Thursday, September 27, 2007

Schauer Cooks for You

Yeah, it's a fundraising gimmick, but it made me laugh. Senator Schauer send this fundraising e-mail out today:
Dear Friend,

If you're like me, you're currently being bombarded with e-mails promising a chance to win dinner with this candidate, or the chance to watch a debate with a candidate's family, or asking you to give a gift for a candidate's birthday (by the way my birthday is next week).

Like all candidates, I'm pushing hard for the end of this quarter's filing, so I tried to think of my own gimmick to get you to help out my campaign. I decided that no one would donate just to have dinner with me, and since my wife isn't a former president, you probably don't want to watch a debate with her, and the birthday thing has been done. So, I decided that I would give away a chance to have me come to your house and make you dinner.

That's right, anyone who donates online between now and midnight on September 30th will be automatically entered to win a taste of my world famous, as seen on TV, Pasty Pie. (Ok, so the recipe is really my Yooper mother in-law's, but I did make it on TV, and it probably isn't "world
famous", but those lucky enough to get JTV might have seen it.)

We're cooking up a campaign for a change, but we need you to be a part of it. Help us send a message to the Republican machine and all the experts who are watching this race. Besides, the Pasty Pie challenge we're doing this quarter is probably better than the liver-and-onions dish we might offer next quarter! So Please go to the link below and give $100, $50,
or even $5 (come on, the ingredients will cost more that that!)

The policies of Tim Walberg and George Bush have been a recipe for disaster and now we have a chance to make a change. With your help, we can return an independent voice to the 7 th district and start getting real results for our people. If we want jobs, educational opportunities, health care and more for south central Michigan, we must commit to making it happen. Donate here today to make that commitment AND get a chance to have me cook a UP delicacy for you:

We're on our way to replacing Tim Walberg and restoring results-oriented
leadership for this district. The main missing ingredient is YOU.


Mark Schauer


I know this is a little out of the ordinary, but this is an extraordinary campaign. By contributing $100, $50, or $25 today, you can be a part of turning the tide for our state and our country. You'll also have a chance to have me cook for you personally, so contribute today: I'll even do the dishes!
As someone with my own UP connections, it's good to see the fine cuisine of the Upper Peninsula get a little attenton, too.

We expect to see this sort of thing from presidential campaigns, but I'm actually really suprised to see a congressional candidate do something like this. We'll see how well it pays off at the end of the quarter.

Labels: , ,

Michigan Budget Crisis - Schauer, Walberg, and Schwarz

Ordinarily, I stay away from blogging about state government. It's not the focus of this blog, and there are already a lot of smarter, more talented people covering it on other websites. But it's certainly worth mentioning on this blog. Why?

For starters, one of the Democratic candidates, Mark Schauer, is a key player as minority leader in the Michigan Senate. But I'm not planning to spend much time talking about his role in the negotiations and (hopefully) the final budget except for how it relates to the 7th District race.

That's Senator Schauer. It's his job to work on this problem, so it's not worth blogging about on this website. Tim Walberg is a different story. It's not really his job to participate in state government, so I was surprised when I saw this:
Washington, Sep 20 - U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and four other members of the Michigan Congressional delegation stood with Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature today against Gov. Granholm’s plan to raise taxes on all Michiganders.

Joining Walberg in signing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and House Republican Leader Craig DeRoche are Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Rep. Thad McCotter, Rep. Fred Upton, and Rep. Mike Rogers.

“We can build a better, brighter future in Michigan and return our great state to prosperity,” Walberg said. “We just need the courage and determination to cut waste and instill fiscal discipline. Instead of using good stewardship and being responsible with taxpayer dollars, the Governor is attempting to ‘invest’ by divesting money from hard-working taxpayers.”
Congressman Walberg certainly has a right to speak out on these issues. But I'm a little distressed when he takes the opportunity to reject compromise and push a hard-line anti-tax message that could lead to a government shutdown.

Make no mistake, Walberg isn't speaking on behalf of the downtrodden taxpayer. He's urging his fellow Republicans to reject compromise and embrace a government shutdown. Even if the Democrats in the state government caved to all of their demands, it would still mean drastically reduced services. Either way, Tim Walberg is pushing for a government that does either less or nothing.

Anyone with any sense of fiscal responsibility would recognize that sometimes, every once in a while, a tax increase is necessary to maintain services.

Former Congressman Joe Schwarz gets it:
The current income tax rate is 3.9 percent. Many Democrats want to set the rate at 4.6 or higher, while Republicans don't want to go any higher than 4.3 percent.

The difference between the two proposals means millions of dollars more for the state treasury and higher tax bills for the typical Michigan family.

Calls for a budget solution are coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Late last week, 28 former Republican lawmakers sent a joint letter to current GOP lawmakers, urging them to compromise.

Among the signers were former Senate majority leaders Ken Sikkema of Wyoming and Dan DeGrow of Port Huron; former House Speaker Paul Hillegonds, then of Holland; and longtime senators Harry Gast of St. Joseph, Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek, George McManus of Traverse City and William Sederburg, then of East Lansing.

"We believe that while the solution does not involve taxing our way to solvency, it cannot involve only budgetary cuts," the letter read. "Wise stewardship requires a prudent mix of structural reforms to streamline government, budget cuts to focus government on essential state services and additional revenue to equip the State to carry out its important responsibilities."

(Emphasis added.)

Once again, Walberg and Schwarz have found themselves in a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. To Schwarz, the top priority is having a government that works efficiently on behalf of its citizens. To Walberg, the top priority is following Club for Growth orders and cutting taxes, without considering how it might affect people's lives.

At the end of the week, the state government will begin to shut down. State employees won't show up for work, Secretary of State offices will close, schools won't be able to function. We really, really don't want this to happen. But Walberg does.

