Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Slip of the Tongue?

Top Democrat James Clyburn says that a report by General Petraeus indicating progress and success with the surge strategy would be a "real big problem for us."

Us being the House Democratic leadership.

What's wrong with a political party when victory over the enemy by our military is a real big problem for them?

Death Toll in Iraq Lowest in 8 Months

Is the surge working?

Can you say yes?

Sure, I knew you could.

BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.S. military said Tuesday that a Marine was killed in fighting west of the capital, pushing the American death toll for July to at least 73, the lowest in eight months.

While steady progress has been made on the military front, Iraq's political factions have made only limited headway in achieving reconciliation, said Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, who has been nominated to replace U.S. Gen. Peter Pace as the nation's top military officer.

The attack raised to at least 73 the number of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq in July, the lowest number since November 2006, when at least 70 U.S. deaths were reported. The monthly toll topped 100 in April, May and June.

In all, at least 3,652 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

The No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, expressed cautious optimism last week about the downturn. He said casualties had increased as U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds as part of a five-month-old security crackdown aimed at clamping off violence in Baghdad, but were going down as Americans gained control of the areas.

"It's an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it's a true trend," he said then.

Mitch & Mike at Perry-Spencer GOP Picnic

Governor Daniels and former Governor WhitcombFrom the Perry County News:

TROY - Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose arrival at a party picnic was heralded by the vroom of several motorcycles, including his own, was cheered Thursday as he pledged to continue building a more prosperous Indiana while seeking a second term.

“We’re going to get back to the people’s business,” Daniels told a crowd of more than 350 people attending the annual Perry-Spencer Republican Picnic at Mulzer Camp near Troy. Daniels announced his plans this summer to seek a second term but said his re-election bid won’t stop his administration’s continuing efforts to grow the state’s economy, promote efficiency and limit spending.

Speaking to an audience that packed the camp’s shelterhouse, Daniels pledged to run a campaign centered around what he said were his administration’s first-term accomplishments, not personal attacks against members of the other party. Recalling his visit to Perry and Spencer counties when a candidate for office, Daniels said he was working to fulfill the pledge to change state government after 16 years of Democrat governorship.

He said Indiana drifted during those years and was in need of new leadership.

Also speaking was former Ninth District Congressman Mike Sodrel, who lost to Baron Hill in 2006. Sodrel is said to be pondering another run for the office next year.

Sodrel shows up places, but he doesn't seem to be doing anything to prepare for a candidacy.

The hour is getting late; if not Sodrel (and he seems content not to decide and not to make any preparations either), then the challenger will be weak thanks to the delayed start and Hill will skate to reelection.

Schansberg in the Wall Street Journal

Having met with the Governor's aides about the property tax situation a couple of weeks ago and written an op-ed about it, Eric Schansberg has now had another column about Hoosier property taxes appear in the Wall Street Journal.

It also ran in Indiana Policy Review (where you can view it online here; the WSJ requires a subscription)

It's lengthy, but one of the best accountings of the entire issue that I have seen so far, particularly in that it is devoid of the rhetoric and spin that have so far accompanied so much of the public consideration of this by politicians.

On July 4th, hundreds of protesters showed up in front of the governor's mansion in Indianapolis. They've been back in the streets several times since. As a result, Gov. Mitch Daniels has been scrambling, the city's mayor has ordered a hiring freeze and a 10 percent cut in his budget and there have been calls for a special session for the legislature and even a state constitutional convention.

Runaway property taxes are an issue wherever property values have shot up in recent years. But now Indiana may be at the forefront of a homeowner rebellion against a tax system that has come to be seen as arbitrary, unfair and unpredictable. What's driving this angst is the first reassessment of property values in six years and the resulting property tax bills. In Marion County (the city of Indianapolis), average property taxes increased sharply-by 34 percent. Across the state, the average increase is 24 percent. And these are only averages. Many homeowners are facing much larger increases.

As always, there is no shortage of short-run prescriptions. One thing that is really stirring anger: Marion County businesses mostly avoided an increase this year, while almost all homeowners saw higher tax bills. To cool tempers, Mr. Daniels, a Republican, ordered another reassessment and a freeze on property taxes in the meantime in Marion County — delaying increases for at least six months. He has also given counties a few months to rethink whether they'd like to increase local income taxes to offset the need for higher property tax revenues. And taxpayers will now be able to pay their property taxes on an installment plan.

All of this is a nice start. But none of it addresses the underlying problem: taxing property at a value that periodically increases can stick homeowners with a surprisingly high bill. The system punishes those who made smart (or lucky) home purchases and can force people out of the neighborhoods they've built a family in.

Property taxes also, at the margin, lower property values. Retired Indiana University economist Morton Marcus calculates that for every $1,000 increase in property taxes, the value of a home falls by almost $12,000. Moreover, high and uncertain property taxes make it difficult to attract workers and capital investment to the state.

The governor isn't alone in hoping that a quick fix will do the trick. House Speaker Patrick Bauer, a Democrat from South Bend, wants to use some of the state's budget surplus to issue qualified homeowners a tax rebate. But the state is already scheduled to implement another band-aid (through Mr. Bauer's leadership last year): to pay out some $300 million in property tax abatement. Indy Mayor Bart Peterson, also a Democrat, wants to borrow $75 million to pay for cutting property tax increases. And he has proposed to hike local income taxes by 65 percent.

Perhaps the most promising short-term fix being considered would accelerate a "circuit breaker" to cap a total tax bill at 2 percent of a property's assessed value. The legislature passed this last year, but it isn’t scheduled to go into effect until next year. Implementing it a year early could mitigate the current crisis.

But politicians may not be able to finesse their way out this time. They've been tinkering with the system since 1973, when lawmakers faced similar problems with property taxes and tried to fix them by allowing for local income taxes, doubling the state's sales tax and allowing public school teachers to collectively bargain. Indiana's property tax may be so flawed-and the public sufficiently cynical-that changes to the system may not gain necessary public support. The best option might be to toss the property tax out the window and replace it with higher income, sales or a "fair" consumption tax.

This would dismantle an unwieldy system where some 1,008 town assessors evaluate property values and pass their assessments onto 92 county assessors, who then pass their assessments to state officials. With so many assessors involved, it's no wonder the system can produce arbitrary results-residents in similar homes in similar areas paying very different tax bills.

Property taxes are, of course, useful in that they provide a stable and independent revenue source for local governments-which cause them to be more responsive to the people. It's also a highly visible form of taxation. Property taxes seem to take a bigger bite out of homeowners than other taxes because they are paid only once or twice a year — unlike income taxes, which are automatically deducted from regular paychecks. As we see now, greater visibility makes it difficult to increase taxes without fearing a public backlash.

And the fear of the lash is producing some interesting political results. Mayor Peterson faces voters in the fall, which may explain why he has reacted so swiftly. Speaker Bauer wants to protect a slim majority in the House after next year's elections, which may explain why he's eager to put his name on tax rebates for homeowners.

For his part, Mr. Daniels has called on his staff to brainstorm for ideas, has encouraged them to meet with affected people and is weighing whether to call the legislature back into town to enact reforms. He has expressed interest in eliminating the property tax. And he seems quite interested in another significant issue-reducing the number of local governments in the state. Beyond its high number of counties and townships, Indiana has 2,730 local taxing authorities. Eliminating some of these may help with tax reform.

