A devastating email (no link) from Rep. Frank details Sean Bielat’s career as a Republican candidate in it for the money, and apparently little else. This is what electoral politics funded by corporations and the wealthy looks like:
Congressman Barney Frank statement about Sean Bielat’s 180 on Frank’s record
I have long realized that even impending absence can make the heart grow fonder so I have not been surprised to hear nice things said about my record as my retirement nears.
But I had not expected kind words from Sean Bielat, who ran against me in 2010 and who spent the campaign in a long, sustained, distorted attack on my record. I was particularly surprised to find that Mr. Bielat now poses as an admirer some of my work. When we ran against each other in 2010, Mr. Bielat accused me of insulting my constituents and ignoring their needs. But now, two years later, he claims that I was such an effective advocate for my constituents that this fact was a significant obstacle for him in that campaign. Similarly, in 2010 he was very dismissive of my work on behalf of the fishing industry. Now, two years later, he has decided that I am a model advocate for the fishermen. Although I understand that Mr. Bielat is drastically changing his stated views because he very much fears a second consecutive loss, I object to his using me in what I think is a dishonest fashion.
During the Republican primary earlier this year, when Mr. Bielat was accused by his Republican opponents of a lack of transparency in his personal financial dealings, he responded that even I had not questioned his integrity. But in fact there are a number of aspects of Mr. Bielat’s personal finances which in my opinion demonstrate a lack of complete integrity. For example, I believe he has consistently misrepresented his employment record since he left iRobot. During the 2010 campaign he claimed to be a consultant who was employing other people. I do not doubt that Mr. Bielat was receiving income from someone, but I do not believe that he had employees or that serious consulting work was going on. This does not mean that anything illegal was happening and I have no reason to believe that and do not assert it. But I do think that he was receiving financial help in ways that he wished to obfuscate.
This conclusion is strongly reinforced by the information that came out during the Republican primary in which Mr. Bielat was forced, clearly unhappily, to reveal that he is receiving a salary that would appear to approach $150,000 a year for what seem to be minimal duties as the “CEO” of an obscure, insignificant right wing blog (although he inaccurately tried to describe it as non-partisan.) It is Mr. Bielat’s legal right to receive funding from political supporters as long as it is reported as taxable income, which I am sure that it was, but disguising it is not appropriate. That clearly applies as well to his decision to pay himself a campaign salary. While this is legal, I don’t think it is healthy for our political system to allow people to run for office, solicit others for donations, and then use those donations in part for purely personal expenses.
It has also become clear to me that during the final weeks of the 2010 campaign Mr. Bielat was violating the federal election laws by the nature of his reporting. As he has noted, between the time he won the primary until the day of the general election, he received contributions in the millions of dollars – far more than he had received in the longer period before the primary. I immodestly attribute that as much to the right wing’s determination to defeat me as to Mr. Bielat’s personal appeal, but the relevant fact is that he failed to report the sources of those funds in the way the law requires. He now says that at the time he was overwhelmed because more money came in than he could account for. That is a strange admission from a man who has touted his business experience as a major reason to vote for him. And the effect was to allow him to receive substantial funds from various interests from all over the country without having to reveal, as required by law, the occupations of those contributors. He was subsequently rebuked for the FEC.
It has also been reported that Mr. Bielat sold a list of his campaign donors and pocketed funds that should have gone to his campaign. I understand that he now reports that he – retroactively again – noted that the proceeds were a payment of a debt to him. But the debt in question was the aforementioned salary that he was paying himself. It seems clear to me that he sold the donor list through his campaign and put the money to personal use. He apparently did this without taking note of the fact that the list was an asset of the campaign – only when he was queried about it by the press did he decide that it had in fact been a debt. It should be noted that this is consistent with his decision two years ago deliberately – as he acknowledged – to conceal until after the election the fact that he was paying himself a salary, because he feared that it would hurt him in the eyes of voters if they found out about it. That is precisely why the election laws require that this information be made public before the election – so that voters can decide what they think is or is not relevant.
Mr. Bielat has also demonstrated a serious lack of intellectual honesty. When he and I debated in 2010 he simply refused to state his positions on a number of important issues. In particular, he dodged questions about his position on the extent to which abortion should be outlawed. He also ducked questions about the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, particularly with regard to marriage. In both cases he asserted, wholly implausibly, that these were not federal issues and therefore his views were irrelevant, stating at one point that abortion would not be voted on in Congress and his views were therefore irrelevant. A day or two later I remember reading an article in the New York Times – I think generated by the Todd Aiken controversy – that there had been eleven votes on the subject of abortion in the last Congress. These are of course exactly the votes which Mr. Bielat had claimed would never exist, as is, for example, the vote on a Republican motion to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act which passed over strong Democratic opposition.
Finally, in light of Mr. Bielat’s own murky employment history for the past three and half years, his dismissal of Joe Kennedy’s work experience can only be explained as a denigration of the importance of having intelligent, well-motivated people serve as prosecutors in our justice system. Mr. Bielat’s dismissal of Joe Kennedy’s experience as an Assistant District Attorney is consistent with his flip denigration of the Peace Corps. Private sector work is very important in our society, but so is work in the public sector – Mr. Bielat does not appear to appreciate that a balance between the two is needed. And questions about Mr. Bielat’s own work history leave him in no position to take issue with Mr. Kennedy’s experience.