Is this business as usual, or is it … one toke over the line? Marc Caputo drags e-mails from DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz out into the light, in which the Congresswoman tries to get a critic to change his position by offering to change hers — on medical marijuana. Wasserman Schultz, reportedly aiming for a shot at Marco Rubio’s Senate seat, had drawn harsh criticism for her opposition to an initiative that would have legalized medicinal pot in Florida, and advocacy groups had pledged to fight her Senate bid as a result. Wasserman Schultz got so rattled by this opposition that she personally e-mailed at least one public critic with an offer to flip-flop on medicinal pot if he mellowed his groove against her:
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to change her position on medical marijuana if a major Florida donor recanted his withering criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.
The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier. Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”
“No,” Morgan responded. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”
Earlier, Morgan — a major political donor in Florida — had blasted Wasserman Schultz for her attack on his initiative:
Last year, Wasserman Schultz ran afoul of one major Florida donor, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, after she issued a statement criticizing the medical marijuana initiative he helped draft and fund with about $4 million of his own money through his People United political group.
“Other states have shown that lax oversight and ease of access to prescriptions can lead to abuse, fraud, and accidents,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that likened medical marijuana dispensaries to Oxycontin “pill mills” — a GOP talking point.
Morgan reacted furiously, saying Wasserman Schultz’s decision to trash his amendment was an example of why she’s “despised” in top Democratic circles.
If Wasserman Schultz had contented herself with re-election in her House seat, that probably would have made no difference. It costs a lot more money to run for the US Senate, though, especially in a big state like Florida during an election cycle. She’d need donors like Morgan, and specifically donors with whom Morgan networks, not just to win a general election but also to pre-empt other Democrats from mounting effective primary campaigns.
With that in mind, it seems pretty clear what Wasserman Schultz offered to do. She wanted to sell her position on medicinal pot for campaign cash — a boatload of it. Perhaps that wouldn’t come from Morgan himself, but a public reversal of his criticism would lend her more credibility with the libertarians and progressives pushing to legalize marijuana.
Instead, her credibility has been severely damaged, and with it perhaps her status at the DNC. At the very least, as Morgan says, she’s not going to put much fear into others any longer:
“Actions have consequences,” Morgan told POLITICO on Thursday. “Her days of pushing people around are over.”
It could have been much worse, though, as Michael Warren reports. Another Democrat pointed out that Morgan could have put Wasserman Schultz in prison rather than just humiliate her:
The email exchange, which was forwarded by Morgan to Politico, is certainly embarrassing for the congresswoman. But former Missouri state senator and failed congressional candidate Jeff Smith, a Democrat who was convicted and imprisoned in 2010 for violating federal election laws, says Wasserman Schultz should be thankful the Florida donor didn’t bring in federal investigators in to catch the DNC chair in the act:
Jeff Dunetz is enjoying the meltdown:
I don’t know if her pushing around days are over, Dumb, Dumb, Debbie has excelled as the designated attacker for the Democratic Party…and it will be tough to take her down (and either way fun to watch). I recommend the extra-large bag of popcorn.
Democrats had better come up with a Plan B for the Senate seat that doesn’t include Wasserman Schultz, Charlie Crist, or Alan Grayson. That may be moot, though, if the NRSC gets its wish:
FLORIDA: NRSC is pressuring US Sen Marco Rubio (R) to seek reelection next year instead of President, per AP. Important swing seat.
— Politics1.com (@Politics1com) February 20, 2015
I’d guess that Rubio may be thinking about this in light of the crowded field of governors in the presidential sweepstakes, too.