Posts containing my opinion of the race.

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.

Kuhl to Labor: Show Me Some Respect

Randy Kuhl's actions of the last few weeks speak far more loudly than his words. Six days after the election, Kuhl withdrew his support of a bill that would reform the National Labor Relations Act. To date, he's the only one of the 215 original co-sponsors who's pulled out. Even defeated John Sweeney from nearby NY-20 is still listed as a supporter of this legislation.

While there's certainly a component of petty retribution in Kuhl's action, chalking this up as a parting shot would misread the complex relationship between labor and John R Kuhl Jr.

Rochesterturning and The Hill both identify the AFL-CIO as the likely target of Kuhl's ire, and they're probably right. That union endorsed Massa during the current cycle, reversing their trend of endorsements for Kuhl that began during his tenure as a state legislator and continued through his first run in 2004. Kuhl might have also wanted to send a message to the UAW, who complained loudly about one of Kuhl's ads that took credit for bringing a helicopter plant to the district.

But the AFL-CIO is not a monolith. Two weeks before the state AFL-CIO endorsed Kuhl's opponent, the Transportation Trades AFL-CIO PAC gave Kuhl $1,000. Six weeks after that endorsement, the Building and Construction Trades AFL-CIO PAC gave Kuhl another $1K. Both of those donations are probably because Randy sits on the Transportation committee, including the "Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management".

Even though he's a member of the new minority, Kuhl can expect to receive money from unions as long as he sits on committees that hold sway over union jobs. As the chief lobbyist for the United Transportation Union remarked, "Quite frankly, one game doesn’t make a season. We will examine him as the new Congress starts."

That examination will begin after committee assignments are handed out. Kuhl will probably retain his current seats. By pulling his support for one of labor's pet bills, Kuhl was signaling that he won't be bought easily. He wants some sugar in his bowl.

The 29th in 2008: Back from the Wilderness

The last two elections have shown that the 29th is, at a minimum, a competitive district.  In the Southern 29th, where one-party rule and weak candidates have been the norm, the candidacy of Eric Massa was the final eye-opener in a process started by Sam Barend in 2004.  The long years of 70/30 elections in the 29th are now officially over.  The hard question is predicting what's next.

With a changeover in both houses of Congress, a quagmire in Iraq, and a coming Presidential election, I'm not ready to make any hard predictions about the 2008 race.  However, I do know that I'll be watching four people:  Nancy Pelosi, Randy Kuhl, Louise Slaughter, and Eric Massa.   Each of them has a role to play in shaping the next campaign.

Eric Massa is perhaps the biggest wildcard in the 2008 race.  He made a major personal investment in this year's contest, one which I'm sure he won't abandon without much internal debate.  He has good name recognition, the respect of Democrats (and many Republicans) in the district, and an address book full of contacts.  If he stays in the 29th and finds some kind of visible political appointment, chances are that he'll be running again in 2008.   

If Massa makes himself scarce, or even announces that he's out of politics, then the Democrats will begin the difficult hunt for a credible candidate from the Southern 29th.  That part of the district has been under one-party rule for so long that there's a dearth of potential candidates, yet a candidate from Monroe county has no chance of winning in the South.   This is perhaps the biggest factor influencing the race in '08:  if Massa's out, I'd expect Kuhl to retain the seat.

Nancy Pelosi is the next player in our little drama, and her role is to push legislation through the House.  If she delivers on her 100-hour plan, and if that plan is carefully crafted to gather the votes of Democrats and independent Republicans, and if a lot of the plan seems like no-brainers to the centrist voter, then she might catch John R Kuhl Jr in a trap.   Randy will have to decide if he's part of the core of the loyal opposition, or if he wants to move towards the center.

Pelosi's a smart politician with sharp elbows.  One example of the dilemmas that Kuhl will be facing is the planned vote on allowing Medicare to negotiate pricing with drug companies.  This is a practical, cost-saving step that the VA has been doing for years, but it was written out of the Medicare Part D legislation.  When Pelosi forces a vote on something practical and responsible like that, Kuhl will have to decide whether it's in his best interests to try to spin it to the folks back home, risking the accusation that he's in bed with the drug companies, or vote with the Democrats. 

While it's a sure bet that Randy Kuhl will run in '08, I'll be watching his votes and press releases to see if he's going to stop taking dictation from the Republican leadership.   I'm also curious about whether he'll keep his committee assignments.  I'll also be watching his FEC page to see how being part of the new minority affects his fundraising.  Randy might have to lessen his reliance on corporate PAC donations, and try to raise more money in the district.   I'm also curious about the number of grants and other federal programs he'll announce in 2007 -- I'm guessing a few less than '06.

That brings us to the final character in this play:  Louise Slaughter, the titanium magnolia, who will be Chairman of the Committee on Rules, one of the most powerful positions in the House.  Louise didn't do any campaigning for Eric Massa because she was in bed with a bad case of shingles.  But Louise has a big role to play in the Northern 29th.  Now that she's a power in the House, she'll be bringing home the bacon to Monroe County.   Gone are the days of Tom Reynolds allowing Randy Kuhl to piggyback on his funding announcements.  Louise will do nothing obvious to shut Kuhl and Reynolds out, but she'll quietly keep them out of the picture.  Her revenge will be served cold and without fanfare.

I'd be surprised if Slaughter didn't try to recruit Massa for another run, because the close races in the 29th and in NY-25 will have whet the Democrats' appetite for turnovers in upstate New York.  Some of the seats won in the last go-round, like those previously occupied by Tom Delay and Mark Foley, are likely to revert back to Republicans, so the Democrats have an incentive to invest heavily in the dozen or so districts that had tight races in '06.  As a proven candidate, Massa is the logical pick for another go at Randy Kuhl.   I hope he does it - but that's a selfish wish, since he made this year's race a hell of a lot of fun.

Eric Massa: Square Peg

It's fitting that Eric Massa's campaign ends in the same way that it began over two years ago: in an act of stubborn determination.  I doubt that anyone who's watched the Massa campaign closely is surprised that Massa is waiting until after every vote is counted to concede -- the history of this race shows that he's a man quite comfortable with long odds.

Massa began campaigning for this seat the day after the 2004 election.  As an "outsider", he had to travel the district, introducing himself to every Democratic mayor, councilman, and dogcatcher. His campaign began with an out-of-pocket loan, campaign headquarters for the first year was the Massa family garage, and he was on a schedule where he had dinner with his family once a week. 

A longshot that requires sacrifices like these is not undertaken by an ass-kissing milquetoast.  Massa is an interesting mix of no-bullshit Navy Commander and policy wonk.  If politics is a round hole, he's a square peg accompanied by a big hammer.

Being a square peg meant that Massa had to do things the hard way.  In the 29th, this meant that he had to introduce himself to the district used to a completely different style of politician, raise funds without help from the national party, and stumble when he used negative ads. 

In many ways, Randy Kuhl is the archetypal Southern Tier politician.  He's an understated hometown boy.  Physically and temperamentally, there aren't many men more different than Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl.  Massa's built like a fireplug, while Kuhl is tall and slender.  Compared to Kuhl, who isn't much of a public speaker, Massa's public speech is carefully constructed and thoroughly researched.  When Kuhl sketched out ideas, Massa articulated positions.  When Kuhl suggested approaches, Massa presented solutions.  Kuhl often offered too little:  Massa sometimes provided too much.

Some might see Massa's innate confidence as arrogance, and his determination as a lack of humor.  Arrogant, humorless individuals do not run campaigns as good as Massa's (compare his campaign to  Katharine Harris' in Florida if you need to proof of that statement). Nevertheless, I think the 29th is not yet fully adapted to Massa, and though he used his two years in the district to good effect, he was still viewed by many as an outsider.

As a square peg, Massa was not the kind of candidate preferred by the national Democratic party.  His success at running a tight race puts the lie to both Howard Dean's 50-state plan, and Rahm Emmanuel's targeted campaign.  Massa received little concrete help from either of those warring factions of the party.  Instead, Massa had to find his own way to raise funds, beginning with personal appeals in the district combined with help from the netroots and fighting Dems movements.

Money makes a campaign, and Massa's over $1.1 million total is impressive by any measure, especially considering two-thirds came from individual donations.  Though Massa was close to fundraising parity with Kuhl, his money was spent over a two-year period.  Since Kuhl, like any incumbent, was able to use  his Congressional office to keep his name in the newspaper without spending campaign funds, Kuhl's effective money advantage was much larger than Massa's.  Nevertheless, Massa raised enough to mount an effective ad campaign.  Unfortunately, he received little help from his national party, while Kuhl received a boost with party funded robo-calls, ads and mailers.

