Tuesday, July 31, 2007
9/11 Commission - Walberg Changes Positions
Back in January, the House of Representatives passed HR 1, which would implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. At the time, Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Sometimes, it takes a while to get things through Congress, and the Senate didn't pass their version of the bill until July. Then came the conference committee, which resolves differences between the House and Senate versions, and then each chamber votes on the final version that came out of the conference committee.
So how did Congressman Walberg vote when the final version came back to the House?
He changed positions and voted Yes!
Congressman Walberg, it's not that I don't want you to change your mind, but... what happened?
Walberg: No Caribbean Educational Exchange
After taking a couple of days off from blogging, I'd like to catch up on the Walberg Voting Record.
Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's life was an American success story. She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress, and she was a presidential candidate at a time when having either a woman or an African-American nominee was a shocking proposition to the country. And she brought with her the unique perspective of having spent much of her childhood in Barbados.
Among the many that Congresswoman Chisholm inspired was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who introduced the Shirley A. Chisholm United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Act of 2007. The bill would create an educational exchange program for citizens of Caribbean nations to come to the United States for secondary, undergraduate, and graduate education. This would help our Caribbean neighbors strengthen their economies with educated citizens, spread a favorable image of America abroad, and enrich our own culture. It's a win-win for everyone involved.
The bill passed the House of Representatives, 371 to 55.
Tim Walberg voted No. Joining Walberg was Michigan Republican Peter Hoekstra, but the rest of the Michigan delegation favored the bill.
Does anyone have any idea why he might vote against this?
Friday, July 27, 2007
There is more to Walberg Flip flop
This from the Cit Pat. The Airport in Battle Creek was not all that Tim tried to take credit for and voted against.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg's office sent out a press release this week that touted his work toward securing $350,000 in federal funding for the Jackson Transportation Authority.Walberg has really stepped in it.
Friday Link - Hateful Conservatives
What I'd like to do right now is take a close look at Congressman Walberg's latest claim, that those dastardly Democrats have added "a 600% tax increase on U.S. subsidiary manufacturers into the 2007 Farm Bill."
But I'm not going to. I just got back from a dental appointment which involved plenty of drilling and whatnot. Frankly, I don't have the energy to look at any serious issues today. If anyone would like to take a closer look at what Walberg's claiming, please feel free.
I could share the editorial from the Battle Creek Enquirer that was mentioned in a comment on the MDP post, in which Walberg is harshly criticized for trying to mislead his constituents. But I don't have any analysis to add to it, so I'll just let all of you go read it for yourselves. It's a well-written editorial.
And I could share James Carr's letter to the editor in the Daily Telegram explaining why he wants to recall Congressman Walberg. But the last time I checked, it wasn't available online yet, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow.
Instead, I'm going to follow some other advice from the comments:
Fitzy, maybe this might be good fodder for a Friday post, get everyone's emotions cooled off about our race and just look at something a bit different, but still with an impact on Walberg.For those that don't recall, Congressman Walberg worked with Democratic Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and Keith Ellison on an immigration bill to help Liberian refugees. It actually was some good work on the part of Walberg. Ellison, for those that might be curious, is also the very first Muslim ever elected to Congress. It shouldn't matter, but it does to some people.
So I took a look at the link the anonymous commenter provided. It's a post about a meeting that has conservatives and the conservative media across the country upset (here, for example). At the meeting, Ellison compared the loss of civil liberties and the growth of religious intolerance after September 11, 2001 to the days following the Reichstag fire of Nazi Germany.
It wasn't the best comparison to make, politically speaking. But making matters worse, it inspired plenty of people to shout, "A Muslim just said Bush was Hitler!" That's a level of political discussion that makes things worse for everyone.
Which brings us back to the link the anonymous commenter shared. It's a website called the Michigan Conservative Dossier, and here's how the editor reacted:
Congressman Ellison,It's that last postscript that really gets me. When did Ellison's religious beliefs come in?
But doing some more looking, I found that this sort of hateful far-right rhetoric is common on the blog. Some samples:
I don't know about you, but I find all of that pretty offensive. I mean, I run a blog too, and sometimes I get a little angry, and sometimes commenters get a little angry. But so far, we've all manage to avoid death threats and advocating genocide.
This kind of hatred disgusts me and saddens me. Something must be wrong with our society if there are people that angry. It makes you wonder what kind of politician these people would support.
But wait! What's that I see off to the side?
Yes, it's a banner for Tim Walberg for Congress!
Now, I'm not saying Tim Walberg is this hateful. Far from it. And I'm not saying that all conservatives are hateful. And I'm not saying that all conservative supporters of Tim Walberg are this hateful.
But this is a small sample of the folks that support Tim Walberg. It makes me glad that I'm a Democrat.
