Saturday, April 10, 2010

Granny D vs. Judd Gregg

Doris "Granny D" Haddock died last month at age 100. She was a true New Hampshire hero.

She began her political career in 1960 when she and her husband successfully campaigned against an ill-conceived plan to create a harbor in Alaska by exploding nuclear devices. It was part of Operation Plowshare, a frighteningly na├»ve project to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb” Edward Teller championed the project. He touted the harbor as an important economic development for America’s newest state.

Alaska’s political leaders, newspaper editors, the state university's president and church groups all rallied in support of the massive detonation even though there was no practical use for the harbor. Opposition came from the tiny Inuit Eskimo village of Point Hope, which would have been devastated by the bizarre experiment. A few environmental scientists and a handful of conservationists including Doris and her husband, Jim Haddock, successfully created enough public pressure to force the AEC to abandon the project.

Doris became interested in campaign finance reform after the defeat of the first McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill in 1995. So starting in 1999 at the age of 89, she walked the 3,200 miles from Pasadena, California to Washington, D.C. in 14 months to draw attention to campaign finance reform. Wearing her trademark wide-brimmed straw hat, she covered about 10 miles a day through deserts, mountains and forests wearing out four pairs of sneakers in the process.

In 2004, she ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent senator Judd Gregg. Running a campaign funded only by small donations by individual contributors, she managed to garner 34% of the vote. Her well-funded Republican rival beat her with 66%. Following the election, Doris founded the Citizen Funded Election Task Force and attended its weekly meetings.

A former Congressman and Governor, Judd Gregg has been a consistent champion of special interests. He was the leading Republican negotiator and author of the TARP program, which bailed out financial institutions. He had a multi-million dollar investment in the Bank of America at the time.

In February 2009, President Obama asked Gregg to serve as Secretary of Commerce. At first he accepted; but he withdrew when the Associated Press reported that Gregg and his family profited personally from federal earmarks steered by the senator for the redevelopment of a Pease Air Force base. He claimed his withdrawal for the Cabinet position had nothing to do with his family’s real estate dealings.

Gregg explained his investments by saying, “I've throughout my entire lifetime been involved in my family's businesses and that's just the way our family works. We support each other and our activities.”

He subsequently stepped down from the TARP Oversight Board because of a busy schedule and announced he would not seek reelection. Since that time, he has done everything he can to derail the Obama Administration. As a lame-duck Senator, the Republican Party seems to have tapped him as to be their obstructionist mouthpiece.

Gregg admitted that his role was to stir up uncertainty among Democrats, hoping to trip up health care reform. He raised the specter that the reconciliation process will shut the Senate down, and questioned whether the president can use reconciliation.

He claimed that Congress couldn’t use reconciliation to fix a bill that hasn't yet been signed into law, even though Republicans repeatedly used reconciliation to push special interest legislation through the Senate during the Bush administration.

He added that the Republican Party had a whole host of procedural hurdles that they would throw in the way of healthcare reform including arcane parliamentary procedures to force Senate Democrats to vote on controversial legislative topics completely unrelated to health care. He pledged to essentially bleed the reconciliation process to death.

Gregg is a perfect example of how the Republican Party is more interested in protecting the status quo and covering their asses than in any meaningful reforms in healthcare, banking or campaign finances.

I can’t help but wonder how much better off New Hampshire and the country would be if a champion of democracy like Granny D had beaten Judd Gregg in 2004. I’m proud to claim her as a New Hampshire hero. I’m ashamed of Judd Gregg.

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