Mr. Daniels is favored to win a second term as governor next year. But if he's not careful, he could yet stumble in his bid. Eric Miller, Mr. Daniels's 2004 primary opponent and a vociferous property-tax opponent, might be tempted to challenge him again. And a set of seemingly weak Democratic challengers could suddenly become competitive against a governor unable to handle such a thorny issue.

Reforming local government has been a top priority for the governor. But that was before homeowners took to the streets to protest their property tax bills. At times, Mr. Daniels has shown a willingness and to go outside the box-in particular, with "Major Moves" (his road privatization initiative for the I-69 extension). Will he play it safe here or work for significant change? Now that the public has spoken, will Mr. Daniels listen?

Dr. Schansberg is a professor of economics at Indiana University (New Albany), an adjunct scholar for the Indiana Policy Review and the author of "Turn Neither to the Right nor to the Left: A Thinking Christian's Guide to Politics and Public Policy" (Alertness Books, 2003).

GOOOOAL!!!

The Tax Monkeys

Monday, July 30, 2007

Vacationing While Their Country Burns

From Reuters:

BAGHDAD, July 30 (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament adjourned for its summer recess on Monday, taking a break until September despite having failed to enact a series of laws demanded by Washington.

Parliamentary speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani said in a statement issued after Monday's session that he had dismissed lawmakers until Sept. 4.

"Parliament has decided to break until early September," Hussein Falluji of the mainly Sunni Accordance Front bloc in parliament told Reuters.

"We have already cut the holiday by one month. It is our constitutional right to take it."

There you have it.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is worth fighting.

Those Iraqis fighting for their country are worth fighting with.

The Iraqi people are worth fighting for.

The current Iraqi parliament, however, is not worth--to paraphrase Bismarck--the bones of one American G.I.

If the members of the Iraqi parliament can't postpone their vacation long enough to work on some of the most pressing problems their country faces, maybe we should have our soldiers take a little vacation from guarding them.

Coming Soon to a Web Browser Near You


On August 1, 2007 the newest addition to the conservative blogosphere in Indiana will open for business.

Announcing the first community-driven website in Indiana where Hoosiers can communicate directly with each other and our elected officials – www.HoosierAccess.com.

Join the conversation! The revolution starts now!

Keep Digging Your Hole Deeper, Please

Daniel Robison, in one of his occasional pontifications to the News & Tribune, attributes the low ratings of Congress entirely to the Republicans:

Furthermore, the Democratic majority does not deserve low ratings based on the ongoing war in Iraq, even though this is where a good share of the America’s dissatisfaction with them seems to be based.

Democrats have passed numerous measures in both the House and Senate to expedite the end of the conflict, only to see Bush’s veto pen render these bills moot. Many of the votes to set withdrawal dates have fallen along party lines, thus allowing the bills to pass but not by veto-proof margins.

So who is to blame for inaction on Iraq? Bush, obviously, but also each Republican member of Congress who has voted to allow the President to beat back change in Iraq consistently since Congress switched hands in January.

And since the general public does not normally wish to dwell on the subtleties of law making and only tends to judge legislative performance by the ultimate results, this summer of stalemate has expectedly driven down Congress’ ratings. Its unfortunate that when average folks hear of bickering on Capitol Hill, they start to lose faith in the controlling party, even if these politicians are fighting for goals they want accomplished.

At this juncture, Congress should still take these polls with a grain of salt and stick to its guns. Essentially, Democrats and the public want the same objectives accomplished; this was proven in last November’s elections and the situation is essentially unchanged. Overcoming the obstacles provided by Bush and determined Republican minority will be the number one challenge to not only pass the legislation they were elected for, but also to hopefully see their poll numbers climb comfortably back into the 30s.

You do not get approval ratings in the teens simply for failing to mandate a retreat from Iraq, nor even also for the failure to address border security.

Please, Democrats, keep digging yourself deeper.

Ignore the polls and press onward; it worked so well for the late Republican majority, after all.

The unpopularity of Congress is not merely a function of the war or of immigration, or even of a failure to do anything at all; heck, one of the scarce few achievements the Democrats can list (raising the minimum wage) had more Republican support than Democrat and was accomplished while simultaneously continuing to fund the Iraq War.

The American people saw Republican-led gridlock and incumbent corruption (Duke Cunningham, earmarks) from the 2004 election to those in 2006.

They are now seeing Democrat-led gridlock and incumbent corruption (William Jefferson, earmarks) after voting out one party and thinking that changing parties will change Washington.

The unpopularity of Congress does not exist because of a single issue (the war, immigration, spending, whatever else).

It does not exist, regardless of Robison's spinning, because of one political party or another.

The historic unpopularity of Congress is likely a function of building unpopularity with incumbents in general, and incumbents of both parties.

The wave that results from such voter anger has the potential to sweep away previously safe incumbents.

The letter behind their name will not matter.

Banging the Drums of War


Iran is now looking to buy 250 long-range strike aircraft from Russia:

Israel is looking into reports that Russia plans to sell 250 advanced long-range Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in an unprecedented billion-dollar deal.

According to reports, in addition to the fighter jets, Teheran also plans to purchase a number of aerial fuel tankers that are compatible with the Sukhoi and capable of extending its range by thousands of kilometers. Defense officials said the Sukhoi sale would grant Iran long-range offensive capabilities.

Despite Israeli and US opposition, Russia recently supplied Iran with advanced antiaircraft systems used to protect Teheran's nuclear installations. At the time, Moscow said it reserved the right to sell Iran weapons, such as the antiaircraft system, that were of a defensive nature.

The Sukhoi-30 is a two-seat multi-role fighter jet and bomber capable of operating at significant distances from home base and in poor weather conditions. The aircraft enjoys a wide range of combat capabilities and is used for air patrol, air defense, ground attacks, enemy air defense suppression and air-to-air combat.

Doctors Evil


Notice how quickly those foiled terrorist attacks (and even successful ones) in Britain and elsewhere seem to fade from the news coverage?

Nobody seems to want to talk about the threat that still exists.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Greg Goode to Challenge Brad "Pretty Boy" Ellsworth in Indiana's Bloody Eighth

It will take more than being named most beautiful person on Capitol Hill to keep Brad Ellsworth in Congress now.

For the past six months I have been encouraged by friends, family, colleagues, Republican and Democratic leaders alike, and the citizens of Indiana's Eighth Congressional District to explore a potential campaign for the United States Congress. During this time, I have made countless trips to all 18 counties in this district, and I've met some of the finest people in Indiana. Mindful of the heavy burden a campaign weighs on personal family life, I have dedicated countless hours to discussion and prayer about this with my wife, Leslie, and our families.

During the late 1990's, I had the tremendous honor of working with Congressman Ed Pease in Washington, DC and serving on a team dedicated to public service for Indiana. During that time, I worked on key issues including national security, transportation, and education. We made our troops stronger, helped to build roads and infrastructure projects, and worked to ensure that local communities and families made the important education decisions for the children of Indiana, and not the Federal government.

For the past five years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as an advocate for higher education for my alma mater, Indiana State University. Serving ISU and the community of Terre Haute has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life. I am confident that protecting and growing one of Indiana's greatest assets -our outstanding colleges and universities-- will play a vital part in making Indiana a global economic leader in the 21st Century.

