Archives for May 2010
$58,409.09 a day. That’s how much money real estate speculator Dino Rossi needs to raise between now and Nov. 2, just to match the amount Sen. Patty Murray had raised by the end of March. That’s $408,864 a week. Over $1.8 million a month. Nearly $10 million between now and election day, mostly from wealthy contributors.
And in return? He’ll fight for lower taxes and less regulation.
Back in 2005, when local pundits were kvelling over how Mike McGavick, with his mix of political experience and private sector success, was such a savvy choice to counter Sen. Maria Cantwell, I wasn’t so sure:
It’s hard to imagine how the Republicans are going to present a multi-millionaire insurance company executive who proudly advocates shipping jobs overseas, as a “man of the people.” But you know they’re going to try.
I hear some righties snidely claim that they’re going to force Cantwell to run on her record. Well I hate to burst their bubble, but McGavick has a record too, and it ain’t gonna look so pretty by the time November, 2006 comes around.
Substitute “real estate speculator” for “insurance company executive” and you get Dino Rossi circa 2010.
Republicans and some namby-pambies in the press may decry the way the DSCC has been adroitly flinging dirt at Rossi these past few months, but the Dems don’t need to uncover any illegal or corrupt real estate speculation to damage Rossi, they merely have to drive home the point that this is how he makes his living. For in the same way that “insurance company executive” wasn’t exactly the most admired profession back in 2006, “real estate speculator” (or even the less pejorative “investor”) is hardly the best sales pitch to voters in our post real estate bubble economy.
Rossi made his fortune on Western Washington’s prolonged real estate bubble. That’s a fact. And as his own website made clear in the wake of his 2008 gubernatorial loss (and until nearly an hour after it was supposed to flip over into campaign mode), Rossi sought to profit further from the losses suffered by others in the real estate market’s subsequent collapse:
“The next two years will be a terrific time to purchase quality properties at prices that make sense.”
Nothing illegal about that. Nothing particularly unethical, I guess, by capitalist standards.
But there’s nothing particularly honorable about it either.
There will be two candidates on the November ballot, and assuming Rossi makes it past the primary, only one of them will have profited from the real estate bubble, and from its epic collapse that undermined our economy and put millions of Americans out of work.
Huh. “Insurance company executive” doesn’t sound like such a bad resume bullet point anymore, does it?
Since Dino Rossi had already pre-announced that his official announcement would go live on his website at 7 AM this morning, I just post-dated a piece of snark for the same time, turned off the alarm clock and decided to sleep in. Well apparently, so did Rossi’s webmaster:
It’s still early in Seattle, but also a bit strange that with the Seattle Times previewing Dino Rossi’s campaign launch via web video on DinoRossi.com … DinoRossi.com remains devoted to a plain text letter, apparently from 2008, to supporters and potential business partners.
Oops. According to Publicola, Rossi still had his old website up as late as 7:25 AM.
You know, wants to run government more like a business, and all that.
Then again, in the same way that Rossi touts his business experience as one of his main political qualifications, he’s also been quite savvy at leveraging his political prominence into lucrative business opportunities. So it’s kinda fitting.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer suggests to Obama that he should send aerial drones and helicopters to fight the drug war at the border because of “how effective these assets have become in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom”. Since her letter doesn’t say so either way, I’m hoping Brewer only wants these aircraft for surveillance purposes and not to rain down bombs on Arizona towns.
UPDATE: Artfart in the comments:
When Obama was heard to say “Plug the damn hole!” was he referring to the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico or Jan Brewer’s mouth?
Perpetual candidate Dino Rossi acknowledged the inevitable this morning, announcing he had officially changed his name to “Dino The Mover.” Specializing in foreclosure and eviction related moves, a full line of moving services and supplies is available immediately from Rossi’s new website, DinoTheMover.com.
This week only, Dino The Mover is offering a 20% discount to Republican consultants moving in from out of state.
It’s kick-off time for Washington state’s election season. So, join us tonight for an evening of electoral politics under the influence at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. We meet at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. beginning at about 8:00 pm. Stop by even earlier and enjoy some dinner.