I'm going to go relax for a while. Since it's a Friday, I recommend you do so as well.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
MDP Hits Walberg on Flip-Flop
The Michigan Democratic Party and Chairman Mark Brewer are hitting Congressman Walberg hard on his apparent flip-flop on the Transportation bill and funding for the Battle Creek airport.
“It looks like Walberg was for the airport funding before he was against it. I don’t know what’s more alarming the fact that Walberg would side with President Bush over what was best for his constituents or the fact that he lied about it,” Brewer said. “In Walberg’s short time in office he has compared Iraq to Detroit, advocated for oil drilling in the Great Lakes and lied to his constituent about supporting a local airport funding bill that he voted against.”Check out the front page of the MDP website for an old photo of Tim Walberg... with a mustache!
Walberg Amendment: Huh?
Thanks to the anonymous comment that brought this to my attention.
On HR 3074, the appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (which Walberg earmarked and voted against), Congressman Walberg offered an amendment. It's an amendment he seems proud of, perhaps because it's the first time the House has passed something he's written.
But it's a very puzzling amendment. Here's the text as read by the House clerk:
Amendment offered by Mr. Walberg:Walberg called it "prohibiting 'affirmative action for roads.'" Apparently he thinks this is a big problem. He spoke in support of his amendment (it's worth noting that the House clerk recorded a slightly different version of his speech than he posts on his website), and he was "almost speechless with the fact that this very simple amendment has not been challenged aggressively yet."
When the amendment was challenged, here's what Congressman John Olver, sponsor of the bill, said:
In other words, Congressman Olver couldn't quite figure out what the amendment would actually do, and Congressman Walberg offered no specific examples of what he wanted to prohibit. In the end, it was easier just to swallow it than get into a big fight over a very vague amendment.
Conservatives are celebrating a victory, but the commenter that brought this to my attention seems worried:
That simple, huh? No opposition? Walberg walks away thinking he scored a major victory, but does anyone understand what that amendment affected? It seems like the democrat in charge of opposing the amendment could not even figure it out. I think Waberg might have just catapulted himself onto the national stage with the help of the democrat leadership.Congratulations on your victory, Congressman Walberg. Now, if we could just figure out what that actually means...
Walberg Was For It Before He Was Against It
From the Battle Creek Enquirer:
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg worked for months to bring more funding to W.K. Kellogg Airport, but the Tipton Republican said he was forced to vote against it.So, Walberg gets an earmark on a bill that would help Battle Creek, but when orders from the White House come in, he switches positions and votes No. The bill passed anyway, 268 to 153.
But the flip-flop isn't what bothers me. What bothers me is the part that I emphasized in the quote above-- Walberg took credit for getting an earmark he ultimately ended up opposing, and he omitted that part in his news release. He was trying to hide his real position.
The readers of the Enquirer online had some interesting thoughts on the story.
This is just amazing?DSMi:
Is this anything like the big Bush blast on Dem's voting for it before voting against it ? The Michigan flipflopper from the land of flipflop haters? OMG how funny.bccurmudgeon:
Let me see if I've got this straight.
UPDATE: The Enquirer has more today:
Now, when are we going to see a Republican primary challenge?
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The Recall Battle Continues
As stated before, I'm not sure how I feel about recalling Congressman Walberg. However, it will be interesting to see how this turns out, and to watch Walberg's legal actions.
After Congressman Walberg's lawyer stated constitutional objections, Judge Margaret Noe ordered both James Carr (who brought the petition) and Eric Doster (Walberg's lawyer) to submit written briefs and return for oral arguments for August 6th. In the comments, Carr has posted the letter he sent to the Lenawee County clerk.
Dear Ms. Bluntschly,The short version: James Carr is following the laws of Michigan, as sanctioned by the state constitution, and within the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By choosing to delay and failing to rule on clarity within 15 days of the initial submission, the board of election commissioners may have effectively stated that the language was approved.
If there are any lawyers out there reading, I'd love to get a clarification on that point.
Either way, the underlying constitutional issue remains the same. James Carr is following Michigan law and cites the Tenth Amendment. Walberg's lawyer claims that those laws themselves are unconstitutional, citing a similar but unrelated Supreme Court ruling.
Now, it's important to keep in mind, if the recall petition were to go forward, there would still be the task of getting around 50,000 valid signatures, and then the even larger task of winning a majority vote in favor of recalling the congressman. It would take a monumental effort on the part of Carr to be successful.
And yet Tim Walberg seems to be frightened enough to send out a lawyer to fight it at this level.
In an e-mail to me, Carr commented:
I think it strange, first that a congressman would hire a very expensive lawfirm to challenge a legally sanction activity in the Michigan Constitution; second, the 24 page informational packet was thrust at the Chairman after the hearing had begun and a copy given to me. After reading the first few pages, it was evident that this lawyer either was unfamiliar with Michigan law or was just trying to obfuscate the issue.It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
More on the Walberg Recall
Yesterday was the hearing in Adrian on the clarity of the recall petition language. The petition ran into a roadblock, however, with a challenge from the Walberg campaign's lawyer.
