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‘Corporate-free’ Alex Lee benefits from corporate political spending

‘Corporate-free’ Alex Lee benefits from corporate political spending

Assemblyman Alex Lee, a San Jose Democrat, is apparently lots of things, according to his Twitter bio.

He’s progressive, a Democratic Socialist of America, “NUMTOT” (whatever that is), LGBT and “corporate-free.”

A fringe candidate in 2020, he squeaked through because there were a handful of Democratic candidates splitting the vote and Lee had a small, but excited base. It seems a cocktail of progressivism, socialism, whatever NUMTOT is and “corporate-free” is good enough for 15 percent of the vote in San Jose.

While the phrase “corporate-free” doesn’t really make sense, I assume it suggests he doesn’t take corporate PAC money, which is a popular claim on the American left, especially in the socialist wing of the party.

A pinned tweet atop Lee’s page reads: “As promised, I’m hitting the ground running on DAY ONE! Today I was official (sic) took office as District 25’s State Assemblymember and immediately introduced my first bill to root out corporate special interest money in our democracy.”

Democracy is at stake here! Corporate political contributions are threatening democracy!

I’m sure that appeals to the 15 percent of district voters who carried him to victory. Unfortunately, Lee doesn’t appear to mean it.

Real quick: I couldn’t take it. I had to look up NUMTOT. Apparently, it stands for “New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens.”

He’s 26 and not a teen, so I call shenanigans.

But I still don’t know what he’s talking about.

According to Wikipedia, NUMTOT is a “Facebook group dedicated to discussion, Internet memes, and general discourse surrounding New Urbanism and public transport.”

In concept, I understand what that means. And it sounds incredibly boring. Are they just sharing memes about public transit and commenting on them? When I lived in DC, I followed a Twitter account called Unsuck DC Metro, which advocated for the region’s metro system sucking less (it sucked a lot). It was a thrilling hate-read for sitting in an A/C-less train bursting at the seams with people stuck in a dark tunnel with no end in sight.

NUMTOT seems different though.

Anyway, I’ve spent too much time on NUMTOT and I’m convinced that every answer will lead to more questions, and, as with most Internet fads, I’m probably too old to get it anyway.

So why is Lee full of it about his refusal of corporate contributions?

After tweeting, “I’m not taking any corporate, cop union, or fossil fuel money…,” California campaign finance watcher Rob Pyers noticed Lee had taken $ 100,000 from the LGBT Caucus Leadership Fund.

Ugh, get to the point already, you say? What’s wrong with the LGBT Caucus Leadership Fund?

Of course, nothing is wrong with the fund. And Lee is a member of the LGBTQ caucus, so it makes sense it would defend one of its members.

But if you were someone like Lee, pinning your campaign hopes on the promise that you would shun political contributions from law enforcement, corporations, and energy companies, shouldn’t it bother you to learn that the fund is heavily supported by the generous contributions of Chevron, Peace Officers Research Association, Anheuaser Busch, California Association of Highway Patrolmen, Sempra, PG&E, Pharma, Amazon and so on?

On Twitter, some people came to Lee’s defense, claiming he can’t stop the fund from taking contributions from police unions, corporations, and energy companies.

That’s nonsense of course. He could certainly try if this is really an issue he cares about. He shouldn’t though, because these entities have a right to make political contributions the same as the many other unions that also gave heavily to the fund and any other interest group or constituent.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that it’s not the fund that made the promise, it was Lee.

Lee says he believes the fate of democracy is being threatened by the political contributions of corporations, police unions and energy companies and is refusing contributions from those groups.

If that’s the case, then it shouldn’t matter if the contributions are made directly to him or laundered through a leadership PAC – he should return the $ 100,000 and refuse similar donations in the future.

Democracy is at stake, after all.

Follow Matt Fleming on Twitter @FlemingWords.


Press Enterprise