Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baseline Budgeting: “Versailles on the Potomac”

Imagine, for a moment, if you made a budget for your family and assumed that you would be getting a certain percent raise every year in perpetuity. Then imagine that you're a public sector worker.

But I repeat myself.

Anyway, no one in their right mind assumes in financial planning the sort of assumption inherent in baseline budgeting, namely that spending will increase along some arbitrary percentage forever. It's that sort of madness that makes spending freezes appear to be spending cuts.

These days, a spending freeze isn't enough to undo the current levels of deficit spending. Genuine spending cuts, reductions in absolute dollars of spending, are what is truly necessary.

And yet, most of the deficit reduction plans being discussed in Congress, from Reid and Boehner, are based upon spending freezes moreso than spending cuts. The "cuts" are all the result of spending either not growing or money not being spent many years down the line.

That's not a cut. That's like a fat person promising to go on a diet tomorrow, after they're done with the all-you-can-eat buffet they're gorging on tonight (perhaps deciding for good measure, after feasting on many plates of food, to not go back for a third desert and consider that counting toward tomorrow's diet).

The "spending cuts" contained in current proposals assume a level of fiscal probity by Congress that it has never, under either party, been able to show in eight decades. It is unlikely to manifest such virtue in terms of spending decisions now, and at the very least should not be trusted to do so.

Congress has never been able to do these things. It is unlikely to find the ability to do so in the next six days. In that sense, the entire search for a "deal" raising the debt ceiling in exchange for promises of future spending "cuts" is an exercise in folly.

Historian Arthur Herman, writing over at National Review, makes a very good point along these very lines that contains a troubling lesson from the past:

On a chilly morning in March 1788, Louis XVI’s finance minister sat down and drew up what was the first entirely truthful budget of the French monarchy — which almost turned out to be its last. It revealed that some 500 millions of revenue were offset by 629 millions in expenses, of which more than 50 percent went for service on the royal debt — a debt largely racked up, ironically enough, by Louis’s support for the American war for independence. For the first time, it was apparent that the system created to rule France since the days of Louis XIV could no longer continue. It was on that day, not the fall of the Bastille more than a year later, that the ancien régime ended.

Something similar is happening with the current debt-limit imbroglio. Some people compare our current political turn, including the growth of the Tea Party, to the American Revolution. A far better comparison is with the French Revolution. Our ancien régime is tax-and-spend Washington, which Franklin D Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and a host of lesser Sun Kings built and which the current dauphin Barack Obama wants to sustain. A corrupt bloated French monarchy sustained itself on the lie of divine right of kings, which made the king’s will law. Our Versailles sustains itself on a lie called baseline budgeting.

Created in 1974 by the same Democratic congressional majority that handed over South Vietnam to the Communists and gave us the CAFE standards that ruined the American auto industry, baseline budgeting forced the Office of Management Budget for the first time to consider growing government as the fiscal norm, and reduced spending as an aberration. Even reducing the rate of spending was redefined as subtracting money, not adding money by a slightly lower amount. This has created a system which today’s Congressional Budget Office would score a freeze on all government spending as a $9 trillion cut, even though there’s no reduction in spending at all.

The root of the dilemma we face is not political or fiscal, but moral. Until Congress overturns an accounting system that deliberately distorts empirical reality, we will never escape the corruption it entails — or the catastrophe that’s coming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chocola: “Hoosiers Can and Should Call Senator Lugar a Good Man, But They Can't Reasonably Call Him Conservative”

Former Hoosier Congressman and Club for Growth President Chris Chocola rips Dick Lugar in a letter to the Indianapolis Star:

New York City Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and David Gogol, a former staffer for Sen. Richard Lugar, bizarrely and inaccurately defend Lugar's vote in favor of the 1978 bailout of New York City as an act of "fiscal conservatism and leadership" (My View, July 20).

They're wrong. A simple review of Lugar's record does not reveal a conservative.

The Club for Growth recently ran television advertisements in Indiana urging Hoosiers to tell Lugar to stop his big-spending, pro-bailout ways. Our ad, the impetus for the op-ed by Goldsmith and Gogol, states: "Lugar voted for the Wall Street bailout, the car company bailouts, the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Back in the 1970s, he even voted to bail out New York City. Now, with $14 trillion in debt, Lugar will soon vote on raising our debt limit even higher. After 35long years, tell Richard Lugar: no more debt."

Gogol and Goldsmith don't dispute any of this. They simply argue that the New York bailout was the right thing to do.

Gogol and Goldsmith argue that it would have been bad for Lugar to vote "against a bad bill that would have passed." That should tell you all you need to know about Washington. Lugar could easily make the same argument about his votes for the Wall Street Bailout, or the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Such an argument is not comforting to thousands of Hoosiers whose tax dollars were used to salvage the big Wall Street banks.

The fact is that over his 35 years in Washington, Lugar has consistently voted for more spending, federal bailouts and more debt.

In 1979, Lugar voted to bail out Chrysler with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. In 1982, he voted to increase the gasoline tax. In 1983, Lugar voted to increase Social Security taxes. In 1984, he voted against a 10-percent cut in the federal budget.

In 1995, Lugar voted against a work requirement for welfare recipients. In 1998, he voted against a $195.5 billion-dollar income tax cut. The list goes on and on.

In 2005, Lugar voted to keep the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska. He voted for a Democratic "cap-and-trade" scheme in 2003. In 2007, Lugar even voted against the view that Congress has a "moral obligation" to reduce deficit spending. More recently, he opposed the Republican Senate conference decision to ban so-called "earmarks," or the pork projects of lawmakers that have added to our red ink.

As Lugar runs for re-election, his surrogates should be careful not to distort his record lest they hurt their own credibility. After 35 years, Hoosiers can and should call Senator Lugar a good man, but they can't reasonably call him conservative.

“We’re Looking to Raise Taxes in 2013″

Gee, that's the perfect reason to vote to reelect Barack Obama, isn't it? Guaranteed higher taxes. At least he's being honest (for once). But then, so was Walter Mondale, and we know where that got him in 1984.

Random Thought

If Dick Lugar has a new energy plan involving more drilling and more energy conservation, why hasn't he already gotten most of it implemented in the previous 36 years he has been in office?

It couldn't possibly have anything to do with him having a primary opponent and actually having to work about issues that matter to Hoosiers, like gasoline prices and the economy, would it?

Dick Lugar is concerned about jobs. His job, and his staff's job. The economy is really bad right now; it would be hard for them to be suddenly unemployed. So he's now very concerned about what he can do to keep his job, and his staff is very concerned about how to keep their jobs. So now they're concerned about the economy.

They didn't care a lick about it before, because it didn't impact their own jobs one bit.


NASCAR Invocation

There are no words.

How Hot Is It?

...not as hot here as it is over there.

Sky-High Debt Ceiling

Lugargeddon: Mourdock 34% Lugar 32%

Remember the invincible Dick Lugar?

The mighty campaign machine (nevermind it hasn't run a serious race in three decades).

The mountain of money (nevermind that Lugar had the worst fundraising in Q2 of any incumbent Senator facing a serious challenger in the primary or the general election).

The establishment support (nevermind that 75% of GOP county chairmen endorsed his opponent and 75% of GOP mayors and mayoral candidates, including those of all of Indiana's large cities, wouldn't endorse him).

The feeble fundraising of the Mourdock campaign (nevermind that Mourdock's fundraising is proportionately better than that of virtually any conservative insurgent challenger in the 2010 cycle).

And now, once again, we are reminded that Emperor Lugar has no clothes.

The Club for Growth polled the Senate race. They did a straight-up ballot test (no pushing). The results showed Mourdock leading Lugar, 34% to 32%. 69% of Hoosiers said they wanted a change in who represents them in that Senate seat, a horrible number for any incumbent.

