Oppo Research-- An Introductory Primer

-by Jason Call

Congressional candidate (WA-02)

When an incumbent is challenged from within their own party, as I am doing (for all intents and purposes I am a Democrat, even if it's mostly by default), the question inevitably arises “why would you do that, especially if the incumbent has proven they can beat the GOP?”

It’s a fair question, and we’re going to dig into it here.

First, if we accept the Democratic Party as a “big tent” we also have to accept a variety of political opinion within the organization. However, each party org, from county, to legislative, to state, to national, has a platform. Those platforms are generally pretty aligned and pretty progressive. I spent much of the summer of 2018 working on my local county platform (I was chair of the Snohomish County platform committee) and also the Washington Dems State platform, where we were able to introduce, for instance, a Housing Justice section that had never existed before. Most rank and file Democrats are, in fact, in agreement that we are in climate crisis and should support a Green New Deal. Most are agreed that our for-profit health industry is a murderous abomination and that we need a national single payer healthcare system. Within the ranks of the Democratic voting base, these progressive ideas are not controversial. We even have the general position within the local orgs that corporate funding of campaigns is bad and that corporations are not people.

So the question must be asked, “Why do we continue to elect very conservative representatives who call themselves Democrats but are way out of alignment with our stated party values?”

The easy part of that answer is that the Democratic Party is mostly captured by corporate money. While donations from individuals tend to fluctuate, corporate money can be counted on, as they donate to both parties, and particularly to candidates who have shown a willingness to promote their agenda. These donations mean income to the thriving consultant sector, and thus the Beltway norm of corporate alignment is reinforced as those consultants create candidate messaging that says “this person can work for their donors, and also the public.” This message, however, is a lie.

So here’s the not-so-easy answer to the question: the lie is difficult to expose. To expose it takes not only the diligence to do the work of digging through FEC filings and voting record, but it takes that Democratic rank and file to be willing to listen, read, examine, and evaluate.

At Call For Congress, we think we have produced a gold standard of research that will allow the rank and file to do just that. On our website we have two documents that tell the full 20 year (and more) history of WA-02 corporate incumbent Rick Larsen. His funding from a variety of industry sectors (fossil fuels, transportation, war machine, healthcare, tech, Wall Street) is on full display, as are the votes he has made over his career that do not align with stated party platform ideals. We have identified numerous instances where it essentially appears that votes have been directly purchased. One of the documents is designed to directly challenge the incumbent as we head into the spring/summer endorsement process for the local party organizations, or really for any endorsing body that has standards in alignment with the progressive platforms. Why were certain votes taken? Why are certain ideals supported? Isn’t there a conflict with certain industry funding? It’s all there, absolutely available for any locals to arm themselves with. The other document, the longer one, is a detailed history of the incumbent’s time in office. How did his political career start? Where does he generally stand on issues, for instance Israel/Palestine, or the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, how he has used his power as ranking member and now Chair of Aviation (and now even more relevant as he seeks to be Chair of the House Transportation Committee.)

We believe that if the voters do some real soul searching, they’ll recognize that Larsen is-- quite frankly-- a terrible representative for this ostensibly progressive district. I say often that corporations are well represented in Congress, while the working class has only a handful of fighters. And yet, the vast majority of voters are working people who are desperate for representation that puts their living needs for housing and healthcare, wages and education, ahead of the shareholders of the corporations who fund Larsen’s career (51% corporate PAC funding in 2020.) Hopefully they will now see that they have competent and well researched evidence that they should deny Larsen continued endorsements, and that the best avenue to securing working class representation is to get me on the ballot next to Larsen for the 2022 election (WA is a top two/jungle primary state), where I’ll be able to highlight these glaring policy conflicts in a much wider forum. There is no downside to that scenario for the average voter, only for the corporatists. Do Democratic voters really want a representative who is one of the top 35 most conservative Democrats in the House, by alignment with the American Conservative Union?

We at Call For Congress also hope that our efforts will serve as a model for other progressive candidates to produce their own bodies of opposition research work. There’s no vitriol in these documents. The financing and voting records, as well as identification of party platform planks, are 100% factual, and everything is footnoted. American voters often feel like what happens behind the curtains is out of their reach to understand. We are putting understanding within their reach.


Jason final appeal is to follow his good friend Ben Karpelman, who has worked on these documents for 2 years. He can be found at @snocialism on Twitter, and is Rick Larsen’s reply guy whenever Larsen puts out a disingenuous or misleading tweet. "For my fellow progressive candidates," wrote Jason, "find your Ben; he is invaluable to my campaign. Solidarity." And I want to throw in a final appeal of my own-- a contribution, hopefully a recurring contribution, to Jason's campaign... something you can do by clicking on the Blue America 2022 Congressional thermometer just above.