Sunday, May 31, 2009

FCDC Straw Poll Results - Brian Moran Victory!

I attended tonight's Fairfax County Democratic Committee Jefferson Jackson Dinner, where they held a straw poll. Now keep in mind that the 2007 straw poll predicted Gerry Connolly's primary victory down to accurate percentages of his ultimate electoral victory. In 2007, he won the FCDC JJ straw poll by 57 percent to 34 percent for Leslie Byrne. In the primary election, Connolly won by 58 percent of the vote, with a low voter turnout of 3 percent. This year, while it's impossible to predict the turnout, most knowledgeable observers expect it to be low too.

Here are the results for the Governor's and Lt Governor's races:


Brian Moran: 166 (40.9%)
Creigh Deeds: 123 (30.3%)
Terry McAuliffe: 117 (28.8)

Lieutenant Governor

Jody Wagner: 260 (65.7%)
Mike Signer: 136 (34.3%)

Now, bear in mind that this is just the results of a bunch of activists who attended the JJ. Both Creigh Deeds and Terry McAuliffe have had their successes in straw polls as well. McAuliffe won Gerry Connolly's St. Patrick's Day straw poll, which also has a good track record for being predictive of primary results. So take it for what it's worth and with a grain of salt.

But I certainly wouldn't count Brian Moran out for carrying Fairfax County, one of Virginia's most voter rich area. But with only 40 percent in what is supposed to be his strongest section of the state, indeed his home turf, will this be enough to win a primary and then carry him through to the general election?

There are obviously unanswered questions here and this race is still very much up for grabs.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Conventional Wisdom and General Elections

Chap Petersen has an intriguing post on his Ox Road South blog. In it Chap demonstrates, by examining the results of elections going back to 1992, that the party that holds primaries eventually ends up winning the general election more often than not. To be sure, it's not foolproof and doesn't happen in every election. In fact, during the first few of years in the early 2000s, when the Democrats switched from conventions to primaries, they continued to lose, especially at the national level. But eventually by 2006, Democrats began to win elections.

During that time, the Republicans, in a reversal of strategy, went from an open primary system for picking their candidates to closed conventions. That also reversed their fortunes in the general election. Here is Chap's conclusion:
Over the past twenty years, the parties which select their nominees by primary generally win in general elections. That result does not necessarily occur immediately. For example, it took two years after the Dem primary in 04 for the results to sink in and really be utilized.

However, by 2006, the Democrats had a much better idea where their potential voters lived and how to reach them. This process then exploded in 2008, when nearly a million people came to vote for Hillary or Obama. That list was crucial for organizing the state for Obama in the general campaign.

Conventions are less costly and limit participation to party regulars. There are arguments for and against that. But the record is clear that primaries, in the long term, produce the winners.

I am going to expand on this. But first an observation, most politically engaged Virginians are aware of the commonwealth's conventional wisdom that the party that wins the White House loses the Virginia's governor's mansion the following year. One reason put forth for this is that by the following year, disillusionment sets in with the policies of the White House, so the Virginia electoral results act as a harbinger of the mid-term Congressional elections. Historically, the party in control of the presidency usually loses Congressional seats at the two year mark as well and for the same reason.

But the difference caused by holding a primary versus a closed convention might upset that bit of conventional wisdom as well. Let me add quickly that predicting results is always risky business, even if you claim a crystal ball. Since I'm no psychic, this is only guess work.

There could, however, be a logical reason that an open primary leads to success, especially in local and state elections. To start with, you get a wider cross section of voters picking the candidate, so you end up with a more moderate candidate who already appeals more to voters in a general election.
On the other hand, the problem with a convention is that it favors the choice of the party's most passionate partisans, those who are the most ideological - that's true whether we're talking about the Democratic or Republican Party. But right now, the Republicans seem to be particularly concerned with ideological purity and litmus tests. That could bode ill for them come a general election when you've got to tack to the center.

Another advantage of the primary system for choosing a candidate is that you get a far more accurate voter list to work from for the general election. You get lists of voters who have already come out and voted for a Democrat. In a small turnout election (and even the governor's race may well be a far smaller turnout than last year's blow out presidential race), you want to effectively target your voters and get them out. You don't want to spend your energy and time having to first figure out who they are. A good database from the primary gives you a one up on that.

There are some good reasons for holding conventions instead, and some people dislike the primary system. The strongest objection to open primaries is that too often members of the opposition party can vote and game the system to pick the weakest candidate, making it easier for them to beat in the general election.

One way to counter that is to have voter registration by party and closed primaries, limited only to members of one party. After all, if one is choosing the Democratic candidate, there is no reason why it shouldn't be limited just to registered Democrats.

Independents would still be able to register as such and vote in the general election. But they wouldn't be able to choose a party's candidate, whether Republican or Democrat. That has the advantage of getting some Independents who lean Democratic or Republican to get off the fence to declare for one or the other party.

But allowing Independents to vote in the primary also is a good way to figure out which of them actually lean your way. It too could be viewed as good for party building and for aiding GOTV efforts.

Lots of pros and cons here. But I think the good senator from the 34th District is on to something.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

UPDATE: Washington Post Has Connolly Endorsement of Keam

Honestly, things are happening so fast! I just reported that Mark Keam received a dual endorsment, along with Roy Baldwin, from the Sierra Club and as an afterthought added the Connolly endorsement, which I found on Blue Virginia.

Now, I just spotted an even fuller story in the Washington Post, written by Amy Gardner, about Connolly's endorsement of Mark Keam. According to Gardner's report, Connolly issued the endorsment one day after one of Keam's opponent, Roy Baldwin, attacked Keam's work as a Verizon lobbyist. As Gardner's article points out, Keam also served as chief counsel to Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, of Illinois, and also worked at the Federal Communications Commission and the Small Business Administration.

Once again, here is the quote from Congressman Connolly:
"Mark Keam is a standout," Connolly said in a statement tonight. "He has the experience, energy and character to be an effective leader in the House of Delegates. He will fight for Fairfax and Vienna in Richmond, helping us get our fair share of transportation and education funding. I fully endorse his election."
Sorry to be redundant, but I kinda like the sound of that "I fully endorse his election."

So do I!

Sierra Club and Gerry Connolly Endorse Mark Keam

Congratulations to Mark Keam, HOD candidate from the 35th District, on this very important endorsement from the Sierra Club. It was a dual endorsement that they gave to both Keam and Roy Baldwin.

Here is the press release I received from the Keam campaign:

Mark Keam For Delegate Campaign Announces
Endorsement by The Sierra Club

Vienna,VA – Today, the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club endorsed Mark Keam for Delegate from the 35th District. The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club has over 17,000 members and is dedicated to building healthy, livable communities, and to conserving and restoring our natural environment.

“I am very pleased to have received the Sierra Club’s endorsement,” said Keam. “Protecting the environment while conserving our natural resources is a top priority of mine, and I look forward to working with the Sierra Club to preserve Virginia’s natural resources and beauty.”

Keam has emphasized environmental and energy issues throughout his campaign. Keam even held a roundtable forum with local environmental leaders to discuss the urgent need to address climate change issues. “I was impressed by Mark’s knowledge of environmental law and his outreach effort to citizens on these issues,” said Bob Pearson, Political Director for the Great Falls Group of the Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club endorsed Mark because of his progressive environmental platform and his understanding of current issues such as renewable energy, open space protection and Smart Growth initiatives.”

As Delegate, Keam will focus on making Virginia a leader in green technology and bringing new jobs to the area.

Additionally, Lowell is reporting that Congressman Gerry Connolly has endorsed Mark Keam. Here is Rep. Connolly's quote, thanks to Lowell's reporting:
"Mark Keam is a standout," Connolly said in a statement tonight. "He has the experience, energy and character to be an effective leader in the House of Delegates. He will fight for Fairfax and Vienna in Richmond, helping us get our fair share of transportation and education funding. I fully endorse his election."

So much for any charges that Mark has not been active in his community. The truth is he has been a dedicated, progressive activist in Virginia who was instrumental in winning Northern Virginia for Obama. And he continues to show his progressive street cred!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Brian Moran Worked for Virginia Democrats Before Virginia Was Blue

While Creigh Deeds has definitely been on a roll (and good for him, he's a nice, decent man), Brian Moran enjoyed a couple of public boosts today too. First, there was this profile, which is part of a series examining the Virginia gubernatorial candidates, in today's Washington Post. Here's the money quote:

For 13 years, Moran was the go-to guy, the water carrier for the Democrats, the minority party in the Virginia House of Delegates. If a Republican got up to insult then-Gov. Mark Warner or Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Moran, in an increasing crescendo, was the one who jumped to the microphone in protest. If a Republican signaled a willingness to negotiate, Moran was often the one called in to hammer out a deal, once at a diner over beers with the details spelled out on a bar napkin. Moran was the one who knew which delegate needed what and how to knit together the unruly votes to pass legislation, including a landmark increase in education spending in 2004.

For eight years, as Democratic caucus chair in the House of Delegates, he put 200,000 miles on his gold Toyota Highlander, traveling the state recruiting candidates, raising money, shaking hands at countless local gatherings, all with the aim of recapturing a Democratic majority in the House. His efforts netted 13 new Democratic seats, four seats shy of a majority, and some in areas so conservative that skeptics had told him he was crazy to try.
That's right! While some other candidates, who shall remain nameless, were off basking in the glamor of Washington, DC insider politics, hobnobbing with presidents and millionaires, Brian Moran was toiling in the commonwealth, driving miles to obscure little towns to help build the Virginia Democratic Party. At a time when it wasn't much fun to be a Democrat, Brian was doggedly working to reverse our fortunes. If this is a Richmond insider, it's only because he's been building a Democratic presence to be inside of.

In addition, Mike, at Blueweeds, wrote a really nice endorsement of Moran. Mike reminded me of what made me commit to Moran in the first place:

1. The term of the next governor will likely be dominated by the difficult issues of zero budgeting and redistricting. This is necessary and un-flashy political work for which Brian is particularly well suited;

2. Northern Virginia is rightfully out of step with the rest of Virginia on gay rights and green issues. Brian's campaign has distinguished itself from his opponents on these two issues - demonstrating a clear willingness to lead Virginia in a progressive direction based on clearly articulate political values. Brian's tact on these two issues is clear, different than his opponents, and reflects remarkable political character;

3. Brian has unusually close ties to Falls Church City. He is the only candidate with a Falls Church City business license; he shops here; plays basketball at our community center; makes appearances in our local court system; and routinely sits in our Beltway - Broad Street traffic;

4. Brian is a proven party builder. He has done the hard work of being the minority caucus leader in the house of horrors known as the Republican-led House of Delegates. He has been a terrific advocate - forceful and outspoken on party differences, able to communicate clearly and respectfully with opponents. In a place in which it is especially hard to keep personal integrity, he has managed to do so;

5. Jim Moran, our congressman and Brian's brother, has been a remarkable asset to our region and to the Democratic Party. As a local party leader, Jim's willingness to assist businesses and political leaders in NOVA on grassroots community and constituency issues has been extraordinary. The congressman's value on local issues and party building, irrespective of how one comes down on Jim's outspoken positions on national issues, is hard to overestimate. Jim has kept his distance in his brother's campaign, but supporting Brian is an opportunity to acknowledge the work Jim has done for years for our region;

6. Brian understands the importance of the Dillon Rule to small local jurisdictions like Falls Church. His opponents have either not addressed the Dillon Rule or openly called for its repeal. Repealing the Dillon Rule would polarize the political climate of small jurisdictions and greatly complicate the efforts of communities like ours to maintain independent school systems and run effective local government; and

7. Our local political stealth-zellmiller-dixiecrat dark force has McAuliffe yards signs. All good people on the planet should take note and run, run, away from whatever they are selling. Seriously.
I am not sure I agree completely with Mike. For example, I favor repeal of the Dillon Rule. But since Mike also is the husband of Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner, I would keep an open mind about his reasons for being in favor of the Dillon Rule. Maybe he knows something about politics and governance at the municipal level that I don't.

But the take home point from Mike and from the Washington Post article is that Brian Moran has been involved with Virginia politics and worked tirelessly to improve our local communities, not just in Northern Virginia, but across the state. He's paid his dues.

By that, I don't mean he just showed up and put in the time. I mean he did the unglamorous, heavy lifting, right here in Virginia.

Leslie Byrne's Endorsement of Creigh Deeds - Update

Bryan Scrafford, who has been doing an amazing job of covering the various campaigns around Northern Virginia, with both solid reporting and great video, was at Leslie Byrne's endorsement of Creigh Deeds, just an hour ago at the Old Courthouse in Fairfax City.

First, the video:

Below is also some of Bryan's rundown of Leslie's reasons for her endorsement:
  • *Creigh and Leslie have worked together since 1995 when they were in the House of Delegates together. They later served in the Senate together and Leslie was proud to be on the statewide ticket with Creigh in 2005 as she ran for Lt. Governor and he ran for Attorney General.

    *Leslie said that you really get to know someone when you’re on the trail with them and Creigh’s “not a creation by consultants. He’s authentic.”

    *Leslie said that “no other candidate is better prepared” to take on the responsibility of the Governor’s office.

    *Leslie Byrne is known as a progressive candidate and in regards to Creigh’s progressive qualities she pointed outh that he has a 100% pro choice voting record, has done a lot for the environment, earned a 93% ranking for the teachers which is higher than any other gubernatorial candidate has scored, and it’s clear that he’s going to make transportation a priority.
  • For more, go visit Left of the Hill.

    Leslie Byrne to Endorse Creigh Deeds Today!

    Lowell and Ben are both reporting that Leslie Byrne intends to endorse Creigh Deeds today. In fact, Lowell wonders why Leslie, the consummate liberal, would endorse the much more conservative Deeds over both McAuliffe and Moran, especially since Moran has deliberately tried to position himself as the most progressive candidate.

    It’s equally intriguing that she didn’t go with McAuliffe. To my mind, that raises an even bigger question. Although T-Mac has staked out his position as the centrist, touting his pragmatism; business experience; entrepreneurial spirit; and outsider to Richmond status, McAuliffe has always been a very strong supporter of the Clintons, as has both Leslie and Larry Byrne. Both Byrnes served in the early Clinton administration. They both also were very strong Hillary supporters in last year’s presidential primaries. So, I would have expected them to be natural allies of McAuliffe’s.

    I certainly have no guesses as to why Leslie chose Creigh, but I certainly hope she does explain the thought process that went into that decision.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Conspiracy Theories and Cuccinelli

    H/t to Too Conservative for this:

    Seriously, I think Ken might be on to something with this. After all, I didn't have a Social Security number when I was two. Now, that might be because back then dinosaurs still roamed and we personally talked to them every day (damned those evolutionists who don't believe in young earth theories). And, of course, we did have to make sure those commies that had infiltrated the U.S. Government even back then weren't tracking us. Thank God for Joe McCarthy!

    Ok, just kidding. I like Ken, personally, but, yeah, this sure doesn't help his cause, even among Republicans, and that's pretty scary because they have pretty much purged most of their moderates. So if even the extremist still left are worried about how this sounds, they've got worse problems than I thought.

    Reaction to the Ben Tribbett Endorsement of McAuliffe

    Ben Tribbett endorsed Terry McAuliffe today in a surprisingly well written post. I say surprising because Ben can often be inflammatory and hyperbolic - and even that is an understatement. It wouldn't be an exageration to say that Ben likes to stir things up and see where they settle when he's done.

    But today he laid out a thoughtful and well reasoned argument for why he is supporting McAuliffe. He discusses his reasons for choosing Terry over Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran in a way that displays his candidate's positive attributes without disparaging his opponents. Indeed, Ben discusses the weak points of the Moran campaign and explains why he didn't go with Creigh. He manages to be frank without being unduly nasty. Ben should write like this more often because it's so effective at persuading readers.

    Right after Ben's endorsement, Terry McAuliffe also sent out this video of himself with Ben.

    Although I think Ben did an excellent job on his candidate's behalf, it's that candidate whom I still can't support. I wrote a comment on NLS that pretty much sums up my feelings about the matter:
    Ben, overall, I think yours is a well reasoned and thoughtful endorsement that will benefit your candidate. Kudos for saying it so well!

    Right now, I am staying with Brian Moran, but I echo a lot of the sentiments of John 12:17.

    I know Brian personally and know that he will be a good, hardworking, and dedicated governor. Unfortunately, his campaign suffered from a lack of clear message and went far too harsh. I am deeply sorry that it did because all that accomplished was to obscure his real talents and ability.

    I also agree with Barry Bonds' doc, though, about your trying to link McAuliffe to Webb. No two men could be more different in every way.

    I realize that McAuliffe has enjoyed the support of most of the former Webb supporters. But the actual candidates and their campaigns are as alike as apples and oranges.

    Webb had no money and ran a shoe string operation, staffed and supported by a genuine grassroots, where McAuliffe spent lavishly and created a splash by sheer dint of his oversized personality. And his impressive crowds everywhere have mostly been paid staffers.

