Friday, October 31, 2008

Campaign Moves To Billtown

Williamsport got a heavy dose of the Presidential campaigns yesterday as both of the Vice Presidential candidates were in town.

Senator Joe Biden appeared in the afternoon at Lamade Gymnasium at Lycoming College. During his stump speech, Biden used the Halloween holiday for his newest punch line. He said, "Look, I know Halloween is tomorrow night, but John McCain dressed as an agent of change, that's just one costume that does not fit. It does not fit."

Governor Sarah Palin campaigned up the road at Bowman Field in the evening. The crowd was energized and even chants of "drill baby drill" occassionally reigned down throughout Palin's speech. Palin used the stump as a chance to emphasize the differences between the two campaigns on taxes and energy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts On The 10 CD Debate

It was great to see these two candidates finally square off. I attempted to liveblog the debate to give those who didn't watch a better feel for how it went. It was also be aired on C-SPAN tomorrow night for those who missed it. Below are my initial impressions:

Carney won the toss and started the debate by stressing that he is a humble, bipartisan representative of a district who lives within its means. Hackett wasted no time in getting to the matter at hand by bringing up Carney's failure to hold more debates. He used the remaining time to detail his background and professional experiences.

The first question out of the gate utilized Hackett's opening remarks and asked if one debate was adequate. Carney emphasized he held numerous town hall meetings and he was readily accessibly to his constituents. He also noted that other important offices (the Vice-President) only hold one debate so this was no out of the ordinary. Hackett went right for the jugular early by saying Carney is hiding his record by continually saying one thing in the district and doing a different thing in Washington. This was a theme that Hackett hammered home throughout the debate (Washington Carney vs. District Carney).

In regards to the bailout, Hackett scolded the "must pass" bailout as doing nothing. He recommended a capital gains tax reduction to 0% for the next two years so more capital can flow into the markets and self-correct many of the liquidity problems. Hackett preempted Carney here by saying while Carney had not voted for the financial rescue, he did vote for the auto industry loan, the Fannie/Freddie bailout, and rescue for the sugar industry.

Carney noted that he had talked to bank presidents in the district and found they were properly regulated as well as financially sound. It was Wall Street which was the cancer. Because the Paulson plan was all Congress looked at and didn't have further hearings, he didn't feel comfortable voting for it.

Social Security provided the first contentious issue of the night. The candidates squabbled over who was scaring seniors more as Hackett made the program appear in dire straights while Carney exaggerated the risk implications of Hackett's market proposals. Carney suggested that Social Security was in sound financial shape as the trust fund had trillions of dollars and was earning interest. Hackett used the bailout as an example of Washington waiting until a crisis to do something and Social Security was another issue of waiting until a crisis.

The issue of earmarks also brought some fireworks. Most notably, Hackett stated that the district had lost $20 million in the transition from Sherwood to Carney and this was a problem with relying on earmarks for revenue. He followed that up by claiming Carney had received $100,000 in donations from companies that he provided earmarks for.

Carney allowed the statistical claims to go unchecked while suggesting earmarking was a beneficial process for the district. Less than 1% of federal budget is earmarks, but that single percent has an exponential impact on the projects in the district: it wouldn't be there if it wasn't for earmarks. Carney even went so far as to defend Nancy Pelosi's earmarking (money inserted in the farm bill for her district) by claiming Pelosi was "saving her people."

The finance of the campaigns was also brought up. While Carney acknowledged he spent more money thus far, he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for individual donations because he didn't have deep pockets like Hackett. Hackett suggested imposing term limits for campaigns to eliminate some of the money involved (2 terms for Senate and 10 years for House) and changing McCain-Feingold.

The most informative portion of the debate was on Hackett's tax liens. Hackett clarified that these were all legitimate challenges and not failure to pay taxes. For instance, he noted a $500 fine from the PA Department of Revenue. The taxes were paid by check and not through the electronic system (which he wasn't approved for). Hackett disputed this fine levied against his business. Carney didn't buy it and brought up the fine in Williamsport to which Hackett responded that it was a payment to the wrong party--much different than not paying as Carney implied.

The debate was rounded out by illegal immigration and military spending. On immigration, Carney stated there was a need for more personnel and tools to fight illegal immigration. Hackett agreed on no amnesty for illegals, but hammered Carney on his vote to de-fund construction of the fence. Carney rebutted the challenge by noting Hackett employed an illegal immigrant and used it as an example of the need to crack down on employers. The only big difference between the two on defense was which country was more of an immediate threat: Pakistan of Iran. Carney suggested it was Pakistan, and Hackett voted for Iran.

In their closing statements, Hackett repeated the points in his opener and noted the need to change politicians to change the culture of Washington. He also brought up the content of the Specter ad by suggesting one-party rule is dangerous. Carney closed by stating there was no bipartisanship coming from Hackett. Carney's credentials--as provided by the National Journal and his bipartisan parents--were much more fitting for the district.