Ultimately, however, it is for my concern for the future of Jackson, my two year old son, and the future of the countless generations of this great country that compels me to strive forward in my consideration to re-enter that noble arena of public service. I strive to live life with the people of Indiana and the ideals of our founding fathers in my heart. I believe that our Congress can and must do a better job in guiding our country in a way to which President Reagan referred as the "shining city on a hill."

I have been earnestly testing the waters for a potential campaign for United States Congress, and I intend to make an announcement about my final decision on August 1, 2007, at The Centre in downtown Evansville. While the announcement will take place promptly at 11:30, I would encourage you to arrive no later than 11:15.

Also on August 1, 2007, I intend to make an announcement about my final decision at Clabber Girl, located at 9th and Wabash in downtown Terre Haute. While the announcement will take place promptly at 5:30, I would encourage you to arrive no later than 5:15 to enjoy some refreshments.

I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers during this time, and I look forward to meeting with you when my final decision has been made.

Sincerely yours,

Greg Goode

Skillman Stomps Bauer

Since the property tax storm broke over the Hoosier state, House Speaker Pat "The Hair" Bauer has wisely kept his head down.

One need not wonder why.

When informed of the problem by House Republicans during the legislative session back in the spring, The Hair steeled his caucus against such warnings.

He ignored them as long as he could, then finally rammed through a bill promising property tax relief at some undetermined day in the future in the form of rebate checks of questionable and uncertain size.

To call that property tax relief is being charitable.

It was really just a gift to the almighty gambling lobby, as the property tax relief was to be funded by selling licenses for slots at two Hoosier race tracks.

When Bart Peterson realized this rebate check scheme was not going to work and said so, The Hair declared him to be an "f***ing idiot."

Since his reported outburst at Peterson, The Hair popped up momentarily to salivate at the prospects of spending the state's budget surplus before running away to hide again (probably under that rather sorry toupee).

Not discouraged by his record of utter and complete failure on property taxes--failure to fix the problem when it was foreseen and to propose anything to do about it once it was thrust upon the state--Pat Bauer has stuck his head up again.

I daresay he didn't expect Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman to be the one wielding the mallet to whack him on the head this time.

It what has to be his biggest exaggerated untruth in months, Bauer blamed Governor Daniels for the entire situation.

He then went on to say that the state should pick up the cost of reassessments for those counties that screwed up their property taxes:

The Administration should accept responsibility for its role in creating this mess and should pay for these new reassessments.


In other words, The Hair thinks that taxpayers in counties that do not need reassessments should have to pay for reassessments in counties that need them.

Becky Skillman answered Bauer with a scathing press release of her own:

Speaker Bauer’s recent remarks calling for the state to pick up the cost for any countywide property reassessment make no sense. According to state law, even if the Department of Local Government Finance had rejected a county’s earlier submission of data due to suspicions, it would be their, not the state’s, responsibility to pay for the reassessment. Why should it be the responsibility of all state taxpayers to pay for the mistakes of one county’s incorrect assessment?

Speaker Bauer should become part of the solution, not an obstacle to fixing the problem. Governor Daniels has already brought several ideas to the table, such as turning the property tax rebate into a credit so homeowners can see immediate relief this fall instead of next year.

Zing.

The lieutenant governor should be careful; those are fighting words to The Hair.

He might challenge her to a duel:

A hair-off at twenty paces.

In such a contest, of course, Speaker Bauer (not having any real hair left) is at a natural advantage, since his toupee likes to come off easily in breezes and such as it is.

Brandishing the Big Stick

From the Indy Star:

The state is threatening to withhold cash subsidies to counties, stop them from borrowing money for construction projects and to impose other sanctions if local officials don't turn in overdue property tax information.

The state Department of Local Government Finance sent letters to 71 counties this week demanding that information about assessments and budgets be turned in by Aug. 15. Some of the data was due in October. The rest was supposed to be submitted by March 1.

State officials say the information is necessary to determine whether more counties must redo property assessments because of problems.

It is unconscionable that this information is four (if due in March) to nine (if due last October) months overdue.

The property tax system is just broken beyond belief.

Indiana Fred Heads

It had to happen.

Indiana now has its very own Fred Heads blog.

Fred Heads, of course, being supporters of Fred Thompson.

Thompson has been under a lot of fire for his lobbying and for the interesting employment record of his sons.

He seems to still be riding high, though some of the luster of being a perfect candidate seems to have faded (as should be expected as reality sets in on any campaign).

It's between Fred, Rudy, and Mitt now to fight an epic battle with Hillary Clinton (or, if by some fluke, Barack Obama) atop the wreck of an airplane perched on the rim of an erupting volcano with the fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance.

Knock Down, Drag Out

A Cause for Action

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Show Me the Spending: IN 9

Baron, Brad, & JoeLast week, I took a look at the contributions received by Baron Hill's campaign committee in the second quarter of this year.

This week, I took a look at his campaign's disbursements, or expenses, over the same period.

It makes for interesting reading.

Despite attacking not-campaigning private citizen Mike Sodrel just that, Baron Hill spent $15,840 for political and fundraising consultants.

Moreover, some of that went to the political consulting firm of Fowler & Crumley, which operates out of offices in (wait for it...) San Francisco.

I am sure that they are providing Baron with invaluable advice about how he can best vote for Hoosier values while he is in Washington.

He spent $1,500 for a new campaign website that (as of this posting) has been updated all of once in the past month.

Membership in the National Democratic Club: $220

Payroll (but no state unemployment or withholding taxes like others pay, interestingly): $1,258.06

It seems that Baron's people come cheap, though most of the rest of the campaign payroll appears to have been shunted through the Indiana Democratic Party (expenditures totalling some $8,671.40).

I wonder how that works without violating campaign finance laws (thank you, John McCain) prohibiting coordination between candidate and party committees.

Joe Donnelly did the same thing.

I guess it could be worse; Brad Ellsworth doesn't appear to have any payroll on his expenditures.

Phone bills for the campaign totalled $1,365.48; that's a lot of conference calls, long-distance chatting, and cell phone minutes.

Accounting services for $3,390.00.

Computer software for $4,200.00.

And, to top it off, there were lavish meals for the special interest lobbyists at fundraisers put on by Baron; he spent $6,314.03 on catering.

This included sampling the fine dishes of Bistro BIs in Washington, Rocky's in Bloomington, Johnny's Half Shell in Washington, and the Conrad in Indianapolis.

I guess he bought the lobbyists lunch this time, instead of them buying him lunch (not that there's anything wrong with that); a welcome change, I am sure.

Fancy meals, huge phone bills, expensive political consultants, and shady payroll.

Priceless.

Pretty Boy

The Hill has named 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth as the top pick in their annual "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill" feature.

1. Tall, dark and handsome
Name: Rep. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.)
Age: 48
Hometown: Jasper, Ind.
Political party: Democrat.
Dating status: Married to wife, Beth.

Women of all ages and political persuasions swoon when Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) comes near. During a recent elevator ride in the Rayburn House Office Building, several noticeably gawked at the unassuming Ellsworth, who seemingly has little idea he is being admired.

Truth be told, Ellsworth is camera-shy. During his 10-minute photo shoot he grew embarrassed when his staffers walked past. Someone joked, “You want some Hot Tamales?”

The freshman lawmaker said he doesn’t resemble his father, whose photo rests beside his desk. His father has reddish-brown hair and glasses. “I’ve never been compared to anyone before,” Ellsworth said about his looks.

And what about those pearly whites? He had bad bottom teeth but never had the money to get braces as a kid. At 35, when his daughter was getting braces, he asked the orthodontist if he could have them too. He had braces for a year.

Badges from his years as a police officer hang on his office wall. In 1995 he was elected sheriff in Evansville, Ind., where he served for eight years.

Shopping isn’t his passion. “I’m a horrible shopper,” he said. “When my wife gets me into a dressing room with one shirt, she starts throwing stuff over the door because she knows she might not get me in there again.”

Golly gosh.

Now if only he could win some awards for, you know, actually doing something for his constituents.

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

Folks like this guy will probably cause more trouble for Mitch Daniels' reelection bid than property taxes (he's trying to lead the charge there) or any of the current Democrats in the field (even The Hair thinks they're all pathetic).

An open letter to Gov. Daniels

I just got home from the store where I bought a gallon of milk and three packs of smokes which cost me almost $20. As far as I’m concerned you’ve privatized and taxed your way out of at least one vote. I thought it was the Democrats who taxed without need instead of spending wisely. I wish I could increase the amount of my working capital when I want to waste money.

We all know that governments spend big money at exorbitant rates. Like locally, spending well over $100 million on school buildings which could be revamped/or built new for much less. We spend 10 times or more than the actual cost to get things done. This is stupid. And how do you justify privatization to save money. If you can pay a private outfit enough money to make a profit and still you save money, you could do it for much less internally if you were competent. I’ve got enough sense to know that if I can do a job for myself instead of paying someone else I can save money. Hmm, what a concept. And this cigarette tax. You say it’s for the health of Hoosiers, that in doing so you hope less people will smoke, yet you’ve already allocated the profits from this tax. What are you trying to do here? Worry about us or raise money? In reality if you succeed in one you fail in the other. Another ill conceived concept. Especially since these tax revenues are already reflected in the budget. What a way to operate.

To further illustrate my ire and the governments ineptitude read the following excerpt from a study by the CDC which everyone wants to ignore, “Perhaps smoking leads to decreased appetite, which is why overweight people smoke at a higher rate than obese people. Perhaps it leads to a more active social life, promoting weight loss, or preventing weight gain. Perhaps smoking changes the metabolic system so that the same caloric intake will not cause as much weight gain. If so, deaths due to smoking might counteract deaths due to obesity.” So why not promote smoking for the obese? Sounds insane huh? The CDC doesn’t think so. But if you have to raise taxes, which you don’t, why pick on smokers? We’re only 21 percent of the population. The obese account for over 30 percent. If you can’t be fair and tax everyone equally, why not pick on the fat people. They account for almost an equal cost and death rate as smokers, and should surpass us in both categories in a few years. The most surprising fact I found is that most of smokers health care cost are incurred by private insurers while over half of the healthcare cost of the obese is paid for by Medicare/Medicaid. This is mostly due to the fact that more than 60 percent of people on government assistance are obese, double the hard-working people’s rate — what I’ll call the smoking class. We are paying them to get fat, then paying to get them healthy, just to keep them sponging off of us. A vicious circle. Since you can’t tax the fat non-working why not buy them some smokes. It’ll save money in the long run then you can ease up on the rest of us.

— Ed Johnson, Jeffersonville

Gag Order

Sinking Ship


Yet more departures from the McCain campaign.

Of course, they ruled out John Kerry around this time in 2004 too, but the good Senator's campaign appears to be sinking fast.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Reassessments

From the Indy Star:

Gov. Mitch Daniels today ordered property tax reassessments in Delaware, Posey and Gibson counties.

He had earlier ordered a do-over in Marion County. And more counties, he said, can expect the same action.

"These will not be the last," he said.

The state is still waiting for property-by-property data that allows the state Department of Local Government Finance to evaluate whether the assessments appear fair.

So far, the four counties where he has ordered reassessments have failed that test with commercial property suspiciously unchanged compared to residential property.

Because of the reassessments ordered in the four counties, taxpayers will pay their 2006 amounts.

Understatement of the Day

Baron HillDavid Mann, at the News & Tribune, takes a break from the copying and pasting of Baron Hill press releases to put out this story about yesterday's increase in the minimum wage.

It contains several interesting points:

Anderson says that Gov. Mitch Daniel’s health care plan is doing more to help the working poor than is the increase minimum wage. Daniels’ plan utilizes money from an increased cigarette tax to provide insurance coverage for about 132,000 uninsured adults. The plan will be available to those without employer-provided health insurance and who earn less than double the federal poverty level.

That's high praise.

It must make the Democrats feel inadequate for Mitch Daniels to have outdone them yet again, this time by championing poor Hoosiers.

Raising minimum wage was a campaign staple for many Democrats during the last election, including 9th District Rep. Baron Hill. The legislation was one of the first things passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives when it came to power earlier this year.

Hill could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. However, Katie Moreau, his press secretary, commented that the increase was long overdue and well received.

“It really did pass with huge bipartisan support.”

She called the more than $2 increase “pretty significant. I think it’s a great first step in evening the playing field,” Moreau said, “even if it only makes a small dent.”

There's the understatement of the day.

Such huge bipartisan support, in fact, that more Republicans voted for it than Democrats!

That's the truth of the matter.

The greatest accomplishment of the Democratic Congress thus far was not accomplished by the Democrats; 140 of them voted against it.

No, it seems that the greatest accomplishment of the Democratic Congress thus far was done by Republicans.

An Interview with General Petraeus

Radio show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt interviewed General David Petraeus on his show last week.

It's an interesting interview and well worth reading, regardless of what you think about Hugh Hewitt or the politics of his radio show.

The transcript is available here.

Particularly interesting are Petraeus' studied responses to some of Hewitt's more inflammatory and leading questions (about Iran and the domestic political situation back here in the United States).

The fact that Petraeus did not pander to Hewitt rather eviscerates the argument being made by some on the left that the general is some sort of right-wing tool and a pawn of the Bush administration.

If anyone is trying to politicize the war and make political advantage off of it now, it is the Democrats.

If anyone is trying to avoid politicizing the war and be apolitical, it is General David Petraeus.

Shout-Outs

Thumbs UpTwo new additions to the Hoosierpundit blog roll to announce today.

The first is Veritas Rex ("Truth is King"), a traditional values blog hosted by the Indiana Family Values Institute.

Today, they have posts up about unreported positive news from Iraq (yes, there is positive news from Iraq) and comparing European and American attitudes about government.

On the latter, I have often thought the origin of the American preference for limited government to rest in the reasons that many people came to America in the first place: they were escaping a government that was not so limited someplace else, and this view has since become deeply ingrained in the American national consciousness.

The second is Eliminate Property Taxes!, whose title pretty much speaks for itself.

Should be a topical subject for a good while to come here in Indiana.

Good reads, both.

Red Flag


2007 Turkish General Election; at least they didn't elect Hamas or the Taliban.

Who's in Your Wallet?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just Wondering...

Whatever became of Kenn Gividen's blog?

It seems to have been replaced with something else of a rather singularly exclusive focus.

Gambling & Property Taxes

From Lesley Stedman at the Courier-Journal:

But the surplus would only provide about $250 million for tax cuts. That's not much if bills increase as much statewide as they have in a few hard-hit counties.

