Thursday, October 30, 2014

LCV-Backed Susan Collins Still Won't Comment on Obama's EPA Carbon Regulations

I have criticized the League of Conservation Voters' endorsement of Susan Collins in past diaries. The single most important vote that Collins will cast on the environment is her vote for Majority Leader. She will be voting for Mitch McConnell, and that should disqualify her from support.

So, for that matter, should her support for the Keystone XL pipeline in my opinion. She has a lifetime score of 67% with the LCV, which is only impressive if you are grading on a curve.

On Monday, Republican senator Susan Collins and her Democratic challenger former executive director of ACLU Maine Shenna Bellows faced off in a debate.

In one of my favorite moments of the debate, Bellows attacked Collins for her overstating her pro-environment record:
BELLOWS: The League of Conservation Voters rated you a D. It’s the strongest score of any Republican in the US Senate, which demonstrates the stakes and what could happen if Republicans were to gain control of the Senate. But it’s still a D.
Bellows then went on to note that Collins still has not made any statement on Obama's proposed carbon regulations. If she is such a pro-environment candidate, shouldn't she have something to say? 
 
Collins began by going back to a prior point of debate about a bill she introduced in 2011 (the EPA Regulatory Relief Act) to exempt biomass boilers from the Clean Air Act. In other words, she began by not answering the question.
COLLINS: So it appears that my opponent still would have imposed those original EPA regulations on biomass boilers industrial boilers that schools, hospitals, our wood mills all rely on. That’s just irresponsible. And EPA modified them because they knew they were far too expensive and in some cases not technically possible.

Here's how the LCV describes the House companion bill to what Collins proposed:
[T]he so-called EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011....would indefinitely delay long-overdue air pollution control standards for industrial boilers and incinerators, which act as small, in-house power plants and emit toxic air pollution including mercury--a potent neurotoxin especially dangerous to pregnant women and children--and cancer-causing dioxins.  These facilities are the nation's third largest source of mercury emissions.  Every year these standards are delayed would mean up to an additional 8,100 premature deaths, 52,000 asthma attacks, and 5,100 heart attacks.
Then when Collins got to Bellows's actual question, she still didn't really answer:
As far as the president’s new regulations on carbon pollution, I have voted repeatedly to allow EPA to regulate carbon pollution, but these regulations are in the initial stage, and I want to hear what the stakeholders have to say. That’s the way the process works. You get comments on proposed rules, and that leads to better rule-making. And it would be irresponsible to take a position before that process has been completed.
Collins was just defending her prior effort to delay a proposed rule by the EPA. That was intervening during the comment period. Apparently, to Collins, it was okay then, but somehow "inappropriate" now. Susan Collins just doesn't want to say anything so that she doesn't have to irritate the LCV and EDF on one side or her oil and coal baron friends on the others. And that's not leadership. Maine can do better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MI-06 Could be a Key Democratic Pick-Up....But the DCCC is Sitting Out

Last Tuesday, National Journal had an article on the congressional race in MI-06: "Is Michigan's Most Powerful Republican Really in Political Danger?"

The piece offers reason to believe that he very well might be:
Upton, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is facing the most credible Democratic opponent of his career, and a late infusion of outside money has energized Democrats on the ground. Still, there's been little polling or non-anecdotal indicators to prove the race is winnable. But even if Upton prevails this year, his opponents hope to at least put him in the conversation of future Democratic targets—and lay the groundwork for a better-financed 2016 campaign in a presidential year that offers a strong climate for Democrats.
And if, as some have speculated, Upton calls it quits in 2016 when term limits end his Energy and Commerce tenure, Democratic efforts this cycle could leave them well-positioned to contest what stands to be a wide-open race.
Western Michigan University professor Paul Clements is the 13th Democrat to test Upton's electoral mettle, and, his backers say, the best. A newcomer to federal politics, he has more than doubled the fundraising of any previous Upton challenger. Veterans of previous Democratic campaigns in the district call Clements's operation the first "professional" challenge they've seen.
Clements's prowess has garnered interest both inside the district and out, but anyone who wasn't paying attention before certainly raised their eyebrows this month when an outside super PAC announced plans to pump nearly $2 million into efforts to oust Upton. The group, Mayday PAC, aims to target politicians beholden to moneyed interests. On Oct. 9, it named Upton among its handful of targets for the 2014 cycle.
The late swarm of money has excited local Democrats—who say the race was competitive even before the cash infusion—and left consultants wondering whether a district long excluded from any toss-up rankings could really oust its powerful incumbent without much warning.
MI-06 is a district that should be a swing district in Congress. Obama lost by a narrow margin (48.9% - 50.2%) in 2012 and won the district, albeit with slightly different lines, in 2008 (53.1% - 45.2%). It has a Partisan Voting Index of R+1. And its representative is a guy whom the LA Times described as the biggest enemy of the Earth in Congress. And it has a good candidate in Paul Clements
 
However, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has ignored the seat entirely.
According to FEC filings, Paul Clements has received all of $0 from the DCCC. Mike O'Brien, who challenged Upton in 2012, also received nada from the DCCC.

According to Howie Klein (of Blue America and the blog Down With Tyranny), Steve Israel, DCCC co-chair, has actually done worse than nothing: he has actually been turning away potential donors from the race. Howie noted earlier today that Israel told the League of Conservation Voters to not spend money in the race.

Thankfully, groups like Climate Hawks Vote, the aforementioned Blue America, and Mayday PAC have been involved. Climate Hawks Vote, for instance, has been on the ground since Labor Day and is the only environmental group involved in the race. (The LCV, which should be far more interested than it is in taking out Upton, donated to Clements once in June and--from what I can tell--never since.)

This ignorance of potentially competitive seats by the DCCC, however, is unfortunately routine for the DCCC.

WI-01

Wisconsin's 1st district is home to Paul Ryan. However, it's not as deep red as a district as you would expect. Obama lost the seat in 2012 by only 4.2 points (47.4% to 51.6%). However, Obama won the district in 2008 by 2.7 points (50.8% to 48.1%).

A purple district with a Republican representative who is basically synonymous with granny starving in Democratic messaging--sounds like a great target?

You'd think. But Democrats, for all of their attacks on the "Ryan budget," they don't attack Ryan.

In 2012, Rob Zerban decided to take on Paul Ryan. The DCCC gave him a whopping $10 (an "in-kind" contribution for "email services when he began his campaign).

Zerban is aiming for a re-match this year. The DCCC again is ignoring the race. They have contributed nothing.

FL-27

Florida's 27th district, home to Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has a PVI of R+2. Obama won the district 53.1% to 46.4% back in 2012.

However, the DCCC didn't contest the seat. There was a name on the ballot: Manny Yevancey, who was little more than a placeholder. Yevancey never filed with the FEC, meaning he raised less than $5,000. This year, Ros-Lehtinen is running unopposed.

PA-07

We see the DCCC's incompetence as well in Pennsylvania's 7th district, home to Republican Pat Meehan. The district is not as friendly to Democrats as it once was because of Republican gerrymandering, but it is still an R+2 district. Obama lost 48.5% to 50.4% in 2012 although he won it (when it was more compact) in 2008 51.2% to 47.8%.

However, the DCCC just isn't interested in winning this suburban Philadelphia district. The only money George Badey, the 2012 candidate, received from the DCCC was $50 in in-kind contributions. Mary Ellen Balchunis, who is running this year, has received $0 from the DCCC.

Long Island Incumbent Protection Racket

The best example of the corruption at the DCCC has to be what I like to call the "Long Island Incumbent Protection Racket."

Steve Israel (NY-03) and Pete King (NY-02) are in adjacent districts. And both districts are purple. In 2012, Obama won NY-02 by 4.4 points (51.6% - 47.2%) and NY-03 by 2.6 points (50.8% to 48.2%). NY-02 has an R+1 partisan rating, and NY-03 has an even rating.

Given that, you would think that these would be the sites of some of the most hotly contested races. You would be wrong.

As far as I can tell, the DCCC and the NRCC have decided to cut their losses and each keep one seat. They do not fund challengers in the other.