The poll:

The poll was conducted by the Republican polling firm Basswood Research, on July 23-24, 2011. The sample contained 500 likely Republican primary voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.4%.

Results from the Club for Growth poll in Indiana:

If the Republican Primary election for U.S. Senator was held today, and the candidates were Richard Lugar and Richard Mourdock, for whom would you vote?

Mourdock 34%
Lugar 32%
Undecided 34%

Would you say the following statement is true or untrue? “Richard Lugar has done some good things for Indiana, but after thirty-five years in Washington, it’s time for a change.”

True 69%
Untrue 19%
Don’t know/Refused 12%

To date, Club for Growth PAC has not made any endorsement in the 2012 U.S. Senate race in Indiana.

It's hard to overstate just how bad these numbers are for Lugar. The "time for a change" number is awful in and of itself, let alone being beaten in a straight up ballot test against the less-known Mourdock. Everyone knows Dick Lugar already, and over two thirds of Republican primary voters already want someone new representing them in the Senate.

Are they going to change their minds? Lugar will have to convince a lot of them to do so (and it's difficult to see Republican undecideds breaking toward Lugar in this sort of race, particularly if his opponent runs a competent and viable campaign, something that shouldn't be difficult at all with polling numbers like this).

The Mourdock folks, obviously, found in the numbers an explanation for much of the Lugar campaign's recent behavior:

“It confirms the grumblings we have heard on the campaign trail that people are wanting a change,” says Chris Conner, spokesman for GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in reference to the Club for Growth poll that shows Mourdock up by 2 points.

“Provides some insight to why (Richard) Lugar is running TV adds so early,” he adds, “and to some of the negative comments being made by his campaign towards us in various forums. ”

Of course, the Lugar camp got the vapors over the Club poll and sniffed with haughty derision. They fell back to the old standby so common among folks that don't like the results of a given poll. Rather than answer the issues behind the numbers, they attacked the poll.

“The data released by the Club for Growth does not resemble anything we are seeing,” said Lugar Political Director David Willkie. “Before commenting on a purely publicity driven poll commissioned by an outside group that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against us, we need to know much more about the methodology.”

You might remember David Willkie. He's the grandson of 1940 presidential candidate Wendell Willkie, don't you know. And, back in early May, he sneeringly declared that anyone supporting Mourdock had been "duped" and went on to implicitly threaten that Lugar would rather run an independent campaign than be defeated by conservative rabble.

And yes, the Club for Growth has spent $158,000+ in a single week on commercials critical of Lugar's voting record. You see, the refuge of folks who don't like poll results but can't counter them is to attack the poll. Been there, done that. It's in the book on page one.

Lugar didn't go up on television to counter the Club for Growth's commercials for no reason (and the Club outspent him by 50%). He didn't send out a negative mail piece leveling false and misleading attacks against Richard Mourdock for no reason. He almost certainly sees his numbers moving in a bad direction after the Club for Growth's media buy, and he had to try and stop the bleeding.

The illusion of invincibility is all Dick Lugar has. When it's gone, he's just a RINO that is badly out of sync with Hoosier Republicans, with a record of supporting a very unpopular president, who hasn't run a serious race in decades, has neglected the voters of his state for nearly as long, and faces the toughest challenge of his career at a time when most wise politicians would be pondering the positive aspects of having their state be represented by fresh blood.

Lugar's political acumen is antiquated; this is the first race Lugar will have used microtargeting, a practice that has been commonplace in politics (even in local races) for almost a decade.

Lugar's perspective is distorted; he recently said he found encouragement to seek reelection from airport security screeners, who may be among the most disliked people in America.

And his perspective of his own value in office is grossly overinflated; Brian Howey, a reporter who has been a ceaseless cheerleader for Lugar ever since the senior senator took him along on a trip to Russia (who paid for Howey's trip, I wonder), gives weekly homage to Lugar for Indianapolis not disappearing beneath the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb. At campaign fundraisers, Lugar distributes a seven-chapter DVD series about his important accomplishments and contributions to Hoosier, American, and world history.

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Mourdock's New Web Ad

After being criticized by the Club for Growth over his voting record, Dick Lugar has put up his first commercial (which contains stock footage showing Lugar walking alongside Ronald Reagan in the 1980s; even then Lugar had gray hair).

Ponder, for a moment, the notion of a campaign for an incumbent that has to go on the air with a defensive media buy ten months out from the election. Would you say that incumbent believes himself to be in a position of strength, or of weakness?

Strong incumbents wouldn't feel threatened with a one-week media buy, would they? Of course not.

But Dick Lugar and his campaign obviously feel threatened; they're up on the air with a response and in your mail box with a negative mailing containing misleading attacks against Lugar's opponent, Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock's campaign answered Lugar's commercial first with a searing statement:

Two things are predictable from Senator Lugar’s campaign: he will try unsuccessfully to distance himself from President Barack Obama, and he’ll try, desperately, to recreate himself as a conservative by invoking decades-old images of President Ronald Reagan.

Unfortunately, for Senator Lugar, his 35 years in Washington have changed him, and he’s no longer the same person. To paraphrase President Reagan, ‘Well Dick, facts are stubborn things.’

The Dick Lugar of today helped Barack Obama win the Hoosier State by appearing in Obama’s Indiana presidential TV ads. (Obama's American Leadership TV Ad)

The Dick Lugar of today came out early to support Obama’s liberal appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, who will spend decades undoing the good work of Ronald Reagan.

The Dick Lugar of today says Obama is bad for business, but it was Dick Lugar who voted for bigger government through greater regulations on everything from light bulbs, to expensive mileage standards and the establishment of new Department of Energy bureaucracy to validate the octane ratings of bio-fuels. Let’s not forget, Ronald Reagan wanted to do away with the Department of Energy, not enlarge it.

The Dick Lugar of today voted for the Obama-supported auto and bank bailouts.

And of course, after all of this, in the midst of one the greatest debates over the direction of our country’s economic future, Dick Lugar refuses to support the common sense Cut, Cap & Balance Plan that would get federal spending under control and finally pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Facts indeed are stubborn things, and the fact is, Dick Lugar has been changed by 35 years in Washington. His votes for bigger government and increased regulation are inexcusable. It’s time to bring him home.

And then with a hilarious web ad:

And a pretty funny new website, too.

I've noticed that some Lugar supporters have sniffed at the notion of Mourdock having a web ad and Lugar having an ad on television.

At this point in a normal campaign cycle, voters in the broader electorate are not paying much attention to campaign commercials on television (topical and timely issue ads, such as that by the Club for Growth on the debt vote, are a different story).

Those folks (and not just in Indiana, but nationwide) that are interested in politics or campaigns are paying attention to web ads. They help with fundraising, they motivate supporters, and they are a cost-effective means for communication at this stage of the campaign.

It's not abnormal or deficient for Richard Mourdock's campaign to be running a web ad ten months out from the election. What's abnormal and deficient is for the Lugar campaign to be forced to run a TV ad to bolster their faltering numbers ten months out from an election.

Casino Kingpin Steve Wynn Rips Obama


I believe in Las Vegas. I think its best days are ahead of it. But I'm afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what's going on on this debt ceiling issue. And what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President and nothing's going to get fixed until the President himself steps up and wrangles both parties in Congress. But everybody is so political, so focused on holding their job for the next year that the discussion in Washington is nauseating.

And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems, that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration.And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America.

You bet and until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, God, don't be attacking Obama. Well, this is Obama's deal and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America.

The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest, their holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government and there's no need soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.

Audio also available here. Full transcript (lest there be any thinking that his tear Obama a new one was taken out of context) here.

“What Planet Is He On?”

