Friday, March 31, 2006

The Stakeholder:: NY-20: "Sweeney Under Fire"

At the DCCC Blog

National attention is a good thing.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Today's Coverage of Sweeney's Ski Vacation

From Today's Times Union:
During the weekend, participants competed against each other in tailor-made events that included skiing, skating and bobsledding at U.S. Olympic facilities in the North Country village in Sweeney's congressional district. They were all awarded medals when the competition was over. The campaign of Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who is challenging Sweeney this fall, called on the Clifton Park Republican to disclose why he brought so many staffers on a taxpayer-financed trip and "what work they accomplished there." "Voters have a right to know what exactly each of these 12 individuals were doing during this weekend ski trip to serve the public," said Bill Hyers, Gillibrand's campaign manager.
From Today's Post Star:
"It was one authority funding another authority in a way that had an appearance of money laundering," said Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who chairs the committee.
This wasn't official business. It was business as usual. It's the latest example of the current majority party's sense of personal entitlement on someone else's dime. Especially in light of the guest list of lobbyists, donors and staffers. A dozen staffers joined in on the tax payer funded vacation that has been variously justified as promoting either tourism or congressional funding to the region. Their job is to promote the best interests of the region automatically. They shouldn't need fantasy camp reward programs to do the work of the people in this district. It's time to end the culture of corruption in Washington.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Update on Lobbyist Ski Story

According to the Times Union Blog:

Gov. George Pataki has directed NYPA to review its policies and state Assemblyman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, chair of the Assembly Energy Committee, is drafting a letter that will call on NYPA to release documents that reveal who attended the last six Congressional Winter Challenges.

The Gillibrand Press Release on the subject points out that:

This latest set of questions about Sweeney’s behavior comes on the heels of revelations that he is being probed by the Justice Department; that he cosponsored a food labeling bill for which his former top aide was a chief lobbyist; that he hosted a ski-weekend fundraiser in Park City, Utah with a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist; and that he has a political action committee (PAC) run by a high-profile lobbyist who has regular business before Sweeney’s House Appropriations Committee.

Post Star on Ski Donors

There is a story just up on the Post Star about donations to Sweeney from the Olympic Guest list. I think the gift numbers include giving from the 2005 cycle not Sweeney's entire career. But the trip looks more and more like a thank you to donors and insiders like Brad Card than an official business trip to promote tourism. I'm not an expert in this sort of thing, but if someone asked me to organize a trip to promote tourism, my guest list would include travel agents, ski experts, winter sports professionals and representatives of that industry instead of lobbyists, former chiefs of staff, congressional aides, and a petroleum peddler. Go ahead and call me crazy.

Sweeney's Ski Guests

The Post Star has obtained a list of the names released by the Olympic Committee of people who attended the ski event set up by John Sweeney. Here they are:

  • U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, Gayle Sweeney (the congressman's wife), Angela Sparks, Wayne Beddoe, Dan Gage, Phil Oliva (former Sweeney aide), Jim Clark (Sweeney aide), Chris Nedwick (Sweeney aide), Jim Adler (Sweeney aide), Tony Scannella. Traveling to Lake Placid via Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore: U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Nete Sessions (the congressman's wife), Sean O'Shea, Geoff Gleason, Matthew Trant, Ian Musselman, Bill Teator (aide to former U.S. Rep. Gerald Solomon who later worked in Solomon's lobbying firm), Joe Reiss, Louise Perkins, Bob Bissen, Deborah Bissen, Shawn Smeallie, Ian Steff, Mike Johnson, Garrett Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, Teddi Levy, Steve Bull (USOC government representative), Sherry Turner, Amanda Cernik (Sweeney aide), Sean O'Neill (Sweeney aide), Melissa Carlson (Sweeney aide), Bill Rayball (Sweeney aide), Meredith Curcio, David Taft (Sweeney aide), Vickie Sanville (Sweeney aide), Anne McGuire, Peter Goelz, Maureen Dwyer, John Epting, Bob Okun, Jennifer Taylor, Brad Card (former Sweeney chief of staff, now a lobbyist), Scott Schloegel, Luci Gikovich, Dan Crane, Amanda Parsons, Lisi Kaufman, Robert Van Wicklin, Tim Powers, Ellen Powers, Don McGahn, Creighton Schneck.