Jim Carr, meanwhile, says:
"I'm following Michigan state law that says that you can," Carr said.And:
Lenawee County Clerk LouAnn Bluntschly and a spokesman for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land previously said recalling a congress member required the same process as recalling a state lawmaker.So who's right? Well, it's tricky.
These are the qualifications for office given by the Constitution of the United States of America:
And that's it. Nothing about recalls, but also nothing about term limits. Why bring up term limits? Because Tim Walberg will.
The Constitution of Michigan of 1963, Article II, Section 10, deals with term limits for members of Congress:
No person shall be elected to office as representative in the United States House of Representatives more than three times during any twelve year period. No person shall be elected to office as senator in the United States Senate more than two times during any twenty-four year period. Any person appointed or elected to fill a vacancy in the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate for a period greater than one half of a term of such office, shall be considered to have been elected to serve one time in that office for purposes of this section. This limitation on the number of times a person shall be elected to office shall apply to terms of office beginning on or after January 1, 1993.But that isn't followed today because of the 1995 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton. A similar term limits amendment had been passed in Arkansas, and the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional:
The Constitution prohibits States from adopting Congressional qualifications in addition to those enumerated in the Constitution. A state congressional term limits amendment is unconstitutional if it has the likely effect of handicapping a class of candidates and "has the sole purpose of creating additional qualifications indirectly." Furthermore, "...allowing individual States to craft their own congressional qualifications would erode the structure designed by the Framers to form a 'more perfect Union.'"In other words, setting term limits adds a new qualification for office, and you can't have different qualifications for office between different states-- a congressman from Michigan shouldn't be held to a higher standard than a congressman from Ohio.
So when the Michigan Constitution says:
Sec. 8. Laws shall be enacted to provide for the recall of all elective officers except judges of courts of record upon petition of electors equal in number to 25 percent of the number of persons voting in the last preceding election for the office of governor in the electoral district of the officer sought to be recalled. The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required shall be a political rather than a judicial question.... that's got to be unconstitutional too, 'cause it's just the state trying to mess around with federal offices again. Hence Walberg's lawyer's statement:
"You can quote all the Michigan constitutional and state statue provisions you want -- they don't override (the federal constitution)"Well, not so fast. As I understand it, the Court's ruling dealt only with the term limits issue, and ruled that states couldn't impose an additional qualification for ballot access. They didn't comment on recalls which would remove members of Congress from office.
Meanwhile, the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.So an argument can be made that the power to remove federal officeholders from their position prior to the end of their term is granted to the states, because the Constitution doesn't explicitly say the states don't have that power.
In fact, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas writes in the dissent for the U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton decision:
The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the States or the people.One could presume that Justice Thomas would take the same approach to the recall question. The concept of recall elections only became popular in the late 19th century and early 20th, and weren't addressed by a Constitution written in 1787.
The end result being that the only real way this issue can be resolved is another ruling by the Supreme Court.
As I said before, I'm not sure how I feel about a recall, but the legal and constitutional issues are kind of fun to look at. I really can't tell you which is the right argument, and I'm sure that if there are any lawyers reading this, they'll tear my analysis apart.
Of course, the big irony is the flip-flop that Walberg has made. Congressman Walberg was once a proponent of states rights and a very limited federal government. He would have once sided with Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia-- two of the most conservative men ever to sit on the court-- and supported the Tenth Amendment and the right of the states to assert their own powers.
Now, he's flip-flopped into saying that the federal government has more rights than are mentioned in the Constitution (or, at least, that the states don't have some unmentioned rights).
Anything to stay in office, I guess.
UPDATE: While I was writing this post, the Daily Telegram published an article online which covers yesterday's hearing in much more detail. Key quote:
Lenawee County Probate Judge Margaret M.S. Noe ordered Jackson resident James Carr and attorney Eric Doster of Lansing to submit written briefs on the constitutional issue and return for oral arguments on Aug. 6. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office considers recall of a Congressman legal under state law since no court is known to have ruled otherwise, said spokeswoman Kelly Chesny.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Walberg Interview at TCS Daily
TCS Daily-- formerly "Technology Central Station"-- is a website which comments on "Technology, Commerce, [and] Society." It was started by the lobbying group DCI, which has close political ties to the Republican Party. TCS Daily has been criticized for its conservative bias in the past.
So it's no surprise that Congressman Tim Walberg would want to do an interview with TCS Daily. And it's even less of a surprise that they'd talk about Walberg's favorite subject, that fictitious tax increase Walberg says Democrats support.
Here's what does surprise me, though. For as much as he talks about taxes, Walberg doesn't seem very comfortable talking about them, even with other conservatives. See, on question after question, he dodges the substance of the issue. He doesn't answer the questions. Take a look:
Note that he doesn't answer the "why," especially since it was Republicans that passed them.
