*** Special to The BRAD BLOG by Guest Blogger Jim Cirile
It's been a while since we've checked in with election fraud whistleblower turned would-be politician Clint Curtis, so let's bring everyone up to speed. Clint Curtis is the computer programmer who was allegedly asked to write election-flipping software by former Florida Speaker of the House-turned-U.S. Congressman Tom Feeney (R) back in 2000. Curtis blew the whistle and testified, under oath and on video tape, before a U.S. House Judiciary Committee panel shortly after The BRAD BLOG broke the extraordinary story in late 2004. (Quick recap of the Curtis story and links to our years-long, in-depth coverage right here.)
Curtis fought back, taking on Feeney twice for his congressional seat, only to lose both times - the first to a fishy vote count in 2006 (which Curtis challenged with evidence in hand, only to be shot down by a Democrat-led Congressional committee) and the second time to a pro-Bush Blue Dog millionaire put up by the Dems in the 2008 primary. Feeney, dogged by Curtis' allegations, and an FBI investigation into his dealings with disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, would finally lose his seat in '08. (Curtis' story is covered in depth in the award-winning 2008 documentary film Murder, Spies & Voting Lies.)
You'd think that'd be enough politics for anyone, but not Curtis. He loaded up the truck and moved several hundred miles north of Beverly… Hills, that is. Now armed with a brand-spankin' new law degree, he is mounting one more assault on a Congressional seat --- this time in Northern California's 4th Congressional district.
Will this be another quixotic attempt? Or will the progressive Democratic candidate who ran unchallenged in the recent CA primary, finally break through, giving Congress a much-needed voice of reason and election integrity advocates a serious ally in the House of Representatives?
I recent spoke to Curtis about all of the above, and much more...
JIM CIRILE: What brings you to California, Clint?
CLINT CURTIS: Too many people channeling Fox News (in Florida.) I kind of wanted to get with a little more progressive area.
JC: Well, welcome. We need you here. Now I understand you're also in law school? What brought that about?
CC: It was born out of wanting to actually make a difference, and as a programmer, you're very limited as to what you can do. You can't leave and come back because (technology) changes too quickly. But a lawyer can go in, go out, anything you want. Plus a law degree gives you tools to battle the things you need to battle, much more than what a programmer can do. Haven't passed the bar yet. Just finishing up the California part of the law so I can take the bar.
JC: So if all goes well you should be a lawyer right around the same time you're a Congressman.
CC: There you go.
JC: Why CA-4?
CC: I'd been through here before, and I love the area. It's not crowded, it's pretty, it's green. There's mountains, there's lakes. I'm kind of a country boy, [originally from] southern Illinois. It's very much like that. It's just a nice area. It's not great politically from the standpoint of you don't have the good numbers. I could have run for Congress almost anyplace else in California and have better numbers than I have in that 4th district.
JC: In terms of percentages that go Democratic traditionally?
CC: Correct. There was an even split last time in '08. It's kind of a swing state, so it goes back and forth, but technically this is an "R10", which means that there's ten percent more Republicans than Democrats registered. But I've found they're willing to listen and to actually take into account their judgment more than just party affiliation.
JC: Sounds like a fair fight. How is the area for election integrity?
CC: Everyone tells me it's good. A lot of it's done by mail here because people live up in the mountains. They take the mail, they check signatures, they go through the whole routine of verifying it. Everything's paper, not these nasty machines that you can't ever check on again. And of course we have Deborah Bowen as the Secretary of State, and she's done wonders as far as actually pushing integrity issues. I'm not too worried about that here. I haven't seen any indication or heard from anybody that thinks there is a problem.
JC: Where are you at in the campaign?
CC: Well, I didn't have anybody in the primary running against me, and that's kind of a mixed blessing. If there was a primary, then we would have people getting more excited, and they would be more involved and sending money. You know, it's hard to raise money when you have no primary. They figure, you've got it - talk to me later.
A lot of my backing was progressive, that sort of thing, and most of them were pretty much tied up with the Harmon-Winograd race [Blue Dog Jane Harman defeated progressive challenger Marcy Winograd in the West Los Angeles Congressional primary.] What I am trying to do, and what I always thought we should do as a country --- remember I was a Republican once - is listen to everyone --- actually consider their views, actually talk to them. Doesn't matter what party they're with. Just actually listen to people. I talked to these other parties-- Libertarians, the American Independents, the Greens, and Peace & Freedom, and what I'm going to do is I'm going to actually bring them in into the fold. I will let them select someone from their party that will become a Congressional Aide to my office and work on a day-to-day basis to develop legislation that works for everyone.
