Wednesday, September 20, 2006

'Bout Time

Firedoglake says:

...CREW released it’s brand spanking new update on the 20 most corrupt members of Congress (plus 5 up-and-comers) ... CREW has included several Blue America targets, including Conrad Burns (MT), John Doolittle (CA), Dirty Dick Pombo (CA), Curt Weldon (PA), Don Sherwood (PA), Dennis Hastert (IL)– plus two examples of corruption run amuck who will be added to the Blue America target list in the next few weeks: John Sweeney (NY) and Marilyn Musgrave (CO)

Gillibrand's plan is best for soldiers

Gold Star Mom Kathy Brown says "I don't believe in the war, but I do believe in our soldiers..." well then she should vote for Gillibrand. Gillibrand will be there for our troops with every vote from day one, she's not going to wait to care until it is too late. Brown says

"We're there and we have a job to do. We have to finish it."

I agree with her. Here's what she should realize: Gillibrand is the one with a vision for how our troops can finish their job with success and honor. Under Sweeney and Bush our troops will never finish their work in Iraq which means they will never leave Iraq.

The TUBlog (I pronounce that tub-log (not tee you blog) if anyone wants to say it with me) has Gillibrand's new TV spot up, go check it out.

What is Sweeney's plan for Iraq? He has none. He still can't even bring himself to come to a debate on Iraq.

Related: See how Gillibrand honors veterans with support for GI Bill of Rights reforms.

WSJ notes

John Sweeney (R-NY) makes the Wall Street Journal, not in a good way.

New York Rep. John Sweeney has been re-elected three times with nearly 70% of the vote in his upstate, Republican district. Today, polls show the incumbent is barely over 50% against a Democratic opponent who isn't known to half the district's voters.

Among the reasons for Mr. Sweeney's erosion in support are controversies, such as trips with lobbyists and a fraternity party, that in another campaign season would have created just enough political baggage "to stow in the overhead bin" while cruising toward re-election, says Amy Walter, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "You just can't get away with having that sort of baggage this year."

Politicians and pollsters say this year, widespread voter dissatisfaction with Congress has the electorate in a less forgiving mood. This campaign season also is marked by a number of close contests, making politicians vulnerable to charges of ethical lapses -- and raising the political stakes if the charges stick.

Melissa Carlson, Mr. Sweeney's deputy chief of staff, says the campaign was taken "off guard" by the sudden attention to the alleged controversies. But, she says, the congressman didn't violate any ethics rule and takes comfort in the fact that he still has a lead in the polls.

Ms. Carlson says Mr. Sweeney went to the fraternity party with a friend and "enjoyed his conversation" with the students.

I cannot believe they are still out there selling people this line. HAHAHAHAHAH! You sound utterly stupid Carlson, keep up the good work. Sweeney would have been better off admiting he made a mistake that night and just left it at that. As it is he looks like he is about as stubborn as his friend Bush, can't admit when he's wrong.

...This year's scandal outbreak flows from a confluence of factors. One is protracted one-party rule, which gives politicians more power to dole out favors and lobbyists more incentives to pay for them.

In New York, until this year, Mr. Sweeney was considered a rising star in the party who earned praise from President Bush for his role in defending the Bush-Cheney ticket during the 2000 Florida recount [see Conspiracy to Riot]. He showed an ability to attract conservative Democrats, and won the backing of the AFL-CIO in previous campaigns.

Earlier this year, pictures appeared on the Internet of the 51-year-old congressman socializing at a late-night college fraternity party. Mr. Sweeney also has had to defend his participation in two trips -- to Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid, N.Y. -- with lobbyists who later donated to his campaign.

Ahem, socializing is not what it looked like to me, unless by socializing you mean acting like a drunken Old School Fool, well then yeah, he was "socializing."

And actually most those lobbyists had already donated to his campaign in years past. The contributions to Sweeney's campaign from the guest list are here in our post back in May. In July, the Times Union had a story about the $30,000 that came in to him in the same election cycle from the list. the wake of the flap over the Utah trip, Kirsten Gillibrand, a former Clinton administration official, opened her campaign against Mr. Sweeney by issuing an ethics "I.O.U." to voters. The AFL-CIO is backing Ms. Gillibrand.

The trip to Park City took place in January, when Mr. Abramoff was pleading guilty to three felonies and agreeing to help prosecutors probing political corruption. Asked about the trip in January, Mr. Sweeney said: "We all do it, in both parties. We all go fund raising out of state because we've tapped out resources in our districts."

Two New York state House investigations this year questioned whether it was appropriate for state agencies to help finance the Lake Placid trip. Ms. Carlson, of Mr. Sweeney's staff, says Democrats are using those investigations to stir suspicions that the trip was improper. "They are trying to tar everybody with that brush," she said.

