Why are you running for Congress?
For 20 years I have worked as an entrepreneur and CEO of clean energy companies. It was in this capacity that I met with Peter Roskam in 2015 to discuss several energy bills that were being introduced in Congress. I was extremely disappointed by his lack of willingness to engage in any substantive conversation relating to our energy or environmental policy. He had opinions shaped strictly by ideology and was unwilling to consider any facts that didn’t fit into that worldview.
After selling my company, Recycled Energy Development, last September, I decided my next business would be to replace Peter Roskam with someone who cares about the future of both our community and our planet. And of equal importance, to replace the Congressman with someone who values fact and critical thinking above partisanship and politics as usual.
And then Donald Trump was elected president. Like so many, I have become increasingly alarmed at the direction of our country under this administration. I am appalled by President Trump’s lack of decency. His treatment of women, his attacks on a free press, and his public praise for a healthcare plan he privately acknowledged as “Mean,” and many more which daily serve to undermine trust in our institutions and reduce our stature in the world. But, just as appalling as the president’s behavior is the silence from Peter Roskam, who places partisanship above having the common decency to condemn such behavior.
As I considered entering this race, I met with many local leaders and concerned citizens and began to realize that many of the things that drew me to the clean energy field would be helpful in the context of a campaign as well. My belief has always been that to truly change the world, you need to involve, inspire and mobilize people and organizations beyond yourself. That is exactly what we need to do to defeat Peter Roskam and Donald Trump and bring common sense and a respect for scientific truth back to Washington DC.
Over the course of my career, I have met and engaged with politicians on both sides of the aisle, but have watched with dismay as the debate has shifted from one about the “right” role of government and markets to address our challenges to a more surreal debate about the reality of the challenge. The EPA was created by a Republican administration and the tightening of EPA rules that have directly led to the retirement of our coal fleet was passed early in George W. Bush’s administration. And yet today, the Republican position on climate change is to debate whether it exists.
This is a frustration for many of us in the clean energy space, and ultimately is the most succinct answer to the question. I’ve spent time considerable time working to design and install more efficient energy systems to directly address America’s climate risk – and to support public policies that do the same. But it doesn’t feel sufficient.
Please tell us about your background, including any public service or government participation.
I have an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College in molecular biology and biochemistry, and started my career as a scientist, studying breast and colon cancer at the Tufts University School of Medicine. I then attended graduate school at Dartmouth College, where I earned a Master’s of Engineering Management (a joint degree with the engineering and business schools) and an M.S. in Biochemical Engineering. My master’s thesis focused on the design of reactors and micro-organisms to convert cellulosic (“woody”) biomass into fuel ethanol. That led to a job at consulting firm Arthur D. Little, where I performed technology and strategic assessments for a broad array of clean energy technologies, from alternative fuel chains to fuel cells and electric vehicles.
I gradually came to realize that the primary barriers to a clean, low and zero carbon future are not fundamentally technological: there are too many old, fully proven, cost-effective technologies that are under-deployed relative to their economic and market potential for this to be true. The barriers are in fact a mix of bad public policy that protects the status quo and odd quirks in the ways the people and companies make capital investment decisions. As I observed how many companies were inventing new technologies, only to see them join the long-line of under-deployed technologies that came before, I came to believe that there was an opportunity to create an innovative business model that would lead to reduced carbon emissions and make the process more economically viable.
This goal informed my 17 years as a CEO.
While building my own businesses, I also helped to create the Northeast CHP (Clean Heat and Power) Initiative, a group that combined 50+ like-minded small companies to collectively advocate before state legislatures and utility commissions in New England to help advocate for the deployment of clean heat & power technologies. I later assumed the chairmanship of the USCHPA, a group that did the same work at the federal level. In those capacities, I have testified before the US Senate Energy Committee and numerous state legislatures and had the privilege to meet and work with many people at the EPA, Department of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other agencies.
Do you live in the 6th Congressional District? Which part of the District do you live in, and how long have you lived there?
Yes. I have lived with my wife and two daughters in Downers Grove since 2007. We moved here from Massachusetts when I started Recycled Energy Development, a Westmont-based owner/operator of clean heat and power projects.
