The Southern Environmental Law Center recently released its Top 10 Endangered Places of 2012. Virginia has four of the top 10, a testament to both Virginia's immense natural beauty and our Republican-controlled government's disinterest in preserving it.
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Things have been breaking well for President Obama. Economically, job growth has outperformed expectations. The unemployment rate could be below 8 percent by Election Day. Politically, Republicans are engaged in the sort of demolition derby once reserved for Democrats. The protracted Hillary-Barack duel of 2008 seems like a love feast compared to the Mitt and Rick slugfest. All this is reflected in the president?s rising approval ratings.
However, Obama faces a daunting two-part challenge related to Iran?s nuclear assertions, with implications for both national security and sustainable energy. A misstep could cost him the presidency and cause the country to take a disastrously wrong turn in these two critical areas.
Iran?s threat to mine the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world?s crude oil passes, is roiling oil markets. Five--dollar gas this summer will help neither the economy nor the president?s re-election.
Obama has used the gathering Iranian crisis to redouble calls for energy independence. But self-sufficiency does not necessarily mean clean energy. Politically, the easier path is to double down on environmentally hazardous natural--gas fracking and ?clean coal,? an aspirational category that doesn?t yet exist. Speaking in late February, Obama chided the Republicans for an energy policy based entirely on oil drilling but called for ?an all-of-the-above strategy that expands production of American energy resources,? including ?oil and gas, but also wind, and solar, and nuclear, and biofuels, and more.?
Oil, coal, and gas of course produce carbon. Unless these domestic carbon sources are limited to transitional use, energy self-reliance will only accelerate global climate change. The administration?s efforts to promote energy that is both domestic and clean have been modest. The U.S. lags in incentives for electric vehicles and measures to shift electric -utilities to renewables. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, addressed in this issue?s special report, would accelerate China?s dominance in solar and wind energy. Using the Iranian threat to truly recommit America to clean energy will require major shifts in strategic thinking and public education.
The more urgent concern is the national-security challenge. Iranian and Western leaders have been engaged in brinksmanship reminiscent of the Cold War. As our cover story suggests, the best strategy is a variant of the one that allowed the West to prevail in that ?long twilight struggle? with the Soviet Union?containment. At first, the policy was hugely controversial. Richard Nixon in 1952 described Democrat Adlai Stevenson as having a ?Ph.D. from Dean Acheson?s cowardly college of communist containment.? Today?s Republican field is competing to offer the most outlandishly bellicose rhetoric on Iran and to bait Obama as soft on Islamists. The president needs to face down the right?s mockery with an Iran policy of strategic diplomacy backed by sanctions rather than war.
Iran, if anything, poses an even trickier challenge than Soviet containment. The Soviets usually had one dictator at a time for us to negotiate with. It?s not always clear who is running Iran. The nuclear standoff of the Cold War had only two major players; after the Cuban missile crisis, the choreography of mutually assured destruction settled down to a familiar, almost reassuring bipolar stalemate. Iranian geopolitics faces the further complication of ?America?s most loyal ally,? a reckless Israeli government spoiling to launch a preemptive strike.
Obama will need not only a policy of patient restraint vis-à-vis our enemy Iran but an equally firm policy to restrain our friend Israel. Here, too, he faces mischief from the Republican right, which is more slavishly pro-Israel than the Israel lobby.
Obama has been an effective foreign-policy president. His fate is to govern when the most pressing issues are economic. Unjustly, his foreign-policy successes have not gained him notable support, but foreign-policy failure would produce severe setbacks. If an oil shock derails the recovery, that failure would also have grave economic consequences with knock-on political effects.
For both energy and national security, what?s needed is more of the Barack Obama we glimpsed in 2008?the political leader as teacher. Obama has played this role better as a candidate than as chief executive. Happily, President Obama is again a candidate. On both energy and national -security, Iran offers a politically tempting low road and a more arduous but ultimately rewarding high road. To make the high road good politics will take rare leadership to educate public opinion and isolate the ultras.
