Pot, Meet Kettle

April 21st, 2008

Recently there has been a spate of stories in Colorado attempting to establish ties between former Rep. Bob Schaffer and jailbird lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Udall campaign itself has added fuel to the fire, accusing Schaffer of having stronger ties to Abramoff than he acknowledges. Follow the money, though, and you’ll quickly find that there are in fact clear ties between Jack Abramoff and one of the Coloradan Senate candidates. The problem for Mark Udall, though, is that he’s that candidate. Apparently Rep. Mark Udall doesn’t adhere to the old adage that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Fortunately, that glass is now shattering all over him.

The Udall campaign has disclosed that he received two contributions totaling $1500 from PACs tied to the convicted lobbyist. Shockingly, Udall kept the cash for three and four cycles, during which time it helped his career to appear more viable and thus helped him to raise still more money, and is only giving the cash to charity now that he thinks doing so can be a political benefit to his campaign. To say that the donation is disingenuous is an understatement. Mark Udall was simply about to get caught in the height of hypocrisy, accusing his opponent of having ties to Abramoff when he, in fact, is the only candidate in the race to have taken money from PACs tied to the convicted lobbyist.

Well, Congressman, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If you are going to insinuate that Bob Schaffer is too corrupt to represent your state in the Senate because his staffers once had a meeting with Abramoff, perhaps it is time for you to take yourself out of the race because you actually accepted money from those tied to him. Coloradans deserve to know the truth, and the truth is that you are neither a) free of ties to Jack Abramoff nor b) a reliable source for accusations of corruption. If you really thought that the Abramoff issue would work in your favor, think again. Get ready to get the exact same scrutiny you hoped would face your opponent.

Franken Owes California Too

April 18th, 2008

Apparently not satisfied with cheating New Yorkers out of workman’s compensation, Al Franken apparently also decided to cheat the state of California out of $5800 in income taxes. As with the situation in New York, Franken once again has decided to pay taxes years after the fact now that his “oversight” has been exposed years after the fact. Fortunately for Franken, most of his business has been in the states of New York and California, so he may not have actually cheated the voters of Minnesota out of his tax dollars, though at this rate would it really surprise anyone to find out that he had?

Franken is attributing this error to poor accounting, even though he hired an accountant to, well, do his accounting and ensure that things like this didn’t happen. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that his accountant, Allen Chanzis, stated that he attempted to inform the state of California that the corporation “wished to terminate [its] coroporate status in the state” in 2003, but that he filed coroporate disclosure forms with the Secretary of State’s office in 2004 and 2006. Somehow he was unable to reconcile the two stories.

Minnesotans are not getting the opportunity to see the real Al Franken in action. While many Democrats are simply political opponents, Al Franken is an egomaniacal, self-serving jerk willing to do anything to anyone for his own personal pleasure. In spite of his millionaire status, Franken seeks to rip off taxpayers at every turn. It’s little wonder that Franken supports an increase in the gas tax. He probably thinks he could get away without paying that one as well. Although I will mince no words when it comes to debates of issues, I generally attempt to avoid personal attacks on politicians. In this case, though, I will make an exception to say that Franken should never be elected as a public servant because his is incapable of serving the interests of anyone besides himself.

First Quarter Fundraising Numbers

April 17th, 2008

Here’s a look at cash on hand at the end of the first quarter:

Alaska
Stevens - $1.3 million
Begich - $261,000

Sen. Wicker has thrown down the gauntlet with an unbelievable first quarter. If Musgrove ever had a chance, this may well end it.

Colorado
Schaffer - $2.2 million
Udall - $4.2 million

Schaffer posted a strong quarter, raising over $1 million. This may be enough to put away concerns that he would not be able to raise enough money to compete with Udall. Though he still trails in cash on hand, he certainly has enough money to be extremely competitive.

Louisiana
Landrieu - $4.5 million
Kennedy - nearly $2 million

Kennedy is raising money at a furious clip and continues to outpace Landdrieu. He’ll need to widen the gap even further, though, if he hopes to close the gap that recent polls show Landrieu having opened.

Maine
Collins - $4.5 million
Allen - $2.7 million

Rep. Tom Allen is wasting a ton of money in a losing cause. With her strong and steady lead, Collins should coast to an easy victory barring any mistakes.