How do you view the 6th Congressional District, what challenges and/or opportunities do you see for us?
I believe there is actually a lot of common ground among the people who reside in this district. It isn’t just Democrats who want affordable, quality public schools and colleges. It isn’t just Democrats struggling to pay for health care. And it isn’t just Democrats who believe in developing clean energy alternatives that don’t pollute our environment and potentially destroy our planet.
I want to champion policies that reflect our commonalities and build upon the assets we have in this district.
We need representatives in Washington who are responsive to their constituents; we need to replace Peter Roskam, someone who won't even meet with his constituents, much less vote in favor of their interests.
While the district was drawn to favor a conservative candidate, the sixth includes a highly educated electorate, which alters the political landscape of the district and the path to success, particularly in the Trump era. A successful candidate will need to excite the Democratic base to turn out and vote, but also be able to articulate and frame issues in ways that resonate with those who may have voted for Peter Roskam in the past but have become disillusioned with his hyper-partisan approach to the most important issues we face.
If elected, how would you stay in contact with your constituents? What is your view on in-person town halls?
It is the job of an elected representative to be in regular contact with their constituents. Peter Roskam’s negligence of this most basic duty is appalling. It is impossible for him, or any Member of Congress, to represent their District without maintaining a regular and open dialog with constituents. And that includes regular, open, in-person town halls. We may not always agree but we should always be accessible to listen to our constituents so that we can better represent their concerns in Washington.
How well/badly do you think current incumbent Peter Roskam is serving the district?
Peter Roskam is a symptom of what is wrong with the Republican Party. The party has been captured by ideologues that control a small, but politically meaningful bloc of votes. Rather than serving his constituents, Roskam instead serves his personal ambition for a leadership position by staking out extreme, hyper-partisan positions on nearly every issue. His extreme voting record and his refusal to engage with his constituents are his attempt to simultaneously do nothing to alienate the radical fringe of his party while hoping the people he was elected to serve won’t notice.
If elected I will represent my constituents’ interests in Washington.
As an executive who has spent many years identifying and promoting people within organizations, I find it telling that after nearly 25 years in public office, the leadership of the Republican Party has not seen fit to give Peter Roskam any leadership responsibility beyond those that flow from seniority. This is a good indication that he is already over promoted, benefitting not from competence but simply from his length of tenure on the public payroll.
His time serving his political interests ahead of those of his constituents will end as soon as his constituents come to understand what his colleagues already know.
What will you do differently to our current Representative?
I think I can best illustrate how my approach will be different than Mr. Roskam's by describing my meeting with him to discuss the renewal of tax credits associated with wind and solar technologies. Rather than using the opportunity to learn more about the issue from a group of people who worked every day to make clean energy options economically viable, he led off the meeting by telling us he was not open to new information or facts that might change his preconceived position that he did not support tax credits nor did he support ‘picking winners’. When I asked him whether that meant he would support changes in Congressional budget approval processes to make it easier to provide economic incentives through means other than tax credits, he refused to answer and asked if I had any additional questions. I then said that our average US power plant is more than 40 years old and the current rates of asset retirement are making our power grid increasingly dependent on older sources that are in locations and/or use fuels that were not designed to deliver the cost, reliability and environmental quality we have come to demand, and asked what he liked about the current status quo – and specifically what outcome he thought we would achieve if we did not ‘pick winners’. His only response was to say that the meeting was over.
This conversation is what initially motivated me to find a way to end his political career. His approach to this meeting and his refusal to meet with constituents is anathema of what public servant should be. Mr. Roskam lacks the humility and good sense to learn from others and has a long history of putting partisanship ahead of the best interests of his constituents and country.
A leader must develop opinions based on a careful review of facts and must be willing to listen, engage and learn from their constituents and experts. Peter Roskam fails on all counts. As your representative, I will review the facts, listen carefully to my constituents, and vote in a manner that places the interests of the district and the country ahead of blind partisanship.
As it stands, the proposed AHCA would affect the healthcare of tens of thousands of 6th District constituents. How do you feel about repeal and replace? What is your view on the ACA? Would you support working to improve the existing ACA as opposed to repealing it?