Massa also struggled with negative ads.  The goal of a negative ad is to establish a simple narrative in the minds of the voters that defines your opponent.  Kuhl's narrative for Massa was "Liberal Eric Massa will raise taxes and gut Social Security."  Massa was unable to define Kuhl as cleanly.  His negative campaign began with the diffuse "hiding" ad, which was replaced by an over-the-top response to Kuhl's Social Security ad.  When Massa finally hit his stride with his positive/negative "FDR" ad, it was too late in the election to effectively re-define his image or respond to Kuhl. 

Massa is similar to a number of inexperienced politicians in this regard:  he didn't plan for a negative campaign and was therefore caught somewhat flat-footed.  Democrats often take their inability to run "good" negative campaigns as a sign they should attack more fiercely earlier in the campaign.  I think this is a mistake, one which is borne out by Massa's final Social Security response.  Instead of hitting hard, this ad strikes a balance between the positive aspects of Massa's program and an attack on Kuhl.  The more heavy-handed attacks, like Massa's initial Social Security response, or the MoveOn ads, aren't nearly as effective.

Since this race was so close, it's tempting to blame other factors, such as robo-calls, nasty mailers and the Dickert matter, for Massa's loss.  Lacking any real polling data, I don't want to speculate about those factors.  I've picked out the "big three" reasons that Massa didn't quite make it:  outsider in an insider's district, no help from the national party, and imperfect negative spots.  In identifying those weaknesses, I don't want to give a wrong impression, because Massa ran a superb campaign.

The quality of Massa's campaign can be seen in comparison two to other close calls:  Dan Maffei in NY-25, and Tammy Duckworth in Il-6.  Both Duckworth and Maffei were good candidates, but both failed by roughly the same margin as Massa in less challenging districts. 

As Rahm Emmanuel's darling, the total spent by and for Duckworth in the campaign probably topped $5 million.  Yet she fell short in an open-seat district that's less Republican than the 29th (R+3 vs R+5 in the Cook ratings). 

Dan Maffei raised roughly half of what Massa raised in the 29th, in a district that's much more Democratic (D+3) and richer (median income $2K more than the 29th).  Since Maffei was essentially broke at the end of the campaign, he even got outside help in the form of ad spending by the national party.  Nevertheless, he lost in a race with a margin only slightly tighter than Massa's. 

Perhaps James Walsh is a stronger candidate than Kuhl, and maybe Duckworth was hit harder by Republicans, but I think the reason that Massa did about as well as these two was simple:  he ran harder and smarter.

Eric Massa had a tough job and he did it well.  He has some rough edges, like most risk-takers, but he's proven that he has the ability to inspire loyalty and generate excitement with a large group of supporters.  If he stays in politics, I think he has the potential for taking the 29th in 2008.  If not, he will be remembered for running one of the best congressional campaigns in recent memory.

Kuhl: Good D

Randy Kuhl won this election because he played good defense. On a night when Republicans in safer districts and with lesser opponents went down to defeat, Kuhl was left standing. He deserves all proper respect for running a campaign that will keep him in Congress for at least two more years, and possibly much longer.

In a "throw the bums out" election, Kuhl's win can be chalked up to two simple tactics: showing that he's one of us (not one of the bums), and launching a targeted attack against his opponent. Though he made a couple of slips earlier in the race, Kuhl stuck to these two winning maneuvers in the end, and they were enough to defend his natural majority in the district.

Kuhl is an easy man to underestimate. His demeanor is low-key, and he's not prone to long speeches. He's clearly not a policy wonk of any stripe, but he is an experienced politician with deep roots in the district.

As a state legislator, Kuhl's role was to bring some downstate bucks to the relatively poor upstate region. Kuhl continued this model in Congress. He decided to make his congressional office a "service office", one that concentrated on the needs of his constituents. Kuhl picked committees that were relevant to the 29th -- for example, Agriculture -- and he kept his campaign promise to visit every town in the district once per year.

