Tuesday :: Oct 9, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton a "Corporate Democrat"? - Part 2

by eriposte

UPDATE: Part 3 is here.

In my first post on this subject, I made a strong case, based on voting records compiled by Progressive Punch, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the AFL-CIO and SEIU, that the label of "Corporate Democrat" as applied to Sen. Hillary Clinton is inappropriate and extraordinarily misleading. In response to the post, thoughtful commenter Rene said the following (emphasis mine):

Similarly votes that may pass or fail can be made strategically in order to have a good record for progressives in the party if you know in advance that you will be running for higher office. This diary at Dailykos has such an assessment to consider Hillary's voting record. It is not extensive but it points out the problem of looking at voting records out of context. [...]

I promised Rene that I would take a look at the DailyKos diary (authored by Invisiblewoman) and respond. So, here is my response. In a nutshell, Invisiblewoman's diary may be well meaning, but her approach is based on cherry-picking, and is highly misleading and sometimes just inaccurate.

Invisiblewoman starts with this premise:

But what does she really believe?  The significant votes for Hillary - the ones that will really tell us how she would vote as President are the ones where she abandoned her party and voted with the republicans.  

Invisiblewoman talks about Sen. Clinton "abandoning her party", which is a good way to look at the voting records of a candidate if we do the analysis correctly. So, let's start by noting the approach used by Progressive Punch to derive progressive scores for members of Congress:

Using publicly published data from Congressional Quarterly, we averaged a couple of different types of scores that they published, looking at all votes going back to January 1, 1991. After going through a number of steps and gyrations, we came up with a list of six hard-core progressive United States Senators (6% of that body) and 39 hard-core progressive United States Representatives (about 9% of that body). The algorithm that we've used to come up with these progressive scores is as follows: We take ANY VOTE in which a majority of the progressives we've identified--so in the House say, if there were no absences, it would be 20 of the 39--voted in opposition to a majority of the Republican caucus and have that vote qualify for the database. The same process is used in the Senate. So, non-ideological votes such as National Groundhog Day: 429-0 with 6 absences, do not qualify for the database. ANY vote in which a majority of progressives in the progressive cohort listed just below here votes against a majority of Republicans qualifies for the database. The percentage of votes which qualify using this algorithm remains remarkably constant from one Congress to another, about half of all votes cast.

In other words, Progressive Punch eliminated strongly bipartisan votes entirely to look specifically at cases where Democrats in the House or Senate voted against the position of a majority of the most progressive members of their party, i.e., this is very much an attempt to look at whether a Democratic member of Congress abandoned the most progressive elements in their party. Based on their historical review of voting records, here is the list of Senators they used to define their benchmark for progressive voting:

Boxer, Barbara-CA
Durbin, Richard-IL
Lautenberg, Frank R.-NJ
Kennedy, Edward M-MA
Reed, Jack-RI
Sanders, Bernard-VT

In other words, if a Senator had a progressive score of 100%, that means the Senator voted with the majority of the 6 Senators listed above in every vote where the latter voted against a majority of Republicans in the Senate. But, if the majority of the 6 Senators above did not vote against the Republican majority, then Progressive Punch, lacking an objective definition of "progressive" in that scenario, defaults to assuming that the vote should not be considered in the assessment of the progressive nature of another Senator. Admittedly, this is a bit weak but it works most of the time. It is a compelling approach that will fail only if the most progressive Senators identified do not stand for progressive positions - which doesn't happen that often. Senator Clinton's Progressive Punch scores on a variety of issues is available in this table. Outside of national security/civil liberties/war (where her score is in the 80% range) and issues unrelated to corporate interests, her score ranges from 90-100%. Let's keep that in mind as we go through a sample of Invisiblewoman's claims below to understand why her claims are misleading or wrong.

1. Ethanol

Invisiblewoman says:

Hillary voted with the majority of republicans and against the majority of democrats to erase ethonol requirements for the east and west coast.


Well, that certainly sounds troubling. What was this vote exactly?

Bingaman Amdt. No. 851 As Modified; To authorize the Secretary of Energy to waive the ethanol mandate on the East and West Coast in the event of a significant price increase or supply interruption.

Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't sound like a terrible amendment at face value - and I certainly would not have thought this was one of those amendments likely to keep progressives up at night. If there is a significant price increase or supply interruption, it might become debatable whether we should impose the same ethanol mandate that applies during normal times because it is not exactly a progressive position that people who are struggling to get by be faced with huge price increases. In any case, who are the "majority of Democrats" who voted NO on this amendment?

Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, Joseph Biden, John Breaux, Robert Byrd, Thomas Carper, Kent Conrad, Jon Corzine, Tom Daschle, Mark Dayton, Christopher Dodd, Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin, John Edwards, Russell Feingold, Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Carl Levin, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Zell Miller, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Harry Reid, Paul Sarbanes, Debbie Stabenow

I've bolded many of the Senators that we know don't fall under the category of the most progressive Democrats ever. Only a few names on the NO list are strong progressives.