The AHCA is not a healthcare bill. It is a tax bill and should be understood as such. Its purpose is to reduce taxes on the rich funded by a reduction in services to seniors and the less well off. There is unambiguous evidence that if passed, 20,000 – 40,000 people will die every year as a result of reduced access to health care. No one who calls themselves a public servant can support such outcomes in good conscience.
The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it made meaningful progress in protecting patient’s rights and expanding coverage to more Americans. As a Member of Congress, I will fight to preserve common sense protections to patients, expand coverage for those who can’t afford it, and lower the cost of care.
One of the most interesting questions that are not being considered by enough members of Congress is what we can learn from our “best in class” competitors – namely, health systems throughout the world. We pay far more for health care per person than most other first world countries and have slightly worse health outcomes. Britain has higher life expectancies, more hospital beds per capita and more doctors per capita than we do, but only spends one-third as per capita – and they are far from the only country with this kind of disparity.
Congress needs to consider ways to take the best parts of other health systems throughout the world and apply it to our own; rather than playing politics, we can improve the system, improve health care for all Americans, and live healthier lives while saving us more than $2 trillion.
Do you support Planned Parenthood?
Yes, unequivocally. I am 100% in support of a woman’s right to choose and I believe a strong majority of voters in the 6th support my position and reject Congressman Roskam’s extreme anti-choice views.
Planned Parenthood provides critically essential reproductive health services to millions of women and men – from birth control advice and access to discrete STD testing/treatment to breast cancer screening. For people in many communities, Planned Parenthood provides the only safe, affordable and discrete provider of these services.
I remember the circumstances of many of my friends shortly after college graduation – Planned Parenthood played an integral – though discretely spoken of – role in helping them access health care at this critical time. Many worked jobs that did not include full health insurance. Without Planned Parenthood, some others would have had no access to preventive, screening or family planning services at all. Planned Parenthood helped them navigate risks responsibly at a challenging time in their lives.
Peter Roskam and the GOP leadership in Congress have worked hard to demonize Planned Parenthood; trying to paint them as a healthcare provider for the irresponsible, and using language (and debunked videos and smears) designed to offend religious groups.
We know better, and have a moral obligation to ensure that all citizens continue to have access to these essential health services.
What is your view on immigration? Do you support a path to citizenship?
In 2009, I was selected as an “Emerging Leader” by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and as part of their program worked with a fascinating group of people from the public and private sector for two years to take a non-partisan, factually-informed view of US immigration policy.
It became clear in that process that immigration – much like climate change – is an area where our policy debate has devolved into one around completely imaginary “facts.”
The real facts which we should all accept are that (a) immigrants as a group are less likely to commit crimes than native born Americans; (b) immigration to the United States – undocumented and otherwise – is a net gain to the US economy, even after adjusting for lower income tax contributions by undocumented employment; (c) the undocumented population is increasingly dominated by people overstaying legally obtained visas, not by people sneaking across borders and (d) immigration trends are dominated by supply/demand constraints in the US labor market: our economy used to predominantly create medium-skilled jobs, but now predominantly creates low- and high-skilled jobs – and immigration in aggregate is filling in those gaps within our own labor system.
US immigration policy has never been perfect and has not always been based on the right motivations. We have a history of allowing racism to influence policy in terms of who we allowed to come and who we kept out--the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which prohibited all Chinese laborers—is a good historical example. But, despite so many barriers, immigrants from all over the world have persevered, overcome, and built better lives in the United States. This has made our nation a stronger, better place.
We are the country of explorers and innovators and entrepreneurs in no small part because of this part of the American tradition. The same holds true today. We should absolutely endorse a path to citizenship for immigrants who meet reasonable criteria.
In light of these realities, “the wall” on the Mexican border is a bad idea. It would serve only to waste billions of dollars, alienate both our immediate neighbors and the world at large, and provide satisfaction to President Trump and anti-immigrant extremists.
The ban on travel from Muslim countries makes no legal or mechanical sense, makes America look awful internationally at a time when we should be instead of building allies in the Muslim world, and is based almost exclusively on President Trump’s well-documented prejudice.