Question: How do we know what the tax rate should be? Answer: The tax code is too complicated.
What do you think of taxing "carried interest"? Walberg doesn't have an opinion, except that you shouldn't raise taxes.
How do we handle entitlements? Blame France.
I mean, really, this is pathetic. Congressman Walberg, this is supposed to be your area of expertise! You talk so much about cutting taxes, I'd think you knew the tax code inside and out! But when you're handed easy questions from a conservative and for a conservative audience, all you've got are the same tired talking points. You don't even bother to give real answers.
And So It Begins...
The good part about primaries is that it creates stronger candidates. It gives the eventual nominee a chance to practice and refine his or her campaign skills before taking on the other party, and it raises the profile of others in the party who deserve attention. Primaries are good.
Primary fights, however, can get out of hand. When candidates lose their focus and start attacking one another over petty things, it makes everyone look foolish. They should discuss issues, and they should discuss their records and experience. But at the end of the day, they need to remember that any one of them would be better than the guy that's there right now.
Will we see a negative Democratic primary in the 7th District? While I doubt that it'll be as bad as the Republican primary in 2006, we're not off to a good start.
And so it begins...
For the record, I really do like all three of them, and I think any of them can defeat Walberg in 2008. But this has me worried.
Let's try to keep things civil. As with all things, the way in which you say something matters just as much as what you say.
Anyone up for following the rule "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"?
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Congressman Tim in Manchester
I was able to attend the Congressman's meeting at The Whistlestop Cafe in Manchester this morning. There were about 12-15 attendees.
I was 5 minutes late (fitzy, the meeting started at 12 noon, not 1:00 p.m., was glad I called the restaurant!, How do you get on the calling list, anyway?)
When I arrived, I caught the Congressman talking about the Farm bill...
He said, in explaining his position on it; we should be indexing the farm bill to make it less of an entitlement program, and that we should get to where less people are using food stamps by growing the economy where they can get jobs and benefit themselves. He is opposed to the Davis- Bacon prevailing wage rules in the bill for work done at energy and ethanol plants, as they will hinder the growth of those industries, and may even prevent the plants from being built.
He was asked about the Indiana CRP and also talked about the CSP which is being pushed by Sen.Harkin. (To be honest, not being a farmer or getting subsidies for undeveloped land, I didn't really understand the issues).
He then moved to Education and said that while he was ok with testing, education is not a function of the federal government in the constitution (more on the constitution later). He said local control is best, talked about his A+ proposal, and that he had met with Secretary Spellings recently who said there was room for flexibility.
A question was asked about people being sued for turning in others regarding suspicions over terrorism. He said that to put law abiding citizens in a quandary as to whether they should report suspicion and then be sued is concerning to him. One person asked for facts regarding this (as I have not heard of it either), and he said that there are people being sued right now.
I asked about his no vote on the Iraq redeployment and his statement that we must go forward with "quantifiable goals and measurable results". I asked that since the "satisfactory progress report (8 of 18 areas) and the fact that the Iraqi parliament was taking August off was satisfactory? He said no, but like President Bush said, we need to be there til we win. I asked what that meant, how long? He said when the Iraqis have a government that is consistently capable of running police and military, hold democratic elections, and have local governments. He talked about the progress in Anbar province and was challenged by another member of the audience. He also said that the intelligence he has seen makes him worried about attacks in the US, as they have had in Europe. After the discussion got heated, he said that maybe we should move on to other issues and he cut off the war talk.
He was asked about the illegal alien problem and he sounded positive about a national id card for guest workers that would be 99% foolproof.
He was asked about perpetual budget deficits and said the answer was to "stop spending and reduce taxes" He said that the booming Michigan economy in the 1990's was due to cutting taxes in the state legislature and that he was proud to have never supported a tax increase.
Abortion and Same Sex Marriage were asked about, but his position is clear on both issues and well known.
I asked about a couple of his votes, HR 980, National Collective Bargaining for Firefighters, on which he was the only no vote in committee and voted no on the floor. He said that his position was consistent with the 10th amendment, and that those issues belonged to the state. He talked about being a "constitutionalist" (my words), and that is what he swore to do, uphold and defend the constitution.
I also asked about his no vote on HR 1362, the Accountability in Contracting Act. I explained what it was (stopping no bid contracts, sole-source contracts, and notification of Congress if no-bid contracts were awarded to foreign owned companies in countries sponsoring terrorism). He said that at times we benefit from sole source contracts in government projects. He said he would check back at the Washington office and get back to me.
There was discussion about food stamps and how difficult it is for a person to eat on $21.00 a month. The congressman was asked by a lady to consider joining a challenge by the IWLPJ to live on $7.00 per week in September, before the food stamp vote in October.
A Hillsdale college student asked about agriculture and ethanol and the potential for growing sources in Hillsdale county.