It would be nice if the WSJ looked into Sweeney's role in drawing up the guest list. Well, just since according to testimony, he seems to be in violation of House Ethics rules. But no, they ended the story there. Maybe they are still researching. Or maybe it is just easier to go with the Carlson skew of reality.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Corruption Connections Keep On Coming

Robert Novak's column on Sept 16th picks up another Sweeney corruption connection. John Sweeney's re-election consultant, Jim Dornan, has been questioned by the DOJ.

Jim Dornan, one of the former managers of Rep. Katherine Harris's beleaguered Republican Senate candidacy in Florida, has told associates he was startled by how aggressively the FBI questioned him Sept. 6.

Dornan was interrogated for an hour and a half by federal agents as part of their inquiry into Harris's political contributions from defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who has pleaded guilty to bribery in another case. Dornan described the FBI as pressing him hard about Harris.

Dornan, a lobbyist and fund-raiser, is currently consulting for Rep. John Sweeney's re-election campaign in upstate New York. He left the Harris campaign last November.

Pushing Rope says "Dornan was Harris's campaign manager when she accepted $32,000 in contributions from convicted lobbyist Mitchell Wade."

"The Justice and Defense departments are examining Harris' dealings with Mitchell Wade, who made illegal campaign contributions to Harris and later asked her to help secure $10-million in federal money for a company project." (St. Petersburg Times).

Mitchell Wade is a donor to JACK PAC which has given Sweeney $3000 to date. JACK PAC has issues of its own. According to the Washington Post, The "D.C. OFFICE of Campaign Finance is conducting an audit of a political action committee known as the D.C. Fund (formerly the "Jack PAC"), ...At issue is whether Mr. Evans, an announced candidate for council chairman next year, violated D.C. campaign finance law and regulations in the use of a political action committee's funds." (see "PAC or Piggy Bank" for more.) Sweeney took $1000 from JACK PAC after the investigation was reported.

Should Sweeney give this $3,000 back to Jack?

We're wondering if any of these connections are the reason for the Department of Justice Probe on Sweeney? Also in the news: Newsday had good coverage on the Congressional Winter Challenge Report, read it here. We ask: Now will the house investigate Sweeney on the issue of invitation list since his role seems to be in violation of House Ethics rules?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Recent links of interest

  1. Just a little reminder to Mr. Sweeney, Labor Day has come and gone. When are the debates you promised? Gillibrand has invited John Sweeney to talk about the issues yet again.
  2. Looks like Sweeney's latest attack ad isn't going over well in these parts. See: Sweeney confuses Challenger with Cheney.
  3. Candidates in other races are starting to highlight the Northern Marianas Islands issue. This is another area where Sweeney's ethics are in question. See our earlier post for more information.

Sweeney's PAC, Helping New Cronies

The Political Wire reported that

Freshman PAC, a political action committee formed by Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) "to provide donations for House GOP freshmen has quietly become one of the largest PACs in the country. . ."

"In addition to giving to the 24 current Republican freshmen, Ross said Freshmen PAC will aim to give to GOP challengers and open-seat candidates in the nation’s most competitive races."

Who are some of the people Sweeney's PAC supported?

  • $5,000 to Katherine Harris
  • $5,000 to Rep. John R. Kuhl Jr.
  • $5,000 to Tom Reynold's TOMPAC
  • $5,000 to Richard Pombo's RICH Political Action Committee
  • $5,000 to Roy Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs Fund

Katherine Harris "dined with defense contractor Mitchell Wade twice (one meal at Citronelle in Georgetown cost $2,800) and accepted $32,000 in contributions. That's the Mitchell Wade who was convicted of bribing California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Like Cunningham, Harris tried to help Wade out, attempting to get an appropriation for $10 million to build a facility in her district." (source). She and Sweeney both have the honor of DOJ inquiries now. She is pictured above with Sweeney at the Freshman PAC fundraiser. Kuhl was included in a list of legislators who took illegal gifts from Philip Morris. (NY Times, source) He's one of the few members of Congress that Sweeney had join him at the Congressional Winter Challenge.