So don't be surprised if lawmakers start looking for other sources of revenue to help pay for tax cuts.

And what is their favorite source of fast cash? Gambling.

After all, while Indiana has a lottery, casinos, charity gambling and soon will have horse tracks with slot machines, there would actually be more ways to expand if lawmakers wanted more money.

It's a good bet the advocates of such moves are salivating at the thought of a special session.

Let's not just kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Let's draw it, quarter it, and drive back and forth over it with a truck.

As it stands, the state's coffers benefit disproportionately from the gambling of people who are not Hoosiers (people from other states coming to a casino, rather than people from Indiana coming to it).

People from other states will not, by and large, go to bars to gamble if gaming is approved at such establishments; the balance will be turned upside-down.

And if Indiana isn't already at the point of diminishing returns for tax revenue from gambling versus the costs (tangible and otherwise), we will be if things like this go forward.

Even more gambling to finance more one-time property tax relief?

Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Poll: Muslims Reject Suicide Bombings

Didn't see this coming, did you?

Muslims around the world increasingly reject suicide bombings and other violence against civilians in defense of Islam, according to a new international poll dealing with how the world's population judges their lives, countries and national institutions.

A wide ranging survey of international attitudes in 47 countries by the Pew Research Center also reported that in many of the countries where support for suicide attacks has declined, there has also has been decreasing support for al-Qaida leader Osama bin-Laden.

Most notably, the survey finds large and growing number of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere rejecting Islamic extremism. Ten mainly Muslim countries were surveyed along with the Palestinian territories, as well as five African nations with large Muslim populations.

For example, the percentage of Jordanian Muslims who have confidence in bin Laden as a world leader fell 36 percentage points to 20 percent since 2003 while the proportion who say suicide bombing is sometimes or always justified dropped 20 percent points to 23 percent. Other countries where support for bin Laden declined are Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan and Kuwait.

The report said support for such bombings and terror tactics has dropped since 2002 in seven of the eight countries where data were available. In Lebanon, the proportion of Muslims who say suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified fell to 34 percent from 79 percent while just 9 percent of Pakistanis believe suicide bombings can be justified often or sometimes, down from 33 percent in 2002 and a high of 41 percent in 2004.

And here I thought support for violence and extremism were spreading like wildfire because of the war in Iraq.

Guess not.

Longfellow's Omission

Monday, July 23, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Remember Evan Bayh?

You know, the junior senator from the Hoosier state that gets no press and less attention than Dick Lugar on those rare occasions when he takes a position on anything?

The guy with better hair than John Edwards and less personality than Al Gore, whose presidential campaign lasted all of five minutes?

You might also remember that our esteemed former governor had a few ethics problems, to say nothing of the questions raised by the positions held by his wife and the interesting timing of her exercise of stock options relative to some of his votes.

Anyway, you should remember Evan Bayh.

Your tax dollars are going to the Senate Legal Counsel to pay to defend him against an ethics complaint:

SENATE RESOLUTION 274--TO AUTHORIZE REPRESENTATION BY THE SENATE LEGAL COUNSEL IN THE CASE OF LEWIS V. BAYH

Mr. REID (for himself and Mr. McConnell) submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to:

S. Res. 274

Whereas, in the case of Lewis v. Bayh, Case No. 07-CV-0939 (D.D.C.), pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the plaintiff has named as defendant Senator Evan Bayh;

Whereas, pursuant to sections 703(a) and 704(a)(1) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, 2 U.S.C. §288b(a) and 288c(a)(1), the Senate may direct its counsel to defend the Senate and Members, officers, and employees of the Senate in civil actions relating to their official responsibilities; Now therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate Legal Counsel is authorized to represent Senator Evan Bayh in the case of Lewis v. Bayh.

Yes, that's right.

When Birch Evans Bayh III got into trouble for some shady dealings and some failures to disclose some of his financial activities, he got you to pay for defending him from those that pointed it out and filed complaints calling him on it.

But, worry not, the plastic Ken doll will utter a few "aw shucks" and fake a few winning smiles and no one will ever say anything in the Indiana press.

Hat tip: Hoosierpundit reader.

More Abortion Lies from Baron Hill

Baron's Over the HillHill on the Hill notes a vote by Baron against an amendment, offered by Mike Pence (R, IN-6) to strip funding from Planned Parenthood from an appropriations bill currently being considered by the House of Representatives.

For the record, this was House Roll Call #684.

The amendment (H.AMDT.594, to amend H.R. 3043) was specifically titled:

An amendment numbered 67 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit use of funds in the bill for Planned Parenthood.

Baron Hill, as stated, voted not only for the main bill (Roll Call #686) sending the money to Planned Parenthood, but he also voted against taking it out of the bill.

These two votes come on the heels of a vote by Baron Hill (blogged about here and criticized by Indiana Right to Life here) to end the so-called Mexico City Policy, which prohibits the use of American aid money to fund international aid groups that perform abortions.

Those votes don't reflect Hoosier values, Baron.

Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance

Political Hairbrains

Friday, July 20, 2007

Finding CAFE Religion, Too Late

According to Forbes, it seems that Baron Hill has decided that he is in favor of raising CAFE standards:

Reps. Baron Hill, D-Ind., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., last week proposed increasing the so-called CAFE standards to up to 35 mpg by 2022 - or a minimum of 32 mpg - for cars and trucks.

His press releases mirror this effort.

CAFE standards are fuel economy standards (in miles per gallon) that the government requires new cars to meet.

The higher the CAFE standard, the less gasoline a new car uses, the less its owner has to pay for gas, and the less oil we have to import from unfriendly people in the Middle East.

Mr. Hill made much in the last campaign about his opponent being responsible for high gas prices.

Such allegations were never supported by any actual examination of fuel price histories (though nobody in the media in the 9th District ever bothered to actually check).

According to the Department of Energy (Excel file warning), the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Midwest was $0.88 when Baron Hill entered office in January of 1999.

When he was voted out, in early November of 2004, gasoline cost $1.97 a gallon, a net increase of 124%.

When he returned to office, in January of 2007, gasoline cost $2.26 a gallon.

That means that, for the time Mike Sodrel was in office, from November of 2004 to January of 2007, gasoline prices went up all of 14% or so.

Today, gasoline is averaging $3.05 around New Albany, an increase of 35% just since Baron Hill returned to office.

And that is with prices having gone down since their peaks during the spring!

In all, gasoline prices went up $0.29 while Sodrel was in office, about 14%.

While Baron Hill was in office overall, however, gasoline prices have seen a net increase of $1.88.

That is a net increase of 213%.

It is also over six times, 648% to be exact, of the increase seen while Sodrel was in office, despite Hill attacking Sodrel for being in the pocket of the big oil companies.

In the seven months since Baron took office again, gas prices have seen an increase two and a half times the size that seen while Sodrel was in Congress.

Baron Hill, it seems, is good for the oil companies.

Moreover, when he was in Congress the first go around, Baron Hill had plenty of opportunities to increase the CAFE standards.

He voted against such increases as early as 2001.

Such standards have to be implemented gradually, and it takes many years for the effects of such CAFE improvements to be seen.

It is all well and good for Baron Hill to have found religion about CAFE standards now.

But if he had supported them in 2001, those increased standards would already be helping to drive the prices of gasoline down and reduce the amount of gas you would be needing in newer cars.

