With Senator Bernie Sanders surging in the polls, DNC chair Tom Perez has put forward a cartoonishly neoliberal cast of foreign policy hacks and corporate lobbyists to sabotage his nomination.
By Kevin Gosztola
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez has nominated dozens of lobbyists, corporate consultants, think tank board members, and former officials linked to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton to serve on the Democratic National Convention (DNC) nominating committee this July. Many of Perez’s nominees are vocal opponents of Senator Bernie Sanders and spoke out against his campaign when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2016.
Just as it did in 2016, the DNC appears determined to sabotage a Sanders nomination, foisting a collection of neoliberal and imperialist hacks onto the convention committee to hold back a popular rebellion against the policies of endless war and corporate free trade they have personally presided over.
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez issued a list of individuals he nominated for the 2020 Democratic National Convention committees.
Let's examine some of the individuals. I'll initially focus on the nominees for the DNC Platform Committee.
Only a small percentage of those on the roster, such as Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen, are even remotely aligned or sympathetic to Sanders’ progressive agenda, and many of them are 2020 superdelegates.
Though the Democratic Party reduced the influence of superdelegates after a backlash from Sanders supporters, more than 700 superdelegates will be able to vote as part of a brokered convention if the Vermont senator is not the nominee after the first ballot. They would not have to vote for Sanders, even if he won a majority of pledged delegates in their state’s caucus or primary.
Sanders could secure enough pledged delegates to win on the first ballot and still find his agenda thwarted by the standing committees. For example, members of the DNC’s Platform Committee beholden to corporate interests could vote against measures including Medicare For All or a ban on natural fracking in the agenda of policies they plan to fight for in 2020.
A close look at the list Perez issued offers a gruesome vision of morally repugnant operatives rigging the game on behalf of a desperate and increasingly discredited party elite.
Torture cover-ups, Russia fear-mongering, and lobbyist glad-handling
Denis McDonough was nominated to chair the Platform Committee. He was Obama’s chief of staff during his second term. McDonough is senior principal for the Markle Foundation and a chair of the Rework America Task Force.
In 2018, McDonough partnered with Heidi Capozzi, senior vice president of human resources at Boeing, to form the Rework America Business Network. It included 11 founding members: Aon, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Boeing, Duke Energy, Kaiser Permanente, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Stanley Black & Decker, Walmart, Zurich Insurance, and 21st Century Fox. The network received support from Google.
Acting on behalf of the CIA, McDonough pushed for more redactions in the torture report summary that was ultimately released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He was a close ally of CIA Director John Brennan and fought for Brennan when the Senate delayed his nomination over his past support for torture. He also advised Obama on how to develop the drone program, which involved a kill list of alleged terrorism suspects to be assassinated extrajudicially.
Perez nominated Jake Sullivan to be a vice-chair of the Platform Committee. Sullivan was a national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. He also worked as a deputy chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was a senior policy adviser for Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Sullivan is a member of the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Advisory Council, which also includes Michael Chertoff, the ex-Homeland Security secretary; Bill Kristol; a neoconservative who pushed for the Iraq War; Michael McFaul, the former United States ambassador to Russia; Mike Morell, the ex-CIA director; John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign; and Mike Rogers, the former Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal has documented, the Alliance For Securing Democracy is a factory of modern-day McCarthyism, where it brands alternative media outlets as “vehicles for Kremlin propaganda” and paints actual people as Russian bots to discredit dissent against U.S. foreign policy.
An email chain in the “Podesta Emails” that WikiLeaks published in 2016 showed Clinton offering support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement if she was elected. It would have to pass some tests, but, as Sullivan indicated, environmental protections were not required: “Enviro was not a test.”
Sullivan did not believe the Clinton campaign could limit contributions from lobbyists or their clients because “clients” might be difficult to define. They could advocate for stronger bribery laws to limit the political influence of donations on legislation, but that would be “really dicey territory” for Clinton, he added.
Apartheid Israel operatives occupy the DNC
Bakari Sellers, Dan Shapiro, Meghan Stabler, and Wendy Sherman were also nominated to the Platform Committee. Each has defined themself as a “pro-Israel” Democrat, providing reliable cover to the apartheid state that is increasingly unpopular among younger members of the party.
