Shocking news!!

I was at the State Board of Elections today and was surprised to see that there’s a second Democratic candidate for the 21st district. In addition to McNulty, a Thomas Raleigh filed a bit over 300 pages, apparently with about 1500 signatures. His campaign website is www.raleigh12sep06.com.

I suspect that someone will challenge his petition. I’ve often heard that one should have double the number required. One needs 1250 for Congress, so he’s only got 250 to spare. This could get interesting. …

VerbNow – a comical waste

It would be funny if it wasn’t our money.

Roughly five years ago the US Department of Health and Human Services, under Secretary Tommy Thompson and the Bush Administration, started the “Verb” or “VerbNow” program, at a cost of about $200 million a year.

What does this program do?

From the CDC website: “The VERB campaign encourages young people ages 9 to 13 (tweens) years to be physically active every day. The campaign combines paid advertising, marketing strategies, and partnership efforts to reach the distinct audiences of tweens and adults/influencers.”

That’s bureaucrat lingo. What they really do is advertise to children on television and the internet, to encourage them to be physically active. This way they won’t spend so much time watching television and surfing the web.

Yes, they’re advertising on television to kids, in the hope that this will get them to watch less television.

One simple example of how our government can stop wasting our money.

Petitions filed

Petitions were filed today. A major party congressional candidate in NY generally needs 1250 signatures. A tremendous number of volunteers managed to get nearly 6000 signatures for me across the 7 counties in the congressional district. The Town of Colonie really stood out.

I was also very fortunate to get help in the process from Barbara Davis at the Albany GOP and from friends Cathy and Todd, who are very knowledgeable about the finer points of the process.

Thanks to all for their help.

This was a somewhat interesting experience. Last time I filed on the first day of filing, and the office was not busy at all. This time I filed on the last day of filing, and there was a lot of activity. It looked like a lot of professional consultant types were reviewing the petiitions that had been filed.

For those who are unaware, New York State has very complex laws that make it difficult for candidates to get on the ballot. I’ve heard that half of all election law cases in the US take place in New York State. Those who are chosen by the major parties have access to free advice from people who really know the system. Third-party candidates and “independent” candidates have a much tougher time.

An example of the problem is the effort to get Libertarian candidates on the ballot. I’ve been endorsed by the LP, but we would need 3500 signatures to get on the ballot on that line. At 10 signatures an hour, that would be 350 hours of work. Even if we managed to be efficient and get signatures at events, it would still take 70 hours. It’s hard to find that much help for a minor line like the LP.

That’s where the major parties have an advantage — when functioning well (like the GOP in Colonie or the Dems in Albany), they have a lot of volunteers. The lesser parties have an advantage if they get recognized status. Currently this includes the Conservative Party, the Independence Party, and the Working Families Party. They only have to get 5% of the number of people enrolled in their party in the district. So if there’s only 1000 enrolled in the WFP, they only need 50 signatures.

This is why some in the LP want to endorse a celebrity or major party candidate for Governor, as the Greens used to do with Grandpa Al (who played Grandpa on the Muensters TV show). The perception is that this would get 50,000 votes for the LP’s Governor candidate, and that would make the party recognized statewide, so petitioning would be much easier in the future. Didn’t work this year as the LP picked William Weld, and he dropped out.

Sweeney and Pataki

Wow! Great reading today in Liz Benjamin’s blog. She posted about Sweeney and Pataki, referring to an article in Esquire Magazine about John McCain (the part about Sweeney starts on page 4 of the article).

So Sweeney is taking shots at Pataki. He even slips in a barb at Bush, saying he was wrong to have supported Bush over McCain in 2000. At least when I take shots at these guys, there’s no history of them having done anything for me. Here’s Sweeney, whose whole career has been a gift to him from people like Pataki and Bush, and now he’s stabbing them in the back, left and right. I wonder if Joe Bruno is safe.

So I’m reviewing Kirsten Gillibrand’s FEC filings, and I see she’s getting money from Mike McNulty, the incumbent in my race. McNulty’s hosting events for her and everything. I confess I’m a bit glad to see someone making Sweeney sweat.

But the one I really want to go after is Pataki. I call him “Pa-tax-i.” I refer to a variety of “user fees” and “revenue enhancements” as Pataki Taxes. Every time he talks he claims he’s lowered taxes, and everyone I know thinks they’re paying more taxes. He just fluffs the numbers around. He spends like the worst Democrat out there. People call me a RINO (Republican In Name Only). At least I’m a fiscal conservative. Pataki is the biggest RINO ever. Spend, spend, spend.

