Archive (2008)

Kuhl in the News

Today's Messenger-Post has a story on Randy Kuhl's "Fix Washington" program. Kuhl held a press conference on Friday to announce the program, but nobody spoke because no press showed up.

The Star-Gazette carries the announcement that the Kuhl campaign's honorary chairs are Amo Houghton, former occupant of the 29th seat, and Maggie Brooks, Monroe County Executive.

Republican Disarray

This was an interesting week for political junkies.  The Republican loss in Mississippi was, to use Republican Minority Leader John Boehner's favorite term, a "wake-up call".  

Responding to that call, Tom Davis, former head of the NRCC, sent out a sobering memo, full of stuff like this:

Given the strong intensity to the President and the Republican brand, turnout generation is much easier for Democrats than Republicans.


No where is the Democratic surge more demonstrable than in the fundraising totals.


Immigration pits our business wing against our grass roots wing. The War has turned many educated, affluent Republicans away. Spending priorities, scandals, gas prices and home value declines leave little for Republicans to be enthused over, particularly when our ability to draw issue lines and force choices by Democrats is frustrated by House Rules, inarticulate and unfocused national leadership and finger pointing.


Our message is stale. Without a clear change in direction, Congressional Republicans can count on more Louisiana’s and Illinois’s. If we were a business that had been losing market share, would we simply wait for our competition’s product to blow up? Or, would we re-tool, innovate and make the appropriate changes. They don’t like our dog food. They may not like the Democrat’s either, but for now, and through November, they appear to be buying it.

With that in mind, the House GOP rolled out a new set of talking points.  Apparently immune to irony, their site features a picture of six-term Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) flanked by nine-term Minority Leader John Boehner and six-term Minority Whip Roy Blount, with a caption saying "Washington is broken".  

Randy Kuhl, who seems willing to repeat any of his leadership's talking points, dutifully rolled out a press release announcing a "Fix Washington" project.   Kuhl will be soliciting ideas from constituents on legislation to fix DC with a new form on his website

In other words, Tom Davis tells House Republicans that they need a "clear change in direction".  Randy Kuhl responds with a better way to write your Congressman.  I don't think that's the kind of change Davis had in mind.

Three Sticky Iraq Votes

Randy Kuhl voted on three Iraq funding amendments yesterday. All of those votes will probably come back to haunt him this fall.

First, Kuhl voted present on the main funding amendment as part of a Republican protest against the way Iraq funding was brought to the floor. The Republicans were trying to show that a majority of Democrats opposed war funding. That amendment failed, which means that the whole bill must go back to the Senate for a re-tool.

Second, Kuhl voted against an amendment that would ensure, among other things, that all units were mission capable, that the US would not fund permanent bases in Iraq, and that all interrogations follow the Army Field Manual (i.e., no torture). This amendment passed.

Finally, Kuhl voted against a third amendment, which contained a hodge-podge of appropriations, including a provision that would fund the GI Bill via a 1/2% tax increase on those making over $1 million in income. This amendment garnered 32 Republican votes.

More information on all these votes is available from the House Rules Committee site.

Howard Dean Attends MCDC Convention

Howard Dean was the keynote speaker at last night's Monroe County Democratic Convention. That convention endorsed Eric Massa for the 29th seat. Dean also attended a Massa fundraiser earlier yesterday afternoon.

Dean's visit was covered by local media: WXXI, WROC, WHEC, and the D&C.


WHAM13 has just posted an excellent special report on Ethanol. Money quote:

Here are the facts: The net energy contribution of corn ethanol is debatable, the environmental consequences of devoting more land to corn are clearly negative, ethanol subsidies are draining the federal treasury during a period of fiscal distress AND we’re adding to the burdens of the world’s poor. Why do we persist? We need only look at agricultural-industrial complex to find the answer—agribusiness (which now includes biofuels investors in our own state), farmers (large and small), farm state voters and their representatives in Congress, and USDA are driving this policy. Consumers, both here and abroad, and taxpayers outside the farm belt are simply outgunned.

