If you’ve paid any attention whatsoever to the national political discourse in the last week, you undoubtedly know at least one thing: Hillary Clinton and Tulsi Gabbard do not like one another.
The reasons for this could theoretically stretch back to 2016, when Gabbard stepped down from her Vice-Chair position at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to endorse Clinton’s opponent — Bernie Sanders. Most recently, and more importantly most tangibly, a war of words sparked between the two when Clinton alluded to Gabbard being “groomed” as a Russian asset. As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with the Hawaii Congresswoman and National Guard Major.
Gabbard fired back with a series of tweets and a video, taking Clinton to task on her foreign policy record.
While the message was important, it was the action that was most significant. A Democrat taking a fiercely public stand against Hillary Clinton is an act of defiance rarely seen in even a non-election scenario — and while Gabbard is indeed running for President, Clinton is (at the moment) merely a spectator. The aftermath of the exchange has very quickly brought out the full force of a very-much-alive Clinton wing of the Democratic establishment. Their response has been strategic and cutthroat — the Democrats have decided to Primary one of their own. But to make sure it goes their way, they need to elevate her congressional opponent, Kai Kahele.
So that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Within two days of the public mudslinging between Clinton and Gabbard, a short, 10 second ad was released over the internet that took advantage of the recent and, quite frankly, baseless accusations hurled at Gabbard regarding her allegedly being a vessel for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests. The ad, produced by Party Majority PAC, was a clip of Tucker Carlson jokingly asking Gabbard “Are you a Russian sleeper cell?”, to which Gabbard laughed (after a slight satellite delay, augmented to make her voice sound more maniacal). The clip was accompanied by a message urging supporters to help get Tulsi Gabbard out of congress and to support her primary opponent, Kai Kahele.
Party Majority PAC, a PAC/SuperPAC hybrid, was started by a man named Adam Parkhomenko, who also started the Ready for Hillary PAC in 2013. Ready for Hillary was a SuperPAC whose sole purpose was to draft Hillary Clinton into the 2016 election — which, of course, she entered. He is very much tuned in to establishment circles, as evidenced by the program to the Ready for Hillary 2013 conference, which was attended by the likes of David Brock, Ace Smith (of SCRB Strategies), and President of Hart Research, Geoff Garin. As soon as Gabbard called out Hillary Clinton, Party Majority PAC, which was used to promote now-Florida Congresswoman and former head of the Clinton Foundation Donna Shalala in 2018, was weaponized against the Congresswoman from Hawaii.
However, there is a pervading sense of irony about it all. Party Majority PAC has only taken in a reported amount of around $22,000 in this cycle, but a quick look to 2018 tells a different story. Party Majority PAC took in over $300,000 in the previous cycle, with almost 25% coming from two donors:
- CC1 Companies — CC1 is a beverage company that claims Coca Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers as a subsidiary. CCPRB is the largest non-alcoholic beverage distributor on the island. CC1’s founder, Carlos de la Cruz is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. CC1 gave $50,000 to Party Majority PAC in 2018.
- Patricia Cloherty — Cloherty got her start working with Democratic mega-donor Alan Patricof at his investment firm, Patricof & Co., in the late sixties. After serving on various committees under administrations dating back to Jimmy Carter, Cloherty became a board member of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund — a program through which the U.S. government would make investments in the Russian economy. Cloherty eventually left to become the CEO of Delta Private Equity Partners, the financial wing of the aforementioned US-Russia Investment Fund. In 2008, she received the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cloherty, like de la Cruz, is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She gave Party Majority PAC $25,000 in 2018.
Yes, you read that correctly. The SuperPAC pushing the narrative that Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset has literally taken money from a woman who won the Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin for all of the money she made for (and from) Russian businesses. Let that sink in.
Kai Kahele is a Hawaiian state senator, a seat he won through a special election after his father’s passing left it vacant. He is being pushed as a progressive by outlets such as Daily Kos, but taking a look at his funding, not only for his current bid, but for his local election, more doubts begin to surface. According to filings with the Hawaii Board of Elections, during his run for Hawaii state senate in 2016, Kai Kahele took tens of thousands of dollars in direct contributions from Monsanto, Altria, Bank of Hawaii, and other PACs.
