Category Archives: U.S. politics

Negative ads deserve condemnation, not awards

mud.jpbBelieve it or not, some of the despicable political mailers you receive this election may end up winning awards. The American Association of Political Consultants’ annual awards include 10 categories devoted to “negative/contrast” ads, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Two mailers from 2012 that targeted then-Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, won awards, even though the mailers made outrageous claims – such as accusing Morris of spending “over a third of a billion dollars renovating his offices.” “I think that’s probably as low as you can go in politics,” Morris said of the awards. “That’s rewarding evil.”

GOP struggling with low favorability ratings

elephantupsidedownA new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 35 percent of the public has a favorable view of the GOP (49 percent for the Democratic Party). But the numbers get even worse when divided by gender, race and age. Only 33 percent of women have a favorable view of the GOP. Only 16 percent of African-Americans and 29 percent of Latinos view the GOP favorably. And among adults ages 18-29, only 31 percent view the GOP favorably. Also of note, 51 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job that their own member of Congress is doing

ALEC now has offshoot focused on cities, counties

notaxes“The corporate lobbying network American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as ALEC, is seeking to extend its brand of aggressive privatization and tax cuts to the local level,” the Guardian newspaper reported. While ALEC is focused at the state level, the new offshoot organization, the American City County Exchange, will be focused on cities and counties. Here is a hint that the organizations will share the same goals: Seminar topics at the ACCE convention last week in Dallas included privatization and “releasing local governments from the grip of collective bargaining.”

2006 Kansas race proved campaign mail works

klinedebate2While expressing exasperation in the Los Angeles Times about having received 200 mailers before a recent primary, campaign strategist Darry Sragow wondered whether such onslaughts are effective and noted: “A team of professors at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale looked at the impact of a six-piece mailing program in the 2006 contest for Kansas attorney general and found that the mailings had a statistically and politically significant effect on the candidate’s share of the vote. They concluded that a 10 percent increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the candidate’s vote share by roughly 3 percentage points.” The research focused on the “Snoop Dog” mailings by the group Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, which had ties to abortion provider George Tiller. The fliers criticized incumbent Phill Kline (in photo) for snooping through women’s medical records and helped Democrat Paul Morrison beat him by 17 percentage points. The researchers wrote that there was “no evidence that these mailings affected turnout. As a result, we conclude that these mailings persuaded individuals who were already going to turn out to switch for whom they voted.”

Little faith in Obama, political parties, Congress

thumbsdownOnly 41 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of President Obama, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. Public opinion of the Democratic Party is slightly worse, 38 percent positive, while only 29 percent have a positive opinion of the Republican Party and 22 percent of the tea party. Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll found that only 7 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress, a record low.

Politics at all levels has room for improvement

debate“Change second terms of presidents and governors to two-year miniterms,” and “require candidates for federal office, governor and mayor to take part in at least three debates no matter the strength of the opponent,” suggested Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske. In his more perfect political world, presidential caucuses and primaries wouldn’t begin until April or May, independent commissions of retired judges would redraw districts, and donors to independent campaign ads would have to reveal themselves. And that three-debate mandate? “The rule would apply to primaries, too,” Kraske wrote. “Voters deserve it, and that would avoid the silly dance that Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts is now performing as he seeks to skip a showdown with Milton Wolf.”

Most Americans still relatively moderate

middleroad“Does the Cantor race suggest that American politics is irredeemably in the grip of two mutually hostile ideologies, one zealously conservative, the other rabidly liberal?” columnist Doyle McManus asked. “Not really.” He noted that a recent Pew survey found plenty of evidence that a center still exists. “One-fifth of all Americans are either consistently liberal or conservative, but that means four-fifths are neither,” McManus wrote. “On individual issues, Pew found that majorities on both sides actually hold relatively moderate views. On immigration, for example, 76 percent of Americans told Pew they believe undocumented immigrants should be eligible for citizenship after meeting certain requirements; even among conservatives, 51 percent embraced an eventual path to citizenship.”

Congress unpopular but unlikely to change much

congressHow can it be that Congress is so unpopular, with an approval rating of 16 percent, yet congressional incumbents are so overwhelmingly favored to win, even after “Cantored” became a verb last week? Looking at the new Gallup Poll, the Washington Post’s Fix blog observed: “The lowest approval rate prior to 2014 was in the Republican wave of 1994, when only 22 percent of Americans approved of the job that Congress was doing. And that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, ‘only’ 90 percent of Congress won re-election.” The Fix added: “People tend to re-elect their own members of Congress, regardless of how they feel about Congress on the whole.  (They pay very little attention to politics and vote for the name they know over the one they don’t.)”

 

 

Brownback must work for win

bbackwinBecause of “hard-right policies that have upset GOP moderates,” political scientist Larry Sabato included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback among four incumbent governors – along with Georgia’s Nathan Deal, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie – who “have had enough missteps or managed to create enough opposition so that they must work hard for second terms” and whose “upset cannot be ruled out.” Sabato, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, wrote in Politico Magazine: “Just as the Senate map this year favors Republicans because of a heavy concentration of solid red states, the governorship map leans slightly toward Democrats because a few GOP executives elected in the 2010 Republican landslide are vulnerable in blue or competitive states.”

Cantor defeat means nothing will get done in House

cantorericThe stunning defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a GOP primary Tuesday re-energizes the tea party, which had been struggling. But it saps the energy out of legislative activity in the House, particularly on immigration. “Not only is immigration reform a no-go for Republicans in this election, but it may well be off the table – assuming Republicans control the House – for the next several years,” wrote Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. He said that Republican lawmakers will “avoid doing anything – literally, anything – that could be used against them” in a primary and that “members will be afraid of their own shadows.”

GOP takeover of Senate could force it to govern

gridlockThough Congress’ approval rating has been at historic lows, most people like having divided control of Congress, which contributes to the current stagnation. Columnist John Dickerson argues that if voters really want change, they should try giving the GOP control of the Senate. Though that’s likely to result in all Obama hearings all the time, the GOP might also be forced to govern. “Republican strategists know the GOP has to shake the ‘party of no’ label, which means producing actual accomplishments,” Dickerson wrote.

GOP establishment, tea party learned from elections

teasign“The differences between the tea party and ‘establishment Republicans’ have largely concerned style and attitude rather than program and ideology, and these are easily finessed – especially because moods change,” columnist Ramesh Ponnuru wrote. “That’s why tea party candidates have so far beaten only two incumbent Republican senators in primaries in the past three election cycles. Those elections unified the party in two ways. Establishment Republicans learned that they needed to sound more tea partyish. And the tea party learned something about electability: In both cases (Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, Richard Mourdock over Richard Lugar in Indiana), its candidate went on to lose the general election.”

Dark money flooding this year’s campaigns

cashAt the current rate, unregulated and undisclosed “dark-money” spending on this year’s congressional elections could top $1 billion. “This is really a perfect storm of political spending,” Michael Toner, former head of the Federal Election Commission, told the Financial Times. The most prominent spenders are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, which are both linked to the Koch brothers. In 2012, the Koch network was responsible for about 1 in 4 of the total dark-money dollars spent, according to the campaign-finance watchdog group Open Secrets.

Washington-style politics and lobbying moved to Kansas

lobbyistThe FBI probe into the fundraising and lobbying activities of associates of Gov. Sam Brownback made the New York Times. An article this week said that the tactics used by current and former staff members “underline the degree to which Washington-style politics and lobbying have taken root in state capitals.” Or as former Kansas Senate President Steve Morris put it: “K Street has moved to Kansas.”

GOP hatred of Obamacare may pay off at polls

healthunclesamA recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that only Republicans support repealing the Affordable Care Act; a majority of Democrats and independents (and 59 percent of those surveyed overall) favor keeping the law in place and improving it. Also, only Republicans want the debate about the ACA to continue, while everyone else wants the country to focus more on other issues. But don’t expect the debate (and certainly not the campaign ads) to stop anytime soon. That’s because Republicans are passionate in their hatred of the ACA, according to a Pew Research Center poll, and thus are more likely than Democrats and independents to vote in the midterm elections.

Public prefers small-ball politics to big ideas

donkeyelephantfight“Americans say they want politicians to tackle the big issues and get things done… Yet almost every time elected officials have tried bold problem-solving in the past 20 years, it has produced a backlash against them,” wrote columnist Ramesh Ponnuru. “The more ambitious the attempt, the worse the political repercussions have been.” He concluded that activists with far-reaching agendas should pull the reins on their ambitions and “people considering running for office should know that politics, for the foreseeable future, is probably not going to be much fun.”

Reid keeping up criticism of Koch brothers

reidharrySenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is keeping up his onslaught against the Koch brothers. This week he noted how Koch Industries benefited from a temporary provision of the Affordable Care Act while groups backed by the brothers have been attacking members of Congress who supported the ACA. “If the Affordable Care Act is so awful,” Reid asked, “why did Koch Industries use it to their advantage?” According to federal records, Koch Industries received $1.4 million to subsidize its costs for workers who retire before they become eligible for Medicare. Reid also suggested that GOP senators start wearing ties and jackets with the Koch Industries logo, like the patches on NASCAR uniforms. But even some Democrats are tiring of Reid’s tirades. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., complained that “this type of rhetoric does not help us move this country or move the agenda forward.”

Reid wrong to call Kochs ‘un-American’

reidharry“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., broke down all barriers to protocol recently when he called the Kochs ‘un-American,’” columnist Kathleen Parker wrote. She acknowledged that “allowing the super-wealthy to disproportionately influence political outcomes may indeed be bad for the democratic process – and that’s of legitimate concern to all. But one’s eyes should be wide open when people are singled out as un-American.” Parker’s conclusion: “Reid owes the Kochs – and the American people – an apology.”

Moran read Koch’s commentary into congressional record

morannew“The fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles,” wrote Koch Industries chairman Charles Koch in a Wall Street Journal commentary last week. His explanation of his free-market beliefs and political involvement was read into the congressional record by Sen. Jerry Moran (in photo), R-Kan. “In Kansas, there’s a company called Koch Industries that is a component of our state, its economy, and many, several thousand, Kansans work there. And unfortunately in the political discourse of our country, Koch Industries, its owners, are often subject to attack,” Moran said. According to the Washington Post, the political network backed by the Koch brothers raised at least $407 million for the 2012 elections, and their ongoing spending has inspired criticism by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the Senate floor, including his contention that Republicans are “addicted to Koch.”

Democratic complaints about Kochs ‘dumb and delusionary’

kochsSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., clearly considers Charles and David Koch (in photos) to be the Democrats’ main opponents this election year, and has been pushing back on the Senate floor at misleading ads sponsored by Koch-funded groups in some races. “But the notion that Democrats can gin up their voters by marketing fear of the Kochs is dumb and delusionary,” wrote Dick Polman, a blogger and former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. “Why do I say this? Because the anti-Koch strategy is classic ‘inside baseball’ – of great interest only to those voters who obsess about the political process…. It’s also a sign of weakness when a party or a candidate whines that the campaign process is unfair.”

Did Roberts show GOP’s problem with Asian-Americans?

gopvoteAn article in Politico magazine headlined “Why Are Asian-Americans Democrats?” pointed to recent “clueless” remarks by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during the confirmation hearing of U.S. surgeon general-nominee Vivek Murthy, a British-born Indian-American. Roberts’ small talk inviting Murthy to Dodge City to meet a “lovely doctor from India” and saying he would “be right at home” were of “the ‘I have plenty of friends who are Indian’ variety…. It likely reminded Murthy that he is different than the white ethnic majority – some other kind of American. However harmless it might seem, this is exactly the sort of exchange that makes Asian-Americans – the fastest growing ethnic group in the country – more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans, and by stunning margins,” wrote authors Alexander Kuo, Neil Malhotra and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo. Their conclusion: “As long as Republicans appear scornful of minorities, our findings suggest, they will not get Asian-Americans’ electoral support. This applies not only to rhetoric, but also to policy issues such as immigration reform.” Columnist David Harsanyi, while calling Roberts’ statement “clumsy,” responded that it could “be argued that the GOP is also a party that is far more likely to celebrate and foster the merit-based success on which the Asian community thrives.”

Koch-backed AFP is dominating campaign spending

money-bagThe Koch brothers-backed Americans for Properity is “a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far,” the New York Times reported. The group has already spent more than $30 million in at least eight states, and it now has more than 200 full-time paid staff members in field offices in at least 32 states. The group tried to learn from its defeats in the 2012 elections by pouring money and research into grassroots organizing. It also is spending heavily on testimonial-style advertising, primarily against Obamacare. Fact-check organizations have criticized the accuracy of the ads, and Democrats have complained that some of the spots feature actors, not “real people.” But, the Times reported, “Americans for Prosperity has not retreated.”

Brownback defends Dole; what about moderates?

dolemugGood for Gov. Sam Brownback for saying he didn’t appreciate the recent suggestion by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (in photo) didn’t stand for principle. “You can disagree with him on policy, but he’s the iconic figure of the World War II generation,” Brownback said on Fox News. “He’s a wonderful man.” Brownback also cited President Reagan’s rule against speaking poorly of fellow Republicans. “Reagan was always a very inclusive person and he had a lot of moderates in the party,” Brownback said. What would Reagan have thought of the Brownback-led campaign two years ago to purge GOP moderates from the Kansas Senate? The many mailers attacking former Sens. Dick Kelsey, Jean Schodorf and others certainly weren’t concerned about speaking ill – or speaking accurately.

Pro-con: Was Reid justified in attacking the Kochs?

kochsBy far the largest voice in many of this year’s political races has been that of the Koch brothers (in photos), who have spent tens of millions of dollars peddling phony stories about the impact of health care reform, all in order to put Republicans in control of the Senate after the November elections. Now Democrats are starting to fight back, deciding they should at least try to counter the tycoons with some low-cost speech of their own. Democrats may never have the same resources at their disposal – no party should – but they can use their political pulpits to stand up for a few basic principles, including the importance of widespread health-insurance coverage, environmental protection and safety-net programs. The leader of this effort has been Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, who has delivered a series of blistering attacks against the Kochs and their ads on the Senate floor over the last few weeks. Mr. Reid’s comments have gone to the heart of the matter. A recent speech pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs’ spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. – New York Times

An abhorrent floor speech by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., revealed such a twisted conception of both the First Amendment and the facts that all Americans, whatever their political persuasion, should be repulsed. Mr. Reid singled out billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, who express their libertarian conservatism through political donations. He called the Koch brothers’ political involvement “un-American,” accused them of trying to undermine “democracy” and even claimed that Koch Industries subsidiaries do business with Iran, which their company quickly denied. Reid apparently thinks the First Amendment, which protects free political expression for all Americans, shouldn’t apply to the Kochs. Yet he said nothing about leftist unions that spend more on politics than they do. A Center for Public Integrity study found unions and other Democrat-friendly groups outspent the Kochs on 2012’s state-level elections. Such political expression is quintessentially American. What Reid wants – free speech only for him, his liberal colleagues and the unions and other leftist groups that pull their political strings – would be truly un-American. And if money’s the issue, the left has far more to answer for. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

McCain, Dole react to Cruz’s criticism

cruz,tedSen. Ted Cruz (in photo), R-Texas, joked at the Conservative Political Action Conference about “President McCain,” “President Romney” and “President Dole,” suggesting they didn’t “stand for principle” as GOP presidential nominees. Afterward, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on MSNBC that he didn’t mind being criticized but “Bob Dole is such a man of honor and integrity and principle. I hope that Ted Cruz will apologize to Bob Dole because that’s, that has crossed a line that, to me, is – leaves the realm of politics and discourse that we should have in America.” McCain also said: “I wonder if he thinks that Bob Dole stood for principle on that hilltop in Italy when he was so gravely wounded and left part of his body there fighting for our country.” Dole’s response: “Cruz should check my voting record before making comments. I was one of President Reagan’s strongest supporters, and my record is that of a traditional Republican conservative.”