Future of Illinois prison near Clinton in doubt

Deals struck during the Congressional lame-duck session have scuttled for now the federal government’s plan to purchase and open the Thomson Correctional Center facility in Illinois. The high-security prison was mostly built in 2001 but never utilized for lack of state budget funds. A year ago, officials announced plans for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to purchase the facility. The plan involved the Defense Department leasing part of one building to house some detainees transferred from the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Clinton, Iowa lies just across the Mississippi River from Thomson and is the main population center for the area. Local, state and federal officials estimated that opening the prison would generate nearly a thousand jobs directly and more indirectly as workers spent money in the local economy. In late 2009, Representative Bruce Braley said his constituents supported the plan for a new prison at Thomson, while prominent Iowa Republicans stoked fears about bringing terror suspects to a maximum-security facility anywhere in the midwest.

When drafting the 2011 defense authorization bill, House members barred the use of any federal funds for a facility to house former Guantanamo detainees, pending “a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility.” Similar language made it into the final version of the defense authorization bill, which the House and Senate approved on December 22. The provision will prevent the Obama administration from trying some terrorism suspects in U.S. civilian courts, and was struck to secure Republican support. (By some accounts, Republicans insisted on this provision in exchange for letting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal move forward.)

Federal Bureau of Prisons officials made clear this year that they still planned to purchase the Thomson Correction Center to relieve overcrowding in the federal prison system. However, it would cost the federal government more than $200 million to purchase and renovate the facility. The 2011 federal budget omnibus bill included funding to buy the Thomson Correctional Center, but an uproar over earmarks prompted Senate Republicans to reject the omnibus bill on December 16. Consequently, the federal government is operating on a continuing spending authorization until March 2011. Republican Congressional leaders have promised big domestic spending cuts next year, and it’s not clear whether the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, will have the money to purchase Thomson. When the state of Illinois attempted to auction the facility last week, neither the federal government nor anyone else placed a bid.

The stalemate surrounding federal plans for Thomson runs counter to a decades-long American tradition of bipartisan political support for prisons as economic development projects.

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On the National scene,

Was watching some of the MSNBC videos,  and Sally Quinn was being interviewed.  She stated that there are whispers about town that VP Biden and SoS Clinton will switch positions for the 2012 elections.  That would free Clinton to begin campaigning earlier,  setting her up to run for POTUS in 2016.  Biden's love is Foreign Affairs and he would be a very good Sos.  Can you imagine an Obama/Clinton 2012?  I think it would be a good deal.  Then we'd have a Clinton/? 2016.  They asked Quinn what she thought the odds of this happening were?  And she answered, “Oh I am sure its going to happen.”  Then she smiled.  She would not release her sources, of course.  but she sounded pretty confident.   Any thoughts? 

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We have a new candidate in House district 26

Mary Wolfe, an attorney in Clinton, will run as a Democrat in Iowa House district 26, Steven Martens of the Quad-City Times reported today.

“I understand the challenges that small businesses face, since I own one myself,” she said in a news release. “And as an attorney, on a daily basis I see the severe financial and emotional impact that the national recession is having on so many hard-working Clinton County families.

“Clinton County, and Iowa in general, needs more well-paying jobs and an economic development strategy that targets local businesses and middle-income families, not big corporations and company presidents.”

Democrat Polly Bukta has represented this district for seven terms but announced yesterday that she will not seek re-election, citing a desire to spend more time with family. Bukta has worked on a number of education and health-related bills, including the public smoking ban and the HAWK-I children’s health insurance program. She is also speaker pro-tem in the Iowa House (the first woman to hold that position).

Speaking to the Quad-City Times,

Rep. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt, said he thought it would be difficult for a Republican to win in Bukta’s heavily Democratic district. The district includes the city of Clinton and Center and Hampshire townships northwest of Clinton.

“The numbers are not with us,” he said. Still, House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said every seat is an opportunity.

“I have not taken it off the table,” he said.