Ethanol is a great example of dysfunctional bi-partisanship. Food processing interests like ADM loved ethanol because they could build new factories to create it from corn. Farmers liked it because it gave them a market for their surplus corn. With the family farmer and ag industry on board, both Democrats and Republicans funded ethanol for years because it appeased two interest groups. It didn't matter that corn-based ethanol was a energy-wasting dead end. Now, we have poor people starving in part because of our decision that funding ethanol was a harmless boondoggle.

Yesterday and today, a couple of progressive blogs (The Albany Project and Rochesterturning) lauded the new Farm Bill because it includes big handouts for New York farmers. This is short-sighted. In a time when we're facing record deficits, both Republicans and Democrats have come to a Farm Bill "compromise" where interest groups loyal to either party get big handouts. Our children will pay for those handouts, just as we are all paying higher food prices today, in part because of similar ethanol "compromises" in the past.

Gannett - Hot Chicks, Lower Circulation

City Newspaper, Rochester's so-called "alternative" paper, has a story about Gannett's Insider. For their Mothers' Day edition, the Insider ran a story on "Rochester MILFs". MILF stands for "Mother I'd Like to Fuck", for anyone who missed American Pie and/or the last decade of American culture.

City makes the obvious point that a newspaper company that rails against gangsta rap and the coarsening of our culture is being just a teensy bit hypocritical when they front-page fuck-worthy single Moms. City fails to note that a publication from a company that wins diversity awards wasn't able to find a single MoCILF (Mother of Color I'd Like to Fuck) in Rochester.

I would have thought City, which is a bastion of complacent baby-boom liberalism, would want to advocate for MoCILFs. I guess an "alternative" weekly that is too timid to even print the word "fuck" can't be expected to comment on this obvious omission.

Even though Gannett is getting a little heat on this, expect more of it in the future. A new reader sent me some historical D&C circulation rates, and they are grim. The D&C lost almost 10,000 Sunday subscribers in the last year. I don't know if MILFs can reverse a hemorrhage like that. Maybe the D&C should start featuring Page Three Girls.

House Passes Veto-Proof Farm Bill

Randy Kuhl was one of 100 Republicans who voted for the Farm Bill yesterday. Though the bill is under veto threat from the White House, strong bi-partisan support means that any veto will be overridden by the House and Senate.

Randy Kuhl expressed his support of the bill in a floor speech lauding a bill that "aptly includes the interests of all agricultural regions in the country." Here's an example:

Traditional commodity subsidies for crops like cotton, rice, wheat and corn remain largely untouched in the new bill. The bill includes a new $3.8 billion permanent disaster payment program, deemed particularly generous for weather-stricken growers in states like Montana and the Dakotas.

Rice, Wheat and Corn prices are at all-time highs. The subsidy income limit remains at $1.5 million for married couples. The subsidy component of this bill is nothing more than a handout to a group that is currently prospering.

Though farm bill subsidies get most of the attention, two-thirds of the cost of the bill is for Food Stamps, or as they will now be called, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Mississippi Win

Democrat Travis Childers won last night's special election in Mississippi by a comfortable margin in a redder district than the 29th. Both the DCCC and the NRCC spent heavily in the race, with the NRCC spending $1.3 million, 20% of their cash on hand.

This is the third special Congressional election lost by Republicans this year. All of the losses have been in traditionally Republican districts, and each of the elections have seen healthy spending by both parties. This Fall, it's likely that Massa will see some of the same heavy spending from the DCCC. Unless the NRCC does a dramatically better job, Kuhl probably won't get the same level of support from the national party. Tom Cole, head of the NRCC, hinted that Republican members are on their own in his statement on last night's loss:

I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election.

The Reason for the Poll Release

The Massa Campaign has a new fundraising letter out, and it contains some information that puts yesterday's NRCC release of an old poll into context.

