GOPAC, Virginia, and center-right infrastructure

Last week, GOPAC released a video/web ad promoting Bob McDonnell for Governor in Virginia. Here's the ad:

Another group, with "GOP" in the name" dropping a campaign ad. Ho hum, right? Not exactly.

GOPAC was founded by Newt Gingrich as a vehicle for operative training, candidate recruitment, and funnelling of money to state legislative races. The organization had a central role in identifying leaders who eventually became part of the 1994 Republican majorities.

So why is this group running an ad? That's the key thing. I talked to Frank Donatelli, the new Chairman of GOPAC, who was previously Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee. (In some sense Donatelli swapped jobs with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who had been Chairman of GOPAC)

GOPAC lives in a new context, completely different than any GOP group has in the past, and it is worth comparing to two previous points in GOP history, 1999 and 1979.

Think back to 1999, when the GOP also did not control the White House. Several things are different from then, and some things were the same. Redistricting was and is coming, and in redistricting, the composition of the state legislatures matters more than Congress for that exercise. GOPAC targets state legislatures. A complete national redistricting plan involves putting points on the board in state legislatures. But since 1999, we have seen campaign finance reform which shrunk the amount of money that could be spent on both legislative races and complicated legal operations like redistricting. Much of a national redistricting plan has to be executed outside of the RNC.

The Democrats have built new infrastructure with 527s (GOPAC's tax status) in the form of groups like the Secretary of States Project. These can use huge individual and corporate contributions. GOPAC is part, but only part, of a complete answer to addressing the redistricting problem.

Unlike 1999, we are down in Congress. The next block of Members of Congress who get us back into the majority will come from the states. This is more like 1979 when Newt started trying to identify a new generation of Congressional leadership. And GOPAC was part of that operation that eventually delivered a majority.

I have argued that our next majority will likely come from new leaders, both for ideological and logistical reasons. GOPAC is putting together a "Rising Stars" program that is trying to identify these new leaders. One example that Chairman Donatelli told me about was Chris Saxman. Anyone who has met Chris knows that he has a great future ahead of him, in addition to his key role in the Virginia legislature.

The media is going to focus on big, splashy things like Arlen Specter's switch of parties yesterday. But Specter is the tail end of an old phenomenon. GOPAC could well be the leading edge of a new one. It won't be flashy for a while, but the spadework is happening now. And it is hard work.

But GOPAC and similar groups are where the action will happen. They are where we will find the next Republican majority and the new Republican coalition and message.

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By Soren Dayton, ago

Sniff, sniff. What’s Orzsag cooking? I think it’s the books

Wonderful reporting today in the Politico by David Rogers. Basically, The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, wants to change the rules for the way that government tells Congress and the American people how much money it spends at the IMF. Orszag, is claiming that a $100 billion dollars check that we send to the IMF should be reported as $0. Zero. Nothing. Really.

Yet if all this IMF money were added to the president’s $83.4 billion supplemental request, it would more than double in size — even if it would be no more costly to taxpayers in direct spending.

For this reason, no one is eager to step forward with a budget amendment. And Orszag argues that it would be better to treat the whole transaction as an exchange of assets with the IMF — and not as spending at all.

This “exchange of assets” is because we get “special drawing rights” on IMF reserves in exchange for our money, nicely explained here by The Economist magazine. These are the “currency” of the IMF  that is used to bail out countries.

This is a cow-patty gimmick. Remember those? The kind that Barack Obama said he didn’t do? Recall that he claimed that he fully funded the war in the budget. This money is to be authorized via a supplemental. For the war. Which wasn’t fully funded by the budget.

This isn’t transparency. This isn’t honesty. This is a lie. This is $100b in added deficit this year, however important, that Obama and Orszag don’t want to tell the American people about.

David Rogers deserves a big thank you from the American people for shining a light on this.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Jindal v Cheney: When reporters repeat what House talking points

Sometimes you have to wonder if reporters just do dictation for Democrat Press Secretaries. Check out this story by Politico’s Andy Barr. He invented a debate between Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal and former Vice President Dick Cheney to make sure that it had the White House’s framing, no matter how far from the truth it was, excluding all sorts of essential facts.

You see, Jindal was on Good Morning America, Jindal came on right after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who had just attacked Cheney. The GMA host asked Jindal to respond to Napolitano about Cheney. Jindal ducked and attacked Obama’s policies. Watch it:

But look at how Barr reported it:

“I think Democrat or Republican, we should all agree that our current president, our former president would obviously want to do everything they could to keep us safe,” he said. “Let’s give the new administration a chance. Let’s not question their intentions. Let’s have a real debate on their policies.”

The Republican governor praised Obama for “showing more flexibility when it comes to Iraq than maybe some of the campaign rhetoric suggested.”

