Monday, June 30, 2008

Ad Wars

While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is preparing to run ads featuring a Bush impersonator over Independence Day weekend, Freedom Watch is preparing its own ad to run against 16 vulnerable House Democrats.

Two of the Democrats on that list are Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski.

The ads will be on the radio this weekend and sound something like this:
“We are struggling. Businesses are struggling. More and more Americans are losing jobs. What is Congressman Chris Carney doing about it?” a narrator asks in the ad targeting Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.)

“Chris Carney voted five times against environmentally safe domestic energy production, voted against American energy independence… But Chris Carney stands in the way … while we cut back on gas and groceries, family outings and summer vacations.”

Here's the video ad that Freedom Watch is also running

An Energy Agenda

On the issue of energy, it seems Rep. Chris Carney may be finally stepping out of the political sandbox of personal insults and into the public arena to debate the issue.

Carney put out a press release on the topic last week and commented further in today's Times Leader story.

Carney points to three legislative measures he supported in the past week. The first would suspend any further deliveries of oil to the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The second bill would work to curtail speculation on the price of oil. The third bill would provide $1.7 billion for mass-transit grants.

While Carney had previously criticized Chris Hackett for supporting "Big Oil," it appears Carney may have flipped on the issue as he now is open to and would support attempts to increase domestic oil production.

There's no word out of Carney's camp whether Carney will take Hackett up on his challenge to sign "American Energy Pledge".

It will be interesting to see on the topic of energy if Carney can stick to his platform or whether he'll revert back to simply criticizing Hackett's personal finances. With a story today again highlighting that Hackett has assets valued at 10 to 20 times what Carney has, it would only seem only natural for Carney to continue to make it a campaign issue.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Originalists? Since when….

The Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller this past week. While the Court’s decision has been lauded by supporters of gun rights and decried by those who fail to recognize that the opinion still allows some gun control regulations, the most striking aspect of the Supreme Court’s opinion is the legal stance taken by those in dissent. The four Justices who dissented – Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Stevens – usually take a position that views the Constitution as a “living document.”

This living document, they regularly argue, allows for the creation of new rights and standards that the Founders and the drafters of the 14th Amendment never envisioned. For example, the drafters of the 8th Amendment would not have envisioned a constitutional problem with the execution of child rapists – nearly all felonies were punishable by death at the time of adoption of the amendment. Yet, in the Heller decision, these Justices decided that they would become strict originalists and conclude that at the time of the 2nd Amendment’s adoption, it was not meant to protect the right of individuals to use guns for non-military purposes (i.e. hunting and self-defense).

While an argument can be made about the original intent of the 2nd Amendment, there can be little debate that modern society – the American public over the course of the last 100 years – would view the 2nd Amendment as granting an individual right to use guns for hunting and self-defense. What is startling about the position of the four Justices in dissent is that it exposes their lack of a clear and consistent overarching view of constitutional interpretation. Their dissent reveals that they decide cases based on what they feel - not on what the law is. The dissent arguably could have written a dissenting opinion that still found the DC law constitutional under a living document philosophy, but they choose not to. Their failure to do so is even more evidence of a lack of a clear approach to constitutional questions.

This lack of a clear philosophy means that the four Justices in dissent are simply acting as legislators – making decisions based on the current political climate rather than on a principled view of the law.

Whomever our next President is will likely have the opportunity to appoint at least one Justice to the Supreme Court. Let’s hope that he appoints someone with a clear philosophy rather than someone who views themselves as the ultimate decider of what is right (in their eyes) rather than what the law is.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Ed Rendell suggested last night that he would be interested in serving in Barack Obama's cabinet if Obama was elected President. Rendell once again reiterated that he has no interest in being Obama's VP, but mentioned he wouldn't mind serving as Obama's Secretary of Energy or Transportation once he finishes his second term as governor.

Click here to listen to the audio.

Over The Top

After the Heller decision yesterday, I figured there would be some good Editorial comments on the subject in today's papers.

Furthermore, I expected the New York Times to be most critical of the decision, but their Editorial this morning far exceeded anything I expected.

The Editorial takes two primary issues with the decision. First, that the majority's interpretation is wrong. Second, the decision will be detrimental to public health.

The interpretation argument is an issue unto itself, but the Times' concern that the decision will result in increased homicides is unfounded.

Some selected passages from the Editorial:
"The Supreme Court on Thursday all but ensured that even more Americans will die senselessly with its wrongheaded and dangerous ruling striking down key parts of the District of Columbia's gun-control law."

"This is a decision that will cost innocent lives, cause immeasurable pain and suffering and turn America into a more dangerous country. It will also diminish our standing in the world, sending yet another message that the United States values gun rights over human life."

Maybe the Times is relying upon the 1991 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Colin Loftin, Brian Wiersema and Talbert J. Cottey. In their study, Loftin and company concluded that the restrictive licensing of guns result in a prompt decline in homicide rates. The study looked at the 9 years before the D.C. gun ban and the 9 years after and found:
"In Washington, D.C., the adoption of the gun-licensing law coincided with an abrupt decline in homicides by firearms (a reduction of 3.3 per month, or 25 percent) and suicides by firearms (reduction, 0.6 per month, or 23 percent). No similar reductions were observed in the number of homicides or suicides committed by other means, nor were there similar reductions in the adjacent metropolitan areas in Maryland and Virginia. There were also no increases in homicides or suicides by other methods, as would be expected if equally lethal means were substituted for handguns."

Striking, isn't it? Except for the fact that the causal relationship has been proven untrue.

The Loftin study failed to use per-capita statistics which was particularly important due to D.C.'s declining population at the time. From Dean Payne's analysis of the Loftin study:
"Loftin suggests that the District's 1976 restrictive handgun licensing, effectively a ban on new handguns, prevented an average of 47 deaths per year. Inexplicably, the report fails to mention the rapid shrinkage of the District's population, or the rising population of the surrounding community in Maryland and Virginia. When homicides and suicides rates are expressed as per-capita rates, any apparent post-1976 benefit enjoyed by the District vanishes."
Furthermore, Washington D.C.'s homicide rate per 100,000 climbed after the District implemented their strict gun regulations. The rate was 10.6 in 1960 and stood at 35.4 in 2005.

Even by comparison to other larger cities, Washington D.C. is much worse.

However, the New York Times provides no data or statistical measure to back their alarmist claim that homicides will begin to drastically climb as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Heller. The Times simply relies upon emotional appeal and their disdain for any reasoning which supports gun rights.

Local Reaction

The reaction to yesterday's Supreme Court decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller sounded pretty similar across the region:
U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke - “For the first time in history, the Supreme Court has finally acknowledged a freedom which many of us have always known – that our Constitution protects the right for Americans to bear arms. I joined many of my colleagues in expressing this opinion to the Court. Protecting one’s individual liberty is a fundamental American right, as the Supreme Court today recognized.”

Republican congressional candidate Lou Barletta – “It is a great day for the Second Amendment. It is a great day for Americans. I believe this decision was proper.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock Township - “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for responsible gun owners everywhere. The Second Amendment applies equally to us all. The right to bear arms is paramount, and no local, state or federal government should be able to compromise that right.”

Republican congressional candidate Chris Hackett – “This ruling protects the individual freedoms guaranteed in the Second Amendment, which for 32 years has been denied to Washington, D.C., residents. The Court has kept laws intact that are meant to protect citizens from unnecessary gun violence, but also guaranteed the individual rights that are explicitly written in our Constitution."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Millionaires' Amendment

The Millionares' Amendment was effectively struck down today with the Supreme Court's decision in Davis v. Federal Election Commission.

From a Politco story on the campaign ramifications for the ruling:
"The law is unlikely to have a significant political impact in individual campaigns. Self-funded candidates, in general, already have poor political track records.

But it will have an immediate effect on several high-profile congressional races that involve candidates that have poured in millions of their own money.

For example, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) had been able to fundraise with fewer restrictions against Republican Sandy Treadwell, a multimillionaire who already has poured in nearly $1 million of his own money. Now she will have to abide by the normal fundraising limits.

Other candidates that have triggered the Millionaires' Amendment include Republican Chris Hackett, running in a competitive race against freshman Rep. Christopher P. Carney (D-Pa.), and GOP businessman Mike Erickson, running for the open seat of retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.). Both have each already spent more than $790,000 of their own money in the primaries alone."

A Budget Deal, Really?

It seems an agreement on the budget could be reached sooner rather than later. One sign that this could happen is that both sides are continuing talks and no one has yet to walk away from the table.

House Republican leader Sam Smith noted that it could be possible for the House and Senate to vote on budget bills Monday and have them signed by the Governor on Wednesday. This would seemingly avoid the furloughing of state employees as Rendell previously stated he would not do so if he perceived a budget deal to be close.

The Democrats' plan to dip into the rainy day fund has been taken off the table after Wednesday's negotiations, but a hiccup in the agreement is how to make up for the projected surplus shortfall due to the economic downturn.

Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said, "Calling it a framework is a generous description, but it is not entirely inaccurate."

Even a budget that was two-days late would still be an improvement for the Rendell administration.

Long Road Ahead

There's a confidence beginning to brew in the Barletta camp, and this became quite apparent when Barletta challenged Congressman Paul Kanjorski to debate 11 times before the fall election.

The Barletta proposal would consist of six summer debates to be aired on WILK radio. Each debate would last roughly 30 minutes and focus on a single issue.

