When I think of Congressmen Steve Rothman and Donald Payne, “conservative” is just about the last word that pops into my head. Am I worried about either of their progressive bona fides? Not really. However, I’m a little concerned about the choices made by some of their staffers. Two, to be precise.
Shelly Stoneman serves as Rothman’s Legislative Director, as well as Military and Foreign Policy LA. Kerry McKenney is Payne’s Legislative Director and Press Secretary, a juxtaposition I don’t quite get, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that no one serving at the pleasure of New Jersey’s progressive voters should be attending conferences put together by the right-wing Mercatus Institute. And yet, according to records of travel by Congressional staffers analyzed by Kagro X at Daily Kos, that is exactly what each of them did in February of this year.
The Mercatus Center bills themselves quite vaguely as “a research center focused on improving our understanding of how societies transition to prosperity and remain prosperous over time.” However, a more detailed analysis of their work can be found in a Wall Street Journal article reposted at their own website:
When it comes to business regulation in Washington, Mercatus, Latin for market, has become the most important think tank you’ve never heard of. Staffed by veterans of the White House office that reviews and often scales back proposed rules, Mercatus, with its free-market philosophy, has become a kind of shadow regulatory authority. The White House’s top regulator, John Graham, was briefly a member of Mercatus’s board of advisers before taking the government post.
And an analysis of their financial support network, done in early 2005 by MyDD’s Chris Bowers, explains their interest in so-called “free-market” deregulation. Familiar right-wing names like Koch, Olin, and Scaife have pumped tens of millions of dollars into the organization since its founding in 1985. The Mercatus agenda can be summed up as the wholesale destruction of any and all government oversight of big business, consequences be damned.
The only other member of the New Jersey delegation with staff at the conference was Scott Garrett, whose Chief of Staff Michelle Presson was in attendance. While it makes perfect sense that Garrett’s staff would work in association with a group like Mercatus — he’s a far-right Representative, they’re a far-right think-tank — it doesn’t speak well of either Payne or Rothman to have their names associated with the Mercatus Center.
I’m not suggesting that Stoneman or McKenney should be run out on a rail for attending one Mercatus conference. But we really ought to make it clear to our lawmakers that corporatist, anti-government think-tanks like Mercatus are not to be considered honest or credible sources of information or training for their staffers.