Cliff Weathers has questions about the new Senator from New York State’s paid admission constituent Q and A sessions…
Sen. Gillibrand is having her first meet-and-greet in Nyack, why is it a paid event to fill her campaign coffers? Is $100 needed for political access? I am concerned that this is but a campaign fundraiser masquerading as a question-and-answer session. Must Rockland County Democrats really fork over an admission fee to gain access to the Senator?
My wife an I have many questions, but $200 is a luxury that we can’t afford. I have met Sen. Gillibrand’s predecessor, Secretary Hillary Clinton four times and not once did I pay a fee to speak with her. So I, my wife, and several of our friends feel shut out. In the meantime, we have concerns that Gillibrand’s history and her past policies don’t really jibe well with the Democratic ideal and want to know more about the “new” Gillibrand.
Here are my concerns:
* Sen. Gillibrand is a protégé of former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, having cut her political teeth while working in his office. You may have noticed that it was Sen. D’Amato-and not a high-ranking Democrat-that stood at her right hand when Governor Paterson announced her appointment. This underscores that Gillibrand’s professional and legislative record are ambiguous at best.
* Gillibrand worked as a lawyer representing the tobacco industry. At her firm, Gillibrand worked for Philip Morris during major litigation brought by the victims of cigarette smoking. She also assisted the company during FBI criminal investigations. If you look at Gillibrand’s campaign finance records, it will show that she had since received $23,200 in contributions from Phillip Morris employees. So, I would like to know if she will support FDA oversight of tobacco. As it currently stands, tobacco is the only product not regulated to protect consumers.
* In 2007, Gillibrand split from the majority of fellow Democrats to support a $100 billion Iraq funding bill without a timeline for troop withdrawal. (Clinton opposed the bill, along with Obama.) I want to know if and how Sen. Gillibrand will support President Obama’s policies on Iraq and Afghanistan going forward.
* Gillibrand was the only Congressional Democrat to stand against Maxine Waters’ proposal to help states buy foreclosed homes and offer them at discounted rates to low-income families. Does she still feel the same way?
* Gillibrand has received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and has backed them on every piece of legislation that the group has supported during her tenure in Congress. I understand that she claims to be shifting her policies on guns, but I want to hear what she specifically thinks about legislative measures. I am particularly interested to hear if she wants to extend the Brady Background Checks to gun shows, which are currently exempt from them. This loophole allows convicted felons, domestic violence abusers, and those who are dangerously mentally ill to walk into any gun show and buy a great variety of weapons from unlicensed sellers without being stopped, no questions asked.
* Gillibrand has expressed support in extending the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the rich. I want to know if she still intends to extend those cuts.
* Gillibrand voted in favor of an amendment that increases funding for the construction of a fence along the Mexican border. The legislation, the Brown-Waite amendment to HR 2638, redirects $89 million used to create 700 miles of barbed-wire and chain-link along that southern border. Now that she’s repacked herself as the kinder, gentler Gillibrand, I would like to know if the xenophobic stance she took when she was representing the 20th Congressional District will continue during her tenure in the Senate.
* Gillibrand may be shifting more to the left on gay rights now that she’s Senator, but in 2007, she received an 80 out of 100 rating from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign-the lowest score out of New York’s Democratic representatives. She declined to cosponsor legislation repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She voted against legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration status of married couples. Now she flip-flops: the morning of her appointment to the Senate, she notified the Empire State Pride Agenda of her full support for same-sex marriage and her support of a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I am interested in knowing what prompted this change of heart and if her new support for Gay Rights is unwavering.
Paid access to politicians is arguably the root of all of our political problems today. I would love the opportunity to meet our new Senator and would like to discuss my concerns about our nation, the economy, and our community. However, my wife and I don’t have $200 to spare during these difficult times and don’t think it’s fair that a newly appointed Senator ask us to pay for access. So we are considering waiting outside Riverspace on April 26 and hope that the Senator will come out to talk with us as well. If you’re like my family, you’re filled with consternation about our future, but have little money; I hope you’ll join us outside Riverspace on that day.
I doubt that our new Senators blending of fundraising with constituent service is what that the Founders had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment.