Posts containing facts about the race in the 29th.

Weekly Round-Up

As 109th Congress becomes a memory, and the holidays arrive, not much is happening in the 29th. Here's the news of the week:

  • Randy Kuhl is proud of his vote for the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which extended a laundry list of tax deductions. The bill passed with bipartisan support.
  • Kuhl was mum about his vote for the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which would require offering women undergoing abortions anesthesia for their fetus, if the fetus is more than 20 weeks old. The best evidence is that fetuses don't even have the structures to feel pain until much later in development, but these right-to-life votes are from the gut, not from the head.
  • A writer in the Nation magazine is shocked after watching Taking the Hill. That documentary showed that Eric Massa had to spend 4-5 hours per day cold-calling to raise funds. I understand the disgust, but not the shock, because that's how the game has been played for generations.

News of the Week

News in the 29th has returned to a dribble of pork and local issues. Here's what's happened in the last couple of weeks:

  • Randy Kuhl was in Wellsville to present a "Price is Right" check representing a $200K HUD grant to the Alfred State University branch campus there.
  • Kuhl and Shumer both annouced continued cooperation in the cleanup of a former nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northern Cattaragus County.
  • Kuhl continues to announce grants on his site. His pork mojo is so powerful that he can see grants happening in the future, like this one, which is dated December 29th.
  • Finally, Kuhl's long-time spokesman, Bob Van Wicklin, joined the Navy Reserve.

A Little Snub

Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer went to Washington yesterday to meet with the New York Congressional Delegation. Only the Democrats showed up. Randy Kuhl didn't make it because of "very late notice" of the meeting.

Decoding NYS Pork

A new citizen-journalist site, The Albany Project, has started to decode the encrypted and obfuscated pork PDFs released by the State Senate. The 2004-2005 list has been posted on their site. 2003-2004, Randy Kuhl's last term in the State Senate, has yet to be decoded.

Pork and Earmarks: Clarification

In Sunday's post on the grudging release of state data, I compared that release to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), which I thought was about earmarks. A reader wrote to ask for clarification, and it turns out I was wrong: the FFATA is only one part of the earmark puzzle.

The FFATA requires that every recipient of government funding be identified, and the source of funding and location of the recipient be stored in a publicly-accessible database. But the FFATA does not mandate recording whether the funds were the result of an earmark. I confused FFATA with H.R. 1000, a recently-passed earmark reform bill which, like the FFATA, Randy Kuhl cosponsored.

HR 1000 is a significant reform with some loopholes. Though it requires that the names of earmark sponsors be embedded in legislation, it was enacted in September and only required disclosure on a go-forward basis. Since most appropriation bills had passed by then, HR 1000 was a minor reform for the 109th Congress.

There are a few other loopholes in the legislation, as detailed in a summary [pdf] by the excellent OMB Watch website. Here's a big one: the earmark sponsor must only be revealed if the earmark's target is a private entity. If the earmark directs that money be spent by a federal agency, even for a single beneficiary, disclosure isn't required. So, for example, if the earmark directs the forest service to build a bridge to someone's house, it won't be disclosed. If the earmark gives some individual money to build a bridge, then it must be disclosed.

HR 1000 expired at the end of this congressional session, so it is up to the Democratic leadership to resurrect it for the 110th Congress. If it is re-authorized, and if some of the loopholes are closed, then I'll believe that the Democrats are serious about reform. If not, say hello to the new boss, just the same as the old boss.

Keeping the Pork Under Covers

Randy Kuhl was chair of the Agriculture Committee during his last term as a State Senator. In that powerful position, he was probably able to dispense a number of earmarks, or "member items", as the State Legislature calls pork. Finding out about Kuhl's pork, and the pork sponsored by other members, has become quite an ordeal, thanks to legislative leadership.

The Albany Times-Union has been trying to get a usable list of member items since June. Their first request went to court and the court ordered release of the items. So both houses released a list with the legislator's names blacked out. The Times-Union went back to court, which ordered the release of the items with names included. In response, the Senate released a list of items as images in a "locked" PDF. This meant that it was impossible to search the text in the 3,000 page file, and cutting-and-pasting parts of the file was prohibited.

The Times-Union has already pressured the Assembly to release a text PDF, but the Senate hasn't budged. Common Cause is using scanning and PDF decryption software in an attempt to convert the data into a usable form. Papers in the 29th have started to notice this ridiculous charade, including the Elmira Star-Gazette and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

In the U.S. House, Kuhl's earmarks will be public record starting with the next Congress, thanks to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which Kuhl co-sponsored.  That act, which passed the House by voice vote, mandates a searchable database of earmarks which must be live by January 1, 2008. We'll see if the Times-Union gets a usable file from the State Senate by then.

Massa Concedes

The Massa Campaign just issued a press release saying that Eric Massa called Randy Kuhl this morning and conceded the election.   His full statement is posted at the Massa for Congress site.  Though all absentee ballots have yet to be counted, the press release cited early counts, which were generally in line with election results, as the reason for Massa's concession.

November 20

Rochester's Channel 10 (WHEC) news is reporting that the election won't be certified until after November 20, which is the deadline for military absentee ballots.  So it looks like we won't have an official winner in the 29th until next week.

Kuhl Understands Monroe

The Steuben Courier's election wrap-up quotes Randy Kuhl on Monroe County voters:

"There's a big split in the enrollment there. There are more unregistered voters, we call the block voters. They aren't Republican. They aren't Democrats and they are not independents. We have to get them the information on what we've done... I'm kind of an unknown quantity up there. There's not much media coverage. They're never on the weekly media calls." Kuhl addresses the local media in a special conference almost every Thursday the House is in session. "We just have to educate the people in Monroe County," he said Tuesday night.

I think he meant (and probably said) "blank" not "block" voters, but he got two big things right.  First, Monroe's vote is more volatile than the South of the 29th, due to blanks.  Second, because the Monroe media has to cover four representatives, none of them end up getting much coverage.

At the end of  WHAM's televised election coverage, long-time Rochester anchor Don Alhart reported that he spoke with a number of voters who discovered who represented them when they entered the voting booth. This reflects the conventional wisdom that the recent confusing re-districting has yet to fully register with a number of Monroe voters.  Unfortunately for Kuhl, the more that Monroe gets to know him, the less they want to vote for him.

Something to Talk About

Like the John Hiatt Bonnie Raitt song, the 29th's race is giving the media "a little something to figure out". 

The Rochester City News blog is on the case with coverage of Massa's first public statement since the election.   He says he'll accept the results once the election is certified.  Kuhl's spokesman says "it's time to move on".  In the Elmira Star-Gazette, Kuhl is shocked and dissapointed, while area Democrats say that waiting for the final canvass won't hurt Massa's political career.

Syndicate content