Clinton County is a strong Democratic area, but the Iowa Democratic Party may need to pay special attention to turnout here in the fall, because Iowa Senate district 13 is also an open seat. Democrat Ed O’Neill launched his Iowa Senate campaign in November after State Senator Roger Stewart said he would retire. Senate district 13 includes House district 25 (represented by Democrat Tom Schueller) and Bukta’s district. As of November 2009, the unemployment rate in Clinton County was 7.5 percent (pdf file), a bit higher than the statewide rate of 6.7 percent.

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Some Guantanamo prisoners will be moved to Illinois prison

Talking Points Memo reports,

On Tuesday, the administration will announce that the president has directed that the federal government proceed with the acquisition of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois to house federal inmates and a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times has more details:

In addition to the detainees, several hundred federal prisoners will be moved to the Thomson facility, which was built in 2001 to house state prisoners but has instead stood nearly empty as local officials have vainly tried to fill it. […]

The prison, if the deal goes through, will be run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the administration’s plan. The agency is expected to bring 1,600 to 2,000 prisoners to the Thomson facility.

Authorities will also spend some time bulking up security.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will add razor wire between the existing double fences and beef up the existing fence detection system. The Defense Department, which would lease a portion of the facility, would also erect another perimeter fence around the 146-acre complex, according to plans.

The administration has said it would exceed security at the country’s only “Supermax” prison in Colorado.

It’s not clear precisely how many foreign detainees would be brought to Thomson, though [Senator Dick] Durbin [of Illinois] has put the number at less than 100.

Get ready for more Republican scare tactics aimed at undermining Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Clinton area, just across the Mississippi River from Thomson. I doubt the Iowa GOP will get much traction from this issue, though. The Des Moines Register’s conservative columnist, John Carlson, recently found broad support in Clinton for the plan to expand the Thomson facility.

Braley said last month that his constituents “have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.”

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Obama's Huge Coattails (with Maps and District Analysis)

(Note: you may remember silver spring, who used to be a Clinton supporter and wrote a great analysis of the county-level results from Iowa and New Hampshire. I encouraged silver spring, who now supports Obama, to cross-post this diary here because it contains original and substantive analysis. Note to Obama supporters: this is how to make the case for your candidate. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Measuring Size of Obama’s (Relative) Coattails on Congressional Races

This is a long diary to read so I will tell you upfront what my conclusion is after examining the recent SurveyUSA 50-state polling:  Yes, Barack Obama may indeed have huge coattails for Senate and Congressional races in the fall.  Now, to the long explanation —

The recent SurveyUSA polling indicated a relatively even match between Obama and Clinton re. who would have the most electoral votes when facing McCain.  Obama’s total came to 280 EV, while Hillary’s was 276 EV – a seemingly even match:

http://www.surveyusa.com/ECV_5…

http://www.surveyusa.com/ECV_5…

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Why Obama? Edwards and Hillary Voted for the War w/o Reading the NIE. Obama called it a DUMB WAR

THIS PRIMARY IS ABOUT OCTOBER 2002 AND THE WAR VOTE BY EDWARDS AND CLINTON

Why Obama? This is the main reason I am voting for Barack: because he had the good sense to be against the War in Iraq in 2002, calling it a “Dumb War”. Edwards meanwhile co-sponsored the Authorization of Force Resolution and said on the floor: “We know Saddam has WMD”.

Here is the devastating video of Edwards' floor speech to send us to war on a lie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

What was Obama's speech on Iraq a month later? He called it a dumb war. Here's a video interview. Who had better judgement? Who was more for peace and diplomacy? Who is the true diplomacy-first leader? Barack Obama:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

Here is Hillary, trusting BUSH all the way:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

Think it's pretty clear who is a true leader instead of a calculating politician.

