Archive (2008)

Evening Review: Kuhl on the Floor, DCCC Ad

Randy Kuhl has returned to Washington to speak on the floor of the House as part of the Republican protest there. WENY has the story, with Kuhl's resolution to stay in DC until the end of the recess. Syracuse News10 has a back-and-forth between Kuhl and Massa on the same issue.

The DCCC has released its response to the Freedom's Watch ads announced earlier this month. The ad is embedded after the break. Freedom's Watch has not released their ads anywhere that I can find them, which is odd. Usually third-party ad campaigns get a lot of buzz from blogs and media outlets, even if the ad buy isn't very large, so those organizations are eager to release their ads.

Download dccc_massa_ad_2008_08_11.mp3 (1426K)

National Attention

The most surprising part of today's Massa press call was the presence of a reporter for The Hill newspaper, Aaron Blake. Aaron has filed his story, which includes the Kuhl campaign's rapid response. This kind of national attention was rare in 2006, and I wonder if it's going to continue in 2008.

The Politico also mentions the 29th in a story on DCCC spending. The DCCC will spend 78% of its money on offense this Fall.

In local news, the Hornell Evening Tribune has a story on the two candidates' agreement on a special session. The Tribune also reports that Massa will speak at the Hornell Relay for Life, a cancer fundraiser.

Special Massa Press Conference

The Massa campaign had a special press call this morning, where Massa called for Randy Kuhl to use his "close personal relationship" with President Bush to call for the President to re-convene Congress.

Massa said that he finds himself "in open disagreement with Speaker Pelosi" about the importance of debating an energy bill now. Massa said, "We need responsible offshore drilling, and we need to solve this problem. Calling the House into session is just a political stunt. If the President calls Congress into session, then we can get something done."

Massa said he realizes that "I'm probably out there on my own" on this one. But "the Constitution is clear: only the President has the power to re-convene Congress".

Sean Carroll Throws A Slow One Right Over the Plate

Sean Carroll's raw video of a Kuhl interview shows some surprising bias. At about 13:35, Carroll lobs this softball:

I also spoke with somebody just the other day who said that "I think Randy's going to win the 29th, because Mr. Massa, his message is tired, he's now been out there three or four years, and people may just be getting annoyed with him." I know that may be an unusual question to pose to you about your opponent. How do you respond to that?

This question did not make the highly edited WHAM report, which carefully balanced Massa's and Kuhl's answers. But it was posted on their site, so it's part of the record, even if few will watch the interview to the end.

Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa are perfectly capable of campaigning on their own. Carroll's job is to put them through the ringer, not to inject partisan opinion into the story.

13WHAM's policy of posting backstory, raw video of interviews, and supporting documents is something every TV station should emulate. The TV news "hole" is mercilessly tiny, and those of us who like to learn more appreciate the extra effort WHAM takes to tell us the rest of the story. It's too bad that it sometimes makes them look pretty bad, but this is one of those times.

13WHAM Energy Story

13WHAM's Sean Carroll has posted a blog entry about the energy plans of the two candidates in the 29th. WHAM has also posted raw video of his interview with Kuhl and with Massa.

Massa Press Conference: His New Energy Plan

Today's Massa press conference concentrated on his just-released energy plan [pdf], as well as his position on our precious children.

Massa began by saying that energy is the "seminal issue" of national leadership, noting that anyone who wants to go to Washington must come to grips with it. He began with drilling:

I have always been in agreement with John McCain -- I'm in favor of responsible drilling. [I believe] the entire [offshore drilling] moratorium issue should be left up to the states. But what John McCain doesn't tell you, and Randy Kuhl doesn't talk about, is that there have been 68 million acreas of public land available for drilling. Those 68 million acres could produce 4.8 million barrels of oil per day, and 44.7 million cubic feet of natural gas. We burn about 20 million barrels of oil every day in the US. If those 68 million acres of public land were utilized, it would be almost 10% of our national supply.*

Though Massa supports responsible drilling, he pointed out that many of the areas where new drilling is proposed have issues:

  • "One of those areas is the Central Coast of California. Because it's one of the most seismically active areas on earth [...] oil companies themselves say [...] we should not be drilling oil on earthquake faults.
  • Another is the Everglades, where, Massa pointed out, both President Bush and his brother Jeb have appeared recently and said that the Everglades should not be drilled

Massa highlighted two aspects of his plan. First, he said that Kuhl should have voted for HR 6578, which would have released 10% of the strategic petroleum reserve for a quicker impact on oil prices. Second, he said that we need to explore, drill and safely use our own oil. "Big oil has refused to do it. Big oil should be required to execute the leases they have"

I asked Massa how HR 6578 was different from a basic release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which Massa opposes. He said, "HR 6578 tapped the reserve to remove low sulfur fuels and then immediately backfilled it with bunker oil, which takes longer to refine." We would have time to do that, because it's only a 10% release, he added. His opposition was to a plan to remove oil from the Strategic Reserve without replenishing it.

Bud Lowell of WXXI asked an interesting question. Noting that people seem to break down into two camps, those who think that you can influence markets in the short term, and those who think it's a long-term strategic issue, he asked Massa where he stood.

Massa said he thinks it is both, and noted that even though Kuhl and McCain call their plan an "all of the above" plan, it isn't, because "it continues to funnel tax subsidies to oil companies" when they are making record profits:

We're talking about ending tax giveaways. This is a hugely important component. [...] In the last couple of days, 10 Senators in the Senate, five Democratic and 5 Republican, have joined in a good faith effort to allow states to decide which offshore oil would be open if we end the tax subsidies on big oil. John McCain and Randy Kuhl have said no. The reason is that both of them rely on big oil companies for campaign cash. For Randy Kuhl, $65,000 has come from big oil companies to his campaign. He says he isn't influenced by it. OK, then give the money back.

