Friday, May 23, 2008

Bennett's growing power

Congrats to our Sen. Bennett. "President Bush" nominated a Bennett staffer to the FEC.

This is very important for a number of reasons.
  1. In reality, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and not the President, pick the nominees for the FEC (Federal Election Commission). The Democratic picks are pals/ex-staffers of Senators Reid and Schumer, the Democratic leader and the chairman of the DSCC (the Dems' senate campaign committee), respectively. This means Bennett is considered by his fellow Republican Senators to be one of the top leaders of their caucus.

  2. Matthew Peterson replaces Hans von Spakovski, a vote suppressor and law breaker extraordinaire. The Hans, as I like to call him, was THE project I worked on this fall, as the Campaign Legal Center waged a war to keep him off the Commission (Bush appointed him when the Senate was out of session, so his term officially ended January 1, 2008).

  3. The Hans was blocked by two Senators exercising holds...well three but I will get to that in a second. The two holders were Senators Russ Feingold and Barack Obama. Obama used this hold as a pitch to black voters in the dark days of last fall when he was splitting the black vote with Hillary Clinton.

  4. The third Senator was none other than Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader. He refused to allow any of the other nominees to be voted on separately and insisted on all of the nominees being voted on in a block. Since everyone knew the Hans didn't have 50 votes (let alone 60 if Obama or Feingold filibustered), and the Democrats didn't want their hand chosen nominees to also go down in flames, there were no votes

  5. The FEC needs a quorum to do anything. And since January, they haven't had one. That means that presidential candidates couldn't get their matching funds. And more importantly, meant that John McCain couldn't withdraw his application for matching funds either. This resulted in a DNC suit against McCain for spending over the matching fund limits during his primary campaign (the lawsuit is still pending a quorum at the FEC). It also means that John McCain can't get his general election matching funds, something he desperately needs when Obama can raise a couple million by sending out an email while McCain has to spend a week at pricey fundraisers. Oh by the way, Obama raised $31M in April, McCain $18M...Obama has $9M in general election funds, McCain $0 [Hillary has more than either because she still relies on big donors to fund her campaign...thus the last majority of the funds she raised this month were general election funds, which are unusable until after the convention in Denver]

So to sum up, Bennett got his guy in there, not McConnell's guy or any other GOP senator's pick. John McCain really needs a functioning FEC more than Obama does, because Obama doesn't need matching funds for the general, whereas McCain needs those millions of dollars from the federal treasury to even keept close to Obama's fundraising, which has an army of about 3 million people.

In short, this means Bennett is becoming a pretty important guy in the Senate, and powerful senators like Mitch McConnell and John McCain will owe him one, even if he loses the election. And if McConnell loses this year (unlikely but possible), look for Bennett to be a front runner for Republican Leader.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

tighter than a tube sock?

We all knew that Rep. Chris Cannon was liable to be primaried again this year due to the suprisingly strong challenge he got last cycle from a complete nutcase. But will this year's challenger be able to close the deal?
Cannon leads Chaffetz 39 percent to 37 percent among 3rd District voters who said they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to vote next month, according to a poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates on May 13-19. Those results are within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 7 percent. Nineteen percent were undecided.

However, when Jones culled out only Republican likely 3rd District voters, Cannon leads Chaffetz 49-34 percent. Among those who said they usually vote "strong Republican," Cannon leads 44-33, Jones found.
So Chafetz has to move some voters, and hope/work for a big turnout. But it is do able, after all, Obama did it in Iowa. But here's where things get interesting:
Unlike Matheson, Cannon has never been an overly popular incumbent. And the 2001 redistricting by the GOP-controlled Legislature — clearly aimed at harming Matheson — didn't help out Cannon much either.

Cannon got more Salt Lake County voters in the redistricting, with GOP lawmakers even cutting out the northeastern part of Utah County and giving it to Matheson's 2nd District. Chaffetz actually lives in that small 2nd District slice of Utah County. But a U.S. House member only needs to live in his home state, he does not have to live in his district.

Cannon leads Chaffetz 39-37 percent in Utah County, but Chaffetz leads Cannon 40-36 percent among Salt Lake County registered voters who live in the 3rd District. There are more registered voters in the west-side Salt Lake County area of the 3rd District than there are 3rd District voters in Utah County — a shift that has not meant a great deal in previous elections. But in this primary it may be critical, the poll indicates.
If Caffetz can parlay his work for Gov. Huntsman and being a winning kicker for BYU into votes on the westside, this could be an upset special.

Oh and in case you were wondering, Matheson is crushing Dew 67-20 (Dew gets only 36 percent of the GOP vote, which will surely increase some) while Rob Bishop is soundly beating Morgan Bowen 58-19.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Utah's purpling?

The Deseret News and Dan Jones have done another poll on Utah's presidential preferences, and it seems that Utahns are warming to the idea of John McCain. If a state that gave Romney 90 percent of the vote (and McCain 5%) in the GOP primary can reconcile with McCain, doesn't it stand to reason that the vast majority of Clinton supporters will vote for Obama in the fall? Anyway, on to the results.
McCain, the GOP's presumptive nominee, was the choice of [...] 62 percent when matched up against Obama. That's a big change from February, when McCain mustered support from only 30 percent of Utahns surveyed.

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates of 604 registered voters statewide May 13-19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
I omitted the results of the Clinton/McCain match up because A) she isn't going to win the nomination and B) the results are statistically insignificant (she does 3 points worse, well within the margin of error). Believe it or not, if 62 percent holds up through the fall, that will really help Utah Democrats. That's because George W. Bush did 10 points better than that in 2004.