Last spring, as the Texas Legislature debated massive cuts to public schools?one of many desperate measures to close a $27 billion biennial budget deficit?10,000 protesters massed in Austin for a ?Save Our Schools? rally. In the end, the damage to the state?s already-underfunded schools added up to $5.4 billion, forcing districts to lay off tens of thousands of teachers and staffers. In the city of Austin, public schools with rapidly growing enrollment found themselves facing a 5.5 percent cut in the 2011?2012 school year and 8.5 percent the next year. The quandary was far from extraordinary?37 states spent less on education in 2011 compared to 2010. Neither was one of the Austin schools? solutions: seeking grant money from the world?s largest philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
One of Gates?s latest education projects is called the District-Charter Collaboration Compact. When school districts sign a pledge to collaborate and share resources with local charter schools, Gates awards the districts?14 so far?$100,000. These districts also get a shot at another $40 million worth of grants. Last fall, the Austin school board signed such a pledge with local charters. The agreement, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said, would make Austin eligible for grants ?from people and places that otherwise would not have given us the time of day.? A month later, the city again became a venue for protests?smaller, but equally vociferous?arguing against a new partnership. Austin already had 25 charter schools, but all operated independently of the district. Now the board wanted to take collaboration to the next level, letting a private charter-school operator take over an elementary school and a high school as ?in--district charters.? While some argued that the charter schools could serve students whose needs weren?t being met in traditional schools, many parents and teachers (as well as three board members) worried that the charters would take good students out of traditional schools and questioned the track record of the charters. When the board debated the in-district charters in December, protesters chanted outside; inside the packed hearing room, arguments for the charter arrangement were hissed and booed. The board still voted yes.
It?s a story being repeated across the country. With most states cutting school funding, Gates and other private foundations are wielding outsize influence over public education, using their much-sought-after millions to fund and shape a top-down reform agenda. Like the other major (but smaller) players, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, Gates uses its funds to encourage public schools to adopt a more corporate approach. The three foundations, which in 2009 gave around $560 million in education-related grants, support creating charters to foster competition between local schools, rewarding or punishing teachers for their students? performance on standardized tests, and replacing local curricula with national standards.
?The danger is that philanthropic investments will drive education policy to a greater degree than might be healthy or democratic,? says Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which recently commissioned a study on how philanthropies can be more effective in improving public schools.
Gates and Walton have invested heavily in charter schools?and in advocacy groups that push state lawmakers to remove limits on the number of charters. ?Before you can fund the charter school, you have to fund an advocacy organization that can create a climate for the charter school to exist,? says Debbie Robinson, a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation?s education efforts. The organizations also advocate for school choice?letting parents decide where their children go to school rather than letting zip codes dictate, as supporters of neighborhood schools prefer. They have pushed to make schools run more like businesses; Broad funds two programs that turn business executives into school administrators. And all three foundations encourage performance-based pay for teachers, arguing that this rewards the best.
The foundations? push to base teacher pay on students? test results has put them at odds with teachers? groups. ?No other industry or profession is treated in this kind of disrespectful, simplistic way,? says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. ?Nobody would do this to doctors and say ?if all your patients don?t get well, we?re going to fire you.?? Weingarten has worked with Gates on creating different types of evaluation systems and says its emphasis on testing has softened slightly. But, she notes, more qualitative evaluation systems cost more money than a simple test?another problem in an era of austerity.
It?s easy to see why the money is tempting; since 2009, state budgets, the primary source of education funding, have been ravaged. Compared with the pre-recession funding levels of 2008, 30 states now provide less money to public education, according to an October report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). California spends $1,400 less per student; South Carolina has cut school funding by a whopping 24 percent. As the CBPP report notes, the loss of dollars has led many school districts to abandon locally based attempts at reform. But many are still willing to adopt the policies and approaches promoted by foundations like Gates, Broad, and Walton.
The push for charter schools and standardized curricula and testing comes at a time when more and more experts are questioning their efficacy. ?There?s really an extremely thin evidence base that any of this reform package?increased testing and common core [curricula]?will increase learning,? says Ed Fuller, a Penn State associate professor of education whose research has cast doubts on the highly touted results of charter schools.
The most prominent critic of the foundation-funded reforms, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, was once a leading advocate for them. But in her 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch points out that the foundations have based their push for charter schools on the high-performing ones, which accounted in 2010 for about only 300 of the nation?s 4,600 charters. While charter proponents say that the schools get better results with less money, Ravitch and others note that charters take many of the best students out of neighborhood schools. Ravitch also believes that a teacher?s performance should not be measured solely on the basis of student test scores. She points to great English teachers whose results in the classroom are harder to measure. Ravitch argues that classroom observation and peer review should be a big part of teacher evaluation. Meanwhile, with their reform agenda, she writes, the foundations ?seem determined to privatize public education to the greatest extent possible.?