My initial impression is that this debate was much better to watch than any of the presidential debates. It was much more entertaining, combative, and substantive. I think Hackett won the debate, but they both are very qualified politicians. I found Hackett's delivery to be superior and sharper. Carney stumbled over his words at points throughout the debate and didn't appear to get into a rhythm. Overall, I thought he was spotty throughout. [As a side note, I was curious who Chris Carney kept smiling and winking at to his right?]

Substantively, Hackett was ready to challenge the points against his character and prodded Carney on his vulnerabilities. However, Carney did deliver the best line of the night. During the immigration portion, Carney said that the border is not the NFL: two feet in bounds does not mean citizenship.

Another Endorsement

Chris Carney earned the endorsement of the Citizen's Voice yesterday:
With two years of significant accomplishments to his credit, U.S. Rep. Chris Carney from Dimock Township has earned the right to another term in Washington representing the 10th Congressional District.

Voters should choose Carney, a Democrat, whose moderate and pragmatic approach to many difficult issues facing residents of this region and the nation has proven to be a good fit for the rural and traditionally Republican-leaning district.

...Hackett has not yet shown the flexibility and bi-partisanship that will be necessary to address and fix the nation’s social and economic woes, many of which have reached crisis proportions.

Outside Influence

The Alliance For Retired Americans cut an ad for Congressman Chris Carney. The ad attempts to highlight some differences between Carney and Hackett on issues facing seniors.

It's not a great ad to begin with, but they seem to gloss over the fact that Carney has indeed supported making Social Security more personal with expanded investment opportunties. From Carney's website, "Workers should have opportunities and incentives to invest for their retirement, but not at the expense of the traditional Social Security system."

Hackett has stated: "I think workers in their twenties and thirties should be given a choice that would allow them to receive better than a 1% return on their retirement dollars. That’s why I favor creating voluntary personal accounts controlled by each individual, rather than by Washington."

Both rhetoric is very similar and focuses on preserving the traditional system while offering new opportunities to young workers entering the system. It is splitting hairs to say that Hackett supports "privatization" while Carney does not.

Carney also picked up the "Friend of the Farm Bureau" award for his support of the farm bill.

Frankly, after hearing Hackett attack Carney early on in the campaign on the federal government's agriculture subsidies, I thought he would continue to pursue the topic and distinguish himself from Carney on the idea of reforming the programs. But it's been an issue he seemed content with fading out of the campaign's focus.

While the NRA has decided not to endorse in the district,
Hackett earned the endorsement of the Gun Owners For America yesterday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Endorsements

More editorial endorsements for Chris Carney from over the weekend. The Daily Item endorsed him on Saturday:
However, since gaining office two years ago, Congressman Chris Carney has faithfully represented the traditional values embodied by 10th District voters, and for that, The Daily Item is endorsing Carney in his bid for re-election.
The Times Leader followed suite:
CHRIS CARNEY, who has a background in counter-terrorism work, displays a command of many of the most important issues facing the nation.

That knowledge, combined with Carney’s knack for voting independently rather than solely along party lines, makes him the better choice to serve the people of the 10th U.S. Congressional District, which encompasses much of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Wyoming County and Luzerne County’s Back Mountain area.
For their endorsement in the 11th District, the Times Leader went with Lou Barletta over Paul Kanjorski:
SEND LOU Barletta to Washington, D.C.

Although some people try to pigeonhole Barletta as a single-issue candidate, the Hazleton mayor who gained nationwide attention for his city’s attempted crackdown on illegal immigrants offers fresh ideas on a host of issues.

Another DCCC Spot Against Hackett

The DCCC had produced yet another ad highlighting the nine tax liens against Chris Hackett's business.

New Poll

A new poll out from the Lycoming College Polling Institute shows Chris Carney with a 15-point lead in his 10th District reelection bid.

The poll, which sampled 441 likely voters, was taken last week between October 19th and 23rd.

This new data slightly increases Carney and Hackett's polling percentages in the Local Values Average while decreasing the undecided category. The overall margin-of-victory for Carney is still hovering around 14%.

If I were involved in the Hackett campaign, what would be most concerning about these polling numbers is not the overall lead that Carney holds, but the fact that poll after poll has shown Chris Hackett's unfavorables to be higher than his favorables. This is the third poll in a row which has highlighted that trend.

That's not a good sign, and it signals that voters aren't responding to his campaign's message. I'd speculate that the DCCC and Carney ads have played a role in this as these spots have all explicitly questioned Hackett's character by attempting to expose him as a walking contradiction. They have essentially hit him with everything but the kitchen sink: his energy proposals and the
personal investments he holds, his tough talk on illegal immigration while hiring an illegal immigrant as a personal housekeeper, and his personal tax problems and "radical" tax proposals. Add in a bitter primary with Dan Meuser and you can see the issues with Hackett that are likely resonating with voters. I know Hackett has spent a lot of his campaign's time trying to paint Carney as a liberal out of touch with the distict, but he may not have done enough to address these concerns.

