Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Today's Coverage of Sweeney's Ski Vacation
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
...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?
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Gee, skiing's a lot of fun, especially if someone else is paying
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
No New Nepotism
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Kirsten here for Sugaring off
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 Congressby 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
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Show me the Money
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 2000National 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
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." sourceAt 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
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. 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.