Time for the GOP to embrace transparency

Watch this video from the Sunlight Foundation's Read the Bill project:

Read The Bill from Sunlight Foundation on Vimeo.

It is not an accident that there are so many Republicans -- John Boehner, Jeb Hensarling, and Ted Poe -- in this, and that the Democrats -- Brian Baird and Bobby Scott -- are Democrats who are sometimes gettable on Republican votes.

Transparency is an issue that Republicans will win every time in the war of ideas, and the House Democrats are already uncomfortable.

Just last week, Blue Dogs and liberals like Peter DaFazio asked for more regular order. The Democrats are exposed. The Democrats know it.

Now it is time for Republicans to stand up and win this fight once and for all.

By Soren Dayton, ago

The big one hits California

The California state legislature passed a budget this week. This was not expected because the fiscal problems that the state are so severe that the core interest groups in California could not be reconciled. Taxpayers and public employee unions can no longer even have the figleaf of agreement by issuing bonds, which had been Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's approach. And a 2/3rds majority is required by each body of the legislature to pass a budget.

Into the breach jumps State Senator Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), a leader of one of the moderate factions in the state party. He supported -- and brought votes along with him -- the budget in exchange for a ballot initiative that would reform the primary system. The San Francisco Chronicle describes it:

A proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in June 2010 instituting a "top-two" primary system, which would effectively eliminate party primary ballots, erase candidate party labels in primary elections and allow voters to choose the two candidates - of whatever party - who would compete in the general election.

In swing districts, it is likely that the top vote getters would be from each party. In districts that are highly partisan, as nearly all of the state legislative and Congressional districts are, there is the possibility that two Republicans or two Democrats could get on the general election ballot.

This could reduce the current party apparatus another interest group in the process, but not a dominant one. There is plenty of evidence that the parties hate it. Ron Nehring, the chair of the CA GOP said:

Ron Nehring, chairman of the state GOP, said the measure will "lead to further polarization."

Without a Republican or Democratic designated candidate on primary ballots, that means "in some areas, like San Francisco, you'll never, never see a Republican candidate on the general election or November ballot - meaning the Republican perspective is missing from the dialogue," he said. "And in parts of Orange County, Inland Empire ... you will never have a Democrat on the ballot," he said. "Is that a healthy thing? No, it's not."

The difference is that moderates in either party are more likely to get through to the general election ballot and stand better chances of winning -- assuming that they, in turn, don't factionalize too much. Why? Because "Decline to State" voters, what California calls independents, will also be more likely to be involved in the primary process. Candidates will stand more of a chance of building coalitions across the entire ideological spectrum.

If this passes in 2010, and the state continues with another highly-partisan/highly-ideological redistricting, the 2012 election could be quite interesting.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Democratic House Approprations Committee lobbied by Chairman’s son

Two weeks ago, House Committee on Oversight Ranking Member Darrel Issa (R-CA) raised the issue that House Appropriations Commtitee Chair David Obey’s son had lobbied the committee on stimulus issues. Craig Obey is a lobbyist at the National Parks Conservation Association, and the association denied it to the Washington Times:

Tom Hill, legislative representative for NPCA, said the group, including the younger Mr. Obey, refrains from lobbying Mr. Obey or his office to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

Obey’s office denied it to a local paper:

But a spokeswoman for the lawmaker, Kirstin Brost, said Obey’s son does not lobby his father’s panel. And the idea for the park funding actually came from U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who chairs an appropriations subcommittee on the environment.

Turns out that these are simply lies. And the lies are refuted by the ethics filings that registered lobbyists are required to file.

In 2008, Craig Obey was registered to lobby on behalf of the NPCA on a number of appropriations bills.

Issa’s staff at the House Oversight Committee compiled all of these into a staff report, which is after the jump. Pages 7 and 8 have pictures of the actual filings that demonstrate this.

2.10.09 House Oversight Committee Minority Staff Report on NPCA

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By Soren Dayton, ago

What will Michael Steele do with the presidential primary calendar?

The power of the chairman to impact the future of the party is, to a degree, limited. Michael Steele will be able to attract a range of people that other candidates may not have been able to. But there is one area in which  the Chairman's race for the Republican National Committee will have significant power. He will pick the committee that sets the next primary calendar.

RNC rule 10(d), added this year, creates a "Temporary Delegate Selection Committee" which Steele "shall convene ...  as soon as practicable after the 2009 Republican National Committee Winter Meeting", at which he was elected.  The Committee will make a recommendation to the full RNC, which must approve or reject it on a 2/3rds vote of the full committee by the Summer meeting of 2010, to complete the process before the presidential nomination contest begins in full. (the full text of the rule is after the jump)

The key thing is that Steele picks 11 of the members and will have almost complete control over the committee, if he wants it. What will Michael Steele do? What will Michael Steele want? This could be a major legacy of his term as chairman. It will complete before he has to run for re-election in 2011, and it will probably mark the beginning of Presidential maneuvering. Also, given the differences between RNC and DNC rules, whatever deal that Steele cuts with the Democrats on this will likely be long-standing. 

Region Member Defeated
Northeast David Norcross (NJ) Ron Kaufman (MA)
South John Ryder (TN) Morton Blackwell (VA)
Midwest Pete Ricketts (NE) Bob Bennett (OH)
West Fredi Simpson (WA) Ron Nehring (CA)

The remaining four members were elected at the Winter Meeting. The elected members, their regions, and who they defeated are in the table. For people who follow, the RNC, these are interesting. Norcross and Ryder are two old RNC hands, while Ricketts and Simpson are new. My understanding is that the issue in the West was simply an anti-California one, while Bennett, the author of this rule, was rejected partly over this rule and the way that the issue was handled at the Convention.