Who are the Democratic Senators who votes YES, along with Sen. Clinton?

Daniel Akaka, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Fritz Hollings, Daniel Inouye, Edward Kennedy, Frank Lautenberg, Patrick Leahy, Patty Murray, Bill Nelson, Jack Reed, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden

Well, there are an equal handful of strong progressives on the YES list, along with Sen. Clinton, aren't there? In fact, if you look at the distribution of the voting pattern, you will see something more obvious.

Not Voting

In other words, the majority of the Senators in the Northeast and West voted in line with Senator Clinton. Duh! Not surprising given the mandate tries to make life easier for people in the East and West coasts when it comes to supply issues or price increases! This vote, in other words, is not representative of a diabolical act by Sen. Clinton to betray her party by offering unprincipled corporatist support for the GOP. It is a reflection of a complicated regional issue that is not easy to bracket into some ideological box.

2. Reusable Fuel

Invisiblewoman says:

Hillary broke ranks with the democrats and voted with the majority of republicans to eliminate the requirement of reusable fuel in US gasoline in 2004.  


What is this vote about?

Motion to Table Feinstein Amdt. No. 3225; To modify the provision relating to the renewable content of motor vehicle fuel to eliminate the required volume of renewable fuel for calendar year 2004.

This was a motion to table an amendment to an energy appropriations bill! Good grief. Anyway, who voted YES, along with the GOP majority?

Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, John Breaux, Jean Carnahan, Thomas Carper, Kent Conrad, Tom Daschle, Mark Dayton, Christopher Dodd, Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin, John Edwards, Russell Feingold, Bob Graham, Tom Harkin, Fritz Hollings, Daniel Inouye, Tim Johnson, John Kerry, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Carl Levin, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Zell Miller, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Paul Sarbanes, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Torricelli, Paul Wellstone

Sure, there are some progressives there but it also has a fair number of not-so-progressive Democrats in the list. Are we seriously arguing that Zell Miller is more progressive than Hillary Clinton? Who voted NO?

Daniel Akaka, Joseph Biden, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Maria Cantwell, Max Cleland, Hillary Clinton, Jon Corzine, Dianne Feinstein, Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Joseph Lieberman, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden

Guess what, the majority of Senators in the Northeast and West voted NO, while the majority of Senators in the South and Midwest voted YES. Another regional issue. In other words, not one of those dastardly votes where ol' Hillary betrayed the Democratic party and its principles.

3. Trade Agreements

Invisiblewoman criticizes Clinton's YES votes for trade agreements with Singapore, Chile and Oman (Clinton voted against CAFTA). Guess what, the AFL-CIO scorecard reflects these votes.

For example, Clinton's 2003 AFL-CIO record reflects a drop in her score to 85% because of 2 votes (Singapore, Chile) out of a total of 13 key votes that the AFL-CIO believed were critical for labor issues that year. That has not changed Clinton's lifetime score of 93% with the AFL-CIO, that I reported in my earlier post. All that it means is Clinton has not voted pro-labor every single time but no one claims she did. In fact, neither have Obama or Edwards voted pro-labor every single time. Their lifetime ratings with the AFL-CIO are 96% and 97% respectively.

4. Tax Cuts

Invisiblewoman says:

Hillary voted against reducing the tax cut to the rich


Sounds outrageous. As it happens, the link is to the 2004 annual budget resolution. If you scroll down and look at the numerous amendments, you can see this one:

Clinton Amdt. No. 418; To raise the caps and provide direct first responder funding to localities and for high threat areas through the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness in 2003 and 2004, to restore funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Act ("Byrne Grant" program) and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program, and to reduce the deficit, by reducing the size of newly proposed tax cuts.

In other words, the amendment does exactly the opposite of what Invisiblewoman claims and it was even introduced by Sen. Clinton. This amendment was defeated by the GOP, but all 47 Dems voted for it, including Clinton. Does that prove she was against reducing tax cuts for the rich? No, the exact opposite.

Here's another amendment to the budget:

Bingaman Amdt No. 417; To increase Mandatory Child Care Spending by $4.6 billion over five years and $9.1 billion over ten years by reducing the tax cut.

The Democratic vote was 47-0 in favor, including Clinton.

I can go on and on, but Invisiblewoman's list is cherry-picked, misleading and sometimes just plain wrong. It disproves little about the fact that Hillary Clinton's record on issues pertaining to corporate interests is overwhelmingly progressive. So, I stand by the conclusions of my original post.

P.S. Invisiblewoman discusses some of Clinton's votes on national security and war. As I said in my previous post, that is out of the scope of my analysis since I am talking about corporate issues here.

eriposte :: 7:32 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!