Archive (2008)

FEC Numbers In

Reader James pointed out that the FEC has posted the 4th Quarter 2007 fundraising numbers.

Eric Massa out-raised Randy Kuhl by about $120K.  Massa raised $276K, compared to Kuhl's $157K.   Massa also has more cash on hand, with $415K compared to Kuhl's $327K. 

Final national Congressional committee numbers are also in.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a 7-to-1 cash on hand advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The Politico also reports that some donors are angry about the late notice given by GOP retirees, since a lot of corporate donors gave large donations which will have to be returned. 

Mid-Morning Roundup

Randy Kuhl has endorsed John McCain for president, even though he disagrees with McCain's moderate immigration policy, and his involvement with campaign finance reform.

The New York Times has a roundup of the large number (28) of Republican retirements in the House:

“The open-seat situation is so lopsided as to deny Republicans any chance of taking back the House in 2008,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication.

Compounding their problems, Republicans face a worrisome financial gap in comparison to House Democrats. New fund-raising figures to be made public on Thursday will show that the national campaign committee of the House Democrats ended 2007 with $35 million in the bank and $1.3 million in debt. The Republicans’ committee had $5 million in the bank and $2 million in debt.

Massa Press Conference

Today's Massa press conference covered the State of the Union, the primaries, earmarks, S-CHIP and defense spending. Massa began by saying that the real story of the primaries is the increase in voter turnout by Independent and Democratic voters.  He characterized the Republican vote as "suppressed", and looks forward to seeing energized voters on Super Tuesday.

Turning to the State of the Union, Massa noted that one of major commitments by the President was to veto any legislation that does not cut taxpayer-funded earmarks in half.  Massa pointed out the difference between that position, which was echoed by Randy Kuhl in a press release on Monday, with the announcement the next day of a grant for the town of Erwin, as well as Kuhl's historic position on earmarks: "In the last Congressional campaign, Congressman Kuhl's primary reason and justification for re-election was his ability to bring home earmarks."

Massa said that the "irresponsible borrowing and spending by the government has driven this country to the brink of an economic disaster we face today."  Referring to past examples of political courage, such as JFK's, Massa noted that "to be part of the problem and then say it should be eradicated [...] is not political courage."  Massa's position is that every Congressional district should have a fair share of federal money brought back, but it should be done through the budget process.

I asked Massa whether he had any concerns about the stimulus package, and lack of pay-as-you-go financing. 

Borrowing $150 billion from the Chinese to buy $150 billion of Chinese-manufactured goods stimulates the Chinese economy.  In addition to getting cash to the economy, we need to engage in a FDR-style infrastructure building package nationwide.  We need to tie stimulus to living wage jobs that produce something for the public good.
Massa said that pay-go financing for the stimulus package should come from "tax subsidies for the ultra wealthy."  Massa noted that the middle class has seen taxes go up, so he prefers to call the Bush tax cuts "tax subsidies".  "I don't know anyone who hasn't seen their taxes go up."

On S-CHIP, Massa defended his desire to debate Kuhl: 

There's nothing wrong with a public official debating this key issue.  It is not a trick or a ploy, I'm not trying to be cute.  He's going to be here on recess doing the business of the district, and there are thousands of children in the district -- why won't he debate this issue?
Referring to Kuhl's suggestion that Massa read the bill, Massa said he's read it many times.

I asked Massa another question about the military budget.  Since our defense spending is more than the rest of the world combined, I wonder where he thought it should be cut, and, specifically, if we should reduce our commitments in wealthy countries like South Korea and Germany.