What they gave:

  • Pete Sesions served on the House Homeland Security Committee with Sweeney
  • Angela Sparks, vice president Energy East Corp., Saratoga Springs, donated $1,000 according to the Post Star.
  • Geoff Gleason, Lobbyist of The Livingston Group was a Chief of Staff to both Solomon and Sweeney. Has donated $7,300 to Sweeney from 2003-2005.
  • Matthew Trant donated $1,000 to Sweeney on 5/9/2005 and is Vice President of lobbyist firm The National Group.
  • Ian Musselman donated to the Bush 04 campaign, but his employment information is not listed, he lives in DC.
  • Bill Teator is also with the Livingston Group, his wife donated $400 to Sweeney in 2005 and she works for Capital Advocates LLC. He's given $3,100 acording to the Post Star.
  • Bob Bissen: Former Intergovernmental affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy,  his name also comes up as working with Texas firm Petroleum Solutions. A Vice Pres. of Public Relations for APCO Worldwide.
  • Shawn Smealie has donated $3,000 to Sweeney since 2003. He's the Managing Director for AIG.  
  • Ian Paul Steff is the Government Affairs Specialist        for the Semiconductor Industry Association which recently gave Sweeney an award.
  • Brad Card has given $7,500 to the Sweeney campaign to date.
  • Scott Schloegel is Chief of Staff for the office of Bart Stupak, the ranking minority member of the Sub Committee on Oversight and Investigations.
  • Luci Gikovich works as Director for Federal Relations for lobbying firm Platinum Advisors in DC.
  • Lisi Kaufman Senior Vice President for Government and International Affairs for United Technolgies. She is the former chief of staff to US Sec. of Commerce, Don Evans. She is Brad and Andrew Card's sister and has donated $500 to Sweeney.
  • Robert Van Wicklin is press secretary for NY Republican Represenative Randy Kuhl.
  • Tim Powers donated $1,250 to Sweeney, and is a consultant for Powers Strategies and a Co-Chairman for Artemis Strategies. Both appear to be lobbyist firms. The other day the Post Star reported that:

Although some of those individuals are lobbyists, it was not a lobbying event, per se, he Steve Bull, USOC government representative]said.

"It's really intended to give some congressional support to New York's tourism industry," he said.

Oh really?  

Contrasts

The Post Star recently reported Gillibrand's disclosure of a meeting with NOW (see full story below).

Her disclosure and transparency are stark contrasts to the recent tax payer funded event that "was organized by Sweeney." Lobbyists were present but no one seems to want to let us know who was there (let alone what the conversation was). "Representatives of ORDA, the power authority and Sweeney said they did not have a list of who attended, and Bull, of the USOC, said the list was not readily available." (quotes from the Post Star story).

I guess Sweeney takes his cues on this sort of thing from Dick Cheney: he can arrange gatherings with whom ever he wants believing that none of us little people have the right to know what is discussed or who is there.

Gillibrand discloses lobbyist meeting

By MAURY THOMPSON thompson@poststar.com

Published on 3/28/2006 News From the Campaign Trail THE POST-STAR

* As promised, Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand is disclosing information about meetings with federal lobbyists on her campaign Web site. The latest report lists a meeting March 9 in Washington with lobbyist Pat Reuss of the National Organization for Women to discuss a potential endorsement. The report also includes the following note: "Two gentlemen claiming to be from the lobbying firm McKinley and Quinn dropped by a reception held for Kirsten on Wednesday, March 9th. They gave no money and had no real conversations with anyone, and McKinley and Quinn have no one by the name 'Ray' and 'Mike' who work there. Since our guests did not sign in or provide last names, we are not able to tell you more about them."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nicholas Caimano and Harwood McCart

