Organization Trends

The Democratic Socialists of America: Do As They Say, Not As They Do


The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)  claims to be “the largest socialist organization in the United States,” and, despite preceding its socialism with “democracy,” it believes in total government control of both the economy and society. You likely have already heard of the DSA’s rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, due to her surprising win against the high-ranking incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D) in New York’s fourteenth district Democratic primary. Since the election of President Donald Trump, the far-left has enjoyed political and cultural momentum within the Democratic Party. Membership within the DSA has reportedly risen tenfold, from 5,000 members at the end of 2017 to almost 50,000 as of August 2018.

At the same time, the #MeToo movement continues to animate the feminist left as it exposes the sexual misdeeds of numerous powerful men. Naturally, the DSA aligns with the movement, arguing that remedies to the exposure of male media figures like Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves and politicians like Roy Moore and Al Franken, must “focus on structural and legislative solutions” to eliminate the hierarchical relationship between a boss and employee. But that raises a question—do DSA’s most prominent members live up to the ideals of the organization?

Answer: Not well. The list of DSA-supported members formerly in the House of Representatives have also been identified as some of the most egregious sexual harassers. Start with former San Diego Mayor and U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-California). He became San Diego’s first Democratic mayor in twenty years before the truth about his nasty behavior towards women was revealed. He was convicted of false imprisonment and two cases of battery. Even one of his House colleagues, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) alleged that Filner tried to pin her against an elevator door and forcibly kiss her.

On November 2017, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-Michigan) resigned for spending $27,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, the story broke that Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) paid $220,000 to settle his own sexual harassment case—again using taxpayer dollars.

In fact, even the DSA’s current vehement defense of sexual abuse victims appears to be optional for its members in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In 2003, former California Representative Lynn Woolsey wrote a letter of support for a convicted violent rapist, who just happened to be the son of one of her district office staffers. Woolsey just wanted the judge to keep in mind that the rapist “is a young man from a supportive family” and that he had “a promising life ahead of him.” (His victim did not accept Woolsey’s later apology.) Even more recently, Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) made the controversial statement that some Capitol staffers’ dress amounted to “an invitation” for sexual harassment, forcing her to issue a clarification.

It’s not just sexual misbehavior. Like their overseas comrades, America’s Democratic socialists have been implicated in a number of corruption scandals. It would appear socialist politicians aren’t above accumulating wealth for themselves. Before she became the hero of the #Resistance, even the David Brock-aligned liberal group CREW identified Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) as one of the most corrupt members in Congress. Waters allegedly used her political position to assist companies in which she bought and sold stock and in which her family members were shareholders, such as OneUnited. Her family charged candidates to get a place on her “slate mailer”—a sample ballot used in California with recommendations and endorsements to help guide voters in ostensibly nonpartisan elections.

Waters isn’t even the worst of the DSA-backed financial grifters; a number have become convicted crooks. In 2013, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a leftist figure known for speaking out against former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (D) for corruption, was convicted of felony fraud for using campaign funds for personal expenses. Former Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida) was convicted in 2017 for a number of corruption offenses. Former Representative Chaka Fattah (D-Pennsylvania) was convicted for racketeering, mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and bribery, among other charges (the bribery charge was later dismissed on appeal).

The scroll of Democratic Socialist sleaze continues. Left-wing former Massachusetts Representative John Tierney (D) saw his wife and step-brothers convicted for tax fraud and operating an illegal gambling operation; the step-brothers have said Tierney knew about the gambling, though he denies it. Finally, former House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel was censured by the House for at least 11 ethics violations, including using his office to solicit millions of dollars in donations and refusing to pay his income taxes.

The radical Left in the DSA and the Congressional Progressive Caucus talk a tough game about sexual equality and effective management of public resources. But their personal records show that many left-wing leaders cannot keep their hands off each other and out of the cookie jar. How do they expect to control themselves when the government grows to the size needed to bring about their socialist dystopia?

Harry Kazenoff

Harry Kazenoff is a recent graduate of American University’s School of Public Affairs. He serves as research intern at the Capital Research Center.
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