a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Better Democrats

Posted by Thomas Nephew on October 23rd, 2008

Most readers probably know that there’s an easy, centralized way to contribute to campaigns of specific Democrats — “ActBlue.” Some blog supersites have set up lists of candidates they approve of in special ActBlue fundraising campaigns; for example, “firedoglake” has “Accountability Now,” and “Daily Kos” has “orangetoblue.”

The one I like right now is called simply Better Democrats,” and it’s a project of the “OpenLeft” blog run by Matt Stoller et al.  The reason I like it is that I ran across Matt Stoller’s interview of Georgia Senate candidate Jim Martin, in which the Georgia Democrat pleasantly surprised me:

Question: Do you have a position on FISA and government wiretapping?

Jim Martin
: The threat of terrorism is real and the government should take all necessary measures to protect us. While I support the overall aims of the recent FISA bill, the inclusion of a provision granting amnesty to telecom providers who permitted the government to listen in on the conversations of Americans without a warrant troubles me. Because I do not believe that the government should craft policy that permits law breaking, I would not have supported the FISA bill that included telecom immunity. […]

Question: Do you think that Congress should investigate potential criminal activity within the Bush administration after he leaves office, or should Congress choose to ignore them and work on legislation going forward?

Jim Martin: Congress has an awful lot to do in order to get this economy working for the middle class again, and that would be my first priority. That said, laws are meaningless if not applied and applied fairly. If there is reason to believe that Bush Administration officials broke the law, they should be investigated and punished if found guilty just like anyone else.

These and other good answers — plus, it must be admitted, the prospect of kicking Saxby Chambliss’s worthless ass out of the Senate — convinced OpenLeft community members to support adding Martin to the “Better Democrats” list.

Note the name, and make no mistake — if you want a “Absolutely Perfect Democrats” ActBlue list, you’ll need to keep looking.  For example, Martin severely disappointed GLBT Georgians this summer with his opposition to same-sex marriage, though he supports the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” and other affirmations of gay rights.

Even on FISA, I don’t think Martin is pitch-perfect; for my part, I don’t even support the overall aims of the recent FISA bill, not when they include shortcuts around the probable cause principle of the Fourth Amendment.  But to the extent that Martin “gets it” that telecom immunity permitted lawbreaking retroactively, he may eventually get it that the FISA bill permits ongoing Constitution- and Bill of Rights-breaking as well.

So Martin is a “Better Democrat” in my book, and I recognize many of the names on the “Better Democrats” list as well:

  • Darcy Burner (WA-8), author of “A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq” — which includes provisions for giving plaintiffs status to sue if they believe warrantless electronic surveillance is threatening their First Amendment rights.
  • Sam Bennett (PA-15), co-endorser of “Responsible Plan”;
  • Jeff Merkley (OR), who called out Obama for voting for the FISA Amendment Act.
  • Al Franken (MN), who made his opposition to the Iraq war the center of his campaign with effective, hard hitting ads like this one.
  • Dennis Shulman (NJ-5), who wrote on his web site after the FISA Amendment Act passed in the House: ““The House of Representatives, with the support of Republican Scott Garrett, recently passed a bill that would grant President Bush and future administrations unprecedented powers to spy on American citizens without a warrant or review by any judge or court. The new law would also let our nation’s largest telecom companies off the hook for knowingly violating the law and releasing their customers’ private information at the behest of George Bush.

I’ve been flogging the “Better Democrats” idea via facebook and myBarackObama “Get FISA Right” groups, and thought I ought to mention it here as well.  Matt Stoller was nice enough to add a “Get FISA Right” tag (the “?refcode=GetFISARight” at the end of the URL), which makes it possible to track the subtotal gathered via all the various links sharing that tag, like this one.

So if you can spare a few bucks, but want to make sure they go not just to any old Democrat the DCCC wants to spend money on, but to ones you want to spend money on, here’s a place to do just that.  Click the link: ActBlue – Better Democrats.  Thanks.

UPDATE, 10/23: Shulman point added.

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