— RI Senate '06 —

August 29, 2007

Early Review of Primary Mistake

Carroll Andrew Morse

And speaking of books, the American Spectator has an early review of Steve Laffey's forthcoming book on the 2006 Rhode Island Senate campaign, Primary Mistake: How the Washington Republican Establishment Lost Everything in 2006 (and Sabotaged My Senatorial Campaign)

A good portion of Primary Mistake is devoted to Laffey coming to terms with why, as an American citizen who met the constitutional requirements to serve in the Senate, people kept telling him he couldn't run. He recalls getting similar treatment when he first decided to run for mayor of Cranston: The party establishment told him he couldn't run because they already had a candidate…In the end, Laffey's story is really about the frequently ignored difference between the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Political parties are about winning elections and wielding power. Ideological movements are about ideas and values. Confuse the two and you wind up with something like the Chafee-Laffey primary contest.

May 1, 2007

Senate ‘06 Footnote: FEC Says Matt Brown Did Nothing Illegal

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Kate Bramson of the Projo’s 7-to-7 blog

The Federal Election Commission says that the Democratic Party in three states did not break federal campaign contribution laws when they gave money to Rhode Island U.S. Senate candidate Matt Brown last year.

The Democratic Party in Hawaii, Maine and Massachusetts funneled a total of $25,000 to Brown, who was then Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, in December 2005. He was seeking the Democratic Senate nomination.

The non-scandal (and Brown’s non-reaction to it) effectively ended former Secretary of State Brown’s U.S. Senate campaign.

Cynics will be tempted to say that this proves that campaign finance laws work exactly as intended by making political fundraising rules too onerous to be survived by candidates who are not incumbents or challengers hand-picked by party leadership.

December 7, 2006

Chafee/Bolton/Republican Party Footnote

Carroll Andrew Morse

For those still unconvinced that the national Republicans were as clueless as they seemed in this past election cycle, one convincing piece of evidence comes from syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Unbelievably, the White House was surprised by Senator Lincoln Chafee’s intransigence on confirming John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador...

The fecklessness at the White House in managing Bolton's nomination is exemplified by the feeling there to the end that Chafee could be brought along. Having poured money into Chafee's Rhode Island Republican primary campaign against a conservative challenger, Bush in private is furious over betrayal by the maverick Republican. Chafee's fellow GOP senators believe that if he were re-elected, he would have permitted Bolton's name to go to the Senate floor. Quirky to the end, Chafee says the Democratic election victory is reason to block Bolton.

November 30, 2006

Bleeding the (Blue)blood out of the New England GOP

Marc Comtois

First, the New York Times focuses the soft-filter lense on the now dwindling ranks of GOP moderates in New England and :

It was a species as endemic to New England as craggy seascapes and creamy clam chowder: the moderate Yankee Republican.

Dignified in demeanor, independent in ideology and frequently blue in blood, they were politicians in the mold of Roosevelt and Rockefeller: socially tolerant, environmentally enthusiastic, people who liked government to keep its wallet close to its vest and its hands out of social issues like abortion and, in recent years, same-sex marriage...

Then they let the moderates explain that they're the real conservatives:
Walter Peterson, a former New Hampshire governor and lifelong Republican, this year became the co-chairman of Republicans for John Lynch, the incumbent Democratic governor.

“What the people want is basically to feel like the candidates of a political party are working for the people, not just following some niche issues,” Mr. Peterson said. “The old traditional Republican Party was conservative on small government, efficient government; believed in supporting people to give them a chance at life but not having people on the dole; wanted a balanced budget; and on social issues they were moderate, tolerant, live and let live. They didn’t dislike somebody from other religious viewpoints.”

He continued, “That was the old-fashioned conservative, but the word conservative today has been bastardized.”

I'm afraid that Mr. Peterson is the one "bastardizing" the meaning of the word. His apparent complaint that today's conservatives "dislike [people] from other religious viewpoints” stands out as the primary difference in his functional description of "what it means to be a Republican" and that of most contemporary conservatives. Together with the linkage of "live and let live" with "moderate" and "tolerant"--such a neat little trick--the comment reveals that the real axe he and other moderates have to grind is that they look down their blue-veined noses at people who actually have a religious viewpoint. In short, live and let live unless you're a right wing, religious nut. Very tolerant of them.

As a practical, pragmatic and political matter, the various New England GOPs need to have a much bigger tent than their counterparts in, say, the south. Yet, they also have to recognize that the conservatives who are (seemingly) at the lower, rank-and-file level of the party are tired of being ignored. We're smart enough to realize that compromises have to be made. Maybe it's time that the bluebloods realize that, too.

Finally, the Times offers Senator Chafee as Exhibit "A":

I’m caught between the state party, which I’m very comfortable in, and the national party, which I’m not,” said Mr. Chafee, adding that he was considering the merits of “sticking it out and hoping the pendulum swings back.”
Sheesh, Senator. "Sticking it out"? Could he be any more complacent? If he really wants to hold elective office again, he has to be proactive, seize the bull by the horns and start working now. A good place to start would be to put his time and money where his rhetoric is and help build the RI GOP. Don't start waiting. Start doing. (And remember to be tolerant and open-minded, K?)

November 14, 2006

110th Senate Committee Assignments for Senators Reed and Whitehouse

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to John E. Mulligan on the Projo's Political Scene blog, committee assignments have been determined for the 110th Congress.

Senator-elect Sheldon Whitehouse has received seats on...

  • Environment and Public Works
  • Judiciary
  • Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Budget
Two quick thoughts: 1) With the appointment to the Judiciary Committee, it looks like some of the spotlight will continue to be on Rhode Island during Supreme Court nominations. 2) If there is any hope that Senator-elect Whitehouse will not govern as the complete hard-lefty that he campaigned as, it will initially come through his work on the Intelligence Committee.

Senator Jack Reed's committee assignments are...

  • Appropriations
  • Armed Services
  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

November 13, 2006

Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving, Again & Again

Donald B. Hawthorne

Here we go again...

After the post entitled Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving, most of us thought the psychodramas would die down. Silly us.

With a H/T to Jim in the comments section of the earlier post, comes the Investor Business Daily editorial Lincoln's Assassination.

Then there was Holding to the Center, Losing My Seat , a Chafee editorial in the NYTimes.

Patrick Casey said it best: "In the end, Rhode Islanders preferred a real registered Democrat over one who just pretended to be one."

Goose, Meet Gander

Carroll Andrew Morse

From yesterday's Meet the Press interview transcript with Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut...

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Jeffords of Vermont crossed over and joined the Democrats.


MR. RUSSERT: And they gave -- they gave him his committee chairmanship.


MR. RUSSERT: You're, you're not ruling that out at some future time?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I'm not ruling it out, but I hope I don?t get to that point?

Earlier in the interview, Senator Lieberman did reject the idea of any immediate switch to the Republican party...
MR. RUSSERT: You will caucus with the Democrats?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I will caucus with the Democrats. I said that to my constituents throughout. I'm going to caucus with the Democrats both because it's good for my constituents in Connecticut, because I retained my seniority, I become a committee chair, but also I want to continue to work to bring the party back to its historic traditions of, of strength on national security, foreign policy and innovation, and progress in domestic policy -- the, the Harry Truman/John F. Kennedy Democrat that, that I was raised to be.

Senator Lieberman is now the independent maverick swing vote on the Senate's Homeland Security, Armed Services, Environment and Public Works and Small Business committees.

November 11, 2006

Senator Chafee: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Donald B. Hawthorne

I previously wrote about the policy reasons behind my decision not to vote for either Chafee or Whitehouse in this week's U.S. Senate race.

Then there was the word that Chafee might not stay a Republican after all.

Now comes the re-affirmation that Chafee will indeed continue to block the nomination of John Bolton:

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., who was defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday, told reporters in Rhode Island that he would continue opposing Bolton. That would likely deny Republicans the votes needed to move Bolton's nomination from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the full Senate.

"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a
number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," Chafee
said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse
something the American people have spoke out against."...

And how much did the Republican establishment spend on this Senator? For what end?

John Podhoretz, writing over at The Corner, writes about a New York Times article on the U.N. ambassador position:

Who has made it impossible for John Bolton to be confirmed by the Senate? Lincoln Chafee. Who has recently said he may not remain a Republican notwithstanding the millions upon millions of dollars spent by the Republican party to retain his seat? Lincoln Chafee. Who, therefore, in the delusional estimation of a New York Times reporter, might be John Bolton's replacement at the U.N.? Lincoln Chafee! "Names that have been floated both inside and outside the administration," writes reporter Helene Cooper in a risible piece today, "include Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq; Philip D. Zelikow, the State Department counselor; Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs; and even Mr. Chafee."

Left-wing editorializing masquerading as a news article - yet another example of the high standards at the NY Times.

Isn't it interesting how the definition of compromise post-election has been defined by the Left as capitulation on matters of principle?

One of the reason some of us are pleased that the Democrats now control the Congress is that they are now heavily accountable for American public policies in the next two years going into the 2008 elections. We will now get to see what they are really made up of. Simplistic knee-jerk negative reactions to President Bush will no longer cut it.

November 9, 2006

What Were We Just Saying About Lincoln Chafee and the RIGOP?

Donald B. Hawthorne

Following shortly on Andrew's recent post, What a Friend of the Editor of The New Republic Heard During a Rally in Rhode Island, comes Thanks for All That Cash, Liddy, But... over at The Corner, with a link to this Boston Globe article:

Two days after losing a bid for a second term in an election seen as a referendum on President Bush and the Republican Party, Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he was unsure whether he'd remain a Republican...

When asked if his comments meant he thought he might not belong in the Republican Party, he replied: "That's fair."

You don't think this might lead some people to say "I told you so," do you?

In the meantime, Patrick Casey writes about Chafee and the RIGOP inThe Post Election Canonization of Linc Chafee over at Sixers:

Glad to see that the Republican Party spent its money wisely in Rhode Island. The 53%-47% loss suffered by Senator Lincoln Chafee yesterday was well deserved by a party that had forsaken ideas and good government for a quest for raw power. There was not a single issue discussed seriously in this years Chafee-Whitehouse match-up other than who hated Bush and his policies more. In the end, Rhode Islanders preferred a real registered Democrat over one who just pretended to be one.

By putting forth a candidate like Steve Laffey, Republicans could have guaranteed a race in Rhode Island where issues like the economy could have been discussed. The fact that we currently have a great economy, and the way we got to it, was lost to Rhode Islanders this election cycle. The fact that our goal in Iraq and the Middle East is noble, and the fact that in wartime sometimes mistakes are made and things take longer than we would like, was lost in the battle between who was more anti-war and anti-Bush Chafee or Whitehouse. Talking about these things in the Senate race would have given us the opportunity for those ideas to have trickled down to other candidates and blunted the effect of the "I hate Bush No, I hate him more" mantra from both parties a little bit.

The pseudo-Republican/No Ideas Party that we have here in Rhode Island was destroyed last night, hopefully...

Rhode Islanders had no real choices this election cycle. It was, from the Senate down to the individual State Representative seats, a series of races between Democrats and Republicans whose party platform is to pretend to be nicer than the real Democrats. Disgraceful.

But not as disgraceful than this morning's love letter to Chafee by 'reporter' John E. Mulligan, A citizen-senator to the end, where the sycophantic author actually compared Chafee to the Founding Fathers approvingly.

At least in the national Republican Party you have a considerable base of officeholders and ideas that you can build on. In Rhode Island we have to start from scratch.

The RIGOP does have to be rebuilt from scratch as they are the single most inept political party I have ever seen in my lifetime.

November 7, 2006

Numbers from the Senate Race...

Carroll Andrew Morse

US Senate: (84.1% of precints reporting)

Lincoln Chafee145,12546.7%
Sheldon Whitehouse165,48253.3%

To catch up, Chafee needs to win

  • 65.8% of the remaining vote, if 375,000 people voted.
  • 61.4% of the remaining vote, if 400,000 people voted.
  • 58.9% of the remaining vote, if 425,000 people voted.
It's over.

Exit Poll Rumors Trickling Out Showing Whitehouse With The Lead

Carroll Andrew Morse

I jumped the gun just a bit with my previous post. Both The New Republic and National Review Online have obtained a first round of exit polls results

Ryan Lizza of TNR, commenting on the overall picture from multiple states, comments they seem too pro-Dem to be true.

November 6, 2006

What a Friend of the Editor of The New Republic Heard During a Rally in Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

As is conveyed in the title of this post, what follows is hearsay, but hearsay that comes from Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic, who stands to lose a good deal of professional credibility if it is discovered that he is just making things up about a candidate in a close race on the night before an election. Here is what Mr. Foer posted to The Plank, TNR's group blog


I have a friend in Rhode Island--a Democrat torn between his affections for Lincoln Chafee and his desire to make Harry Reid majority leader. Over the weekend, my friend attended a Chafee event and cornered the senator. Now, my friend doesn't have a personal relationship with Chafee, but he put the question bluntly to him: Why should I stick with you in a race with so many national implications? Chafee pulled my friend aside, lowered his voice, and told him that he might not be a Republican for much longer.

This is just one report. Take it for whatever its worth.

--Franklin Foer

If I have missed some statement by Senator Chafee during this campaign where he has pledged not to leave the Republican party, please post a reference in the comments or send me an e-mail and I will place it in the main body of this post right away.


Senator Chafee was pretty clear in an interview with ABCs George Stephanopoulos earlier this year

George Stephanopoulos: Are you committed, though, to voting for a Republican for majority leader, to voting for Republican committee chairmen?

Senator Lincoln Chafee: Yes, running as a Republican, Im not going to have it both ways. Im running as a Republican and thats the party Ill support.

So it comes down to this...

Marc Comtois

Don is going to "No Vote" and Justin is going to hold his nose and color in the Whitehouse arrow. I admire them for their ideological courage and consistency and for their honest explanations of why they're doing what they're doing.

Immediately after the primary, I was resigned toward the "pragmatic" solution of holding my own nose and voting for Chafee.

I'm as idealistic as the next conservative, but also recognize that there is a time for idealism and a time for pragmatism. For two years, I've attempted to rebut the pragmatic reasons for supporting Senator Chafee in the primary--he's more electable and he can vouchsafe a GOP controlled (and thus more conservative) U.S. Senate--by offering arguments rooted in conservative beliefs.

For me, the primary is the best time to argue over the ideas that should undergird a political party and in this primary I tried to convince Rhode Island Republicans the value of maintaining conservative ideals against practical politics. In the end, I was unsuccessful. It was a spirited debate, but ideas lost and pragmatism won. It's disappointing, but now pragmatism will simply have to be enough.

That last "will" should have been a "may." Two months later, and I'm not so sure. Yes, it's a sad commentary on the choices, but how does a conservative weigh short term objectives versus hoped-for long term goals? After all, if Whitehouse does win, what are the chances he'll ever be voted out in incumbent-loving li'l Rhody?

Or does it really just come down to punishing one whom you feel has served you poorly (Chafee) by either not voting for him (a swing of the electoral hammer) or the exponential act of voting for his opponent (a swing of the electoral sledgehammer)?

So what am I going to do? For the first time in my voting life, I actually don't know who I'm voting for before election day. It could be a long night.

The Rhode Island U.S. Senate Race: Advocating for Change by Staying on the Sidelines

Donald B. Hawthorne

This is a post I began writing on September 12, right after the primary vote had been counted. Not wanting to write anything rash after a hotly contested election, I chose to reflect on its contents for several months - expanding my thoughts as new events added more perspective.

First, a few reminders from the past: I have expressed admiration for Mayor Laffey's personal life story but expressed doubts about his decision to run for the U.S. Senate and was highly critical of his energy and healthcare public policy positions even as I agreed with many of his other policy stances. Near the end of the Republican primary timetable, I reiterated how both candidates were a letdown and reiterated some rather blunt criticism of Mayor Laffey's policy recommendations. In other words, I am not writing this post as a highly partisan Laffey fan.

Along the way, the Republican Senate National Committee showed that its core was the preservation of its own power for the sake of power rather than the articulation of any meritorious principles. If the national and state GOP offer no principled reasons to stand with them, then they are no different than any other political party and deserve to be abandoned as I have said here.

So where are we today, one day before the election?

I have no respect for Sheldon Whitehouse. To say he has a track record of even limited accomplishments would be kind. To say that he articulates a vision in this race - other than personal animus toward President Bush - would be wildly generous. And then there is his insufferable personal style.

But I cannot vote for Lincoln Chafee and have made the decision to stay on the sidelines for the U.S. Senate race in Tuesday's vote.

There are three major policy reasons for my decision:


I disagree with Chafee on nearly every major fiscal and tax policy issue of importance as he frequently votes with Democrats and is part of the PAYGO crowd. The PAYGO advocates are intellectually dishonest when they refuse to acknowledge that budget deficits have never been due to a lack of tax revenues. Rather, deficits have always been a result of uncontrolled spending and PAYGO is nothing less than a trojan horse for further undisciplined spending. Chafee's fiscal and tax policies are not that dissimilar from Democrat policies.

More specifically, Chafee apparently doesn't grasp that it is incentives which drive human behavior and the validity of supply-side economics (see here and follow the links at the bottom) is directly attributable to its recognition of the importance of such incentives. If you want even more empirical data, read this excellent article by Arthur Laffer, in which he presents historical data on the effects of marginal tax cuts from the Harding-Coolidge (1920's), Kennedy (1960's) and Reagan (1980's) eras - which also turn out to be the three times of greatest economic growth in the last 100 years.

Unlike those of us who are entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley and have created jobs and wealth through innovation and hard work, PAYGO is a philosophy that - not surprisingly - is frequently associated with some Northeast liberal Republicans whose world view is more influenced by the personal experience of clipping coupons than having to meet a payroll.

(For more particulars on the logic problems of PAYGO, go here, here, and here.)


We are at war with Islamic fascists who seek the destruction of America. Some have responded to this battle of our lifetime with clarion calls for standing tall, like Senator Santorum did here.

Yet, in this difficult time, all Chafee can offer us on foreign policy issues is contradictory and incoherent views:

After the first three Republican Senate debates, Senator Lincoln Chafee left voters with three seemingly incompatible views of foreign policy
A flirtation with pacifism ("A bad peace is better than a good war"),

Support for isolationism ("Fear of foreign entanglements"), and

Support for American hegemony ("A world where America is the strongest country in a peaceful world").

His broader views on the Middle East are - to be kind - befuddled.

And, during a time when North Korea is exploding nuclear bombs and Iran is actively developing nuclear weapon capabilities, Chafee unilaterally derailed the nomination of U.N. ambassador John Bolton - even after Bolton had shown, by his on-the-job performance, a level of sophisticated and stalwart leadership so desperately needed.

In other words, Chafee has neither the beliefs nor the personal fortitude to give a speech like Senator Santorum did. Like many Democrats on the national stage, Chafee articulates a confused and unrooted world view at a time of danger in our nation's history.


The Republican-controlled Senate has not distinguished itself on many, many issues. In fact, the only reason to argue for why it is important for the Senate to stay Republican is so a different sort of judge will continue to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Yet, Chafee voted against the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court and opposed other Bush-nominated judges. And that makes him no different than Rhode Island having another Democrat senator or turning control of the Senate over to the Democrats.

In this way, Chafee is aligned with left-wing fundamentalists who seek to portray the debate about judges as a struggle between left-wing and right-wing judicial activists. Which just proves how they don't get it.

An alternative viewpoint is highlighted in Moving Beyond Loyalty to the Rule of Law Mixes Law & Politics, where I wrote about the importance of rediscovering the proper and limited role of the judiciary as envisioned by our Founders and how "conservatives were not simply seeking to confirm judges who will be activists - albeit conservative ones - from the bench." More on this alternative judicial philosophy can be found in the numerous links at the bottom of the preceding post as well as here.


In addition to disagreeing with Chafee on these three important policy areas, there is also a gravitas issue. Writing in President Bush's father in the 2004 presidential race - and talking about it publicly - while taking money and support from the very party he disdains is an example of unprincipled opportunism, not gravitas. And that is why this quote from a Pittsburgh editorial about Senator Rick Santorum's opponent in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race pretty well defines my view of Chafee:

But, first, allow us to dispatch, quickly, with Santorum's Democrat challenger, Bobby Casey Jr.: There's no "there" there.

We can't even say Mr. Casey, the state treasurer, is one of those fellas who says everything but says nothing; he simply doesn't say much of anything. And when he does speak, it's so passive and intellectually vapid that silence would have been more engaging and informative.

For all of these reasons, I will not vote for Chafee tomorrow. And, unlike Chafee himself, I won't try to be cute and write in his late father's name. Nope, what Chafee will get from me tomorrow is the deadly silence of one no vote.

Keep Chafee... Out of the Senate

Justin Katz

That is the slogan that will determine my vote tomorrow. Under the present circumstances, there could be no worse outcome than to reinforce Republicans' belief that we must keep them in power regardless of their beliefs and behavior.

Frankly, I disagree with Orson Scott Card. "A chance" that Republicans will get the War on Terror right in the face of the palpable wrongness of Democrats is not good enough. Republicans must learn that the opposition's absolute looniness does not amount to a get-into-office free card, and more importantly, Democrats must learn that trafficking in insanity is not acceptable among our nation's leaders. To answer the first imperative, the Republicans must suffer electoral hardship. To answer the second, the Democrats must be given some responsibility — even with (perhaps especially with) the expectation that they will not live up to it.

The Rhode Island Senate race consists entirely of this choice: Either it is better that Lincoln Chafee wins, or it is better that he loses. As much as I sympathize with the poetic justice of a write-in vote, that route strikes me as passive negligence. Either Chafee should win, or he should lose. Standing aside and allowing your vote to be thrown in an "other" pile shirks the responsibility to make a decision. Chafee in, or Chafee out.

The Democrats could not have given us a better temporary repository of undeserved power on their side of the race.

There is really only one possible interpretation of Republican ballots that go toward Sheldon Whitehouse, and mine will be one.

Chafee out.

Public Poll Shows Chafee and Whitehouse Neck-and-Neck

Carroll Andrew Morse

Since theres not much policy difference between the candidates to discuss in the RI Senate race, we might as well mention the horserace news.

A Mason-Dixon poll released over the weekend (link via WJAR-TV NBC 10) showed incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee with a one-point lead over challenger Sheldon Whitehouse. Someone in the Whitehouse campaign and/or the Democratic Party must believe that the race has closed to a dead heat; according to Steve Peoples of the Projos 7-to-7 blog, former President Bill Clinton has been directed to Rhode Island for an unscheduled-as-of-last-week visit back to RI to try to give the Whitehouse campaign one last jolt.

Is Sheldon Whitehouses refusal to answer the Chafee campaigns charges of being soft-on-corruption taking its toll, with Sheldon Whitehouse playing the role of Matt Brown, but in slower motion? Or is it simply that the Whitehouses highly partisan campaign strategy vote for me because Im a Democrat and Democrats are good hit its ceiling early on (after all, people have been pretty sure about who the Democrat in this race from the start)? And with the race tightening, do disaffected conservative voters have cause reconsider their positions? About 384,000 people voted in the RI Senate race in 2000. About 30,000 people voted for Steve Laffey this year. If turnout is similar to 2000, and half of Laffeys voters leave their Senate ballots blank, thats a swing of about 2% in Whitehouses direction, enough to change a potential 51%-49% victory to a 49%-51% loss.

November 3, 2006

Chafee/Whitehouse Neck and Neck?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rich Lowry of National Review says internal polls are showing that the Chafee/Whitehouse race is much closer than any publicly released poll is showing

This is what I'm hearing about GOP internals: In MO, Talent has now had two good nights in a row. He's up by two in the three-day average, up five in the two-day. In NJ, Kean is hanging in there, just down by two in the two-day. In MD, unfortunately, there's no sign yet that it's happening for Steelehe slipped a little from the night before. OH and PA, of course, are gonzo. In TN, Corker is up by one, but the public polls show him with a much bigger lead. In the internals, he continues to have just a slightly better fav/unfav than Ford. In RIis this good or bad news?Chafee is right there with Whitehouse, just .1 behind in last night's track. Finally, there's VA, where it's not looking so great. Webb was leading last night, and is leading in the two-day. (Sorry, nothing from MT.)
Im assuming by .1, Lowry means 1 point down, or else Senator Chafee would be in the "gonzo" category.

I doubt, however, that any pollster knows how to take into account the effects the casino get-out-the-vote effort is going to have.


On the other hand, Senator Chafee claimed yesterday that his campaign is so broke, they're not actually doing any polls. From Steve Peoples of the Projo's new Political Scene blog...

"I am going to confess that we are so broke we are not polling," Chafee said this afternoon at the Federal Reserve restaurant, when repeatedly asked about his internal polling numbers. "We are using all our resources to influence voters."

Most competitive federal candidates continuously run internal polls to gauge where they stand....

Chafee said his campaign is depending on another campaign's internal polls for information, though he wouldn't acknowledge which one.

November 2, 2006

Lincoln Chafee is...

Marc Comtois

...Myrth York's kind of Republican, so she's endorsed him. Add her to the list of "Progressive" groups that have endorsed the Senator. Too little, too late? According the latest polls, it might be ('course, that is a link to Zogby...).

October 31, 2006

Is Pragmatism Enough for the Ideologically-Minded?

Marc Comtois

I'm burnt out on this year's elections, so it was by pure chance that I happened upon the tail end of the last debate between Senator Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse last night. It's really become an election by and for syllogistic simpletons, hasn't it? Like most other Democrats, Whitehouse is running against BUSH. Like many Republicans, Chafee is running away from BUSH. That is really what their messages have become. Plus, both are bluebloods and to hear each tell it, the other is either corrupt and wishy-washy or inept and wishy-washy. You decide who is speaking about whom. I can't tell the difference anymore. Truth be told, I never could. What a choice...

But there is a difference between them, I suppose.

You see, if I were to take off my ideological lense and go all pragmatic on your a**es, I'd have to say that the "average Rhode Island voter" (whover she may be) would probably benefit more by sending Senator Chafee back to Washington. Tenured incumbents really do deliver for their constituents, after all. As much as fiscal conservative's hate to admit it, one persons "pork" is another's "special project" and multi-term incumbents are the most effective purveyors of pork. And most of their constituents won't take them to task for directing millions of dollars their way. In fact, and unfortunately, that's exactly what many folks think a politician's job is: to get other people's money to help improve our backyard.

Another related argument, and one made by Senator Chafee, is that having at least one Republican in our otherwise Democrat-dominated national political delegation is smart politics. That way, Rhode Island will always have at least one elected official who will be in the party in power in Washington, D.C. Hard to argue with the technical logic, though what benefit can be accrued is directly related to the ability of said politician to "deliver" the goods when his party is in power.

Based largely upon the aforementioned pragmatic reasons, I've narrowed my decision down to "No-voting" in the Senate race or voting for Senator Chafee. But is pragmatism enough? Aren't there any ideologically conservative justifications that can be summoned to legitmize supporting either Chafee or Whitehouse?

I've come to believe that, regardless of how this election turns out, any hope held by RI conservatives that we can somehow move the ideological ball toward us by electing or not electing either of these two candidates is unfounded. I believe that if Senator Chafee were to emerge victorious, he would be so politically tempered that it will be well-nigh impossible for anyone to beat him, whether in a primary or general election. That is bad news for conservatives.

By the same token, I believe that should Sheldon Whitehouse take the seat, the power of incumbency would serve him well and Rhode Islanders would get used to the idea of having an all Democrat delegation. Then there would be no turning back. Now, I suppose Mayor Laffey or even Governor Carcieri might have a shot in beating Whitehouse 6 years on, so maybe I'm being overly-pessimistic, but given the "navy blue" of the RI electorate (H/T: Maureen Moakley on the last Lively Experiment), I think my pessimism is justified.

Thus, electing either Chafee or Whitehouse will do nothing to help the conservative cause in RI in either the short or long term. Basically, we're screwed on this front, kids, and will be better served to look elsewhere for any conservative movement opportunities.

But back to the reality of the senate race. Like it or not, conservatives simply can't apply the standard set of ideological benchmarks to this race. If we're going to vote, we need to put ideology aside and vote based on other factors. For me, right now, I still don't know whether I'm going to swallow hard and vote for a liberal blueblood Republican or "check out" of the process and let the rest of the electorate decide who their (my) Senator is going to be. It will come down to me standing in the booth looking at that ballot and which decision will allow me to live with my conscience.

October 21, 2006

A New Blog on the RI Scene (from a distance)

Justin Katz

Four student journalists from the University of Richmond (no, Rhode Islanders, that's Richmond, Virginia,) are covering the '06 Senate race in our little ol' state at Rhode Island Senate Central: Voices in the 2006 Senate Election.

October 20, 2006

The Intraconservative Debate Kicks into Gear

Justin Katz

Over in the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez takes up the call of pro-Republican conservatives:

You'd just be a punk (I'm just borrowing Mona's reader's word ) if you actually care about issues like activist judges, abortion (today there is still not a ban on partial-birth abortion, still held up in court), marriage, but stay home on Election Day. ...

Yes, earmarks suck. And I'm not defending Republican congressional performance across the board by any stretch. But not only are we at war but we have core domestic societal issues that are not going away. Don't expect matters to get better under Democratic leadership. Don't kid yourself about the impact of staying home or protest voting. As Mona notes, largescale Republican losses will not be interpreted as simply conservative frustration over spending (and Internet gambling?).

Perhaps it is indicative of time's acceleration as I age, but I simply can't rev myself to feel as if a two-year, or even four-year, or even six-year election cycle is of dire consequence. With the War on Terror, Social Security, Immigration, and the whole slate of Culture War issues, the best we can hope for — the best we should hope for, especially when the "we" is conservatives — is gradual, long-term change. Democrat victories will not be decisive on any of these matters, but continued Republican control will arguably be dilatory. It is a legitimate, and as-yet unrebutted, conclusion among conservatives that a short-term loss may be in our long-term interests.

I say "unrebutted," but Lopez and Mona Charon do make allusion. Here's Charon, from a post with the telling title "But What Will the Pundits Say Later?":

And yet, of course, though many bitter conservatives may do just that, the post-election analysis — assuming a big Democratic win — will be "rejection of the Iraq War," push back against Bush's war on civil liberties, blah, blah. Few will interpret the results to mean Republicans and the Bush White House disappointed the base by failing to hold the line on earmarks.

Personally, I'm much less concerned about what the pundits will say than what the Republicans will believe, and I think they're much too shrewd to miss the effect of party-base attrition. Circumstances may differ in other states, but in our home state of Rhode Island, a Chafee victory will stand as evidence that he does not need to court conservatives in order to win. A Chafee loss due to "bitter conservatives," however, will carry the lesson that, while Republicans may not win significantly in this state, they sure as Sheldon aren't going to without our votes.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds provides further evidence that American bipartisan democracy has progressed from "least bad" voting to "least nauseating" voting:

As I mentioned before, the Republicans don't really deserve my vote -- though as Bob Corker hasn't been in Washington that's not really his fault -- but nonetheless the Democrats have blown it again. Not long ago I was thinking that a Democratic majority in Congress wouldn't be so bad; but the sexual McCarthyism from the pro-outing crowd, coupled with the Dems' steadfast refusal to offer anything useful on national security, has convinced me that they just don't deserve a victory with those tactics. That's not Ford's fault, either, really. But I just don't think the Democrats are ready for a majority right now. We'll see how many other voters agree.

Writing from the land of Chafee/Whitehouse, I have to admit a certain envy of those choosing between Corker and Ford. However, perhaps it is because I believe our Democrat in the race would be so spectacularly uninspiring that I'm inclined to respond to Reynolds' opinion that "the Democrats are [not] ready for a majority right now" by saying, "exactly."

The healthiest outcome, of course, would be for the Democrats to undermine the Republicans' ability to stray so far toward political self-interest by returning to representative sanity. That the Democrats actually appear to moving away from this wide open field, running the political race with two left feet, as it were, suggests that their understanding of the current landscape — of the world, of reality — is fundamentally flawed. Given the long-term nature of just about every issue currently facing us, I'm not sure it wouldn't be worth letting them drive for a few years in order to inspire more sober minds to refocus.

The Sounds of Silence

Marc Comtois

I've so thoroughly checked out of the current RI Senate race that I didn't even realize there was a debate last night. Ah well....the ProJo has it covered.

I suppose no one can really be surprised that the conservatives hereabouts have taken, at best, lukewarm interest in a race between Patrician "A" and Patrician "B" in which both try their hardest to show how unconservative (ie; "anti-Bush") they are.

Patrician "A" owes his current electoral viability to the political groundgame orchestrated by the advisors of the President he currently castigates. Meanwhile, Patrician "B" offers no really new ideas and has basically chiseled his whole campaign down to the core theme that a vote for his opponent is a vote for BUSH. It's politics as a game of "I know you are but what am I?" It's certainly not a debate over political ideas and is really all about winning political power for its own sake. That's fine, but it's not very interesting to me. But, heck, if you're interested, feel free to comment.

UPDATE: Chuck Nevola is a more intrepid man than I and has more analysis here.

October 14, 2006

Whitehouse Supports Carcieri?

Justin Katz

While running errands on my way home from work yesterday afternoon, I heard Sheldon Whitehouse explain to Dan Yorke's radio listeners that balance between the parties is important in the federal government (from part 2 of Yorke's streaming audio):

... right now the Republicans have a monopoly on power in Washington. They do not provide any significant check on George Bush and his administration. They're trying to create what is essentially an accountability-free zone down in Washington for George Bush's policies. And it's the most partisan and toughest, meanest group you've ever seen. And the only way — you know, for six years people have had a chance to have them listen to other ideas, or to have them come and work with the Democrats on solutions to problems, but when they have all the power, and they don't want to listen, and they don't want to work with people, there's only one way back. And that's to make sure that the institutions of government in Washington are balanced, and in fact that there's some Democratic aspect to this.

One very disappointing observation about Whitehouse's performance — especially in context of the broader Democrat message — is that the Democrats are not asking why American voters have taken all majority power away from them. Oh, you get the standard allusions to fear-mongering on the part of the Republicans, but that only emphasizes the absence of any admission of the responsibility that an active opposition party inherently must claim. It only emphasizes that the Democrats are essentially fear-mongering in turn, with, as Yorke pointed out, the Republicans as the villains.

He may do so only out of necessity, but at least Chafee is willing to discuss the trends and shifts within his own party and explain where he sees his role as being. The fact that the Democrats won't even hint at the possibility of evaluating their own trends and shifts explicitly to "bring voters back" within their fold — nevermind correcting problems within their own party — is worrisome.

My second observation of Whitehouse's appeal to the distribution of power is that, in taking up such a message, Rhode Island Democrats are walking a very fine line. To the extent that it has merit with respect to the federal government, it has at least an equivalent degree with respect to our state government. If they succeed at implanting that principle — that mode of political thought — in voters' minds, they will undermine Charlie Fogarty's campaign for governor.

Personally, I think that would be a positive development; for Rhode Islanders, Governor Carcieri's loss would be much more damaging than Senator Chafee's.

September 19, 2006

What the Heck...Even More Poll Numbers!

Marc Comtois

(Heads Up--or Nota Bene for the cultured sort--Andrew and I were obviously working the same story and posted them within 1 minute of each other. This proves we Anchor Rising Contributors don't collude!!!! I kept my post up because of the wonderfully witty and pithy observations....but I did truncate most of it to the "extended" section.)

As noted in the comments to my earlier "poll post" {and Andrew's new post--MAC} a new Brown poll (Darrell West) is out, with some encouraging numbers for both Governor Carcieri and Senator Chafee.

Continue reading "What the Heck...Even More Poll Numbers!"

What the Heck...Here's Some Poll Numbers

Marc Comtois

The ProJo has a story about the latest Rasmussen poll that offers a snapshot of where we stand in the races for Governor and U.S. Senate 7 weeks out from the General Election (actually 8 weeks, the poll was taken last week).


Carcieri (R) - 47%
Fogarty (D) - 45%

U.S. Senate

Whitehouse (D) - 51%
Chafee (R) - 43%

Note: The sample was 500 likely voters taken a day after the primaries and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.

Editorial note: How likely are "likely" voters to vote in an off-year election? With regards to the Senate race: how seriously to take numbers gathered a day after one of the most negative and contested primaries in recent memory?

September 13, 2006

Controlling the Tides

Justin Katz

There have been times, over the past year, when I've felt compelled, in public and private intra–Anchor Rising discussions, to defend commenter Anthony. This is how he reciprocates:

If you can't vote for Chafee over Sheldon Whitehouse, you are not a Republican. You are not a conservative. You are just a disgruntled, pathetic sore loser.

Granted that, in his comment, Anthony is not addressing me directly, but a personal insult is no less personal for being broadly cast. What anybody who has read Anchor Rising for more than the past few weeks should know and keep in mind is that I am manifestly not a "Laffey guy," as some would have it now. Indeed, until very recently, I was pretty much intending to sitting out the primaries.

I long ago resolved never to vote for Linc Chafee, but my handling of his opponents remains an open question. Whatever votes I cast from here on out, while they may result in part from disgruntlement, will not be spurred by the sting of Laffey's loss.

The closing weeks and months of the primary emphasized for me two considerations:

  • I am unimpressed with the national Republicans' leadership.
  • I am beyond unimpressed with the Rhode Island GOP.

Chafee is central to perpetuating both of these factors. In the former case, his vacillation and liberal contrariness weaken the hands of those whose policies I would support, and it was on his behalf that the National Republican Senatorial Committee lay bare its ugly lust for power. In the latter case, he contributes credibility to an uncredible organization — emboldening those invested in the status quo of a me-too "alternative" party in the state.

With increasing obviousness over the past fifteen years, we have been heading into a critical time for national security. The decades to come will also be critical for the fiscal security of the United States and its citizens. And throughout it all, technology and the berserker gasps of moral relativism will make it crucial, during the next half-century, to reinforce the bulwark principles of our culture.

Although I had been drawn in to what may prove to have been a period of conservative fantasy that problems might actually be solved following the dreamlike false peace of the previous decade, the palliative of power among our leaders has begun to convince me that calamity is inevitable. Moreover, the longer we postpone the inevitable, the worse it may be. And whether the damage is maximal or not, a change in leadership will come.

Now that he's actually begun to put his face forward in the campaign, my opinion of Sheldon Whitehouse is that the Democrats could not have chosen a better incumbent to be overthrown down the road. (His last name isn't even Kennedy.) Even a coworker of mine who is a reflexive Democrat, from a demographic that has been ill served by its support for that party yet has hardly changed its voting habits, mocks Whitehouse's presentation in his commercials.

I'm open to arguments that I should only inflict one negative for Chafee on election day (i.e., the not vote) rather than two (the not vote plus the opponent vote). I'm increasingly persuaded, however, that there may be something of hope in the odor of stale baby powder and pressed silk against which I will have to hold my nose should I fill in the arrow for the trust-funded Democrat at the top of my ballot.

Washington Post: Go Negative To Win

Carroll Andrew Morse

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post sums up Rhode Islands Republican Primary as follows (h/t RI Future)

[Winner] Republican Turnout Operation: Say what you will about President Bush's dismal approval ratings and the toxic national political environment for his party. But once again, Republicans showed they know how to turn out the voters they need to win elections. They made nearly 200,000 voter contacts in the final 11 days of the Rhode Island Senate campaign and the state was flooded with staff from around the country. For all the criticism -- much of it spot-on -- that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has received this cycle, the organization deserve major kudos for its work here. In addition to the ground game, the NRSC spent heavily on an ad campaign to bolster Chafee and weaken Laffey. It worked. Chafee's victory over the more conservative Laffey puts Republicans a much better position to hold this seat in November.

[Loser] Positive Ads: Laffey's refusal to attack Chafee on television in the Rhode Island primary race played a major role in his loss. While Chafee's campaign bashed the Cranston Mayor on television, Laffey ran NOT ONE negative (or comparative) ad against the incumbent in the final two months of the campaign. Yes, we know that polling shows people don't like negative campaign commercials and that it breeds cynicism in the political process. It also happens to work. By not answering Chafee's hits with some of his own, Laffey left the impression in the minds of some voters that the allegations were true. It's Campaign 101; some things in politics just don't change.

Lessons Learned

Marc Comtois

I was tempted to frame this post around a list of the "lessons learned" from yesterday's primary elections, but the fact of the matter is, that in most cases, we didn't learn anything new: instead, we witnessed a thoroughly typical Rhode Island election.

Why do I say that? Show me an incumbent or longtime political insider who didn't win yesterday? Chafee? He had both the name and incumbency. Centracchio? He ran a fairly muted campaign, but name recognition gave him a landslide. Mollis? Political insider if ever there was one. Langevin? Incumbent with a tough fight, but the result was never really in doubt. And so it went.

I guess that perhaps I did learn one lesson: while not ideologically conservative, Rhode Islanders are functionally conservative. They go to the polls and reafirm their support for the Kennedy's and the Chafee's every 2, 4, 6 years. They like their patricians. Yes, there are those--many of whom I suspect are not native to the state--who, election after election, make up the 30-40% who quixotically attempt to change the status quo. Those numbers haven't changed in the decade plus that I've lived here, and it doesn't appear as if they will any time soon.

So what to do? Now is not the time to strategize about reforming the Rhode Island GOP. In this election cycle, that is not going to happen. Instead, conservatives and our fellow-traveller populist/reformers have to look to a few short term goals.

The primary goal is to ensure the reelection of Governor Carcieri. There is little doubt in my mind that he is the closest thing to the ideal conservative there is here in Rhode Island. I'd also say to vote for the GOP in the various state office races. The state GOP has already written off many legislative races, but there is still some cause for optimism in the race for Lt. Governor and perhaps even Secretary of State. At the very least, even winning one or two of these offices would be progress and serve as some sort of check on Democrat power--and business as usual--in state government.

The Congressional races offer little hope for coservatives. Our choices in District 1 are between newcomer Jon Scott (R) and Patrick Kennedy (D) and in District 2 between Jim Langevin (D) and Rod Driver (I). The results of these two races are entirely predictable, but quixotic or not, Scott should be supported. Pick your poison in District 2.

Now, what to do about the U.S. Senate race between Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse? First, I must compliment Mayor Laffey for his very conciliatory gesture of telling Senator Chafee that he would vote for him over Whitehouse in the general election. This is apparently in contrast to what the Chafee campaign had said they would do during the run-up to the election if the shoe had ended up on the other foot. (Who would have been unsenatorial, even petty, then?). Such grace will put Mayor Laffey in good stead when he runs for governor in four years (any doubts?). In the end, though he may have run as an outsider against both the national and state GOP, the bottom line is that in a race between a Republican and a Democrat, Mayor Laffey will stick with his party. Can the same be said about those who voted against Senator Chafee in this primary?

Justin has already indicated his dilemma and not a few Laffey supporters are now contemplating writing in "John Chafee." I don't have an answer for them. I can tell them that, for myself, sitting out an election or making a protest vote is not an option.

I'm as idealistic as the next conservative, but also recognize that there is a time for idealism and a time for pragmatism. For two years, I've attempted to rebut the pragmatic reasons for supporting Senator Chafee in the primary--he's more electable and he can vouchsafe a GOP controlled (and thus more conservative) U.S. Senate--by offering arguments rooted in conservative beliefs.

For me, the primary is the best time to argue over the ideas that should undergird a political party and in this primary I tried to convince Rhode Island Republicans the value of maintaining conservative ideals against practical politics. In the end, I was unsuccessful. It was a spirited debate, but ideas lost and pragmatism won. It's disappointing, but now pragmatism will simply have to be enough.

The Only Questions Now

Justin Katz

Is it worth forcing change in the Republican Party at Rhode Island and national levels by voting for a Democrat whom I despise, or would it be enough simply not to vote (or to write in Ronald Reagan)?

And a related question: Is the "slightly better" leadership of the Republican Party only postponing, perhaps with a consequent exacerbation of, those calamities that we fear were the Democrats regain control? If Democrat leadership let through a relatively minor terrorist attack, for example, mightn't the national-security-based backlash at the polls give hawks a stronger hand to prevent such outcomes as a nuclear Iran?

How horrible that we find ourselves in the position of asking such questions.

September 9, 2006

A Data Point for Future Campaign Marketers

Justin Katz

The flier at left, which arrived at my house within the past week (fittingly, on garbage day), will stand as the final motivation for me to actually take the time to go out on primary day and actively vote against Linc Chafee.

No doubt exacerbated by current events and the specific fears that plague aware citizens of the day, I find this imagery both disturbing in its callousness and offensive in its aggression on a very basic level. Take a bow, National Republican Senatorial Committee; although I can't claim that you've driven me away from a vote for the candidate whom you favor, you've most certainly increased Mr. Laffey's votes by a count of at least one.

If it should happen that Mr. Laffey wins and you shift your focus toward his election, please learn from your mistakes and don't sway voters toward Sheldon Whitehouse.

September 8, 2006

Understanding Senator Chafee's Thinking on Foreign Policy, Israel, and John Bolton

Carroll Andrew Morse

After the first three Republican Senate debates, Senator Lincoln Chafee left voters with three seemingly incompatible views of foreign policy...

Senator Chafee's statements in the fourth debate and subsequent actions, especially the decision to delay the confirmation of John Bolton because of his disagreement with American policy towards Israel, allows us to pull this all together.

Start with the second statement above. Senator Chafee is not issuing the warning against entanglements as an endorsement of a minimalist foreign policy, in the way that the warning has historically been understood. In fact, over the course of the campaign, the Senator has made it clear that he favors of a great number of foreign entanglements.

Let's compare the entanglements that Senator Chafee favors to ones he opposes. We know that Senator Chafee opposed the War in Iraq; you can make a perfectly valid case that Iraq has proven that the US was not ready for an entanglement of that scale, so there is no problem with the Senator's position here.

But we also know that Senator Chafee had an initial instinctive ambivalence against action in Afghanistan. We know that the Senator was one of just three to oppose sanctions against Syria for its continuing support of terrorism, yet he wants America to invest itself in putting strong diplomatic pressure on Israel. You can't apply the kind of diplomatic pressure the Senator favors without being strongly entangled in the world. We know that Senator Chafee favors more negotiations with Syria and Iran, which can be fairly described as further entanglements. We know that the Senator was willing to tangle himself up with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to take his low-cost oil. And it is hard to see how the US can play enough of role in reducing poverty in Mexico to impact illegal immigration into the United States, as the Senator has suggested, without a willingness to become entangled in that country's affairs.

An unfortunate pattern emerges. The Senator seems biased against "entanglements" when they support an ally facing an armed threat (Israel) or take the battle to an adversary (Syria, Afghanistan), while he embraces entanglements that are of the nature of "global social work" or quests for -- dare I use the word -- appeasement of adversaries.

With this narrow meaning of "entanglement" understood, the different ideas expressed by Senator Chafee do fit together into a coherent whole. Change the third principle expressed by the Senator to "America should be one of the two strongest countries in a peaceful world", and you have a pretty good description of the foreign policy of President Jimmy Carter, a policy that was built on the assumption that the existence of the United States somehow frightened leaders that might otherwise be reasonable into becoming hard-line expansionists. History quickly revealed this assumption to be wrong. The existence of the US was the check on Communist expansion, not the source of it. And the policies that flowed from the Carter administration -- heavy-pressure-on-allies/nothing-more-than-talk-with-adversaries to prove how "nice" we were -- did nothing to mellow the totalitarian drive for domination.

Now, the source of instability in the world is not a Communist bloc, but the dictatorships, oligarchies and terrorist networks that have been spawned in failed states and are controlled by leaders all-too-comfortable with the use of violence for expanding their political power. But the nature of dictatorship really hasn't changed in the last 25 years. Dictators today, just like the dictators of the past, are willing to use violence as an instrument of policy because of something intrinsic to themselves, not because of a reaction to the policies of the United States.

If the United States follows the path that Senator Chafee seems to be suggesting -- punishing allies and engaging in endless talk with adversaries while signaling that any action against adversaries is off-the-table, because it is too "entangling" -- the result will be an invitation to oligarchs and warlords to step-up their violent push against us. This is not an invitation that will promote peace, or even mere stability, for anyone.

September 7, 2006

Recapping Chafee/Laffey 2006

Marc Comtois

A long time ago (November of 2004, or so), we at Anchor Rising started talking about whether or not Senator Chafee would be facing any real opposition in 2006. Part of this was out of a desire to see another Republican who, as Justin Katz wrote, didn't hem and haw so much. I wanted someone who would be a little more, well, serious, and willing to take a principled, conservative stance — including supporting a President of his own party on key issues — every now and then. And we weren't just talking about his opposition to the Iraq War or tax policy. Even on secondary issues, he could be aggravating. Case in point: His very "democratic" opposition to the Electoral College, which I took him to task for, as did Justin. At the same time, I wondered if the RI GOP would become more effective, and Justin reported that change was indeed afoot with Steve Laffey as one of the agents.

Thus, lo' and behold, the waters began to roil, and the seas began to change (as metaphors begin to mix), and talk of real opponents for the good Senator began to percolate. Rep. James Langevin was an early favorite and was mentioned at National Review. This inspired Justin to wonder if it might be worth it to "clear the decks" by voting for anybody but Chafee (well, except Patrick K.). Of course, I had to add my 2 cents and discussed a variety of "what if?" scenarios centered around the speculation that Langevin would oppose Chafee. And then, in the back of the room, Mayor Laffey began raising his hand.

While the postulations about his potential primary opponents were coming to the fore, Senator Chafee opposed the Bush Administrations "Clear Skies" initiative (and offered his own), explained why tax increases lay at the heart of his Social Security reform measures, and also displayed his deliberative dutifulness by see-sawing around the first nomination of John Bolton as UN Ambassador (and he's doing it again) and standing up as the lone Republican to vote against Priscilla Owen to the Court of Appeals. All of this inspired Mac Owens to pen the Senator a letter.

Meanwhile, back here in Rhode Island, Mayor Laffey was hosting a radio show and talking to the likes of the East Greenwich School Committee about the nature of contract talks with teachers. He was also causing me some concern about his conservative credentials with his acceptance of the Mexican and Guatemalen Matricula Consular identification cards. Amidst all of this, a "Draft Laffey" movement erupted and elicited comment from national pundit Hugh Hewitt. I opined that I thought the movement had less to do with the viability of Laffey as a Senate candidate than with a general dislike for Chafee and also went on record as saying I distrusted the "cult of personality" that seemed to surround the Mayor.

Andrew Morse explained the unsuccessful efforts made by the RI GOP to convince Steve Laffey to run for a state-level office and not the U.S. Senate. Andrew also wondered "what strings [were] attached" (all for Chafee?) to an early $500,000 donation to the state GOP from the national party.

Don Hawthorne then offered his own "Reflections on Chafee, Laffey, Party Politics & the Future of Rhode Island," in which he dismissed Chafee ("What is the big deal if Senator Chafee loses in 2006?") and suggested that Mayor Laffey could put his talents to better use by running for a statewide office — like Treasurer — and thus help rebuild the Republican party in Rhode Island. But Mayor Laffey decided to run for the Senate anyway, and Senator Chafee said that he'd "take great satisfaction in ending" Mayor Laffey's political career. And the gloves were off!!!

With the Laffey/Chafee race off and running, I expressed a hope that the Laffey campaign could help lead to reform within the RI GOP. (Now I have a few doubts.) Don also weighed in and explained that, while most recognized that Senator Chafee was a lost cause to conservatives, Mayor Laffey's conservative bona fides needed a little vetting as his views on healthcare and energy demonstrated political opportunism over a principled, conservative vision.

Senator Chafee realized he couldn't appeal to the the GOP base in Rhode Island (yes, even in Rhode Island, it's conservative) and actively sought to woo Democrats (as "Independents") into the GOP primary, with the help of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. At this point, I tried to sum up where the Laffey/Chafee race stood. (And after re-reading that post, not much has changed in a year!) I also delved into the difference between ideological and political motivation in electoral politics.

In December, as the National Republican Senatorial Committee explained why non-Republicans were the key to electing Chafee, Mayor Laffey garnered the support of the Club for Growth. It was also revealed that Mayor Laffey had donated to Democrats in the past and that he had a penchant for pixelization. Justin was critical of the sophomoric mindset that resulted in Laffey's pixel problem and then felt it necessary to clarify to the "you're either with 'em or agin 'em" crowd that criticism of a candidate didn't equate to non-support. Additionally, Mayor Laffey clarified that, just like Senator Chafee, he was opposed to drilling in ANWR. Thus, they do, in fact, agree on something.

The new year brought a ratcheting up of Mayor Laffey's War on "Pork" and more deliberate deliberation from Senator Chafee, this time on the confirmation of now-Justice Alito. After everyone else had voted, he was the sole Republican to say "No"; Laffey said he would have said "Yes," and I discussed why this vote showed that Senator Chafee wasn't even a Moderate Republican and that I simply couldn't support him. Then National Review endorsed Laffey and the Chafee camp responded.

This spring brought polls (too many to link to!), anti-Laffey ads, anti-Chafee ads, and more tete-a-tete.

Senator Chafee was environmentally consistent in supporting the Cape Wind Project (as did Laffey — hey, that's two things they agree on). Chafee also voted against pork (yes, really) in the Senate and voted against allowing Hawaii to set up a racially based government. For his part, Mayor Laffey offered up his own school choice program and a tax plan. Both candidates also revealed their differences over their policies toward Israel and immigration reform.

In June, Justin braved the RI GOP convention and managed (barely) to stay awake as Senator Chafee was officially endorsed while Mayor Laffey stayed away. Andrew dissected the Laffey and Chafee approaches toward immigration (1, 2, 3). And Senator Chafee continued to pound on the central point of his entire Senate campaign: Laffey can't beat Whitehouse. This prompted me to ask if conservative and moderate Republicans (and independents) could unite after this tendentious GOP primary to keep Sheldon "Picnic" Whitehouse out of the Senate.

Later in the summer, a debate schedule was announced, and our own Aggregatin' Andrew produced recaps of 'em all.

Debate number 1 was held on the Arlene Violet Show, and Andrew summarized the opening statements and the candidate's views on illegal immigration, war and the Middle East, a cross-examination, taxes and spending, and a few other matters. Then Andrew followed up on the ProJo's post-debate follow-up and then followed up again.

Debate 2 was on the Dan Yorke Show (audio here: 1, 2, 3, 4), and Andrew posted on Politics and Punditry, the Ad-Wars (1 & 2), and Issues.

For Debate 3, which was sponsored by WPRI (debate transcript is here) and broadcast nationally on C-SPAN (debate video as well as candidate ads can be found here), Andrew offered an open forum as well as some summaries on the budget, immigration and foreign policy. I also offered my own post-debate thoughts.

Then a little dirty pool was played when some of Mayor Laffey's college writings mysteriously found their way into the lap of the ProJo, and Justin sought some clarification from the Mayor.

Finally, WJAR sponsored Debate 4 (Part 1, Part 2, and Bill Rappleye's Recap found here), and Andrew posted an open thread and summaries of the lightning round and the three panel portions of the debate (1, 2, 3).

Senator Chafee and the NRSC got into hot water over a pro-Chafee commercial that included imagery of Hispanic illegal (purportedly) immigrants that seemed to saddle them with being a threat to national security. The ad was pulled (eventually), after (as the ProJo noted) the ad had run its predetermined course.

With two weeks to go before the primary, Don concluded that neither Chafee nor Laffey had measured up to the "political greatness" test. On the other hand, Justin's early doubts about Mayor Laffey's demeanor seem to have been allayed by the Mayor's debate performances.

With a week to go, both Chafee and Laffey have received national exposure while negative ads are dominating the airwaves and polls give us no hint as to who will emerge victorious. For that, we'll have to wait 'til Tuesday.

Sheldon Whitehouse Changes his Mind on Iraq Deadline for Fear of Potential "Reporter Questions"

Marc Comtois

Apparently, Sheldon Whitehouse doesn't want to be bothered by the press questioning him too closely on such substantive issues as the War in Iraq. So much so, that he's decided to drop his call for a deadline to withdraw the troops "because a reporter would question him about it if such a date passed without a troop withdrawal." What?

To summarize the story in today's ProJo, Sheldon Whitehouse opposes the Iraq War and opposed "firm deadlines for troop withdrawal" last November but then changed his mind (when it looked like then-Dem primary opponent Matt Brown was gaining traction) and declared "that all the U.S. troops should withdraw by the end of this year" in the Spring of 2006. This put him on the radical left-wing side of the argument, setting him "apart from Chafee and the majority of Senate Democrats -- including [Senator Jack] Reed." In mid-June, Whitehouse said he would have supported Sen. John Kerry's proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq by mid-2007, but he still preferred the December 2006 deadline. He also said he would have supported Senator Reed's "nonbinding resolution" calling for a timetable to withdraw some troops by years end, though he preferred Kerry's (by then) defeated proposal. And now:

Whitehouse has since moved back toward the political center on the war issue, dropping his call for a specific deadline for pulling out the troops. In television and newspaper interviews over the last two weeks, Whitehouse has said military leaders should set the pace for a pullout, with "troop safety" as the key factor in their decision.

Whitehouse said in an interview last week that he held the same position before and after Brown's departure from the race: a call for a "rapid and responsible" withdrawal that would open the door to diplomatic solutions to the conflict.

It was "the march of time" that changed his December pullout deadline, according to Whitehouse. Whitehouse said he does not now seek a new, later deadline, because a reporter would question him about it if such a date passed without a troop withdrawal.

That's a good reason to change your mind....so a reporter won't ask you about it. That's leadership.

September 6, 2006

The Republican Main Street Partnership Clinic on How to Make Yourself Irrelevant

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two clinics for the price of one!

This is how the Republican Main Street Partnership describes their mission on their website

Addressing a broad spectrum of issues, the Partnership reaches out to disenfranchised Republicans-- people who are distressed by the stridency too-often associated with the Party, and to others attracted by a thoughtful, centrist approach to Republican politics. The Partnership demonstrates inclusion, respect, reason and compassion.
Questions for the Partnership: If you are against stridency and in favor of a thoughtful approach to politics, then why have you put up an anonymous website attacking a candidate that you oppose but delivering no substantive message whatsoever? Arent anonymous negative attacks about as strident as you can get?

Youve gone to the trouble of launching a Rhode Island-oriented website, so why not use it to promote the kinds of thoughtful debate you claim to support, instead of using it for insincere negative attacks? (I say insincere because you say the candidate you oppose is not really a conservative, but if that were true, youd actually like him!) Do you really not believe in the positions youve taken, or do you just believe that voters are not smart enough to comprehend your brilliance?

Moderates are not going to be a force in the Republican party until the leadership of groups like the Republican Main Street Partnership overcomes the hypocrisy with which they approach politics.

Continue reading "The Republican Main Street Partnership Clinic on How to Make Yourself Irrelevant"

The Republicans Who Care Clinic on How to Make Yourself Irrelevant

Carroll Andrew Morse

Just in case youve havent had your fill of issueless negative ads, the Projos Katherine Gregg reports on organization called the Republicans Who Care Individual Fund who have gone on the air with an attack-ad against Steve Laffey...

A group supporting moderate Republicans has entered the U.S. Senate fray with a hard-knuckled ad alleging that GOP challenger Stephen P. Laffey's last two jobs as a stockbroker "ended in disgrace" and he was sued by one former employer "for stealing confidential documents that Laffey didn't return until a judge made him."

The ad was scheduled to begin airing late last night on Channel 6 (WLNE), at the behest of a group calling itself Republicans Who Care Individual Fund that is affiliated with the Republican Main Street Partnership.

According to the IRS, the Republicans Who Care Individual Fund was formerly known as the Main Street Individual Fund. Before it changed its name, Main Street's biggest donor was a gentleman named Dinakar Singh, a major Democratic party campaign contributor. Mr. Singh gave the Main Street Individual Fund $100,000 (in April 04) in between giving $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (February 04) and giving $4,000 to Patrick Kennedy (June 04).

In this election cycle, Mr. Singh has not contributed anything to Republicans Who Care. However, the organization did take $25,000 from a gentleman named Sidney Weinberg, a major contributor to the Teaching Hospital Education Political Action Committee (THEPAC). The name sounds non-partisan enough, but THEPAC gives most of its ample funds to Democrats, including Edward Kennedy ($1,000), Hillary Clinton ($5,000), Charles Rangel ($6,500) and, again, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($30,000). Apparently the supporters of Senator Lincoln Chafee have advanced their strategy of trying to overwhelm Republican votes with Democratic votes to trying to overwhelm Republican voters with Democratic money too!

But the problem with organizations like Republicans Who Care (and the Republican Main Street Partnership) is more than just the money. It is that they are more comfortable taking Democratic money than they are talking substantively to Republican voters. Yet again, the so-called "moderate" wing of the party is demanding a right to be a force in the Republican party while refusing to tell the public what they stand for (and refusing to tell the Republican segment of the public how they are different from Democrats) in their highest-profile messaging. Republicans Who Care didnt care enough to engage Rhode Island in the extended campaign involving the Senates most vulnerable Republican liberal, rejecting dialogue and compromise with their own partys voters, preferring to use personal surprise attacks to try to silence those with whom they disagree.

If the Republican moderates dont think they can win a legitimate battle of ideas in Rhode Island, then where exactly do they think they can win?

September 3, 2006

The Unspokens of Politics

Justin Katz

Charles Bakst correctly identifies one of the reasons I've been feeling more favorably toward Steve Laffey of late:

... the more Chafee attacks him, the cooler and calmer Laffey tries to come across in debates and ads.

More significant, perhaps, has been the gradual emergence of the oh-so-sincere face of Sheldon Whitehouse into view. Culpability may be mere matters of degree regardless of what happens, but I'd hate to find myself directly contributing to Whitehouse's victory for the reason that I will be unable to bring myself to vote against him. Win or lose, a vote for the Republican will say as much as my single vote is able to say, and I simply will not vote for Chafee in the general election.

Whether a vote for Laffey will be part of a victory may, in small part, depend upon whether the mayor heeds — albeit, with a twist — Mr. Bakst's warning:

YOU HAVE to wonder where all the Chafee-Laffey back and forth in the primary will lead in the general election as the Republican survivor goes head to head with Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

I had occasion last week to touch on this subject, at least as it might relate to women, with Washington-based pollster Anna Greenberg. She did an extensive survey of women's political attitudes here for the Women's Fund of Rhode Island. Greenberg, who also polls for Attorney General Patrick Lynch, found women are heavily into quality education, affordable health care, and secure retirement, issues that often have taken a back seat in the Chafee-Laffey primary to tirades against "special interests" and illegal immigration, debates over tax cuts, and squabbles about style.

Whoever wins the GOP race, Greenberg said, "there's going to be some real work for the Republican nominee to pivot back to a conversation that's more relevant to what sort-of-regular people care about, and I think that's going to be a real challenge."

I almost had to rub my eyes and reread the paragraph to believe that ostensibly informed people would see a need for pivoting in order to relate (on one hand) special interests, illegal immigration, and tax cuts to (on the other) education, healthcare, and retirement. I suppose that drawing the links for those who don't see them (or alternately, providing them with spectacles) is partly our job as writers, but suffice to say that I find it not comforting in the least that such as Baskt won't at least chip in toward the cause of honest comprehension... and that their audiences probably don't want them to.

September 2, 2006

Chafee & Laffey: Has Either Passed the Political Greatness Test?

I had a chance today to re-read the latest developments in the Chafee-Laffey race as highlighted in the recent Anchor Rising postings on the Senate race, including the numerous comments posted by many readers.

After that effort, my overall reaction is a simple one: I will be glad when this race is over because I have found it to be a largely uninspiring campaign by both candidates and by many of their supporters. You can throw Sheldon Whitehouse into that same brew, too.

These two postings from nearly a year ago in 2005 still summarize my general thoughts on the race:

Reflections on Chafee, Laffey, Party Politics & the Future of Rhode Island

Is Laffey vs. Chafee Really a Battle Between Visionary Principles & a Reactionary Establishment? Unfortunately Not.

Some will likely say that the two postings contain more overt criticisms of Mayor Laffey than of Senator Chafee. I think they do. To a large degree, that is a reflection of my disappointment in several of the Mayor's policy positions as well as some of my lingering concerns about whether he picked the right race to run in and whether he can keep his ego under control.

However, the relative balance of my comments is mostly a reflection of what I perceive to be a near-total lack of substance in Senator Chafee. That perception leads me to dismiss him as simply not a serious leader, with no further comments being warranted.

Overall, this third posting expresses some further thoughts on why I have found this whole campaign so unsatisfying:

Raising the Bar: Expecting Greatness From Our Political Leaders, which includes these words by Steven Hayward:

What is greatness, especially political greatness? In three thousand years we have not surpassed the understanding of Aristotle, who summed up political greatness as the ability to translate wisdom into action on behalf of the public good. To be able to do this, Aristotle argued, requires a combination of moral virtue, practical wisdom, and public-spiritedness...One must know not only what is good for oneself but also what is good for others. It is not enough merely to be wise or intelligent in the ordinary IQ-score sense; in fact, Aristotle goes to great lengths to show that practical wisdom "is at the opposite pole from intelligence." One must have moral virtue, judgment, and public spirit in a fine balance, and these traits must be equally matched to the particular circumstances of time and place...

Greatness, especially political greatness, carries a whiff of political incorrectness...

In place of greatness, today we have mere celebrity, best exemplified by...People magazine...

Greatness is ultimately a question of character. Good character does not change with the times: it has eternal qualities. Aristotle connects the honor that accrues to the magnanimous person with the virtues of friendship. This suggests that it is always within our grasp to cultivate the virtue of greatness as individuals, even if circumstances - crises - do not call forth the need for political greatness on the highest level...

The tides of history and the scale of modern life have not made obsolete or incommensurate the kind of large-souled greatness we associate with Churchill or Lincoln or George Washington...yet the cases of Churchill and Reagan offer powerful refutation to the historicist premise that humans and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history...Why were Churchill and Reagan virtually alone among their contemporaries in their particular insights and resolves? The answer must be that they transcended their environments and transformed their circumstances as only great men can do, and thereby bent history to their will..

Can there be another Churchill, or another Reagan? The answer is plainly yes, though we must note that the greatness of statesmen is seldom recognized in their own time. Typically we only recognize greatness in hindsight...

Leo Strauss took the death of Churchill in 1965 as the occasion to remind his students that "we have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, of human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence. For we are supposed to train ourselves and others in seeing things as they are, and this means above all in seeing their greatness and their misery, their excellence and their vileness, their nobility and their triumphs, and therefore never to mistake mediocrity, however brilliant, for true greatness."

Contemplating on the example of Churchill and his influence on Reagan gives us confidence that even though the mountaintops may be often shrouded in fog, we can still tell the difference between peaks and valleys.


In response to Mr. Mahn's comment below: The validity or lack of validity of my thoughts in this posting will be unaffected by whether turnout is high or low in the September 12 primary.

Rather, let me now offer a more granular explanation of why I am so disappointed in how this Senate campaign has played out.

To paraphrase the late Richard Weaver, I believe ideas have consequences and that means my views on this race are influenced primarily by the major ideas expressed by each candidate. More specifically, I have looked to see which candidate has articulated policies most closely aligned with my personal preference for ideas of a conservative persuasion.

My issues with Chafee are:

I cannot respect a politician who vacillates and equivocates. His thoroughly bizarre vote in the 2004 Presidential election and delay in taking a position on Judge Alito until after the vote outcome was determined are two examples of such behavior.

I find the alliance between the NRSC and Chafee to be symptomatic of the problem with Washington politics today - retaining power is more important than standing for anything. It says something about Chafee that he is willing to take money and support from the very party he so often disses.

I also cannot respect a politician who says seriously dangerous things such as "a bad peace is better than a good war" when we are engaged in a prolonged war with Islamofascists committed to the destruction of our country and Western Civilization.

I also cannot support a politician whose policy preferences are so liberal.

I am particularly repulsed by Chafee's positioning of his PAYGO budget philosophy as fiscally responsible when it is nothing more than a back-door way to increase government spending and taxes. PAYGO willfully ignores 25 years of supply-side economic policy empirical data which have shown the policy problem in Washington is over-spending, not a lack of revenue. To say otherwise is intellectually dishonest. No less important, PAYGO's formula for ongoing tax increases will result in slower economic growth that reduces the opportunities for people to live the American Dream. That is unjust to our fellow citizens.

Additionally, Chafee's energy policy proposals are nothing short of unimaginative and completely avoid addressing how to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He has rejected school choice when Laffey proposed it and Chafee's approach to the failing educational status quo is to throw more money at it without demanding any changes or accountability. His policy view on a recent drug reimportation bill shows no courage either.

It is for all of these reasons that I consider Chafee to be devoid of gravitas and therefore incapable of political greatness. By way of contrast, Chafee's father had gravitas and was someone you could respect even when disagreeing with some of his more liberal policy preferences. Bluntly speaking, I doubt Lincoln Chafee would be a viable Senate candidate if he was not living off the legacy of his father, John Chafee.

Alternatively, I have endorsed Laffey's challenges to the political status quo going as far back as December 2004. It was those challenges which made me consider him capable of political greatness, with the caveat about his ego expressed in this earlier posting.

My previous writings on Anchor Rising generally agree with a number of Laffey's policy positions on matters such as health savings accounts, school choice, pork/corporate welfare/government spending, taxation, and judicial nominees.

Here's the rub: The Laffey Plan consists of four major policy proposals and I have serious problems with two of them - energy independence and the cost of drugs.

His energy policy proposal is as shallow as Chafee's as it only proposes higher CAFE standards as well as tax credits for electrical hybrids and renewable power producers and consumers. The difference is that Chafee never suggested he was proposing a broader solution leading to energy independence.

Unfortunately, Laffey set higher voter expectations by saying he was touting a means to energy independence but then put forth a proposal devoid of courageous leadership because he dodged taking any stands on the tough and often unpopular policy questions that must be addressed for the United States to become energy independent. I held Laffey to the higher standard he encouraged and he failed to measure up on this important policy proposal.

More significantly, I found his policy preferences about the cost of drugs to be dangerously ill-informed and far more in agreement with Senator Kennedy's left-wing politics than with generally conservative beliefs based on free markets.

Laffey didn't just express platitudes about the high price of drugs like nearly every politician tends to do. Rather, among other things, he endorsed the dangerous idea of importing drugs from Canada - which is a back-door way the Left is using to socialize medicine in this country via de facto price controls. Government-driven price controls would destroy new drug innovation, just like it has in Europe. Plus, given that the Canadian market size is 5% of the United States market, importing from there is not a practical solution - which means anyone proposing the idea has to be ignorant or cynically pandering for votes.

Simultaneously, Laffey effectively lowered the quality of the public debate on healthcare by choosing to remain silent on several important and related issues: First, most people do not know that drugs are "only" 11% of total healthcare spending. If the concern is about increasing healthcare costs, why does the other 89% get no attention? Furthermore, while not perfectly separated, most people do not know that the 11% is comprised of 7% for branded drugs sold by traditional pharmaceutical companies and 4% for generic drugs sold by generic drug companies. Stripping out every last dollar of profit by traditional pharmaceutical companies would reduce healthcare costs by 1% - and ensure much higher costs in the future when there were no forthcoming new drugs. Second, while sometimes costly in their own right, drugs often have a positive cost impact by reducing overall healthcare system expenses. In other words, more drug use can eliminate costly surgeries or reduce hospital stays. Third, drugs can extend lives or improve the quality-of-life of the patient.

Comments in his policy proposal about direct-to-consumer advertising and me-too drugs also showed a thorough lack of understanding of the industry, too.

I have spent 23 years working in the healthcare industry; more on my thoughts about these drug industry issues can be found here.

I was alarmed that his healthcare policy proposal listed such information sources as Marcia Angell and Ralph Nader's Public Citizen. It is a matter of public record that Angell has endorsed a single-payer national health insurance system, like Canada, while working with fellow advocates like David Himmelstein (whom I met when I chaired a 1993 national conference and hosted a healthcare public policy panel with him and Stuart Butler from the Heritage Foundation).

You can read the drug industry's response to Angell's book here.

If Laffey is truly conservative, what is he doing endorsing policy ideas backed by overt advocates of socialized medicine? That goes beyond taking a populist stance. In addition to the philosophical issues here, there is also a practical implication to advocating this policy: Socialized medicine delivers lower quality healthcare to citizens.

I cannot reconcile the underlying philosophical incongruence between these various policy preferences without concluding that Laffey either is not truly conservative in his beliefs or he is playing dishonest/opportunistic political games. Neither is an attractive conclusion to reach.

I expected more from him than Chafee and I think Laffey missed an opportunity to show real leadership on some tough issues - leadership that could lead to political greatness over time. And that begs the question whether he wants to win more than he wants to show the gravitas necessary to lead an informed public debate.

I would encourage you to return to Hayward's words earlier in this posting about political greatness and ask yourself if the candidates have held themselves to a high enough standard of excellence. Have we held them to that high standard as well? Have our own comments to others fostered achieving that same standard of excellence, too?

August 29, 2006

New Chafee Add: It's All About Style Now

Marc Comtois

The new Chafee add is up (called "People") and it looks like the time for policy debate is over. It's all personality politics, now. Here's the transcript:

Elderly Man: Laffey is running for Senate here in the State of Rhode Island but his ego is the size of the State of Texas.

Soccer Mom1: He talks down to youlike hes better than everyone.

Regular Guy1: Laffeys a polarizing figure.

Elderly Woman: And he started hurting some of the people in Cranston, especially the elderly people.

Older Woman: Steve Laffey is a total different personality than Linc Chafee. And I really like Linc Chafees personality.

War Veteran:Keep Lincoln Chafee.

Soccer Mom2:Linc Chafee is a well-informed decision maker.

Regular Guy2: The Senator gets the job done.

This seems to be a clear sign that Chafee feels he has to directly go negative (vice via his NRSC surrogates). I wonder if Laffey will take the bait.

(Tip via Dan Yorke).

Chafee to Benefit From Nat'l GOP "Draft"

Marc Comtois

Via a tip supplied by AuH2ORepublican in a comment to Andrew's most recent post, the Hotline's Kevin Rennie reports:

Democrats were right in 2004: the Republicans have adopted a draft. It only applies, however, to party workers employed by state victory committees in the east of the Mississippi. For many it will be worse than boot camp. They are to be sent to Rhode Island to try to rescue Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafees re-election campaign in the September 12th primary.

Workers start arriving Friday and will be charged with sorting out the mess that Washington operatives believe is the Chafee campaign. First task may be to get Republican voters to forget Chafees erratic performance in the last two of the four broadcast debates between the incumbent and his lively challenger, Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey.

Scores of GOP workers will begin arriving this week and stay through the open primary as they search for and then try to persuade some of the 70,000 registered Republicans and several hundred thousand independent voters eligible to participate in the open primary to support Chaffee. Draftees, many of whom may be more compatible with Laffey, will be paid by their home-state committees. Food and lodging expenses will be picked up by Republican National Committee. Some of the faithful, however, may prefer to go AWOL than work for a Republican who opposes mangers on public property and calls the Club for Growth one of most notorious special interest groups in Washington.

Party pros may be hoping that the influx of energetic workers will inspire Chafee to put some heat under what they see as his lethargic performance in the day-to-day grind of campaigning in the Ocean State.

Yes, this piece is full of rumor and conjecture, but the fact is that the ground troops are indeed on their way to help Senator Chafee {Add this to the $180,000 in direct mailing support for Chafee--ed.}. I wonder if the Club For Growth has a similar ground force (to go along with its mailing support)? (No, I'm not volunteering).

State Senator asks Chafee Campaign to Renounce NRSC Commercial

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Associated Press reports that State Senator Juan Pichardo has asked the Chafee campaign to renounce the National Republican Senatorial Committees latest anti-Laffey ad (available here on YouTube)

State Sen. Juan Pichardo (D-Providence) sent Chafee a letter dated Friday asking him to renounce the spot.

"The ad's script and imagery are clearly meant to engender fear that, as a group, Hispanic immigrants present a threat to the security of Rhode Island and the nation," wrote Pichardo, a naturalized citizen who emigrated from the Dominican Republic. "I am deeply concerned that as a result, the ad will unfairly create feelings of prejudice and suspicion toward the Hispanic community as a whole."

Chafee described the ad as accurate during a Saturday night debate with Laffey.

But his spokesman Ian Lang referred questions to the NRSC after Pichardo's letter appeared yesterday on a Democratic Web site.

"This is not our ad, we have nothing to do with it," Lang said.

Remember that Mr. Langs response is motivated as much by campaign finance anti-coordination regulations as it is by traditional political considerations.

Current campaign law exempts the NRSCs negative ad from counting as a contribution to the Chafee campaign since it never says "vote for Senator Chafee". If, however, the NRSC had sat down with Senator Chafee to develop a positive ad to help his campaign, the result would have been considered a coordinated ad subject to contribution limits. In other words, theres no limit on how much bad stuff you can throw around about a candidate you oppose, but the resources that you can expend working with a candidate you support are strictly rationed.

Thats our ridiculous system of campaign finance reform. (Of course, since Senator Chafee did vote to implement this system, he probably shouldnt complain about it too loudly.)

August 27, 2006

Chafee-Laffey IV: Third Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senate candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's third round of questioning...

Bill Rappleye asks how exactly the US should free itself from dependency on foreign oil.
Senator Lincoln Chafee discusses the increasing demand for oil created by increased consumption by Chinas huge population.
Rappleye: But what do we do in this country?
Chafee says that 60% of US consumption is from transportation, so we need to raise CAFE standards. Chafee notes that he drives a hybrid, but it was made in Japan. Government should force industry in the direction of 50 mpg cars, so the US can become a leader in hybrid vehicles.
Mayor Steve Laffey touts his specific plan to get America off of foreign oil (available at electlaffey.com). The US needs to raise CAF standards from 27 mpg to 40 mpg, pass tax credits for hybrids, and offer 20 year producer and consumer credits. We need to get off foreign oil to win the War on Terror, and we wont unless we create program on the scale of putting a man on the Moon.
Chafee says hes worked in the Senate on raising CAFE standards, so Laffey should be endorsing his candidacy.

Michelle Johnson asks if America needs to build a fence on its southern border.
Laffey says yes for reasons of national security and stopping illegal immigration. Also, its not humane to have people walking days through the desert in hopes of getting to America.
Chafee says he voted in favor of a bill that had strict border security and a path to legality for currently illegal immigrants. We also need to address poverty in other countries to stop illegal immigration at the source.
Johnson asks Chafee how working illegally in Canada influenced his position on this issue.
Chafee tells an anecdote about contact with the RCMP at the racetrack where he worked that led him to obtaining landed immigrant status.
Gene Valicenti asks Chafee how old he was at the time.
Chafee: About 23.
Laffey volunteers that hes never worked illegally in any other country. Also notes his campaign wont run an ad about Chafees youthful indiscretion.
Johnson asks Laffey about Chafees experience as an example of how countries sometimes need people from outside to do work.
Laffey answers that Chafee going to Canada is not quite the same as poor people crossing into America and then reiterates his opposition to the Kennedy bill.
Chafee asks Laffey if he supports the Sensenbrenner bill (the Houses enforcement-only immigration bill).
Laffey says he hasnt read the specific House bill, but he supports securing the border first. Then second step is then to enforce law against employers. Laffey goes on to criticize Chafees support for the provision of the Senate bill that he says gives foreign workers 4-5 times as much money as domestic workers at the same job site.
Chafee: Youre a one man filibuster who doesnt offer solutions. What bill do you support?
Laffey says he would support a bill that would secure the borders first.
Chafee asks Laffey if he would oppose the House bill.
Laffey reiterates that he has not read the House bill, but would support it if it is a bill that secures the borders first.

Jim Taricani asks how much aid the government should give to people to get out of poverty and if that aid should come with restricitions.
Chafee says that America is at the top of the world because of our great social programs. Welfare re-authorization is just coming up now and the goal is to build the middle class.
Taricani asks about the role of individual responsibility in people getting themselves out of poverty.
Chafee responds that the Clinton compromise which got people to work for there welfare was a good thing, but you have to pay attention to day-care when you consider this issue.
Laffey says that the 96 welfare reform, with 5-year limit on benefits, was good policy. But America is not great because of its social programs, its great because its a place where everyone has a chance to get ahead. Unless the financial direction of the country changes, this wont continue to be true.
Taricani asks Laffey how tax cuts benefit poor people.
Laffey invokes the multiplier effect, attributing it to JFK. When small businesses get tax cuts, they can afford to hire more employees, and everyone does better.
Chafee says that JFKs financial plan is not something to brag about, because we had Vietnam, and then got deeper and deeper into debt. The country didnt get out until 1999, when Democrats and Republicans worked on revenues and expenditures together.
Laffey says he wont criticize John or Bobby Kennedy
Chafee says hes talking about financials, not people.

Chafee-Laffey IV: Second Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senate candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's second round of questioning...

Michelle Johnson asks Mayor Steve Laffey about being quoted or perhaps misquoted as saying God told him to run for mayor. What does he think the role of faith in politics is?
Laffey: I pray, I go to church, but when I get involved, it is all about public policy and what it is the best decision for the people I serve.
Gene Valicenti asks Laffey if God told him to run.
Laffey: No, but Ive remarked something to the effect of I guess the man upstairs wanted me to run.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says that Rhode Island was founded on the separation of church and state by Roger Williams fleeing Puritan persecution and that RI wouldnt join the US until that principle was included in the Federal constitution. Laffey put a charade of a crche at City Hall, and was sued by ACLU.
Laffey responds that the people of Cranston put different displays at City Hall and their right to do so was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Valicenti notes that Laffey did lead the fight on the issue.
Laffey says it all started with a man who wanted to place a Menorah at City Hall, so he called a lawyer and learned that public holiday displays are OK as long as they are diverse; theres tremendous public support for this.
Valicenti agrees that the public approves and asks Chafee if thats wrong.
Chafee says he point is that there is a separation of church and state and we dont want state sponsored religion.
Laffey says what we want is the Federal courts to make these decisions, not Chafee.

Jim Taricani asks Chafee why Republicans should vote for him when his positions differ from the Republican mainstream on issues like tax cuts, war on Iraq, abortion and stem cells.
Chafee says he considers himself a traditional Republican who favors fiscal responsibility, the environment, personal freedoms (keep governmentt out of our bedroom) and opposes foreign entanglements.
Taricani asks Laffey what Republicanism means to him.
Laffey says he refers to himself as reformer and a populist, in the mold of Teddy Roosevelet. TR saw unequal power, and he worked to set it right for people. In Cranston, I saw unequal power, and I set out to change it. Both great Democrats like JFK and great Republicans like RWR have favored tax cuts. Recent tax cuts have generated 500 billion dollars in extra revenue.
Taricani asks Chafee why he doesnt believe in tax cuts?
Chafee: Deficits! We have to have the resources to fund special education, prepare for wars and natural disasters, and invest in infrastructure.
Taricani asks Chafee why people should think the guy with the Harvard MBA is wrong on this.
Chafee says the tax cuts were too deep. Were still in deficits and theyre like an addiction, easy to get into but hard to get out of.

Bill Rappleye asks about college students graduating with an average debt of $20,000. What is the role of government in making college affordable and what about Pell grants?
Laffey says he supports maintaining Pell grants at the current level. Education at the college level is very successful in this country, the real education problem is at the primary and secondary level.
Rappleye: My question is about paying for college.
Laffey says the existing system is appropriate.
Chafee warns to watch what Laffey says, not what he does; Laffey supports deep tax cuts, even though Pell grants are not keeping up with college tuitions. An investment in education that gives everyone a chance to go to college is what makes America great.
Laffey says we should cut the $27B in pork, cut the $125-$150B in corporate welfare, and freeze discretionary non-defense spending to pay for existing programs without increasing the deficit or raising taxes.
Rappleye tries to get back to his original question. Is it OK for kids to graduate with a $20,000 debt?
Laffey says education loans at current rates are a good investment. Students and parents have to put some money in the game.
Chafee says that Laffey offers lots of sound bytes but no real solutions.

Chafee-Laffey IV: First Panel Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey debated on television on WJAR-TV Channel 10 this past Saturday. Here are the notes I jotted down during the panel's first round of questioning...

Bill Rappleye begins by telling Mayor Steve Laffey that hes not interested in how he felt about Boy George 20 years ago, but will ask about his current campaign commercial where he mentions that his brother died of aids. Why bring up the cause of death?
Laffey says he understands how families go through struggles. The way he grew help helps him have empathy for the problems people face.
Senator Lincoln Chafee agrees with Rappleyes premise that how candidates feel today is whats important, then details his own gay rights record; he supports employment non-discrimination rights, opposes the Federal marriage amendment and supports hate crimes legislation. Chafee then brings up the Jackvony pixelation...
Gene Valicenti asks how the Jackovny pixelation is pertinent.
Chafee says it shows a vindictiveness on the part of Laffey.
Laffey says becoming a public official shouldnt mean losing a sense of humor and he thought it was funny when he got pixelated by Chafee at the Rhode Island follies. This is not an issue for US Senate race.
Chafee, after acknowledging that people cant be held accountable for things they did as college students, says neither the Boy George column or the pixelation were funny.
Rappleye asks Chafee if his campaign had anything to do with Boy George column finding its way to the Projo.
Chafee: Not that I know of.

Jim Taricani asks if prosecutors should ask for the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden, if hes found guilty.
Chafee says he opposes the death penalty because Rhode Island executed innocent people in the 19th century.
Laffey says the death penalty is inappropriate in many situations, but someone responsible for 3000 deaths should pay the ultimate penalty.
Taricani asks Chafee if his opposition to the death penalty is on moral/religious grounds.
Chafee cites a 19th-century example of mob violence and says that we have to be careful, plus the deterrent effect has not been shown to be strong.
Laffey says theres no possibility of a mistake in a case involving Osama Bin Laden, because he openly takes credit for mass murder.
Chafee: Once you oppose the death penalty, you cant make exceptions.

Michelle Johnson (For those unfamiliar with this name, note that many of the unbylined Associated Press stories on Rhode Island politics are written by Ms. Johnson) asks about Chafees previous statement that A bad peace is better than a good war. When is the use of military force appropriate?
Chafee cites the religious parameters of a just war. It must be a last resort, authorized by a legitimate authority, redress a wrong suffered, have a reasonable chance of success, have the ultimate goal of re-establishing peace, be proportional to the injury suffered, and avoid civilian targets.
Johnson asks if Afghanistan and Iraq met the criteria.
Chafee says no to Iraq and that he voted to authorize force in Afganistan. There have been shifting rationales for Iraq, first it was WMD, the bringing democracy, then remaking the Middle East, and now its a war on Islamic fundamentalism.
Johnson asks Laffey when he thinks the use of military force is appropriate.
Laffey: When the national interest or the people of the United States are at risk. Bad peaces lead to other wars.
Johnson asks Laffey how much diplomacy we should try in Iran.
Laffey answers weve already been working on diplomacy for past 3 years. Unfortunately, Russia & China wont cooperate because of the price of oil. We need to move to economic sanctions against Iran, but they have to be sanctions that will really hurt.
Chafee: We have to be smart in our decisions or else sometimes we incite the extremists, leading to things likes the elections of Hamas and the Islamic brotherhood. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

Chafee-Laffey IV: The Lightning Round

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the opening lightning round of Saturday nights Laffey-Chafee debate, moderator Gene Valicenti got concise answers from Republican Senate Candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey on several important issues. Heres a summary. Complete video of the original is available on the WJAR-TV Channel 10 website

Gene Valicenti asks why gasoline costs 3 bucks a gallon.
Senator Lincoln Chafee cites demand created by China and hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Steve Laffey says because of the lack of a national energy policy.

Valicenti asks for a quick-fix for stopping prices from rising to 4 bucks a gallon.
Chafee says reduce consumption by improving mileage standards on cars.
Laffey says there is no quick fix. Increasing the use of solar power and increasing CAF standards are a start.

Valicenti says the Iranians opening a nuclear power plant. Do we need to consider military action?
Laffey says economics sanctions are now necessary, because diplomacy has failed.
Chafee says we need to open an embassy in Iran and start a bi-lateral dialogue.

Valicenti asks if a military draft needs to be instituted.
Both candidates say no.

Valicenti asks the candidates if they believe global warming exists.
Laffey says hes heard good arguments on both sides, and we should act as if its true.
Chafee says even the Bush administration acknowledges that climate change is occurring because of human activity.

Valicenti asks if the candidates support gay marriage.
Chafee says yes.
Laffey says he supports civil unions, but not marriage.

Valicenti asks if the President can order wiretaps without a warrant.
Laffey says there are circumstances where it is necessary, but special Judges should be notified as quickly as possible.
Chafee says the Fourth Amendment is clear, no warrantless wiretapping.

August 26, 2006

Satire? Hit Piece?

Justin Katz

I'd like a specific answer, from Mayor Laffey, whether this (PDF) is satire:

There are many people who are too weak to live by any moral principles; they decide what is best by their own irrational whims and desires. These cowards attempt to justify their actions in two ways. Firstly, they try to bring others down to their way of life by exhorting them to compromise their values. Secondly, these moral milksops say that no one can be wholly good so please don't accuse me of being all bad. It is these same ingrates who belittle people who have clear, simple answers to the world's problems. They accuse others of seeing things in black and white, as if that was bad, impossible, or somehow wrong. What these poltroons are really saying is "Please don't discriminate between right and wrong."

Now, I'd be the first to express pretend astonishment that the Providence Journal would offer this particular college-age Laffey column as "a sample of a humor column by Stephen Laffey in a campus newspaper," rather than, say, the column from which Scott MacKay has drawn his first example, from which the headline was drawn, and on which Laffey was specifically using the humor defense. If the Providence Journal intended to prove that its pretense toward journalistic neutrality is merely a cover for aspirations toward status as a political force in this state, it could have comported itself no better.

That doesn't, however, excuse Laffey for taking the politically expedient route of disavowing all of his writing at the time. How refreshing it would be if the mayor would quickly put a larger sampling of his college columns on his Web site and explain what principles expressed therein were legitimately held and which were "over the top." Doing so might (one can only surmise) help to resolve some of the ambiguity that Rhode Island conservatives find in his persona.

Chafee-Laffey IV: Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising readers are invited to use the comments section of this post to give their own real time reactions to tonight's Republican Senate debate between Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey (WJAR-TV Channel 10 @ 7:30 pm). Also, Channel 10 political reporter Bill Rappleye will hold a pre-debate discussion with Robert Weygand, Susan Farmer and Jennifer Duffy beginning at 7:00 pm.

Insightful comments, witty comments, and even comments that spin like Lynda Carter in an old episode of Wonder Woman are all welcome, but personally insulting or crude posts will be deleted as soon as I see them.

The comments will open at 7:30 are open now!

Laffey's College Columns

Carroll Andrew Morse

Scott MacKay has an article in todays Projo discussing several columns that Steve Laffey wrote as an undergraduate student for a college newspaper in 1983

In one column in the Bowdoin Patriot, the paper published by campus Republicans, Laffey wrote, "I have never once seen a happy homosexual. This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

Laffey, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, said he regrets writing that and other articles denigrating gays. But he chalks it up to undergraduate hijinks, saying, "In college we engaged in sophomoric political satire."

Asked if any of the columns represented his views, Laffey said in an interview at his Cranston home yesterday, "No. Not now, nor then, or ever . . . Do I regret writing some of these things? Sure. But at the time, we were just having fun. We thought it was funny."

Whether you believe that a candidate's college writings are a vaild subject in a campaign or you believe that this is an example of gotcha politics (MacKay reports that the Projo was made aware of the columns by an anonymous delivery), please keep the discussion civil.

August 24, 2006

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating Foreign Policy

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the second radio debate, Senator Lincoln Chafee was asked if he really believed that weapons of mass destruction were the sole reason for invading Iraq. Senator Chafee answered that if there was a wider purpose to the war, it should have been put forth by the President and debated in public before a decision was made. I believe that Senator Chafee was spot-on with this answer. When history looks back on the conduct of the War in Iraq, President George W. Bushs decision to not rally America around a greater cause than WMD in making the case for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Husein will be viewed as the primary failure from which the other problems have grown.

It is in a spirit that recognizes the importance of public debate when setting America's direction in the world -- the spirit expressed by Senator Chafee himself, at a moment where he well-represented the ideal of New England Republicanism -- that I offer the criticism that follows.

In three debates, Senator Chafee has offered three different views of foreign policy. In the first debate, Senator Chafee flirted dangerously with pacifism (a bad peace is better than a good war). In the second debate, the Senator presented a pre-World War II-style isolationism as true Republicanism (avoid foreign entanglements). Then, in Wednesdays debate, Senator Chafee expressed a preference for a view that goes by the inelegant name of benevolent global hegemonism (America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world).

The dreaded neoconservatives also begin from the premise that America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world. But they go further, adding the idea that the only way the world will stay peaceful is if America is the nation that enforces the peace. Another group of foreign policy thinkers share the goal of a dominant America in a peaceful world, but believe that America is sufficiently powerful to creatively work through international institutions to reach that goal (no one has come up with a good name for this group yet). Then there are the realists who believe it is impossible for any country to maintain its status as most powerful, because everybody else inevitably gangs up to take down number one. There are many other possibilities, outside of and in between these views.

Given the diversity of choices available, Senator Chafees statement in the third debate that America should be the strongest country in a peaceful world was much more than a platitude. It was a very bold statement of American foreign policy. It was, however, entirely incompatible with his positions from the first two debates. It is not reasonable to believe that the world will stay peaceful if the U.S. disengages out of a desire to avoid foreign entanglements. With the US on the sidelines, who will stop a Slobodan Milosevic or a Saddam Husein from ending the peace in full scale military actions that swallow up neighboring states? And a stated willingness to accept a bad peace makes any hope of any peace less likely by neutralizing deterrence as a strategic option. Dictators and tyrants who believe they can be bully other nations into accepting disadvantageous truces will continually use violence or the threat of violence to take what they want.

I believe that Senator Chafee is sincere in what he has said about his beliefs, foreign policy or otherwise, but because of the contradictions, I am not yet convinced that he has expressed his core foreign policy beliefs during this series of debates.

Mayor Steve Laffey has approached foreign policy from a more operational direction, placing national energy policy at the center of his foreign policy platform. Not to be pedantic here, but this also is a way of avoiding foreign entanglements -- not all foreign entanglements, but a particular foreign entanglement, dependence on foreign oil, that is unduly controlled by other nations.

What makes the goal of energy independence more than the 21st century version of isolationism is that pursuing energy independence treats reduced entanglements as a means while traditional isolationism treats reduced entanglements as the end. In conventional foreign policy terms, the energy-policy-as-foreign-policy position is the belief that the constraints on America created by dependence on foreign oil have become so burdensome, they impair the ability of the United States to pursue whatever degree of foreign engagement the American polity chooses to be in its best interest.

Chafee-Laffey IV Moved to Saturday

Carroll Andrew Morse

The final debate in the Republican Senate series, originally scheduled for tonight, has been moved to Saturday at 7:00 on WJAR-TV Channel 10.

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating Immigration

Carroll Andrew Morse

During Wednesdays debate, when discussing illegal immigration, Senator Lincoln Chafee said the most important thing on any issue is to be consistent, then contrasted Mayor Steve Laffey's opposition to the amnesty-based immigration reform passed by the Senate to his support for using consular ID cards in the City of Cranston. The Senator believes the two positions reflect a politically motivaed flip-flop. Mayor Laffey's decision to allow Cranston to accept consular IDs is also the subject of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's latest anti-Laffey ad.

1. Senator Chafee supports the John McCain bill (also known as the pick-any-combination-of-names from McCain-Kennedy-Martinez-Hagel-Frist-and-Reid bill). The key component of the bill is the so-called Martinez-Hagel compromise. Matinez-Hagel divides illegal immigrants currently within the United States into three groups. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for more than 5 years are immediately eligible to pay for permanent amnesty with back taxes and fines. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for between 2 and 5 years are eligible for a temporary amnesty if they return to a valid point of entry into the US. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for less than 2 years are required to leave, but may be allowed to re-enter as "guest workers". The defining characteristic of "guest workers" versus other categories of non-citizens legally in America is that "guest workers" are only allowed to stay in the US for as long as they are employed.

Support for the Martinez-Hagel compromise is the basis of Senator Chafees claim that he would support deporting illegal immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years. Yet, Senator Chafee also voted for Dianne Feinsteins orange card amendment, which would have given permanent amnesty to illegal immigrants in the United States on or before January 1, 2006.

How is this consistent?

Continue reading "Laffey-Chafee III: Debating Immigration"

The 4 Things I Took Away from Laffey/Chafee 3

Marc Comtois

After the third Laffey/Chafee debate, I went "black" and avoided all punditry. Thus, here are the four (uninfluenced) items that stuck with me after the debate last night.

First: Chafee's labeling of Federal tax dollars to local/state government--what Laffey calls "pork"--as "property tax relief" was pretty clever. Never heard that one before. And though Laffey tried to pooh-pooh it by saying he's never heard a voter praise Chafee for tax relief, I think it was a rather ingenius attempt to blunt the "pork" argument. I'm not sure if it worked, but it was at least original.

Second: Laffey's explanation about why he called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. To paraphrase, "The administration went to war based on the worst case scenario and fought it based on a best case scenario." Simply put, a good sound bite. It was clearly aimed at the independents in both the primary and the general election. Whether or not they view it as a genuine feeling or political gamesmanship is an open question.

Third: Laffey won the debate, both on style and on the substantive issues. I suspect that this is especially true in the eyes of most GOP members. However, while Laffey scored some points amongst the independents, Chafee probably did enough to keep a hold of most of them. If this were a debate prior to the general election, Chafee would have come out looking better. But it's not.

Fourth: Because this was on C-SPAN, I couldn't help but wondering what the average conservative Republicans across the land must have been thinking while watching the debate. Perhaps something like, "Those are what they call Republicans in Rhode Island?"

Most national political junkies--those most likely to watch a GOP debate in tiny, Democrat dominated RI on C-SPAN in the summer--probably knew that Lincoln Chafee is a moderate Republican who seems to enjoy being the far outlier of the GOP. However, I don't think that the idealized "typical GOP" member was aware of Steve Laffey's populist bent. He called for Rumsfeld's resignation, accused the GOP run Federal government of corruption, and railed against "Big Oil", to give a few examples.

Whether we in Rhode Island realize it or not, President Bush still has strong support in the GOP base across the country. What that base saw were two "Republicans" doing their damndest to distance themselves from a President of their own party (Glenn Reynolds makes a good point about this tactic. MAC); a President that most national GOP members agree with on most of the issues (Believe it, it's true!). I don't think they are envious of the choice that RI Republicans have to make in September. When viewed through the lens of what a "typical" conservative Republican might be, neither Laffey nor Chafee fits the bill.

But this isn't Kansas: this is a uniquely Rhode Island race. Those of us who have been following it understand that both of these candidates are trying to do two things at once. They have to run against each other in the GOP primary and keep an eye on the Independent-dominated general electorate. That's something that probably can't be fully appreciated in other parts of the country. After all, what other state's largest voting block doesn't identify itself with either political party? Rhode Islanders like to take their cue from the Independent Man standing atop the State House. It would seem that--regardless of who they elect in the GOP primary--they'll have that Man, in one form or another, to support in the general election.

Laffey-Chafee III: Debating the Budget

Carroll Andrew Morse

Lots of budget numbers were thrown around in Wednesdays debate. Lets put them in one place and try to sort out how everything fits together

1. How much is the overall Federal budget?

As Senator Chafee noted, the overall budget is in the vicinity of 2.5 trillion -- thats $2,500,000,000,000 and growing.

2. Whats the basic breakdown of that spending?

Using the Office of Management and the Budgets 2005 numbers...

Entitlement Spending$1,300,000,000,00053%
Defense Spending$490,000,000,00020%
Discretionary Non-Defense Spending $470,000,000,00019%
Interest on the Debt $180,000,000,0007%.

3. How much of a dent can you make by cutting out pork?

Mayor Laffey quoted a figure of $27 billion dollars. That figure, I suspect, comes from the Citizens Against Government Waste numbers. Thats not chump change, but neither will it cancel out the growth in entitlements. Note also that about half of the CAGW number is defense related.

4. What about corporate welfare?

There seems to be less agreement on what exactly constitutes corportate welfare. Mayor Laffey claimed there was $125-$150 billion of corporate welfare that could be cut. Thats an estimate towards the high end. Heres three others I found

Cato breaks their estimate down by category, showing the defense spending accounts for only a small percentage. My hunch is that the Public Citizen figure includes a bunch of defense spending as corporate welfare that the others dont.

5. Isnt this all dwarfed by the cost of the Iraq war?

No. Senator Chafee has used the figure of a billion dollars a week, roughly $50 billion per year. That seems a reasonable estimate, maybe even a little bit low, since the entire Defense budget is about $150 billion per-year higher now than it was in 2002. $50 billion is certainly larger than most pork estimates, but not an order of magnitude larger. And its still just about 4% of entitlement spending.

6. What about the revenue side?

Since the Bush tax-cuts, revenues have grown to about $300 billion more per year (consistent with the 12-15% increase in revenue that Mayor Laffey quotes, on top of a base of just under $2T) compared to before the tax cuts. I know that some people have a hard time accepting that revenues could go up after a tax cut, but 'dose is 'da numbahs. $300 billion is big money, enough to pay for a years worth of pork, corporate welfare, and the Iraq war and leave plenty left over but still only about 1/4 of the entitlement budget. That's how big the entitlements problem is. Its not clear that even if we became a country of vegetarian (i.e. non-pork eating) pacifists (i.e. no defense budget) that tax cuts can grow revenues faster than entitlement obligations will eat them under the current structure.

The points here are

  1. Senator Chafee cant dismiss $27 billion in pork as being fiscally irrelevant while saying he thinks the cost of the Iraq war is a consideration so big that it prohibits considering tax cuts (even under flawed static assumptions).
  2. Cutting everything that Mayor Laffey has included as pork or corporate welfare would likely involve some cutting of defense programs.
  3. You can see significant revenue increases after a tax cut.
  4. Entitlement spending dwarfs everything else in the budget.
  5. (Most important point) We have to reconsider the fundamental design of a system that demands that people forever be paying higher and higher taxes for stagnant or declining benefits. There is a design flaw in such a system that needs to be remedied.

August 23, 2006

Laffey-Chafee III: Open Thread

Carroll Andrew Morse

Im going to try a different coverage format for tonights Republican Senate debate (WPRI-TV Channel 12 @ 8:00 pm, live Internet video also available) than I used in the radio debates. Instead of summarizing the debate blow-by-blow, Ill try to provide details that usefully supplement what the candidates say about specific policies, past votes, past statements, etc.

Meanwhile, Anchor Rising readers are invited to use the comments section of this post to give their own real time reactions to the debate. Insightful comments, witty comments, and even comments that spin like a U-235 atom in an Iranian centrifuge are all welcome, but personally insulting or crude posts will be deleted as soon as I see them.

The comments will open at 8:00 are open now!

Sheldon Whitehouse Agrees with Bush Energy Policy

Marc Comtois

Sheldon Whitehouse continues his "Picnicing Across the Ocean State" campaign. He recently brought his basket to Tiverton and Little Compton. One of his big issues continues to be the price of gas, for which he blames President Bush's energy policy:

George Bush and this Republican Congress have left us with a truly bad energy policy thats dictated by the oil companies, Whitehouse said. Ive met so many people here in Rhode Island who depend on gas to get by and with these skyrocketing prices, theyve got no way out. For our national security, our economy, and our environment, we urgently need a new energy strategy.
Predictably, Whitehouse offers his own alternative energy plan, which is characterized like this in the aforelinked press release:
Earlier this month, Whitehouse unveiled a major new plan aiming to make America the worlds leader in energy innovation and achieve energy independence by 2020. The plan includes raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to an average of 40 mpg to improve fuel efficiency, and major new federal investments in development, production, and commercialization of new cellulosic biofuels made from sugar, wood waste, and switchgrass.
These are good ideas and it certainly in marked contrast to current energy policy.......or NOT!! Here are two related points from the President's Advanced Energy Initiative first outlined (hint: this is the short version) in his State of the Union speech this year. On increasing CAFE standards (excerpted from the AEI website):
The Administration increased CAFE standards for light trucks and SUVs for the first time in a decade, raising the standard from 20.7 mpg to 22.2 mpg for the current model year 2007 vehicles. We have proposed additional increases in the fuel economy of light trucks and SUVs produced in model years 2008-2011, which would save 10 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of those vehicles.
On Biofuels:
To achieve greater use of homegrown renewable fuels, we will need advanced technologies that will allow competitively priced ethanol to be made from cellulosic biomass, such as agricultural and forestry residues, material in municipal solid waste, trees, and grasses. Advanced technology can break those cellulosic materials down into their component sugars and then ferment them to make fuel ethanol.

To help reduce the costs of producing these advanced biofuels, and ready these technologies for commercialization, the Presidents 2007 Budget increases DOEs biomass research funding by 65%, to a total of $150 million. The Presidents goal is to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2012, enabling greater use of this alternative fuel to help reduce future U.S. oil consumption.

I'm sure that the Whitehouse campaign's response will be something like, "Yeah, but we want to do more and faster....", which of course is easy to do when you're working off of someone elses proposal. Thus, given that Whitehouse's "new plan" is 8 months older than the President's current energy plan, it's pretty clear that Whitehouse agrees with the White House on an important aspect of energy policy.

Dole Giving up on Chafee?

Marc Comtois

According to the Winston-Salem Journal:

[Senator Elizabeth] Dole won't be campaigning any more for Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is considered the most vulnerable incumbent Republican.

Chafee, a moderate Republican who publicly announced that he would not vote for Bush's re-election - he instead wrote in Bush's father's name - is facing a strong primary challenge from the right.

The Almanac of American Politics describes Rhode Island as "almost always one of the most Democratic states in presidential elections." Even if Chafee wins his primary, he faces a strong challenge from the state's former attorney general.

Nick said that Dole has no plans to go to Rhode Island between now and November. She did visit the state earlier this year.

Darrell West, a professor of political science at Brown University in Providence, said that is probably a good thing.

"Elizabeth Dole has good credibility on the right, (but) Chafee is pursuing independent voters now more than Republican voters," West said.

Is Elizabeth Dole giving up on Lincoln Chafee, or is she being politically pragmatic, as implied by Darryl West?

August 22, 2006

Internal Polls Show Laffey Over Chafee

Marc Comtois
Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is trailing Cranston, R.I., Mayor Stephen Laffey in a bitterly divisive primary contest that offers Democrats their best shot at picking up a seat in one of the nation's bluest states.

Internal campaign polls show the conservative mayor's campaign attacks on Mr. Chafee's liberal voting record -- including the incumbent's opposition to President Bush's tax cuts and to Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s nomination -- have struck a responsive chord among Republican voters.

So sayeth Don Lambro of the Washington Times. The question is, whose poll? And is this just counting Republicans or does it include independents?

(Tip via Dan Yorke, who'll have Mr. Lambro on later this afternoon.)

UPDATE: Lambro told Yorke he interviewed people on both sides, but he can't tell you who exactly gave him the info. He said Washington GOP folks tell him it's "really close", which means (based on his experience) that Chafee is in trouble. He's also not sure of the type of sample of the internal polls, apparently meaning that he doesn't know if they included independents.

Lambro said that when he talke to Ian Lang, Lang didn't argue with the point that conservatives are definitely leaning against Chafee. He also pointed out that the primary race was "competitive" and then Lang always steers the discussion to Laffey's purported gap against Whitehouse.

Yorke brought up the the GOP Senatorial bunch have really beaten up Laffey and also that the purported 20-30 point gap between Laffey and Whitehouse isn't that realistic. Yorke asked what the Washington GOP would do if Laffey won?

Lambro said they'd support him, but the depth of that support will be interesting. Given the controversy over tacit GOP support for Lieberman in CT, he doesn't think they'd be to keen on NOT supporting Laffey. In short, he thinks the national GOP would support Laffey if he should win the primary.

Yorke also asked what the Beltway take on this race was. Lambro said that the feeling is that the Dems could pick up 4-6 seats, which is why Elizabeth Dole is focusing on RI and her committee is going to help Chafee as much as they can.

August 17, 2006

Chafee-Laffey II: Issues!

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating

Dan Yorke asks Senator Lincoln Chafee about stem cell research, and to elaborate on his criticism of his opponent's position.
Chafee says that Laffey was quiet on stem cells because he faced the dilemma of having to please certain constituencies. Eventually, he sided with special interests in support of the Presidents veto of the embryonic stem-cell ban, even though numerous pro-life Senators voted for it.
Mayor Steve Laffey says Chafees characterization is false.
Yorke asks Laffey to give his postion on the Presidents stem-cell veto.
Laffey says he supports the Presidents veto of embryonic stem cell research and supports funding adult stem cell research, because adult stem cells show the best potential for cures. If the scientific facts change, he will change his position accordingly.
Yorke asks Laffey if he has made a business or a moral decision on this.
Laffey says its a business decision.
Chafee says the pro-life community is helping Laffey in the primary.
Laffey asks how?
Chafee says pro-lifers are an important part of Laffeys constituency.
Laffey says Chafee has no evidence to support his thoughts.

Yorke plays a Bush clip on illegal immigration, and asks both candidates to concisely state their position on the issue.
Chafee says the American borders are gigantic, so securing them it not going to be easy. Tax cuts wont help. Chafee says he supports the McCain bill.
Laffey says he opposes the Kennedy-Reid bill (yes, theyre both talking about the same bill) because it grants amnesty and because it lets foreign guest workers be paid more than American citizens. If we can put a man on moon, we can secure our borders and we should have done it right after 9/11.
Chafee says the wage mandates on foreign guest workers were added to the bill to protect Americans.
Laffey says the mandates dont protect Americans.
Yorke asks Laffey about the consular ID cards issue. Yorke says he saw great celebration in the immigrant community when they were approved, because they made it easier for illegal immigrants to bank and do business.
Laffey says his approval of the program was a safety issue intended to help police do their jobs and not a quality-of-life issue intended to help illegal immigrants.

Yorke asks Chafee about the rationale for invading Iraq: Don't we all know that more than just the weapons of mass destruction rationale was involved?
Chafee says he believes the invasion it was all about WMD and threats against Saddam, but the evidence for WMD was never strong. Chafee says he knows this because he went to the CIA personally to examine the evidence, and was not convinced. It was a war based on a false premise. If the real motivation was a greater plan of remaking the Middle East, we should have debated that subject.
Laffey says it does no good to complain about the wars rationale, but not offer solutions. We need a stable government in Iraq now that is not threat to its own people or to its neighbors. We need to get allies involved. And 3 months ago, I called for Rumsfeld to resign.
Chafee compares Laffeys record on consular IDs to his position on Rumsfeld and Iraq, accusing Laffey of cheerleading at the beginning, then changing his mind later on.

Yorke asks about Israel.
Chafee says he has the best interests of Israel in mind. They have the right to defend themselves, but they have to make smart decisions. The way theyve conducted themselves in the recent invasion has empowered Hezbollah.
Laffey says America would never tolerate having its soldiers kidnapped off of its own soil; Israel shouldnt be expected to either. If Hezbollah lays down its arms, thered peace. If Israel laid down its arms, theyd be annihilated. Senator Chafee was premature in calling for a cease-fire before Israel achieved its political goals.
Chafee notes that Israel has not yet even achieved its goal of having its kidnapped soldiers returned.

Yorke asks Chafee if he regrets voting for George H.W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election.
Chafee says hes doesnt; he doesnt flip-flop around on issues and the Bush tax cuts went too deep.
Yorke then plays a clip of Laura Bush expressing support for Chafee.
Laffey first wants to make it clear that President Bush is supporting Chafee in this race, then says the month it took Chafee to decide to vote for someone not running showed Chafees indecisiveness. The same pattern was visible in Chafees vote on Samuel Alito; by the time Chafee made his decision to vote against Alito, his decision was irrelevant.
Chafee reiterates that the President does support him, and that he maintains good relations with everybody in Washington, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc.

Yorke asks his final question: What is it to be Senatorial?
Laffey says you have to be a leader. He has a track record of success of taking on the major issues of our day and has protected taxpayers. He will fight for his vision of the future on energy policy, prescription drugs, taxes and spending, etc.
Chafee says there are 3 qualities that are key to being Senatorial: courage, honesty, and an ability to work with others. You need the guts to make the hard decisions, and he has them.

Chafee-Laffey II: Ad Wars, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating

Dan Yorke plays the Chafee ad about Laffeys record of raising taxes as Mayor of Cranston. Yorke notes that Laffey inherited pending bankruptcy and asks what could have been done differently.
Senator Lincoln Chafee cites his program as mayor of Warwick: a hiring freeze followed by small tax increases. That combination worked in Warwick. Its hypocritical for Laffey to sign on to Club for Growth program of never raising taxes, when you cant predict future circumstances that might require a tax increase.
Mayor Steve Laffey rebuts by mentioning a large pay increase for the Warwick teachers union that occurred under Chafees leadership.
Chafee said he was playing catch up.
Laffey says Chafee's situation in Warwick was not a crisis. Laffey says he worked with Democratic state Reps, and Governors Almond and Carcieri to fix things in Cranston. Yes, there was a supplemental tax imposed, but this year Cranston was the only RI community lower tax rates.

Yorke asks Laffey why the Cranston tax increases aren't a legitimate issue. Isn't it reasonable to look how someone has handled things in the past to figure out how they'll handle things in the future?
Laffey says local property taxes are different from Federal taxes and that Chafee wants to raise taxes on every single individual.
Chafee says Laffey should be more generous in sharing credit for fixing Cranston with the Cranston City Council and Cranston taxpayers. Chafee says he wants to do things on the Federal level that help reduce property taxes, like provide more Federal funding for special education. Laffeys supporters in the Club for Growth are only interested in tax cuts for the rich.
Laffey notes that the No Child Left Behind Act, which Chafee voted for, is an unfunded mandate that puts tremendous pressure on property taxes.

Yorke acknowledges the education is a multi-wicket, but havent NCLB requirements brought in some necessary diligence?
Laffey says no, theres been no measurable change in test scores. You have to treat Cranston differently from the Bronx.
Chafee wonders why all students shouldnt be required to learn to the same level.

Yorke plays the Laffey campaign peas in a pod ad, which says Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse are basically the same. Yorke asks Chafee if hes the same as Whitehouse
Chafee answers far from it. Hell explain the differences during the general election campaign.
Laffey cites Chafees support of the death tax, opposition to Bushs tax cuts, and the fact that Chafee has twice been mentioned as porker of of the month as similarities between Chafee and Whitehouse.

Yorke asks if it is fair to attack Senator Chafees record by singling out one project, like the bridge-to-nowhere, from an omnibus transportation bill. Dont philosophical concerns about spending have to make some room for the practicalities of the legislative process?
Laffey says that $27 billion dollars in special earmarks in the highway bill were not in the interests of RI. They were not part of normal appropriations. Ronald Reagan vetoed a highway bill because it had 125 earmarks, this one had thousands of earmarks. Earmarks lead to a corruption
Yorke asks about giving the President line-item veto power.
Both candidates agree that a line-item veto is a good idea.
Chafee defends the earmark process as a legitimate part of a normal appropriations process, because it follows his asking town managers and mayors what their needs are.
Laffey asks how it was possible for Chafee to vote against the railroad-to-nowhere, if it was impossible for him to vote against a project like the bridge-to-nowhere.
Chafee cites his Concord Coalition designation as the Senates most fiscally conservative member as evidence of his strong record of fiscal responsibility.

Chafee-Laffey II: Ad Wars, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. Good luck to any non-Rhode Island residents trying to interpret this one

Dan Yorke plays the Chafee campaigns latest-anti-Laffey ad, then plays a more complete audio of the Cranston firefighter incident. An aspiring pugilist is heard to say to Mayor Laffey, Dont you ever talk to the wife of one of my guys. Ill knock you right out.
Senator Lincoln Chafee notes that the aspiring pugilist's remarks indicate that Mayor Laffey improperly addressed somebody's wife.
Mayor Steve Laffey points out that it is clear on the tape that all he said was please stop this right now, directly to the aspiring pugilist, in an attempt to restore order at a meeting that had gotten chaotic.
Chafee: Why did the aspiring pugilist mention somebody's wife?
Laffey says it's because the aspiring pugilist was lying; the incident has been investigated and reported on by local media. It's been confirmed that he stepped in an attempt to get people to calm down. Laffey then addresses Senator Chafee and says the personal attacks arent serving him well, the lies in his commercials are plain wrong, and he wont do anything like that in his ads.
Chafee says if its not Laffey on the audio and video, hell pull the ads.

Yorke plays a more complete version of the 3rd part of the Chafee campaign's latest anti-Laffey ad, where Laffey says the older political elites in the Republican party, who are not as interested in winning as they are in grabbing some legal work and hanging out at parties, are luckily getting older and dying. Yorke notes that the Senator demanded an apology and Laffey offered one right away. So why has the Chafee campaing persisted with this issue?
Chafee said Laffey made the remark because he was angry that he sought the endorsement of the Republican party, but failed.
Laffey says he never sought the state party endorsement.
Chafee says he knows Laffey talked to people about getting the endorsement.
Laffey says name one.
Chafee says he cant name anyone specific, but of course Laffey wanted the endorsement.

Yorke asks Laffey an incident like this has to do with his personality or if it's an anomaly.
Laffey answers its an anomaly. Thats why he apologized. National guys in the Chafee campaign have convinced him to go negative with this stuff.
Chafee says there are negative ads all over the place. He objects to the Laffey ad that says that Lincoln Chafee would give social security to illegal aliens. No illegal immigrant would ever get social security benefits under any program that he supports.

Yorke asks Chafee if he believes that Laffeys apology was hollow.
Chafee believes that when you couple it with other instances, like the Jackvony pixelation, it shows a pattern.
Laffey responds that the Jackvony pixelation shows a sense of humor.
Chafee: It wasnt funny.
Laffey: Didnt you pixelate me out of a picture at the Follies?
Yorke: The Follies is different.

Chafee-Laffey II: Politics and Punditry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Dan Yorke announces there are no rules for this debate!

Yorke plays a Laffey ad accusing the Senator of ducking debates, then asks Mayor Steve Laffey if he really believed that the Senator was not going to debate.
Laffey says that the debates should have started earlier, before vacation season in August.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says he has always debated in the past, eight debates in his last Senate campaign. His job in Washington made it hard to debate in person.
Yorke asks Laffey if the purpose of the ads was to make it look like he baited Senator Chafee into accepting debates.
Laffey says the ad meant what it said.
Chafee mentions he always debated in his mayoral races.

Yorke opines that its never easy to be challenged, then asks Chafee if hes insulted by a primary challenge.
Chafee: No, I expected a challenge.
Yorke says Chafee is promoting the idea that Laffey cant win, and asks Chafee to explain what that means.
Chafee says this is America, and people are free to run for the office they want, but many offices held by Democrats are going unopposed. The small base of Republican talent in RI could have been better spread around.
Yorke asks Laffey about shopping around for an office to run for.
Laffey: Running for Senate fits my talents
Yorke asks Laffey if any one thing triggered his choice to run for Senate.
Laffey says any disagreements with Senator Chafee are professional not personal and that he takes on different missions in different parts of his life. He saw Cranston going broke, so ran for Mayor to fix it, and always said hed do something else once Cranston was fixed. Now Cranstons fixed, but the US is on the wrong financial path.

Yorke asks what made Laffey think this was a winnable race.
Laffey answers no one thing and that hes always been told he can never win. To win, you need money, a message, and a candidate, and his campaign has all 3.
Chafee says he knows from personal interaction with Laffey that Laffey came to RI for the purpose of getting to Washington. Running for Mayor of Cranston was low hanging fruit to start.
Laffey says he listened to the Senator before deciding to run for Mayor to be polite, but that the Senator had no influence on his decisions. It was conditions in Cranston that made him decide to run.
Chafee says he helped Laffey with meetings with Republican Senatorial and Congressional committees, and played a role in helping him get started.
Laffey says he doesnt mean to be rude, but hes made his political career on his own. Laffey also mentions Chafees remark about looking forward to ending his career; Laffey looks as public service as a way of giving back, not a career.

Yorke asks if a career in politics a lesser mission than other careers.
Laffey thinks that people should have real careers before entering public service. Too many people go into office not understanding the real world.
Chafee says he has had non-political jobs, a summer job, the racetrack job for 7 years, Electric Boat for 4 years.
Yorke asks Chafee if he wants to end Laffeys career.
Chafee answers absolutely or at least be a bump in the road.
Yorke asks Laffey if hes done with politics if he loses.
Laffey says he doesnt think that way (that he might lose).
Yorke asks Laffeys about Maureen Moakley and Darrell Wests prediction that Chafee wins the primary.
Laffey says Moakley predicted Chafee wouldnt run negative ads. Then, the next day he did. Shes 100% wrong. And its unfortunate that people still go to Darrell West, hes too partisan.

Yorke asks Chafee about depending on independents to win.
Chafee says he still goes to Republican events, spaghetti suppers and breakfasts. He represents a true Republicanism of civil liberties, environmentalism, avoiding foreign entanglements, and fiscal responsibility. But he says that independents are good for him too.
Yorke asks about the big gap between Whitehouse and Laffey in the polls. Since Laffey already has high name recognition, isnt this a serious problem?
Chafee says since everybody already knows Laffey, it will be hard to close a 30-point gap. Jeff Pine was able to close a similar-sized gap because no one knew who he was when he was polling low.
Laffey calls Chafees answer foolish. He doesnt enjoy anywhere near name recognition the Chafee name brings. Things will change radically after primary. Laffey also notes he won a high-turnout primary in Cranston, after being outspent 5-1.

Todays Senate Race Coverage from the MSM

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two new entries in the coverage of Rhode Islands Republican Senate primary, one local and one national, were printed today. Neither breaks much new ground for those already been paying attention to the contest, with perhaps one important exception.

The local entry is a Projo article by Mark Arsenault focusing on the Club for Growth

In its endorsement of Laffey on its Web site, the Club acknowledges: "One risk is that, after beating Chafee in the primary, Laffey loses the general election to the Democrat. But the odds of this happening are not overwhelming -- and we believe this risk is acceptable."

The Club argues that Chafee is the most liberal Republican in the Senate, and the chance to replace him is worth this risk for several reasons:

"First, it wouldn't be much of a loss if a new Democrat senator were elected, as he would vote much the same as Chafee does now," the Club claims. "Second, it is unlikely this loss would result in tipping control of the Senate back to the Democrats -- though that, too, can't be ruled out. If Republicans lose so many seats that the Rhode Island race is crucial, Chafee would probably lose, too."

Meanwhile, at the national level, OpinionJournal has a national level summary of the Senate race written by Kimberly Strassel that concludes in a way that may raise an eyebrow or two
Yet it says something about GOP frustration that even these long odds haven't fazed many. Laffey supporters are betting that if he wins the primary, the GOP establishment will offer its support....

It's still a long shot, although at least some Republican strategists are nonplussed. They've long argued the party should write off the Northeast, and focus on consolidating its gains in the South and Midwest. If voters are as angry as seems, it may have no choice.

Writing off an entire area of the country is never a good idea, for any political party that wants to actually win nor for any party that wants to actually govern after winning elections.

August 15, 2006

Two Final Debate Follow-ups

Carroll Andrew Morse

Two more sets of questions worth following up on from the first Republican Senatorial debate...

1. The first question is for both Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey. Mayor Laffeys fiscal proposals have focused mostly on reducing discretionary spending of various forms, while Senator Chafee blamed the necessity for high-taxes on the war in Iraq.

Yet at one point during the evening, both candidates agreed that there is a demographic tidal wave about to hit entitlements. To fill in some detail, I refer you to Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, who argues that entitlements are on a path towards dwarfing all other budgetary considerations

Entitlements, on the other hand, represented 53 percent of total federal spending in 2005 with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid representing 41 percent of the total. These three programs are growing rapidly, and along with interest on the debt, will absorb all projected federal revenues by the early 2030s.

The reasons for this rapid growth include the aging of the population (greater longevity, in particularnot just the retirement of the large baby boom generation) and rapidly increasing spending on health care.A variety of health care reformsfrom greater use of electronic records to curtailing malpractice awardscould reduce the level of spending somewhat, but are not likely to constrain spending growth very much, except perhaps temporarily.

The question for both candidates is what basic principles do they believe in with regards to bringing entitlement spending under control?

2. The second question is for Senator Chafee: When discussing pork, the Senator discussed the complex and delicate nature of the legislative process. When discussing immigration, the Senator said he supported requiring illegal immigrants who had been in the US for two years or less to leave the country, as embodied in the Martinez-Hagel compromise.

Why then did Senator Chafee vote in favor of Senator Dianne Feinsteins orange card amendment which would have given amnesty to all illegal immigrants within the United States on or before January 1, 2006 (for those really bad at math, thats significantly less than two years) and unraveled the fragile Martinez-Hagel consensus on the Senate immigration bill?

Liberal Republicans, Character, Principles, and Negative Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee opened Thursday nights Senate debate with an important point: issues will change, so people need to elect representatives whom they trust to have the character to make good decisions in unforeseen circumstances. But character is not all that indicates how a politician will deal with the unknown. Yes, character helps determine how someone will react when confronted with the temptation to wander astray from his principles, but the principles themselves are important too. To make an informed decision between candidates running for office, it is necessary to consider the basic principles that candidates believe in, as well as their characters.

In some ways, determining the principles underlie the liberal Republicanism that Senator Lincoln Chafee represents is difficult, because Rhode Island's liberal Republicanism has become an unfinished thought. We all know how the thought begins, Rhode Island is a blue state, so everyone has to accept the Rhode Island Republicans will be more liberal than the Republicans in the rest of the country in order to win elections. But how does the thought end? Is there any difference between the ends of liberal Republicans and those of plain ol liberals, or do liberal Republicans offer nothing more than, to paraphrase Peggy Noonan, a promise to try to to slow down the liberal program -- the continuing government takeover of as much political and economic life as possible -- just a little bit?

The recent paid media put forth by the Chafee campaign, the latest in a string of issueless, backwards-looking attacks on Steve Laffey, makes the answer pretty clear. Liberal Republicans, in another unfortunate conjunction between liberal Republicanism and unqualified liberalism, have adopted the attitude that anybody who believes differently from they do cant possibly be serious cant even be a good person! They've bought into the idea that liberal assumptions and liberal ends are so self-evidently correct, they need no defense, and that non-liberal ideas like tax-simplification, smaller government, reducing the power of bureaucracies and empowering individuals don't merit any serious discussion.

The only choice that matters to the liberal wing of the Republican party is which personalities can best manage the high-tax nanny-state they would like to perpetuate; that's why their campaign spends so much time focusing on the issue of personality. Any other discussions are treated as mere distractions from the inevitable march of history towards an ever-stronger Federal government. Fortunately, America's voters have a history of embracing a belief that a wider array of choices is possible.

August 14, 2006

Following-Up the Projo's Debate Follow-Up on Taxing and Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are a few gaps that need to be filled in Mark Arsenault's Republican Senate debate follow-up article appearing in today's Projo. The article contrasts the positions of Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey on the issues of taxes and spending.

1. Though Arsenault's description of the PAYGO rule supported by Senator Chafee regarding deficits is correct in a technical sense,

Chafee is a believer in "pay as you go," a philosophy from the 1990s that requires spending cuts or a new source of revenue to balance each tax cut or new spending program.
...Arsenault doesn't discuss PAYGO's ultimate ramification. The key word in Arsenault's description is "new". The authors of PAYGO were certain to exempt the growth of "old" spending -- spending on already existing entitlement programs that increases according to pre-determined formulas -- from any limitation. Here's how the exception appears in the text of the legislation...
(1) IN GENERAL -- It shall not be in order in the Senate to consider any direct spending or revenue legislation that would increase the on-budget deficit or cause an on-budget deficit for any 1 of the 3 applicable time periods as measured in paragraphs (5) and (6)...

(4) EXCLUSION.--For purposes of this subsection, the terms "direct-spending legislation'' and "revenue legislation'' do not include --
(A) any concurrent resolution on the budget

Since Congress' concurrent resolution on the budget is that the only place where spending on existing entitlements needs an annual approval, exempting the budget resolution from the PAYGO rule exempts entitlement growth from the PAYGO rule. And, as Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution explains, entitlement programs are where our country's biggest spending problems are...
In efforts to restore fiscal balance, it's important to focus on entitlements for a number of reasons:
  • Entitlements are where the big dollars are.
  • They are growing rapidly.
  • Given the unsustainable deficits that this growth implies, there are only three possible options: restructure entitlements, eliminate most of the rest of government, or raise taxes to unprecedented levels.
Ultimately, the entitlements-exempt PAYGO rule favored by the Democrats and Senator Chafee becomes a way of forcing automatic tax-increases on the public. Here's Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation explaining how...
While PAYGO allows current entitlement programs to grow on autopilot, it would likely lead to the expiration of the current tax cuts. Merely retaining the tax relief that Americans now enjoy would, under PAYGO, require 60 votes in the Senate and a waiver in the House. To avoid this supermajority requirement, lawmakers seeking to prevent tax increases would have to either: A) raise other taxes; or B) reduce mandatory spending by a larger amount than has ever been enacted. Option A is still a net tax increase (raising one tax to avoid raising another), and Option B is probably politically unrealistic.
Senator Chafee tries to define his position on taxes and spending, which presumably includes PAYGO, as that of a traditional conservative Republican...
Chafee says that, while opposing the big tax cuts, he also voted against major spending items, such as the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which he says is too expensive. "I'm a very traditional conservative Republican on taxes and spending," he said.
But it is difficult to accept this statement as meaningful when the Senator supports a program that seeks to turn the Federal Government into an entitlement machine paid for through automatic yearly tax-increases.

2. Arsenault devotes only a single to line Mayor Laffey's proposal for tax simplification...

He also proposes rewriting and simplifying the tax code,
...presenting tax-simplification as if it were an add-on to the the Mayor's fiscal proposals, when it is actually a starting point. Mayor Laffey argues that simplifiying the tax code will reduce the power of lobbyists and the associated corruption they can bring. He is far from alone in arguing this (Mickey Kaus provided one of the best explanations I can remember seeing, but I can't locate the exact quote). The essential argument is that the influence of K-Street lobbyists in Washington is rooted in their knowledge of and their ability to manipulate an arcane tax code; simplify the tax-code, and corporate and industrial-sector lobbyists will become no more or less influential than Sierra Club-type lobbyists.

Unfortunately, since Arsenault relegates tax-simplification to a sidebar, we never learn Senator Chafee's position on tax simplification, nor any arguments for or against the idea. Do politicians unwilling to pursue tax-simplification take that position because they believe that tax-simplification does not matter, because they believe a complex tax-code is an inherently good thing, or because they are simply unwilling to challenge the existing network of lobbyists on this issue?

August 11, 2006

The MSM Reports on the Republican Senate Debate, and a Curious Omission

Carroll Andrew Morse

The MSM reports on last nights Senatorial debate have been filed. Here are reports from

All three MSM reports picked up on Senator Chafees statement of a bad peace is better than a good war, but none of the three reported on the Senators questioning (in response to a question about Israel) of where a war on Islamic extremism gets you, the statement made during last nights debate most in need of clarification.

Also, the Chafee campaign has their review of the debate up on their campaign website. They think Senator Chafee won.

RILawJournal has a live blog report that does an excellent job capturing the tone of the debate's back-and-forth.

More follow-up coming next week

August 10, 2006

Laffey-Chafee I: Miscellaneous Questions

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. "Miscellaneous" should only be read to imply that these questions did not fit into any other category, not that they are less important than the others...

Arlene Violet asks if drug companies or individuals got the better deal from the recent drug bill.
Mayor Steve Laffey answers that drug companies got a better deal, because medicare cannot negotiate for cheaper drugs.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says he voted against the drug bill because it had no bulk purchasing provisions.

Violet asks Chafee if he would support vouchers under any circumstance.
Chafee says no, vouchers undermine public schools.
Laffey says he wants every kid to have the opportunity that vouchers can provide. He mentions hes trying to start a public school choice program between Cranston and Providence. Laffey says he supports vouchers and public choice.

Violet asks Chafee to name 3 places where he supports the President.
Chafee says he supports the President on free trade, respects his work on No-Child-Left-Behind, and keeps good relations with the White House.
Laffey says he supports the President on free trade, tax cuts, and the War on Terror. He disagrees with the President on NCLB, because education decisions should be made locally.

Violet says part of being a Senator is being willing to compromise, and asks Laffey for 3 issues on which he might compromise.
Laffey says hes successfully worked with unions on negotiating health co-pays, proving he's is able to compromise and work with others. Laffey names the phaseout of the estate tax as an issue he would compromise on.
Chafee uses his time to mention that Laffey encouraged a primary against a Republican city councilman which shows that he has a hard time working with others.
Laffey questions the relevance of the intra-party politics in Cranstons fourth ward to a race for United States Senator.

Violet asks Chafee if he knew a consulting firm his campaign hired was connected (by marriage) to an individual convicted of jamming phone lines on an election day. (Violet also asks if the consulting firms work will involve phoning voters).
Chafee takes responsibility for the hire and says he didnt know about the relationship with the convicted individual. The firm can continue to work for the campaign as long as no professional relationship is established.

Violet seems like shes going to ask Laffey a question about stem-cells, but at the last moment changes direction, and segues into a question about using Medicaid funds for abortion.
Alas, your intrepid blogger couldnt follow the question or answer on this one. Fortunately, well get three more chances to get it answered!

Laffey-Chafee I: Taxes and Spending

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet asks about extending expiring tax-cuts.
Senator Lincoln Chafee laments that we have failed to cut spending, yet we are cutting taxes. The biggest expense of all is this war in Iraq, which costs a billion dollars a week. We cant cut taxes during a war.
Mayor Steve Laffey says that revenues have increased 12-14% in the three years following the tax cuts. Receipts are up relative to CBO estimates. Tax-cuts that encourage growth should be made permanent.

Violet asks something about spending and earmarks.
Laffey says spending can be brought under control by cutting pork, corporate welfare, and non-military discretionary spending.
Chafee is sympathetic to earmark reform. Appropriators in Congress have too much power. But other areas of the budget, like farm subsidies, dwarf whats spent on earmarks.

Violet: Medicare is in worse shape than social security. What do we do?
Chafee says a demographic tidal wave is about to hit entitlements. We need people (like me, I assume the Senator means) who can work together to solve this.
Laffey basically agrees (I assume with himself in the role of me).

Violet asks about the responsibility of a Senator with respect to pork, and asks Laffey to name 3 projects in Rhode Island that are pork.
Laffey says a Senator should support his state, but through the normal appropriations process. The transportation bill brought plenty to RI, without counting the earmarks, and many of the recent Congressional scandals show how earmarking has become a magnet for corruption. Names the Westerly animal shelter as an example of pork
Chafee again cites the $1 billion dollars he has brought to Rhode Island because of his work on the Environment and Public Works committee. Mentions he obtained part of the money to take down the Jamestown bridge.

Laffey-Chafee I: Cross-Examination

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating. This is the part where they get to ask one another questions...

Senator Lincoln Chafee says he voted against tax cuts in 2001, because we should be fully funding special education programs like the IDEA program before cutting taxes. And more Federal funding for special ed would mean local property taxes could be lowered. What does Mayor Laffey think?
Mayor Steve Laffey says he cut local spending by firing the crossing guards. Meaningful property tax-relief will only come if unfunded mandates are done away with and management rights are restored. And tax cuts stimulate growth and make more money available.
Chafee rebuts: Crossing guards were only 1/4 of 1 percent of the Cranston budget. The Federal government has promised to fund 40% of IDEA, but hasnt gotten to 20% yet.

Laffey asks about Senator Chafees vote against using the $223,000,000 appropriated for the bridge-to-nowhere funding to pay for bridges damaged by Hurricane Katrina. What good did that do for Rhode Island?
Chafee responds by defending the overall highway bill which the bridge-to-nowhere was part of. The highway bill required 3 years of delicate compromise, and brought $1 billion dollars into Rhode Island, $2.21 for every dollar we pay in gas taxes.
Laffey says he is asking about just the vote on the specific amendment, not the entire bill.
Chafee says that in practice, voting against the bridge to nowhere was impossible.

Chafee asks about Laffeys signing an anti-tax pledge put forth by the Americans for Tax Reform. Are you bought and paid for, or does your signature mean nothing?
Laffey responds that he read the pledge carefully, modified it by removing portions he didnt like, and only signed on to the provisions he agreed with.
Chafee expresses displeasure at being criticized by a right wing organization like the Club for Growth, then defends his record as Mayor of Warwick. Chafee says he raised taxes less in 7 years as mayor than Laffey has in 4, plus he raised investment in the city pension fund from $70 million to $225 million.
Laffey cites his own record on city pension funding, going from $9 million to $40 million, plus he inherited a city that was going bankrupt, which everyone in Rhode Island knows.

Laffey asks Chafee about a March 13, 2001 vote that allowed the government to raid social security to pay for more spending.
Chafee responds by citing the Concord Coalition citation of himself as Congresss most fiscally responsible member.
Laffey responds that Chafee didnt answer the question.

Laffey-Chafee I: War and the Middle East

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet asks if American foreign policy should always be in tandem with Israels.
Mayor Steve Laffey addresses the current Israel-Hezbollah conflict. Israel was attacked and they have the right to respond. We all want a cease-fire, but only if it leads to a lasting peace, which can only happen if Hezbollah is degraded.
Senator Lincoln Chafee decries the escalation of the current war, says its been escalated until its a war on Islamic extremism (this reference to extremism is the one point where Im going to interject myself, and opine that maybe Senator Chafee didnt say quite what he meant here) and where does that take us? Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

Violet presses for an answer on Israel that is wider than just the current conflict.
Laffey: Israel has tried to live in peace. If Hezbollah laid down its arms, there would be peace. If Israel laid down its arms, they would be annihilated.
Chafee stresses that he does not come to this issue from naivety. A bad peace is better than a good war. We should return to the peace process that started with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat.

Violet asks if there is a civil war in Iraq, and if should Donald Rumsfeld should resign as secretary of defense.
Chafee emphasizes engaging Iraqs neighbors to improve the situation there.
Laffey says Rumsfeld should resign. He has a tough job and has to be held accountable for the failures.

Violet asks about President Bushs use of wiretapping and signing statements.
Laffey: Courts should decide signing statement issue. Todays events in Great Britain show us that wiretapping is justified, but the President should get the proper authorization from judges and keep congress informed.
Chafee criticizes Laffey for supporting the war but opposing Rumsfeld. Chafee says that the Constitution is a sacred document that protects people from wiretapping. The Constitution says the Presdient is Commander-in-Chief, but that shouldnt be stretched too far.

Laffey-Chafee I: Illegal immigration.

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Arlene Violet opens the debate with illegal immigration. Should illegal immigrants be deported?
Senator Lincoln Chafee expresses support for the John McCain bill including the Martinez-Hagel provisions that include deportation for immigrants who have been less 2 years.
Mayor Steve Laffey expresses opposition to the McCain-Kennedy bill and wants to secure the border first.

Violet asks about tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
Chafee first criticizes Laffeys history with consular ID cards issue. Chafee then criticizes the Houses enforcement-only approach to immigration, saying that not one member of the Senate will support the House bill, nor will he.
Laffey defends the consular cards, saying they made for a more secure Cranston. Securing border and enforcing immigration laws needs to be done before anything else.

Violet asks about American practices, like subsidized agribusiness, that create conditions in other countries that encourage illegal immigration.
Chafee first criticizes Laffey for not being consistent on the immigration issue, then says free trade is the best way to address the root causes of illegal immigration.
Laffey says that once borders are secure and laws are being enforced, we can work with Mexico to get them to make necessary changes and implement a guest worker program if it's needed.

Laffey-Chafee I: Opening Statements

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate debated on todays Arlene Violet Show on WHJJ-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Senator Chafee asks voters to consider three things in his opening statement...

  • Who can win in November?
  • Who can best represent Rhode Island?
  • Issues are going to change, so you have to look at character when electing a Senator.
Mayor Laffey talks about the three biggest problems he believes need fixing in his opening statement
  • Too many tax-breaks for special interests and spending is out of control.
  • The cost of prescription drugs needs to be lowered
  • The United States needs a national energy policy to enhance national security.

Sheldon Whitehouse's First Flip-Flop?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Has Sheldon Whitehouse already changed his position on the Iraq War? In his initial TV ads, he said he wanted troops out of Iraq "by the end of this year". And as recently as June, Whitehouse told Projo columnist Charles Bakst that he supported a hard deadline on troop withdrawal from Iraq...

Whitehouse, who wants U.S. troops out by the end of 2006, says he'd have voted last week for Sen. John Kerry's proposal to require withdrawal of all combat forces by next July, with redeployments beginning this year.
Whitehouse would have voted for the Kerry amendment even though another Democratic-sponsored amendment was available (sponsored, in part, by Jack Reed) that called for the beginnings of a "phased redeployment", but without providing a final deadline to our enemies that they could use in their planning.

Now, in his latest TV advertisement, Sheldon Whitehouse says that he supports "a responsible redeployment of our troops out of Iraq", a position that is much more vague than the hard-deadline option he previously favored. It is legitimate to ask if the new emphasis is being driven by an actual change in position on Whitehouse's part, or if it is simply an attempt to tell people what he thinks they want to hear, i.e. I agree with the well-respected Jack Reed, and not the incoherent John Kerry.

One last concern: In the new TV ad, Whitehouse talks about sending "a clear signal that we are really getting out" of Iraq. If he believes that "signals" are important to the conduct of foreign affairs, does he also accept the possibility that a negative signal is sent to the rest of the world when the US walks away from a potential ally?

August 8, 2006

The Chafee Campaign's Independent Experts

Carroll Andrew Morse

Todays Projo contains an unbylined story concerning some controversy surrounding the Chafee campaigns efforts to reach independent voters

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee's campaign has paid $386,000 to a company controlled by the wife of James Tobin, a former Republican National Committee campaign official who was found guilty of criminally violating federal election law in a New Hampshire case.

The firm Northeast Strategies LLC specializes in targeting unaffiliated voters....

Tobin was found guilty of participating in a scheme by New Hampshire Republicans to jam the 2002 Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote telephone lines in New Hampshire. Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in jail.

"We had no idea that Northeast Strategies had any connection to Tobin," said Steve Hourahan, Chafee's campaign spokesman.

The original source for the story is a Washington Post article from Sunday.

August 3, 2006

Chafee's Perilous Pragmatic Appeal to the GOP

Marc Comtois

I understand what Sen. Chafee is doing by highlighting the polling data showing that Mayor Laffey is "unelectable" should he beat Chafee in the GOP primary and face-off against Sheldon Whitehouse in the General election. As Dan Yorke pointed out today, it makes political sense to scare people a little bit. But Yorke also made the point that it seems like the Senator is playing with a double-edged sword.

The continual pounding of the message that only Senator Chafee can beat Whitehouse leaves the impression that all Chafee has to offer is that he can hold the seat for the GOP. "Vote against Laffey, not for Chafee." I'm not sure if this pragmatic approach is appealing enough to the more ideologically minded GOP primary voter. And I'm not sure if it does much to help Sen. Chafee as far as laying groundwork should he win the primary and have to face Whitehouse. By leaning so heavy on the anti-Laffey tactic, he isn't giving many reasons for the General election voter to support him. It's a tough spot.

And this all brings me to another question: how many GOP voters will vote for whomever emerges from the primary, whether it be Laffey or Chafee? There has been much back and forth (and vitriol) in the Comments of this blog between the two groups of supporters. Should Chafee win, will the Laffeyites take their ball and go home? Or throw all ideology aside and vote against Chafee due to spite, even if he is still marginally more conservative than Whitehouse? Should Laffey win, will the Chafee voters suddenly decide it's not as important to hold the GOP Senate majority as they once did--especially given that it has been their main argument for keeping Chafee?

August 2, 2006

The Republican Rapid Responders are Coming!

Carroll Andrew Morse

From the Associated Press, via WPRI-TV

A Republican group describing itself as a "strike force" of experienced campaigners is heading to Rhode Island to help Senator Lincoln Chafee.

Former state Representative Brock Bierman is coordinating the effort by the Republican Rapid Responders. They'll arrive in the final weeks before the September 12th primary.

Chafee angered many Republicans by voting against President Bush's tax cuts, the Iraq War and the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. But the Republican National Committee still backs Chafee.

An extended version of the AP story includes these details
Republican Rapid Responders is a Virginia-based group formed in 2004 to help re-elect President Bush. Bierman described its members as "political junkies" who are interested in getting Republicans elected and preserving the party's majority in the Senate.

It sent an e-mail to members Monday asking them to volunteer in Rhode Island for at least five days -- and as much as two weeks -- before the primary. Rhode Island Victories, an arm of the state Republican Party, will pay volunteers' expenses, including airfare, lodging and food.

The volunteers will focus on door-to-door campaigning, making phone calls and getting Chafee supporters to the polls.

At least according to the FEC website, Chafee-Rhode Island Victory is technically a non-party multicandidate political action committee. And as Bill Reynolds might say, there's no truth to the rumor that the state party is now an arm of the Chafee campaign.

August 1, 2006

Chafee/Laffey Debate Schedule

Carroll Andrew Morse

In case you missed it, heres the debate schedule agreed upon between Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey

  • Thursday, August 10, 5-6 pm, WHJJ 920-AM (The Arlene Violet Show)
  • Thursday, August 17, 5-6 pm , WPRO 630-AM (The Dan Yorke Show)
  • Wednesday, August 23, 7-8 pm, WPRI-TV Channel 12
  • Thursday, August 24, 7-8 pm, WJAR-TV Channel 10

July 31, 2006

The Latest FEC Fun

Carroll Andrew Morse

Its been a few weeks since weve had an exciting new Federal Election Commission matter to discuss, so lets lead with that this week. According to John E. Mulligan in Sundays Saturday's Projo, the FEC has warned the Chafee campaign about a potential violation of campaign finance law

The Federal Election Commission has asked that Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee's name be removed from the title of the organization that sponsored First Lady Laura Bush's May visit to Providence to raise money for Chafee and Rhode Island's Republican Party.

In one of a series of letters to such groups, known as "joint fundraising committees," the FEC said "enforcement action" may be taken against them if they do not comply with the election campaign rules in question

The FEC's letter to Chafee-Rhode Island Victory 2006 said the senator's name cannot be used because the group also represents a "multicandidate committee" -- meaning the state party, which assists many Rhode Island Republican office-seekers.

Multicandidate committees have to support five candidates for Federal office to qualify for their multicandidate status. I believe the FEC's position is that an organization can't be a true multicandiate committee if it says in its title that one of its candidate is more equal than the others. Of course, you could also approach this from a truth in advertising perspective and say if a single candidate is all that a particular PAC is really interested in, why not let them be up front about it?

Another part of Mulligan's article doesnt match with current campaign finance rules. According to the Campaign Fundraising for Dummies documents available on the FEC website, multicandidate committees are limited to contributing $5,000 per candidate, per election. Mulligan, however, writes about a much bigger sum of money

The Chafee-Rhode Island Victory 2006 group was formed to run Bush's Rhode Island fundraiser and pass the proceeds on to Chafee and the state party. The committee gave almost $110,000 to the senator's reelection campaign and $63,500 to the Rhode Island Republican State Central Committee, according to its midyear report to the FEC.
I suspect what Mulligan means is that $110,000 in individual contributions to Senator Chafee were collected and bundled by Chafee-Rhode Island Victory 2006, then passed along to the candidate.

Arent you glad we have all of our current campaign finance laws on the books making this transparent for you?

July 27, 2006

Sheldon's Scaring the Seniors

Marc Comtois

Sheldon Whitehouse is engaging in that time-tested, liberal Democrat method of winning the senior-citizen vote: scare the hell out of them:

I met a woman who asked me fearfully if the Republicans were really trying to do away with Social Security. It made me sick to have to tell her she may be right.

Over the last several months, a series of Republican leaders - from George Bush and Karl Rove to several others - have signaled that theyre planning to push for Social Security privatization if they retain control of Congress. I dont have to tell you that that would be a disaster for Rhode Island seniors....Republican efforts to privatize Social Security will break this promise we made to seniors and force thousands of our fellow Rhode Islanders into even more precarious financial straits than now.

Weve got to stop that from happening. Lets keep our promise to Rhode Island seniors and make sure that the Republicans dont have the chance to privatize Social Security.

Any honest person knows that the President's plan for Social Security Reform is concerned with future expenditures, not current.
Social Security is sound for todays seniors and for those nearing retirement, but it needs to be fixed for younger workers our children and grandchildren. The government has made promises it cannot afford to pay for with the current pay-as-you-go system.

* In 1950, there were 16 workers to support every one beneficiary of Social Security.

* Today, there are only 3.3 workers supporting every Social Security beneficiary.

* In 2008 just three short years from now baby boomers will begin to retire. And over the next few decades, people will be living longer and benefits are scheduled to increase dramatically. By the time todays youngest workers turn 65, there will only be 2 workers supporting each beneficiary.

o Under the current system, todays 30-year-old worker will face a 27% benefit cut when he or she reaches normal retirement age.

Instead of scaring seniors with false claims about "possible" Republican efforts to cut Social Security for today's seniors, Sheldon Whitehouse should be responsible enough to offer his own comprehensive plan. But that's too hard. It's easier to demagogue the President and "the wealthy." Note his solution:
We can protect Social Security too. We just need the courage to tell the voters were going to lift the limit on Social Security withholding from $90,000 to $120,000. That makes a lot more sense than cutting benefits and we can keep Social Security solvent for decades to come.
See, it's that easy? Now, I'll grant Whitehouse this: his "comprehensive" proposal could be part of a larger solution. But it'll take much more than that to vouchsafe Social Security for future generations. Of course, those future generations aren't present-day voters, are they?

UPDATE: In addition to this post by Don Hawthorne, the Heritage Foundation is a good resource for info on the entire Social Security debate. For instance, here is more info on when/how much the shorfall will be. And here is more on how the current Social Security Reform debate is about FUTURE, not PRESENT expenditures. In short, today's senior citizens have nothing to worry about when it comes to their own social security. They'll continue to get much more than what they originally paid in....

Don't Put Those "New" Unaffiliated in the Chafee Column Just Yet

Marc Comtois

Nathan Gonzales at the Rothenberg Political Report has done some analysis of those new unaffiliated voters for which Senator Chafee received so much credit for turning a couple months back. Not so fast:

...a Republican who is pulling for Chafee...[told] me that most of the changes in registration werent generated by Chafees effort. The Chafee campaign did bump up the number of switchers [from Democrat to unaffiliated], but the lions share of those changes were routine, the GOP source said.

But how could 13,596 Democrats switching to unaffiliated be routine? Why would they have switched except to vote for Chafee in the primary? Unfortunately, Ill have to offer a few more numbers to explain why Chafee has received too much credit for the switches.

While most of the focus has been on Democrats switching registration to unaffiliated, a total of 3,768 Republicans also switched to unaffiliated. We dont know why they switched, but nobody is suggesting that they did so to vote in the Democratic primary or because of an orchestrated effort to get them to switch. I suppose that means their switches were routine they simply no longer wanted to identify with the GOP.

Interestingly, the 3,768 Republicans who switched to unaffiliated constituted 5.3 percent of the roughly 71,000 registered Republicans in the state at the June 13 deadline for switching party registration. The 13,596 Democrats who switched to unaffiliated constituted 5.4 percent of the roughly 250,000 Democrats.

In other words, there is little statistical difference between the proportion of Republicans and Democrats who switched to unaffiliated; they switched at the same rate. Given that, it hardly seems logical to read the switches from Democratic to unaffiliated as a dramatic development that will be a huge advantage to Chafee.

(via Greg Pollowitz at Sixers)

July 20, 2006

Senator Chafee's Foreign Policy Ideology

Marc Comtois

Once again, Senator Chafee has exhibited his prediliction to blame President Bush. (But thanks for the support Mrs. Bush!). I heard this on Rush Limbaugh yesterday, and now the transcript is up. Sen. Chafee was interviewed by NBC's David Gregory about the conflict going on in Lebanon and Israel.

Gregory says, "In effect the United States wants to allow Israel to have more time to complete what they see as a vital operation. Is that how you see it, Senator Chafee? Is that an important way and the right way to proceed?"

CHAFEE: I disagree with the president on the root cause of what's occurring here. I see the root cause of what's occurring in the failure of the road map. And the president talked the last four years about "a viable, contiguous Palestinian state living side by side with Israel," and the road map was supposed to lead in that direction. And so many missed opportunities I see. The summer of 2003 when we had a great opportunity to push the ceasefire that occurred then, in the summer of 2001. Then with the death of Yasser Arafat and the election, overwhelming majority of Palestinians voting for Abu Mazen on a platform of peace. These were opportunities that we didn't take advantage of.

RUSH: And the next question is: "Do you think that the US is wrong at this pointed to allow Israel to steno?"

CHAFEE: I think there should be a ceasefire and I disagree with the administration on that. I think immediate ceasefire and as this spreads, has the danger of going throughout the Muslim world, uh -- and that's from Morocco to Indonesia, having this unrest spread in the Muslim world...

RUSH: Where's this guy been? We need a ceasefire? All this is Bush's fault? He needs to be defeated. It's about time we get rid of these -- whatever you want to characterize Linc Chafee as being -- out of the Senate. This is absurd. It's Bush's fault! Bush missed the opportunities? There needs to be a ceasefire? All a ceasefire is is a period of time for the bad guys to arm up again and come back with even bigger and stronger and more weapons than they were using before the first time. It's like Bolton said: Ceasefire with terrorists? How in the world do you negotiate that? You don't! All the while, by the way, George Bush is helping Linc Chafee in his reelection effort just as he helped Arlen Specter. But Chafee's fallen five points behind in Rhode Island, and feels he has to come out and bite the hand that feeds him in order to boost his poll numbers up. This is not exactly the display of the execution of core principles.

Actually, I'd disagree with Rush on that last bit. This is exactly "the display of the execution of core principles" on the part of Senator Chafee (to be fair, I believe Rush was referring to the national GOP). Senator Chafee apparently believes that terrorist organizations can be counted on to engage in good faith diplomacy and lumps them in with regular nation-states to boot (something that is becoming all too common). One of Senator Chafee's core principles is a belief in the power of the peace process even when it is shown to be worthless thanks to the intransigence of some of its participants (the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah....Syria). To Senator Chafee, such faithlessness on the part of Hamas or Hezbolla is not to be blamed: the real culprit is the foreign policy failure of the Bush Administration. Thus, Senator Chafee's first inclination is to always blame--or doubt (Afghanistan)--American actions. Yes, sometimes he can be convinced to change his mind (like after a trip to Iraq), but he usually ends up reverting to his first inclination.

The dark spectre of Vietnam lays at the heart of Senator Chafee's foreign policy ideology. He has compared Iraq to Vietnam, telling Dan Yorke that we're in "another Vietnam" and that Iraq is a "quagmire." During a budget debate, he stated: "There are a lot of similarities between the Great Society and war in Vietnam, and the tax cuts and war in Iraq....We are doing it all over again."

These are only a couple anecdotal clues, but I think that they indicate that Senator Chafee has not, in fact, gotten over Vietnam. His entire frame of reference for the contemporary intersection of foreign policy and international conflict has been forever shaped by his personal experiences--and the opinions they helped to form--35 years ago during the Vietnam War. He seems unable to come to grips with the fact that not every war is "another Vietnam," nor, for that matter, is every war time administration "just like LBJ's."

Senator Chafee's foreign policy ideology is a combination of a Vietnam-shaped predisposition to blame America first and an internationalist belief in a peace process that boils down to "process for process' sake." The result is that Senator Chafee never seems to blame those who are truly at fault for a breakdown in peace.

July 19, 2006

Chafee and Laffey on Immigration II, Part 3

Carroll Andrew Morse

There are a numbers of issues regarding border security only peripherally discussed in Katherine Greggs Chafee v. Laffey immigration article that need to be noted in any truly comprehensive discussion of immigration policy.

  1. Senator Chafee voted against an amendment to the Senate immigration bill that would have required the Secretary of Homeland security to certify that the border security provisions authorized by the bill were fully completed and are fully operational before any guest worker or amnesty program could be implemented. The Senator did vote for a less-specific alternative requiring the President to find that guest worker and amnesty programs strengthen the national security of the United States before implementing them.
  2. Senator Chafee voted in favor of an amendment authorizing 370 miles of fencing along Americas border with Mexico. (Senator Jack Reed was one of just 16 Senators who voted against the amendment).
  3. However, just last week, Senator Chafee voted against appropriating $1,800,000,000 in Homeland Security funding to build the fence. According to the Washington Times, some Senators opposed funding the fencing because they believed this particular amendment cut too deeply into the Homeland Security budget
    Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who historically has fought to increase border security and enforcement of federal immigration laws, was among those who opposed Mr. Session's amendment.

    Mr. Session's amendment would have required across-the-board cuts to the rest of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Mr. Gregg said, which would mean cutting 750 new border-patrol agents and 1,200 new detention beds for illegal aliens that he included in the bill.

    "We've attempted very hard to increase Border Patrol agents in this bill, increase detention beds," he said. "And, yes, we haven't funded the wall specifically as a result of our efforts to do these increases."

    Whatever the reason, at the moment, border fencing has not yet been funded. Senator Chafee also voted against appropriating $86,000,000 to hire 800 additional full time active duty investigators to investigate immigration laws violations.
  4. Mayor Laffey has expressed a border-security and enforcement-first position on immigration, saying that he would support a guest-worker program after the country secured its borders and enforced its laws. Katherine Gregg's Projo article describes the Chafee campaigns criticism of the Mayors position
    Chafee's own mailer says Laffey's get-tough rhetoric now is at odds with his February 2005 suggestion on talk radio that "we should recruit illegal labor at the border," and his well-publicized April 2005 announcement that Cranston would accept identification cards issued by the embassies of Guatemala and Mexico as legal identification. Chafee called them: "illegal immigration cards."
    In response, the Laffey campaign points out that foreign nationals who legally enter the country under rules governing guest-workers should not be grouped together with illegal immigrants
    "Nowhere in the article does Mayor Laffey say he supports recruiting illegal immigrants," she said. "Rather, Mayor Laffey said he would support a guest-worker program after the country secured its borders and enforced its laws . . . much like the legal guest-worker programs we have today. "
    Further discussion on the consular ID issue is available here.

July 18, 2006

Chafee and Laffey on Immigration II, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

In addition to their differences over the basic principle of offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, Republican Senatorial candidates Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey have differences of opinion regarding specific provisions in the recently passed Senate immigration bill.

1. The Senate bill applies Federal labor rules that apply only to Americans working on Federally-contracted projects to foreign guest workers working on any kind of project. National Reviews Kate OBeirne (via Mickey Kaus) explains

The bill extends Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisionstypically the areas union wage that applies only to construction on federal projects under current lawto all occupations (e.g. roofers, carpenters, electricians, etc.) covered by Davis-Bacon. So guest-workers (but not citizen workers) must be paid Davis-Bacon wage rates for jobs in the private sector if their occupation is covered by Davis-Bacon. Presumably because Senate Democrats union bosses thought this provision too modest, an amendment by Senator Barack Obama, approved by voice vote, extended Davis-Bacon wages rates to all private work performed by guest workers, even if their occupations are not covered by Davis-Bacon.
Steve Laffey opposes the Davis-Bacon extension on the grounds that it would guarantee foreign workers greater salaries than American employees working in the same industry.

2. The Senate bill allows currently illegal immigrants to receive Social Security credit for work done while illegally in the US. Here are the short versions of the arguments for and against this policy as provided in the Washington Times by Senators John Ensign and John McCain...

The Senate voted yesterday to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment -- even if the job was obtained through forged or stolen documents.

"There was a felony they were committing, and now they can't be prosecuted. That sounds like amnesty to me," said Sen. John Ensign, the Nevada Republican who offered the amendment yesterday to strip out those provisions of the immigration reform bill....

"We all know that millions of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for years and sometimes decades while they work to contribute to our economy," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

"The Ensign amendment would undermine the work of these people by preventing lawfully present immigrant workers from claiming Social Security benefits that they earned before they were authorized to work in our community," he said. "If this amendment were enacted, the nest egg that these immigrants have worked hard for would be taken from them and their families."

Senator Chafee voted against the specific amendment (offered by Senator Ensign) that would have disallowed work done by illegal immigrants from counting towards Social Security benefits. Steve Laffey has criticized the Senator for this vote.

Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang (as quoted in Katherine Gregg's Projo article) explains the Senator's positions on these aspects of immigration policy as follows

Lang said the expansion of the Davis-Bacon Act "was brought in as a compromise to get the bill through," and Chafee viewed it as "part and parcel" of a bipartisan compromise that would increase fencing along the border, authorize the deployment of the National Guard and provide a pathway to citizenship.

On Social Security benefits, he said, Chafee indeed supports "the principle that people who have worked and paid into the system for years should be able to get the benefits they paid for" after the payment of back taxes and a fine qualifies them for citizenship.

Coming in part 3: The other one-third of the immigration debate

Chafee and Laffey on Immigration II, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

Katherine Gregg describes about two-thirds of the immigration debate, within the context of the Rhode Island Senate race, in todays Projo. I say two-thirds because the immigration "issue" actually consists of multiple issues

  • Will America secure its borders and enforce its existing immigration laws?
  • Will America modify its existing laws allowing foreign nationals to work legally in the US?
  • What should America do about the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already here?
Ms. Greggs article almost exclusively confines itself to the subjects of guest worker and amnesty policies.

Here's the background. On May 25 of this year, the Senate passed its version of immigration reform. The key provision of the Senate bill is the so-called Martinez-Hagel compromise that divides illegal immigrants currently within the United States into three groups. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for more than 5 years are immediately eligible to pay for amnesty with back taxes and fines. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for between 2 and 5 years are able to enter the pay-for-amnesty program after returning to a valid point of entry into the US. Illegal immigrants who have been in the US for less than 2 years can only stay if they became "guest workers". The defining characteristic of "guest workers" versus other categories of non-citizens legally in America is that "guest workers" are only allowed to stay in the US for as long as they are employed.

Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of the Senate bill. Steve Laffey, his challenger in the Republican primary, would have voted against...

A spokeswoman for Laffey said he would not have voted -- as Chafee did -- for the compromise bill creating a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million to 12 million people living in the United States illegally that cleared the Senate in May with support from the likes of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.
Mayor Laffey opposes the amnesty provisions of the Martinez-Hagel compromise. Under the right circumstances, he would support the creation of a guest worker program. Senator Chafee, on the other hand, voted in favor of an amendment that would have replaced the 3-tiered system with an even looser system -- amnesty for illegal immigrants within the borders of the United States as of January 1, 2006. The amendment failed by a vote of 37-61.

Coming in part 2: Bringing home the Davis-Bacon...

July 14, 2006

Poll Fodder for the Weekend

Marc Comtois

Taken from the ProJo's 7to7 blog:

A new poll by the independent pollster Rasmussen Reports finds Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, edging ahead of incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, 46 percentage points to 41.

The margin of error in the poll of 500 likely voters was 4.5 percent, according to Rasmussen Reports.

If Republicans nominate Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, Whitehouse would have a larger lead: 57 percent to 29 percent, according to Rasmussen.

The independent pollster has run surveys in Rhode Island for several months. The polls show a positive trend for Whitehouse.

In early June, Rasmussen reported that Whitehouse trailed Chafee by two points. An earlier poll in April showed Whitehouse trailing Chafee by three points.

None of the Rasmussen polls have tested Chafee against Laffey.

The governor's race remains neck-and-neck, with Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty, a Democrat, one point ahead of incumbent Republican Governor Carcieri, 43 percent to 42 percent. The two have been within a point of each other in the last three Rasmussen polls.

July 11, 2006

The Latest Anti-Laffey Tactical Maneuver

Carroll Andrew Morse

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Cranston City Council have made formal objections to a letter from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey that was included in Cranstons 2007 tax bills. The Cranston City Council has passed a resolution asking the Mayor to reimburse the city for the mailing, while the NRSC objection is in the form of a Federal Election Commission complaint.

The content making this mailing controversial (in the minds of some) is a discussion of Cranston's fiscal history and current fiscal situation. Heres Mark Arsenault in the Projo on what the letter says

Laffey's letter to Cranston residents promoted his accomplishments in office, and urged residents to watch out for fiscal traps that could affect their tax bills in the future. The letter reads in part: "I am humbled and honored to have served as your Mayor over the past four years. When I signed up for the job, I did so with the sole intent of putting Cranston back on its feet, and I am happy to say that together, we have succeeded beyond our expectations!" The letter also compares the city's fiscal conditions now to four years ago, when Cranston's finances were nearly taken over by the state because of deficits and low bond ratings.

Laffey has sent similar letters to residents in past years, as have previous administrations.

Matt Sanderson of the Cranston Herald goes into a few more specifics
In the full-page letter from Laffey, who is running for U.S. Senate, he states what he calls his accomplishments in the past four years, such as reducing taxes by 1.5 percent, going from an $11.7 million deficit to a $20 million surplus and going up five notches in bond ratings and being the fastest turn-around in the nation. He also praises the 20 percent health care co-pay for city workers, and the new crossing guard program that he says saves the city $500,000 a year.
The letter makes no mention of the U.S Senate campaign.

1. From a self-consistency standpoint, I understand the Cranston City Councils position. As Democrats, they believe that people should simply pay whatever the government tells them to pay and not expect to receive any information about where the money is going or what the forecast for the future is. Alas, it is all too unsurprising that this has apparently become the national Republican position also.

2. This example shows, despite the claims to the contrary, campaign finance regulation is synonymous with broad speech regulation. The NRSC now wants to use Federal campaign finance laws to prevent local officials from communicating with their constituents on local matters.

3. I have my June 2006 constituent mailing from Senator Chafees office. The footer says Prepared, Published & Mailed At Taxpayer Expense. The middle section of the mailing says

I [Senator Lincoln Chafee] have spearheaded a provision which would transfer control of the Fox Point hurricane Barrier to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has the resources and expertise to ensure the barrier is properly maintained. Moreover, I have cosponsored legislation to streamline emergency response communications to ensure that all responders can effectively communicate with other state, local, and federal entities in the event of a catastrophe. I have also cosponsored legislation to allow New England states and Canadian provinces to share resources and personnel in a time of emergency.
And the difference between Senator Chafee touting his Senatorial accomplishments in an official mailing and Mayor Laffey touting his Mayoral accomplishments in an official mailing is?

Note that I am not arguing that the Senator should not be allowed to tout his accomplishments, just that other politicians should have the same rights as Senators. As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out on occasion, our Constitution prohibits the granting of titles of nobility and...

One characteristic of the titled nobility was its immunity from some legal rules laid on the commoners.

4. As techology moves forward, there is a good chance that the the issue of money will become less central to this debate. For example, suppose 30 years from now 90% of people get most of their civic information in an electronic format. Electrons are free. What rationale do you think the NRSC and the Cranston City Council will come up in this scenario for explaining why their elected political opponents shouldnt be allowed to communicate with their constituents?

July 6, 2006

Ian Donnis Sets Up the Republican Senate Stretch Run

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ian Donnis sets up the stretch run for the Rhode Island Republican Senate primary in this week's Providence Phoenix...

With recent polls showing the two Republicans in a neck-and-neck race, [Steve] Laffey's Senate hopes will live or die on how well he can extend support beyond his conservative base in the state's tiny Republican Party. Most Rhode Island voters are independents and it is they who will likewise decide [Lincoln] Chafee's fate. And with little more than three months until the September 12 primary, the sizzling campaign -- already marked by a steady stream of back-and-forth negative advertising between both camps -- is about to shift into a higher gear.
Despite a few quibbles here and there (for instance, Donnis goes with the "moderate" label for Senator Chafee, when Senator Chafee's record tends to be moderate on tax-and-spend issues, but liberal on almost everything else of importance, averaging out somewhere well to the left of moderate; or maybe Senator Chafee really does seem moderate if you hang out with Phoenix staffers all day long) Donnis' article is an excellent view of what the non-political junkies who make up the bulk of the electorate are/will be seeing as they begin to pay closer attention the Senate race as primary day draws closer. As they say, "read the whole thing".

If readers mention in the comments that they find certain sections especially interesting or important, I'll excerpt them for a more specific discussion.

June 29, 2006

Laffey and Chafee on Yorke Show

Marc Comtois

{NB: This started as a brief re-cap of Mayor Steve Laffey's amicable return to the Dan Yorke show. Subsequently, State GOP Party official Chuck Newton and Senator Lincoln Chafee appeared.}

Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey and WPRO's Dan Yorke have buried the hatchet, hence, Laffey was on Yorke's show today to discuss the Senate race and why he would not be attending what he considers to be tonight's "fixed" RI GOP convention.

For the first time that I've heard, Laffey took on the accusation that he wasn't "senatorial" enough. He stated that if being "Senatorial" meant hanging out with Robert Byrd and doing nothing, then he never would be "Senatorial." He said that he's a reformer and that the actions of the Senate show that things need to be shaken up and that he plans on doing just that.

From there, he also explained that he wanted to shake the hold that the Old Line members have on the State GOP. He said they're happy with the scraps they get from the Democrats, don't want to rock the boat (and just want to collect fees for services) and they didn't want to win. He than offered that, "Luckily those people are old and are dying." He said that he's interested in building the State Party anew, from the ground up. Finally, he noted that Cranston was the only place that has seen a growth in GOP registrations in Rhode Island. He also that Governor Carcieri was not part of the Old Guard and affirmed his support for the Governor and his agenda.

Chances are that Yorke will have the audio somewhere here, eventually.

UPDATE: Chuck Newton of the RI GOP called in after Laffey and was on. When asked about Mayor Laffey skipping the convention, Newton stated that they'd been trying convince Laffey to attend. Newton observed that Laffey has been "bragging" about being the only real Republican and then he is stiffing the GOP convention. According to Newton, politics is about process and the convention
is part of that process.

Yorke offered that perhaps Laffey was afraid of getting "his head handed to him." To this, Newton mentioned that someone had pointed out that at the straw poll in Newport a few weeks ago, Laffey didn't show up at, but he won. Thus, Newton didn't know if a fear of losing was keeping Laffey away.

Newton also believes that an endorsement of Chafee is not a "slam dunk." Though he did assert that the Laffey campaign hasn't been focusing on convincing the delegates of the state central committee to vote for him.

SIDE NOTE: By the way, I'm awaiting the Mea Culpas from those who stated that Sen. Chafee would be running as an Independent. (Just stirring the pot).

UPDATE II: Senator Chafee spoke with Yorke on the air during the 5 O'Clock hour and offered two basic themes. His primary point was that he was the only electable Republican vs. Whitehouse, especially since Mayor Laffey enjoys nearly 100% name recognition and still polls 30 points lower than Whitehouse. Secondarily, Chafee believes that Laffey is being disrespectful to the GOP by not showing up at the convention.

June 23, 2006

Sheldon Whitehouse Lurches Beyond the Democratic Mainstream

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to his television ads, Rhode Island Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse wants American troops to leave Iraq "by the end this year".

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate rejected a measure sponsored by Senator John Kerry that would have required most American troops to leave Iraq by mid-2007 by a vote of 13-86.

The overwhelming margin of defeat of the amendment shows how far outside of the mainstream Sheldon Whitehouse is. His ideas on Iraq lie outside not just the national mainstream, but far to the left of the conensus of the national Democratic party. Is a candidate who promotes the foreign policy ideas of the radical fringe really a suitable representative of the citizens of Rhode Island?

June 20, 2006

Just a Note: Giuliani Endorses Chafee

Marc Comtois

I'm sure everyone will let me know if I missed this already, but included in his new website "Solutions America", Rudy Giuliani has a section for those Republicans he has endorsed. For Rhode Island, he has endorsed Lincoln Chafee, which really isn't a big surprise. But perhaps the bigger point is the whole concept of this website. Why have it? Apparently, the "Solutions America" organization has been around since 1998. Nonetheless, the effort to publicize the website launch seems to be a clear indication that Giuliani is engaged in some base-building for an '08 Presidential run.

June 17, 2006

Democrats Crossing the Line

Marc Comtois

According to this morning's ProJo:

More than 14,500 Rhode Island Democrats have switched their voter affiliations within the past six months to participate in the Sept. 12 Republican primary, a figure that experts say will probably help incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee in his campaign against Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey.

State elections records compiled by the secretary of state's office show that 13,596 Democrats switched their affiliations to independent -- or unaffiliated in the state's political argot -- which would make them eligible to vote in the primary. An additional 987 Democrats switched to Republican, thus making them eligible to vote in the GOP primary.

That's quite a number, especially given the historic turnout of a GOP primary. I wonder if all of the switching has to do with the Laffey / Chafee race, though. Governor Carcieri does face a primary challenger this fall, too, and many believe that traditionally Democrat labor unions are quietly behind Michaud's candidacy. Let's not forget that. I'm also not so sure that all of this party switching augers as well for Sen. Chafee as most of the experts believe.

I would bet that many Democrats simply don't think that Laffey can win state wide. So, they believe that by disaffiliating and voting in the GOP primary they can kill the two biggest GOP birds with one stone. Should Laffey and Michaud win, Democrats no doubt believe that both Whitehouse and Fogerty would roll to general election wins. Of course, any such forecasting doesn't take into account that the vast majority of independent RI voters may not appreciate the genius of such political calculations.

June 16, 2006

Laffey Responds to the Latest Chafee Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Laffey campaign has responded to the Chafee campaign's latest round of broadcast advertising, going as far as to say that the Chafee campaign is "putting forth utter lies against his primary opponent Mayor Steve Laffey in an attempt to save his political career from impending disaster".

The Laffey campaign takes extreme exception to three claims made by the Chafee campaign. The first two are made in Chafee TV ads...

1. Laffey swore to fight special interests. Instead he gave a city vendor a secret no-bid contract in exchange for thousands in campaign contributions.
Citing a Providence Journal article from November 19, 2005 as support, the Laffey campaign details why they believe the use of the terms "secret" and "no-bid" is not accurate...
  • The City of Cranston engaged in two projects with Nestor Traffic Systems. It is unclear which one Senator Chafee is referring to, but either way, he has his facts all wrong.
  • The first project was a contract the City of Cranston signed with Nestor Traffic Systems to test a system that measures the speed of passing cars in May of 2005. This contract was never a secret. In fact, Mayor Laffey held a press conference on May 8, 2005 announcing the contract. The Providence Journal was there and reported on it on May 9th, as well as multiple news stations.
  • The city did not require a bid because it was a mere $10 contract for a trial phase only. Had the City of Cranston decided to use the technology, it would have put the program out to bid for a long-term contract.
  • The second project occurred in June of 2005, when the City of Cranston awarded a bid to Nestor Traffic Systems for red light cameras AFTER the project went out to bid and Nestor was the lowest bidder. Nestor was awarded the bid by the Board of Contract and Purchase, which Mayor Laffey does not control.
Furthermore, the Chafee campaign has not presented evidence of a quid-pro-quo between Nestor and anyone in Cranston city government to support the "in exchange" claim. If we are to assume something unseemly is going on anytime government contractors make contributions to a campaign, should we apply the same standard to Federal elected officials also? For instance, if a Senator announces that a Federal contract for millions of dollars is being given to a corporation that will be doing work in his state, and then the Senator receives a campaign contribution from that corporation, should that contribution automatically be assumed to be tainted? I think that that's much too harsh a standard.

The second TV-ad complaint concerns Mayor Laffey's spending record in Cranston. Senator Chafee's ad says...

2. Stephen Laffey campaigned to cut spending, but once elected he increased spending nearly 20%.
As the Laffey campaign points out, in terms of percentage increase, the spending records of Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey over their first four years in office as Mayors are very similar. According to the sources cited in the Laffey press release, plus a few others (list)...
  • Cranston went from a budget of $186,000,000 the year before Mayor Laffey took over in Cranston to a budget of $226,200,000 in his fourth year as Mayor. That's an increase of $40,200,000 or 21.6%. Warwick went from a budget of $145,000,000 to a budget of $175,000,000 in Mayor Chafee's first four years in office, an increase of 20.6%
  • The increases in non-school department spending are also roughly similar. Cranston's non-school department budget went from about $90,500,000 in 2003 to $102,400,000 proposed for FY2007, an increase of 11.6%. Warwick went from $72,000,000 to $79,500,000, an increase of 10.4%
  • Warwick, however, already had a budget surplus when Lincoln Chafee took over as Mayor. Cranston was on the verge of bankruptcy when Steve Laffey came into office.
So ultimately, when the Chafee folks argue "look what he does, not what he says" in their negative ads, aren't they arguing a non-sequitur -- don't vote for the challenger, because he has the same record that our incumbent does!

The third complaint by the Laffey campaign is...

3. In his radio ad, Senator Chafee claims he supported the attack against the Taliban.
Marc has already discussed the substance of this claim...
It is incorrect to simply state that Sen. Chafee didn't support attacking the Taliban: he eventually did, even if with reservation. The fact is that Sen. Chafee did support the action and it is not correct to imply--as the Laffey ad does--that Sen. Chafee never supported attacking the Taliban.

The Laffey campaign's subsequent defense of their ad rests on the reluctance of Sen. Chafee to make a firm decision. To my mind, this defense of the actual ad is actually more compelling and (yes) truthful than the original.

Continue reading "Laffey Responds to the Latest Chafee Ads"

June 9, 2006

Chafee and Laffey on Immigration

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee's campaign is accusing Steve Laffey of offering "contradictory positions" on immigration policy...

In an article in the Washington newspaper, The Hill, Steve Laffey announced that he would have opposed the recent immigration bill, despite the fact that it has been supported by President Bush and leading Republicans in the Senate. In The Hill and other publications, Steve Laffey has offered contradictory positions on this contentious issue.
Senator Chafee's criticism of Mayor Laffey's immigration stance breaks down into two parts.

1. The Chafee campaign is critical of Mayor Laffeys 2005 decision to have the City of Cranston accept ID cards issued by the Mexican and Guatemalan governments as valid identification...

In April of 2005, Laffey announced that the City of Cranston would begin accepting an identification cards issued by embassies for the nations of Mexico and Guatemala, used extensively by illegal immigrants in the US that helps them obtain drivers licenses and government services.
According to the April 2005 Projo article cited by the Chafee campaign, the knock against consular identification cards is that they can be too easily forged...
In 2003, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and at the Homeland Security Department have testified before Congress that the cards, if fraudulently obtained, can be used to gain access to other documentation -- such as U.S. drivers' licenses. There have been several failed attempts in Congress to enact a nationwide ban on the cards.
The Chafee camapign believes acceptance of consular ID is not consistent with a position of "strict" immigration enforcement.

In the aforementioned Hill article, Laffey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik defends Mayor Laffey's decision

Soloveichik pointed out that the Justice Department has permitted the use of the cards, and she said they can be useful for temporary legal immigrants and also for police identifying illegal immigrants.
2. The second charge made by the Chafee campaign is that Mayor Laffey has flip-flopped his position on the rules that should exist for naturalizing (or not naturalizing) illegal immigrants currently in the US
Laffey now claims that he would not extend citizenship to illegal immigrants
The now implies that Mayor Laffey has changed his position. However, the references provided dont sustain this charge. Creation of a guest worker program for foreign nationals and setting naturalization rules for guest workers are distinct and separable issues. That Mayor Laffey has been consistent in his support of a guest worker program is not contested, while his position towards naturalizing guest workers, or any other illegal aliens, is not addressed in either reference from 2005 cited by the Chafee camp as contradicting the 2006 Hill article.

3. The Hill article also provides us with Mayor Laffeys criticism of Senator Chafees immigration record

In Rhode Island, Republican primary challenger Steve Laffey has singled out Chafee for being the only Republican to vote for an amendment to the immigration bill that would have allowed 12 million illegal immigrants to remain in the country and streamlined the legalization process.
The amendment that Senator Chafee voted for would have done away with the 3-tier Martinez-Hagel compromise(*) at the heart of the Senate immigration bill and 1) granted immediate amnesty to illegal immigrants in the U.S. as of January 1, 2006 and 2) placed illegal immigrants in the U.S. as of January 1, 2006 on an immediate path to citizenship.

Mayor Laffey also criticized Senator Chafee for his vote against another amendment regarding social security that failed by just one vote...

[Mayor Laffey] said Chafees votes on that amendment and against another amendment, which would have prevented legalized immigrants from collecting Social Security benefits for work they did as illegal immigrants, show just how far left Chafee has shifted.

Laffey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said Laffey would have voted against the overall bill.

In response, Chafee campaign spokesman Ian Lang defends the Senator's overall record on immigration
Chafee spokesman Ian Lang countered by noting that Chafees stance on immigration is similar to President Bushs and that the final bill makes the legalization process sufficiently difficult.
Given that Mayor Laffey is on record opposing the current Senate immigration bill, but also supports creation of a guest-worker program, it would be useful to know how the Mayor believes the current bill needs to be changed to be made into good law.

(*)The "Martinez-Hagel compromise" is the name for the provision of the Senate immigration bill which, if made into law, 1) will make illegal immigrants who have been in the US for 5 or more years eligible for immediate amnesty 2) will make illegal immigrants who have been in the United States between 2 and 5 years eligible for amensty if they first return to a legal point of entry into the US and 3) require illegal immigrants who have been here for less than 2 years to leave the country before qualifying for any "guest worker" program.

June 8, 2006

The Noonan-Bakst Resonance

Carroll Andrew Morse

Heres Peggy Noonan in todays OpinionJournal talking about Republicans, Democrats and taxes...

Democrats use complexity as a thing to hide behind when they talk about taxes. Republicans can say, and can mean, "I hate taxes and will cut them." Democrats can't say that, because they don't hate taxes and in fact will raise them. Though they will not say it. They will say, "Tax cuts on the top 10% of income earners are nonprogressive and unhelpful, and I will cut their tax cut, or hike their taxes, and in turn make commensurate cuts on the taxes of the most deserving lower income taxpayers, though not in a way that will negatively impact the deficit."

When voters hear this they know exactly what it means: We will raise taxes.

And here's Charles Bakst in today's Projo describing what may be a specific instance of Ms. Noonan's general principle
[Lincoln] Chafee opposed Mr. Bush's tax cuts. [Sheldon] Whitehouse's advertising calls for repeal of the "Bush tax cuts for the rich." [Steve] Laffey said the cuts are "very good for America," and if Whitehouse "thinks higher taxes are better, let him put forth that message." Ditto, he said, for Chafee.

Laffey wants to debate the tax cuts with these guys.

Any takers among the candidates and TV stations?

June 2, 2006

Laffey Claims Chafee Didn't Support Action in Afghanistan

Marc Comtois

Mayor Laffey is running a new radio ad that states that, in the aftermath of 9/11, Sen. Chafee did not support attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sen. Chafee disputes that claim and can point to his September 14, 2001 affirmative vote for authorizing Military force against those who attacked the U.S. on 9/11. The Chafee campaign has asked Laffey to pull the ad. The Laffey campaign has refused.

The Laffey camp defends its decision with the claim that their ad is refering to Sen. Chafee's initial objection to the use of military force against the Taliban. Further, they contend, given that Sen. Chafee did eventually support the action, his shifting position on Afghanistan provides an example of how reluctant Sen. Chafee is to make a decision on even fundamental matters.

As proof, the Laffey campaign is citing a ProJo story (fee required) from September 21, 2001. In it, the ProJo reported that Senator Chafee:

...balked at endorsing a punishing strike on the Taliban in the event that it fails to cooperate in the hunt for the terrorists. "In anything we do, we've got to take the long-term view. There are a lot of people that would like to be on our side that can't," Chafee said.
Further, on October 8, 2001, the Projo reported (fee req'd) that
The three Democrats in Rhode Island's Washington delegation yesterday lined up solidly behind President [Bush]'s decision to launch a military reprisal against Osama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan, but Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee declined comment on the attacks.

The attitudes of [Jack Reed], Kennedy and [James Langevin] were in line with the prevailing mood in Washington...

The next day (fee req'd), Sen. Chafee finally offered tepid--and worried--support for attacking the Taliban
Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, the lone Republican in Rhode Island's Washington delegation, said yesterday that he supports President Bush's decision to bomb Taliban targets in Afghanistan, but worries the military action will inflame anti-American opinion in other countries.

Chafee said he was waiting until he received more information and did not make statements until yesterday.

Finally, this story from December 2001 further supports the Laffey campaign's contention that Sen. Chafee was reluctant to pursue aggressive action in Afghanistan. In fact, Senator Chafee admits as much himself:
Senator Lincoln Chafee indicated today that he may have been wrong in his early doubts about the war in Afghanistan. Appearing on the WJAR-TV show "10 News Conference", Chafee said, "It is easy to admit when I am wrong. I could have been wrong on this" referring to the war. "I was apprehensive about going into Afghanistan" based on the unsuccessful Russian experience there. "We had not had success in our recent skirmishes in the area," he argued. "I came up through the Vietnam period. I have seen this country dragged through a bloody morass."
It is incorrect to simply state that Sen. Chafee didn't support attacking the Taliban: he eventually did, even if with reservation. The fact is that Sen. Chafee did support the action and it is not correct to imply--as the Laffey ad does--that Sen. Chafee never supported attacking the Taliban.

The Laffey campaign's subsequent defense of their ad rests on the reluctance of Sen. Chafee to make a firm decision. To my mind, this defense of the actual ad is actually more compelling and (yes) truthful than the original. As such, I would think that an ad that systematically presented the facts as listed above as proof of Sen. Chafee's pattern of always "considering" a tough issue and only making up his mind once his decision is essentially irrelevant (re: Alito) would have been just as effective and would have insulated the Laffey campaign from criticism. But then again, I'm no political consultant.

June 1, 2006

Club for Growth Poll Has Chafee and Laffey Tied

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to John E. Mulligan in the Projo

The conservative Club for Growth has released highlights of a poll that shows Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee in a statistical dead heat with his Republican primary challenger, Stephen P. Laffey.
Here are the numbers...
  • Sample size: 300, 84% Republican, 16% Independent
  • Statistical Margin of Error: 5.66%
  • Basic Result: Chafee 45.7%, Laffey 44.3%
  • Chafee Favorability: 45% Favorable/51% Unfavorable
  • Laffey Favorability: 52% Favorable/27% Unfavorable
Here are the reactions
Chafee campaign spokesman Ian Lang said the poll shows the senator ``in a strong position to win the primary, despite being hammered'' by ads financed by the Club for Growth. Lang called the poll ``a best-case scenario'' for Laffey because the sample had a high proportion of Republicans.
Laffey's campaign said in a statement, ``There are good polls and bad polls, and we don't pay much attention to any of them.''

Here Comes Anti-Chafee/Anti-Whitehouse Ad #1

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Laffey campaign has released its newest television ads. One is biographical and talks about Mayor Laffey's achievements as Mayor of Cranston. The other is a negative ad that makes the claim that Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse agree on all the issues, taxes, spending [and] national security. The ad goes on to say that Senator Chafee and Whitehouse are addicted to special interest money. Whitehouse has taken $150,000, Chafee over $600,000.

The dollar amounts presumably refer to the amount of money that Senator Chafee and former Attorney General Whitehouse have taken from political action committees. Data collected by the Federal Election Commission (current as of the last filing deadline) shows that Senator Chafee has received contributions from a mixture of business, labor, and ideological PACs and that Sheldon Whitehouse has taken the great bulk of his PAC contributions from either labor unions or from other Democratic politicians, with money from a few businesses and law-firms thrown in. The FEC website also lists that Steve Laffey has taken a total of $5,500 in contributions from two PACs, in addition to a number of in-kind contributions from the Club for Growth.

As long as candidates 1) are not manipulating the system to collect more money than is legally allowed 2) are not taking money from fringe groups and 3) are not taking money from groups diametrically opposed to their stated issue positions, I am disinclined to make much of an issue out of where campaign contributions come from, when I can discuss actual issues instead. I don't think that Lincoln Chafee, Steve Laffey, or Sheldon Whitehouse will change their issue positions because someone offers them a donation. The form of modern campaign fundraising is determined more by the maze of "reform" laws currently in place and not by any novel strategy on the part of candidates.

But the Chafee/Whitehouse comparison made in Laffey's ad goes right to the heart of the issue troubling many of Rhode Island's Republican voters. Are there any issues that Senator Chafee would like to talk about where he can meaningfully distinguish himself from a very liberal Democrat?

May 25, 2006

Here Comes Anti-Laffey Ad #3

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Chafee campaign has released its newest television ad. They've eschewed the cartoon characters of the previous negative ad, and gone with a traditional I'm good because I've been photographed in color; my opponent is bad because he's been photographed in black-and-white attack ad.

The ad takes a couple of swipes at Steve Laffey's record as Mayor of Cranston that will be familiar to people who have been following the campaign (I'll link to the ad as soon as it appears on the Chafee website)...

"[Mayor Laffey] promised spending cuts. Instead he raised spending nearly 20% and raised taxes again and again and again".
The Laffey campaign has already issued a rebuttal. According to figures the Laffey campaign has compiled from Providence Journal reports, Chafee raised taxes more times as Mayor of Warwick than Laffey has as Mayor of Cranston...
As Mayor of Warwick, Lincoln Chafee consistently proposed tax increases despite the absence of a financial crisis:
  • FY 94: 5.0% tax increase
  • FY 95: 2.6% tax increase
  • FY 96: 4.4% tax increase
  • FY 97: 1.9% tax increase
Mayor Laffey led Cranston from financial ruin to financial success:
  • FY 04: 3.5% tax increase(*)
  • FY 05: 4.3% tax increase
  • FY 06: 0% (tax freeze)
  • FY 07: -1.5% (tax cut)
(*)[UPDATE: Mayor Laffey also applied a one-time 12.8% tax-surcharge in his first term in dealing with Cranston's fiscal crisis.]

Obviously neither candidate has any objection to raising taxes to pay for the things they believe to be important. A real debate on tax policy should center on 1) what spending the candidates believe to be important 2) what spending the candidates believe can be eliminated (if the answer is "none" then tax-increases might be justified) and 3) why the candidates believe their plans for taxing and spending are sustainable.

Equally obvious is the fact that this ad is an attempt by the Chafee campaign to neutralize the Senator's political problems originating with his consistent support for high tax rates.

May 19, 2006

Senator Chafee's FEC Complaint Against Mayor Laffey: A Bundle of Information About Bundling

Carroll Andrew Morse

The most recent press release issued by the Chafee campaign concerning their Federal Election Commission complaint against the Laffey campaign may leave people with two mistaken impressions...

In an interview with News Channel 12, Mayor Steve Laffey has admitted that his campaign never reported the approximately $300,000 it received from the Club for Growth in its Federal Election Commission forms, a direct violation of FEC law.

Mayor Laffey initially characterized the formal complaint as filled with frivolous and baseless charges. When asked by News Channel 12, however, Laffey freely admitted that the special interest group, the Club for Growth, appears nowhere in his FEC filing. Laffey responded to questions about whether or not the campaign had reported that the Club for Growth had bundled the approximately $300,000 in campaign contributions by stating no we didnt, nor did we think wed have to.

One mistaken impression is that the FEC complaint concerns contributions made by the Club for Growth and not by individual donors. The other mistaken impression is that the Laffey campaign failed to report the receipt of a large sum of money to the FEC.

What Mayor Laffey is trying to explain in the second paragraph is that his campaign did report receiving the contributions, but did not report that they were bundled. What, you ask, does that mean?

Sources familiar with various points of the fundraising chain explain bundling as follows. The Club for Growth collects checks made out directly to the Laffey campaign, literally places them into a bundle (like a Federal Express package) and mails them to Laffey headquarters. The Laffey campaign makes an appropriate campaign finance filing for each individual donation in the bundle and counts the amount of each donaiton against the contribution limit of the individual who made it.

Campaign finance law is explicit about how bundled contributions are to be treated

Anyone who receives and forwards an earmarked contribution to a candidate committee is considered a conduit or intermediary

Individuals, political committees, unregistered committees and partnerships may act as conduits for earmarked contributions

An earmarked contribution is considered to have been made by the original contributor, thus counting against his or her contribution limit with respect to the recipient candidate. The conduits own contribution limit is normally not affected unless the conduit exercises direction or control over the contributors choice of recipient candidate

The conduit must forward an earmarked contribution to the recipient authorized committee within 10 days. The conduits report to the recipient (described below) must be forwarded along with the contribution

An earmarked contribution must be reported by both the conduit (political committee or unregistered entity) and the recipient authorized committee.

What the Laffey campaign apparently has not been doing, which it is legally required to do, is the last item -- making a record of which of its donations have arrived in bundled packages.

But if the Laffey campaign has been diligently recording the appropriate information about all of the individual donations that comprise the bundles, then this is not a Matt Brown-type attempt to circumvent campaign finance limits by tapping donors multiple times in excess of what they are legally allowed to give. The contributions involved in the Chafee complaint are 1) from individuals who want to give money to the Laffey campaign, 2) from individuals who are giving money directly to the Laffey campaign and not through some network of PAC or party committee intermediate accounts and 3) from individuals who have not maxed out for the year on what they are allowed to give to the Laffey campaign.

If the Chafee campaign is alleging that there is money from unaccounted sources in the Laffey campaign account, they need to clarify that point.

May 17, 2006

Chafee Campaign Files FEC Complaint

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Projos 7-to-7 blog, Lincoln Chafees campaign has filed a formal Federal Elections Commission complaint against Steve Laffeys camapaign

In a letter sent to the FEC today, Chafee's camp complained about a few specific moves, including circumstances surrounding Vincent Indeglias letter to his employees at American Labor Services, Inc; possible misrepresentation of mailing related expenditures in FEC filings; and a failure to identify the Club for Growth as the conduit for more than $200,000 in donations

Laffey, through a spokeswoman, dismissed the complaint.

"Senator Chafees complaints are completely baseless and frivolous, and one of the last gasps of a desperate campaign of a Washington insider," Laffey said.

RI Senate Candidates on Cape Wind

Carroll Andrew Morse

Legislation targeted to kill the Cape Wind project is still pending in the United States Senate. Cape Wind proposes building a set of windmills in Nantucket Sound that would be capable of generating three-fourths of the electricity consumed by Cape Cod.

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, working with Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, wants to insert an amendment into the Coast Guard Appropriation Bill that would allow the Governor of Massachusetts to veto construction of the project even if it is approved by all of the relevant regulatory authorities. (Once again, a Democrat shows himself to be in favor of unchecked executive authority when it suits his policy agenda). Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, also a Cape Wind opponent, will likely veto the project if the Senate amendment passes.

Senator Lincoln Chafee opposes the amendment blocking the development of Cape Wind

"[Cape Wind] is a win-win for Rhode Island. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to discontinue their improper attempt to derail this project and allow the people of New England to benefit from economic growth, a cleaner environment, and more affordable sources of energy.

With unprecedented increases in conventional energy prices, wind energy generation is a promising option to provide much needed relief to New England. It is clean and renewable; and projects such as this will help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. In addition, termination of this project will have a negative impact on Rhode Island's economy and discourage future offshore projects in America"

Steve Laffey also supports the development of Cape Wind
I am 100% in favor of Cape Wind. And every Rhode Islander should know that, in my understanding, all of the production work and all the manufacturing jobs will be in Quonset.

To win the War for the Free World we have to develop solar and wind power at a great rate on the par of putting a man on the moon. We have to start now. We should have started 5 or 10 years ago.

I contacted the campaign of Sheldon Whitehouse three times over the past two weeks to inquire about Mr. Whithouses position on Cape Wind. Each time his staff politely and professionally took my question and said they would pass it along to the candidate.

However, as of the time of this posting, the Whitehouse campaign has not provided an answer. This really should be a no-brainer for a candidate who claims that making America energy independent is an issue of importance to him.

Sheldon Whitehouses First TV Ads

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Sheldon Whitehouse campaign for US Senate has produced its first set of television ads. One advertisement lists a number of reasonably specific policy proposals

  • Scrapping the failed Medicare prescription drug plan and replacing it with a simpler one that lowers costs,
  • Repealing the Bush tax cuts for the Rich,
  • Imposing a windfall profits tax on big oil
  • Doubling our commitment to Pell Grants,
  • Getting our troops out of Iraq by the end of this year
The second ad states a number of broad goals, but is thin on the specific means to be used to achieve them. The themes are...
  • Make America energy independent
  • Lower cost of healthcare
  • Quality education
  • Secure retirement
  • Get out of Iraq

First question for Candidate Whitehouse, with regards to the second ad: With the exception of the fifth goal (Get out of Iraq), which of opponents does he believe is opposed to goals 1 through 4?

Ending Earmarks Express Comes to Rhode Island Today

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Ending Earmarks Express is in Rhode Island today (and will be met in Westerly by Steve Laffey's Rhody Reformer). The earmark being highlighted is a $200,000 grant for an animal shelter that was insterted into the 2005 Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill...

Todays Egregious Earmark: $200,000 in Federal Housing Funds to Build a New state-of-the-art, 12,000-square-foot Animal Facility in Westerly, Rhode island, which will include a huge dog obedience school

The Westerly Sun newspaper wrote about U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafees visit to Stand Up For Animals to announce the earmark:

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, guest of honor at the Stand Up for Animals major gifts campaign kickoff to fund a new town animal shelter, had a gift of his own to contribute Thursday. Chafee announced a $200,000 federal grant for the project, noting that the funds have been approved by a subcommittee of the Housing and Urban Development's appropriation committee in Washington.

According to the Ending Earmarks Express website, to qualify as an egregious earmark, an earmark must meet at least two of the following criteria
  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the Presidents budget request or the previous years funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.
The goal of Americans for Prosperity, sponsor of the Ending Earmarks Express, is to introduce more accountability and transparency into the Federal budgeting process.

May 12, 2006

Chafee Votes Against Progressive Tax Cuts

Marc Comtois

As had been predicted, Senator Chafee voted against the reaffirmation of President Bush's tax cuts. Meanwhile, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee has discovered that lower taxes are actually more "Progressive":

Debate over changes in the tax code often focuses on who benefits most from such changes. Most of this debate hinges on tax distribution tables that measure the impact of tax law changes on the tax liabilities of various income groups. However, many newspaper articles and think tank reports fail to consider the current progressivity of the existing tax code when discussing the benefits of tax cuts for various income groups.

For example, it is important to note that up to 40 percent of federal income tax filers cannot receive further tax relief because these taxpayers do not in effect pay federal income taxes. Millions of families, many in the bottom fifth, have either zero tax liability or receive a net transfer from the government due to the refundable portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or the Child Tax Credit (CTC).

In addition, millions of people do not earn enough to file a tax return. Hence, these nonfilers, plus many of those that file tax returns in the bottom fifth, do not actually pay federal income taxes and, due to the refundable portion of the EITC and/or the CTC, many do not in effect pay payroll taxes.

Here [PDF] is the brief, 2-page report. Included is this nice chart that lays it all out (via TaxProf):


The top one percent of tax filers paid 34.27 percent of federal personal income taxes in 2003, while the top ten percent accounted for 65.84 percent of these taxes. To be counted in the top one percent, taxpayers needed an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $295,495 or more. The 2003 AGI cut-off amount for the top ten percent was $94,891, while the cut-off amount for the top/bottom fifty percent was $29,019. Again, it is important to note that many returns in the bottom half report zero or negative federal income tax liability.

These IRS data illustrate the steeply progressive nature of the federal income tax. Further, data on the number of non-filers, tax shares and the number of taxpayers effectively paying zero federal income taxes must be considered before any valid distributional evaluation of various income tax proposals or legislation can be made.

Couple this with the established fact that tax revenues have increased since President Bush's tax cuts were implemented (as they have in the past) and I'd say that current tax policy is a Progressives dream!

May 11, 2006

Sen. Chafee's Fiscal Responsibility

Marc Comtois

It looks as if the Senate is about to follow the House and pass President Bush's Tax plan that reduces rates for the upper wage earners and reforms the Alternative Minimum Tax that threatens many average, middle-class taxpayers. Of course, Democrat opponents will say it's just another tax cut for the rich. I wonder why Senator Chafee opposes it? Will we hear the usual mantra about the tax cuts not being "paid for" elsewhere in the budget?

President Bush and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill anticipated a long-sought election year victory Thursday as senators debated a bill awarding tax relief to investors and 15 million taxpayers with above-average incomes.

The Senate was expected to pass the bill providing tax cuts worth $70 billion over five years Thursday afternoon by a mostly party-line vote, and Bush was eager to sign it. The measure passed the House Wednesday, 244-185.

The legislation provides a two-year extension of the reduced 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends, currently set to expire at the end of 2008.

It also would extend, for this year, recent changes to the alternative minimum tax -- originally aimed at making sure the wealthy pay at least some taxes -- to prevent it from hitting more upper middle-income families...

"Today, out of 100 Americans, the wealthiest three are now paying the same amount -- about half of the total taxes -- as the other 97," said Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "This tax and economic growth package is not for the rich. It's for the people who need jobs in this country."

Critics, including most Democrats, attacked the tax rate reductions on dividends and capital gains as being skewed in favor of the rich...

Senate vote counters prepared for a predictably partisan vote. But on the Republican side, a senior administration official said Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and George Voinovich of Ohio appeared likely to defect and vote against the bill. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced he would vote for the bill and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is likely to support it as well, a spokesman said. [Emphasis added]

Back in 2004, for example, Sen. Chafee voted against a tax cut, reasoning:
The middle class taxpayers who are targeted by these cuts are very deserving of tax relief. I have supported these tax cuts in the past and would be willing to support them now if they are done in a way that does not increase the debt. I have worked diligently with some like-minded colleagues to identify ways to pay for these changes. I am dismayed that the Congress has again been put in the position of choosing between short-term political gain and responsible fiscal management. I for one am very reluctant to saddle future generations with the bill for this fiscally ruinous policy.
Hard to argue with, unless of course you're also quite proud of bringing home the bacon:
Thanks to Senator Chafees leadership in crafting the Transportation Bill of 2005, Rhode Island will be receive $2.21 for every $1 it contributes nationally in gas taxes. Senator Chafee was able to ensure that the state received the second highest rate of return in the nation.
You see, if Sen. Chafee opposes something, it's because he is opposed to "short-term political gain" and "fiscally ruinous policy," such as tax cuts. However, apparently getting Rhode Island its "fair share" with a good "rate of return" of over 2:1 isn't going to "saddle future generations."

May 5, 2006

Another Poll, Another Chafee Lead (but smaller)

Marc Comtois

New Hampshire polling outfit American Research Group (via RIFuture) seems to have done a more robust job of polling on the RI GOP Primary race than some recent efforts. The poll methodology was "based on 384 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of likely Republican primary voters in Rhode Island from April 25-May 2, 2006. The theoretical margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points, 95% of the time." The poll question was:

If the primary election for US Senate were being held today between Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey, for whom would you vote - Chafee or Laffey? (names rotated)
And the results broke down as follows:

Likely primary voters -- 48% Chafee / 39% Laffey / 13% Undecided
Rep. (56% of sample) -- 46% Chafee / 42% Laffey / 12% Undecided
Ind. (44% of sample) -- 51% Chafee / 35% Laffey / 14% Undecided

ARG also has a neat thing called the "Ballot Lead Calculator," which tries to "take into consideration the sampling error for the difference between two estimates that are derived from the same sample." I entered the numbers as instructed, and it revealed that Sen. Chafee has an upper margin of victory of 18.3% and a lower of -0.3%. This means, according to ARG, that "there is no significant difference between the ballot numbers for candidates A [Chafee] and B [Laffey] - they are statistically tied in that poll." This is probably largely because of the significant number of undecideds.

Now, all of you amateur pollsters can play around with what you think the breakdown of Republicans versus Independents will really be in the GOP primary and come up with whatever number satisfies you!

May 2, 2006

The Laffey Tax Plan

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senatorial Candidate Steve Laffey gave the fourth of his campaign policy briefings yesterday afternoon. The subject was tax-reform.

The heart of Mayor Laffeys proposal is tax-simplification. If elected to the Senate, Steve Laffey would work to establish three tax brackets, somewhere in the vicinity of 10, 20, and 30%; the Mayor said he would work with the Office of the Management and Budget to select exact figures that were revenue neutral with respect to present revenues, including the Bush tax-cuts of 2001, 2003, and 2004.

Mayor Laffey proposes replacing the 60,000-page Federal tax code with a greatly-simplified system of six exemptions for individual taxpayers. The exemptions would be...

  1. Yourself and your family ($10,000 per person)
  2. Interest on Home Mortgage
  3. Personal savings for retirement and education
  4. Health savings accounts (HSAs)
  5. Charities
  6. State and local taxes
The exemptions would be designed so that a family making $40,000 or less would owe no income tax. The $40,000 would be adjusted upward for inflation each year. Corporations would all pay the 30% rate.

Mayor Laffey would eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest and social security, as well as the death tax. The Mayor pointed out a major effect of reducing taxes on dividend income would be a reduction on the burden on Senior citizens, about half of whom rely upon dividends for their income. The Mayor further noted that, at present, the exemption on the death tax is scheduled to drop from $3,500,000 in 2009 to $1,000,000 in 2011, meaning people who are rich only in the sense that they own their own homes and have diligently funded their retirement accounts may be forced to pay substantial death taxes in 2011 and after.

Mayor Laffey argued that reducing corruption in Washington is mostly a matter of simplfying the tax code. Much of the power of lobbyists comes from their ability to ply Congress into manipulating the tax code to give advantages to favored industries. Without an incomprehensible tax code to manipulate, the influence of lobbyists is 1) greatly reduced and 2) what influence remains -- e.g. the ability to procure earmarks -- is more transparent.

Mayor Laffey presented some interesting historical data regarding tax cuts. There have been three major tax-cuts since 1960, by Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush the Younger. In all three cases, Federal revenues jumped by more than 10% two to three years after the tax-cuts were implemented.

Finally, Mayor Laffey criticized his opponents record on tax-issues. He criticized Senator Lincoln Chafee for voting against all three of President Bushs major tax cut initiatives. Senator Chafee voted against the 2001 and 2003 tax cut bills reducing individual income, dividend, and capital gains tax rates. According to Factcheck.org, which has published briefs criticizing both President Bush for overstating the value of the tax cuts and the Democrats for understating their effect, the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts reduced the tax burden across-the-board, not just for the rich. Repealing the Bush cuts would raise taxes on a family of four making $35,000-per-year by $1,897.

In 2004, Senator Chafee was one of just three Senators who voted against the Tax Relief for Working Families Act that eliminated the marriage penalty and extended the child tax-credit.

The Chafee campaign has issued an official response that discusses Mayor Laffey's record as Mayor of Cranston, but not issues specifically related to the future of the Federal tax code.

Laffey's Tax Plan Presentation

Marc Comtois

Mayor Laffey has a new tax plan, according to the ProJo:

Laffey's proposal would eliminate the tax on estates, interest, dividends, capital gains and Social Security benefits.

He would also lower the highest marginal tax rate -- that paid by the highest wage earners -- to 30 percent. The top federal marginal income tax rate was 39.6 percent when President Bush took office in 2001. Through a series of tax cuts, that top rate has now fallen to 35 percent.

. . . Taxpayers would have their income levied at either 10, 20 or 30 percent -- depending on income levels -- and would be given up to six types of deductions.

Each individual filer or family could claim up to $40,000 in deductions. The standard deduction per person would be $10,000. So a family of four, earning $40,000 would pay no federal income tax.

Others deductions include interest on a mortgage, retirement and education savings, health savings account contributions, charity and state and local taxes but could only be taken to a total write-off of $40,000.

Laffey's theory is this: without a tax on dividends and interest, Americans are more likely to invest and that means growth in the economy.

Meanwhile, Senator Chafee's people fall back on the same context-lacking charge that Mayor Laffey is a tax raiser:
The Chafee campaign attacked the proposal, saying that Laffey's past record shows support for tax hikes.

"When Steve Laffey took over in Cranston, he said he would cut spending by $11 million, but he never got around to doing that," Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang said in a statement. "Now he says he will cut federal spending. When Steve Laffey took over in Cranston, he said he was for tax increases, now he says he's against them. The question is: do Rhode Islanders trust the record or the rhetoric?"

Whatever. Anyway, the Mayor's plan seems good, though it may be short on details right now (according to the story, Mayor Laffey said, "It's not all set in stone."). However, his presentation seems to have been interesting:
Laffey's 45-slide presentation was filled with quotes, images of Frankenstein, Porky Pig and a caricature of Chafee.
Th-th-th-th-th-that's all folks!

April 28, 2006

Campaign Ads and Pork

Carroll Andrew Morse

A dueling round of political ads has appeared on the Rhode Island airwaves. The Chafee campaign's new TV ad can be seen here. The advertisement names "environmental cleanups paid for by polluters and not taxpayers", "ending deficits with a strict pay-as-you-go plan", being "named the most fiscally responsible Senator in the nation" (presumably by the Concord Coalition), and an endorsement "by the US Chamber of Commerce for his pro-growth agenda" as reasons to re-elect Senator Chafee.

The Club for Growth is also running an ad, which can be seen here. Citing three specific Senate votes (vote #170 from 2001, vote #196 from 2003, and vote #130 from 2004), the CfG ad says that $1,300,000,000,000 is "how much higher taxes would be if Lincoln Chafee had his way". The ad also claims that Senator Chafee "pushed for $48,000,000,000 dollars in wasteful spending", providing a reference to spending data from the National Taxpayers Union.

As noted below, Senator Chafee has made a recent stand against pork spending. The Senator voted to rescind some questionable appropriations attached to the Defense, Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery Supplemental Appropriations Bill, displaying a fiscal conservatism that extends beyond mere deficit hawkishness (to understand the difference between true fiscal conservatism and mere deficit hawkishness, click here). Senator Chafee has also signed a letter to the President sent by 35 Republican Senators pledging to sustain a veto on the supplemental spending bill if the total amount appropriated exceeds what was requested by President Bush...

We are seriously concerned with the overall funding level in the Senate-reported bill, and the numerous items that are unrelated to the Global War on Terror or emergency hurricane relief needs. Should the final bill presented to you exceed the total amount you requested, forcing you to veto the bill, we will vote to sustain your veto.
These actions show a positive evolution in the Senator's position towards pork spending. Last October, Senator Chafee told the Projo that pork was not an important issue (h/t Patrick Casey)...
The day may come where all of us are going to say we are not going to add any more earmarks onto appropriations bills," Chafee said. "In the meantime, there are many worthwhile projects and in the grand scheme of things, it is not a significant part of the budget."
And the Laffey campaign has wasted no time in pointing out some of Senator Chafee's pork-friendly votes from the past, including his vote in support of the infamous bridge-to-nowhere...
Senator Chafee also has a long track record of voting for outrageous pork projects including $223 million for Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" (Senate Roll Call Vote #262) (10-20-05), $98 million for an animal disease center in Iowa (Senate Roll Call Vote #118) (04-03-03), and $1.85 million for Cornell University's viticulture consortium (Senate Roll Call Vote #215) (11-20-04).
Viticulture, for those unfamiliar with the term (like I was until I looked it up on dictionary.com) is the cultivation of grapes.

April 27, 2006

Another Story in the RIC Poll

Carroll Andrew Morse

Anchor Rising commenter Oz points out the most obvious flaw in the results of yesterdays Rhode Island College statewide political poll

So they polled 364 registered voters and 107 said they would vote in the republican primary.

That's a 29% participation rate.

There are roughly 660,000 registered voters in RI.

Are we to believe that 191,000 people are going to vote in the republican primary?

To put it into context, that is nearly 150,000 more than the record for a republican primary.

How can the obviously nonsensical result be explained? The answer, I suspect, is that there are many people uncomfortable admitting to a stranger on the telephone that they are unlikely to vote.

Now, if I believe what everybody tells me about Rhode Island -- that the state has insurmountable Democratic sympathies -- when I ask people to quickly answer "what primary will you be voting in, I should expect to hear Democratic most of the times that I get an answer, right? Yet, the RIC poll shows an answer of Republican almost as often as an answer of Democratic to this question.

If likely non-voters were just pulling a party name out of the air, then there should have been an overprojection of likely Democratic voters that was at least as large as the overprojection of likely Republican voters. This didn't occur. To an order of magnitude, the poll correctly estimates the number of likely Democratic voters. This means that as many Rhode Islanders identify with the Republicans as with the Democrats, but that the state party has been unable to engage about 150,000 voters who should be part of the Republican base.

To build a long-term coalition, the state party -- including the Chafee campaign -- should be focusing figuring out what those 150,000 Republican-leaning but disengaged voters feel they're not getting from either party, instead of focusing on turning Democrats into Republicans for just a day.

April 26, 2006

Matt Brown is Out

Carroll Andrew Morse

The ProJo 7-to-7 blog has picked up an Associated Press report saying that Matt Brown has officially dropped out of the Rhode Island Democratic Senate primary.

Chafee Looks Solid in RIC Poll

Marc Comtois

A new Rhode Island College poll indicates that Senator Chafee holds a comfortable lead in both the GOP primary and the general election:

Chafee would beat challenger and Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey 56 percent to 28 percent in the Republican primary. For that question, the poll sampled 107 people who said they would vote in the Republican primary. Because the sample is smaller, the margin of error rises to 9 percentage points.

The results of the Democratic primary were not as clear cut, though former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse leads a three-way field with 37 percent. He is followed by Secretary of State Matthew Brown, with 21 percent, and Carl Sheeler, 8 percent. The margin of error for the Democratic primary is also 9 percentage points, with 117 people who said they would vote in the Democratic primary sampled.

But the poll indicated the outcome of the Democratic primary may be academic: Chafee would beat Whitehouse 51 percent to 32 percent and would beat Brown 53 percent to 28 percent. That is based on the full sample, with the 5-percentage-point margin of error.

Similarly, Laffey would lose, regardless of his Democratic opponent. Brown would win 48 percent to 29 percent and Whitehouse would win 50 percent to 27 percent.

This is the first public poll that attempted to sample for the GOP primary and--in that light--it's interesting to note that the percentage of support for Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey are consistent for both the GOP primary and the general election. This is good news and bad news for Mayor Laffey. Mayor Laffey has a solid 28-30% core both within the GOP and statewide, which means he is appealing to some independents out there. Nonetheless, the bad news far outweighs the good for Mayor Laffey. He still has some work to do to appeal to the GOP primary voters, whether they are Republican or not.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the actual poll document from the RIC Bureau of Government Research and Services (PDF).

Here are some of the interesting internals:

45% of the respondents were male
55% of the respondents were female

(For below, Dem=Democrat Primary Voter, Rep-Republican Primary Voter)

East Bay - 10% of total, 9% Dem, 10% Rep
Western RI - 5% of total, 2% Dem, 4% Rep
Blackstone Valley - 16% of total, 19% Dem, 16% Rep
Providence Metro - 34% of total, 32% Dem, 33% Rep
Providence - 11% of total, 22% Dem, 4% Rep
Washington County - 13% of total, 10% Dem, 19% Rep
Newport County - 10% of total, 6% Dem, 14% Rep

I report......

April 25, 2006

The Problems with the Indeglia Letter

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Associated Press has a report on a problematic independent campaign expenditure in support of Steve Laffey

Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey yesterday distanced himself from a letter a supporter wrote to his employees asking them to aid Laffey's Senate campaign

The letter, written last week by Vincent Indeglia, president of [a] Providence employment agency, criticizes Laffey's opponents for their positions on immigration and asks employees to turn over names and contact information of every U.S. citizen they know. Indeglia said he left 50 to 100 copies on the desk where as many as 200 workers pick up their paychecks on Fridays

We had no idea about this letter," said Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for Laffey's campaign. "Had he asked us, we would have told him, 'Don't do this. Please don't do this.' We encourage him to take whatever steps needed to fix this."

It is a reasonable to assume that Mr. Indeglia didn't contact the Laffey campaign for fear of running afoul of the current campaign finance laws. Had Mr. Indeglia contacted the Laffey campaign before sending out his letter, the answer that Ms. Soloveichik would have given is the only answer that would not turn an independent expenditure into a coordinated in-kind contribution subject to campaign speech regulations.

Campaign finance laws that discourage people from talking directly to candidates before issuing public support need, at the very least, to be rethought.

Coordination issue aside, Mr. Indeglia may also be in violation of the no corporate contributions provisions of campaign finance regulations

The letter, written on American Labor Services, Inc., letterhead by its president, asks workers to help register Hispanic citizens to vote in the Republican primary. It could violate laws that prohibit corporations from telling hourly workers which candidates to support, according to former and current Federal Elections Commission officials.
But whatever the camapign speech restrictions, Mr. Indeglia should have taken the time to get the policy positions of all of the candidates that he mentioned in his letter correct. Instead, he appears to have inaccurately portrayed the positions of both Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse on the issue of immigration
Spokespeople for the candidates mentioned in the letter said Indeglia did not accurately express their views on the issue.

The letter said Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic candidate, want to deport illegal immigrants and make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens, while Laffey supports allowing people to become legal residents and citizens if they choose.

However, Chafee and Whitehouse support legislation that would give illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they paid a fine and met other conditions. Laffey wants to secure the nation's border with Mexico, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and create a strict guest worker policy.


In todays Projo, Katherine Gregg has an extensive article on the direct mail letters that both Republican Senate candidates have been sending out.

April 20, 2006

Stephanie Chafee: "If you are a registered Democrat, I am strongly encouraging you to disaffiliate and to become an unaffiliated voter"

Carroll Andrew Morse

Stephanie Chafee, wife of Senator Lincoln Chafee, has sent out an e-mail encouraging registered Democrats to disaffiliate from their party so that they can vote for Senator Chafee in the Republican primary

Dear Friend,

This is an important election for Rhode Islands future. My husband, Linc Chafee, is engaged in the fight of his political life. His commitment to honest, independent leadership has put him under attack from extremist on both sides of the ideological divide.

I believe that you agree with me that Lincs centrist views are good for Rhode Island. They allow him to work with colleagues in a bipartisan manner to ensure that our state receives its fair share of federal funding, to expand access to healthcare and education, and to safeguard our beautiful forests and coastlines for this and future generations.

Linc has stood up for Rhode Island time and again. In a contentious atmosphere, he has stood firm by refusing to engage in partisan politics. Now its time for all of us who want more independent minded thinkers in Washington to show our support for Linc. If you are a registered Democrat, I am strongly encouraging you to disaffiliate and to become an unaffiliated voter.

If you support my husband, it is absolutely imperative that you vote for him in both the September 12th primary and in the general election on November 7th. But to be eligible to vote for him in the Republican primary you must be registered as either an unaffiliated or a Republican voter. I want to urge you to please check your affiliation and consider voting in the September primary. If you are a registered Democrat you must disaffiliate by June 14th in order to vote in Lincs September primary.

Changing your affiliation is easy. I have enclosed a copy of a voter registration card, which will allow you to disaffiliate. This form can also be found on the board of elections website at www.elections.ri.gov and is available at your local board of canvassers located at your Town or City Hall. Enclosed, please find a listing of five easy steps to guide you through the disaffiliation process. For more information on voter registration call the campaign at (401) 921-1920 and ask for Brent Lang or email him at blang@chafeeforsenate.com.

Thank you and I hope you will join me in supporting Linc in this upcoming election.

Stephanie Chafee

P.S. If you need further information, please let us know. If you are planning to be out of state during the primary, please remember to get an absentee ballot. Above all, exercise what our forefathers fought for the right to vote.

Attachments to the e-mail included a five-step instruction sheet on how to disaffiliate, a RI disaffiliation form, and a list of city and town halls in Rhode Island.

Anchor Rising has confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail with the Chafee campaign. Campaign manager Ian Lang describes the e-mail as a message from Mrs. Chafee to friends and acquaintances sent out to help insure that the broad base of support that the Senator has developed across Rhode Island while serving as Mayor and as Senator will be eligible to vote for him on election day.

April 17, 2006

Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey on Israel

Carroll Andrew Morse

John E. Mulligan had a report in Sundays Projo on Rhode Islands Republican Senate candidates' postions on the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. Starting with what the candidates agree on and working outward

1. Both Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey support construction of the Israeli security fence to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. Senator Chafee does have objections to the current positioning of the fence

Chafee objects to a crucial aspect of the security barrier that Israel is building to protect certain lands: the route that barrier would take through Palestinian areas.

He argues that the proposed pathway would split the Palestinian population and block Palestinian access to Jerusalem in ways that would make a Palestinian state economically and culturally unworkable. Chafee suggested during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year that the barrier's path would "jeopardize the vision of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."

2. In the ideal, both candidates support the concept of land-for-peace. Here is Mulligans description of Mayor Laffeys position
Laffey said he has no objection to a deal that would swap land -- including occupied lands on the West Bank -- for peace, provided that the Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces violence.
and of Senator Chafees position
Chafee argued that a "land for peace" deal is the key to the creation of a Palestinian state that would respect Israel's right to exist. More specifically, he said the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank are lands that must be negotiable under the terms of the road map.
3. Senator Chafee talks about the obstacles to land for peace mostly in terms of the United States not putting enough pressure on Israel
Chafee was an early critic of what he has called the Bush administration's lack of sufficient engagement in the peace process. Chafee applauds the administration's embrace of the road map process but has charged that the United States has not done enough to get Israel to follow it.

Chafee has argued that the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat in 2004 and the succession of Mahmoud Abbas were opportunities for peace that Israel failed to exploit. Chafee said the United States shared the responsibility for the failure to help Abbas win enough concessions for his people to consolidate his Fatah Party's power.

Mayor Laffey questions the assumption that impasses in the peace-process automatically imply that the US should step-up pressure on Israel
Laffey said the peace process has failed over the course of many years because American leaders took the mistaken view that Arafat "was the man to deal with" and "if we could get these people to the table, we could do something reasonable."

In fact, "Arafat wouldn't take a deal" when a favorable settlement was on the table during the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency, he said. Laffey rejected the Chafee view that the flaw in the U.S. position has been a failure to push Israel toward peace. Rather, the problem is the policy of treating "both sides as being equal when one was terrorists who kind of invented the suicide bomber," according to Laffey.

4. Distressingly, Senator Chafee again expresses skepticism that anyone can oppose his policy preferences for rational reasons. The Senator attributes American reluctance to apply increased pressure to Israel to a rather odd source
For these Senate Republicans of the Christian right, "the West Bank being Biblically designated as the Promised Land is an issue," Chafee said, citing the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. "I'm not going to name names," he said of his colleagues, "but there's no doubt in my mind

Chafee said Biblical influence on Israel policy is a problem for the country "because the whole premise of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is the West Bank and trading land for peace." The Biblically inspired Republicans "would never trade land for peace, so we're going to have eternal conflict if that position prevails," Chafee said.

Thats an awfully big charge that American leaders are pursuing a foreign policy for reasons not in the national interest of the United States to make without naming names, especially since the differences between Senator Chafees and Mayor Laffeys positions are both easily explained in terms of conventional foreign policy worldviews.

Senator Chafee operates from the assumption that the perception of American power is so threatening to the rest of the world, American interests are best served when the United States refrains from supporting its allies and from pressuring its enemies as strongly as it could. Steve Laffey views the national interest in more traditional terms, believing that the United States should support its allies, with no obligation to hold allies to a higher standard of conduct than enemies because of what other governments think.

April 14, 2006

Chafee Meets Silence in Scituate II

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafees description of Scituate Republicans in the Washington Post's short feature on the Rhode Island Senate race that Marc linked to provides a subtle yet clear illustration of why the Senator is in danger of losing the Republican primary. Here is a quote from Senator Chafee, formatted using Justins technique of highlighting reckless absolutes

Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response [in Scituate] was blank stares. "Nobody listened to my reasoning," Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. "They support the president on everything."
With all due respect, if Senator Chafee believes what he is saying here, then he hasnt been paying close enough attention.

Republicans don't support the President on everything. Take two recent examples. Republicans didnt fall into line and support the President on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Significant numbers of Republicans consider the President soft on immigration reform. And the President has listened to his party's voters on these issues -- he withdrew the Miers nomination, and has placed more emphasis on securing the borders as part of immigration reform.

Senator Chafee could also listen to Republican voters when they express their dissatisfaction with him, but has chosen a different response. In public statements like the quote from the Post, he writes off Republican voters as unreasonably closed-minded for disagreeing with him. Is it any surprise that the Senator unwilling to listen to the rank and file of his own party faces a serious challenge in a party primary?

Chafee Meets Silence in Scituate

Marc Comtois

In today's Washington Post:

Lincoln Chafee was cleaning a horse stall on his well-manicured farm one recent early morning, describing his latest encounter with hostile home-state Republicans.

The GOP senator had appeared the previous night before the Scituate Republican Town Committee to seek the endorsement of the small but influential group. In his halting, soft-spoken way, Chafee defended his opposition to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as the principled positions of an old-school conservative.

Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response was blank stares. "Nobody listened to my reasoning," Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. "They support the president on everything."

Few paths to victory are more convoluted than the one Chafee must travel to win election to a second term this year in this strongly Democratic state. Chafee will face Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, a conservative, in the Sept. 12 GOP primary, and he must convince voters that he is "Republican enough," despite his numerous defections from the party and President Bush. If he survives the primary, Chafee then must hope that he can hold the Republican vote while wooing moderate Democrats and independents to stave off what is sure to be a strong Democratic challenge.

"I'm running for opposite constituencies," Chafee said. "It's impossible."

. . . [Cranston Mayor Steve] Laffey, 43, energetic and ebullient, is Chafee's political opposite. Although he became wealthy working for a Memphis-based financial services company, he grew up as a lower-middle-class Cranston kid...Although Laffey raised taxes as Cranston mayor -- a heretical act for a conservative Republican in Washington -- he is admired for having turned around a troubled city, including by bucking powerful unions and even a platoon of highly paid school crossing guards. State and national Republican leaders strongly urged him to run for lieutenant governor, but Laffey believes his financial management skills can be put to better use in Washington. "I'm not into that," Laffey said of the intraparty pressure. "I'm an outsider. I'm running against what's going on down there."

At least some Rhode Island Republicans agree: the Scituate Republican Town Committee. The group decided to back Laffey the morning after Chafee's appearance.

Imagine that, Republicans supporting a Republican President on such issues as War and Supreme Court nominations. Whoda thunk?

April 13, 2006

A Pro-Republican Senate Campaign Proposal

Carroll Andrew Morse

Judging from both Elizabeth Gudrais Projo coverage of last nights Johnson and Wales' college Republican candidates' night and the comments section of this blog, Senator Lincoln Chafee and his supporters seem determined to make Steve Laffeys campaign contributions from 10 years ago a central issue in the Rhode Island Senate campaign

Chafee never mentioned Laffey by name. Instead, he said: "My primary opponent actually contributed to Democrats. I've never done that."

He was referring to contributions Laffey made to Tennessee Democrats' congressional campaigns during his time working for Morgan Keegan, a Memphis investment banking firm.

Since Senator Chafee and his supporters have become very concerned about party loyalty, Id like to propose the following deal.

Steve Laffey agrees not to give any more money to Democratic candidates and Lincoln Chafee agrees a) to vote for the next Republican Presidential nominee (Senator Chafee voted against President Bush in 2004) and/or b) to vote for judicial nominees chosen by Republican Presidents when all the other Senate Republicans are voting in favor of confirmation.

Any takers?

April 10, 2006

Steve Laffey's Campaign Contributions in Tennessee

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to a Projo article by Scott MacKay, former Tennessee Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, guest-of-honor at a fundraiser for Senator Lincoln Chafee, had this to say about Steve Laffey

Thompson also had a needle for [Steve] Laffey, who once worked for a Tennessee investment company. Thompson said Laffey in 1994 contributed campaign money to the Democratic candidate who ran against him and the Democrat who ran against GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Anchor Rising commenter Anthony points out that campaign finance records from that period are available via the opensecrets.org website. Here are the total amounts donated by Mayor Laffey while he was in Tennessee, including the donations that former Senator Thompson was referring to...
Lamar Alexander (R) $1,500 1999,1995
Jonathan Newman (R) $1,000 1997
Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) $200 1995
Jim Cooper (D) $250 1994
Jim Sasser (D) $1,000 1993
Lamar Alexander was (at the time) the former governor of Tennessee who ran for President in 1996 and 2000. Jonathan Newman ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in Pennsylvania in 1998. Jesse Jackson Jr. is a Congressman from Illinois. Jim Cooper was a Tennessee Congressman who lost to Fred Dalton Thompson in the campaign for the Senate seat vacated by Al Gore when he became Vice-President. Jim Sasser was the incumbent Democrat beaten by Bill Frist in 1994.

April 7, 2006

The Lighter Side of RI Senate '06

Marc Comtois

OK, we've been staying away from the Laffey/Chafee race, despite protestations in various comments sections. To tell the truth, nothing really "new" is going on that you can't get from the candidate's web sites. Nonetheless, here are a couple items that can be classified as "on the lighter side."

Mayor Laffey made a big to-do of unveiling something he called the "Rhody Reformer" at the PawSox home opener. What the heck was it? Here it is. (Hint: "That there's an RV, Clark.")

Meanwhile, Senator Chafee has been busy talking horses and had a whole chapter in Hugh Hewitt's new book named after him! (Its No Longer the Party of LincolnChafee, That Is.")

Brown at URI

Justin Katz

Not to assume too much, but it seems to me that RI Secretary of State and candidate for U.S. Senate Matt Brown is like his fellow state Democrats in that he hasn't had to speak to or wrangle with anybody with strongly conflicting views in far too long. I mean, think about this:

"I think it [pulling out of Iraq] is the best thing that we can do to help stabilize the situation in Iraq, given how badly the Bush administration has fouled it up," Brown said. "I do think that the root problem in Iraq is a political problem. It's an ancient, bitter conflict between the Shiites and the Sunnis ... Those groups are not going to solve their political differences as they know that our men and women are there to fight their fights for them."

So, to "stabilize" relations between these two religious groups that have been at each others' throats in a part of the world in which violence still carries a Dark Ages tint, we must allow them to fight their own fights. Of course, one could suggest that the reason the problem is a political one — as opposed to, say, a genocidal one — is precisely because the U.S. and coalition forces are around, but then again, not a few people on Brown's side of the aisle actually gave credence to Saddam's election returns.

And then there's this bit of boldness relying on ignorance:

Brown also discussed the problems facing college students in the state of Rhode Island. "I think the people are getting out of school because of the bad decisions that have come out of Washington. It is just very hard to make ends meet," Brown said. "From the cost of health care, to finding a good job, to paying off your college loans, we desperately need new leadership."

Busy as they are, I'd suggest that RI's collegiate youth needn't look so far as Washington to explain their difficulty making ends meet. In what Machiavellian class, I wonder, do they teach politicians to help create a problem and then to blame it on somebody else?

April 2, 2006

Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform

Carroll Andrew Morse

In todays Projo, Scott Mayerowitz reports on the out-of-state funds pouring into the Rhode Island Senate campaign...

Rhode Island's Senate race is hardly a local contest.

Two out of every three dollars raised so far have come from out of state

With less than six months to go before the Senate primary, donors have contributed nearly $4.3 million, as of the reporting period that ended Dec. 31. That number is expected to grow substantially when new figures are released April 15.

Most of the money so far has come largely from big cities on the East and West coasts.

New York residents donated more than $500,000 by the end of December. California contributors were right behind, with $440,000. Money also flowed in from Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois and Washington, D.C.

What is often overlooked in the debate about campaign finance reform is the effect it has on how candidates spend their time. Mayerowitz's article provides a nice snapshot
[Matt] Brown has raised 72 percent of his money from out of state, a higher percentage than any other candidate.

Brown's top-giving ZIP code outside Rhode Island is the posh Beverly Hills 90210. In the last four months, Brown has spent at least nine days fundraising in the Los Angeles area, according to his campaign.

[Sheldon] Whitehouse is also tapping national money, with New York his top source so far.

Director Martin Scorsese hosted a Whitehouse fundraiser in his Manhattan townhouse last month, an event cohosted by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

These are yet more examples of how campaign finance reform has failed. CFR is supposed to reduce the effect of money in politics. Instead, as currently implemented, it makes candidates from everywhere beholden to the wealthy areas of the country where lots of people capable of donating $2,100 to a single candidate can easily gather in one place. To be competitive, politicians have to take time away from discussing ideas with their constituents to work on raising money from out-of-staters.

Incumbents like this system, because it gives them an advantage. Their national level connections allow them to tap into a nationwide fundraising system that can deliver donations from all over the country. Challengers without that kind of access have a harder time raising the money they need to get their message out (unless, for example, the challenger is an independently wealthy former Attorney General with lots of free time on his hands; of course, our system is supposed to be open to more than just independently wealthy Attorney Generals with lots of free time on their hands).

In an OpinionJournal interview from a few months back, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed a creative solution to this problem

"McCain-Feingold was a very bad bill which strengthened millionaires, weakened the middle class and made it harder for challengers. I would repeal any limit on people giving in the constituency they vote in." But that's not all. He'd also "simply ban all fund-raising in Washington. You can do that by straight out rules of the House and Senate." Admittedly, Mr. Gingrich has filed this proposal under "can't do." But even so, it has an elegance about it that makes it alluring.

"Now what you've got is a dance in which members go to unending PAC [political action committee] fundraisers hosted by lobbyists in order to raise enough money that they can't be challenged, which means they don't have to go home, so they can have more time free to go to more fundraisers hosted by more lobbyists. I just think that system's wrong."

No limits might be extreme, but raising the ceiling on local contributions is a reasonable idea that would increase the amount of time Rhode Island politicians spend listening to -- and ultimately representing -- Rhode Islanders, instead of out-of-state interests.

March 31, 2006

Matt Brown's Campaign Finance Woes

Carroll Andrew Morse

In today's Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron reports on the continuing fallout from Matt Brown's campaign finance problems...

In a ceremony Thursday in the law offices of Republican Attorney General candidate J. William Harsch, state GOP Chairwoman Patricia Morgan signed on to an FEC complaint already filed by the Hawaii Republican Party.

The complaint charges a "tit for tat" arrangement in which donors who had already contributed the maximum amount allowable under law to the Brown campaign sent donations to Democratic Party organizations in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maine, and then those party organizations contributed a similar amount to Brown.

Brown continues to assert that the matter is about appearance and not substance...
Brown, who has campaigned as a reformer and clean government candidate, has since returned the money, insisting that the arrangement was "completely legal" but acknowledging that it presents a "perception problem."

Brown campaign spokesman Matt Burgess brushed the complaint off as "just politics. It is Republicans filing complaints against Democrats. It was all completely legal and that's what the FCC will find.

Asked Thursday if the Brown campaign would do the same thing again, spokesman Matt Burgess said no, but only because it presented a perception problem, not because it was a wrong thing to do.

I suspect that Mr. Brown will eventually be vindicated in a legal sense.

However, this incident shows how campaign finance "reform" has become a barrier preventing the politically unconnected from entering politics. Mr. Brown has (had?) a legitimate shot at a Senate seat because his career in politics allowed him to develop the nationwide connections needed to set up an elaborate fundraising network capable of delivering small contributions from all over the country. Someone who has not made politics their entire career rarely has that kind of access.

Under the current system, the only people who can raise the money needed to run for statewide office are those who are in a position to spend years building a fundraising network, those with the right connections who are granted access to someone else's established network, or those who are independently wealthy. To level the playing field between the connected and unconnected, a better solution is to simplify campaign finance regulations but increase transparency and tighten up the rules regarding disclosure.

Finally, a question: Do people think that Matt Brown survives this or not? Since the Democratic primary is basically a beauty contest between two candidates with identical positions on the issues, I don't see what Mr. Brown can do to differentiate himself from Sheldon Whitehouse and bounce back from this.

March 16, 2006

Censure Pong

Carroll Andrew Morse

From a Monday news article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel by Craig Gilbert

One liberal GOP senator, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, offered some praise for Feingold, saying the resolution would be "positive" if it fueled debate over the legality of some policies in the war on terrorism.
From a Tuesday posting on Senator Chafees campaign website titled "Senator Chafee Opposes Feingold's Censure Resolution"
As I travel around Rhode Island, I am surprised by the lack of discussion on the proper balance between civil liberties and national security. While I do not agree with Senator Feingold's motion to censure the President, I believe in the need for a vigorous dialogue about this proper balance. It would be a positive step and in the best interest of the President and the American people for a constructive discussion to take place, but this censure resolution is not that step and therefore does not have my support.
From todays Projo story by John E. Mulligan titled "Chafee refuses to rule out voting to censure Bush"...
But Chafee, a Republican, currently does not support the Wisconsin Democrat's proposal to punish the president with a censure, he said.

"Everything should occur in steps," Chafee said in an interview citing, for instance, the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on the wiretapping program.

Chafee was asked whether those steps might lead to a censure of Mr. Bush that he would support. "I know you want me to go there," Chafee said, but he did not answer the question directly.

However, Chafee said he does not rule out an eventual decision to back the censure resolution, introduced Monday.

And from a new item posted today on the Senators website titled "Chafee reiterates opposition to Feingold's Censure Resolution"
As I stated on Tuesday, I do not support Senator Russell Feingolds resolution to censure the President. In a news article, the Providence Journal reporter chose to interpret the notion that I will not rule out the censure of any president in any number of hypothetical circumstances as an endorsement of the drastic censure resolution currently being offered in the Senate. This is misleading concerning my recent comments on this issue. From the first mention of this resolution, I have never expressed support for it.

I have joined colleagues on both sides of the aisle in calling for a vigorous dialogue about the balance between civil liberties and national security. I believe that as the only bodies authorized to be briefed on the full range of the wiretapping program, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees must conduct the necessary oversight, reach a final conclusion and make recommendations. I stand by that position.

How else can you interpret this last statement except as meaning nothing more than the Senator will favor any censure resolution that he does not oppose?

Inconsistent Standard of "Careful Consideration"

Marc Comtois

While Senator Chafee toyed with the idea of censuring the President--based on the alleged illegality of the NSA wire-tapping program--he has since stated he's against the idea. Nonetheless, he's still convinced that the program is illegal...even though the Senate hearings on it have not yet concluded:

When Chafee was interviewed in January about the wiretaps program, he criticized it but said he would draw no conclusions about its legality or constitutionality until the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its inquiry.

Why, Chafee was asked Tuesday, has he come to the conclusion that the program is illegal, with the committee's inquiry still under way?

Chafee answered by reiterating his initial criticism of the program. "From what I've seen," he said, the wiretap program "is outside the parameters" of the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches and existing law governing such programs.

I recall that also back in January, Senator Chafee refrained from making another decision until he "heard all the facts" and considered them carefully. In that case, it was whether or not he was going to support now-Justice Alito and he stated that he wanted to wait until after the Senate Judiciary hearings were finished before making a (finger in the wind) decision. Apparently, he doesn't feel the need apply the same careful consideration here, does he? Maybe it was a January thing?

(Cross-posted at OSB).

March 13, 2006

Senator Chafee's PAYGO Proposal & Automatic Tax Increases

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee is once again trying to pass off his preference for high tax rates as "fiscal responsibility". This is from a recent press release on the Senator's campaign website...

Leading deficit hawk, U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee today joined with Senator Bill Frist and Senator John McCain to co-sponsor legislation that will help get federal spending under control by establishing a Presidential Line Item Veto. Like Senator Chafee's proposed Pay-As-You-Go approach to the federal budget, this will help return fiscal responsibility to the federal government and ensure that our legacy to our children is not billions and billions of dollars of debt.
We'll take up the line-item veto a little later. For now, let's discuss the "pay-as-you go" proposal, also known as PAYGO.

The problem with Senator Chafee's most recent version of PAYGO was that it placed no limit on the overall increase in Federal spending. It only limited spending on the creation of new programs. PAYGO 2005 didn't apply to already existing entitlements -- or their automatic increases. (According to statistics quoted by Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, entitlements now account for 53% of the budget, a total that grows each year.)

To meet the requirements of PAYGO, the automatic growth of established entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid (Social Security is defined as "off-budget" and not considered for the purposes of PAYGO) would have to be offset by either yearly tax-increases or yearly cuts in existing programs -- real cuts, not just reductions in the rate of growth or limits on new spending.

Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation explains why a PAYGO program that ignores entitlement spending would almost certainly force automatic tax increases...

While PAYGO allows current entitlement programs to grow on autopilot, it would likely lead to the expiration of the current tax cuts. Merely retaining the tax relief that Americans now enjoy would, under PAYGO, require 60 votes in the Senate and a waiver in the House. To avoid this supermajority requirement, lawmakers seeking to prevent tax increases would have to either: A) raise other taxes; or B) reduce mandatory spending by a larger amount than has ever been enacted. Option A is still a net tax increase (raising one tax to avoid raising another), and Option B is probably politically unrealistic.

March 5, 2006

Congressman John Conyers: Another Liberal Pursues School Choice For His Kids While Blocking Needy Children From Having The Same Opportunities

In an editorial entitled Choice for me, not for you, Michael Franc has yet another example of the hypocrisy of liberal Democrats regarding school choice:

The latest ethics flap in Washington exploded last week...It involves veteran Michigan Democrat and would-be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers. Two former staffers allege a pattern of corruption by Conyers, self-proclaimed "Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus," including forcing them to work on several state and local political campaigns while on his congressional payroll and allowing a senior staff counsel to conduct her private law practice out of his office.

Also among the charges is that Conyers required his staff to care for his two young boys, including providing tutoring services to Conyers' elder son while he attended a posh private school in Bloomfield Hills. The school "Little John" Conyers attends is the Cranbrook School. According to its Web site, tuition at Cranbrook runs a cool $17,880 for grades 1-5, $19,280 for middle school, and $21,730 for high school. Parents who send their kids to board at Cranbrook must cough up more than $30,000.

Yet Conyers is a longstanding opponent of any form of school choice for low-income children. At a "Stand Up for Public Schools" rally a few years back, Conyers decried educational choice as a "scheme" which "will only harm our public schools" and pointed instead to the sort of "real" school reforms drawn from the educational unions' playbook teacher training, reduced class size, and school construction. "It is vital," he said then, "for parents, educators, and community leaders to join together to strengthen Detroits public schools."

Unless, of course, you can afford to send your child to The Cranbrook School.

A lengthy review of school choice issues was recently posted here. Included in that posting is this Clint Bolick quote about Hillary Clinton's recent comments on school choice and the Clinton's years-ago school choice decision for the benefit of their daughter Chelsea:

We now have nearly two decades of experience with school choice. We do not see white supremacy schools. We do not see jihadist schools. We do not see religious strife or rioting in the streets. What we do see is children who never before have gotten a break learning in safe environments chosen by their parents. And we see the power to choose providing a catalyst for public schools to improve. School choice is the tide that lifts all boats.

Never was there greater testimony to the importance of school choice than Mrs. Clinton herself. When the President and Mrs. Clinton moved into the White House, they were offered something that no other resident of the nation's capitol had: the choice of any public school for their daughter. They decided that sending their daughter to a defective school system was too great a sacrifice, and chose a private school instead. That led Wisconsin Rep. Polly Williams, the sponsor of Milwaukee's school choice program, to quip that "Bill and Hillary Clinton should not be the only people who live in public housing who get to send their kids to private schools."

I think school choice is the ultimate domestic policy issue and an aggressive pursuit of school choice policies will transform domestic political parties and domestic politics in this country. It is the one issue that can unite Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, as well as the economically needy and well off - as I saw last night at a dinner party of people who themselves covered the entire political spectrum. Why? Because what happens to your child is the ultimate personal issue to a parent, an issue that stirs deep passion. This posting elaborates on that point:

...Education is inherently personal and inherently value laden. The key relationships in schools are those between individual teachers and individual students: If the teachers are not willingly committed and highly motivated, no centralized rule books or formulas are going to inspire peak performance

Moreover, schooling inescapably involves judgments about truth and virtue, about what kind of person a youngster should aspire to be. Americans inevitably disagree with each other about those judgmentsToday's Americans have no more chance of reaching consensus on [these] questions than of agreeing on what church (if any) we should all attend; that is why we keep the state out of controlling churches, just as we keep it out of other value-forming institutions such as publishing and journalism. The more we entrust such decisions to centralized state agencies, the more conflicts we foment. Zero-sum "culture wars" for control of coercive state monopolies make enemies of people who could otherwise be friends...

These are the reasons why parents, not educational bureaucrats and unionist teachers, should be in control of their childrens' educational decisions. It is why that control should be empowered by educational vouchers or tax credits to give parents the necessary leverage to ensure their children receive a proper education.

Why will it transform domestic politics? In addition to stirring passion among parents, we have a visibly failing status quo in America and in Rhode Island.

Why will it transform domestic politics? It will because school choice simply will succeed if given a chance. The posting continues and explains why:

Rather than continuing to use centralized government decrees to turn mediocre institutions into excellent ones, as they have been trying but failing to do for decades, the state and federal governments should be empowering individual families to transfer to schools of their own choice.

That strategy would bring three advantages that are absent from the command-and-control model embodied in NCLB. First, it would allow parents to rescue their children from dysfunctional schools immediatelySecond, it would allow families to pick schools that are compatible with their own philosophical and religious beliefs instead of locking them into zero-sum conflicts to decide which groups win power to impose their beliefs on others. Third, it would unleash the dynamic force of competition. Real accountability to customers free to go elsewhere is qualitatively different from fake accountability to government agencies that can almost always be pressured into keeping the money flowing to schools that are manifestly failing.

The key locus for genuine reform is the states. Under the Constitution it is the states that have legal responsibility for educationThe best contribution the national government can make is to get out of the way.

And I think Steve Laffey has found an issue that, if managed well, could get a non-RINO Republican elected to the United States Senate from Rhode Island.

March 1, 2006

The Chafee Campaign on the Pilot Choice Program

Carroll Andrew Morse

The statement offered by the campaign of Senator Lincoln Chafee on Steve Laffeys announcement of a proposed pilot school choice program between Cranston and Providence ignores most of the substance that was discussed by Mayor Laffey. If this is truly representative of the Senators view, then the Senator has a very narrow view of the objectives of the public education system

At a press conference today, Mayor Laffey once again demonstrated a disregard for state statutes that clearly outline the proper procedure for dealing with non-resident students.

There is a set process in place to deal with the issues of disenrollment that the Mayor has chosen to ignore. Expedited hearings are available at the State Department of Education, which are routinely used by communities to remedy such matters. It is actually illegal for a school district to disenroll a student without first going through proper channels.

"This behavior is vintage Steve Laffey - shoot first, ask questions later," commented Chafee Campaign Manager Ian Lang. "There are appropriate procedures in place for dealing with these situations, but Mayor Laffey is either ignorant of them or simply doesn't care
Apparently, the Chafee campaign has no interest in the pilot choice program, nor in the fact that Providence schools are failing, both discussed extensively in Mayor Laffeys press conference, but not mentioned in the Chafee campaign press release.

If this statement truly represents the Senators position on public education, Senator Chafees interest in public education apparently ends at making sure that proper procedures are being followed in making sure that students are attending schools in their home districts, even if that means forcing students to go to bad schools when alternatives are available.

February 17, 2006

Senator Lincoln Chafee, the Concord Coalition, Fiscal Conservatives, and Deficit Hawks

Carroll Andrew Morse

In yesterday's National Review Online, Senator Lincoln Chafee's campaign manager Ian Lang defended his candidate's record on economic issues...

[Senator Chafee] has also twice been designated the Senates most fiscally responsible member by the Concord Coalition for his support of a Pay-As-You-Go approach to federal spending and for his efforts to eliminate the deficit. Up here in Rhode Island, those are the kinds of values we associate with Republicans: they are in favor of individual freedoms, they promote economic development, and they never support deficit growth.
Though the Concord Coalition gives Senator Chafee very high marks, other organizations that rate Congressmen and Senators on taxation, budget, and spending issues -- like the National Taxpayers' Union, or Americans for Tax Reform -- consistently rank Senator Chafee in the middle of the pack, better than the most profligate Democrats, but worse than almost all other Republicans.

The differences come from different choices of priorities. There are three factors involved in evaluating fiscal policy; tax rates, spending outlays, and the size of the deficit. The Concord Coalition and Senator Chafee say that cutting the deficit is the top priority. The Concord Coalition says that, for long-term deficit reduction, entitlements must be brought under control. This is not a radical position. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist basically said the same thing last week at CPAC...

Q: Are there any issues youd like to see Senator Chafee evolve on?

Senator Bill Frist: I need all Republicans to recognize that we need to tighten our belts like all other Americans are doing and have to do. We need to cut out the wasteful Washington spending. It is something we are committed to do and something that we will do. I would ask that all Republicans, including Senator Chafee, help me voice that entitlement reform has got to be brought back out to our agenda, because young people today are going to pay a heavy price. Their future is being mortgaged on our entitlement programs. It doesnt mean cut them, but slow the growth, and if we do that, we can guarantee a future of prosperity for all Americans.

So if Bill Frist and the Concord Coalition, who declare Senator Chafee to be their favorite member, agree, then what's the problem?

The problem is that Senator Chafee and the Concord Coalition are "deficit hawks" but not "fiscal conservatives". Senator Chafee and the Concord Coalition operate from the decidedly non-conservative positions that 1) the expensive, inefficient, and bureaucratic government entitlement programs in existence today are the preferred methods for providing retirement and healthcare benefits, and 2) that these programs can be indefinitely sustained in their current form by tinkering with benefit schedules and adjustments and, of course, by keeping tax rates high.

Unfortunately, they seem to discount concerns that high tax-rates have a negative impact on economic growth (Mr. Lang, after all, claims that Senator Chafee's views are consistent with those who want "to promote economic development", despite the Senator's frequent opposition to tax-cuts) and resist considering creative mesaures for reform -- like voluntary, individual social security accounts -- that have the potential to permanently lower inefficient government spending.

Finally, while we are on the subject of tax-policy, one section of Mr. Lang's letter provides a too-incomplete description of reality...

Since he became mayor, [Steve] Laffey has raised taxes a whopping 20 percent hiking the average Cranston homeowners tax bill by $1,000 three short years ago, while also increasing government spending.
At about the same time that Mayor Laffey was dealing with the budget issues in Cranston that Mr. Lang refers to, Senator Chafee was fighting in Congress to impose a Federal tax burden on the country that was hundreds of dollars more per-household than the President wanted. Why, at this time, was it OK for Senator Chafee to favor high tax rates, but not OK for Mayor Laffey?

February 16, 2006

RE: Chafee's Response to National Review

Marc Comtois

Thanks to Don for pointing out the Chafee campaign's response to the National Review endorsement of Mayor Laffey. To be equitable, here is the text of the letter:

I read with amusement National Review Onlines recent endorsement of Cranston, Rhode Island Mayor Stephen Laffey as a conservative in his GOP challenge to Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

For anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Mr. Laffeys record, the idea of describing him as you did as a tax cutting, pro-life conservative is just plain ludicrous.

Since he became mayor, Laffey has raised taxes a whopping 20 percent hiking the average Cranston homeowners tax bill by $1,000 three short years ago, while also increasing government spending. In fact under Laffey Cranston taxpayer dollars were spent on among other things; an increase in the number of employees in the Mayors office, money to soundproof the walls of his own office, and a new luxury SUV for him to drive.

NRO also overlooked the fact that Laffey has consistently flip-flopped on his views on abortion. Laffey says one thing when he talks with editorial boards in Washington, but when meeting with potential voters he has offered just about everything except a clear answer. Just this fall Laffey said that while he was pro-life he considered Roe v. Wade settled law so let it go. Even more puzzling, when asked whose position on choice he most admired, Laffey stated he believes Hillary Clinton offers a reasonable position!

In contrast, Senator Chafee represents a winning blend of fiscal conservatism, traditional Republican values, and progressive ideals. He has a strong pro-business and pro-economic growth record as reflected by his recent endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He has also twice been designated the Senates most fiscally responsible member by the Concord Coalition for his support of a Pay-As-You-Go approach to federal spending and for his efforts to eliminate the deficit. Up here in Rhode Island, those are the kinds of values we associate with Republicans: they are in favor of individual freedoms, they promote economic development, and they never support deficit growth. The only fact that NRO seemed to grasp and that recent polls reflect is that a Laffey win in a primary would likely ensure a Democratic victory in November.

In their zeal to denounce Sen. Chafee, it would appear that the editors of National Review have instead been sold a bill of goods. While Mr. Laffey may be a smooth talker, when criticizing Senator Chafee's opposition to deficit-creating tax cuts, the Mayors own record is one of lust for revenue-generating property tax increases.

It is clear that Laffey is no conservative. But dont take my word for it, take Laffeys. In a September 16, 2005 story in the Providence Journal, Laffey himself admitted, that when you say the word conservative, I dont even know what that means.

Ian Lang
Campaign Manger
Chafee for Senate
Warwick, Rhode Island

Chafee Campaign Responds to National Review Endorsement of Laffey

Senator Lincoln Chafee's campaign responds on National Review Online to the National Review's endorsement of Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey's campaign to replace Chafee, as reported earlier by Marc.

February 8, 2006

Evans - Novak Political Report: Laffey leads Chafee

Marc Comtois

Laffey supporter The Club for Growth passes this news from the Evans-Novak Political Report on its blog (UPDATE: Thanks to Reconcilable Differences for the link to a free version of the full E-N report.):

Republicans in Rhode Island say that Sen. Chafee had given private assurances that he would be supporting the Alito Supreme Court nomination. His reversal on this issue drew a public rebuke from his most reluctant supporter, popular Gov. Don Carcieri (R), and endangers him in his primary race against Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R). Laffey must now be considered the narrow frontrunner in the Republican Senate primary after crossing the $1-million mark and outraising Chafee in individual contributions for the quarter.

Chafee maintains a two-to-one cash advantage after beating Laffey with PAC money and making himself a $330,000 campaign loan. But he may need a lot more than that to survive. Another negative for him on the Alito issue is the fact that it is probably impossible for him to win a Republican primary in Rhode Island without significant support from the state's large Italian population.

Rhode Island's primary doesn't happen until September. If he sees the writing on the wall, Chafee could well choose to run as an independent.

It would make sense, it is Rhode Island's largest voting bloc, after all.

Poll: Chafee's Lead Over Dems Narrows III

Carroll Andrew Morse

I think the clearest interpretation of the February 2006 Brown University/Taubman Center Senate poll results comes not from comparing them to the September 2005 poll, but to the June 2005 poll.

1. When you compare this poll results to the results from June, Matt Brown appears to be the only candidate building support amongst the general population, going from 29% to 36% against Senator Chafee, and 40% to 47% versus Mayor Laffey. Chafee and Laffey each lost 6% versus Brown, while in any matchup involving Sheldon Whitehouse; Whitehouse, Chafee, and Laffey all show losses between 1% and 3%.

2. The number of most concern to the Laffey campaign should not be the gap between himself and his Democratic challengers, but the fact that his support has been flat, or worse, since he announced his candidacy. Again, comparing to June 2005, Laffey has gone from 30% to 24% versus Brown (probably involving a real loss) and from 32% to 29% against Whitehouse (possibly involving a strong degree of statistical fluctuation; Whitehouse doesnt show a matching gain.)

The counter-argument, which is legitimate, is that Mayor Laffey cannot assume victory in the primary before campaigning for the general election. Still, I think the message here is while Mayor Laffeys ground campaign may be strong, the air-campaign (broadcast media) so far hasnt been convincing to independent Rhode Islanders.

3. The Chafee campaigns problem, on the other hand, is the closing gap between himself and Matt Brown. Chafee only leads Brown by 2%, within the polls margin of error. If Chafee falls behind, I dont see how the he can mount an effective come-from-behind general election candidacy. The "Ill keep the Senate in Republican hands" message wont work in the general and the Ill bring lots of pork back to Rhode Island is not going to be popular this election cycle. Once he falls behind one or both of the Democrats, what does Senator Chafee campaign on to regain the lead?

Re: Poll: Chafee Lead over Dems Narrows, but.....

Carroll Andrew Morse

Earlier this morning, I called Professor Darrell West, Director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and asked why Rhode Island Republican Primary Senate results were not included in the February 2006 State Survey. Professor West answered that it is too hard to predict where independents will go.

If you look back at 2002, there were about 240,000 ballots cast for Governor in the general election, while only 25,000 people voted in the contested Republican Gubernatorial primary. That means the poll sample of 785 probably contains around 80-90 likely Republican primary voters.

To have any chance at all of giving an accurate snapshot of the race, the Brown University pollsters would have to figure out some way to identify independents likely to vote in a Republcan primary (when many independents themselves probabaly haven't decided which primary they're going to vote in!) and then conduct a second poll to get a big enough sample of Republicans + Republican-voting independents.

Poll: Chafee Lead over Dems Narrows, but.....

Marc Comtois

Brown pollster Darrell West has a new poll out that includes a curious omission (thanks to George Conway for the heads-up). But I'll get to that later. First, the stats:

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee is locked in a close race with Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown in the Senate general election, according to a new statewide survey conducted by researchers at Brown University.

The survey was conducted Feb. 4-6, 2006, at Brown University by Darrell M. West, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory. It is based on a statewide random sample of 785 registered voters in Rhode Island. Overall, the poll had a margin of error of about plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

If the general election were held today, Chafee has an advantage of 40 to 34 percent over Whitehouse (compared to his lead of 38 to 25 percent in September). If Brown is the Democratic nominee, Chafees lead is 38 to 36 percent (compared to 41 to 18 percent in September).

If the Republican nominee were Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, Whitehouse is ahead by 44 to 29 percent (up from the 35 to 25 percent lead Whitehouse had in September). If the nominees were Laffey and Brown, Brown has an advantage of 47 to 24 percent over Laffey (up from 30 to 26 percent in September).

On the face of it, the poll lends credence to the theory that Sen. Chafee is the only Republican that can win, even if his numbers are slipping. But a careful reading of the poll shows no numbers on the Republican primary, ie; Laffey v. Chafee. Why not? That's what George asked me in an email and he wondered if it was because there weren't enough Republicans in the sample to give accurate data. Here is my response:
Darrell West has a habit of underpolling Republican support. In 2002, he had a neck and neck race between now-RI Gov. Carcieri (R) and Myrth York (D). Carcieri ended up winning by around 10 pts. This does call into question his methodology (when, where does he poll?) Southern RI is more Republican than northern (around Providence) for instance. I suspect you are correct: he couldn't get enough Republicans to provide an adequate sample. Note how small his sample is in the Democrat race of Langevin v. Lawless. For such a Democrat state, that seems small, even if it is for only one district. Another factor is the large number of unaffiliated voters in the state. That's about all I can think of.
Upon further review, I understated the gap in West's polling of the governor's race in 2002. In October of 2002, he had York ahead of Carcieri, 41% to 34% with 25% undecided. Gov. Carcieri won 55% to 45%. In essence, perhaps his methodology tends to lead West to consistently undersample Republicans. I'm no pollster, I don't know. Setting that aside, it clearly shows that Mayor Laffey has his work cut out in appealling to the average RI voter, the amount of undecided can make a difference. Here are the actual political questions asked in the poll:

Continue reading "Poll: Chafee Lead over Dems Narrows, but....."

February 7, 2006

Chafee, the NRSC, Etc.

Marc Comtois

George Conway over at Reconcilable Differences continues to focus national attention on the RI GOP primary and has some good stuff. Last night, he discovered that the NRSC continues its campaign of taking down stories on its web site that contain anti-Chafee comments. He also pointed to another NRSC pro-Chafee story that could use some commenting (wink wink). I wonder what would happen if anti-Chafee/pro-Laffey opinions continued to be expressed in the comments section of those stories? (BTW, George has also preserved many of the since-removed comments in this PDF).

In the meantime, a letter to the editor in today's ProJo exhibits the problem that Sen. Chafee is having by continuing to show indecisiveness and a lack of conviction:

For years, Sen. Lincoln Chafee has tiptoed between appeasing the radical wing of the Republican Party and maintaining his electability at home. However, with the Bush-Rove stranglehold over party discipline, Senator Chafee has lost his so-called independence. Rather, he has become better known for ruffling feathers in early opposition to Republican initiatives, but ultimately capitulating.

When it matters, Senator Chafee is nowhere to be found. His so-called conscience vote against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was just a hollow gesture, aimed at mitigating his election-year vulnerability in an overwhelmingly liberal state.

Mr. Chafee may have taken a "stand" this time, but he has too often been on the wrong side when his vote could really have made a difference.

Sounds like the same arguments we've been making, but from the other side of the ideological spectrum.

Meanwhile, despite Sen. Chafee's apparent belief that "moderate" and liberal (Democrat) voters will vote for him in the GOP primary, the tightening race on the Democratic side can do nothing but hurt his chances. And while Sen. Chafee "hems and haws" and hopes that the NRSC can continue to carry his water, Mayor Laffey continues to be out front in his campaign against pork barrel spending.

Former Centrist, Now Liberal Matt Brown Pulling Even with Always Liberal Sheldon Whitehouse?

Carroll Andrew Morse

If Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times thinks these numbers are worth reporting, then I am willing to accept that they have some meaning...

U.S. Senate candidate Matt Brown says a new poll shows he has caught up with and passed his Democratic primary opponent Sheldon Whitehouse.

The poll of 502 likely Democratic primary voters conducted by telephone on Feb. 1 and 2 shows Brown with a 38-36 percent lead over Whitehouse in the three-way contest. Nowhere does the poll mention the third candidate, Carl Sheeler, although he is counted as "other" and is credited with 3 percent support.

However, I won't go as far as to endorse the statement below until I see the Brown University poll results scheduled for release later this month...
"A chapter of this campaign has closed," [Matt Brown Campaign Spokesman Matt Burgess] declared. "Sheldon Whitehouse had an opportunity to end it. If he had taken a strong stand on the issues and campaigned aggressively, he might have been able to end the campaign early" using his upper hand in name recognition.

February 6, 2006

It Would Be Wonderfully Amusing, If It Were Not So Completely Irritating & Insulting

I received a fund-raising letter last week from Senator Lincoln Chafee. Here is the paragraph to which my response vacillated between irritation and utter amusement at its words and tone:

My opponent in the Republican primary, Stephen Laffey, is preparing to run a negative campaign because the only way he can win is to attack me. You see, his divisive, confrontational approach has led to acrimony and costly law suits, but little in real results for the City of Cranston. He can't run on his record so he's going to attack mine.

Tone deaf. Chafee apparently doesn't understand that Laffey need not attack him. All Laffey has to do is speak up about what he believes in and the stark contrast with Chafee cannot be missed. Simply pathetic.

Here is to voting for change.

National Review: "Dump Chafee," Choose Laffey

Marc Comtois

It's news when the editors of a major conservative/Republican publication endorse a candidate. As such, I think it worthwhile to post the editorial in its entirety for the benefit of Anchor Rising readers.

"I want to support President Bush's choice to the Supreme Court," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island on January 30. "The president did win the election."

It was a bizarre statement because Chafee not only refused to support Bush's most recent choice for the Supreme Court he was the single Republican to oppose the confirmation of Samuel Alito but also refused to support Bush's reelection in 2004. On Election Day, he wrote in the name of Bush's father, in "symbolic protest" of the current president's positions on abortion, gay marriage, oil drilling, tax cuts, and Iraq.

One wonders: Why is Chafee a Republican at all? The senator appears none too sure himself. In 2004, when USA Today asked whether he'd consider switching parties, Chafee replied, "I'm not ruling it out."

The life of a Rhode Island Republican certainly is not an easy one John Kerry won the state by 21 points. It would be unreasonable to expect Chafee to earn a 100-percent rating from the American Conservative Union. Yet his lifetime score of 41 percent is pathetic. No Republican senator, including Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, ranks lower. In December, the Boston Globe observed that Chafee's "liberal positions would be well-suited for a centrist Democrat." True enough except that several centrist Democrats actually supported Alito, putting them to the right of Chafee on one of the most important votes they will cast this year.

Lincoln Almond, the former governor who appointed Chafee to the Senate in 1999 and a Republican who knows how to win elections in Rhode Island said that he was "disappointed" in the senator's decision to oppose Alito. Indeed, Republicans in the Ocean State ought to be so thoroughly disappointed in Chafee by now that they refuse to vote for him this year.

The argument that conservatives should support Chafee rests entirely on the assumption that he's the only Republican who can win in Rhode Island. This logic may be what has led the National Republican Senatorial Committee to continue throwing resources behind him. The assumption may or may not be true, but, whatever the case, it is far from clear that the GOP to say nothing of conservatives gains anything from Chafee's continued presence in the Senate. When votes really matter, he can't be counted on. Positions such as the one he took on Alito allow Democrats and the media to speak of "bipartisan opposition" to the Bush administration. And if the GOP's majority ever depended on Chafee alone, there's every reason to believe he'd bolt the party, just as James Jeffords of Vermont did in 2001.

There is an alternative. Steven Laffey, the Republican mayor of Cranston, is running against Chafee in the September primary. His underdog campaign has shown both pluck and promise. Laffey has a track record of winning Democratic votes: That's the only way he could have been elected two times as mayor of Cranston, a city of about 80,000 residents, most of them Democrats. But on key issues, Laffey is a conservative: He supports tax cuts and the war in Iraq, opposes corporate welfare and other forms of wasteful spending, and is pro-life. The Club for Growth has decided to back him. His campaign has unfortunately chosen to bash "Big Oil" in some of its early advertising but, as we said, it's difficult to be a Republican in Rhode Island.

Even if Laffey were to win the primary but lose the general election, beating Chafee would send a helpful message to the kind of Republican who thinks Chafee's "independence" is something to admire and emulate. (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine come to mind.) That message: that Republican voters will not be taken for granted just because they are in the minority in their state. Then there's the tantalizing possibility that Laffey might actually win both the primary and the general election. It's a chance worth taking. What do conservatives have to lose? The worst possible outcome is only that Rhode Islanders will trade a virtual Democrat for a real one.

February 5, 2006

Senator Chafee on 10 News Conference: Segment 4

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here is a brief summary of Senator Lincoln Chafees February 5 appearance on the WJAR-TV (Channel 10) public affairs program 10 News Conference (Sundays, 6:30 am)

Jim Taricani asks about Steve Laffeys criticism of Chafee over Alito. Is he concerned that he could lose the primary?
Senator Lincoln Chafee answers that Mayor Laffey is the Democrats favorite person. Chafee says his key to winning is high turnout and unaffiliated voters.

Bill Rappleye asks if that means winning requires convincing non-Republicans to vote in the Republican primary.
Chafee answers that hes not giving up on anyone, and that he represents core Republican values, like civil liberties and strong environmentalism. Chafee acknowledges that Republican voters are mad at him.

Rappleye asks if the President has offered assisstance.
Chafee replies that hes offered to help.

Rappleye asks if he wants the President to come to RI.
Chafee replies that hes not hypocritical. He doesnt want the President to come if he doesnt support the President's agenda. McCain might come in support of Chafee, however.

Finally, the panel asks about the Senators legislative style.
Chafee answers that he is definitely less confrontational than Steve Laffey, and works hard to bring people to together. When asked for example of this, he cited the Gang of 14 deal on filibusters and judges that had prevented the shutdown of the Senate.

Senator Chafee on 10 News Conference: Segment 3

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here is a brief summary of Senator Lincoln Chafees February 5 appearance on the WJAR-TV (Channel 10) public affairs program 10 News Conference (Sundays, 6:30 am)

Jim Taricani asks about the addicted to oil line in the Presidents State of the Union. Something similar is mentioned every year. Does Congress have the political will to really do something this time?
Senator Lincoln Chafee thinks there was more emphasis and more priority this year. The first step is raising the milage standards on cars, but the standards are voted down in Congress each year. The administration doesn't support raising mileage standards.

Bill Rappleye asks if the rhetoric matches reality.
Chafee answers that it may be changing.

Taricani asks if there will be real change on mileage standards.
Chafee: Time will tell.

Taricani asks what specifically has the Senator done on energy policy.
Chafee answers that he has sponsored legislation that would help reduce oil consumption, mentions ethanol.

Rappleye asks if the Senators antagonism of the White House makes it difficult for him to get his bills through.
Chafee replies that its a misconception that he doesnt get along with the Republicans in the White House or Congress. The highway bill and the base closing commission show how well he works with other Republicans. During the time of the Alito Confirmation, other Republicans were asking what they could do to help him in RI, specifically mentions John McCain in this context.

Taricani asks about contact with administration during the Alito hearing. Did they give a wink that it was OK to vote against Alito?
Chafee: No. The administration wanted 100% Repubican support, especially to avoid the "bipartisan opposition to Judge Alito" meme.

Rappleye asks about the pressure brought to bear.
Chafee answers that they were concerned about potential impact on the primary.

Rappleye asked who specifically talked to the Senator.
Chafee answers that Elizabeth Dole and Andrew Card tried getting him in line.

Rappleye asks if the NRSC threatened to withhold funding.
Chafee: Not the NRSC, but some donors have.

Senator Chafee on 10 News Conference: Segment 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here is a brief summary of Senator Lincoln Chafees February 5 appearance on the WJAR-TV (Channel 10) public affairs program 10 News Conference (Sundays, 6:30 am)

Jim Taricani asks about the eavesdropping without a warrant program. The New York Times revealed the program to the public. Should the NYT be required to give up their sources.
Senator Lincoln Chafee answers no, thats what newpapers do.

Taricani asks even if it damaged the war-on-terror.
Chafee answers that he doesnt believe that it did.

Bill Rappleye directly asks how the Senator feels about the surveillance program.
Chafee answers that we need to be very careful in war time. Under various WWI acts, 800 people were detained. We must remember that we're fighting to protect our liberties.

Taricani points out that polls show most Americans agree with the surveillance program. Shouldnt the government have some latitude in this? Rappleye adds particulary when overseas communication is involved.
Chafee answers that the Law is the law. Post-September 11, Congress has changed laws addressing surveillance, and warrants are still required.

Rappleye asks if we should end wiretapping.
Chafee answers or change the law.

Taricani asks doesnt FISA have provisions for warrantless surveillance.
Chafee: Then why work outside of FISA?

Taricani asks if President Bush is a threat to the civil liberties of Americans.
Chafee answers that some curtailing of civil liberties during WWI was popular. We have to be careful with civil liberties, and we have now have cases where American citizens have been detained for 3 years.

Taricani asks about the rendition of prisoners to foreign countries.
Chafee answers that all Americans should be following the Hamdi and Padilla cases closely.

Senator Lincoln Chafee on 10 News Conference: Segment 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here is a brief summary of Senator Lincoln Chafees February 5 appearance on the WJAR-TV (Channel 10) public affairs program 10 News Conference (Sundays, 6:30 am)

Jim Taricani asks about the Alito nomination, why come out against after it was obvious he would be approved?
Senator Lincoln Chafee answers it was obvious all along that any President Bush nominee who did well at the hearing would go through because of the Republican 55 vote-majority in the Senate.

Taricani asks why it took so long to decide, given Alitos pro-life leanings.
Chafee answers that the behavior of Supreme Court Justices is hard to predict. David Souter, for example, originally opposed by pro-choice people has voted pro-choice. The nominee's testimony must be examined carefully.

Taricani asks about the the Projo's "Lincoln Hamlet" editorial.
Chafee answers that his decision came only 2 business days after Senator Reeds decision.

Bill Rappleye asks why vote against Alito, when youve voted for 13 pro-life judges.
Chafee answers 1) the Supreme Court is different and 2) Alito was replacing Sandra Day OConnor, whereas John Roberts replaced William Rehnquist. The health of the mother exception in abortion cases is headed for the Supreme Court, and Alito may be a critical vote in these cases.

February 4, 2006

NRSC Delete's Anti-Chafee Comments

Marc Comtois

I recently posted about the angry comments being expressed by conservative Republicans in the "comments" section of an anti-Laffey story that was promoted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on behalf of Sen. Chafee. Apparently, rather than deal head-on with discontent being expressed by their conservative base, the NRSC has instead "bravely" decided to remove the original story and the 100+ anti-Chafee comments associated with it. (Thanks to commenter "ballottra" for the heads up).

The original story was released around Dec. 19 (if memory serves) and now it is gone from the list of news releases. It seems it is the only such story removed. Thankfully, I have preserved a few of the comments in post I mentioned before.

However, the NRSCs attempt to CENSOR the legitimate grievences of GOP members concerned with the NRSCs actions in the Laffey/Chafee race were poorly implemented. Though the story and old comments are gone, new comments can still be be made here. I respectfully request that conservatives do so. I wouldn't be surprised if the NRSC eventually figures it out and takes even this meager avenue of protest away. If so, we will have to come up with another way to convey our displeasure.

Finally, a question: Does the NRSC actually believe it willl be able to issue pro-Chafee press releases with an open comments section without getting anti-Chafee comments?

For what it's worth, here are a couple stories being promoted on the NRSC website concerning the RI Senate race that seem appropriate venues for commentary...

R.I. mayor defies GOP in Senate bid

GOP Leaders Rally Around Chafee

February 3, 2006

Conservatives Smack the NRSC

Marc Comtois

A couple days ago I mentioned the dissonance occurring over at the Nat'l Republican Senatorial Committee website regarding their support for Sen. Chafee. In particular, I pointed to a story from December in which they tried to make Sen. Chafee out to be more conservative than Mayor Steve Laffey.

I also suggested reading the comments section of the story to get a flavor of how angered people were for the NRSCs support of Sen. Chafee--especially in the wake of his "No" vote against Justice Alito. Yesterday, George Conway at the Reconcilable Differences blog (hosted by National Review Online) also called attention to the same story over at the NRSC. With such national exposure, the comments selection ballooned...and things aren't going so well for Sen. Chafee or the NRSC. In short, many of the commenters claim that they will be sending money directly to candidates because they don't feel as if they can trust the national organization to stick to conservative/Republican principles. Read on for a sampling of just the most recent entries....

Continue reading "Conservatives Smack the NRSC"

February 1, 2006

Move Over Senator

Marc Comtois

Thinking aloud over at The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru asks, "What do conservatives gain if Chafee wins?" But first he makes a case for conservative retribution against Sen. Chafee:

The more I think about it, the more important it seems to me that Steve Laffey beat him in the Rhode Island Senate primary.

None of the Republicans who voted against Bork in 1987, and none of the Democrats who voted against Thomas in 1991, paid any price. (It was the pro-Thomas senators who suffered: Democrat Alan Dixon lost a primary to Carol Moseley-Braun, and Arlen Specter had a tough general election.) If Chafee loses, it will make it harder for Snowe and Collins to vote against a qualified conservative in the next Supreme Court fight.

What do conservatives gain if Chafee wins? The hope that he would vote to keep Senate Republicans in the majority if it came down to him. We don't know that he would vote that way; and it's not clear that nominal control of the Senate matters all that much. Even if Laffey went on to lose the general election, taking out Chafee looks like a good move to me.

As some of you may have realized, I've basically come to that conclusion myself, though not from any desire for retributive action against Senator Chafee.

In a response to a critique of my post regarding where Sen. Chafee has differed from conservatives, I explained why I have decided that it's time to send Sen. Chafee on his way. I think it's proper for me to summarize my reasoning in a "regular" post so readers (and my fellow Anchor Rising contributors) can see where I stand on the Laffey/Chafee race.

Anchor Rising is a conservative blog, not a Republican blog. I am a registered Republican, but I'm a conservative first. I am more concerned with growing the conservative movement within the state than I am with keeping a liberal Republican in national office merely for the false promise of "goodies" for my state.

It is a political reality that the home for conservatives is the GOP. Unfortunately, Sen. Chafee--the face of the RIGOP at the national level--has shown time and again that he is most comfortable being a liberal Republican. In fact, it's as if he revels in the attention he accrues for being a Republican wildcard. His position as the only Republican in our congressional delegation has given both he and his supporters considerable power--both direct and indirect--within the State GOP, especially at the top of the state GOP hierarchy.

Additionally, though there are many leaders within the RIGOP who are more conservative than Sen. Chafee (such as Governor Carcieri), these leaders have chosen to be "pragmatists" and "grin and bear it" as Sen. Chafee routinely votes against the interests of his President and the interests of the majority of the Party he calls "home." They are understandably reluctant to break Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment ("Never speak ill of another Republican"; the same cannot be said for the NRSC), especially in a state with such a small GOP contingent. But the willingness of the RIGOP to accept whatever Senator Chafee does for the sake of having a seat at the national GOP's table is starving their own conservative base.

The Alito confirmation vote is the most recent and stark example of how much Sen. Chafee differs from even his fellow liberal/moderate Republicans like Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. He was the only Republican to vote against confirmation of Justice Alito, a nominee of a President of his own party. Yes, the GOP is a "big tent" party--but Sen. Chafee usually isn't in the tent when the Main Event is in the center ring!

Eventually, the RI GOP--whether from the "bottom up" or the "top down"--has to make a decision: Continue being satisfied with the status quo and the shenanigans of our "independent" Senator, or send the sort of message that is long overdue. Currently, Mayor Steven Laffey is the vehicle through which conservative members of the RIGOP can best make such a statement. Mayor Laffey isn't a "perfect" conservative (if such a thing exists), but he is undeniably more conservative than Sen. Chafee. At the least, he will support President Bush on the big issues like the War in Iraq. I am not condoning some sort of ideological purity within the RIGOP, nor am I naive enough to believe such a thing is achievable. All I desire is that the RIGOP begin to reflect the predominant ideals of the majority of its members, from the top on down.

Regardless of whether or not Sen. Chafee has a better chance than Mayor Laffey of winning the general election is not as important as how the nomination of each effects the structure of the RIGOP. If--as Tip O'Neill said, "All politics is local"--then it's time for RIGOP to concern ourselves with our own backyard. Party building requires its members to be inspired, something that has been sorely lacking within the GOP. Inspiration requires leadership, but it also requires that the members "buy-in" to a message in which the truly believe. Even if Mayor Laffey should win the primary, but lose the general election, few can doubt that his views are more in line with the majority of the RIGOP.

Many say that RI is a "liberal" state, and that having a liberal Republican is the best that we can do. That is both pessimistic and defeatist. Conservatives have to realize that there is no law stating hat RI will always be "liberal." We are not consigned to some permanent fate. We have the ability to change Rhode Island, but only through optimism and hard work will we be successful.

After 1964, Barry Goldwater was considered a fringe candidate who had led the nascent national conservative movement to a fiery death. In 1980, Ronald Reagan proved them wrong. In between 1964 and 1980, Reagan and others led a grassroots movement that spread the conservative message throughout the nation. Unfortunately, with the exception of a brief period during the 1980s, that message has been forgotten in Rhode Island. It is past time that Rhode Island conservatives rectify that situation. The first step is to change the attitude and direction of the RIGOP. So long as we continue to derive inspiration from our conservative ideals and values--and don't accept vague promises of maintaining our little slice of the political pie--we can be confident in our attempt to fundamentally change the Rhode Island Republican Party. Change has to start somewhere and sometime: Why not here, why not now?

Projo Editorial Board: "Sen. Lincoln Hamlet"

Carroll Andrew Morse

An unsigned editorial in todays Projo provides a pretty accurate snapshot of Senator Lincoln Chafee's political situation (though I doubt that the Senator himself would use the word "entertaining" in this context)

The politics around a GOP senator who is more liberal than most Democrats are murky, if often entertaining. But we'd guess that Senator Chafee's apparent long indecision and then final contortions in the Alito controversy have reduced his influence.

At this juncture, Lincoln Chafee remains a very interesting politician, but an increasingly marginalized one.

As we say in blogland, read the whole thing.

January 31, 2006

Where Senator Chafee has Gone "Off the Reservation"

Marc Comtois

In addition to being the only Republican Senator to vote against the confirmation of now-Justice Alito, Senator Chafee has opposed President Bush and--more often--conservative ideals on the following substantive matters. (All links are to data provided by ProjectVoteSmart. An index of Sen. Chafee's complete voting record is here).

Presidential Appointments:

Voted against nomination of Judge Priscilla Owen.
Voted against nomination of Judge William Pryor.

Domestic Issues:

Voted against cloture on debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment Bill in 2004, thus upholding a filibuster.
Voted against the provision that allowed for opening up ANWR to oil exploration and drilling.
Voted against the Firearms Manufacturers Protection bill that limited civil liabilities against gun makers--twice.
Voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act 2004 that would have made it a criminal offense if a "fetus" is injured or killed while carrying out a violent crime on a pregnant woman.
Voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (thus supporting the President).

Foreign Policy:

Voted against the use of military force against Iraq.
Voted for an attempt to make members of the US Military subject to the International Criminal Court.
Voted against an amendment that prohibits any employee of the Federal government from holding a security clearance for access to classified information if they disclose such information to unauthorized persons (say, to the NY Times).

Finally, of course, he voted against the President in the 2004 election.

To be fair, there are many important issues in which Sen. Chafee has been in line with many conservatives or the President. For instance, there can be little doubt that he's a free-trader. However, as can be seen, on substantive issues he is just as likely to bolt the President as he is to join him.

Fun Reading at the NRSC

Marc Comtois

Back in December, the National Republican Senatorial Committee--in support of Sen. Chafee--decided to try to undermine Steve Laffey's conservativism by claiming he was really a tax-and-spender. Well, by reading the comments (select "View all comments" at the aforementioned page), you'll find that a few people have tried to set them straight. Interestingly, the thread is still growing given the recent Alito vote--possibly because the NSRC has decided to put Sen. Chafee "In the Spotlight" this week. Oops--good timing guys. If nothing else, reading the comments calling for the NRSC to "wake up" can be a cathartic experience.

Meanwhile, the NRSC is making much of the fact that Michigan Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow is supported by the radical, left-wing Emily's List and are claiming that she voted for the attempted filibuster of Alito because she is beholden to this pro-abortion organization. Apparently, NARAL isn't considered as left-wing by the NSRC. Maybe because they're the second-highest single contributor to Sen. Chafee's re-election campaign? (Here's another way to look at this data--look for yellow).

January 30, 2006

That's Our Chafee

Justin Katz

To be honest, I've been a little surprised at the intense interest in Senator Chafee's vote on Alito. From conservatives' standpoint, the only intriguing turn of events would have been a "yes" vote on the nomination and the questions that it would have raised about whether Chafee might make further efforts to court us.

What Chafee actually stated in today's announcement — and it isn't but so surprising — is that, no, he isn't particularly interested in solidifying support among Rhode Island's divided Republicans. One can find a measure of sad humor musing that this attitude is precisely what the national GOP likes about Chafee for the next election cycle, but otherwise, the episode is just another instance of our own Linc Chafee doing what he does best: disappointing constituents to his political right.

So, as much as I'd like to reward Kathryn Lopez for directing NRO Corner readers to Anchor Rising for "RI backlash," I'm not sure that there's much lashing to go back to. Whether related to the war in Iraq or the Senator's wishy-washy partisanship or some other matter, there probably weren't that many on the Rhode Island right who had yet to have their "I'd rather vote for Patrick Kennedy" moments. Apart from a few resurgent squawks, the only backlash that remains to be seen will come in the form of our own "no" votes.

Can Republicans be Confident in Chafee?

Marc Comtois

So asks NROs Ramesh Ponnuru:

I haven't thought this race held as much potential for conservatives as the Specter vs. Toomey race did in 2004. I thought Toomey had a greater chance of winning a general election than I think Laffey does now. But as Chafee's Alito vote shows, the downside of backing the conservative insurgent is lower, too. What would Chafee do if the Republican majority in the Senate depended on his vote? How much confidence can anyone have that he would stay a Republican under those circumstances?
I hadn't really seriously considered the prospect, but it strikes me as no small leap to ask if he'd pull a Jefford's if his "conscience" so dictated? I know he's said he wouldn't in the past, but can Republican Chafee supporters really be so sure? (Incidentally, the link to Sen. Chafee's statement--made shortly after he voted for President George H.W. Bush--is no longer anywhere to be found on the Senator's web site).

Here's Senator Chafee's official statement on Alito (PDF) and here is Mayor Laffey's official response.

Laffey's Quick Take on Chafee's Alito "NO"

Marc Comtois

On WPRO, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey just said that he was "disappointed but not surprised" at Sen. Chafee's decision. He said that Sen. Chafee had made himself irrelevant to the process again and that RI won't be well-served by either Chafee's decision on this particular issue nor on Sen. Chafee's consistent inablilty to make a firm decision. When told that Sen. Chafee stated he opposed Alito because of his stance on abortion, the separation of church and state, and wiretapping, Mayor Laffey said that the Senator shouldn't make litmus tests part of his decision-making process. Laffey said, "that's wrong" and explained (I'm paraphrasing), "how would you like to get in front of a judge knowing he already has staked a position on an issue?" To Laffey, this "extremist" insistence on litmus tests is what is wrong with the process.

UPDATE:: The ProJo has more extensive coverage, here are the highlights:

Chafee said at a press conference this morning at his Providence office that he was "greatly concerned" about some of Alito's philosophies. In explaining his decision against the judge, the senator described himself as a "pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican."

Chafee noted that while Alito had "outstanding legal credentials," his philosophy on certain issues, including the commerce clause, executive power and women's reproductive rights, influenced his decision.

Chafee said that Alito's position on the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion seems different than the position taken by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whom Chafee voted to confirm last year.

He said Roberts was willing to call Roe vs. Wade "settled law" during his nomination hearing, but Alito "refused to make a similar statement."

The senator had said during his 2000 campaign that he would not vote for a nominee who did not pledge to affirm Roe v. Wade.

"I'm very concerned about the slow eroding of women's reproductive freedom," Chafee said. . .

Chafee today also expressed concern that Alito's apparent position on the Constitution's commerce clause, allowing Congress to regulate commerce among states, could weaken environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act.

And he questioned Alito's stance on executive power as it relates to warrantless wiretaps and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

Chafee stated, "Judge Alito was also asked, '...Is it possible under your construct that an inherent Constitutional power of the president could, under some analysis or some case, override what people believe to be a Constitutional criminal statute?' Judge Alito responded that this was possible noting a 'possibility that might be justified.' "

Chafee said, "As Justice O'Connor wrote in a recent case, 'A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens.' "

Chafee said he did not make his final decision until Friday. He said he needed to take his time with a thorough analysis because it's a decision that the country will likely live with for many years since Alito is a young man.

In analyzing Alito's positions, Chafee said he was more concerned with the appeals court judge's decisions from the bench than what he wrote as a lawyer for "his client," the Reagan administration.

Still, he acknowledged, "It's so hard to predict" how a nominee will vote on the court.

Chafee, a former Warwick mayor and son of a former GOP U.S. senator and Rhode Island governor, has gained a reputation in the Senate as a maverick willing to buck the party leadership. Still, he said he wanted to support the president's nominee.

"Believe me, having been an executive in government, I want to support President Bush's choice to the Supreme Court," Chafee said. "The president did win the election. He has made his promises and I have made mine."

Chafee Vote Against Alito

Marc Comtois

As reported by WPRO's Lori Johnson, Sen. Lincoln Chafee will vote against Judge Alito. He cited concerns about Judge Alito's stance on wiretapping and executive power and secondarily about Judge Alito's stance on abortion. More to come...

UPDATE: My quick take is that, while Sen. Chafee seems to have indeed voted his conscience, there can be no doubt that a general election political calculation has also been made. That's fine. I disagree with his reasoning and also wonder why he didn't have such fits of conscience when it came to voting for Justice Roberts. Perhaps justifying this vote with some purported belief that Judge Alito would give the Executive too much power is his "out." Nonetheless, I wonder how the President feels about his support for Sen. Chafee, now?

January 27, 2006

Laffey Endorses Shadegg in House Leadership Race

Carroll Andrew Morse

OK, I was wrong. Rhode Island Republicans do have a voice in the upcoming Republican leadership election in the House of Representatives. In today's National Review Online, Republican Senatorial Candidate Steve Laffey has endorsed Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona in the race for House Majority Leader ...

All three contestants have issued numerous promises to fight the special interests, but promises are not enough. John Shadegg has the clearest record of standing up to the corrupt practices and the outrageous pork spending that has become so prevalent in recent years. For example, Representative Shadegg cosponsored a bill to reform the earmark process last spring, long before it became the "in" thing to do, and he was one of only eight Representatives to vote against the pork-heavy Transportation bill.
Laffey then plugs his own campaign, and offers some criticism of his challenger...
John Shadegg and I have something in common: We are both appalled by the spending gluttony in Washington, and we have dedicated our careers to saving taxpayers money. That is why I am running for the United States Senate in Rhode Island. The incumbent Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee, has not demonstrated the desire or the ability to stand up to the Washington political bosses and fight for the Republican values of fiscal responsibility and restraint. His career has been marked by timidity and an affinity for the status quo, and that is not good enough.

January 26, 2006

Chafee and Alito: Which Way to go?

Marc Comtois

From Chris Cillizza's Washington Post Politics Blog (via John J. Miller at NRO):

[Sen. Lincoln] Chafee remains the most high-profile undecided senator on Alito, and regardless of which side he eventually chooses, he can expect to be bashed for it.

Chafee faces a primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey (R). Should he get through that race, he will face off against either former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D) or Secretary of State Matt Brown (D) in a state that went for the Democratic presidential candidate by 20 points in 2004.

A Chafee vote for Alito will make for considerable fodder for either Brown or Whitehouse. But a vote against Alito could give Laffey the GOP nomination.

Asked about the seeming conundrum, Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang said that "from a purely political standpoint this is a lose-lose situation." Lang said Chafee will put aside political interests, however, and make a decision that is in the "best interests of the country and the best interests of Rhode Island."

Laffey, who is running as a populist outsider and to Chafee's ideological right, has already sought to make the senator's indecision on Alito an issue in the campaign. "As long as we have known Senator Chafee he has shied away from taking a firm stance on the critical issues of the day," Laffey said in a recent news release. The release also noted that Chafee didn't vote for President George W. Bush in 2004, recalling Chafee's decision to cast a symbolic vote for former President George H.W. Bush instead.

A source close to Laffey said "voting against Alito, and doing so in the indecisive manner in which [Chafee] is conducting himself, underscores exactly what Rhode Island Republicans most dislike about Chafee -- he sides with the liberals on all the big issues, and he's weak and can't make up his mind."

Chafee, perhaps the most moderate Republican in the Senate, must be cognizant of the Republican base as he weighs how to respond to Laffey's primary challenge. . .

So in order to win the GOP primary, Chafee must not only convince a cavalcade of independents to support him but also take a chunk of traditional Republican votes. With that calculation in mind, one source close to the Chafee campaign said the the senator "can survive a 'yes' [on Alito] vote a lot easier in the general election than he can survive a 'no' vote in the primary election."

I wonder: what does Sen. Chafee consider "the best interests of the country and the best interests of Rhode Island"? I hope he elaborates when he announces his decision.

January 24, 2006

Dole (Briefly) Opines on RI Senate '06

Marc Comtois

According to Hotline, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, chairwoman of the National Republican Senate Committee, offered this bit about the RI '06 Senate race today:

In RI, where the NRSC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars slamming incumbent Linc Chafee's primary opponent, Dole dismissed the idea that Chafee's challenger could win. Dole: "I will not even entertain the idea that Steve Laffey will win the primary."
Local Channel 6 charactized this as Sen. Dole offering "a positive view of Chafee's chances against his conservative challenger." There's your red meat for the day.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Endorses Sen. Chafee

Marc Comtois

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce--which represents 3 million businesses nationwide--has endorsed Senator Chafee for his '06 Senate run according to an article in today's ProJo. This despite having differences with the Senator over various environmental , tax and labor policies. According to the story, the endorsement means the USCC will provide both money and "people on the ground" for Sen. Chafee.

Chafee said the endorsement is important "to show that not only can I win the endorsement of the environmental groups, but also the business groups. There is no more powerful business group than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

. . . Chafee said he was not surprised to win the chamber's endorsement, because of his ability to work across the partisan divide. "The value that they appreciate is working from the middle on some of these contentious issues and trying to get good bipartisan support," he said.

Mayor Laffey accused Sen. Chafee of recycling an endorsement he had received last November and his campaign characterized it as support from a special-interest group. Comparing this endorsement to that given Laffey by the Club for Growth, Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report noted that, "The one difference is that the club doesn't have much of a membership that lives and votes in Rhode Island -- the chamber does."

According to Chamber vice president and political director Bill Miller, Sen. Chafee voted the chamber's position 82 percent of the time in 2004.

"From class action [reform] to bankruptcy to medical malpractice, transportation, trade, the CAFTA bill that was hugely important to the business community -- the senator has been supportive on all of those," Miller said. "The bottom line is we have someone who is sympathetic to the business community, and more often than not votes with us."
However, the Journal also reports
But Chafee has opposed the chamber on a number of issues, such as the Endangered Species Act, which Chafee supports and which the chamber has criticized; a proposed federal minimum wage hike, which Chafee backs; oil drilling in the ANWAR, which he opposes; and others.
Duffy explains that because the Chamber has a position "on so many issues, few politicians will match up perfectly." Brown's Darrell West has his own theory as to why Chafee garnered this endorsement.
Overlooking differences with Chafee is simple political arithmetic, West said. The chamber would rather have a Republican they like 80 percent of the time than a Democrat who may oppose them more often, West said. "Chafee has a demonstrated record of electability" as a moderate Republican in a state dominated by Democrats.

January 19, 2006

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

Carroll Andrew Morse

From Jim Lindgren of the Volokh Conspiracy...

In response to a question from an audience of Northwestern law students and faculty, [Senator Richard] Durbin disclosed that the Senate leaders were counting votes, not only on Alito's nomination, but on the possibility of a filibuster: "At this point, I wouldnt want to project whether we will have a filibuster.

On the nomination more generally, Durbin said that one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, had publicly indicated that he would vote for Alito, and one undisclosed Republican Senator had privately indicated that he or she would probably vote against Alito.

January 16, 2006

Steve Laffeys Prescience on Pork

Carroll Andrew Morse

With his trademark specificity, Republican Senatorial candidate Steve Laffey has proposed two reforms for getting pork spending under control in his Road to Fiscal Sanity plan

Step 1: Separate vote on each earmark (aka pork).

Step 2: 2/3 of the Senate must agree to attach an earmark (aka. pork) to any bill.

An earmark is funding appropriated by Congress for a specific project in a single state or Congressional district. Under current rules, an earmark need only be approved by only one house of Congress, as long as both houses agree on the total amount of all earmarks.

At the start of his campaign, Mayor Laffeys choice to make an issue of pork-spending was criticized as nave. The conventional wisdom was that to be effective in the Senate, you had to curry favor with the Senates senior membership and support their quest for pork -- show that you were willing to help them, and eventually theyd help you.

Now, it turns out that Mayor Laffey was ahead of the curve. His earmark reforms are consistent with spending reform proposals currently being discussed by the Republican leadership in Congress. National Journals Hotline reports on the beginnings of a movement for reforming Senate appropriation procedures

Late last fall, [Republican Majority Leader] Sen. Bill Frist tapped Sen. Rick Santorum to conceive a package of lobbying reform legislation

Ear marks added to spending bills would be subject to heightened scrutiny and lawmakers who add them would be forced to justify their existence to their colleagues.

The Laffey proposals certainly seem to fit under the rubric of heightened scrutiny for earmarks. In a separate article, Hotline reports on the beginnings of similar reforms in the House...
Those in favor of "lobbying reform" often really want procedural reform...

The two arenas certainly intersect; more scrutiny and disclosure by lobbyists would make it harder for lobbyists to convince members to add extraneous items to spending bills. Procedural reform -- say --requiring 72 hours to consider set-in-stone legislation before voting begins -- would reduce the number of last minute additions by lobbyists operating through members.

In Hotlines parlance lobbying reform refers to strengthening rules governing lobbyist disclosure and lobbying activities, while procedural reform refers to reforming the rules that Senators and Congressmen have to follow when authorizing spending.

What has reduced Washingtons appetite for easy pork, as most people know, is the scandal surrounding Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Republican leadership is properly afraid that voters will throw them out of office in 2006 unless they show real interest in reforming the process by which Congress spends money, and focus more on facilitating the public good, and less on satisfying the wants of lobbyists and the political needs of members of Congress.

But like all scandals, the Abramoff scandal will eventually fade, and the inertia of business-as-usual will reassert itself. The momentum for reform will only be sustained if the people are represented by Senators and Representatives who believe in spending reform not because its a headline issue, but because its the right thing to do. By speaking out on the issue of pork spending before it was popular, Steve Laffey has established his credentials in this important area.

January 13, 2006

Yorke Interviews Sen. Chafee

Marc Comtois

Dan Yorke interviewed Senator Chafee for the first time in 4-5 years on his radio show yesterday afternoon. Yorke has not been easy on Sen. Chafee over the last few years--it was he who dubbed him "the Senator from Virginia"--and I thought it worth the time to listen and pass along a summary of the conversation. For those of you who don't want to read the extended summary, here are the major points I took away from the interview:

1) Senator Chafee doesn't regret voting for former President George H.W. Bush instead of his son, President George W. Bush, who was actually running for office in 2004. He also seemed to imply that he showed more party loyalty by doing this than did Zell Miller, who crossed the line to vote for a Republican. And isn't it neat that the current President is still supporting Senator Chafee? My quick take: Sen. Chafee held party loyalty higher than personal ideals during the 2004 election. He has been rewarded with support from the national GOP.

2) He's opposed to the policy in Iraq. WMD was a false premise. The WMD used by Saddam on the Kurds was WWI technology and wasn't "real" WMD. There's was no link between Al Queda and Saddam. (Though maybe there was...) Thinks we're in "another Vietnam" and that Iraq is a quagmire. My quick take: Sen. Chafee holds personal ideals higher than loyalty to a President of his own party on this point. Nonetheless, he still has the support from the National GOP.

3) Still unwilling to announce whether he is going to vote for Judge Alito's confirmation or not. My quick take: Finger is in the wind.

4) Thinks Mayor Laffey showed disrespect by not telling him personally that he was going to run against him for Senate. Hinted that the Mayor was also ungrateful given the help Sen. Chafee gave him when he first came to RI. Also still thinks that Mayor Laffey should have run for some other office to help the RI GOP. Finally, thinks that Mayor Laffey has shown a retributive character and gave the example of the Jackvony pixelization episode. My quick take: Senator Chafee thinks Mayor Laffey has shown no party loyalty by not following the advice of the RI GOP leadership and he has also not shown Sen. Chafee proper respect. Sen. Chafee won't be mean in the campaign except when he says that Mayor Laffey is mean.

Now, here's the extended summary--and please remember that this is a summary, not a transcript. (I've quoted some lines when confident I got it right). I've put the topical headings in bold. I'll leave the rest of the opining to the commenters:

Continue reading "Yorke Interviews Sen. Chafee"

January 12, 2006

"Laffey Denounces Shameful Senate Hearing, Says Alito Should Be Confirmed

Carroll Andrew Morse

Republican Senatorial Candidate Steve Laffey has come out in support of the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court

Today, Cranston Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Laffey declared his support for the confirmation of Samuel Alito to be an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. While commending the qualifications of Judge Alito, Mayor Laffey also denounced the character assassination spectacle at the Senate Judiciary Committee, and urged Rhode Islands U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Lincoln Chafee to support the nominee.

Mayor Laffey commented, Over the course of three full days of extensive public hearings, we now clearly know two things. First, Judge Alito is a person with tremendous legal credentials, an open and independent mind, and an incredibly reasonable temperament. Second, the hearings demonstrate once more what is wrong with Washington today, where character assassination and tawdry treatment is all too common.

Laffey continued, Judge Alito has an inspiring personal story of rising up from humble roots to live the American Dream. I believe he will be a fair and good member of the Supreme Court. I would urge Rhode Islands two Senators to vote for Judge Alitos confirmation, and reject the tactics of the liberal extremist groups and the hyper-partisan environment of Washington, DC.

January 10, 2006

Vaulting over the Same Old Same Old

Justin Katz

Edward Achorn offers we sighted Rhode Islanders, today, our periodic fix of motivational disheartenment at the state of our state. None of it's surprising, including the feeling — at least in this overworked blogger — of desperation to do something to make Rhode Island a better place to live and a more fruitful participant in the United States of America.

The new thought that Achorn's piece brings to mind comes in the form of a question: Why is Steve Laffey, given his persona as a scrapper intent on righting difficult wrongs, campaigning to vault right over the tangled local brambles into the federal government? The way to begin improving Rhode Island's contribution as a member of the U.S.A. is by improving its actual health, the example that it sets, and the culture to which it contributes — not by shifting its column on a handful of Congressional vote tallies.

December 23, 2005

Steve Laffey, Health Savings Accounts, and Conservatism, Part 1

Carroll Andrew Morse

The attention given to the vote on ANWR earlier this week stepped on bit of news relating to Steve Laffey in another significant policy area

Laffey Introduces First HSA Plan in New England for Municipal Employees.

Last night, Cranstons City Council voted to ratify the tentative agreement negotiated between Mayor Laffey and Local 251, the Teamsters comprised of 162 City employees. Most notable in the agreement is the introduction of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as an option for the municipal employees.

HSAs have potential to be the reform that fixes the healthcare mess in this country.

Heres how they work. An employer makes regular (tax-free) contributions to an HSA. The employee spends from the HSAs for routine medical expenses, preventative check-ups, vaccinations, etc. The employee also purchases high-deductible catastrophic medical insurance (which is cheaper than comprehensive insurance) in case of a major medical emergency. The idea is to return insurance to being insurance -- many people pooling their money to help a few who need major assistance when an emergency strikes.

Well talk more about healthcare policy specifics in the coming year, but for now, I want to use this issue to emphasize Justins point from a few days ago that the why of policymaking in many ways, is as important as the what and the how. The official announcement of HSA program from the Laffey campaign site is strong on the fiscal responsibility and the economic libertarian angles. These are both good arguments, but to fully understand the importance of HSAs you need to go one step further

Steve Laffey, Health Savings Accounts, and Conservatism, Part 2

Carroll Andrew Morse

Healthcare reform is necessary in this country not just because of the current systems fiscal insanity. It's necessary because our present healthcare delivery system disrupts a fundamental connection in society the relationship between healer and patient. While our leaders and the public in general werent paying nearly enough attention, laws were put into place that allowed insurance companies and government bureaucracies to insert themselves far too agressively between doctors and patients.

The bureaucratization of healthcare has consequences that reach beyond budgetary effects. The bureaucratization of healthcare contributes to a general feeling of insecurity in American society. Will I be able to go to my doctor tomorrow, if some bureaucrat decides to change the rules? Even if a doctor wants to treat me, will the insurance company allow him to? If some intermediary makes an improper decision, is there any chance of reversing it?

When individuals start feeling that too much of their lives have come under the control of distant, unaccountable actors -- and there's nothing more important to controlling your life than maintaining your health -- they despair about their ability to help themselves. And to help them where they feel they can't help themselves, people start demanding that government seize more power to try to fix things. But as government accumulates more power, it becomes inevitably less accountable, eventually becoming just another meddling intermediary.

HSAs, which allow people to begin to seek medical treatment without obtaining permission from some remote third party partially motivated by something other than a desire to heal, help eliminate this insecurity. In doing so, they break the cycle driving society towards a mechanistic regime of government-controlled medical decision making.

By endorsing HSAs Steve Laffey has presented a policy consistent with a humanistic conservatism that is cognizant of the fact that what good government does comes from building upon -- not replacing -- the relationships between and the innovation of individuals. Laffey's energy policy is based on the same idea. My hope is that we will to continue to see this theme as the Mayor presents his policy proposals in other areas and that Mayor Laffey himself, eventually, will spend some time directly explaining its importance.

December 21, 2005

Senators Chafee and Reed Filibuster Defense Appropriations

Carroll Andrew Morse

Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review Online is reporting that Senator Lincoln Chafee has joined with the Democrats (including Senator Jack Reed) to filibuster this year's Defense Department appropriation until a provision allowing oil-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is removed.

By the way, to read a more sensible approach to energy policy, click here.


The Associated Press confirms ANWR oil-drilling as the reason for the filibuster. (h/t Kathryn Jean Lopez).

December 20, 2005

Setting Some Things Straight

Justin Katz

Although this isn't something that I expected ever to write, the coming year's Republican primary in Rhode Island is already a subject for blazing passions. That, in itself, strikes me as a healthy turn of events. Still, I remind commenters that Anchor Rising will insist that their conversations be civil. I should also clarify my current thinking so as to avoid being lashed (laughably) to "liberal lightweights" and accused (insultingly) of choosing my ground based on an event-lurker's bruised ego.

I do not support Lincoln Chafee's reelection. Long-time readers of Anchor Rising and, especially, Dust in the Light will not be shocked to hear me opine that Chafee, simply by virtue of his being a United States Senator, does damage to our nation. His being so prominent among local Republicans does further damage to both the party and the conservative movement in Rhode Island. Indeed, playing some role, large or small, in his removal from office would bring me not a little satisfaction.

Furthermore, I've long held, and continue to believe, that Steve Laffey brings to the table many qualities that Rhode Island needs. Allow me to restate with emphasis: that Rhode Island needs. Most significantly, that means a courage for disruption. It also means the good sense to understand the general dynamics that brought about our current circumstances and the clarity to cut through to their cores.

As Cranston's mayor, Laffey has operated with a mandated and clear objective to clean up the municipal government and return the city to functional status. But the U.S. Senate requires a broader political and social philosophy than I've heard Laffey articulate — much less prove. Where will he stand on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, or the next matter that the world thinks to heave upon its moral burden? I don't know. More importantly, I don't know what foundation would be informing his decisions. I've heard that he's pro-life; why? On what grounds? If he will be driven on social matters by the pragmatism that drives his civic policies, then he, too, may prove damaging to our nation.

None of these questions, on their own or in aggregate, would lead me to question Laffey's suitability as a means for unseating Chafee. However, little signs of character and personality, gathered from the news and (admittedly limited) personal experience, tilt my ambivalence toward concern. Not least among those signs is the fact that Laffey was unable to find — or wait for — a second step for his political career within the state's borders. That inability is at least suggestive of an impatience, perhaps an arrogance, that is fundamentally at odds with the approach to government that I believe to be essential toward arresting our society's spiral into either chaos or mechanical depravity.

That Laffey is what Rhode Island Republicans have come up with as an alternative to our unacceptable incumbent suggests to me that we are still in need of shaking up and creative turmoil. Perhaps a loss of one of their most treasured possessions — a seat in the national legislature — will force the local party operatives to reassess the necessities of success. In that process, it is not inconceivable that Steve Laffey will develop and articulate a more encompassing vision and emerge as a candidate whom I could enthusiastically endorse.

In the meantime, perhaps I'll write in "George Herbert Walker Bush."

December 16, 2005

"Laffey Campaign says Senator Chafee is running in the wrong primary"

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Steve Laffey for Senate campaign has released some new polling numbers...

On December 12, 2005, Survey USA released the results of a poll of 600 Rhode Island adults taken between December 9, and December 12, 2005. The poll asked the following question:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Lincoln Chafee is doing as United States Senator?

Of the respondents that identified themselves as Republican, Senator Chafee received an Approval Rating of 38% and a Disapproval Rating of 54%, with 8% responding Not Sure.

Conversely, among Rhode Island Democrats, Senator Chafee has a 65% Approval Rating and only a 27% Disapproval Rating, with 7% responding Not Sure.

However, without independent voter totals, a major component of the if-the-election-were-held-today assessment is missing.

Toward a Non-Pixelated Movement

Justin Katz

Believe me that I tried, as the comments on the Laffey Photoshop controversy trickled in yesterday, to convince myself that I was making a flaw out of a quirk. Believe me, too, that I'm not altogether happy about the contrast between these posts and the more substantive ones that others are publishing around them. Nonetheless, I can't shake the feeling that there's something just, well, off about doctoring those photos. Perhaps not doctoring them so much as keeping them available on a campaign Web site after having done so.

I'm far from tepid in my desire to unseat the faction of Rhode Island Republicans who hold on to what power they have in part through convenient definition of what a Senator — specifically, a Senator for Rhode Island — "needs to be." But there are certain qualities that a prominent representative must project in order to be effective. Maturity and a modicum of magnanimity are among them; such representatives must have the ability to coat their barbs with an intelligence and cleverness that ups the rhetorical ante, rather than lowering the political dialogue.

The two times that I've heard him speak, Mayor Laffey evinced a fondness for comparing himself to Ronald Reagan. It's a comparison that many of his supporters long to be accurate, and I worry that, in our desire for a conservative stalwart to succeed by making the case for policies that we believe to be just, effective, and even compassionate, we may be marrying our cause to the first candidate to successfully identify that political opportunity. In local races, the flirtation was enough. When it comes to the U.S. Senate, we should husband our growing political capital until the real thing comes along.

Rhode Island conservatives aren't there yet. I happen to believe that allowing Linc Chafee to lose his seat will bring us closer to our goal, but I'm not so sure that attempting to give it to Steve Laffey isn't setting us back.

After Mayor Laffey had given his speech at a gathering of Portsmouth Republicans back in February, event organizer Deborah Mitchell Young introduced him to the two bloggers whom she'd invited: me and Rocco DiPippo. After a minute or two of observing Rocco being his magnificently exuberant self, Laffey grabbed Deborah's arm and pulled her a few steps away as if to discuss some minor scheduling detail that would be of no interest to the rest of us. A moment later, the transitionary move having been made, he simply slipped away.

He was enough of a politician to know to step away from those who offer only gusto in a room full of the influential. But he was not enough of a politician — and not genuinely interested enough in his potential base of supporters — to find a way to leave behind a sense of having been acknowledged, rather than left hanging.

As a movement, Rhode Island conservatives aren't yet sufficiently corporeal that we can afford to be pixelated.

December 15, 2005

A Crack in the Machine?

Justin Katz

Yeah, I know, it's silly and not a little suspicious that such a thing would become a news story at all. Still...

Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey has apparently been making some revisionist history -- digitally removing a one-time political ally turned foe from all images on his Web site.

The photos remain, but the space where former City Councilman Randall A. Jackvony once stood has been replaced by rainbow-colored pixels.

Call it the case of the missing politician.

Laffey, who is running for U.S. Senate, denies responsibility for Jackvony's disappearance, suggesting that "hackers and perhaps even space invaders or extraterrestrials" altered the photos.

"What can you say? It's so ludicrous it's funny," Jackvony said. "A mature adult would just remove pictures from their Web site.

"It gives you the sort of mindset of his whole campaign -- which is, there's one way to do things and people that may disagree with him are not treated in a respectful manner," Jackvony added. "I would question if the people of Rhode Island want that type of person representing them in the United States Senate." ...

A third photo of Jackvony, his wife, his sister and her three children at a campaign event, is completely blurred out. The caption reads: "Many families were out in force for the big day." ...

"Please Note: Like many things in life image files can become corrupt over time," the disclaimer reads. "Several files from our original archive that depicted people and events from the 2002 Mayoral campaign may have become corrupt or damaged. Hackers and perhaps even space invaders or extraterrestrials may also have gotten past our rigid security firewall and tampered with some files."

Perhaps one could make the case that politics, particularly Rhode Island politics, need some "regular guy" lightening up. When it comes to the interpersonal and marketing sides of campaigning, a quasiparody could be an effective and, moreover, meaningful strategy.

But there's just something creepy — menacing — in the image of a campaign aid's taking the time to blur out the wife and children of an erstwhile political ally. Even abducting aliens don't go back for the families.

December 14, 2005

Beware Dictators Bearing Oil IV

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Jack Reed and Senator Lincoln Chafee have helped broker a deal to bring heating oil assistance supplied by Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez. Senator Reed has no problem doing business with Chavez because he believes the deal is not political. According to John E. Mulligan in the Projo

Sen. Jack Reed has minimized the controversy, saying that the first associaton many people have with Citgo is the company's sign near Fenway Park in Boston.
Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company.

From what the Projo presents, Senator Chafee goes further in justifying dealing with Chavez. Chafee blames America first

Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee said he can understand why Chavez believes he has not been accorded respect by the Bush administration. Chafee said Mr. Bush should invite Chavez to the Oval Office for a meeting. Noting that Chavez has ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, Chafee partly attributed the bad blood between the two governments to Mr. Bush's desire to pander to Cuban-Amercans in Florida before the 2004 election.
If Senator Chafee thinks that Chavez bears any responsibility for strained US-Venezuela relations, the Projo does not mention it.

Supporters of the assistance program point out, reasonably, that it is unfair to single out the Chavez government for vilification. America does business with lots of bad characters to keep the oil flowing. The worlds largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, is not exactly a bastion of civil liberties.

But no one pretends that Saudi Arabia is a liberal democracy. President Bush himself has called for political reform in Saudi Arabia. Here is President Bush speaking before the National Endowment for Democracy this past October

By standing for the hope and freedom of others we make our own freedom more secure.

America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people.

As the President is willing to challenge the Saudi government about its need to respect the rights and choices of its people, are Senators Reed and Chafee willing to challenge the Venezuelan government to respect the rights and choices of its people? Ironcially, the chain of events leading to the oil assistance deal provides a perfect context in which to do so....

How to take the Oil and Respect the Rights of the Venezuelan People

Carroll Andrew Morse

In March of 2005, the Venezuelan government passed a law making criticism of the President and other high government officials in Venezuela a criminal offense. According to the law, Venezuelan citizens can get as much as 30 months in jail for criticizing government officials in print or writing.

Are Senators Reed and Chafee are troubled by this policy implemented by their new oil ally? If they are, here is a statement they can use to appropriately express their dissatisfaction

President Chavez, we thank your government for making this oil assistance available to our people. And we hope that you will take the time to appreciate the lesson about the importance of freedom that this agreement affords.

The reason this deal is possible is because of the strength and openness of American democracy. In America, when our President makes a decision that not all of us agree with, we are free to criticize it. In America, we are even free to work towards policies that our President does not support.

President Chavez, the law passed in Venezuela this past March denies this right of public dissent, essential to a democracy, to your people. We hope that your government learns from what has been achieved here, and repeals the unwarranted restrictions on criticism of government officials that are now part of Venezuelan law.

Will our Senators, who proudly, frequently and appropriately avail themselves of their right to criticize their own President also criticize a foreign president when it is appropriate? Or will our Senators censor themselves, fearing that Venezuela will kill the oil-assisistance deal if public criticism of Chavez neutralizes its propaganda value. Or do they just not care about freedom of speech and democracy outside of the United States?

Of course, Senator Reed tells us that the oil assistance deal has minimal political overtones, so the Venezuelan government should not be bothered by hearing the truth. After all, the Saudis still provide oil to America even as President Bush calls for reforms in their country. Why should Venezuela be held to a lower standard?

WSJ Notes: Laffey Donated to Democrat Senatorial Candidates

Marc Comtois

James Taranto's Best of the Web Today is an entertaining read, but Taranto is off today and in his place is a sampling of the Wall Street Journals "Political Diary" (no permalink, unfortunately). Included in this sampler is a bit by Brendan Miniter about our own Chafee/Laffey contest. After noting that Laffey has gotten the support of The Club for Growth, "a political action committee with a reputation for backing conservative challengers against liberal Republicans," Miniter outlines the challenge facing Mayor Laffey:

. . . if Mr. Laffey hopes to win the hearts of conservatives nationwide by unseating Senator Chafee, he'll first have to explain a few things about his own record. As mayor of Cranston for the past three years, Mr. Laffey has increased taxes three times. The city now has one of the highest property tax rates in the state, and Mr. Laffey has said Cranston may "need" an additional tax hike in 2007. And while living in Tennessee in the 1990s, he gave money to Democratic senatorial candidates who ran against former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson and the current Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He even made a campaign contribution to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Such donations can probably be chalked up to the pragmatic doings of businessman seeking to play his cards right for political/business reasons. However, such pragmatism will lead some to question Mayor Laffey's committment to the conservative ideals he so often proclaims.

December 13, 2005

Does A Blog = A Radio Show in Campaign Finance Law?

Marc Comtois

We all know that the RI Board of Elections gave Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey a hard time by asserting that he was taking an "in kind" contribution by hosting a radio show on WPRO. For the record, I don't support campaign finance laws and think they are an abridgement of free speech. We in RI have followed the national current and instituted campaign finance reform that is little more than an incumbent protection scheme.

Nonetheless, prompted by Hugh Hewitt, I now wonder if the RI Board of Elections could apply the "Laffey Standard" to a candidate who blogs? For example, RI Secretary of State (and declared 2006 Senate candidate) Matthew Brown is a contributor to the Huffington Post, which is both hosted out-of-state (I believe), is supported (at least partially) by advertising revenue, and has a national audience. Do the campaign finance laws cover such "in kind," out-of-state campaign contributions if it is done via a blog? If not, why not? A forum is a forum, isn't it? As Hewitt points out:

Matt Brown is a candidate in an FEC regulated race. The Huffington Post is giving him valuable blog space. Is this a contribution? If Brown was running editorials on a television station, would that be an in-kind contribution? If a newspaper allowed [Brown] to run daily op-eds, would that be a contribution?

I along with most other bloggers absolutely reject the idea that anything a blogger writes or says on blog is a contribution to a candidate's campaign, but I haven't thought through the situation where the blogger is a candidate for office blogging on another's website. This is a much more troublesome and thus inviting target for the overactive regualtors at the FEC. I'd welcome the opinion of experienced campaign counsel.

I would too.

"The Virtue of Partisanship"

Marc Comtois

JA Davis at RedState has a thought provoking post that both champions partisanship and refers to our own RI Senate Race.

How many times have you heard someone say they were "independent" and voted "on the issues" or "for the person?" Doesn't it always seem like those people have a very uppity attitude about their enlightened and pensive political choices? I assert that they are neither wise nor admirable.

Reflexive partisanship is always cast as the villian in our political stories and it shouldn't be. Humans are unique, thinking creatures that like to associate with other like-minded individuals. However, if everyone demanded strict compliance to their own personal beliefs by their representatives, there would be no effective government possible. This seems to be what independents believe. Because no party has a platform that corresponds perfectly to their unique opinions, there is nothing to do but chose between the lesser of two evils or sit on the sidelines and boo.

I think those independents have trouble prioritizing and compromising their opinions accordingly. For example, an independent who is pro-life would never vote for Lincoln Chafee, but a pro-life Republican could do so in good conscious because he knows Sen. Chafee's presence protects the GOP majority in the Senate, which in turn, advances the pro-life cause because most Republican senators are pro-life. The partisan Republican can feel a greater sense of accomplishment from voting because they are supporting their team and their own personal beliefs as well. This promotes greater civic involvement and a more vibrant body politic, whereas for an independent who votes according to their own personal ideology, voting will always be a torturous exercise in blasphemy and betrayal.

Davis has more thoughts on the role of ideology in politics which are worth reading, too.

December 12, 2005

Club For Growth Endorses Laffey

Marc Comtois

Club For Growth President Pat Toomey--who knows a little something about taking on a moderate Republican incumbent--has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he reveals that his organization has officially endorsed Steve Laffey for the RI GOP Senate primary.

[Ronald] Reagan helped define the mission of the Republican Party. By re-establishing limited government as the central principle of the GOP, he laid the groundwork for the political revolution that bears his name. Almost 30 years later, the Republican Party is at a similar defining moment. Once again, challengers to certain Republican incumbents are needed to help restore limited government to its rightful place at the center of the Republican agenda.

Today, the Club for Growth PAC will endorse Steve Laffey, the Republican Mayor of Cranston, R.I., in his primary challenge against Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Steve Laffey is a pro-growth, Reagan Republican. Sen. Chafee epitomizes the GOP's waning commitment to limited government and economic freedom.

Toomey proceeds to explain why the Club for Growth is against Senator Chafee:
Sen. Chafee has consistently opposed tax cuts. Citing the federal deficit, he opposed the Bush tax cuts that have generated our powerful economic expansion. But his concerns about deficits don't extend to government spending. Bills he has sponsored would add nearly a half-trillion dollars in new spending over 10 years. The National Taxpayers Union gave him a dismal 49% rating for his profligacy with taxpayer money. A close ally of organized labor, he opposes school choice, and just last month voted for a minimum-wage increase. A recent Boston Globe profile describes his ideology as "well-suited for a centrist Democrat."

Despite his liberal record, Sen. Chafee is warmly embraced by the Republican Party establishment which dutifully enforces an unprincipled, though ironclad, mutual-defense agreement that ignores ideology.

Sounds familiar. After explaining why the Club for Growth is philosophically opposed to Sen. Chafee, Toomey explains why they have chosen to endorse Mayor Laffey.
Steve Laffey makes a stark contrast. After an inspiring climb from rags to riches, he returned to his hometown to run for mayor and rescue the city of Cranston from impending insolvency. As mayor, Mr. Laffey ruthlessly attacked the mismanagement that had caused Cranston's problems. He cut costs, established financial controls, rooted out waste and took on bloated union contracts in the courts--as well as in the court of Rhode Island public opinion. Today, Cranston has recovered its investment-grade credit rating and the voters there have re-elected him twice. This in a city where only 14% of voters are Republicans!

As a senator, Mr. Laffey would cut wasteful spending, especially corporate welfare; make the Bush tax cuts permanent; expand international trade; reform insolvent entitlements and fix broken tort laws. In short, he's precisely the kind of pro-growth, limited-government Republican the Senate badly needs more of.

According to Toomey, the RI Senate GOP Primary is only part of a larger battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
After 10 years of controlling Congress, Washington Republicans have an identity crisis. It was Republicans who gave us a farm bill that only a Soviet central planner could love; a campaign-finance reform bill that expands government's unconstitutional restrictions on speech; a prescription-drug entitlement program that Lyndon Johnson could only have dreamed of; and a transportation bill with more than 40-times as many pork projects it took to earn Reagan's veto. So, we ask a fair question: Is Reagan's vision of limited government--the fundamental principle that brought Republicans to power--still part of the Republican identity, or has it been abandoned in favor of the seductive power of controlling unlimited government?

UPDATE: This endorsement has prompted me to scrounge around for other endorsements. I had forgotten that NARAL had endorsed Senator Chafee in May in hopes that the early endorsement would "help the senator sink a potential primary fight from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey." (Guess that didn't work) More from the story:

Chafee expressed pleasure with the endorsement and said he will try to stress to NARAL members today that the Senate should not cut back the ability of Democrats to filibuster President Bush's judicial nominees, many of them conservative opponents of abortion.

Keenan said NARAL opted to give Chafeee its first endorsement of the 2006 campaign for several reasons. One is that NARAL supports incumbents and "we stand by our friends," such as Chafee, who have amassed what NARAL considers to be good records on the issue.

NARAL gave Chafee a 100-percent rating on its review of how senators voted last year on legislation the group considers important.

Keenan also emphasized NARAL's devotion to helping Republicans who support abortion rights. "We need Lincoln Chafee's sensible, moderate, Republican voice" in the Senate, Keenan said.

Keenan was asked why NARAL did not prefer [Secretary of State Matthew] Brown, a candidate who has pledged to apply a "litmus test" to all judicial nominees -- opposing any who do not show support for abortion rights.

She answered that Chafee has a record of tough votes, while Brown has no congressional voting record.

Some Democrats are now pointing to NARAL's strategy as flawed.

I'll keep my eyes peeled for more endorsements as they occur.

December 7, 2005

NEA Thinks the NSRC has hurt Chafee

Marc Comtois

In a piece titled "Teachers consider endorsing Chafee before its too late," Peter Savodnik of The Hill reports:

In yet another sign that Sen. Lincoln Chafees (R-R.I.) election prospects are in doubt, the National Education Association (NEA) is seriously considering endorsing him in the GOP primary, the head of the organizations Rhode Island chapter said yesterday.

Bob Walsh, the chapters executive director, said that Chafees primary opponent, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R), would have plenty of money and that recent television ads run by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) had led political insiders to worry about the senators odds. . .

We dont always agree with Senator Chafee, but weve always had a good relationship, Walsh said. It would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to influence that.

Meanwhile, the NSRC thinks their ad campaign has been effective:
Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the NRSC, dismissed Laffeys claim to be a tax-cutter, adding that the two ads the campaign committee had run in Rhode Island were meant to set the record straight.

Ronayne asserted that since the television ads had aired the second one stopped running in mid-November and the committee had sent direct-mail pieces to many Rhode Island Republicans, Laffeys support had ebbed.

As an aside, I wonder when actual poll numbers will be release? There have been claims on both sides that the other guy has been hurt, but nobody is showing us any proof. Until then, their claims have to be regarded suspiciously.

That being said, what to make of the NEA endorsement? On the face of it, it seems like common sense. The NEA has no love for Laffey. But could it be that a deeper calculation is being made? Could Walsh et al be betting that an endorsement of Chafee by them would push conservative Republicans further towards Laffey. This, they may be hoping, will lead to a Laffey primary win and--they presume--will give their "real" candidate (probably Sheldon Whitehouse) a better chance in the general election. Just some idle speculation. Anyone else have a good conspiracy theory?

December 6, 2005

Mac Owens & His Encounter with Sen. Chafee

Marc Comtois

Anchor Rising Contributor Mac Owens has posted this story about an encounter with Senator Chafee on The Corner:

Chafee is a disgrace. In February 2002, I was invited to give some remarks at the North Kingstown Republican Town Committee's Annual Lincoln Day Dinner. This is a big event each year and all of the Rhode Island Republicans are there. The title of my speech that night was "Abraham Lincoln, the American Founding, and the Principles of the Republican Party," which I think at some point was published on NRO. In any event, Chafee was there and sitting at a table right in front of the podium. When I reached the penultimate paragraph of my speech, I looked right at him and said:
"As the country music philosopher, Aaron Tippin, said in a song a few years back, "you've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything." Republicans have traditionally stood for limited government to protect equal rights. If the Party of Lincoln ever abandons its fealty to the principles of the Declaration, it will become little more than a pale imitation of the redistributionist Democratic Party. And Republicans can never hope to match the Democrats in offering a government solution for every problem, real or imagined."
Chafee's face turned absolutely scarlet. I heard from a party guy later that evening that Chafee was livid. I was elated.

Shortly after 9/11, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a TV reporter. He is a great guy but his politics are conventionally liberal. He was disgusted with Chafee because when he asked for Chafee's response to the attacks, our senator wouldn't give him an answer. Apparently, he needed to see what others thought first. Even liberals are disgusted by Chafee's lack of backbone.

I voted for him in 2000. I will never pull the lever for him again. As a Southerner, I come from a long line of "Yellow-Dog Democrats" and in keeping with this legacy, I will vote for a yellow dog before I will vote for this spineless disgrace.

Incidentally, the speech to which Mac refers is available here.

UPDATE: Anonymous commenter "Anthony" had this to say about Mac's post:

Suffice to say, I do recall Chafee's reaction to the incident. Maybe Chafee didn't give the reporter the sound bite he was looking for, but to suggest the Chafee wasn't bothered by the 9/11 attacks is just factually untrue. It is shameful to suggest otherwise. . .

So let me get this straight, you used Senator Chafee's name to raise money for the North Kingstown GOP and then proceeded to intentionally insult the person who helped you raise the money? Afterwards you were glad that you embarassed a special guest? Nice. Real classy.

I bear responsibility for cross-posting Mac's comments on NRO here at Anchor Rising. I have informed Mac of these comments and leave it up to him to respond if he so wishes.

UPDATE II: Mac responds:

I take it that Anthony doesn't like my assessment of the good senator's attachment to the principles of the Republican Party. But if he were to actually read my speech he would see that I had no intention of embarrassing Chafee. He does a fine job of that on his own. The purpose of my speech was to remind a group of Republicans about the legacy of their Party, a legacy too many Republicans, Chafee most certainly among them, have forgotten or abandoned. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know Chafee would be there when I was composing the speech. The fact that he was livid told me that at least one person there understood what I was talking about.

I probably shouldn't have related the second hand story about Chafee's response to 9/11, but I believe the reporter's account. He is a very well known reporter whose liberal credentials are impeccable. Nonetheless, I shouldn't have added it to my post. For this I apologize.

Anthony needs to develop a sense of humor. I know Aaron Tippin is not a real philosopher. But sometimes there is wisdom in the most mundane things. For instance, when it comes to women, I take my motto from a Sawyer Brown song. "Some girls don't like guys like me. Ah, but some girls do." Now that's true country philosophy.

In any event. I'll still vote for that yellow dog before I pull the lever for Chafee again.

Cheers, Mac

December 5, 2005

National Republicans Believe Chafee can Win Rhode Island Without Republican Votes

Carroll Andrew Morse

Originally, we thought that Steve Laffey was the only RI Republican disliked by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Now, it turns out that the national party is abandoning all Republicans in Rhode Island (with the exception of Lincoln Chafee).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee website is reporting (with an attribution to a C-SPAN2 discussion on December 1) that Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has stated that Senator Lincoln Chafee needs no support from Republican voters to win a Senate campaign in Rhode Island

Nick: Senator Chafee doesnt need Republicans to vote for him.

Guy Cecil [Political Director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee]: Well, hell need a few Republicans to get through the Primary, wont he?

Nick: No.

November 30, 2005

Poll: Attack Ads a Negative for CHAFEE

Marc Comtois

The Club for Growth has conducted a poll here in Rhode Island (incidentally, I think I was one of those polled) on the effectiveness of the NSRC attack ad campaign against Mayor Steve Laffey. In short, it's backfired:

The poll of 300 Republican primary voters was conducted by National Research Inc. on Nov. 14-15. The poll asked whether respondents had seen television ads about Stephen Laffey. Among those who had, three out of four respondents said the ads either made them more likely to support Laffey or had no effect. Among those who reported that the ads affected their views, nearly three out of five of those (or 58%) respondents reported they were more likely to support Laffey.

From bridges to nowhere to campaign ads that have the opposite of their intended effect, some Republicans in Washington are proving that they are simply no good at spending other peoples money effectively, said Pat Toomey, President of the Club for Growth. If the NRSC really wants to win the support of GOP members in Rhode Island, they should try encouraging Sen. Lincoln Chafee to vote for what the Republican party is supposed to stand for a pro-growth agenda of limited government, lower taxes and less federal spending. The poll produced the following results:




YES 61%
NO 35.3%



Washington-based Republicans elevation of incumbency protection over principle is disgusting rank-and-file GOP members. Great numbers of them are hoping for leaders who advocate returning the party to the pro-growth agenda that helped it achieve a governing majority in the first place, concluded Toomey. While Im sure Mayor Laffey actually appreciates the results of the NRSCs ads against him, its a sad commentary on the state of the Republican party leadership in Washington.

Back to the drawing board, Liddy. (Tip: K-Lo at NRO)

November 29, 2005

Quick Notes on a Laffey Sighting

Marc Comtois

I was clicking around last night before Monday Night Football and came across a Public Access show in which Mayor Laffey was being interviewed by an unknown-to-me but seemingly sympathetic host. (It was around 8:45 PM on Cox 13, didn't catch the name of the show). I watched for about ten minutes and came away with a couple things.

First, he explained that the problem with education spending in the cities and towns of RI, Cranston in particular, is that the Mayors and City Councils have little or no control over the education budgets set by the school committees. Using Cranston as an example, he stated that the education budget consumes 55% of the overall city budget. If the school committe passes a mandated increase in school spending of 8%, the mayor and council would have to cut 11% of the other 45% of the city budget to maintain current spending levels. (These were off the top of his head figures). As I didn't see the beginning of the explanation, I assume this was one of his explanations as to why property taxes in Cranston and other RI communities continue to rise. At the very least communities want services maintained--never mind cut!--so raising the taxes is the only way to fund the budget.

He also talked of his support for the Voter Initiative because it can be used to circumvent the politicians who don't work for the people anymore. He alluded to the "my guy is ok, it's the rest that are bad" attitude by saying that it had to change and RI voters had to take a more holistic approach to state politics. However, though he didn't say as much, there doesn't appear to be much chance of that, so the Voter Initiative may be the only way to go. This is also especially true in light of the recent defeat of the Constitutional Convention that would have been a more proper way to deal with government reform. (In an aside, he remarked as to how "for some reason" Common Cause of RI joined with the Unions to defeat the measure...I wonder about that too.)

November 28, 2005

Senator Chafees $700-per-Household Tax Burden

Carroll Andrew Morse

A direct mail message from the National Republican Senatorial Committee is announcing that Steve Laffey and higher taxes go hand-in-hand. Sourcing a Projo article dated January 29, 2003, the mailing states that...

Laffeys tax increase amounted to $490 more in property taxes for a home valued at $150,000.
The strategy is that of a pre-emptive strike; 2003 just happens to be the year that Senator Lincoln Chafee helped impose a tax burden on the American people of $700 more per taxpaying household than was proposed by the President.

At the start of 2003, President Bush proposed a $726,000,000,000 tax cut to occur over 10 years. To win the support of enough liberal and moderate Republicans to become law, the tax cut had to be rolled back to $330,000,000,000. Heres the description of the original proposal and the bill that passed from a (unfortunately not-online) May 23, 2003 Associated Press story written by Alan Fram

Congress gave its final approval Friday to $330 billion in new tax cuts for families, investors and businesses, handing President Bush a victory despite sharply curtailing his plan for lifting the economy from its knees.

Though less than half the $726 billion in tax reductions through 2013 Bush initially proposed, approval marked a significant personal victory for the president.

Had Chafee and a few other Republicans gone along with the Presidents original proposal, taxes would have been reduced by an additional $396,000,000,000.

The US Census Bureau estimates that there are approximately 112,000,000 households in the United States. However, not all households in the US pay federal income tax. The National Taxpayers Union reports about 50% of taxpayers pay 96.5% of federal income tax. For this analysis, well assume that the income tax burden and therefore tax increases and tax cuts are spread out over 50% of (56,000,000) American households.

The $396,000,000,000 difference between the Presidents proposal and the approved tax cut comes out to approximately $7,000 in additional taxes per taxpaying household. Spread out over 10 years, that comes out to $700 per household per year.

Is the issue really this simple? Probably not. But if the NRSC and the Chafee campaign want to confine the debate to who has favored higher taxes without discussing why tax increases are necessary or what additional revenues paid for, then the number to keep in mind when reading NRSC direct mail is that Senator Chafee was a key player in imposing an additional tax burden of $700 per taxpaying household in 2003.


Commentor RI Fan suggests that the figure of $700 per taxable household doesnt account for wide possible variations in income levels & taxes paid.

Assuming that it is distributed similarly to the existing tax rates reported by the National Taxpayers Union, this is how the $396,000,000,000 in taxation imposed by Senator Chafee and the Republican liberals will break down across different income scales

Income of $295,000 or more $12,000 per household in additional tax
Income between $130,000-$295,000 $1,800 per household in additional tax
Income between $95,000-$130,000 $810 per household in additional tax
Income between $57,000-$95,000 $420 per household in additional tax
Income between $29,000-$57,000 $180 per household in additional tax
Income $29,000 or less $24 per household in additional tax
A good number of Cranston residents paying $490 in additional property taxes on $150,000 homes probably also have incomes in the 50K-60K-70K range. Congress' refusal to pass the President's tax cut in 2003 probably cost Cranstonians about the same amount of money as did the property tax increase. You just cant pay for $396,000,000,000 in taxation in a nation of 112,000,000 households without either confiscatory rates at the top of the scale or taking a big bite out of the middle class.

Continue reading "Senator Chafees $700-per-Household Tax Burden"

November 22, 2005

Sheldon Whitehouse and the Appearance of Corruption

Carroll Andrew Morse

As Rhode Islands Attorney General, Sheldon Whitehouse joined an amicus brief in support of upholding campaign finance reform laws. The reason? According to the brief, it was essential to the health of our national democracy to attack the causes of cynicism and distrust that undermine our political discourse.

Sometime between joining that brief and now, Whitehouse appears to have changed his mind. His response to Guy Dufault's personal attack on Governor Don Carcieri shows a decided lack of concern about cyncism and distrust undermining political discourse. According to Mondays Political Scene column in the Projo

Former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse does not intend to return the more recent $2,000 Dufault contributed to his Senate campaign. Why?

This response from Whitehouse spokesman Michael Guilfoyle: "Sheldon does not condone what Guy said and he doesn't believe there is any room in the political dialogue for the politics of personal destruction....It was a terrible mistake, and Guy is paying a considerable price."

But "this is between Guy Dufault and Don Carcieri," Guilfoyle said.

One side works in the public interest while another side uses the politics of personal destruction to pursue special interests. And Sheldon Whitehouse views it as a personal conflict and cant choose between the two.

Courts approved campaign finance limitations on political activity because they found a compelling government interest in preventing the appearance of corruption. Does Sheldon Whitehouse really believe that taking big money from a lobbyist prepared to use rumor and innuendo to advance his interests is unrelated to the appearance of corruption? If Whitehouse is still interested in preventing the appearance of corruption, he should exhibit some personal responsibility in this matter and give Dufault's money back.

Apparently, leadership to Whitehouse doesn't mean taking responsibility yourself; it just means placing limits on other people.

Political Scene reports that Whiltehouses primary Matt Brown has returned recent campaign contributions from Dufault, as has lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Charles Fogarty.

November 21, 2005


Marc Comtois

Byron York, using figures from the website PoliticalMoneyLine, noted that, among other things, the Charles Schumer (D-NY) led National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commitee outpaced the Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) led National Republican Senatorial Campaign Commitee, $3,030,580 to $2,350,853 in October and leads overall $20,588,392 to $9,127,833, respectively. In response, he received a number of emails, of which (York says) this was representative:

I suspect that there are others who refuse to give to the RSCC for the same reason as mine. Under various chairmen/persons, this committee has stuck its nose in Republican primary campaigns to support RINO incumbents against a conservative or more conservative challengers, as follows:



Rhode Island--Chafee/Laffey

It appears that the committee is just out to protect its incumbent members, spineless lot that they are, and that's inexcusable in my opinion.


I know I decided not to contribute to the RNC or NRSC, but instead to try to contribute to individual senators' accounts, because I cannot stand the official Republican support of the RINOs and McCain (not a RINO but close), and their backtracking on true Conservative issues. Do you think they get the message yet?


The RSCC is supporting Chaffee in RI over a conservative and I, a conservative, am supposed to approve of this? I'll support specific conservative candidates but the days of supporting national GOP organizations is long over.

I wonder if the anonymous emailer is, perchance, an Anchor Rising reader/contributor? It certainly sounds like the sort of thing brought up in our debates for the last few months. I think it is close to the mark, though there are probably other factors. The Republicans are defending fewer Senate seats this year (15 to 18) than are the Democrats and of the five open seats, 4 are in the Democrat column. I also think the Dems are more motivated this far out. Nonetheless, as has been stated before, the fundamental purpose of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is, above all else, the re-election of current Republican senators. It'll be interesting to see if their current strategy works.

October 28, 2005

Chafee Vote Against Refineries = Higher Gas Prices

Marc Comtois

While Senator Chafee deserves congratulations for opposing pork, he still appears to be tone deaf in matters related to energy policy. In short, if any link, no matter how tenuous, can be made that an energy policy proposal could "hurt" the environment, Senator Chafee will vote against it. Here's the story:

Senate Democrats, sensing what they hope will be an opportunity to blame Republicans for the high price of gasoline, voted in unison Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to help defeat a bill that would have streamlined the building of new refineries.

The eight committee Democrats won over liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.-R.I.), whose vote against Chairman Jim Inhofes Gas PRICE Act (S 1772) means Republicans will have to take other steps if they want to push a refinery bill through the Senate this year.

Inhofe (R.-Okla.) told HUMAN EVENTS he pleaded with Chafee to vote with the committees nine other Republicans on the measure because Democrats were opposing the bill for purely partisan reasons. In the end, however, Chafee sided with Democrats.

I went to Lincoln Chafee, Inhofe told HUMAN EVENTS in an exclusive interview, and I said, Lincoln, I know youre from Rhode Island, and I know from time to time you have to cave in to these people because youre in a tight election, but their motivation is to blame Republicans for something the Republicans didnt do, and youre a Republican.

Continue reading "Chafee Vote Against Refineries = Higher Gas Prices"

AIDS Drugs or a Japanese Garden: Which would You Choose?

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee took an anti-pork stand on a Senate floor vote on Thursday. According to Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation,

President Bush had previously asked Congress to appropriate $30 million for construction upgrades at the Center for Disease Control facilities in Atlanta, including the Japanese gardens. There was already $240 million in previously authorized but not yet spent funds for the construction program.

The House approved the $30 million sought by Bush but when the bill came to the Senate, Coburn noted that it had increased the appropriation to $225 million, which meant there would be half a billion dollars available if the Senate version of the bill became law.

Coburn, who is a physician, offered the amendment to move $60 million from the CDC construction program to the AIDS effort. Doing so would mean "we will have enough funding to make sure everybody with HIV in this country has the medicine they need to stay alive," Coburn told the Senate, according to the Congressional Record for Oct. 26, 2005.

Coburn also told the Senate that the transfer was needed because "while people are dying from HIV, they cannot get medicines under the ADAP program because we cannot fund it significantly. We have multiple states with people on waiting lists. We have multiple states that cap the available benefits. It is a death sentence to those people with HIV today."

The amendment to transfer funds from building a garden at upgrading CDC headquarters to providing AIDS drugs was defeated, 85 14.

Senator Chafee was one of the 14 Senators who voted to provide AIDS drugs. Senator Jack Reed was one of the 85 Senators who voted to build the Japanese garden upgrade CDC headquarters instead. I would like to hear Sheldon Whitehouse's and Matt Browns position on this vote. So far, their Senate campaigns have been marked by unwavering adherence to national Democratic party positions. Would it be party discipline over doing the right and sensible thing on this issue too?

Finally, last week I posed the question of whether Senators and Congressmen are aware of what they are voting for when they pass these giant, pork-ladern approrpriations bills. Tapscotts account of the Japanese garden amendment provides evidence that the answer is a thundering No

Coburn then noted that "the CDC has just completed a $62 million visitors center. I am asking for $60 million for people who have HIV, who are never going to get to the visitors center. I do not how we spent $62 million on a visitors center for the CDC but I believe that priority is wrong when people are dying from HIV and do not have the available medicines."

Sen. Specter then responded to Coburn by first claiming there was not Japanese garden spending at the CDC facility in Atlanta, but then upon being corrected by a staffer, acknowledging that "maybe there could be a less expensive exotic garden than a Japanese garden."


In an update to his original post, Tapscott wishes to clarify any confusion about the amounts involved...

Please note that the Japanese garden is part of a $60 million package of construction upgrades. The garden is NOT a $60 million garden. My apologies for the awkward wording when this post initially appeared earlier today. Being an editor, I should have caught that earlier.

October 25, 2005

Putting Senator Chaffee In Context: Economic Issues

Marc Comtois

Project VoteSmart is an indispensible tool for analyzing the voting records of our politicians. The problem with the site is that there is no analysis (yet) offered for the political challengers of incumbents. Thus, though there is plenty of data on Senator Chafee, there is nothing on Mayor Laffey. Nevertheless, using PVS's data, there are two primary ways to do an analysis. First, and more difficult, is to look at each vote on each bill, do all of the background reading and come to some conclusions. The second is to rely on interest group ratings, filtered by their own stated goals, and derive some conclusions. I've taken the easy way out.

I thought it might be helpful to present Senator Chafee's ratings on various topics within the context of his peers. As such, I've selected representative Senators from across the ideological spectrum and compared their ratings to Senator Chafee's. I believe this will allow us to gage the Sen. Chafee's relative degree of "conservativeness" both regionally and nationally as well as within the context of the overall ideological spectrum. My "ciphers" were selected based on name recognition and because I think most people have an idea as to where they think these individuals lie along the ideological spectrum (I think there may be surprises as to how "moderate" some Democrats really are!). They are: Ted Kennedy (D-MA) as a Liberal Democrat, Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as a Moderate Democrat, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as a Moderate Republican, John McCain (R-AZ) as a "Maverick" Republican and George Allen (R-VA) as a Conservative Republican. I've also included the ratings of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) for a local comparison. The first topic deals with economic issues.

Continue reading "Putting Senator Chaffee In Context: Economic Issues"

October 24, 2005

Responses to the Anti-Laffey Ad Campaign

Carroll Andrew Morse

In todays Projo, Katherine Gregg has an excellent roundup of responses to the National Republican Senate Committees negative ad campaign against Steve Laffey. A few quick points

1. Lets give credit to State Republican Chairwoman Patricia Morgan for acknowledging that not everything is justified in defending Chafees seat

But Morgan said she viewed the first of the two ads, especially, as a personal attack on Laffey, which she considers an unfair tactic that is counter to the kind of campaign she associates with Chafee.
2. I dont think that Professor Larry Sabatos analysis is cognizant enough of the facts on the ground
But seasoned campaign watchers across the country see other clear -- if risky -- strategies emerging in the national GOP's early entry into the '06 Rhode Island Senate race.

"They have to find a way to knock Laffey out fairly early so Chafee can consolidate his own base to take on a strong Democratic challenger," suggests Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Im not sure, in this scenario, what base there is to be consolidated. If the establishment tries to knock Laffey out with a purely negative campaign, and Senator Chafee makes no appeal whatsoever to the Republican base, then there is a strong possibility that the base leaves the U.S Senate portion of the ballot blank if Chafee is the general election candidate.
3. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ads show either how badly campaign finance reform has been implemented, or what a bad idea it is to begin with, or maybe both. I believe the Chafee campaign is being sincere when they say things like
Citing federal campaign-financing rules barring any coordination between his own campaign and the national-financed ad campaign committee, Chafee also would not say if he had discussed these concerns with the national committee.

His campaign manager, Ian Lang, said: "The senator has had no interaction with the NRSC about these ads, nor can we by law." But when asked the same question directly, Chafee said: "I try not to cross any of these boundaries." Then: "Don't jump to any conclusions."

Thus, we see the result of campaign finance reform -- out-of-state-money delivering an out-of-state-message gains the overwhelming advantage in local campaigns. How is that reform? Wouldnt we be better off if political parties could give money directly to candidates, so they could unambiguously take their message to the people?

October 22, 2005

Do Lincoln Chafee and Patrick Kennedy Even Know What theyve been Voting On?

Carroll Andrew Morse

In close association with Zachary Miders story on the Tiogue Dam, Saturdays Projo has two stories where Senator Lincoln Chafee and Congressman Patrick Kennedy give reasons for a supposed lack of Federal funds in Rhode Island.

Senator Chafee blames the problem on tax cuts. That explanation doesnt work. Federal money is here in Rhode Island. In one case, its even headed to the right town. Its just being spent on the wrong things by federal officials too detached to know about Rhode Island's real problems and concerns.

$11,000,000 has been allocated for bike paths in or near the town of Coventry, as part of the $152,000,000 of Rhode Island highway pork. Tax cuts dont explain why $11,000,000 has been allocated for Coventry's bike paths, but nothing has yet been allocated for repairing Coventry's Tiogue dam.

This is what Senator Chafee has to say about the bill that allocated the $11,000,000 bike paths

"In the meantime, there are many worthwhile projects and in the grand scheme of things, it is not a significant part of the budget.

I'll just say that I am looking out for Rhode Island and listening to the town managers and mayors who I reach out to before the appropriation process starts each year."

Would Senator Chafee like to name names here? Which town managers and mayors asked him to fund bike paths, but to ignore dams?

Representative Kennedy has a similar conceptual problem. This is his explanation for the lack of flood relief resources in Cumberland

Kennedy's office has already drafted a letter to President Bush stating that federal funds are crucial to ensuring that the state fully recovers from the flooding, but the congressman said there's no guarantee federal money will come

Asked if being a blue state, in a time when there are many red states in need of Washington's help, will hurt Rhode Island, Kennedy was blunt.

"I don't think it will hurt us," he said. "But if we had been a red state it certainly would help."

The problem is, there is big Federal money coming to Rhode Island. $38,000,000 is coming to the state of Rhode Island in the form of bikepaths, $152,000,000 in total highway pork. The problem is not lack of funds. The problem is spending priorities. The Federal government is taxing big, then spending big on premium-priced bikepaths and bridges to nowhere, leaving people too financially drained to save what they need for essential infrastructure and disaster relief.

October 18, 2005

Laffey Gets More National Attention: Is the NRSC Meeting its Intimidation Objective?

John Miller has an article entitled Is Laffey the Best Medicine? Meet the Pat Toomey of 2006 about Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey's campaign for the U. S. Senate, which includes these points:

...The National Republican Senatorial Committee is so concerned about Laffey that its already running a negative-ad campaign against him on television and spending scads of money to protect the incumbency of a GOP senator who has talked openly about quitting the party and who also refused to vote for President Bush last year in what he called a symbolic protest. In fact, its a virtual certainty that the NRSC is right now committing more of its resources to beating Laffey than it is to beating any single Democrat.

Laffey...doesnt call himself a conservative "I'll let others come up with the labels" but consider: Hes pro-life, supports the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq, and says he would have voted to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "We need to simplify the tax code and get rid of corporate welfare," he says. As a critic of Bushs Social Security proposals, a foe of oil drilling in the Arctic, and an enthusiastic supporter of solar panels, Laffey wouldn't be the most conservative member of the Senate. But its not as though Chafee, whose lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union is a pathetic 41, is competing for that honor.

Earlier this year, before Laffey was a declared candidate for the Senate, national Republicans encouraged him not to run against Chafee. GOP chairman Ken Mehlman called. So did one of Karl Roves operatives. "They claimed that they werent interested in defending Lincoln Chafee," says Laffey. "But they talked about party building and suggested that I run for lieutenant governor. In Rhode Island, the job of lieutenant governor is to ride a bicycle around the state and wait for the governor to die. I wasnt persuaded. And now these 'party builders' are spending thousands to defeat me, a Republican."...

A central theme of the NRSCs anti-Laffey campaign is that the mayor is a tax-and-spend liberal. To be sure, Laffey has raised taxes. But he insists he had no choice...

The city certainly needed some financial discipline. Cranstons bond rating was worthless the lowest in the country...To balance the books, Laffey hiked taxes, cut the budget, and took on the unions. "We had to do all these things," he says. "There was really no other option except bankruptcy."

Laffey can expect to spend plenty of time explaining to Rhode Island Republicans why tax increases were a necessary part of the mix. At least hell be able to cite Chafees record of voting to rescind the Bush tax cuts. Hell also point out that Cranstons bond rating has been restored to investment grade and its unions have finally encountered a negotiator who isnt beholden to them.

Yet the unions still seem to have a few friends. The NRSCs latest attack on Laffey actually takes their side in a dispute. "Laffey spent thousands on spy cameras to spy on employees," says the ad, suggesting that Laffey is some kind of sinister control freak. What the NRSC doesnt bother to explain is that Laffeys tactics caught members of the Teamsters, Local 251, literally napping on the job. This Cranston controversy, properly understood, isnt about the act of taping snoozers but rather the inactivity of sleeping workers.

...As one Rhode Island blogger puts it, "If Laffey does defeat Chafee in the primary, the Democrats don't have to waste any money developing new ads. They can just go on the NRSC's site and use theirs."

You can read all this site's RI Senate '06 race postings here, including some criticisms of Laffey, of Chafee and - most certainly - of the NRSC.

This is starting to get interesting, isn't it?


Ed Achorn of the ProJo comments on the NRSC's negative ads and possible ramifications on Chafee's campaign.

Summing up the Rhode Island GOP Debate Over Laffey/Chafee '06

Marc Comtois

Andrew's last post about the negative ads against Mayor Laffey has been commented upon by an assortment of Republicans. Some support the Mayor, others bemoan the willingness of the National Republican Party to interfere at the primary level--and on the side of the more manifestly liberal of the two candidates at that--while others think the rank and file should accept the dictates from the party bosses and do nothing that might damage party unity.

I think re-posting some snippets of the commentary generated by Andrew's post will provide an indication of the tension between those who tend to support the more-conservative Mayor Laffey and those who, even if reluctantly, are siding with "establishment" Republicans and, by default, Senator Chafee.

Anchor Rising contributor Don Hawthorne made the point that

These Senate people have only one principle: sustaining their power base, even if that means being devoid of any policy principles or vision for America. . .

Now, imagine if the Republican Senate leadership spent their money going after liberal Democrats who thwarted - among other things - the timely appointment of judges in the Senate.

And they wonder why we have no respect for their "foreign money" here in Rhode Island?

Will Ricci, of GOPUSA, also chimed in with his disgust:
I've been a member of the RNC since the week of my 18th birthday. While the RNC and the NRSC are technically different organizations, I know that they are close enough at the hip, that I can consider them related. They both get marching orders from the White House. I have not yet renewed my RNC membership for this year, because of shenanigans like this. As for all the other solicitations from the RNC and related entities, and I assure you, I receive many, I've been promptly shredding them, because I'm just fed up with all of it. However, I'm going to take Andrew and Don's idea under advisement going forward, since considering the volume of mail that I'm still getting, they may not have gotten the hint from me yet. I'm not giving money to the national Republicans so that they can work against good members of this party who aren't part of their little elitist club. I give money to them to fight Democrats, not Republicans! I'm sorry to have to do it, but sometimes principle needs to come before politics.
These "confessions" made by Will prompted "citizenjane" to comment:
If you all are so disgusted with this, why don't you start a letter-writing campaign to the NRSC and threaten to disaffiliate from the party and encourage others to do the same if they do not stop these ads.
To which Will responded
While I understand your sentiments, disaffiliating from the GOP is a non-starter. We're not going to be driven from the party by people like that. I'm registered as a Republican, because I am a conservative, and conservatives are more likely to win office being Republicans. Lincoln was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, and Ronald Reagan was a Republican (after he was a Democrat for a while). . . That being said, I think the biggest threat would be to their wallets. Witholding money to the national party and letting them know why you're witholding it seems to be a good starting point.
But "citizenjane" was seconded by "Anthony," who also seemed to think it incumbent upon Republicans to stop debate and rally behind the National Party's chosen candidate:
If you don't believe in what the RNC and NRSC are doing, maybe you should leave the Republican Party and form a Conservative Party as was done in New York.

Attacking the GOP simply because it is trying its hardest to retain a Senate majority is counterproductive. I understand people may disagree with the decision, but the GOP has made a decision. The time for trying to change that organizational decision in this race has long since past.

The pseudonymous "Robert" echoed Anthony's views
The NRSC is following a formula they feel is successful, and probably has been in the past around the country. And that is come out attacking, before a challenger can get started.

They have millions of dollars, that they are going to put behind this race, as proven already. And Chafee is at the top of their list of seats to retain. Face it, Republicans in RI have a Senate seat we don't deserve. Its the bluest state in the country, and the NRSC considers this seat priceless. They will do whatever to keep it and if murder was legal, the NRSC would do its worst.

And "Rex Manning" took the macro view and rather pessimistically observed that
Electing a conservative from Rhode Island (which by the way Laffey has admitted that he is not) is totally impossible. While Chafee may not even be close to a true conservative, he votes with the President almost 80% of the time while his counterpart Senator Reed only votes with the President 65% of the time. It's the lesser of two evils and we need to keep the Senate.
That is essentially the debate that is going on in the Rhode Island GOP. It includes ideological conservatives, Laffeyites, party loyalists, and political pragmatists, but mostly it's a debate between ideological conservative who lean towards the more-conservative Mayor Laffey and those who think only Senator Chafee, or liberal Republicans in general, can get elected in a Rhode Island general election for U.S. Senate in 2006. The former group thinks the time for change is now. The latter group thinks supporting Mayor Laffey is too much of a gamble and risks the future political viability of the Rhode Island Republican party.

Finally, and curiously, it should be noted that nowhere have I seen a rabid defense of Senator Chafee (other than perhaps in the columns of the ProJo's M. Charles Bakst). Instead, those who support Chafee seem to do so based on his electability. So, in the end, the only group that seems to be unrepresented the internal RIGOP debate are self-proclaimed, outright supporters of Senator Chafee.

October 17, 2005

Here Comes Anti-Laffey Ad #2

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Washington Posts Chris Cillizza has a preview of the next anti-Laffey ad being run in Rhode Island by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Here is Cillizzas description of the content

The narrator says Laffey used taxpayer dollars to soundproof his mayoral office and spent thousands on spy cameras to spy on employees.

Bizarre...but the joke's on us, the narrator says, adding that Cranston had the highest property taxes in the state under Laffey and that Laffey raised taxes twice. Tax and Spend Steve Laffey ... Nobody's laughing now, the narrator intones at the ad's close.

The constant barrage of negative advertising now presents two dangers to the Republican establishment. One is that the voters of Rhode Island will be turned off. A second danger, however, is that national fundraising will begin to suffer if the NRSC continues its practice of opposing Steve Laffey more strongly than it opposes any Democrat. This is from an e-mail received by National Review Online

For the past year or so, I've been sending the solicitation envelopes back with nothing in them but a note like this:

NOT ONE MORE DIME!! We do not donate our hard-earned money to the RNC so you lot can waste it financing the campaigns of squish candidates, working to defeat good conservatives in primaries, or to continue a cycle of begging us for more money to be used for more such nonsense. NOT ONE MORE DIME until RNC starts supporting conservative candidates. Meanwhile, we are sending donations directly to the campaigns of candidates we believe are worth supporting.


Don reminds us that Laffey himself has openly talked on CNN about the use of cameras in city investigations. Katherine Gregg provides some factual background on the Tax and Spend moniker in todays (10/18) Projo.

Once again, talk of Chafee vs. Laffey instantly becomes talk about Laffey. This is not promising for an incumbent.

October 12, 2005

RE: Steve Laffey: I will never run as an independent

I like a lot of the answers Andrew describes Steve Laffey as saying at a recent meeting. I also think Laffey is a serious man with many talents, unlike his opponent. With that viewpoint, I want to continue to push on some of Laffey's policy views because I think they still need work.

I would like to hear more about his views on the appropriate role of government. They sound good at a superficial first glance but I am not sure they hold up to greater scrutiny. What makes any of us confident that the government can do many things better than the private sector - or should even try?

More specifically, it is a far different day from Teddy Roosevelt when government was much smaller and the bully pulpit was useful in no small part because it didn't come with a federal government that already controlled 20% of the nation's GDP. It also didn't come with the issuance of tens of thousands of pages of government regulations written by nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who have no accountability to taxpayers while they keep churning out regulations without having to live with any of the real-world consequences of their actions.

Bottom line, there is already a lot of government intervention in the economy, most of which only makes problems worse. We need to be cautious about assuming the federal government is focused solely on the public interest. I will accept the interstate highway system idea as a good one from 50 years ago but would like to hear what other specific ideas are appropriate for federal government intervention today. The just-referenced posting provides specific examples of how many of the problems that have been used as a rationale for government intervention were first created or magnified by prior government intervention in the economy.

As a 22-year veteran of the life sciences industry, I found Laffey's answers on the drug industry to be uninformed and still not making sense.

First, the era of "me-too" only drugs is old news and meaningless to the policy debate of today. Me-too drugs were newly developed and approved drugs that showed largely equivalent therapeutic efficacy to drugs already on the market. There was a time when the nth beta blocker drug could make it to the market. Not any more because the formularies that determine reimbursement won't cover most me-too drugs.

Second, the phrase of me-too drugs can be used too loosely to lump all drugs in one therapeutic category into one large bucket. However, to do so would be to say that any new drug in an existing therapeutic area that showed differentially better efficacy should not be developed.

Third, the new era of molecular medicine is taking our rapidly expanding understanding of disease at the molecular level and focusing drug discovery and development on the biological activity and endpoints of disease and not just clinical endpoints used in past decades. This has already led to a number of what are called targeted therapeutics (e.g., Herceptin, Velcade, Gleevac, Iressa) because it is increasingly possible to target sub-populations of people with a given disease for therapeutic intervention. Take the breast cancer drug, Herceptin, as an example. Herceptin works for about 25% of the women with breast cancer, the ones where a particular gene is upregulated. There is a test that can determine if a woman has that upregulation. If so, she gets the drug. If not, the drug will be ineffective and she won't get a prescription for it.

Ongoing breakthroughs in the biological sciences are already beginning to transform drug discovery and development. This is expected to change the pharmaceutical industry model from one focused on blockbusters to what one expert called "mini-blockbusters" based on targeted populations where efficacy for that sub-population has been shown in prior clinical trials. I certainly hope Mayor Laffey isn't suggesting that the federal government can regulate that evolution better than industry.

Fourth, I didn't see any mention in Andrew's posting about importing drugs from Canada. I have previously noted that is a flawed idea and, hopefully, Laffey won't continue with that line of thought. The same posting also notes that everyone likes to focus on the cost of drugs without ever considering the highly relevant economic benefits derived when drugs reduce hospitalizations or time away from productive work in the marketplace.

All these critiques aside, I would now like to see Senator Chafee come before the same group and talk with the same level of seriousness and specificity across the same broad range of issues as was covered by Mayor Laffey in his speech.

Steve Laffey: I will never run as an independent

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies was kind enough to invite me to their October meeting. Their guest was Cranston Mayor and Rhode Island Senate candidate Steve Laffey, who made a short speech, then took questions from the attendees.

The initial tone of the Laffey campaign has caused some consternation among conservative Rhode Islanders. These are the less-than-conventionally-conservative themes Mayor Laffey chose to emphasize in the opening section of his campaign announcement

Im running for the United States Senate because the smallest state in the Union needs the strongest voice in the Senate:

To fight the big drug companies,

To fight the other special interests that have corrupted our tax code and have hurt the hard working taxpayers of Rhode Island,

And to fight the big oil companies.

The NFRA members who asked questions didnt back down from challenging Mayor Laffey to reconcile his campaign message with a principled conservatism. And Mayor Laffey didnt back down from answering.

Laffey provided a conservative basis for his progressive (as in Teddy Roosevelt) Republicanism: when governing, problems, people, and organizations must be treated as they really are. He doesnt view oil companies, or drug companies, or even unions(!) as bad or evil, but as focused on their bottom lines, as they should be. The role of the government is to prevent any one single interest from allowing too narrow a focus to hurt the city, state, or country as a whole.

His favorite example of this is the interstate highway system. Though no single business in America would have built it, building it was good for the all of the nations businesses. Therefore, it was the proper role of the government to build it.

When asked about his views towards the oil industry, Laffey explained that energy policy is the countrys number one national security issue. He believes that America must develop alternatives to foreign oil, and that government needs to do a better job of creating the proper incentives so that this will happen.

I asked about the drug companies. He explained that drug companies too often abuse the protections afforded by patent law. They develop Me too drugs drugs that perform the same function as existing drugs, but modified just enough to warrant a new patent. Laffey believes that the government needs to restore the balance in patent law that has been lost between the profits of an innovator and the public good that results from innovation.

Mayor Laffey gave direct and detailed answers to all policy questions asked. On immigration policy, he believes closing off the border is not feasible, so the country should adopt a well-regulated, well-enforced temporary immigrant policy and that, in the long term, the best way to stop illegal immigration is to help Mexico join the First World. On abortion, he is pro-life, allowing for certain exceptions, but would place no absolute litmus tests on judges. On the 2nd amendment, he believes that the constitution protects individual gun ownership, but that states have the power to regulate the sale and possession of firearms. On free trade, he supports free trade in principle (pro-NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.), but doesnt believe that free trade trumps national security or humanitarian concerns. (As a bonus to libertarians out there, he approvingly cited Milton Friedman.)

I came away from the meeting convinced of Steve Laffey's conservative bona fides, as well as his seriousness towards public service.

October 5, 2005

Will Matt Brown Renounce his Democratic Leadership Council Affiliation?

Carroll Andrew Morse

The Democratic Leadership Council is a group that seeks to promote moderate views within the Democratic party. They dont maintain a formal membership list, but they list Rhode Island Senate candidate Matthew Brown as one of their New Democrats.

Last week, the DLC issued a dispatch rejecting the policy of withdrawal from Iraq...

A failed state in Iraq would destabilize the entire region, hand our jihadist enemies a major victory and result in a devastating blow to our national security credibility and interests. But the right course now is neither to give the terrorists a victory by withdrawing, nor to continue Bush's failed policies.

This is directly at odds with Matt Browns stated position

Last week you said withdrawing our troops from Iraq would be 'a terrible signal to the enemy' and you again refused to set a timetable for withdrawal. Thats wrong.
Browns position is closer to what the Democratic Leadership Council calls that of the non-interventionist left, who believe that "because America is strong, it must be wrong".

Given that Brown rejects the moderate Democratic position on Americas most pressing foreign policy issue, shouldnt Brown renounce his DLC ties? Or is he unwilling to sacrifice a potential source of insider endorsements on account of mere policies and ideas?

Raising the Bar: Expecting Greatness From Our Political Leaders

In a comment to a previous posting, Will writes:

...what's important here is the need to address the substance of the problems mentioned herein, and not just attack the messenger. Ignoring problems doesn't make them go away. All it usually does is lead to greater problems down the road.

That comment directly relates to the points raised in previous postings about a lame, stupid, and condescending ad on behalf of Senator Chafee and some ridiculous comments by Mayor Laffey.

We need to raise the bar and expect more from our political leaders. And that leads to three quotes about political greatness and statesmanship from Steven Hayward's new book entitled Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders.

Hayward quotes James Bryce from his book entitled The American Commonwealth about why raising the bar is important:

A democracy, not less than any other form of government, needs great men to lead and inspire the people.

A 1897 quote from Winston Churchill speaks to what really matters in a leader:

In politics a man, I take it, gets on not so much by what he does, as by what he is. It is not so much a question of brains as of character and originality.

Finally, Hayward himself makes this point:

What is greatness, especially political greatness? In three thousand years we have not surpassed the understanding of Aristotle, who summed up political greatness as the ability to translate wisdom into action on behalf of the public good. To be able to do this, Aristotle argued, requires a combination of moral virtue, practical wisdom, and public-spiritedness...One must know not only what is good for oneself but also what is good for others. It is not enough merely to be wise or intelligent in the ordinary IQ-score sense; in fact, Aristotle goes to great lengths to show that practical wisdom "is at the opposite pole from intelligence." One must have moral virtue, judgment, and public spirit in a fine balance, and these traits must be equally matched to the particular circumstances of time and place.

In the upcoming 2006 U.S. Senate race, all of us in Rhode Island should raise the bar and demand more from all candidates.

Let's demand that they run races focused on debating policy issues and convincing us how their policy preferences benefit the public good.

And then let's vote for the candidate who best shows signs of political greatness by the strength of their practical wisdom, character and originality.


Here are some further excerpts from Hayward's book:

Greatness, especially political greatness, carries a whiff of political incorrectness...

In place of greatness, today we have mere celebrity, best exemplified by...People magazine...

Greatness is ultimately a question of character. Good character does not change with the times: it has eternal qualities. Aristotle connects the honor that accrues to the magnanimous person with the virtues of friendship. This suggests that it is always within our grasp to cultivate the virtue of greatness as individuals, even if circumstances - crises - do not call forth the need for political greatness on the highest level...

The tides of history and the scale of modern life have not made obsolete or incommensurate the kind of large-souled greatness we associate with Churchill or Lincoln or George Washington...yet the cases of Churchill and Reagan offer powerful refutation to the historicist premise that humans and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history...Why were Churchill and Reagan virtually alone among their contemporaries in their particular insights and resolves? The answer must be that they transcended their environments and transformed their circumstances as only great men can do, and thereby bent history to their will..

Can there be another Churchill, or another Reagan? The answer is plainly yes, though we must note that the greatness of statesmen is seldom recognized in their own time. Typically we only recognize greatness in hindsight...

Leo Strauss took the death of Churchill in 1965 as the occasion to remind his students that "we have no higher duty, and no more pressing duty, than to remind ourselves and our students, of political greatness, of human greatness, of the peaks of human excellence. For we are supposed to train ourselves and others in seeing things as they are, and this means above all in seeing their greatness and their misery, their excellence and their vileness, their nobility and their triumphs, and therefore never to mistake mediocrity, however brilliant, for true greatness."

Contemplating on the example of Churchill and his influence on Reagan gives us confidence that even though the mountaintops may be often shrouded in fog, we can still tell the difference between peaks and valleys.

Comparing these inspiring words about political greatness with either the stupid NRSC ad attacking Laffey or Laffey's ridiculous comments about the pharmaceutical industry drives home the point that the bar in this U.S. Senate race is far too low.

Shall we "train ourselves and others to see things as they are..." and aspire to greatness?

If so, then we must develop zero tolerance for the mediocrity that currently pervades this Senate race.

The Pro-Pork National Republican Senatorial Committee

Marc Comtois

Andrew Roth at the Club for Growth has framed the National Republican Senatorial Committee's attack on Steve Laffey as evidence that they have taken a "pro-pork" position.

Clearly the folks at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) are paying no attention to blogger demands that the party structure help bring about fiscal restraint in Congress.

They are running a TV ad AGAINST an anti-pork, fiscally conservative Republican challenger to an incumbent who voted against the Bush tax cuts and had the second lowest score among Republican senators in the most recent National Taxpayers Union rating of Congress (PDF). The NRSC is in full attack mode against a candidate who has made pork a key issue.

What is the message here?

Clearly, if you are an incumbent, they dont care how you vote on spending or the Bush tax cuts. If you challenge an incumbent in a primary, they dont care how good you are on tax and spending issues. Instead, they will ATTACK you.

Don, Andrew and I have all commented on the ad already, and Andrew has been in the vanguard of the Porkbusters movement (and Don has chimed in, too). There can be little doubt that the core principle held by the NRSC is that they'll do anything to save their own bacon! [via Instapundit]

October 4, 2005

The Attack Ad on Laffey: Just Plain Lame, Stupid & Condescending

This ProJo article and Marc's and Andrew's earlier postings (here, here, here) talk about the attack ad on U.S. Senate candidate Steve Laffey by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Laffey's response.

Here is an excerpt about the ad from the ProJo article:

Yesterday the exchange escalated with the GOP committee's broadcast of the 30-second attack on Laffey. As an announcer asks, "Have you seen this guy Steve Laffey?" the ad shows an image from Laffey's own kickoff ad of last month. The voice says that the "same Steve Laffey" who criticized oil companies once "ran a company selling oil industry stocks on Wall Street. Profiting from offshore oil drilling. The oil companies made a fortune. Steve Laffey made a fortune."

As the spot returns to the clip of Laffey pledging to "stand up to special interests," a graphic technique drips "oil" over the screen, including Laffey's image. The announcer concludes, "Slick. Steve Laffey. Laughing all the way to the bank."

Well the NRSC must think that we Rhode Islanders are all a bunch of stupid yahoos to run such a lame and condescending ad.

Steve Laffey previously was President of Morgan Keegan. As a securities firm, Morgan Keegan offered investment banking services for many segments of the American economy - including the energy industry. Which is why the following was said:

Laffey's spokeswoman, Robin Muksian-Schutt, said it's true that his company worked on stocks from the oil industry -- and many other industries as well.

But she said Laffey's company worked on transactions from many industries -- not just oil. "That was his job," she said.

To drill down on the sheer stupidity of the ad's argument, consider these questions: Is the NRSC saying it doesn't accept the important market-making role of investment banking firms in the American economy? Do they want to return us to the days when investment deals had limited distribution and were typically only offered to wealthy people with the right personal connections? Why is the NRSC ridiculing the important role banks play in allocating investment capital that creates jobs in all segments of the American economy and for Americans at all economic levels?

And in response to all this, Senator Chafee said:

Chafee said in an interview yesterday that, although he had nothing to do with it, the ad aired by Dole's committee is a "legitimate" jab at Laffey's "hypocrisy."

So we have a lame, stupid and condescending attack ad that holds no substantive meaning to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the banking industry and/or an appreciation for the role investment banking firms play in allocating capital across a free-enterprise capitalist economy. And we have a Senator who wants to convince us that lame, stupid commentaries should be taken seriously by his constituents. How condescending.

Another example of how Senator Chafee is so impressive.

And we don't need a bunch of outsiders talking down to the people of Rhode Island.

National GOP Going After Laffey III

Carroll Andrew Morse

The National Republican Senate Committee has debuted the first television ad against Steve Laffey. It is a negative ad, a personal attack on Laffey. It is unusual for an incumbent -- almost unheard of for a popular incumbent -- to go negative this early.

A popular incumbent generally prefers to pretend that his opponent doesnt exist. The early ad blitz from an incumbent, or from a presumptive frontrunner for an open seat, is usually a fuzzy, feel-good campaign -- lots of bright colors and images of the candidate smiling and interacting with the people. The candidate wants to build positive name recognition, define himself as the good guy in the race, and start building support amongst voters who pay a little attention to politics, but are not political junkies. Also, an incumbent (or early frontrunner) generally doesnt want to help his challenger gain any name recognition of his own.

Three years ago, Don Carcieri very effectively used warm and fuzzy advertising to begin his successful gubernatorial campaign. Patrick Kennedy has done the same with his Nuala Pell ads, creating a reservoir of good feeling that a challenger like Dave Rogers finds difficult to overcome.

The choice to go negative right away tells us that the Chafee people think theyre already in trouble. They dont believe that seeing the image of Lincoln Chafee will make people want to vote for Lincoln Chafee. They dont think that talking about the things that Chafee has done as Senator is going to sway many voters in his favor. It is clear that the Chafee campaign, or at least Chafees hired guns, dont believe their own rhetoric about Lincoln Chafee as the right fit for Rhode Island. If they did, they would want to talk about their own candidate at this stage in the campaign.

October 3, 2005

National GOP Going After Laffey II

Marc Comtois

As mentioned earlier, the National Republican Senate Election Committee has launched an ad campaign against Cranston Mayor and Senate challenger Steve Laffey. Laffey has responded. After remarking upon the "head-scratcher" that the national GOP would spend money to attack him instead of Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, Laffey turned to the specifics of the ad:

Let me say a word about the ads. If you look at my TV ad, the only thing I speak out against regarding oil companies is the billions of dollars in tax breaks that the Washington politicians give them. I have never raised any objection to people having the freedom to own stock in oil companies. And I think Americans should have the freedom to drive whatever kind of car they choose. The thing that I do strongly object to is when Washington politicians like Lincoln Chafee vote in favor of billions in tax breaks for the oil companies costing Americans BILLIONS of dollars.

Lets take a look at the record. I have owned oil company stocks, and so has Lincoln Chafee (and so too, by the way, has Sheldon Whitehouse). So, as I see it, were pretty much the same on those counts. Heres the big difference. I have never voted to give billions in tax breaks to the oil companies, and on June 28th of this year, Lincoln Chafee voted for the Senate Energy Bill which gave $2.8 billion in tax breaks to oil and gas companies while theyre already making record profits. And heres another big difference -- I have never taken any campaign contributions from oil companies, and Lincoln Chafee has taken tens of thousands of dollars, including thousands from Exxon Mobil and Halliburton.

Now, you tell me whats worse, a guy whose family has an SUV because he has five kids, two dogs, and a cat, or a guy like Lincoln Chafee who voted to give billions in tax breaks to the oil companies and pockets tens of thousands in campaign contributions from them.

Heres what I want to do. Instead of hiding behind the negative attack ads from his cronies in Washington, why doesnt Lincoln Chafee join me in a debate on the issues right here in Rhode Island? I read recently that the Senator decided to move back to Rhode Island this year so he could campaign for reelection. Well, thats just fine. Back in Rhode Island were always happy to see the Washington politicians who are supposed to be representing us. I challenge Senator Chafee to call on his Washington allies to stop polluting Rhode Island with their negative ads.

And I challenge Lincoln Chafee to a series of debates. Ill debate him at any VFW hall, any coffee shop, or any bowling alley in Rhode Island. And if it will make him feel more comfortable, Ill even debate him at the yacht club of his choice.

The serious point here is that whether its on energy policy, or tax policy, or a host of other issues, Lincoln Chafee and I have real differences. The people of Rhode Island will be much better served if we have a series of debates on the issues rather than seeing a years worth of negative TV ads from Washington political bosses who dont know a thing about Rhode Island.

Politically, it's a decent response, though the references to Halliburton and ExxonMobil is nothing but a gratuitous political play for those who think all big business is bad...and probably won't vote for Laffey anyway. It's a hand he continues to play and one that may really give him no political benefit. Nonetheless, I did smirk at the mention that Senator Chafee actually decided to reside in Rhode Island during this election! (Dan Yorke doesn't call him the Senator from Virginia for nothing). Regardless of Laffey's ploy of calling for Lincoln-Douglas debates, to which I doubt very much Chafee will agree, we should all prepare to be assaulted by "vicious attack ads" from both sides for the next 12 months. It will make for some interesting theater, no doubt. Of course, as Yorke keeps mentioning, there is still no guarantee that Laffey will actually run in the Republican primary. . .

National GOP Going After Laffey

Marc Comtois

Kudo's to the Senescent Man for getting it out first that the National GOP Senate Election Committee is ramping up the attack ad machine (here's the press release and link to video) against Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. Here's the text of the ad:

ANNCR: Have you seen this guy Steve Laffey?

AD: Im Steve Laffey

ANNCR: In his TV ads, he complains about oil companies But hes the same Steve Laffey who ran a company selling oil industry stocks on Wall Street. Profiting from offshore drilling. The oil companies made a fortune. Steve Laffey made a fortune. Now Laffey says he will . . .

AD: . . . stand up to the special interests.

ANNCR: Slick. Steve Laffey. Laughing all the way to the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is responsible for the content of this ad.

According to today's ProJo Political Scene column:
A spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee said late last week that "the NRSC is going up with a substantial ad buy" today.

While details were still under wraps last week, spokesman Brian Nick said that the 30-second spot would match his record as the onetime president of a Memphis, Tenn., investment banking firm up against the image he portrays in his own ads.

Stay tuned.

In his own ads, Laffey promises to "stand up to the special interests" responsible for record high gas prices, and stand apart from both the Republicans and Democrats who aren't "doing a thing about it."

The Senate campaign committee has had a prominent voice in past Rhode Island races, most notably the 1996 contest between the then-state treasurer Nancy Mayer , a Republican, and three-term Congressman Jack Reed for the U.S. Senate. Democrat Reed won despite a blizzard of Republican ads denouncing him as that "ultra-liberal Jack Reed."

This time around, the GOP campaign committee is taking sides in the primary fight between Republican Laffey and the Republican incumbent he wants to unseat, U.S. Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee .

TSM (The Senescent Man) leaves no doubt as to whom he supports and thinks the national GOP may be backing the wrong horse on this one:
I can understand Chafee arguing about Laffey's flaws, and conversely, Laffey complaining about Chafee, but for a national Republican heirarchy to come down on Laffey - what do they do if he wins? What then? And the funny thing is, it's already happened a couple of times. Governator Arnold in California was not on the top of the ticket in the eyes of the Republican heirarchy, and they had to eat crow. They must enjoy a good bowl of crow.
TSM also reminds us that, much like stock speculation, the past performance of the Brown University poll doesn't necessarily indicate future results.
Chafee faces a stiff challenge against Laffey, despite his coming across as what some call "rough around the edges." Yes, a recent Brown University poll has Chafee out ahead, and by a sizeable margin - this is the same poll - conducted by the same Brown professor and supported by the same mainstream media darlings - as the one that had Democrat Myrth York beating now Republican Governor Donald Carcieri by 10 points. Carcieri actually ended up beating York by about that same percentage.
TSM also believes that Laffey's newfound populism doesn't undercut his previously established conservative bona fides. While that may be true, the Mayor's willingness to play the "independent card" still seems to me like sheer political opportunism. There is little doubt Laffey is more conservative than Chafee, but I wonder how much of his conservatism he is willing to sacrifice at the altar of populist rhetoric. Conversely, how far right (or left?) will Chafee have to move to be re-elected? Perhaps the distance that each drifts from their previously established core philosophies will indicate to Rhode Island Republicans which each values more: principals or power.

September 21, 2005

Re: Chafee Wants Democrats to Select Republican Candidates

Justin Katz

That's an interesting circle the "Chafee forces" are hoping to square, Andrew. On one hand, they don't want anybody to believe that Laffey is electable. On the other hand, they want Democrats to cross over for the primaries in order to ensure the nomination of the Republican candidate who can (the Chafee folks believe) beat the victor of the Democrats' own primary!

I wonder if Laffey's advisers have developed any rough drafts of ads encouraging Democrats to cross over in the hopes of nominating the (supposed) least electable Republican.

Chafee Wants Democrats to Select Republican Candidates

Carroll Andrew Morse

Thats what the Washington Post says about Senator Chafees primary strategy

Chafee forces will try to persuade Democrats to vote for Chafee on primary day.
So much for party building. Is the Senator going to do anything at all to appeal to Republicans in this state?

September 20, 2005

Milquetoast as Cocky Careerist

Justin Katz

Andrew is perspicacious to note, in a comment to the previous post, that the Chafee camp's talk of ending Steve Laffey's political career is disconcerting. Laffey may or may not be worth keeping on a list of potential Republican candidates, but this tough rhetoric — now used too frequently to be mere candid overstatement — is a strategic loser.

Most directly, such talk will make it more difficult for Chafee to gain the general-election votes of those who opposed him in the primary, assuming he makes it that far. His campaign may be correct that some percentage of us simply cannot be won over, but even if that is their calculation, it's difficult to see what (or whom) they stand to gain by posturing in the public square — political cap guns twirling around their fingers.

Especially spoken by and on behalf of a Senator whose political and policy image can most charitably be described as that of an amiable Ichabod, the language of a Brom Bones echoes phony. Not only does it put the lie to claims of inclusiveness, maturity, and evenness of temper, but it evokes the impression of a man made haughty by the proximity of his "friends." Worse, it makes the once-endearingly unadept Chafee (to adapt Patricia Morgan's characterization) sound a bit too confident in his mastery of the political game.

Projecting strength in that area makes conspicuous his failure to do the same when it comes to those aspects of his job that have more to do with leadership.

Chafee v. Laffey: Yorke Interviews GOP Nat'l Senate Committee Spokesman Nick

Marc Comtois

Following is a rough summary of Dan Yorke's interview with Republican National Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brian Nick.

First, Dan Yorke found it provocative that Elizabeth Dole personally tried to talk Steve Laffey out of running against Sen. Chafee. Nick explained that Dole told Laffey that the mission of the Senatorial Commitee is to protect incumbents. By that rationale, they will support Sen. Chafee. Above that, their data shows that the best way to keep a Senate seat and to keep the Senate in GOP hands is to keep Chafee, the incumbent, on the ballot. As such, worrying about a primary is not conducive to the priority they have put on re-electing Sen. Chafee.

Yorke then asked about why Laffey is regarded as a liability. To this, Nick answered that, first, since an incumbent is elected 85% of the time, incumbency is a lot more of a guarantee then having a wide open election. Second, as far as the issues break down, from their understanding of talking to both Chafee and folks in Rhode Island, Sen. Chafee fits the mainstream of where most Rhode Islander's are on the issues. Finally, putting someone on the ticket who is untested, has no understanding of Washington, D.C., no relationship with the Senate or the President and is simply not ready does not appeal to them.

Yorke asked if they had done any research on Laffey. Nick stated that Laffey was initially tough to read: he's raised taxes, but word of mouth had it that he's a conservative. Then there is a T.V. add that sounds like a John Kerry or Hillary Clinton demonizing the Republican's energy policy. To them, it seems like Laffey's people are focus grouping to find his niche.

Yorke joked that they should have figured out that the worst thing to do was to have Elizabeth Dole try to cajole the contrarian-by-nature Laffey into not running. That was the wrong M.O.

To this, Nick said that, though they knew that going in, they thought it possible he could be persuaded. He then offered that they had thought he could be persuaded to run for some of the other open RI political offices (Lt. Gov, State Treasure). Then, in an unsolicited aside, he stated that Chafee will have to beat Laffey in the primary and it'll be more expensive and more time consuming, but there'll be a certain amount of enjoyment in ending his [Laffey's] career before it started.

Picking up on this, Yorke asked why the animosity, to which Nick stated that they felt that Laffey didn't respect the privacy of the meeting with Dole and that, in general, he has handled things without a lot of respect.

Yorke replied that it seemed to him that this isn't just one of those go-through-the-motions-to-support-an-incumbent deal, but that this guy [Laffey] "has pissed you off." Nick responded that, "I can tell you this, has he been helpful to the overall agenda? No."

Yorke commented that they were getting a flavor of Laffey and that because he squeeled and violated protocol, they were going after him. Nick responded that, while Laffey does like to lecture people, we don't want to curse him and we will make sure Chafee is re-elected.

Yorke then asked about the Laffey "tax machine" add campaign and Nick explained how it came about. He added that, from his understanding, Laffey prides himself as being a fiscal conservative, but he [Nick] was pretty sure that, if you personally have raised taxes, you can't have anti-tax rhetoric and be persuasive.

Yorke responded that that may be true, but Cranston was in pretty dire straits. To this, Nick responded that, while that may be true, it is his contention that Laffey didn't need to raise taxes to the extent he did.

Yorke asked about Laffey's latest add concerning the price of oil. Nick then brought out what he obviously felt was a hammer. According to Nick, while Laffey says he's going to take on and stand up to the special interests, Laffey himself profited from oil and gas interests while he was in Memphis, TN. And now he promises to take them on.

Finally, Yorke asked if they were really "holding your nose a bit with Chafee" who has been a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration? Nick responded that, while it was an important point, we don't work for the Administration, we want what's best for the Senate majority. Sometimes those things aren't the same. Accordingly, Chafee as an independent Senator is admirable and politically smart and he's a valuable member of the caucus. Yorke mentioned Chafee's vote for Bush, Sr. in the last election and Nick responded that he's [Chafee] willing to speak his mind and take a stand and to speak for the people of Rhode Island.

There you have it. In essence, to the GOP Senatorial Committee, it's about keeping incumbents in office and maximizing the chance of maintaining a majority. If that means sacrificing ideology, so be it. Of course, it's not as if Mayor Laffey can be considered a "mainstream" conservative himself, given his recent ad campaign rhetoric! In short, it appears as if we RI conservatives should say "how-de-do" to Mr. Rock and Mr. Hardplace when it comes to the coming RIGOP primary.

*note: Minor text edits and cleaning up done @ 7:40 PM. MAC

UPDATE:This story in the Warwick Beacon has more on the links between Mayor Laffey and the oil industry, including the charges made by Nicks and the response from Laffey.

September 18, 2005

Senator Chafee: Is This How You Define Fiscal Conservatism?

Andrew has done a tremendous service by publishing the actual highway bill "benefits" to Rhode Island: $150 million of projects spread around the state.

Senator Chafee voted for the highway bill. Since one of his key campaign positions is fiscal conservatism, I thought it might be useful to do some math on the true cost of those state projects to Rhode Islanders.

The true cost of the highway bill projects is the hidden cost effect of the highway bill that our elected officials will never talk about: Rhode Island residents are paying a pro rata cost for every single project across the entire United States as the price for getting their highway bill projects.

Let's make some simplifying assumptions that have the effect of changing the precise numbers without changing the conclusion. Assume the number of taxpayers as a percentage of the total population is roughly the same across the fifty states. This allows us to simplify the analysis by using the population of the USA and of Rhode Island. Assume there are 1 million residents in Rhode Island. The highway bill was for $286 billion. Since there are just under 300 million Americans, the highway bill spends about $1,000 per American.

Therefore, the tax burden for Rhode Islanders from the highway bill equals roughly $1 billion ($1,000 per resident x 1 million state residents).

That $1 billion bought us $150 million of special projects. I am sure there are some hidden nuances in that pork-laden bill that will accrue to the benefit of Rhode Islanders. But, even if there are, remember there would have to be $850 million of nuances (a multiple of 5.67) just to get to tax payment breakeven for Rhode Island residents.

So, during the upcoming campaign, when Senator Chafee takes a photo opportunity with one of the highway bill projects and touts how he brought home the bacon for us, remember that Rhode Island residents will be paying as much as $6.67 per person in extra taxes for every $1 of projects proudly boasted about by Chafee.

Senator Chafee, is this how you define fiscal conservatism?

Since my family has five members, we are paying roughly $33 in extra taxes for that $1 of benefit. I can assure you that is not our definition of fiscal conservatism.

[You can read more about the highway bill here:

The Highway Bill: Another Example of Unacceptable Government Spending
The Highway Bill: "Egregious and Remarkable"
Tapscott: Has the GOP Lost Its Soul?
Has the GOP Lost Its Soul? Part II.]

September 16, 2005

Do they Believe their own Spin on Laffey's Record?

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Projo, both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Chafee campaign disapprove of Steve Laffey's fiscal policies as Mayor of Cranston. The Projo article, however, leaves a couple of questions unanswered...

To the National Republican Senate Committee and to the Chafee campaign: Does your disapproval of Steve Laffey's fiscal policies lead you to conclude that the people of Cranston would have been better off with Aram Garabedian, Gary Reilly, or John Mancini as their Mayor?

Also to the Chafee campaign: If you believe that Steve Laffey made poor fiscal decisions as Mayor of Cranston, why did you encourage him to run for statewide office?

September 15, 2005

Make-Believe Thinking About Drug Prices & Pharmaceutical Industry Economics

This posting responds to Steve Laffey's outlandish criticism last week of the pharmaceutical industry.

Originally part of an extended entry to this posting, the comments below - which represent counter-arguments to his suggestion that importing drugs from Canada would miraculously allow comparable patient care at radically reduced costs - were not sufficiently visible to readers. As a result, I am reposting a slightly modified version of my original comments here and deleting them from the original posting.

I have worked in the healthcare industry since 1983, spending most of my time since 1985 working in venture capital-financed startup companies. With that experience base, I found Laffey's words on drug prices - which you can read in the posting mentioned above - to be grossly misleading and grossly misinformed.

The Canadian Health System

The romantized - but fake - vision of simply importing inexpensive drugs from Canada in an effort to mimic their health system completely ignores the many grotesque failings of their socialist system discussed in an earlier posting entitled Canadian Supreme Court: "Access to a Waiting List is NOT Access to Health Care", including these highlights:

Canada is the only nation other than Cuba and North Korea that bans private health insurance...

"Access to a waiting list is not access to health care," wrote Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for the 4-3 Court last week. Canadians wait an average of 17.9 weeks for surgery and other therapeutic treatments, according the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute. The waits would be even longer if Canadians didn't have access to the U.S. as a medical-care safety valve. Or, in the case of fortunate elites such as Prime Minister Paul Martin, if they didn't have access to a small private market in some non-core medical services...

The larger lesson here is that health care isn't immune from the laws of economics. Politicians can't wave a wand and provide equal coverage for all merely by declaring medical care to be a "right," in the word that is currently popular on the American left.

There are only two ways to allocate any good or service: through prices, as is done in a market economy, or lines dictated by government, as in Canada's system. The socialist claim is that a single-payer system is more equal than one based on prices, but last week's court decision reveals that as an illusion. Or, to put it another way, Canadian health care is equal only in its shared scarcity...

...in Canada you wait for everything. North of the 49th parallel, we accept that if you get something mildly semi-serious it drags on while you wait to be seen, wait to be diagnosed, wait to be treated. Meanwhile, you're working under par, and I doubt any economic impact accrued thereby is factored into those global health-care-as-a-proportion-of-GDP tables. The default mode of any government system is to "control health-care costs" by providing less health care. Once it becomes natural to wait six months for an MRI, it's not difficult to persuade you that it's natural to wait ten months, or fifteen. Acceptance of the initial concept of "waiting" is what matters...

...[for single-payer health insurance systems] rationing by waiting is pervasive, governments overspend for the healthy and deny care for specialist and life-saving medical technologies to the sick, and leave health-care choices to bureaucrats rather than patients. Single-payer systems, in other words, often deny choice and access to the sick.

This denial and limited access also exists in market-driven systems...but at least sick patients in market-driven systems can explore options outside of rigid federal bureaucracies, as many Canadians do by coming to their neighbor to the south for care. The Canadian court decision debunks the myths that government systems offer equal access to care, that they offer a higher quality of care to all, and that a paternalistic government can take care of all of the people all of the time...

Preventing citizens from purchasing as much health care as they want and can afford under the pretext that it "wastes" resources needed to fund "free" health care presupposes that the state is the rightful owner of all wealth...

Further examples of the failings of the Canadian healthcare system can be found in a report entitled What goes into the cost of prescription drugs?...and other questions:

In British Columbia, some Canadians being treated with one effective medicine are switched to a substitute simply because the government health system mandates it. This can result in patient confusion, greater noncompliance, and a worsening of symptoms.

Canadian patients are often denied easy access to certain medicines that, for them, would have minimal side effects, because the government requires that they must first endure therapy with the "cheaper," potentially less-effective medicines. Only when serious side effects appear - sometimes requiring hospitalization, for example - does the government allow the more efficacious drug to be prescribed.

Canadians wait, on average, seven months longer than Americans for new medicines to be approved by their government regulatory agency. Even after a medicine is approved, patients wait an average of five to 13 months longer before the medicine is put on and reimbursed by each province's formulary...

Canada ranks third-from-last in the developed world on the availability of medical technology, according to the OECD...

Is this the healthcare world we aspire to for all American citizens?

Adverse Macro Impact of Price Controls

In an article entitled The High Price of Cheap Drugs, John Calfee writes about the effect that price controls have had on innovative research, including the loss of jobs:

...Those price controls prevent innovative pharmaceutical firms from reaping free-market rewards anywhere but in the United States. That is one reason why the world pharmaceutical industry, which 20 years ago was mostly based in Europe, has largely relocated to the United States. American manufacturers now account for 7 of the top 10 worldwide best-selling medicines, and 15 of the top 20. This reflects a large and growing disparity in research and development expenditures. In 1990, European pharmaceutical firms outspent American firms on R&D by approximately 8billion euros to 5 billion euros ($7 billion to $4.3 billion). In 2000, U.S. firms outspent European firms by 24 billion euros to 17 billion euros ($20.9 billion to $14.8 billion). Even traditional European firms, notably GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, have moved many of their most essential operations to the United States. After years of looking the other way, the European Commission is sufficiently alarmed by these trends to propose relaxing price controls in order to rejuvenate its pharmaceutical industry, especially the biotechnology sector...

Are we willing to pursue drug price controls in America and accept the resulting loss of jobs and innovation?

Drug Importation

As to the drug importation issue, David Frum frames the big-picture issue in this August 11, 2004 posting (no longer accessible on web) at his NRO blogsite:

...drug re-importation is a cheap and cynical non-solution to a real problem: the unfairness of asking Americans to pay the whole cost and more of new drugs while the rest of the world pays less. But its no kind of answer to cut prices in the US: In that case, innovation could disappear entirely. The answer is to share the cost more widely within the developed world an answer that US trade negotiaters are beginning to press hard. So heres the real question for [any politician] on drug prices: Will he stand up for American pharmaceutical-makers and global pharmaceutical-users by calling for a fair sharing through trade of the costs of innovation?...Or does he just want to score points now at the price of denying Americans access to potential drugs of the future?

Are we going to hold our politicians accountable when they use cynical ploys to pander for votes? Are we willing to push for more equitable trade policies regarding drug pricing outside the United States?

Calfee adds his comments on drug importation from Canada:

...[Politicians] think this is competition and free trade at work. The fact that a group of Canadian or European bureaucrats would be setting drug prices for the entire U.S. economy seems to elude them. What would this law actually do? For one thing...might not get the low prices they want even if Congress passes their law. Prices won't drop in the United States unless foreign drugs really will be imported in large volumes. Importation from Canada alone won't do the trick because the Canadian market is tiny, about 5 percent of the U.S. market in terms of revenues. When Canadian pharmaceutical wholesalers ask Pfizer, Merck, and their competitors to ship them 10 times the usual volumes of Lipitor and Zocor and other blockbuster drugs, with the obvious intention of shipping them right back to the United States, any manufacturer with a decent regard for its shareholders will refuse. Why sacrifice billions of dollars in U.S. sales to maintain sales in a market one-twentieth the size? If that were the end of the story, events would follow a simple course. Canadian authorities, who understand the importation logic as well as anyone, would have to reassess their price ceilings or leave their citizens short of the best pharmaceuticals. At some point, it would become clear that Canadian drug importation would not bring the low U.S. prices its advocates want, although it might put a good number of patients at risk if importation--including importation of counterfeits--were to ramp up before prices adjusted. Prices in Canada, meanwhile, would rise...

Drug Safety

The second report referenced above includes these words:

...according to the Acting FDA Commissioner in July 2004, the FDA found evidence of a Canadian Web site advertising "Canadian generic" drugs, when in fact it was selling fake, contaminated and substandard versions of three commonly prescribed medicines. In addition, the FDA has identified drugs being imported into the U.S. arriving from unreliable sources in such places as the Bahamas and Pakistan. Media reports have found that some Canadian pharmacies are now shipping drugs from all over the world, including Belize, Israel, India, Chile, New Zealand, Ireland and Great Britian. So a drug that a consumer assumes is coming from Canada, may in fact originate anywhere in the world.

According to Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh: "Canada cannot be the drug store of the United States."...Additionally, Diane Gorman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Canada, said "the Government of Canada has never stated that it would be responsible for the safety and quality of prescription drugs exported from Canada into the United States..."

Calfee also discusses the risk of increased importation of counterfeit drugs:

...pass a law so that drugs shipped to Canada or Europe or South Africa can be imported into the United States for sale at foreign prices. The law would leave the Food and Drug Administration with almost no authority to check the safety of these imports. Wholesalers would have to do their own testing, but pharmacies and "qualifying individuals" (who could resell to others) would face no such requirement. This bothers the FDA...

Are we willing as a society to tolerate the greater human risk and higher economic costs resulting from use of counterfeit drugs by patients?

Long-Term Impacts

Calfee then notes how there are two eventual scenarios that arise from price controls and importation issues:

Two scenarios could play out, one bad and the other worse.

In the first scenario, drug manufacturers would again simply refuse to ship huge volumes of drugs to small foreign countries in order for the drugs to be shipped back and cripple profits at home, where the drugs were invented. If that happened (and I think it would), our European friends would probably have a political fit. They would face the prospect of either going without American drugs or raising their own price ceilings--and with them the costs of their fiscally strapped socialist health care systems. From their point of view, the importation plan would be a clever way to force U.S. drug prices on Europeans. They would want very much to prevent that. An international demand for drug price controls in the United States (not just in Europe) would become a centerpiece of international diplomacy. And we might cave in, pushed by the same politicians who want importation.

In scenario two,...importation would rapidly escalate to massive volumes from Canada and Europe, maybe from South Africa and elsewhere. The process would resemble the "parallel trade" now engulfing European drug markets as products with Greek or Spanish labels flow to patients in Germany and Britain. Drug prices would drop here, limited only by fears of counterfeiting, dilution, or inadequate storage. Wholesalers, pharmacies, managed care organizations, and other large-volume dealers would feel intense price pressure from the imports, and the U.S. pricing structure would gradually collapse...

Either way, price controls would end up suppressing innovation here, just as they have done abroad. It is one thing for the Canadians and Europeans to free-ride on American R&D, but we can't free-ride on ourselves. The system that gave us the drugs the whole world wants would be hobbled...The market would understand with perfect clarity that the days of free-market rewards for high-risk-high-payoff research were over. The implications for future drug research are both obvious and depressing...

Are we willing to live with either of these outcomes in America?

Myths About Prescription Drugs

Robert Goldberg writes about Ten Myths about the Market for Prescriptions Drugs, including these excerpted thoughts:

Myth No. 1: American Spend Too Much on Prescription Drugs. Per dollar spent, drugs offer a better return on health care spending than virtually any other health care option. Using prescription drugs often reduces or eliminates the need for costlier health care services. One recent study found that every dollar spent on drugs is associated with a $4 decline in spending on hospitals...

Myth No. 4: Drug Prices Are Higher in the United States than in Other Developed Countries. Drug prices in the United States are not very different from prices in other developed countries. Using accurate pricing information, health economist Patricia Danzon has found that drug prices in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden are higher on average than prices in the United States. When "purchasing power parity," a means by which economists attempt to compare the price of goods in different countries, is considered, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that Americans spend less per capita per year on drugs than do people in Germany or France and only slightly more than those in Canada and Italy - yet the other countries have controls. (Go here for another verification of this point.)

Myth No. 5: Americans Could Reduce Their Drug Costs If They Paid the Same Prices as People in Less-Developed Countries. Critics of the U.S. system complain that consumers can buy drugs in Mexico for less than half their cost in the United States. Prices for the same drugs do differ in different countries, but Americans cannot get the newest drugs at Mexican prices for a simple reason. The research and development required to ready a drug for production can cost millions of dollars and take many years, but the cost of actually manufacturing a drug is usually small. Because manufacturers have discretion about pricing, the price may be close to production costs in poorer countries, which could not otherwise afford the drug, and higher in wealthier countries - more accurately reflecting the drug's value to patients. If all patients paid the lower price, there would be no money for research and development and no new drugs...

Myth No. 7: Price Controls Can Reduce Drug Spending. Attempts to drive down drug costs through price controls have two unintended results: (1) they encourage increased consumption of drugs and (2) they lead to the consumption of inferior drugs. Many European health systems with price controls spend more on drugs per capita than the United States spends, but Americans use newer and more appropriate medications. That is one reason Americans spend less time in hospitals when they are sick and have a higher quality of life than do Europeans...

Myth No. 9: We Can Have Price Controls without Rationing Drugs. If federal price controls for pharmaceuticals were adopted, an increase in consumption of pharmaceuticals would be inevitable and the government would then try to control the increase. That is what happened with erythropoietin (EPO), which is used to reduce anemia in kidney dialysis patients. Medicare, which pays for drugs for kidney dialysis, put a price control on EPO in 1994, rationed the amount patients could get and refused to cover patients with healthy blood cells above a certain level...

Price controls represent not a mere extension of market pressure but a fundamental shift in values. Controls substitute a political process for the marketplace. For controls to work, individuals must be forced to adhere to governmental and bureaucratic decisions. This allows a few "experts" to decide what pharmaceuticals millions of physicians, pharmacists, medical researchers and patients "deserve" - and at what prices.

Finally, Did You Know?

That spending on drugs accounts for less than 11% of every healthcare dollar, of which branded drugs are about 7% and generic drugs are about 4%? That hospital care totals about 31% of every healthcare dollar, physician services about 22%, and nursing homes about 9%?

That studies show treating conditions with new medicines instead of older medicines increases drug costs but significantly lowers non-drug spending?

That developing a new drug takes 12-15 years and costs over $800 million?

That, on average, only five of every 10,000 compounds investigated are tested in clinical trials and, of those five, only one is ever approved for patient use?

That, on average, only three of every 10 prescription drugs available to treat Americans generate revenue that meet or exceed average R&D costs?

That pharmaceutical companies spend 20% of their revenue on research & development efforts for new drugs, equal to over $34 billion in 2003 alone and slightly over 10 times what they spent on direct-to-consumer advertising?

We need leaders who truly understand the economics of developing new drugs. If they stay ignorant, then we risk implementing policies which will lead to Americans losing access to innovative new drugs and losing the freedom we currently have to pursue the medical care we want.

And, if you needed any further evidence that the government is the last entity we want interfering with the marketplace, then reread this posting and share it with the next friend that whines about how the government should do something about the number of citizens lacking health insurance. Remind them that the government created the problem in the first place.

Our public debate and the ensuing public policies would improve if leaders did not go about promising economic benefits while simultaneously claiming the benefits can be realized without any costs.

Such suggestions are nothing less than a form of economic make-believe. In the end, if you won't deal with economic reality, then it will deal with you - on its own terms.

Inviting a More Balanced Debate About America's Energy Policy

I wrote the words in this posting in response to Steve Laffey's criticisms last week of the oil industry. It was originally part of an extended entry, which did not give the policy issues sufficient visibility. As a result, I am re-posting the portion on energy issues below, with some minor modifications, and deleting them from the original posting:

I have been away from the oil industry for a long time now. My specific work experience in the industry included working in the Energy Department of The Morgan Bank in the summer of 1980, working for Aramco in Saudi Arabia during the summer of 1981, and working for ARCO during 1981-83 where, among other things, I had the privilege of playing a meaningful role in a $100 million joint venture financing of the Kuparuk pipeline on the North Slope of Alaska.

When I was at ARCO, we were one of the leading companies at the time in exploring alternative energy, including solar. If there was a chance to make profits in alternative energy, ARCO and the other oil companies would have been all over the opportunities. But it never happened - and oil was priced around $40/barrel back then in the early 1980's.

If there were new technologies that could really create new profitable sources of energy, then the investment community or the oil companies would have funded them. Ask someone how many billions of dollars Union Oil invested - and lost - in oil shale technology years ago. At $60-70/barrel, that funding may now open up and that would be a positive benefit of the higher oil prices. It certainly would be a more efficient way to develop new resources than having a bunch of Senators pass legislation that they then hand off to nameless bureaucrats to regulate from Washington, D.C. Consider this example of what they have already done to us in the past.

My point is that we do need to deal with energy issues but simply blaming the oil companies is a shallow and tired argument. I list a series of questions throughout the rest of this posting on energy issues. I don't agree with pursuing all of the answers to those questions but politicians will only be taken seriously when they show the courage to tackle many of the questions. Citizens also cannot complain about $3/gallon gas and then be stridently opposed to pursuing changes to the status quo. (And this posting is not about excusing unreasonable Big Government or Big Business actions such as this latest Tom DeLay story.)

An earlier posting entitled The Geopoliticization of World's Oil & Gas Industry points out that there are geopolitical trends in energy that are beyond the power of the oil companies to control and adversely affect oil prices:

...it can't be said that the free play of supply and demand ever set prices in the oil market. But we are now seeing an even more profound uncoupling of the oil industry from anything resembling the model characteristics of market economies. Governments rather than traditional commercial enterprises are increasingly taking control. And those governments often have interests quite hostile to ours...

Russia and China are using state-owned companies that are not bound to profit-maximize to achieve their long-term goal of weaving a web of relationships that will stand them in good stead in any diplomatic confrontation with the United States. Whether America can continue to rely on its private sector to provide us with comparable clout is no longer certain. After all, when companies that have to maximize profits compete with companies that seek to maximize national influence and power, the latter will engage in projects that the former simply cannot...

Note in that article how Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, China, and Russia are all using oil as a de-facto weapon in international relations.

Also beyond the control of the oil companies is the increasing demand for energy products by booming economies in China and India and how their increased demand has tightened the supply of oil available for the rest of the world - and further raise oil prices.

If oil supplies are so tight, is anyone willing to expand domestic oil exploration efforts or build new nuclear power plants?

The tightness on the supply side is further explained in this Washington Times editorial which notes the ongoing and increasing shortfall in refining capacity, with the resulting impact on prices:

The fact that gasoline prices have soared while crude oil prices have stabilized strongly suggests that today's bottleneck in the evolving energy crisis has less to do with the total supply of crude oil and much more to do with current refining capacity. The petroleum reserve could be emptied; but if refinery capacity is not available to process the crude into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil and other petroleum products, then the extra crude emptied onto the market will have little impact on the ultimate price of gasoline and other fuels...

U.S. refineries have become increasingly temperamental because they have been around for a very long time. In fact, we haven't built a new refinery in more than 25 years. Yes, existing refineries have undergone significant expansion over the years as others have been shuttered, but many of them are more than 30 years old...

Beyond more frequent breakdowns and fires, America's pre-Katrina refinery problem was further apparent from the rising level of refined petroleum products that have been imported in recent years. Since 1995, imported petroleum products have nearly doubled, rising from 1.6 million barrels per day to more than 3.1 million for the first half of 2005...

As long as America continues to consume 25 percent of the world's oil, the least we can do is become self-sufficient in refining it.

Is anyone willing to build new refineries here in America?

Another article says:

We all know that the last new refinery in the US was built in 1976, and that many small refiners are forced to shutdown because capital improvements are not economic given RFG requirements.

This is partly due to NIMBY in the US, and is exacerbated by the patchwork RFG requirements and boutique gasolines: if there was a standard blend, we could simply buy more gas from refineries in places like the Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and (in the near future) Cuba. We wouldn't necessarily need new refineries on mainland US soil - but the boutique fuels make such projects more risky than they otherwise would be.

Reducing the number of blends required would ease short-term local spikes caused by localized refinery and pipeline outages (which will happen, random as they might be), and would encourage more refinery construction in the Caribbean, which would add some excess capacity (which is currently zero in the summer), thus dampening non-localized (nationwide) summer supply crunches.

Is anyone willing to build new refineries in their home state? Is anyone willing to eliminate boutique gasolines, which were often done in pursuit of lessening environmental emissions?

Yet another article states:

...major factors that determine pump prices, such as the cost of crude oil, are not under the direct control of Congress. Oil industry lobbyists have been pressing Congress to take action on one issue they claim Congress could have some influence over: the capacity of the United States to refine crude oil. Even if the cost of crude oil falls and other factors affecting gas prices improve, the U.S. cannot increase its ability to refine crude oil into gas that can fuel the nation's cars, trucks, jets, and heaters, unless new refineries are built or existing ones are expanded. Industry representatives have been asking Congress to help increase the economic viability of the refining industry by changing and simplifying environmental regulations. Industry critics, however, argue that energy companies actually benefit from tight refinery capacity and that environmental regulations are not a major cause of current energy problems.

The United States currently has 149 refineries producing 16.9 billion barrels-84 percent of U.S. consumption- per day. No new refineries have been built since 1976, and over 170 have stopped operating since then. Many refineries are operating at over 95 percent capacity, which can be harmful to facilities and reduce the flexibility of the industry.The geography of refining facilities and transportation routes also poses challenges to energy supplies...

EIA has reported that tight refinery capacity contributes to price volatility, while its effects on actual prices are negligible. However, EIA does contend that U.S. refining capacity will need to be expanded in order to keep pace with growing gasoline demand. Refining industry representatives often argue that complicated, stringent environmental regulations and an inefficient permitting process imposed on refineries are largely responsible for the high cost of doing business, leading to tight refinery capacity.

Industry officials argue that the cost of refining could be lowered, and that increased refining capacity is necessary for the long-term energy independence of the U.S. They claim that simplifying environmental regulations will lead to an increase in the number of refineries that are built because of decrease in the cost of refining, which will ultimately lead to lower gas prices for consumers. If oil consumption continues to rise in the U.S., the nation will have to import increased amounts of expensive refined oil rather than refine it at home.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a medium size refinery may need to comply with a half a million federal environmental requirements each year in addition to local and state regulations. There are at least fifty federal air programs that apply to refineries including the New Source Review of the Clean Air Act. Regulations affect emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulates, volatile organic compounds, and benzene. API reports that in 2002, refinery operators had about $5.4 billion in environmental expenditures, defined as costs that would not have been incurred if environmental issues had not been considered by the industry. Industry lobbyists say that the complicated network of regulations, coupled with an extensive permitting process, causes potential investors to choose to put their money other places, and this is why no new refineries have been built in nearly thirty years...

...as noted by Senator Jeff Bingaman (DNM), there is no "silver bullet" that will solve the problem of high gas prices. There is no doubt that refining companies spend billions to comply with environmental regulations. Whether the regulations are the cause of tight refining capacity depends on who is consulted. If the cost of refining could somehow be reduced, it is uncertain whether savings of energy companies will necessarily fall back into the pockets of consumers.

Is anyone willing to lessen environmental requirements for US-based refineries?

While America dithers on adding refining capacity, Saudi Arabia is responding to market conditions:

...Saudi Arabia is responding to calls for refinery capacity increases with a multi-billion dollar investment programme. As well as its status as the biggest oil producer in the region, Saudi Arabia also ranks as the largest refiner in the Middle East and is a growing exporter of refined products particularly liquefied petroleum gas and naphtha. Multi-billion dollar refinery expansions will make this growing capacity increasingly important to global oil markets.

Apart from rising oil prices global energy markets are also facing a shortage of refined products due to an almost total embargo on new refineries in the US and Europe because of strict environmental rules. Pressures have increased due to the year on year increase in world demands for oil especially from China and India...

Over the last two decades, Saudi Aramco has developed from principally an oil and gas producer to an integrated company with significant refining, shipping and distribution assets. The process has been led through a diversification and integration of operations via strategic joint venture alliances with leading refining and marketing companies in a variety of markets.

As a result, the company is a major participant in four refining and marketing joint ventures located outside the Kingdom...

The article also talks about how China is the world's second largest importer and Saudi Arabia is their main foreign oil supplier.

This graph highlights the tightness of worldwide refining capacity.

For a more indepth and complete report, go here for information on the demand for petroleum products, refining capacity, effects of product specifications. The report reinforces how worldwide demand is growing, there is a shift toward lighter products, concern over environmental considerations - especially sulfur - has spread worldwide, excess refining capacity worldwide has essentially disappeared and there will be a need for significant new refineries, building new refineries takes years, reduced sulfur requirements has increased competition and price premiums for sweet crude oil as well as changes to refinery processing equipment, and how tighter product specs in the US will make it more economic to ship oil products to the Far East instead of the US.

We cannot complain about prices or our lack of energy independence unless we have first agreed to make the hard choices necessary to increase our available supply of energy resources or gain our independence as a country.

Instead of simplistically blaming the oil industry, true leaders would engage in a reasoned and substantive public debate about the various alternatives so support can begin to coalesce around choices which represent an informed consensus for our society.

September 14, 2005

Senate Roundup II

Carroll Andrew Morse

State Republican chairwoman Patricia Morgan says the $500,000 in national support for the state party will go for "party building". The Projo, on the other hand, quotes a letter saying that the money is designated for furthering the campaign of Senator Lincoln Chafee...

A letter to the Republican National Committee signed by party leaders last night says the state leaders "approve any and all pre-primary financial assistance and in-kind aid the RNC may choose to provide in furtherance of the U.S. Senate campaign of Senator Lincoln Chafee."
But a spokesman for Senator Chafee is on record as saying that the Chafee campaign is not interested in national money. This is from the Warwick Beacon...
As for reports that the national GOP will withhold $500,000 in campaign funds from Rhode Island if the Senate race results in a Republican primary, Hourahan said that would be a great shame and would harm many state and local-level Republicans seeking office in 2006.

It would be a huge opportunity [if the state got the money], Hourahan said.

That being said, Hourahan also said the Chafee campaign had no intention of taking a dime of that money, should it come through anyway.

Is someone in the Republican party of Rhode Island going to tell people what is really going on?

Senate Roundup I

Carroll Andrew Morse

Here's Sheldon Whitehouse's response to the Brown University Senate preference poll...

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Whitehouse camp chose to focus on Chafee's 3-point "downslide," since the last Brown poll in June had him leading Democrat Whitehouse with 41 percent of the vote, and now it is 38 percent.
Attention Whitehouse Campaign: The same poll shows a 10 to 11 point drop in support for your own efforts. Do you think that a 10 point drop is more or less significant than a 3 point one? (And wouldn't that have been something worth pointing out in the Projo article?)

September 13, 2005

Is Laffey vs. Chafee Really a Battle Between Visionary Principles & a Reactionary Establishment? Unfortunately Not.

There are numerous aspects of Steve Laffey's personal life history that many of us can relate to and all of us can respect. He is a living embodiment of the American Dream, achieving great things through the liberty found in America combined with getting a great education and then working hard.

If you read his announcement speech from last week, how can anyone not respond favorably to his working numerous jobs as a kid, earning a scholarship to a fine college like Bowdoin and becoming the first member of his family to go to college, attending a great business school at Harvard, and working his way up to be President of Morgan Keegan while still in his 30's? All in all, it is a wonderful human interest story.

No less impressive is what he has started to accomplish in Cranston. He took a city on the verge of bankruptcy and led a meaningful change effort by publicly telling the truth about numerous independently verifiable problems, such as the crossing guard fiasco. He did step on the toes of some powerful interest groups and helped elevate those issues to statewide visibility. He was bold and many of us have admired his actions.

Now, I previously wrote why I think so little of Senator Chafee and the state Republican party. As a Republican myself, it would be a kind understatement to say I find many of the party's leadership and their actions to be unimaginative and disappointing. I find it easy to respect a principled liberal, even if I thoroughly disagree with their policy preferences. What I don't respect is vacillation and that is Senator Chafee's trademark on a number of key issues.

That posting also stated that I thought it was a mistake - for different reasons than the Establishment has pushed - for Laffey to run against Chafee for the U.S. Senate seat. I thought it was a mistake for two reasons.

First, while he has started a turnaround in Cranston, the job is not complete. As a business executive myself who has led 6 successful turnarounds over the years, I believe the turnaround in Cranston will only be complete when there are significant and more permanent structural changes to Cranston's financial future. Laffey deserves huge credit for stabilizing a wildly unstable mess and saving the town from bankruptcy. But can anyone say the turnaround is truly complete? Are the public sector union contracts across all aspects of Cranston materially different from when he first took office - so the past cannot repeat itself when some spineless politicians take his place? Are those contracts sufficiently different now so that the initial property tax increases he imposed can be rolled back? I don't think so and that is why I thought one serious option he could have acted on was to stay and finish the turnaround. At the same time, I can also understand why his ambition might drive him to think bigger than Cranston.

Second, he could have thought bigger than Cranston by running for Treasurer. That would have played to his work experience and allowed him to focus on the brewing public pension financial disaster at both the state and national level. I lived in California when Jerry Brown became Secretary of State in the post-Watergate world of 1974 and turned what had been a sleepy position into one with national visibility. He was governor four years later in 1978 and a presidential candidate by 1980.

That being said, now that Laffey has opted for the U.S. Senate race, I read his announcement speech with great anticipation.

At first I was not disappointed. His speech hit a number of highly relevant and hot issues - such as outrageous public sector union demands, corporate welfare for the sugar industry, the excessive highway and energy bills, and a complete lack of spending restraint in general - that I have written about over the last year and are either linked together in a recent posting entitled Rancid Pork Leaves a Bad Taste in Your Mouth or contained in postings entitled Has the GOP Lost Its Soul? and Economics 101: Never Underestimate the Incentive Power of Marginal Tax Cuts.

We do need a more vigorous public debate about these issues, all of which center on the core question of what role government should play in our society - including how the size of government grows ever larger and, therefore, more subject to capture by special interests due to its fundamentally misguided structural incentives.

And I thought the Laffey campaign slogan of "The smallest state in the Union will have the strongest voice in Washington" was wonderfully clever.

But I found key portions of his speech to be troubling. Laffey's speech contains words that no informed or business savvy person would say - unless he was pandering for votes. That possibility is most disappointing because it suggests opportunism - not principled behavior - is driving the Laffey campaign.

[Full disclosure: I have worked in the healthcare industry since 1983, spending most of my time since 1985 working in venture capital-financed startup companies. I worked briefly in the energy industry during 1981-1983, with a 1981 summer job in Saudi Arabia working for Aramco and then worked for ARCO in the USA during the subsequent two years.]

Here are the healthcare-related words from Laffey's speech that bothered me:

The senior citizens of Rhode Island are paying twice the price for prescription drugs that seniors pay in Canada for the exact same prescriptions. And yet, our seniors are banned from buying cheaper medicine in Canada and Medicare is prohibited from negotiating for cheaper drugs through group buying. Why? Because the big drug companies have a financial strangehold on the politicians in Washington keeping prices high...while 2/3 of our seniors, like my parents, cannot afford their medicine because they depend on social security checks as their primary source of income...

In 2006, we need to set our own concrete goals for progressive ideas to come to fruition...ideas like offering Americans lower prices on prescription drugs as low as those offered to the rest of the world...

Someone needs to stand up and fight when the drug companies won't let our seniors buy their prescriptions from Canada at a discount price...

Those words are nothing less than pure demagoguery. See this separate posting for specific counter arguments.

Here are the energy-related comments from Laffey's speech that bothered me:

Look at what's happening with gas prices and energy policy. The car companies have the technology today to make cars with double the gas mileage, but they won't do it. So America stays dependent on Saudi Arabian oil, with tragic consequences when we don't have to. We have the technology to design alternative energy solutions today. What we lack is the political will to do it...

Our lack of an energy policy today is a crisis on par with these challeges America has faced over the last seven decades...

Someone needs to stand up and fight when the oil companies get huge subsidies while we do nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and we're stuck paying more than $3.00 for a gallon of gasoline...

See this separate posting for specific comments on energy issues.

Laffey's comments fail to address the complete set of issues that matter to working people in Rhode Island in a balanced, factual manner.

Here is my point of view:

Corporate welfare programs lobbied for by Big Business are nothing more than a hidden tax on working people that benefits only the few and powerful. Such taxes are unfair and unjust. But, as bad as they are, it would be unreasonable to focus just on the corporate welfare programs.

The ever-increasing regulatory burdens imposed by Big Government are at least as big a problem as they perpetuate the power of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who impose unilateral costs on companies. Such burdens then show up as some combination of higher product prices to consumers or lost jobs due to the stifling of private sector innovation - both of which represent additional hidden taxes paid for by working people. Such taxes are also unfair and unjust.

The Establishment, consisting of Big Business and Big Government, has an incentive to propagate the growth of government. Why? Because such growth leads to more assets to tap into or control for their benefit. It provides the Big Business lobby with an incentive to pursue more corporate welfare programs and the Big Government lobby with an incentive to pursue more government regulation of both our economic and personal lives. All of which leaves the working people of America with less freedom: less financial freedom due to higher taxes and higher prices plus fewer opportunities to live the American Dream due to lower economic growth.

Unfortunately, Laffey's words have confirmed that the Laffey vs. Chafee race is not a battle between Principles and the Establishment. With little use for the philosophically unmoored Establishment and its utilitarian focus on maintaining power, my greatest wish continues to be for a leader who, driven by empirically-based principles, stands up and tells the truth. Laffey's comments, particularly about the drug industry, don't tell the truth and amount to nothing more than an unprincipled pandering for votes. He is a smart enough man to know better and that means his ego is not under control. His words, if implemented, would lead to nothing less than a long-term policy fiasco.

But, even more importantly, this isn't just about Laffey and his individual candidacy. My larger concern is that the failing status quo of the Establishment will become even more entrenched should they successfully swat down his candidacy - and his words have given them further ammunition to do just that. That further entrenchment will only magnify over time the hidden costs paid for solely by the working people of Rhode Island, adversely impacting the ability of many to realize the American Dream.

So all of us are still waiting for the first U.S. Senate candidate - from either party - to show the will to stand up for the hard-working taxpayers across the state by truly challenging the status quo of the Establishment.

The Most Recent Brown University Senate Preference Poll Says

Carroll Andrew Morse

either that the race is extremely unsettled or that Rhode Island hates everyone. According to the results of the September 10-11 poll every Senate candidate has lost support since June. Both Democratic and both Republican candidates have lost support in every hypothetical general election matchup asked about. Who says that politics is a zero sum game!

Lincoln Chafee did best by losing least. Whether facing Sheldon Whitehouse or Matt Brown, Chafees support declined by only 3 percentage points since June. Steve Laffey lost 7 points in a hypothetical matchup with Sheldon Whitehouse, 4 points in a matchup with Matt Brown. The Democrats loss of support was more dramatic. Both Whitehouse and Brown lost 10 to 11 points of support no matter who the hypothetical opponent was.

Given that the campaign has been a fairly low-profile fund raising and endorsement seeking affair so far, with no momentum changing individual gaffes or system-wide scandals, I am at a loss to explain why everyone has lost support since June. Anyone have any ideas?

Continue reading "The Most Recent Brown University Senate Preference Poll Says"

A Snapshot of Senator Chafee's Problem

Carroll Andrew Morse

If you want a snapshot of why Senator Lincoln Chafee is facing a primary challenge, you can find it in this quote (from Jim Baron's Pawtucket Times article) from the Senator

So having had a hand in starting Laffey's political career, Chafee said, "I will take great satisfaction in ending it."
He repeated the sentiment on Friday evenings WJAR 6-oclock news story about his visit hurricane barrier, when asked about the Laffey challenge.

Now ask yourself, or better yet, ask Senator Chafee the following questions. Did the Senator take great satisfaction in ending the political career of Robert Weygand, his 2000 election opponent? If the Senator wins the Republican primary, will he take great satisfaction in ending the political careers of Sheldon Whitehouse or Matt Brown?

To the best of my knowledge, when facing a Democrat, the Senator has never publicly described his challenge as ending his opponent's political career, nor has he declared that ending a Democratic opponent's political career will give him great satisifaction. Senator Chafee would never display the level of personal animus he has shown towards Steve Laffey, a fellow Republican, towards a liberal or a Democrat, yet he somehow still expects unquestioning Republican support.

September 11, 2005

Laffey vs. Chafee: Ideals or Power?

Marc Comtois

The senate race between Laffey and Chafee offers a rare opportunity for the Rhode Island Republican party--both its leadership and, especially, the rank and file--to define itself. For decades now, the "traditional" (elected) Rhode Island Republican seems to almost pathologically belong to the "can't-we-just-get-along" club. They smile and wink and get gut-punched by the Democrats to which they respond with an "aw, shucks" and keep smiling and winking. The leadership of the RIGOP long ago seems to have given up hope of real, statewide political strength. Instead, they too-often seem happy to continue playing their role of Washington General-like foil to the dominant, Globe-trotting Democrats.

With this sort of mindset, it must seem to them well-nigh a miracle that they have managed to maintain a U.S. Senate seat. They've played it safe and won a small piece of the pie. Now is not the time to risk it! Instead, they want to trot out the prevent defense and hold on to what they've got. Despite the perception, this tactic actually does work in football, but it often fails in politics.

Why don't they support Steve Laffey's candidacy? Partly it's because he's not one of "them", the establishment RIGOP, the whole handful of them who have led Republicans to the Governorship and not much else. (As an aside, we shouldn't forget that Gov. Carcieri was the outsider when he ran for, and won, the Governorship). Partly its because Steve Laffey seems like too big of a risk and they don't think he can win statewide. I have also expressed some of those same doubts (here and here). A smidgen of dislike can also be thrown in as many probably just don't like the Steve Laffey "act." But I think the largest reason as to why the don't support Steve Laffey is because he isn't their kind of Republican.

Nationwide, conservatives generally support Republicans because, on a broad range of issues, Republicans tilt towards those values held by the average conservative voter. Much of the leadership of the RIGOP does not hold conservative ideals (if Sen. Chafee's record is any indication of what a traditional RI Republican believes) and seems to routinely attempt to distance itself from the conservatives within its ranks.

For instance, in a recent airing of PBS-RI's "Lively Experiment", former Lt. Governor stated that Laffey was drawing support from the "extreme right-wing" (I saw it myself, no link to a transcript, but I'll keep looking). Does that sound like a Republican amenable to party-building and fraternity by embracing the entire spectrum of Republican voters? And in the coming months, don't let them fool you with the soon-to-be oft-parrotted reference to Laffey's property tax hike in Cranston, either. Sen. Chafee is one of those Washington baseline budgeteers who thinks its a matter of course that tax-cuts have to be "paid for" and regularly receives mostly poor grades on tax issues.

It is ironic that 50%-Linc will be supported by the conservative Bush Administration that think it needs him to maintain the Republican Senate majority. They will do everything to keep Chafee in, which will include supporting a candidate against the wishes of their conservative (albeit relatively small) base in the Ocean State. It is the ultimate example of being on the wrong side of the ledger in political economics. Thus, RI conservatives have been left with a choice: standing up for political ideals in their state or striving to maintain national political power at their own continued expense?

Right now, many believe that a vote for the candidate with more conservative ideals, Steve Laffey, could result in a two-fold loss of Republican power: Rhode Island Republicans could lose a national voice and the National GOP could lose the U.S. Senate altogether. Yes, it is possible Steve Laffey could win in a statewide election, especially if he continues to emphasize the "populist" (as he did the other night) in his populist/conservative message. Nonetheless, even if he doesn't stand a snowball's chance in Hades, Rhode Island conservatives will have been heard by bucking the establishment and sending Laffey on to the general election. Many ask: But what would be the purpose? The answer is: to find out who or what the RIGOP is going to be.

In the end, sending Laffey past Chafee to face a Democrat challenger may be nothing more than a romantically noble, and ultimately doomed, cause. Perhaps Rhode Island Republicans won't see another of their own in the national delegation for decades. Yet, despite all of this and whatever the outcome may be, RICons will have made a statement about what they think the RIGOP should be and they will have forced the "establishment" to do the same.

The RIGOP needs to be shaken up and to find a direction. The political tactics used by the RIGOP over the last few years have not worked, if they existed at all. Wimpering under the table for scraps doesn't make a party stronger--it barely keeps it alive and gives it false hope for more of the same. This sort of milquetoast Republicanism has failed in Rhode Island.

If nothing else, I hope that the coming debates will help RI Republicans decide the kind of party they want. I hope, like me, they will see that it's time to heed a paraphrase of Robert Frost's advice and take the road never traveled: the one that leads to a RI Republican party with conservative ideals at its core.

Here Comes the Establishment

The Washington Times has this story about Mayor Laffey's primary challenge against Senator Chafee:

White House adviser Karl Rove and Senate Republican campaign chairwoman Elizabeth Dole tried to discourage the mayor of Cranston, R.I., from running against the party's liberal Sen. Lincoln Chafee next year, but to no avail.

Now Stephen Laffey, a former investment banker who announced his candidacy Thursday, is the target of a National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) broadside that accuses him of sharply raising property taxes on his city's residents...

Meanwhile, Republican strategists have compiled a report showing that the mayor has raised property taxes substantially in his city. While the senator opposed Mr. Bush's tax cuts, Republican officials say Mr. Laffey's hands are not clean on the tax issue, either.

In a still-undisclosed research report titled, "The Laffey Tax Machine," the NRSC says that "one of the first official duties as mayor was to raise taxes 12.8 percent, approximately $490 for a home valued at $150,000."...

The NRSC report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, said the Laffey "tax hike was on top of an 11.5 percent increase property owners had already seen that year."

"Adding in Laffey's supplemental tax, Cranston homeowners' taxes were 25.8 percent higher than the year before."

But Mr. Laffey defended his actions Friday, saying the city had "the lowest bond rating in the United States."...

Voters rewarded his actions by re-electing Mr. Laffey last year with 65 percent of the vote in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1.

Mr. Chafee made it clear last week that he is going to make Mr. Laffey's property-tax increases a major issue in the campaign.

"The sole reason for the change in Cranston's financial fortunes is Laffey's unprecedented tax hikes. Some Cranston taxpayers have seen their tax bills double due to Laffey's stewardship," Mr. Chafee said.

September 9, 2005

Senator Chafee's first response to the Challenger

Carroll Andrew Morse

In the Pawtucket Times, Jim Baron has Senator Chafees early response to Mayor Laffeys announcement. The article displays the Senator's lack of political instinct which has culminated in his facing a primary challenge. Here is an example, in the Senator's own words

"He [Laffey] bashed Republicans as much as he bashed Democrats. He is distancing himself from the party."
This doesnt work to advance the Senators interests on any level. In terms of the Republican base, it is a lost cause for Senator Chafee to claim that he is more Republican than anyone, especially Steve Laffey. And pointing out that Mayor Laffey is as willing to bash Republicans as well as Democrats can only increase Laffeys appeal to the independents who will largely decide the outcome of the primary.

Also, conventional wisdom holds that Senator Chafee possesses the temperate persona compatible with the political culture of Rhode Island, as Edward Achorn phrased it, the personal qualities of moderation, restraint and noblesse oblige that Rhode Islanders often associate with a senator. Yet noblesse oblige is nowhere to be found in a quote like this

So having had a hand in starting Laffey's political career, Chafee said, "I will take great satisfaction in ending it."
Once again, the Sentor undercuts what is supposed to be his strength, his moderation and restraint having vanished in the face of a challenger.

September 8, 2005

Its official

Carroll Andrew Morse

Steve Laffey is running in Rhode Islands Republican primary for the office of United States Senator.

His message is going to be, what a very long time ago -- turn of the century long-ago -- would have been called Progressive Republicanism. In his announcement speech, the theme was fighting big drug companies, fighting special interests (he gave the specific example of sugar subsidies), and fighting big oil companies. He tied the national security of the United States to developing alternative energy sources and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

He also has a theme that is going to mesh well with what some would call his outsized personality: the smallest state in the union needs to have the strongest voice in Washington.

It is quite clear that Mayor Laffey is going to be a formidable candidate in both the primary and, should he win, in the general election.


Here is the full text of Mayor's Laffey's annoucement.

September 1, 2005

Reflections on Chafee, Laffey, Party Politics & the Future of Rhode Island

The many comments in response to recent postings such as:

Insanity brought on by Laffey-phobia
Chafee Power Play by the National Republican Party?
Laffey, Chafee, Charlie, and the Outsiders
National Republican Contributions to RI
Laffey and the Lieutenant Governorship
Senator Chafee can settle the $500,000 Question
Achorn's Wisdom on Chafee/Laffey - What's Right I
Achorn's Wisdom on Chafee/Laffey - What's Right II

have confirmed that passions run high on the question of whether Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey should run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Lincoln Chafee.

I believe the question is a proxy for the more strategic question about what direction the Republican Party should take in Rhode Island. That leads to an even more significant question about what should be the appropriate response to the failing political status quo in our state. There are many subcurrents to this latter question and elaborating on them - and relating them to the Laffey/Chafee debate - is the purpose of this posting. These two strategic questions should be the focus of the public debate, not the posturing within a largely irrelevant state political party.


Many of us consider the crossing guard debacle, first brought to the public's attention by Mayor Laffey, to be the galvanizing and defining event that showed the embedded political corruption here in Rhode Island. For that effort, I tip my hat to the Mayor and believe all residents owe him a debt of gratitude.

Some people claim the Mayor's style is too aggressive. I doubt anyone would disagree that his is an aggressive style. But that is not the point.

The real question is whether his style has been an appropriate response to the situation at hand when the political environment consists of a mix of spineless politicians and bureaucrats facing off against powerful public sector union demands.

During and since my time on the East Greenwich School Committee, I have seen how willing the teachers' union is to play power games to win outlandish compensation terms - even if they have to mislead residents and make our children suffer to achieve that end.

The problem across Rhode Island is that these public sector unions are not reasonable people and cannot be dealt with anything less than blunt words and actions. We are now paying the price for years of accommodation to them: An outrageous tax burden on all Rhode Island residents.

But there is a larger issue of fairness and justice at stake here:

...this debate is about more than current taxation levels and today's family budgets. It is about freedom and opportunity for all -- and family budgets in the future. The greatness of our country is that people can live the American dream through the power of education and hard work.

High taxation and mediocre public education create a disincentive for new-business formation in Rhode Island. That means fewer new jobs, and less of a chance for working people to realize the American dream. It also means people have an economic incentive to leave the state -- and the ones who can afford to do so will continue to leave.

Unfortunately, the ones who cannot afford to leave are the people who can least afford the crushing blow of high taxation and mediocre education. The status quo dooms these families to an ongoing decline in their standard of living. That is unjust.

The unions have political power on their side today. They will, no doubt, win some short-term battles. But, like all those clinging to untenable economic models, they are on the wrong side of history and will lose the war over time. The only question is how much economic pain they will inflict on the state's residents along the way.

We are at a crossroads in Rhode Island. If we tackle issues now, a turnaround with only some pain is possible. If we delay, we will doom multiple generations of working families and retirees to further tax hell and a reduction in their standard of living. That is wrong.

These are fundamental issues that get to the heart of what direction our state will go in the future. Will young people be able to realize the American Dream if they stay in Rhode Island? Will retirees be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors and have an adequate lifestyle in their twilight years?

Since the public sector suffers from misguided incentives due to a lack of market forces, the bold exercise of political power is the only way to challenge the status quo and bring about meaningful change. Such efforts take guts and there is certainly no excess of such moxie among our politicians and bureaucrats.

So, yes, Mayor Laffey's style is aggressive. It is also the only way to effect real change in a corrupt and ineffective public sector. And it will take many more Mayor Laffey's for us to see real change become more than an occasional event.

Continue reading "Reflections on Chafee, Laffey, Party Politics & the Future of Rhode Island"

April 28, 2005

What to Make of Laffey and Guatemala/Mexico

Marc Comtois

I will be the first to admit that I haven't been as convinced as other conservatives, here and there, that Cranston Mayor Steven Laffey's politics or personality will translate well on the statewide stage. This is not because of his political views, many (if not most) of which I agree with, but rather my perception of the degree (or lack thereof) that the typical Rhode Island voter can accept such a rabble-rousin' conservative (I mean that in a good way). Thus, with all of that as a caveat, I must admit that I am quite perplexed as to what exactly the mayor is doing by inserting Cranston into the middle international immigration policy. On the one hand, it could be an attempt to add a "kinder, gentler" side to his conservativism in an attempt to preempt [predictable] charges of being cold-hearted, etc. On the other hand, it could be raw political opportunism at the expense of intellectual, or at least ideological, honesty. The following blurb from the "aforelinked" story sums up my concerns [and it starts with a laugh-out-loud, tongue-in-cheek sentence, at least I thought]

Of all Cranston's mayors over the past 100 years, Laffey has, without question, the best relations with the nation of Guatemala. In the past few years, Laffey has given seven Cranston vehicles to Guatemala in the last two years for use as ambulances. Last year he visited Guatemala, and he has played host to the president of the City Council of Guatemala City and the mayor of the town of Chici.

Earlier this year, he also went on a fact-finding expedition to Mexico's border with Arizona, and spent a Saturday riding along with the border patrol.

Cranston joins Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Providence as Rhode Island communities accepting Mexico's Matricula Consular identification card. Providence also accepts Guatemala's ID card.

The card itself is not proof of legal immigration status or eligibility to work in the United States. But it is accepted often by American banks from foreigners opening bank accounts.

Julio Aragon, president of the Mexican American Association of Rhode Island, said that the cards offer little benefits for foreigners when dealing with city government. But he said they are invaluable when Mexicans come into contact with the police department. If they commit a crime and have no valid identification, they may be deported rather than enter into the court system.

"If the police stop me with no license, nothing, the police can kick me out of America. But if you have the Mexican card, if the officer stops you, he knows right away you're registered with the Mexican embassy," Aragon said.

"It's better than being deported," Aragon said, adding that it is much easier to carry around the small ID card than the bulkier Mexican passport.

Mexico has been distributing the card since 1871. Guatemala issued its first cards in 2002.

Critics argue that the cards legitimize the presence of illegal immigrants, and provide an avenue for terrorists to transfer money and to enter the United States.

In 2003, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and at the Homeland Security Department have testified before Congress that the cards, if fraudently obtained, can be used to gain access to other documentation -- such as U.S. drivers' licenses. There have been several failed attempts in Congress to enact a nationwide ban on the cards.

More than 1.7 million Mexicans carry the Matricula Consular.

To receive a card, applicants must present either a passport, or a combination of an original birth certificate to prove their nationality, a government-issued photo ID to prove identity, proof of address under the same name, a telephone number, and next of kin information.

Laffey said that the cards offer all immigrants "the fair chance to live the American dream." He closed his remarks with his favorite Spanish phrase, directed to Vice President Stein: "Su lucha es mi lucha" -- your struggle is my struggle.

I'm just not sure what is to be gained. What if Cranston becomes an illegal immigrant haven? Will Cranston's taxpayers be willing, or ready, to foot the social welfare bills of a large non- or illegally- working sub-population? I doubt it. It would seem Mayor Laffey's usually good political ear has turned to tin. Average folks don't like the idea of illegal immigrants crossing the border, taking jobs and leeching off of our welfare system. And God forbid if the police actually wanted to deport an illegal alien criminal.

February 10, 2005

RE: A Foregone Conclusion

Marc Comtois

A commenter to Justin's post remarks:

One would hope that maybe Steve Laffey would challenge Linc for the Republican nod. Of course the White House would probably offer the traitorous Chafee the same support it gave Arlen Specter. In a Kennedy-Chafee race, truly a contest of empty suits I think I would have to abstain. Should Langevin throw his hat in the ring, I could be comfortable voting for him against Chafee.
To which another responded:
I respectfully disagree. Unless RI Democrats run someone to the right of Chafee, I think Republicans should faithfully pull the Chafee lever. Failure to do so would elect yet one more liberal Democrat and bring Harry Reid one vote closer to being Majority Leader.

Further, dumping Chafee so that a civil war will break out in the RI GOP would be a death knell for the Republican Party in that state. RI is not secretly waiting for the true conservatives to ride back in and save them from mushy moderates. To the contrary, RI is one of the most liberal states in the nation. The only kind of Republican that can win there is the liberal kind. It's this kind of thinking --- that conservatives should demand nothing less than ideological purity --- that has destroyed the GOP in Illinois, New Jersey, and California.

As they say: "Aye, thar's the rub!" That Chafee is a Republican benefits all Rhode Islanders because he belongs to the party in power, even if he is a bit out of the Republican mainstream. Some view his "rogue" status as a political benefit and he garners much admiration for his "independent" nature, much like Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. However, there is a difference between he and the two senators from the Pine Tree State. While they may be independent, Chafee is more, well, "loose." To wit, Senator Chafee has:

  • Come out against and then for the President's Social Security Reform proposal.
  • Vacillated over whether to "stay" a Republican.
  • Voted for the wrong Bush.

And these are just a few recent examples.

In essence, Chafee has continued to be a pain in the neck to the conservative core of the Republican party. And though some view him as just another "independent" Northeast Liberal Republican like Snowe and Collins, Chafee's actions have convinced many Ocean Staters that he is less "independent" and more "loose cannon."

What Republican, other than Chafee, should conservatives support? The first rule of Rhode Island politics is name recognition. Thus, I think Governor Carcieri, a "kinder, gentler" Republican, is the type of Republican who would be palatable to both the Republican core and the Rhode Island electorate at large. Steve Laffey is a firebrand, and we conservatives love his style, but he would have a tough time selling himself to many of the traditional RI liberal voters. Yet, Laffey does have the aura of a populist about him, and that can be just as appealing as party affiliation or political ideology to many undecided voters.

Langevin has that name recognition and his life story is compelling, capped by his heroic triumph over personal tragedy to hold a U.S. House seat. He is a rare pro-life Democrat in a heavily Catholic state, which allows traditionally conservative Catholics to vote with their Democrat predispostions with a clear conscience. In short, he's the strongest Democrat candidate in the field.

I think Langevin would beat Chafee and lose to Carcieri in a close race. A contest between he and Laffey would be fun, but Langevin would win by 4-6 points because Laffey's hard-charging style simply turns some people off and alienates union households (and we know how many of those are in Rhode Island).

Politically, supporting Langevin would be a mistake for conservatives. It would be a risky venture to rid the Republican party of Chafee now in the (faint?) hope of recapturing the seat at a future date with a more ideologically "pure" candidate. Given the political proclivities of the Rhode Island polity--"we will remove no incumbent unless he's REALLY corrupt (or inept)"-- if Langevin ever won the Senate seat, he would be extremely difficult to dislodge.

If Republicans were to get rid of Chafee, it would have to be done in the Republican primary. However, if the attempt failed and he survived, it would be politically wise to support him in the general election. Romantic notions have no place in politics: maintaining political power (senate seats), even by electing a candidate whose views lay outside of the ideological norm of the party, is preferable to losing power, even if the perception is that the loss in power would be more illusory than real. Voting for a Democrat, no matter how appealling he may be, for the sake of ousting an ideological pariah would probably result in a near-permanent surrendering of both Senate seats to the Democrats, especially in a state dominated by Democrats. Thats the political angle.

However, there is also another angle: following your conscience. Who would be the best man for the job? If the race is indeed Chafee v. Langevin, I believe it would be Langevin. I disagree with him on some of his political stances, but I also agree with him on some issues that are significant to conservatives. The political differences between he and Chafee are marginal, but on the single biggest conservative issue, abortion, it is Langevin who is pro-life while Chafee is pro-abortion. Also, Langevin supported the Iraq War, while Chafee didn't. Langevin strongly opposes the President's Social Security Reform proposals, while Chafee has been tepid. However, probably the most important factor is this: Langevin simply isn't as "kooky" as Chafee.

Thus, the quandry. Should conservatives take the political gamble and support a Democrat in the hope of pulling a thorn from their side, even if it could mean permanent loss of national power for RI Republicans? Does the fact that the Langevin is conservative on some key issues serve as a pallative? What of the risk that the seat could eventually be filled by one more ideologically liberal than Langevin? However, this last is mitigated by an earlier point: Rhode Islanders do love their incumbents. Thus, if conservatives are willing to have Langevin as their Senator for six years, they had better be ready to have him as their Senator for thirty years. For some, especially those for whom abortion is the most important issue, this will be entirely acceptable.

ADDENDUM: A comment by The Senescent Man reminded me that I had neglected to point to a similar conversation on his blog. He is very optimistic about a Steve Laffey run.