Meet Matt Dunne: The Background

Matt Dunne is a Democratic candidate for Governor of Vermont, a state that hasn’t had a Democratic Governor since Howard Dean but offers an open seat this year. Although Matt is running in a competitive primary with several other qualified progressives, he is on MyDD’s Going on Offense Act Blue page. After getting to know him in 2006, I believe he’s the right candidate for the race and the right man for the job, and I hope you can help him out.

I’ll run through his broad support and stalwart progressive platform tomorrow – a platform that has earned him the endorsement of climate hero Bill McKibben – but it’s his background that makes him the best general election candidate. Any Democratic nominee in this state will be a progressive, so primary voters need to make sure they pick one whose background can match the GOP opponent. (Lt. Governor Brian Dubie is a commercial pilot, farmer, and veteran.)

Although Matt is only 40, his resume is one of the most impressive you’ll ever see, delving into academia, business, technology, service, and policy all. You could even throw in agriculture, since he grew up and still lives on his family’s 100-acre farm. He’s also a proud father of three (seriously, ask him to show you photos, you’ll never see a bigger smile), including a newborn son less than two months old.

Business and Technology: Matt is currently Google’s Manager of Community Affairs, and helped to persuade the company to relent on its secrecy policies and reveal the locations of its servers. He has previously worked as Director of Marketing for a local software company and helped manage the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, VT.

Service: Matt was Director of AmeriCorps VISTA under both Presidents Clinton and Bush. He based his 2006 campaign for Lt. Governor around “service politics,” asking his supporters to participate in service projects rather than traditional rallies. After the campaign he founded the Service Politics Institute.

Politics and Policy: Matt was the youngest person ever elected to the Vermont State Legislature when he was just 22. He served for six years, and after leaving to head AmeriCorps returned for four more years as a State Senator. According to his website, he “advanced legislation to drive the development of regional technology incubators, streamlined regulations and encouraged foreign companies to locate in Vermont... Matt successfully fought efforts to cut healthcare to the poor, increased funding for individual development accounts, pushed for federal recognition of Vermont's civil union policy, gave veterans preference for state jobs and promoted incentives to encourage the production and use of clean, renewable energy.” Matt's concern for and the poor led him to support the pre-scandal John Edwards in the 2004 and 2008 primaries. He left the state senate to become the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, and though he narrowly lost, he significantly outperformed the party's gubernatorial nominee, meaning a lot of independent voters split their ticket to support Matt Dunne.

Academia: Matt served as Associate Director of Dartmouth’s College Nelson Rockefeller Center for Public Policy from about 2002 to 2006. This is where I met him – I was very involved at the Rockefeller Center during my time at Dartmouth, and when he stepped down to run for Lt. Gov., several of us in the College Democrats regularly volunteered for his campaign. Matt founded the Policy Research Shop at Rocky, helping students learn how to effectively research and present public policy to the Vermont and New Hampshire state legislatures. He also grew up the child of a professor and is one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet.

More details about any of these ventures can be found at Matt's website or in profiles from the Vermont newspapers Seven Days and Manchester Journal.

Matt is tied for second in fundraising in the crowded Democratic field and has reached all of his publicized fundraising goals so far. Please help him out at ActBlue. His resume and 2006 showing prove he’s the man to beat Dubie this fall and pick up at least one new statehouse in a tough election year.

Western state Republicans in complete meltdown

Colorado. Idaho. Nevada. California. From crazy to corrupt to down in the polls, the Republican Party is imploding all over the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Let’s start with Colorado. You already know about sexist Senate candidate Ken Buck and the gubernatorial primary between plagiarist Scott McInnis and finance cheat Dan Maes. Both stories have new developments. Buck was caught yet again making stupid comments on tape, referring to birthers as “dumbasses”. He was obviously right and I’m with him every step of the way, but it still won’t help him in a GOP primary. But it’s the governor’s race where we really get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Former Repub Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Trancedo jumped in the race for governor this week as an independent. He he was interviewed yesterday alongside state Repub chair Dick Wadhams on Peter Boyles’ radio show. The interview quickly escalated into a public screaming match, and if you’ve got twenty minutes you really should listen. It’s  just plain fun. The interview starts about ten minutes into the clip with Tancredo being a rude jerk, but by the end Wadhams is making unreasonable demands and calling both Tancredo and Boyles liars. The two men said that Wadhams has told them he dislikes both McInnis and Maes, so not only is the public meltdown fun, it also reveals new party rifts. All of a sudden this Senate seat and this statehouse don't seem to be in nearly as much trouble for Democrats as they were.