Coincidentally or not, this model of service and pork fit well with the 2006 election, since it allowed Kuhl to localize the race. His official web page was churning out announcements of local grants in the weeks and months leading to the election. He appeared in news conferences all over the 29th to tout the arrival of federal money. He made maximum use of his incumbency to paint himself as in-touch and bringing home the bacon, no matter what the bums in DC were doing.

The only major mis-step of Kuhl's campaign was the initial comments he made about Iraq. Though he said some boneheaded things, he quickly modified his rhetoric to remove the silliest statements. Even bringing President Bush to the 29th in the Spring was a mixed blessing -- it showed that Kuhl had the ear of the President (and therefore could bring home favors for the district), but it was done at a time when Bush's presence wasn't totally radioactive.

Kuhl turned in a workmanlike performance at the debates, and his two "gaffes" (a Katrina statement and a heated statement about terrorists wanting to "kill all of you"), made YouTube, not WHAM. His initial TV ads were positive and reasonable -- he didn't begin with attacks, and therefore didn't signal that he was vulnerable early.

The second prong of Kuhl's strategy, targeted attack, began with a gift from The inaccuracies in the MoveOn attack ad gave Kuhl a justification for hitting Massa early and hard. I'd judge the MoveOn episode as a net loss for Massa, and a lesson on ham-fisted third-party advocacy.

Because the MoveOn attack reminded the voters of Iraq, Kuhl wisely dropped those ads and replaced them with a more localized attack. Beginning in the debates, and ending with his own ads and ads from the RNCC, Kuhl stuck to two issues that resonated with the overtaxed and relatively old population of the 29th. He consistently charged that Massa would raise taxes and gut Social Security.

Kuhl used his superior campaign warchest, and additional RNCC money, to drive these attacks home through simple, effective and mind-numbing repetition. The goal was to implant a doubt in the minds of voters who might want to choose Massa, and to change the subject from Iraq to national issues where Kuhl believed Massa was weak. Those attacks succeeded.

Kuhl wisely avoided any personal attacks on Massa. Unlike some of his colleagues who lost their seats (*cough* Sue Kelly *cough*), he also attended debates and quickly dropped the losing "cut and run" rhetoric on Iraq. As a freshman, he wasn't entangled in the Abramoff or Foley scandals.

In short, Kuhl's didn't do anything that would give voters a reason to vote against him personally. In the Sweeney (NY-20) and Kelly (NY-19) losses, both incumbents had personal as well as political shortcomings that surfaced in the last months of the race, and both lost. Kuhl and Walsh (NY-25) didn't, and they won. (The Reynolds case is more complicated.)

A 52/48 win in a Republican district is not a sign of strength. Kuhl is still vulnerable, especially as a member of the now-minority party in Congress. But he was able to defend his seat in face of the most aggressive challenge of his political career, in the worst climate for Republicans in the short history of the 29th. That's no small feat.

Recanvassing - What Is It?

LV Vet asked in the comments about the procedure for impounding voting machines and counting votes.  (See next post.)

I'm not a lawyer (thankfully), and the New York State Election Law [pdf] is 516 pages long.  With that caveat, here's what appears to be the money quote on "recanvassing" or basically making the "final count":

§ 9-208. Provisions for recanvass of vote in every election district in
the state; procedure in case of discrepancy.

1. Within fifteen days after each general, special or primary election, and within seven days after every village election conducted by the board of elections at which voting machines are used, the board of elections, or a bipartisan committee of or appointed by said board, shall in each county using voting machines, make a record of the number on the seal and the number on the protective counter, of each voting machine used in each election district in such general, special or primary election, shall open the counter compartment of each of such machine, and, without unlocking such machine against voting, shall recanvass the vote cast thereon . . .

In the initial canvass, on election night, the voting machine is locked against voting and the totals are read off and recorded.  Then the machine is sealed. (§ 9-102)


I'm still drinking Bloody Marys and popping aspirin like popcorn, but my election hangover is dissapating quicker than Eric Massa's hopes for a seat in the 110th Congress. So I'm ready to "process", as the shrinks say.

I'm going to break this process into three parts: the Kuhl campaign, the Massa campaign and what the future holds for the 29th. There will be something to offend everyone in these posts, so stay tuned.

