Mark Levine for Congress - the Aggressive Progressive
VA-08 in VA http://LevineforCongress.com
5250 Cherokee Avenue, Suite #245
Primary Election Date: 2014-06-10 General Election Date: 2014-11-04
Who am I?
Known as "The Aggressive Progressive" for exposing injustice and wielding my pocket Constitution as rhetorical weapon, I have appeared on hundreds of television shows and thousands of radio shows, attacking the right-wing propaganda machine from Bill O'Reilly to Rush Limbaugh. For more than ten years, I have hosted the nationally-syndicated radio/television talk show Inside Scoop, as well as other radio shows on Pacifica, XM, and many other radio networks. I also regularly appear as a national television pundit and investigative journalist on FOX, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN Headline News, Fox Business, Chinese TV, Russian TV, local television (News Channel 8 and NoVa's Channel 10) and other TV stations. You can find the vast majority of these shows at MarkLevineTalk.com.
Prior to my media career, as former Chief Legislative Counsel to Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, I served the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and Financial Services Committees. Some of my work there included: (1) persuading Democratic Senators (including Hillary Clinton) to defeat President Bush's faith-based initiative that would have allowed federal government jobs to discriminate on the basis of religion; (2) quietly ensuring that gay Americans who lost their life partners on 9/11 received the same benefits as straight citizens; (3) protecting immigrants and servicemen and women, and (4) drafting a section of the USA-PATRIOT Act that protected civil liberties and was unanimously passed in the House Judiciary Committee (but unfortunately has been discarded from current law).
Although I have not been elected (yet) to public office, I have been a citizen activist and constitutional attorney for more than two decades and have written several bills outside of Congressman Frank's employment. As an openly gay man and one of the four founders of Marriage Equality California, we began the "Valentine's Day Protests" that picked up steam nationwide. In 2000, I drafted the first legislation ever introduced in the country that would have given gay couples marriage rights under federal law and I also crafted the District of Columbia's marriage equality law that I later defended in court. I wrote a law to protect victims of domestic violence and their children that unanimously passed a state legislature, and I worked with Congressman George Miller to write federal legislation regulating institutional child abuse. (Miller's bill passed the House but not the Senate.) When the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore stopped the Florida count to prevent Gore from being President, I was hired by the Congressional Black Caucus to draft their legal appeal to Congress.
In the 1990's, I handled such diverse jobs as corporate trial and appellate attorney, inner-city school teacher, management consultant for an environmental clean-up, and Nazi-hunter for the U.S. Department of Justice.
I hold an economics degree magna cum laude from Harvard (top 2% of class), a law degree from Yale, and a Fulbright Scholarship from Switzerland. I am also a Senior Fellow with the Truman National Security Project. As a resident of Alexandria since 2001, I have long served the 8th Congressional District as a voter-protection attorney and precinct captain.
Why am I running?
I am an “aggressive progressive,” tired of Republicans and conservatives setting the terms of the debate, while Democrats and progressives do battle on “their turf.” I've made a career out of changing the terms of the debate, aggressively insisting on fighting battles on common-sense progressive grounds while forcing the right-wing propaganda machine to either argue from my point of view, sputter out, or resort to interruption and ad hominem attacks. This can be seen in my hundreds of TV clips with Bill O'Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Larry Kudlow and others that you can still see on my radio/TV website. I'm proud to have reclaimed the Constitution and the Bible from conservatives who use them as totems of authority but are often unaware of all the progressive values contained in these texts considered sacred by so many Americans. (A less-than-three minute example of some of these appearances can be found on my campaign website: LevineforCongress.com)
I don't want to just “cast a vote” in the House of Representatives. I want to continue, as I've done all my life but I believe I can do with more force in Congress, to change the terms of the national debate. I believe when progressives stand together – even when it means criticizing a Democratic President from the Left – we move the country much closer to progressive values than if we cede to the Right their paradigm and momentum. It always bears remembering that the middle ground between our quite moderate democratically-elected President and the radical tea party is somewhere around Mitt Romney.
Whether on universal health care, social security and Medicare, student aid, protecting the Federal workforce and military veterans, regulation of gun violence, or even on such seemingly non-partisan items as rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure, Democrats too often play defense. They start at the natural point of compromise and move right from there in the face of implacable tea-party opposition.
Let's bring the fight to the Left of Obama so that the American debate centers on the liberal/moderate agenda that reflects the median American voter. I've had more than my share of “on-air conversions,” including even bringing tea party supporters around to progressive views. The more we encourage Americans to try progressive ideas, the more people will be surprised by how much they actually work.
We always lose if we do not try.
1. Make college affordable again by using the power of the Federal Government to negotiate down tuition costs, providing more aid to those universities who keep costs low while providing reduced federal aid to those that continually raise their tuition beyond the rate of inflation. This pressure would substantially reduce tuition costs (just as similar federal negotiation would also reduce the cost of drugs in the Medicare program).
Subsidize student loans by lowering the rate so that the Government no longer makes a profit on the backs of our students. The crushing loan burden on recent college graduates is the primary reason millennials live at home with their parents and are unable to form new households; this reversal of the American Dream, in turn, creates a strong, systemic drag on the national economy.
