It’s been over two months since Blue America has endorsed a new candidate (Gretchen Clearwater in Indiana’s 9th CD against reactionary Blue Dog Baron Hill). In the interim we’ve been urging progressives to donate to the progressives in early primary battles, particularly Donna Edwards (MD-04), John Laesch (IL-14), Mark Pera (IL-03), and Vic Wulsin (OH-02).
Today we’ve invited a truly exceptional candidate on for a chat, someone who has already accomplished a great deal outside of government and who wants to run against corrupt Republican rubber stamp Ric Keller in central Florida. Before we get into just how Alan Grayson has been working on our behalf as a private citizen, let’s take a look at the district and the race as it’s shaping up.
Keller has been a rubber stamp backbencher from FL-08 (Orlando area) since 2000 and has accrued an unremarkable, albeit abysmal, voting record across the board, supporting the far right line on everything– from choice (anti) to gay rights (anti) to Bush’s ill-advised war and occupation of Iraq (pro). The district, which has seen a huge influx of new residents– something like 150,000– many of whom are from Puerto Rico, has been trending blue. Since 2002, Keller’s majorities have shrunk down from 65% to 61% to 53%. The more people get to know him, the less they like him.
Last year he ran against a reactionary old-line Democrat, Charlie Stuart, part of the Central Florida establishment — at least by marriage — with no personal accomplishments whatsoever (a kind of mini-Bush in that respect) and with policy positions that should ring alarm bells… loudly: anti-choice, pro-corporation, unwilling to speak out against the Iraq fiasco. He wants to run again this year. Fortunately, Alan Grayson can prevent Florida voters being stuck with a choice between a horrible Republican and a nearly as bad Democrat.
Last Sunday DWT carried a story, The Crime of the Century: A Scandal of Epic Proportions That Will Haunt the Legacy of the Bush Regime. In many ways that — and the Vanity Fair expose it’s based on — is the perfect introduction to Alan Grayson and what makes him the perfect progressive candidate, and someone Beltway Insiders, and especially everyone inside the Bush Regime, needs to be very, very afraid of.
Alan knows exactly where all the bodies are buried– and he can’t wait to get to Congress so the judicial gag order he’s under won’t apply. And it goes beyond "just" Halliburton, KBR and the usual war profiteer suspects. You know all the crime always being alluded to in regard to members of Congress and defense contractors? They better pray with all their might that Grayson doesn’t wind up with "Representative" in front of his name.
When I asked him, for example, about Duncan Hunter, Duke Cunningham and Jerry Lewis he replied "I wish I could tell you about that actually, but the rule about sealed cases is such that I’d get locked up if I did." But not on the floor of the House. Instead he was able to speak in generalities:
I think what the Republicans, particularly the ones in California and the Southwest in general have recognized is that you can make an awful lot of money from government contracting. In regard to Iraq, I’ve described those people as ‘war-whores.’ But it’s not limited to Iraq, and in Southern California — particularly in the area around San Diego [Howie says: this is Duncan Hunter/Duke Cunningham-Brian Bilbray/Jerry Lewis/Darrell Issa/Dana Rohrabacher/Ken Calvert territory; sound familiar?] — there’s an awful lot of companies that exist, basically, to rip off the government.
And I think that’s one reason why the U.S. Attorney in San Diego was replaced [by the Alberto Gonzales Justice Dept.]… concerns that there would be legitimate investigations into that whole scene. Government contracting generates a huge amount of profit — some of it legitimate, some of it illegitimate — that is doled out to people in accordance with a very subjective process that’s subject to all sorts of favoritism and manipulation. Sometimes the people who are in a position to dole out this money are influenced by the people who end up receiving it. And that’s what we call in general terms ‘corruption.’ … The only part of the Defense Department that’s actually been cut since Bush took over has been the auditing staff.
Alan Grayson has been investigating and prosecuting corruption and, particularly war profiteering cases, for quite some time. Few people — other than someone like Dick Cheney, of course — know as much about it as he does. We need this man in Congress… now.
For those who haven’t had a chance to read it yet, let me quote from the end of the Vanity Fair article:
In the more distant future, a Democratic administration might open up the vaults and expose the American public to the scale of what has been looted. "What we have seen up to now is the worst of the worst in terms of a deliberate cover-up," Grayson says. But if and when it comes to an end, he thinks it’s entirely possible that Congress will appoint a special prosecutor– one whose targets might one day reach "an extremely high level."
After Jane sent me this, I called Alan and read it to him on the phone and asked him if he’d be advocating impeachment for Bush and Cheney now if he were in Congress. He didn’t hesitate or hum or haw. He just said:
"Absolutely. The right wing’s worst nightmare would be Alan Grayson with subpoena power. Gag order and the threat of criminal contempt have kept me and my clients quiet up until this point but if I get elected to the House of Representatives that’s all gone. The speech and debate clause protects me entirely. At that point I can tell everybody everything that I know and, on top of that I’ll have the ability to actually hold hearings, launch investigations, assign staff and subpoena people… Just on the basis of what I know of government contracting alone I think that there are strong arguments in favor of impeachment."
I’m eager for Congressman Grayson’s first tete a tete with Madam Speaker. If you want to see that too — and to see a progressive leader and fighter from central Florida, someone who believes with his whole being that "you don’t beat Republicans by imitating Republicans," please consider 2008′s first Blue America plea. Let’s help this guy get the Democratic nomination and then beat the Republican rubber stamp.
Earlier today Alan put together a special little video clip for Crooks and Liars and I suggest you take a look.