JC: That's just way too sensible for Congress. Actually, isn't that what being a representative of the people is supposed to be about?
CC: And it breaks up this cloud of lies people are telling each other, because when you were looking at the Healthcare bill, you had one side basically saying it was the Golden Fleece and the other side saying that doctors were going to be arrested and thrown in jail. Neither one was correct. They were all full of it, and the point is if you bring people to work together to go, okay, you think Obama was born in Kenya? Why don't you check that out real quick? And when they actually work on the things together and find out the truth, all of this dissension - Karl Rove loves to separates everyone into little groups - will go away.
JC: True, but there are always going to be the die-hards and the blowhards.
CC: They become somewhat unimportant if everyone else knows the truth and they have no one to talk to. Work it out and actually do the research and find out what the facts are.
You remember the thing when Obama decided to limit nuclear weapons, and the first thing you were seeing on Fox News was 'he's going to take nuclear weapons off the table and so we'll be exposed to our enemies.' Which was absolutely what he said wasn't happening. They just ignore the fact of what really exists and just make things up. It's just spin machine.
JC: How does the opposition look?
CC: I'm going to try to keep the campaign positive. I've been told that the guy I'm running against (Republican incumbent Tom) McClintock basically kind of does that whole nasty thing again - the personal attacks and so forth a la Tom Feeney, and in fact, one of his advisers that they hired for this campaign, was Feeney's Chief of Staff in DC.
JC: Oh, no. They're not going to break out that lame old tin foil hat crap again, are they? [In the 2006 race, Feeney painted Curtis as a crackpot and even put up --- and then scrubbed --- a "crazyclintcurtis.com" web site featuring doctored photos of Curtis wearing a tin foil hat.]
CC: I'm not sure, because in California, people actually read enough and understand enough that when I was talking about how [computerized voting] couldn't be trusted, they'd go, 'yes, I understand that' --- whereas down in Florida, some of these people don't know anything about computers.
JC: Also you're not a one issue kind of guy. Election integrity is, of course, critically important, but your web site is clearly focused on helping the people of the district and taking solid progressives stands on the issues. It would be tough to brand you with the "crazy stick" this time out --- won't stick.
CC: It should be tough, yes, although you know, to the small group that likes to tell their own jokes and sit around the room, they'll be perfectly happy doing whatever they want to do. But quite frankly, Democrats do that, too. We have our own little thing of, you know, making people smaller than they are, making jokes at their expense. We just don't run TV ads. We just kind of keep it to ourselves.
JC: How do you like your odds against McClintock?
CC: If he wins, he brings no money to the district. Now, this was a [Rep. John] Doolittle district, and even though Doolittle was a crook, Doolittle brought money to the district.
It's really what your job is as a Congressman --- to find out what your district needs and get it for them. If they need roads, if they need hospitals, whatever they need, you have to make it happen. Here they get nothing. McClintock is a hard liner - 'We will take no money, we will do no earmarks, we will not legislate anything.'
He gets paid to stay home, I guess. He passes no legislation, so he does nothing, and that is his mantra. He symbolizes small government by not actually partaking of it. I, however, am going to bring money to the area. That should bring in all the moderate Republicans that are on the school boards and are on the highway department, that actually need this money and haven't been able to get it.
JC: What about specific needs for District 4?
CC: Education. The roads are terrible. I'll bet we have the worst roads in California. I mean, they are just horrible because there's not anybody to fix them. I would like to increase broadband. I would bet 25% of the residents are on dial-up, because there are no towers. It's a big area, population's dispersed. There is money available to build towers or put in fiber optics or something, some way of getting broadband to them, but McClintock isn't interested in addressing that.
So we are going to address the needs of this area, and we'll be bringing in these people from the other parties and they will tell us other things that we need to address that I don't even know about yet. I'm willing to listen. We need to protect our water and recreational areas. It's crucial we protect Social Security and, of course, I'm dedicated to election integrity, and that issue will always be a cornerstone.
JC: What can people do to help?
CC: I need volunteers, I need money, just like we always do. Just like every campaign always does, you need money and you need time, and volunteers are time, because you do have to get the word out. I'm assuming that the Libertarians, and the Greens, and the Peace & Freedom will organize their own people because this will be their first chance --- perhaps their only chance if I don't get elected --- to actually have a seat at the table, so this should bring them in.
I'd like to see a lot of them coming into this race to help us out. Hopefully a lot of the progressives who supported Marcy Winograd will now support me. We need all hands on deck. It's a fight we can win, but my opponent's going to be slinging up a mud storm. The progressives came out in big numbers to support Marcy. Unfortunately she lost, but I think she raised around $400,000, which is fabulous. So I'm appealing to all the progressives out there - the fight is not over. It's just beginning.
JC: What is appealing about you as a candidate?
CC: I want to break this partisanship and actually start working to represent the people, all the people. If we can win this district with this coalition in place, and the coalition does a good job --- if we get there with the intent of working on problems and compromising and making things work, this could catch on on a national basis, and we could break this problem we now have with two-party system.
Even if they say the same thing, they become opposites. (Look at) the healthcare insurance bill - it was [former MA Gov. Mitt] Romney's bill, it was Romney's showcase until the Democrats wanted to pass it, and then suddenly even Romney won't claim it. So we've got to break that partisan mania, and the only way to do that is to bring in everybody again and actually start trying to fix the problems that need to be fixed. We need a lot of jobs in this area, we need a lot of jobs in California, but we have to start fixing the problems at the top.
JC: In Florida, you were deemed persona non grata by the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] for refusing to agree to vote how Nancy Pelosi tells you to vote. How is the California Democratic party treating you?
CC: Very receptive. I came here to go to law school. If I was going to come here just to run for Congress, I would have gone somewhere down in So Cal, where I'm better known and where the numbers are (solidly Democratic.) But I came up here, and I met with them, and they liked me and they'd heard of me before, so they called me in and said, we don't have a candidate yet. They've been helpful, they've given me funds, and we've had planning sessions to help me understand what the needs of the district are, because I am new.
JC: Heck of a change from Florida!
CC: Florida is more of a Blue Dog Democrat state, and that's the way they roll. They're not interested in anyone really coming in from the outside. They want to know how they're going to basically get you to vote the way they want you to vote, rather than you representing a district. California seems more progressive than that.
JC: Many progressives are disappointed that we have a so-called Democratic president and Congress, yet the policies remain solidly Bush. What perspective can you bring? Do you think you can make a difference?
CC: I think we can. We need the Democratic Party to talk and act like it's one unit. While that may be mostly true of the Republicans, that is not true of the Democrats, not at all. And the Blue Dog Democrats --- a lot of them are more conservative than the Republicans.
And so we're dealing not with one party that has power, but a group of people under the same banner that don't necessarily agree, and that don't owe their allegiance to a party. They owe their allegiance to whatever brought them up through the system. So you get Joe Lieberman, whose state is full of insurance companies, and he's controlling the insurance market --- who wouldn't know that? With him it's easy --- he's not really a Democrat, he's Lieberman for Connecticut, so in that regard, that pretty much says it all. And a lot of these people are that way.
If progressives get behind progressives, work their tail off, give them money that we don't really have --- if we hurt ourselves and make ourselves bleed a little bit, we will get there. It's the only way to fight back against the corporate money that dictates our policy. Obama may have an agenda, but if you have enough progressives, instead of seeing the Blue Dogs controlling the top, you'll see the progressives controlling the top.
JC: Need volunteers?
CC: I do. People to make phone calls, basically tell people that we're running --- here's this guy's named Clint Curtis running for Congress. Help him out. We don't have a campaign office yet. We're going to have one in each of the big counties [in the 4th district) if we get the money.
JC: Great. Any final message for progressives?
CC: Look, I know a lot of progressives are discouraged. I see it every day. I say: do you have any fight left? 'Cause I do.
How much can one man do to return sanity to this country? I intend to find out. Why are we spending billions to blow people up around the world when we can't pay out bills at home? I intend to find out. Why do we have the most expensive and lowest-rated health care of any industrialized nation? In what world is it okay to let a few private corporations control the vote count? How does this make any sense?
Don't get me wrong. There are a few good progressive voices in Congress, but certainly not enough. A lot of good Democrats I think just let themselves get steamrolled. Well, remember I won that Backbone Award. I don't play the lobbyist game and I will not be bought or threatened into voting one way or another. And I will not look away from investigations that need investigation.
So yeah, I may be just one man. But sometimes that's all it takes --- one man willing to step up. I can tell you that when I get into Congress, I will do everything I can to clean House, so to speak, and fight for the people, and I will never back down.
Clint Curtis' website is at ClintCurtis.com.