Archive for the ‘2006 Elections’ Category

Would you want one of these in your congressional district?


Schmidt considers nuke waste

This doesn’t happen every day: An incumbent member of Congress, in the middle of a re-election battle, says that storing nuclear waste shipments from around the world in her district may be a good idea.

U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt does say that, and her support for studying the idea has become an issue in her re-election campaign, especially in rural Pike County, in the far eastern end of her sprawling Southern Ohio District, where the nuclear wastes would be stored.

“I’m not advocating for it one way or the other,” Schmidt told The Enquirer. “I’m saying it is something we need to look at.”

Schmidt said she sees potential to create “hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs” in an economically distressed part of the state, where double-digit unemployment rates are the norm.

Schmidt has signed on to an effort by the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) and a Cleveland-based company called SONIC to seek a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of up to $5 million for a study of whether the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant should be a site for temporary storage and recycling of spent nuclear fuel rods. The 3,400-acre site near Piketon produced highly enriched uranium through the Cold War years for military purposes and for civilian reactors until 2001, when that activity was consolidated at the similar Paducah plant.

A decision on the grant could come this week.

The idea of nuclear waste storage on a site that is still being cleaned up from its previous use has infuriated environmentalists and neighbors of the plant in Pike County and nearby Scioto County, prompting a communitywide petition drive and vows to fight the storage plan to the bitter end.

That and the fact that Schmidt’s Democratic opponent, Victoria Wulsin of Indian Hill, has come out against the idea, mean that the issue could have an impact on Schmidt’s re-election – meaning it could help determine who represents 650,000 constituents from Greater Cincinnati to Portsmouth.

“All I can tell you is that when it became known that she supports this, every Jean Schmidt yard sign in the county went down overnight,” said Geoffrey Sea, a writer whose home abuts the Piketon plant.

While in most towns and congressional districts, outside business investors coming in is usually considered a good thing, I have no idea why the hell Schmidt thought it would be a good idea to have a nuclear waste facility in her district. Maybe she’s getting campaign advice from Mr. Burns? Yucca Mountain is a no-brainer for people and politicians in Nevada, regardless of their political stripes. In a close re-election race, a gaffe like this could be costly for Schmidt.

NOTE: The photo is of a radioactive waste facility in Chernobyl, taken by a Ukrainian TV news station.

Another October surprise, this one possibly bigger in impact than the one in the Florida governor’s race because if it becomes an issue in the Kean-Menendez race, it could affect which party controls the Senate next year.

Menendez added to corruption lawsuit
Friday, October 27, 2006


Complete coverage: Election 2006

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has been added as a defendant in an ongoing lawsuit being brought against Hudson County by a Union City psychiatrist.

The revised federal suit, filed Wednesday by psychiatrist Oscar Sandoval, says that Menendez, as a congressman in the late 1990s, spearheaded a coordinated campaign by Hudson County officials to squeeze political donations and favors from Sandoval, a county contractor.

Sandoval is a controversial figure who was ensnared in a Hudson County corruption investigation that led to the conviction of former County Executive Robert Janiszewski in 2003.

Political pressure

The suit accuses Menendez and his political allies of pressuring Sandoval to give political contributions as a condition of keeping his psychiatric services contracts with Hudson County — and a condition of getting new ones. The pressure came after they learned that the psychiatrist was an FBI informant in the Janiszewski corruption probe, the suit says.

The lawsuit also hitches Bergen County to the tangled ordeal. It claims that Menendez was playing a behind-the-scenes role in 1999 in awarding a contract to provide psychiatric services to the Bergen County Jail. The psychiatrist who made the proposal, however, did not get a contract.

The legal accusations come in the final sprint of an acrimonious — and close — U.S. Senate race between Menendez and Republican Tom Kean Jr., who has made Menendez’s ethics the central issue in his campaign.

An October surprise in the Florida governor’s race, perhaps?

Crist Denies Trysts
GOP frontrunner: I have never had sex with a man
By Bob Norman

A young rising star in the Republican Party has boasted to witnesses of his sexual relationship with Charlie Crist, the frontrunner in the Florida governor’s race who has repeatedly denied that he is gay.

The GOP staffer, 21-year-old Jason Wetherington, told friends at separate social functions in August that he had sex with Crist, according to two credible and independent sources who heard Wetherington make the claim first-hand.

Wetherington, who recently worked as a field director for U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris and currently works for state representative Ellyn Bodganoff’s reelection campaign, also named a man whom he said is Crist’s long-term partner, a convicted thief named Bruce Carlton Jordan who also recently worked for Harris in her long-shot Senate bid.

Jordan made headlines recently when the Miami Herald learned that the felon was working as Harris’s travel aide. The newspaper noted that Jordan, 42, was reported to be close friends with Charlie Crist, whom he convinced to attend an annual Florida Funeral Directors Association meeting in 2003.

Jordan was charged in 2003 with stealing thousands of dollars from two organizations for whom he worked, including the Tallahassee-based Florida Funeral Directors Association, where he served as executive director. He completed a 60-day jail sentence in February and will be on probation until the year 2011, according to state records.

When the Herald questioned Crist about Jordan this past August, the frontrunner in the governor’s race told the newspaper that he doesn’t remember the man. “I don’t know who Bruce Jordan is,” he said at the time. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t met him. I don’t know who you are speaking about.”

I asked Crist during a phone interview on Monday morning if he had ever had sex with Jordan.

“No,” he said. “I don’t recall the name.”

I’ve seen no poll evidence indicating Crist is losing support in the Florida governor’s race over this. However, the fact that Crist is even being forced to deny it isn’t good for him politically. If the allegations are true, then in post-Mark Foley Florida it might become an issue. Not only that, but the man believed to be his partner is a convicted felon and he’s denying [not very convincingly I think, if you read further into the article] any ties to him.

Only in an election season as wacky as this one [a quasi-sex scandal, a nuclear test, multiple FBI investigations, and an administration reversal on Iraq policy and rhetoric] would this not be getting more play in the media.

So many investigations, so little time… At the rate they’re going, the FBI, Justice Department, and every other law enforcement agency in the country might as well open a Capitol Hill field office.

WASHINGTON – A land deal involving Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is being scrutinized by the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, a law enforcement official in Washington said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while the inquiry is ongoing, said the investigation has been under way for a few months and is still in its very early stages.

The official did not specify what land deal was under investigation.

A spokesman for the Arizona U.S. attorney, Paul Charlton, said he could not confirm or deny an investigation was under way.

Renzi also declined to comment, referring questions to his lawyer, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. The lawyer late Tuesday said Renzi was not aware of any investigation and had not been contacted by the U.S. attorney’s office.

At least one transaction involving Renzi has raised questions in Arizona recently.

Records and officials involved in the October 2005 deal say Renzi helped promote the sale of land that netted a former business partner $4.5 million.

According to Time magazine, Jane Harman is the most recent lawmaker to have an FBI problem.

Did a Democratic member of Congress improperly enlist the support of a major pro-Israel lobbying group to try to win a top committee assignment? That’s the question at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, who are examining whether Rep. Jane Harman of California and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may have violated the law in a scheme to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, according to knowledgeable sources in and out of the U.S. government.

The sources tell TIME that the investigation by Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has simmered out of sight since about the middle of last year, is examining whether Harman and AIPAC arranged for wealthy supporters to lobby House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Harman’s behalf.

Regardless of the validity of the allegations, this should provide the GOP ammunition to offset attacks by Democrats on ethics and investigation issues during the final stretch of the election season.


Posted: October 19, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Humor

Matt Stoller at MyDD has one of the funniest and most memorable quotes about a political campaign that I’ve seen this side of Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.” His post-debate analysis is skewed in favor of Lamont, but this line is too good to not quote.

It’s not that Lamont has overperformed, or that Joe has melted down, it’s that Connecticut Election 2006 has gone off the deep end. It’s not your normal white picket fence suburban election, with attack ad facing attack ad. No, this is more like a white picket fence election that suddenly gets bored with life and decides to live in the forest, take a bunch of LSD, trout-fish naked, and taunt a bear cub before ending its life suddenly and with total and inexplicable resolution on November 7.

The Iraq war and occupation has been repeatedly compared to the debacle in Vietnam a generation ago, mainly by critics of the Bush Administration and opponents of the current conflict.

The comparisons received play from two unlikely sources.

President Bush and the Tet Offensive:

Bush Accepts Iraq-Vietnam Comparison
George Stephanopoulos Interviews President Bush on Iraq, the Midterms and His Legacy

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 — – President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

“He could be right,” the president said, before adding, “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election.”

“George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we’d leave,” Bush said. “And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here’s how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they’re trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw.”

Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency.

“You mean every single troop out? No,” he told Stephanopoulos.

Sen. Conrad Burns and the President’s Secret Plan to Win the War:

Burns, however, said the U.S. does need to change its military tactics there. “If we don’t change, we’ll pay a heavy price, but we cannot afford to lose it,” he said.

Tester said that Burns has finally admitted that his “stay the course” position in Iraq is wrong and welcomed the senator to his own side.

For nearly a year, Tester has called on Bush to develop a plan to remove U.S. troops from Iraq. Burns has criticized Tester’s position as “cut and run.”

“We’re in a quagmire over there,” Tester said.

Burns told Tester firmly not to put him in the Democrat’s camp on the issue.

“I said we’ve got to win,” Burns said. “He wants us to pull out. He wants everyone to know our plan. That’s not smart.

“He says our president don’t have a plan. I think he’s got one. He’s not going to tell everyone in the world.”

Many in the crowd, which was dominated by Tester supporters, openly laughed at Burns’ claim that Bush has a plan.

Tester said Bush’s only plan is staying the course in Iraq at considerable sacrifices to U.S. troops and the federal treasury.

“We went in under false pretenses,” Tester said. “We pulled the troops from Afghanistan and put them in Iraq. Osama bin Laden is still running free.”

The war is costing the U.S. billions of dollars a year that could be better spent on helping middle-class families and small businesses, the challenger said.

Tester said he is not for “telling our opponents what we’re going to do. The fact is, we don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Replied Burns: “We’re not going to tell you what our plan is, Jon, because you’re just going to go out and blow it.”

Immediately following the debate, Tester campaign spokesman Matt McKenna likened Burns’ claim of a Bush plan to President Nixon’s secret plan in 1972 to end the war in Vietnam.

The Burns campaign spokesman Jason Klindt, however, said there is no secret plan. President Bush has said from the start that he wants to empower Iraqis to govern their own country.

Republicans should really avoid making any deliberate or inadvertent comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam. Democrats are doing enough of that already and they don’t need any help.

Last night, I mentioned how Alan Schlesinger had emerged as the winner of the first Connecticut Senate debate and how his performance could bolster his support among state conservatives to the detriment of Joe Lieberman’s independent candidacy.

It looks like Schlesinger’s challenge from the right has rattled Lieberman’s cage enough that he endorsed John Bolton’s re-nomination to be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Lieberman’s position would put him at odds with the other senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, who has been one of Bolton’s fiercest critics in the Senate and on the Foreign Relations Committee. This would also put him at odds with the other New England moderate centrist in a tight race this year, Lincoln Chafee, who voted against Bolton earlier this year. It seems to me that both Lieberman and Chafee appear to have taken their divergent positions on Bolton purely out of their own political self-interest in an election year.

Given the unfavorable political narrative shaping up for Republicans before the election, particularly with an increasingly competitive effort to maintain control of the Senate (check out these articles from Time, the New York Times, and the Associated Press from the past few days), Republicans may wind up hedging their bets and pulling out resources from Connecticut to focus on maintaining control of Senate seats held by endangered Republicans like George Allen, Mike DeWine, and Jim Talent. If that happens, Lieberman will truly be on his own, getting attacked from the left and the right during the final weeks of the campaign, with little or no money or ground operation to rally his voters on Election Day.

