Cline plunges into the swamp

If anyone thought Congressman Cline was serious when he talked about “draining the swamp” in Washington, here’s the latest:

The campaign of Virginia GOP Rep. Ben Cline [held] a financial services industry breakfast Tuesday. Cline is not on the House Financial Services panel, but Republican Rep. Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin is, and he’s promised as a special guest at the breakfast. House Financial Services has a markup scheduled this week on a bill to overhaul the U.S. Export Finance Agency and a measure to require carbon monoxide detectors in some federal housing.

You won’t read anything about it on Cline’s website, Facebook page or Twitter feed, but the invitation for the breakfast on Capitol Hill asked for donations from political action committees of $1,000 or $2,500, and from individuals of $500 or $1,500 to Ben Cline for Congress Inc. The arrangements were handled by Republican fundraising consultant Laura Kilgore McMenamin of Alexandria, who also helped raise money for former Congressman Bob Goodlatte. For her services, she has received $148,248 from Goodlatte and $77,568 from Cline.

We’ll probably have to wait until after the Federal Election Commission’s June 30 filing deadline, but it will be interesting to see who attended the breakfast and how much they gave.

In the meantime I have emailed Cline asking for that information, and about the legislation that was discussed.

According to

The financial sector is far and away the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties, with insurance companies, securities and investment firms, real estate interests and commercial banks providing the bulk of that money.

The sector contributed generous sums to both parties until 2010 when donations began to heavily bias Republicans, which likely reflects the finance industry’s interest in overturning the financial regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act, implemented to protect consumers from predatory lending practices and risky financial decisions from the industry. In 2014, the industry as a whole contributed half a billion dollars to candidate and party committees, PACs as well as outside spending groups; 62 percent of the funds given to candidates and parties went to Republicans. In 2012, the giving was even higher (as is the trend with presidential cycles) at $687,000; nearly 70 percent of the candidate and party gifts went to the GOP.

For Cline’s 2018 campaign for Congress, banking and financial interests were among the most generous donors, including:

–American Bankers Association ($2,500)

–Wells Fargo ($2,500)

–Genworth Financial ($1,000)

–Capital One ($1,000)

As a member of the House of Delegates, Cline was pleased to receive more than $27,000 in donations from predatory payday and car-title loan companies that exploit the financially desperate, including TitleMax and Check into Cash.


Cline’s claim about gang members and green cards rated mostly false

Congressman Cline is one of several Congressional Republicans who are spreading falsehoods about the the Dream and Promise Act passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Also known as H.R. 6, the Democratic legislation would open up a path to a green card for nearly 2.7 million undocumented immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The bill covers “dreamers” — a term for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — and smaller groups of noncitizens who were eligible for temporary protected status or “deferred enforced departure” before the Trump administration announced it would curb those programs.
As MPI noted in this analysis, the bill covers “unauthorized immigrants, regardless of age, who entered the United States before age 18 and at least four years before enactment of the legislation, and who have a high school diploma or GED, or are enrolled in a high school, GED program, or an apprenticeship program.”
“This bill will certainly give green cards to gang members,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said during the floor debate. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) said “H.R. 6 also provides green cards to gang members.”

But according to The Washington Post Fact Checker:

The Dream and Promise Act says it doesn’t cover immigrants who “knowingly, willfully, and voluntarily participated in offenses committed by a criminal street gang” at any point in the five years before their application for a green card. This provision does not seem to require a conviction of any kind, only proof of participation in a crime gang.

However, the bill also says “allegations of gang membership obtained from a State or Federal in-house or local database, or a network of databases used for the purpose of recording and sharing activities of alleged gang members across law enforcement agencies, shall not establish the participation.”

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California made a key point:

“If we had wanted to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from using or referring to gang databases, we would have said so,” Lofgren said on the House floor. “The bill would clearly state that DHS could not use, rely on, or refer to gang databases. That is not what the bill says. The bill says ‘it shall not establish disqualifying gang participation.’ It can be evidence, but it can’t be the establishment of that fact.”

She continued: “Now, why would that be the case? We value our law enforcement community. They keep us safe. They are hard-working. But these databases are populated by people way beyond law enforcement, people in school police, school security. They can result in people being mistakenly tagged as gang members when they are not. I will give an example. There was an audit done of California’s gang database, CalGang. When the auditors went through, they found out there were 42 individuals who were under the age of 1 year old who had allegedly self-reported that they were part of a gang. Obviously, that was incorrect. So we would not want to make that the determining factor.”

