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David Sirota
David Sirota
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Conservative, Or Just Plain Corrupt?


Through their ethics scandals, Republicans in Washington long ago began making the word "conservative" synonymous with the term "corrupt." Surprisingly, though, it is a group of Democrats that is cementing this definitional conversion for good.

In the midst of the housing crisis, a cadre of self-described "conservative" Democrats called the Blue Dog Coalition is demanding congressional leaders delay legislation designed to help people trapped in high-interest loans stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. The bill, House Resolution 3609, allows judges to ameliorate the terms of abusive "subprime" mortgages. Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., is championing it — a gutsy move for a lawmaker whose state domiciles major lenders.

The Blue Dogs say they oppose Miller's initiative out of concern for the integrity of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill — a telling justification. Under that odious law, millionaires can shield their mansions from creditors, and corporate executives (think: Enron guys) can prevent ripped-off shareholders and employees from seizing their holdings. Harvard's Elizabeth Warren notes that the law also "permits people with vacation homes and investment property to rework their mortgages in bankruptcy."

But regular homeowners? Sorry — without Miller's legislation, judges are barred from defending you against the vultures.

Blue Dog Democrats cite the social conservatism of their rural and exurban districts as the reason for such high-profile stands against their party. Somehow, we are expected to believe that their constituents' anti-abortion or pro-gun views mean those same constituents want Congress to help banks throw people out of their homes. But since when did any voters — conservative or otherwise — support that kind of thing?

Since never, of course. "Conservatism" is being used as the cover for corruption.

As National Journal reports, corporate lobbyists "knew exactly who to go to in order to stop the [foreclosure relief] bill in its tracks: the Blue Dog Coalition." These lawmakers are the mercenaries' go-to crew not because of any principled ideology, but because they have been big recipients of campaign cash from the finance and real estate industries.

Of course, this is only the most recent example of pay-to-play shenanigans on banking issues.

In 2005, 20 "New" Democrats — another group billed as "conservative" — signed a letter demanding the passage of the original Bankruptcy Bill.

Those Democrats had pocketed a combined $750,000 from the financial industry.

That same year, the Senate cast a "conservative" vote defeating a bill limiting credit card interest rates to a whopping 30 percent — a modest measure to say the least. Eighteen Republican and Democratic lawmakers voting against the measure had previously voted for a tougher interest cap. What changed? They received about $2 million from the credit card and banking industries in the interim.

Still, this new Blue Dog letter takes the cake for sheer brazenness. Why? Because the current mortgage crisis is especially hitting the kinds of exurban and rural districts these "conservative" Democrats purport to speak for.

The Atlantic Monthly's Matthew Yglesias recently reviewed foreclosure data and found that "the hardest-hit areas are the high-growth fringes of vibrant metro areas" — the exurbs that Blue Dog signatories like Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean (D) represent.

Real Estate magazine reports, "In 500 rural counties, one-third or more of mortgage originations involved high-interest loans." That could spell trouble for districts like the one represented by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, — another signer. His state has almost 30,000 homes financed by subprime loans.

So, will these faux "conservatives" win? Maybe in this battle over mortgage reform, and in some other upcoming skirmishes like the brouhaha over taxes. National Journal reports that this same group of Democrats is intent on "limiting the scope" of proposals to close the loophole letting billionaire hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than the janitors who clean their offices. Apparently, the Blue Dogs would have us believe conservative, working-class constituents are insisting their congressional representatives not only support bank foreclosures, but also help Wall Street barons rob the federal treasury.

Nonetheless, over the long term, those like the Blue Dogs will have an increasingly difficult time succeeding — both legislatively and electorally. The more they attach their "conservative" label to such obscene corruption, the more that label will be indelibly tarnished. Aiding loan sharks and tax cheats may elicit campaign donations and smiles in Washington, but it is no way to win hearts and minds in the rest of America.

David Sirota is the bestselling author of "Hostile Takeover" (Crown, 2006). He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan research organizations. His daily blog can be found at To find out more about David Sirota and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Of course, you need only follow the money. Campaign contributions are the problem.... the ONLY problem.
Jack Lohman
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jack Lohman
Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:24 AM
Thank you David for that informative article. I had heard of blue dog democrats, but didn't know much about them. I followed up by going to their website to see which congressmen belonged to the group. Then I did some digging and found articles in Open Left about the "bush dog democrats", which I assume is the same group you are referring to.
Also an interesting DailyKos concerning one of the blue dog democrats, Daniel Lipinski -
Comment: #2
Posted by: teharper
Fri Nov 30, 2007 9:47 AM

Authority intoxicates
And makes meer sots of magistrates
The fumes of it invade the brain
And make men giddy, proud, and vain;
By this the fool commands the wise,
The noble with the base complies,
The sot assumes the role of wit,
And cowards make the brave submit.

Hudibras, Butler 1680

Some think that they know they are right, despite the fact that all empirical evidence proves otherwise.
The only advancement man has made in the progress of humankind has been to increase the number of negative words in the language we speak today. But, we are still as savage as any cavemen!
Comment: #3
Posted by: harry clayman
Fri Nov 30, 2007 2:20 PM


Once again you have educated us. Thanks for your great belief in the rest of us.

Meanwhile; many of us (well, maybe just would be better able to respond if you would provide clickable 'references'.

I know this is an added burden on you. But the effect will be greatly magnified if we can quickly educate ourselves, for example, as to who these Blue Dogs are and who were the ones who voted for this latest example of 'screw the people'.

In any case, keep on fighting the good fight.

One of your many friends.

Comment: #4
Posted by: James Ruff
Fri Nov 30, 2007 2:25 PM

Here's where we get some milage out of Michael Vick!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's only recently that i viewed a number of congressional reps websites to press for impeachment = i got all the C's, well i was shocked to see that these Blue Dawgs have a decal on their webpage and they're somehow proud of this miasmic trough... so i was thinking like that decal where you see the Big Darwin Fish eating the fish with a cross in it's eye ...we'd have Michael Vick working over a useless Blue Dawg. (in someways not so funny) But it could be.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Darwin26
Sat Dec 1, 2007 10:03 AM
Too right David. It's not a matter of ideology that's driving these folks. It's greed and dishonesty, plain and simple.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Carol Davidek-Waller
Mon Dec 3, 2007 1:12 AM
In juxstaposition to your "in the back row" column about "conservation of scarce or valuable resources," I think that some of us "conservative" Democrats see the sub-prime mortgage mess becoming an opportunity to bail out predatory lenders, by their rich uncle Sam, in the name of helping out the working class. Unfortunately, the type of borrowers living beyond their means are probably the ones who used their homes as an ATM to buy earth killer SUVs and a bunch of crap made in China by slave labor. I have little sympathy for those who live beyond their means or the filty enablers that thought flipping houses and mortgages was going to go on forever (like Niel Bush and the Silverado crowd a couple of decades earlier). I generally find myself nodding in agreement when I read your material, but I disagree with intervening against the folly of both irresponsible lenders and borrowers. Indeed, W's "Ownership Society" is exactly what got us into this mess ... and it's about time this over-heated-wasteful-consumerism slowed down. Otherwise, I appreciate your insights about corrupt pols (democrats and republicans).
Comment: #7
Posted by: NoMoCorporateWelfare
Fri Jan 18, 2008 3:29 PM
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