Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Election We Should Be Following

by David Swanson

For progressives and populists around the country who take an interest in Congressional races there are always a few good challengers we might hope to send to Washington.  Incumbents, we assume, can take care of themselves.

But in Northern Ohio, redistricting has thrown two incumbents into one district.  It's a heavily Democratic district created purposely to guarantee a number of other districts to Republicans.  The incumbents are both Democrats, both white, both 65, and many imagine that they do
similar work in Washington.  In fact, they could not be more
different.  One of them does tremendous good for our national
politics, working to move our government in a better direction from
inside it, just as the rest of us do from the outside.  We cannot
afford to lose him.  We would be obliged to work for his reelection
even if his opponent were far above average.  The record suggests
something else.

A useful example to highlight the contrast between Congressman Dennis
Kucinich and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is found in the funding of
wars.  Between 2001 and 2009, Congresswoman Kaptur voted for $545
billion in war funding, voting Yes over and over again for Bush's
wars.  Congressman Dennis Kucinich voted for a total of $17 billion.
(See the chart below.)

In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, Kucinich's was the clearest
voice against it.  He circulated evidence of war lies to his
colleagues.  He organized many of them to vote No with him.  Kaptur,
too, voted No on the authorization.

But once the war had started, many Congress members, including Kaptur,
turned around and voted to fund its continuation and escalation, year
after year, even as the public turned more and more strongly against
the war.  While Kucinich was working to impeach Bush and Cheney,
Kaptur was voting to fund their wars.  While Kucinich was advancing
resolutions to shift the debate toward ending wars and preventing new
ones, Kaptur was claiming wars made us safer and reciting "support the
troops" rhetoric, as though what veterans need most is the creation of
more injured veterans.

This distinction matters more than ever as the prospect of a war on
Iran looms larger.  Kaptur wants NASA and the Pentagon to work
together more closely, while Kucinich opposes the militarization of
space.  Kaptur seems to believe the military industrial complex is a
beneficial jobs program, whereas Kucinich seems to believe it is what
Eisenhower said it would be.
Congresswoman Kaptur has been spending a lot of money on television
ads in hopes of defeating Kucinich in the upcoming primary.  Where
does her money come from?  Well, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics (, in the current election cycle,
she gets 77% of her money from PACs, and 5% from small individual
contributors.  Kucinich, in contrast, gets 5% from PACs, and 68% from
small individual contributors.  Kucinich does not get money from war
contractors.  Kaptur is a different story.  Thus far, in the current
election cycle, her fourth biggest "contributor" is a little operation
known as General Dynamics.  Her third biggest is Teledyne
Technologies.  Tied for seventh place are American Systems Corp and
Northrop Grumman.  Tied at 16th are Boeing and Lockheed Martin.  Most
of these corporations have been among Kaptur's regular funders in past
campaigns as well.  They are also among the leading violators of U.S.

According to the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database
(, these are the worst four offenders from
any industry:

Contractor                                     Federal Contract $
     Instances of Misconduct             Misconduct $
     (Since 1995)                                    (FY2010)

1. Lockheed Martin                             $34367.4m
                  57                                        $590.1m
2. Boeing Company                            $19366.6m
                  43                                        $1600.5m
3. Northrop Grumman                         $15522.7m
                  35                                        $850.7m
4. General Dynamics                          $14908.8m
                 13                                         $78.5m

Among the types of misconduct engaged in by these four leaders, as
detailed at the above database, are the following: contract fraud,
kickbacks, defective pricing, unlicensed exports, emissions
violations, groundwater cleanup violations, inflated costs, providing
of bribes and sexual favors, nuclear safety violations, nuclear waste
storage violations, federal election law violations, radiation
exposure, illegal transfer of information to China, violations of the
National Labor Relations Act, embezzlement, racial discrimination and
retaliation, age discrimination and retaliation, unauthorized weapons
sales to foreign nations, retaliation against whistleblowers.  And
that's just Lockheed.  In fact, that's just a small sampling of just
Lockheed.  Why take money from these companies?

According to the National Priorities Project ( Kaptur's
Ninth District of Ohio (prior to redistricting) has shelled out over
$3.1 billion for wars since 2001.  That expense has been with Kaptur's
full cooperation.  And that is an expense measured purely in dollars
taken from tax payers to pay for wars.  It does not include further
costs for veterans' care, for interest on war debt, for increased fuel
prices, or for lost opportunities.  Nor does it include the cost
already extracted of several times the $3.1 billion for a base annual
military budget that has roughly doubled this decade and done so on
the basis of the wars.

According to a report titled "The U.S. Employment Effects of Military
And Domestic Spending Priorities: An Updated Analysis," (PDF) by
Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy
Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
(October 2009), spending the same dollars on the military (without
specifying war spending which would likely make the contrast even
greater) produces many fewer jobs than if spent in other industries.
If Ohio's Ninth District's $3.1 billion had been spent on tax cuts for
working people, instead of on the military, the people of the Ninth
District could have seen a net gain of 9,920 jobs.  That's considering
the full impact of jobs lost, directly created, and indirectly
created.  Military spending, purely in terms of job creation, is worse
than nothing.  Tax cuts -- not for Mitt Romney but for the rest of us
-- does more good.