Hackett does have the opportunity to change the game slightly with his debate performance Thursday night, but with only a week left in the campaign these numbers don't bode well for the campaign.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Paper Endorsement

The Times-Tribune officially endorsed Chris Carney today citing his background and ability to properly represent the district:
Mr. Carney has a particularly good background to serve in Congress. A former Penn State political science professor, he also is an active lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve. Yet his election to Congress two years ago might well have had more to do with political serendipity — a personal scandal that crippled the candidacy of Republican incumbent Don Sherwood.

Mr. Carney has not wasted his opportunity while in office. He has honored the fundamental conservative social viewpoint that predominates in the vast district while ensuring that the region remains in play for federal development funding, defense contracts and so on. And, even though he is a freshman, he has held a seat on the powerful House Homeland Security Committee, where he has been able to employ his experience in military intelligence.


Both candidates are capable, but Mr. Carney’s record favors his re-election.

Hackett and Specter

Arlen Specter makes a special appearance in Chris Hackett's new campaign ad. The ad argues the importance of electing Hackett to avoid a one-party hegemony. In the ad Specter states, "With Chris Hackett, we'll have a check against massive Democratic control and that's vital to our country."

This is a similar argument that the McCain campaign has been making in hopes that voters will elect him so he can provide a counterbalance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rock Solid

New Carney ad out touting his leadership in Washington and independent credentials. Looks like the campaign wanted to add a 'feel good' spot to the repertoire before Election Day.

Chris Carney: "Rock Solid"

Of course, the reference to Carney being "effective" in the ad sources a December 12, 2007 USA Today article.

In that article, the paper makes note of Carney
being effective only in terms of his ability to secure pork. He was highlighted since he got the most earmarks of any freshman representative:
Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa., who won in a heavily Republican district, secured the most money among the freshmen members. He was sole sponsor on 21 earmarks worth $18.2 million. That ranked him 48th among the 426 House members who requested earmarks.

Double Invitation

The Sun Gazette decided to invited Chris Carney twice to their candidates' forum since he has been reluctant to accept event and debate invitations:
Candidates invited to the event are: Republican Dave Huffman and Democrat Rick Mirabito, 83rd state House; Republican E. Eugene Yaw, Democrat Louis "Trey" Casimir and Independent Michael Dincher, 23rd state Senate; U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimick, and Republican Chris Carney, 10th Congress; and Democrat Mark McCracken, Republican Glenn Thompson and Libertarian James Fryman.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Party Ads

The political parties are up with new ads in the 11th District.

The two ads have one common theme: they both focus on Paul Kanjorski.

NRCC's "Kick Out Kanjorski":

DCCC's "Paul Kanjorski Measures Up For Pennsylvania Families"

In The 11th

Lou Barletta one of four featured candidates in Ken Rudin's "Political Junkie" column over on NPR:
Now on to Pennsylvania. Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, is one of the few Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents who are given a shot on Nov. 4. There are several factors that give Barletta hope. The incumbent, Paul Kanjorski, has been under fire for his role in obtaining millions of dollars in federal grants for a company owned by his relatives, a role that was investigated by the FBI. This issue has been around for years, and in fact, it was one of the things Barletta used when he ran against Kanjorski six years ago.

He lost by 13 points, but it was the 71-year-old incumbent's closest race since he was first elected in 1984. Another issue is Kanjorski's role as the second-ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and his vote for the unpopular $700 billion bailout/rescue bill of Wall Street. Barletta has been hitting the issue hard.

Barletta is also a nationally known crusader against illegal immigration, a position that has made him extremely popular in Hazleton. A Republican, Barletta also had the nomination of the Democratic Party when he was re-elected in 2007. Two years ago, Hazleton became the first town in the country to ban employers from hiring illegal immigrants, though that ordinance was overturned by a federal judge. An appeals court hearing is expected at the end of the month.
Also, the Pindell Report is now ready to say the race "Leans Republican". James Pindell's decision to move the race to the GOP side of the board has been influenced by Kanjorski losing control of his image and the failure of money in the race to impact polling numbers.

End Of The Hackett Drought

Chris Hackett's campaign, after not having updated their website in almost a month, is back on the scene.

Yesterday, the campaign posted its ad which responds to Chris Carney's "despicable" tactics. This is an ad which the campaign has been airing on television.

Also, the campaign website was updated to make note of the honor Hackett received from the 60 Plus Association. The Association, led by spokesman Pat Boone, presented Hackett with the Honorary Guardian of Seniors’ Rights award:

The 60 Plus Association’s Guardian Award is presented to Democrats and Republicans in Congress based on their “senior friendly” voting records. The Honorary Award is given to those running for office and is based on their views on seniors’ issues.

