Why is Maryland Rep. Al Wynn (D) facing a strong primary challenge from Donna Edwards? Well, lots of reasons. For one thing, he voted for the Iraq War. But that's really only part of the story. Wynn represents part of the corrupt Washington Establishment - the Money Party that both Republicans and Democrats are a part of. Don't take my word for that - check out his campaign finance reports and his own campaign website.
Here is Wynn's Federal Election Commission report of donations from June of 2007. You'll notice that he pocketed a $2,000 contribution from something called the "Billy Tauzin Congressional Committee." Tauzin is the Republican who was formerly the chairman of the committee that wrote the infamous Bush Medicare bill - the one that gave over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money away to the pharmaceutical industry. Soon after that bill passed, Tauzin retired from Congress to become the chief lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry - and now, it seems, a campaign contributor to one Al Wynn.
Then there is Wynn's campaign website which tries to defend his vote for the credit card industry-written Bankruptcy Bill. As I document in Hostile Takeover and as Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren references here, the bill that makes it much more difficult for families to deal with medical debt, while actually making it more easy for corporations to declare bankruptcy and use bankruptcy status as a way to avoid paying back wages/benefits to their workers. Wynn flails all around trying to pretend the Bankruptcy Bill was passed as a way to actually help workers. Read here and here to see just how absurdly dishonest such a claim really is.
These two examples of Wynn's corruption are just that - examples. They tell a bigger story of both the individual congressman and the broader Washington culture that has made corruption so mundane that it is often invisible. Lawmakers like Wynn think they can just pocket big checks from the drug industry and paint a corporate giveaway as a reward for workers without anyone saying much of anything.
But that's not the case anymore. More and more politicians in the Money Party are facing threats to their political survival from the People Party. Whether Edwards wins or loses her primary is less important than the fact that Wynn has a primary. A vibrant democracy means Members of Congress have to answer for their behavior - and that is a good thing, no matter how much permanent Washington complains.
Cross-posted from Working Assets