This commentary is by Liam Madden, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Balint’s money isn’t the story. People who are paying attention to Vermont politics are by now aware that a single cryptocurrency tycoon was responsible for funding the majority of Becca Balint’s ads in the primary — over $1 million worth.
To be fair to Becca Balint, she is telling the truth in saying she can’t stop these folks from spending money on her behalf. And I’d go even further in extending the benefit of the doubt to Balint, to say that I believe her when she says she would work to change the system to prevent this kind of dark money’s influence on elections.
But I’d still like to take a moment to reflect on some of the aspects of this story that are easily overlooked.
1. Becca Balint explicitly claimed never to seek PAC/lobbyist money, but she did meet with the crypto-funded PAC “Protecting Our Future” and others. It’s a bit difficult for me to reconcile why she would, you know, just casually meet with a PAC, with no intention of courting them for their money.
2. While that PAC endorsed her, its leaders and those close to them funneled most of their money through the LGBTQ PAC that would provide much better plausible deniability and PR cover.
3. The language of the “Protecting Our Future PAC” policy positions ended up, nearly verbatim, on Balint’s website as her own policy position. Most notably, to call for independent oversight over labs studying pandemic causing pathogens.
4. While #2 & #3 is well covered by Vermont media, what I haven’t heard yet mentioned is that this position screams of a perspective that is deeply concerned with how pandemics are leaked from sanctioned biolabs. It is a reasonable concern to have, given that, according to USA Today’s long-term coverage, this is a commonly experienced risk of these labs.
More controversially, the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) release of Anthony Fauci’s records reveal that his team sought to cover the tracks of NIH funding the lab in Wuhan. Also, the records requests reveal his team’s efforts to write obfuscatory scientific papers to take public scrutiny away from their role in risky research.
Columbia University professor Dr. Jeffrey Sachs was put in charge of a Lancet Medical Journal investigation to sort out the legitimacy of the possibility of a lab leak. His team initially found the claims unsupported. Sachs, however, has since come out, acknowledging that the team of Fauci’s high-level confidants misled him, and that he now believes that a lab leak is the most plausible explanation for the origins of SARS-CoV2.
My point is that the policy in question is, well, good policy. It would help prevent the real risk of lab-leaked pandemic pathogens. But—one little but—Becca Balint has never been too vocally concerned about this risk before, publicly anyway. She has, on the contrary, been an unquestioning champion of whatever the CDC and health authorities have told the public to do and believe. That’s the part of the story the press has thus far missed. Senator Balint now has a contradiction to contend with. It will be interesting to see what sort of verbal gymnastics — eh hem — justifications she will offer.
How can we can trust the health policy judgment of someone who will parrot every pronouncement of the same authorities who clearly bent over backwards to deceive Professor Sachs (and the American public) by obscuring their role in the sloppy practices performing extremely dangerous gain of function research on deadly viruses?
It is Senator Balint’s lack of skepticism for these authorities — except when there’s a PAC funding on the line — that is the real story here. It’s not seeking their support (which she did); despite saying she wouldn’t; it’s not receiving their support (which she did); it’s not even having them write her policy (which she did). The most egregious part of this saga is that this policy is something that was inconvenient to support before. It was politically expensive, so Balint hadn’t the courage to breathe a peep about it — until it paid.
But there is a little more to discuss. First of all, I’m left wondering, why didn’t these crypto millionaires support Molly Gray? She would have been likely to support the commonsense policies they advocate, I think. Even I support these policies, begging the question: why is it worth so much to these guys to influence a race where every candidate is in agreement with the purported issue at hand? It seems wiser to invest in a race where your money would actually matter. So what real agenda is the pandemic policy a fig leaf for?
That, I don’t know. But it brings us to another point, which is that asking these questions is dangerous. Why? Balint’s campaign manager, Natalie Silver, commented, “Molly Gray is very close to saying, you know, ‘We don’t want a gay agenda.”
That’s the sickening thing to me about identity politics. Whenever valid critique of a person is levied, instead of debating the critique, identity fundamentalists often reflexively resort to ad hominem accusations of bigotry to deflect the real concern. It reminds me how these tactics were used against people who would call Hillary Clinton out on her Goldman Sachs speeches and years of pro-corporate, warlike policies. Instead of addressing these concerns on their substance, it was often easier to call her critics woman-hating misogynists. And now, when we wonder why so much spending for Balint is coming from non-Vermont oligarchs, or why all of the funding of this crypto-baron is being funneled through a LGBTQ advocacy group, we risk being smeared as homophobic trans-haters.
This PAC issue is not just about the spending. It’s about what it is revealing about the Balint team’s worldview — which is that her skepticism of those who wield power can be withheld, and that race, gender and sexual identity can be weaponized when it’s politically convenient.