Dan Coats is on a roll about Harry Reid's failure to do anything about the debt ceiling, about spending, and about the budget. It's great.

He really gets going about two-thirds of the way in, in case you don't have time to listen to the entire thing (but it's all worth hearing).

The Economic Cost of Roe v Wade

Red State has an excellent post looking at the economic cost of Roe v Wade.

It's sad to have to look at abortion through the lens of just how many people would now be generating economic activity and paying taxes to the government if they had not been aborted, but it may be one of the few ways of articulating the pro-life argument that big government liberals can understand and sympathize with.

Burton Took Campaign Contributions from Pakistani Agents


Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, a top congressional backer of Pakistan, said Tuesday that he was shocked by the arrest of the head of an advocacy group accused of being on the payroll of Pakistan's spy agency.

Burton said he will give to charity the campaign contributions he's received over the years from the executive director of the Kashmiri American Council if there are doubts about whether they were legal.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, the council's executive director and an American citizen, was arrested Tuesday on charges of violating lobbying rules for agents of foreign governments.

Prosecutors said Fai concealed the fact that a foreign government was funding and directing the organization's lobbying and public relations efforts in America. The congressional committees overseeing foreign relations were the centerpiece of the group's advocacy effort, according to prosecutors.

“I've known Dr. Fai for 20 years and in that time I had no inkling of his involvement with any foreign intelligence operation and had presumed our correspondence was legitimate,” Burton said in a statement.

Burton received more than $10,000 in campaign contributions from Fai since 1990, according to campaign disclosure reports. He also received $4,000 from Zaheer Ahmad, who was also charged Tuesday. Prosecutors said Ahmad recruited people to act as straw donors to the Kashmiri American Council to hide where the funding was coming from.

Burton was a top recipient of Fai's campaign donations. But others who received contributions included President Barack Obama and the campaign arms of Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Prosecutors said there is no evidence that any elected official who received financial contributions from Fai was aware that the money had originated from any part of the Pakistani government.

Burton said he will donate the contributions to the Boy Scouts of America “if there is any doubt about the origin of these contributions.”

This is exactly what Dan Burton didn't need after he barely squeaked through a primary challenge last year and faces another tough primary battle from the Indianapolis establishment next year.

Obama's Reasonable Deficit Solution

Unreasonable, rather.

Don't Need a Balanced Budget Amendment?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crash Party: RINO Susan Collins of Maine Hosting Fundraiser for Dick Lugar

According to Wikipedia, the collective noun for rhinoceros is a crash or a herd.

So when one RINO holds a party to raise money for another, as Susan Collins of Maine is now doing for Dick Lugar on Tuesday morning, I guess it's a crash party.

Birds of a feather flock together, et cetera.

Courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation:

The foundation has a nifty website that lists many (though not all) of Lugar's special interest fundraisers. It reads like a veritable who's who of lobbyists and corporate PACs (including the political action committee for British defense contractor BAE Systems, of all things). Dick Lugar is a busy man indeed (though too busy, it seems, to spend much time in Indiana).

Depending on your fancy, you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with Indiana's senior Senator, provided of course that your checkbook is big enough.

If you haven't seen Lugar lately, and want a Senator that actually spends time in Indiana and not with DC lobbyists, that will stand with conservatives and not with RINOs, you might want to mosey on over to Richard Mourdock's website and give him a bit of help.

Lugar Starts Buying TV

Looks like the criticisms leveled at Dick Lugar by the Club for Growth have hit a nerve.

Or, perhaps just as likely, the mighty Lugar campaign has taken a poll and seen its numbers starting to erode. And those numbers probably weren't all that stellar to begin with, or we would have heard Team Lugar boasting of them already (one could similarly contend that the Club wouldn't be airing ads if Lugar wasn't vulnerable to them).

Lugar also probably wouldn't be going up on television if he intended to vote the way the Club for Growth was urging him to vote in their ad.


Sen. Dick Lugar has purchased time for television ads to begin airing this week -- the most significant sign to date the six-term incumbent is taking his primary challenge seriously.

According to a source who tracks ad buys, Lugar is slated to go up on television in Indianapolis beginning this Wednesday through July 29 -- a 10-day run. While the size of the buy is not yet discernible, it's expected to be a statewide purchase, according to the tracker.

The Club spent $158,000 on its first week of television. It will be interesting to see how large Lugar's media buy is in comparison.

No Locke Star Shirts After All

Looks like my expectations of further amusement out of the sight of more "Locke Star" campaign t-shirts were short lived.

Sam Locke will not run for Congress:

The Democratic candidate for state auditor in last year's election has decided against making a run for an Indiana congressional seat.

Sam Locke of Floyds Knobs announced Monday that as a new father the timing wasn't right to start a campaign for the 9th District seat now held by Republican Todd Young.

Locke had said last month that he was considering the congressional race after being among the slate of Democratic candidates for statewide offices that lost badly to Republicans last year.

There are few options now left to the Democrats in the 9th District at this point. The Democratic bench in the 9th was shallow before. Now, deprived of Peggy Welch and Sam Locke, it is paper-thin.

There are five Democrat state legislators left in the entire 9th District. Three are Bloomington liberals (Pierce, Simpson, Welch) and are unelectable, not that any Democrat elected official currently in Bloomington would likely ever want to have to run a contested race. As it stands, as far as politicians go, they're living like God in France.

The other two are Richard Young, whose gubernatorial campaign was lackluster and any Congressional campaign could be seen to be likewise, and Steve Stemler, who has issues with his party on many levels and is reportedly personally disinterested in running.

The major Democratic cities in the district do not have mayors that are likely to run (Kruzan of Bloomington is too liberal, England of New Albany is reported to have health problems and declined reelection, and Galligan of Jeffersonville is fighting a reelection campaign).

What does that leave the Democrats with?

A return of Baron Hill? Unlikely.

Some county elected official? Perhaps, but who? The ranks of Democrat county elected officials were decimated across southern Indiana last year.

Perhaps a run by someone defeated in a 2010 legislative race? Sandy Blanton? Paul Robertson? Most of the others were drawn out of the district.

Perhaps a move into the district by someone currently drawn out of it? That seems unlikely.

At this point, I wouldn't rule out them recruiting an outsider from DC to come back to run where they grew up, much like they are doing with Jackie Walorski in the 2nd District. There is literally nobody else left.

The Democratic candidate in the 9th District could well end up being someone on the caliber of Barry Welsh in the 6th District, an ideological leftist (perhaps hailing out of Bloomington) who is a token candidate at best.

Shared Sacrifice, Defined

From National Review:

Compare and contrast:

It would require, even as we’re asking the person who needs a student loan or the senior citizen or people — veterans who are trying to get by on a disability check — even as we’re trying to make sure that all those programs are affordable, we’re also saying to folks like myself that can afford it that we are able and willing to do a little bit more.
-President Obama at last Friday’s press conference, explaining why budget cutbacks should apply to people like him


The level of resources provided in the bill would significantly impact the EOP’s role in assisting the President in carrying out his constitutional duties as head of the Executive Branch, including protecting national security interests, developing policies to address the challenges facing the Nation, reducing the deficit and spending taxpayer dollars more cost-effectively, and managing the Federal agencies.
-A White House letter to Congress explaining why cuts to the budget of the Executive Office of the President in the House version of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill are too steep. The bill reduces the president’s budget from $705 million to $640 million.

I think my favorite part is the argument that reducing the budget of the president’s office will hurt his ability to reduce the deficit.

As always with Obama, we're supposed to do as he says, not as he does.

I mean, if the White House budget got cut, how would he be able to afford to send Michelle on those nice vacations, fly around the county to raise money for his campaign, or play golf as often as he wants?

(And if those things, or part of them, fall outside of the EOP, why not cut them anyway?)

