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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Congressman Kline: Is It Earmarks or Accountability?

Category: John Kline
Posted: 01/11/08 02:48, Edited: 01/11/08 02:49

by Dave Mindeman

Here is an excerpt from a Star Tribune South Metro article about John Kline:

In a visit with the Scott County board, (Kline) defended his decision to no longer seek special funding for pet projects -- even those that benefit his district. Board members offered sympathy, but they also voiced frustration.

John Kline has stated this position as one of "principle". I have a serious problem with that description.

First of all, Kline's real position is that he is not going to represent the people of Minnesota's 2nd District. Kline is stating that he is not only against "pork barrel spending".... he is against all earmarks in general. There is a difference as Steve Sarvi rightly points out.

When we pay at the gas pump (I mean really pay...), we are also paying a state gas tax and a federal gas tax. The Federal portion of the gas tax heads to Congress and they decide how it gets divided among the states. Those decisions can be based on each District's Representative making a case for projects in their own district. Sometimes seniority gets priority, but every Congressperson can still make the case....except ours. That money will still be spent somewhere.... just not here.

Please notice that Rep. Kline's principled stand does not include a gas tax cut or a gas tax rebate, nor does it stop anyone else from making use of that money. His "principle" result, is that he is not going to allow any of that money to come back to Minnesota for needed projects.

The job of a district representative is to advocate. If our district needs something... a representative should be willing to make a case for that need with the larger body.

Some earmarks are bad...yes. But as a blogger for the Sunlight Foundation puts it:

Our solution is not to do away with earmarks but to disclose them, with lawmakers' names attached. Then we can ask questions and maybe, we can get some answers. Disclosure will force lawmakers to be accountable for their actions. And that's a very good thing.

Earmarks are still necessary. It's the disclosure that is the issue. During the Republican reign as the majority party in the House, the use of "secret" earmarking ran rampant. After all, if an earmark got into a bill and nobody was publicly responsible for putting it there, we have no accountability.

From Wikipedia:

When President Dwight Eisenhower proposed the first national highway bill in the 1950s, there were two projects singled out for specific funding. In August 2005, when Congress passed a six year, $286.4 billion Transportation Bill, there were 6,371 earmarks,

Hmmmm.... 2005; The House had a Republican majority then and John Kline was present. Apparently his principles weren't. Those 6,000+ earmarks didn't have to show who was responsible for putting them in the bill.

In all, there were roughly 15,000 congressional earmarks in 2005 budget bills, at a total cost of $47 billion. The 2008 budget bill, whlich Cong. Kline criticizes so loudly, has about 12,000 earmarks. with an estimated value of $15.3 billion. But one other big difference... all Congressional sponsors must assign their names to their requests. In that manner, we can gauge what kind of influence various groups may have on the "ear" of their Congressman.

Maybe Congressman Kline thinks every extra budget request is wasteful. But 2nd District citizens still dutifully pay their gas taxes and income taxes and excise taxes.... we just seem to have a Congressman who is going to let our money finance somebody else's project.


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News of Her Demise Was Greatly Exaggerated

Category: Presidential Politics
Posted: 01/09/08 07:33

by Dave Mindeman

The Clinton resilience seems to apply to everyone with the name. That was a stunning upset victory and it was amusing to watch the pundits eating crow.

That type of a poll shift is rare but it was made possible by an open primary where coinciding party races are going on at the same time.

What were the reasons for the Clinton win?

1) Maybe a shift of independent voters to John McCain from Barak Obama.

2) Or, an empathy vote from women responding to a genuine bit of emotion from a tired Hillary on the trail.

3) Or, a last minute shift as the "experience" message sank in.

or

The voters of New Hampshire just decided to be their ornery selves.

We all might as well settle back in the easy chair and get out the pop and chips. It is going to be long and wild ride to November.

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The Specs on a Minnesota Special Election

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 01/08/08 22:38

by Dave Mindeman

I'd like to discuss the recent special election in Senate District 25. There are some things to learn and a lot of things to take with a grain of salt.

First of all, the Democratic win was completely unexpected. The previous Senator, now judge, Tom Neuville had been an incumbent Senator since 1990. His margins of victory were not overwhelming but they were comfortable. In both 2002 and 2006, he won with 52% of the vote over different challengers.

For the special election, the Republicans had Ray Cox, the type of candidate you would want with little time to campaign. He was a former legislator for half the district and a proven commodity. He had some detractors in his own party but not anything remotely like some kind of party division.

The Democrats endorsed Kevin Dahle. He was a teacher and activist in the party but with little name recognition in the district.

It was a marginally Republican district with a known candidate running --- and a short time to campaign. In addition, Governor Pawlenty set the date for January 3rd....shortly after the holidays, but, as it turned out, more importantly, it was the same day as the Iowa caucuses.

There was a quote in the Star Tribune from Mike Kennedy, the Senate DFL caucus campaign director. He said:

"While the students gave Dahle a lot of momentum going into Election Day, the victroy did not hinge on the student vote."

I think the victory DID hinge on the student vote....and here's why.
I am going to focus on 8 precincts in Northfield. These precincts normally are strong Democratic precincts but during the special election, they were phenomenal.

Here are some numbers (these numbers pertain only to the 8 Northfield city precincts):

2002:

Neuville......3335 votes.....44.22%
Mladek.......4207 votes.....55.78%

2006:

Neuville......2743 votes.....35.43%
Peterson.....4998 votes.....64.56%

2007:

Cox............1160 votes.....27.48%
Dahle.........3061 votes......72.52%

Notice a trend?

But here is the kicker to me:

% of total vote vs. vote in Northfield 8:

2002: 34,441 Total -- 7542 Northfield or 21.89%
2006: 34,881 Total -- 7741 Northfield or 22.19%
2007: 12,027 total --- 4221 Northfield or 35.10%

Dahle's margin in Northfield was a +1901, while his total district victory margin was +1577. In the entire rest of the district, Dahle lost by 324 votes.

One more stat:

Let's look at the 4 counties involved in this district. Here, I am going to compare the vote in the 2006 general election with the vote in the 2007 special election.

LeSeur County: 2006: 11,308 2007: 2979....26.30%
Scott County:....2006: 6,314 2007: 1828....28.95%
Rice County:.....2006: 13,973 2007: 6764....48.41%
Sibley County:...2006: 3,260 2007: 752....23.07%

Guess which county Northfield is in?

But why was the student turnout so high? Did the DFL actually get this one right? Did the Republicans blow it?

The Pawlenty plan had been to schedule the election at a time when students might just be getting back from holiday and wouldn't be engaged. But the Iowa caucuses have been in the news for weeks... the Obama phenomenon has engaged and inspired young people all over. Al Franken made stops at the colleges. The Republicans were complacent and ambushed. It was the perfect storm for a DFL win.

So, what do we take away from this.

For Republicans, there was very little they could have done. They can argue about how much work everybody did or didn't do, but with this election, as in every special election, it was all about turnout. Could they have taken too much for granted? Sure, but no amount of extra work was going to change the outcome here. This was determined by the students, not by the politicos.

For Democrats, the focus should be on the "sleeping giant"... the youth vote. That has been looking for some inspiration and a reason to engage.... they have it, at least for now. The best thing the Democrats did in the special election was stay out of the way. They did there usual GOTV, but this election was about engagement and wanting to participate. That might not have happened without the barrage of news from our southern neighbor.

Is this some kind of omen for the future? Not likely. But both parties had better prepare for a wild ride this year. The "times, they are a'changin'".
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