Here's the money out: Begin forwarded message: > From: > Date: July 16, 2004 2:20:04 PM EDT> To: > Subject: opensecrets.org>>> http://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary.asp?id=NY20&cycle=2002>> This site has the most complete information on donations to Sweeney and expenditures by Sweeney. The information from 2002 on expenditures details the nature and extent of his campaign. You will see that he spent very little on actual campaigning such as ads, etc.; but, rather, spent lavishly on his consultants and donated to other R's at all levels There are a lot of connections to Queensbury -- Nicholas Caimano--Warren County..his campaign aides ended up as his congressional staff. love this one!! Begin forwarded message: > From: > Date: July 16, 2004 1:57:09 PM EDT> To: > Subject: Ex-strip club boss on rep's payroll The Daily Star (Oneonta) > 1-19-04>> Monday, January 19, 2004>> Ex-strip club boss on rep's payroll>> Staff and Wire Reports>> ALBANY - A retired state trooper and former strip club owner has emerged as the highest-paid campaign aide to U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, viewed by state Republican leaders as a rising star in the national GOP party. Harwood McCart, 65, is also on Sweeney's payroll as a staff assistant, the Times Union of Albany reported Sunday. McCart went to court against the city of Albany over his all-nude juice bar in the 1990s. Sweeney's 20th District includes most of Delaware County and part of Otsego County. Between January 2001 and December 2002, McCart was Sweeney's biggest campaign expense of any kind at $84,200, about 8 percent of the $955,072 Sweeney's campaign raised during that period, according to Federal Election Commission records. During the same time period, McCart was paid $34,100 through Sweeney's 28-employee congressional office payroll. McCart has been on both Sweeney's public and campaign payrolls since 1999, when Sweeney first took office. Other members of Sweeney's staff also are on his campaign payroll, although none earn as much as McCart. McCart works for Sweeney's office when he drives the congressman to public events in the district and for his campaign when he drives to political events or after business hours, Sweeney's spokesman Demetrios Karoutsos said.

Tangled Webs

Another possible reason for the DOJ's probe into Sweeney's finances: Sweeney was funded by lobbyist (and former Tom Delay aide) Edwin Buckman directly. The Washington Post reported this weekend that Buckman channeled a third of his USFN lobbyist monies to himself (the group was first set up as a non-profit but later refiled as a lobbyist after complaints to the FEC). The report says:
...The group's revenue was drawn mostly from clients of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to its records. From an FBI subpoena for the records, it can be inferred that the bureau is exploring whether there were links between the payments and favorable legislative treatment of Abramoff's clients by DeLay's office. ... Abramoff, for his part, once boasted that he had invested a million dollars in Buckham, according to a former Abramoff colleague who said he witnessed the conversation. Abramoff expressed confidence that the funds would bring a good return for his clients, the colleague said. ...
An email from a special interest aide whose companies sent $650,000 to Buckham's group sent Buckham an e-mail expressing appreciation for support:
and recalling Buckham's explanation that one of his roles was to "stop legislation from getting on the floor of the House."
Abramoff also worked to block the legislation referred to in that email. The National Congressional Republican Committee gave several small in kind donations to Sweeney and also gave Buckham's group $500,000 to pay for attack ads. Buckham took a $200,000 commission on the donation. The Post reports, "The NRCC in 2004 paid the eighth-highest fine in FEC history to settle allegations that some of its officials colluded with USFN on the ads in violation of campaign finance laws." According to FEC records there is a $500 cash donation on 9/29/05 and a $200 in-kind donation on 9/30/05 source to the Sweeney campaign from Buckham, given as an individual donor to the campaign. By then, USFN had been closed and Buckham had founded Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbyist firm whose start up contract was secured with Enron funds thanks to Tom DeLay. ASG closed on Jan 6, 2006 due to its ties to Jack Abramoff. Are you dizzy yet?