Moving ahead to 2019, Kahele has already received over $20,000 from PACs through Q2, including those that belong to Bank of Hawaii and Service Corporation International. In the same amount of time, Kahele also accepted $3,500 from lobbyists employed by Capitol Consultants, who, according to their website, have represented Fortune 500 companies such as AIG, Aflac, Monsanto, and Pfizer — along with local Hawaiian insurance companies and nonprofits.
In the third quarter of fundraising, Kahele tripled the amount he has taken from the firm, to the tune of $10,000 received between July and September of this year. That isn’t progressive; it’s an outright embrace of status-quo politics. How could anyone expect Kahele to push for Medicare-for-All while taking corporate money from the insurance industry and/or the lobbyists who represent them? It’s a more than valid question, and one that we should be asking of someone who may be directly influencing policy on a national level . But don’t worry — Neera Tanden thinks he’s great!
Neera Tanden, for those few who aren’t aware, is the President of the Center for American Progress (CAP) — a “think tank” founded by longtime Clinton family confidant and staffer John Podesta. The problems with CAP, and most notably their funding, could be an article in and of itself — some day I’ll get around to it. Let’s just say that they have the same problem Kai Kahele seems to have, albeit on an exponentially larger scale: Neither their ends, or their means should be construed as “progressive” in the slightest.
Tanden herself is possibly Hillary Clinton’s fiercest supporter, being as she advised her during the 2016 election, and also started taking point in an unofficial public relations role, especially on social media. It’s here that, after Gabbard’s spat with Clinton, Tanden went on the offensive. Doubling down on Clinton’s “Russian asset” insinuations, Tanden also started promoting Kahele, telling people to go donate to his campaign.
Incidentally, this flies in the face of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), an official wing of the DNC, who earlier this year said they would “blacklist” vendors who supported primary challengers to Democratic incumbents. Given the lack of pushback on Tanden from the DCCC, perhaps their dictate was only meant for challengers to compliant centrist incumbents.
While Neera Tanden may not be employed by the DNC, they are inextricably linked together through CAP and the working connections between the two entities. It should be additionally noted that this seemingly reactionary endorsement of Kahele wasn’t spontaneous at all. According to Kai Kahele’s own Twitter account, he was meeting with Neera Tanden as far back as June.
It’s also clear that Tanden’s dislike for Gabbard predates those meetings by a while, though no earlier than 2015, where Tanden stated she was a “fan” of hers on Twitter. What happened in between then and now? Who knows? What we do know is that Tanden doesn’t merely toe the party line — she draws it. Tulsi Gabbard, on the other hand, is constantly crossing it, to the pleasure of some and the dismay of others. It stands to reason there would be a fundamental conflict between the two.
This is how the establishment machine rages back. If you have the audacity to break rank and defy the notion that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party gatekeeper, this is what happens. They discredit you. They smear you. Former Clinton surrogates weaponize their SuperPACs to run ads against you. The largest “think tanks” endorse your competition. Your own party primaries you.
This is what’s happening to Tulsi Gabbard. The Clinton wing of the Democratic establishment is alive and well — and as vindictive as ever. Gabbard not winning the Presidency isn’t enough for them. They won’t stop until she’s out of Congress. In fact, they may have already gotten their wish. At the time of this writing, news is breaking that Tulsi Gabbard will not be seeking re-election to the House of Representatives in 2020 — leaving the door wide open for Kai Kahele to cakewalk to an easy win, and given Gabbard’s popularity in her district, one he may not have achieved otherwise.
He’s being propped up by the establishment and sold as a progressive. The former disqualifies the latter. The same Democratic Party establishment figures that tried to destroy Bernie Sanders, an actual progressive, are the ones telling you Kai Kahele falls in the same category. He doesn’t.
I hope that voters in Hawaii keep that in mind as we move forward into 2020.
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