Tom Reynolds has taken "more lobbyist-funded luxury trips outside of western New York in the last three years than he has returned home to western New York." Jaunts to Pebble Beach, Calif., by Reynolds have totaled $205,185 over five years. (Washington Post)

Pombo's ethics problems are so rich, he has his own page at Clean Up

Roy Blunt is listed as one of the 13 most corrupt members of congress. And when Sweeney tells us he's been an independent voice, let's take a look at what other groups this PAC has supported, each one gives 100% of its money to Republicans only:

  • $20,000 to the NRCC
  • $15,000 RNC
  • $5,000 to the Keep Our Majority PAC
  • $5,000 to Continuing a Majority Party Action Committee
  • $5,000 American's Majority Trust
  • $5,000 Promoting Republicans You Can Elect PAC
  • $5,000 Prosperity Helps Inspire Liberty PAC
  • $5,000 Republican Party of Texas
  • $1,000 Majority in Congress PAC
  • $1,000 to Bill Pac

And let's see how they've supported him in turn:

Keep Our Majority has given $12,000 to Sweeney since 1999, most of it coming in the 05-06 cycle. Rely on Your Beliefs Fund has given Sweeney $12,000 also.

Other Sweeney givers on the given to list include the NRCC, Continuing a Majority Party Action Committee, Majority in Cogress PAC, Promoting Republicans You Can Elect PAC, Prosperity Helps Inspire Liberty PAC, Bill PAC and the RNC.

We can see why Sweeney and his spinner's are trying to distance Sweeney from Freshman PAC, however, LobbyWatch makes it clear, this is Sweeney's Leadership PAC.

The New York Post quoted Sweeney on his role with the PAC "devoted to helping first-term GOPers" reporting that:

...Sweeney has overseen a $1.9 million telemarketing campaign in 2005 and doled out $78,000 for 24 rookie lawmakers.

Sweeney said his action committee provides an "opportunity to help other people, and it gives me credibility when I go them later and say, 'I need your help.' "

Sweeney's mind set is corrupt: give money to get favors. Sweeney's "leadership" PAC helps create a new generation of cronies.

See all of the Freshman PAC's gives at its FEC page here.

Just wondering

If the 20th race is not close then why is Laura Bush on her way here?

And why is Sweeney among 7 incumbents with a "real need for additional resources" according to an NRCC event invitation?

Bowling for Republicans

Republicans in Washington were urged to take time off work from 4 to 6 p.m. last Wednesday and go to the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley in an unusual fundraiser for seven GOP House members in need of late campaign money.

The National Republican Congressional Committee called the event BOMP (Bowling for Our Majority Program). The beneficiaries were Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Thelma Drake of Virginia, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, John Sweeney of New York and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania.

The solicitation for BOMP asserted that the seven incumbents "all have a real need for additional resources in the last couple of months before the election." (source)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why the National Journal Is Wrong About Sweeney

The National Journal blog cites the poll by Sienna as proof that Sweeney is doing better than thought. Here's why they are wrong.

I heard from someone who got the poll at their house that the poll just queried whoever answered the phone, that means that it may have used a registered voter phone list, but it was not a poll of registered voters.

Additionally, likely voters are the only voters who matter in this election.

Here are at least 3 reasons I know of why registered Republicans in the 20th are planning on staying home Nov. 7th:

  1. They are unhappy with Bush, the direction we are headed and Bush's war in Iraq. They no longer support the president and will not come out to keep his majority in congress. This is why Sweeney and endangered Republicans like him are fighting to convince voters that representing a District to the Federal Government is not a national office but is more like a town council seat.
  2. They are unhappy with Sweeney's ongoing ethical challenges, his pro-pork record and votes that fail to reform earmarks, his legislation supporting lobbyist donors (see this Corruption Chronicles post), and don't get them started on his personal life...
  3. NY's GOP failed to give them anyone to vote for at the state level. Spitzer and Clinton are shoe-ins. The attorney general's race was the only one they could have hoped to win and their candidate against Andrew Cuomo can't win. She spends her time looking for page 10 or saying "I wasn't in the car" or "Am I better than that? Absolutely not!"

The poll by Global Strategy is of likely voters. The questions are fair and straightforward. It shows Gillibrand within 8 points of Sweeney.

People who think that Gillibrand's campaign is not gaining ground on Sweeney are wrong. All polls in this race show that her name recognition and approval are both going up steadily since the first poll released. Gillibrand has the time, know how and resources to keep moving up to where she has to be to win between now and election day.

Rep. Sweeney still supports Bush's war

In today's Post Star, a moving letter to the editor:

Today, remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, I realized that within months the Americans dead in Iraq will exceed that number. That total doesn't even approach the more than 30,000 Iraqi civilians who have died in the terrible battleground their country has become. Most Americans now understand that President Bush's war has proved a colossal, tragic mistake, one with no end in sight.

