Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New chief of staff for Sweeney

The Business Review (Albany) - 5:01 PM EST Wednesday U.S. Rep. John Sweeney has promoted Sean O'Neill, his legislative director, to chief of staff to succeed Chris Fish, who has left to join a Washington, D.C., law firm. O'Neill was previously a lobbyist for the International Association of Fire Fighters and a staffer for former New York Rep. Jack Quinn. Sweeney, a Republican from Clifton Park, also said his communications director has become deputy chief of staff. She will oversee Sweeney's legislative and communication operations. Fish has become vice president of the McAllister & Quinn lobbying firm.


20TrueBlue Is the New York GOP and Sweeney a little scared right about now? This AP report says that Sweeney is now joining with Bruno and calling for Pirro to drop out of the US Senate race against Clinton. Rep. Sweeney: GOP should delay vote on statewide candidates WASHINGTON Congressman John Sweeney says G-O-P leaders should put off a December 12th vote to endorse candidates for governor and U-S Senate in 2006 -- saying the party needs more time. The comments by Sweeney echo those made by state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno as the beleaguered party seeks to mount viable campaigns up and down the ticket. New York's 62 county G-O-P chairmen are due to meet December 12th to settle on their endorsements for the two top races in the state next year. State G-O-P Chairman Stephen Minarik has called for the meeting and vote. Sweeney, a former executive director of the state party, said that without more time, the party risks alienating key voters who may either back other candidates or simply stay home on Election Day 2006. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


20TrueBlue Examples of what's considered standard-operating-procedure in the DC lobbying culture? Take Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and brother-in-law of another Bush family retainer, Ron Kaufman. Not too long ago, Card was making an honest wage as a New Hampshire state trooper. Most of the ten years he put in with the force in the Granite State, he was an undercover narcotics officer. Not long after he got his badge, a September 1989 Union Leader article chronicled his bust of a two kids from New Jersey bringing a couple thousand dollars of weed into the state where they want to live free or die. But the last few years have opened up all sorts of new opportunities for Card. Just about the time George W. was shifting into high gear in the 2000 presidential race, for instance, Rep. John Sweeney (R) of New York tapped Brad to be his new Chief of Staff. But just after President Bush's inauguration and brother Andy's appointment as White House Chief of Staff, the folks at The Dutko Group, a DC lobbying shop, could see Brad's unique talents and they hired him away from Sweeney. Perhaps they reached out to him through his brother-in-law, Ron Kauffman, since he works at Dutko too. Who knows? In any case, it was a good thing that Card got a few months experience in the luxe lobbying business before 9/11. Because about six weeks after the towers fell, New York real estate developer Larry Silverstein needed a man in Washington to tell his story to powers-that-be in the nation's capital. And he had quite a story to tell, seeing as he'd taken out the lease on the World Trade Center not long before they were destroyed. Silverstein, being the shrewd man that he is, hired Card to be that man in Washington in his titanic struggle to see how many billions in insurance money he would be able to collect from the towers' destruction. Perhaps it was Card's law enforcement background that made him so valuable to Silverstein. But then, terrorism isn't a law enforcement matter. So it's hard to know what to think. -- Josh Marshall

Sunday, November 27, 2005

All Aboard the Amtrak Grousing Express!

It's truly amazing to see how one can worry about the wrong thing. Take for example, in this story in the Albany Times-Union:

Amtrak starts with food

Amtrak's move to have the Subway restaurant chain provide food on board trains originating or terminating in Rensselaer is the kind of efficiency move U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, would like to see more of. The congressman says he has been thwarted in his efforts to get a full accounting of Amtrak's assets and to learn what's making money and what isn't. Food service has been a sore point among some in Congress who think it's not earning enough for the government-supported passenger railroad. Amtrak discontinued its own food service on the trains that originate and terminate in Rensselaer last summer, saying it was losing $1 million a year. Sweeney wonders what else needs to be changed. "They were mandated by Congress to produce this information," said Melissa Carlson, a spokeswoman for Sweeney. "They have just not done it." Sweeney last week fired off a letter to Amtrak's acting president seeking answers. As of Friday, said Carlson, he hadn't received any. Meanwhile, the food service now is a source of earnings for Amtrak, with Subway paying Amtrak a portion of its gross receipts. And Amtrak passengers won't have to go hungry. "It addresses the passengers' need for food," Carlson said.
First off, it's an easy target to grouse about the food anywhere, and Amtrak is everyone's anti government favorite whipping boy. So, Sweeney can look like a hero on this one. But wait. Amtrak service to his district is frequent daily stops in Rhinebeck & Hudson, and one stop each way every day in Saratoga, Fort Edward, Whitehall, & Ticonderoga. The 20th's problem with Amtrak is not that there are overpriced sandwiches. The problem is that there's no flippin' service. But where is our sense of priorities? How does Old Sweeney get a free ride on this? He can claim some kind of credit (and what weak credit it is) for pointing out something utterly unimportant to his constituents while totally ignoring a significant failure of the Federal Government in his district.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Times Union "Mr. Sweeney Dissents" - where have they been?

