Friday, February 6, 2009

Last Day to Play “Can You Find Your Congressperson?”

Don’t forget, today is the final day we are accepting entries for “Can You Find Your Congressperson?” - the first ever WAYLA contest!

Again, here is our example of an entry:

Caption: Justice Antonin Scalia and his clothing from the late 1400s.

The winner - along with our favorites - will be announced here on Monday

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Will the Wisconsin Supreme Court Race be Different in 2009?

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Wisconsin.

In 2008, Justice Louis Butler of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court was ousted because of an expensive campaign against him. One year earlier, the same happened to another candidate that was typically seen as liberal.

But the money and the controversial ads it produced was not coming from the campaign budgets of their conservative opponents, but rather from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), the premier business lobby in Wisconsin.

In 2009, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson - who has voted with Butler against WMC in the past - will be facing the conservative Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick. The only difference this year: WMC has promised to stay out of the race - as has the Club for Growth and the Coalition for American families.

Why is WMC shifting gears?

There are several reasons that might explain WMC's actions. First is the image they built with the ads they ran against Butler. The commercials which described the African-American Associate Justice as "Loophole Louie" used techniques that were seen as racist. even compared it to the notorious Willy Horton ad. As a result, several businesses left WMC and others declared they would not do business with any of its members.

The second reason is the changing tides of campaign finance reform in Wisconsin. Many in the state now contend that judicial races ought to be publicly financed as to not let special interest groups buy court seats. Recent action taken on campaign finance reform - the new ban on contributions to state legislators during the budget proceedings - suggests that the winds are heading in that direction.

Others are suggesting pragmatic reasons - perhaps they felt Abrahamson was too strong or Koschnick was too weak for them to take a chance with their money.

Should we be skeptical of WMC?

The recent campaign finance reports filed for state races in Wisconsin shows Abrahamson ahead of Koschnick financially with a 56-to-1 advantage. Koschnick has raised less than $15,000 - well short of the nearly $4 million spent in favor of Judge Michael Gableman (Butler's opponent) last year.

It is unlikely that he would raise so little without expecting some outside support.

A few potential support sources would be All Children Matter (a conservative interest group from Michigan that spent $900,000 against Wisconsin Democrats last year) and the Wisconsin Institute for Leadership.

It is not inconceivable that WMC could spend money through these groups or others for the Supreme Court race.

Abrahamson will face Koschnick on April 7th.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Going Solar with Un-Tied Shoelaces

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Los Angeles.

On March 3rd residents of Los Angeles will use their Californian tradition of direct democracy to decide whether or not to boost solar energy for the city’s electricity consumption.

Measure B was originally proposed by the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 13 due to fears that the city’s green energy plan was not moving along effectively. Under the measure, the solar panels would be owned by the union, installed for residents who wished to participate, and the city would provide initial financing as well as rebate programs to help residents afford the technology.

Yet the proposal has come under fire in recent days because David Nahai - head of the Department of Water and Power - was unable to provide the City Council with cost estimates. He will be delivering his report later this month - about four months after he urged the Council to place the measure on the ballot.

“Because the plan changed repeatedly until Nov. 7, the day the council put it on the ballot, there was no way to prepare an accurate analysis, Nahai said. ‘A fiscal analysis would have been meaningless had we done it before’ the final draft was adopted, he added. ‘What would we have analyzed?’

“Nahai has already had to contend with an unfavorable, if preliminary, analysis of the solar plan prepared by P.A. Consulting, a firm that expressed doubts about the DWP's ability to install so many new solar panels and obtain $1.5 billion in federal tax credits to pay for them.”

In addition to the IBEW, Measure B is supported by a large number of groups including the LA League of Conservation Voters as well as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Some on the Council are afraid they voted for it too quickly. "For some reason, they decided to wait until the last minute to take it to the council, probably because they thought they could slip it through without the facts, which they did," said Councilman Greig Smith, who now opposes the measure.

And the Los Angeles Times has turned critical to the way the issue was handled. This is what they said in a recent editorial:

"We remain open to the idea that this ballot measure may be the best way to get [smart solar power as an integral part of the city's green energy strategy]. But the process seems designed to get voters to sign off on a plan without sufficient knowledge of it, and it is undermining a broader discussion of solar power in Los Angeles. There is a point at which process gets so bad that it outweighs substance, no matter how good that substance may be. We're rapidly approaching that point."

In fact, it is not too uncommon that proposals are put to voters without a detailed analysis of the plan (especially in California - see Proposition 13) but it is especially detrimental when it becomes an issue that can derail a campaign. The nature of this new criticism makes Measure B seem unfit to support - not because it is a bad proposal, but because of procedure.

In this way, the Mayor and the City Council pursued a boost to solar energy like a child running through a hallway without his shoelaces tied. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not he trips.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blagojevich Goes Out as Classy as Blagojevich Could

It's Tuesday, February 3, 2009. Here's what we're looking at:

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) will be the next Secretary of Commerce after his Democratic governor, John Lynch, agreed to replace him with a Republican. The replacement will be the moderate Bonnie Newman. While Obama may have tried to squeeze out the filibuster, the Democrats have only two years before they can target the New Hampshire senate race.

The American Heart Association sounds pretty concerned about the stimulus bill, arguing that the language could dissuade schools from building athletic facilities. Thus, they say, the package might be encouraging childhood obesity.

Tom Daschle has withdrawn from his HHS nomination. Hours earlier, Obama's pick for Chief Performance Officer (a new position) withdrew because of her own tax problems.

The Department of Justice has rehired Leslie Hagen, an attorney removed during the Bush Administration due to rumors that she was a lesbian.

Finally, the New York Times gives a good account of Blagojevich spending his finals hours in office. He told employees "We should have been more selfish, not selfless" (yes you're reading that right), that his successor "has done a whole bunch as the lieutenant governor — taken all kinds of trips all over the world and trade missions — like he's got anything to do with anything as lieutenant governor" and that he always thinks "creatively", saying "I don't give up".

Monday, February 2, 2009

Short of Cash in South Carolina

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from South Carolina.

The hard economic times facing the nation are especially hard in South Carolina, where the recession has hit yet another industry - campaign politics.

According to an article in The State yesterday, campaigns and fundraising consultants throughout South Carolina are finding it especially difficult to raise money in the current economic environment. It may even make the campaign timelines there shorter.

Techniques such as small frequent donations and payment plans aren't working. Many frequent contributors are still tapped out from the last election cycle, and the recession is not helping them regenerate.

In part, the Palmetto State is getting hit by the recession harder than most places. South Carolina now has the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 9.5% - the national rate is 7.2%. State budget difficulties convinced the State Senate to work only once a week this week in order to "cut back" as they claim.

Yet this is particularly scary for those of us who work in campaign politics - for we have always felt this was a safe industry given that politics doesn't stop with a recession. Perhaps South Carolina is only the first to see such a trend. After all, President Obama has said it will get worse before it gets better.

In other unfortunate news (for those of us in the North) the Groundhog did see his shadow today - which means six more weeks of winter. Nonetheless, happy Groundhog Day.