In 2015, Sellers became a member of National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He led an effort [PDF] in 2016 to ensure the DNC’s platform did not adopt language that Sanders supported, which would have acknowledged the Democrats had a responsibility to confront the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza.
Quoting Clinton, Sellers stated, “We must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate, and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” He added, ‘We have to be unified in fighting back against BDS,” referring to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.
As a CNN contributor and former surrogate for Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton, he has consistently attacked Sanders, weaponizing his identity to consistently insist his campaign has a “long way to go” with black voters. And when Sanders entered the 2020 race, Sellers reacted, “I don’t have a problem with Bernie getting in the race; ‘When is he getting out?’ is probably a better question.”
Dan Shapiro is a former US ambassador to Israel who opted to remain in the apartheid state indefinitely with his family rather than return to the country he supposedly worked for.
Obama ambassador @DanielBShapiro openly supporting massacre of civilians caged in a ghetto for being the wrong religion. Meanwhile he is a settler in the country stolen from them. How depraved can you be? Go home Dan! pic.twitter.com/85II6MvP0H
In November 2019, Shapiro wrote a column for the right-wing Jerusalem Post championing the virtues of expanded US military aid to Israel. When President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, he argued it could help end the “conflict” between Israel and the Palestinians.
After Meghan Stabler was appointed to the Platform Committee, the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) congratulated Stabler, who is a board member: “A truly inspired choice of an inspiring woman.”
DMFI is a lobbying group founded in 2019. Mark Mellman, the group’s CEO, attacked the Sanders campaign for embracing Congressmember Ilhan Omar and activist Linda Sarsour, describing them as “endorsers who hate Israel.” DMFI exists to prevent the BDS movement and Palestinian rights advocacy from gaining traction in the Democratic Party.
Wendy Sherman is a former State Department diplomat and senior counselor for the Albright Stonebridge Group. In 2016, she was appointed by Hillary Clinton to serve on the Platform Drafting Committee.
Sherman voted against a platform amendment that would have merely acknowledged Israel engages in a military occupation. She also opposed removing language that suggested the BDS movement and United Nations resolutions criticizing Israel served to “delegitimize” Israel.
“When these actions delegitimize Israel, or in fact, whether wittingly or unwittingly, create anti-Semitism, then we must say that is not a good thing,” Sherman declared.
The Albright Stonebridge Group is an influence-peddling operation founded in 2009 by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. In 2016, Albright said there was a “special place in hell” for women who would not support Clinton, and Albright is notorious because she supported crippling sanctions against Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of children.
Regime-change experts defend the corporate order
Tom Perez has nominated an array of US government regime-change operatives to ensure the foreign-policy establishment enjoys total control over the DNC.
James Boland, the president of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) union, which endorsed Clinton in September 2015, was nominated to the DNC’s Rules Committee by Perez. He is on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a regime-change outfit President Ronald Reagan established after a political backlash against the CIA in the 1970s.
The NED overtly engages in global operations that stigmatized the CIA as a criminal enterprise when they were carried out covertly.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI), a NED subsidiary that also exists to fund regime-change operations around the globe, has sent two members of its board of directors as nominees to the DNC standing committees: Elizabeth Bagley and Michael Steed.
Bagley is a former State Department official who worked as a Senate liaison for NATO “enlargement,” ramping up the new Cold War with Russia.
Steed is the founder of the Paladin Capital Group, an investment firm that appears to assist “homeland security” companies in their efforts to secure government contracts. Former CIA director and card-carrying neoconservative James Woolsey once advised Paladin. The state of New York has accused Paladin of “pay for play” corruption in their management of pension fund businesses. The firm settled with New York in 2010.
As Dan Cohen reported for The Grayzone, the NDI was involved in fomenting the uprising in Hong Kong.
Claire Lucas worked for the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Innovation and Development Alliances (IDEA). She led efforts to expand collaboration with the private sector to achieve “development and US foreign policy objectives.”
As The Grayzone’s Ben Norton explained, USAID is a “central arm of Washington’s hybrid war on socialist and independent states around the world. It has a long and sordid history of funding ‘civil society’ groups and political opposition parties to topple the governments of designated enemies.” In just two years, USAID bankrolled the right-wing US-controlled opposition in Venezuela to the tune of up to $435 million.