A High-Octane Challenger vs An Aging Legend

The Indianapolis Star's Russ Pulliam looks at Richard Mourdock in his column this week. Not merely his campaign, but Mourdock the man.

It's an interesting piece:

If he weren't challenging one of the most dominant players in Indiana's political history, Richard Mourdock might get more attention as a marathon-running geologist who likes to race cars on dirt tracks.

The personal side of Mourdock's life has been overshadowed by his attempt to defeat Sen. Richard Lugar for next year's Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Lugar, who has raised considerably more money than Mourdock, is the architect of modern Indianapolis, taking the city from no place to a big place on the national map. As a term two-mayor, Lugar brought in county-wide government and set the stage for the arrival of the Indianapolis Colts and other key initiatives.

Mourdock, however, thinks that Lugar has lost his conservative roots since his first election to the Senate in 1976.

Apart from his debate with Lugar, Mourdock, in his second term as state treasurer, would be an interesting candidate for any statewide office. Geologists usually study rocks, not politics. And how many top office-holders run in marathons?

Mourdock didn't start participating in marathons until he was 49. "I hated running," he said.

Yet, in his 20s he started jogging his age around birthday time -- 2.9 miles at age 29.

At 49, he wound up going 7 miles. A friend encouraged him to go farther. He ran in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in 2000, and took the big plunge to 26 miles in Washington, D.C., the next year.

Now he runs about 101/2-minute miles, or 4 hours and 40 minutes for the 26 miles. He plans to run the Chicago marathon this fall when he turns 60 years old.

He also like to race open-wheel cars on dirt tracks in Southern Indiana. He fixes up the engines himself. "I'm an absolute gearhead," he notes. "But I don't have the time to do it anymore."

Through his Evansville church, he's made seven mission trips to Bolivia and notes the impact of seeing Third World poverty up close. "You never see yourself and your country the same way again," he said. "You look at the broader world, not your own needs so much."

Former Indiana Secretary of State Ed Simcox thinks Mourdock will be more formidable than might be expected. "Mourdock is very energetic and industrious as a campaigner. That has endeared him to a lot of party people," Simcox said.

Marathons, rocks and dirt car races add up to an interesting candidate against an Indiana legend.

“Tough Headwinds”

Hostage Situation

Thursday, July 14, 2011

TSA Gropers Endorse Lugar

Shira Toeplitz of Roll Call has a great piece out about the primary battle brewing between Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock.

The entire thing is an excellent read, and it is replete with little gems of insight about the race. You'll want to read the whole thing.

One, in particular, caught my eye:

In an interview with Roll Call a few days later, the affable Lugar only once acknowledged that his race will be a “struggle.” He described supporters approaching him at airports, including Transportation Security Administration agents, offering their words of encouragement more often than he has seen in years.

“There’s a degree of interest that I’ve not seen before, and I think it’s probably impelled by their sense that this is a real struggle and they want to make certain that I know they’re on my side,” Lugar said.

That's right. Dick Lugar is running for reelection because of encouragement from airport security screeners.

You can't make this stuff up.

Then there's Lugar's discovery of "microtargeting" a technological marvel Lugar says proves his campaign is state-of-the-art, even though it has been used by political professionals for over a decade:

Lugar explained to the crowd gathered in the sweltering barn that his campaign is using “microtargeting” for the first time, describing it as process used to “define who the electorate is.” It’s part of just five minutes he spent talking about his re-election during the 40-minute speech.

Campaign professionals have used microtargeting for at least a decade. But the Senator’s unfamiliarity with the topic illustrates just how long it’s been since Lugar has had to run a tough campaign: 1982.

Or who could miss the wonderful and thoughtful gift Lugar is giving people that donate to his campaign: the gift of himself. Or, rather, a documentary about himself. It must be nice to have millions of dollars to piss away on such things:

Lugar is the state’s longest-serving Senator — a fact underscored on the jacket of the seven-chapter DVDs featuring Lugar’s “impact on important moments in the history of Indiana, the United States and the world” that were left for guests on the plastic tablecloths.

One can't help but think he got the idea from Obama, his favorite president, who gave the Queen of England a gift of recordings of his speeches.

Or how about the comparison about which candidate is working the hardest on the trail:

There’s no question Mourdock is out-hustling Lugar on the campaign trail.

Mourdock marched in his second of three parades on July Fourth in Lebanon, a city northwest of Indianapolis. As he crisscrossed the suburban streets, half a dozen people expressed their desire to see Lugar defeated. He worked the crowd, tossing out his campaign gimmick — pencils — to hundreds of parade-watchers.

“It’s surprising, it really is. You’ll hear it before we get done here. Someone will say something pro-Mourdock or just saying, ‘It’s time for a change,’” Mourdock said. “Have a pencil, ma’am.”

Lugar rarely marches in parades, staffers say. On the July Fourth holiday, his office publicized two events: a concert and an ice cream social at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis, the home of the country’s only Hoosier president, where about 100 people gathered.

I'd like to see Dick Lugar walk in just one (let alone three) of those Independence Day parades in ninety-degree heat and seventy-percent humidity to meet the people he's left behind here in Indiana and forgotten about for thirty-five years.

Of course there's the repetition of the "poor fundraising" trope, which is spin from the Lugar camp not substantiated by reality (as I discussed earlier this week):

Mourdock’s fundraising is anemic. He raised only $300,000 during the past three months — one-third of what Lugar brought in during the same time period.

But Mourdock won’t need much money to convince grass-roots conservatives such as Tom and Judy Schlegelmilch of Idaville, who are supporting his campaign.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

There's even a brief mention in there of Mourdock speaking to the Corydon Tea Party last week. That was his seventh visit to Harrison County in the past two and a half years (five of them before the Senate race). Lugar hasn't been here in over a decade. He was scheduled to visit the day after Mourdock (to a closed-door gathering of the Chamber of Commerce), but canceled due to the Senate staying in session.

Pence States the Obvious: Debt Ceiling Raise Necessary Because Obama Spends Too Much

At last, a moment of clarity.

It's a "duh" moment, I know, to acknowledge that we wouldn't be in this situation with a crisis over the debt ceiling if Obama and the Democrats hadn't spent five trillion dollars in the past two years (and before that, Obama himself was voting against raising the debt ceiling).

But it's still something that bears repeating, since people won't hear it otherwise.

The Hill:

Indiana gubernatorial hopeful, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) fired up his Republican colleagues at a closed-door meeting, telling them to reframe the debt-ceiling debate as President Obama’s problem.

Following a nearly 30-minute briefing by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on each step of the debt-reduction negotiations with Democrats to date, the former GOP Conference chairman stood up during open microphone time at Tuesday’s conference, imploring his colleagues to reframe the debt-ceiling debate.

“This is the president’s problem. We are running up against the debt ceiling because the president has promoted policies of borrowing and spending and bailouts and takeovers. This administration should be coming to us and asking what we need to get them out of this problem,” Pence said.

He explained to The Hill following the hour-and-a-half meeting, “My view is that the president’s been sitting back and telling us what he needs from the Congress, in the way of higher taxes. What I said to our colleagues is: We need to take three steps back and remind the administration and the American people that this is his problem."

Pence said he told his colleagues that leaders should tell the president that Congress is “willing to help you solve this problem,” but that any “help” must include cutting “spending by more than a dollar for every dollar for increase in debt ceiling."

"We need to cap spending [by] law and we need to make any increase in the debt ceiling contingent on sending a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification.”

Pence’s insistence that a deal must include the passage of a balanced-budget amendment would mean that the Senate, not just the House, would have to pass the constitutional amendment.

Of course, this sort of clarity isn't likely to be appreciated by Democrats. The lefty blog Indianapolis Times is already howling with rage:

I had to take three steps back and catch my breath when I read this. His problem? His problem? Last time I checked, Congressman, you live here too.

For a sitting member of Congress to call a national crisis, "the president's problem" is appalling.

Accountability is not something valued by Democrats, particularly when they create a problem that needs fixing.

What if Democrats had called 9/11 “Bush’s problem”?

As I recall, the Democrats spent seven years under George W. Bush saying just that and attacking the very policies in the War on Terrorism that their own president has now adopted and continued.

What if they had called the economic meltdown “Bush’s problem”?

But they did. Just like they said that Bush's eight years in office were the worst economy since the Great Depression. Well, at least that's not a line likely to be used by Democrats any time soon, is it? More likely, it will be used by Republicans. And Democrats will howl. Because of accountability.

What if they had called every death in Iraq and Afghanistan “Bush’s problem”?

They did. As just one small example, it was the surge, which Bush ordered and Obama and the Democrats opposed, which brought victory in Iraq.

Democrats spent the eight years George W. Bush was in office attacking everything he did. And they have spent the past two and a half years blaming him for all of their problems.

Pence would have lost his mind and called us all “unpatriotic” and “un-American.”

What’s truly “un-American” is to abdicate your duty as a “patriot” and public servant and try to score political points while people in your state are hurting.

Democrats should have been concerned about people in Indiana hurting when they were creating this mess in 2009 and 2010. They can blame the messenger, Mike Pence, for reminding people of that fact all they want. It doesn't change that fact, however.

They made this mess, and getting out of it is going to require some concession and agreement on their part to end their behavior that got us into it in the first place.

Not the Earned Media Jim Wallace Wanted

As I noted earlier this week, Jim Wallace's big splash in the gubernatorial race might bring him a sort of attention he didn't want.

And it has.

The Associated Press:

A company owned by a Republican candidate for Indiana governor faces an uncertain future as the federal government moves to take over its biggest investor for failing to repay government loans.

TWG Capital is owned by James Wallace, who touted his business experience in May when he announced that he would challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Pence for the GOP nomination for governor.

The Indianapolis company's biggest investor, Chicago venture capital fund Cardinal Growth LP, is being taken over by the federal government for failure to repay $21.4 million in loans from the Small Business Administration.

Cardinal Growth owns about 80 percent of Wallace's company and both of TWG's board members are principals with Cardinal Growth.

According to court papers filed with the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Cardinal has borrowed $50.9 million from the SBA over the past decade but has had trouble paying off the loan.

Chicago-based Cardinal has agreed to be liquidated, with the proceeds going toward the loan. The firm told the Chicago Sun-Times it has had mounting losses.

"There's been significant write-downs on the portfolio. If a company is not performing well, you have to write down its value," Alan B. Roth, an attorney with Cardinal, told the newspaper. Wallace said his Indianapolis company, which provides money to insurance brokerages and agents, is not among the underperforming assets.

He told The Indianapolis Star that TWG is solvent, profitable and current on its financial obligations, but declined to provide financial records to the newspaper.

"We're rather insulated from Cardinal's other portfolio companies, but my understanding is that they had eight or 10 other companies, the bulk of which had already been sold, some at a profit, some at a loss, which triggered an audit by the SBA," Wallace said Tuesday.

TWG remains part of the Cardinal operation, as does one other company, a shrimp distributor in California.

Wallace, an insurance agent and former senior executive with Anthem/WellPoint and Conseco Inc., started TWG in 1999 to provide money to small, often cash-strapped insurance brokerages that wanted to grow. Over the years, he's provided capital to hundreds of insurance brokerages.

He said Cardinal approached him in 2002 with an investment proposal and after several months, the two firms struck a deal. Since then, Cardinal has invested more than $5 million into TWG, Wallace said. In return, it controls the board seat and 80 percent of the firm's shares.

Wallace, who said he doesn't have a formal title, shares leadership duties at TWG with a president and a chief financial officer.

Wallace said the overall impact of Cardinal's financial woes would be "pretty minimal" on TWG. He said the receiver could sell Cardinal's stake in TWG to another company and that TWG was not on the hook to repay the SBA loan.

"We're not at all affected by one of our investors' liquidation," he said.

Some political observers say the business problems could become a campaign issue for Wallace, who is largely self-funding his campaign.

"Whether or not this financial problem is Wallace's fault, it won't help people from bringing it up," said Andy Downs, assistant professor of political science at Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne.

Wallace, a former Hamilton County Council member, told the Star last week that his campaign will report about $930,000 in cash on hand later this month.

He and Pence are pursuing the GOP nomination, while Democrat John Gregg is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels cannot seek a third consecutive term under state law.

Wallace's basic problem is that in times of economic uncertainty, why would people vote for a guy whose business has a very uncertain future, when that guy's primary argument for voting for him is his business experience?

A Bit More on the Clubbing of Lugar

From Politico comes some details from the Club for Growth's media buy against Dick Lugar earlier this week.

Campaigns and interest groups rarely share the size of their purchases when rolling out ad buys.

That's why it's useful to take a peek at the specific breakdown when a helpful operative passes them along.

According to summary sheet shared with POLITICO, the Club for Growth's ad buy against Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana amounts to $158,917.

About 36 percent — $58,947 — was focused on statewide cable stations. The remaining $99,970 was spent on broadcast affiliates in Indianapolis. The Club spent the bulk of that money — around 80 percent — at the two top-rated stations, NBC affiliate WTHR and CBS affiliate WISH.

The Club chose not to go up in any other broadcast market.

The ad buy runs through July 21.

Peggy Welch Declines Political Suicide, Won't Run for Congress in 9th District

Roll Call:

State Rep. Peggy Welch (D-Ind.) will not challenge Rep. Todd Young (R) next year, depriving Democrats of one of their best candidates to take on the freshman Republican.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Welch called him last week to deliver the news.

“She would have been a great candidate, but we look forward to hopefully seeing her serve another term in the Legislature,” Parker said.

Local news outlets reported Welch’s interest in the House seat last month after the redrawn state legislative map moved her into a more conservative district.

Democrats are optimistic that state Rep. Steven Stemler will take a look at the race. Sam Locke, the Democratic nominee for state auditor last year, is also still considering a bid.

You read that right (and the Welch rumor was reported here first).

Democratic hopes now rest on Steve Stemler, who might well be the least popular Democrat (among other Democrats) in the entire state of Indiana. That might make him relatively more electable than your average Democrat, but it probably won't make him 1) receptive to entreaties by Democratic head honchos that have spent a very long time hating him, 2) very popular among liberals that now constitute the core of the primary electorate in the new 9th District, and 3) very popular among Democratic establishment donors (like unions), whose support will be vital to run a viable campaign.

I don't think that Stemler's chances to beat Young are any better than Welch's. His issues with his own party's leadership, his problematic relationship with important elements of the Democratic coalition (unions and university liberals chief among them), and the inherent Republican slant of the redrawn 9th District make any Congressional bid extremely chancy for Stemler. His redrawn House seat, meanwhile, is even more favorable to him than it was before.

I remain hopeful that Hoosiers will not be deprived of seeing more "Locke Star" t-shirts; they were a very rare sight in 2010, and their incredible corniness should be visible more widely.

Walorski Reports Huge Fundraising Totals, Draws DC Insider as Opponent

She raised $225,000 this quarter, has a district that is much more Republican than the one in which she recently nearly defeated an incumbent Congressman, and now has an opponent.

He's a defense consultant from Washington DC.

Yeah, that's going to end well for the Democrats.

From Politico:

Indiana congressional candidate Jackie Walorski raised $225,000 over the past quarter, unveiling her total on the same day she drew a Democratic opponent.

Walorski, who fell to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in 2010 by just more than 1 percentage point, has about $267,000 on hand going into the second half of the off-year.