The meeting broke up after that, with the Congressman thanking us for being there.
On the "constitutionalist" issue, my follow up would have been, regarding the grab for power by the Bush administration, the signing statements, the executive privilege claims surrounding his staff, the Tillman report, and the direction by the administration to not allow the justice department to prosecute congressional contempt citations on administration officials, Does he believe that the President is following the constitution, and if not, why is he not being impeached for violating his oath of office to "preserve, protect, and defend the constitution"? Could someone try to get an answer at the next public appearance?
Labels: Tim Walberg
Friday, July 20, 2007
Walberg in Manchester Saturday, July 21
I just received a recorded "invitation" to a Tim Walberg coffee hour at the Whistle Stop Restaurant on Main Street in Manchester tomorrow 7/21. Unfortunately I cannot attend, but perhaps you can get the word out. I beleive the message said that the event would begin at 1:00...To be honest I wasn't listening that carefully at first because I assumed that it was just some pre-recorded message telling me how "great" Walberg is and what a "fabulous" job he is doing representing his district.If anyone can confirm that it's 1:00 that'd be great. The Whistle Stop Restaurant is at 115 E. Main Street in Manchester; a map can be found here.
Manchester can be a fairly conservative town sometimes, but it'd be great if we could get a strong turnout to ask Congressman Walberg some tough questions. It's easily accessible from the Ann Arbor area, and even Jackson is fairly accessible, if you're willing to drive for about half an hour.
Labels: Tim Walberg
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Grumpy Tim Walberg
As the Agriculture Committee continues its hearings on the 2007 Farm Bill, Congressman Walberg received attention from the state of Indiana, and they are not happy. The headline reads: "Indiana Farm Flex Pilot Survives Farm Bill Attack"-- and the "attack" is coming from Tim Walberg.
So what's Walberg attacking? I'm trying to educate myself on agricultural issues, but I'll probably get something wrong somewhere along the way... feel free to correct me.
Here's what's happening, as I understand it.
Right now, farmers receive subsidies for acreage on which certain "program crops" are grown (like corn, rice, soybeans, etc.), but they are penalized if they grow "specialty crops" on these base acres. But, as Congressman Joe Donnelly from Indiana explains:
Under current law, farmers who wish to grow fruits and vegetables on base acres must forfeit their land’s base classification, disqualifying the land from ever receiving subsidies on program crops produced on that land. These planting restrictions pose a significant challenge to farmers who have traditionally grown tomatoes in rotation with soybeans. Because soybeans are considered a program crop, many farmers are unable to produce tomatoes without paying this significant and permanent penalty.In other words, farmers are penalized for following a planting cycle that has been used historically, because part of that cycle involves growing "specialty crops" like tomatoes.
To see what the result might be from changing the law to allow greater flexibility and not penalize farmers that alternate between program and specialty crops, the 2007 Farm Bill includes a pilot program. Donnelly further explains:
The pilot program, which is limited to 10,000 acres in Indiana, would allow farmers to plant tomatoes on base acres—those acres which are eligible for crop subsidies—without penalty. In order to participate in the program, growers must have a contract to grow tomatoes for processing and must grow tomatoes as part of a crop rotation designed to achieve pest and disease management benefits.Thus solving the problem without spending any extra money to subsidize "specialty crops" like tomatoes, but without committing us to an untested policy. It's a calm, rational way of studying the problem.
This is where Congressman Walberg comes in. He doesn't like the idea of only 10,000 acres in Indiana getting this special treatment, because it's not fair to other Midwestern farmers. And he has a point-- I'm sure there are plenty of Michigan farms that would benefit just as much from this sort of thing. Walberg wanted the new program to be expanded to allow more participation.
Then comes the opposition. California lawmakers, apparently, object to the whole thing because they don't see it as fair that some farms can jump in and out of subsidies while others have to stay in the rules all the time. California opposes Walberg's idea, and will only put up with the pilot program because it's in the nation's best interest to see what happens.
And, as committee Chairman Collin Peterson says to Walberg:
The point of having a pilot project is to see what impact this relaxation would have, before we go ahead with a larger effort. We’ve carefully limited the conditions of this pilot, and have focused on this area. This has been worked out in negotiations with the Indiana members and Mr. Cardoza of the specialty crop subcommittee.In other words: this takes time, relax, let's see what happens before we get in over our heads.
Up to this point, I was actually with Congressman Walberg. But then he loses me in a rather immature move.
Where once 10,000 acres in Indiana were too little, now, since he can't have his way, Walberg believes 10,000 acres is too much. Never mind that it's a small scale program just to study a new policy. Never mind that the program will sunset and be revisited at the next farm bill. Says Walberg:
If we’re not going to do that on an expanded basis, with other states-giving them the same opportunity to compete on a level playing field-I guess I would be willing to change my amendment to strike the whole program.Grumpy Tim Walberg. If he can't have it, no one can.
And Walberg's new amendment?
But on a voice vote Walberg’s move was defeated by a loud chorus of nos.Ouch.
A Question of Competency
Michael Motta, a diarist at Michigan Liberal, shared this with us last week, and then sent me a little bit more information. I'd like to thank him in advance for all the hard work and research he did, and for giving me permission to talk about it here. It's important enough that I wanted to bring it up.
He received a letter from Congressman Tim Walberg:
The letter, in case that's too small for you to read, thanks Mr. Motta for contacting Walberg about HR 1070, the Constitution Restoration Act. It then proceeds to explain why Walberg thinks the bill would be a good idea, and reminds us that he's a co-sponsor of HR 69, the Pledge Protection Act of 2007.
The Constitution Restoration Act would "limit the jurisdiction of Federal courts in certain cases and promote federalism," according to its own description. How does it do that? By limiting the ability of federal judges and the Supreme Court to review cases "concerning ... acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."
That's right-- it makes it so that they can't hear separation of church and state cases. It clearly states that such issues are no longer in the jurisdiction of the courts, and states that judges that review such issues should be impeached.
And Tim Walberg thinks the bill is a great idea. That, and the Pledge Protection Act, 'cause there's everyone knows that if "under God" is removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, people might start pledging allegiance to the flag of Canada or something.
I'm really tempted to go off on a rant about separation of church and state and why Walberg is wrong, but I won't. See, there are a number of things that are wrong with Walberg's letter.
For starters, Michael Motta didn't write to Walberg in support of HR 1070, the Constitution Restoration Act. He wrote to Walberg to support HR 1415, the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007. That bill, supported by the ACLU, deals with restoring civil liberties curtailed by the Bush Administration.
Yep, Walberg thanked him for supporting a bill that Michael Motta doesn't support. Walberg (or, at least, his office) ignored what Michael Motta actually said and thanked him for what they wanted him to say.
But it gets worse.
See, the Constitution Restoration Act isn't HR 1070. The Stamp Out Gang Violence Act is HR 1070. In 2005, during the 109th Congress, the Constitution Restoration Act was numbered 1070, but that was two years ago and long before Walberg even entered the House. Oops.
Does Walberg even know which bills are up for consideration and which aren't?
UPDATE: I didn't think to check this before, but I went back and checked another piece of the letter. Walberg reminds us that he's a co-sponsor of HR 69, the Pledge Protection Act of 2007. Except, HR 69 isn't the Pledge Protection Act, it's the Disability Benefit Fairness Act of 2007. The Pledge Protection Act of 2007 is HR 699. A typo, perhaps, but on top of everything else...
But wait! In the bill text, Tim Walberg is not listed as a co-sponsor! He even got that wrong!
UPDATE II: Ignore that last line, I spoke too soon. Walberg is a co-sponsor of HR 699, but it wasn't listed on the Thomas text.
Ah, but it gets even worse!
Michael added an update to his diary at Michigan Liberal to share the latest:
I got another in the mail today from Walberg. I'm convinced that Walberg is going by the theory that negative publicity is better than no publicity.(Emphasis added.)
So, let's recap. When Michael contacted Congressman Walberg to express his support for a civil liberties bill, he was thanked for supporting two entirely different bills, one of which was debated and tossed aside long before Walberg was elected. [UPDATE:] And, he claims credit for co-sponsoring a bill that he isn't a co-sponsor for, getting another bill's number wrong too!
Whenever I complain about a politician like Tim Walberg, I inevitably get the response that, as long as they're doing a good job, I can't complain too much just because I disagree with them. In other words, competency trumps ideology. I personally don't believe that, but some people do.
This episode calls the competency issue into question. It's not just about them mixing up the names of two bills, anyone could be guilty of that. But Walberg and his office got everything completely wrong on this one.
If this is how they handled one constituent's thoughts and concerns, how badly have they screwed up everything else?
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
2007 Farm Bill Hearings Begin
Congressman Tim Walberg has publicly made the 2007 Farm Bill a top priority, holding special town hall meetings for it. Yesterday, the full Agriculture Committee began its hearings on the subject. Natasha Chart at MyDD offers a good (and nonpartisan) summary of the first day. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's the part relevant to Tim Walberg:
Representatives Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) both expressed reservations about inclusion of Davis-Bacon Wage Determinations in the bill. This standard "determines prevailing wage rates to be paid on federally funded or assisted construction projects," and is included as a requirement for biorefineries built with federal loan guarantees. The idea is alarming enough to Representatives Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA) and Michael Conaway (R-TX), that they've offered an amendment, number 51, to strike that language from the bill.Walberg's opening statement to the committee can be found here. In it, he says:
This is my first Farm Bill, and as a freshman member, serving the people of south-central Michigan is both an honor and a privilege. Agriculture is the leading industry in my district, and the outcome of this bill will be very important to my farmers and agri-business. I do have some concerns about this bill. I am particularly concerned with the coming discussion about Davis-Bacon provisions and value-added agriculture products, and I will work for some necessary changes.So what are these Davis-Bacon wage provisions? Wikipedia tells us this:
The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 is a United States federal law which established the requirement for paying prevailing wages on public works projects. All federal government construction contracts, and most contracts for federally assisted construction over $2,000, must include provisions for paying workers on-site no less than the locally prevailing wages and benefits paid on similar projects.In other words, the federal government can't get away with paying workers less than they could make in similar, privately-funded projects.