Not in Seattle? There is a good chance you live near one of the 337 other chapters of Drinking Liberally.
In covering Dino Rossi’s speech at Friday’s Mainstream Republican conference, the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly mentioned the DSCC’s recent efforts to educate the public about Rossi’s many financial dealings:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Murray once headed, has spent the past month feeding dirt on Rossi to media outlets, and Democratic ringers in the blogosphere community.
As the best read and most influential liberal blogger in the state, I can only assume Joel includes me in his list of “Democratic ringers,” and I have to say, I find that both flattering and insulting.
On the one hand, the term “ringer” implies a high degree of skill, and yeah, I am a pretty damn good blogger, so thanks Joel, for the compliment. But on the other hand, the term implies a degree of false representation… the insinuation that I’m not quite what I appear to be, and well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Unlike, say, the editorial board at the Seattle Times, I have always worn my bias on my sleeve and trusted my audience to read me in that context. And as for being a “Democratic” ringer, yeah, Democrats sometimes feed me stories the same way they feed other journalists, but nobody – and I mean nobody — tells me what to write, nor pays me for that privilege. If I’m a ringer, I’m at worst a conscience-driven independent ringer.
So as much as I appreciate Joel for being one of the few legacy journalists to engage with us upstart bloggers, I can’t help but take his distinction between “media outlets” and “Democratic ringers in the blogosphere” as an effort to diminish us… to somehow dismiss what bloggers like I write as false, misleading and propagandistic. Facts are facts, and if I get mine wrong, Joel and others are free to shove that in my face. But when you write me off as a mere “Democratic ringer,” well that’s just an excuse to ignore the sometimes uncomfortable things that I write… for example, like the Times ignoring the leaked Reichert audio that blows up their meme of him as a pro-environment moderate.
Or, like Joel ignoring it, for that matter.
It’s no secret I didn’t want Dino Rossi to jump into the race against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, not because I think he stands much of a chance of winning — he doesn’t — but because of all the other intangibles his candidacy brings with it.
With Rossi in the race, the national Dems will now spend money here that would be better spent defending more vulnerable seats elsewhere, while state Democratic money and focus will be distracted from a host of down-ticket races, not the least of which being the open seat in WA-03, and to a lesser extent WA-02, where Rep. Rick Larsen appears to have finally drawn a reasonably viable challenger. Furthermore, win or lose, this pretty much eliminates Rossi from the 2012 gubernatorial contest where he could have proven a substantial roadblock to Rob McKenna’s naked political ambitions, and a potentially weaker opponent to nearly-inevitable Democratic nominee Jay Inslee.
All in all, I’d always thought of a Rossi candidacy as a net plus for his party, if not for him personally.
But, that doesn’t mean a Rossi candidacy doesn’t present some serious risks to state Republicans — and opportunities to Democrats — especially given his late entry into the race, and the unique political climate in which his party currently finds itself. When life gives you Dino, make Dino-ade… that’s what I always say.
Or, perhaps, make tea.
I’ve never been one to take our state teabaggers too seriously as anything more than a symbolic gesture, and had Rossi jumped into the race back in March, I still wouldn’t have considered them much of a political factor. But Rossi’s last minute candidacy, and the invasion of out-of-state establishment money and consultants he brings with him, is nothing if not a big “fuck you” to Clint Didier and the entire Tea Party crowd.
Oh, the NRSC and the WSRP still want you to show up at rallies and angrily wave your misspelled signs, as long as it’s their chosen candidates you’re rallying for, instead of one of those crazy, constitutionally illiterate hicks that so excites your base. (And no, behind closed doors, mainstream Republicans don’t show you guys much more respect than I do.) You might think you want Didier, or perhaps Sean Salazar, to be the nominee, but the GOP elite… they know better. That’s why they’re force-feeding you Dino Rossi.