If Colorado Repubs feel lonely, all they have to do is look northwest to my neck of the woods, Idaho. I’ve already told you about the state GOP convention, which passed a resolution stating all Repub lawmakers must sign a loyalty oath to try and repeal direct election of senators. That same post also described Sarah Palin’s birthplace in Bonner County, where Repubs are protesting the local fair’s use of the word “fiesta.” The crazy gets worse with ID-01 nominee Raul Labrador, who called for repeal of the 17th amendment before the state GOP did, says our energy policy should be “increasing the production of fossil fuels,” and, like the Colorado GOP and the man he beat in the primary, is a plagiarist. This is an +18 district where McCain won by 25 points – and yet Labrador can’t so much as win the support of the NRCC, the Tea Party Express or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Small wonder the endangered first-term Democrat Walt Minnick has a 16-1 advantage in cash-on-hand and national pundits are moving the race from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic.”

But what happens at the federal level is a symptom of what happens at the local level, and state Rep. Phil Hart of Athol, here in Kootenai County, is our own little Charlie Rangel. Hart is under investigation by the state House ethics committee for tax issues. He’s been late on paying county taxes for 8 years in a row, but the county should consider itself lucky – he owes nearly $700,000 in unpaid federal and state taxes. The man’s not just a tax cheat, either – he’s a thief. The liens include $13,014 in unpaid federal withholding taxes at his engineering firm. In other words, he took his employees’ tax money but kept it for himself rather than turning it over to the government. And the best part? He sits on the House subcommittee that affects issues like his but insists there’s no conflict of interest. Hart and the Idaho GOP are a bigger joke than the name of the town he represents – Athol. But not to worry, he says; the citizens of Idaho are better off for his crimes. “I think it makes you a better legislator, to have these life experiences.”

And of course, you already know about Nevada and the crazy that is Sharron Angle. After a series of missteps – defending BP, calling for the repeal of Medicare and Social Security – she is starting to face criticism from within her own party.

"Sharron's first six weeks have been atrocious," said Danny Tarkanian, who was defeated in Nevada's GOP Senate primary. "I think she would admit to that."…

Before endorsing Angle in her election fight, former Nevada Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich warned the Tea Party darling, "You're scaring the bejesus out of everybody."

Republican Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who backed Angle's GOP primary opponent, Sue Lowden, settled on endorsing Reid in the state's general election match-up. "Our state [would] suffer and we would never get anything done," Cashell said of the prospect of Angle being elected.

If California Republicans were hoping that maybe the San Gabriels would insulate them from the mountain west, they’re going to be very disappointed. Despite a new ad-buy from the NRSC, a new PPP poll shows that Democrat Barbara Boxer finally has a comfortable lead over the Palin-endorsed Carly Fiorina in CA-Sen at 49-40. Boxer hasn’t been up by this much since May. (The poll also found that 19% of voters have a higher opinion of Boxer’s hair and 14% have a higher opinion of Fiorina’s hair. 67% are not sure.)

This sure is a good month to be a western Democrat. Whoa, I feel good… I knew that I would now… so good… so good…

More Dems Abandon Rangel

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) made headlines as the first Democrat to call for the ethically challenged Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to resign. And she seems to have opened the floodgates.

Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID), my congressman, became the second Democrat to demand Rangel's resignation today. "I think it was appropriate for Rep. Rangel to step down from his post as a committee chair pending the investigation, but I always prefer to let voters decide whether or not someone should keep his or her seat. However, now that the investigation is complete, and provided the facts are as alleged, I think it’s clear that he should resign from Congress." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that it's Rangel's choice alone to make. As a party leader, Hoyer has to be a good diplomat and really can't call for a Member's resignation without a conviction, so this is about as damning a statement as he could make under the circumstances. And he made it.

It would obviouslly be helpful to the party if Rangel would step aside, and it would help his district too. Seniority usually helps a district, but once a member's lost his gavel and caucus credibility as Rangel has, there are no benefits to seniority left. If Rangel left now, a new member could begin to build up seniority of their own. His refusal to resign or at least retire is proof that he doesn't have the best interests of his constituents at heart.

That said, this is a legal matter, and legally, someone is innocent until proven guilty. Justice is justice and due process is due process, so I'm more inclined to agree with Hoyer than I am Minnick and Sutton. Rangel has the right to a committee trial if he wants it, even though it would yet again prove that he values himself over his party. I certainly want him to resign and I will be apalled if the Ethics Committee cuts him a deal, but I can't in good conscience declare that the process doesn't matter and that he MUST resign.

