Sewage and More Gas

Reader Elmer sends two articles from today's Corning Leader. The longer piece [pdf] covers the controversy over a Massa campaign mailer which highlighted Randy Kuhl's use of a SUV to travel between DC and the district.

The Massa campaign pointed out that Kuhl's use of the SUV cost taxpayers over $15K. Kuhl's spokesman says that he's reimbursed for mileage, not gas, so the kind of car he drives doesn't matter. Until one of the two is featured on "Pimp My Ride", I don't think this will have a big impact on the Fall campaign.

The front-page story [pdf] involves the Corning sewage treatment plant, which is being upgraded due to a grant "obtained by" Randy Kuhl.

That story illustrates the payback from the constant deluge of press releases from Congressional offices. As I've explained before, Randy Kuhl or any other Member of Congress cannot obtain a grant. But Kuhl's drumbeat of grant announcements often leaves the impression that he's pulling all the strings in DC.

Update: Thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed out that the grant is what sounds like an earmark. Here's the 2005 press release which calls it a grant but says that it was specifically appropriated in a bill.


"On this important date, let's give thanks to the men and women who serve to protect this great country."
--Rep John R. Randy Kuhl (1/2 page, front of section 2) 6-29-08 Steuben Courier-Advocate

Also got a card last week suggesting ways to save gas -- drive slower, loose weight, etc., from Randy's DC Office.

Local Republican volunteers have really been active in Hammondsport, soliciting signatures for their candidates, including Kuhl. My wife and I are registered Independent and have been asked twice to sign. One lady said, when my wife demurred, "I know, I might not even vote myself. Just don't vote for the other guy. He's creepy." If you can't get an Independent's vote, then encourage them to stay home.

I didn't get that mailing from Kuhl's office. I wonder if they're targeting different parts of the district with different mailers.

I'm a little skeptical that someone soliciting petitions may stay home during the Fall election, but perhaps that's just my overly-cynical view of human nature.

The "grant obtained" was an earmark from last congress from the EPA funding bill that Randy specifically put in (according to a release on his web site from two years ago) so does not need to be in quotes as it's legitimate. I guess when a paper only has a couple of paragraphs to write something the sources tend to be swept under the rug. This does counter the argument that he only helps out Monroe. He also got $4 million for a bus stop or something in Corning that has yet to be built, and of course an earmark in the Defense bill to help Corning make bulletproof glass for our troops that somehow met with controversy. Steuben did fairly well last Congress but not so much this Congress. But when looked at historically, that's a lot of cash for his home county.

As for the car issue, I applaud Joe Dunning for doing a good job trying to be fair, but the whole thing is stupid, but I would blame Massa for starting this mess. There was an article in the D&C that your site picked up about Members who lease cars with their House of Reps budget and Randy was not among them. Looks like Massa screwed up and now is trying to backtrack. Just my opinion.

Thanks for the tip on the earmark/grant/whatever. The original press release sounds like an earmark but uses the term "grant".

The original Massa fundraising email said this:

He just continues enjoying his tax payer funded, gas guzzling SUV. Randy cruises from New York to Washington DC and across the campaign trail while you pay to fill his tank.

I'll let the readers draw their own interpretation of whether that's a claim that Kuhl's ride is leased by taxpayers. Massa says it isn't, Kuhl says it is.

What the Massa campaign did was a classic political tactic. They made a charge in an email that went to supporters that they hoped Kuhl would dispute. Kuhl had to make a judgment about whether what Massa said was important enough, and wrong enough, to dispute. Because Kuhl fired back with a press release, this little dust-up made the paper. Kuhl could have also ignored it. which in this case would probably have been the smart move.