But Congressman John Sweeney still doesn't understand. He has enthusiastically supported Mr. Bush's war and its ruin of our economy. He has followed the Republican Congress in cutting domestic programs and plunging our children's generation deep into debt, funneling billions to the war, while 47 million Americans have no health insurance. He has forced ordinary Americans to make sacrifices for Iraq, but he has rewarded corporations and the wealthy with tax breaks. The blunder in Iraq is not just Mr. Bush's but Mr. Sweeney's as well, and it hurts us all.

This November we can send new leaders to Washington to start reversing the damage. I'm supporting Kirsten Gillibrand, Mr. Sweeney's opponent in New York's 20th Congressional District. Gillibrand has the intelligence, the energy, the dedication, and the integrity to help start correcting the errors of Mr. Bush and Mr. Sweeney's regime. She will help restore our priorities, making America secure at home rather than despised and endangered abroad. By electing Kirsten Gillibrand to Congress, we can help take back our country.


Saratoga Springs

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Grand Ole Promise Breakers

While Sweeney's post-Abramoff failed ethics reform efforts got him the headlines he wanted, the news today tells the real story. Sweeney and the GOP have no interest in changing business as usual in congress. There Republican Culture of Corruption is not reforming itself, they can't even pass reform that has been utterly watered down.

...even the scaled-back earmarks measure, which would require disclosure of special projects inserted, often furtively, into larger bills, is facing opposition.

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, which puts together annual spending bills, have objected to being singled out for earmark reform and demand that any new rule also apply to tax and authorization bills.

Republicans on the committee held up passage of the lobbying bill last May over the same issue. ... (Washington Post Story)

Sweeney is on the appropriations committee.

This Sunday, a pastor told me, "I like change." I have to agree with him on that, let's change the house.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Our votes are not on sale

Why be bribed into voting for Sweeney? I say that any congress person can bring funding to the district for projects that are worthwhile. Sweeney is throwing money in the coffers of his campaign supporters, his NMMA luxury yacht bill and the Congressional Winter Challenge are just two of many cases in point.

The recent NY Times article states that

...Republican incumbents, in New York and elsewhere, have been trying to shift the focus of the races away from hostility toward the Bush administration to more local concerns, like the potential loss of federal aid to their districts if they lose veteran congressmen.

Let's not let our vote go to the wrong side over pork. Any congress person will fight for his or her district.

It is time to send someone to congress who will change where we are going. Another 2 years with Sweeney means another two years of Bush deciding to leave our troops in Iraq indefinitely. Two more years of Sweeney means 2 more years of an America were terrorism issues are used to divide us not to unite us and to make us more secure at home. (Related, have you seen KO's 9/11 commentary yet?)

If we give 2 years to Gillibrand, she will work to turn this nation around. She will give us a nation that sees value in investing in renewable energy to help local farmers, families and businesses. She doesn't spend vacation time with lobbyists. She will give us representation that keeps us safe at home and abroad. She will bring home the bacon for projects that are worthy of tax support not those that are given away to campaign donors.

Gillibrand is the right leader at the right time. Let's not squander our vote for fear of losing a little pork. Let's buck the system and let's bring our friends out to vote for the values that matter to us all as Americans. Let's fight against a system designed to protect incompetent incumbents, the story goes on...

— the incumbents in New York are benefiting from being in legislative districts drawn to keep the Republican incumbents in place. ...

[On the bright side!] Ms. Gillibrand, a lawyer, has been a strong fund-raiser, taking in nearly as much money as Mr. Sweeney. And she and her advisers have run a tenacious campaign, generating headlines by exploiting some of Mr. Sweeney’s actions, including a $2,000-a-person “Skiing With Sweeney” weekend getaway he organized that was attended by lobbyists at a resort in Park City, Utah. Mr. Sweeney [yawn, as usual] denied doing anything improper. ...

The Sweeney-Gillibrand race shows how Republicans have deliberately focused on local circumstances and personalities rather than on national issues, at a time when President Bush continues to show weakness in the polls around the country. ...

“In the abstract, this is not an obvious race,” she said. “But I have made the case from the beginning that this race is winnable because of the changing nature of our district, the voting record of John Sweeney and the strength of our campaign.” ...

Democrats say there is plenty of time for challengers to close any gaps. To that end, one prominent liberal group, Political Action, is running advertisements attacking Mr. Sweeney and John R. Kuhl Jr., a first-term Republican from the Corning area, as part of a national campaign to help Democratic challengers who are in so-called second-tier races: contests that have the potential to become competitive but are not considered competitive yet.