Minnesota
Coleman - $7 million
Franken - $3.5 million

Yes, Franken outraised Coleman again, but it’s cash on hand that counts, and Coleman continues to have a solid advantage. He’ll have more than enough money to show Minnesotans just how disingenuous Franken is while also being able to remind them why they sent him to Washington in the first place.

Mississippi
Wicker - $2.8 million
Musgrove - $337,000

Once upon a time, Musgrove might have had a chance. Those days are gone. Turn out the lights. This party’s over.

Nebraska
Johanns - $1.33 million
Kleeb - $281,000
Raimondo - $141,000

The fundraising gap reflects the race itself as well. The DSCC expected Raimondo to put some of his own money toward the cause, but so far he still trails Kleeb in the CoH department. With Johanns posting very strong numbers, Raimondo may see the writing on the wall and decide to cut his losses.

New Hampshire
Sununu - $4.3 million
Shaheen - $2 million

Earlier in the cycle, I thought Sununu was dead in the water. It’s tough, though, to discount the chances of an incumbent who has a CoH advantage this large. To be sure, he’ll need to spend every dime he has wisely, but he may have enough dimes to at the very least make this highly competitive.

New Mexico
Pearce - $854,000
Wilson - $1.2 million
Udall - $2.6 million

This one’s not over, but it’s getting there. Fortunately, Pearce and Wilson will benefit from the free media that comes with a competitive primary. They’ll need to capitalize on it if either is to compete with Udall.

North Carolina not yet available
Dole
Hagan
Neal

Oregon
Smith not yet available
Merkley not yet available
Novick - $193,000

Schaffer Puts Forth Tax Plan

April 16th, 2008

Colorado Senate candidate Bob Schaffer set out an agenda of tax cuts on Monday, arguing that they are needed to stimulate an unsteady economy. Among his proposals are:

Cutting the corporate income tax from 35% to 25%

Instituting an optional flat tax

Elimination of the alternative minimum tax

Restoration of the research-and-development tax credit

Reduction of the repatriation tax from 40% to 5%.

Each of these proposals would serve to stimulate an economy that John McCain has said is in recession. They represent the type of fiscal conservatism that Schaffer promoted in the House during his time there.

More importantly, they present a stark contrast with his opponent, Rep. Mark Udall, who never met a tax he didn’t hike. Just how great is the difference between Schaffer and Udall? A look at the Americans for Tax Rreform Congressional ratings from 2002, Schaffer’s last year in the House, present a pretty clear picture. Schaffer earned a rating of 100% while Udall managed to get a 5% rating, lower than many of his Democrat colleagues.

What are some of the tax issues on which Udall and Schaffer disagreed in that year? Schaffer supported a Constitutional Amendment requiring supermajorities in both houses of Congress to raise taxes. Udall opposed it. Schaffer supported a permanent repeal of the estate tax. Udall opposed it. Schaffer supported the Taxpayer Protection and IRS Accountability Act. Udall opposed it.

For taxpayers concered about a fledgling economy, there is only one option in this race. One candidate favors allowing free market solutions to spur investment and work. The other is for the redistribution of wealth and punishment of success. If the economy is indeed the number one issue this year, Bob Schaffer should have no problem making his case.

Franken Acknowledges Fault in Workmens’ Comp Case

April 14th, 2008

 

Al Franken said that he wanted to get the truth out during this campaign. If he’s not doing so already, he’s going to eat those words by the time the campaign is over. Between his multiple positions on Iraq and now this workmens’ compensation, Franken it seems would benefit from the truth being obscured as much as possible.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Franken failed to pay workmens’ compensation and disability benefits insurance for his own corporation, Alan Franken Inc. After several attempts to collect payment, the State of New York finally fined Franken in the amount of $25,000, which it attempted to collect for years. Only now, thanks to a post on a Republican blog, has Franken decided to live up to his responsibilities by acknowledging wrongdoing in the case and paying the fine.

So what happened? Well, that depends on whether you believe in Occam’s Razor. The first possible explanation is that Franken incorporated without knowing the rules and responsibilities that came with such a decision. Either he or those he employed were unaware of the responsibility to pay workmens’ compensation, which would have to mean that one or more people were completely inept. The other possibility is that Franken simply thought he could get away without paying either workmens’ comp or the fine and simply realized during the course of his Senate campaign that he couldn’t. When he came to this realization, he decided that it was worth it to pay the fine and acknowledge that he was in the wrong. Occam’s Razor suggests that the latter was probably true.

