Posts cross-posted at the WNYCongress blog aggregator, which covers the 25th, 26th and 29th districts.

Massa Press Conference: Gas and Iraq

This weeks' Massa press conference was all about the price of gas, and the relationship between gas prices and the Iraq War. Read on to hear about what will probably be this Fall's most important intertwined issue.

Massa began the press conference by noting that "if gas hits $4.50 a gallon, this country is going to have a hard time moving forward economically." He pointed out that, unlike a lot of other Western countries, we rely mainly on cars for passenger transport, especially in rural areas like most of the 29th.

Massa ties the cost of oil to the war in Iraq via our massive borrowing from China:

We borrowed $3 trillion from China to fund the War in Iraq. We devalued the dollar by 50% to repay at a lower valuation. This is a well-known and recognized economic fact. Combine that with the proportion of the price increase due to obscene profiteering and price gouging, and we have a perfect storm.

Massa repeated his solution to the problem: a gas price freeze combined with a stabilization of the dollar. He added a windfall profit tax for big oil companies.

He used the example of the disconnect between the price of gas and the price of oil to show that big oil companies are profiteering:

The price of oil went to $139/barrel one day, and we saw a corresponding jump at the pump. It went down to $131/barrel and we saw no change at the pump. Clearly, big oil is using [the price of oil] to gouge the consumer.

Massa also framed drilling in ANWR as a business decision: "Why drill a commodity that is worth $139/barrel today, when we know it will be worth many times that in the future?" He pointed to the DOE study that showed the impact of ANWR drilling as 75 cents/barrel in 10 years. He also noted the impact of using ANWR oil on our children:

I am tired of a government that steals from my children. ANWR is the last accessible strategic petroleum deposit in the United States. I will not support a policy of bleed and greed that will ultimately make the lives of my children much, much harder.

Bob Recotta of the Corning Leader, the other writer on the call this morning, asked whether the windfall profit tax would cause a price increase. Massa replied that the price freeze would prevent that.

I asked about the recently mentioned McClatchy article that identified more commodity regulation and releasing strategic reserves as two possible remedies for high gas prices.

Massa supports more oversight of the commodity markets, not only in oil, but in markets like those that led to the mortgage crisis and bailouts of Bear Stearns.

Massa opposes releasing petroleum from the strategic oil reserve, mainly for national security reasons, but also because it won't work:

Even if we drain every drop out of the Louisiana salt domes, it would have no effect on price at the pump. The overriding reason is that we borrowed $3 trilling from the Chinese without asking for mobilization or sacrifice in this country. Now we're having to pay for it. The Bush Administration plan was to get of the office and run before the chickens come home to roost, but they've arrived on a cool summer breeze.

Those, like my opponent, who said our troops would be home at Christmas last year, the year before, and the year before, are responsible for prices at the pump.

Bob Recotta asked if Massa had heard back from Kuhl's campaign staff on his proposal for joint town-hall meetings . Massa said no, and contrasted Kuhl's response to McCain's willingness to engage in that type of open forum. Massa said that he might have debates with a paper cutout of Kuhl if Kuhl refuses to debate.

I asked Massa for more specifics on how he thought we should prop up the dollar. He said it's "like a recipe" because it's a combination of a number of factors. These include a 25 basis point increase in interest rates, a buy-back of foreign bonds by the U.S. Treasury, and tightening of our monetary supply. He said he realizes that the latter is difficult because of the current liquidity crisis, but we need to move forward in that direction.

Finally, I asked about the Bush Administration's effort to push through agreements for bases in Iraq before the election. He noted that this was a "blatant effort to create huge, permanent military bases in a country we have no reason to be in." He noted that some of the bases are the "size of Connecticut", adding "How can anyone doubt that our problems are related to the huge spending in Baghdad?"

Kuhl's Context-Free Facts

Randy Kuhl's latest blog post makes the following claims about ANWR:

The mean estimate of technically recoverable oil in ANWR is 10.4 billion barrels – all of which is now economically recoverable.
  • That’s more than twice the proven oil reserves in all of Texas.
  • That’s almost half of the total U.S. proven reserve of 21 billion barrels.
  • That represents a possible 50 percent increase in total U.S. proven reserves.

These facts would make one believe that ANWR could make a huge difference in our current oil supply. However, let's look at a couple of other facts from the Reuters' article I linked to earlier:

  • US oil consumption is 20.6 million barrels per day, or 7.5 billion barrels per year.
  • Peak production from ANWR would be 780,000 barrels per day. But that couldn't be accomplished until 2020, when it will be 2% of our daily oil consumption, assuming a steady increase in oil use. Even assuming zero growth, ANWR's peak flow is less than 4% of our current daily consumption.

Whatever your position on drilling in ANWR, it isn't a magic bullet, especially when you put Kuhl's raw numbers in context.

More DCCC Ads

The DCCC has added a web ad to its campaign highlighting Randy Kuhl's present vote on Iraq funding. It will also field a new robo-call from General Wesley Clark:

Hi, this is General Wes Clark, calling on behalf of the DCCC.

Congressman Randy Kuhl had the opportunity to stand up for our veterans.

Instead he voted against expanding the GI bill for the first time since World War II to provide a free college education for veterans.

That's leaving our veterans behind.

Call Randy Kuhl at 607-776-9142 and tell him to stand up for our troops and our veterans.

Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

The web ad is embedded below:

Update: The DCCC released a Kuhl-specific version of the ad.


Exile at Rochesterturning notes that Randy Kuhl is touting a "clean" version of the new GI Bill, and wonders if Kuhl really thinks that nobody will notice his earlier opposition to the real GI Bill. There's little chance of that, because there's no antidote to Kuhl's position on this issue.