Critics also point out that relying on foundation money can be an uncertain proposition. The Gates Foundation?s first major school initiative, launched in 2002, was a $2 billion effort to fight high dropout rates by funding small high schools with no more than 400 students. By 2008, the foundation had walked away from the effort, determining that change wasn?t happening fast enough?and leaving school systems like Milwaukee?s, which had opened 42 small schools with Gates money, struggling to keep the relatively expensive schools open. Twenty have closed, and many of those that remain are struggling. ?It was a good thing,? Gates?s Robinson explains, ?but it didn?t produce the types of groundbreaking, earth-shattering outcomes that we might have expected.?
Will Gates?s current agenda produce ?earth-shattering outcomes?? Nobody can say. But the lure of grant money is hard to pass up?even if it means significantly altering the way schools operate.
University of Colorado education professor Kevin Welner, who co-authored the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy study, worries that because a few foundations have a significant amount of money, they?re squeezing out other voices?namely, those of local parents and educators. He compares the situation to Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court case that gave corporations enormous political power by overturning limits on corporate political spending. Welner says education could face a similar threat, in which those with the most money have the most say on policy matters. ?Is there a danger that those with greater [funds] will drown out the voice of those who are less wealthy?? he asks.
Robinson says no. ?We don?t tell people what to do,? she says, pointing out that grantees voluntarily apply to the foundation. She also argues that Gates is not as powerful as some claim, because it gives a small proportion of total education spending. In 2009, Gates put more than $373 million into its education initiatives; total government spending on schools was $850 billion. The purpose of the foundation?s efforts, she says, is to encourage experimentation?charters, partnerships between community colleges and high schools?to see if they deserve to become large-scale reforms. ?Because
our money is so small, we can never ever take the place of what the public sector does,? Robinson says. ?Our model has never been to sustain public education.?
But increasingly, the U.S. Department of Education is sustaining Gates?s priorities. Many of those Arne Duncan hired at the Education Department had worked in education-reform organizations funded by Gates. The department?s own grants program, Race to the Top, offers more than $4.4 billion in grants to states that adopt policies pushed by the foundation?implementing national curriculum standards known as the Common Core, collecting data to track each student?s test performances over time, and providing test-based performance incentives to teachers.
The grant amounts are scaled, with the largest states competing for up to $500 million. While Duncan has spoken out against state budget cuts to education, his initiatives have nonetheless benefitted from desperation for more cash. Given their dire need of funds, many states have adopted the policies that the U.S. Department of Education?and the foundations?have been pushing. For instance, to be more competitive in Race to the Top, Wisconsin passed laws allowing the state to use student test performance for teacher evaluations. Illinois lawmakers raised the state?s cap on the number of charter schools, while Massachusetts made it easier for students to switch from a low--performing traditional school to a charter school.
Gates liked the federal program so well that it offered $250,000 grants to help states complete the laborious application process. Broad also offered financial assistance to applicants.
Some educators worry about the close connections between the foundations and the federal government. ?Everything that comes out of the Department of Ed,? says Fuller, ?is very tightly aligned with Gates, which is aligned with Broad, which is aligned with Walton.? Together, their reform agenda is dictating a new direction for public education?one that is driven more by grand theories than by grassroots realities. ?If there?s one common thread in the history of education reform, it?s that top-down policies do not work,? Fuller says. ?We?re putting all our eggs in one basket. If it works, great. If it doesn?t, our education system is down the toilet.?
(03/12/12) HARRISBURG, Pa. - New television ads you may be seeing in Pennsylvania aim to shed light on the health effects of industrial carbon pollution, especially on children.
Two environmental groups are rolling out a large-scale advertising campaign to bring problems connected to industrial carbon pollution to light. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club say emissions from power plants hurt health, the economy and potentially, the future.
NRDC Senior Scientist Kim Knowlton says the ads take into account growing evidence that warming temperatures are making smog pollution from industrial sources worse, which in turn causes asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses.
"For the people of Pennsylvania, this is a set of issues that really hits home, around air pollution, extreme heat, flooding and the health risks attendant on that."
