Archive (2008)

Iraq and Seniors

The Massa Campaign sends an article from yesterday's Corning Leader [pdf] that includes Massa's reaction to the Petraeus testimony as well as the Columbian free trade treaty.  Massa's position on Iraq remains unchanged.  He opposes the free trade agreement, which Kuhl supports  Today's Corning Leader [pdf] quotes Randy Kuhl on Iraq.  He says that progress is being made, characterizes the surge as a "success" and touts economic gains.

Randy Kuhl's website has a press release about an event held today at the Pittsford Senior Center.  He appeared with County Executive Maggie Brooks and representatives from the IRS and AARP to emphasize that seniors must file a return to get a stimulus check.  Maggie Brooks has nothing to do with federal taxes, but come April 15, the media is searching for stories on taxes, and this one will probably make the tee vee. (via Rochesterturning)

Massa Press Conference and Other News

Grievous Angel at Rochesterturning attended todays' Massa Press conference and has a report.  The main topics are free trade and Iraq.

Randy Kuhl is being sized up by all forms of lobbies.  Here's an example from the education lobby.  Kuhl sits on the Education and Labor committee and might have to cast a vote on No Child Left Behind, which isn't too popular with teachers, before the election.

Afternoon News

A long, good story on Rochester-area Congressional politics and how it's changing, with four reporters contributing. Must be the area's "paper of record", the Democrat and Chronicle, right? 

Naah, it's today's Messenger-Post, now officially the best Rochester-area newspaper.  One of the themes of the story is how the the loss of Jim Walsh (NY-25), who had a senior position on the Appropriations Committee, will affect the district.  Randy Kuhl wants to try for some of that Walsh-style clout, though even he admits the odds are "slim".  The odds would be better if he were in the majority, of course, which points out how Kuhl has a tougher road in 2008.

In other news, we have the yin of Randy Kuhl being honored by the Chamber of Commerce opposed by the yang of Eric Massa being endorsed by the AFL-CIO.   I don't know if a unity of opposites is discernable in these two announcements.  I'm afraid we haven't reached that level of enlightenment in the 29th.

Groundhog Day News

David Petraeus is the Iraq groundhog:  he pops up every six months and talks about the war.  Randy Kuhl articulates his view of the groundhog's March shadow in a press release that's full of the same rhetorical tricks he's been using for years. 

Here's one example -- everyone who's against the war was raised wrong:

I was raised, like many generations of Americans, on the principle that you must finish what you started. Regardless of one’s opinion on how and why the United States became involved in Iraq, we must complete what we began.
I guess Kuhl has been so beaten down that even he no longer uses the word "victory".  His new substitute, "finish", is even more meaningless.  Like Petraeus, Kuhl stubbornly refuses to discuss any kind of end game in Iraq, other than the notion that Iraq should be a "democracy". 

Kuhl also included this straw man:

Too many current and aspiring Members of Congress are quick to ignore and refute the guidance of the two men who know the most about the military and diplomatic situation in Iraq.
I haven't heard much refutation of Petraeus' and Crocker's analysis of the situation on the ground:  progress is "fragile and reversible".  The question is what to do about that situation.  In other words, what's our strategy?  Leaders' opinions often differ from those of Generals and Ambassadors.  Lincoln actually fired a few generals, as did Roosevelt and Truman.  Perhaps Kuhl, who aspires to leadership in his party, might want to exercise some here.

Kuhl's apparently signed on to the John McCain political suicide pact:  100 years or forever, whichever comes first.  It doesn't have to be this way -- there are Republicans who disagree.  I've included the words of one after the break:
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), Ohio: Condoleezza Rice should get together with you guys and she should work day in and day out to let them know, "Folks, we're on our way out." And I just wonder: Do you understand that, that that's where we're at?

We have somebody sitting across the table here, maybe the next president of the United States. And the American people have had it up to here.

And, you know, we appreciate the sacrifice that you've made and your families have made. Lives have changed forever. But the truth of the matter is -- and I'm sure your guys and women understand it.

Do you know something? We haven't sacrificed one darn bit in this war, not one, never been asked to pay for a dime, except for the people we lost.

And I'd like to know: What do you think about the idea of really coming up with a surge during this next 10 months and let them know, you know, it's going to be over here, folks, and you'd better get at it?