But the same study also shows a better path.  If the $3.1 billion had
been taken away from the military and spent instead on clean energy,
we would have seen a net gain of 17,050 jobs.  If instead the
investment had gone to healthcare, the net gain would have been 24,000
jobs.  And if the choice had been to fund education, the gain in jobs
would have been 54,250.  Could Ohio's Ninth District use 54,250 jobs?
Not many people would choose to chase those jobs away in order to
support wars based on lies, wars that endanger us, wars that devastate
the natural environment, wars that erode our civil liberties, wars
that carry a heavy human cost -- not just an economic one.  Not many
people, but one of them is Marcy Kaptur.

If you visit Kaptur's campaign website at, only one
specific issue is immediately visible, front and center: celebration
of a World War II memorial.  At there is also only a
single issue immediately visible: a petition urging the Congressman's
colleagues to stop funding the war in Afghanistan.  In the "Agenda"
section of Kaptur's site there is no acknowledgement that war or peace
is an issue to be considered at all.  In the "Issues" section of
Kucinich's site, there is a section on war and peace that addresses a
number of specific wars.

There is also, on the Kucinich site, a lot more detail than on
Kaptur's about numerous other issues.  The example of wars and war
funding is fairly typical.  In rough terms, Kucinich tends to back
peace, justice, and the will of the public, while Kaptur tends to back
the very same things when and if the leadership of the Democratic
Party happens to do so.  Back on February 25, 2010, she voted to
extend the PATRIOT Act without reforms of its abusive procedures.
Kucinich voted No.  Back on October 23, 2007, Kucinich had also voted
No on the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act,
while Kaptur voted Yes.  On December 8, 2010, she voted against the
DREAM Act, while Kucinich and a majority of the House and of the
Democrats voted for it.  Any elected official will let us down sometimes,
but Kaptur is just noKucinich. Many organizations agree.
lists the rankings of various groups.  Planned Parenthood gives Kucinich
a score of 100%, Kaptur 71%.  The ACLU scores Kucinich 94%, Kaptur 75%.

Also favoring Kucinich in their rankings are the Arab American
Institute, the Human Rights Campaign, the Leadership Conference on
Civil and Human Rights, the League of Conservation Voters, Peace
Action, the AFL-CIO, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty
Law, etc.  I'm not being selective here.  There don't seem to be any
progressive analysts scoring Kaptur over Kucinich on anything.
Progressives like Alan Grayson and Barney Frank are urging us to
support Kucinich over Kaptur.

How independent and principled a member of Congress is has a direct,
and sometimes devastating, impact on their district and the nation and
the world.  Kaptur believes a nuclear power plant at the edge of Lake
Erie with a bad history of safety violations should be allowed to
continue to operate, while Kucinich has asked for it to be repaired or
decommissioned.  Only one of these two representatives is putting the
safety of the public first.

I believe people who care about the future of the United States, from
Ohio's new Ninth District or anywhere else, should be following and
supporting Kucinich's campaign.  If he loses, we lose.  We may not
always agree with him.  He may not always be able to win over a
majority of his colleagues.  He may sometimes let us down.  But were
he not there, votes that helped end the Iraq war would have never been
held.  Debates that have helped curtail further war making would
simply not have happened.  Articles of impeachment for Bush and Cheney
would never have been introduced.  Countless witnesses before House
committees would have gotten off without ever facing the important
questions.  Many people pushing for single-payer healthcare in their
states would have never heard of it.  Our televisions would be better
able than they are now to pretend that majority positions on major
issues do not exist, because there would not be that one man in the
government willing to raise the issue and publicly lobby his
colleagues to join him.

We're such defeatists these days, that we either condemn Kucinich's
compromises, forgetting that Kaptur outdoes him in that regard
100-fold, or we imagine that because he's so much better he must be
doomed to lose.  On the contrary, Kucinich has a long history of
winning congressional elections, both primaries and general.  While
the redesigned district includes a larger population from Kaptur's
former district than from Kucinich's, it includes more Democrats from
Kucinich's than from Kaptur's.  Kucinich inspires his supporters, and
in primaries it is the relative turnout of tiny percentages of people
that decides.

Who is in Congress or the White House is going to be of far less
importance than who is in the streets and what kind of people's
movement is developed to nonviolently resist injustice and war.  But
without a single voice inside Congress willing to speak up in the ways
Kucinich has, the people's movement will suffer.  There's no
lesser-evilism required here.  Kucinich is actually a good
representative.  There's no partisanship required here.  Love a party
or hate them all; regardless, we should reward those who have listened
to our demands.  Or why would anyone listen again?

David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is
A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a
More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online activist organization

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