Faced with a backlash, the Democratic National Committee defended the secretive manner in which dozens of lobbyists, corporate consultants, party insiders, think tank board members, and pro-Israel Democrats were nominated by DNC Chair Tom Perez to committees for the 2020 national convention.
Seventy-five individuals were appointed to the platform, rules, and credentials committees on January 25 during a DNC executive committee meeting. The current membership of this executive committee is unclear.
Two chairs and four vice-chairs were appointed to oversee each of the committees. Thirty-one spots on each committee were filled.
Nearly all of the appointees endorsed Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign. Many endorsed Clinton early in 2015, but the DNC said it does not consider “past endorsements” when filling committees.
The DNC claimed “high-profile” supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were appointed to the committees, but that is false. Only one “high-profile” supporter was appointed to the Platform, Rules, and Credentials Committees.
Larry Cohen, the former union president of the Communications Workers of America, was appointed. He founded the pro-Sanders political action organization, Our Revolution.
According to The Hill, “DNC officials said they look for policy experts to help shape the platform or for experienced Democratic hands who know their way around party bylaws to assist in the rules and credentialing process.”
But positions were not merely filled with people capable of grasping Robert’s Rules of Order, and these so-called “policy experts” have exhibited open hostility toward a leading presidential candidate, who may potentially become the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Several presently work for or with corporations, like Blue Cross Blue Shield. They are likely to dilute progressive policies and ideas that will presumably be championed at the party’s national convention.
“Some DNC members complained that they were only alerted to the appointments late on Friday ahead of the executive committee’s Saturday vote,” even derisively referring to the appointments as the “midnight convention committee picks,” according to The Hill.
Terry Tucker, a DNC member and Sanders supporter from Colorado, told The Hill, “The subject of transparency and notice has been broached in the past with Chairman Perez in open meetings of the full DNC,” and, “Lack of transparency and input from the members continues to be a source of irritation.”
But the DNC maintained it was completely normal to give members less than a day to consider nominees before they were ratified.
At least 26 of the people appointed are superdelegates, who will be able to vote for the presidential nominee if no candidate wins on the first ballot.
Seventy-five percent of the appointments were “at-large,” meaning they are not elected officials. Their status in the Democratic Party is not dependent on voters in any particular state or state party.
“Most of the members will be allotted in proportion to the number of delegates the candidates win over the course of the primaries and caucuses,” The Hill noted. “There will be 187 people on each committee, and the winner’s supporters should make up a majority.”
If Sanders is the nominee, his supporters may make up the majority, but they would potentially have to deal with chairs and vice-chairs that are opposed to their agenda.
Back in 2017, Perez purged prominent progressives, who backed former Representative Keith Ellison in the race for DNC chair. Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender DNC member, lost her position as an at-large member. James Zogby, a prominent Sanders supporter, was removed from the executive committee.
A previous report from this author published at The Grayzone described some of the more repugnant people selected by Perez, including Barney Frank, Maria Cardona, Heidi Heitkamp, John Podesta, Bakari Sellers, Wendy Sherman, Daniel B. Shapiro, and Jake Sullivan.
One individual omitted was Elaine Kamarck. She is deeply emblematic of the corruption within the Democratic Party that the Sanders campaign is struggling to overcome.
Kamarck was part of the Hunt Commission that established the superdelegate system in the early 1980s. She joined the DNC in 1997. She was one of the founders of the New Democrats, the neoliberal movement that helped elect President Bill Clinton. She worked for the Clinton White House from 1993-1997, according to In These Times.
In May 2019, for the Brookings Institution, Kamarck wrote about five issue “minefields” that could “blow up” Democratic candidate’s campaign. One of them was allowing prisoners to vote, and citing Sanders, she suggested in a reactionary way that Democrats should not be “rope-a-doped into giving rights to terrorists.”
She also pushed her opposition to Medicare for All, claiming that “[Telling] suburban moms who voted in Democratic members of Congress in 2018 that they will lose their private health insurance is a high-risk strategy.” This is a health insurance industry talking point that Vice President Joe Biden has repeated.
Wildly, Kamarck argued against “embracing socialism” by invoking decades-old fears of a Soviet nuclear attack that existed during the Cold War.
“There are still millions of baby boomers in the electorate who hid under their desks in elementary school out of fear that the Soviets would drop an atom bomb on them. Democrats would be wise to lay off the term and talk about what has always been a plus for the party: an expanded and sturdy social safety net,” Kamarck declared.
This is but one example of who will be influencing the political direction of the Democratic Party, whether it embraces a neoliberal status quo or accepts the transformative change that is happening at the grassroots level.
DNC national press secretary Brandon Gassaway celebrated the process. “These appointments reflect the rich diversity of our party.”
In fact, this is true. The appointees are one of the most diverse groups of corporate Democrats ever handpicked by a DNC chair for the convention committees.
One of them is Meghan Stabler. She is a Democratic strategist, who is a wealthy white transgender woman. She was part of President Barack Obama’s National LGBT Policy Committee. But she’s also a vice president of global product marketing for “one of the world’s leading eCommerce companies.”
Stabler is a board member for the Democratic Majority For Israel (DMFI). This lobbying group was founded in 2019, and its reason for existing is to prevent Palestinian rights advocacy from gaining traction in the Democratic Party. DMI’s source of funding for the ad campaign is unknown.
With Sanders surging in the polls in Iowa, the lobbying group spent $681,000 on a right-wing ad campaign intended to convince voters that the country will never elect an old democratic socialist over President Donald Trump.
“In one version of the ad, an Iowa resident brings up the 78-year-old’s heart attack as a concern about his candidacy, according to a person familiar with the ad,” POLITICO reported.
Remember when Democrats were in an uproar in 2016 after opponents weaponized Hillary Clinton’s health scare against her? That is what a group of lobbyists for Israel are doing to the Sanders campaign days before the Iowa caucuses.