William Kramer, field organizer for the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign in Pennsylvania, says asthma rates in some communities around Philadelphia are running at 20 percent, even 30 percent in lower-income and African-American neighborhoods.
"We're really talking about a public health cost that industry is not paying, and they need to clean up their act so that other people don't suffer as a result of their dirty business."
Kramer says the goal of the ad campaign is to grab the attention of Pennsylvanians while they're in their chairs, with a message that can spring them into action.
"Make phone calls, write letters, do all the basic stuff with democracy, to make sure that our elected officials work for us and not for the polluters. And we'll accomplish our job."
The groups say they're hopeful for change, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected as early as this week to propose the first-ever safeguards against industrial carbon pollution from new power plants.
Click here to view this story on the Public News Service RSS site and access an audio version of this and other stories: http://www.publicnewsservice.
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Public News Service-PA
(03/12/12) HARRISBURG, Pa. - As Governor Tom Corbett pushes the idea of privatizing health-care services in Pennsylvania prisons, those who work behind bars say it could compromise security, jeopardize public health, and invite more inmate lawsuits.
Frank Smith, a national expert on for-profit prison privatization, says this situation has already played out in many other states, where a private company promises quality management and big savings, and delivers on neither.
"If I were to describe their business model in one word, I'd say it was larcenous; corporations that hire people at the lowest possible rate, high turnover. They have gotten their business through campaign contributions, through bogus research. It's extremely disturbing."
Michele Harker is a registered nurse who works in the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon. She says proper medical treatment keeps inmates from spreading diseases behind bars and to the public after they're released. She adds prisoners are quick to threaten legal action when they don't feel they're getting adequate care.
"If you have somebody coming in there that isn't aware of how this all works, and they're not providing that health care, I think that the amount of lawsuits that we're going to see is going to keep going up and up."
Neal Bisno, president of the labor union SEIU Healthcare PA, predicts hundreds of jobs around the state will be at risk, unless Governor Corbett comes to terms with what Bisno says many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle already realize.
"There really is a very strong, bipartisan consensus that, when it comes to corrections and it comes to security, we can't risk putting those services out to the lowest bidder, and to entities whose fundamental obligation is not the people of Pennsylvania, but to their bottom lines."
One of the biggest players in prison privatization, Corizon Health, says it offers staff expertise, cutting-edge technology and safeguards to optimize performance and accountability. Still, in 2010, the company's contracts weren't renewed in neighboring Delaware or Maryland.
Later this week a state House Majority Policy Committee has a hearing on the issue, spearheaded by Republican state Representative Mike Fleck. He is the sponsor of House Bill 1985, which would ban privatizing nursing services in state prisons.
More information is at www.clearforpa.org
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There are many important issues facing Americans these days; health care, gas prices, employment, the 2012 election, education, wage equality. With so many real and legitimate concerns, it?s surprising that Wyoming has chosen to create legislature planning for the complete economic or political collapse of the U.S. government. House Bill 85 (which local newspapers lovingly [...]Related posts:
White House affirms it will stop funding Texas Medicaid program: “The Obama administration confirmed Friday that it will stop funding a Medicaid family-planning and preventive care program for 130,000 low-income Texas women after the state barred Planned Parenthood and other ‘affiliates of abortion providers’ from participating. The Health and Human Services Department will ‘let Texas know that that waiver will not be extended,’ HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.” [The Hill]
Health care reform hearing to be Roberts’ signature case: “When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. takes his usual center seat on the Supreme Court bench on March 26, he will begin presiding over an extraordinary three days of arguments that will determine the fate of President Obama?s sweeping health care law. [...] It will also shape, if not define, the chief justice?s legacy.” [New York Times]
Advocates call for a fix to ACA’s ‘family glitch’: “More than 100 national and state organizations, including medical groups, are urging the president and lawmakers to fix a glitch in the healthcare reform law that could prevent families from gaining affordable healthcare coverage. Several groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Children’s Hospital Association, pointed out that when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed, it contained a ‘family glitch’ that fails to take into account the cost of providing health insurance for an entire family versus a single employee.” [MedPage Today]
Specter claims Obama abandoned him after ACA’s passage: Former Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) writes in a new book that President Obama ditched him in the 2010 election after he helped Obama win the biggest legislative victory of his term by passing healthcare reform. Specter also claims that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not uphold his promise to grant him seniority accrued over 28 years of service in the Senate as a Republican.” [The Hill]
Defense Department plans new health care agency: Defense officials have asked Congress to approve a new governance structure for the military health care system to help curb runaway medical costs. The centerpiece of the plan is to elevate the TRICARE Management Activity to a more powerful Defense Health Agency (DHA) with new authorities to use the military’s direct care system more efficiently and to manage care purchased through TRICARE support contractors more carefully. [Daily Press]
Women disenchanted with GOP candidates: “In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women ? one of the most important electoral swing groups ? are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.” [New York Times]
Welcome to Justiceline, ThinkProgress Justice?s morning round-up of the latest legal news and developments. Remember to follow us on Twitter at @TPJustice.