Boone cited Hackett’s support for repealing the 1993 tax imposed by President Clinton on Social Security benefits, as well as Hackett’s support to repeal the ‘Death Tax’ which hurts small businesses and farmers across Pennsylvania and the country. “Chris Hackett, running for the U.S. House of Representatives for Pennsylvania’s 10th District, knows a bad tax when he sees one,” said Boone, “and the Death Tax is as bad as they come!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

DCCC Gets In On The Action

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has decided to also hit Hackett on the Fair Tax issue.

Not only does the ad make note of this support, but it also goes after Hackett's personal tax trouble again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dust Up Over Flier

The Carney campaign released a flier highlighting Chris Hackett's alleged support of the Fair Tax.

The flier sparked some controversy between the two campaigns because Chris Hackett claims he has never has endorsed such a tax.

The source in question is an article from the Williamsport Sun Gazette which stated that Hackett supported a sales tax replacing income taxes. The Carney campaign upped the ante by interpreting the context to mean Hackett endorsed the Fair Tax.

A similar logic is displayed on the Carney campaign website:

Chris Hackett wants a 23% sales tax on everything you buy:

Chris Hackett told the Williamsport Sun Gazette (8/21/07) that he “favors a national sales tax to replace various other taxes that are levied against Americans.”

According to the New York Sun (ScareTax, not FairTax, 12/17/07), the FairTax does away with the income tax, corporate taxes, estate taxes and just about any other federal levy. Under the FairTax, Washington would apply a single national sales tax on purchases, whether a DVD player, or a new house. FairTax advocates tout the plan with a 23% rate….which is "inclusive," meaning that for every dollar you pay, 23 cents is tax. That translates to a 30% tax on a 77-cent expenditure—or raising gas taxes by $1 a gallon
From the Citizen's Voice:
In interviews with The Citizens’ Voice in the past several months, Hackett said he is open to ideas like a national sales tax replacing other taxes, but he has stopped short of ever endorsing those plans. Instead, Hackett has called for a flat tax and reducing of the size of the federal tax code. A flat tax would have a single tax rate for everyone regardless of income. Proponents of a flat tax plan say it would simplify the tax code and help reduce tax costs overall.
Another interesting discussion we are likely to see in the debate between the two candidates. 10 days until the showdown.


The National Republican Congressional Committee released a new wed ad hitting Kanjorski on his flip flopping.

Interesting selection of music...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hackett's Website

As a general observation, it would seem to me that the final 30 days in an election are the most important for a competitive campaign. Why then, after being so active earlier on, has the Hackett campaign's website remained so stagnant during the past month? It seems they haven't updated their news section since the end of September.

Any ideas?

No Forum

Paul Kanjorski backed out of a forum yesterday with Lou Barletta which has caused some speculation into the reason(s) behind Kanjorski bailing at the last minute.

The two primary reasons being mentioned:
  1. Kanjorski didn't like the combative release Barletta put our earlier in the day
  2. Kanjorski was upset that the NAACP flier did not include him
In regards to reason #2, apparently the Monroe County NAACP was one of the sponsors of the forum between Barletta and Kanjorski and put out a flier featuring Barletta's picture with no Kanjorski image. However, the NAACP claims that Kanjorski was never firmly committed to the event and added his image to a second flier after he agreed. Then on Wednesday, Kanjorski changed his mind again leaving the forum without its billed speaker.

The Kanjorski campaign
acknowledged that the flier was problematic, yet the Congressman made every attempt possible to attend the event. The campaign claims that his prior committment speaking to Obama volunteers didn't allow him to attend.

The Barletta campaign issued a stinging press release after Kanjorski backed out:
"What's the difference between Paul Kanjorski and the Cowardly Lion? Answer: the Cowardly Lion didn't funnel 10 million taxpayer dollars to his family's business.

"This is just another example of Paul Kanjorski's disrespect for the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. He takes the voters for granted and worse yet he takes their money for his cars and his gas, and to fund his family's bankrupt business. The congressman's actions speak for themselves."
Whichever side you choose to believe, pulling out 10 minutes before a scheduled event is never a good thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Third Quarter Fundraising

The third quarter (July 1-September 30) campaign finance data is now available from the FEC.

In the 10th District, Chris Carney raised $381,151 during those three months. Over that same period, Carney spent $950,049 and ended the quarter with $581,198.

Chris Hackett raised slightly less with $351,561 while spending $591,520 and ending with $330,673 cash on hand.

In the 11th District, Paul Kanjorski spent $1.375 million for the quarter, raised $505,000, and ended with $1.35 million in cash on hand.

Barletta spent close to $480,000, raised $409,000, and ended with $250,000 on hand.

In independent expenditures, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made the two seats a priority as they've spent $711,000 on Carney's seat and $857,000 for Kanjorski's seat. Both of which are in the Top 25 seat allocations for the Committee.

Some substantial cash disadvantages for the GOP challengers in these districts coming down the stretch.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Breaking news from the Times Leader:
The agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Scranton said allegations that someone yelled “kill him” when presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s name was mentioned during Tuesday’s Sarah Palin rally are unfounded.