    Where Webb was almost dour, McAuliffe's personality is bubbly, outsized, and larger than life. In a million years, Webb would never call himself, nor would anybody else call him a "huckster." If you did, Webb would possibly deck you. He definitely would scowl at you and consider it an insult. Terry, on the other hand, proclaimed it proudly about himself.

    It's that huckster part that sticks in my craw. I think he could be a good governor and possibly is the most electable at this point. But I still don't want a huckster, with his special interest money and all his deals that always benefitted him, made him richer, and somehow managed to make his partners all the poorer for investing with him.

    I guess I will stick with a fighter who remembers the taste of powdered milk from his childhood over a huckster. Even if he ran a less than perfect campaign.
    The more I think about it, those words could probably serve as my endorsement of Brian Moran, although I will write a separate post to reiterate it.

    I have criticized Brian's less than perfect campaign, but I still think he is the best man for the job. The irony is that after seeing the video of Ben with McAuliffe, I think I'd vote for Ben before McAuliffe in a primary. Ben at least comes off as sincere.

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Memorial Day!

    H/t to Ben Tribbett for this very moving video. Although it is already late in the day, this Memorial Day, this was so incredibly touching that I am grateful that I saw it on NLS.

    For every veteran who has fought for our freedom and every young man or woman who has made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can say what we wish, write our thoughts, pick our leaders, and choose how to live our lives. All the freedoms we take so for granted. They came at an exceedingly high price!

    Bomb Explodes on New York's Upper East Side

    This news report sent chills up my spine. An explosion rocked an Upper East Side neighborhood in New York City at 3:25 a.m. A small, low order bomb was left on a bench in front of a Starbucks on 92nd Street and Third Avenue. When it went off, it shook the neighborhood and could be heard for blocks away.

    That was once my neighborhood. To be sure, I lived there so many years ago that it was before there even was a Starbucks in Seattle, let alone any in New York City or anyplace on the East Coast. Still, I maintain an emotional attachment to New York - both the City and the Upstate area, where I grew up in a suburb just outside of New York City.

    According to CNN, this is only one in a series of bombs that have gone off over a number of years, targeting Time Square, and the British and Mexican embassies. The police don't know whether there is a connection and they are still investigating.

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Leslie Byrne Endorsement of Mike Signer

    H/t to Blue Commonwealth for this. Leslie was an early feminist as well as a staunch labor supporter. Her father was a shop stewart, so she knows first hand the hard battles that workers and unions fought to gain a living wage, safe working conditions, and decent treatment in the workplace.

    Furthermore, Leslie has always been in the forefront of the fight for women's rights and human dignity. Mike Signer picked up an important endorsement and, even more importantly, a strong moral voice for human rights in his campaign for the Lt. Governor's race.

    Mark Keam Responds to Unfair Accusations

    My good friend, Ben Tribbett, over at NLS, recently ran a piece that he himself termed "opposition research dump." He also claims that it is "fully cited" and "investigated thoroughly."

    I agree with Ben completely - it's an opposition dump all right. But it's certainly not good journalism - no, not even good amateur journalism. This is something that has been bugging me about bloggers, including some of the best in Virginia, for a very long time. For all that we criticize the mainstream media for its biases, there are some fundamental rules of real journalism that we toss aside as casually as dirty socks. But with the old media crumbling, we have to get better at truly being fair, accurate, and balanced. That's even true of advocacy journalism. It's one thing to advocate passionately for your candidate and even to do real research and write negatively about an opponent. It's another thing to simply be the tool of a campaign, running with anything they feed you.

    Ben's piece was not at all well researched because he never got a statement from his subject. Even if that subject lies or refuses to respond, a real reporter has an absolute obligation to get the subject's side of the story. Sure, you can counter his claims with others' statements disproving it if those other facts don't exist. If the subject refuses to comment, you can say so in your article. In fact, reporters regularly go out of their way to make sure readers know that they have contacted the subject, asked the right questions, and gotten a refusal to answer.

    Here, Mark Keam seems very accessible and very willing to answer. I am going to reprint in its entirety Keam's response:
    Hey Ben, I don’t recall that we’ve ever met personally, but I’m glad to have made your acquaintance on this blog. I look forward to meeting you sometime.

    It seems that you’ve been writing about me and my campaign for the House of Delegates lately. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to call me directly at 703-999-2782 or email me at and I would be happy to tell you whatever you want to know about my various jobs or about my involvement with any Democratic campaign in Virginia or elsewhere.

    As for this latest round of accusations about my work at Verizon, let me respond so there won’t be any further confusion or comments from various folks who might not be aware of all the facts.

    First of all, I don’t know who provided you these charges, but I find it curious that no one seems to be taking credit for these accusations leveled against me. Maybe whoever gave you this set of talking points realizes their “facts” are based on nothing but guilt by association.

    Let me give you the real facts as only I can know them.

    I’m a former FCC attorney who has specialized in telecommunications law. After working in the government for over a decade, I joined the Government Relations office at Verizon for about two years. My job was to work with Senate Democrats. Among other Democratic initiatives, I worked on expanding broadband access to underserved and rural areas, as well as to keep consumers from paying taxes for accessing the Internet.

    I never lobbied on this wiretapping issue. In fact, I never had security clearance to discuss such national intelligence issues. My name is listed as a lobbyist on a wide range of bills that were active in Congress while I was at Verizon because my company listed the entire lobbying team for a Congressional office on lobbying disclosure reports.

    I enjoyed working at Verizon and learned a lot. It was valuable opportunity to see how Congress works from the outside, instead of the perspectives I had when I was Senator Dick Durbin’s chief counsel for six years. In fact, when I was on Capitol Hill, I spent everyday fighting extreme Bush administration policies. So I find it somewhat incredible that anyone would suggest that I had anything to do with the Bush administration other than trying to stop their agenda.

    Anyway, I hope this helps debunk any confusion that might have been caused by the anonymous charges against me. As a candidate, whenever anyone asks about my work experiences, I always tell them what I did and did not do. I specifically recall a meeting of the Brigades in early February of this year when one of the other candidates in our House of Delegates race and I jointly addressed a group of about 30 people. During Q&As, someone asked me about my lobbying work on behalf of Verizon and I told her as well as everyone else in the room about what I did and didn’t do. Among other details, I recall specifically mentioning that I did not lobby on this wiretapping issue, so at least one of my primary election opponents knows the facts as well.

    If you still have any questions, again, please feel free to contact me directly and I’m happy to answer any questions.

    Thanks for your interest! Mark Keam
    In the interests of full disclosure, I support Mark Keam. But even if his campaign tried to do an "oppo research dump" on me, I would go to whomever was the subject of it and get their response to the accusation. Otherwise, I wouldn't run it.

    For more on the subject, check out Lowell's post at Blue Virginia.

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    When Liberty is an Oxymoron

    Rachel Maddow commented upon Liberty University's startling decision to ban their campus chapter of the College Democrats. As Left of the Hill and Dem Bones, among others, reported, Liberty University revoked the College Democrats charter because administration officials decided that being a Democrat was incompatible with Christian morality.

    That is an utterly bogus reason and here's why. Even though the majority of Democrats might be pro-choice, there are in fact prominent Democrats, including Senators Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Harry Reid of Nevada, who is also the Senate Leader, and Governor Tim Kaine, who are all pro-life. Some pro-life representatives in Congress include Heath Shuler (NC), Charlie Wilson (OH), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Baron Hill (Indiana), and Jason Altmire and Chris Carney (both PA). In addition, there is an organization, Democrats for Life, which is uncompromising in their pro-life position, yet manages to also be staunchly Democratic. Indeed, they even have a Virginia chapter.

    Besides the embarrassing public relations flap this is causing for Liberty University, if they take any federal money for activities or even if they have any tax exemption for being a religious institution, this boneheaded move could be jeopardizing those, under Title IX and the IRS tax code.

    Additionally, the sound of silence on the Republican side from their elected officials and candidates raises an interesting question: Are they so beholden to their whacky rightwing base that they can no longer stand up for legitimate academic freedom? The crickets are chirping...

    The Washington Post Endorsement of Creigh Deeds

    Because I've been busy and out of pocket most of this week, I have just gotten the chance to read and digest the Friday Washington Post's endorsement of Creigh Deeds. Although I am not a huge fan of the WaPo, having frequently criticized their reporting and even their logic, I, surprisingly, find myself agreeing with most of what they had to say. This was a well reasoned, well written, and well balanced editorial endorsement. Anybody who thinks it won't help Deeds in this area is in denial. Whether he ultimately wins enough votes in Northern Virginia to become the Democratic nominee is still open to question, but the Post's endorsement certainly doesn't hurt him.