Want the scoop on hot races around the country? Get the digest emailed to you each weekday morning. Sign up here.Leading Off:
? CA-25: Pretty clever use of $300, I've gotta say. Democratic podiatrist Lee Rogers, running an uphill battle against GOP veteran Buck McKeon in this challenging district, totally pwned his opponent by putting in the winning bid for a lunch with McKeon at a recent fundraising auction for charity. Rogers now gets to invite three guests; he says he'll bring reporters, though he does not anticipate a "debate." Amusingly, Rogers was actually the only bidder for the meal, which is a pretty funny commentary on McKeon's popularity.
? MA-Sen: So it looks like the agreement between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown to enforce penalties for any outside spending on the race is going to have some teeth to it. An obscure group called CAPE PAC ran a handful of web ads touting Brown, so now Brown has to donate half the value of the ads (presently unknown) to a charity of Warren's choosing. (Warren selected the Autism Consortium.) Given that Brown quickly and proudly announced his commitment to honor his pledge, the cynic in me has to wonder if this wasn't some kind of setup: An organization no one cares about spends what is probably the bare minimum possible, allowing Brown to publicly pat himself on the back both for keeping his word and donating to a worthy charity. This is politics. I could believe it.
? ME-Sen: Given the treatment he's already getting at the hands of national Republicans, it's hard to see independent Angus King keep up the charade that he might caucus with the GOP for a whole lot longer. NRSC chair John Cornyn says that his organization will support the Republican nominee, not King, while DSCC chief Patty Murray and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are decided non-committal. On top of this, the RNC put out a web video that tries to accuse Democrats of "betraying their principles" by holding the door open to possibly supporting King. You could view it as a means of sabotaging King by goading him to display even more "independence" by distancing himself from Democrats, or as an attempt to sow dissent among rank-and-file Maine Dems over the prospect that national party leaders have "forced" the indie King on them.
Either way, Republicans aren't rolling out the welcome mat. And as James Allen ably documents, King's publicly-stated policy preferences lean decided leftward: pro-financial industry regulation, pro-alternative energy, pro-auto bailout. King might fancy himself above party politics, but when it comes time to actually engage in policy-making, he's kidding himself if he thinks he might have a home in the GOP.
? MN-Sen: Republican state Rep. Kurt Bills, who had been flirting with a possible third-party bid for Senate, has decided to get into the race but is sticking with his party label, albeit in a decidedly Paulist vein. He joins a remarkably weak pack of fellow GOPers all praying that Republican Jesus will somehow intervene from up on high and allow them to unseat popular Dem Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
? WI-Sen: Great catch by The Hotline's Sean Sullivan, who digs out a few grafs from an AP piece that shows how Republican rich guy Eric Hovde's Senate campaign rollout turned into a big bag of fail:
In his campaign launch at a manufacturing company north of Madison, Hovde lashed out at the federal stimulus program and bank bailout program known as TARP, saying the government was "addicted to spending."Totally different! Especially on the campaign trail, where nuanced distinctions have ample time to be carefully aired and considered?a state of affairs particularly encouraged by Republicans.
"They were bailed out with our money, our taxpayer money, without any consequences," he said.
But U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records show that Hovde's company invested in at least 33 banks that received $29 billion in TARP money.
When asked about it, Hovde differentiated between owning banks that received federal bailouts and investing in them.
? MT-Gov: State Sen. Larry Jent, just days before filing closes, has decided to drop out of the race for governor, leaving AG Steve Bullock (who had always been the undisputed front-runner) as the only Democratic candidate in the race. Jent's departure could conceivably hurt Bullock on the fundraising front, as candidates for state races in Montana can only raise money for the primary if there actually is a contested primary?but reading between the lines, it sounds like Bullock's people will find a willing Some Dude to stick on the ballot by Monday's deadline.