I wonder if he'll still get his pension checks from the state of Michigan if the government shuts down. Anyone know the answer?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

CQ Profiles 7th District, Schauer

Just a quick link today. did a profile of the current state of the 7th District race. Most of you already know everything in there, but it's still worth reading. The district is getting national attention!

Check it out.

Labels: , ,

Walberg Votes Against Children's Health... Again

In the United States today, there are 9 million children without health insurance. Suppose we could give 4 million of them coverage by raising federal taxes on tobacco. Would that be something you'd be willing to do?

Apparently, it's not something Tim Walberg would be willing to do. Today (er, yesterday, now), he voted No on reauthorizing and expanding the SCHIP program. The compromise, slightly different from the previous House bill (which Walberg also opposed), passed 265 to 159, with 45 Republicans joining the Democratic majority.

Some coverage from the Washington Post:

A broad House majority gave final approval last night to a $35 billion expansion of the popular children's health insurance program, with members from both parties brushing aside a stern veto threat from President Bush to vote their support, 265 to 159.

The Senate will take up the bill later this week and is expected to send it to the president with a veto-proof, bipartisan majority. But amid furious White House lobbying, even Republican advocates in the House ruefully conceded that they will probably fall short of the 290 votes they will need next week to override the promised veto.

The compromise package would expand the $5 billion-a-year children's health insurance program by an average of $7 billion a year over the next five years, for total funding of $60 billion over the period. That would be enough to boost the program's enrollment to 10 million, up from 6.6 million, and dramatically reduce the ranks of America's 9 million uninsured children, supporters said.

Indeed, the compromise worked out between the House and the Senate has garnered the support of the health insurance industry, AARP, the American Medical Association, governors from both parties and a platoon of children's health advocates.

But Bush and GOP leaders said the measure would push children already covered by private health insurance into publicly financed health care, while creating an "entitlement" whose costs would ultimately outstrip the money raised by the bill's 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax.

"The current bill goes too far toward federalizing health care and turns a program meant to help low-income children into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year," asserted the White House yesterday, continuing to push Bush's far more modest $5 billion expansion.

Backers of the congressional bill, including conservative Republican Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), have said repeatedly that Bush is dead wrong about the $83,000 figure. Only New York has sought to cover children from families with incomes that high, and the administration turned down the request.

The measure would make it very difficult for states to cover children at higher than three times the poverty level, or $51,510 for a family of three, analysts said. About 70 percent of the children who retain or gain coverage under the bill would be from families earning less than twice the poverty level, or $34,340 for a family of three, according to Genevieve M. Kenney, a health policy expert at the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.
Congressman Walberg's website has his reasons for opposing the bill:
“The Democratic bill takes a program designed to aid children of low income families and instead reduces access to quality health care for most Americans,” Walberg said.

The Democratic legislation would:

- Change current law to make it easier for illegal immigrants to receive SCHIP funds, as well as other taxpayer-funded federal benefits

- Include a 61-cent-a-pack increase in federal cigarette taxes and up to a three dollar tax on cigars
Cost more than $4,000 per year for every newly insured child who is added to government’s patient list, compared to $2,300 per year to add a child to a private insurance plan in a typical family of four

- Cover children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year

- Fund SCHIP for adults through 2012

- Contain no income or asset ceiling for receiving SCHIP funds

- Reject requirements that force states to focus their efforts on children in families with incomes of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line

- Require 22 million new smokers to buy cigarettes over the next 10 years in order to fully fund the program
Setting aside some of the questionable facts (like the $83,000 figure), that last one really gets me. The bill doesn't "require" that people keep smoking. It assumes they probably will, and tries to use the poor choices of one generation to help the next one. Walberg makes it sound like if you don't have a cigarette hanging out of your mouth at all times, those nasty Democrats will come after you.

Anticipating Walberg's likely position, the Schauer campaign sent out a press release in the morning:

BATTLE CREEK – As Congress prepares to vote today on a bipartisan plan to provide health insurance for children, State Senator Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) called on Tim Walberg to drop his opposition to the legislation. The State Children's Health Insurance Program is set to expire on September 30, and the plan expected to be taken up today would provide coverage to 10 million children.

"Providing health care for vulnerable children is a basic statement of who we are as a country," said Schauer. "I hope that Congressman Walberg will listen to the many community service, health care, and religious organizations that support this and join the bipartisan group of his colleagues to do the right thing."

Michigan's SCHIP program is called MIChild and covers approximately 35,000 children across the state. Unfortunately, it is estimated that currently 110,000 Michigan children are eligible for health care benefits under MIChild or Medicaid, but do not receive them. Without the SCHIP reauthorization at the level proposed, Michigan is expected to face a shortage next year that could force children out of the program.

"One of the reasons I strongly opposed devastating cuts proposed in our state budget debate is that they throw people off of health care," said Schauer. "These are children we're talking about. Walberg and Bush seem to expect them to pool their allowances to get health care, but that just doesn't make sense."

Really, I've got nothing to add. I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm just shocked. My representative in Congress just voted against a bill that would help children get health care. He ignored the facts, peddled right-wing talking-points, and voted against the interests of the district he represents. He voted against something even the insurance industry supports. That doesn't sound like socialized medicine to me.

Tim Walberg voted against the children of the 7th District. Why?

Well, maybe because the Club for Growth told him to. But that's just a guess.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Berryman Drops Out

Ahh, computer problems... I tried forty different ways of doing this last night, but now it works fine...

Last night, I received this in an e-mail:

Berryman withdraws Candidacy
in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District
Former Mayor, Senator Jim Berryman believes the focus should be on defeating Tim Walberg and not campaigning against a fellow Democrat

ADRIAN – Jim Berryman of Adrian announced today that he will not run as a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s seventh congressional district. Berryman, a former Mayor and state Senator, said “now is the time to come together, as a Party and unite behind one candidate. “We need to focus on the real task before us and that is to replace our current congressman” Berryman said.

Berryman said he had made the decision to run for Congress because there was not an announced candidate that had the experience to run an effective and competitive race. “Now there are two candidates’ that have the ability to wage a successful campaign” Berryman said.

Berryman went on to say; “I was not running to make Jim Berryman a congressman. I was running because I wanted to do what was best for the families that live in the 7th District. I believe that this country should refocus its attention on the real issues that face the majority of us every day. That is to invest our capital in American industries, American jobs, our cities and our families.”

Throughout his political career Berryman has always been proud of the support he has received from organized labor. “I would have never been able to accomplish any of my political goals without the hard work of the men and women that make up Michigan’s and this country’s Unions” said Berryman. “This is one of the major reasons that I have decided to withdraw from the 2008 Democratic primary.” Berryman continued to say; “The Democratic candidate is going to need all the resources available, both physical and financial, to replace the current congressman. Having two friends of labor going at each other in a primary, will only be a distraction and lessen our chances of victory in the Fall of 2008” said Berryman.

Berryman, who is employed by the Michigan Education Association said; “Now that we (the Democratic Party) have a candidate that can run a competitive national campaign, I can turn my full attention to the responsibilities of representing my teachers and support staff, here in Lenawee County.” Berryman said; “I am still going to attempt to make a positive difference in the lives of the individuals that I represent, it is only going to be on a more local level.”

The AP already has a story up:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Former Democratic state Sen. Jim Berryman of Adrian told supporters Sunday that he is withdrawing from the race to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg in the 2008 election.

Berryman, who works for the Michigan Education Association, said he dropped out because he didn't want to have two candidates splitting the labor endorsement. State Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, announced in late August that he was getting into the race for the 7th District, which includes parts of seven counties in south-central Michigan.

"The Democratic candidate is going to need all the resources available, both physical and financial, to replace the current congressman. Having two friends of labor going at each other in a primary will only be a distraction and lessen our chances of victory in the fall of 2008," Berryman said in a statement to supporters Sunday night.

As with David Nacht, I just want to say I have a great deal of admiration for Jim Berryman. It's tough to run for public office, and he made a great effort over the last few months. Regardless of who our representative in Congress is, it's refreshing to know that we have men and women like Berryman fighting for us at a local level.

This isn't an endorsement of Mark Schauer. However, Schauer is the clear winner coming out of this announcement, now only facing Sharon Renier in the primary (who, as far as I can tell, hasn't yet officially filed as a candidate). Remember, though, that a lot of things can change. Schauer's entry into the race was a great reminder of that fact.

Still, this changes the dynamic of the race. I had expected a vigorous primary between multiple well-funded candidates. That would've been fun for political junkies like me and, I think, good for the candidates, but it would have been a drain of resources, as Berryman says.

Until Joe Schwarz announces his intentions and Sharon Renier puts together a 2008 campaign, we're effectively starting the fall with a Schauer-vs.-Walberg campaign.

Labels: , ,

Berryman Drops Out

Computer problems are preventing me from posting more... Trust me, I've tried everything. Short version: Jim Berryman has decided to drop out of the race.

I'll update with more in the morning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Walberg's Affirmative Action Amendment Killed In Senate

I'm back from my week off, but I'm off to a slow start. There's a lot of e-mail I've got to sort through... -- Fitzy

A while back, I mentioned Congressman Tim Walberg's newest strategy for furthering his agenda: introducing (and, in one case, passing) confusing amendments that would prevent the federal government from enacting affirmative action policies.

His one success on this front was on HR 3074, a bill which would fund the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As I wrote before, his amendment only passed because, simply put, House Democrats couldn't figure out what it would actually do. As Congressman John Olver said:
Either this is not a serious amendment or it is an exceedingly serious amendment. This amendment is either totally unnecessary or it has a really nefarious purpose... I don't know whether this is the sort of thing that the gentleman was trying to get at, but I think that this has some entirely unknown effects.
So, it passed with little opposition because Walberg had successfully confused the House of Representatives.

It turns out that Walberg's amendment's language would have eliminated funding for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. That program, as far as I can tell, has successfully led to businesses owned by historically disadvantaged groups (minorities and women) getting an appropriate share of federal contracts.

When the actual result of Walberg's amendment was known, the Senate moved to kill it:
This week the US Senate averted an attempt to eliminate funding for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program for transportation construction, an affirmative action program for women and minorities. A last minute amendment to the Department of Transportation/HUD appropriations bill, introduced by Rep Tim Walberg (R-MI), wiping out funding for the DBE program passed the House without even a voice vote.

In a procedural move, the Democratic leadership prevented such an amendment from coming to the Senate floor. A large coalition of women’s rights and civil rights organizations, worked to alert senators of the serious impact of cutting the DBE funding which the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights described as "one of the federal government's most successful small business development programs, and has helped to expand competition and create opportunities for tens of thousands of new businesses in the construction market."

Similar funding cuts in California resulting from the passage of Proposition 209 resulted in more than 50 percent reduction in transportation construction contracts to women and minority-owned businesses over a ten year period according to the Discrimination Research Center.
So. Bummer for Tim Walberg, I guess. One of his few legislative accomplishments got wiped away by a procedural move. Too bad for him that the Senate wasn't as confused by his last-minute stunt as the House of Representatives.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Congressman Tim's "Club for Growth REPORK CARD"

I had a chance today to look at the Club for Growth's website, and to peruse the 2007 "Repork Card". Naturally, Congressman Tim did well, receiving a score of 86%, voting correctly 43 out of 50 times. The average Republican score was 43%, with GOP Freshmen averaging 78%. Congressman Tim was above the curve!

I know we would expect that he would vote the way his biggest group of contributors would like, but what was interesting were some of the specific votes he made.

He broke with the club on 7 votes:

Roll Call 640 (HR 2641) he voted against "remove various earmarks"

Roll Call 663 (HR 3043) he voted against "strike all earmarks in the bill"

Roll Call 671 (HR 3043) he voted against against eliminating funding ($300,000) of the Jefferson's Poplar Forest in Forest, Virginia

Roll Call 698 (HR 3074) he voted against against eliminating funding ($300,000) of the Belmont Complex in Kittanning, PA

Roll Call 735 (HR 3093) he voted against against eliminating funding($200,000) of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine

Roll Call 736 (HR 3093) he voted against against eliminating funding($250,000) of the East Coast Shellfish Research Center

Roll Call 813 (HR 3161) he voted against eliminating funding ($6,300,000) for a "Wood Utilization Grant" to 8 states and Michigan

So Congressman Tim had a chance to vote against $7,300,000 in what was considered "Pork Barrel Spending".

I think his vote on the wood utilization grant is obvious, because it benefits Michigan.

I gather he must like shellfish and lobster. I know we don't harvest them here, but what the heck, they are tasty when broiled.

I don't know why he would vote funds to a community recreation complex (Belmont Complex, owned by Armstrong County PA. Maybe someone can tell us?

I guess Tim's support of Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest ( is because of it's historical value and ties to the founding father?

Also very interesting are some of the things Congressman Tim voted against, and pleased his Club for Growth masters. Let's look, shall we?

Roll Call 845 (HR3222) Congressman Tim voted to bar funding ($39,000,000) for the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Why? Is the Congressman now in favor of drug leniency? Does the Club for Growth see profit potential in Marijuana? I'll bet it was a vote against the congressman who represents that district, Jack Murtha.

Roll Call 639 (HR 2641) Congressman Tim voted to eliminate funding ($1,000,000) for work on nano-structure, fuel cell membrane research. It seems like high-tech projects would move our economy and position us for the future, but maybe Tim is against that "egghead research".

Roll Call 702 (HR 3074) Congressman Tim voted against $300,000 for the Houston Zoo. Whatcha got against Zoos? Maybe they could all be privately funded, like that cool new museum in Kentucky?

Roll Call 809 (HR 3161) Congressman Tim voted against Catfish Pathogen Research funding ($878,046). I guess he only likes shellfish...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

September 9 - 15

I won't be blogging for the next week or so, which means that Walberg Watch will go kinda quiet until September 16. My fellow bloggers are certainly free to post, but since I tend to be the most frequent author, I thought I'd mention that I won't be active for a little while.

I've got a few things for you all to discuss, of course, to keep this place active. First up, Tim Walberg's newest legislative adventure!


On June 28, 2007, Congressman Walberg introduced HR 2948. Here's the text:

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit health insurance to be purchased from a health savings account.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Increased Access to Health Insurance Act of 2007'.


    (a) In General- Paragraph (2) of section 223(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (defining qualified medical expenses) is amended to read as follows:
      `(2) QUALIFIED MEDICAL EXPENSES- The term `qualified medical expenses' means, with respect to an account beneficiary, amounts paid by such beneficiary for medical care (as defined in section 213(d)) for such individual, the spouse of such individual, and any dependent (as defined in section 152, determined without regard to subsections (b)(1), (b)(2), and (d)(1)(B) thereof) of such individual, but only to the extent such amounts are not compensated for by insurance or otherwise.'.
    (b) Effective Date- The amendment made by this section shall apply with respect to insurance purchased after the date of the enactment of this Act in taxable years beginning after such date.
The short version is, he wants you to be able to purchase health insurance using money in a health savings account. I was in the process of doing some research on this, but if there are any health care professionals out there, I hope you'll share your knowledge with us. What would be the result of Walberg's bill? Could this help anything, or would it make things worse?


Next, everyone's favorite Republican blogger, Joe Sylvester, stopped by on the last post and shared a link with us. For those that have forgotten, I wrote a bit about his blog here. I'm not going to say anything more about it, because I don't want this to turn into some pathetic blog feud... I'd like to think I'm better than that, and I hope Joe is too.

Anyway, it looks like Joe is tired of seeing us "left wing nutjobs" having all the fun, and he even mentioned Walberg Watch by name. He wants to start a new blog called "Democrat Primary Watch." Never mind that he used the wrong word (English teachers agree, it's "Democratic"). Citing Ken Brock's statements that caused quite a stir, he wants to have this new blog watch Democratic candidates in the 7th, while criticizing their every move and describing how wonderful Congressman Tim Walberg is.

I say, the more the merrier, and I hope that whenever this new blog gets started, you'll all check it out. And if the writing is good, they're respectful, the criticism is fair and intellectually honest, and the authors are willing to admit that sometimes, Tim Walberg can be wrong too, I might even give up blogging here and ask to join them.

Of course, I suspect that I'll be sticking around Walberg Watch for a little while longer. But that's just a hunch.


I've been working on a series of videos, eventually intended for YouTube, which showcase some of Congressman Walberg's extreme positions and whatnot, mostly using actual quotes. If you've got an issue for which you definitely want me to create a video, or you want to help, e-mail me. And if you've got a really outrageous Walberg quote (with a legitimate source), send me that, too.


Hopefully that'll be enough to keep you busy, and I hope you'll mention any news in the comments. It's not going to be easy to contact me for the next week, so any e-mails might go unanswered.

In the meantime, consider this an open thread.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

Native American Housing Assistance - Walberg Votes No

Native Americans have suffered a great deal throughout this country's history. From European diseases to forced relocation to broken treaties, North America's original inhabitants have faced discrimination, misguided "assimilation" efforts aimed at destroying cultures, and a lack of support from the federal government.

Although this has changed some in recent decades, Native Americans still face discrimination and a high poverty rate. In 1995:
Of all ethnic groups in this country, Native Americans who live on reservations are the most impoverished. Over 20% of Native American reservation households have annual incomes below $5000, compared with 6% for the overall U.S. population. Only 8% of reservation households have annual incomes greater than $35,000, compared with 18% for the overall U.S. population.
And, more recently:
Based on a three-year average, 24.3 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives lived in poverty from 2003 through 2004. This rate was not much different from poverty among African-Americans (24.4 percent) and Hispanics (22.1 percent).

But it more than twice the poverty rate of Whites (10.5 percent) and more than twice the poverty rate of Asians (10.6 percent) for the same period, the Census Bureau reported.

The percentage of Native Americans without insurance was also high. Based on a three-year average, a whopping 29.0 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives did not have health coverage, a rate surpassed only by Hispanics (32.6 percent).

In comparison, the percentage Whites without insurance was 14.6 percent while among Asians it was 18.0 percent.
With all of this in mind, it would seem reasonable to me that it might be worth it to provide some federal assistance to Native Americans. In 1996, Congress passed the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, an act "to provide Federal assistance for Indian tribes in a manner that recognizes the right of tribal self-governance, and for other purposes." Tribal governments received block grants to help provide affordable housing.

Now, the program is up for reauthorization, with HR 2786, sponsored by Michigan's own Congressman Dale Kildee. A full summary of the bill is available here. It's estimated cost is $8.00 per American over the next five years.

HR 2786, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2007, passed the House of Representatives, 333 to 75.

Tim Walberg voted No. He and Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra were the only members of the Michigan delegation to oppose the bill.

Lately on Walberg Watch, the main focus has been on the candidates hoping to replace him, and, in one case, a candidate's chief of staff. To be honest, I'd much rather spend my time focused on Tim Walberg. But I couldn't for the last month or so, because he really hasn't been doing much of anything newsworthy while the House was on its recess.

Now that they're back in action and voting on legislation, we see that he's the same old Tim Walberg. Apparently, he couldn't spare $8.00 over the next five years.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on Ken Brock

I received an e-mail from Susan Demas, who wrote the original article in the Enquirer that started the Ken Brock controversy. She has since given me permission to post her e-mail. It adds some context, and I'm sure that it'll give everyone a lot more to talk about.

The e-mail:
I'm surprised at the attention one line in my latest column has received both in Michigan and across the country. What I wrote on Mr. Brock wasn't the main point, but it did reinforce my belief in restoring decency to politics.

I'd like to clarify something with you, since we've corresponded in the past. These were not paraphrasings or quotes taken out of context. Here are the complete quotes from Mr. Brock:

"Berryman is lazy and he knows that. He promised us he'd do better. ... But you look at his fundraising and his excuses and he's not getting it done. ... The Lord helps those who help themselves."

“David Nacht, people are not going to vote for a liberal, Jewish trial lawyer from the east side of the district.”

In a 35 minute interview, which Mr. Brock requested from me, he repeatedly castigated both Mr. Berryman and Mr. Nacht. That is why I included the quotes. I am not interested in going after Sen. Schauer or Mr. Brock any more than I am interested in going after Congressman Walberg. I call them as I see them. And when politicians of all stripes cross over a line, I think it's the media's job to report that.

I do not profess to know Mr. Brock's heart or intentions. But what he said was not accidental and there was no apology to me or request for a retraction. And no, I don't think it's a minor issue. Mr. Brock was bombastic throughout the interview, holding Mr. Berryman and Mr. Nacht in contempt. As the Senate Minority Leader's chief of staff, his words and actions are a reflection of his boss.

Certainly Republicans are jumping on this for political gain. But after covering politics as long as I have, I can tell you that Democrats would be up in arms if Tim Walberg made the same comments, many of whom would be posting on your site.

As journalists, we have to report what we think is right and hold leaders accountable. That's all I have ever tried to do.

So. How does this change things? Does it?

Labels: , ,

Lessenberry On Joe Schwarz

Jack Lessenberry is probably my favorite Michigan political journalist. I don't always agree with him, but he's smart, honest, asks good questions, and regularly churns out good analysis. I don't always get the opportunity, but I always try to listen to his segment on Michigan Radio every day.

In today's segment, Lessenberry interviewed former Congressman Joe Schwarz, asking him about running for office again as a Democrat or an independent. The interview, of course, is worth listening to, but so is the essay that came afterward. I haven't decided whether or not I agree with him yet, but it's an interesting perspective.

He says:

Traditionally, it has been seen as improper for journalists to give advice to elected officials. This is, however, a tradition which gets violated all the time, and which I intend to violate again today.

Actually, my conscience is clear on this issue, since to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever listened to me anyway.

So I would like to say to Congressman Joe Schwarz -- if you are thinking of switching parties and running for your old seat as a Democrat, don't do it. I mean it -- don't. Here's why.

(Emphasis added.)

You should really read the whole thing, but I'll give you excerpts of Lessenberry's reasons:

First of all, you wouldn't be comfortable, by and large, as a Democrat. Yes, you are closer to Democratic positions on some issues, but by no means all. You wouldn't be fully accepted by them.

And you would be reviled by your fellow Republicans. Your enemies in the party would say this is proof they were right all along. That you were nothing but a RINO -- a Republican in Name Only.


Lately the Republican party has gotten more narrow and rigid. If it stays on that course, my guess it is cruising for a fall.

The one time the GOP has ever flirted with extinction was during the Great Depression. Narrow, bitter opposition to change had left the Republicans with only 89 seats in the entire House of Representatives in the year you, Joe Schwarz, were born.

Three years later, a charismatic new presidential candidate named Wendell Willkie helped move the party back to the center. He didn't win, but he may have saved the Republican Party.

Even if it feels like the barbarians pushed you out, it ought to be worth a wrestling match to try to take back the ring.
In short, Joe Schwarz has a chance to "save the soul" of the Republican Party. He can work within the party, and perhaps run again against Walberg in the GOP primary, to talk them back to common sense.

I'm a Democrat and a progressive, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't welcome the day that the Republican Party returns to policies of responsible government and fiscal conservatism.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Conversation With Mark Schauer

Last Thursday, I spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in Michigan's 7th District. Below is a transcript of that conversation.

I tried to be fair in my questions and, hopefully, gave him an opportunity to share his views on his candidacy and important issues for the district. There are plenty of other things I could have asked about, of course, and hopefully you and I will get a chance to ask him more questions between now and the primary. Many of the questions were inspired by questions submitted by Walberg Watch readers, if not asked word-for-word.

I've tried to be as accurate as possible in my transcript, even including some of my own mistakes (like when I sort of implied that Tim Walberg actually cares about the health care costs of his constituents... I really didn't think I said that, but apparently I did). I'd like to thank Senator Schauer once again for taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to speaking with him again, as well as Sharon Renier and Jim Berryman.

And remember, this interview took place before Ken Brock's controversial comments made were printed.

My conversation with Mark Schauer:

Fitzy: Well, Senator Schauer, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it. It’s not that often that blogs get serious attention.


Schauer: I’m hoping that this is, uh… you know, you’re going to be a part of the national mix here.

Fitzy: Well, thank you. Your entry into the race came as a surprise to a lot of us, as you’d previously said you’d stay in the state Senate. I’m just curious, what changed and why run now?

Schauer: It was really a series of factors. I mean, frankly, there’s been a consistent wave of encouragement from people within the district to look at this, really starting after Walberg beat Joe Schwarz in the primary in 2006. And, you know, I’ve earned a reputation over my career in public service, in Calhoun County and over the last five years in Jackson County of being someone who’s very diligent, very passionate, very dedicated about fighting for his constituents and his community and so I’ve developed a lot of support. You know, people have been urging me for years to, uh… asking me when I am going to Washington. And so, that continued and I made a professional and personal decision that I was going to continue my fight in the legislature and work to solve the state’s problems from here. Part of it was also a personal decision. Frankly, my wife and I didn’t feel we were ready to make the sacrifice that it would take, not just for this kind of grueling campaign, but putting ourselves in a situation where I would be gone from home so much, you know, having a commuting relationship between Washington and Battle Creek. So it was a personal decision as well. But as the encouragement continued, Walberg began to perform in Washington and the results were even worse than I could’ve ever expected. You know, I just watched him vote against the interests of the 7th Congressional District, vote in ways that are just polar opposites of my values, and things that I’ve fought for over my career, like health care for children, Head Start, minimum wage, and his stubborn approach on the war in Iraq, just so many, vote after vote. So I watched his record accumulate and frankly, one of the things that really got my attention was when he took credit in the press for a couple of transportation projects in the district and didn’t tell the public that he voted against the bill itself. I just, frankly, got to the point where I couldn’t continue to say no. The other factor was, as I’ve met with the other candidates getting in the race, they’ve had a chance to be out there and raise money, I think there’s just a question of whether any of the could put it together in a way where they could unseat an incumbent. One of the reasons why I’ve received such strong encouragement even after other folks have been in the race is I have a history of knocking off incumbents or winning in tough Republican districts, so it just got to the point where, frankly, I couldn’t stand on the sidelines any longer. The other important part of this whole decision-making process is, Michigan is struggling right now, it has been for some time, and one of the reasons that its been struggling is we haven’t had help from Washington. Policy decisions made at the federal level have tremendous bearing on our ability to solve our problems here in Michigan. I made the decision that one, I could have a significant impact on behalf of our state, and, just, from a public service standpoint…

Fitzy: You described it as a “wave of encouragement.” Can you name some of the more prominent people that urged you to join the race?

Schauer: Ah, no, I’m not going to name names, it was just individuals that were constantly stopping me, they might have been solicited by one of the other Democrats in the field and they were saying, “Mark, are you sure you’re not running,” “Mark, you’re the strongest candidate, you can beat Tim Walberg.” It’s just been sort of people at all levels, but the people that’ve been most important to me in listening to this were the people in the Seventh. So, no, I don’t think I can really single any one person out, it wasn’t, like, a heavy-weight that said “Mark, we need you to get in,” it really wasn’t that at all, it was really sort of a drumbeat of…


Fitzy: You said that some people told you they thought you would be the strongest candidate and there’s been mentions of polling data that apparently shows you leading Congressman Walberg. Can you tell me anything more about who conducted the poll and what some of the details were?

Schauer: Can you hang on for just one second? I’m sorry…


Schauer: I’m sorry, your question was about the polling? Yeah, I know that there have been a number of things reported. I will say that we wanted to, you know, take a look at the district and do some research, but my decision wasn’t based on polling. My decision is based on my passion for serving this district, my passion for being a change agent in Washington for this district and our state. I mean, my passion was for the fact that the incumbent has been worse than I ever could have imagined. When I was saying no, not that I had any hope that Walberg would have a very high batting average, Walberg has been, you know, has got a thousand percent average with George W. Bush. I mean, my passion for this has just been, coupled with my passion for public service, has been that there’s, you know, Tim Walberg has just been George W. Bush’s most reliable rubber stamp in the US Congress. We knew he was extreme, but it’s just been amazing to see how out-of-step with the district he is. So, I know from my history as a hard-nosed campaigner, a hard-working candidate, a proven fundraiser, that I’m definitely going to be the strongest candidate, I expect that I’ll be the Democratic nominee, and I’m sure that that’s Tim Walberg’s worst nightmare.

Fitzy: Comparing you and Congressman Walberg’s record, I’m just curious to find out some of the things that you would do in Washington. He has consistently voted against timelines for withdrawal from Iraq, he’s criticized the Democratic leadership as having a “plan to surrender” and things like that. On that issue, what do you think would be the proper course to take?

Schauer: Well, I agree with Carl Levin, who really has been an incredible leader on this issue, that we need a change in policy. The Bush Administration has created a mess in Iraq. We need to be clear that by changing policy and beginning to withdraw troops, that doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be easy going in Iraq. It’s gonna be very difficult. But what I know is that a policy of staying the course and further long-term involvement of our troops in Iraq is not the answer, and I think will make things worse over a longer period of time. I would expect to be part of a Congress that will change policy, begin to reduce our military involvement in Iraq. I’m not going to commit to a specific timetable, but clearly we need to begin to reduce our military presence in Iraq and allow that to country to rebuild itself…

Fitzy: Now, Congressman Walberg has been vocal on a number of other issues as well, and one of them is health care, health care costs, and he talks about that as being a frequent complaint around the district. I’m just curious to know what you’d like to see done.

Schauer: Let me just say one other thing about Iraq, if I could. Thanks to the Senate Republicans, I’m on record on the war in Iraq. Senator Cropsey sponsored a resolution just before President Bush went into Iraq that asked the Michigan Senate to support President Bush’s strategy on Iraq, and I was a no vote on that resolution, so, Tim Walberg and I already have a difference that the voters can point to. Now, on health care, is there a specific question on health care costs?

Fitzy: Well, like, Congressman Walberg, he’s voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, he’s voted against reauthorizing…

Schauer: Right, voted against SCHIP. Yeah, it’s just amazing to me. Those votes are bad enough. I was told by a reporter that interviewed him that interviewed him that Tim Walberg had said that he actually was opposed to having a Medicare prescription drug benefit. It’s just mind-boggling to me that we would have someone who would oppose senior citizens having a basic prescription drug benefit when prescriptions are becoming, or have become, an essential part of health care. You know, for Tim Walberg to side with the pharmaceutical companies, just another rubber-stamp vote for George W. Bush, it clearly shows that he’s more interested in helping the drug companies than providing an affordable benefit for his constituents. The SCHIP vote, you know, is very disappointing. I’ve actually fought to have the SCHIP, the MICHILD program as we call it in Michigan, to allow some parents to become eligible for MICHILD as well. I think that’s, you could hardly find a more fundamental difference between Tim Walberg and I on that basic healthcare question. All children should have health care benefits, period, and Tim Walberg is against that. That’s one of the reasons I’m running.

Fitzy: If I could ask about a couple of other issues as well. Nick Smith, Joe Schwarz, and now Tim Walberg have all served on the House Agriculture Committee, and agriculture is important to this district and the country as a whole. I’m curious what you believe are the greatest challenges facing America’s farmers right now.

Schauer: Well, I think, clearly finding a way to be profitable. I’m very concerned about family farms being able to make a living, support their families, provide a safe food supply here. We can’t outsource our food production. That’s frankly a national security issue. We’ve seen that from the experience of China, in terms of imports of food products here. That’s a real concern, that we have sustainable agriculture in Michigan that can produce a reasonable profit. We’re in a new dynamic now, we have opportunities for biofuels, that could break our dependence on foreign oil, that creates another problem on the price side as it affects animal feed and so forth, livestock feed, so that’s something we’re gonna have to deal with as well. I think that creates, hopefully, will continue to create, some economic opportunities for farmers, but we have to balance the production of crops for biofuel versus crops for the food supply.

Fitzy: On another issue, Tim Walberg has been calling himself an environmentalist at some town hall meetings…

Schauer: [chuckle]

Fitzy: …even though his record doesn’t always show it, and I’m just curious how you feel about the leading environmental issues of the day and how you might differ from Congressman Walberg on global warming, or drilling in ANWR, and other issues.

Schauer: Right, well, I see him talking about wanting to be energy independent, and I guess what he means is allowing drilling in the Great Lakes. I couldn’t disagree with him more on Great Lakes drilling, we have to protect the Great Lakes, we have to protect our water supply here in the Great Lakes basin, and in Michigan. I view Tim Walberg as just another friend of the special interests, including oil companies. I certainly don’t see him as a credible champion for energy independence. Global warming is a personal passion and priority for me, and one of the reasons I’m running is to create federal policies that help Michigan foster economic opportunities in renewable fuels, alternative fuels, and high-tech technology related to these opportunities.

Fitzy: A moment ago, you mentioned Walberg special interest groups, and that immediately made me think of the Club for Growth—

Schauer: The what? I’m sorry.

Fitzy: The Club for Growth

Schauer: Oh, Club for Growth! [laughter]

Fitzy: … and the affect that had on the last campaign and, um, Walberg’s hard anti-tax stance, and I’m just curious where you stand on tax issues. Would you be willing to support a tax increase he wouldn’t to fund a program or decrease the deficit?

Schauer: Well, it looks to me that Club for Growth is getting what they paid for. Tim Walberg has a hundred percent voting record with Club for Growth. Since I started my career in public service, I’ve refused to take no-tax pledges, I have to evaluate each situation independently. Here at this very moment, we’re struggling with a structural state budget crisis, and I think what we need in Washington is someone that is willing to exhibit some common sense, someone that is willing to engage in solutions that can strengthen our country, strengthen our state, strengthen our region. Tim Walberg’s blind allegiance to Club for Growth and their extreme agenda is doing nothing to help the people of the Seventh Congressional District.

Fitzy: I’m just curious, what do you think could be done by the federal government to help Michigan and strengthen the country as a whole?

Schauer: Well, I think, the first thing, certainly, is to develop an economic agenda that supports the transition of Michigan’s manufacturing economy. Michigan will have vibrant manufacturing, but it’s in a state of transition, and there are fundamental things that have hurt Michigan’s manufacturing sector, and those go directly to trade policies or lack of enforcement of current trade agreements, lack of any coherence in health policy in this country, and those are all things that can help Michigan’s manufacturing sector, but we need help, more help, on the training and re-training side for Michigan workers, we need help for the fast development of high-tech, alternative technologies here in Michigan. We have more automotive research and development jobs than the rest of the country combined, and we could use help from Washington in taking advantage of that brainpower and human capital. Whether it’s defense-related technology or alternative energy technology, life sciences technology, those are all areas where we could use support at the federal level.

Fitzy: You might not know this, but I asked for questions from Walberg Watch readers before this, and one person asked, essentially, is there anything you think Tim Walberg is doing right?

Schauer: [laughter] Ah, geez… um… you know, I do see him occasionally in the district, and that’s a good thing. That’s one thing that comes to mind, I would say. However, how he has treated the district in terms of trying to convince them that he’s been fighting for them in Washington, and going back to the example of items in the Transportation bill, taking credit for them, and implying that he supported them while actually voting against them. He’s [inaudible]

Fitzy: I’m also curious, in the coming months, with your current position as Minority Leader in the Senate, how do you plan to balance those responsibilities with the coming campaign?

Schauer: I’m gonna have to be an excellent time manager, and work a little harder, and also rely on the talented members of my caucus who were cheering me on to take on this fight.

Fitzy: What kind of a campaign can we expect to see in the coming months? Do have anything specifc planned already, or…

Schauer: I’m beginning to reach out to communities that are new to me. For example, last night I attended the Western Washtenaw County Democratic Club meeting. I was able to speak and say hello to a very large and enthusiastic crowd and so I’m gonna be doing outreach around the district. Obviously I’m spending a lot of time raising money. That would be a top priority in order to have the resources to take out an incumbent.

Fitzy: Well, I have one last question, which I hope to ask everybody that’s running. In short, why would you like to represent the district in Congress?

Schauer: Well, it really goes back to my passion for public service. I started out my career in public service in the non-profit sector, helping children and families, and became a city commissioner. I’ve been in the state legislature for now 11 years and I have always seen the importance of federal policies and federal support to the issues and people that I care about. Michigan needs change in Washington, frankly this country needs change in Washington. I’m passionate and enthusiastic about doing that and I want to fight for the people and issues and communities that I care about.

(Thanks to my technical adviser, Jimmy, who helped set up the recording system that made this transcript possible.)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Controversy That Isn't

I'm sure everyone is getting tired of hearing this, but the transcript of my conversation with Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer is coming soon. Labor Day weekend and today were busy for me. But soon, I promise! Really!

Last week, the following appeared in Susan Demas' weekly column:

Here in the 7th District, fundraising is a way of life for Walberg, R-Tipton, who used to drum up dough for the Moody Bible Institute. If all else fails, he always has his steadfast sugar daddy, Washington anti-tax lobby Club for Growth.

Democratic state Sen. Mark Schauer is psyched to take him on, vowing to amass $3 million by next year. His chief of staff, Ken Brock, seemed to channel the odiousness of Karl Rove earlier this month, bragging that only Schauer can raise that kind of money, unlike "liberal, Jewish trial lawyer" David Nacht or "lazy" Jim Berryman, for whom Brock twice worked.

(Emphasis added.)

It's that last sentence that caught a lot of people's attention-- particularly, the bit about David Nacht. At best, this was a poor choice of words when describing the state of the race. At worst, it was a borderline anti-Semitic comment, which has absolutely no place in political discourse or in the America of the 21st century.

So which was it? From the sounds of it, it wasn't meant to be quite as "odious" as Demas says:
Brock said today he already had apologized to Nacht, and he has no intentions of resigning his post over the comment.

“The moment I saw it in the paper, I knew I had to call him,” he said. “I knew I was wrong the moment I said those words. I was further saddened they were printed in the paper, and I apologize to anyone else who may have been offended.”
And what about Nacht? He was, after all, the target of the comments.
Nacht said he knows Brock isn’t anti-Semitic. He said he believes Brock was using religion, profession and political orientation in a political analysis, not as a personal attack.

“It’s a tricky thing to talk about a candidate’s religion in an analytical way without being accused of being prejudiced,” Nacht said. “I don’t think my work as a lawyer nor my religion would have been a barrier to my being elected. So I disagree with the substantive aspect of the comment that it was something negative, but I think he was trying to legitimately point out weaknesses in my campaign.”
(Emphasis added.)

In another twist on Tuesday, Nacht said he’s endorsing Schauer in his congressional run against U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. Schauer first will have to beat two other Democrats, former state Sen. Jim Berryman of Adrian and organic farmer Sharon Renier of Munith, in the August 2008 primary
None of this has stopped Republicans from making it an issue:
Calhoun County Republican Party Chairman Scott Durham called Brock’s comments a “negative and vicious” attack and called for him to retract his statement.
So, let's recap. Mark Schauer's chief of staff Ken Brock was giving his thoughts on the Democratic primary, and said something stupid. He says that it wasn't meant to be offensive, and apologized to David Nacht and everyone else. David Nacht says he wasn't offended, and has endorsed Brock's boss.

I, personally, think that this district could have elected a trial lawyer, and it could have elected someone with liberal values. And, yes, I think it could have elected someone that was Jewish, too. That said, I can see how some might see that as a potential political liability-- not that there's anything wrong with being Jewish, but this is still a conservative district, where some folks aren't as tolerant as others. I don't think those biases would have been a factor, but I suppose Ken Brock did.

Don't get me wrong, it was still a stupid thing to say. Ken Brock has been working in politics for years, and he should have known better. But he says he didn't mean it in an offensive way, and the guy he was supposedly insulting wasn't offended.

To me, that ends the controversy right there.

Now, it's your turn to tell me why I'm wrong in the comments.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 03, 2007

Walberg's Weekly Wrap Up- The "hot button" isues of the summer?

I don't know about any of you, but I did attend one of Congressman Tim's visits to the district this summer, and I wonder if he was really there?
In his "Weekly Wrap up" of Friday, August 31, he takes on the "hot button" issues he faced from his constituents...Taxes, Education, The Second Amendment (?), and Health Care.
What's missing from this list?
Only the major topic of the visit I attended, Iraq and the War!
Of the hour we spent with Tim, the war, terrorism, war funding, and the like took up most of the time. The other major topic was the farm bill.
You think he didn't add it to the list, because he continues to fully support President Bush's policy?

Labels: , ,


August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008