EXCLUSIVE: The WGA West’s political action committee has endorsed 12 Senate and 15 House candidates in the upcoming midterms “who support the guild’s public policy priorities.” Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and Adam Schiff are among the recipients of PAC money, and they’re all Democrats except for Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, a Socialist who caucuses with the Dems.
All the senatorial candidates are incumbents, but four of the House candidates are challengers who the PAC says could “help flip the House” from Republican to Democratic control.
The PAC, which is seeking donations in a push to regain Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, has made some $450,000 in campaign contributions since 2009. It relies strictly on voluntary donations – guild members’ dues are not involved.
“I’m very proud of the continuing development and influence of our PAC since its founding ten years ago,” WGA West president David A. Goodman told Deadline. “Writers’ contributions to the PAC have helped guarantee our voices are heard in Washington. And now, with so much at stake not just for writers, but for unions and the country, keeping that voice strong through political engagement has never been more important.”
The PAC says the endorsed candidates were evaluated based on their records in Congress and/or on a questionnaire they were asked to complete. The first query of the questionnaire took a direct swipe at President Donald Trump, who has called The New York Times, CNN and the news divisions of ABC, CBS and NBC “the enemy of the American people.” He’s also called for laxer libel laws as he threatens to sue Bob Woodward and others in the media.
“The right to free speech is fundamental to our democracy and to the work of writers,” the questionnaire states. “Yet statements made by this Administration that attempt to delegitimize mainstream media and the press, as well as efforts to prevent people, including artists of specific cultural and religious backgrounds from entering the U.S., will have a chilling effect on speech nationwide. Will you oppose efforts to limit dissent, freedom of the press and other efforts that undermine our First Amendment rights, including efforts to reform libel laws?”
The PAC is also supporting candidates who oppose so-called “Right to Work” laws that are antithetical to organized labor. Most of the candidates endorsed support net neutrality and oppose media mergers that the PAC says lead to “fewer voices and viewpoints, less diverse and independent programming, higher prices for consumers, and downward pressure on wages and benefits for workers.” Federal candidates who work to protect multiplayer pension and health plans are also favored.
Senators endorsed by the PAC include:
- Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is endorsed because “cultivating the guild’s relationship with our California senators is a top priority,” the PAC says, and because of her role as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which “plays a critical role in shaping antitrust and competition policy and opposing the media mergers that threaten writers’ interests.”
- Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who publicly voiced support for the guild last year during its rancorous negotiations for a new film and TV contract, “is a valuable ally,” the PAC says, calling her “a tireless advocate for consumers and for policies that would level the playing field for middle class families.” She’s also outspoken about “the need to check the power of corporations and revive antitrust enforcement, including by opposing media’s mega mergers.”
Bernie Sanders is getting PAC money because his efforts “to strengthen the power of unions in the face of increasing attacks makes him a champion for the guild and writers.” He also voiced support for the guild last year during its contract talks, and has been a consistent critic of mega media mergers.
- Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who “stands up for labor,” has been “a steadfast ally to the Writers Guild.” Running in a state that Trump won in 2016, the PAC says she’s “a progressive, vulnerable senator in need of support” who has “championed working families and the middle class, and made embracing diversity one of her key missions.”
- Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who also voiced his support for the guild during its 2017 contract talks, has been “a champion of labor and the middle class” and a “consistent advocate for the guild, fighting to repeal the excise tax on health plans.” Now locked in a competitive race, the PAC says he’s “receiving the guild’s wholehearted support.”
- Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is “a longtime ally of organized labor and supporter of the middle class, now leading the charge in Missouri to fight an anti-union ‘Right to Work’ law.” The PAC also notes that she’s “a vulnerable Democrat in one of the toughest races in the country.”
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is described as “a longtime friend of labor who “is an increasingly important ally to writers in the Senate,” where she is “a strong supporter of net neutrality” and the author of legislation to reform antitrust laws and “help block mega media mergers.”
- Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is called “a strong supporter of union rights” and “a powerful partner the guild needs in Washington” who “has used her influential voice to demand reinstatement of net neutrality rules, curb the power of cable companies and fight corporate media consolidation.”
- Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is red-state Democrat who may be the most vulnerable Senate Democrat this election cycle. “She is a strong supporter of net neutrality,” the PAC says, and as “a friend of labor” has shown her commitment to protecting health plans by supporting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax on high-end health plans like the WGA’s.
- Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, is “engaged in a tough reelection campaign and considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats,” the PAC says. “As the Democratic leader of a key committee affecting writers’ livelihoods, Senator Nelson is an important ally.”
- Jon Tester (D. MT) “has a strong record of fighting for the working class, vocally opposing ‘Right to Work’ legislation in the Senate,” the PAC says. He also gets points for saying that “ending net neutrality ends the Internet as we know it.”
- Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is another red-state Democrat “with a consistent pro-labor voting record” and “an advocate for writers’ interests.”
The PAC also is endorsing 15 House candidates whose views are similar to those it’s supporting in the Senate. They include California incumbents Schiff, Karen Bass, Anna Eshoo, Ted Lieu, Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui. Other House incumbents who will be getting the PAC’s money include Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Richard Neal (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA). PAC money is also going to the four challengers – Californians Katie Hill, Harley Rouda, Katie Porter and Mike Levin – who are seeking to oust Republican incumbents.