CA-36: Jane Harman Will Have A Primary Challenge, Or She Will Leave Congress

Here’s the latest on the Jane Harman/AIPAC story that I haven’t previously discussed here.  We know that she discussed the case against two AIPAC lobbyists with a suspected Israeli double agent, possibly Haim Saban, and made at least an implicit arrangement to push for the dropping of the case against the lobbyists in exchange for help getting appointed the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  It is unclear whether this actually represents a violation of the federal bribery statute (doing a favor in exchange for something of value), but according to the story by Jeff Stein at CQ Politics, the Justice Department felt they had Harman in a “completed crime.”  Nancy Pelosi was briefed that Harman had been picked up on a federal wiretap but was barred from disclosing it to her House colleague, and this could explain why Harman was not appointed to that Committee Chair.  The reason that the DoJ failed to charge Harman was because Alberto Gonzales intervened on her behalf, because, among other things, he knew she would be helpful in the forthcoming battle over, amazingly enough, the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

A person who is familiar with Mr. Gonzales’s account of the events said that the former attorney general had acknowledged having raised with Mr. Goss the idea that Ms. Harman was playing a helpful role in dealing with The Times.

But Mr. Gonzales’s principal motive in delaying a briefing for Congressional leaders, the person said, was to keep Ms. Harman from learning of the investigation before she could be interviewed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A spokesman for Ms. Harman said the congresswoman had never been interviewed by the bureau.

There’s also the charge that then-NSA Director Michael Hayden provided talking points for a Harman discussion with NY Times Washington editor Philip Taubman BEFORE THE 2004 election, to get the paper to squash the warrantless wiretapping story.  And today, Stein advances the story by noting that a whistleblower informed then-Speaker Dennis Hastert about the Bush Administration suppression of the wiretapped Harman call (it’s a violation of standard procedure to withhold information involving national security and a member of Congress from either Democratic and Republican leaders in the House).

Needless to say, this is a tangled web of intrigue, and with more disclosures it’s likely to get worse.  This has led to speculation that Harman would either not run for another term, or face a primary challenge.  I can confirm that Marcy Winograd is likely to run if Harman does seek re-election.  Winograd, who took 38% of the vote in 2006, was not planning a run until the AIPAC/wiretap revelations.  But she is uncomfortable with Harman not being held to account, and saw no other option on the horizon.  She has a federal account and will take the pulse of the district before a formal announcement.

“I think she’s clearly in trouble and I think she knows it and is doing whatever she can to turn the tables on the situation,” Winograd said. “And now she is the spokesperson for the ACLU or the Bill of Rights Foundation.  It would be comical, if the stakes weren’t so high.” […]

One of Winograd’s first steps is going to be “taking the pulse” of the district on issues like military spending and single-payer health care, among other issues.  It’s entirely possible that Harman might bow out and try to annoint a successor.  Or that another establishment Dem might try to take advantage of her weakened position.  Which is why I wanted to get the word out as quickly as possible that there’s a really credible progressive alternative.  Winograd has already run a primary once in the district.  Activists there know who she is, and a lot of them have already worked for her in 2006.  This would not be a net-based candidacy, but it will certainly help to have it be net-supported.

In addition, the name of blogger John Amato has surfaced as a possible challenger.

(Howie) Klein said a group of bloggers met earlier this year to discuss challenging Harman in a primary, weeks before the recent revelations. He said many in the blogging community would like a fellow blogger, John Amato, to challenge Harman and that Amato is considering it.

Winograd said that she would step aside for the right candidate, and that she’s taking up the mantle at least for now.

“I don’t know who else will answer the call, if not me,” she said. “People with great name recognition and track records in public office are not going to take her on.”

I think Marcy feels the duty to run.  At the same time, she agreed that there needs to be one progressive alternative to Harman.  But my sense from people in the district is that Harman is unlikely to try another re-election campaign.  Even the above-mentioned NYT article refers to this.

While the two women do not display overt hostility, Ms. Harman seems to have never quite gotten over the slight. Colleagues say that since Ms. Pelosi, 69, thwarted her ambitions for a more prominent role on security issues, Ms. Harman, 63, has grown weary of Congress and has been eyeing a post in the Obama administration, perhaps as an ambassador.

This tracks with everything I’ve heard from locals.  She wanted the Intelligence Committee chair, and failing that she wanted an Administration job, and failing that she wants out.

There would be a whole host of elected officials who would jump in if Harman retired.  Ted Lieu, the Assemblyman in this district, could be enticed away from his Attorney General campaign.  City Councilwoman Janice Hahn would take a look.  And there would be others.  But if Harman stays in, none of these electeds would run, avoiding what would be an expensive primary.  Harman is the richest member of Congress and has no problem spending her own money to keep her seat.

Either way, there will be a contested race in CA-36 in June 2010.  And I do believe that a primary would feature only one major challenger.  The question is, who would that be?

7 thoughts on “CA-36: Jane Harman Will Have A Primary Challenge, Or She Will Leave Congress”

  1. Really, Harman has been on the wrong side of every major issue congress has faced in recent years. She votes OK on the little stuff but on the issues history will remember she is awful.

    Amato has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. I can’t think of the words to say nice enough things about him. He is a true gem.

  2. is on the right side of Progressive issues. She was one of the founding members of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles and led the club through its initial years. She has a STRONG commitment to SINGLE PAYER healthcare as well as having authored a resolution on OUT of AFGHANISTAN that was introduced at the LA County Central Committee last month. Her campaigning last time around was TIRELESS. I know, having been there much of the time. She is also not afraid to take positions and speak her mind.

    It would really be great to finally have SOMEONE in Congress who would represent the grassroots people. I feel certain that she would continue to do so if elected.

  3. Anyone else caught with this appearance of a crime would be investigated by the Justice Dept., and maybe prosecuted if the investigation showed reason to do so.  I can understand that the Bush admin, the way they operated, instead saw an opportunity to exchange letting her off the hook for getting her help (also known as blackmail) but what is going on with the Obama Justice Dept.?  

    The other day the story in the press was that President decided not to let the Justice Dept. investigate and maybe prosecute people in the CIA.  I hope this is not the case.  It is my hope that we are returning to rule of law, and the Justice Dept is back to properly doing its job without political interference, and is investigating the allegations that the Bush admin tortured people, and is investigating whether to prosecute Rep. Harman.

    If not, we have just swapped one politicized Justice Dept. for another.  And we continue to have a country where some people are above the law and the rest of us are beneath it.

  4. I don’t think it’s completely clear that Harman is guilty of anything.

    It is becoming clearer, though, that she ran afoul of the very corrupt and incompetent Porter Goss, who is a political opponent, and was DCI at the time.

    Some folks around here don’t see straight when people start yelling words like “AIPAC”.  That’s neither here nor there.  But when the other side of this business involves the likes of Goss, reserving your judgement a bit might be a real good idea.

    There’s a real good chance this is less about Harman and Israel than it is about Goss and illegal torture — Goss and people close to him seem to be trying to screw Harman over, and this is their opportunity to do so.  Make sure this isn’t the case before you go for Harman’s juggler.

    This is not to say she shouldn’t be primaried.  She probably should, for her support of warrentless wiretapping at the very least.  But I’d as soon get Goss’ scalp as well if at all possible.

  5. I certainly have no problem with anyone challenging an incumbent and in fact defended the idea a couple of years ago when a Harman spokesman tried to stop a challenge with a plea for Democratic unity.  But it is pretty amazing to me that so called progressives will take something that was apparently leaked by former Bush Administration officials at face value.  I think everyone should calm down and see where this goes before they start jumping to conclusions.

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