“As a lifelong Hoosier, I am committed to ensuring the voters of the 2nd District have a representative who will listen to, and vote for them. I am confident our fundraising success will make certain we have the resources to share our vision with voters," she said in a statement to POLITICO.

As POLITICO reported earlier Tuesday, Iraqi war veteran Brendan Mullen entered the race in the open 2nd Congressional District.

But Republicans appear poised to make Mullen's residency an issue. For years he was a military consultant who lived in Washington, D.C., and just recently moved back to the district.

"It’s no surprise that Democrats are turning to a fellow Washington insider who will continue the same reckless tax-and-spend policies that have destroyed Indiana jobs," zinged National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

Esquire: Let Us Take a Moment to Savor the Summer of Obama

No, it's not a parody.

Before the fall brings us down, before the election season begins in earnest with all its nastiness and vulgarity, before the next batch of stupid scandals and gaffes, before Sarah Palin tries to convert her movie into reality and Joe Biden resumes his imitation of an embarrassing uncle and Newt and Callista Gingrich creep us all out, can we just enjoy Obama for a moment? Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement? Because twenty years from now, we're going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph. Whatever happens this fall or next, the summer of 2011 is the summer of Obama.

At least I don't think it's a parody.

But could they really be serious?

It's scary that they apparently are.

Confirmed Under Oath: Holding Social Security Checks Would Be Obama's Decision

Hot Air:

Even Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, couldn’t help but smile as Huelskamp asked for his help getting to the bottom of why Social Security checks might not go out Aug. 3, when the nation clearly has enough money — even under a debt limit budget — to cover the interest on its debt, Social Security and more (Huelskamp even had the chart to prove it!).

Goss confirmed the decision to send out Social Security checks (or not) would, indeed, be a Treasury Department (a.k.a. the administration’s) decision.

“The responsibility of the Social Security Administration per se, my boss, Commissioner Astrue, is to in fact determine how much in the way of benefit payments people are supposed to receive,” Goss said. “We send that information actually over to the Department of the Treasury. They are the ones who actually send out the payments, whether it’s electronic funds, transfers, or check.”

At that point, Huelskamp called out — in an admirably wry, polite way (a question is far friendlier than an accusation!) — what everybody in that hearing room already knew:

“I guess we’ll have to ask the Department of the Treasury and we’re having difficulty getting answers from them, but I see under no circumstances unless it was a political decision that the administration would refuse or withhold Social Security checks because there are sufficient receipts,” Huelskamp says in the video. “Can I ask you to ask the Treasury Department — because the administration just really doesn’t want to provide information and when you stand on the evening news and make a statement that 40-some million Americans are going to not receive their checks — would you ask the administration are they planning on withholding those checks and is there a reason they wouldn’t make those payments on Aug. 3?”

Goss said he’d be happy to work with Huelskamp to find an answer to his questions.

Don't hold your breath on getting an answer from Obama. Fear is one of the few bits of leverage he has left.

House of Cards

Don't Feed the Plants

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lugargeddon: Club for Growth Slams Lugar on Debt Ceiling, Upends Senate Expectations Game

Back in April, Club for Growth president (and former Hoosier congressman) Chris Chocola warned Dick Lugar that he needed to retire. To say that Lugar hasn't listened would be something of an understatement.

Chocola apparently felt that some emphasis was needed on his point.

Monday, the Club unleashed a media buy in Indiana attacking Lugar over the debt ceiling and his past record of votes for bailouts.

This is no fuzzy ad aimed at persuading Lugar. It's a hard-hitting spot designed to leave a serious mark, and it does.

I doubt that the Club would have run this ad if they thought there was much of a chance of convincing Lugar to come around to their position (though he may yet do so, though probably entirely out of craven political expediency and desire to be reelected, rather than as a result of this media buy).

Moreover, National Journal reports that the media buy for airing this ad in Indiana is in the six figures, and that ad will run statewide. At going rates for ads in Indiana, that is a pretty significant media buy, especially for an off-year out of the campaign season.

The conservative Club for Growth is launching a pair of television ads Tuesday warning Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., not to compromise on the debt ceiling fight while criticizing the two longtime incumbents.

"With 14 trillion in debt, Lugar will soon vote on raising our debt limit even higher," the narrator of the spot running in Indiana says. "After thirty-five long years, tell Richard Lugar: no more debt."

A source familiar with the size of the buys said that six figures are being spent on the commercial in Indiana. The Utah buy is not as large, the source said. The Club said in a release the ads will be running statewide.

"We think it would be probably best if he would retire at this point," Club President Chris Chocola said of Lugar in April.

And so, with one television commercial by the Club for Growth, vanishes the ephemeral fiction of the Lugar camp in playing the expectations game over the past week. The invincible Dick Lugar. The sinking Richard Mourdock. The race done before it started. And so forth and so on.

All gone with the wind.

Dick Lugar's current fundraising lead is meaningless when conservative organizations like the Club for Growth are willing to drop six figures for a week of television attacking him ten months out from primary day; they're just getting warmed up.

Lugar's staff can whisper sweet nothings into the ears of Indianapolis reporters (particularly certain "reporters" exceedingly inclined to be favorable to their candidate) falsely understating their own fundraising numbers when they know them to be higher and implying that huge fundraising numbers for Mourdock must be necessary lest the race be considered over, old boy. Then they exceed their own phony predictions and smile that their opponent must be doomed for not reaching their deliberately sky-high standard.

The truth is that Richard Mourdock's fundraising numbers are roughly on par with those of Marco Rubio in Q2 of 2009. And that's setting aside that campaigning in Florida is an order of magnitude more expensive than campaigning in Indiana. A weekly media buy in Indiana is a six-figure affair, for example. By comparison, a weekly media buy in Florida runs in the seven figures. Rubio had a lot further to go in Q2 of 2009 than Mourdock does.

The Hill:

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) raised more than $300,000 in the last three months for his campaign to defeat Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), enough money to allow the Tea Party candidate to compete against the longtime senator.

Mourdock's haul, provided by his campaign, is a solid but not overwhelming total for an outsider looking to knock off an entrenched incumbent. By comparison, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) raised a slightly higher amount, $350,000, during the same period in 2009. Rubio wound up forcing incumbent Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been the odds-on favorite in the primary, to leave the GOP before beating him and Democrat Kendrick Meek by a gaping margin in the general election.

Lugar, the most senior Republican in the Senate, has not had to run a real campaign in decades. He did not face major-party opposition in 2006, and the last time he was held to under 60 percent of the vote was in 1982. His respectable but not overwhelming total, combined with Mourdock's solid performance, indicate that this could be a tough race.

Mourdock's $300,000 or so is in line with the $350,000 or so Rubio posted two years ago in Florida, and that Florida Senate campaign facing Rubio was a much more ambitious and expensive undertaking than that facing Mourdock. Charlie Crist was a sitting governor with all of the associated machinery of his party and the National Republican Senatorial Committee establishment behind him.

The NRSC is sitting this one out and Mourdock counts the support of three quarters of Republican county chairmen in Indiana; Lugar, a former mayor of Indianapolis, could barely muster endorsements from a quarter of Republican mayors and mayoral candidates in the state (and none of those in major cities, including his own hometown).

All of Lugar's advantages, the entire expectations game manufactured by his campaign staff, is a house of cards. At a stroke, the Club for Growth's media buy has proven that (and then some).

The dynamic in Senate races such as this, where establishment moderates like Lugar face conservative insurgents like Mourdock, remains unfamiliar to political reporters (particularly in Indiana) and the expectations games that they play (or, perhaps rather in this case, allow themselves to be played).

The dynamic here is a new one to Indiana politics.

