Pelosi picks Blue Dog for DCCC chairman

Via Digby, we have this multi-pronged story. First the news. Nancy Pelosi has chosen a former Blue Dog, Steve Israel, to lead the DCCC, the group responsible for electing more Dems to the House. Israel was chosen over the “perceived favorite“, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

About Steve Israel, from Howie Klein (my emphasis):

Friday Nancy Pelosi didn’t pick supposed front runner Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the next chair of the DCCC. She picked someone just as bad, Steve Israel. In fact, he’s actually worse that Wasserman Schultz in one key way. She at least supports progressive legislation. Until 2 years ago the conservative Suffolk County congressman was a member of the Blue Dog Caucus. He’s the epitome of the DLC/Third Way hack. The Washington Post describes him as someone who “joined the Blue Dog Democrats in the House and crossed party lines to support President George W. Bush on a number of key issues, most notably Bush’s 2001 tax cut package [one of only 28 mostly right wing Democrats who did] and the GOP prescription drug bill the following year. He has also espoused more hawkish views on foreign policy, voting to authorize military force in Iraq.”

In other words, while Wasserman Schultz is no trip to the ice cream store, she’s no Steve Israel either.

So why did Pelosi pick him? Best conventional guess — fund-raising. (Though Howie Klein thinks Hoyer’s involved; see below.) Brian Beutler at TPM:

In the 10 years since Israel took office, his district has become more liberal and he has moved closer to the mainstream of his party. As an appropriator and an assistant whip, he’s put himself on a glide path to party leadership.

According to internal DCCC figures, in 2010 alone, Israel provided the campaign arm with over $3.4 million: Nearly $2 million of that he raised explicitly for the DCCC; just over $1.2 million went to swing districts trending toward Democrats and $250,000 came from his dues.

And therein lies the problem. Key Israel aides from his Blue Dog days are already in place at the DCCC. Howie Klein:

I’ve been working on a DCCC investigation since September and, just by coincidence I ran across an interesting relationship I wasn’t aware of– or looking for– one between top DCCC operatives John Lapp, Jon Vogel and… Steve Israel. And now they’ll all be together again, just like they were when they all worked on Israel’s first congressional campaign in 2000 to win the seat being vacated by hapless Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio.

The DCCC is tasked with increasing the number of Dems in House seats. And they have a lot of money to throw around. Where’s that money going to go? Friends of friends, of course. Howie Klein has a problem with that:

For whatever reason– most people suspect pressure from Hoyer– Nancy Pelosi just selected another right-of-center, corrupt Democrat to head the DCCC, Steve Israel. He’s been adept at squeezing money out of corporations and executives eager to buy influence in Congress– and since being elected in 2000 he’s worked hard to steer House Democrats away from a progressive agenda. He voted for the Bush tax cuts, for Medicare Part D, for the attack of Iraq and he’s worked closely first with the Blue Dogs and then with Republicans in the House Center Aisle Caucus he founded. And now he’s expected to head the organization that’s supposed to defeat the people in the Center Aisle Caucus?

Three take-aways from this: (1) If Digby and Klein are right, the DCCC is pretty corrupt.

(2) If we don’t start organizing now, we’ll get ourselves a nice steaming pile of Heath Shulers in 2012.

And (3), Nancy Pelosi, for all the good she’s done, is no trip to the ice cream store either. She’s the reason the Deficit Commission proposal (“From your pocket to mine, sucker“) will get a vote in the House.

She’s a beltway insider who gives stuff to get stuff, and sometimes she gives your stuff to get back her stuff. They all have to be herded; if not, they stray. And the time for strays is way far behind us.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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