The seats that the Democrats had identified as enticing targets include those held by Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Kuhl, Mr. Walsh, Sue Kelly of Westchester, and Mr. Boehlert. State Senator Raymond A. Meier, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Michael A. Arcuri, the Oneida County district attorney, are fighting for the seat that Mr. Boehlert is vacating. ,,,

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Our local hero's efforts get laughed out of town by Whiskey Bar

Thusly :

"The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sneaks a peak at the legislative agenda in our GOP-controlled Chamber of People's Deputies:

Returning from a five-week summer vacation, GOP lawmakers have much to worry about: war in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism and border problems, high energy prices and health-care costs, and none of the federal government's annual spending bills enacted.

So what did House leaders decide to make the centerpiece of the week? H.R. 503: the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act . . . The debate -- lasting nearly four hours while horse lover Bo Derek watched from the gallery -- quickly degenerated into dueling expressions of equestrian love.

The scene reminds me of the old World War II joke about the worker in a defense plant who's asked what he's building. 'The front ends of horses,' he replies, 'to be shipped to Washington for final assembly.'

Kidding aside, though, it's stories like these that make me wonder: How much longer can this corrupt, idiotic excuse for a republic keep stumbling along on sheer inertia?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Sweeney's boat give away

Actually, we first reported on Sweeney and the NMMA $ on June 1st, not in July. (Though we talked about it again in July when Sweeney started getting press for his introduction of the bill.)

One of the things that is funny about this story coming out in the national press this week, is that I handed the story on a platter to a local reporter back in June. During our conversation, the reporter asked if I'd be as upset if a Democrat accepted funding from a union and then introduced a bill that the union backed.

Gee, that wasn't the case, but anyway if a union backs something, it would probably cost corporations money - not tax payers. If would help working class people and not a special interest corporations, maybe I'd be supportive.

Sweeney's bill will cost tax payers not companies. And it won't work, it is just a give away to a campaign donor. But the reporter didn't cover the story then anyway.

The other pathetic part of this story, is how Sweeney tries to convince people that he came up with the idea for this legislation after a Lake George boating accident that ended in several deaths. Sweeney's spinner admits that boats require life vests but that boaters don't wear them. I've yet to understand how giving tax breaks to boat builders/campaign donors is going to change that. In a shamelessly indecent stunt, Sweeney used the anniversary of the accident to promote his tax give away. Even in Monday's story below, his spinner is still trying to tell us that the idea came from the Ethan Allen accident. I kid you not!

Sweeney's spinner also says that his office doesn't know what the bill will cost tax payers.

So now our "representative" just hands out blank USA Treasury checks to his donors without considering what effect it will have on our national budget?

Here's the Chicago Tribune story:

Waters grow choppy for lobby's perk to lawmakers

By Mike Dorning in the Chicago Tribune

September 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- They called it the "Congressional Cruise Series," featuring lovely evenings on a luxury yacht complete with "two large staterooms ... a deluxe entertainment center and an airy comfortable salon." They billed it, unabashedly, as a way for lobbyists to develop relationships with influential politicians.

By all appearances, the National Marine Manufacturers Association's program of taking members of Congress and their staffs on cruises--and hosting fundraisers for lawmakers aboard the same boat--succeeded quite nicely.

The cruises have yielded photos of a congressman at the helm of the yacht and group shots of other lawmakers posed on the boat with their smiling aides, all posted on the association's Web site. At least one of those congressmen later proposed legislation that the association strongly favored.

Money long has lubricated Washington in myriad ways, from exotic travel to campaign contributions, from the subtle to the blunt. Even with the high-profile guilty plea of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose case brought to light breathtaking excesses, the wheels of Washington continue to turn. The cruises, at least, are in hiatus this summer because of what the association's lobbyist called the "poisoned" atmosphere.

Photographs, newsletters and lobbying reports on the Web site of the Chicago-based trade association for recreational boat manufacturers provide a window into one way special interests navigate the channels of influence in Washington.

There are images of Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and members of his congressional staff posing on the yacht while the sun sets behind the Washington Monument. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) poses on the bow with several aides who are holding beverage containers.

In another photo, Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) is pictured at the helm during one of two fundraisers for his re-election campaign held on the yacht. The trade association donated the use of the boat, according to campaign finance records.

This May, Sweeney introduced legislation to give boat manufacturers a tax break for the cost of personal flotation devices and emergency beacons sold together with boats.

A spokeswoman for Sweeney said the trade group's hospitality and campaign contributions did not influence the congressman. She said that the tax break grew out of Sweeney's efforts to improve nautical safety after a boating disaster in his district last October.

Cruises beached

The cruises have been suspended this summer, a casualty of public sensitivity to privately financed luxury perks. Photos of lawmakers on yachts with lobbyists might not go down well in any campaign season but would seem particularly dicey this year.