Following the summer debates would be five hour-long, public debates in the fall. Each debate would be held in a different county (Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Monroe) to ensure the candidates covered the region.

Kanjorski campaign spokesman Ed Mitchell responded by signalling there would be debates between the two candidates, but didn't specify if Kanjorski would agree to Barletta's proposed framework.

This is an interesting move by the Barletta camp for two reasons. First, Barletta's legitimacy as a candidate seemed to be improving drastically everyday by simply doing nothing. That series of Kanjorski follies exponentially improved Barletta's odds and everyone seemed to take note that Kanjorski may indeed be doomed. Barletta's internal polling even had him with a lead in the race and several outlets noted the seat was indeed vulnerable. This series of debates may be a way for Barletta to further get his name out to the constituency and, in the process of doing so, increase his campaign cash for the all important fall months. Secondly, in the Hazelton mayorial race, Barletta was criticized by his opponent for failing to debate her. Therefore, this appears to be an furthered effort to break that perception of Barletta.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Say It Best...

From Steve Corbett at WILK Radio discussing Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski:

"Although Carney looks more and more like a Capitol Hill opportunist, Kanjorski is particularly losing credibility through his silence and political hustling. If I can recognize their slick manipulation, and I’m a Democrat, who knows how Republicans and independents view their cavalier abuse of power."

(Lack of) Energy Solutions

This shouldn't be too surprising, but the Carney campaign decided to personally attack Chris Hackett as their way of addressing the energy issue.

Last week, Hackett released a statement citing Chris Carney's failure to address any of the current issues the district is facing (i.e the rising price of gas).

Instead of responding with Carney's own ideas or even rebutting Hackett's plan, his campaign took the opportunity to point out Chris Hackett's personal investment holdings in oil-companies. Carney's campaign manager Vincent Rongione said:

“It’s disappointing that once again, Chris Hackett says one thing and does another. He wants policies that support his own bank account, not the American people. Hackett stands to gain a great deal with his oil company stocks with offshore drilling, his personal dividends continue to grow at the expense of record-high gas prices. This is a guy who only looks out for himself and his own money.”

Rather than a personal investment, could it be that Chris Hackett just wants a sensible energy policy? No, addressing Hackett's policies would be too substanative for the Carney campaign. Even Carney's most recent press release on his House of Representative's web site is focused on John McCain and the upcoming election.

Below you have an outline of the Republican plan to get gas prices back under control. If something this substanative was to come from the Democrats (or Chris Carney), then maybe there could be an actual debate of merit on the issue.

If Chris Carney only likes to play politics with these issues and never act, then maybe his job as a political scientist at PSU was better fitted.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No Worries

Pennsylvania collected substantially less tax revenue than expected for the month of May.

Of course, Governor Rendell's office assured everyone that the declining revenues do not represent a noteworthy trend and stated that revenues fluctuate on a month-to-month basis.

However, as the Patriot-News reports:
"March's collections were down by 2.7 percent. May's collections were off by 7.2 percent. With the exception of the inheritance tax, all the major tax sources came in below estimates in May. More than one tax category has been known to come in below estimates before. But six of the seven major taxes collected are not all down during a typical month.

If the tax revenues continue to fall short, lawmakers would have to make up the difference. They would have three options: Draw down reserves, cut spending and services, or raise taxes."
  • The sales tax came in $5.6 million below estimate.
  • The personal income tax came in $97.9 million below estimate.
  • The corporate tax came in $31.5 million below estimate.
  • The realty transfer tax came in $1.8 million less than expected.
  • The cigarette and malt beverage taxes came in $18.2 million below estimates.
  • The motor license fund generated $15.2 million less than estimated.

The month of May represents only the fourth time in two years that revenues failed to meet expectations, but it was also the most severe imbalance. This certainly signals the downturn in the economy, but also that the Governor's expected surplus of $250 million will be unattainable.

This should strengthen the Republicans' hand in budget negotiations this week because it exemplifies everything the Republicans have been saying for the past few weeks: not to go hog wild on spending because the generated revenue may not be there to cover it.

May the today's Editorial in the Sun-Gazette sums it up best:
"Every governor should be responsible enough to send to the Legislature a budget proposal that, at the most, is equal to the rate of inflation. This governor does it the opposite. His everything-but-the-kitchen sink proposal amounts to a state government spending spree that taxpayers can't afford."

Monday, June 23, 2008


The Pennsylvania Turnpike lease was extended 30 more days after the Rendell administration was able to broker an agreement.

The offer was set to expire last Friday, but the current terms ($12.8 billion for 75-years) will simply be extended for another month.
"They understood that we are involved in a legislative process," administration spokesman Chuck Ardo said today. "They agreed that the [JUNE 20]target date was unattainable. They are willing to work with the Legislature as long as it appears that there is movement on the issue."

