Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Newt Gingrich's pitch to small donors

Last week Jane Hamsher wrote a good piece at FireDogLake about Newt Gingrich’s big spending on private planes. She noted that Gingrich’s organization American Solutions paid $3,360,346 to Moby Dick Airways, which charters private planes, during 2008 alone. American Solutions raised a total of $25,489,668 last year, and donations below $200 made up $7,343,986 of that amount.

Hamsher asked a good question:

On their contributions page, it says “American Solutions is here to serve as your voice in the political process.” Did the people who gave this money think they were donating so Newt and Company could jet around on private planes?

I’m pretty sure they didn’t, because last night I received a fundraising call from American Solutions. As I always do when I am a respondent for any political survey, I grabbed a pen and took notes, which you’ll find after the jump.

Continue Reading...

Tell us if you get robocalled about gay marriage in Iowa

I cross-posted my piece on amending the Iowa Constitution at Daily Kos last night, and Daily Kos user InMyLifeIowa wrote,

this weekend I received two robo calls wanting me to call my leaders to tell them not to support gay marriage. I hung up. Not even worth listening to it.

If you get a robocall on this issue, please do not hang up the phone. Grab something to write with, take detailed notes, and post a diary here afterwards. Be sure to listen until the very end of the call, when they are supposed to indicate who paid for the call and provide a phone number.

Click here for more advice on what to do if you get push-polled on this or any other issue. We need to know what opponents of marriage equality are doing in Iowa.

If you are a respondent for a legitimate survey about gay marriage in Iowa, please write down as much as you can remember about the questions and the firm conducting the survey. Last week I wrote up a Republican poll on the 2010 gubernatorial race in Iowa. If you write up a current poll in that level of detail, I will promote your diary to the front page of Bleeding Heartland.

Continue Reading...

Open thread on last-minute robocalls and lit drops

Which candidates and interest groups did you hear from on the eve of the election?

On Monday afternoon at 1:40 pm I got a robocall urging me to “get the facts” before voting. The “facts” are that Jerry Sullivan (Democratic candidate in House district 59) supported the Project Destiny proposal that Polk County voters resoundingly rejected in a July 2007 referendum.

I think the robocall erroneously claimed that Project Destiny would have raised my property taxes, when in fact it would have reduced property taxes while increasing the local sales tax.

The robocall went on to say that Sullivan is financially backed by groups wanting to pass some kind of legislation I couldn’t hear, because my son was making a lot of noise in the background. It may have had something to do with unions or collective bargaining, because when I called Sullivan’s campaign manager to tell him about the call, he said Republicans were lit-dropping a piece yesterday saying Jerry Sullivan will force you to join a union.

The robocall concluded by saying that the fact is we can’t afford Jerry Sullivan, and that the call was “proudly paid for by Iowans for Tax Relief PAC, working to protect family budgets.” I stayed on the line with my pen in hand, waiting to write down the phone number, but the robocall did not give a phone number. I thought that was required by law. The robocall did not mention Chris Hagenow, the Republican candidate in House district 59.

Sullivan’s campaign had volunteers out in the most Republican part of the district yesterday (the wealthy Clive 4 precinct). They were dropping positive campaign literature, along with a piece about the nine mayors in the Des Moines metro area who have endorsed Sullivan, including Clive Mayor Les Aasheim.

I’m happy to report that the GOTV machine in Iowa is engaged on behalf of Democrats at all levels. I’ve received several robocalls from Democrats in recent days like Governor Chet Culver and Senator Tom Harkin, inviting me to GOTV rallies.

Also, on Sunday I received a robocall from the Iowa Democratic Party, authorized by the Obama campaign for change, that mentioned voting for the “Democratic ticket” (not just Obama) twice. At the end it asked me to hold before giving me the name and address of my polling place. The same day, a volunteer left a door-hanger at our house, reminding us of the date of the election, the hours polls will be open, the phone number for Obama’s toll-free early-voting hotline, our precinct number, the name and address of our polling location, and all the names on “your Democratic ticket” (in our case Obama, Harkin, Congressman Leonard Boswell, Jerry Sullivan, plus three Democrats seeking Polk County offices).

Who has contacted you lately about the election, and what did they say?

Republican sleazy tactics roundup

It’s hard to keep up with the Republican sleaze this week.

Michigan Republicans are planning to use foreclosure lists to suppress the vote in African-American neighborhoods:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.


One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

As for the practice of challenging the right to vote of foreclosed property owners, Hebert called it, “mean-spirited.”

Republicans in Columbus, Ohio may be planning to use the same tactic.

Speaking of Ohio, Marc Ambinder reports that push-polling against Obama appears to have started there as well as in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Don’t imagine that it’s only state-level GOP operatives taking the low road. John McCain’s latest television commercials on education accuse Obama of wanting to teach kindergartners about sex before they learn to read. David Sirota correctly points out that the law in question (on age-appropriate comprehensive sex education) called for protecting small children against child molesters by teaching them about inappropriate touching. If anything I think kindergarten is a little late to start teaching children about “good” and “bad” touches. This knowledge makes kids safer from sex predators.

In other news of the week, Republican spinmeisters are trying to gin up a scandal over Obama’s use of the phrase “lipstick on a pig.” Their fake outrage is even more hypocritical than it appears at first glance.

Also, CBS forced the McCain campaign to take down a “misleading” web ad.

Feel free to post a comment about anything I’ve left out.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Sarah “I put the plane on eBay” Palin charged Alaska taxpayers for her family’s personal travel.

In addition, Palin’s ethics adviser urged the governor to apologize for “overreaching” in her desire for revenge against the Alaska state trooper who used to be her brother-in-law.

Newsweek cites court documents showing that the judge in the divorce case

was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. “Disparaging will not be tolerated-it is a form of child abuse,” the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings.

I can’t remember who said it first, but I absolutely agree that in light of “troopergate” we need to worry about how a potential Vice President or President Palin would use the FBI against her personal as well as her political enemies.

Meanwhile, a whistleblower who worked for Cindy McCain during the 1990s asserts that John McCain

used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy’s drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife’s theft of illegal prescription drugs.

Snud has a lot more detail on those allegations here

Abuse of power to cover up personal wrongdoing? Sounds like George Bush to me.

SECOND UPDATE: Naughty, naughty. The Wall Street Journal scrubbed the end of an article pointing out that while McCain criticizes earmarks, Palin requested more earmarked dollars per capita than any other governor.

Continue Reading...

What to do if you get push-polled or message-tested

cross-posted around the blogosphere

Two days before the June 3 Democratic primary in Iowa, I received an automated push-poll, followed the next day by a second robocall containing “important information” for me. Both calls were hit jobs on Jerry Sullivan, the leading Democratic candidate in Iowa House district 59.

Many of us will receive similar calls between now and November. We need to be prepared to help the Democrats who will be targeted in this way.

My number one piece of advice is do not hang up the phone.

Do not hang up the moment you hear an automated voice on the other end.

Do not hang up the moment you are asked to participate in a brief survey.

Do not hang up the moment you realize that this is not a legitimate opinion poll.

Stay on the line and grab a pen and paper for taking notes.

Follow me after the jump for further instructions.

Continue Reading...
View More...