RYAN CROCKER: Well, Senator, I appreciate the -- you know, the sense of frustration that you articulate. I share it. I kind of live it every day. I mean, the reality is it is hard in Iraq, and there are no light switches to throw that are going to go dark to light.
This is from last night's Newshour coverage.

The Subprime Non-Crisis

While the rest of the country weathers the "subprime" crisis, the 29th district seems to be suffering little in the face of the "mortgage meltdown".   Though we will experience the nationwide recession, it won't be worsened by the burst of a housing market bubble.  The housing market in the region has been fairly stable compared to the unsustainable growth typical of the top urban areas of the country.

Given that we've dodged the worst of the mortgage bubble, I wondered why Randy Kuhl co-sponsored a bill to provide a one-time $10,000 tax credit to home buyers.  In Monroe County, this tax credit will apply to homes costing as much as $417,000.  This bill, HR 5670, expires in one year.

There's nothing really wrong with this bill -- if housing prices are falling yet prospective homeowners are feeling skittish about the market, this tax credit might get them to make the jump and therefore stimulate the market.  It might also get them to make a bad investment if they mis-time the bottom of the market, but that's always a risk.

The real issue with the bill is that it won't do much good.  The fundamental driver behind weak housing demand is lack of credit, not fear of taxes.

Mortgage originators have been burned by insiders and outsiders gaming the system, and by over-leveraged borrowers.  A "subprime" mortgage is another name for a low- or no-downpayment mortgage.  When a borrower has no equity, they're more likely to exit their home than make payments.  Even if a borrower made a significant downpayment on their first mortgages, many took out home-equity lines of credit which put their debt at 100% of the value of their home. 

The net result is that borrowers in this market will face extreme scrutiny and will also be expected to make a significant downpayment.  Since a lot of prospective homebuyers were expecting to be able to get into a home with low downpayments, they're going to have to save up longer than expected.   At least in the short-term, easy mortgages based on sketchy applications are a relic of the past.  It will probably take years for the market to adjust to this new reality, and $10,000 in tax credit won't alter that fact.

Getting Serviced

The April edition of the Kuhl Khronicle, Randy Kuhl's email newsletter, has been sent to subscribers.  Each item in the Khronicle links to a different article on Kuhl's website.  Those articles are titled "Constituent Services".

Here's the first sample of the service Kuhl provides:

The recent events concerning the allegations against former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer further solidifies the need for aggressive ethics reform in government. That is why I voted for the Ethics Reform Bill that establishes the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an outside panel to review ethics complaints against lawmakers.
The recent indictment of Rick Renzi, Kuhl's fellow Republican who's accused of using his office for personal gain, doesn't get a mention here.  Spitzer, who's accused of misusing his penis, not his office, does.  It's clear that Kuhl stuck the Spitzer reference in this item simply to make a political point.

Here's another sample:

This budget is another example of how out of touch Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are with the American people. [...]  Democrats are attempting to squander hard-earned American money on more unnecessary government programs.
Kuhl doesn't list a single example of these "unnecessary programs".   And, as always with Kuhl's discussion of the budget, he fails to mention the elephant in the room:  the deficit created by the war in Iraq.

Kuhl used to try to draw a distinction between partisan campaigning and Congressional business.  If that distinction ever existed, it's pretty clear from the latest Khronicle that it's been abandoned for the current campaign.

Morning News

This week's Steuben Courier includes a piece on a new WETM-TV program that will include an interview with Eric Massa.

The "Responsible Plan for Iraq" is the subject of a long op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 

Finally, this isn't strictly about the 29th race, but the lede in the latest McClatchy story on Senate earmark reform pretty neatly captures the Republican strategy of making a big noise in hopes that people will forget who was behind the huge earmark expansion in the first place:

Republican senators unveiled an earmark revision plan Thursday as part of an effort to counter their reputations as pork-happy spenders who ran up a deficit while in power and lost the public's trust in their fiscal oversight.