Relatedly, Bullock tapped Brig. Jen. John Walsh as his running-mate last week. Walsh was the adjutant general of the Montana National Guard, resigning his post a few days earlier so that he could run for office. Sounds like pretty much exactly the profile you want in a state like this.
WA-Gov, WA-01: On Saturday, Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee announced that he would resign from Congress in order to focus on his run for governor, effective March 20. Under Washington state law, because Inslee waited until after March 6 to step down, a special election to replace him will now take place at the same time as the regular November elections, so the fallout from the move will be minimal. But there is a potential quirk regarding the last two months of Inslee's unexpired term; click the link for our full post at Daily Kos Elections that looks at what might happen.
? AL-06: The Campaign for Primary Accountability is actually out with a second ad hammering GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus, which you can watch at the link. That's on top of this spot which we mentioned in the previous digest.
? AZ-06: Arizona's 6th is a very red district, and all of our attention so far has focused on the member-vs.-member battle between GOP Reps. David Schweikert and Ben Quayle. Yet despite the exceedingly difficult nature of this turf, a Democrat has nevertheless entered the race: college professor Matt Jette, who actually ran for governor in 2010?as a Republican. But Jette's platform, which included opposition to the state's notorious new immigration law known as SB 1070, was decidedly moderate... which probably explains why he scored all of 3%. However, despite this Some Dude-ish profile, Jette has already managed to score an endorsement from former state AG Terry Goddard, who was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee last cycle.
? CA-21: Eliminating all ambiguity?different media reports had said different things about how far along the path to candidacy he was?Fresno City councilman Blong Xiong is officially joining the Democratic field in the open 21st CD.
? CA-26: Moorpark Councilman David Pollock is dropping out of this open-seat race in the Oxnard/Thousand Oaks area. Pollock cited worries that a split Democratic field could cause problems in the state's top-two primary, where the two candidates who get the most votes regardless of party advance to November. Pollock actually makes a good point here: Until he dropped out, there were four Democrats running, along with one Republican, state Sen. Tony Strickland, and one Republican-turned-independent, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks. That canny move by Parks (she only recently dropped her party affiliation) could potentially allow her and Strickland to make the top two if the Democratic vote is sufficiently fractured.
So now we're down to three Dems: Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, Oxnard Harbor District Commissioner Jess Herrera, and businessman David Cruz Thayne. Brownley is the real heavyweight here, while Thayne (like Pollock) hadn't really raised much. But Brownley only got into the race recently (after Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett unexpectedly bailed) and hasn't filed any fundraising reports (nor has Herrera). Brownley should be able to consolidate the Democratic vote, but Thayne and Herrera say they aren't going anywhere. Both say they've received pressure to drop out, and Thayne in fact released emails from a couple of local party officials pushing him to do just that?missives which so far seem to have had the opposite of their intended effect.
And this, in a nutshell, is why I hate the top-two primary system. Parties should be able to choose their own nominees without interference, and any setup which encourages fewer candidates to run (lest they fear damaging their party's prospects in the general election) is a bad thing.
? FL-22: So there may be yet another Democratic entrant in the open 22nd District: businessman Mark Bell. And by "businessman" I mean, CEO of the company which publishes Penthouse and runs the Adult FriendFinder website.
? IL-02: Hoo boy. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. absolutely unloads on his primary opponent, ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson, in this new spot which features a mother whose son died from gun violence lambasting Halvorson for her record on gun control when she served in Congress. I think it packs quite a punch:
P.S. Amazingly, the narrator of Jackson's radio ad is none other than California Rep. Maxine Waters?and the woman who shrieks that Halvorson is "crazy" is Florida Rep. Corrine Brown! (You can hear that part around 43 seconds in.) Major tip of the cap to sapelcovits for the hilarious find.
? IL-13: Physician David Gill is out with an internal from PPP, showing him up 30-18 over Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten in the Democratic primary, which is just over a week away. Of course, there are still a ton of undecideds, and unusually for PPP, this poll was in the field for just a single day.
