Monthly Archives: July 2006

“Safety Nets”

Any bets on how many of these farmers decry federal handouts to poor folks? Ah, but when it comes to their “safety net,” they’re first at the trough.

IRS Targeting Churches

I’ll bet Our Lady of Hope in Loudoun County was one of the churches the IRS is targeting. It was Dick Black’s church and he used it shamefully in his campaigns. Often, though I don’t recall any reports in the ’05 campaign, priests there would from the pulpit proselytize for Black’s election. Church members were seen folding campaign literature in the vestibule during mass. The flyers were then tucked under windshield blades. Dave Poisson won the district the church is in by 60%.

Getting It

Slowly but surely, the Democrats are getting it. The Democracy Alliance is putting money into the nurturing of progressive groups that are building for the future.

Alliance officials initially reviewed about 600 liberal and Democratic-leaning organizations. Then, about 40 of those groups were invited to apply for an endorsement — with a requirement that they submit detailed business plans and internal financial information. Those groups were then screened by a panel of alliance staff members, donors and outside experts, including some with expertise in philanthropy rather than politics. So far, according to people familiar with the alliance, 25 groups have received its blessing.

This type of effort is long overdue.

In 2003, the 19 progressive organizations with budgets exceeding $1 million spent a total of $75 million, he said. In contrast, the 24 national think tanks on the right had $170 million in spending, along with state-based policy centers’ $50 million and campus-based conservative policy organizations’ $75 million to $100 million, according to [Democracy Alliance co-founder Rob] Stein.

Liberal groups have been disproportionately dependent on one-year foundation grants for specific projects, Stein said, while the money flowing to conservative groups has often involved donors’ long-term commitments with no strings attached. Stein noted that of 200 major conservative donors, about half sit on the boards of the think tanks they give to, increasing the strength of their commitment.

Of course, any effort like this is sure to have its critics and of course, those critics are mostly Democrats, allowing the Post reporters to put a lot of “buts” in the story today.

But the large checks and demanding style wielded by Democracy Alliance organizers in recent months have caused unease among Washington’s community of Democratic-linked organizations. The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence.

Democracy Alliance also has left some Washington political activists concerned about what they perceive as a distinctly liberal tilt to the group’s funding decisions. Some activists said they worry that the alliance’s new clout may lead to groups with a more centrist ideology becoming starved for resources.

… But the alliance’s early months have been marked by occasional turmoil, according to several people who are now or have recently been affiliated with the group. Made up of billionaires and millionaires who are accustomed to calling the shots, the group at times has gotten bogged down in disputes about its funding priorities and mission, participants said.

… But some consider Democracy Alliance’s hidden influence troubling, regardless of its ideological orientation. Unlike election campaigns, which must detail contributions and spending, most of the think tanks and not-for-profit groups funded by the alliance are exempt from public disclosure laws.

“It is a huge problem,” said Sheila Krumholz, the acting executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. She noted that for decades “all kinds of Democrats and liberals were complaining that corporations and individuals were carrying on these stealth campaigns to fund right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups. Just as it was then, it is a problem today.”

But schmut. Let the Center for Responsive Politics and other watchdog groups complain. It hasn’t stopped the right-wing radicals and it should stop progressives. No matter that it might be a “problem today,” it is also smart politics.

Those most threatened will be the hacks who call themselves Democratic consultants and single-issue groups.

…Some Democratic political consultants privately fear that the sums being spent by alliance donors will mean less money spent on winning elections in 2006 and 2008.

… A key task will be to develop multi-issue think tanks, instead of single-issue groups, like NARAL Pro-Choice America, that now dominate Democratic circles, [political science professor at City College of New York Andrew] says.

Two concerns I share are one, will these groups be tied solely to the Democratic Party instead of being independent think tanks that will influence the Democratic Party, and two, will they make the necessary investments at the local level?

“These proposed new groups are designed to enhance the prospect of a political party,” says [Executive Vice President of the libertarian Cato Institute David] Boaz. “That’s the wrong approach.”