TU Blog

The Times Union Blog picked up the tax payer funded lobbyist ski trip. I'm confused about the source of funding, it is money from a New York Power Authority account that's supposed to fund charities. Sending elected officials on vacations with lobbyists meets the definition of charity in what way exactly? I bet parents of kids without food and medical care would disagree that there are any parallels between a charity and a promotional "business trip." Sweeney attended the event with congressional approval because he told them it was a fact finding business trip. The story says Sweeney "told House and Senate ethics committees the annual Congressional Winter Challenge is an official fact-finding business trip (Trips that are mainly recreational can't be considered official.) On the basis of Sweeney’s description, the committees ok’d the trip." More of the same ole "because I said so, it's legal, just trust me" rational typical of the Republican majority these days. And as a tax payer, I don't think that my money earmarked for charity should be diverted toward promoting business interests insteaed, especially not "business trips" that throw elected official deeper in with lobbyists. Here's Gillibrand's Ethics IOU on the subject of trips: "I will not accept any privately funded trips paid for by lobbyists or lobbyist's charities. If I take a campaign-related trip, the campaign will pay for it. If I take an official trip, my Congressional office will pay for it. If I take a vacation, I will pay for it." UPDATE: The WFP Blog has a good post on the topic up today.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gee, skiing's a lot of fun, especially if someone else is paying

Congressmen, staff, lobbyists share a winter weekend on public's dime Sunday, March 26, 2006 By Michelle Breidenbach Staff writer The New York Power Authority used public money to pay for a $25,000 ski weekend for Rep. John Sweeney, of New York; a Texas congressman and his wife; at least a dozen lobbyists; and other D.C. staffers in Lake Placid. New Yorkers paid the way for the congressmen and other invited guests to ski, skate and toboggan like real Olympians for three days this winter. While that sounds like fun, Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, told House and Senate ethics committees that the annual Congressional Winter Challenge is an official fact-finding business trip. With Sweeney's word that it was not a party, the ethics committees in the House and Senate signed off on the trip. Activities that are substantially recreational are not considered part of a member's official duties, the House Ethics Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and his wife, Juanita, boarded a Southwest Airlines airplane bound for Albany with a handful of Capitol Hill staffers and at least a dozen Washington lobbyists, according to a guest list supplied by the U.S. Olympic Committee. NYPA is a state public authority charged with making electricity for the citizens of New York. It dips into its profits for almost $1 million a year to give to charities it deems worthy. NYPA's leaders said they sent money to the Olympic venues in Lake Placid because the village buys its electricity from NYPA. So do Solvay and Skaneateles, which received none of this money. Eugene Zeltmann,the recently retired president and chief executive officer of NYPA, owns a home in Lake Placid and has participated in the annual Olympic event. The Olympic Regional Development Authority, another state public authority, runs Whiteface and Gore mountains and other sports complexes. ORDA spokesman Sandy Caligiore said Zeltmann is a frequent guest at Olympic events. Pictures from previous Congressional Challenges show Zeltmann riding a toboggan, playing hockey and posing with one arm around Jim Craig, the goalie for the U.S. hockey team in the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" victory. Zeltmann said NYPA contributed to the event because it wanted to be a good neighbor and because it believes in ORDA's work. The authority has been a supporter for six years. ORDA describes its corporate challenges as fantasy camps for anyone who ever wanted to be an Olympian. Participants break into three teams and score points for their performances in events like skiing, bobsled and hockey. On Saturday night, guests attend an awards dinner at the Lake Placid Golf House Restaurant. Everyone wins a medal. This year, about 40 guests stayed the weekend in the same rooms where Olympic athletes have slept. They share a going-away breakfast in a glassed-in viewing area at the top of the ski jumps. "We show them around, more or less, and give them the Olympic experience at all the venues," Caligiore said. ORDA organized the Congressional Winter Challenge for the ninth year from Jan. 6 to 9. Caligiore said the New York Power Authority picked up the $25,000 tab. The invitation reads, "While this trip has proven itself to be an enjoyable one for delegation members in the past, it is, nevertheless, an official trip authorized by the House and Senate Ethics Committees . . . intended to provide an opportunity for Members of Congress and Congressional staff to inspect and evaluate the manner in which federal funds have been used to strengthen the area's tourism industry." The invitation officially comes from ORDA and the U.S. Olympic Committee, a nonprofit group chartered by Congress. ORDA says the impetus for the event comes from the U.S. Olympic Committee. The U.S. Olympic Committee said it's really Sweeney's event. Sweeney, who has been ill in recent weeks, and his staff have not responded to requests for interviews. Documents show Sweeney recently sought guidance on the event from both the House and Senate ethics committees. The House committee warned Sweeney in a letter last fall he should be careful to let the Olympics groups invite guests to avoid the appearance of an endorsement by the House. The House ethics opinion said the Olympics folks would be entertaining an unrelated group of Washington business representatives and the two groups would "engage in joint 'hospitality' on some occasions." It is permissible for a member to take a privately sponsored trip in connection with his or her duties as an officeholder, the House committee said, if the trip is for fact-finding and if the recreational activities are "merely incidental to the trip." © 2006 The Post-Standard. Used with permission. Copyright 2006 syracuse.com. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No New Nepotism

