Wealthy right-wing former Microsoft exec to pick Democratic candidates

Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington has the party leadership's support to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Incoming Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries appointed Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2024 cycle, putting her in charge of efforts to recapture the House majority.

As head of the DCCC, DelBene could have significant influence over the recruitment of key challengers as well as the Democratic Party’s allocation of resources to defend vulnerable incumbents.

DelBene, a former Microsoft executive and one of the richest members of Congress, chairs the New Democrat Coalition, the pro-business conservative caucus, whose members from New Jersey are Reps. Donald Norcross, Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill.

The decision by Jeffries, who is taking the reins from outgoing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, was a blow to Reps. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Pacoima), who both had expressed interest in the job.

With a reported net worth of $52 million, Insider identified DelBene as the 13th wealthiest member of Congress last year. DelBene’s wealth is spread out among mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and real estate.

In late 2021, DelBene appeared to violate the STOCK Act by improperly disclosing her husband’s massive sale of Microsoft stock days before President Joe Biden nominated Kurt DelBene as assistant secretary for information and technology and chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. DelBene’s office denied that the congresswoman violated the law, citing an email from the Committee on House Ethics.

DelBene has raised $19,586,047 in campaign contributions during the 13 years since she became a federal candidate, and her campaigns have always significantly outspent her Republican opponents—by 20 or 30 to one in her last two elections.

Her top contributors are Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com, and Puget Sound Energy, a utility company based in the state of Washington that owns coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, and wind power-generating facilities, and provides electrical power and natural gas.

In her first successful campaign for Congress, DelBene spent $2.8 million of her own money in a race in which she raised over $4 million, in what became the most expensive congressional race in Washington state history.

DelBene currently serves on the Ways and Means and its subcommittees on revenue measures and trade. Before serving in Congress, DelBene headed the state Department of Revenue and worked in the technology field, including two stints with Microsoft.

“It is an honor to be nominated by Leader-designate Jeffries and now confirmed by a vote of the entire House Democratic Caucus as DCCC Chair,” said DelBene. “This work is critically important and I’m excited to be a member of the incoming leadership team and partner with every corner of our diverse Caucus.”

Even though Jeffries is a New York congressman who identifies himself as a progressive, Larry Cohen, who chairs the group Our Revolution—an outgrowth of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ first presidential bid—said the Democratic leader in Congress has not championed core values “like end new fossil fuel investment, stop Medicare and VA privatization, freeze the military budget, raise wealth taxes, restore the 50 percent staffing cuts at the NLRB.”

“We need a Democratic Party that fights for its voters, not corporate donors,” ” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive leader in New Jersey who has been critical of political establishment leaders with corrupt corporate connections. “A right-wing leader at the DCCC is not likely to usher in a new generation of diverse, progressive, working-class Democrats with a bold vision to transform our economy and democracy.

The ability to select candidates who will receive resources means that the DCCC Chair can influence future legislation. New Democrats often hamper the progressive agenda based on the New Deal, Great Society, and urgent environmental necessities.

McCormick claims that DelBene is comfortable with the kind of outside spending groups that Justice Democrats director Alexandra Rojas said would rather “light money on fire than invest in candidates that look like the base of the party.”

That strategy has been a losing one for Democrats, said McCormick, who asserted, “American voters want to elect leaders who will address skyrocketing inequality, the climate catastrophe, and systemic racism while establishment politicians like DelBene, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Bob Menendez are Vichy Democrats complicit in a corporate takeover of our democracy.”

In the past, the DCCC supported candidates like Jeff Van Drew, who refused to impeach President Donald Trump and abandoned the Democratic Party after he got elected to Congress, and went as far as to blackball consultants and staff that aided campaigns for progressive Democrats.

The DCCC spent money helping anti-abortion incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar during his second primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros in Texas, and the party establishment wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars courting Republicans instead of advancing bold progressive ideas like reversing Reaganomics and seriously combating climate change.

“Vichy Democrats cater to big donors and argue we have better chances in battleground districts with Blue Dog or New Democrat candidates. The fact is, if voters who want anti-worker conservatives have a choice between a Republican and a Republican-lite, they are going to pick the real Republican almost every time,” said McCormick. “Democrats can beat them only with genuine progressives who will solve America’s problems by restoring liberty, prosperity, security, and justice for all by ending policies based on trickle-down economics, investing in the working middle-class, plus saving the world from global warming.”

“Moderate candidates lost in close elections because they failed to point out that Republican claims have no basis in reality when the political establishment wanted them to stick to issues that would not cost billionaires any money to fix,” said McCormick, who is calling for a minimum wage increase, repairs to prevent a Social Security crisis and health care coverage for every American.

President Joe Biden wanted to augment the capital gains tax so heirs pay the tax at the point of death, but at least 13 “farm district” House Democrats resisted, arguing that the proposal hurts humble family farmers. Progressives believe that these representatives are using farmers as a shield, and the real intention is to protect the interests of wealthy donors.

All but two of the 13 holdouts who derailed a vote for tax fairness are members of the New Democrat faction.

Voters delivered victories to progressives in districts across the country, including in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii, California, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, creating a geographically diverse picture of where left-wing Democrats can win.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that of the 18 candidates the Progressive caucus endorsed this cycle, 15 have won their races.

Before he was elected to be the party leader, Jeffries told a group of reporters on Capitol Hill, “I have no issues with any member of the House Democratic Caucus, and have been supportive of everyone electorally, whether they are in the center, center left, or the more left part of our caucus — and will continue to be supportive of every single House Democratic incumbent.”

“It is impossible to be a voice for everyone in the diverse Democratic caucus and hopefully, Hakeem Jeffries will be a bridge-builder between the young, liberal progressives, the more right-centrist New Democrats, and the conservative Blue Dogs,” said McCormick. “When it comes to candidate recruitment, moderate or right-wing Democrats are going to face primary challenges so we will see if the money pours into efforts to stop progressives.”

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