The Scranton Times-Tribune first reported the alleged incident on its Web site Tuesday and then again in its print edition Wednesday. The first story, written by reporter David Singleton, appeared with allegations that while congressional candidate Chris Hackett was addressing the crowd and mentioned Oabama’s name a man in the audience shouted “kill him."


Agent Bill Slavoski said he was in the audience, along with an undisclosed number of additional secret service agents and other law enforcement officers and not one heard the comment.

Clarification From Carney Interview

In his interview with Congressman Chris Carney, Gort managed to work in a question regarding the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and pay-as-you-go (paygo) budgeting rules:

Our friend Local Values has a question on the pay go rules. The AMT patch actually violated the pay go rule and even Steny Hoyer voted against it but you voted for it. Any comment.

The pay go rule? Which one, what time? It was also part of the sweetener package in the last bailout. It did comply with pay go because they did identify the pay for in the next budget. The pay for was identified in the first one but was not identified in the bailout bill which is one of the reasons I voted against it. Values guy is wrong.

He’ll be glad to hear it.

First and foremost, I'm very thankful that Gort was able to plug one my questions into the conversation. I will likely never have the opportunity to interview these candidates so I appreciate Gort considering such a question. Second, I am grateful that the Congressman legitimately attempted to answer the question. He provided a substantive response which is very admirable in his tough reelection campaign.

However, it is important to clarify that "Values guy" is not wrong.

I will give the Congressman the benefit of the doubt that he misunderstood the statement, yet I stand by the content in my original question because everything was factually accurate.

The question that is in question:

2) As a Blue Dog Democrat, you have stated your commitment to pay-as-you-go (paygo) budgeting rules and their importance in reaching a balanced budget. However, your votes have not always reflected this as a priority. For instance, last December you voted for an un-offset Alternative Minimum Tax (H.R. 3996). This decision was a violation of paygo rules and was estimated by the CBO to cost $50 billion in 2008. Others, like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of the Blue Dogs, refused to accept an unpaid for offset and voted against the bill. We all know that an AMT patch is an important priority for middle class taxpayers, but with deficits expected to reach record levels, what assurances can you make regarding your commitment to fiscal responsibility and the weight it will receive in your decision making?

Again, in fairness to Chris Carney, I believe he was referring to the AMT patch for the upcoming year that was just passed as an add-on to the bailout bill and not to his vote from last December as the question indicates. His vote from last December was in fact a vote in favor of waiving pay-as-you-go budget rules.

For those unfamiliar, paygo rules are budget neutral and were implemented to prevent the nation's fiscal condition from getting worse. In fact, they were instrumental in the early '90s as Congress traveled the difficult path to reach budget surpluses. The rules require that any change in taxes be offset with either spending cuts or increased taxes elsewhere. Since Congress continues to enact AMT patches on an annual basis to prevent the middle-class from getting hit, the patches are subject to paygo rules and are expected to be offset.

Last year, the House successfully passed two versions of the AMT with offsets. However, in the Senate it was amended and stripped of the offsets. This was a violation (or waiving) of paygo rules.

Before the Senate amended the legislation, Congressman Carney stated in a press release:
"I came to Congress with a goal of providing middle class tax relief. I was proud to vote for this fiscally responsible legislation to provide middle income families relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax. This legislation adheres to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) standard of fiscal discipline, I am a firm believer that Congress must not continue to pass more debt onto our grandchildren"
However, the bill was without revenue-raising offsets after the actions in the Senate. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer highlighted this on December 18, 2007 after the events played out in the Senate:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released the following statement tonight after Senate Republicans blocked for a second time a fiscally responsible patch of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Senate Democrats again supported the House-passed fiscally responsible AMT bill: ...

"House and Senate Democrats have tried twice this year to enact responsible legislation that would protect 23 million Americans from the AMT while not adding to the deficit by closing unfair tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans. Republicans in the Senate blocked each bill, while the President bolstered their fiscal irresponsibility by threatening vetoes."

When the bill came back to the House after it was amended in the Senate, Hoyer voted against the un-offset bill to prove a point. Carney, on the other hand, did not. Both are members of the Blue Dog Coalition, yet Hoyer believed it was more important to do the fiscally responsible thing while Carney placed a greater emphasis on passing an AMT patch before Congress adjourned.

From a CNN story recapping the vote:

The House on Wednesday voted in favor (352-64) of a one-year AMT "patch" that the Senate had already approved earlier this's the first time House Democrats gave the nod to a "clean" bill, meaning it has no provisions to pay for the patch's estimated $53 billion price tag.

In no way was the original question meant to be a "gotcha" moment. Rather, something I believe that voters should seriously consider when casting their ballot in November. In a situation like last December, we should know how much emphasis the Congressman will put on fiscal responsibility. It is easy to support doing the right thing in the abstract, but difficult situations will arise when two conflicting priorities collide. That is the nature of Congress. In this case, it was an extension of the AMT patch (which everyone acknowledges to be a necessity) and a $50 billion unfunded liability. As I tried to point out in the original question, how much emphasis will fiscal responsibility receive when you cast your vote.