Kuhl has allied himself with a narrow majority of the Republican House that opposes Senator Jim Webb's version of the GI Bill. The original version of Webb's bill has 300 co-sponsors in the House. The latest version passed in the Senate last week by a 75-22 vote.

Kuhl has not explained his vote against the GI Bill, so one has to assume that he agrees with Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, who have offered a less generous version of Webb's bill. McCain and Graham's position is that Webb's GI Bill, which allows full benefits after three years of service, will hurt recruiting. After three years, a soldier has probably served two full tours in Iraq, but that's not enough for McCain, Bush and Kuhl -- their shared vision of a long-term US presence in Iraq requires a penurious GI Bill that gives soldiers an incentive for multiple re-enlistments.

Kuhl's present vote on the Iraq supplemental, and his vote against an amendment adding the new GI Bill to that supplemental, make stuff like his most recent blog post sound like so much hot air. He talks of troops "working tirelessly to protect and defend our rights", but he's allied with an administration that begrudges them a .5% extra pay raise. A good number of his Republican colleagues have abandoned Bush on this one, and so have some conservatives, but Randy's chosen to stay the course.

Ads Target Kuhl Vote on GI Bill

Randy Kuhl's vote against the new GI Bill will be the target of a just-announced ad campaign from Americans United for Change. Details of the campaign have not been released. In the past, these campaigns have been long on press releases and short on media buys, but they usually garner a story in print or on TV. I'll embed the ad once Americans United releases it.

Kuhl Campaign Site Re-Emerges

The Kuhl campaign has re-launched the Kuhl for Congress site. Some new features include a blog, and the ability to contribute via credit card.

The issues page is similar to the old blog, and many of the issue statements reference events in the distant past. For example, the "War on Terror" section references Kuhl's 2006 trip to Iraq as a recent one.

Kuhl in the News

Today's Messenger-Post has a story on Randy Kuhl's "Fix Washington" program. Kuhl held a press conference on Friday to announce the program, but nobody spoke because no press showed up.

The Star-Gazette carries the announcement that the Kuhl campaign's honorary chairs are Amo Houghton, former occupant of the 29th seat, and Maggie Brooks, Monroe County Executive.

Three Sticky Iraq Votes

Randy Kuhl voted on three Iraq funding amendments yesterday. All of those votes will probably come back to haunt him this fall.

First, Kuhl voted present on the main funding amendment as part of a Republican protest against the way Iraq funding was brought to the floor. The Republicans were trying to show that a majority of Democrats opposed war funding. That amendment failed, which means that the whole bill must go back to the Senate for a re-tool.

Second, Kuhl voted against an amendment that would ensure, among other things, that all units were mission capable, that the US would not fund permanent bases in Iraq, and that all interrogations follow the Army Field Manual (i.e., no torture). This amendment passed.

Finally, Kuhl voted against a third amendment, which contained a hodge-podge of appropriations, including a provision that would fund the GI Bill via a 1/2% tax increase on those making over $1 million in income. This amendment garnered 32 Republican votes.

More information on all these votes is available from the House Rules Committee site.

The Reason for the Poll Release

The Massa Campaign has a new fundraising letter out, and it contains some information that puts yesterday's NRCC release of an old poll into context.

Roll Call, which is a subscription-only DC paper, has put Randy Kuhl on its its list of 10 most vulnerable Members of Congress. They've also changed the race rating to "toss up" from "Leans Republican". Most pundits still have the 29th race leaning towards Kuhl because of the fundamentals of the district. The new Roll Call rankings say the following about the race:

Although the sprawling district trends Republican in presidential election years, it will be a very competitive race. Despite representing the area in the state Legislature for two dozen years before he was elected in 2004, Kuhl has never built up much goodwill in the district, and his fundraising has been lackluster. Massa is still a little raw, but he’s genuine. Kuhl is in trouble.

According to what little Roll Call lets the unwashed masses read, the release of an old poll by the NRCC is standard operating procedure when a MOC hits the top ten.

The Massa campaign also released a story from Sunday's Corning Leader [pdf] that highlights the change in the race's ranking.

NRCC Poll: Kuhl Way Ahead

The National Republican Congressional Committee has released the results of a January poll that show Randy Kuhl 20 points ahead of Eric Massa. As with all polls from candidates or their representatives, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.

The WHAM13 blog post on the poll has the detail released by the pollster. Here's the tell:

Interview selection was random within predetermined election units. These units were structured to correlate with actual voter turnout.

One of the most important characteristics of a poll is its likely voter screen, the questions that pollsters ask to judge whether the person responding will actually vote. These weasel-words dodge the question of how voters were selected. With a sample size of 300, a slight tweak of the voter screen will lead to a huge effect in the poll's outcome. That's where this ham was watered.

What's more interesting is why the NRCC would release a poll so old that the Presidential choice section doesn't even include the presumptive Democratic nominee. The answer is that campaigns release these polls when they want to goose fundraising by convincing donors that their candidate has a chance. Since Kuhl is trailing Massa in funds raised, this poll is no surprise. What's really interesting is the weakness of this effort. The NRCC is so broke that they can't even afford to pay for a fresh poll, so they release this chestnut.

Update: As Zabriskie points out in the comments, the poll was conducted by McLaughlin and Associates on January 27-28. On January 30, the Kuhl campaign paid $16,215 to McLaughlin and Associates for a "Survey". So the NRCC press release is leveraging an old Kuhl poll. And the following assertion reported in the 13WHAM post is laughable:

“As far as the NRCC, Randy is a completely separate entity from the NRCC and really has no idea what they will or won’t do,” said Meghan Tisinger of Kuhl’s office.
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