But Rich says more liberal think tanks will enrich the marketplace of ideas. And even Boaz welcomes that. “We do understand the benefits of competition,” he says.

Your damn right it’s about competing. It’s about winning elections as well as crafting progressive ideas. It can’t be one or the other.

Will Virginia Democrats step up? There’s an interesting template at the Center for Progressive Leadership where a fellowship has been created.

The Fellowship begins in January of 2007. Throughout the Fellowship, each Fellow will work with experts, seasoned professionals, elected officials, and trainers to develop their personal leadership skills through four main activities:
· Skills Coaching one-on-one and in small groups
· Group Workshops across the state
· Political Networking
· Personal Mentorship

This advanced political leadership course will focus on key political skills like raising money, crafting a compelling message, and communicating with the media; however, the program will also focus on long term personal development like political strategic planning, network building, expanding your base of support, and leading from your own values.

In addition, Fellows will have the opportunity to meet and work with some of the top political and organizational leaders from across the state. Through the mentoring program, group workshops, and networking events, Fellows will develop deep connections to the other Fellows in the program and active leaders across the state of Pennsylvania.

Right now, Virginia Democrats seem unwilling to invest in such long-range planning. All their dollars are focused on the next election cycle. Sending more direct mail pieces in the eight weeks before the election is overemphasized, in my opinion. Granted, there are endemic problems with Virginia Democrats: They often lack the cash to invest in the long-term. They also value consensus over winning elections to the point of letting single issue groups inhibit the development of a coherent grand strategy to win over moderate Republicans and independents. And now, with populous Northern Virginia turning reliably blue and two successive Democratic governors, there’s a tendency to stay the course and hope for the best. But beyond a couple of Democratic House and Senate seats, I don’t see a majority General Assembly, certainly not the House, unless aggressive idea and message development are pursued with the same passion as GOTV and brochure production.

That stems in part from the Virginia Democrats buying into the media game of money equaling viability. If a candidate has cash, then she must be viable. If she doesn’t, she’s toast. Judy Feder is considered more of a threat to Frank Wolf because of fund raising prowess than is Andy Hurst is to Tom Davis because of his dollar disadvantage. But money spend in campaigns only gets you so far. The ability to think and plan long-term, to develop a coherent strategy and a passion for changing the nature of the debate — which is what conservatives did for 40 years to gain power — is precisely what we need at the local and state level, where the next generation of U.S. congressmen, senators and presidents are nurtured.

Who’s to Blame and When Did It Start?

Less than an hour ago, the AP reported,

President Bush and other world leaders struggled Sunday to prevent Mideast violence from exploding into a wider war. They urged Israel to show “utmost restraint” and blamed Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas for igniting the escalating five-day-old crisis.

In fact, the G-8 leaders saw what they wanted in the statement they crafted.

But The Washington Post reported a timeline that has Israel starting the armed conflict on June 13. And it appears that the AP was so intent on making sure those who put the sole blame on Arabs in this latest conflict got their point of view in this story that it forgot to mention one of the most important aspects of this statement, which was in the lede of the Post’s story on its web site this afternoon.

President Bush and seven other world leaders put aside differences and joined together Sunday to call for “an immediate end to the current violence” in the Middle East, demanding that Islamic radicals stop firing rockets at Jewish cities and release captured Israeli soldiers while insisting that Israel halt military operations and free arrested Palestinian officials.

Where and when did this conflict start? Maybe it was just after WW II.

UPDATE: Monday morning I noticed that the same link in this post went to an updated version of the story with a different lede. But bottom line is that the G-8 announcement calls for Israel to return Palestinian officals it arrested earlier this year.

Return of the Robo

I guess the Democrats felt that the strategy worked so well in the transportation debate, they decided to use it again against Fairfax Republicans who voted against child care funding.

Virginia Democrats said they had launched a campaign of automated phone calls to voters in Fairfax targeting GOP delegates who voted against the budget amendments.