I felt it was important to make this clarification for the readers of this blog in order to defend its integrity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kanjorski Center Likely Leased

On Monday night, the Luzerne County Community College Board voted to accept a contract which would effectively allow them to lease the Kanjorski Center in Nanticoke.

The proposed seven-year contact, which could be finalized in 10 days, would pay the Nanticoke Housing Authority close to $300,000 a year in addition to utility expenses.
The Luzerne County Community College plans to use the facility to expand their health services department.

Of course, the Nanticoke Municipal Authority still must agree to finalize the deal, but they are expected to meet later this week to tackle the subject.

Precept Associates of Hanover Township--which was awarded a controversial no-bid contract that was not reviewed by the LCCC solicitor -- will head up renovations on the Kanjorski Center.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't Forget Paul

While yesterday's event in Scranton with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden was focused on Barack Obama's presidential bid, local races managed to weave their way into the discourse.

During his portion of the presentation, former President Clinton highlighted Paul Kanjorski's tough race with Lou Barletta.

From the Times Leader:

President Clinton found time to ask the crowd to support U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, who is facing a challenge from Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta in the 11th Congressional District.

“Folks, Paul Kanjorski’s got a tough race,” he said. “He’s got a tough race because some people in his district believe that illegal immigration is a bigger cause of their economic problems than President Bush’s economic policies. I got news for them and I’ve got news for you – you need to help him get re-elected.”


Running list of endorsements garnered by candidates in the 10th:
Chris Carney: National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; International Association of Fire Fighters; National Farmers Union PAC; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Pennsylvania Narcotics Officers Association; Service Employees International Union Pennsylvania State Council; Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter; United Mine Workers of America; Action Committee for Rural Electrification; The Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees; sheriffs in Lackawanna, Northumberland, Columbia and Montour counties; and Montour County Commissioner Jack Gerst.

Chris Hackett: Club for Growth; US Chamber of Commerce; Business and Industry PAC; Eagle Forum PA; Concerned Women for America; National Right to Life Committee PAC; Gun Owners of America; Council for Citizens Against Government Waste PAC.

Notably absent from that list of endorsements is the NRA, which in the 10th District is pretty substantial. The NRA rates Carney with a "B" and Hackett with an "A". However, the NRA notes that even though Hackett receives the higher grade his only criteria for the grade comes from a survey he filled out before the election.

Although the NRA has not officially endorsed a candidate, it has contributed to Carney's reelection PAC which his campaign has interpreted to mean they are officially supporting him.

From the "Hack Fact Check" portion of his website:

The National Rifle Association supports Carney:

The National Rifle Association PAC is supporting only one candidate in the PA-10 race: Chris Carney. The NRA PAC donated $1,000 to Carney’s re-election (


Most recent DCCC ad in the 10th hammers Hackett's personal investments in big oil.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Notes

-PolitickerMD notes a stop in the 10th District next week from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Hoyer, a fellow Blue Dog Democrat, aims to help Chris Carney's reelection bid.

-During an event at the National Press Club with DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen, Republican strategist and retiring Rep. Tom Davis explictly stated the 11th District as a toss-up election the GOP is banking on to break their way.

Poll Part II

The DCCC released its second poll showing Paul Kanjorski ahead of Lou Barletta by 8 points. This poll had Kanjorski polling at 47% and Barletta at 39%.

Of course, this directly contradicts Lou Barletta's new poll this week.

From PolitickerPA:

But once again, the DCCC released almost no details about the poll, making any assessment of its veracity difficult.

In both cases, the DCCC polls were released after surveys showed Kanjorski trailing Barletta. In September, a Franklin & Marshall College poll had Kanjorski trailing Barletta by nine points, prompting release of a DCCC poll claiming a Kanjorski lead of the same margin.

This week, the DCCC poll came on the heels of an internal Barletta poll showing Kanjorski trailing by 8 points.

Funny polling on the part of the DCCC? All sounds like a lame attempt by Kanjorski to rebut every poll by Barletta, but you be the judge.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Tax Twins

Freedom's Watch goes after Chris Carney and Paul Kanjorski with a new web ad calling them the "taxing twins."

"The economy in turmoil, jobs lost, 401(k)s down, but it would be much worse if Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney had their way. They've been like taxing twins. Both supported big tax increases two years in a row. One would be the largest in our history. Higher taxes on married couples, people with children, retirement savings, even the death tax. Tell Kanjorski and Carney that higher taxes are not the answer, especially now."

10th District Poll

The most recent poll surveying the congressional race in the 10th District shows Chris Carney ahead of Chris Hackett by 14 points.

F&M College/Times-Shamrock (Sept. 30 – Oct 5)
Sample Size = 713
Carney – 39%
Hackett – 25%
Undecided – 36%
*Margin of Error - 3.6%

Problably the most interesting feature of that survey is the undecided group. The fact that undecided voters almost polled higher than Carney did says a lot about the race.