For years, the National Marine Manufacturers Association asked one of its member manufacturers to lend the group's Washington lobbying office the use of a new yacht for the warm-weather months. The purpose was "to help our government relations staff develop relationships with key policy makers," the group's political action committee wrote in a report to members.

In 2004 and 2005, it was a 38-foot Meridian 381 Sedan that the trade association kept moored at a marina on the Potomac a few blocks from the Capitol. The cruises are emblematic of the Washington culture in which lobbyists use entertainment and gifts to curry favor with lawmakers and their staffs, said Ross Baker, a former congressional staff member and a Rutgers University political science professor who specializes in the study of Congress.

"Much of this is in the general area of buying access and goodwill for the lobbyist," Baker said. "When the lobbyist shows up at the office, a receptionist who has been part of this outing on the yacht recognizes the lobbyist and gets him in for a meeting with the chief of staff."

Profits in the boat industry are influenced by a wide array of federal activities, including Coast Guard regulations, fishing rules, endangered species protection, environmental standards and maintenance of federal waterways. A luxury tax imposed on the purchase of high-end boats during the early 1990s and later repealed dramatically reduced yacht sales.

Last summer, the trade association hosted more than 650 congressional aides aboard the yacht, according to a report written by the trade group's chief lobbyist, Monita Fontaine.

Beer, soft drinks and snacks typically were provided on the cruise, Fontaine said in an interview.

In a newsletter, the organization described the Potomac yacht trips, which it said ran from mid-June through early October, as a way for members to Congress "to reward their staffs, while at the same time allowing us to thank members for their support of the recreational boating industry."

The cruise series "is intensely popular and one of the most talked-about events on Capitol Hill," the newsletter added.

With the trade association required to make arrangements for a boat by late winter, shortly after the Abramoff scandal erupted and amid speculation that Congress would act to tighten gift rules, the group decided to suspend the cruise series this year, Fontaine said.

"The atmosphere was poisoned at that time, and we didn't have a clarification on what Congress would do with gift rules. Until we have that clarified, we will wait, to make sure everything is aboveboard," Fontaine said.

Fontaine said the trade association believes the yacht excursions meet congressional ethics rules, which forbid lawmakers and their staffs from accepting a gift worth $50 or more.

Fontaine said the trips were primarily to educate members of Congress and their staffs about boating issues. "One hour on the Potomac is worth 1,000 pieces of paper," she said. "It's a tremendous educational tool, because most people don't view things from out on the water."

Yacht was an edge

The trade group also used the yacht for fundraisers, boasting to its PAC contributors that the events gave candidates an edge in a city where fundraisers "tend to be carbon copies of the same old reception format."

Melissa Carlson, a spokeswoman for Sweeney, described the revenue raised from his yacht fundraisers as "modest." She said the 2004 fundraiser raised the congressman's campaign $4,150 and the event the following year raised $8,000.

The trade association also made a $4,000 cash contribution to Sweeney's current campaign.

"That had nothing to do with the [tax break] legislation," Carlson said.

Carlson said the congressman hoped that a tax deduction covering the cost of personal flotation devices would encourage boatmakers to furnish higher-quality, more-comfortable life jackets when delivering boats. Boats are required to carry life jackets, but passengers often do not wear them, she said.

Carlson said the office did not have an estimate on what the tax break would cost the federal treasury.

She said Sweeney became interested in the issue after the capsizing of the pleasure boat Ethan Allen drowned 20 people in Lake George last October. None of the victims was wearing a life jacket.

Other members of Congress whom the trade group's PAC hosted for fundraisers on the yacht included Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), according to trade association and federal campaign finance reports.

They just can't open their mouths without lying

Take Ol "Congressman Do-Over's recent attack ad against Gillibrand, for example starts like this:

The Washington group condemned for invoking Hitler, who called America warped by lies now attacks John Sweeney with ads so deceptive that stations refuse to run them

While the screen shows quotes from those bastions of mainstream American values like Rev Sung Jung Moon's Washington Times.

Five seconds of screen time, three or four lies:

  • Moveon is indeed headquartered in Washington, but it is a national membership group with millions of members. Are we going to call the Red Cross a Washington group? This phrasing is deceptively, obviously and deliberately pandering to base anti-government emotions.
  • Moveon was attacked by Moon's wackjob paper for invoking Hitler, but in fact they did not invoke Hitler. In a contest where people from around the country submitted their own advertisements on what to say about George Bush, one of the entries implied that Hitler's mass rallies were a precursor to the type of politics that we see now. Big deal. It'd be nice to imagine that our political culture is mature enough to examine ideas. But of course, that would only be imagination. Let's try to act like adults.
  • "Warped by lies." Two examples: 1) Swift boat. 2) Iraq.
  • Two local stations are not running the ads because they are deceptive, but because they are threatened with a lawsuit by Sweeney. The ads aren't deceptive at all. It's just plain bullying.

