Open letter from PDA details 'appalling record' of Democrat described by PDA-backed challenger as 'Joe Lieberman of the House'
Group seeks signatures in support of 'open letter' to Congresswoman, Co-Chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus...
By Brad Friedman on 1/11/2010, 3:05pm PT  

-- By Brad Friedman and Ernest A. Canning

As The BRAD BLOG reported over the weekend, an internecine firefight has blown up among progressives who support the candidacy of Marcy Winograd against entrenched "Blue Dog" Jane Harman (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), long regarded as one of the more progressive members of the U.S. Congress.

Woolsey, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and a longtime Advisory Board Member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), stunned progressives over the last several days when it was revealed that she was endorsing, and would be participating in a fundraiser for Harman next Saturday, January 16th, as noted in our report yesterday.

In the wake of Woolsey's curious support for the seven term Democrat, PDA is issuing an email blast to supporters tonight, asking them to sign on to an open letter (posted in full below) demanding Woolsey withdraw from the upcoming event, as well as drop her endorsement of Harman who will be challenged this year by Winograd, a longtime leader in PDA's Los Angeles chapter, and the first candidate of 2010 to be endorsed by the group. Winograd ran an unsuccessful challenge against Harman in 2006, but has begun her campaign earlier this year, and hopes to capitalize on growing progressive outrage at entrechned Congressional Democrats such as Harman. In a recent letter to supporters, Winograd described Harman as "the Joe Lieberman of the House."

In the open letter posted here, initially signed by Tim Carpenter, PDA's National Director, Mimi Kennedy and PDA's Advisory Board Chair, the group, describes the process signing the letter as "painful," but describes the negative response from members to the Woolsey endorsement of Harman, and asks for her to withdraw from the event immediately.

"The tone and emphasis of the responses vary, but the overwhelming gist is clear," Carpenter and Kennedy write to Woolsey, "The progressive base is upset about your scheduled involvement [in the January 16 fund-raising event] and hopes that you will withdraw from this event. As an organization, Progressive Democrats of America joins in that request."...

The letter goes on to detail reasons for the request, most notably Harman's less-than-progressive record in Congress and appeals to Woolsey's long-term position as a reliable leader in the progressive community.

"Given your longstanding and exemplary leadership on a wide range of peace and justice issues," the letter reads, "it would be counterproductive to aid Rep. Harman's re-election efforts."

The letter notes Harman's "October 2002 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq," saying that it was "stark contrast to the 'no' votes by most House Democrats."

Harman's 'appalling record'

"Harman has an equally appalling record on civil liberties, having lobbied the New York Times to suppress the story about Bush's wiretaps on the eve of the 2004 election, then going on television to defend the illegal wiretaps," the PDA appeal continues before noting "Winograd's decades of dedication to working for economic equity, social justice, civil liberties and peace."

They add that Winograd's record "offer[s] a sharp contrast to the incumbent in California's 36th district. Unlike the incumbent, Winograd will represent the public interest, not Wall Street or war profiteers."

In addition to Winograd's comparison of Harman to Lieberman, her campaign has also recently highlighted the Congresswoman's remarks to a 1998 gathering in Los Angeles where she opened by saying, according to the Los Angeles Times, "I was flattered to be introduced in the last election as the best Republican in the Democratic primary. I accept."

Harman's office has not responded to a request by The BRAD BLOG for comment on those reported comments.

Woolsey's Board Membership at Stake?

The BRAD BLOG has asked Carpenter what his group, which boasts some 130,000 members, intends to do should Woolsey decline to pull out from the event before the "DEADLINE" of "Wednesday, January 13 at 12:00 PM EST" as noted at the top of the letter. He was non-committal, but made clear that her position as a member of the groups Advisory Board may well be at stake.

"We're hopeful and remain optimistic when Lynn sees the response from the grass roots, she'll do the right thing, and pull out of the event," Carpenter told The BRAD BLOG by phone late this afternoon.

"The purpose of this letter and email blast to our supporters tonight is to relay the concerns that our members have, and our hope is that she will not go forward with her fundraising event.

"It's not just the PDA members, but the important voices from progressives around the country that we hope she hears. We hope she'll understand the importance and gravity of this issue."

But if not? And if she fails to drop her support for Harman?

"We're willing and committed to taking the next step. So, stay tuned…," he said.

Woolsey's office did not immediately return our request for comment on PDA's letter, or her endorsement of Harman.

* * *

The "Open Letter to Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey," with subject head "CPC Co-chair and PDA Advisory Board member Rep. Lynn Woolsey Headlines Fundraiser for War Hawk, Rep. Jane Harman" is now posted here. PDA asks for progressives to sign on in support. The complete text of the letter also follows below...

DEADLINE: Wednesday, January 13 at 12:00 PM EST--Noon Eastern.

Dear Lynn,

In recent days, ever since the announcement of your scheduled appearance as the headliner at the January 16 fund-raising event in Venice for Rep. Harman, we have been hearing about it from many PDA activists and other progressives in California and around the country.
The tone and emphasis of the responses vary, but the overwhelming gist is clear: The progressive base is upset about your scheduled involvement and hopes that you will withdraw from this event.

As an organization, Progressive Democrats of America joins in that request.

Given your longstanding and exemplary leadership on a wide range of peace and justice issues, it would be counterproductive to aid Rep. Harman’s re-election efforts. Her pro-war record is well known, having voted most recently to spend billions to continue the occupation of Iraq and escalate in Afghanistan. Her October 2002 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was in stark contrast to the "no" votes by most House Democrats. Harman has an equally appalling record on civil liberties, having lobbied the New York Times to suppress the story about Bush's wiretaps on the eve of the 2004 election, then going on television to defend the illegal wiretaps. In addition, she voted for the bankruptcy bill, then more recently voted against mortgage relief in bankruptcy court, despite the fact that several thousand of her constituents are facing foreclosure. On the health care front, she recently voted against fast-tracking affordable generic medications for patients with breast cancer, brain tumors, Parkinson's and rare diseases.

Fortunately, Rep. Harman faces a strong primary challenge from someone who exemplifies the idealistic commitments and progressive values that have been central to your work in Congress. Marcy Winograd’s decades of dedication to working for economic equity, social justice, civil liberties and peace offer a sharp contrast to the incumbent in California’s 36th district. Unlike the incumbent, Winograd will represent the public interest, not Wall Street or war profiteers.

As Marcy Winograd said in the speech that kicked off her current campaign: "Jane Harman took us to war without taking a second look at the National Intelligence Estimate, which highlighted and boxed analysts’ doubts about the fictitious weapons of mass destruction. Jane Harman not only took us to war, but continued to waste our taxpayer dollars on supplemental budgets that hid the true cost of the war by not including the price tag in the Defense Department budget."

The reason that we have Rep. Donna Edwards in the House today as a stalwart advocate for peace and justice is precisely because of her successful primary campaign that unseated a non-progressive Democratic incumbent. Surely such victories are in the interests of all progressives.

This is a painful letter for us to sign, particularly because of our longtime admiration and deep respect for you. But we hope you'll agree that progressive principles must prevail among friends. We urge you to withdraw from the fund-raising event for Rep. Harman’s campaign.

We look forward to your response.

Peace and justice,

Tim Carpenter
National Director, Progressive Democrats of America

Mimi Kennedy
Advisory Board Chair, Progressive Democrats of America

Donna Smith
Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign Co-chair

Norman Solomon
Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign Co-chair