The thing about all these career politicians is they don’t stand for anything. Is there an issue where any of these people stands out? They all keep their heads down. And all the while they’re throwing our money around, and then claiming credit for it.

I have to give Joe Bruno credit. Don’t remember where it was, but someone was thanking him for some project, and he just said it — “It’s your money. I just arranged it.” At least he knows its our money.

And I give John Faso credit too. At least he sounds like he’ll hold back the spending a little. Hopefully he’ll deliver on that. Too bad Pataki’s been doing his level best to keep Faso down. Maybe Pataki’s really jockeying for a job in Hillary’s administration.

House.gov wasting money

Funny to see that roughly 10% of the traffic on my campaign website comes from house.gov. Nice to see congressional offices wasting our money using our tax dollars to review candidate websites.

Campaign Finance

I had lunch today with someone who started talking about what’s wrong with campaign finance and he seemed to endorse something called Clean Money – Clean Elections (CMCE), which apparently goes along with the concept of public financing of campaigns.

All this campaign finance reform is bunk. I want to be very clear about the problem.

First of all, I agree that the current system is a form of licensed corruption. Politicians, especially incumbents, accept campaign contributions from people who, generally speaking, want them to vote a certain way on some issue or set of issues. It smacks of vote buying.

This system has become so corrupt that many politicians now think it’s no big deal to kick some of this campaign money directly to their own family members. The incumbent in my race funneled something like $30K to his brother. A salary of $1347 a month isn’t bad for a couple hours work. He stopped after I pointed that out. Another nearby incumbent was funneling money to his wife for “fundraising”. Most local media ignored this, with the notable exception of the Times Union (that darn Liz Benjamin again). Don’t worry. The incumbents find plenty of other ways to funnel their campaign money. They buy support from their local party organizations, and even from the third parties and other interest groups.

A great example of this is Citizen Action. This organization is a big supporter of CMCE. That didn’t stop them from accepting $650 from the incumbent in my race, according to his campaign finance filings. Citizen Action is a far-left group, but they’re happy to take dirty campaign money from a guy who voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, is anti-abortion and opposed to gay marriage.

But I want to move on from the corruption. The system exists in its present form after substantial campaign finance reforms were passed in the last 10-20 years. Despite those reforms, incumbents continue to raise huge sums. At the same time, congressional elections have become much less competitive — the incumbency reelection rate has been higher recently than it was before the reforms.

Let’s see. Incumbents pass campaign finance reforms, and incumbency reelection rates go up. Hard to figure that one out. I’ll spell it out for you. The incumbents used the push for reform to pass laws that made life more difficult for challengers. A great example of this is the “Millionaire’s Amendment”. For House races, if a candidate spends more than $300K of his/her own money, that allows the other candidate(s) to raise more money. That law is aimed squarely at challengers, because incumbents never spend their own money.

For those who say that they want campaign finance reform, I ask this — What’s your goal? I think the goal should be more competitive elections. To do that you have to make life easier for challengers. And you have to recognize the problem of being a challenger.

The incumbent has name recognition, and unless it comes from a missing intern or from attending frat parties, that’s an advantage. Challengers need to get name recognition. If voters don’t know who you are, they’re much less likely to vote for you.

Going door to door? There are 450,000 registered voters in a NY congressional district. If you manage to meet 100 people a day for 500 days, that’s only 50,000. Postcards? Sending a postcard to each registered voter will cost roughly 25 cents apiece. That’s over $100K per postcard. And to really get that to work, you’d want to send at least three. TV and radio ads? I spent $25K last time and it was clearly not enough. People in Republican campaign headquarters didn’t know who I was.

In other words, challengers need money to get their name and their message out to voters. Proposals to have public financing of elections are sure to be coopted by incumbents to make sure challengers cannot campaign effectively.

I have a solution. Free postage. Give each person who gets on the ballot enough postage to send a few postcards to each registered voter. That would effectively give each candidate (including incumbents) an extra $300K for their campaign. And it would be a drop in the bucket for the post office — I doubt it would even be measurable in terms of their added expense.

So, do you think incumbents will vote for that? Do you care enough to support it?

The overseas thing

I find it hard to stop talking about how we waste money overseas. Partly that’s because voters react positively to that message, but more, it just shocks me how much we waste and how stupid it seems.