Goetten, meanwhile, is out with his first TV ad, an unimpressive spot with weak production values. But what stands out most is his startling lack of energy in the parts where he speaks. He sounds like a groggy college student struggling through a 9am class?or, to put it more bluntly, like he really just doesn't seem to want this thing. I've also got to wonder about Goetten's chops more generally; the other day, in an almost David Weprin-esque move, he refused to take a stand on the assault on women's reproductive healthcare freedoms, saying: "I?m hesitant to talk about anything that is not going to create jobs and save the middle class in Central Illinois." Facepalm.
? MD-06: State Sen. Rob Garagiola is going on the attack, digging out a damaging admission from the SEC filings of CapitolSource, the company founded by his chief rival in the Democratic primary, John Delaney. CapitolSource's most recent 10-K (an annual report detailing company operations that all publicly-traded firms must file) includes this nugget:
We are under audit for our 2006 through 2008 taxable years and, if the Internal Revenue Service determined that we violated REIT requirements and failed to qualify as a REIT or otherwise under reported tax liabilities during those years that we operated as a REIT, it could adversely impact our results of operations.Garagiola also brings up a 2006 Forbes article which labeled Delaney a "loan shark" (right there in the headline) and lead off by noting that he's "pretty good at avoiding taxes." Perhaps, it would seem, a little too good.
Delaney, for his part, is trying to drown out Garagiola's hits with a new round of paid media. Quite tellingly, his new TV spot starts off by mentioning "Rob Garagiola's untrue negative attacks," but rather than rebut them, he just cites his recent endorsement by Bill Clinton. You know, usually when you deliberately try to change the subject, you wanna be a bit more subtle about it. Delaney's new radio ads are similar, though they also throw in some attacks on Garagiola for good measure.
? MN-08: This is no surprise, considering how poorly she fared at the Democratic precinct caucuses last month, but ex-state Sen. Tarryl Clark says she won't participate in the party convention process and will instead forge ahead to the August primary. Frankly, I think Minnesota's convention system?where candidates spend gobs of time pumping local activists for their support and often pledge not to participate in an honest-to-goodness primary before actual voters if they fail to get the party's official backing?is a ridiculous, anti-Democratic waste of time. And bear in mind that Mark Dayton, who has been a real savior in the governor's mansion, eschewed the convention as well. Thank heavens, because I doubt Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the party-endorsed candidate, would have been able to pull off Dayton's ultra-narrow win in the general.
? MS-02: Former Greenville mayor Heather McTeer, challenging Rep. Bennie Thompson in the Democratic primary, has gone up with a TV ad in the waning days of the campaign (election day is Tuesday). She hasn't raised much money (this is a very poor district), and the production values are... well, it's mostly a series of still photos. Via Twitter, she acknowledges that the buy "isn't massive" but says "it's extremely aggressive."
? ND-AL: GOP Rep. Rick Berg, who got a ton of crap for ripping off former Virginia state House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong with his first ad, has replaced it with a new spot. While terribly cheesy, I actually thought the narration and pacing of that "Mom" ad wasn't bad, but this new commercial has really lousy production values. It features a bunch of stiff-looking people telling the camera that Rick Berg "knows the North Dakota way." Is that sort of like Superman's credo, only single-state-specific?
? TX-23: It looks like Ciro Rodriguez wasn't scared off by state Rep. Pete Gallego's recent show of force, seeing as he's gone ahead and filed to run in the Democratic primary in the 23rd District. Gallego, you may recall, shot out a huge list of 140 endorsements last week, clearly designed to ward off Ciro, who is attempting his third congressional comeback (he's 1-for-2). Ciro's bounced around races all cycle, though, first declaring for the 23rd (his old seat) last May, then jumping over to the 35th when the first batch of court-drawn interim maps were published in December, and now finally coming back to the 23rd at the filing deadline.
But all that said, it looks very much like Gallego, who's been running since September, is the stronger candidate here against GOP freshman Quico Canseco, so I'd expect him to prevail in the primary.
? WA-01: After seeming to shut the door on Wednesday on a hypothetical run in some other state (following his loss in Tuesday's Democratic primary to Marcy Kaptur in OH-09), now that door is back open for Dennis Kucinich. Or maybe it isn't, depending on what story you're reading. A CBS News piece suggests he's looking around, quoting Kucinich as saying "there's new possibilities that are being born at this moment" and, when explicitly asked about Washington state, "we'll see what the next few days and months bring."