It is true that we are spending more on our military than every other country combined.  We are not spending it smartly.  We have committed $2.5 trillion to the occupation in Iraq and received no increase in our national security and no increase in our economic security. 
Massa agreed that garrisons in South Korea and Germany need to be scaled down or eliminated.  He also pointed to overseas bases, such as those in Japan, Kuwait and the United Kingdom, saying "this network of overseas bases needs to be evaluated."  Massa added that there was some more important information about the military:

This administration has consumed our military.  President Clinton turned over 30 fully-operational and deployable Army brigades.  [...]  Today we have in that category, zero.  Not a single deployable Army brigade exists outside of Iraq.  Those in Iraq do not meet pre-Iraq standards.
Massa pointed to the recent grounding of half of the F-15s in service, and to the fact that the Navy is a fraction of the size it was when the Bush Administration came to office as other indicators of problems with the military.  "Across the board, our military is being mishandled and misused.  We need people in Congress and in the White House who understand that."

I was the only person on the call who asked questions -- I think there was at least one other who was not identified.

Getting the Massa Debate Story Right

Reader Elmer sends this morning's Corning Leader, which carries two Kuhl/Massa stories.  One is a State-of-the-Union reaction piece.  The second is a story headlined "Massa Challenges Kuhl to Debate", which is based on a letter that Massa wrote to Kuhl challenging him to a debate on S-CHIP.  Here's the beginning of both stories [pdf] and the jump [pdf].

As a bonus, Margaret Truman Daniel's obit is on the jump.  It alludes to a famous story about Harry Truman's anger when Margaret's singing got a bad review.  The New York Times obit has the full story, which is a great one, and you can read it after the jump:

Mrs. Daniel thought her performance at Constitution Hall to be one of her better ones.

But Paul Hume, the music critic of The Washington Post, while praising her personality, wrote that “she cannot sing very well.” “She is flat a good deal of the time,” Mr. Hume added, concluding that she had no “professional finish.”

Incensed, President Truman dispatched a combative note to Mr. Hume, who released it to the press.

“I have just read your lousy review,” it said, adding, “I have never met you, but if I do, you’ll need a new nose.”

In the ensuing uproar, reporters pressed Mrs. Daniel for her reaction to her father’s letter. “I’m glad to see that chivalry is not dead,” she told them.

In a revealing biography, “Harry S. Truman” (William Morrow, 1973), Mrs. Daniel wrote: “Dad discussed the letter with his aides and was annoyed to find that they all thought it was a mistake. They felt that it damaged his image as president and would only add to his political difficulties. ‘Wait till the mail comes in,’ Dad said. ‘I’ll make you a bet that 80 percent of it is on my side of the argument.’

"A week later, after a staff meeting, Dad ordered everybody to follow him, and they marched to the mail room,” Mrs. Daniel continued. “The clerks had stacked up thousands of ‘Hume’ letters received in piles and made up a chart showing the percentages for and against the president. Slightly over 80 percent favored Dad’s defense of me. Most of the letter writers were mothers who said they understood exactly how Dad felt and would have expected their husbands to defend their daughters the same way.

“‘The trouble with you guys is,’ Dad said to the staff as he strode back to work, ‘you just don’t understand human nature.’ ”

Florida and Western New York

If you think that a Rudy Guliani candidacy would have excited Western New York Republicans and brought more of them to the polls in the Fall, then Randy Kuhl's election just got a little bit tougher.  I don't think that Rudy would have had much in the way of coattails, so it's probably a wash.

Back in the cold, windy North, farmers are worrying about the farm bill, which is stuck in the Senate.

Members of Congress spend most of their time in committee, yet there's little press coverage of most committee hearings.  This seems like an ideal opportunity for specialist blogging.  Here's an example of a blogger who wrote about a House Education and Labor hearing attended by Randy Kuhl.  The topic was the Americans with Disabilities Act.

SOTU Hangover and Other News

Randy Kuhl is quoted in a couple of WENY stories on the State of the Union and Bush's legacy:

The president's legacy depends a great deal on his ability to cooperate and work with on a cooperative basis with congress, he can't do it by himself.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Also, Politico has a analysis of the future of New York Republicans in Congress, "Congressional NY GOP Dying Out".

Debate? Naah.

Last week the Massa campaign put out a press release essentially challenging Randy Kuhl to a debate.  The heading of the release was "Massa Accepts Kuhl's Challenge to Debate".  I read the release, and also the press release from the Kuhl campaign, which I got via the Massa campaign.  After looking both over, I decided that it was basically an attempt by the Massa campaign to get some attention based on some pretty light evidence, and didn't run the story. 