So, in short, we have a lying, bullying manchild in Congress, enjoying the perks of office -- trips to the Caribbean, Europe, ski trips with lobbyists -- without doing anything to help his district that is hemorrhaging jobs and population and losing hope for a decent future. Someone comes to town and talks government, and he decides to shout her down with lies and bullying. Is this representative of who we are?

Nearly eight years in office, and his campaign says nothing but tries to rile up people. Marvelous. Vote the bum out.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hey, we were first?

From - Sweeney takes heat over fundraising :

"Blog reported contributions

The PAC's campaign contributions were first reported in July in a liberal blog dubbed '20trueblue.' Use of the yacht was reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal on Aug. 27 and then in the Chicago Tribune on Monday, sparking discussion on several political blogs."
Nice work, Lisa.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

With all due respect

To the dear Media,

It is possible to ignore the Republican re-election campaign focused on Stop Signs, Mortgage Papers and "Stalkers" and to write instead about real news. (Note: I'm not picking on the Times Union with those links because the Post Star has covered all or most of these stories also, it is just that the TUBlog is easier to link to.) What annoys me about the Post Star's complaints about the negativity of the race is that they encourage Sweeney to keep sending out his gooney press releases with their printed coverage of them.

For something completely different (compared to most of the coverage of the NY-20 race) here's an article outlining issues and the candidate's contrasting thoughts on Iraq.

From the Daily Freeman:

RHINEBECK - U.S. Rep. John Sweeney said on Wednesday that it's important to support President Bush's Iraq initiative because of long-term leverage the United States will need in the region, especially in dealing with Iran.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Sweeney's opponent in the upcoming election for New York's 20th Congressional District seat, responded that regional powers Russia and China - not the United States - should exert their leverage to ensure Iran does not become a nuclear threat.

Sweeney, speaking during a Wednesday morning news conference at Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, said Iran "is a threat, obviously - probably the pre-eminent threat now in the world - and we have to determine what gives us the best leverage with Iran, and that's the decision we have to make on how much further we go in Iraq and what we do.

"I think that we have to be very careful" in Iraq, the Clifton Park Republican said. "I think it is a critical time, and I think the Iraqis have to stand up."

Gillibrand, a Democrat from Greenport, called Sweeney "a rubber-stamp for the president's misguided policies" and said the responsibility for controlling Iran should fall to the powerful nations in that part of the world.

"Our next strategy should be to focus on working with China and Russia to exert their leverage in the region so that we can assure that there will not be an Iran with nuclear weapons," Gillibrand said. "I think that we haven't yet used our leverage over those two countries as effectively as we could."

Gillibrand said all sides involved in the current internal conflict in Iraq should be brought to the bargaining table for a discussion on ending the violence there.

She also said the Republican administration should be held accountable for invading Iraq on faulty intelligence - Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction that were Bush's basis for the war have yet to be found - and said whether the White House is guilty of "misleading" or "lying" to the American public is simply "a choice of words."

"We need to do (an) investigation ... to see if it was willful," she said.

"When you use the word 'lie,' it means that somebody willfully told a mistruth," Gillibrand said. "We don't know, and that's the question that Congress has been unwilling to ask, and that is the problem. What the Congress is supposed to do is provide accountability, and so what they should be doing is a full investigation."

Both houses of Congress have been in Republican hands for all but a few months of Bush's two terms, and Democrats hope Bush's low job approval rating will help them regain control of the House and Senate in this fall's midterm elections. ... (source)

Where is Sweeney going with his Iraq stance first he says he supports the president then that it is time for the Iraqis to stand up, his Iraq position is weak and unclear. It sounds like he wants to lay the foundation for backing off of the statements he made just the other day when Giulani was here when he was fully in support of the war.

I suppose one of the great things for Sweeney about not having a plan for Iraq is that you can just blow in the wind and say whatever people want to hear whenever you realize that they want to hear it.

Gillibrand's stance on Iraq has been consistent. She's seen what needs to be done since the beginning of her campaign.

Related Posts on Sweeney's Support for Bush and More of the Same in Iraq: Rudy and Sweeney Wearing Rose Colored Glasses (August 22nd) Sweeney Parrots Bush's Talking Points (June 23rd)

In case you don't get it...