2. Expand social security by lifting the cap on the payroll tax so that millionaires pay the same rate as everyone else. Making 6% of Americans pay the same rate as the other 94% would bring in more than $100 billion a year, fund which could easily solve both Social Security and Medicare insolvency while expanding benefits.
3. Require background checks to prevent gun violence by the mentally ill or others with a history of violence or threatening violence. These checks, otherwise known as "closing the gun show loophole" are supported by 90% of the American People and could save thousands of lives. They are particularly necessarily to keep men with a history of domestic violence from harming their wives, girlfriends, or children.
All three goals are popular according to polls and achievable. Given my service on Capitol Hill, I already have strong relationships with a number of Members of Congress (and I've worked personally with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden). If we reach an impasse in Congress, I can go over their heads directly to the American People, as President Clinton and Congressman Frank did. In fact, I learned, working for Mr. Frank, that sometimes the mere threat of going public in the media persuades Republicans to compromise. Given my decade of aggressive advocacy in the media from talk radio to FOX to MSNBC and my two decades of grass-roots activism and alliances formed there, I can put a unique pressure on both recalcitrant Republicans and Democrats to achieve these goals, particularly on popular programs like the ones I suggest. In the past, with my gay-rights activism and my legislation in support of domestic-violence victims and abused children, we have won support through vigorous advocacy both publicly and behind the scenes.
My DFA Values
Community - I would make it easier to unionize to dampen down income inequality and raise the minimum wage. No one who works full time should live in poverty. When unemployment is low, we can run a budget surplus as President Clinton did. But when unemployment (particularly structural unemployment) is as high as it is today, deficit spending is necessary to keep the middle class from falling into poverty and the working poor from becoming homeless or prison-bound. Balancing the budget in bad times was President Hoover's disastrous mistake and should never be repeated. Increased government spending leads to rising consumer spending from the middle class and working poor which, due to the "multiplier effect," increases jobs and economic spending even further. There is no better time to rebuild our infrastructure than now, when interest rates and wages are low and unemployment is high. We need a New New Deal.
Security - We must wean our nation off of fossil fuels. Our need for oil requires us to rely on dictators and fight unnecessary wars. Our use of coal causes persistent air and water pollution and global warming. Energy security through renewable resources leads to national security. Obvious solutions to fix these problems include renewable portfolio standards and cap and trade. I have also proposed piercing the corporate veil to hold officers of corporations that pollute personally responsible so that a company cannot contaminate the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of West Virginians and then declare bankruptcy and avoid responsibility. (Corporations are not people, notwithstanding Citizens United, which must be overturned.) Finally, soft power – foreign aid to allies and sanctions against brutal, dangerous regimes – should always be tried first, saving military options as a last resort.
Liberty - I'm a long-time supporter of immigration reform to allow the next generation of immigrants to share in the American Dream and have argued this on hundreds of TV and radio shows. I oppose racial profiling and discriminatory drug laws (and many other drug laws that punish addicts who need treatment, not prison). As a citizen activist, I have worked hard to ensure gay civil rights, the right to vote and to have that vote counted, and to protect victims of domestic violence and child abuse. As a journalist, I have exposed Government cover-ups, failures to investigate terrorist plots, secret executive orders, and the spying on hundreds of millions of Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment that began under Bush and continues under Obama. I have also fought Supreme Court decisions that weaken our liberty such as Citizens United, the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, and the most infamous decision of them all--Bush v. Gore--when five members of the Supreme Court overturned a fair national election to install their preferred President.
My Campaign is People Powered!
Among the many I am reaching out to, I'm devoting specific outreach to students and abuse victims.
Students and recent college graduates throughout the district are becoming the heart of my volunteer army. They love my detailed proposals to reduce the cost of college tuition and student loans. I have reached out to them at talks at local universities and will continue to do so at talks and rallies to gain support. Students have thus far been so excited by these ideas that they are volunteering in large numbers and joining us in public events like parades.
The earliest legislation I ever wrote that became law was to protect victims of domestic violence and their children. My bill became law after a unanimous vote by all Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature. I'm now reaching out to the all-too-many such victims in Northern Virginia who desperately need our help. I'm urging them to “come out” about the abuse, because a victim has nothing to be ashamed about and their courage fortifies others. I'm enlisting their aid in drafting bills to protect them at the Federal level as well.
By far, the post passionately-felt grassroots campaign I have ever participated in began for me in 2005 and is still on-going. I discovered in that year that President Bush's ambassador to Italy and Australia – and a major fund-raiser for his campaign – had run a series of abusive cults/lockup reform schools/boot camps where teenage kids were imprisoned against their will and brutally treated. I then learned this was a national problem involving dozens of camps, thousands of children, tens of thousands of survivors, and hundreds of millions in profits for corporations like Bain Capital. The community of survivors of institutional abuse is the very definition of a grassroots community. They are unsophisticated politically or legally (but growing more over time!) and suffering from post-traumatic stress. I have worked on legislation with Congressman George Miller of California to regulate or shut these places down. I've won numerous awards from the Survivors of Institutional Abuse for my work exposing these horrific crimes still on-going in America. Hundreds of teenagers have died at these places, although I have personally saved a handful of them. Neither I nor my grass roots army of volunteers/survivors will rest until all these abusive places to lock up children who have not committed a crime and hold them incommunicado are shut down.