That's the sexier headline that's getting all the attention; nobody seems to be paying attention to the Washington Post story where he says Thursday that it's "very unlikely" he'll jump into another contest elsewhere. At any rate, we've got some clarification from the Ohio Secretary of State's office that might encourage Kucinich to try again: he doesn't have to resign his current seat to pursue a run elsewhere, since the residency requirement applies only at the moment you're elected. (David Jarman)
? SC-LG: Almost exactly a year ago, South Carolina's first-term Lt. Gov., Republican Ken Ard, was charged with 92 counts of violating campaign finance rules by the state Ethics Commission. Ard used campaign cash for personal use and failed to properly disclose his spending; among other things, he spend campaign money to attend the SEC championship football game in Atlanta in 2010, and he also bought his wife a gown to wear to the state's inaugural ball. Following the commission's investigation which found Ard guilty and fined him $60K, the case was turned over to the state AG, who convened a grand jury to hear further evidence. Evidently, with further charges looming, it got to be too much for Ard, so he just resigned, effective Friday.
There's also an interesting succession question which Taegan Goddard highlights. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, who is next in line to be LG, apparently doesn't want to give up his powerful legislative post. One possibility is that McConnell might resign his current leadership post and allow the Senate to appoint a new president who would take Ard's place (the LG is a mostly ceremonial position), then run for his leadership spot again.
? IL Fundraising: Pre-primary FEC reports were due on Thursday night in Illinois, covering the period from Jan. 1 through Feb. 29. You can find all the numbers at the link. A quick rundown of some of the key races:
? IL-02 (D): Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is completely swamping ex-Rep. Debbie Halvorson on all fronts.? Polltopia: This guy definitely doesn't have an agenda, does he?
? IL-08 (D): Tammy Duckworth more than doubled up Raja Krishnamoorthi over the last two months, but Raja narrowly edged Duckworth both in spending and remaining cash-on-hand.
? IL-10 (D): Ilya Sheyman outraised Brad Schneider $237K to $131K, but Schneider spent almost double. Sheyman has a small cash edge.
? IL-12 (R): Jason Plummer, the supposed frontrunner, raised just $37K, not much more than Rodger Cook's $31K.
? IL-13 (D): Matt Goetten raised $70K to David Gill's $56K, but Gill spent slightly more. However, Goetten has more than three times the cash left.
? IL-16 (R): Rep. Don Manzullo outraised Rep. Adam Kinzinger $261K to $243K. Kinzinger spent considerably more, but Manzullo has a slight cash lead.
? FL Redistricting: The Florida Supreme Court, as expected, issued its ruling on the validity of the state's new legislative maps on Friday; the court had to conduct a mandatory review thanks to the new Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution, which forbid lawmakers from drawing districts which favor incumbency and political considerations. The high court upheld the House lines but struck down the Senate plan on a variety of different grounds; if you have a lot of time to kill, you can read the court's remarkably thorough 200-plus page opinion (PDF).
In a nutshell, the court seemed to have three main objections: (1) that a number of districts were insufficiently compact under the Fair Districts amendments; (2) that even though the map did not cause any dilution or retrogression of minority voting rights, the legislature failed to conduct a functional analysis as to retrogression which would have allowed it to properly balance minority voting protections with the FDA; and (3) that the Senate adopted a numbering scheme that manipulates Florida's staggered terms to allow incumbents to serve 10 years (rather than the normal maximum of eight), something which violates the FDA's prohibition on favoring incumbents.
So now the legislature must reconvene for a special session to draw a new Senate map. If it fails to do so, then the state supreme court will draw a plan of its own. And also note that while the House map passed muster with the court, federal litigation over the plan is still possible. It'll also be interesting to see how this opinion affects pending litigation in state court over the new congressional map, since this decision is the first (and only) ruling interpreting the FDA. Point being: There's a lot of wrangling still left to go.
? SC Redistricting: Major bummer: The three-judge panel hearing a challenge to South Carolina's new congressional map just issued a decision in favor of defendants. The court ruled that the map did not, as plaintiffs had argued, dilute minority voting rights. (You can read a PDF of the decision here.) Dick Harpootlian, the main attorney on the case, says he'll review the ruling before deciding whether to appeal. Any appeal would go directly to the Supreme Court, though, so given how unfriendly a majority of the justices have been to claims like these, taking the case up there might be a fruitless endeavor.