There is an article worth reading about Sweeney's fund raising "commission" payments to his wife up at Muckracker. Although there could be any number of reasons that Sweeney's files are under investigation, I'm not sure I agree with the article's point that it's not related to the Abramoff scandal. Greenberg Traurig has been funding Sweeney since April of 2001, shortly after his visit to Miami to shut down the vote recount. At any rate, Gillibrand's short and sweet Ethics IOU is a stark contrast to the Sweeney status quo. She won't have family members on payroll.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kirsten here for Sugaring off

Kirsten and family came out this Sunday for Sugaring off, the local spring festival which celebrates both nature's bounty and the working people who convert the maple sap to what we all put on our pancakes. Kirsten and young Thodore braved the chill, touring the farm on a wagon drawn by a spanking team of matched Belgians. Folks were delighted to meet her and talk politics over pancakes and sausage.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Real Plans for Change

Sweeney is quoted in the paper today criticizing Gillibrand for her plan to vote against Congressional pay raises. Saying, "If they really wanted to address budget issues, Democrats should put forward a plan that reduces mandatory spending."

Gosh, when Democrats were in charge, they stuck with Pay as You Go fiscal responsibility. In 2002, the Republican Majority got rid of spending controls like caps on discretionary spending, and the pay-as-you-go rule for entitlement and tax legislation. The result of their irresponsible leadership is tax breaks for the wealthy, record pork spending, record deficits, and a struggling middle class. And the Senate voted against fully reinstating Pay As You Go rules this week, it failed in a tied 50-50 vote thanks to the Republican Majority. Every one of the 50 votes against reinstating PAYGO was a Republican. Under Bush, the debt limit has been increased 4 times. Under his administration, they've raised the debt limit by $3 trillion dollars. This week, congress voted to add another $781 billion to the debt for a total limit of almost $9 trillion dollars. Even when faced with the reality of paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed increases in security spending, in 2005, John Sweeney voted to make the estate tax repeal permanent. Can we afford to keep cutting and repealing taxes for the wealthy when we are increasing the debt burden on the working and middle classes? This week, the house also rejected a Democratic Amendment that would have increased funding for port security and disaster preparedness while the 07 Bush Budget proposes $1.7 billion in spending on Missile Defense - a Regan/Cold-War Era program that a) doesn't work and b) ignores the security threats that we face in the Post September 11th world.

