Buying Senator Pat Toomey’s vote… DeVos can do it, but we can’t

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I just tweeted at Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey [@SenToomey], asking what we should make of the fact that, in spite of her unpopularity among his constituents, he’s said he would be voting for Betsy DeVos, a woman who both publicly admitted to “buying influence” and gave him over $60,000 in contributions, to head the Department of Education on Monday.

As of right now, he’s not responded.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. To hear his constituents tell it, he’s become very hard to find these past few days. Calls to his office are going unanswered… which has led to an all-out assault on fax machine, with concerned Pennsylvanians faxing letters by the thousand. The last I heard, the Senator had received over 11,500 faxes, most of which, I’m sure, were urging him to be the deciding vote against DeVos. [As the count currently stands, it looks as though 50 Senators will be voting for the controversial Amway billionaire, and 50 will be voting against her, allowing Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote in her favor.] If you’d like to join in the fun, you can find Toomey’s fax number on the site of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, along with a number of sample tweets that you can send his way.

If he votes for DeVos come Monday, will it be enough to keep him from being reelected? I’m thinking yes. He did, after all, just win his second Senate race this past December by a hair, beating Democrat Katie McGinty 48.9% to 47.2%. And the pressure among his constituents is growing.

A 31-year-old South Philadelphia teacher by the name of Katherine Fritz just a few days ago launched a tongue-in-cheek GoFundMe page with the intention of raising more than the approximately $60,000 that DeVos has paid the Republican Senator. “If Betsy DeVos can buy Senator Toomey’s vote, we should be allowed to do the same,” Fritz told the press. And, it would appear that others agree. As of right now, Fritz has raised $66,751. [The funds, we’re told, will go to charity, if Toomey refuses to accept the bribe.]

Here, by way of Philly Magazine, is an email that Fritz sent to Toomey yesterday.

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This, for what it’s worth, is exactly the kind of response that we need to see more of… Resistance is not enough. We need more clever responses like this to the insanity that we’re seeing play out all around us. We need small things like this that point to the absolute lunacy of a system that would allow a Senator who has received cash payments from a Cabinet nominee, to then vote to put that person in office. We need creative ways to expose this for what it is. And, let there be no mistake… Betsy DeVos, possibly the least qualified Cabinet nominee we’ve seen in our lifetimes, is where she is today, very close to taking over the Department of Education, not because of any qualifications that she may have, but because she has invested heavily in the Republican party and people like Toomey. And, as she’s said before, she expects “a return” on that investment.

[For more background on DeVos and why she’s the wrong person to lead the Department of Education, read this: “We should have stopped Betsy DeVos when we had the chance.”]

update: From Jean Henry, who has family in Pennsylvania. While not specifically about the DeVos nomination, I think it illustrates just how tough of a position Toomey is in, and demonstrates how effective public pressure can be. Whether it’s enough to get Toomey to cross his party, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Update from Ben Wideman, a Mennonite pastor in Pennsylvania about a visit to his Republican senator’s office:

Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey’s Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban.

Here are my takeaways;
1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven’t stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can’t check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.
2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point [Note: I’ve heard that postcards are better because they can impound letters for five weeks to check for contaminants.] Regional offices are a much better mail destination because they compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.
3. Toomey’s staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, “We have a democratic system and process. Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch.”
4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.
5. Toomey’s staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey’s published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.
6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.
7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation. Staffers want to know.
8. Don’t stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President.

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7 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 5, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Toomey had better enjoy these next several years. The people of Pennsylvania will never elect him again.

  2. jean henry
    Posted February 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Pennsylvania has always had a politically independent streak. They tend towards moderates of both parties, pro-life Dems, pro-choice GOP, etc. Toomey is well liked. trump increasingly is not. There were lots of bits of the Trump campaign that would appeal to PA voters, promises on coal, steel industry support as well as a return of living wage manufacturing jobs and small business support– both tax reductions and easier access to capital. All these things sound great to Socially conservative, working class, independent but rule abiding PA citizens. What Trump has enacted so far though is not what they want. The refugee ban is hugely unpopular even among conservatives. The banking moves are not heartening. The US steel mandate for the wall is actually complicated because most US steel manufacturers now have already adjusted their biz model to become global entities. Oh and they love public education. Private schools are much less common in PA than in other coastal states. High school football especially is incredibly culturally important. This is more than most Michiganders want to know but I think PA has a similar voting block and influence to MI. What I see there is more interaction among classes and political views– less segregation. A lot more religious commitment. I’m hoping they figure out how to bridge the working class divide. My hometown has always been solidly republican but is ever increasingly Dem as well. The social media debates are intense, but also much more instructive than what I have access to in my MI circles. It’s really hard to unfriending or block someone whose kid goes to school with your kid, who goes to church or does business with you. So they try to work it out. They at least hear each other out. We don’t have that here in Washtenaw County anymore.

  3. Katherine
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    From a friend.

    DeVos Update: North Carolina’s Thom Tillis’s office says he’s undecided and wants to hear from people.
    (202) 224-6342

  4. Citywatch
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Who you know or who you blow. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was. If there are no consequences for doing things like this the behavior is normalized and we come to expect and accept corruption, pussy grabbing, racism and alternate facts. Start by telling him by phone or fax that if he (and others) do this and things like it we will find people, both Republican AND Democrats to run against him who have more sense and higher moral standards.

  5. Laura
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    There’s a Buy Back Rob Portman gofundme as well.

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Update from Ben Wideman, a Mennonite pastor in Pennsylvania about a visit to his Republican senator’s office:
    “Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey’s Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban.
    Here are my takeaways;
    1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven’t stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can’t check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.
    2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point [Note: I’ve heard that postcards are better because they can impound letters for five weeks to check for contaminants]. Regional offices are a much better mail destination because the compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.
    3. Toomey’s staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, “we have a democratic system and process. Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch.”
    4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.
    5. Toomey’s staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey’s published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.
    6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.
    7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation. Staffers want to know.
    8. Don’t stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President.”

  7. Erin O'Leary
    Posted February 6, 2017 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I am an IN resident, but saw a post that McCain was willing to hear opinions from anyone, including those who do not live in AZ. Since it was the end of the day and I was not able to speak with a human after several attempts, I left a voice mail. I will also be sending a message via the link below. Please consider doing the same!! Thanks in advance.

    https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

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  1. […] I’d thought that, by pointing out the fact that she’d stated on the record that she was in the practice of “buying influence” and “expected a return on (her) inve… we might be able to appeal to some of those 21 Senators who had taken money from her family to at […]

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