    Their main point is that those who would dismiss Deeds for his "aw shucks" modest demeanor or his rural roots are underestimating him. So are those who think he has less of a grasp of Northern Virginia's complex needs because he is not from the area. In fact, the Post argues convincingly that it's precisely because he is "from a district closer to West Virginia than to Fairfax City" that he is better positioned to defend support and funding favorable to NoVa, even to those rural voters who might object the most.

    To illustrate this, the Post relays a story, told by Deeds, where a resident of Lunenberg objected to his taxes being raised to support transportation in Northern Virginia. Deeds responded by telling the man that it was Northern Virginia's tax money that paid for schools in Lunenberg and elsewhere. He explained that NoVa was the business engine of the state, and it was in trouble because of its transportation woes. Deeds helped that man, and so many others, understand that we are one state and that it is rational self interest for all of us to support the common good when it aids all of Virginia. He couldn't have made that argument as persuasively if he were just another Northern Virginia official, who would have been seen as simply supporting the self-interest of his own region.

    But Deeds sees the big picture and has put in the hard work to benefit the entire state. As the Washington Post endorsement puts it:

    However, delve a bit deeper, and the answer might surprise you. In 18 years in the General Assembly, Mr. Deeds has time and again supported measures that might be unpopular with his rural constituency but that are the right thing to do, for Northern Virginia and the state as a whole. He has demonstrated an understanding of the problems that matter most, the commitment to solve them and the capacity to get things done. Mr. Deeds may not be the obvious choice in the June 9 primary, but he's the right one.

    Unlike his opponents, Mr. Deeds has made clear that he would make transportation his first priority, vowing to tackle this region's greatest challenge while his political capital is at its height. His record suggests that he could make headway...
    The Washington Post also looks favorably on Deeds support for non-partisan redistricting, which would make elections more competitive and hopefully produce more moderate elected officials, willing and able to compromise in Richmond.

    In supporting Deeds, the Post did not tear down the other candidates, but it pointed out some of the differences and how they influenced the editorial board's decision-making process. Here's what they said about the other two Democrats running for the nomination:
    Mr. McAuliffe would be an unpredictable choice, a self-described "huckster" who has vacuumed millions from donors as a Clinton confidante and former head of the Democratic National Committee. That's not meant as a dig: Mr. McAuliffe fills a room, and it's easy to imagine him jawboning businesses to move to Virginia or lawmakers to support his agenda. He has proved that he's a quick study who can rattle off facts and figures about the state. Yet, Mr. McAuliffe's promises have been as expansive as his personality, and he has offered no realistic way to foot the bill. It's also unclear whether voters will give Mr. McAuliffe a pass for showing no interest in state politics or governance until setting his sights on the governor's mansion.

    Like Mr. Deeds, Mr. Moran has backed redistricting reform and closing the gun show loophole. Particularly impressive is Mr. Moran's strong record on public safety, including advocacy for victims of domestic violence and violent crime and support for decent legal representation for the accused. Mr. Moran has a solid record as a lawmaker and has earned respect from colleagues in both parties. It's hard, though, to point to an instance when he made the politically difficult choice. Mr. Moran's positions seem to have evolved for the primary campaign: He's moved left of Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Deeds in opposing both offshore drilling and a coal plant in Surry County.
    Of course, it is hard to find an instant where Moran had to make a politically difficult choice simply because he represented one of the most progressive and Democratic districts in Virginia. But in opposing offshore drilling and, especially, the coal plant in Surry, Moran made an extremely politically difficult and courageous decision, one which cost him valuable union support.

    To read only the progressive Virginia blogosphere, you wouldn't know it. Indeed, you could get the impression that to be so strongly pro-environmental was the smart thing to do, indeed, even that it was pandering to the most valuable members of the progressive community.

    Not so. Moran has staked his campaign as a fighting, pro-worker populist as well as an environmentalist and, in doing so, he has bucked one important segment of that community, the building trades and mineworkers unions. To say they have been less than thrilled about Moran's stand on Surry would be an understatement. In fact, it has probably cost Moran donations and support. Unfortunately, the WaPo doesn't really talk much to Virginia labor so it has to be forgiven for overlooking this small fact, which demonstrates Moran's political courage and commitment to doing the right thing for all of Virginia.

    Other than that, the Washington Post's take on Deeds is persuasive and fair. To my mind, they made an excellent case for their choice. It also further sharpened my own thinking about Terry McAuliffe.

    I don't want to belabor my opposition or provide the right wing attack machine with any ammunition against somebody who may well be our nominee come November, but while Virginians are still deciding on that nominee, I would be derelict in my responsibility, as a blogger, not to give my honest opinion. And that opinion is that I personally am uncomfortable with a huckster. And not just any huckster but one who adapted the label so proudly himself. It bothers me greatly that McAuliffe doesn't even realize why that there is a problem with being a huckster. Moral compass anybody?

    I am not in the camp that claims it will refuse to support McAuliffe. He has some strengths, which the Posts also points out. But if I had to choose (actually, I do and so do you) between the candidates, I am going to come down in support of authenticity. I think either Moran or Deeds has more of it than Terry does.

    Of course, this is not the last word, except for right now.

    Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Results of Providence District MayFest - Moran, Wagner, and Keam Win

    Today, Providence District Democrats held their MayFest celebration, with live music, auctions, and a straw poll. Although I did not attend, here are the results of their straw poll:

    Gov - 75 ballots cast
    Creigh Deeds 17%
    Terry McAuliffe 34%
    Brian Moran 48%

    Lt. Gov.-68 ballots cast
    Mike Signer 26%
    Jody Wagner 74%

    House of Delegates 35th District-36 ballots cast
    Esam Omeish 8%
    Roy Baldwin 8%
    John Carroll 15%
    Mark Keam 69%

    When Unions, EFCA, and Health Insurance Get Personal

    I know you are not supposed to reprint a newspaper column in its entirety on a blog - all that stuff about fair use versus copyright infringement. But I am going to pull a point of privilege, with apologies to the newspaper that was kind of enough to run this column in its original form, last Friday.

    You see, it's a small newspaper, with editions out of Manassas and Culpepper. Probably more people read it than read my blog. But I want to share my husband's column with my friends because I'm so danged proud of Dan. So, please indulge a wife's pride. And, yeah, it's about EFCA :)
    Employee Free Choice Act Will Grow the Economy, Help Middle Class

    I come from a working-class family. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where my father was a rank-and-file tool-and-die machinist. He followed the space industry, and when he had the chance to buy back his old home in Tennessee in 1968, he did.

    I got to see first hand the difference between working in an area with a lot of unions and an area without. As a kid, you don’t know what that means; as an adult, you learn what that means.

    Dad had a job with a pension and health care while he was working in Cleveland. When he moved home to Tennessee, he couldn’t even put on his job application in some cases that he worked for a union company.

    So my father, who never graduated from high school, made sure that his kids went to school. Both Mom and Dad fought and struggled and told us to “make sure you get a job with a pension because it sure beats eating snowballs in the winter.” My father had some illnesses and it cost us some things at home. As a kid, you don’t understand; as an adult you realize what your parents went through.

    I’m a member of the Seafarers International Union. I’ve been employed by them for 22 years. With the Seafarers, I was able to do what my father suggested: find a job that has a pension and find a job that has health care. Little did I know how important that would be until 1994 when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. To this day, I have no idea what the medical costs were.

    I do know, however, one thing that happened, and I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the union. Eighteen hours before I was supposed to have a bone marrow transplant, the national insurance company called my house and said, “You’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do the previous six months: going through chemotherapy, going through all the tests, having everything that you needed to do. We’re not covering you anymore.”

    I called my union. The next day, I’m being wheeled into the hospital, put under and when I came out, everything was taken care of. The union called the insurance company and threatened to pull the whole national account. An average person doesn’t have that advantage. An average person doesn’t have someone to stand behind them and work for them like that. That’s one reason why unions are important.

    The middle class is struggling. As unions become smaller and smaller, the chances that you get a job with health care, with a pension and with benefits get fewer and fewer. As unions shrink, benefits for the middle class shrink.

    Common sense guides the three principles of the Employee Free Choice Act.

    * First, workers should be the ones who decide how they form a union, and it ought to be free from employer intimidation.
    * Two, there should be real penalties when corporations break the law by threatening, coercing or firing workers. These penalties already are on the books when a union attempts such acts.
    * Last, when workers decide they want a union, it should mean something. A company shouldn’t be allowed to delay the bargaining process indefinitely like they do now; in fact, almost half of the time, workers who decide they want a union never get their first contract.

    The point is, workers have hit a breaking point. A major way to get out of this economic crisis is to let workers band together to bargain for the wages and benefits they deserve. We saw this work in the midst of the Great Depression when the National Labor Relations Act originally passed.

    What workers wanted then is the same thing we want now. The Employee Free Choice Act will grow the economy, close the wage gap between the wealthy and the rest of us and strengthen the middle class.
    By the way, the story Dan told about his insurance company refusing to cover his bone marrow transplant and informing us at the 11th hour is absolutely true. What Dan didn't say, and what is seared into my memory, is that we were not told until Dan was already in the hospital and preparing for that grueling medical procedure.

    He was nervous enough to be facing that. And then he had to hear that it was to be delayed, while I argued with an insurance company. The reason the insurance company gave for turning down the claim was that they considered the bone marrow transplant "experimental." Actually, at that point, it was not. It had a proven record of success and would soon become standard treatment. In fact, within several years, it was replaced by an even more cutting edge treatment, stem cell transplants.

    I begged the doctors and the hospital to go ahead with the procedure and vowed that I would pay them the full amount no matter how I had to raise the money. Of course, as Dan mentioned, his union threatened to pull their entire and very lucrative contract if the insurance company didn't honor their original obligation. Meanwhile, my own insurance company had agreed to pay for the bone marrow transplant. For all that people used to advise me that, for young people, we were "over-covered" with insurance, I learned the hard way never to trust or depend on only one company for health insurance coverage. We remain gratefully "over-covered."

    Basically, his greedy company almost denied Dan his life. So, please, don't ever tell me we don't need significant health care reform or stronger unions. It gets personal!

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    Jim Webb on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos

    Jim Webb will be on ABC-TV this Sunday! Below is the information.

    On Sunday, Senator Jim Webb will sit down with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" to discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Guantanamo Bay, and other news of the day. Senator Webb will be joined by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ).
    WHO: Senator Jim Webb

    WHAT: Interview on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay

    WHEN: Sunday, May 17, 2009

    WHERE: ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

    Joh Bowerbank Withdraws From Lt. Governor's Race

    Because I've been out of pocket since yesterday, I just heard the news about Jon Bowerbank dropping out of the Lt. Governor's race a few hours ago. I actually read it first in the Washington Post as I was skimming the paper. Then, I went on line and saw the email from his campaign, which I am reprinting in full:
    For Immediate Release

    Contact: Brigit Helgen

    May 15, 2009 703-549-5254

    Statement from Jon Bowerbank Suspending His Campaign

    Cedar Bluff, VA - Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Jon Bowerbank today released the following statement:

    "For the past year and a half, I have traveled the length and breadth of our great Commonwealth. I have been inspired by the people of Virginia, the commitment of the various candidates and elected officials I have met along the way and by the many people who are such an important part of our democracy ... committed volunteers, activists, reporters, editors and bloggers just to name a few.

    I have had the pleasure of occupying a front row seat at numerous major political events, debates and forums. I have spent a significant amount of time getting to know the other candidates for various offices. I have also learned a great deal about the issues that confront the people and institutions of our Commonwealth.

    My campaign for Lieutenant Governor was born from a desire to be of greater service to the people of Virginia. That desire has not wavered. In fact, I have found that my service as a member of the Board of Supervisors in Russell County is extremely satisfying. I feel that my colleagues and I are really making a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

    I firmly believe that my central campaign premise - increasing job creation for Virginia centralized through green/non-conventional energy and rebuilding our core infrastructure while we retool our educational systems - is as sound now as it was 18months ago. In fact, it is probably even more critical as we are all unfortunately in the midst of a severe economic crisis not experienced since the Great Depression.

    However I am responsible first and foremost to my family and my employees at EMATS and because of those responsibilities for the next 30 days and the next 6 months, I would no longer be able to devote my energies to this campaign full time. I believe Virginia and the Democratic Party need someone who can devote their full attention and energy to the job of being the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor

    I have, therefore, reached a decision to suspend my campaign and to throw my full and unqualified endorsement behind the candidacy of Jody Wagner. I have gotten to know Jody well on the campaign trail and believe she would be a great nominee and a great Lieutenant Governor.

    I have also come to know Mike Signer, and I wish him well now and in the future. My decision to endorse Jody is not a negative reflection on him.

    I care deeply about Virginia and I fear that to continue this campaign at this time would simply cause tumult and acrimony and give aid and comfort to those who stand in the way of the process. I want to be part of a unified Democratic Party now and in the future, and I believe my decision is in the best interest of the party.

    I want to personally thank those who have been so supportive of me. My Congressman, Rick Boucher, was an early and enthusiastic supporter as were former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne, State Senators Chap Petersen and Phillip Puckett and Delegates Dan Bowling, Bud Phillips, Lionel Spruill, and Joe Johnson. I also wish to thank the 100+ elected and party officials that have endorsed my candidacy. I especially want to thank my family for the sacrifices they made as I traveled across the state and I look forward to spending more time with them.

    I am very grateful to my staff; they have worked hard for me and I have said many times that I have the hardest working campaign and we were positioned well. I hope they will all work as hard for our nominee as they have worked for me.

    I have also made a decision to return political contributions to those who have supported my campaign. I will instruct my staff in the coming days to prepare checks to refund those contributions.

    Now simply wasn't my time. I resolutely believe, however, that my time will come. In the future I intend to again offer myself for public service. When that time comes I will be prepared to run and to serve.

    Today is the two year anniversary of the death of my hero ... my father ... Tom Bowerbank. He and I shared a great admiration of Winston Churchill. My father taught me this quote of Winston Churchill's. "Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never - in nothing great and small - large and petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."

    I believe my decision to give in on this campaign is based on honour and good sense and, in that respect, I hope this would have made Winston, and my father, proud."

    I was deeply saddened by Jon's dropping out of the race. In the time that I've gotten to know him, I have found him to be a tireless campaigner, dedicated to winning this race and furthering progressive values throughout the state. I can't even begin to guess the real reason that he has withdrawn but I wish him well and hope this won't be the last that we see him on the campaign trail.

    Although Bowerbank has thrown his support behind Jody Wagner, Lowell has some thoughts about who will be the beneficiary of his move.

    I think this is an "on the one hand...then again, on the other hand" situation. On the face of it, Wagner benefits because she gets all of Bowerbank's supporters. And it's always impressive to undecideds when they hear that a candidate's opponent bowed out and endorsed them.

    But on the other hand, the anti-establishment, progressive wing of the party is no longer split. So, this might simply be a case of which side gets their voters to the polls in greater numbers. One thing I agree with Lowell about is that both of these remaining contenders are excellent candidates, both of whom I respect a great deal. But my mind's not made up yet.

    Virginia's Future Depends on June 9th Primary

    Vivian Paige has a cogent analysis on her site , explaining what’s at stake in this year’s election.

    First, she tackles the peculiar Virginia tradition that the party of the sitting president usually loses the governor’s mansion. I always dismissed this as an old saw or random historical coincidence, without much underlying meaning. But according to Vivian, some political scientists and analysts believe it may be because a new president’s first year in office often is bumpy. Indeed, observers have noted that the president’s party also frequently loses seats in the midterm elections. The only recent president to break that pattern was Bush in 2002, and most politicos attribute that to the national unifying effects of the 9/11 attack.

    Vivian makes the very apt point that by next November, President Obama’s approval ratings may not be so high, especially because the economic situation is not expected to improve significantly that quickly. No matter how great a job he actually is doing, the public mood could sour on him, as it did on President Clinton in his first term. Like Clinton, the long-term outlook may prove him to be a very effective president who leaves office with a healthy economy and the country enjoying prosperity. But in the short term, the public may grow impatient with the slow pace of recovery. That’s especially true because the unemployment rate hasn’t even bottomed out yet. Unemployment is always a lagging indicator, so that will be the last number to improve, and it probably won’t get significantly better before next year, or even possibly the midterms.

    Given that, Vivian argues that the gubernatorial candidate will need to be able to credibly distance himself from the national party and run as a Virginia Democrat. I think she may be right.

    Insider-Outsider Dichotomy

    Taking Vivian’s argument to its logical conclusion, Virginia Democrats might want to take a closer look at Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds, two candidates whose Virginia creds are impeccable.

    Before going further, let’s dismiss the nonsense that Terry McAuliffe is a carpetbagger. Of course, Republicans will throw that charge out at him. So have some Democrats. But he’s lived in McLean longer than I’ve lived in Burke. And I’m certainly no carpetbagger.

    I can hear readers objecting, “But he’s always been focused on the national level, not like you.”

    Oh, don’t be so sure. As a matter of fact, for my first few years in Virginia, I didn’t even consider myself a real Virginian. I am a Northerner by birth. I’ve lived in the South long enough to know that culturally I’m not a Southerner. And since I worked in DC and had no children in Virginia schools, my ties to the commonwealth were nominal. I cared much more about who was president or senator than I did who was governor, much less who my Fairfax supervisor was. That gradually changed with time. It may have for Terry too. I am certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

    I do think, though, that Terry McAuliffe, the national party’s consummate insider, running as an outsider to Richmond was dazzling in its sheer audacity. And not in a good way, though it was amusing to watch for a while. Here’s why it might backfire on him.

    The Big Liability

    As Vivian pointed out, by November being an outsider, associated more with national Democrats, might be a liability in this state for reasons beyond Terry’s or anybody’s control. But the candidate may well have to run on a Democratic version of Virginia values.

    Either Brian Moran or Creigh Deeds are better positioned to do that. In addition, both of them will be able to point out that Virginia Democrats are more business friendly and moderate than the national party. Furthermore, Moran or Deeds could back that up by pointing out that under Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia has been named best place to do business and best managed state by such pro-business groups as the U.S. Chambers of Commerce. Do we really want a candidate who has to run against the record of successful Virginia Democrats?

    Probably not.

    Nothing Wrong With McAuliffe

    Truthfully, I don’t have any serious objection to McAuliffe. I think he was a good DNC chair. I know others want to lay all the party’s failures in the early 2000s on him, but that’s not fair. When he took over the DNC, the party was broke and needed his powerhouse fundraising skills. I would even argue that Howard Dean’s successful 50-state strategy, which I absolutely supported, would not have been possible without the funds McAuliffe brought in. McAuliffe also built up the party’s database out of next to nothing.

    Furthermore, his association with the Clintons is a plus for me. Bill Clinton was a successful president who left this country with a strong economy and a $236.2 billion surplus. I didn’t agree with him on NAFTA and other trade agreements, to be sure, but at the time he was in office, the conventional wisdom of the best minds was that free trade produced prosperity. Under Clinton, deregulation and the harshness of the American capitalist system were mitigated by some progressive policies. Perhaps, under a Clinton or a Gore administration, the complete financial meltdown we’ve just experienced would not have occurred because they would not have implemented such extreme tax cuts for the wealthy nor stripped all regulation as radically as the Republicans did. All that is speculation. But I suspect that free trade, as long as it’s coupled with fair trade agreements and some sensible regulation, basically works. The reason we need measures that are more radical now is because the situation is so dire. You’ve got the country in economic heart failure, so you have to perform open-heart surgery, not stick a band-aid on a minor cut.

    But I digress. My point was simply that I won’t be joining those trashing Terry McAuliffe for any of his alleged sins like his connections to the Clinton or not being a “real Virginian.”

    But Can Terry Mac Overcome History and Timing?

    I don't think he can. I do think, however, that given Virginia’s history with the governor’s mansion, the reasons why it happens, and the slow economic recovery that will hurt the Democrat’s chance anyway, that perhaps the timing is against his candidacy. It certainly will be much harder for him to distance himself from the national party and run as a traditional Virginia Democrat than it would be for the other two candidates, with their long history in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. It may be unfair, but the wind may just be blowing in McAuliffe’s face, rather than at his back.

    What’s at Stake

    A Democratic failure - if this scenario holds true - is a distinct possibility. The ramifications of that are truly chilling. As Vivian points out, we would lose any chance at a nonpartisan redistricting plan. That would have an ominous effect on our prospects for electoral victory in both the state and national elections. Republicans would be drawing up all the new districts. Remember what happened the last time they got to do that?

    Here’s the money quote from Vivian:
    This has been my fear all along. A dip in the popularity of the president (combined with dismal approval ratings of Congress) could very well tank the chances for Democrats – not only to win the governor’s mansion but also actually lose some seats in the House of Delegates. With that goes any chance for reasonable redistricting reform and Republican-drawn districts for the next ten years. Kiss goodbye Congressman Perriello and Congressman Nye, as those districts will be likely redrawn to more favor Republican candidates.
    That’s a lot to kiss good-bye. We worked very hard to overcome some really partisan districting that was not in our favor. Frankly, I don’t want to see us return the favor to the state GOP because I actually believe districts should be contiguous, should make sense, and should not cut up neighborhoods just for political gain. But I trust the Democrats more than I do the Republicans to bring fairness to the process.

    Vote Wisely in the June 9th Primary

    So when you make your decision on whom to vote for in the June 9th Primary, act as though Virginia’s entire future depends on it, because it really does.

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Artists For Workers Choice

    H/t to Artist for Workers Choice for this one:

    You can write to Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner at the addresses below:

    Mark Warner
    459A Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Phone: 202-224-2023
    Fax: 202-224-6295

    Jim WebbRussell
    Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Phone: 202-224-4024
    Fax: 202-228-6363

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Note to Brian Moran - It's Dangerous To Know People

    My good friend Ben, at NLS, offers a spirited defense of Mame Reiley against reporter Michael Laris’s weekend article in the Washington Post.

    Laris set out to examine Brian Moran’s campaign claims that he is a fighter for the middle class and working people, Moran’s business dealings that might contradict those claims, and his political alliances that might have feathered his own nest and those of his buddies, specifically Reiley’s.

    I’m not as outraged as Ben is because in the end Laris presented both the claims and counter claims. The real problem with the article is just that it was much ado about nothing. Here’s a basic rundown of the facts.

    The Back Story

    In the mid 1990s, Moran left the prosecutor’s office to go into private practice and took on a case defending a bunch of cab drivers who had been arrested at Dulles Airport while they were on strike. Brian won the case for the cabbies and got their owner, Farouq Massoud, thrown out of Dulles.

    After the trial, Massoud was so impressed with Brian’s lawyerly skills that he hired him. Moran then helped Massoud to win back the contract to run his cabs to Dulles. The case does not close there, though.

    The article then goes on to explore the role that long time Moran family friend and political consultant Mame Reiley might have played in aiding Massoud to win back the contract. Reiley, in 2007, was chair of the airports authority that voted on the bids for the contract. According to Laris’ report, she delayed the original board vote, which helped to kill it. That kept Massoud’s bid alive and the next year, when the contract was re-bid, his company won it.

    The Explanations

    Both Reiley and Moran have denied that they ever discussed the bids or Massoud. And there is no evidence that Mame acted improperly. Indeed, she said, in the article, that there were key last minute changes to the original bids, and that’s why there was a delay. Also, according the report, when the airports authority finally voted on the bid, it went 7 to 3 in favor of Massoud, so Mame hardly was the deciding vote. She simply affirmed the majority.

    Were there some hard feelings from the frontrunner who lost the bidding war? You betcha. He’s one of the people accusing Mame and Brian of cronyism. But you know what?

    I have met some people who, when they lose a job, a contract bid, or any other competitive activity, come up with an excuse that it was a rigged system, nepotism, or bribery. They always lose to the boss’s dimwitted son. The blonde always sleeps her way to the top and that’s why she got the better assignment, etc. Sometimes it’s true. Lots of times it’s not. But it’s always a more tempting excuse than the truth that the winner just was better in that particular competition. This article, though, after reporting what amounts to nothing more than hints, nudges, and innuendos, leaves it to the reader to sort out the biases.

    The Biases

    How do I know that this article ultimately has its biases? Because near the end Laris quotes the former leader of the strike, who no longer works for the cab company:

    "It boggles my mind after all the issues that came out in the wash, that the airport authority would go back and give him" a contract at Dulles, said Nasir, who has been working as a security guard since losing his job as a driver after the earlier conflict. "Money talks. It's big money. That's how it goes, I guess."
    The implication here, obviously, is that Moran switched sides and sold out the cabbies. But is that really true?

    First, let’s examine what happened to the cab company as a result of winning the bid to get back to Dulles.
    Sitting in his office beside the cab staging lot at Dulles, Massoud paged through the computerized work and maintenance histories of his drivers. Tracking software helps cabbies get more lucrative trips back to the airport than his competitors, he said.
    And here’s Brian:
    Moran says he always had the cabdrivers' interests in mind in his work for Massoud, and he made sure Massoud's proposal treated them well. "We got concessions for the drivers, and he ended up getting the contract," Moran said. Indeed, labor strife appears to be at an ebb now in what can, even without a deep recession, be a grueling job.
    Let me repeat Brian’s quote: “We got concessions for the drivers and he ended up getting the contract …Indeed labor strife appears to be at an ebb now ….”

    You know, as somebody who has been pro-union all my life, I’d say this is the dream of labor unions, for strife to be low and their workers to be employed in prosperous companies. earning money. There’s a problem here?

    The Defense

    As for the innuendos about Mame’s role in helping Massoud’s company to win the contracts, here’s Ben’s take on why there is little motivation for her to do something unethical that could tarnish her reputation (emphasis is Ben's):
    Mame was appointed to the Airports Board that oversees Reagan and Dulles by then Governor Mark Warner. From disclosure reports, Mame is often paid at least $10,000 a month (more than that with Moran) when she works on campaigns- and probably even more than that with her corporate clients that she doesn't have to disclose. According to disclosure reports Brian Moran had to file as a Delegate, he was being paid between $1,000 and $4,000 a month to help them prepare this bid. That money is chickenshit to Mame- and it wasn't even going to her, directly or indirectly.

    So essentially the Post is suggesting Mame may have helped throw a contract to this firm because they paid a close friend (Brian) 1/3 of the money she usually makes consulting for a single client. What?! That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. That money is nothing- there are canvassers making more money this year than Brian made representing them- yet the Post is essentially speculating that he called in a special deal for them? That's ridiculous.

    But what really makes me angry is them dragging Mame into this for no reason. All she did was vote for the staff recommendation- which was to select this company as one of the three for the the contract. If people like Mame recused themselves every time they had worked with an attorney helping one of the applicants they would NEVER vote on any public board. It's maddening that the Post thinks this is something even worth discussing.
    It’s the last sentence that sums this up. Through the techniques employed by gossip columnists and scandal rags like the Enquirer, the Washington Post managed to create the buzz of a political scandal where none really exists. To be honest, I would love a system where cronyism never existed and where there never was a conflict of interest or even the appearance of one in public office. But the way our system is currently set up, people who make decisions know, socialize, and do business with each other. Reform the system but don’t scapegoat those within it. Just because two people are friends and have done business with each other doesn’t mean that either of them is corrupt.

    There is no evidence of wrong doing here, only evidence of people knowing each other.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Compromise on EFCA May Be in the Works!

    Jane Hamsher is reporting in The Huffington Post that Senate moderates Dianne Feinstein and Arlen Specter (new Democrat from Pennsylvania) have hammered out a compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act that Blue Dog Democrats like Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Jim Webb, Michael Bennett, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Udall could go along with.

    According to Hamsher, Feinstein and Specter came up with a proposal that would save the secret ballot, one of the major stumbling blocks for the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. The secret ballot also was the main objection raised by anti-union business groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their GOP allies, to rally their troops against passage of EFCA.

    This compromise legislation would allow workers to mail their ballots to the National Labor Relations Board, thus preserving the secret ballot. As Hamsher reports, unions may not be happy about the compromise, but it allows them to eliminate a major hurdle that the other side has had great success at using to frame themselves as the protectors of an open and fair democratic process.

    At the same time, the other bone of contention, binding arbitration, would be watered down through something known as “last best arbitration” or “baseball arbitration.” Specter is known to support this concept.

    Indeed, for some trade unionists, that may be a more important battle to fight for than card check. One of the biggest obstacles unions have had to face in organizing a new local is that even when they win elections in secret ballot contests, company owners can stall indefinitely and refuse to negotiate a contract, making a mockery of the very democratic process they claim to be so ardently defending. As one commenter over at Huff Post put it:
    I am a dealer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where we won our "secret ballot election" by a 3-to-1 margin in December 2007. We have been in negotiations for over 1 year now and it looks like it will be at least another year until we are probably going to be forced into impasse because management will not budge on a proposal that will take the tips away from the dealers who receive them (85% of their income and they are paid minimum wage by the employer) to redistribute to whoever they want, including those who are in management and are being paid as much as $40 per hour by the employer.

    What we need from the EFCA may not be the "card check,” but we DO need "binding arbitration.” Without binding arbitration, the employer will negotiate for years until impasse is reached and then implement whatever they want, thus defeating the whole purpose of organizing.

    Keep the secret ballot election, but ELIMINATE the 34+ days from the time of filing to the election date and replace it with a FIVE-DAY period. This way management ca not hire outside "persuaders" to come in and then force the employees into mandatory meetings where they will be lied to and intimidated. Where I work, they even threatened to have the green cards taken away from those who have them and who vote "yes" for the Union!
    Here’s a definition of the various forms of arbitration
  • Binding Arbitrationis a procedure by which parties agree to submit their dispute(s) to a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator. The arbitrator considers arguments and evidence from all sides, then renders a written final and binding decision. The parties may mutually agree upon less formal rules and procedures or agree upon sections CCP 1289 et seq to govern the arbitration hearing.

  • Nonbinding Arbitrationis a type of arbitration where the arbitrator makes a determination of the rights of the parties to the dispute, but this determination is not binding upon them, and not enforceable in a court of law. The “award” is in effect an advisory opinion of the arbitrator’s view of the respective merits of the party’s case. Many times the parties agree to this format and utilize it in connection with attempts to reach a negotiated settlement.

  • Baseball Arbitration is another hybrid of a binding hearing and is sometimes referred to as an “either/or” arbitration, it has two popular forms “Night” or “Day” baseball. In each method, the parties submit their last best offer and demand to the Arbitrator. In “Day” baseball, the Arbitrator is aware of the numbers and chooses the figure deemed most appropriate. In “Night” baseball, the figures are kept confidential from the arbitrator. Upon rendering of the decision, the figure mathematically closest to the arbitrator’s award becomes the binding award. This format is best suited when the parties feel strongly about the reasonableness of their offer/demand

  • High/Low Binding Arbitrationis a binding arbitration wherein the parties agree to a high and low figure to bracket the award. The parties agree on a number for the low in which the plaintiff will not accept any less and also for the high in which defense will not pay any higher. If the decision is any number between the two parameters, that is the binding award. The high/low numbers are typically confidential and not shared with the arbitrator.
  • To my mind, you usually have to compromise to get anything in life, and especially in politics - you all know the cliché by now: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    I think that applies here as well. So, I believe that compromising on the secret ballot, as long as it is a mail in ballot to the NLRB, is acceptable, though far from perfect. The reason unions might be hesitant to give up the card check is because the problem for them in an organizing drive is never the actual secret ballot. It’s the amount of time it takes to get enough workers signed up so that it can actually go to an election, and the amount of abuse employees are subjected to in that time period.

    During the period leading up the election, employers have been known to hold meetings that go beyond mere persuasion or laying out their own case as to why workers shouldn’t join a union. As the commenter above demonstrated, too often corporations resort to threats, harassment, and intimidation to scare workers out of voting for the union. So, labor would like to find a way to circumvent a process that takes a long time and lends itself to scare tactics on the part of big business. That could be fixed by limiting the amount of days from the time workers sign cards indicating an interest in a union to the actual date of the election. Make it five or ten days rather than over 34 days. Or some other number of days that seems fair to both sides.

    The truth is that when secret ballot elections are held, the unions actually win the vast majority of them. According the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, out of 418 elections held in this fiscal year, unions have won over 62 per cent of them. So the actual voting process is still less the problem than what happens afterwards. To my mind, I’d fight hardest to hold on to binding arbitration, rather than the ballot issue. My reason for this is purely strategic, and here it is.

    Despite all the problems with the election process, it’s far too easy for big business and their Chamber of Commerce allies to paint labor as anti-democratic. The romantic ideal of the secret ballot is so ingrained in the American’ psyche - and for a very good reason - that opposing it is really putting yourself on the losing side of the battle among a public that has proved time and again that it places the greatest value on fairness.

    But it’s much easier for labor to frame its own argument for fairness on the issue of arbitration. After all, if a majority of workers have voted in a fair, secret ballot election to form a union, how does a company then justify the stall tactics to prevent their workers from obtaining a contract? After all, big business based their whole anti-EFCA campaign on the importance of protecting the secret ballot and upholding democratic principles. So, how do they then reverse themselves and oppose honoring the will of the majority after that fair vote?

    They can’t, which is why compromising on card check, even if it does make it more difficult to get to the actual election process, is the way to go. The public supports unions right now and is suspicious of large corporations, which have slashed workers’ benefits, gobbled up profits and bonuses, and bled their own companies dry with their untrammeled greed. Letting those people even have the appearance that they are principled and are taking the high road on this issue is counterproductive. Giving in on card check and holding out for binding arbitration to ensure that fair, open, and democratic elections are held and that their results are then upheld is the way for labor to check and checkmate big business. And it’s also the right thing to do.

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    Bob McDonnell Comes Up Empty For Virginians

    I'm probably a little behind the curve on this, but still, let's keep this going viral and in the public's awareness. It's a great ad by Commonsense Virginia.

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    Happy 90th Birthday, Pete Seeger!

    Pete Seeger, the legendary folk musician and political activist, turned 90 on May 3. A host of musical and show business luminaries, including Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Joan Baez, and Emmy Lou Harris helped him to celebrate yesterday at Madison Square Garden.

    Seeger used his singing, writing, and playing ability to entertain generations of Americans and to stand up for social justice for those who could not fight for themselves. He has been at the forefront of the labor, civil rights, peace, environmental, and women's movements. And his music has spanned generations, from before World War II, when he began, to the 1950s, when he played with The Weavers, to the turbulent 1960s, and on until present, when he played at President Obama's Inauguration, with Bruce Springsteen. In the 50s, he, along with the Weavers, endured the blacklisting of the McCarthy era and enjoyed a triumphant return to the stage with his controversial appearance on the Smothers Brothers Show on CBS in 1968. The previous season, Seeger's appearance was censored because he chose to sing "Waist Deep in the Muddy," an anti-war song. But a public outcry led to CBS' censors relenting and Seeger made his historic appearance and sang that song on February 25, 1968. He went on to become a hero to a new generation of young political activists in the 60s and early 70s in the nascent environmental movement.

    For more on Seeger and his contribution to America's musical traditions, culture, and politics, check out this heartfelt memoir on the AFL-CIO blog from Mike Hall, whom I am proud to call a long time friend.

    Like Mike, I have had the privilege of hearing Seeger in person and of meeting him. I grew up in a town that was a few miles away from Beacon, New York, where Pete Seeger lived. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Seeger was involved in one of the first ecological projects to clean up the Hudson River. To publicize the plight of the great and mighty river, which was dying because of its pollution, Seeger started sailing up and down to all the Hudson River Valley communities in a sloop called the Hudson River Clearwater. Every summer, they would hold shad festivals. Not to be confused with Virginia's shad planking, the point of these gatherings was to highlight the fact that shad were once again able to survive in the Hudson River, an indication that the waterway was being cleaned up.

    So, to celebrate the success and keep it going, Seeger and a very young Don McLean (of "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" fame) held folk concerts, with food, vendors, and fun all summer long. I saw both Seeger and McLean at many of these outdoor events. Besides McLean, Arlo Gutherie, whose father, Woody, had been one of Seeger's best friends, frequently showed up to jam at these all star folk festivals, which were held annually, just minutes from my home. In fact, because of Seeger's presence along the Hudson River, a young folkie, like me, was able to see some of the most renown folks musicians of the time for free.

    To share some of the camaraderie Seeger's concerts always produced, enjoy the video from the Inauguration and join me in wishing Pete Seeger 90 more years!

    Sunday, May 03, 2009

    The Washington Post Rorschach Test on McAuliffe

    Today, Amy Gardner's article on Terry McAuliffe, in the Washington Post, has generated a narrative and counter narrative that is a Rorschach test of its readers.

    Before I go any further, I have to say that, as somebody who has frequently been highly critical of Gardner's work, this is a fair, balanced, and extremely well done story. That's important to acknowledge because to be a critic is not always to be negative. When you catch somebody doing something right, it's very important to point that out too. So, kudos to Gardner for an exceptionally well done job with this report.

    Meanwhile, here is what's so curious about the story. While McAuliffe and his campaign were happy with it, Brian Moran's supporters were also pleased and were using it as proof of their own points about Terry.

    For example, Moran supporter Aimee Fausser used the Washington Post article to further her argument that Terry McAuliffe is not the right candidate to be governor of Virginia. She picked out parts of the article, like this quote:
    Terry McAuliffe has a simple message for Virginia: Elect him governor this year and he will bring jobs, because he has more business experience than anyone else in the race.

    Yet McAuliffe's business pedigree is not so simple. He is a dealmaker who made millions from investments. And many of his biggest deals came in partnership with prominent donors and politicians, creating a portrait over the years of a Washington insider who got rich as he rose to power within the Democratic Party.

    McAuliffe is, at his core, a salesman -- and even called himself a "huckster" in his autobiography. In his bid for governor this year, McAuliffe is selling the idea that his uncanny knack for making money can bring prosperity to all Virginia. But at a time when public mistrust of millionaires and politicians is high, that strategy could backfire.
    And this one:
    But they belie the complexity of a business career built mostly on intricate land deals and dot-com investments, often with wealthy political donors -- and sometimes with no jobs to show for it.
    For McAuliffe, politics and business have always been intertwined.
    He was Richard Gephardt's national finance chairman and later gave Gephardt a loan from the bank he led, Federal City National Bank. He worked with then-House Whip Tony Coelho on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 1980s and later worked with him at a Washington real estate brokerage, the Boland Group.
    McAuliffe made $16 million developing a shopping center in Florida after persuading a top labor leader he knew through the Democratic Party to invest $40 million from the union's pension fund
    And as Fausser sums it up in a very well-reasoned post:
    "I don't want a Governor who views his election as his next big business move. It sounds like no matter what Terry's job is, he's always looking out for himself first..."
    Meanwhile, McAuliffe's people are very satisfied with that same article. So much so that they sent out emails to supporters linking to it and put it up on their website. From their point of view, it illustrates the argument they've been making, which is that Terry McAuliffe is a successful business man who will bring his Midas touch to Virginia's governor's mansion. According to their reasoning in favor of McAuliffe, his business acumen will make him a successful governor who will bring jobs, economic growth, and prosperity to Virginia.

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    Lots of candidates, especially those without an actual track record of elected office, have run on their life experience as successful business people. In fact, usually those who make that argument run as Republicans.

    And among those who have succeeded with this approach, many have also foundered once in office because they've learned that the skill set that helped them to succeed in business is very different from the skill set that works for a public official. In many ways, the talent, skill, and knowledge that one needs to accomplish one's goals in the public sphere are very different from what it takes to be a successful businessman.

    Of course, there are notable exceptions, such as Mark Warner, who succeeded both in business and as governor. But he is a man of unusual depth and ability, and he impressed people with his seriousness and intellectual capacity. He might have been an entrepreneur, but I don't think anybody ever referred to Warner as a huckster - a word McAuliffe freely applies to himself.

    The other thing that strikes me is that this may not be the right time and place for candidates to run on their business experience because, as Gardner also observes when she quotes Robert Holsworth:
    "People are somewhat skeptical at the moment of certain kinds of business dealings," said Robert D. Holsworth, a political scientist and author of the blog Virginia Tomorrow. "There is a populist resentment that's directed at both government and business simultaneously. I don't know how that's going to play out."
    I would agree with that summation. In fact, I'm rather startled that McAuliffe's people even took this to be a complimentary article considering its very title is "McAuliffe's Background Could Be a Liability." And although Gardner is very careful to point out that McAuliffe has done nothing illegal or wrong, her main theme is that, at this time, when so many people have been harmed by some of the same businesses with whom McAuliffe has had such lucrative associations, the very background Terry touts may be his biggest liability.

    The very "hucksterism" he celebrates may strike a discordant note with a public that is no longer enamored of every robber baron that comes along. I am willing to bet that if people were to watch the movie Wall Street today, they would no longer be cheering as Gordon Gekko gives his "greed is good speech," as they did back in the 1980s.

    We know that greed is not good for the average person and that Gekko was not our benefactor. And it may be that pro-business Terry Mac isn't either. In fact, it may be that Americans are finally fed up with hucksters and want public servants.

    Both Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran fit that category. While McAuliffe was out making deals and using the Democratic Party, and his access to the highest levels of government, as career accessories, they were toiling in the more unglamorous Virginia General Assembly and the Senate, when both were Republican strongholds. While neither Deeds nor Moran are paupers, neither man is as rich, audacious, or capricious as McAuliffe and that is a good thing - for Virginia.

    Of the two serious candidates, my favorite is Moran because his are the more progressive credentials, if by a hair. One can quibble over a lack of purity or an inconsistency here or there, but overall, Moran has stood with women, gays, environmentalists and working people over a lifetime of fighting for our interests. Creigh has, by his own admission, been a bit slower to come around on some issues. That does not disqualify him in the least. He would do the Democrats proud in a general election.

    But since on primary day you can only pick one, my first choice is Brian because he was a bit quicker on the uptake when it came to gay rights and environmentalism. Terry, meanwhile, wasn't even in the Virginia race - he was out practicing the art of the deal.