But here's hoping, and I'm certainly glad to see Minnick and Sutton stepping forward. The last two ethics investigations to get this far both ended with the accused's eviction, and Rangel said moments ago that he expects to get a trial rather than a plea bargain, so whether he resigns or not things do not look good for "the Chairman."

NH-Sen a toss-up again?

NH-Sen between progressive champion Paul Hodes and likely Repub contendor Kelly Ayotte was supposed to be one of the marquis races of the cycle, a perfect chance for a Democratic pick-up in a Repub year. And yet five different polls have had Ayotte leading by double digits, and only 2 of 16 polls had Hodes cracking 40 points - that is, until now.

A new PPP poll out today shows that this race has turned into a dead heat: Ayotte 45, Hodes 42 with 13% undecided. I was right - Palin's endorsement backfired, and Hodes' ads against Ayotte were good ones. He is also now leading two of the other GOP candidates for the first time. Obama has a net approval rating at 49-47, and the health care bill also does better than in the nation at large, tied at 47-47. Focusing on health care could actually help Hodes with GOTV rather than lose him votes.

PPP's polls are automated, so I look forward to a new live interviewer poll, but at least they have a three-day frame unlike Rasmussen's one. One thing I like is that respondents said they voted for Obama by a 48-45 margin, much lower than the actual 54-45 results. That's probably a decent way of reflecting what 2010 voter turnout may be.

The next poll will tell us if this is an outlying fluke or not. I doubt it, given that it's not coming out of the blue, but after an aggressive Democratic push and several developments favorable to Hodes. To enshrine the results and keep the momentum going, donate to Hodes at our ActBlue page.

I wasn't able to make it to Netroots Nation, but Hodes was there. Here's a message he taped to bloggers beforehand highlighting his progressive agenda.

BP lets CEO Hayward off the hook

Despite intense media speculation that he would resign as CEO of BP today, it looks like Tony Hayward will stick around until at least October. And even then, BP won’t force him out the door, they’re just transferring him to another prestigious project. From the AP:

Tony Hayward, who became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill, will step down as chief executive in October and be offered a job with the company's joint venture in Russia, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made by the British company's board, which was meeting Monday in London to decide Hayward's fate. The decision is the board's to make, and it was unclear if it had formally done so.

It's not yet clear what Hayward's role will be with TNK-BP… BP owns half of the oil firm, which is Russia's third-largest.

So Hayward will continue to draw a salary of several million pounds – even more in dollars – and no longer have to contend with the Gulf Coast oil spill. I’m not sure if he still gets his $10 million pound parachute since he’s not leaving BP, but it remains safe to say that the man who famously said “I want my life back” is about to get his wish.

For the record, when Catholic Charities asked BP for $10 million to help with their Gulf Coast assistance programs, BP gave them only $1 million. Combine that with the $0 in their much-ballyhooed escrow fund for processing their victims’ claims and you get a total much, much lower than either Hayward’s salary or parachute.

Misplaced Priorities

If we don't pass a climate bill in the November lame duck session or with the aid of January filibuster reform, this will be Barack Obama's legacy as president: an extraordinarily effective lawmaker who knew how to get things done, but one who lacked vision and thus got the wrong things done. The greatest waste of potential in world history. As Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm said, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Tom Toles for thee!"

(If the image disappears after a few hours, as sometimes happens here, please click the link above for one of the best editorial cartoons I have *ever* seen.)

Big Coal Targets Alaskan Natives

If you'll indulge me a quick personal note, some of you may be interested to know that I'm now writing for a second national blog, Change.org. I'll be posting there about once per week on environmental issues in the mountain west and Midwest, and will put the links in Breaking Blue when they're politically relevant. My first post went up Sunday morning, and highlights the fight between a major coal company and a small Alaskan Native tribe.

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. has obtained the initial permits to build a coal road along Alaska’s Moose Creek, a site sacred to the Chickaloon Tribe. If the project proceeds as planned and the permits are renewed for 2012, 200 trucks a day will haul coal along the road for as long as 20 years, polluting the river and erasing all gains made by the tribe’s $1 million salmon restoration project.

The tribe sees this as a direct attack on both their way of life and their freedom of religion... Yet while Big Coal shows off its best George Custer impression, some in the government seem to be looking the other way.

Legislative progress in Indian Country

Here’s a legislative update on three big bills working their way through Congress with major ramifications for American Indians*. One has passed, one is making progress, and one is stalled.