And Clinton? She is even worse than Edwards, not reading the NIE again, not even the summary! And then she even did something Joe LIEberman did not do, definitively link al Quada and Saddam:

HILLARY'S WAR According to Senate aides, because Clinton was not yet on the Armed Services Committee, she did not have anyone working for her with the security clearances needed to read the entire N.I.E. and the other highly classified reports that pertained to Iraq. She could have done the reading herself. Senators were able to access the N.I.E. at two secure locations in the Capitol complex. Nonetheless, only six senators personally read the report, according to a 2005 television interview with Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia and then the vice chairman of the intelligence panel. Earlier this year, on the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire, Clinton was confronted by a woman who had traveled from New York to ask her if she had read the intelligence report. According to Eloise Harper of ABC News, Clinton responded that she had been briefed on it.

''Did you read it?'' the woman screamed. Clinton replied that she had been briefed, though she did not say by whom. The question of whether Clinton took the time to read the N.I.E. report is critically important. Indeed, one of Clinton's Democratic colleagues, Bob Graham, the Florida senator who was then the chairman of the intelligence committee, said he voted against the resolution on the war, in part, because he had read the complete N.I.E. report. Graham said he found that it did not persuade him that Iraq possessed W.M.D. As a result, he listened to Bush's claims more skeptically. ''I was able to apply caveat emptor,'' Graham, who has since left the Senate, observed in 2005. He added regretfully, ''Most of my colleagues could not.''

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002, Senate Democrats, including Clinton, held a caucus over lunch on the second floor of the Capitol. There, Graham says he ''forcefully'' urged his colleagues to read the complete 90-page N.I.E. before casting such a monumental vote. In her own remarks on the Senate floor on Oct. 10, 2002, Clinton noted the existence of ''differing opinions within this body.'' Then she went on to offer a lengthy catalog of Saddam Hussein's crimes. She cited unnamed ''intelligence reports'' showing that between 1998 and 2002 ''Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program.'' Both the public and secret intelligence estimates on Iraq contained such analysis, but the complete N.I.E. report also included other views. A dissent by the State Department's intelligence arm concluded — correctly, as it turned out — that Iraq was not rebuilding its nuclear program.

Clinton continued, accusing Iraq's leader of giving ''aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members.'' This statement fit squarely within the ominous warning she issued the day after Sept. 11.

Clinton's linking of Iraq's leader and Al Qaeda, however, was unsupported by the conclusions of the N.I.E. and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote. Indeed, the one document that supported Clinton's statement, a public letter from the C.I.A. to Senator Graham, mentioned ''growing indications of a relationship'' between Al Qaeda and Iraq but acknowledged that those indications were based on ''sources of varying reliability.'' In fact, the classified reports available to all senators at the time found that Iraq was not allied with Al Qaeda, and that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden harbored feelings of deep mistrust and enmity for each other.

Nevertheless, on the sensitive issue of collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Senator Clinton found herself adopting the same argument that was being aggressively pushed by the administration. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials had repeated their claim frequently, and by early October 2002, two out of three Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. By contrast, most of the other Senate Democrats, even those who voted for the war authorization, did not make the Qaeda connection in their remarks on the Senate floor. One Democratic senator who voted for the war resolution and praised President Bush for his course of ''moderation and deliberation,'' Joe Biden of Delaware, actively assailed the reports of Al Qaeda in Iraq, calling them ''much exaggerated.'' Senator Dianne Feinstein of California described any link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as ''tenuous.'' The Democratic senator who came closest to echoing Clinton's remarks about Hussein's supposed assistance to Al Qaeda was Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Yet even Lieberman noted that ''the relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime is a subject of intense debate within the intelligence community.''

For most of those who had served in the Clinton administration, the supposed link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda had come to seem baseless. ''We all knew it was ,'' said Kenneth Pollack, who was a national-security official under President Clinton and a leading proponent of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Pollack says he discussed Iraq with Clinton before her vote in 2002, but he won't disclose his advice.

The Saddam-Al Qaeda link, so aggressively pushed by the Bush administration, was later debunked as false. So how could Clinton, named in 2006 by The Washingtonian magazine as the ''brainiest'' senator, have gotten such a critical point wrong? Referring to the larger question of her support for the authorization, Clinton said in February of this year, ''My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time.''

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/f…

This is the most important difference in this primary: the Iraq War Vote.

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