Wednesday, September 20, 2006

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.

...in 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.

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