Wall Street bankers, corporate lobbyists, and free trade fanatics
To round out his cartoonishly neoliberal DNC committee, Tom Perez has put forward three employees of the Dewey Square Group (DSG), a lobbying firm that has fought against several progressive reforms: Charlie Baker, the president and co-founder of DSG; Minyon Moore, a principal at DSG; and Maria Cardona, a principal at DSG.
Cardona was nominated to co-chair the Rules Committee with former Democratic Congressmember Barney Frank. She is a contributor to CNN and CNN en Español. In March 2016, Cardona authored a column for Univision in which she invoked the boogeyman of Venezuelan socialism to frighten readers into rejecting the social-democratic policies supported by Sanders. She omitted the fact that the US had worked to destabilize Venezuela since Hugo Chavez’s election in 1998, backing multiple coup attempts and imposing lethal sanctions.
Cardona repurposed the reactionary line of attack in December 2019, questioning Sanders’ “electability” in an op-ed for The Hill: “If [Elizabeth] Warren and Sanders remain among top Democratic tier (they will), Trump will continue to try to paint all Democrats as radical socialists who want to turn the US into Venezuela.”
Cardona worked for the Commerce Department as the lead communications strategist for the passage of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. She was a senior adviser and spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008.
In 2016, Barney Frank was also the head of the Rules Committee. Sanders attempted to have him removed because he was openly hostile toward his campaign.
Frank is on the board of Signature Bank New York. In July 2018, the New York Times examined this little-known bank and how it became a go-to lender for the Trump family, as well as the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
Others nominated include the former deputy secretary of labor for Obama, Chris Lu. In June 2016, he offered a tone-deaf answer about the TPP, calling it a “great opportunity for U.S. companies that sell products overseas.” This was Lu’s response to a question about the way Trump and Sanders spoke against trade deals that killed jobs.
Former US Senator Heidi Heitkamp was nominated to the Rules Committee as well. The conservative Democrat and longtime corporate lobbyist is on the board of trustees for the McCain Institute, a Washington think tank that collaborates with corporate executives, arms manufactures, and foreign government officials to advance the late Senator John McCain’s imperialist legacy.
Carol Browner was a Clinton delegate on the Platform Drafting Committee in 2016, and she was nominated to help shape the platform again. Browner is also a senior counselor for the Albright Stonebridge Group.
Browner had a role in the Obama administration working on climate change policy. Along with other Clinton delegates, she voted against all of the following: a ban on natural gas fracking; a carbon tax; a requirement to keep 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground; a government test to block any energy infrastructure projects, which would significantly contribute to climate change; and a measure to halt the abuse of eminent domain by the fossil fuel industry.
While on the Platform Drafting Committee, Sanders delegate Dr. Cornel West was so taken aback that he condemned the “neoliberal rationalizations of corporate power” by figures like Browner during the meeting.
Veteran lobbyist Tonio Burgos was nominated by Perez to serve as vice-chair of the Credentials Committee. Burgos’ firm received nearly $1 million from Williams Companies to lobby for the fracked gas Constitution Pipeline.
The Podesta zombie rises again
John Podesta’s name has become synonymous with Democratic Party corruption since his emails revealed efforts to rig the 2016 primary in favor of Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, Tom Perez nominated him to the Rules Committee.
Like Sullivan, Podesta is a part of the McCarthyite Alliance for Securing Democracy. He and other former Clinton campaign officials still blame Russia for losing and refuse to take responsibility for running a campaign that failed to garner enough electoral votes to defeat Trump.
In a leaked email from February 2016, Podesta agreed “in principle” that Sanders needed to be “ground to a pulp.”
“Where would you stick the knife in?” Podesta wondered.
Back in 2016, a Podesta email chain showed that Perez recommended that the Clinton campaign weaponize identity politics to defeat Sanders and stave off threats to their neoliberal control over the Democratic Party.
“When we do well [in Nevada], then the narrative changes from Bernie kicks ass among young voters to Bernie does well only among young white liberals—that is a different story and a perfect lead in to South Carolina, where once again, we can work to attract young voters of color.”
With Sanders surging among youth and people of color, Perez has summoned his roster of corporate and imperial hacks in one more desperate bid to “stick the knife in.”