The Times Union editorial on Sweeney budget Vote:

"The vote was a close one, 217-215, with 14 Republicans breaking ranks with their leadership and siding with Democrats present who opposed the measure unanimously. Rep. John Sweeney was among the 14 Republicans willing to oppose a flawed plan. Mr. Sweeney, unlike the generally moderate Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford who voted for the bill, wouldn't go along with cuts in Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled, that some estimate will cost New York more than $1 billion over five years. He was troubled by changes in Medicaid rules that would charge co-payments to people who receive non-emergency care in hospital emergency rooms. The objective might make sense, at least in theory. But in Mr. Sweeney's district, which includes part of both the Adirondack and Catskill regions, a shortage of doctors often leaves emergency rooms as the only practical option for even routine medical care. The effect of cutting the deficit this way would have been harmful to too many of Mr. Sweeney's constituents. Other House members, Democrats especially, were even more pointed in their objections."
Let's not get to the point where we start praising old Sweeney for his sudden independent-minded interest in his constituents. It's far more likely that he's afraid of the competition he's rightly earned by being such a lousy representative of his district. He's voted to allow Tom Delay stay Majority Leader, even if he's indicted. This is not a free agent, at all. Look, this guy voted to end the Paris Hilton Tax, has watched at least two hospitals close down in his district (in Cambridge & Sidney), but has found time to hob-nob with celebrities lobbying on horse slaughter & with baseball players on the (yawn) issue of steroids in baseball. The guy has never shown any interest in his constituents, and is only now running scared.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Activist link for Gillibrand Campaign now has Kirsten Gillibrand on its list of candidates.You can now donate money via Actblue. Wicked cool. (previously broken link fixed: thanks Andrew)

Now, that's good press!

Look who got first mention in a little piece on Bloomberg today: Republican Unity Frays as Lawmakers Brace for Election Fights

"Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- When Republican U.S. Representative John Sweeney ran for re-election in 2004, President George W. Bush was on his way to winning a second term and Sweeney enjoyed a huge money edge over his Democratic opponent, raising $1.39 million to her $22,823. As he looks to 2006, the New York lawmaker can't breathe so easily. Bush's record-low approval ratings, along with mounting questions about the war in Iraq, have bolstered the Democrats' hopes of regaining control of the House next November. Sweeney faces a challenger, attorney Kirsten Gillibrand, who has raised $120,000 so far, more than the combined total of his three previous opponents. ``For the first time since he was elected, he has a race that he has to pay attention to,'' said Amy Walter, House editor of the Washington-based Cook Political Report, which analyzes congressional races. Political analysts and activists say Sweeney is among about a dozen Republicans, mostly from states that went Democratic in 2004, who may face closer races next year than they have in the past. Those elections are a key reason that House Republican leaders are having a tougher time holding their party together. Sweeney joined 13 other Republican lawmakers last week to vote against a deficit-reduction measure backed by Bush that cuts $50 billion from Medicaid and other benefits programs. It barely squeaked by on a 217-215 vote. Hours earlier, 22 Republicans helped defeat a $142.5 billion spending plan for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. The legislation, rejected on a 224-209 vote, would have cut $1.4 billion from last year's funding level and stripped about $1 billion in pet projects that benefit lawmakers' districts.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The 10,000 Things: Kirsten Gillibrand for Congress in NY-20

Hey, look here! A link to info on Kirsten Gillibrand!

Tags: Kirsten Gillibrand ( )

Dems want seat in 20th district 11/21/05 By Tom Grace Cooperstown News Bureau Two Democrats are preparing to challenge incumbent 20th District Republican Rep. John Sweeney of Clifton Park in the 2006 election. One is 38-year-old lawyer Kirsten Gillibrand of Hudson, who served as special counsel to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo in the Clinton administration. The other is Morris Guller of Lexington, who ran against Sweeney in 2004. In that race, Guller’s petitions were successfully challenged, and he was not allowed on the ballot in the Democratic primary. In the general election, Guller ran as an independent and received 1,353 votes, compared to 188,953 for Sweeney, a three-term incumbent, and 96,630 for Doris Kelly, the Democratic candidate. According to Guller’s website,, this time will be different. "Running for Congress in ’04 and the lessons learned from that campaign are making this ’06 race a smoother and less chaotic experience," he stated on his website. "Having had the wonderful opportunity of meeting and speaking with many of you, I feel that I have developed a true understanding of the needs and concerns of my congressional district. ... "I will be an honest broker, a true representative of your needs and aspirations. I want, more than anything, to be your Congressman and to be indebted only to you for giving me the opportunity to represent you in Congress." Among Guller’s stated priorities is having the United States immediately withdraw troops from Iraq. Gillibrand has yet to announce her run for office but has assembled a staff and begun to raise campaign funds. She is a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner law firm in Albany and works on legal and policy-related issues. A statement issued by her staff says she "also understands the needs of those who have no voice, representing many pro-bono cases for those in need of first-rate legal representation. She has represented abused women and their children as well as tenants seeking safe housing after lead paint and unsafe conditions were found in their homes." Gwen Bellecourt, Gillibrand’s communications director, said the candidate will announce her intentions in January. According to the Center for Responsive Government, on the Internet at, she has collected $119,945 for the race. That compares to $677,455 for Sweeney. Guller’s 2006 figures were not listed on the website. Hank Nicols, chairman of Otsego County’s Democratic Party, said he was excited about Gillibrand’s candidacy. She will visit Otsego County next month, he said. Sweeney, 50, is seeking re-election, according to Melissa Carlson, his communications director. Sweeney was a strong supporter of the Iraqi war and he remains convinced the mission is worthwhile, Carlson said Friday. "The Congressman believes the best exit strategy from Iraq is to leave the country in a position to defend itself," she said. Sweeney, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has done well by the district in his six years in Congress, she said, and recently he helped the State University College of Technology at Delhi secure a $750,000 grant for its Center of Excellence. The 20th Congressional District includes parts or all of 10 counties: Dutchess, Columbia, Greene, Otsego, Delaware, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington and Essex. Tags: John Sweeney () Kirsten Gillibrand ( )