Today, the Ontario Republican posted a link to a Messenger-Post is report that Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl are planning a debate on S-CHIP, perhaps sometime in March.  The story was by Hillary Smith, one of their general assignment reporters.  Ontario GOP quickly posted a follow-up denial, which I assume he got from Kuhl's office, that includes the entire Kuhl press release.  GOP says that he thought the story was a little fishy, but he went with it anyway because the M-P printed it.

If this tells us anything about politics and journalism, it's this:  newspapers need to feed the beast.  That's why campaigns send out press releases like a deer craps pellets. Once in a while, a campaign lucks out and their pure spin gets reported as fact.   I'd bet a little money that Hillary Smith did not call Kuhl's office on this one, because she'd have gotten a pretty quick denial.  I'll further speculate that Hillary's editor will get an earful from the Kuhl press office, and M-P reporters will be a little more careful in the future.

As far as I've seen, the M-P was the only local paper that ran the Massa press release.  The other left-leaning blog in the area, Rochesterturning, has a post on it, but later included an update saying that it might just be a media back-and-forth instead of a real debate.  So even the "partisan" bloggers didn't swallow it whole.  Take from that what you will.

Local and National News

Randy Kuhl is a little uncomfortable with a stimulus package that gives money to those who actually might spend it, according to this article in the Jamestown paper.

Americans United for Change, the union-sponsored 501(c)(4) advocacy group responsible for anti-Kuhl S-CHIP ads last Fall, has a new mission.  They're spending $8.5 million on the Bush Legacy Project, which is an "effort to define Bush's legacy."  I can walk down any street in this country, put a couple of quarters into a newspaper vending machine, and pull out a newspaper that pretty clearly defines Bush's legacy:  a bloody war in Iraq, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, a looming recession, and torture in the name of freedom.  Why a PAC would spend money on something the media is doing for free is beyond me.

Morning News and Notes

A couple of area blogs (Rochesterturning, Albany Project) are wondering if Randy Kuhl is going to retire.  Kuhl's story has been the same for the last few months:  he won't say if he's decided to run yet.  I would have thought that it's far past the time to announce retirements in competitive House districts, but this week's Walsh retirement, and yesterday's announcement by Dave Weldon (R-FL-15), have people wondering.  Kuhl's current position is consistent with his strategy last cycle, which was to delay his announcement in order to keep from engaging Eric Massa directly in campaign mode.  I think he's doing the same thing this year, and that there's little chance he won't run again.

Update:  See Elmer's comment below.  Someone's polling Kuhl alternatives in the Southern Tier, and it sounds like a Republican organization.  The plot thickens.

In other retirement-related news, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced yesterday that Dan Maffei, the Democrat who challenged Jim Walsh in 2006 and is running again, has been added to their "Red to Blue" fundraising program.  This announcement comes before any other Democrat has an opportunity to even decide to run in the NY-25 primary.  That's an interesting change in the DCCC's position on primaries.  Last year, when Massa faced a primary challenge, the DCCC was the Switzerland of political committees, scrupulously neutral.  This is still more evidence that Eric Massa is not the candidate of the Democratic establishment.

Finally, Randy Kuhl made the news decrying the new border regulations.  The story on Rochester channel 13 began with Louise Slaughter (NY-28), who says that Chertoff is "absolutely breaking the law".  I assume that Louise will do what Congressional Democrats consistently do when faced with lawbreaking -- assume a fetal position and ignore it.  Unless, of course, it's lawbreaking in baseball, which gets some serious consideration.  The story ended with the claim that the identification law is necessary "to help avoid another 9/11 tragedy."   I wonder how long 9/11 will be trotted out to justify loss of liberty and convenience in return for a very questionable increase in safety.   As I've argued elsewhere, identity does not disclose intent.

