Can Populist Roxanne Conlin Beat Corporate Shill Chuck Grassley?
I had a really pleasant talk today with Roxanne Conlin a woman challenging Chuck Grassley for his Senate seat. She was on her way back from meeting with a hearty bunch of Democratic activists in Harrison County (the Missouri Valley, north of Council Bluffs). I think it was their energy-- these are people in Steve King Country who nearly won their county for Barack Obama in 2008-- that had her all fired up. It was our first conversation and we were just getting to know each other for the first time, although we have mutual friends in author Mike Lux and Congressman Bruce Braley.
I was moved by Roxanne's compelling personal story. After her dad, struggling with alcoholism, lost his job when she was a child, the family's comfortable middle class lifestyle collapsed. Suddenly she knew cold and hunger and privation. With no car and no money for medical care, a minor ear infection turned into a serious problem for the school-aged Roxanne who wound up with partial deafness in one ear. She's dedicated her political and civic life towards making sure that wouldn't happen to her neighbors' children.
Right now she's battling the Republican Goliath of Iowa politics, Chuck Grassley, who's closing in on 80 years old and has been a professional politician since 1958 when he was first elected to the state legislature. He's been living in Washington, DC since 1974 when he was elected to Congress and had been in the Senate since 1981. Today the Des Moines Register reported that Grassley's polling number's had slipped into the danger zone-- and this without Roxanne having even begun campaigning against him yet.
Iowans of all stripes have been disappointed that since Obama was elected Grassley has gone over to the lockstep obstructionist wing of his political party and has stopped working across the aisle for the good of regular families. As the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley was in a position to bring both sides together in a bipartisan way. Buckling to far right pressure from the national GOP-- and lured by the great amounts of money from special interests with their own agendas-- Grassley has been swept up in the unlikely role of an ideologue and fanatic.
A darling of special interests, he has taken in $1,155,179 from Agribusiness-- this year second only to corrupt Arkansas Democrat (and Agriculture Committee chair) Blanche Lincoln. And in the areas overseen by his committee-- the finance sector-- he has taken in $2,545,050, a clear conflict of interest. Similarly, at the height of the battle over healthcare reform-- much of it played out in the Finance Committee, Grassley was selling his support to Big Insurance and the Medical Industrial Complex. The so-called "Health sector" has funneled $2,237,789 into his political career and this year he was #7 ($342,710, just behind corrupt North Carolina Big Pharma hack Richard Burr) on the list of senators accepting this kind of thinly veiled bribery from the health care industry.
Unlike Grassley, Roxanne is eager to co-sponsor Dick Durbin's Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752), which will move to lessen the influence of big financial interests on American politics. She turned down an offer from help from the Blue America PAC because she doesn't accept PAC money-- not from anyone-- and is determined to finance her campaign through grassroots contributions. Big uphill climb, but she's already amassed a bigger warchest than any Democrat who has ever gone up against Senator Grassley. If you want to help, her website is looking for volunteers here and for contributions here. Get to know [her] here: