Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday Rundown

  • The Republican Party is the "most disliked institution" in America.

  • CQPolitics has released an "Early Line on the Senate." There are two states with "No Clear Favorite," Colorado (of course) and, not New Hampshire but, Minnesota. With Norm Coleman at his lowest approval rating ever, I'm not shocked that they'd classify Minnesota in this category, but I'm curious what keeps New Hampshire out. Also noteworthy: Alabama and Georgia are in the "Republican Favored" category while Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, and Nebraska are in the "Safe Republican" category. I'd flip those. I can't see how anybody would think Georgia is more vulnerable than Kentucky.

  • New Hampshire: Speaking of vulnerability in New Hampshire, I think Sprintin' John Sununu is heading for his last lap:

    Other endangered GOP lawmakers from moderate states have inched toward the center, but the New Hampshire Republican consistently has stuck to his conservative roots on hotly debated issues of immigration, the Iraq war, the budget, healthcare and energy policy.

    Democrats are hammering Sununu on his votes in an effort to alienate him from independent voters, who make up a whopping 43 percent of the electorate in his state.

    “Sununu has just been in a very difficult position,” said Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. “If he breaks too publicly ... it will look like political opportunism, but he has got to get some air between himself and the Republican Party.”

    As poll numbers for President Bush and the Iraq war have sunk to all-time lows in the Granite State, the senator has seen his favorability ratings plummet. A June poll by the University of New Hampshire said Sununu was viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 35 percent of the state’s voters, marking a 12-point drop in favorability from last year — this after New Hampshire voters last year ousted their two Republican House members from office.
    Sununu has dug his hole. He consistently votes with George W. Bush instead of New Hampshire voters, and any turnaround will be rapidly dismissed as disingenuous election cycle posturing.

  • Kentucky: Popular Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler, considered by some to be Kentucky's strongest Democrat, is leaving the door open for a 2008 Senate bid. While I expect him to wait for the 2010 race against Jim Bunning or an open seat if Bunning retires, it is a noteworthy development. Also keeping the door open to a 2008 challenge to McConnell: Republican former gubernatorial nominee Larry Forgy. Good times. (HT: Blue Grass Roots)

  • Minnesota: Fox News is caught editing Al Franken's Wikipedia entry! Fair and balanced propaganda.

  • Virginia: The Washington Post's Express expects a John Warner retirement, too, noting both Warner's low fundraising and his staff's "exodus" to the private sector. (HT: RK)

  • New Jersey: Zogby puts Senator Frank Lautenberg's approval-disapproval at a very solid 56-30.

  • Idaho: While Larry Craig remains mum on retirement vs. a re-election bid, Democrat Larry LaRocco continues his successful voter outreach through his Working for the Senate campaign.

  • Oregon: The Register-Guard calls it like it sees it:

    The problem with Sen. Gordon Smith's defense of the Bush administration's 2002 decision to divert Klamath Lake water for irrigation isn't that the Oregon Republican is wobbly on the facts. It's that he's willing to bend and selectively omit the facts to justify ideologically driven political positions.
    Doesn't sound like the type of guy I'd like to vote for. (HT: Loaded Orygun) Further, Senate candidate Steve Novick hammers Smith for his obvious duplicity.

  • Colorado: Republican "Backwards" Bob Schaffer's could-be scandal involving campaign contributions and favorable votes looks even worse as the businessman/contributor in question, David Brennan, has a history of trading campaign contributions for favorable votes.

  • New Mexico: Jim Hannan compiles Pajamas Pete Domenici's atrocious ratings from numerous issues groups including an F from the National Education Association, a D from Citizens for Global Solutions, and a D from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as bad marks on energy, children's issues, seniors' issues, and the environment.

  • Maine: Does Susan Collins want another terrorist attack on U.S. soil? According to her rules for commenting on blogs, she does. So she might want to revise her rules. Separately, isn't it, oh, a bit hypocritical for Susan Collins to complain about Democrats videotaping her public appearances and, at the same time, support warrantless wiretapping infringing on the privacy of law-abiding citizens?

  • Alaska: I don't think the numerous investigations focusing on Ted Stevens are escaping the attention of the voters:

    About 75 protesters, crying “Oink! Oink!” and “FBI! FBI!” gave Young, Alaska’s two senators and their supporters a shockingly poor reception at last week’s fundraiser. When Young held a public picnic on Monday, the protesters were back, wearing swine masks and waving angry signs.

    More than 3,600 miles from the Capitol, one thing is clear: Young and Sen. Ted Stevens (R) are in political as well as legal jeopardy.
    Something has to motivate Mark Begich or Ethan Berkowitz to enter the race against Stevens. Hopefully, this will all have a cumulative effect.

  • Georgia: I really, really, really loathe Saxby Chambliss.

  • Democratic campaign committees aren't just collectively outraising their Republican counterparts; they're outpacing themselves from previous cycles.

  • Yet another major Republican donor, Alan Fabian, is in massive legal trouble, as he was charged last week on "23 counts of bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury." And I do mean major donor. In the last few years, we're talking a quarter of a million dollars personally donated to candidates and committees across the country. For instance, among his 2007 contributions are $4,600 to Elizabeth Dole and a whopping $25,000 to the RNC. Now that the donor has been indicted, will Dole or the NRSC RNC return these recent contributions? (Odds are that, had it not been for the indictment, he probably would have given to several 2008 Senate candidates and incumbents, given that in 2006, he gave four-figure contributions to people like Michael Steele, Bob Corker, Tom Kean Jr., Mike McGavick, Mike DeWine, Mark Kennedy, George Allen, Conrad Burns, Rick Santorum, etc.)

  • 15 Comments:

    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    I don't think you really get the reason why people should return money that was donated to them. It isn't because the donor is bad, it is because the money that was donated to them could give the appearance of a quid-pro-quo arrangement. That's why it was a huge deal with the Jack Abramoff scandal, because Abramoff was a lobbyist who wanted people to vote a certain way. That's what sunk Conrad Burns, because he voted the way Abramoff wanted him to, and recieved a lot of money from him.

    A donor being indicted on charges is bad, in the sense that more money won't come out of it, but it doesn't make any bearing on the decisions of the people he gave money to. Elizabeth Dole isn't now more likely to do something that the donor wants her to, because there's nothing she can do. There is no possible quid-pro-quo arrangement, thus there is no need to return donated money.

    You are attempting to lower the bar for accepting donations by trying to link the negative aspect of whoever gives money to the person they gave it to. It doesn't have to stop with crimes. Soon, you'll be saying, "X donor gave $1,000 to Chuck Hagel, and this donor also supports the war. Therefore, Chuck Hagel supports the war, unless he gives the $1,000 back". Donations don't work that way, for either party. Its the same reason why there is no pressing concern for Senators to give back money donated to them by Ted Stevens, who hasn't even been found guilty of anything. Ted Stevens obviously wasn't bribing them, so there's nothing suspect about his donations.

    And I'm still trying to figure out how the NRSC can return money donated to the RNC.

    2:06 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger Jake said...

    I really like the story about Fox News changing Franken's Wikipedia entry. Shows how despicable and desperate they are.

    2:44 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    "You are attempting to lower the bar for accepting donations by trying to link the negative aspect of whoever gives money to the person they gave it to."

    That is a fundamental difference, then. I don't see it as "lowering the bar," whatever that means.

    Where somebody gets their campaign funds can be indicative of the type of candidate, the type of elected official, and the type of person that they are.

    It's naive of you to suggest that there is absolutely no connection between the donor's actions and the candidate that the donor contributed to. It's a matter of character, a concept unfortunately foreign to many Republican Senators nowadays.

    Dole doesn't have to return it, but it demonstrates character to say, "Hey, this guy turned out to be a bad guy, so I don't want his money."

    Character-by-association is a real thing. It's why companies are distancing themselves from Michael Vick, for instance, and it's why, typically, candidates return contributions received from unsavory individuals.

    What if a high profile contributor to Dole's campaign wasn't found guilty of a white-collar crime (or several), but rather was found guilty of rape. If only for PR, wouldn't it be expected that Dole disassociate herself from the individual by returning the contribution? It doesn't send a negative message to say, "Hey, this guy is a bad guy, but I'll look the other way and keep his money."?

    5:04 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger Danielle said...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    7:41 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    You make your case using a bunch of half-way arguments, then drive it home as if they're completely solid.

    "Where somebody gets their campaign funds can be indicative of the type of candidate, the type of elected official, and the type of person that they are."

    Key word: Can be. It could also not be. I don't have enough information about this supporter, but if they donated to Dole but Dole never reached out to him, never asked him for money, and has never heard of him, why would she be pressed to return it? Dole is not responsible for the conduct of people who happen to support her. The same goes for the RNC.

    "It's naive of you to suggest that there is absolutely no connection between the donor's actions and the candidate that the donor contributed to. It's a matter of character, a concept unfortunately foreign to many Republican Senators nowadays."

    I never suggested that there is "absolutely no connection", and I think it does depend on the donor. Some work closely with the campaign; others do not. I think in most cases, there is a tepid connection at best, which certainly doesn't deserve the scrutiny you're bestowing on it.

    "Character-by-association is a real thing. It's why companies are distancing themselves from Michael Vick, for instance, and it's why, typically, candidates return contributions received from unsavory individuals."

    That's a horrible example. There's a massive, gi-nourmous difference between companies giving money TO Michael Vick and putting his name and face as the representative of their company, and somebody who does a bad thing giving money to someone who has no say in that decision. Yes, they can make the decision to return the money, but nobody in their right mind would be confused and say, "Hey, someone who was convicted of fraud gave money to Liddy Dole. She must approve of people committing fraud!"

    Finally, you don't have to look the other way to accept someone's money. What would be the harm in Elizabeth Dole coming out and saying, "Someone who gave money to us broke the law. We fully support justice being served, however, since the donation was legal, and since our campaign has no connection to the donor, we see no reason to treat the money any differently." Its not like, because someone convicted of fraud gave to Dole, that she has to use the money for fraud-related purposes. Are yard signs purchased with money that came from a donor who was convicted of fraud any more despicable than yard signs that were not?

    7:42 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    "Finally, you don't have to look the other way to accept someone's money. What would be the harm in Elizabeth Dole coming out and saying, "Someone who gave money to us broke the law. We fully support justice being served, however, since the donation was legal, and since our campaign has no connection to the donor, we see no reason to treat the money any differently.""

    That's why it's about character!!! Holy cow. The campaign does have a connection to the donor by accepting the donation. That's the whole point! The donation was legal, but the guy is a bad guy for breaking the law so profoundly and is not somebody that most campaigns would want to be associated with. I'm not surprised you don't have a problem with it. People that might look for character in their elected officials could reasonably have a problem with it.

    To each his own.

    (And they're not "a bunch of half-way arguments," whatever that means, just because you don't agree with them, Professor.)

    8:58 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    I was referring specifically to your comment that donors "can be" indicative of the the candidate. They can also not be. You're entire point is based around that.

    As for character, why would somebody looking at the character of a candidate base their judgement one of the hundreds or thousands of people that have donated, and not the candidate themself? As I said, there is only a tepid connection between the donor and the candidate. Liddy Dole likely has no idea who this person is and has never met them before in any meaningful way, if at all. How would she be associated with his fraud conviction, unless you specifically had it out for Liddy Dole and wanted to smear her in any way possible?

    9:18 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger jak said...

    va blogger - I would be very cautious with how low you're willing to stoop in allowing special exceptions to Republicans in ethically precarious circumstances. If the shoe were on the other foot, and Democrats were accepting donations from criminals en masse, would you be so charitable?

    I really fail to comprehend why ANYONE would want to relax ethical standards with respect to campaign financing, but I guess that's why you're a Republican.

    9:55 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Because there is nothing that Liddy Dole could have possibly done to prevent this. There's no reason why she should be held accountable for the actions of people who donate to her unless there's a potential conflict of interest.

    And to answer your questions, yes, I hold Democrats to the same standard.

    10:46 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger The Sleep said...

    I guess for me the issue of giving back donations comes down to refusing to profit from the proceeds of crime. To choose an extreme example for the sake of clarity: If my neighbour gave me a stereo for my birthday, and it turns out he earns his living selling drugs to school kids, then there is a real sense in which my stereo owes its existence to the profits from some particular package of drugs taken by kids. I would hope that as a moral person I would be unable to live with that. (And I'm an audiophile.) So the answer to the question "Are yard signs purchased with money that came from a donor who was convicted of fraud any more despicable than yard signs that were not?" for me, personally, would be yes. That's a moral choice, and I guess I would be more comfortable supporting a politician who would make the same choice.

    11:16 PM, August 15, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    If it was proven that the donations were made with money profitted from crime, then yes, it would be appropriate to return the money. I don't think this is a clear-cut example of that, though.

    9:12 AM, August 16, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    "If it was proven that the donations were made with money profitted from crime, then yes, it would be appropriate to return the money. I don't think this is a clear-cut example of that, though."

    va blogger - this is where I ask how old you are. Are you old enough to have a checking account? Because, when I get my paycheck or a check as a birthday gift or, I suppose, if I was committing fraud and laundering money, all my revenue, at the end of the day, would find its way into my checking account that I use to pay bills and buy groceries and contribute to candidates.

    If the guy made a bunch of money via fraud and money laundering, but kept that account separate from his pocket-money and candidate contribution fund, do you actually make a distinction?

    Do you know what character is?

    10:21 AM, August 16, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    What I continue to find interesting is that you are absolutely adamant on determining the character of Elizabeth Dole by looking at someone that, in all likelihood, she's never met.

    12:23 PM, August 16, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Yeah, I am adamant in determining a candidate's character, in part, by where they get their campaign funding. If a candidate like Liddy Dole is happy to take an indicted money launderer's cash in the form of a campaign contribution and look the other way, more power to her, but it indicates a lack of character whether you like it not. (And if that guy contributed to her campaign, say, three months ago, I would expect that she'd return the contribution or donate it to charity as a way to disassociate herself with the unsavory donor. Dole, however, appears happy to keep the money launderer's dirty money.)

    12:56 PM, August 16, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...

    The Sleep seems to have hit the nail on the head here. The issue is that money is fungible so you'll rarely be able to prove that a particular donation is from the proceeds of a particular crime. It really is a judgement call.

    Each situation is different and I doubt this will ever become a very big issue by itself. The danger for Dole or any politician is becoming linked by voters with "bad people" if too many of your donations end up coming from criminals. The problem for any pol is that returning the money rarely helps with this public perception and may in fact reinforce it by extending the news story.

    3:34 PM, August 16, 2007  

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