Roll Call, which is a subscription-only DC paper, has put Randy Kuhl on its its list of 10 most vulnerable Members of Congress. They've also changed the race rating to "toss up" from "Leans Republican". Most pundits still have the 29th race leaning towards Kuhl because of the fundamentals of the district. The new Roll Call rankings say the following about the race:

Although the sprawling district trends Republican in presidential election years, it will be a very competitive race. Despite representing the area in the state Legislature for two dozen years before he was elected in 2004, Kuhl has never built up much goodwill in the district, and his fundraising has been lackluster. Massa is still a little raw, but he’s genuine. Kuhl is in trouble.

According to what little Roll Call lets the unwashed masses read, the release of an old poll by the NRCC is standard operating procedure when a MOC hits the top ten.

The Massa campaign also released a story from Sunday's Corning Leader [pdf] that highlights the change in the race's ranking.

NRCC Poll: Kuhl Way Ahead

The National Republican Congressional Committee has released the results of a January poll that show Randy Kuhl 20 points ahead of Eric Massa. As with all polls from candidates or their representatives, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.

The WHAM13 blog post on the poll has the detail released by the pollster. Here's the tell:

Interview selection was random within predetermined election units. These units were structured to correlate with actual voter turnout.

One of the most important characteristics of a poll is its likely voter screen, the questions that pollsters ask to judge whether the person responding will actually vote. These weasel-words dodge the question of how voters were selected. With a sample size of 300, a slight tweak of the voter screen will lead to a huge effect in the poll's outcome. That's where this ham was watered.

What's more interesting is why the NRCC would release a poll so old that the Presidential choice section doesn't even include the presumptive Democratic nominee. The answer is that campaigns release these polls when they want to goose fundraising by convincing donors that their candidate has a chance. Since Kuhl is trailing Massa in funds raised, this poll is no surprise. What's really interesting is the weakness of this effort. The NRCC is so broke that they can't even afford to pay for a fresh poll, so they release this chestnut.

Update: As Zabriskie points out in the comments, the poll was conducted by McLaughlin and Associates on January 27-28. On January 30, the Kuhl campaign paid $16,215 to McLaughlin and Associates for a "Survey". So the NRCC press release is leveraging an old Kuhl poll. And the following assertion reported in the 13WHAM post is laughable:

“As far as the NRCC, Randy is a completely separate entity from the NRCC and really has no idea what they will or won’t do,” said Meghan Tisinger of Kuhl’s office.

Leader Op-Eds and Letters

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader Opinion Page [pdf], which contains an op-ed from Randy Kuhl and a letter from Eric Massa.

Kuhl's op-ed is a protest of the Democrats' plan to bring the Iraq Supplemental up for a vote without committee action or much meaningful debate. At one point in the op-ed, Kuhl compares Nancy Pelosi's conduct with that of "oppressive regimes".

While I don't doubt that a little more bi-partisan agreement might make the House a better place, I wonder about Kuhl's choice to use an entire op-ed to bring up procedural issues. The House is like a sausage factory: the process can be pretty ugly and might even turn some people into vegetarians, but in the end, most people only care whether the sausage is any good. As Eric Massa points out in his letter, gas prices are up and employment is down. That's the sausage, and no matter how it's made, it isn't very tasty.


A lot of blogs (including Rochesterturning) are posting about Wednesday's Mothers' Day vote. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank explains, the Republicans had been using procedural delays all week to protest the "go it alone" Democrats, and one of those procedural votes put Republicans on the record obstructing a Mothers' Day tribute. (Of course, the real bill passed unanimously.)

But while everyone was laughing and pointing, the House and Senate reached a final compromise on the Farm Bill. In a time of skyrocketing commodity prices, the bill still allows farmers with incomes up to $1.5 million to receive subsidies. Though the bill is under veto threat from the White House, this stinking turd is the product of bipartisan negotiation and will probably be law in short order.

So if you're going to mourn the brokenness of the House, don't latch on to surface indicators like the Mothers' Day kerfuffle. Instead, take a solid look at the pork-laden, deficit-building, corporate-farm-rewarding Farm Bill. That's what's really broken, and it's been broken for a long time.