You may remember a post I made in May highlighting the fact that 1 in 3 Indian women will be raped at some point in their lives thanks to a Supreme Court ruling that stripped tribal governments of criminal jurisdiction over whites on Indian lands. Well, both houses of Congress have passed Senator Byron Dorgan’s Tribal Law and Order Act, with the House moving this month. The new law won’t solve the criminal jurisdiction issues, but at least it will beef up tribal resources. From the newspaper Indian Country Today:

In both chambers, it was attached to the Indian Arts and Crafts bill [HR 725], which strengthens the ability to prosecute those who unlawfully sell purported Indian goods.

Under the bill, tribal courts will be allowed to impose sentences of up to three years, but their authority is affected in some ways, like being required to follow U.S. court system procedures. Also, tribes prosecuting individuals for crimes that could land them in jail for more than a year must provide defendants with the same right to a lawyer that they would have in state or federal court…

The bill will also provide tribal police greater access to criminal history databases such as the National Crime Information Center, and will require tribal and federal officers serving Indian country to receive specialized training to interview victims of sexual assault and collect crime scene evidence.

Further, it requires Indian Health Service facilities to implement consistent sexual assault protocols, and requires federal officials to provide documents and testimony gained in the course of their federal duties to aid in prosecutions before tribal courts.

I’m pleased that this bill passed so overwhelmingly, and a bit surprised. Tribal power is a touchy subject with so many mistakenly thinking that it’s about race rather than history and federalism. To see this kind of bill pass with such bipartisan support at a time when obstructionism is the name of the game is really affirming. It’s a shame that we still have to wait for an Oliphant fix – ie, a bill that would allow tribes, like states, to prosecute all criminals on their own land rather than waiting for the never-arriving feds – but for what it does, this is a good bill. I have written my Congressman, Walt Minnick (D-ID), to express my appreciation for his aye vote on this bill.

Another bill, this one making its way through Congress, would ensure that tribal lands are allowed to grow after a 2009 Supreme Court decision basically said certain tribes could only let their land shrink. It is referred to as a “Carcieri fix” because the decision misinterpreted Congressional intent. From another Indian Country Today article:

A legislative Carcieri fix has been successfully inserted into the current House Interior appropriations bill with a similar Senate action expected to be attempted soon...

Tribal officials said a proactive measure is needed to remedy a February 2009 Supreme Court decision, which found that tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934 cannot have lands put into trust for them by the Department of the Interior.

Most tribes, even if not directly affected by the decision, are deeply concerned about the usurping of tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

The article goes on to point out that critics are trying to defeat the bill by linking it to Indian gaming, even though the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with gaming. As is often the case with federal Indian law defeatists, it seems they don't understand the complexities of the issues involved.

Finally, perhaps the weightiest of all these bills is going nowhere for now. You might have heard of Cobell v. Salazar, a case old enough that it was originally called Cobell v. Bennett. This is the prominent lawsuit that charges the Department of Interior with mismanaging countless billions in Indian royalties and trust funds. The latest development is that a legal settlement for over $3 billion has stalled in the Senate. The ICT write-up blames the failure on Democratic in-fighting and Republican partisanship.

The delay may or may not be a good thing. On the one hand, Ms. Cobell supports the settlement, but on the other hand, some tribal advocates claim it needs work, specifically more protections for individuals. I myself don’t know enough about the bill’s contents to pick sides, but I will say that while I usually take the pragmatic side of things, the legal group National Congress of American Indians is siding with the detractors and I do respect the NCAI.

There's more...

BP grows worse every day

The news keeps piling in: BP just plain doesn't care. They didn't care before the accident, they didn't care after the accident, and they don't even care know after all the press coverage and political pressure. Here are five stories, and the only good one is the one beyond BP's control: Tropical Storm Bonnie pass overhead, grew weaker, and caused no damage and barely any delay.

From today's New York Times, the Deepwater Horizon crew kept their emergency siren turned off. Apparently avoiding false alarms was more important than saving lives.

Mike Williams, the rig’s chief electronics technician, said the general safety alarm was habitually set to “inhibited” to avoid waking up the crew with late-night sirens and emergency lights... Consequently, the alarm did not sound during the emergency, leaving workers to relay information through the loudspeaker system.

While it is not known whether it would have saved the workers who died in the April 20 disaster, the lack of a fully functioning alarm hampered the effort to safely evacuate the rig, Mr. Williams [told federal investigators].

Next, although billions of gallons of oil are still ruining the Gulf and devastating livelihoods, BP appears to be shedding clean-up workers. Now that the oil well is capped, a speedy clean-up of what has already leaked just isn't a priority anymore. From, yes, Fox News:

BP has suddenly stopped awarding contracts for oil skimmers and protective boom to combat the spill in the Gulf, leaving hundreds of contractors out of work, an industry source told Fox News.

