do when he gets to Washington. He has a plan for creating much needed jobs in NW Pennsylvania, revolving around wind power– a Great Lakes Wind Farm– and alternative energy. He is eager to get our troops out from "the middle of a civil war of our own making" in Iraq and is gung-ho on helping pass a Murtha-like solution. And he wants to put as much energy as he can into affordable health care.

"On my first day on the job I would be the 73rd congressman to sign on as a co-sponsor to John Conyers' HR-676, American physicians' prescription to solve the health care crisis, which the Republicans have bottled up in committee, since their party is owned by the Insurance Industry, who have, not incidentally, given Phil English hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Steve talks about his idea for making Social Security permanently solvent, just by lifting the earnings cap so that every American, not just the middle class, pays in 6.2% of income. And his solution to our political mess is just as clear-minded:

"We can end corruption in DC by electing people who refuse to take lobbyists money, who refuse to be bought by corporations and who support campaign finance reform based on public funding as in Maine and Arizona… The only way we're going to stop this is if we stop hiring the foxes who keep eating the chickens."

Like almost all the challengers we've met this year, the DCCC isn't paying attention to Steve and he's pushing on without them, running a grassroots campaign– lots of lawn signs, unions halls, parades, civic clubs, senior citizens homes, colleges…

Steve is a brilliant debater and he cut English to threads in 2004 and English is petrified to take him on one on one this year. There are 3 candidates forums coming up sponsored by non-partisan groups like AARP, CrimeWatch, the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, etc. It looks like Steve will be debating an empty chair (although there is a third party candidate, Tim Hagberg from the Constitution Party, even further to the right than English).

Media is pretty inexpensive in the district and I'm hoping we can help Steve to buy some 30-second cable TV spots in Erie today. The spots cost $26 each. If we can raise $2,600 amongst ourselves he'll have 100 targeted TV spots in the district's main population center.

The Blue America ActBlue Page is open for business. I hope it will encourage you that today I have 20 autographed copies of the brilliant new book by Sidney Blumenthal, How Bush Rules — Chronicles of a Radical Regime, one of the most important and best-written political books of the entire Bush era.

And as an extra treat, the first 5 people who contribute $250 or more will get a personally inscribed, autographed copy of Steve Porter's latest novel, Hannes Klar, which isn't even out in the U.S. yet. These are editions from the already sold-out first U.K. printing.