Massa on the Junket

Whatever you think about Eric Massa, he sure isn't boring.  Today's press conference was a prime example.  The television writers might be on strike, but Massa writes his own material.  Read on to learn more about Massa's take on Kuhl's junket. After wishing everyone on the call a Merry Christmas, Massa got down to it.  He said that one thing that he learned from the 2007 elections is that it's important to listen to your constituents:

I believe that our Member of Congress is not listening to our citizens.  There's no explanation for a Member of Congress to go on a Congressional junket for 6 days, and to believe that it serves anybody in any way in this district.  Kuhl provided headlines by saying he wasn't elected to go to Congress to raise taxes, but by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to go on a military chartered jet, and to stay in five-star hotels, Randy Kuhl is doing that
Massa said he heard about the trip because of a call from a reporter.

My response was that this is incorrect information.  There's no way a Member of Congress with as many challenges in his district would be so callous as to get on a military luxury jet and fly to Brazil on vacation, and say that he's doing it to study ethanol.  If you want to study that, might I invite you to go to Iowa.  If you want to know about sugarcane, National Geographic had a full-color story on sugarcane a couple of months ago.  I think it costs $3.50, and I'll buy him a copy.
A reporter (I think it was Joe Dunning of the Corning Leader), asked if he saw any value in the trip whatsoever:

Absolutely not.  What is the connection between the 29th Congressional District and this trip?  Randy Kuhl will say it is to talk about ethanol production.  Like I said, there's a state called Iowa.  It's very close.  Arguably, it's cold, and not very comfortable.  There aren't a lot of five-star hotels.  I've been to Brazil.  Trust me, there's nothing in Rio that connects to New York State.  [I read in the Washington Post that] Randy Kuhl is going to see waterfalls.  There's a place called Niagara...
Question:  "So, if you're elected, and you have the opportunity to take these types of trips, will you?"

Absolutely not.  My life experience has given me the ability to know where Brazil is, or Israel, or Iraq.  If you want to talk with foreign countries, invite them here to meet with you.  They can pay the money to come here.  That's not why we send people to Washington [...]

Randy Kuhl ran against the cesspool in Washington, and then he went there and made it his personal hot tub.
That last remark got Massa a couple of laughs.  He continued:

I was just down at Donna's [a restaurant in Corning], my home away from home.  I go there on Wednesday because she makes the best cinnamon buns.  Donna's was full of people who don't know whether they're going to be able to pay their heating bill next month.  That's no exaggeration.
The home heating assistance money, called HEAP, is in the labor bill.  Randy Kuhl just voted against it.  He voted against people getting federal tax money, that they've paid in, back.  [...]  Then he goes on vacation in Brazil.
If the voters of this district favor me with election, under no circumstances can I see taking one of these junkets, unless it's related to national security.  Last year, or the year before, Kuhl went to Iraq and said that the troops were gaining weight eating lobster.  This year he went to Brazil.  Next year, he needs to be home.
The next question was about Massa's take on ethanol, in general.  Massa said he had learned about ethanol at some kind of lab in Maryland (I missed the name).  He explained that there are two kinds of ethanol, carbohydrate and enzyme-based (cellulosic).

[For carbohydrate ethanol], in the US, you take corn, separate out the corn sugar, distill to alcohol, and burn it as fuel.  [...]  The problem with our current carbohydrate ethanol system is that it takes a much, or maybe a little bit more, energy to make it.
The future of ethanol lies in enzyme-based ethanol.  This is where organic enzymes break down sugars to make alcohol.  That takes a fraction of the heat necessary [for carbohydrate ethanol].  That's why things like switchgrass are so promising.  A lot of work is being done at Cornell extension on this -- it would be a great thing for New York State to grow a crop like switchgrass.
Massa said that Brazil may have achieved petroleum independence using sugarcane because they have the climate to grow it:

I didn't need to go to Brazil and spend $100,000 to figure that out.  Congress didn't need to be sending Members of Congress and their wives on shopping trips.  They actually have a "spouse coordinator" to put together shopping trips.
By the way, I think that the plane they took was a 757, all fitted out with first-class accomodations.  They eat steaks and fancy desserts [...] all paid for by taxpayers money.  The government reimburses the Air Force at the rate of a first-class ticket purchased within 48 hours.
Massa said he'd calculated the cost of that ticket at $11,000, and "that only gets you to Rio".  "He didn't need to go to Rio, just to Cornell".

Along with Joe Dunning, Rob Montana of the Hornell Evening Tribune was also on the call.


While his main target was Kuhl, I don't think he is making friends with any of the high ranking democrats. The story is from April but here is a link:

Heck, Nancy Pelosi got confused on one of her junkets and thought she was the Secretary of State.

Ask Eric if he will criticize their junkets when and if he is elected to congress.

On not making friends: absolutely. That junket was bi-partisan, so he's probably pissing off some Democrats with his comments.

Here's a link to the Pelosi story on this blog:

I think that Pelosi story got blown out of proportion, but was ultimately a mis-step on her part. There's long back-and-forth on the comments to the post above that goes into more detail on why I think that.

That said, I think the Speaker of the House and senior House leadership of either party should take some trips to other countries. The point that Massa made this morning was that back-benchers shouldn't use junkets as excuses for taxpayer-funded vacations, and I agree with that.

As to whether he'll criticize them when he's in Congress. Good question. My guess would be yes.

The junket was indeed bipartisan and this sort of thing is surely a bipartisan thing.

Elmer: you're silly to criticize Pelosi for going to Syria, though. That's just Limbaugh/Hannity bs about a trip that was worth taking. I support her efforts there, just as I support the current conference in Anapolis, as well as Randy's various statements in favor of meetings with Syria.

I think Pelosi's visit to Syria was wrong. I also think you would have agreed if Newt Gingrich had made the same type of visit during the Clinton Presidency.

No, I wouldn't have.

You're just repeating a right-wing talking point here. I'm surprised because I usually find your comments to be insightful.

I seem to recall that Newt did do something like that, in fact.

I'm all for Congress being more than a rubberstamp for a president's foreign policy. Obviously, the Speaker of the House doesn't have the authority to negotiate with foreign leaders, but I see no reason why they shouldn't act as goodwill ambassadors or as go betweens in others' negotiations (which is what Pelosi did and I seem to recall what Newt did as well). Especially since, in this case, it was in support of what the Bush administration now admits is one of its own goals -- bringing Syria into peace negotiations with Israel.

His calling "Donna's" his home away from home is laughable for several reasons, one since Corning is his adopted home away from anywhere he's every called home in his life. Second is because that's where Amo Houghton announced his candidacy every other year, and announced his retirement so he's basically just trying like he's always done to make himself look like Amo when he is probably the least like Amo of any of the carpetbagger candidates in 29th District history (Caleb Rossiter, Kisun Peters, Samara Barend... a lot of dead bodies on that pile). Amo, of course, endorsed, made a tv commercial, and gives money to Randy, not Massa. AND, of course, Amo took and led more CODELs than almost any other Member of Congress during his tenure.