And how well Rossi goes down with the Tea Party, especially after the GOP machine brutalizes their preferred candidate, remains to be seen. (That recent hit piece on Didier in the Seattle Times? You don’t suspect that the story was pushed by Republican operatives in an effort to clear the way for Rossi? Welcome to the big leagues.) I don’t know how much sugar Didier supporters put in their tea, but it could take an awful lot for them to willingly swallow Rossi after a bitter primary battle.
Who knows? Perhaps the tea baggers are merely the deluded paper tigers I’ve made them out to be, and they’ll just roll over in front of the Rossi Express. Or, perhaps they’ll prove to be a more potent grassroots force, and fight for the nomination tooth and nail, turning out voters not just in the Senate primary, but in congressional and legislative primaries as well? Perhaps Rossi’s candidacy just made it that much more difficult for establishment GOPer Jaime Herrera to make it to November in WA-03? Perhaps the crazier Republican will triumph in a handful of legislative primaries, Ellen Craswell style, making GOP pickups that much more difficult in the general?
Perhaps… you know… if the Tea Party is really more than a handful of angry Tenthers with a penchant for drawing Hitler mustaches.
And that’s the risk for Republicans in Rossi’s Dino-come-lately candidacy, in a year in which they were counting on Tea Party enthusiasm to get out the vote. Rossi could energize tea baggers… to come out and vote for non-establishment candidates in the August primary. Or, Rossi could totally alienate and/or demoralize his party’s tea bagger base, thus undercutting chances of a Big Red Wave™, at least here in Washington state.
Yeah sure, Rossi makes life at least a little more difficult for the DSCC, and in the unlikely event of a wave election sweeping through this Washington, he gives Republicans a better chance of winning than they might otherwise have. You know, the 50 State Strategy and all that. But by so explicitly dissing the Tea Party faction and their Palin-endorsed candidate, Rossi also creates down-ticket complications that don’t so clearly work out in the GOP’s favor.
So no, tonight at Drinking Liberally, on the eve of Rossi’s announcement, I won’t be crying in my beer. Instead, I’ll be enjoying a tall, refreshing glass of ice-cold Dino-ade in anticipation of making the most out of the opportunities Rossi’s candidacy presents me.
Sen. Patty Murray’s job approval rating ticked up slightly for the second straight month in SurveyUSA’s latest tracking poll, putting her in positive territory, 47-46, for the first time since January. Both Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell saw their approval ratings plummet between January and March as the health care debate peaked, and both continue to recover, suggesting the pendulum may have started swinging back in their direction.
It is interesting to note that much of Sen. Murray’s sudden collapse came at the hands of self-described “liberal” and “Democratic” voters. Liberal approval has now climbed back to January levels, while Democratic approval as a whole is still languishing at 66%.
It is hard to imagine disaffected voters from either of these groups rallying behind Dino Rossi in November, and with a number of controversial initiatives on the ballot, a Republican voter enthusiasm advantage may not translate to that much of a turnout advantage, at least here in Washington state.
Recently, I had the chance to see a sneak preview of the new documentary about Jack Abramoff called “Casino Jack and the United States of Money“. Directed by Alex Gibney, it profiles the man whose corruption now defines the pinnacle of Newt Gingrich’s “Contact With America“.
Rising through the ranks of the College Republicans in the 1980s, Abramoff believed in the evils of government regulation and the power of capitalism. After the 1994 election brought Republicans to power in Congress, he became a lobbyist (for Preston, Gates, & Ellis) and the journey began. The Republicans who were elected that year quickly forgot about the promises they made to eliminate corruption and instead used their new-found power as a mechanism to enrich themselves.
The documentary details how Abramoff helped businesses in the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) run sweatshops with captive labor. The CNMI became a strategic locale for American businesses because – as a U.S. territory – clothes made there could have a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. Abramoff was successful at directing money made from these sweatshops towards Tom DeLay and others in Congress in order to keep the CNMI from falling under the same labor regulations as the rest of the United States. The result was that large numbers of imported workers came to the CNMI and were forced into indentured servitude. The film includes California Congressman George Miller describing how one laborer offered to sell him his kidney in an attempt to pay his way back home.