The complete rule 10(d) and an embed of the complete RNC rules are after the jump.


There shall be a temporary committee to review the timing of the election, selection, allocation, or binding of delegate and alternate delegates pursuant to Rule No. 15(b) of these rules to the 2012 Republican National Convention. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall be composed of fifteen (15) members, which shall include one (1) member of the Republican National Committee from each of the four (4) regions described in Rule No. 5, elected by the members of the Republican National Committee from each region at the 2009 Republican National Committee Winter Meeting; further, the chairman of the Republican National Committee will appoint three (3) additional members of the Republican National Committee and six (6) Republicans who are not members of the Republican National Committee. The chairman and general counsel of the Republican National Committee shall serve as ex-officio voting members. The chairman of the Republican National Committee shall convene the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee as soon as practicable after the 2009 Republican National Committee Winter Meeting. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall make any recommendations it deems appropriate concerning additions to Rule No. 15(b) of these rules, provided that such additions shall preserve the provisions of Rule No. 15(b) adopted by the 2008 Republican National Convention, which shall be voted upon without amendment by the Republican National Committee at the 2010 Republican National Committee Summer Meeting and which shall require a two-thirds (2/3) vote to be adopted. Any action adopted would take effect sixty (60) days after passage. The Temporary Delegate Selection Committee shall disband following the 2010 Republican National Committee Summer Meeting.

Republican National Committee Rules, Adopted 2008

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By Soren Dayton, ago

Did Hilda Solis violate BCRA, in addition to House ethics rules?

The DC Examiner noted that there could be another, even more serious issue with Hilda Solis. Recall that she was on teh board of Americans Right at Work (ARW), serving as its treasurer, a position with fiduciary responsibilities, in violation of House ethics rules. However, this 501(c)4 also filed electioneering documents with the FEC:

But ARW also spent thousands of dollars on television spots described by the group in its report to the FEC as "electioneering communications." Since as treasurer, Solis is required to approve all ARW spending, she must have signed off on the spots. This may well put her and ARW in violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. Among the Republicans targeted by ARW were incumbents Norm Coleman, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Gordon Smith, and John Sununu. The anti-Sununu ad, for example, cost ARW $169,225 to air in New Hampshire, while another $69,105 paid for airing an anti-Coleman spot in Minnesota. So ARW clearly spent funds, with Solis' knowledge and approval "in connection with an election for federal office." Again, as treasurer, Solis could hardly have been in a ceremonial or passive participant.

It appears that this was clearly illegal.

So Obama's nominee violated the law and House ethics to participate in an organization. She is also closely linked to the most demonstrably corrupt union in America. And her husband doesn't pay his taxes.

Clearly, these are very solid grounds to reject her for a position in the Cabinet.

By Soren Dayton, ago

NJ-GOV: GOP Christie up 6 over Dem incumbent Corzine

 This is one that we need to pay attention to. Republican Chris Christie is up 6, 42-36, over incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine.

Save Jersey pulls the real highlights:

On the day Chris Christie officially kicks off his campaign for Governor, his campaign is boosted by news of a poll that shows him as the strongest challenger to Governor Jon Corzine. While neither candidate breaks 50% in the ballot test, Corzine is carrying a 50% disapproval rating. Even further, 54% of New Jerseyans say that Corzine does NOT deserve a second term. Christie leads Corzine among independent voters 49%-24% (a margin that would ensure victories in Bergen and Middlesex). 

 Jim Geraghty has more at the Campaign Spot.

By Soren Dayton, ago

VA: Tomorrow could be a good day for Steele and a bad day for Kaine

Swing State Project sees tomorrow's special election to fill Rep. Gerry Connelly's seat as a proxy fight and preview of the fall Republican and Democratic gubenatorial match up:


If the Dem wins, I expect we'll see all kinds of competing claims over who deserves credit. Of course, the GOP will just say that the Dems should have won, and they'd be right - Fairfax went 60-39 for Obama. On the other hand, a loss or even a close call will lead to predictable recriminations and give Virginia Republicans a dose of momentum they certainly don't deserve. Regardless of who wins our gubernatorial primary, that's something the Dems can't afford.

There is, potentially, another interpretation. Perhaps it is a proxy fight between Tim Kaine and Michael Steele. Certainly the VA GOP is at a low point (hopefully). But the VA Democratic Party should be riding high, and Tim Kaine, both the Dem governor of Virginia and Chairman of the DNC, would suffer a huge black eye from a GOP victory, which is not out of the question.

In January, an 80-20 district, District 46, was won by the Democrats by only 16 votes. This may be found to be the beginning of the end of one of the Democratic candidates for governor:

This is a bad sign for Brian Moran and Alexandria Democrats no matter what the end result is, this is one of the most democratic districts in the state (75% for Obama, 80% for Warner, and 73% for Kaine) and the margin is razor thin!

We have a chance tomorrow to scalp another Democrat and help Pat Herrity pull this off. Michael Steele would get to go on TV and claim that "the comeback starts now" with him.

It would be a great symbolic rallying moment for the GOP and a wonderful way to start Steele's chairmanship. 



By Soren Dayton, ago