Archive (2008)

Another Letter to the Editor

I usually don't reprint letters to the Editor. I think they're basically background noise. I also think that they're mostly written by partisans and interested parties.

Here's a a prime example in today's Messenger-Post. It's from a woman who claims to have had her and her neighbor's Kuhl lawn sign stolen. That may or may not be true, but she also got a paycheck from Randy Kuhl last month and has been a fundraising consultant for Kuhl for at least a year.

The difference between a letter to the Editor and an Internet comment is the editing process that supposedly goes into picking those letters. Out of a massive stream of mail, the paper picks a half-dozen letters to print. I think this means that newspapers ought to exercise a bit of due diligence, especially around campaign time.

(Thanks to a reader who wishes to remain anonymous for the tip. For fairness sake, I'll break my LTE rule for anyone who can find a Massa LTE from someone on his payroll around the time the letter was written.)

Current Debate Status

This morning's Leader story said that there will be 4 in-studio debates, and two question-and-answer sessions. According to Meghan Tisinger in Kuhl's office, this is the current list of events:

  1. Friday, October 3
    Penfield Business Association
    Meet the Candidates Event
  2. Friday, October 10
    WHAM Debate
    Sean Carroll, Moderator
  3. Monday, October 13
    WENY - Star-Gazette Debate
    Scott Cook, Moderator
  4. Sunday, October 26
    Chemung County Council of Women
    Ladies' Tea
  5. Tuesday, October 28
    R News Debate
  6. Bill Nojay - WYSL
    Two possible dates - October 16 (taped in the AM)
    or October 17 (taped in AM or live at 3 PM)

Leader Editorial: "Kuhl's Decision Should Damage Him Politically"

Today's Corning Leader editorial [pdf], courtesy of reader Elmer, expresses the Leader's dissatisfaction with Kuhl's rejection of the WETM/Leader debate invitation.

Citing the 2006 debate where Kuhl's response on Katrina received some laughs from the audience, the Leader notes:

The question that has to be asked is, if Kuhl is shaken by a few laughing audience members, how would he react in a true crisis?

It also appears as if Kuhl is afraid to face questions he hasn't prepared for ahead of time.

Morning News: Debates and Bailout

Today's Corning Leader announces the cancellation of the WETM/Leader debate under the headline "No public debates on Kuhl’s schedule: Nixes Leader event, cites ticket issues".

By the Leader's count, there will be four in-studio TV debates, and two question-and-answer sessions. That's an update from the last data point of two in-studio debates (WHAM and RNews) and one Q&A (Chemung County League of Women Voters).

WENY quotes Kuhl saying "Congress needs to act fast" on the Wall Street bailout.

Sign Damage

Randy Kuhl has written a letter to Eric Massa asking him to join in condemning damage to Kuhl's signs.

Update: Massa's response is after the break.

Dear Congressman Kuhl,

Yes, I agree that vandalizing yard signs is bad and I don't condone it, but I ask that you stop vandalizing Democracy by refusing to have public debates in front of the people you are paid to represent. It seems that you have forgotten that you are a public servant, and this is not communist China where you only have to pay attention to the people that support you. Hiding from your constituents is not how Democracy is supposed to work.

While yard signs are clearly important to you, I'm more concerned about the $700 billion tax payer handout that you and George Bush are preparing to give to corporate CEOs on Wall Street. I am more concerned with the failed Bush-Kuhl trade policies that have shipped 40,000 New York jobs to foreign countries. I'm more concerned that you co-sponsored a bill to privatize Social Security, a move that would have cost our seniors 24% of their benefits.

I hope that you will start discussing the real issues facing the families of this district in an open and public venue where they can ask both of us questions.


Eric Massa
US Navy Commander (ret.)
Congressional Candidate, NY-29

Massa Press Conference: Bailout and Debates

Eric Massa had a well-attended and lengthy press conference this morning. Highlights below:

Massa said the bailout bill, as currently written, is "simply unacceptable". He said that the Bush Administration is planning a "my way or the highway" approach on the bill.

This bill is the culmination of 8 years of incompetence by the Bush administration and their rubber stamps in Congress. For the month to 6 weeks, people like my opponent stood in the well of the House and railed on a moratorium on drilling offshore while Rome burned. To top off their common hypocrisy, that very moratorium expired yesterday, as they knew it would. These kinds of games are unacceptable while American's livelihoods and homes are at risk.

Massa turned to debates. Massa objected to the contention that he would bus in supporters, noting that the only bus that showed up at last year's WETM debate was paid for by Kuhl's campaign.

Kuhl has been silent in the face of one of the greatest financial crises in the history of America. He's shown no leadership whatsoever in the face of the pending collapse of the stock market [...] Now he refuses to debate. [...] Incumbent elected officials should not be granted the privilege of dictating democracy. To say that I had a "circus environment" because I was bold enough to walk up to him after a press conference outside the room where it was held and ask him for a debate is unacceptable.

