Jon Ossoff told Oconee County Democratic Party members last month that one of the things that distinguishes him from the other candidates for the Democraticy Party nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican David Perdue is his convictions and values.
Ossoff is CEO of Insight TWI (TheWorldInvestigates), an investigative journalism organization that produces programs for television companies around the world.
Ossoff said the first thing he would do as senator is “back a constitutional amendment that will overturn the Citizens United decision and get unlimited secret money out of our political system once and for all.”
In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, reversed campaign finance restrictions and allowed corporations and other outside groups to spend unlimited funds on elections.
Ossoff’s presentation before the Oconee County Democratic Party was through remote audio connections due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the party will meet remotely again on Thursday night.
The guest speakers at the 6:30 p.m. Thursday live-streamed meeting are Dr. Neal Priest, chief of the Emergency Room at St. Mary’s Hospital, and Amanda Davis, executive director of the Oconee Area Resource Council. They will be speaking on how COVID-19 is affecting the community.
Ossoff’s Self Introduction
Ossoff spoke for the first seven minutes of the hour-long, audio-only session and then opened up the meeting to questions. The original plans were for Ossoff to be present and speak to an assembled group, but the plans were changed because of the Novel Coronavirus.
In his introductory comments, Ossoff said that he worked for five years for U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson from the 4th Congressional District, providing staff assistance for the House Armed Services Committee.
He said he has been CEO of Insight TWI since 2013.
Ossoff, 33, ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district.
Ossoff transitioned to his theme of political corruption from his discussion of his journalist work.
“Our Senator David Perdue is a cartoon,” Ossoff said. “He is one of the outlandish examples of this corruption. In the U.S. Senate, he sells access for cash in grotesque and blatant ways.
“He trades exclusive access to his home, private retreats on the island where he lives, quarterly meetings and regular phone calls for thousands of dollars in campaign contributions,” Ossoff charged. Perdue lives on St. Simons Island.
“And that is the exact sort of pay-to-play politics that’s destroying our political system,” Ossoff said.
Ossoff and six others are seeking the Democratic nomination in the rescheduled June 9 primary to oppose Perdue in November.
Most visible to far have been Ossoff, businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico, and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson. Tomlinson spoke to Oconee County Democrats in August,
At the end of the session on March 19, Ossoff was asked to differentiate himself from the other candidates for the Democratic nomination.
“I have dedicated my career to attacking and exposing corruption, human rights abuses, war crimes and the abuse of power,” Ossoff responded. “I would humbly argue that at this moment in our history those are precisely the convictions and values that we need in the United States Senate.”
Ossoff On Issues And Elections
On healthcare, Ossoff said “I support via a public option making sure the 100 percent of American citizens and Georgians have great health insurance.”
“We need unprecedented investment in infrastructure and clean energy,” Ossoff said.
“We need to take those pharmaceutical companies to task so they are no longer charging Georgians and Americans outrageous, scandalous prices for prescription drugs.”
“The solutions to the problems we need to solve are not mysterious,” Ossoff said. “We just need to win elections and get it done.
“And here in Georgia, with two Senate races, we have a historic opportunity to deliver the Senate majority,” Ossoff said.
“We have the wind at our back statewide. We have all of the momentum, and we’re going to the run the most ambitious statewide get-out-the-vote program in Georgia’s history to deliver two Senate victories in November.”
An open special election without a primary also will be held on Nov. 3 to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired in December for health reasons.
Questions From Audience
Most of the question addressed to Ossoff following his opening comments dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is one of the classic things our government is supposed to be preparing for,” Ossoff said in response to one of those questions. “This is a known threat. And this has been on the radar of global health and public experts and institutions since late December.
“For the president to come out and say this snuck up on us is ludicrous,” Ossoff continued.
“We’re seeing right now in America what happens when the political leadership at the top is incompetent, doesn’t understand the issue, doesn’t take it seriously, is more concerned with the day-to-day ebb and flow of the stock market than the serious work of governing to protect the public health and the economy,” Ossoff told another questioner.
“Responding to this crisis, it’s not a mystery what we needed to do,” Ossoff said in response to another question. “This is something that the federal government war games and simulates.”
“The steps that the federal government needed to take beginning in January of preparing our hospitals in an orderly way to admit and treat a large number of pneumonia cases, building that auxiliary capacity, requisitioning the necessary medical equipment, insuring that we had sufficient testing capacity and getting it out to state governments and health authorities so it could be deployed efficiently, making sure that basic medical supplies like protective equipment for a medical team is abundantly available.
“Those are all things that could have been done,” Ossoff said. “And they are all things that self-evidently need to get done in a scenario like this. It’s not that what to do is a mystery. It just takes a basic level of competence by the authorities to do those things in a timely manner.”
Economic Consequences Of COVID-19
“How a government balances its books says everything about its priorities,” Ossoff told Karen Hilyard, a member of the Oconee County Planning Commission, in response to a question she posed. “How it allocates its resources says everything about its priorities.”
“We’ve squandered trillions of dollars on war often entered under fall pretenses,” Ossoff said. “We’ve squandered trillions of dollars on bailouts with virtually no strings attached for massive financial institutions that committed fraud that led to a deep global recession. And no one went to jail for it.”
“We’ve squandered trillions of dollars lavishing tax subsidies and special treatment on the wealthiest and best connected people,” Ossoff said.
“Then, by the way, we’re told there’s no money for Medicare, no money for Social Security, no money for Food Stamps,” Ossoff continued, “and apparently there hasn’t been any money to prepare for a viral pandemic that didn’t come out of left field but has been long anticipated and where we had months of lead time to get ready for it.”
“We need to build an economic infrastructure that is resilient to shocks like this,” Ossoff said, “because this won’t be the last time we’re suddenly faced with a threat to our prosperity, and it is revealing, the inadequacy of our response.”
“We will get through this together,” Ossoff said in closing his comments.
Thursday Democratic Party Meeting
Information on the Democratic Party live-streamed meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday can be accessed through the events list on the party’s Facebook page. Participants must register in advance.
Guest speaker Dr. Priest has worked as an Emergency Room physician at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens for 34 years.
Davis has been executive director of the Oconee Area Resources Council since July of 2018.
OARC is a non-profit corporation that has been designated by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners as the official advisory body for human services in Oconee County.
I had intended to listen to Ossoff speak but could not log into the session for some reason.
Ossoff’s digital director, Bailey Mohr, provided me with the audio recording.
I added the picture of Ossoff provided me by Parker of Ossoff’s staff to create the video below.
Ossoff made introductory comments and then began taking questions at 6:48 in the video.