It's OK to Fight

In today's Elmira Star-Gazette, Eric Massa says  "We have a team coming in to look at everything necessary to make sure every vote counts."  I hope that the Massa campaign will do whatever it takes until they're satisfied with the vote count.  If that means a recount, so be it:  there's no need to be prematurely gracious about a race this close.

That said, Massa's lost this race.  It's unlikely that Kuhl's margin will dip below three or four thousand, which means that a few mis-marked absentee ballots or a transposition of tallys on a couple of voting machine won't deliver a Massa victory.

Shoe Leather

Rochester TV station WHEC has a story about how the Massa campaign uses "cyberspace", with Massa's MySpace page as the example.  While it's true that Massa has a MySpace page, that just scratches the surface of the differences in the two campaigns' approaches to using the Internet.  The Massa website is full of detailed information about the candidate's positions, solicits online fundraising, and is constantly updated. 

Massa also posts a diary regularly on DailyKos, and that diary is replicated across a number of "netroots" sites like MyDD and the TPMCafe.  I don't think those efforts will gain Massa many votes in the 29th, but they have helped him in other ways.  One of the reasons that Massa has raised $800K from individuals is online contributions (often small, like $20) from readers of these sites.  In addition, Massa's participation in the discussion threads on those sites has probably helped him sharpen his positions on some issues.

The Kuhl campaign's site does not solicit donations and is infrequently updated.  Kuhl says:

What were doing is taking the old fashioned way [...] Taking the shoe leather on the street, right out to the people and saying hello.

It's not an either/or.  For example, Reader Rich points to Massa's election-day schedule, which begins at 4:15 a.m. in Pittsford and ends in Corning at 9 p.m.  That kind of schedule is typical for Massa, who's run a hard campaign on the ground as well as in "cyberspace".   

What's Randy Kuhl doing tomorrow?  I have no idea -- it isn't posted on his website.

Massa v Dickert: More Than You Want To Know

Sanford Dickert, who was fired by the Massa Campaign after a short tenure as campaign manager, has created a website devoted to his legal case.  It contains a huge number of documents, including court filings and supporting information.

Between his site and email conversations with Dickert, I've learned more than I've ever wanted to know about this dispute.  In this post, I'm going to do my honest best to separate out the charges that are relevant to the election from those that are part of the employment dispute.  Based on my review, there are three:

  1. Was there illegal activity that Massa knew about and should have reported?
  2. Is Massa trying to duck payment of a debt he's contractually obligated to pay?
  3. Did Massa commit perjury?

My conclusion:  There's no solid evidence to support any of these claims in the mountain of paper released by Dickert.

Let's begin with a bit about the evidence presented by Dickert.  He provides a number of documents that, to my knowledge, haven't been previously available to the media.  These include the employment contract between him and the Massa Campaign, and the preliminary filings for arbitration between the parties.

There's a wealth of information here, but it's mainly in the form of allegations, not facts.  Dickert includes some emails and campaign literature to support some of his allegations, but he generally points to the affidavits of some of his friends to support his reading of the case.  The Massa campaign has yet to provide most of their side of the story, which I assume would include their affidavits.

In other words, we're at the beginning of a process, this discussion is premature, and the best evidence (except for the contract itself) is he-said/he-said.  With that in mind, let's look at the charges that could be made against Massa that are relevant to his character:

1.  Massa knew about illegal activity he should have reported.

Let's start with some background. Dickert is an adjunct professor at Cooper Union in New York City.  When Dickert was hired by the Massa campaign, he apparently brought one of his former students and that student's friend with him as volunteers for the campaign.  These two were 18 and 19 years old, and they quit the Massa campaign the day Dickert was fired.  While in Corning, the students were housed in an apartment paid for by the campaign (at Dickert's suggestion, and perhaps without Massa's approval, though that's up for dispute).   A third resident of the apartment was another college-age boy, and the fourth was a 25-year-old woman who also worked for the campaign.

In his affidavit, Massa alleges that Dickert provided alcohol for underage drinkers in that apartment.  This charge is based on after-the-fact evidence:  Massa and the landlord apparently found beer and vodka in the apartment after Dickert was fired.  Dickert and the Cooper Union students claim the alcohol was purchased by the 25-year-old.  What's important for this discussion is that the only evidence that Massa had was circumstantial, and it was discovered after Dickert and the students left town.

