Local Newspaper Reports About Delegate Keam's Work
Del. Keam Rapped by Progressives for Tea Party Appearance
by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer
(Created: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 4:34 AM EDT)Â
Some local Democrats say Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) did not help his party when he participated in a panel discussion Oct. 9 at the Virginia Tea Party's convention in Richmond.
But Keam, a moderate freshman whose district includes parts of Vienna and Oakton, suggested that any criticism was misplaced.
Keam wrote on his Web site that he attended the convention to meet and learn more about people who hold different political beliefs.
"Both sides seem to talk solely to their own bases and do not even bother to reach out to the middle or to the other side," Keam wrote. "It appears that the most extreme voices have dominated the national conversation and left the average American turned off from politics."
But Fairfax County Democratic Committee chairman Rex Simmons said Keam's actions, although well-intentioned, will not help fellow Democrats in what's shaping up to be a tough election year.
"Democrats do not tell their elected officials who they can meet with," Simmons said. "However, the Tea Party and the big-oil-financed group that calls itself Americans for Prosperity stand only for a radical, far-right agenda with a goal to defeat all moderate and progressive elected officials."
Simmons added, "A Democratic official choosing to engage these groups three weeks before congressional elections, supposedly to advance legislation with bipartisan support in the Virginia General Assembly, will not likely achieve any success, and such a meeting certainly does nothing to help President Obama and congressional Democrats move the nation forward."
James Walkinshaw, campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-11th), told the political blog Blue Virginia that Keam's appearance at the event was ill-advised.
"Democrats attending the Tea Party convention are merely allowing themselves to be used as props to create a false patina of legitimacy for what is in reality a radical right-wing organization dedicated to turning back the clock on progress," Walkinshaw wrote. "Tea Party values are not Northern Virginia values, and moderate Northern Virginia voters do not want to see their leaders associated with it in any way, shape, or form."
Reached on Monday, Connolly declined to comment further, saying only, "I wouldn't have gone."
Other Democrats were invited to the convention, but Keam said he was the only one who spoke at the event. The delegate participated in a panel discussion on governmental transparency, which was hosted by Americans for Prosperity.
The panel discussed how some legislation is killed in subcommittee, how those votes sometimes go unrecorded, and why there needs to be better disclosure of lobbyists' gifts and activities, Keam wrote on his Web site.
Keam, who attended only the final 20 minutes of the 50-minute session, discussed a bill he co-sponsored with Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67th) that would let the public search legislative votes online using lawmakers' names, in addition to by bill number, committee and key words.
The bill passed the House of Delegates earlier this year, but died in the state Senate's Rules Committee. Keam and LeMunyon plan to reintroduce the bill next year, Keam wrote.
While concurring with Tea Party members about the need for fiscal responsibility, Keam said he disagreed with that party's goal of slashing government programs and agencies.
"For the record, I do not support the current efforts of the Tea Party and the Americans for Prosperity to undermine the agenda of the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress," Keam wrote. "I also do not condone some of the extremist language and hostile rhetoric used by some Tea Party members that attack fellow Americans as somehow being less than patriotic."
Keam told the Sun Gazette on Tuesday that he believes in the concept of a big-tent party wherein all topics are open to discussion. He disagreed with the idea that Tea Party leaders had used him for their own purposes.
"They're a grass-roots movement that's out there with an agenda that's different from mine," he said. "They don't need me to provide them with legitimacy or credibility."