To help down ticket Democrats, Obama doesn't have to win states, he just has to not hurt them. And Obama is much better at the top of the ticket in the West than Clinton would have been on that score. Sure, she might have been better in places like Ohio and Florida, but she really would be a drag on so many U.S. House and Senate races in places like Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, and yes even Georgia and Mississippi, where black turnout will be through the roof thanks to Obama. And the main goal of the party is not just to elect a president, but to win races from county council to president.

And for future reference, there are what I call teaser states--ones that are always close nationally but of late consistently go Red or Blue--and truly swingable states--ones which either party has a legitimate shot at winning. In my mind, OR, WA, WI, MI, MN, PA, WV, and FL are all teasers. They are close, but they have gone Blue (in the case of the first 6 states) or Red (in the case of the last 2) in the last two-to-three presidential elections. The swing able states are VA (due to demographic changes that has resulted in going from all GOP governors and two GOP senators to 2 Democratic governors in a row and as of this fall, two Democratic senators), MO (Kerry really should have tried harder here, and with a likely winner Democratic gubernatorial candidate--and no gay marriage amendment on the ballot and major black turnout in St. Louis--it should be a possible squeaker), OH (the economy, combined with the fact that Dems swept in every statewide office last year, should help Obama, despite his Appalachia problem), NH (again, demographic trends and strong down ticket candidates helps Obama), IA (Gore barely won it in 2000, Kerry lost it in 2004, Obama is loved in Iowa), NM (Gore barely won it in 2000, Kerry barely lost it in 2004, if Richardson is on the ticket, it could be sewn up), CO (another demography and strong statewide candidates aid to Obama--Kerry contested this mildly in 2004), NC (demographic trends and strong black turnout).

I really don't see PA or FL changing "colors" any time soon. But if you disagree with any of this analysis, please comment and explain why you think I am wrong.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

State Elections Office=Ministry of Truth?

Yesterday, the Deseret News picked up on a report that gave Utah an F on campaign finance disclosure (we ranked 45th out of 50).

Here are a few of the easy to fix problems:
"You have no disclosure of occupation and employer for contributors, no last-minute reporting of contributions," says Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.
And it is not wonder we got such a rating when such things are not disclosed. Even worse, politicans can delete information that looks bad are errors on their own, without having to file a corrected disclosure form.
The state's 8-year-old electronic campaign finance reporting system is getting an overhaul, but for now, candidates can change or delete entries to their online documents without explanation or a visible trail.
A donation or expense that shows up today could be gone tomorrow.
That ease of use is justified, said Joe Demma, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.
"If someone submits a report and makes a mistake, they should have an opportunity to correct that mistake," Demma said.
State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently had two such vanishing entries.
In early May, the Deseret News reported an April 18 donation of $2,300 from Shurtleff's campaign to John McCain's presidential campaign, which some questioned as a possible violation of Federal Election Commission regulations.
But who checks to make sure it is a mistake Joe? Do we just take them at their word and let them edit it without a trace or affidavit? We don't even let people edit their own Wikipedia entries with so little oversight. Demma says that they will have new software up and running soon (supposidely before June 24th) that will track when such corrections were made.

But the article says nothing about any requirements on proof or oath as to why the changes are or in the future.
online financial facts are subject to change at the whim of the candidate. And elections officials don't question why.
"I generally don't think people would think less of an elected official if a data entry error occurred," Demma said.
I might not think less of an elected official, but I sure do think less of state elections officials.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Greg "conflicts of interest" Curtis

Our state House Speaker.
Curtis, an attorney, has had great success in battling opponents of his clients' development plans in [Sandy] City Hall and some wonder if it's due to his negotiating skills, the merits of his causes or who he is and the powerful position he holds as speaker of the House of Representatives.
I don't wonder, do you? It's because he gets to create development deals (like approve state money to build a road near a piece of property owned by a client, or contributor, or buy/sell land via the state or the county for inflated profits to his patrons) via his power on Utah' Capitol Hill. He gets to set out the limits of municipal powers as well, something people working in city halls in Utah care about. Rolly gives us some details...
Now, I've learned Curtis got his way with the all-Republican Salt Lake County Commission eight years ago, just before the county changed its government to a mayor-council form. That was before he was speaker, but he was a member of the Legislature who shortly thereafter would become chief counsel to then-County Mayor Nancy Workman.
In that case, his family members had applied for a zoning variance to build a duplex on the 1600 East block of Creek Road in Sandy. The Little Cottonwood Community Council obtained signatures on a petition opposing the variance and the Planning and Zoning Commission denied it, ruling the size of the lot was not conducive to a duplex. The matter was appealed to the County Commission and the lot was approved.
That's right, he was Nacy Workman's "chief counsel." He got to draw two salaries (one from the County, one from the State) and he really did a great job of looking out for County tax payers, making sure County employees didn't buy lots of unnecessary SUVs and fill them (and their personal cars) up with abandon...oh wait.

Nancy Workman was tossed out of office (she did not seek another term out of pressure from GOP leaders that knew she could not win) for presiding over a corrupt County government, and Curtis was her right hand man, her partner in crime.

In short, Speaker Curtis is the poster boy for what is wrong with the state legislature. He exemplifies the lack of transparancy, the lack of concern about ...conflicts of intrest, and un-righeous indignation by legislators that accompanies any complaint about the first two things. Voting Curtis out of office won't solve all our problems, but it will rid us of a big one, and send a message to those smaller-time crooks that they will be held accountable by the voters.