Let The Battle Begin

This week will likely be very important in determining when the state's budget get passed.

Tom Barnes at the Post-Gazette cites some forces which could drive the budget to be passed sooner rather than later.

First, Governor Ed Rendell's own ego. The National Governor's Association is slated to meet July 11-14 in Philadelphia, and it would be rather embarrassing for Rendell to attend this event--held in his own backyard--while still bickering over budgetary matters.

Second, most of the larger initiatives have been taken off the table. Items such as leasing the Turnpike and the Democrats' plan to increase health care coverage will not be addressed until the fall.

As Terry Madonna notes in his most recent article:
"For Rendell and the legislature in this current era, the budget has become a long running proxy fight over larger issues Pennsylvanians are struggling with as the state evolves into the 21st century—issues about education, infrastructure investment, energy policy, health care, and much else. In short, Pennsylvania’s perennial budget impasses represent substantive debates about the future of the state in a period of critical transformation."

With that said, it is very unlikely that a budget will be passed before the deadline, as the Rendell administration has never accomplished such a task.

House Democratic leader Bill DeWeese seems optimistic he'll get to the July 4th parade this year, but advised his colleagues to bring some extra garments for the long days ahead. Other legislators are much more pessimistic (or realistic however you choose to look at the situation) and just hoping a budget can be agreed to by mid-July.

It appears the budget debate will be driven by two primary issues: agreeing to a baseline budget number for the upcoming fiscal year and by just how much education funding will increase from the current year.

How legislators come to a consensus on these two thornier issues will go far in setting the tone for further budget negotiations.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Republicans for Carney?

This week, Chris Carney decided to prove his bipartisan appeal with the roll-out of his "Republicans for Carney" campaign. The "Republicans" present testimonials which demonstrate how Carney convinced them to finally support a Democrat.

However, when you look at these "Republican" testimonials and cross-reference them with the individual campaign contribution filings, an interesting pattern begins to emerge. Here are a few samples:
Susan Belin (Waverly, PA):
  • April 2008: $250 to Barack Obama*
  • September 2006: $250 to Judith Aydelott (Democrat for Congress NY)*
  • August 2001: $100 to Friends of Bob Mellow**

Lee Oakes (Lords Valley, PA):

  • March 2002: $150 to Ed Rendell**

John Mathias (Lewisburg, PA):

  • November 2005: $250 Bob Casey for Senate*
  • March 2008: $100 Union County Democrat Committee**

John Zeller (Lewisbug, PA):

  • October 2004: $200 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee*
  • March 2007: $70 Union County Democrat Committee**
  • February 2008: $100 Friends of Trey Casimir**
  • October 2006: $100 Committee to Elect Steve Connolley**
  • September 2004: $100 Union County Democrat Committee**

Marcia Dunn (Clarks Summit, PA):

  • March 2007: $80 Friends of Jim Wansacz**

Marvin Staiman (Williamsport, PA):

  • October 2000: $1,000 Democratic National Committee*
  • August 2005: $500 Bob Casey*
  • May 2006: $250 Ed Rendell**
  • August 2006: $100 Ed Rendell**
  • April 2003: $100 Charles Greevy for Judge**
  • April 2003: $100 Max Baer**
  • October 2003: $100 Charles Greevy for Judge**
  • May 2004: $100 Lycoming County Democrats**
  • May 2003: $100 Max Baer**

Joe Lech (Tunkhannock, PA):

  • April 2001: $500 Bob Casey for Governor**
  • June 2004: $250 Bob Casey for Treasurer**

* Found at FEC Individual Contributor Search
**Found at PA Department of State Contributor Search

These are just seven of the twenty-four names on the list. While these donations don't mean that the listed supporters aren't registered as Republicans, it does show that these individuals haven't been afraid to support Democrats in the past.

This is a great PR stunt and has garnered Carney's campaign quite a deal of press, from the Times Leader to "The Fix" at the Washington Post. However, Carney would be hard pressed to reconcile some of his supporters' donation records with their dramatic statements (e.g. "I've been a registered Republican from day one" and "As a life-long Republican...").

At the end of the day, these supporters are not an accurate depiction of Republican voters in the tenth district. Republicans should not allow a handful of individuals to allay their concerns about Carney. Incumbency alone should not determine a candidate's worth.

Friday, June 20, 2008


On the heels of the recent budget developments, the House GOP seemingly took a step to preempt Governor Rendell's next political move.

After the Senate Republicans cut over $100 million from Governor Rendell's education request, it appeared that Rendell was due to make a big fuss over the reversal.