Right-to-Life Pariahs

A national Catholic weekly's article bemoning the lack of physical Presidential presence at the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Roe v Wade got me thinking.  Is there any more reliable and less respected voting bloc than right-to-lifers? 

Right-to-lifers are assiduously avoided by all Republican politicians.  When the right-to-life crowd marches on DC, the president addresses them over the telephone, a tradition started by the sainted Ronald Reagan himself.  Even Randy Kuhl, who is reliably pro-life, has his picture taken with local protesters on the Capitol steps, not at the rally, and there are no signs to distinguish this group from a set of farmers or PTA members. 

Symbolism aside, there's also been little progress on the core right-to-life issue.  The "conservative justices" appointed to the Supreme Court have pretty clearly signaled that Roe v Wade is the law of the land.  Even though abortion rates are declining in the US, the use of RU-486 is way up, and a lot of RU-486 is being prescribed by physicians who don't do surgical abortions.  Finally, the use of Plan B, which is also considered "abortion" by most pro-lifers, is widespread yet not counted in the abortion statistics.

While RU-486 and Plan B were quietly making abortions easier, the Republicans chose to make a stand over federal funding of stem cell research.  Though this fight went the right-to-lifer's way, it was a hollow victory.  Stopping embryonic research was never on the table.  Only federal funding was cut, and some big states rushed to enact laws to fund research that would ultimately attract lucrative biotech firms.  An observer only slightly more cynical than me might conclude that the whole stem cell dust-up was an attempt by Republicans to distract right-to-lifers from the growing ascendancy of chemical abortion.

So, Republicans are ashamed to be pictured at right-to-life rallies, and if you count Plan B, the abortion rate is through the roof.  Yet right-to-lifers are the most reliable single-issue voting bloc in the country. 

I can't think of a constituency as loyal as right-to-lifers that gets the same pariah treatment from Democrats.    Even the less-loyal union bloc is still embraced by Democrats, who aren't afraid to get their pictures taken at union rallys.   And Democrats don't run away from pro-choice parades.

At some point, it will dawn on pro-lifers that voting Republican is an empty gesture.  Until then, the Republicans will treat them like untouchables while counting on their votes come election day.

New York Will Vote on Paper

The New York State Board of Elections has approved three optical scan ballot machines for use by counties in New York.  This probably means that we'll be voting on paper ballots that will be scanned after marking, beginning in 2009.  Counties have until February 8 to make a final choice of one of the three approved devices.

Bo Lipari, executive director of the non-profit New Yorkers for Verified Voting, sent an email to the Albany Project describing the history of his organization's work against electronic voting machines.  It makes interesting reading, because if we had rushed the choice, we'd have been in the same situation as Maryland.

Walsh Is Out

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports that Jim Walsh (NY-25) has made his retirement official.  This is big news for the 29th, which borders the 25th..

Walsh's late retirement means that Republicans will be scrambling to find someone to run against Dan Maffei, who came close to defeating Walsh in the last election, and has already announced his candidacy.   This will not be an easy task, because a new candidate will have a formidable fundraising challenge, especially since Maffei has almost one year's head start.  The Republicans will either have to concede Walsh's seat, or spend more than they planned in NRCC and state money to help the new challenger catch up with Maffei.  This means fewer resources for Randy Kuhl from the state and national party.

It's almost certain that the NY-25 race will now spend less on media.  This means that Rochester's congested media market will have more advertising time to sell to Kuhl and Massa.  Also, the lack of an incumbent in the race means that the incumbent media machinery won't be churning out press releases during the campaign, which will allow the 29th race to garner more attention in the media.

Finally, Walsh's decision to bow out at a late date makes me wonder about Randy Kuhl.  Like Walsh, Kuhl's fundraising this cycle has been anemic.  Perhaps Walsh looked at his 2007 numbers in comparison to Maffei's good showing and decided he just wasn't going to be competitive.  It will be interesting to see Kuhl's numbers, which will be filed by the end of the month.  Kuhl constantly says that he hasn't made up his mind.  I used to think that was theater.  Now I'm not so sure.