In this context, it would guarantee that if the federal government makes loans for building biorefineries for production of biofuels, the workers building the refineries would have to be paid as much as they would be at other, similar construction projects.
And Tim Walberg doesn't like that.
I'll be honest, I don't know as much about agriculture as I should. If there are any readers out there with experience or knowledge in the area, let me know and help educate us on the details of this farm bill.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Walberg Recall Petition Makes News
In today's issue of the Adrian Daily Telegram, there's a front-page article about the recall petition filed against Congressman Tim Walberg. It's not available online yet (I'll post a link when it is), but here are some excerpts.
James R. Carr filed recall petition language against the freshman congressman shortly after he became eligible on July 4, six months after he took office. He composed language that he said gives reasons for both liberals and conservatives to eject Walberg from office. It states Walberg voted to continue U.S. military involvement in Iraq and relies on borrowing money and passing on the debt to future taxpayers.There's a lot more in the article than that, but those are the important details. I haven't made up my mind on a recall yet, but it'll be interesting to see what happens.
There's a hearing on the clarity of the language which will be held July 23rd at 1:30 PM in the Probate Courtroom of the Judicial Building in Adrian.
UPDATE: The Telegram now has the story available online here.
Monday, July 16, 2007
College Cost Video
I always enjoy seeing new uses for video on the internet, especially in politics. But while we all might enjoy the "Obama Girl" video or the various JibJab productions, what matters more is when political leaders use video to talk directly to us about real issues and policy.
The Democrats on the House Committee on Education and Labor did that recently to talk about the College Cost Reduction Act. The video's introduction is a little lame, I think, but the rest has some good information. Here's the video:
Tim Walberg is also a member of the Committee on Education and Labor. He voted No on the College Cost Reduction Act, which passed 273 to 149.
Congressman Walberg, why did you vote against this bill? I've been searching your website for a statement, but I can't find one.
If you'd like to respond with a video, I'd love to post it here!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Tim Walberg's Second Quarter Fundraising
Congressman Tim Walberg's fundraising data for the second quarter of 2007 is now available online.
Here's the short version: Walberg only raised $119,000 in the quarter, versus $160,000 for David Nacht and $50,000 for Jim Berryman-- a combined total of $210,000 for the Democratic candidates. Walberg still has more cash-on-hand-- almost $241,000-- but that's because he started earlier. Walberg spent about $39,000 this quarter.
In other words, one of the Democratic candidates in a district considered "unwinnable" not too long ago have just out-raised a Republican incumbent. Another Democratic candidate is on track to raise as much or more than Walberg as well in the future.
Folks, that's absolutely incredible!
The detailed summary page from the FEC is shown below. After that, some more thoughts on the numbers and his contributors.
For starters, I'm struck by just how much of Walberg's money isn't coming from ordinary people, and is instead coming from political action committees-- $66,500 from PACs, $53,000 from individuals.
If you look at who is making those contributions, you'll see some interesting names.
The Minuteman PAC gave him $100, continuing their support for him from 2006. I wrote about the Minutemen back in September. Suffice it to say, they're not nice people.
Walberg also got a lot of money from a bunch of agriculture-related organizations (I'll add it all up for specific numbers later). Maybe that seat on the Agriculture Committee is paying off. No wonder he's made a big deal about the farm bill!
Walberg accepted $1,000 from the RJ Reynolds PAC, the political arm of RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. They're the ones that did Joe Camel and sell a bunch of different brands of cigarettes. But there's nothing wrong with Walberg taking their money, right?
Also of note, three contributions from members of the DeVos family, though none from Dick DeVos, Republican nominee for governor in 2006. Walberg also received a total of $1,716 from Mark Valente, the lobbyist mentioned previously on this blog.
Looking at what his campaign spent money on, there are a couple of odd items. Not necessarily illegal or unethical-- I don't know the rules about it-- but just kind of strange. Do other political committees make $250 donations to St. Charles Church in Coldwater, Michigan? That and the large number of food purchases just strike me as odd. Walberg staffers must get pretty hungry.
Oh, and lobbyist Mark Valente is also listed here, getting $356 for a "reception."
That's my initial look at the numbers. Let me know what you think.