This this isn’t as serious as I make it out to be? Take a look at what some liberals are saying:

You just have to love the irony of a candidate whose party has the word Labor in it’s title that doesn’t pay his employees their legally mandated benefits.

This looks really bad - as in if he has no good defense (he does not so far), he should end his campaign.
This is not just leaving his workers uncovered, this is breaking the law, on an ongoing basis.

Speaking as the CEO of a small company it is virtually impossible to not get your employees under workmen’s comp. To me this is clear intentional fraud - and very serious.

When members of your own party start calling for you to end your campaign, you’ve got some problems. Yes, Al, we are getting the truth out in this campaign, and it is fun.

NJ Situation Gets Worse (Believe it or not)

April 10th, 2008

Update: It is done. 

Just when it didn’t actually seem possible, the situation in New Jersey has actually gotten worse.  It now appears that Andy Unanue plans to withdraw from the race and be replaced by former Rep. Dick Zimmer, who lost a Senate race to Robert Toricelli a dozen years ago.  The report is just the latest in a series of bizarre events that have shown the New Jersey primary and Party to be a farce entirely incapable of competing statewide.

Although Zimmer fits much of the profile desired by Party “leaders” (I use quotes since most of them seem entirely disinterested in going on the record) in that he is a social liberal and an economic conservative and may be able to at least partially self-finance his campaign, he is also among the most divisive candidates in New Jersey.  Although social conservatives seldom get their man nominated, few politicians in the state would be any more of a proverbial poke in the eye for that small but active contingent of the state party.  Heck, this guy voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion.  Considering that the party establishment has been doing its best to defeat the conservatives in the race, one could have thought that they might have tried to find someone slightly less anathema to the base.  One would have been wrong.

Is it any wonder with this joke of a recruitment process that the state party is in such dire straights?  If they tried, could party leaders have done any more to damage and divide the party than they have over the last few months?  It is hard to imagine that the answer to that is yes.  Even so, I have a gnawing feeling that the worst is yet to come.

Schumer Defines the Playing Field

April 9th, 2008

In a briefing with reporters, Sen. Chuck Schumer defined his playing field for this year.  Here’s how he breaks things down:

Top targets: VA, NH, NM, CO, AK. (Schumer says they are ahead here.)

Second tier: OR, MN, ME. (These are blue states; Democrats are not ahead, but are competitive.)

Red-state seats in striking range: KY, NC, MS.

Good candidates with an outside chance: NE, KS, OK, GA, ID, TX. (Schumer says of Texas that he likes Noriega as a candidate and that incumbent Sen. John Cornyn is polling surprisingly low.)

Schumer said that in early 2007 he would have identified six seats he would be worried about: AR, IA, SD, MT, WV and LA. But he expressed confidence in Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Some observations:

Sen. Mary Landrieu is the only Democrat we can defeat this November.  She’s in trouble, but she’s a strong candidate.  Treasurer John Kennedy can beat her, but only with an excellent campaign.

It’s no surprise that Schumer is a fan of Sun Tzu, as he is attempting to confuse his opposition.  He must be if he really thinks Democrat candidates have chances in Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska or Texas.

Virginia’s not a target.  It’s a done deal.

It’s interesting to see that he thinks Democrats are ahead in Alaska and Colorado.  I’ve only seen one poll out of Alaska and that did show Stevens down, but perhaps internals are confirming that result.  If that’s the case, some people have to sit down and have a chat with Sen. Corruption and get him to reconsider his decision to seek reelection.  In Colorado, just about every poll has shown Udall and Schaffer in statistical dead heats.  He may be talking about a statistically insignificant lead, in which case it’s only spin.

He seems way too optimistic about Kentucky and North Carolina.  In both cases, Democrats missed their top recruiting targets and are scraping from the third-tier at best.  In North Carolina, neither Democrat has raised even close to enough to compete with one of the best fundraisers in the Senate.

In terms of those in the “outside chance” category, that “outside chance” would rely entirely upon a macaca moment.  Short of that, none of the seats in that category will switch.

Jersey Tease Ends Early

April 7th, 2008

The requisite Jersey Tease that comes with every election has come to an abrupt end this year with the decision second decision of John Crowly not to enter the race against Sen. Frank Lautenberg.  Now Andy Unanue, who was expected to exit the race, is once again expected to file for the primary.  That decision is rather surprising considering just how badly his first week in the race went.

