You can add this to the long list of reasons why Bellows deserves our support because we could use another Warren in the U.S. Senate:In a recent sit-down with Salon, Bellows urged that the government legalize marijuana, break up big banks, institute “Medicare for All,” repeal the Patriot Act, halt mass surveillance, tax financial transactions, expand Social Security, reject the Keystone Pipeline, turn away from education privatization and extend Civil Rights Act protections to LGBT people. She hedged on whether she’d support the Assault Weapons Ban, and on whether heroin should ultimately be decriminalized. A condensed version of our conversation follows.
Senator Collins reportedly is pursuing some kind of compromise to raise the minimum wage by what her spokesperson described as “a reasonable amount,” rather than [to] $10.10. What do you make of that?
$10.10 an hour is $21,000 a year. For the average family, that is a bare minimum to pay the bills, and put food on the table, and keep one’s home…
For members of Congress like Susan Collins — whose salary for over 18 years was… over $100,000 a year — to say that families can do less than $10.10 – it’s really concerning, and out of touch with the struggles of Maine families.
It gets argued often that Democrats have a better chance of passing legislation through both houses of Congress when a moderate Republican is in an office like the one that you’re running for, than a Democrat. What do you make of that kind of argument?
I have a proven track record with the ACLU of passing very difficult legislation… The key to passing good legislation is bringing together unusual partners bound around common principle. We see this in the USA Freedom Act, where you have Republican James Sensenbrenner, one of the authors of the USA Patriot Act, and Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy working together… You see it in sentencing reform…
I would be excited to work with… Republicans like Rand Paul on checks and balances on the NSA, and Democrats like Elizabeth Warren on checks and balances on the big banks… It’s a new type of leadership, which is: Instead of bipartisanship meaning compromising one’s principles in the name of getting something done, it’s standing up for core principles and reaching out across difference to get it done.
Should bankers have gone to jail for foreclosure fraud?
I think it’s very concerning in this country that so often white-collar crime is treated differently than crimes committed by working class people. And I think that we need huge sentencing reform…
That said, Congress — including my opponent, Republican Susan Collins — failed when they did not enact meaningful checks and balances on the big banks. I support Elizabeth Warren’s 21st century Glass-Steagall Act to break up the big banks…
What’s your assessment of how the Obama Justice Department handled the big banks?
I think there is a lot of work to do. What we have seen is that the regulations pursuant to the reforms have not been completed. Republicans have been incredibly obstructionist in this area… - Salon, 4/7/14
Though Collins looks like a tough one to beat, there's signs that Bellows' campaign is making her nervous:Bellows is sounding all the Warrenesque Democratic populist notes on economic fairness, talking up student-loan debt, and her own backstory—growing up in a house without indoor plumbing or electricity to a father who was a carpenter and a mother who was a home health aide and working herself as “Subway Sandwich Artist” to help pay her way through college. She talks a lot about climate change, too.
But the thrust of her pitch is about a government that is doing too much, or that is at least doing the wrong things. Not repairing roads and bridges so much as spying on its citizens and collecting their data. She is calling for a full repeal of the Patriot Act and massive curbs on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. She wants marijuana legalized—not just decriminalized or used for medical purposes—and calls for full marriage equality in every state.
“What is new, what politicians haven’t done in the past is campaigned on marijuana legalization and stopping NSA spying,” she says, tugging awkwardly at the hem of her blue skirt suit. “And certainly I have highlighted my leadership on the same-sex marriage fight in Maine because I think that is an important part of my experience.”
This can be a complicated pitch. The NSA spying program especially was at least presided over by a Democratic administration, and there are certainly many Democrats who have been cool to marijuana legalization. At times, Bellows can sound like a spokesperson for the Ron Paul Army.
“I do think we need to limit government intrusion into people’s lives, absolutely. Whether it is the NSA or limitations on the freedom to love and marry the person that you want or intrusion into a women’s health-care choices.”
The marijuana piece of her platform, she says, comes not so much from a libertarian angle but from the side of justice and fairness.
“Look, I have never smoked marijuana. I am asthmatic, and I was always a straight-arrow kid in high school,” she said, karate chopping her nose to denote straight-arrowness. She once told this to a local prosecutor as she was lobbying him for reduced offenses for those arrested on drug crimes, and Bellows had to confess that she did not really know how much an ounce of pot was.
“And he laughed, and said, ‘Oh yeah, I used to smoke up all the time.’ But what struck me about this situation is here you have this prosecutor who is charged with incarcerating this activity that he himself has engaged in. It is an example of an unjust law that needs to change.” - The Daily Beast, 4/4/14
If we're going to beat Collins, we need to make sure Bellows' campaign is well financed and ready to go. Having the DSCC' backing is great but she will also need out help. Please do click here to donate and get involved with Bellows' campaign:Deal-maker Sen. Susan Collins re-emerged Wednesday, following a report she is floating a potential compromise deal to raise the federal minimum wage, but not to the $10.10 level advocated by President Barack Obama and other top Democrats.
She also sent out a joint press release with Sen. Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, that she supports the public release of a portion of the Senate report on controversial CIA so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques employed after 9/11.
It’s true that Collins has long been a compromise-seeker on many issues throughout her career. But she’s also a savvy politician. And while there’s no reason to think she’s at real risk of being unseated by Shenna Bellows, the Democratic candidate challenging her in 2014, there’s also no doubt both these moves help blunt two of Bellows’ most recent ammo.
We could call it the “Shenna Effect.”
Bellows has said she supports increasing the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10, as advocated for by a number of Democrats hoping to use the issue as a boost headed into the midterm elections.
Collins told reporters on the hill Wednesday she didn’t think the votes were there from Democrats to up the minimum wage as high as the president wanted and wanted to seek a compromise increase “without harming our economy and causing hundreds of thousands of jobs to be lost,” per the Washington Post.
According to Collins’ staff, she’s voted ten times to increase the federal minimum wage during her tenure, the most recent of which was in 2007 which included an increase from $5.85 to $7.25 (which was reached in 2009).
Unsurprisingly, the Bellows camp sees Collins’ latest exploits as an election year ploy, rather than a long-held conviction.
“It’s time we have a leader in Washington who does the right thing not because they are pushed, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Bellows said in an interview. “It’s past time to release the CIA torture report and raise the minimum wage to $10.10 to help the more than 90,000 Mainers who are struggling right now.” - Bangor Daily News, 4/3/14