And, in case you noticed from the Forbes article at the top of this post, Baron's effort to increase CAFE standards is actually weaker than that being proposed by others, and much weaker than that which was passed by the Senate.

Gas prices soar while Baron Hill is in office, and he opposes efforts for us to use less gasoline in our cars.

He even has gone so far as to weaken new efforts to improve CAFE standards.

My wallet is not thanking you, Mr. Hill.

Batman BBQ

Democratic gubernatorial candidate (and Senate Minority Leader) Richard Young was on Abdul's radio show 1430 AM in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

You can download the interview in podcast form from their website (direct link to the MP3 file here).

From the intro music, it was an interview destined for hilarity.

Abdul began with the Superman theme and then with Superman from R.E.M.

I don't get 1430 down here, so I don't know if that's the typical intro bumper or not, but it made me think of a certain other caped superhero to which Young has sometimes been compared by the folks at Frugal Hoosiers.

The blows fell hard and fast on our hero, for the angry homeowners of Marion County were having none of his partisan spin game.

His answers were frequently faltering and he uttered a great many more "ums" and "uhs" than you would expect from someone seeking to be governor of Kentucky, let alone a great and educated state like Indiana.

Young spent much of the early portion of the interview referencing all his caucus (the tiny minority that it is) had done to warn of the looming problems with property taxes.

Back as early as 1998, Young said, he had tried to draw attention to the issue, including by sending letters to the governor.

Those letters, he said, went unanswered.

An angry caller, in the second half of the program, pointed out that there was a Democratic governor in 1998, and still nothing had been done about the problem.

I am not sure whether Young actually was calling attention to property taxes then (as claimed), but it seems certain that his own party's governor was ignoring him if he did.

Called out on this, Young had no answer.

Certainly, it was a lackluster performance.

Judy O'Bannon might be starting soon to seek a new source for a generous expense account.

Report Suspicious Behavior? Not Anymore

Government and homeland security officials frequently encourage citizens to report activity they believe to be suspicious.

The House passed legislation that would give such vigilant citizens legal protection, 304 to 121.

The Democrats and their ACLU allies don't want that, though, so they have secretly removed the "John Doe" amendment from the final version of the bill, which means that citizens who see something suspicious and report it could end up getting sued.

From the Washington Times:

Congressional Democrats today failed to include a provision in homeland security legislation that would protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leaders.

"This is a slap in the face of good citizens who do their patriotic duty and come forward, and it caves in to radical Islamists," said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Republicans wanted the provision included in final legislation, crafted yesterday during a House and Senate conference committee, that will implement final recommendations from the September 11 commission.

Mr. King and Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico Republican, sponsored the provision after a group of Muslim imams filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against US Airways and unknown "John Doe" passengers. The imams were removed from US Airways Flight 300 on Nov. 20 after fellow passengers on the Minneapolis-to-Phoenix flight complained about the imams' suspicious behavior.

On March 27, the House approved the "John Doe" amendment on a 304-121 vote.

"Democrats are trying to find any technical excuse to keep immunity out of the language of the bill to protect citizens, who in good faith, report suspicious activity to police or law enforcement," Mr. King said. "I don't see how you can have a homeland security bill without protecting people who come forward to report suspicious activity."

While the conference is not likely to meet again, Mr. King noted the conference report has not been written and says he will continue discussions with Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, to insert the "John Doe" language.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and ranking member of the committee, announced afterward she will attempt to attach a similar bill to an education measure currently under debate on the Senate floor.

Yup, that's protecting the homeland.

Don't point out the guy that wants to learn how to fly a plane but not land, because he might sue you.

That's real smart.

Tough Choice

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Property Tax Relief is Spelled "DANIELS"

Hat tip to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz for the title.

He already took a number of small measures to help alleviate the property tax situation.

Now, in a few swift strokes, the Governor has vaulted into the lead on the property tax issue by ordering a reassessment in Marion County and appointing a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel chaired by Chief Justice Randall Shepherd and former Governor Joe "The Eyebrows" Kernan to investigate long-term solutions (principally by reforming local government).

It is an interesting irony that the Governor, by virtue of his established reputation as a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" reformer, may be one of the only elected officials in the state capable of not only riding out the property tax situation but--by actually doing something about it--turning it to advantage in his reelection effort.

The political situation for the Democrats is so poor (Peterson's reelect numbers have reportedly tanked in private polling) that they have taken to circulating a rumor (debunked here by Gary at Advance Indiana) that the House Republicans will focus first on the gay marriage amendment in any special session of the legislature before addressing property taxes.

Only in a very small constituency indeed is the mention of consideration for the marriage protection amendment considered scaremongering, and I don't think that House Republicans would be so foolish as to put it before fixing property taxes.

When the Democrats have to resort to their own version of a reverse "WedgeWhack!" then you know they are in big trouble.

Quote of the Day

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.”
- John F. Kennedy

"Best Governor We've Had in 80 Years"

So says property-tax activist Andrew Horning in an op-ed to the Indy Star:

My thanks to all who were with us at the governor's residence in body or spirit for the July 4 Fair Tax rally. But I'd like to correct a few misconceptions.

Anger is appropriate, obviously. But anger is useful only when informed and then harnessed to appropriate and effective action. Citizens cannot truthfully claim surprise at what is happening to us now. I am not the only person who, since at least 1999, has been writing, campaigning and publicly speaking about a building tax problem. This has been in newspapers, blogs, TV reports and many candidates' campaign literature for many years.

We as voters must collectively accept our responsibility for the problems we're now protesting. We cannot solely blame the politicians we hired. They did only what comes naturally to them when we turn our backs on what they do and vote them our approval.

Granted, the governor should not allow a federal judge to unconstitutionally order Indiana into further violation of the Indiana Constitution, particularly Article 8 regarding the Common Schools Fund and corporate property tax.

But I did not choose the governor's residence as a protest against him. Mitch Daniels is, in my opinion, and despite many frustrating actions or inactions, the best governor we've had in 80 years.

I am asking the governor, as the official "cop" of the Indiana Constitution, to help us. He has shown some desire to do so.

Yes, citizens should be angry. But we cannot expect lawmakers to be any more united in action than we are. We have demonstrated our anger; now's the time to demonstrate unity.

Don't just get mad. Get focused. Get serious. Do your homework, think and act.

It's notable that Horning wrote this even before Daniels' actions yesterday (ordering a Marion County reassessment and appointing a blue-ribbon commission to ensure a long-term fix to the problem).

A Federal Issue Now?

Baron Hill and his staff never cease to surprise.

I don't know how property taxes became a federal issue, but apparently they merit a Baron press release:

“I am very concerned about the huge increases in property taxes that many Hoosiers must now pay,” Hill said. “I am pleased we got the opportunity last night to speak with Governor Daniels, face to face, about this issue.”

“I understand Governor Daniels’ argument that increased spending by Indiana’s towns and cities could result in an increase in property taxes,” Hill said. “However, I am not convinced this is the primary, or sole, reason behind the increase. This increase is too much for Hoosier families to handle. I have heard numerous stories about families who are distraught about figuring out how to pay their property taxes. I implore Governor Daniels to come up with a real and workable plan to provide Hoosier families with real relief.”

A while back, Hill sent out a press release urging the Governor to suspend the state sales tax on gasoline.

I am at a loss as to what sort of misunderstanding of federalism can cause a United States Congressman to send out press releases about fundamental state issues.

Maybe a misunderstanding called gubernatorial ambition, perhaps?

Their field is gaining no traction, after all, and those big piles of federal campaign donations can (unless I am mistaken) easily be rolled over into a less-regulated state campaign.

Yeah, That's Hate Speech

From the letters section of the News & Tribune:

Listen for true hate speech

“Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values.” There was a day in the not too distant past when a person wouldn’t think twice after reading that statement. And why should they? It’s a simple sentence that conveys something we’ve known for thousands upon thousands of years — that marriage is the innate institution of the family.

Recently, these very words were circulated in an e-mail through the Oakland, Calif., government’s open e-mail system and employee bulletin board. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has now labeled this innocent sentence as possible hate speech and a violation of the First Amendment protections.

Have we come so far in the United States that we have completely lost the ability to discern the difference between “hate speech” and “free speech?” In regard to this matter, I would specifically like to mention the “hate crimes” legislation at a federal level — H.R. 1592 and S. 1105.

I want to make it clear that I do not advocate true hate speech in any way.

Those that scream threats of assassinating our leaders or President, those that want men and women with different views locked up, those that encourage violence against others etc. should be punished as is already provided for by the laws on our books.

What I do have a problem with is our federal government having the power to prosecute what may be considered to some as politically incorrect speech. While violent crimes cannot be tolerated, the free flow of opinions and facts must be upheld and encouraged in a free society. That is why I am strongly against the passage of either H.R. 1592 or S. 1105.

In order to fully advocate the preservation of foundational principles of a free society, I would again encourage you locally to stand against H.R. 1592 and S. 1105 and uphold a free and great America.

— Kyle Forti, Chairman, IN Generation Joshua Network

It's worth noting that Baron Hill voted for H.R. 1592 in May when it came to the House floor.

Is "Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values" a sentence that Congressman Hill wants to define as hate speech?

Seems like it.

TV News Seen as Biased by 2 to 1 Margin

From the Rasmussen polling firm:

By a 39% to 20% margin, American adults believe that the three major broadcast networks deliver news with a bias in favor of liberals. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 25% believe that ABC, CBS, and NBC deliver the news without any bias.

Similar results are found for CNN and National Public Radio (NPR). By a margin of 33% to 16%, Americans say that CNN has a liberal bias. The nation’s adults say the same about NPR by a 27% to 14% margin.

There is one major exception to the belief that media outlets have a liberal bias—Fox News. Thirty-one percent (31%) of Americans say it has a bias that favors conservatives while 15% say it has a liberal bias.

When it comes to delivering news without bias, 37% believe NPR accomplishes that goal. Thirty-six percent (36%) say the same for Fox and 32% believe it’s true of CNN. As noted earlier, just 25% believe the major broadcast networks deliver news in an unbiased manner. Results for other media outlets will be released over the next week.

Harsh Reality

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Hair: Use the Budget Surplus to Provide Property Tax Relief

Well, this didn't take long to happen at all, did it?

From the Courier-Journal:

INDIANAPOLIS -- House Speaker Pat Bauer yesterday proposed using money from the state's budget surplus to lower property-tax bills, a move that would leave the state with no cushion in its main checking account.

Bauer, D-South Bend, said the state should pay more of the counties' costs of services for abused and neglected children, which could reduce total property-tax levies by about 4 percent statewide.

But he said only counties that act to reduce property taxes by increasing their income tax rates should get the relief.

"This would be a carrot to get them to adopt that," Bauer said.

The speaker released his plan just hours after state Treasurer Tim Berry announced the state finished the 2007 fiscal year on June 30 with a $1.28 billion surplus.

Most of that money, however, is in state savings accounts, including the rainy day fund, which has been reserved for emergencies. Some of the money has already been dedicated to expenses next year.

That leaves just about $250 million in extra cash in the general fund, which is used as the state's main checking account. Berry cautioned against spending the money, saying Indiana's reserves already fall below recommended levels.

But Bauer said the state should help homeowners who are suffering average property-tax increases of 24 percent statewide. The increases have been higher in some areas, including Marion County, where homeowners staged a fourth large protest yesterday.

The speaker's plan would cost at least $260 million and as much as $300 million, which might cause lawmakers or the governor to dip into the rainy day fund.

It also would require legislative approval, although Bauer said he prefers that lawmakers consider it in November, when they gather to organize for their 2008 session, rather than meeting in special session before then.

Mitt Romney's "Hidden Beauty"

From Politico:

What kinds of things do you think of when you hear "communications consulting"?

Speechwriting? Message strategy?

Well, "communications consulting" is how presidential candidate Mitt Romney recorded $300 in payments to a California company that describes itself as "a mobile beauty team for hair, makeup and men's grooming and spa services."

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden confirmed that the payments -- actually two separate $150 charges -- were for makeup, though he said the former Massachusetts governor had only one session with Hidden Beauty of West Hills, Calif. That was before the May 3 Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., co-sponsored by MSNBC and The Politico.

Overtaxed

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Show Me the Money: IN 9

It's a happy time for Baron Hill.

The election is far away, he has no declared challenger, and the campaign contributions from special interests and political action committees (PACs) are just pouring into his bank accounts.

Last quarter, Hill raised $309,434, including $54,197 from individuals and $255,224 from special interests and PACs.

In Q1 of 2005, Mike Sodrel raised $358,989, including $130,485 from individuals and $227,083 from special interests and PACs.

Sodrel beat Hill in money raised overall (by about $50,000), and he got about two and a half times as much money from individuals as Baron, but couldn't match Baron's ability to suck in the dough from Washington insiders and the special interests.

Some things, I guess, never change.

This quarter, Baron has done even better than his Q1 numbers.

As before, I have compared Hill's Q2 numbers to those of Mike Sodrel from Q2 of 2005.

"Winners" are in italics.

Starting Cash-on-Hand:
Mike Sodrel Q2 2005: $333,122.09
Baron Hill Q2 2007: $277,139.95

Q2 Net Receipts (Contributions):
Mike Sodrel Q2 2005: $189,421.94
Baron Hill Q2 2007: $322,440.73

Q2 Committee Receipts (from PACs and special interests):
Mike Sodrel Q2 2005: $129,911.94
Baron Hill Q2 2007: $192,750.00

Q2 Disbursements (Expenditures):
Mike Sodrel Q2 2005: $102,189.46
Baron Hill Q2 2007: $55,612.06

Ending Cash-on-Hand:
Mike Sodrel Q2 2005: $420,354.57
Baron Hill Q2 2007: $543,989.35

This quarter, Baron has pulled ahead in overall contributions compared to Sodrel's past numbers, and grown his lead in special interest and PAC money.

He now has a $540,000 lead on any Republican challenger, plus probably another half a million lead in intangibles like name recognition (assuming Sodrel does not run again and there is a new candidate).

With this big pile of money on his side, and no declared opponent, he is sitting pretty indeed.

Yet for all of his mighty fundraising prowess, Baron Hill is still below average.

The average vulnerable Democrat raised $374,000 in Q2, quite a bit more than Hill managed to get.

I like campaign finance reports, so I took a look at the big mountain of cash Baron is sitting so pretty atop.