“I am, quite honestly, pleasantly surprised,” he said. “That’s the kind of pragmatism, listening to the commanders on the ground, I think is very important.”

Jindal did offer some criticism of the president, pointing out that it is “fine to have an honest disagreement on the policies that both administrations would choose to try to keep us safe.”

Somehow Barr’s report manages to exclude Jindal’s criticism over Guantanamo prisoners, which was one of Cheney’s specific attacks. He also excluded the fact that the question asked was explicitly in response to Napolitano’s attack on Cheney. Or even that Jindal didn’t even mention “Cheney”, “Vice President”, or anything like that.

And that tells you really what you need to know. Like with Rush Limbaugh, the White House is trying to pick their opponents. They want to be debating Dick Cheney, not Bobby Jindal. GMA didn’t give the White House’s framing by asking Jindal to respond to Napolitano. So Barr stepped in to frame it up with the White House’s preferred story-line, points of disagreement. What was “Cheney attacks Obama”, “Napolitano attacks Cheney”, and “Jindal attacks Obama” was twisted into “Jindal attacks Cheney” by aggressive editing and removal of context.

This is just a reporter taking dictation for the White House. Nothing more complicated.

By Soren Dayton, ago

The sophistry of lefty rhetoric on taxes

Todd Beeton at MyDD argues that the right is out of touch on taxes and quotes Gallup. It turns out that his argument is mere sophistry. Gallup says:

A new Gallup Poll finds 48% of Americans saying the amount of federal income taxes they pay is “about right,” with 46% saying “too high” — one of the most positive assessments Gallup has measured since 1956. Typically, a majority of Americans say their taxes are too high, and relatively few say their taxes are too low.

Compare these with who actually pays taxes who actually pays taxes, which Ari Fleischer reminds us of. Gallup says that 48% say that they are paying “about right”. But 40% don’t actually pay income taxes:

When you make almost 26% of the income and you pay only 0.6% of the income tax, that’s a good deal, courtesy of those who do pay income taxes. For the bottom 40%, the redistribution deal is even better. In 2001, these 43 million Americans, who earn less than $30,500, made 13.5% of the nation’s income but paid no income tax. Instead, they received checks from their taxpaying neighbors worth $16.3 billion. By 2005, those checks totaled $33.3 billion.

If I didn’t pay tax, I would probably argue that I am doing “about right” too. The 8% that does pay taxes and says that they are “about right” is what Beeton is really arguing about that. That’s not a really compelling argument. And then, according to Gallup, there are 3% who think that they are paying too little.

So 11% of the population both pays taxes and thinks that they are paying “about right” or “too little”. And 46% think that they are paying “too much”. So about 1 in 5 tax payers are happy with what they are paying, while 4 in 5 income tax payers think they are paying too much.

In fact, Gallup’s numbers support Fleischer’s argument, not Beeton’s. As Fleischer notes, George W. Bush took people off the tax rolls:

According to the CBO, those who made less than $44,300 in 2001 — 60% of the country — paid a paltry 3.3% of all income taxes. By 2005, almost all of them were excused from paying any income tax. They paid less than 1% of the income tax burden. Their share shrank even when taking into account the payroll tax. In 2001, the bottom 60% paid 16.3% of all taxes; by 2005 their share was down to 14.3%. All the while, this large group of voters made 25.8% of the nation’s income.

Of course the numbers of “about right” are at an all-time high. The number of people not paying income taxes are at an all-time high.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Another Obama budget lie: Iraq and Afghanistan

When Barack Obama released, his budget, he claimed that it didn’t contain “gimmicks” and that he cost of the budget was so high because he fully funded Iraq and Afghanistan in the budget and didn’t use gimmicks. Jackie Calmes of the New York Times swallowed the line so completely that she called her story “Obama bans gimmicks, deficits will rise”. (Never mind that the ever skeptical Slate Magazine had a different view) Her second paragraph of her story said:

The new accounting involves spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Medicare reimbursements to physicians and the cost of disaster responses.

Yet, just a little over a month later, … Barack Obama is asking for more money:

Washington, DC — President Obama today submitted to the Congress a Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 supplemental appropriations request totaling $83.4 billion to fund ongoing military, diplomatic, and intelligence operations.

  • An overwhelming amount of this money — nearly 95 percent — is to move forward with the President’s agenda of ending the war in Iraq responsibly and his new strategy of refocusing the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • These are things that Obama campaigned on since 2007. But he didn’t plan for them in his budget. His budget assumed that the US would break its agreement with Iraq to pull out (decided before the election), according to Slate:

    In this manner, the Obama administration pretends that some of the Bush tax cuts are going to affect the budget years after they are set to expire. It also assumes higher Medicare physician payments than projected under current law requirements. The same is true with the accounting for the Iraq war. The baseline assumes the war will be funded at high levels for the next 10 years, even though Obama is planning to bring 100,000 troops home in the next 19 months.

