Pingree fails in ‘Me and AOC’ foray

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a rock star. Amassing and leveraging millions of Twitter followers, “AOC,” as she’s come to be known, has become the perfect progressive counterweight to President Donald Trump. Charismatic and utterly unafraid, AOC has sparked the imagination of millions across the country.

Chellie Pingree … hasn’t. Despite her best efforts to become a progressive hero, our 1st District congresswoman’s boring demeanor and lackluster list of accomplishments have kept her as a B-list politico, despite her electoral success in Maine’s 1st Congressional district. (Full disclosure: I managed an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Pingree in 2018. Not bitter, just familiar.)

Now that AOC has rolled into D.C. as an unabashed “democratic socialist,” Pingree’s jumping on board her train, hoping this rising star can spare a little glitter.

It’s the feel-good buddy movie of the year. Picture “The Odd Couple” meets Karl Marx.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-New York) waves to the crowd as she steps onto the stage at the Women’s Unity Rally in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Pingree is basking in her new friendship, sharing photos of the two laughing together in the halls of Congress and jumping on board AOC’s push for a “Green New Deal.” Now the two have teamed up on a far-left overstep that should make people of all political stripes equally uncomfortable.

Pingree and AOC penned a letter to Google, Facebook, and Microsoft this week, criticizing their sponsorship of a libertarian political conference. Pingree tweeted that the sponsorships were “troubling to me & @AOC.”

LibertyCon is an annual conference featuring a slate of speakers from the libertarian/conservative world, including Steve Forbes, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. These are not Pingree & AOC’s people, to be sure, but they’re not fringe figures either — they’re respected thinkers from the center-right of the political spectrum.

What’s gotten the progressive odd couple’s ire up is a breakout session at the conference, where an organization called the CO2 Coalition held a talk about the veracity of global warming science. The group is no doubt part of a climate change skeptic movement, and it’s not surprising that Pingree & AOC disagree with their message.

What is surprising is that two members of Congress would feel it’s within their purview to level an implicit threat against these companies for sponsoring a conference. It’s commonplace for companies to sponsor these events as part of their marketing outreach. Their goal is to get more business from political entities, and also to be in good stead with the people who make laws.

By sending this letter, Pingree & AOC are telling companies their marketing activities are being watched by Congress. Not for illegal activity, but for sponsorship of public events where something they disagree with gets discussed.

This is wrong. I don’t support what the CO2 Coalition is doing, but Congress has no place dictating what can and can’t be discussed at a political conference.

Sending this threatening letter is a far more offensive act than Google or Facebook having a banner up at a conference where climate change is debated. It’s an overstep that reveals a troubling perspective on the role of government in our private lives, specifically related to free speech, and it’s almost perfect that it was sent by two quasi-socialists in reaction to a libertarian conference.

I appreciate the role Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is playing in American politics right now, and I think it’s helpful as part of a recalibration after the bilious Trump ascendence. But enthusiasm and political courage shouldn’t supercede common sense, and members of Congress sending threatening letters to companies about where they advertise is simply out of bounds.

AOC is inexperienced and energized. Pingree is not. She should know better than to use her office to chill free speech, regardless of the passion she feels for the topic. I’m sure it’s exciting for Pingree to be traipsing around Capitol Hill with a celebrity, but if this team is going to be successful in improving the direction of our nation, it’s going to take a lot more common sense than they’ve shown so far.


Lance Dutson

About Lance Dutson

Lance Dutson, a principal of Red Hill Strategies, is a Republican communications consultant. He has served on the campaign teams of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte, as well as the Maine Republican Party.