How do you view the proposed ban on people from six predominantly Muslim countries?
There is no need to pull punches. It is racist, period.
My family has created a small foundation to help fund international education. After September 11, we created an exchange program with a high school in East Java, Indonesia that provided resources to allow 5 students to come and study for a year in the United States as a means to encourage cultural exchange and communication. Later, my parents went to Afghanistan and helped to build a bridge that had been destroyed by Russian bombs in the 1980s and had prevented two generations of children in a small town from crossing the river to go to school; they also helped to bring all of the Afghan Fulbright students to Hinsdale to do home stays with local families during their year of study in the United States. As part of these activities, we have had the pleasure to be welcomed into the homes of many Muslim families who have become friends; these friends are now wondering what has happened to the United States.
There are good people in every country on earth and unfortunately some bad people in every country on Earth. As a nation, we are smart enough to figure out the difference. There are plenty of good reasons to welcome good people into our homes and country while recognizing the need to ensure that we keep out those who would do harm. But religion, skin color, or gender, or sexual preference or any other number of personal characteristics do not predict moral character, and such a litmus test goes against everything we have stood for as a country.
Would you describe your National Security stance in general as global (interventionalist) or national (isolationist)?
Our agenda as a country will never be identical to those of any other country – even our closest allies. But we have far more commonalities than differences – even with the people of countries that we do not enjoy good relationships with. We all benefit from peace. We all benefit from clean air and stable environment. Moreover, the nature of the modern economy makes us far too interdependent to “go it alone” no matter how much President Trump’s naiveté may claim to the contrary.
Our greatest successes as a country and our credibility as a global leader have always come when we engaged with the world, not when we turned inward.
What are your criteria for US military action in North Korea?
There are no good choices here. North Korea– like Russia – does not act in good faith and is constantly testing the rest of the world to see how much they can get away with. We need to make the most of all of our economic, diplomatic and foreign policy tools up to but not including military action – but always with the credible threat to escalate – to minimize North Korea’s access to cash and nuclear material until such time as we have a change of regime or a provable commitment to act responsibly.
What are your views on US military intervention in Syria?
Get Syria wrong and you further destabilize the Middle East, creating more vacuums into which the ISIS’ of the world can grow; essentially repeating the conditions that the Bush administration created in Iraq. Ultimately we need to recognize that we accept the best we can given the cards we hold rather than play out a hand based on cards we wish we had.
As Colin Powell said about Iraq, “If we break it we buy it.;” we need to clean up the things we already “own” before we break anything else. Then we can consider the challenges we want to take on, recognizing that if we grant ourselves authority for regime change, we have to also bear responsibility for what follows.
Before military intervention, at what point do you believe the President should seek Congressional approval?
The “war on terror” framing has allowed the executive branch too much cover to do too many things without oversight from the legislative branch that by any reasonable measure are acts of war – from targeted drone strikes to MOABs.
There are, of course, circumstances that require quick and discrete decision making—the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden is a good example--where a president must have the discretion to take action first and disclose later. But this only works if you have a president with the intellectual and moral capabilities to be trusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country.
What are your views on NATO and our international allies?
The actions of the current administration to undermine NATOs critical role to maintain peace since WWII are alarming. The era of American hegemony is over, even if many haven’t realized it. Other than the military, there’s no venue, trade and health care for example, where we are more important than everyone else combined. As a practical matter, we can’t accomplish our goals independently anymore. Success requires working with other nations and increasingly acting as a team member, not independently.
How do you view Betsy de Vos’ stance on schools? Do you agree with the Voucher system? Do you support before and after school care, and subsidized school lunch programs?
With a few exceptions, Trump’s cabinet is dominated by people like Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Betsy de Vos who have no real understanding of the agencies they lead—and who, like our current representative in Congress, regularly put partisanship and ideology ahead of facts
My wife and I are both products of public our schools, and both my daughters are currently attending Downers Grove public schools.
I’ve also known many people who have gone to private schools, or send their children to them, and appreciate their place within a functioning education system. However, I do not support voucher programs. I believe they can lead to an even more severe stratification—and in many cases segregation—in our schools. The easier we make it for people to selectively opt out of the public model, the more we create the potential for a vicious cycle as costs and challenges are concentrated in one set of schools as financial resources flee to another.