This could complicate things in the House as they move towards passing a budget resolution. Therefore, the House GOP released an ad detailing Gov. Rendell's own difficulties with funding education.

In Play

"The Fix" on the Washington Post updated their rankings for the 20 most endangered House seats.

Added to the list at #19 was PA-11th:
19. Pennsylvania's 11th (D): At first glance, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) has no business on this list. He had held the east-central 11th District since 1984 and won reelection in 2006 with 72 percent of the vote. The district gave Democrat John Kerry a solid -- if not huge -- 53 percent to 47 percent win in 2004. And yet, even Democrats admit that Kanjorski is in serious danger -- the result of years of inattention to his political operation and lingering ethical questions. A new poll for Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R), who took 42 percent against Kanjorski in 2002, shows the challenger with a 47 percent to 42 percent edge. Kanjorski disputes the numbers but is up with what amounts to a biographical campaign ad -- never a good sign for a guy who has represented the district for more than two decades. (Previous ranking: N/A)

And still remaining at #11 on the list was PA's 10th District:
11. Pennsylvania's 10th (D): The demographics of this northeastern Pennsylvania district ensure that Rep. Chris Carney (D), who ousted scandal-tarred Don Sherwood (R) in 2006, will have a tough race every election. President Bush won the district with 60 percent in 2004, and Obama isn't likely to help Carney much here. Recognizing the partisanship of the district, Carney introduced out a group of Republicans supporting him and touted his bipartisan record in his first two years in Congress. It's a savvy strategy but still might not be enough against wealthy businessman Chris Hackett (R). (Previous ranking: 11)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bringing In The Big Guns

The Executive Director of the South Carolina Democratic Party is exiting his position to work on Paul Kanjorski's campaign.

The AP is reporting that Werner is leaving to "run" a House race in Wilkes-Barre. The extent to which he will "run" the campaign was not detailed.

Update: The Times Leader confirms with the Kanjorski camp that Werner has signed on to be the new campaign manager.

All Eyes On The House

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Senate approved a budget which cut spending roughly $400 million below Gov. Ed Rendell's requested amount.

Rendell had originally requested $28.3 billion which was 4.2% over the current budgeted amount for the current fiscal year ($27.2 billion). The budget that the Senate passed totaled $27.9 billion and 2.8% higher than last year's.

Republicans recognized that slowdown in the economy may provide less tax receipts than expected. In order to avoid further decrease the surplus, Senate Republicans chopped $400 million from the Governor's request. $118 million of those cuts came in reductions to Gov. Rendell's increased request for education funding.

A statement by Senate Appropriations Chairman Gib Armstrong reflected the compromise involved:

"It is a budget that cuts back from what Governor Rendell proposed in February, because revenues will fall several hundred million dollars short of his prediction.

It is a budget that does not reflect anyone’s full set of priorities, whether those would be for program expansions, spending cuts, or tax reductions.

Most states confront budget woes more serious than ours. But we also know from experience that Pennsylvania’s recovery from economic troubles tends to be slower. Given that track record, we cannot responsibly build this budget on wishful thinking and hope for a robust economic rebound and a revenue miracle next year.

So this is not a year where we can afford to satisfy spending requests, make commitments to new programs and expensive program expansions, or rely on gimmicks to push tough decisions into next year. This budget may not be politically pretty or popular with groups who seek more from state government. But it moves the process forward, an important consideration as the deadline approaches, and it does so in a way meant to prevent a budget crisis next year."

As we discussed before, the House bill is larger than the Governor's requested amount which translates into an even larger difference between the House and the Senate. House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans had been hoping to reach a deal with the Senate and Governor to make sure the budget was implemented before the deadline.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Garth Everett, believe the Senate plan provides a baseline to work from. However, Everett has been critical of Evan's delay in bringing the bill to the House floor and even threatened to introduce a discharge resolution. In a statement last week, Everett said:
"This is another example of their create-a-crisis style of budgeting, which is done so they can rush a poorly-crafted spending plan through the Legislature in an effort to gain leverage for their own policy agenda."

Barletta Hits Back

Lou Barletta responded to Rep. Paul Kanjorski's recent commercial with not only a statement, but an online ad of his own.

Regarding Kanjorski's middle class commercial, the Barletta camp stated:
“The congressman portrays himself as representing ‘average’ citizens, but what average citizen received almost $4 million from special interests? The ‘hardworking people he represents’ do not support his re-election efforts, as more than three out of every five campaign dollars he receives come from Washington, D.C., PACs.”

In addition, Barletta launched his own online spot on YouTube. In contrast to the Kanjorski ad in which Kanjorski says nothing, Barletta's spot features the candidate speaking at a local rally. The spot also incorporates the popular "change" theme of the 2008 election cycle.

Several minute-long videos of Barletta talking about various issues (health care, Social Security, and the current credit crisis) were also uploaded.