Gillibrand calls for salary cap in Congress

by Maury Thompson, published in the Post Star 3/17/06

Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand on Thursday called for capping the salaries of federal lawmakers at the current level until the budget is balanced. Gillibrand, a lawyer from Hudson, announced her position on the same day the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would allow the national debt to increase to nearly $9 trillion. "I think the Congress and this administration has shown a lack of fiscal restraint," she said in a telephone interview. The current salary for rank-and-file members of Congress is $165,200. It is adjusted for inflation annually, unless Congress votes specifically not to take a cost-of-living adjustment. The raise has been around $4,000 annually over the past several years, which when multiplied by 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives amounts to more than $1.7 million, Gillibrand said. Gillibrand said if she is elected, she will vote against annual raises, and if Congress takes a raise, she will donate the amount of her raise to charity. Incumbent U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, remained hospitalized on Thursday and was not able to respond directly to Gillibrand. In a prepared statement, Sweeney said, "Congress must address our national debt in a meaningful way that includes reduced spending." Offering to turn down cost-of-living adjustments is a typical political tactic, Sweeney said. "If they really wanted to address budget issues," he said, "Democrats should put forward a plan that reduces mandatory spending."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Justice Department Examines Sweeney's Records

A must read just came up at The Post Star.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Show me the Money

The Food "Uniformity" Act is opposed by consumer advocates and 39 State Attorney Generals. (source). Here's why the only people who seem to be happy with it are corporations who will be glad to keep us from being able to read a label to see if we are buying GM foods or Milk with Growth Hormones in it. The bill passed with 94% of Republicans in the House supporting it. John Sweeney was a co-sponsor of this legislation. The other day we learned that Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was a lobbyist for the bill. Not only is he a former top aide to John Sweeney, he is also a donor. FEC filings show he's given $7,500 to Sweeney to date. His brother, Andrew, donated $500 in 1998. Sweeney also received funds affiliated with groups that are pushing the act:
National Milk Producers Federation PAC gave $500 to Sweeney on 09/21/2005 National Restaurant Association gave $1,000 on 6/16/05 NACS Political Action Committee has given $11,000 to date, but $3,000 seems to have been returned. UPDATE: Altria Group Inc. Political Action Committee has given over $14,000 since 2000
National Milk Producers Federation, National Restaurant Association, National Association of Convenience Stores are all members of the coalition supporting the bill. Altria Group is the parent company of Kraft Foods which is also a supporter. The bill was introduced on October 27, 2005 and passed the house on March 8, 2006 without a public hearing. I'm not sure what is more scary, how easy it is to find the connections, how few people in the press look for them, or how little it seems to cost to sweep another bill that cares more about companies than constituents through the House. States have historically lead the way in requiring labels that consumers want and this bill will put an end to that. When I spoke with Gillibrand yesterday about this, she indicated that the federal government should not impose a maximum standard for uniformity but rather a minimum standard. But the food corporations would rather not have to compete for our purchase, this way is much easier on them.

The Real Agenda

A Press Release from the Republican Congressional Committee that took Gillibrand's words out of context and tried to attack her recent Comprehensive Ethics Proposal back-fired this week. The press coverage it generated was not what they were expecting. Locally the release was issued by Saratoga County GOP, but it was obviously written by higher ups in the National Republican Congressional Committee. We all know why they would not want to see reforms like Kirsten's gain any traction with voters, it is something the party leaders give service to one week and then back peddle on the next week. More about that here in yesterday's NYT. While Sweeney tries to sell himself as a reformer, the reality is that lobbyists are the top industry supporting his campaign. He is also a back peddler on this issue. In the Post Star's coverage of Gillibrand's Ethics Proposal, Sweeney's Chief of Staff tried to point to uncovering the blatant and most corrupt ethics violations in the history of congress as proof that the Republicans had their ethics problems under control, claiming, "The process of rooting out corruption is working, which is why former Rep. Duke Cunningham [R, CA] is going to jail." (source) Kind of like how the Bush administration tried to tell us that the insurgency in Iraq was proof of how successful the war effort was. And Melissa Carlson, Sweeney's spokeswoman recently said:
There has been a lot of talk in Washington about ethics laws and lobbying, and certainly there are things we could look at, members [of Congress] looking to do any kind of reform should keep in mind that the right to petition is a very sacred constitutional right." source
At any rate, the party chose an odd source to issue the release since Saratoga County Republican Chairman Jasper Nolan recently defended Sweeney's lobbyist connections by saying "Lobbying is the fourth branch of government -- if you know what I mean." Needless to say, they don't sound like a party committed to real change to anyone paying attention. The real agenda of the party at the local and national level is to promise reform and then get back to business as usual. Here's what their smear efforts yielded: By MAURY THOMPSON Published on 3/10/2006 News From the Campaign Trail THE POST-STAR