The Fact Checker concludes:

Republicans are making sweeping and factually flawed claims that H.R. 6 would give legal status to gang members and smugglers. We give them Three Pinocchios.

Under The Post’s rating system, Three Pinocchios signifies

Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.”

Cline, like President Trump and many other Republicans, is all too willing to engage in phony scaremongering on immigration-related issues. It’s easier and perhaps less politically risky than doing the hard work of fixing a broken immigration system.

Cline will hold town hall June 17 in Rockingham County

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting (register here) on Monday June 17 from 5:30-7 p.m. at Linville-Edom Ruritan Club, 3752 Linville Edom Road, Linville, VA.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Rockingham County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.

Perhaps some of our Rockingham County readers can take the opportunity to ask Cline about some of the things he has said and done, as chronicled here and elsewhere, since he was sworn in as our representative in Washington.

Fiscal irresponsibility watch

“In one of my first speeches after being sworn in, I reintroduced four words to Congress that Washington needs to hear again and again: we can’t afford it.”
–Congressman Ben Cline, The Roanoke Times

“I will continue to vote against wasteful spending and demand fiscal responsibility in Washington in all areas. If we can find ways to balance our state budgets and our family budgets, I believe it is time for the federal government to follow suit.”
–Congressman Ben Cline, Sixth District Perspectives

Meanwhile, and so far unmentioned by Congressman Cline:

Happy to bring this to your attention, Congressman.

Cline on the Virginia Beach massacre

Nearly 48 hours after the horrific slaughter in Virginia Beach, Congressman Cline has finally acknowledged it on his Facebook page.

Sorry, Congressman. That’s too late and much too little.

On Saturday– one day after the atrocity– Cline addressed a meeting of the Sixth District Republican Committee in Harrisonburg. He did not mention Virginia Beach at all. But he did restate his commitment to opposing any and all forms of firearms regulation. He said that when he entered Congress this year, he urged Republican leaders to appoint him to the Judiciary Committee and “task me with defeating gun control bills.”

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Cline helped kill virtually every legislative effort to impose regulations of any kind on ownership of firearms or the kinds of weapons and accessories that can be sold or owned in the commonwealth.

In 2018, after he was named chair of the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee in the House of Delegates, he bragged about his endorsements by the National Rifle Association (one of the largest donors to his campaigns) and the Virginia Citizens Defense League— which prides itself on being more extreme than the NRA.

In 2017, the VCDL PAC even went so far as to say, “Ben just might have the ONLY absolutely unblemished record in the [General Assembly]! He is as faithful as they come!”

This, after all, is a man who opposed issuing a new Virginia license plate with the message: “Stop Gun Violence.”

So we don’t have to guess what Cline’s position would have been on this if he had been in Richmond this year.

A Virginia bill designed to ban sales of large-capacity magazines similar to those used by the Virginia Beach gunman died in committee in January on a party-line vote.

The fate of the legislation, SB1748, was so widely expected that the outcome drew virtually no public attention. For more than 20 years, Republicans and a few rural Democrats in the General Assembly have killed almost every measure aimed at restricting gun ownership.

Virginia Beach police said their officers shot and killed the gunman after a lengthy gun battle in which he used two .45-caliber semiautomatic handguns that were purchased legally.

Along with the weapons at the scene, investigators found a sound suppressor and extended magazines, which contain more than the standard number of rounds. Police have not identified a motive for the shooting.

[State Sen. Adam P.] Ebbin’s bill would have prohibited any person from importing, selling, bartering or transferring a firearms magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Eight Republicans voted it down, with six Democrats in favor, in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 28.

Another bill that died in the Virginia House in January would have allowed localities such as Virginia Beach to ban firearms from government buildings such as the one where the attack on Friday occurred. Virginia Beach Council member Guy King Tower said after the shooting that it was regrettable that the city needed state approval to take such actions.

It’s regrettable too that we are represented in Congress by a man whose devotion to the radical “gun rights” lobby is so slavish that he dutifully opposes the most common-sense measures to restrict gun violence– even those supported by many or most gun owners.