Update: Following up on the Bolton issue, a visit to the Senate voting record shows that Lieberman voted to uphold a filibuster against the Bolton nomination on two separate occasions. Chafee voted in favor of ending the filibuster on the same two motions.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that Curt Weldon is the latest Republican congressman to have an FBI problem.

Federal agents raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon’s daughter and one of his closest political supporters yesterday as part of an investigation into whether the veteran Republican congressman used his influence to benefit himself and his daughter’s lobbying firm, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

The investigation focuses on actions the Pennsylvania congressman took that may have aided clients of the business created by his daughter, Karen Weldon, and longtime Pennsylvania political ally Charles Sexton, according to three of the sources.

A grand jury, impaneled in Washington in May, has obtained evidence gathered over at least four months through wiretaps of Washington area cellphone numbers and has scrutinized whether Weldon received anything of value, according to the sources. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.

The investigation focuses on Weldon’s support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world’s largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and Sexton operate.

Weldon, who has been a proponent of some pretty far-out theories (i.e. Able Danger, and his proposed WMD hunt in the Iraqi desert), has a new one: that a Democratic conspiracy consisting of Melanie Sloan [who according to Weldon is a former aide to Democratic Congressman John Conyers and Senator Charles Schumer and wants them to win so she can get a job on Capitol Hill] from CREW [who asked the FBI to investigate Weldon’s dealings in 2004], the DCCC, 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, Bill Clinton, fired CIA officer Mary McCarthy [who gave money to Weldon’s Democratic challenger Joe Sestak], and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger [who also gave money to Sestak] are all out to get him. This is beginning to sound like something out of a Dan Brown novel.

Watch the full video of Weldon’s comments [from The Spin/The Daily Pennsylvanian]:

Joe Lieberman’s Two Front War

Posted: October 17, 2006 in 2006 Elections

I watched most of today’s Connecticut Senate debate, featuring Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, and Alan Schlesinger.

I assumed that it was going to be a constant back and forth between Lamont and Lieberman, with Schlesinger trying to get an occasional comment in or someone to notice that he was in the debate as well.

My assumption was wrong.

Alan Schlesinger, polling in the mid-single digits range, had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in the debate, and it showed. He was the clear winner, by far. He showed an understanding of the issues and had the right combination of energy, political irreverence, and use of rhetoric to stand out among the candidates. Lieberman, being the 18-year Senate veteran, not surprisingly was the first candidate to burn through his 18 minutes of response time. Lamont sounded like he was trying to cram as many words as possible into each of his responses, essentially going into long John Kerry-esque musings while sounding as if someone was playing a tape on fast forward.

Schlesinger went after both of his opponents, although it seemed to me most of his jabs were directed at Lieberman, who is relying on Republican money and votes in his independent candidacy to try to save his political career. Lieberman was at a disadvantage, since at several points in the debate he had both Lamont and Schlesinger double-teaming him.

While Schlesinger may have been the winner of the debate, the big beneficiary was Lamont. If Schlesinger can shore up some more support from conservative Republicans by tapping into Lieberman’s base, Lieberman could lose the race.

Lamont is aware of this, and he even implicitly encouraged Schlesinger to play spoiler in the race at one point during the debate, recounting his own experience bucking his own party in his decision to challenge Lieberman.

Lieberman is stuck in a political no-man’s land. He’s essentially given up on the Democratic activist base that rejected him in the primary so is now forced to appeal to conservatives, moderates, and independents. Lieberman’s strategy has been to shore up support from conservatives and independents, who when combined outnumber the liberals in Connecticut’s registered voters. If Schlesinger starts tapping into the conservative base in the polls, Lieberman would be facing a challenge from his right flank, and that would mean he would have to fend off both Lamont and Schlesinger for the next three weeks.