I also recently saw the HBO docudrama “You Don’t Know Jack“, the story of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan doctor who assisted terminally ill and severally disabled individuals who wished to end their lives on their own terms. It retold his story from when he first started helping out patients in the early 1990s to his quixotic attempt to challenge the assisted suicide law at the national level, which ended with him being sent to jail for 8 years.
As a student at the University of Michigan in the mid-90s, I attended a speech on campus with both Dr. Kevorkian and his attorney Geoffrey Fieger. This was at a time when they’d already won several legal victories and it didn’t seem that any prosecutor would be able to stop Kevorkian from continuing to assist new patients who wanted his services. After both men spoke, they opened up the floor for questions. Following a few uneventful questions, a man in a wheelchair approached the mike and launched into a fearful tirade against both men. He was furious that Dr. Kevorkian wanted to end the lives of disabled people. Kevorkian tried – unsuccessfully – to explain to the poor man that he was grossly misinformed about his work. By this point in my life, I was already familiar with how religion can exploit fear to deceive people, but it was still jarring to see this poor man railing so furiously against an imaginary demon.
Kevorkian was hounded by the religious right throughout the 90s. In the minds of the self-proclaimed “pro-life” movement, he was interfering with God’s will. In reality, those who believe that an individual should suffer for the sake of another person’s religious convictions are the farthest in the world from having any claim to moral superiority. This should be obvious even without historical comparisons, but highlighting the contrast between Jack Abramoff and Jack Kevorkian provides an even clearer view of the moral bankruptcy of the religious right and the detrimental effect that it’s had on American society.
One of the most interesting chapters in the Jack Abramoff story involved his dealings with various Indian tribes. His bilking of millions of dollars from native Americans is what led to his eventual downfall, but it was an earlier scam with his old College Republican colleague Ralph Reed that I found more fascinating:
Abramoff’s work for the tribes included rubbing out competition to their casinos from neighboring tribes or other forms of gambling. It was for this service that Abramoff hired Reed’s Century Strategies. Reed’s job, as Abramoff’s partner Michael Scanlon put it, was to “bring out the wackos” – to create the appearance of overwhelming popular opposition to rival casinos or other forms of gaming.
This dynamic was always at the heart of why the Republican Party built up the religious right. They knew that the fearful and gullible could be manipulated in order to discredit more moderate politicians. The folks who were whipped up in opposition to gambling had no idea that their opposition was being used merely to protect the market share of a different tribe’s casino.
By the time Abramoff was indicted, he was just skipping the middleman and manipulating the fears of Indian tribes directly. He was taking millions of dollars from several tribes, promising access to powerful people in Congress, but often delivering nothing.
This legacy continues today with the Tea Party movement, which is just an updated version of that dynamic adjusted for today’s politics. The teabaggers have absolutely no idea what they actually believe – other than that Democrats and progressives are evil and need to be stopped. And because of this, they can be easily duped at every turn.
This isn’t an indictment of all conservatives or all religious people, it’s just a realization that our collective moral compass has been thoroughly out of whack for a long time. Most people who have rallied to the cause of the religious right are genuinely good people who’ve been exploited. But the success of this exploitation has turned unfettered capitalism into a religion and actual Christianity into a quaint anachronism.
In the end, Kevorkian spent more time in prison than Abramoff will. The man who was never a threat to anyone was locked up longer than the man whose entire career was about exploiting the powerless for money. And during the 1990s, while Jack Abramoff was enabling an entire U.S. territory to become a haven for slave labor, the folks who called themselves “pro-life” and claimed to have moral superiority over us heathens were far more concerned about an old doctor who was merely allowing people to have greater control over their own life and death.
It’s easy to be overly cynical about what the religious right has done, and how gullible its members were (and still are), but this movement has certainly had a profound affect on the health of our nation. At the heart of the religious right is control. And the strong desire of many religions to exercise greater control over our moral choices has long been exploited by those who want greater freedom in making economic choices. The end result is a society where those of us who advocate for greater control of our moral choices are punished more than those of us who make economic choices that result in the lack of freedom for many.