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Post Star Editorial On Sweeney - - Holy Cats!

The Post Star ran an editorial on Sweeney yesterday:
Trying to figure out Sweeney By KEN TINGLEY Published on 11/20/2005 THE POST-STAR I've never known quite what to make of Rep. John Sweeney. We've met a couple times in editorial board meetings here at the newspaper. The first time, he seemed distant, perhaps a little suspicious and a little angry. That was before he was elected the first time, when the majority of people in these parts voted for the Democratic candidate. The second time, he was a sweetheart, a professional politician who was quite charming. Of course, that was right before he got married, so maybe he was in love. When we wrote about him being in a traffic accident after skiing in Greenwich several years ago, the newspaper stories brought up the fact that he might have been drinking and that the police might have given him some special treatment. After that, the congressman didn't talk to us here at the newspaper for a long time. Probably just a coincidence. He talks to the newspaper a lot through his spokespeople, which we all know is really the spokespeople talking and the congressman signing off on it. Does anyone really believe that what a spokesperson reports is actually what the congressman said?

If you want to read the rest, you'll have to check it out somewhere else, I'm afraid. In essence, the point they make is that Sweeney isn't consistently in touch with the press, and then sometimes he's just plain antagonistic. They want to know, what's up with this guy.

Tags: John Sweeney ( )

Phoney Bar Fight

The Post-Star :Local News
"Sweeney in a bar fight? Maybe ... or maybe not By CHRISTINE MARGIOTTA Updated: 11/18/2005 10:10:45 PM U.S. Rep John Sweeney made national gossip news this week -- not for making policy, but for taking a punch. A gossip column in Thursday's New York Daily News reported Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, took a blow from a Red Sox fan who'd had enough of Sweeney's pro-Yankees banter one evening earlier this month at Bobby Van's Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. Sweeney spokeswoman Melissa Carlson flatly denied the report, saying the alleged incident was nothing more than a "heated discussion about Yankees vs. Red Sox. The story originally appeared Wednesday in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. A Bobby Van's bartender who withheld his name for work-related reasons said he was on duty the night in question and saw nothing. "It didn't exist. It did not happen" he said. "He didn't get hit while I was here. We don't know anybody that hit any congressman, that's for sure. If I had seen it, I would have done something about it, you can guarantee that." The bartender is known by patrons as a particularly faithful fan of the Boston Red Sox. "We all have our crosses to bear, and that happens to be my one," he said. That allegiance has made him the target of friendly back-and-forth from Sweeney, an apparent die-hard Yankees fan, for the past five years. Sweeney and his staff frequent the New York-style restaurant and make their Yankees loyalty known, the bartender said. "John Sweeney and I are good friends," the bartender said. "He and I do have a banter every time we see each other.""

Tags: John Sweeney ( )

An oldie but one that raises an interesting question

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Sweeney slams Schumer over potential high court nominee

The Associated Press WASHINGTON — A Republican congressman from upstate New York launched an unexpected broadside Wednesday at Sen. Charles Schumer over the new opening on the Supreme Court.

Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, criticized Schumer, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for recent comments about the vacancy created on the bench by the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Sweeney, who is traveling in Italy this week with a congressional delegation, issued a statement Wednesday saying he is "deeply disappointed in my colleague Senator Schumer's comments with respect to the role of the Senate in the nominating process."

Sweeney spokeswoman Melissa Carlson said the congressman was unhappy about comments the senator made in Albany on Tuesday about the search for a successor to O'Connor.

"I don't like ideologues on the bench," Schumer said, adding he wanted "a thoughtful, mainstream (nominee) with the ability to see the other side ... I hope the president nominates a consensus nominee, someone who would get 90 to 95 votes in the Senate ... Somebody who will interpret the law, not make it."

The response from Sweeney is unusual in that New York lawmakers in Washington, even those of opposing parties, rarely criticize each other directly. Sweeney has not been involved previously in the political wrangling over judges or judicial nominees.
Umm, what pressing work for upstate New York is being done in Italy in July?

Tags: John Sweeney ( )