The second major claim is that Dickert asked Massa's 16-year-old son to stay the night in the guesthouse where Dickert was living.  This charge is the least-well-documented of the whole bunch.  As far as I can tell from my email correspondence with Dickert, this looks like some kind of misunderstanding between Massa and Dickert.  My sense is that Dickert doesn't really understand how touchy parents can be about their teenagers.  But Massa certainly doesn't allege that anything remotely illegal happened between his son and Dickert.

By the way, the newspaper stories don't mention that the 16-year-old was Massa's son, presumably because they don't print the names of minors involved in alleged crimes.  However, it's clear in the now-public documents that Massa's son was the only 16-year-old involved.

Finally, there's the charge that Dickert solicited high-school boys for employment in the campaign.  The affidavits from Dickert's students bear this out.  The dispute is over whether he should have been doing it.  Massa thinks it's illegal and says he specifically instructed Dickert not to do it.  Dickert says it isn't illegal.  The real issue here isn't the supposed illegality: Massa also contends that parents complained about Dickert's solicitations, which of course is poison to a campaign.

In addition to the possibly salacious (but actually fairly tame) allegations, there are a few charges about Dickert's lack of knowledge of Federal Campaign laws, but none of that rises to the level of anything reportable to authorities.

I should note that in my first post, I hadn't seen the documents and assumed that the liquor and 16-year-old story were somehow connected to a party (especially since some damage occurred at the apartment).  That's not true, and I apologize for the error.  The truth is actually less damaging to Massa - something illegal might have happened, but nothing that happened could be credibly reported to the authorities.

2.  Massa's trying to get out of paying an obvious debt.

This brings us to the beginning of this whole mess:  the employment contract.  As an outsider, I have to read it as it stands, without the interpretation that Dickert and Massa attach to it.  I'm not a lawyer, but I've been involved with negotiation of contracts far more complex than this one.  I wouldn't have signed this contract.  There should have been more detail around the termination section, and more discussion of termination in general.

Dickert's position is that the Massa Campaign owes him at least $39,000, plus a $50,000 win bonus if Massa wins the election.  The campaign's position is that they owe Dickert a hell of a lot less than that, that he was terminated for cause, and that fraud is involved, since he misrepresented his resume.

I don't think we need to go into the nitty-gritty detail to determine whether Massa's ducking a bill.  My take is that Dickert gets to $39,000 using some extremely optimistic arithmetic that includes damages that are called for by a state labor law of questionable applicability.  In addition, the $50K is a no-go, because he was terminated for cause, and the contract says that he gets that money only if the termination was without cause.

Common sense doesn't have much place in a legal proceeding, but it does have a place in this discussion, since we're trying to see if Massa is trying to welsh on a debt.  Dickert was employed for about six weeks, and actually worked for a little more than a month, since he took some unpaid leave.  For his work, he expects between $39K and $89K, depending on how the campaign turns out.  Clearly, Dickert didn't work out.  That's got to be at least partially his fault, and his short tenure can't be the key to victory.

A reasonable person would not fork over potentially $89K for one month of work.  This is a legitimate dispute, not a ruse to avoid payment.

3.  Massa committed perjury.

This is the weakest accusation of the bunch.  Massa's affidavit in this case was signed under oath, so if he lied in that document, he's a perjurer.  The supposed evidence for this perjury is that Massa's account differs from three other affidavits filed in the case.

Two of the other affidavits are those of Dickert's student and friend.  They deny a couple of the charges made by Massa, but these two only saw a little bit of the entire picture.  In addition, they're clearly loyal to Dickert, having left the campaign the day he quit.  At best, this is a difference of interpretation, not evidence of perjury.

The other affidavit is by the woman who recommended Dickert to the campaign.  It addresses the issue of Dickert's inexperience.  In my opinion, it's a straw man.  Massa is charging that Dickert lied about leaving the Kerry campaign in 2004.  The affidavit shows that Massa was told that Dickert was inexperienced -- it doesn't address the more serious charge of misrepresentation.

Perjury is just a non-starter in this he-said/he-said dispute.

My conclusion is that there's nothing here that would make a reasonable person change their vote.  That doesn't mean that this whole mess won't affect votes.

I don't want to speculate about why this information was released less than a week before the election, but I hope we can return to the real issues of the campaign.  This is a sideshow.

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