The calls, sponsored by the Joint Democratic Caucus, are “educational for the constituents, to let them know how their delegate voted” during the worst stalemate in the legislature’s history, said Matt Mansell, director of the House Democratic Caucus. “There’s been a lot of attention paid to those Northern Virginia delegates and what they have and haven’t done for their constituents.”

The recording tells voters that the delegate in question “voted against child care for 1,900 low-income children” and against funding to prevent sewage from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, a reference to a project in Lynchburg to clean water flowing into the James River.

Help me out here. Why would the people living in Albo’s, Hugo’s, Callahan’s districts care about low-income families? To people in those districts, they’re foreigners — in many ways. Maybe O’Brien’s (especially) and Cuccinelli’s districts have some families impacted in the far eastern regions of their districts. But is this the kind of issue that would move Republicans to pressure their own? Maybe we should ask who’s getting a cut of the robo call expenditure?

OK. Maybe polluting the Chesapeake Bay will get a rise out of some moderate Fairfax Republicans, but not many are really going to get jacked up about a sewage plant in Lynchberg?

Anyone, please enlighten me.

UPDATE: I left out Rust among the targets. With the politics of the Herndon area recently, I’m not sure how well this reverberates there, either.


This one just makes you feel good about government officials doing the right thing.


The Daily Press gives voice to the “mutterings.”

Understand, it’s difficult to find people who don’t like this governor or at least admire his intellectual ability. He’s an open, agreeable guy, with a quick wit and an attractive style.

But is he really up to the job? Does Kaine have the knack for leadership, in a broad sense, to lay out direction for a state facing any number of serious challenges and the political skill to move things forward?

“I’m happy. I have one bit of unhappiness, and that’s that we’re not there yet on transportation. That is a very significant issue and I ain’t giving up on it,” Kaine told The Associated Press.

One bit of unhappiness? Is that how Kaine views the situation out on Interstate 64 day after sweltering day?

It is precisely that kind of language that makes people feel that Kaine attaches little or no urgency to the transportation mess, that he doesn’t, to borrow an overused phrase, get it.

Or care much about getting it, either.

During the late, somewhat extended legislative session, Kaine put out a revenue plan and then watched it die with barely a whimper.

He made a weak stab at the serious business of matching land-use choices to transportation adequacy, smacked into stiff resistance and abruptly walked away from it.

Senate Republicans, who politically laid it on the line for road improvements this year and got zilch, still grouse that Kaine let them down at key moments in the effort.

Now, after the longest budget standoff in the history of the state, Kaine appears rather sanguine about getting a different result out of a populist-led House that remains committed to doing nothing about providing new money.

“We’re going to come back and we’re going to deal with it some more,” Kaine assures us. “I know we’re going to make significant advances even on the funding side, which is the hard piece.”

Oh? Kaine said that before the last go-around, and best of luck to him on doing better during the proposed September special legislative session. But given the hardened political posture by all participants, it’s not likely to happen.

During his many transportation town meetings in December and January, the governor-elect functioned as a listening post, not a leader. You wondered even then whether he grasped, first, the political difficulty of the challenge or, second, the varied breakdowns of the issue from one region to another.

In retrospect, it’s obvious that he didn’t in either case.

And now? Well, the spine of this region’s infrastructure – I-64 – turns into a parking lot on a regular basis. Some of the problem is increased summer traffic, but not all. Not by a stretch.



Consider the tremendous growth that’s occurring on both sides of this highway. What is the plan for dealing with I-64 – not between Newport News and Williamsburg, but between Newport News and Richmond?

There isn’t any plan.

The highway will gradually become the new I-81, a lightly patrolled, truck-infested and fear-inducing mess of a road.

Kaine’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Warner, stumbled early on, but then got angry, took charge and showed he had the stuff to make things happen.

Many hope that the same pattern will repeat itself with Kaine, and, yes, other states and other governors have worse problems.

In the meantime, expect the mutterings to continue.