Last week, Josh Farley at the Kitsap Sun reported that WestNET, the drug task force that raided several locations recently in an investigation of medical marijuana dispensary North End Club 420, would return a number of I-1068 petitions that they took during the raid.
It turns out that this isn’t quite over yet. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has sent out an action item to pressure WestNET to return the stolen petitions. Philip Dawdy has now posted on the latest developments.
UPDATE: In other wasted taxpayer money news, Marc Emery just plead guilty in a Seattle courtroom as per his previous plea agreement and will be incarcerated for the next five years on our dime (maybe we can ask the Canadian government – who collected hundreds of thousands in dollars in taxes from Emery before turning him over to the U.S. – to pitch in for the prosecution and incarceration costs). I guess we can all breathe easier knowing that our lives can no longer be threatened by marijuana seeds.
Politico reports that Dino Rossi is preparing to jump into the U.S. Senate race, and has made his first hire:
Former Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi has enlisted GOP strategist Pat Shortridge to serve as general consultant for his likely campaign against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, a Republican consultant tells POLITICO, in the clearest sign yet that Rossi is poised to announce his candidacy.
Shortridge, who is based in Minnesota and serving as a senior strategist for Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, did not confirm or deny that he’s signed on with Rossi, telling POLITICO Monday morning: “I don’t have any comment on that. There’s a time and a place for everything.”
According to a DSCC press release, Shortridge was also a top lobbyist in Enron’s Washington office, where he lauded Enron as “a terrific company, very innovative, very free-market-oriented,” just months before it collapsed in scandal and indictments.
“It’s no surprise that Dino Rossi’s first hire in his Senate campaign is a former lobbyist for Enron,” said DSCC Communications Director Eric Schultz. “Rossi’s consultant is likely well-trained in defending shady deals, questionable business arrangements, and other ethical lapses. At least Dino Rossi acknowledges the baggage he brings to the race and is building a campaign accordingly.”
The Seattle Times reports a second hire, Tom Goff, who served as Mike!™ McGavick’s field advisor during his failed 2006 challenge to Sen. Maria Cantwell. I’m quaking in my boots.
No doubt Republicans will pick up seats in the state Legislature this year.
After years of gains, the Democrats now hold near supermajorities in both the House and Senate, having pushed the demographic limits throughout Western Washington. Even with a good economy and a favorable political climate, you’d have to expect the Democratic winning streak to end sometime… and this most definitely is not a good economy nor a favorable political climate. Democrats are in trouble in several swing district seats, and will inevitably give back some of their recent gains.
But Republicans expecting 2010 to be like 1994 all over again will be sorely disappointed, at least according to the latest numbers released by the widely respected Washington Poll.
Sure, the baseline numbers show a virtual tie, with Democrats holding a statistically insignificant 39-38 lead on the generic legislative question, a far cry from their current legislative majorities. But when you delve into the numbers, things just don’t look all that scary:
Thinking ahead to the November election for Washington state legislature, are you planning to vote for the Republican candidate, or the Democratic candidate?
Democrat Republican Statewide total 39% 38% Democrat 89% 2% Republican 6% 88% Independent 21% 31% Puget Sound region 46% 30% Eastern Washington 25% 58% Other Western WA 45% 34%
Republican strength is substantially overstated by their better than two-to-one advantage in Eastern Washington. But the GOP already holds nearly all the legislative seats in that part of the state, so there aren’t a lot of pickup opportunities out there.
Here in the Puget Sound region and the rest of Western Washington, home to more than three quarters of our state’s legislative districts (and three quarters of the poll’s respondents), generic Democrats still hold a double-digit lead over their generic Republican opponents. Combine that with the fact that the economy is improving faster here than in the rest of the state, and I just don’t see the makings of a 1994-style Big Red Wave™.
Yeah, things could change between now and the election, but given these numbers, and the quality of the challengers the WSRP is putting up, I’d say House Speaker Frank Chopp has more to fear from losing support within his own caucus than he does from losing his majority.