I’m addicted to a few publications — The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and Capitol Confidential (at the Times Union). I was rudely awakened by our 17-month-old daughter tonight (either she does not respect a candidate’s need for sleep, or she is trying to sabotage my campaign because I’m a Republican).

So I was reading the Economist about North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and nuclear weapons.

I want to see if I’ve got all this straight. We’re defending South Korea from North Korea, costing us roughly $50 billion a year. South Korea’s economy is roughly 40 times the size of North Korea’s economy. North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and missiles. Along with Japan, we are pushing for aggressive sanctions to stop North Korea.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s nearest neighbors, China and South Korea, are pushing for a softer line. Reality check: North Korea poses a far greater threat to China and South Korea than it poses to the US. I say we let them deal with the problem. In the meantime we can save billions of dollars by bringing our troops home from South Korea.

Then we have a similar situation in Iran. Iran is developing nuclear weapons. We are taking a hard line, and there are even rumors we’re preparing for yet another war. Other “great powers” like France, Germany and Russia want a softer line. They’re closer. If Iran does go nuclear, that’s a greater threat to Russia and Europe than it is to the US (kinda like Iraq). Douglas Adams would call this “somebody else’s problem.” Somehow we make everything our problem, and it costs an awful lot of money.

And don’t forget Pakistan and Afghanistan. I don’t know how much we’re spending in Afghanistan, but apparently that’s not going well either. And our support for Pakistan is looking more and more like a bad idea.

There are plenty of powerful countries closer to all of these problems. Let them handle their own problems and let’s stop wasting our money. If what we were doing was working, then maybe I could see it. But our approach is failing. I keep hearing about the concept of “exit strategy” regarding Iraq. I’m waiting to hear the exit strategy for Europe, Japan and South Korea, but also for Afghanistan. And while we’re at it, I’d love to see a clear statement as to what would mean we’ve won the war on terror (or for that matter the war on drugs, the war on poverty, etc.).

I have been called an isolationist. In a military sense, I am. The purpose of the US military should be to defend our borders. We may celebrate George Washington, but we sure don’t listen to his advice.

Neighboring district

I was looking over the website for the Democratic challenger in the 20th district. She’s running against Congressman John Sweeney. A couple weeks ago on her site, she issued a challenge to Sweeney to a debate on Iraq.

As far as I know, he has not responded to that challenge. It’s typical for incumbents to ignore challengers. I studied congressional elections in grad school, and it is standard political strategy to ignore the challenger and never mention her name. The incumbent in my race has done that pretty well so far about me.

Since we’re both challengers in the same media market, and we both face the same hurdles, I’ll throw down. I would be happy to debate Ms. Gillibrand in as many debates as she likes, on whatever topics she chooses. And if the incumbents in our races would like to join us, I would welcome their participation.

Following her method, I’ll send her a letter. The text of my letter is below:
————-

July 9, 2006
Gillibrand for Congress
PO Box 1279
Hudson, NY 12534

By Fax: 518-751-2555

Re: Debates

Dear Ms. Gillibrand:

I had the pleasure today of reading your June 22nd debate challenge to Congressman Sweeney about the War in Iraq. As far as I can tell, he has not responded.

I appreciate your desire for a real debate on substantive issues, and would be happy to debate you. This offer is open-ended. I will debate you as many times as you like, on whatever issues you choose.

While we are running in different districts, we share two counties and the vast majority of our voters are in the same media market. It might be a bit unusual for us to debate, but that shouldn’t stop us. I would also welcome the incumbents if they want to join us, and assume you feel the same.

I look forward to hearing your response and joining you soon for one or more debates on the topic(s) of your choosing.

Very truly yours,

Warren Redlich

Press Release

The campaign’s first press release is now out on PRLeap.com.

Politicians whoring for money

Our local paper, the Times Union, has a great blog called Capitol Confidential. In a recent post, their lead blogger Liz Benjamin mentions the Democratic challenger in the district next to mine bragging about how much money she’s raised.

That’s what I want from my elected official. Someone who is good at fundraising. It’s always nice to see someone in the Capital Region campaigning on money from rich New York City liberals, or from PACs and local business interests.

I’m taking the opposite tack. At this point I am not accepting campaign contributions. I might change my mind, but it’s not likely. I’m trying to send a message about not wasting money. The political process of whoring for money (a bipartisan tradition) contrasts sharply with that message.