Kuhl Meeting Report

A reader was granted an audience with  Randy Kuhl at a recent town hall meeting.  Here are some excerpts from his report:

I brought my 3 mailers. You had to sign in with the watchdogs and they escorted you back to a conference room where he was sitting. I asked him about NCLB, the tax rebate and why he sends out the mailers. I didn't bring a recorder, so I can't give you any direct quotes, which was the whole point of the format as anyone could see.
The wait was between 25 and 35 minutes. I didn't see him until 10 mins. after he was supposed to leave and he spoke to me for 20 full minutes. At 10 - 15 minutes a piece, he saw less than 10 people including me.
Kuhl was actually well spoken. I was obviously not a supporter, but he was able to talk a good game. Very slick, he blinded me a little with bullshit.
Somehow we got onto the format of these one-on-one meetings and he got a little red-faced about how others might not let me speak and would be shouting me down if this was a regular open format. I wasn't quick enough to say something to the effect of it is their right to freedom of speech and that I'd rather that sort of thing not be limited. I also should have asked what he would have done if there were 5 or 10 more people out there waiting their turn to speak to him and they couldn't.
NCLB: he said there needs to be changes. He wasn't specific.
Taxes: Some of the money is going to help small businesses. Basic supply-side economics stuff. I told him I was going to put it into a savings account and not spend it, and he didn't disagree with me.
Mailers: Basic "I need to get information out to people who might not hear about it" answer. Seniors for example might not have heard about some of the regulations with the rebates..
Thanks for the report.  Anyone else who attended is welcome to send their view for publication or background.

The Pig Book

WETM-TV's story about Randy Kuhl's earmark for Elmira College got me wondering just what criteria Citizens Against Government Waste used to call out appropriations as pork.  According to their site, the appropriation will end up in their "Pig Book" if it passes one or more of the following tests:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.
In other words, almost every earmark makes the Pig Book.  On their summary list [pdf], Randy Kuhl has $23.5 million of spend that qualifies, which ranks him 186th in Congress.  Number One is now-Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss), followed by Bill Young (R-FL-10) and John Murtha (D-PA-12).

Morning Media

Reader Elmers sends the Corning Leader's story [pdf] of Massa's request for a debate, as well as Massa's reaction to Kuhl's new office hours.

Here's some more coverage, with pictures, of yesterday's train derailment in Palmyra, courtesy of the D&C.

Today's Media Cycle

It's only April, yet the papers are full of news relevant to the 29th district race.

First, Randy Kuhl's new office hours get a second look from the Messenger-Post.  Today's story has reaction quotes from locals, with the usual mix of Democrats and Republicans.

Kuhl's earmarks for Elmira College were singled out by Citizens Against Government Waste, and WETM in Elmira
has the story.

CSX had another derailment in Monroe County, this time in Palmya, and Randy Kuhl's efforts to get CSX track inspected made the Messenger-Post.   The inspections show that the track is in bad shape, and Kuhl calls for it to be repaired.   Since Kuhl is on the transportation committee, the next logical step would be hearings to see why the Federal Railroad Administration would let CSX continue with such bad track, but Kuhl hasn't called for that, he has called for hearings , which will  probably because hearings would show the same pattern of poor regulation typical of the Bush Administration.  I expect this will be a campaign issue in the Fall.

Finally, in yesterday's Messenger-Post story, which mentioned Eric Massa's call for a debate, Kuhl said that Massa asks for a debate about "once a week".  The reason why Massa is constantly asking for debates is pretty simple:  those requests tend to make the paper.

Evening News

Randy Kuhl's new office hours made the Messenger-Post.  According to Brian Roth's story, the Kuhl meetings are all 30 minutes long.  This is another reduction.  Last year, his meetings in larger towns lasted for an hour.

The Iraq withdrawal plan backed by Eric Massa and other candidates is getting a lot of positive press.  Here's an example from the New Republic:

"A Responsible Plan" represents a welcome shift for the party not just in vision, but in substance. Admittedly, the immediate strategy that it outlines for Iraq is standard Democratic fare. It calls for a drawdown of American forces and a focus on a diplomatic and political solution. But while too many Democratic plans zero in on the troop drawdown, the "Responsible Plan"'s emphasis is on what Congress can reasonably achieve: namely, economic, political, and humanitarian steps necessary to manage the situation in Iraq as American forces leave.
In other Massa news, Massa is one of the top fundraisers at Act Blue, which is an online Democratic fundraising clearinghouse.  According to Massa's page, he's raised over a quarter million dollars from over 4,500 supporters.  I assume those numbers are for the cycle, but I'm guessing they indicate that the Massa campaign had a good first quarter.