    You would think that would save money. But no. Obama needs more. His budget not only had gimmicks. it just had lies.

    By Soren Dayton, ago

    MN-SEN: MN Dem chair agrees with Pawlenty, not Schumer

    Earlier in the week, I noted that the Democratic strategy with respect to the Minnesota Senate recount between Norm Coleman and Al Franken is to demand that Franken be seated if the state courts rule in his favor. Chuck Schumer was saying it, while the academics on the left were laying out the argument that the federal courts wouldn’t take it.

    But there is a fly in the ointment. The Chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (that’s what they call Democrats up there) seems to think that Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty is right on this and Chuck Schumer is wrong. Here he is on video saying that if the federal courts intervene, Governor Pawlenty can’t issue a certificate of election, which Harry Reid demands for seating. Or at least did when the duly appointed Roland Burris was up.

    Chucky and Harry foiled again.

    H/T The Hill.

    By Soren Dayton, ago

    Detroit has 200k more voters than people over 18

    Election Journal points us to this frightening story in the Detroit Free Press. There are over 200,000 more registered voters in Detroit than the census estimates that there are people over 18.

    Detroit election officials confirmed Monday what an analysis of census and population records shows: The city has more registered voters than it has residents over the voting age of 18.

    Ultimately, election officials point to federal laws that don’t allow election officials to purge rolls. So what is the Democrats’ — and California Democrat Zoe Lofgren in particular — response? Introduce a bill to forbid purging those rolls. Really:


    Why would they do that? Wouldn’t be because of those non-existent people voting, would it?

    A friend pointed out a difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats want every vote, however it got voted to count. Republicans want every voter to count.

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    By Soren Dayton, ago

    US tax code the one of the most progressive …

    Clive Crook reminds us that our tax code is one of the most progressive in the developed world. And the Democrats want to take even more from the wealthy:

    Mr Obama intends to squeeze the rich, but the scope for this may be more limited than US liberals would wish. Few Americans seem aware that the US income tax code, as a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study showed, is already one of the most progressive.* Even before the rise in top marginal rates promised by Mr Obama, the US income tax collects 45 per cent of its revenues from the highest-income decile. Compare that with Britain at 39 per cent, Canada at 36 per cent, France at 28 per cent, Sweden at 27 per cent and an OECD average of 32 per cent.

    Just a helpful reminder. With facts.

    By Soren Dayton, ago

    Democratic stategy for seating Franken clarifies, as does their dilemma

    Everything in Congress hangs on 60 votes in the Senate. Right now, the Democrats have 57 Senators plus Joe Lieberman. They could get one more if the Minnesota recount in the contest between Al Franken and Norm Coleman is decided in their favor. It is beginning to appear that the Democrats are settling on a strategy of attempting to seat Franken after the state courts decide, regardless of where the underlying issues stand.

    For example, check out this quote from Chuck Schumer in The Hill:

    "We believe the law of Minnesota requires a candidate to be certified after all the state appeals are through, whether someone applies to the federal court or not," said Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

    While Republicans are talking about this going to the Supreme Court, Democrats are playing that down. On Friday, Richard Hasen, who normally writes the excellent and critical Election Law Blog, argued at the blog of the American Constitution Society that SCOTUS wouldn't be likely to take the case. At dinner on Saturday night with a bunch of Democratic staffers and operatives, they all sang from this playbook.

    This strategy seems calculated to avoid the hard question in this case.

    Ben Ginsburg, Coleman's attorney, asks this question at Redstate


    Does the law allow not counting one vote when others just like it were counted by other counties and cities? Should a person’s vote count depending solely on where he or she lives? Should a contest court disallow votes based on counting rules it adopts but which no Minnesota county or city used on Election Day? Is it right to disallow a vote because the Minnesota Secretary of State’s database wasn’t up-to-date about whether the absentee voter or their witness were really registered?

    If the Democrats move forward on trying to seat Franken before the whole process winds down, they will be, in essence, short-circuiting the judgement of the court with "yes" answers to all these questions. Ultimately, the fundamental question that Democratic Senators will be voting that votes don't have to be treated the same everywhere.

    They will be asserting that these kinds of facts should have no impact:

    These voters remain disenfranchised because the Court changed the rules of the game on Friday, February 13th – long after the Election Day votes had been counted. Two and a half weeks into the trial and again yesterday, the court announced it would apply a “strict compliance” standard to judging the 11,000 unopened absentee ballots. That stands in contrast to the evidence at trial which showed that on Election Day, Minnesota’s counties and cities permitted ballots that “substantially complied” with the state’s laws to be counted. Altering the Election Day standard meant that thousands of ballots that would have been allowed on Election Day in most counties are now disallowed by the contest court.


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    By Soren Dayton, ago