Posts containing my opinion of the race.

The Farm Bill

Zinnfan sends a link to an article from Time with in-depth coverage of the machinations leading up to the current farm bill.  It's worth a read because it shows how entrenched, sacred-cow constituencies like farmers keep the status quo alive, using influence on Democrats and Republicans (like Randy Kuhl) on the Ag Committee.

As I've mentioned here before, one of the little-covered facts about ethanol subsidies is its impact on food prices (good summary here).  This change has made a major impact on the farm economy.  I just spent a lot of time with a family member who lives in the Plains states, and his report was that land prices are at record highs, reflecting the fact that farming has suddenly become quite profitable again. 

For example, corn prices, which have hovered around $2/bushel for years, are now twice that.  In Iowa, the average corn price in December, 2005 was $1.70.  In December, 2007, it was $3.95.  As the Time article points out, the large farms that receive huge subsidies under the farm bill were making money in 2005.  In 2007, they're making a killing.  No matter: the dysfunctional Washington process that created the farm bill is unable to take this into account.

NRCC PR - Hornell Evening Tribune

Jared Smith from the Massa Campaign sends the Hornell Evening Tribune's story [pdf] on a NRCC press release, which appeared only in the paper edition.

The substance of the NRCC release is that Massa hasn't taken a position on the failure of Congress to pass the extension to the Protect America Act (PAA).  I covered that whole issue in a post last week.  The majority of Democrats voted for a 21-day extension of the act, while every Republican voted against it.  Yet the NRCC wants to paint the Democrats as the instigators of PAA expiration. 

The NRCC also throws in a few licks about Massa's fundraising.  They think it's bad for Massa to get money from fellow Democrats and trial lawyers. Randy Kuhl's "me, too" on that particular claim is intentionally misleading:

"If he is going to continue to claim that he does not accept donations from political interest organizations then I would expect him to return the money," Kuhl said.
Massa's position, as Kuhl well knows, is that he won't accept money from corporate PACs.  Kuhl can argue whether that's a meaningful thing for Massa to pledge, but it's dishonest to intimate that he hasn't kept his pledge. 

Overall, the Republican spin on the PAA has struck me as remarkably weak and ineffective.  I assume the Massa campaign thinks so, too, otherwise they wouldn't have sent a story pegged on a NRCC critique of their candidate.

Keep This Straight

Randy Kuhl's vote on extending the Protect America Act:  No.

Consequence of his vote, according to his blog entry:  Dire.

Campaign or Congressional Staff?

Exile at Rochesterturning has a Kuhl press release sent by Meghan Tisinger, Kuhl's press secretary.  It's a political product, since it calls Eric Massa a "puppet" and accuses him of "spewing falsities".  Exile points out that the press release might be part of a Kuhl strategy to delay his announcement so he can use Congressional staff without penalty.

That's an interesting theory, but there's no need for Kuhl to do that.  According to the rules governing staff conduct, staff are free to "volunteer" their "own time" to work on the campaign.  As for what constitutes the employee's "own time", that's determined by the "personnel policies that are in place in the employing office."   So, as long as his press secretary volunteers, she's free to write press releases for Kuhl in her spare time.

The use of government equipment for campaign purposes is forbidden.  The press release was sent from a Gmail account, not the House mail system.  But it went out on a Wednesday afternoon while Congress was in session, so Exile wonders if Ms Tisinger was using her government-supplied computer.  We'll never know, but I'd be surprised if Randy's staff didn't have campaign laptops to use for campaign business.

The loose rules for campaign use of Congressional staff is just one of the many perqs of incumbency.  They're issued by the House Ethics Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, so it's not as if the Republicans are cutting Randy a break.  It's just part of the huge, undisclosed and largely unmonitored incumbent advantage that helps prop up the established Congressional power structure.  

Kuhl Op-Ed on Bush Budget

Reader Elmer sends Randy Kuhl's lengthy op-ed in today's Corning Leader [pdf].  Kuhl isn't happy with the Bush budget, especially with the budget cuts that hit the Appalachian Regional Commission as well as job training programs.

What's missing from the op-ed is any discussion of how government should raise the revenue to fund those programs, or a list of the programs that should be cut to re-fund them. 

The Most Powerful Voting Bloc

Megan McArdle is an Atlantic Monthly writer whose grandmother lives in Newark, NY.  Newark is a few miles North of the 29th district, but like a number of towns in the Southern 29th, its population is older than the national average.  McArdle thinks Newark is what the rest of the country will look like as the baby boom generation gets older.  In her article in this month's edition, she makes a number of political observations that are relevant to the election in the 29th.

McArdle notes that the needs of the elderly will push the economy towards more service, which in turn will probably mean slower growth (since productivity grows slower in the service sector than in manufacturing).  Slow growth coupled with increases in Social Security and Medicare will lead to higher taxes, benefit cuts and higher retirement ages:

The political battles over all of this will be bitter, and they will probably be, too often, won by the retirees, who vote in force (though not always as a bloc). Those same retirees may also vote against things that are actually in their interest—thus shutting out the immigrants who could help them stay at home, and out of the nursing home, longer; turning down school taxes that could create a more productive workforce to support them; fighting for zoning restrictions that make it harder for the low-income workers who provide their services to live within easy commuting distance.

McArdle's view of seniors as voters who turn out in force is evident in the politics of the 29th.  For example, possibly most effective ad of the last cycle was one that claimed that Eric Massa would raise taxes and cut social security.  It was aimed squarely at elderly voters, since it focused on the biggest fears of old people living on a fixed income.   Even though it was essentially false, I don't think anyone seriously doubts that it put some votes in Kuhl's column.

In the current cycle, the Bush Administration's budget, which has a $200 billion cut in Medicare, might lead to an ad from Democrats aimed at seniors.  The Republicans well-honed sense of self-preservation will probably kick in before that happens, however, and the cut will almost certainly be removed in committee.  

If they raise any money, RNCC may try to claim that Democrats want to insure illegal aliens in S-CHIP at the expense of the elderly.  Their "sniper" ad from last cycle shows that they'll use any excuse to scare the crap out of older voters.

Aside from the fact that they scare easily, the elderly are also more easily reached than the younger Internet- and cell-phone-using population.  Grandma doesn't have Tivo, and she watches the local TV news, so she's likely to see a paid commercial.  She also has a landline on which she can receive robocalls.

Seniors are easy to scare and easy to reach.  In the 29th, this means that we'll probably see more ads addressed to them, and they might even swing the election if someone shows them the right bogeyman.

Super Tuesday Postgame

I have no great wisdom to impart on Super-Duper-Apocalypto-Big Bang Tuesday, because when all was said and done, Democrats are pretty much where they were on ordinary Monday.

I do hope the parties continue to have a bunch of primaries on one day.  It makes things more interesting and exciting.

Shoot the Messenger

The WHAM-13 blog has a new post with more details on Randy Kuhl's trip to Brazil.  Kuhl's office has released a partial accounting of the cost of his trip, which totals around $4K.  As WHAM's Evan Dawson points out, that number is misleading because it doesn't include the cost of military air transport, which is something like $10,000 per hour.

In addition to the cost of military airtime, there's some more missing information:  how many military and/or embassy personnel were detailed to the trip?  How much time did that expensive airplane and crew have to sit around waiting to shuttle the delegation between cities?  All the disclosure appears to show is Kuhl's per diem and hotel costs, which is a small fraction of the cost to taxpayers.

This partial information release is accompanied by one of the snottiest press releases I've read in a long time.  Here's an excerpt:

The total for my portion of the trip was $4,028.93, which divided up among the 600,000+ residents the 29th District, equals approximately $0.00671 per constituent.

I understand the significance $0.00671 means to my district, but achieving energy independence is priceless to some. There are those who said that this trip was a vacation and we should have spent our time in Iowa. When Iowa finds the solution to energy independence, I will be the first to schedule a CODEL there.
It is unfortunate that some media outlets and individuals would skew this trip to only be about dollars and cents. But the truth is that this trip was desperately needed by lawmakers of Congress to find a solution to the energy crisis and I encourage more of my colleagues in Congress to visit Brazil.

Kuhl seems to be attacking the messenger, WHAM, which is an organization that's just doing its job.  When you don't disclose information when you promise to do so, it makes good reporters curious, so they follow up.  WHAM spent an inordinate amount of time and effort to find out something that could have been disclosed on time and without any static.  Their reward for going through weeks of run-around is a partial disclosure and a bunch of attitude.  They're the ones who should be snarky, but of course they've stayed professional.

If there's really nothing here, then Kuhl should put a little foot on ass with the committee bureaucracy and provide a full disclosure.  That's good representation and smart politics.

(Thanks to Exile at Rochesterturning for a heads-up on this.)

Kuhl Interview

Ontario GOP has posted his interview with Randy Kuhl.  It's a good run-down of Kuhl's spin on some important election-day issues.

To his credit, GOP asks a couple of questions about issues that will be important election issues.  On S-CHIP, Kuhl's justification for voting against hasn't changed much since last Fall:

Their plan also enables illegal aliens to fraudulently enroll in Medicaid and SCHIP by weakening the proof of citizenship. Also, their bill is the most regressive tax increase in American history and taxes the poor to benefit the rich. SCHIP was also designed for children, but the Democratic extension increases the number of adults on SCHIP, which allows even more resources to be taken away from low-income kids. And finally and most importantly, SCHIP was designed for low-income, poor children. The majority forgot that when they designed their extension, because there are still poor children not covered. We must ensure that we cover the low-income children first before considering expanding the program.
I've debunked some of these claims earlier (see this post on the immigrant issue).  The "tax the poor" spin is an argument that poor people will bear the brunt of the tax increase on tobacco that partially funds S-CHIP expansion.  The adult issue is a legitimate question, but the states that received waivers for adults were already covering all the kids allowed to be covered by S-CHIP, so the spin that adult funding is shorting kids is wrong.  Also, part of the reason that poor children are not covered is that states are allowed to set coverage levels, and some fund S-CHIP at lower levels.

On the trip to Brazil, I think Kuhl over-reaches when he says this:

This trip was enlightening and desperately needed. And for those people that want to belittle it for political gain, do not understand that as a country you can not hide your head in the sand and think that everything will be fine. This is a global economy and we must learn from one another to benefit from the successes and failures that we have experienced.
The obvious rejoinder to this is that there's no desperate need for anyone to stay at five-star hotels and fly on first-class military charters to learn about Brazil.
Iraq is not mentioned in the interview, which I think reflects the spin that the working surge means Iraq no longer matters.  I don't think that wish will hold up to the reality of the election.

Filthy Lucre

The FEC has updated fundraising summaries for both Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl.  The totals for Political Action Committee (PAC) and individual contributions are essentially mirror opposites for the two candidates.  The majority of Kuhl's money is PAC money, and the majority of Massa's is contributions from individuals.

Since Kuhl continues to rely on corporate donors, it's no surprise that he's having trouble raising funds.  Most observers believe that House Democrats will increase their majority, so giving money to a minority back-bencher is not a great investment in influence buying.   And, as commenter James pointed out, the rumors about Kuhl's retirement are probably going to lead corporate donors to hold off on giving to Kuhl until they're sure he's in the race.  Corporate contributors to James Walsh (NY-25) were burned by his late retirement.  They won't want to make the same mistake twice.

Kuhl isn't the only Republican having trouble fundraising. The Hill newspaper has a detailed analysis listing other Republican incumbents who have fallen behind their opponents in the money race.
Syndicate content