There is a tremendous body of evidence that supports the positive impact after school care and subsidized school lunch programs have on student performance and retention—we should continue such programs that make it easier for economically disadvantaged students to come to and stay in school.
How do you feel about affordable colleges/trade-schools? Do you feel that student loan debt is a concern? How would you address the burden of debt on students?
Higher education costs and student loan debt have created a ticking time bomb. Tuition costs have steadily grown at a far faster rate of inflation than the economy as a whole, gradually squeezing the middle class.
I serve on the Dartmouth College / Thayer School of Engineering Corporate Collaboration Council, where we help students in their Masters of Engineering Management program secure internships and long term employment. Graduates from this program are highly sought after and earn good salaries in skilled technical and management jobs. They are also overwhelmingly international, like all graduate engineering programs in the United States.
Student loan debt is absolutely a concern, caused first by the high cost of secondary education and second by changes to the bankruptcy code in 2005 that made it impossible for insolvent Americans to ever extinguish their debt obligations. We need to revisit the code and we need to explore every possible policy option for making higher education – including trade schools and junior colleges – more affordable. Our nation took a big step backward when Republicans in Congress undermined the National Direct Student Loan Program - which was spearheaded by the late Senator Paul Simon – in favor of ‘school as lender’ models which favored banks and big financial institutions at the expense of students. This trend – of putting students’ loans and futures in the hands of lending institutions that often do not have their best interests at heart – added mountains of needless complexity to the system and precipitated the crisis that followed—a crisis we are still experiencing.
We need to look for ways to make lending simpler and cheaper – the principles that inspired Senator Simon’s work on this critical issue.
What is your stance on funding education at the federal level?
I am a strong proponent of government funding of education. I believe it is an investment in future growth. And as someone who values the need to apply critical thinking and evidence to policy solutions, I know there are studies that show how increased funding for education has a net positive impact on the economy and society as a whole. One example is the National Bureau of Economic Research study which concluded that investments in education led to students staying in school longer--so, it is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.
Do you support workers’ rights? What is your opinion of the National Right to Work Bill, which targets Unions? How would you fight for women's rights in the workplace?
I strongly support unions and worker’s rights and would oppose any National Right to Work legislation. More broadly, I think we have suffered politically as working people and their advocates have had their voice drowned out by the money of the Koch brothers and other right-wing, anti-union forces.
I am deeply troubled by job creation trends as well. Our company provided heat and power to businesses that in aggregate employed about 6,000 people and I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with workers at steel mills, paper plants, pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers, food processors and numerous other businesses who we worked with. Without exception, all of those businesses are dramatically more mechanized today than they were 20 years ago. Dealing with job displacement from mechanization is one of the central challenges of our economy and our country.
To tour a steel mill today is to see a small number of people performing a very high-skilled job. Those people should be – and often are – paid a good salary, with good benefits. But in visiting those plants, one also sees ghosts – cafeterias that seem far too big for the work force, showers and break rooms that have fallen into disrepair and disuse - all the other hallmarks of a company that once employed many more workers than they do now. Those missing jobs represent real people who supported real families. Those displaced workers have been left behind for too long.
We need to do more to help them acquire the skills, training, and education they need to succeed in the modern economy. It is not easy and not cheap, but it is an investment we need to make. The social costs to our nation of giving up on workers who have been left behind are too great to contemplate – and it is also immoral. As Democrats, rather than bashing immigrants and building walls – neither of which will bring a single job back to our country - we must set ourselves apart, and commit to the hard work of understanding the needs and concerns of these workers and giving them the tools they need to succeed again.
Despite the nationalist rhetoric from Donald Trump, we must recognize that new factories in Mexico, Vietnam and China are often just as automated as the ones in Illinois. One robotic factory is replaced with another, but the residual challenge remains – how to make sure that the benefits created by ever increasing productivity are appropriately shared with those who weren’t lucky enough to stay employed through that job-destroying transition. Those people need job retraining, but also need to maintain health insurance, food and heating assistance and housing before they find new employment. We owe workers better than the false promises they are getting from the Trump Administration.