Massa compared Kuhl's silence to that of George W. Bush. Noting that Bush won't stand up in front of the American people because he's responsible for the financial crisis, Massa said that Kuhl won't stand up because he'll have to explain his votes.

Yesterday, at a time of incredible risk for the American People, Randy Kuhl voted against HR 5244, The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights. This would have prevented credit card companies from going long on fees and interest. Eighty Republicans crossed the aisle to support [the bill]. I say he voted against it because of the huge amount of funding he's received from financial institutions.

Massa listed off some of the $230,000 in support given to Kuhl, including donations form Goldman, Citi, Merrill and Credit Suisse. "This list reads like a Who's-Who on the failures of Wall Street."

Kuhl's New Stealth Town Meetings

Rocblogger at Rochesterturning made an interesting find at the Town of Henrietta website. Randy Kuhl met with Henrietta Town Supervisor Michael Yudelson sometime recently. The town had an item on their website, which is now gone, but I was able to resurrect it from Google's cache:

Congressman Kuhl Visits With Supervisor YudelsonCongressman Kuhl visits with Supervisor Yudelson

Congressman Randy Kuhl met with Supervisor Michael Yudelson last week to discuss issues that affect residents of Congressman Kuhl's district, which includes Henrietta.

Kuhl has gone from town meetings open to all, to by-appointment meetings, to meeting with town officials.

Kuhl and Pension Risk

Time's Jay Newton-Small has been studying the Pension Protection Act of 2006. That bill made automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans the default for employers. Randy Kuhl's role in the bill isn't the stuff of political dreams. He wanted to allow risky hedge fund investments in pension funds:

But that bill opened up pension funds to huge new risks. The legislation relaxed regulations to make it easier for hedge funds and financial institutions to hold large stakes in the pension funds without the fiduciary duties that usually come with investing in people’s retirement. This was a controversial provision that even the White House and Senate Republicans were leery of – Dems mostly opposed it – but House Republicans were adamant in seeing it included in the bill. In fact the original language of these provisions – introduced as an amendment in committee by Republican Representatives John “Randy” Kuhl of New York and Rob Andrews of New Jersey – called for even greater changes to the system: allowing hedge funds and financial institutions to hold up to 50% stakes in pensions funds.

Debate Analysis

With the announcement of the WHAM debate, it appears that the sticking point for the Kuhl campaign is having a debate audience. Both the WHAM and R-News debates are in-studio debates. TV studios in this area are too small for crowds.

The Kuhl campaign's negotiations with WETM and the Corning Leader broke down over the number of people allowed in the audience. According to WETM, Kuhl wanted a fixed allocation of seating for each candidate, with no "general public" seating. His stated fear was that Massa would "bus in" more supporters to fill the remaining seats.

In 2006, the Leader and WETM sponsored a similar debate, and it went off without a hitch. Why Kuhl would think that these two well-respected news organizations couldn't control the debate in 2008 is beyond my ken. By essentially canceling his town hall meetings, and then avoiding any debate with an audience, Kuhl leaves the impression that a few hecklers cause him to go into hiding.

Kuhl supporters have been commenting on this blog about the unruly nature of two other 2006 debates. That spin is just not supported by the facts. The 2006 Rotary and League of Women Voters debates were relatively calm events, and nothing happened there that shouldn't be expected in a healthy democracy.

Also, those events were far more placid than some floor debates in the House. If Kuhl can't handle the minor irritation of a few excited Massa supporters, is he the guy Republicans want to take on Nancy Pelosi?

As for the politics of disrespecting the best newspaper in the district, the Corning Leader, I agree with this observation made by Exile at The Albany Project:

Losing the Leader's endorsement would be a major blow for Kuhl and I don't see how any paper could endorse a candidate who thumbs his nose at the paper's debate.

13-WHAM Will Host a Debate

Sean Carroll at 13-WHAM has announced that WHAM will be taping a debate between Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa on October 10. The debate may be streamed live over the Internet, excerpts of the debate will appear on newscasts, and it will be available for viewing in its entirety on the 13-WHAM website.

October 10 was the date for the now-canceled WETM/Leader debate.

Carroll believes that this is the only "confirmed" debate between the two candidates. As of last week, the candidates were to appear at a forum in Chemung County on October 26, and at an in-studio debate at R-News on October 28. We'll see if those dates hold.

Kuhl: Bailout Must Be Protective

As far as I know, today's only Kuhl statement on the bailout was made to WENY:

“We've got to be protective of the taxpayer. It will not get my support if it's just a bailout,” said Republican congressman Randy Kuhl.

Kuhl Declines WETM/Leader Debate

WETM is reporting that the Kuhl campaign has declined its invitation to debate Eric Massa next month. Negotiations broke down because the Kuhl campaign wanted the debate to take place with no audience, or a limited audience.