Vivianne Falcone, who ran against Pete King in 2012, received $0 from the DCCC.

Pat Maher, who is running this year, has never filed.

Stephen Labate, who ran against Steve Israel in 2012 and 2014, has gotten $0 from the NRCC.

--

Steve Israel was in charge of the DCCC in 2012. He had one job: win back the House. He failed. Why does he deserve to keep his job?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Detroit Free Press Explains Why Rick Snyder is a Horrible Governor...and Then Endorses Him

Last year, the Newark Star-Ledger wrote one of the most nonsensical endorsement editorials I have ever read. They called Chris Christie "overrated" and "fraudulent" and said that his policies are and will continue to be destructive to the environment and low-income families. And then they said he should be re-elected because Barbara Buono is too close to the unions and not close enough with the party bosses.

However, the Detroit Free Press may have one-upped the Star-Ledger with its endorsement of Rick Snyder for re-election.

I break it down over at the Daily Kos.

The takeaway?

Rick Snyder might be bad for schools, bad for women, bad for the environment, bad for the LGBT community, bad for democracy, and bad for low and middle-income families, but at least he doesn't like unions.

That's editorial boards for you. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NYT Endorses Cuomo in Hope that He Will Do Things He Will Never, Ever Do

As was inevitable, the New York Times editorial board finally endorsed Andrew Cuomo for re-election.  The Times had sat out the primary. They endorsed Tim Wu, Zephyr Teachout's running mate, but refused to endorse Teachout.

In their primary non-endorsement, the Times editorial board criticized Cuomo for his failure to deliver upon ethics reform and for his bias toward the interests of the rich. Here's how that piece ended:
Having walked away from his most important goals, he should not be surprised if many Democrats walk away from him on Sept. 9.
Now, just under two months later, the Times editorial board has decided that it wants four more years of Cuomo. 
 
The endorsement contains both understatement and an impressive degree of self-delusion.

Regarding understatements, it was amusing to see the Times toss Cuomo's focus on the interests of the rich as a mere aside:
His budgets have been on time, and though his tax policies have favored the wealthy, he managed to get higher credit ratings for the state for the first time in decades.
Contrast the tone of that line to this passage from their non-endorsement:
The budget efficiency came at a price, however. His first budget cut education by $1.5 billion, and later ones failed to give the schools what they needed. Though he pleaded poverty, he imposed an unnecessary property tax cap and refused to extend a tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest. In January, he proposed yet another damaging tax cut, one that would largely benefit the wealthy and threaten more state services. He highhandedly dismissed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for a city tax on the wealthy to pay for universal prekindergarten, instead substituting a pre-K plan with far less guaranteed financing.
But what's more eye-catching about the piece is the sheer level of delusion:
The decision not to endorse in the primary between Mr. Cuomo and his challenger, Zephyr Teachout, a national expert on political corruption and campaign reforms, reflected our disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s failure to make good on his promise — made four years ago — to clean up Albany. It is our hope that, if Mr. Cuomo is elected to a second term, he will devote the next four years to achieving genuine, meaningful reform of Albany’s political culture, which remains mired in corruption.
(Emphasis added) 
 
Yes, the guy who disbanded his independent anti-corruption investigation after it started looking into the actions of some of his supporters.

And contrast this request...
His first order of business should be to use his political muscle to change the sham campaign finance laws that have turned Albany into a place that best serves moneyed interests and the politicians in hock to them.
That means reducing contribution limits to candidates; ending unlimited donations to party “housekeeping” accounts; and prohibiting contributions from limited liability corporations, which are used by corporations and individuals to give essentially unlimited amounts of money to candidates. And the most crucial reform is public financing for campaigns — the best way to inject competition into legislative races now almost controlled entirely by incumbents.
.....with this reality:
Mr. Cuomo himself has benefited from lax rules that have allowed him to raise nearly half of the $45 million for his campaign mostly from the developers and lobbyists giving $40,000 or more. Mr. Cuomo has said that while he supports reforms, the Legislature refuses to play ball. He could set a decent example for Albany lawmakers by refusing to take tainted, albeit legal, pots of money himself. That might allow him to shame the Legislature into acting; now, lawmakers can point to his finances and jeer. Reforming his own practices might also help restore his reputation after his sudden shutdown of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, which had started looking into issues that may have involved his political supporters. A United States attorney has now taken up that work.
Another major disappointment was Mr. Cuomo’s failure to veto redistricting maps in 2012. Those maps were designed by legislators to thwart competition and harden the status quo in Albany. A state constitutional amendment on the November ballot — Proposal One on revising the state’s redistricting procedure — would undoubtedly make things worse. Mr. Cuomo should stop pushing for this deeply flawed measure.
His first order of business should be to use his political muscle to do something that he clearly has no interest whatsoever in doing

As Buzzfeed's Andrew Kacynski noted on Twitter earlier, the Times has a clear case of Stockholm syndrome.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Yes, Republicans are to Blame for CDC Cuts. But So Are Democrats.

The DCCC has recently started to incorporate Ebola into its advertising, blaming the GOP for cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) budget.

Republicans certainly deserve blame for slashing the budgets for the CDC and the NIH (National Institutes of Health). But so do Democrats. Austerity has been a bipartisan affair.

One of the most noteworthy pieces of legislation for entrenching austerity was the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act, the result of the showdown over the debt ceiling, imposed arbitrary budget caps on federal departments and set the stage for the additional arbitrary cuts of sequestration (which was used as a threat to force the congressional "super committee" to create a deficit reduction plan of its own).

The Budget Control Act split the Democratic caucus in the House. 95 Democrats voted for it, and 95 Democrats voted against it.

73 of the 95 supporters are still in the House:

John Barrows (GA-12)
Karen Bass (CA-37)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Tim Bishop (NY-01)
Bob Brady (PA-01)
Lois Capps (CA-24)
John Carney (DE)
Kathy Castor (FL-14)
David Cicilline (RI-01)
Lacy Clay (MO-01)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
Jim Cooper (TN-04)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Joe Courtney (CT-02)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Susan Davis (CA-53)
Ted Deutch (FL-21)
John Dingell (MI-12)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
Anna Eshoo (CA-18)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-04)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01)
Brian Higgins (NY-26)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Steny Hoyer (MD-05)
Steve Israel (NY-03)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)
Hank Johnson (GA-04)
Eddie B. Johnson (TX-30)
Bill Keating (MA-09)
Dan Kildee (MI-05)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Jim Langevin (RI-02)
Rick Larsen (WA-02)
Sandy Levin (MI-09)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Nita Lowey (NY-17)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04)
Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
Mike Michaud (ME-02)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Bill Pascrell (NJ-09)
Nancy Pelosi (CA-12)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Jared Polis (CO-02)
Mike Quigley (IL-05)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-46)
Adam Schiff (CA-28)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Allyson Schwartz (PA-13)
David Scott (GA-13)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Brad Sherman (CA-30)
Albio Sires (NJ-08)
Jackie Speier (CA-14)
Mike Thompson (CA-05)
Niki Tsongas (MA-03)
Chris Van Hollen (MD-08)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
Frederica Wilson (FL-24)

As you can see, the list includes most of the Democratic leadership: Pelosi, Hoyer, Israel, Wasserman Schultz, Van Hollen.

3 of them--Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM)--are now in the Senate.

The situation was even worse in the Senate, where only six members of the Democratic caucus had the principles to vote against it from the left. (Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against it, but that was because it didn't cut the deficit enough.)

And don't forget: that bill could not become law without the president's signature.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stop Asking Candidates Whether They "Believe in" Climate Change. That's Not the Real Question.

As debate season is now upon us, we've gotten to learn--anew--that many Republicans doubt, deny, or downplay the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

Here's Paul Ryan in a recent debate:
One of the sharpest differences came when the moderator asked each candidate if he thought human activity is to blame for changes to the planet's climate. "I don't know the answer to that question," Ryan said. "I don't think science does, either."
Mitch "I'm not a scientist" McConnell evaded the question in a debate yesterday, as he has on other occasions. 
 
Here's CO-SEN candidate and current House rep Cory Gardner evading the question last week:
Gardner was asked during a debate in Denver with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to give a simple answer as to whether "humans are contributing significantly to climate change." Pressed multiple times, he declined to say, insisting it was too complicated for a one-word answer.
"Well, I've said all along, climate is changing --" Gardner began.
He was reminded by debate moderators that he was supposed to say "yes" or "no," and then would have the opportunity for expansive comments later.
"Look, this is an important issue and I don't think you can say yes or no," Gardner replied.
The moderators again said he would get a minute later to explain his answer.
"I believe that the climate is changing, I disagree to the extent that it's been in the news," that man has contributed to climate change, Gardner finally said, interrupted by the clearly pro-Udall crowd.
I'm sure I could find many other examples from candidate Q&As or debates. However, the problem is that they are being asked a stupid question.

No self-respecting moderator should be asking candidates whether or not they "believe in" anthropogenic climate change. They should be asking candidates how they plan to respond to it.
Asking the question "Do you believe in anthropogenic climate change?" gives a certain veneer of credibility or respectability to the "no" answer, a credibility or respectability which it does not deserve. We do not need to be discussing whether climate change is real or whether it is human-influenced. We know that. And we know that we need to act.

Asking the real question--how to address climate change--presents an opportunity for substantive policy discussions, something often lacking in these candidate forums and televised debates. And it puts candidates from both parties on the spot. If Republicans are going to hedge about the reality of climate change, don't give them an easy out. Make them deny the factual premise of the question and look like a fool for doing so. Democrats and the rare moderate Republican do not deserve gold stars for acknowledging anthropogenic climate change. They need to be putting forward meaningful solutions to this multi-faceted crisis.

We don't need to be debating science. We need to be debating ethics and policy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Richard Trumka Wants Democrats to Be More Populist. Richard Trumka Also Backs Republicans.

An article in The Nation yesterday talked about the work AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been doing on the campaign trail and how we would like to see Democrats be more populist and put more emphasis on economic fairness.
The midterm elections are twenty-seven days away, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has been keeping a relentless road schedule campaigning for Democratic candidates. One thing he’d like to see more of: talk about basic economic fairness issues.
“I think more populism, or more focus on the economic issues, would be helpful,” he told a small group of reporters at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC. “I think it would help drive turnout as well. I think the candidates that focus only on negative things, doing everything negative, have a real danger of having their base go flat.”
Trumka said that in talking to workers on the campaign trail, he frequently confronts a problem that has bedeviled Democrats in many past midterms: apathy. Union members wonder why it matters if they vote.

“They say that at the plant gate, at doors, on the telephone,” Trumka said. “I try to explain to them that the economy is not like the weather. Those that are in power, and those that want to be in power, want us to believe the economy is like the weather—there’s nothing you can do about it, so don’t bother. But the economy…it’s nothing but a bunch of rules. And those rules decide the winners and losers, and those rules are made by the men and women we elect. That’s why this election is important.”
However, when reading this, I could not help remembering the work that Trumka is also doing to keep the House in Boehner's hands. 

Back in June, the AFL-CIO formally endorsed Republican Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02), who scored a 72% on the Tea Party scorecard organized by progressive group Americans United for Change. He has only a 53% lifetime score (62% for 2013) with the AFL-CIO. That's a D- and an F. By contrast, all but 27 members of the Democratic caucus have a lifetime A. (Then 21 B's, 5 C's, and only one D--the horrible Jim Matheson.)

The AFL-CIO even made the UAW rescind its endorsement of LoBiondo's challenger Bill Hughes, Jr.

Back in April, Richard Trumka even wrote a letter to DCCC chairman Steve Israel (mentioned in the link above) asking him not to target LoBiondo. The letter has since been taken down from the NALC's website, but you can still read it in USW Local 1999's newsletter from April if you so desire.

I don't know a lot about LoBiondo's challenger, Democratic Bill Hughes, Jr. But from what I can see on his site, he would be a far better friend to labor than LoBiondo. And unlike LoBiondo, he won't be voting for John Boehner as Speaker.