DRC Group, which has more than 480 vessels in the Gulf laying boom and skimming crude in shallow waters, let go about 50 percent of its workers this week after BP changed course, the source said. ...

After 85 days of crisis work, BP finally capped its broken well last week, and appears to have changed its calculus in contracting work to manage the effects of the spill, the source said.

But while BP may be shedding clean-up workers, they're adding scientists, targeting them for silence right alongside those infamous reporters and volunteers. BP appears to be offering lucrative contracts to nearly every scientist in the Gulf Coast to join their legal team in exchange for their silence. From the Mobile Press-Register:

BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company's lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.

The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years...

Scientists from Louisiana State University, University of Southern Mississippi and Texas A&M have reportedly accepted, according to academic officials. Scientists who study marine invertebrates, plankton, marsh environments, oceanography, sharks and other topics have been solicited.

And finally, remember that escrow slush fund Obama intimidated poor innocent BP into setting up? Y'know, the account for one specific purpose (damage claims) that the company voluntarily established? Yeah... it's not happening. BP can't be bothered to worry about those damage claims after all. More from the Mobile Press-Register:

Ken Feinberg said he hasn't been able to start writing claims checks because BP PLC has not yet deposited any money into the $20 billion escrow fund it promised to create.

Feinberg, who was appointed to administer oil spill claims out of the fund, said he doesn't have the authority to force BP to deposit the money, but his hands are tied until it does. "I don't want the checks to bounce," he said.

It's been said that the BP oil spill is the 9/11 of the Gulf Coast. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is, then it's an appropriate time to bring back the 9/12 San Fransisco Examiner headline. It applies.

Rand Paul’s Kentucky Problems

Most of Repub Senate nominee Rand Paul’s “gaffes” have been over national issues – calling the President un-American for criticizing BP, attacking the Civil Rights Act, presenting himself as a board-certified doctor when the board is pretty much just his family, etc. As Tip O’Neil said, though, all politics is local – and Paul has just as many problems with Kentucky politics as he does national politics.

Democrat Jack Conway’s campaign sent out the following email today, highlighting Paul’s attacks on local farmers and his lack of knowledge about Kentucky agriculture and history:

According to the Courier-Journal:

"Renewing his attack on federal farm subsidies, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul told a Kentucky Farm Bureau audience Thursday that three agriculture companies have received a total of more than $1 billion in aid…But, in fact, the 'companies' are all cooperatives that are owned by thousands of farmers. And the federal payments have gone to the farmers who own them over the past 15 years - as the Paul campaign later acknowledged in an interview."

In fact, Paul's spokesperson Jesse Benton told the C-J: "I don't know what a co-op is."…

Last week, in Details Magazine's profile, Paul's ignorance of the state he is running to represent in the Senate was once again apparent when the reporter - a non-Kentuckian - asked about the significance of Harlan County in history:

"'I don't know,' he [Paul] says in an elusive accent that's not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: 'It's famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard.'"
 
The reporter did a little digging and found out Paul was wrong: "Harlan County, Kentucky, it turns out, is famous not for the Duke boys, or for the Hatfields and McCoys, as Rand Paul speculated, but for its violent coal battles."

This follows an earlier AP story that highlighted Paul’s growing unpopularity with Kentucky’s poor. Paul quoted Soviet materials to make a bogus point about American poverty while bashing programs incredibly important to the state’s citizens:

Paul's recent remarks at his first forum with Democratic opponent Jack Conway stirred some anger in impoverished pockets of Kentucky, where as many as a third of residents live in poverty.

The libertarian-leaning Paul addressed the issue of poverty by alluding to a decades-old, anti-American propaganda film by the Soviet government designed to criticize the free-market system…

Charles Hardin, a Democratic judge-executive from eastern Kentucky's Magoffin County, said Monday that Paul's comments rubbed him the wrong way and he criticized Paul for relying on "anecdotal tales."

Two polls released in the last two days show this to be a close race: CN|2/Braun Research has Paul leading 41-38, and Rasmussen has Paul leading 49-41. I’d never heard of Braun Research before, but their methodology seems more sound than Rasmussen’s – they use live interviewers rather than phone buttons and a three-day frame rather than one day. One encouraging CN|2 finding: "Conway scored higher with women than Paul did, 42.5% to 35.9%."

To help defeat Paul and elect a true progressive, help Conway out at our ActBlue page.

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