UPDATE: Just to be clear after a question in the comments, I wasn't trying to insinuate any wrongdoing when it comes to the $250 church donation. If that's what his campaign wants to spend money on, that's just fine. It's certainly better than paying for attack ads or fake robocalls. But it still struck me as very, very strange. Remember, it wasn't Tim Walberg that donated money, it was Walberg for Congress. I've just never seen that in an FEC filing before.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Responsible Redeployment From Iraq - Walberg Votes No
Here's what Congressman Tim Walberg says about Iraq on his official House website:
I cannot support any resolution that says America has already lost and the leaders of our country no longer believe our troops can come home victoriously. It tells other nations that we are an unreliable ally, and they can no longer count on us in times of distress."Quantifiable goals and measurable results." Sounds pretty good, right? Congress asked the White House for a report on 18 benchmarks to be submitted no later than July 15, 2007, and that report is available here. What's the result?
According to the Bush Administration, "satisfactory progress" has been made in only eight of the 18 areas. Mind you, this is coming from the people whose political capital is entirely invested in making progress in Iraq. Even they admit that the current strategy is failing.
Increasingly, members of President Bush's own party are abandoning that failed strategy. If those "quantifiable goals" aren't being met, it's time for a change.
Yet Congressman Tim Walberg voted against that change today, voting No on the Responsible Redeployment From Iraq Act. It passed, 223 to 201.
Here's the summary of the bill:
Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act - Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 authorized the President to use the Armed Forces as appropriate to defend U.S. national security against the continuing threat posed by the government of Iraq at the time; (2) the government of Iraq which was in power at that time has been removed; (3) the current Iraqi government does not pose a threat to the United States; and (4) after more than four years of efforts by members of the Armed Forces and U.S. civilians, the government of Iraq must now be responsible for Iraq's future course.But Tim Walberg voted No on bringing the troops home. Walberg voted to continue on a path of failure, signaling that he sees nothing wrong with the 608 American soldiers that have died and 3,801 soldiers that have been wounded so far this year. After all, Iraq isn't any worse than Detroit!
Meanwhile, here's the progress report for the "War on Terror" since we've been in Iraq:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a new U.S. government analysis concludes, according to a senior government official who has seen it.Contact Congressman Tim Walberg.
Write a letter to the editor.
Let's end this terrible war.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
College Cost Reduction Act - Walberg Votes No
It's fun to watch the fundraising race as we have been for the last few days, but sometimes it's easy to forget just how enormous the sums being raised actually are. $50,000 and $160,000 are a lot of money, and they seem pretty absurd to someone that doesn't have a lot of extra cash to spare right now.
And especially to college students. The next generation of America is trying to find it's way, but it's being held back by painful economic realities and ever-increasing costs.
Thankfully, Democrats in Congress want to do something about it. Today, the House voted on HR 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. As explained by Speaker Pelosi's blog:
The legislation invests about $18 billion dollars over the next five years in reducing college costs, helping millions of students and families. It comes at no new cost to taxpayers, and is funded by cutting excess subsidies paid by the federal government to lenders in the student loan industry.They even have a nifty graph to show it. Check it out.
The College Cost Reduction Act passed, 273 to 149. In total, 47 Republicans joined a united Democratic caucus in supporting the bill.
Needless to say, Congressman Tim Walberg voted No.
Any college students reading out there? Ask Congressman Walberg why he doesn't think you need any help.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Jim Berryman's Second Quarter Fundraising
The "More Fundraising" post was getting ridiculously long with my updates on Nacht's and Berryman's filings, so I've broken the updates off into separate posts.
Here's Jim Berryman's detailed summary page:
Berryman's spending rate is very low, which probably is a sign that the campaign is still building and hasn't quite gotten started (or, perhaps, that they just know how to save money). It's a little lower than the Enquirer reported earlier, but $50,000 is still a fairly respectable showing, especially since he didn't officially declare until May 1st.
Looking at who contributed to Berryman is also very interesting. All large-dollar donations are required to include a certain amount of information, and their names are listed on the FEC website.
Two names immediately stand out: James Blanchard and Geoffrey Fieger. Blanchard, of course, was governor of Michigan from 1983 to 1991, and Fieger is a high-profile lawyer and was Democratic nominee for governor in 1998. If anyone doubted it before, this is a good sign that Berryman will have a great deal of institutional support.
Berryman also received contributions from labor, which will undoubtedly be important in the race.
David Nacht's Second Quarter Fundraising
The "More Fundraising" post was getting ridiculously long with my updates on Nacht's and Berryman's filings, so I've broken the updates off into separate posts.
Here's the detailed summary page for David Nacht:
The full filing is available in PDF format here, but it's 144 pages long, so it'll take me a day or two to digest it. But one quick observation from the summary page: Nacht received all $160,642 from individual contributions, meaning there was no PAC money and no loans made by the candidate himself. In contrast, Tim Walberg's first quarter was one-third individuals (~$45,000) and two-thirds PACs and other committees (~$90,000).
For a list of Nacht's individual contributors, click here.
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