Few Democrats-- and none from North Carolina-- voted more frequently with the GOP since the 2010 elections than fumbling Blue Dog Heath Shuler. It made him so unpopular among Democrats in his western North Carolina district that polls showed that he would be defeated by progressive Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell. So, Shuler, a bigot and religious fanatic who voted with Republicans against equality for women and against equality for the LGBT community, decided to scale back on his plans to become Speaker or senator or governor or something big. Instead he'll settle for something rich-- as he trundles over to K Street to take up the mantle of a sleazy lobbyist. Lee Fang wondered yesterday if Shuler is engaging in bribery by negotiating for a lobbying job with the corporate shills at the Majority Group while he's still in Congress. It's one of several Blue Dog-oriented lobbying firms that launders corporate cash into political campaigns for Democrats who will get in bed with anti-family interests-- perfect for Shuler.
One way corporations and special interests rule Washington is by promising lucrative salaries to lawmakers and their staff members. Once a public official makes a deal to go to work for a lobbying firm or corporation after leaving office, often with the promise of a million dollars or more in salary, he or she becomes loyal to the future employer. Thus, a special interest can essentially buy out the lawmaker, gaining not only access but the ability to influence votes and other policymaking power while the lawmaker is still in office.
...Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC) is a prime example. Shuler, a leader of the Blue Dog caucus of big business-friendly Democrats, announced that this term will be his last a few short months ago. As Politico notes, he is already talking to lobbying firms that may want to hire him as an influence peddler:
Shuler, for one, isn?t wasting any time assessing his options. The conservative North Carolina Democrat has met with several groups with Washington offices in an effort to see if he might be a good fit. [...]
One of the organizations taking a serious look at Shuler is The Majority Group, a lobby shop founded by former Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), according to sources. Rob Ellsworth, a former legislative assistant of Shuler?s, is a co-founder of the boutique lobbying firm.
The Majority Group, one of the lobbying firms courting Shuler, currently represents the beef industry, a foreclosure servicing company called FCI Lender Services, as well as bank holding companies with business in health, life, and real estate insurance.
And while Shuler meets with lobbying firms openly interested in hiring him, the congressman continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the laws we all live under.
I am the only candidate for congress in North Carolina?s 11th Congressional District, in either party, who has taken strong positions in favor of women, women?s rights and women?s health.
I entered the primary race in March of 2011, when the incumbent Blue Dog Democrat Heath Shuler voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Though I had taken exception to many of Shuler?s votes against our President?s proposals (and continue to be disappointed), his vote against an organization that provides essential health care services to tens of thousands of women in North Carolina alone, and to their families, was my last straw. To add insult to injury, during that same week I learned that Rep. Shuler was co-sponsor of an amendment that would have redefined rape under our health care laws to only include violent rape by a stranger. Date rape, marital rape and incest would no longer qualify.
I had to wonder what planet he came from.
(Note: In September I was honored to serve as the volunteer auctioneer for an art auction to benefit Planned Parenthood here in WNC.)
In a larger sense, my view is that human beings have a right to make their own health care decisions, and only a woman has a right to make reproductive choices for herself. It is a wonderful thing when two parents make those decisions together and the man involved elects to stick around and share responsibilities, but we all know that model fails over and over again.
More than half of the babies born to women under age 30 find themselves in single parent households. And the biological truth is that a man?s involvement in baby-making is very brief. It is the mother who endures nine months of pregnancy with its attendant risks. It is the mother who is almost universally the principal caregiver and nurturer, and often the nutrition source as breast feeding has come back into general popularity. It is the mother to whom courts have historically assigned custody in the event of divorce. (Though the law has swung toward shared custody, in no small part because many men prefer not to pay child support.)
Women must be accorded the full right to determine their future plans. Men should attend to their own responsibilities around baby making and then sit down and shut up. The all-male panel of experts convened by Republican legislators, to testify concerning contraceptives would be laughable if it weren?t so frightening. Old men seem ever eager to tell young women what they can or cannot do. And as a woman I met in Bryson City observed, ?If they can prevent you from having an abortion today, they can just as easily force you to have an abortion tomorrow.?
Another of my proposals goes further in the area of valuing families. I believe we should provide a stipend to a mother for the first three years of her first two children?s lives. The parents would be required to participate in self-organized parenting groups (somewhat like current baby-sitting co-ops) in which one of the parents and the children would participate on a regular basis-- to share ideas, information and skills. The intent is to permit more time devoted to nurture and interaction during those critical formative years when much of our socialization occurs.
To those who?d argue that this is too expensive, my reply is that it would let one parent step out of the work force, thus opening up employment for the unemployed who are currently receiving benefits. Better socialized children are better students, less likely to disrupt the education of others in their classes, more likely to finish school, and less likely to end up in prison. My argument is that we are shifting the expense to where it actually does some good, instead of simply paying people who are out of work, or paying to imprison people later.