Lowell followed up by asking whether the subsidies amount to there not being a real market in oil.

Let's say that Monroe County, like Steuben, sat on one of the largest natural gas formations in North America. Companies like Fortuna are exploring and drilling like termites here. If you have a natural gas well on your property, you get royalties because you own the mineral rights on that gas. [...] For every $1 of gas extracted, you get 12.75 cents.

Massa noted that the mineral rights for federal land belong to the citizens of the United States, and that the Bush Administration has suspended royalty payments on that land, allowing oil companies to extract oil and gas without paying the United States.

Because I wasn't paying attention at the beginning, I asked Massa if he supports use it or lose it.

Use it or lose it on those leases is a specific piece of legislation that Randy Kuhl voted against. Fifteen years ago, a plan was put in place to drill offshore. Oil companies have refused to execute the leases. If they refuse to do it, [those leases] should be renegotiated with companies that [will drill]. Big oil wants to lock up mineral rights to control the market and have a monopoly.

I noted that Randy Kuhl had said in a newspaper interview that Massa's desire to retain ANWR for his children was wrong, because "There won’t be any children, there won’t be any United States if we don’t figure out our energy problems real quick." I asked Massa why he hates children. After a short recovery period from my assholish formulation, he said that he's a responsible adult and parent, but his teenagers might not agree after he's told them to clean up their rooms. He added:

That kind of hyperbole, that kind of fear-mongering, is what Republicans in Washington are good at. After all, it's been said best, they are very good at negative campaigning, not governing.
This problem is too big for fear-mongering. It is too big for sloganeering. It is too big for gimmicks like passing out tire gauges. It's time for thoughtful leadership. We can solve this, but we need to break the partisan big oil controlled deadlock in Washington.

* I realize the math here doesn't work. I'm guessing its 10% of the projected national usage once those areas come on line.

Grant News

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader story about $1.2 million in grants awarded in Steuben County. Randy Kuhl, who had nothing very little to do with the grant (except perhaps voting for the HUD authorization that created the grant program) gets his due notice in the story, as he does for all money that flows into the Southern Tier.

In contrast, Kuhl also announced a grant for the Monroe County Airport. Nary a peep from the Rochester press on this one.

Blog Round-Up: Oil, Rangel and Protests

Here are some recent items in national blogs that are at least peripherally related to the 29th:

The Politico's Crypt blog, which follows Capitol Hill, has the details on offshore and ANWR drilling. Offshore drilling would add 1.6% to our oil supply decades from now. ANWR would knock 5% off the price of oil 12 years from now.

Liz Benjamin of the Daily News has a story about last night's Rangel fundraiser. Eric Massa was one of the recipients. Republicans are trying some guilt-by-association because Rangel has been accused of a couple of minor ethics violations.

Finally, House Republicans have been holding protest sessions on the darkened House floor, demanding that Congress be called back into session to debate a Republican energy bill. John Boehner, the Minority Leader, apparently doesn't share that concern. According to the Crypt, he's been golfing in Ohio this week.

When You Have Money...

The DCCC just announced that they will be running ads that respond to the Freedom's Watch ad campaign mentioned earlier today. The 29th is one of ten markets in the DCCC ad buy.

Compare and Contrast

Larry Wilson of the Elmira Star-Gazette has a story covering the same territory as today's Corning Leader story on energy. So does Bob Clark at the Hornell Evening Tribune.

Both Clark and Wilson are good reporters. But in this case, I think Joe Dunning's Leader story is a fair bit better than the pieces they filed. The reason is simple. Rather than structuring his story as a he said/he said, and using Massa and Kuhl quotes to tell the story, Dunning summarizes the positions of both candidates and presents those positions in a dispassionate, factual way.

In other words, Dunning writes it as a policy story. Wilson and Clark write it as a controversy story. They use transitions like "The congressman criticized his opponent" or "Massa fired back". Those transitions take up space and also commit the writer to look for quotes that fit the controversy narrative. Dunning doesn't have to push the controversy rock up the hill, so he's free to put more facts and less friction into his story.

Some might argue that the controversy angle makes the story more interesting and therefore will sell more newspapers. I disagree. I think readers who aren't inclined to read about politics aren't going to read political stories, no matter how they're written. By focusing on the controversy and shorting the reader on facts, newspapers turn off the readers who want to learn more about policy.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not holding myself up as a shining example of good writing. And I realize that being a local newspaper reporter is a very hard job. These guys have to cover a wide variety of stories, and they do so under deadline pressure.

So, I'm not running down hard-working professionals. I'm just saying, "more of this, please."

Bring 'em Back

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader front page [pdf] (and jump [pdf]), where Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa agree that Congress should be called back into session to deal with the energy crisis.

The article is a good comparison and contrast of both candidates' positions on energy. Massa has refined his position on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: he supports a plan to releasing light crude oil from the reserve and replacing it with heavy crude, which is more appropriate for the military. Kuhl voted against HR 6578, which contained that change.

Kuhl adds a new position. Countering Massa's claim that domestic oil could be sold abroad, Kuhl proposed a bill that would prevent the foreign sale of domestic oil. Those who believe that such a bill could work might want to check this out.

Freedom's Watch Radio Ads

Freedom's Watch, a 501(c)(4) political action group, will run radio ads targeting Eric Massa along with a number of other Democrats.

The specific ads haven't been posted on their site, but the subject will be domestic oil drilling. The size of the buy is "mid six-figures" spread over ten districts for radio, and two for television. So, as with most PAC ad buys, it's not clear how many ads will actually be aired in the district.

(via Rochesterturning)