What is your opinion on both internet privacy and neutrality?
I strongly favor both and all polling data indicates that Americans of all political stripes agree. The legislation to reverse the FCC privacy rule is only supported by the companies that would profit from it and politicians like Congressman Roskam who has accepted more than $33,000 from those companies.
What is your stance on Climate Change, and how do you think we can best protect our environment? Have you actively been involved in addressing the Climate Change issue - if so, please tell us how?
I have dedicated my life to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in ways that make economic sense for business. It is both the biggest challenge facing humanity and the one that we have utterly failed to address politically – at least in the United States.
There is no silver bullet to address climate change from a technology or policy perspective, but there is also no question that the current trends of population growth, per capita energy consumption and the carbon-intensity of that energy are unsustainable.
In the immediate term, there are a tremendous amount of things we can do that should be an absolute policy focus. There are well-developed but underutilized energy conversion technologies that are hampered by politics and antiquated business practice. I have written and spoken at length about these barriers and can say with confidence that to fix them is simply a matter of political will.
There are also a host of government policies that misprice or misallocate costs and benefits that cannot always be changed but can be addressed by energy policy. For example, if you rent your home and are responsible for utilities, neither you nor the home owner has an incentive to install an efficient water heater. Good policy acknowledges and addresses this gap. Too many policies instead conclude that the new, more energy efficient water heater must not represent an economically optimal decision
We must put a price on CO2 emissions, but I have seen many good policies proposed, but most, if not all of the policies that have emerged from political processes have been whittled down to do far too little relative to the scope of the challenge.
Lastly, we must solve this globally. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement was a phenomenally bad idea, mitigated only by the fact that the U.S. has long since abdicated any leadership or authority on global climate change. This is small comfort, but at least our departure didn’t cause the real leaders to walk away from the table. We should not only re-commit to the Paris structure, but also commit to playing a leadership role consistent with our contribution to historic emissions and consistent with our role on the global stage.
Illinois loses billions annually because we pay more in federal taxes than we
receive. How do you propose eliminating/alleviating our payer state problem?
From increasing transparency on the allocation of federal dollars sent to the states, to chipping away at spending that directs money towards the states that get a disproportionate level of federal dollars, this is an issue that Congressman Foster has done great work on. If elected, I look forward to working with him to narrow this gap and fight for greater federal investment in the people of the district and our regional economy.
With all this in mind, it is alarming that Peter Roskam has voted for extreme right-wing budgets that would decimate employment and economic engines in our area like Fermilab and Argonne. We need a representative in Congress who will fight against these cuts that not only damage our local economy, but cripple our nation’s ability to continue as a leader in scientific research and development.
Do you believe there should be an independent investigation into the Russian interference in the US election?
Yes, I absolutely believe there needs to be a very thorough and independent investigation into the integrity of our election system and the role Russia and others may have played in tampering with it.
Each day brings fresh revelations, but at this point, several things are clear. (1) The Russians absolutely interfered in the US election, with intent to destabilize US democracy; (2) The Russians believed that the election of Donald Trump would benefit their agenda. (3) Members of the Trump team – including Trump himself – were aware of these efforts, notwithstanding their public denials at the time; (4) Director Comey, President Obama and Mitch McConnell were all also made aware of these activities, but only Comey and Obama made any effort to intervene, and; (5) The Trump team not only failed to share their knowledge of these actions with the authorities but were actively encouraging the Russians to continue their work, whether through Donald Trump Jr’s recently released emails that led to his meeting, or through Donald Trump Sr.’s encouragement to Russia to find “Hillary’s missing emails”.
Time and Robert Mueller will tell whether the Trump team is guilty of extraordinarily bad judgment, treason or something in between. But the longer this process goes on, the more the Russian’s primary goal is achieved as American’s gradually lose their faith in the integrity of our electoral process and in the ability of Congress to put the good of the country over the interests of their party. It is for this latter reason that the GOP’s behavior has been so reprehensible.