It's interesting (and telling) to see just where he is getting his contributions and to which special interests he has sold himself for this quarter (let alone the prior quarter, which I might also look at sometime).

Mark Emkes (CEO of Bridgestone / Firestone Tires), $1,000 - Got to buy some Congressional goodwill for this sometime, I guess.

Melvin Hawkins (President & COO of the Cook Group), $2,000 - Baron, as we will see, gets an awful lot of money from the health care, medical, and pharmaceutical industries.

Brendan Kelsay (Gov Relations for Clear Channel Communications), $500 - Probably wants Baron to oppose the return of the fairness doctrine.

John Mellencamp (Singer), $4,600 - The rocker wrote a big check for his friend; I guess they got over that earlier spat about Baron voting for the Iraq War and voting to keep funding it when Baron decided he'd cut off funding for the troops.

Robert Myers (CEO of Kocolene Oil), $2,300 - But remember, Republicans are the ones taking money from oil companies to make gas prices stay high.

Daniel Peterson (VP of the Cook Group), $685.19 - More money from the health care industry for Baron.

Bren & Melvin Simon (The Simon Group), $9,200 - I guess I would be surprised if Indiana's own version of George Soros didn't give Baron any money.

Theodore Solso (Chairman & CEO, Cummins), $2,000 - Baron got a lot of money from folks at Cummins; about $6,750 in all by my count (and that's just the contributions that were itemized, let alone smaller ones that were not).

Theodore Widlanski (Professor, Indiana University), $4,600 - Baron got a lot of money, unsurprisingly, from lefty academics at Indiana University; about $7,144.09 total by my count (again, just itemized ones, not even including smaller contributions).

Friends of Patrick J. Kennedy, $500 - Ted Kennedy's son is setting a strong example for Baron, what with his interesting history of controversies, like driving his car into a barricade at the Capitol Building while drunk (or, as he claimed, "merely" on drugs); perhaps Baron aspires to emulate PJ's great quotation: "I've never worked an f***ing day in my life."

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $34,500 - They have a big investment in Baron; they need his vote to carry out their liberal agenda of record tax increases, swift retreat from the front lines of the war against the terrorists, and bigger government than you could ever dream of; Baron, of course, is hard to defend but he does come cheap.

AFL-CIO PAC, $1,000 - Labor unions are big bankrollers of Baron's campaigns.

Altria PAC (aka Philip Morris), $4,500 - Baron seems to take an awful lot of money from the tobacco companies.

American Hospital Association PAC, $8,000 - Remember this particular donation, the next time you go to the hospital and get that big bill for a thousand-dollar X-ray.

American Postal Workers Union PAC, $5,000 - Um, yeah, I'd be surprised if there was a union Baron didn't get money from.

AmeriPAC, $10,000 - This is the PAC of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. It recently got in trouble for raising huge amounts of money through legally dubious loopholes in campaign finance laws; Baron will take campaign contributions no matter how shady or dirty they are.

Barney Frank for Congress, $2,000 - Oh gosh. I don't know where to begin. If you thought Mark Foley was bad, just read about Barney Frank; his boyfriend ran a prostitution ring out of Congressman Frank's apartment.

Berman for Congress, $2,000 - I guess this is better than Howard Berman using his campaign money to give $275,500 in "consulting fees" to a firm run by his brother.

Boyd for Congress, $2,000 - Allen Boyd is one of the few Democrats on record as supporting the privatization of Social Security; it is a cause that Baron himself has verbally supported in the past.

Brown-Forman PAC, $15,000 - For Baron, WWJD doesn't mean "What Would Jesus Do"; it means "We Want Jack Daniels."

Clear Channel Communications PAC, $1,000 - In addition to the contributions from Brendan Kelsay, above; more bribes to oppose the fairness doctrine (which Baron shouldn't need incentives to oppose anyway).

DaimlerChrysler PAC, $2,000 - Maybe this has something to do with Baron's opposition to higher vehicle gasoline mileage (CAFE) standards.

Ford Motor Company, $2,000 - Ditto the above.

GlaxoSmithKline, $1,000 - All of the money he takes from health care companies and big drug companies sort of renders Baron Hill's rhetoric about health care empty and hypocritical.

Hoyer For Congress, $4,000 - Apparently, the dirty money from Hoyer's AmeriPAC wasn't enough for Mr. Hill. He wanted even more.

Indiana Muslim Political Action Committee, $2,300 - Um, yeah. I'm drawing a blank about what to say on this one.

Int'l Union of Painters and Allied Trades PAC, $1,000 - More union money for Baron; contributions like this must be why he voted to do away with the secret ballot for workers seeking to unionize.

International Association of Iron Workers PAC, $3,000 - Ditto.

Medtronic PAC, $1,000 - More money from the medical and health care industry to fund Baron's hypocrisy.

National Air Traffic Controllers PAC, $3,000 - More union money for Baron.

Nelnet Inc., $1,000 - Remember that political rhetoric about lowering student loan rates? Sort of rings hollow when you take money from an organization that is being investigated for screwing over students with higher interest rates.

Nuclear Energy Institute, $1,000 - Please give all your attention to Baron's claims of working to help the environment; please ignore that he is taking money from special interests that want to build more nuclear power plants.

Qwest Communications PAC, $1,000 - Telecoms are a big source of contributions for Baron.

Raytheon PAC, $2,000 - I doubt Baron's lefty supporters would be happy to know that he likes to take contributions from the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world.

Sallie Mae PAC, $7,000 - Another Baron contributor that has gotten in trouble for screwing over students with unfair lending practices; seeing a pattern here?

The Shaw Group PAC, $1,000 - This one's great. A company being investigated for fraud over federal contracts it received to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Triad Hospitals PAC, $2,000 - More money from the medical and health care industry to fund Baron's hypocrisy.

UAW PAC, $10,000 - Imagine that. Baron gets money from both the automakers and the auto worker unions. How do you square that circle?

United Mine Workers of America PAC, $2,000 - Unions again.

UnitedHealth Group PAC, $1,000 - Baron says health care is a right, just like it is a right for him to take money from the big insurance and health care companies.

Wal-Mart Stores PAC, $6,000 - I thought that the Democrats spent a lot of their time attacking Wal-Mart for not being unionized, but here Baron takes money from unions and from Wal-Mart. Go figure.

Nancy Pelosi For Congress, $4,000 - Where would Baron be without Field Marshal Pelosi to tell him what to do and how to vote?

For just a few thousand dollars, you too can buy a bit of Baron Hill.

He's quite clearly for sale, just look at all of these special interests that have given him so much money.

Baron has got a proven record of voting in line with the contributions, after all.

Shout-Outs

Thumbs UpA bunch of new additions to the Hoosierpundit blog roll to announce today.

The first is Paint the 8th Red, which has no love at all for 8th District Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth.

The second is Polis Politics, which focuses on the political scene in Indianapolis.

I particularly like their "Switched at Birth" series, which compares various figures in Indianapolis politics to actors and other famous people.

Third is The Tiger's Eye, which is written by a guy in Indianapolis who blogs about all sorts of interesting stuff (and links to me to boot).

The fourth is The Fort Wayne Blog, which has an interesting post about the travel preferences of the new Congress.

Hint: They like to go to the sunny Caribbean.

And, lastly, to the Baron Bibliography and National Links sections go The Real Baron Hill page and The Real Democrat Story blog, both from the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Good reads, all.