Traditionally, incumbents (particularly in primaries) were very difficult to beat. They had access to campaign resources vastly greater than their opponents (generally from special interests inside the Beltway) that were not available to challengers (both in primaries and in general elections).

One of the revolutions in politics brought about by the internet and the impact of the internet on grassroots politics is that challengers that would normally not have access to national-scale resources and donor pools now have them. Grassroots conservatives nationwide can now impact races and counter the traditional Beltway special interest fundraising advantages of entrenched incumbents.

We haven't seen this phenomenon in Indiana, yet, but we saw it play out in countless races in other states in 2010 with candidates far less able than Richard Mourdock and challengers much more entrenched than Dick Lugar.

The internet and the Tea Party are a force multiplier for grassroots conservatives nationwide. Now, with a few clicks, they can use their numbers to bring vast resources to bear very quickly (in 2010, the impact could be seen in some races overnight).

That's why endorsements from Erick Erickson (whose vigorous endorsement Mourdock recently landed) or Jim DeMint or Tea Party Nation or whoever (and those are probably coming down the pike eventually), are worth more than an endorsement from some mayor (or some county chairman).

The fundraising potential of out-of-state grassroots conservatives is the great equalizer in this sort of race. They're heavy artillery outside of the local battlefield that can land a devastating amount of conservative firepower on the incumbent establishment moderate with little to no warning.

And that's setting aside the impact of outside expenditures from conservative groups like the Club for Growth.

One of the key strategies for Mourdock in the coming months is not merely to build a campaign organization in Indiana, be a good candidate, and have a viable infrastructure in place (though he's doing all of these unglamorous things that don't often get mentioned among the Indianapolis cocktail party set).

It is just as important (and examples like Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle prove that it is even more important) to build a good mechanism for harnessing the energy of the conservative grassroots nationwide. And Mourdock is doing a very good job of setting the stage for just that.

This race is only just beginning.

Becky Skillman Planning Victory Lap

From the mail bag comes this bit of news:

Lt. Governor Becky Skillman today announced plans for her “Hoosier Crossroads Tour,” a 92-county tour over the next 18 months. The statewide tour kicks off Tuesday in Jackson County and will include working sessions with local government leaders and visits to community projects that were funded by agencies she directs.

“In the last seven years, I have been dedicated to visiting every county and being a voice for all of Indiana. I have seen the needs and helped with initiatives to meet the challenges. This 92-county tour will help formulate the best way to make an even greater economic impact on our communities,” Skillman said.

Beginning tomorrow in Jackson County, Lt. Governor Skillman will meet with local elected officials in a structured discussion. The primary question will be, “How can we work together to better serve Hoosiers?”

The discussion will include possible ways the state can help local units of government deliver services more effectively and efficiently, in addition to ways to boost the local economy. These meetings will occur in approximately 30 counties between now and the end of the calendar year. Lt. Governor Skillman plans to make recommendations to Governor Daniels prior to the 2012 legislative session.

While traveling, Skillman also plans to check on local projects that have received funding from state agencies. Skillman oversees the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Office of Energy Development, the Office of Tourism Development, and the State Department of Agriculture. These agencies primarily aid communities through financial investments and other programs.

These agencies have administered more than 1 billion in funding assistance for local projects, such as housing developments, local governments’ capital projects, and energy initiatives.

“We have invested time, effort, and money in communities across the state, and it’s important for me to see firsthand what type of return we are getting on our investment,” Skillman said.

In Jackson County, she will also cut the ribbon on the Medora Covered Bridge, the longest historic covered bridge in the country. This was a partnership between the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Jackson County Commissioners. She will also visit the Tim Burton family of Maplewood Farms. Burton is one of the entrepreneurs named as an Indiana Artisan and growing his business through the program support and branding launched by Skillman.

The complete schedule of counties has not been finalized, but stops in July will include Miami County on July 21, Montgomery County on July 26, and Wayne County on July 28.

Hoosiers can track where the lieutenant governor will be and follow a blog about the tour by visiting

The Banana Democrat

This may be one of the best sentences I have read in weeks.


America is not a “banana republic,” declares the czar-creating, Obamacare-exemption-dealing, War Powers Act ignoring, appointment-trading president whose administration has locked reporters in closets and who accepted an “open government” award in a meeting that was closed to the press.

The important thing is that President Obama kept his promise and checked his political rhetoric at the door.

Obama: Debt Ceiling Standing in the Way of More Spending, GOP in Way of What He Wants

About a week ago, I had a conversation with a particularly partisan and obnoxious liberal Democrat, who informed me that Republicans would soon pay a big political price for being so obstructionist in Congress. They needed, he explained, to do more to get the country moving by working with Obama.

Because, apparently, people voted for Republicans (in this person's mind) in November of 2010 because they want Republicans to help Obama do more of what they voted for Republicans to stop Obama from doing in 2009 and 2010.

Yeah, it didn't make sense to me either.

But this guy is not alone. It appears that Obama himself has a similar view of the role of Republicans in divided government.

Jonah Goldberg:

The president today lamented the the “politics” that brought about the 2010 GOP victory in the House made Washington worse. “The politics that swept [Boehner] into the Speakership were good for a mid-term election. They’re tough for governing.”

Now of course, by “governing” what Obama means is “getting my way.”

Andrew Stiles:

Throughout the press conference, the president made clear just how bored he was with the whole process of trying to reduce the debt and deficit. “Most Democrats . . . would prefer not to have to do anything on debt and deficit problems,” he said. “I’d rather be talking about stuff that everybody welcomes, like new programs or the NFL season getting resolved. Unfortunately this is what’s on our plate.”

Yes, new programs. In fact, Obama was fairly explicit about why he is so keen to cut a “large deal” on the debt limit. In response to a question about why his administration was not doing more to actively address the worsening jobs situation, Obama explained: “Taking an approach that costs trillions of dollars is not an option. What we can do is to solve this underlying debt and deficit problem for a long period of time, so that then we can get back to having a conversation about . . . are there some strategies that we could pursue that would really focus on some targeted job growth.”

In other words, he really would like to be spending trillions more on “job” “creation” right now, but “the politics” of reducing the deficit is complicating those ambitions. “We can’t even have that conversation if people feel as if we don’t have our fiscal house in order,” he lamented. As such, he expressed his desire to “get this problem off the table” in order to free up the political capital necessary allow the government to “make the kind of investments that I think are going to be necessary to win the future.”

Obama at times even seemed to be begging for GOP support for a bigger deal, conceding that a sizable down payment on the debt would have “a positive impact in overall growth and employment” — something Republicans have been arguing for months while Democrats have insisted that more spending is the only way forward. That said, Obama argued that reducing the deficit and eliminating economic uncertainty could be “only a part” of an “aggressive” agenda to turn around the “stubborn” unemployment rate and an economy that has “moved slower than we wanted.” Hence the calls for more stimulus spending on projects like a massive infrastructure bank and an additional extension of the payroll tax cut.

Yet Another Scary Economic Chart

Uh oh.

Debt You Can Believe In

Time for real change, indeed.

Quote of the Day: The Problem with Socialism

I think they've made the biggest financial mess that any government's ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalise everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalisation, and they're now trying to control everything by other means. They're progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people.
- Margaret Thatcher

The Planned Parenthood Myth

This video, complete with audio of phone calls to Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics where the Planned Parenthood employees are telling women how easy it is to go somewhere else for Well Woman screenings and Medicaid services, sort of destroys the myth that ending taxpayer funding for America's largest abortion provider is somehow hindering the ability of women to get health care.

A fact sheet with more details is available at Live Action's website.

Beijing Calling...

Bozo the Clown

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Roadkill Is Found in the Middle of the Road, Too

Something in a recent story on the gubernatorial race by the Ball State Daily News caught my eye:

"I learned how to drive on a country road, and it was one lane," [Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg] said. "My dad always told me, ‘Son, don't run off the left or the right side of the road. Try to stay in the middle.' And that's good advice.