For those of you still bothering to keep track, the NJGOP first failed to recruit any serious candidate into the race.  Then they finally landed someone considered near the top of the second tier of candidates only to find that decision last all of about a week until repeated negative stories all but forced that candidate from the race.  Then they nearly managed to snag another candidate of perhaps even better ilk only to see him decide at the eleventh hour against a bid after several people had already said that he was running.

Now three candidates, none of whom can win without a Jim Bunning-type downfall, remain in the race.  The NJGOP has lost whatever shread of credibility it may have had left, and Louisiana remains the only serious target for the Senate GOP this year.  Chalk this up as another memorable coups for the NRSC.

Crowley Reconsiders

April 3rd, 2008

John Crowley, whose service to his family and his country make for an amazing personal story even before considering his business accomplishments, is reconsidering his earlier decision not to challenge Sen. Frank Lautenberg and is expected to make a decision soon.  Crowley’s reconsideration comes in the wake of a rough first week of the Andy Unanue campaign.  Unanue, who himself was heavily recruited for the bid, has said that he will endorse Crowley should he decide to enter the race.

Crowley is a political unknown, though he does have reasonable name recognition from his efforts to raise funds to find a cure for Pompe disease.  His issue positions have not yet come to light, but he has contributed to Bill Spadea for Congress and Romney for President.  Should he decide to run, he will likely roll out a platform slowly and carefully, setting a clear contrast from Sen. Lautenberg while trying to avoid alienating voters in the state.

Crowley’s personal story is an incredible one.  Besides fundraising for a cure for his childrens’ disease, he is also a reserve in the United States Navy.  Should he decide to run, he will make his personal story the central element of his campaign.  Just how far that will get him depends largely on his ability to distance himself from the Republican label and make himself appear to be independent of the Party.  If he manages to make the race a question of the old timer against the vibrant father par excellance, he may stand a fighting chance.  Of course, though, any race in which party labels are a factor heavily favor Democrats.

While Crowley has not even declared yet, I cannot help but think that this would be another cruel New Jersey tease.  Sen. John Ensign spoke with Crowley and promised support should he decide to make the bid.  If he was serious, this would be a huge investment for the cash-strapped NRSC and would take money away from vulnerable Republican seats in Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico, possibly among some others.

Should Crowley decide to make the bid, early polling should give a good indication of whether he stands a chance.  He will likely get the most favorable media attention of the campaign during his first couple of weeks as he informs voters about his life story.  If he manages to poll within a few points of Lautenberg after this, he may have a chance.  After that, it gets more difficult as he starts to lay out his platform and becomes just another candidate for office.  Crowley would need to start extremely strong and get stronger.  If he manages to convince people that a) he can win and b) he’s not your typical Republican, he has a chance to pull off the upset, though it is certainly an uphill fight.  If he fails to do either, though, he will lose and lose badly.  We should know by the end of the month whether he can actually pull this off.

Ventura for Senate?

April 2nd, 2008

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said in an interview yesterday that he has no plans to run for Senate, but that he has learned to “never say never“.  Ventura said that he is not satisfied with either of the current candidates, mirroring the dissatisfaction with both parties that spurred his bid for Governor.  Ventura decided against seeking reelection in 2002 and has been out of office for five years.

In his own right, Ventura would make a strong candidate just has he did when he won the Governor’s race with less than 40% of the vote.  He taps into frustration with the two major parties in a way that the candidates who represent them cannot.  In doing so, he not only draws frustrated Republicans and Democrats but he also attacts support from those who do not traditionally participate in elections.

That said, this is bad news for team Franken.  Franken manages better than most candidates to tap into the frustration that most citizens have with “the system” and in a two-man race is certain to capture the votes of those seeking change.  The trouble for Franken, though, is that Coleman’s approval ratings are around the 50% mark, which is a pretty good barometer of his support.  Even assuming that he polls ten points lower, 40% could well be enough to return the Senator to Washington for another six years in the event of a three man race.

Ventura’s real problem is that he’s not a surprise any more.  I have held since the day he was elected that Minnesotans never expected that he would become their Governor.  Instead, they were simply fed up with both parties and decided to cast protest votes, never dreaming that those votes could actually lead to a Ventura victory.  Now though, they hopefully know better, and those who take voting seriously or who are not entirely fed up with everyone even remotely connected to politics are likely to support the incumbent.