* The National Republican Congressional Committee in a press release Wednesday criticized Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand for holding a $500-per-person campaign fundraiser in Washington. Dubbing it Gillibrand's "Hypocrisy or Bust Tour," Ed Patru, an NRCC spokesman, said it was hypocritical to hold such an event when Gillibrand is calling for ethics and campaign finance reform. Gillibrand campaign manager Bill Hyers said the $500-per-plate event was still significantly less than the cost for some events for incumbent U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, which have been as high as $2,500-per-plate. Gillibrand must raise money to be competitive under the current system, he said, suggesting Sweeney supporters appeared to be desperate in their criticism. "We're down there meeting with friends and supporters," he said.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sweeney Favors Multinationals over Local Government and Consumers

Not that it's any surprise, really:
PoughkeepsieJournal.com - Foes of food labeling criticized for close ties to lobbyists: "Tuesday, March 7, 2006 Foes of food labeling criticized for close ties to lobbyists The Associated Press WASHINGTON – Lawmakers seeking to curtail food warning labels have personal ties to food industry lobbyists, critics said Monday. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and several other lawmakers support a bill that would keep states from adding warnings beyond federal rules. The lawmakers have family, friends and former staff among the lobbyists for the bill. 'This helps explain why the food industry has blocked any efforts to have hearings,' said Ben Cohen, attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group. 'They think they've got it greased by using well-connected lobbyists to slip this thing through the full House without following the normal procedures,' Cohen said. State warnings alert consumers to mercury in fish, arsenic in bottled water, pesticides in vegetables and many other potential problems. The food industry wants consistent warnings across state lines. The bill would let states petition the federal government if they want to add extra warnings. Siblings, spouses named According to reports filed with Congress, the bill's lobbyists include Blunt's wife, Abigail, who works for Altria, parent of Kraft Foods. They also include former Boehner staffers Mason Wiggins, lobbyist for the Food Products Association, an industry group, and Brenda Reese, lobbyist for the American Beverage Association. Also listed is Brad Card, brother of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and former top aide to Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park. Brad Card has lobbied on food labeling issues for the Food Products Association. The association is headed by a former congressman, Republican Cal Dooley of California. 'It's a perfect storm of insider access, big money and bad policy,' said Andy Igrejas of the Washington-based National Environmental Trust, which did the lobbying research. 'They're sweeping away 200 state laws without a hearing, all because very wealthy interests want them to.' The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent the bill to the floor without a hearing. The bill has broad support and is expected to win House approval. Supporters expect a Senate version of the bill to be introduced soon. A bill sponsor said suggestions of lobbying influence are absurd. The bill has cleared the Commerce Committee on two occasions, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said. 'The reason the bill has moved swiftly is a pregnant woman buying peas on a shelf in Michigan has the same right to food safety information as a pregnant woman buying peas in California,' Rogers said. Rogers said congressional Democrats are using the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal %u2014 which involved millions of dollars from Abramoff clients to woo friends and win influence in Congress. 'We're going to hear this on every other bill,' he said.
Oh, yes. And people think that this one is going to pass. & we know old Junior won't veto, he never does.