April 24, 2012

Congressman Tim Holden Defeated: First Lawmaker In 2012 Loses His Seat Over Ties To K Street

Congressman Tim Holden Defeated: First Lawmaker In 2012 Loses His Seat Over Ties To K Street
Congressman Tim Holden, a Blue Dog pro-corporate Democrat, lost his election to attorney Matt Cartwright

In one of the most watched primary elections tonight, incumbent Democratic Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA) lost to attorney Matt Cartwright. A ten-term lawmaker, Holden was well known in the region and enjoyed support from most of the state’s Democratic establishment.

But Holden faced two challenges. One, a redrawn district that forced the congressman to run in an area with more registered Democrats. And two, and perhaps more consequential, voters were presented with Holden’s record of taking corporate cash while voting on behalf of K Street’s interests.

Holden has been embroiled in many corruption scandals. He was closely tied to the PMA defense lobbying scandal, and received some scrutiny for steering earmarks to his campaign donors.

Groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Cartwright campaign were quick to point out that Holden took hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas interests and voted to deregulate the fracking industry. Asked by Republic Report about his votes, Holden tried to run from his record:

The video, and our research, went viral on popular websites like Reddit. Blue America, a PAC supporting candidates close to the Occupy Wall Street movement and other anti-corporate causes, aggressively hounded Holden over his record.

Republic Report was also active in highlighting in Holden’s record, particularly his 11th hour effort to introduce a bill that would allow factory farms in the mid-Atlantic region to continue to pollute the Chesapeake Bay. The hand-out to big industry came as Holden was receiving thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from big agricultural interests.

Local activist blogs, like John Morgan’s PA Progressive, picked up Republic Report’s story.

Holden faced criticism for voting to gut the Clean Air Act and to pass the Bush tax cuts. Like many Blue Dog Democrats, Holden voted against mortgage modification, another giveaway to Wall Street. In recent months, he was an early cosponsor of the privacy-shredding Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Although Holden voted against the DISCLOSE Act — the fix for the disastrous Citizens United decision — his campaign complained about outside interests coming in and influencing the race. In the final week of the campaign, corporate lobbyists from a group called “Center Forward” aired some $100,000 in attack ads against Holden’s opponent. As we reported, the group is registered to a lobbying firm that advertises its ties to Blue Dog congressmen like Holden.

The Occupy movement, coupled with the voter disgust with the Citizens United decision, could have wide ramifications for the 2012 election. Although Congress is becoming more beholden to powerful corporations, the Holden-Cartwright race suggests that voters may be fed up with corruption this year.