Mitch McConnell and John McCain had access to the same information President Obama received from Director Comey and chose to do nothing. When public pressure came to for Congressional hearings, Congressman Devin Nunes snuck into the White House and shared intelligence with White House staff, forcing him to step down from the investigation. Speaker Paul Ryan, when asked if he would accept Russian interference to help him win an election said only that he would “(N)ot going to engage in hypotheticals.”
Peter Roskam meanwhile has done virtually nothing. When I called his office in April as a constituent to express my concern, I was told that he had co-sponsored H.R. 172 in response to Russian election meddling. This is a bill that asks members of the house to vote in favor of a resolution that it is the “sense of the House” that Russia should not hack future US elections. A meaningless resolution is the sum total of Mr. Roskam’s actions regarding interference by a foreign nation in our election.
The idea that each of us were created equal, and that elected leaders must be accountable to their constituent are bedrock American principles--Russia wants to undermine those principles and Mr. Roskam’s solution is to ignore their action and simply pass a weak bill to let other people in Congress know that he won’t be happy if they do it in the future. His reaction is the essence of political grandstanding with no real purpose.
As Winston Churchill wrote, “the time for half-measures, soothing and baffling expedients and delays is coming to a close… we are entering an era of consequences” If those consequences are to preserve the American experiment, the first step must be to replace Peter Roskam and the GOP leadership with people who will put country first and treat this national threat with the seriousness it deserves.
Finally, I think we as a country need to have a very serious, objective look at cyber security. How did Russia gain access to DNC emails? There are some suggestions that they tried to reach all the way into voting machines. Did they succeed? What steps are we taking to protect these systems from attack in the next cycle?
We have watched from afar as Vladimir Putin has weaponized Twitter and other social media outlets in the Ukraine and other former Russian states – and watched far too closely as he tried to do the same in our country. How successful was he? We are living in an era in which our information is far more valuable than our land – but don’t have a military structure, protocols or even a consensus on the “rules of engagement” to be able to coherently – and safely – respond to what is, in many ways, an open act of war.
I have every confidence that there are good minds in our intelligence community and at the Pentagon who can develop plans to protect us, but no confidence that the GOP’s current leadership is making that a priority – or that President Trump is able to attract and retain people with a level of talent, discretion and the moral compass necessary for the job. We must replace the current Congressional leadership with representatives who will devote the time and resources to these issues, commensurate with the scale of the risk they pose.
Do you support requiring any nominee for a major political party to publicly release the previous five years of their tax returns – plus their tax returns every year while POTUS?
Yes. It is startling, and a reflection on the current occupant of the White House, that something so obviously necessary becomes something that needs to be required by law.
It looks like, to succeed, you would have to convert some 30,000-plus GOP voters. How would you do that?
Our district certainly leans Republican (although there are huge numbers of independents who don’t associate with either party). However, I firmly believe there are at least 30,000 Republicans in our district are ready for change towards a more accountable, accessible, moderate voice in Congress than that provided by Peter Roskam.
We live in a highly educated district that runs from Fermilab to Argonne and includes many people of both political parties who value scientific knowledge, respect people who think facts matter and enjoy the diversity innate to the greater Chicago region. Those people may reflexively vote Republican in normal times, but so many of them are very clearly anti-Trump today because he fails to represent the fact-based, morally-decent nature that is so important to the people of the 6th District.
My career as a scientist, my commitment to climate change and success in business, as well as my firm belief that facts matter, and must inform the decisions we make as a nation, will resonate with issues and life experiences across the political spectrum.
Who is your personal hero?
I’ve always had a tremendous respect and awe for artists – and in particular, for those who can speak in an emotionally honest and empathetic way about people who are otherwise invisible, living on the fringes of society. As my wife will attest, I have been known to get choked up and moist-eyed listening to Bruce Springsteen or reading authors like Isabel Wilkerson and John Steinbeck – all of whom have an uncanny ability to understand the people they write about and describe them in ways that highlight the universality of their challenges.
Their dedication to telling the stories of people who are too often left behind and marginalized is in no small way a tremendous influence on my view of the world, and my desire to serve.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m currently midway through Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, midway through Elizabeth Brayer’s biography of George Eastman and just starting Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’ book “Everybody Lies: What the Internet can tell us about who we really are.”