Dear folks in Guthrie’s district: Is he working for you, or for himself?

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The Oxford dictionary defines the adjective conservative as: “averse to change or innovation and holding traditional values.” In some ways I am a fiscal conservative. In most ways, though, I am progressive. Which is to say I’m not averse to change or innovation, and I am in favor of progress.

More precisely I identify as a progressive liberal. The adjective liberal is defined as: “willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas.” Yessiree, that suits me to a T.

Another definition of liberal is “given, used, or occurring in generous amounts.” Would you like a liberal helping of ice cream, or a more conservative portion? (That fairly well describes me, too. I have a generous nature.)

A majority of rural and small-town Kentuckians are conservative. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Kentucky’s US 2nd district. Talk about averse to change: An incumbent hasn’t been defeated in this district since 1884. That’s true for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Democrats held this seat from 1865 until 1994. (I’ll do the math for you; that’s 129 years.) Democrat William Natcher from Bowling Green represented Kentucky’s US 2nd district from 1953 until he died in 1994. According to Wikipedia: “Former Representative Democrat William Natcher is noted for holding the record for most consecutive roll call votes in the history of Congress – more than 18,000 votes.”

After Natcher died, Republican Ron Lewis won a special election in 1994. A staunch advocate of term limits, Lewis had promised to leave the House in 2003, but he changed his mind and kept the seat until he retired in 2008.

Republican Brett Guthrie won the seat in 2008. As far as Republican congressmen go, Guthrie isn’t all that bad. He isn’t nearly as bad as, say, Jim Jordan of Ohio, or Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

On January 6, 2021, just hours after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, 139 of the 221 Republican Representatives in the US House objected to the Electoral College count. Guthrie was not one of the 139 objectors. (Rep. Hal Rogers, R-5th District, was the only US congressman from Kentucky who voted to obstruct the vote count.)

On June 29, 2021, the US House of Representatives voted 285 to 120 to pass a bill removing statues of Confederates and advocates of slavery from the US Capitol. Guthrie was not one of the 120 Republican Representatives who voted against it.

I subscribe to Guthrie’s newsletter. His legislative efforts are usually helpful and worthwhile, but they don’t address our underlying problems, and they don’t help the average American worker.

For example, Guthrie writes: “I voted to ensure all Americans, including veterans, can more easily access 24/7, confidential support by changing the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline from a 10-digit number to 988. I visited with local health care providers ... to receive an update on the implementation of the 988 number and thank these health care workers for being available 24/7 for people in distress. If you are or someone you know are in distress, please use this free lifeline for assistance: Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988.”

What happens when a suicidal person calls 911? Are they told to hang up and dial 988 instead? What is Guthrie doing to address the underlying problems that drive people to suicide and despair?

Trace Die Cast in Bowling Green was founded in 1987 by Lowell Guthrie, Brett Guthrie’s father and its CEO. Brett Guthrie’s brother, Chris, is president of Trace Die Cast.

According to a Sludge report, “Congressman Sits on Board of Family Business, Could Influence Policy to Help It,” (1/23/2019) by Alex Kotch: “Six-term GOP Rep. Brett Guthrie of Kentucky has millions invested in the company, which makes automotive components out of aluminum.”

“Republican Brett Guthrie ... is an uncompensated board member of Trace Die Cast, a company that makes aluminum-based engine, transmission, and driveline components for the automotive industry. He has as much as $10.5 million invested in the company through equity and trusts.

“Trace Die Cast received three Small Business Administration (SBA) loans from 2010-12, all while Guthrie was a House member, totaling close to $5.6 million, at a cost of $403,000 to the federal government.”

Guthrie was part of the Congressional Aluminum Caucus, which has members “with an interest in supporting aluminum jobs in their districts,” according to co-chair Suzan Delbene (D-Wash.).

“Guthrie has a clear conflict of interest with his official duties,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen. “Guthrie should voluntarily remove himself from sponsoring or even voting on legislation that has a direct and substantial impact on his personal finances.”

According to another Sludge report, “Members of Congress Profited From COVID Bailout While Small Businesses Were Shut Out,” (12/24/2020) by Justin Glawe and Jeremy Borden: “Sludge found that 18 congressional Republicans and one Libertarian have received $21.7 million for 38 businesses with which they are associated. Nine Democrats received $6.1 million for 11 of their own businesses.

“While the majority of Democrats and Republicans voted to pass Monday’s COVID relief package, two Democrats and 57 Republicans voted against it. Among the Republicans who voted to not fund a second round of PPP . . . are 10 who received $15.3 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the CARES Act.

“Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) was one of the members who voted nay on Monday night. He also benefited from PPP funding when his family’s business received $4.3 million in loans that most likely will not have to be repaid.

“Along with many other Republicans, Guthrie had decried stimulus spending aimed at ordinary workers and individuals who do not earn six-digit salaries. In July, Guthrie, PPP recipient Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and 33 other GOP representatives wrote to President Trump and implored him to stop extended unemployment benefits from reaching jobless Americans in the spring and summer.”

In short, Guthrie’s family’s business, Trace Die Cast, reportedly received three SBA loans totaling almost $5.6 million, and an additional $4.3 million in PPP loans from the CARES Act. Yet Guthrie voted against a second round of PPP stimulus spending, and he cosigned a letter to President Trump urging him to stop extended unemployment benefits.

I’m not knocking American business in general, or Trace Die Cast specifically. But it looks like during the worst of the pandemic, Guthrie was obstructing efforts to help American workers, even while his family’s business was raking in millions in PPP loans which may be fully forgiven, (meaning they won’t be repaid).

So, what exactly is Guthrie doing to support American workers now during the worst inflation since 1981? He has changed the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline from a 10-digit number to three digits: 988.

Unlike Guthrie, Democratic nominee Hank Linderman doesn’t have millions of dollars invested in a family business. Linderman, a multitalented musician, built a solid career as a self-employed musician and recording engineer. He has always been a working-class guy – never a bureaucrat or an “uncompensated board member.”

Sadly, conservative Kentuckians are averse to change – and that means two more years of conservative Brett Guthrie protecting his family’s business interests and ignoring the needs of working-class Americans.

Hank Linderman offers real progress and change.

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Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.

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