Congressman Leonard Boswell's campaign has been giving the incumbent an image makeover as the June 3 primary approaches.
I learned from direct-mail pieces this month that Boswell is "Taking on George Bush for the Changes We Need," as well as "working to bring the troops home every day" and "Taking on powerful interests" to deliver health care to all Iowans.
These campaign communications bring to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote: "What you do shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say."
Progressive Kick has created a website that shows in quite an entertaining way what Boswell has been doing during his six terms in Congress. Let's just say he hasn't been much of a crusader against powerful interests.
Join me after the jump for more.
One of the recent direct-mail pieces from the Boswell campaign contains five references to Boswell "taking on" Bush or powerful interests, and three references to Boswell fighting or not being afraid to fight.
But that image is difficult to reconcile with the information Progressive Kick provides in an accessible format on the whoreallyownscongress.com/Boswell site.
If you click that link, your eye will be drawn to the top of the page, which asks, "Who Does Congressman Leonard Boswell Pull For?--Iowans or Special Interests?" There's also an animated cartoon showing Boswell standing behind and assisting oil companies, big banks and other corporations as they pull ordinary Iowans toward an alligator pit.
Below the animated cartoon, there's a chart with four columns. The first column names an issue or set of related issues.
The second column states the position Boswell has usually taken on that issue.
The third column gives Boswell a grade on that issue and links to Progressive Punch tables showing more details about his voting record.
The fourth column states how much money Boswell's campaigns have raised from industries that have a stake in those issues, and links to Open Secrets tables showing more details about contributions he has received from various types of interest groups.
Side note: If you are not familiar with the Progressive Punch Congressional rankings and scorecards, or with the Center for Responsive Politics' Open Secrets website, you should be.
Anyway, I've been following Boswell's career fairly closely, but some of the material on the Progressive Kick site was new even to me. For instance, there is a line in the chart relating to votes on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Boswell gets an "F" for his 39 percent voting record on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. If you click on the link to Progressive Punch, you'll see details about 23 specific votes relating to that issue, and the Open Secrets link shows that military industry contractors have given Boswell $41,000 over the years.
Boswell's challenger in the third district primary, Ed Fallon, has often criticized the incumbent's vote for the bankruptcy bill in 2005. The Progressive Kick site shows that this was hardly an isolated event. Boswell gets another "F" for "standing with credit card holders & bank customers against Big Banks/Credit Card Companies" only 45 percent of the time. Click the link to Progressive Punch, and you can see details about 31 roll call votes related to these issues. Then click to Open Secrets to learn about $646,471 Boswell's campaigns have raised over the years from individuals or PACs linked to the finance, real estate and insurance industries.
How about Boswell's record on "standing with consumers against utilities"? Another "F" for the incumbent, along with a link showing that energy companies including suppliers to utilities have given him more than $101,000 over the years.
As for Boswell's claim that he is working every day to bring the troops home from Iraq, the Progressive Punch scorecards show that he ranks 155th out of the 234 Democrats in the U.S. House when it comes to standing up to George Bush on Iraq.
I was enraged by Boswell's vote for the 2005 energy bill, but again, this is not an isolated case. I learned on the Progressive Kick site that he ranks 181st among the 234 House Democrats on standing up to oil companies. The Open Secrets link shows that over the years Boswell has raised more than $100,000 from individuals or PACs tied to energy and natural resource companies.
I could go on, but you should check out the Progressive Kick siteto see for yourself how much information is packed in there.
Before some angry Boswell supporter puts up a comment complaining that Progressive Kick can't prove any causal relationship between Boswell's fundraising and his voting record, let me make clear that I don't know why Boswell has voted the way he has. I don't know if it has any relationship to campaign contributions from individuals or corporate PACs promoting different policies from the ones I favor.
Ultimately, his reason for not consistently representing the Democratic Party's views and values is irrelevant to me. I want to worry less about whether my member of Congress will vote with the Democratic majority consistently, particularly if we end up with another four years of a Republican president. I know from experience and from the number of action alerts I get from progressive groups (especially environmental groups) that I cannot count on Boswell to represent my interests.
A press release from Progressive Kickindicates that the site on Boswell is the first of many sites profiling members of Congress that will be unveiled this year. For more information, or to suggest a subject for Proressive Kick's work, e-mail admin AT progressivekick.org.
If you want to support efforts to shine a light on Congressional voting and fundraising, you can donate to Progressive Kick through this page at ActBlue.
While you're at it, please consider making a donation to Ed Fallon's campaign. He stepped up to the plate to challenge Boswell while the Iowa Democratic Party establishment continues to give Boswell a pass for voting with Republicans and corporate interests on many issues.
This page on Fallon's campaign website lays out many differences between himself and the incumbent on the issues.
I'll post here again about the IA-03 primary in a week or so, but I am covering the race more frequently and in more detail at the Iowa progressive community blog Bleeding Heartland.