Terry Madonna, who directed the F&M poll, noted that several factors appear to be contributing to the large undecided portion. While Carney being a freshman contributes to some uncertainty about his record, the Republican base seems to be unsure about Hackett (likely due to the divisive primary) and reluctant to decide. Said Madonna, "
If these numbers showed Hackett with 80 percent support among Republicans, this thing would be over. That’s not what we’re seeing … He seems to have a problem with his base."

In fact, the poll shows that Hackett is only receiving 43% support from the Republican party with 39% undecided and 17% going to Carney.

The top three issues reflected in the poll were the economy, government & politicians, and taxes. Of those three issues, Hackett only pulled ahead of Carney on taxes with Carney dominating Hackett on the most important issue (the economy).

Mark Harris, Hackett's campaign manager, deflected the poll's results by revealing Hackett's internal polls portray a much closer race. Of course, I recall Dan Meuser touting internal polls which placed him ahead of Hackett right before election day.

However, National Journal's Tim Sahd agreed with Harris: "This is one that is just going to break late. If this is going to break for Republicans, it is going to break because of national politics … not because Carney has made a mistake or Hackett has identified a weakness in Carney. This is going to be a late bloomer."

[SIDE NOTE: I tend to enjoy polls and following them so I created a new poll tracking feature on the right sidebar. Suggestions welcome.]

Chris Taxitt

In case you had no clue that Chris Hackett avoided paying his taxes, Chris Carney's new ad seeks to remind you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Barletta Poll

Lou Barletta released another internal poll showing him ahead of Paul Kanjorski.

Oct. 2, 2008 (400 likely voters)
-Barletta -- 47%
-Kanjorski -- 39%
-Undecided -- 13%
*Margin of Error -- 4.9%

Ed Mitchell responded by saying, "While Lou Barletta viciously and personally attacks Paul Kanjorski, the congressman has been doing his job and trying to fix the economy – an economy that is the way it is because Barletta worked twice to elect George Bush and still supports his disastrous policies that have led to today’s economic meltdown. A vote for Barletta is a vote for continuing these bankrupt Bush policies: tax cuts for the wealthy, outsourcing our jobs overseas and no tax on the windfall profits of oil companies."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Questions For Carney

Gort will be sitting down for an interview with Chris Carney this Thursday, and since he asked for questions, I feel obligated to give him some.

In no particular order:

1) You have accused your opponent Chris Hackett of "scaring" seniors when he discussed reforming Social Security. However, according to the most recent Trustees report, Social Security will begin to run cash deficits within the next ten years. You have openly affirmed your commitment to continuing the promised level of benefits for Social Security; I have interpreted this to mean you refuse to look at recalculating benefits (i.e. price indexing as opposed to wage indexing). If you are opposed to adjusting Social Security benefits, then what do you propose on the tax side that would produce actuarial solvency over the next 75 years?

2) As a Blue Dog Democrat, you have stated your commitment to pay-as-you-go (paygo) budgeting rules and their importance in reaching a balanced budget. However, your votes have not always reflected this as a priority. For instance, last December you voted for an un-offset Alternative Minimum Tax (H.R. 3996). This decision was a violation of paygo rules and was estimated by the CBO to cost $50 billion in 2008. Others, like Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of the Blue Dogs, refused to accept an unpaid for offset and voted against the bill. We all know that an AMT patch is an important priority for middle class taxpayers, but with deficits expected to reach record levels, what assurances can you make regarding your commitment to fiscal responsibility and the weight it will receive in your decision making?

3) In your 2006 debate, you criticized Don Sherwood on the issue of Iraq by arguing that Congress should not be the "legislative arm" of the executive and rubber stamp funding. Yet, once you got to Congress you have stated that you are proud to fund the war without preconditions. Is it possible to reconcile these two statements?

4) With 1 in 150 children developing autism in this county, you made it a priority in your freshman term to address this worthy initiative by joining the Coalition for Autism Research and Education and the Congressional Autism Caucus. While the CDC and others in the scientific community have established that there is no causation between vaccines and autism, you appear to remain open to a possible link. Can you clarify your position on the autism--specifically as it relates to vaccines?

5) When you voted for the farm bill this spring, you qualified your support by stating "family farming is not a partisan issue." Yet, 10% of the farms receiving agricultural support from the federal government account for 75% of the money. You have noted the importance of bringing federal money back to invest in the district, and with over 50,000 farms in the district, agriculture is an important issue. Do you support reforming agricultural subsidies, or at least readjusting them so that more "family farms" in the district get a better proportion?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hackett Debates Carney Substitute

While Carney may be avoiding debate opportunities with Chris Hackett, Daniel Roberts is not.

On Sunday, Hackett was taking prepared questions from a moderator at the Temple Ohev Shalom in Williamsport. Carney could not make the event because he had a scheduling conflict. However, Democratic chairman Jessie Bloom noted that recent high-school graduate Daniel Roberts--a field coordinator in Lycoming and Union county--was in attendance and representing Carney. While Roberts did not technically "stand-in" for Carney, he attempted to clarify Hackett's claims as they pertain to Carney's record.


Chris Carney's new ad "Threat." After highlighting Chris Hackett's immigration problem in a recent ad, Carney's new ad aims to reinforce his credentials on the topic.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Carney's Poll

Another Momentum Analysis poll out of the Carney campaign shows the incumbent with a hefty lead.

The new poll, which sampled 400 likely voters, reflects a 14% advantage for Chris Carney.

Momentum Analysis (Sept 29-Oct 1)
Carney - 50% (Favorable 51% vs. Unfavorable 24%)
Hackett - 36% (Favorable 31% vs. Unfavorable 34%)
*Margin of Error -- 4.9%

Last month's Momentum Analysis poll showed Carney with a 27% advantage. However, much of this has dissapated and Hackett has essentially cut Carney's lead in half over the course of a month.

Bringing The Wood

New Chris Carney ad on Hackett's immigration problem.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Social Security Issue

It appears the issue of Social Security has reared its ugly head again in the 10th District race.

Chris Carney used the recent downturn in the stock market as a way to highlight the risk involved with Chris Hackett's private accounts:
"My opponent, for example, wanted to base Social Security in the stock market. What a disastrous plan that would be," Carney said. "To privatize Social Security on top of something like this would just be ruinous. I think plans of privatization, especially based on the stock market, have been disproven now."
Hackett was forced to clarify his position and noted that he would not change benefit calculations for those close to retirement. Instead, he would phase in a private account system for young workers. Hackett further distanced himself by stating, "I think it's pretty clear that he's trying to misrepresent my position. It's a scare tactic, which is pretty typical of a guy like Chris Carney."

Connecting Hackett to drastic Social Security reform is something Carney has been trying to do from the beginning. It was one of the first policy points Carney issued against Hackett and continues to do with the Club For Growth references.

One thing that I'm not clear on about Hackett's plan involves carve-out or add-on accounts. The carve-out account approach is more what the Club For Growth lobbyies for which would replace existing benefits. Whereas an optional add-on account would be used to supplement benefits. Of course, the add-on approach would function as an additional tax which I'm sure is not a big selling point to Hackett. Carney sounds more like an add-on guy by stating he would support an opportunity for investment but not a change in the benefit system.

Questions Anyone?

I have a great appreciation for the Wayne Independent. They probably realize there is not going to be another debate between Carney and Hackett, but they are going about business like the event is official.

For weeks, Steve Fountain been trying to get Chris Carney to agree to a second debate. Even though Carney has not officially responded to the invitation, the paper is now accepting questions to be asked at the debate:
Questions can be submitted to Wayne Independent Publisher Steve Fountain by fax at (570) 251-9910; by e-mail at; or dropped off at the Wayne Independent office, 220 8th St., Honesdale. Questions may also be submitted at the event.
If Carney doesn't show, the event will simply be two 45-minute "Q&A" sessions with Chris Hackett who has agreed to attend. In the first 45-minute session, Hackett will take prepared questions from the moderator. Following a short break, Hackett will return for another session and take questions submitted from readers and audience members.

An hour and a half alone on stage might make for a long night.

Still Opposes

Chris Hackett said he still opposes the financial rescue measure which will likely come before the House tomorrow.

Even though new additions were put into the Senate bill--including another annual patch for the AMT, extension of popular tax deductions, and tax breaks for victims of natural disasters--Hackett stated he would still vote against the measure.

In a written statement, Hackett declared: "The new bailout bill is in some ways worse than the first one. They added a bunch of special interest spending to entice more politicians to support it. But the bottom line is this still puts taxpayers at massive risk and doesn't fix the underlying cause of the crisis."

The Bailout Effect

Politico has an article up today entitled "The Risks of Being A Yes Man," in reference to some members in competitive seats voting in the affirmative for the bailout.

One of the eight men on their list is Paul Kanjorski:
Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.)

Kanjorski is in perhaps his toughest race since winning his seat in 1984, troubled by what Real Clear Politics called “ethics issues, questionable earmarks and an unremarkable record.”

And no matter what he did, he stood to lose, at least in political terms. As chairman of the House subcommittee on capital markets — and one who had taken a lead role in negotiating the proposed Wall Street bailout — Kanjor­ski couldn’t exactly vote no without risking widespread derision.

But by voting yes, he exposed himself to criticism from his Republican opponent, Hazleton, Pa., Mayor Lou Barletta, who indicated Monday that he would not have voted for the rescue bill.

The one saving grace for Kanjorski may be Barletta’s seemingly contradictory approach to the bailout issue. On Sept. 25, Barletta appeared to support a bailout in comments to a Scranton Times-Tribune reporter.

“At least we know where Congressman Kanjorski stands,” said Kanjorski campaign spokesman Ed Mitchell. “We never know where Mr. Barletta stands; he plays to the crowd.”