As the heat begins to break in the weather, the campaign action starts to heat back up.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kanjo Hits The Airwaves

After early poll numbers show Rep. Paul Kanjorski in danger of losing his seat, Kanjorski launched a new campaign ad today to increase his favorability numbers.

This might be Kanjorski's best ad yet; he doesn't say anything.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


If there's a theme which has carried over from his 2006 campaign to his current reelection bid, it is that personal attacks play a large role in Rep. Chris Carney's campaign.

In 2006, Carney challenged Don Sherwood on the notion that he was out of touch with the district. Of course, the underling notion supporting that "out of touch" argument was Sherwood's affair. Nonetheless, Carney vowed to run a campaign that was focused on the issues and not about the incumbent's extramarital affair--even though he continually hinted to it. He claimed he wanted to focus on what mattered to the 10th District.

However, Carney quickly broke that promise and went even further. Carney went public with a commercial about Sherwood which flashed "repeatedly choking" and "attempting to strangle plaintiff" across the screen to influence voters in the crucial final weeks before the election (if you need a refresher, watch the ad here). There's an important distinction to be made here between Carney's use of the affair and his use of unsubstantiated charges for which Sherwood was never criminally charged.

As slimy as that was, fast forward to 2008 and Chris Carney is beginning to preview the personal attacks he's got in store for Chris Hackett. Carney went after Hackett for finally paying back taxes he owed. However, Carney attempted to make it seem like there was an actual issue at stake in Hackett's personal settlement. From Carney's website: "I'm fighting to lower taxes for hard-working families who follow the rules, while he's fighting to lower his own taxes by not paying them."

Of course, this comes after Carney mocked Hackett's "10 Principles" by stating that Hackett had no principles and wouldn't be able to identify them citing the 'dirty' campaign Hackett ran in the fall.

Ironically, Carney first championed that he was "Karl Rove's worst nightmare" and used such verbiage in his campaign ads. However, with his continual use of dirty political tactics and personal attacks, it's clear that Chris Carney has morphed into the Washington insider, Karl Rove type figure he sought to expel.

Therefore, when I see a comment (like the one that appeared on this blog last week) stating that Chris Carney won't tolerate Hackett's failure to use the "Golden Rule" when campaigning, I can only stop and chuckle.

Barletta Starts Strong

An internal poll released by the Barletta camp shows him polling ahead of Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski.

Recognizing that it's only June, Barletta's strong, positive name brand recognition (as identified by the report) coupled with Kanjorski's low approval ratings provide good building blocks for Barletta to work from. Particularly optimistic in the polling report was:

"Since Kanjorski’s negative name ID and low reelect scores are unchanged from May 2007, it proves he has failed to benefit even slightly from the favorable Democratic political environment. In fact, his current 50/25 ratio in name ID has even worsened from our May ’07 poll (at the time 57/17), and his 39% reelect is virtually unchanged from 38%. Given these factors, particularly in light of recent gains the Democrats have made in reliably Republican seats in Illinois, Mississippi and Louisiana, this seat may be the best chance the GOP has in the nation to defeat a Democratic incumbent congressman in the ‘08 election cycle."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Any More Checks Need Written?

The Pennsylvania budget is growing messier by the day.

Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans announced yesterday that the budget is $147 million more than Governor Rendell originally requested.

The proposed budget was originally 4.2% higher than the current budget, but Evans felt that amount was too low and pushed it up to 4.8% with his amended version.

A press release from Evans office states "With today's action, the bill is poised to move to the floor for debate the week of June 23 if necessary." Ironically, the same release states that Evans is "committed to finalizing the budget by June 30."

Evans must really be committed to getting the budget passed before the deadline: he left a whole week to debate the bill. Good thing he kept it locked in committee all that time!

However, Evans is relying upon optimistic assumptions for the budget to even have a possibility of passing by the deadline. He is assuming a deal can be brokered with the Senate and Governor's office. If no deal is reached, it is likely that 250 to 300 amendments will have to be debated on the floor.

This portends a situation which will allow for either limited debate or extending past the budget deadline.

Furthermore, Governor Rendell is now threatening to take rather unprecedented steps and classify government workers as either "essential" or "nonessential." Once the June 30th deadline passes, those workers deemed "nonessential" will be furloughed.

The State Senate tried to avert this distinction by introducing legislation to classify all state workers as "essential." However, Rep. Evans was effectively able to kill that for the time being by holding it in the House Appropriation Committee where he amended the bill to include $20 million from the rainy day fund to pay state workers' salaries.

Did I mention it's good that Evans had the budget locked in committee for all these months?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lukewarm Support

Back in April, we discussed the problems an Obama ticket might pose for Congressional Democrats within Pennsylvania. Specifically noted was the 10th Congressional district where Obama lost by an average of 30% in the primary.

Roll Call had an article highlighting the same point. However, the problem for down-ticket Democrats is not exclusive to Pennsylvania. Rather, it extends to important Congressional seats in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Obama may have been able to bring independents into the fold, but he failed to win some key Democratic constituencies and mobilize conservative voters. While other campaigns have expressed interest in Obama coming to their districts, Rep. Chris Carney's office seemed at best lukewarm on the idea of bringing Obama into campaign for him. Yet, Carney vocally supports few things so it's hard to decipher just where he stands.

From the article: "Asked whether Carney would welcome Obama to campaign with him in his district, Carney’s campaign deflected the question."

The conundrum that the 10th District poses for Democrats is that it will be a key battleground for both the Presidency and for the Democratic majorities in Congress so both interests will directly confront each other. Obama will need success in key counties like Lackawanna and Luzerne to win Pennsylvania. Thus, whether wanted or not, Obama will be right in Carney's backyard.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quote Of The Day

"The elitist liberals (in the party) always find a way to ruin the process."
-U.S. Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA-17th)

The quote comes from a Reading Eagle article discussing Rep. Tim Holden and the superdelegate process. It's such a good quote and applicable to so many situations, but the fact that it comes from a Democrat makes it even better.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Under Pressure

Not only does Rep. Paul Kanjorski lie when confronted about statements he previously made, he also gets extremely defensive and physical.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Biased Much

The Times Leader had an Editorial today poking fun at Chris Hackett's "Declaration of Principles." The Editorial said the principles "didn’t touch on honesty and other issues pertaining to personal behavior or ethics" and that "it seems impractical that a member of the U.S. House of Representatives could serve a full term without voting for at least one bill that, in some shape or form, increased taxes. Or benefited a corporation’s financial interests."

The Editorial went on to lay out its own set of generic principles that it felt warranted a "Declaration."

The first problem with the Editorial is its fundamental lack of understanding regarding the substance within Hackett's Declaration. First, the Editorials comments on ethics and behavior are addressed. Before laying out the 10 legislative issues, Hackett provides a preamble stating:

"...Washington that demands a new approach – one that will help return a badly damaged public trust to our federal government."

It's unnecessary for the Times Leader to adopt the Chris Carney attack line on Hackett's principles and argue it doesn't contain a personal ethical statement.

Obviously, if Hackett is intending to return public trust to the federal government, he will only be acting in a way that is consistent with attaining that goal. To poke fun at a pledge with constituents which seeks to ensure public trust and provide accountability is rather absurd.

Second, insulting platform pledges as a series of "grandiose statements" is counter intuitive. It's normally a good thing when elected representatives lay out a vision for what they wish to accomplish or seek to preserve.
"Ensure that Social Security is guaranteed for future generations of workers and

I think we all can agree that this is simplistic and a "grandiose statement." But that language comes from Chris Carney's website. Would the Times Leader pick that pledge apart? Would they consider that pandering? In fact, Carney's campaign Issue section consists of less than 10 topics and there is little substance attached. Isn't that even more embarrassing than Hackett's "Declaration"?

It's obvious that the Editorial board doesn't believe in Hackett's principles, but instead of trying to tear them down, they should acknowledge that the "Declaration of Principles" is a good-faith effort to provide voters with a simplistic and transparent way to keep their elected official accountable.

Send In the Clowns

Rep. Paul Kanjorski at his finest:

February 2007: "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join the overwhelming majority of the American people, the Congress, and many top U.S. military commanders to voice my opposition to President Bush's ill conceived plan to send more American troops into the middle of an ongoing civil war in Iraq.

May 2008: "We've taken public positions which have now forced the President to go into the surge mentality which is somewhat working"

Not to mention between this time, in August of 2007, Kanjorski noted that Democrats stretched the facts when they implied they could end the war.

So essentially Kanjorski went on the record opposing the surge and the war ("He has supported legislation to require the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq and voted to override the President’s veto on one of these measures"), admitted in a town hall meeting that it was all a political endgame, and then credited the Democrats with forcing the President's hand into the surge which he contends has had success.

It's like one big contradiction.

Taking The Bull By The Horns

Legislation providing for leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike was finally introduced in the House yesterday.

Rep. Steve Cappelli (R-Williamsport) and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Phialdephia) introduced the legislation. Not only did the cosponsors represent a bipartisan initiative to get the bill passed, but also a joint venture between a rural Republican and an urban Democrat. Rep. Capelli is pushing the Turnpike lease as a sensible solution and last viable option for moving forward on the state's infrastructure needs. Evans echoed a similar sentiment.

The actually legislation will likely not be considered until the fall as the legislative agenda this month will be consumed with budget considerations and other priorities before the summer recess.

This delay could could complicate things even further as the bid for the Turnpike was only good until June 20th. The bid could decrease if interest rates rise between now and then. The offer will decrease by 0.10% for every hundredth of a percentage point increase in interest rates. Although the group has been flexible in agreeing to extend the bid's deadline, it is likely that delays in legislative action could diminish the firm's generosity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

10 Principles

Chris Hackett unveiled his "Declaration of Principles" yesterday. The 10 enumerated principles outline a prism through which Hackett will make decisions if elected to office.
Therefore, I hereby commit to my fellow citizens of Pennsylvania's Tenth District, that in Congress I will vote in a manner consistent with the following principles, and I expect to be held accountable to these principles.

The "Declaration" comes as a welcome surprise from Hackett as we move towards the fall contest. Although most of Hackett's positions have already been fleshed out from the primary season and debates with Dan Meuser, Hackett went ahead and released this platform so that constituents have 6 months to review it. The way Hackett is pitching it, the declaration could almost be called: "Contract With the 10th District."

Ironically, Rep. Chris Carney poked fun at the idea and Hackett's desire to ensure accountability. In response to the release Carney stated, "Hackett confirmed I think what we already know, he has no idea what principles are." Furthermore, Carney vowed not to release a similar platform and "instead to run on the record he’s established the past 17 months."

While we'll debate the merits of Chris Carney's record another day, one notable omission from the "Declaration" was a direct reference to farm subsidies. The way Hackett has been hitting Carney on his farm bill vote there was an expectation of a principle specifically devoted to "Improving/Reforming Farm Subsidies." While Principle #3 somewhat addresses this (End Corporate Welfare), it was interesting that Hackett decided not to utilize this platform as an avenue to further discuss farm subsidies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Budget Conflict

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an Editorial today that has really missed the mark.

Last week, we posted some partisan rumblings on the budget in Pennsylvania between Rep. Garth Everett and Democratic Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans.

So today the Inquirer states:
Each June, state GOP leaders begin to chirp that Gov. Rendell has given them too much work to do.

The budget deadline is June 30. Rendell submitted his $28.3 billion spending plan in February. On most planets, that's enough time to finish a budget.

...So now, GOP negotiators need to keep at the job in a spirit of give-and-take, and not follow last year's example of simply resisting the governor on all fronts.

Some Republicans are leery about all the borrowing Rendell has proposed - about $4 billion. That's a legitimate concern, but Pennsylvania's overall debt is average, when compared with what other states owe.

Too often at budget time, the GOP in Harrisburg has been content to sit on its thumbs. This budget season, the Senate GOP needs to do more than just say "no" to proposals that would result in real progress for working Pennsylvanians.

If the Inquirer had any clue what was going on, they would realize that the Republicans are attempting to actually work on the budget. That's the problem. The Democrats, led by Chairman Evans, have unnecessarily tied the budget up in committee where it has already received its due attention.

Today's Editorial comes on the heels of an Op-Ed from Republican Rep. Mario Civera who is the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee:

For more than two months, the state budget bill has remained dormant in the Democrat-controlled House Appropriations Committee. Despite calls from lawmakers to get the process moving and debate the bill, Democratic Appropriations Chairman Rep. Dwight Evans continues to hold the budget at bay.

As it stands now, Evans is effectively silencing every member of the state House - both Republican and Democrat - and preventing them from offering any input on the budget.

...While Evans continues to stall the process, the legislature is losing precious time in its effort to adopt a state budget by the June 30 deadline.

Following last year's budget impasse and the furlough of 25,000 state employees, most would imagine he would want to avoid another headline-generating embarrassment. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

In a May 27 letter to legislative leaders, even Gov. Rendell indicated that he too would like to see more progress on the budget to avoid a repeat of last year.

This was the first notice from the governor on this matter since I submitted a letter to his office in February, urging that we adopt a budget before June 30.

House Republicans want to get this process moving. We want to meet the deadline. We want to allow all members the opportunity to offer input on their priorities for the budget.

Chairman Evans has essentially embargoed the budget in committee and allowed for less than a month of review and debate on the merits of the proposals in the House. Therefore, as time ticks by, the Democrats will be closer to achieving their goal: a budget with more than 80 amendments rushed out of committee with little discussion on the floor.

While the Philadelphia Inquirer is correct that on most planets the June 30th deadline would offer enough time to complete a budget, in a world where a powerful Democrat from Philadelphia can sit on the budget, it proves difficult to foster an environment where the budget receives the open debate between lawmakers that it deserves.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Fox News had a special called "Porked" over the weekend. It detailed congressional earmarking scandals. It just wouldn't have been complete without a segment on Rep. Paul Kanjorski.