The two problems with so-called minor ethical slips are 1) they turn into bigger ones sooner or later and 2) taxpayers don't appreciate it when our public monies are spent in support of views and people with whom we disagree. Those are some of the reasons why many of us are unhappy with Sweeney's "Congressional Winter Challenge" and his recent photo op at a city workplace. Here's an excellent editorial from The Saratogian on the latter:

The commissioner, Ron Kim, might have looked the other way were he a Republican, like Sweeney. But this should not be shrugged off as political sour grapes. Kim is raising a legitimate question whose answer should be heeded by all, regardless of political persuasion.

The city's code of ethics states that the city workplace and city employees should not be part of election campaigns or political events.

Sweeney's visit was inarguably both. ...

When candidates make the rounds for public employees' union endorsements, those meetings should be set up off-hours. If Gillibrand and her entourage attempted to make the same kind of appearance at the firehouse as Sweeney, would she be welcome? Would the Republicans balk? Public employees shouldn't put themselves in the position of picking and choosing politicians to showcase, especially while the employees are on duty. In fact, the fire alarm went off while they were there.

Sweeney's spokeswoman and John "Jasper" Nolan, the Saratoga County Republican chairman, would have been advised to clam up and let the Board of Ethics review the case, rather than releasing inflammatory statements bemoaning the Democrats for picking on a "hard working public servant," referring to the union chief.

This is not about the union chief. It's about policies, propriety and fairness.

It is appropriate for the Board of Ethics to review and clarify the rules for city property and city employees, no matter who they support for office.


Friday, September 01, 2006

BAE wants Sweeney in 06

Sweeney is the real war profiteer here. John Sweeney is claiming that Kirsten Gillibrand is not genuine in her call to change the direction we are going in Iraq because her husband's retirement plan included stock in BAE.

BAE is the Pentagon's seventh-largest supplier of tanks and armored vehicles so Sweeney claims that means Gillibrand is a "war profiteer." Guess what?

BAE's PAC donated $2,000 to Sweeney's 2006 campaign.

That campaign donation completely disproves Sweeney's claim. Since Sweeney can't debate Gillibrand on Iraq, he will resort to the chapter in Karl Rove's Re-election Rule Book titled: Twisted: Take a Fact and Make Stuff Up About it.

BAE supports Sweeney. BAE knows who will be keeping them in business - Congressman Do-over, John Sweeney. His pro-Bush votes for more of the same with no end in sight and no plan to exit is what they want this November. For more of Sweeney's war funders, see this post at Colin Neal's page at Daily Kos

Question of the day: Since being associated with BAE means that one is a "war-profiteer" in Sweeney's eyes, is he going to give back the money they gave him?

Sweeney Red Handed and Red Faced

John Sweeney just can't keep his cool over the recent Caught Red Handed Ads. (See more info on the content of the ads here.) The Post Star reports that Sweeney's lawyer is threatening a law suit:

...Joe Seeman, a regional organizer for, said the group will continue to speak about Sweeney and the Iraq war.

"The more they intimidate us, the more we will speak up and say, 'Sweeney is caught red-handed,' " he said. "I'll say personally to E. Stewart Jones, 'Sue me.' "

If Sweeney does file a lawsuit, it probably would not be heard until after the election, when it would be too late to stop the commercials anyway, said Paul McMasters, a First Amendment expert with The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.

McMasters said he doubted an argument based on the dictionary definition of red-handed would hold muster in court.

"I think it would be a tough battle to make in court," he said.

Regardless, he said, a candidate benefits by threatening legal action, either by convincing television stations not to run the ad, or simply by creating exposure for arguments against the ad.

"If anyone thinks it's a polite sport with a lot of rules, then they haven't watched political campaigns," he said.

NewsChannel 13 was continuing to air the ad, despite receiving a second letter Thursday from Jones objecting to it, said Stephen Baboulis, the station's general manager.

"I know they're not pleasant to the congressman, but our lawyer has determined it's not defamatory," Baboulis said.

...WTEN-TV Channel 10 and WXXA-TV Channel 23 agreed not to air either ad, said Jones, the lawyer for Sweeney.

Management at the two stations did not return messages The Post-Star left seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Robert Turner, a political science professor at Skidmore College, said it is unusual for television stations to decline to air political commercials.

"Normally political campaign speech is afforded pretty broad latitude about how truthful it has to be," he said.

Chris Brunner, news director at Capital News 9, said it is unusual for a politician to threaten legal action over a commercial.

"Just in general, people complain about their ads," he said. "But they usually just reply to them on air."... (Post Star, note subscription required)

How goofey is Sweeny? Instead of buying his own ad, he's throwing money at a lawyer to bully local tv stations into declining the ads (and the revenue they'd bring to our local economy). Sweeney is something else, when he doesn't get his way, he bullies people into silence, this is the man who took office and swore to uphold our constitution and its right to freedom of speech.