"That's good advice for governing. Most of us agree on about 85 percent of things, and that's what we need to be working on. We need to be working on nothing but jobs in Indiana."

First of all, I reject the notion that the "about 85 percent of things" folks would agree with John Gregg on would include the program he implemented as Speaker of the House--and would return to if elected governor--that bankrupted the state, left its highway maintenance and construction underfunded, increased government spending and inefficient wasteful bureaucratic bloat, raided state pension funds to pretend that the budget was balanced when it wasn't, provided lifetime health care to state legislators, and so forth.

John Gregg isn't much of a centrist. He's a career politician and lobbyist whose shtick is to act behave like a caricature or stereotype of what Indianapolis insiders think people from southern Indiana are like.

Second of all, this isn't good advice for learning how to drive. I, too, learned to drive on country roads. They weren't all paved by riverboat money yet back then, and many were gravel. Some of the state roads had no shoulders and could barely count as being two lane given how they were crumbling at the edges because Bayh, O'Bannon, and Gregg shortchanged the budgets for highway maintenance and road construction.

My drivers ed teacher told me that it was risky to drive in the middle of a country road and to stay toward the right side, particularly when you didn't know what was coming on the other side of that rise or hill up ahead.

Driving in the middle, he said, was a good way to pop over a hill and get yourself killed in a head-on collision. It was wise advice.

By the way, my drivers ed teacher was Paul Robertson, a (now former) Democratic state representative that served in the House in the leadership alongside John Gregg.

Jim Wallace's “Million-Dollar” Campaign

I guess you have to give Jim Wallace credit. He's willing to spend an awful lot of his own money to try and get people to take his candidacy for governor seriously. A million dollars of his own money, to be exact.

It's sort of comical, really.

Last week, Wallace proudly proclaimed on Facebook that he had "raised $930,000 from Hoosiers in Indiana":

Read about other candidates in Linton and Madison last week, and then remember, we were in both places... and Valparaiso, Greensburg, Aurora, Vincennes, Sullivan, Greenfield, Anderson, Bloomington, Bedford, Kokomo, Noblesville, Winamac, DeMotte, and Francesville--and we've raised $930,000 from Hoosiers in Indiana! Join Team Wallace and make a contribution today at Jobs are JOB #1!

This was technically true, since Wallace himself is a Hoosier, but that's generally not what is meant, or meaningful, about campaign finance numbers.

On June 30, Wallace loaned his campaign almost a million dollars. The disclosures for that were available on the online campaign finance database provided by the Indiana Election Division.

Wallace made two loans to himself on the last day of June, totaling $988,359.86. One was for $60,544.56. The other was for $927,815.30.

Now, you can say that self-financing is an indication of a candidate's faith in their cause and their chances. Candidates provide their campaign with personal funds as seed money all the time.

You can also say that, when it exists separate of any other contributions whatsoever, that the absence of other meaningful fundraising support (particularly from someone, like Wallace, with prior political experience and extensive connections) says something entirely different, and less favorable.

But Wallace isn't giving his campaign money, if you think about it. He's loaning it. Under what circumstances does he expect to get this massive amount of money back? Can future donors expect that their money will help fund the Wallace campaign, or will that money instead go to reimburse Wallace himself for the money that he just loaned to his campaign?

And Wallace's loan begs perhaps uncomfortable questions about the nature of his business, TWG Capital, its current situation, and its interesting business connections. All of that has been discussed in particular detail by Advance Indiana's Gary Welsh. For example:

A Chicago venture capital fund that helped finance a company founded by Indiana GOP gubernatorial candidate James Wallace has been taken over by the federal government. Cardinal Growth, which also has financial ties to former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's son and nephew, owes taxpayers $21.4 million from funds it borrowed from the Small Business Administration, some of which went to Wallace's Indianapolis-based TWG Capital. From the Sun-Times:

A Chicago venture capital fund whose projects paid more than $1.2 million to former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s son has been taken over by the federal government, which says the fund owes taxpayers $21.4 million.

Cardinal Growth L.P. — which was run by attorney and former federal prosecutor Robert Bobb Jr. and accountant Joseph McInerney, a close friend of Daley’s son, Patrick Daley — borrowed nearly $51 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration over the past decade but has been unable to repay $21.4 million, court records show.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald filed the civil lawsuit on behalf of the federal agency on June 15. The SBA is seeking to liquidate Cardinal Growth L.P. because of mounting losses that threaten the fund’s ability to repay the taxpayer money it got from the agency.

The venture capital fund agreed to be liquidated, acknowledging that it has mounting losses.

“There’s been significant write-downs on the portfolio,” says Alan B. Roth, its attorney. “If a company is not performing well, you have to write down its value.’’

A federal judge approved the plan last week, removing Bobb and McInerney as the fund’s general partners and ordering them to turn over their records to the SBA . . .

Cardinal's two principals, Robert Bobb, Jr. and Joseph McInerney, serve on the board of directors for Wallace's TWG Capital, an insurance services company. According to the Sun-Times, Cardinal received $2 from the SBA for every $1 it raised from private investors to invest a variety of companies, including companies that won lucrative contracts with the City of Chicago. Mayor Daley's son Patrick received money from Cardinal for his assistance in enticing investors to invest in Cardinal. According to an earlier story by the Sun-Times, the federal government was seeking to liquidate some of the businesses financed by Cardinal, including Wallace's TWG Capital.

To say that there might be some questions by political reporters going forward about Wallace's company, particularly in light of Wallace's willingness to self-finance his campaign, is probably an understatement.

I would guess that the primary reason those questions have yet to be asked has to do with how Indianapolis pundits and media do not take Wallace's candidacy seriously. Now that he has loaned his campaign a million dollars in an effort to get their attention, he may not be so glad should they oblige him.

There's plenty to Wallace that most people don't know (and won't know until he starts getting attention). For example, Wallace's divorce saw him threaten to kill his estranged wife in the presence of police officers:

Wallace, however, almost certainly will face scrutiny over a domestic incident.

In 2004, he admitted in court to intimidation for an incident in which he shouted "You're dead" at his estranged wife during a police-monitored custodial exchange of their son when they were getting divorced.

The charge, a Class A misdemeanor, was dismissed as part of a pretrial diversion program, and Wallace said he and his ex-wife are now "good friends."

Like I said, some more attention on Jim Wallace could prove very interesting.

How Dare You Spend Your Own Money on Wine!

Apparently, they would be less outraged if Paul Ryan was using taxpayer dollars to enjoy a pricey bottle of wine.

National Review's Jonathan Adler:

Some on the Left are in an uproar because Rep. Paul Ryan ended up paying for an expensive bottle of wine ordered by one of his dinner companions (“How dare they drink expensive wine with their own money!”). More here. Yet where are all the liberal complaints when the President flies his personal trainer in from Chicago or then-Speaker Pelosi demands gulfstreams at taxpayer expense and then racks up liquor bills? By comparison, the wine choices of Rep. Ryan’s friends seem quite frugal.

Let's not forget the lavish spending on the state dinner for the Prime Minister of India (here and here).

Dick Lugar: Obama's Favorite Republican

A new video from the Mourdock campaign:

As good as these videos are, I think they sometimes fail to convey the emotion and charisma you see out of Richard Mourdock when he's speaking in front of a crowd (whether off-the-cuff or giving a speech). They need to put more of that into their internet campaign videos.

Another Scary Economic Graph

From Greg Mankiw, this one shows the percentage of the civilian population that is currently employed from 2006 to 2011.

The Democratic Dictionary

A humorous new website from the Indiana Republican Party.

Debt Ceiling Cat

A hilarious new internet meme: