Meet The D.C. Insiders Backing Colleen Hanabusa's Bid To Oust Progressive Senator Brian Schatz

Reprinted from Down with Tyranny

When Hawai`i Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa rails against the "D.C. insiders" backing Brian Schatz, she's talking about Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren, public employees, environmentalists and other progressives.

She doesn't mention the D.C. insiders bankrolling her campaign to oust Schatz from the U.S. Senate in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary. That's because the military-industry complex isn't popular with voters.

For the first time since its founding in 1991, the Congressional Progressive Caucus lacks a Hawai`i member in the House of Representatives. Hanabusa has decided to not follow the example of Hawai`i Representatives Patsy Mink, Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono and instead has joined the corrupt, Wall Street-financed New Democrat Coalition, which was founded in 1997 as a conservative counterweight to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The New Dems' self-described mission is "ensuring that the voices of our tech and business communities are heard in Washington." Hanabusa chairs the group's National Security Task Force. With her focus on helping defense contractors, she's a natural for the role. She travels the country promoting their interests, as is noted on her Congressional website ("Runyan hosts Armed Services discussion with area defense contractors"). In her numerous campaigns for Congress (2003, 2006, 2010, 2012), defense contractors have been key donors. That's true also for her current Senate bid. Through the last reporting period, defense PACs had given her campaign $31,000, more than any other business sector.

Top PAC donors to Hanabusa include:

Lockheed Martin (which was recently awarded $1 billion in Pentagon contracts)

BAE Systems (which also has been racking up big Department of Defense contracts within the last month)

Northrop Grumman (which is a leading drone manufacturer)

Throughout her three-year tenure in Congress, Hanabusa has formed remarkably close relationships with senior Republicans who are important to ensuring public funds keep flowing to the private makers of war machinery.

For instance, she's part of Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon's drone caucus, and has worked even more closely with Randy Forbes - who is proud to be a lavish defense spender. She doesn't miss an opportunity to praise Forbes, despite his right-wing ideology and pathological homophobia. McKeon, Forbes, Hanabusa and others on the House Armed Services Committee have helped maintain soaring profits for defense contractors.

Though military spending is important to Hawai`i's economy, Democratic primary voters in Hawai`i are strongly progressive, and many are aghast to learn about Hanabusa's hawkish friends and positions. Meanwhile, Hanabusa is openly dismissive of progressives. It's a strange strategy, considering recent primary failures of other ConservaDems in major Hawai`i races. See, for example, Mufi Hannemann for Governor in 2010 and Congress in '12 and Ed Case for Senate in 2006 and '12. Case also used the "D.C. insider" line of attack against Hirono, with dismal results.

Schatz, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Council for a Livable World and has consistently maintained a top ranking by Progressive Punch. He's working to ensure Hawai`i gets its fair share of defense spending (and then some), but without sacrificing principles.

Hanabusa hasn't been able to identify a single issue on which she's more progressive than Schatz. So her campaign is focused on things other than issues:

Calling for endless debates - a refrain often heard from losing campaigns.

Implying Schatz is uppity and sort of an outsider, while she was born in Hawai`i, eats at local food places and practices local customs.

Touting endorsements from the last of the old boys, such as conservative-leaning elderly ex-governors Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi (who haven't won elections since the '90s and '70s, respectively).

It's better than talking about her record, which (beyond the contractor-money game) includes these nuggets:

"Steamrolling" anti-labor "reforms" through the state legislature.

Allowing vetoes of civil unions and emergency contraception legislation by a Republican governor while she was State Senate President, despite holding an overwhelming Democratic majority.

Refusing to endorse Hirono in her 2012 Senate primary against Blue Dog Case (though now some of her supporters are saying Senator Hirono is somehow obligated to endorse Hanabusa-- which Hirono has said isn't going to happen).

Telling voters at home that the supports Social Security after speaking at a press conference following the 2012 elections when New Dems announced everything was on the table and they were "ready to deal."

Leading the effort to oust the Attorney General who headed the historic investigation of the previously untouchable leaders of the nation's biggest charitable trust.
Ultimately, it's probably useful that Hanabusa has brought up the question of "D.C. insiders" (though, like calling for debates, it's a common refrain of losers). Relationships and alliances do mean a lot in politics. Who do Hawai`i voters want in the Senate for years to come: Hanabusa and her Northrop Grumman/Forbes/McKeon friends or Schatz and his green-blue alliance including Warren and Merkley?

Blue America, of course, has proudly endorsed Schatz, based on a comparison of his progressive record and her conservative record (and long, sordid history of corruption). You can help him keep this seat progressive here at the Blue America ActBlue page with a contribution before the quarterly deadline tonight... or after.