Monday, February 22, 2010

Kansas Senate Passes Incumbent Elevation Act

In 2010, with establishment politicians in danger coast-to-coast, there is one thing that the tea party movement -- and the American people in general -- have made clear:

They are sick of arrogant politicians thinking they know more than the people do -- and even worse, passing laws to give themselves huge advantages once in office.

Well, that is exactly what the Kansas Senate did this past week when it passed SB 423, which we will label the "Incumbent Elevation Act" -- under this law, unexpended campaign funds in one campaign can be transferred to another state campaign by the same person. So, for example, if State Rep. X has $50K in his bank, and wants to run for the State Senate, he can transfer that $50K to a State Senate account Likewise, if someone in either position wants to run for Governor, they can take their warchests and transfer that to said new campaign. They would not be able to transfer said money if they were running for Congress or any federal office, as laws governing those campaigns are on the federal level.

Note, this process was legal before -- Sebelius used it to become Governor -- but right now, due to Kansas Supreme Court urling, said campaign funds must be either not spent, spent exclusively on items related to the previous campaign for the previous office, returned to donors, or donated to either a political party and/or a charity.

This bill passed 27-12. We'd like to praise Kaw & Border favorites Tim Huelskamp, Dennis Pyle, Mary Pilcher Cook and Jeff Colyer for voting no along with 8 other Democrats and moderates in voting against this bill.

The baseline logic is this -- "Hey, this person donated to me once for this office, why can't I use that same money to run for another office? I am the same person, after all!"

The arrogance of this argument is startling, and here are the reasons why this bill should be rejected:

1. First of all, it provides holders of one office a huge advantage when running for other state offices. If a Republican holding a safe seat in Kansas -- as often the case -- they can basically plan to run for Governor for years, without telling anyone. That is inherently unfair and undemocratic. It essentially allows someone to secretly plan to collect donations for another office without ever telling the public, an end run around election laws. We recognize that incumbents have natural advantages, but those advantages shouldn't be solidified into law by those same incumbents -- no matter which party they are a part of.

2. Second of all, related to the first point, it will increasingly emphasize the role of fundraising in politics -- because even someone in a safe House or Senate seat, if they have any desire to run for future office, they would be stupid not to continue heavy fundraising efforts (that they could later transfer to another campaign) -- otherwise, they would be giving a distinct advantage to potential competitors who do continue their fundraising efforts.

3. Third, also related to those first two points, it will discourage good people for running for office if they haven't been planning on it for years. For example, if someone is looking at running for a State Senate seat, they might decide not to run if they know a current State Representative could simply transfer their warchest over to their State Senate account, giving them a head start of what could be tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. This is not healthy.

4. Fourth, and this is the most egregious example of arrogance i the bill, this new law assumes that if I give money to someone for State Rep, that automatically I am okay with that money going to that person if they run for State Senate or a state office like Governor. Case in point -- I might give money to Kevin Yoder in his State House race if he's being challenged by a Democrat, as he has been -- but that doesn't mean I want to have that money going to Kevin Yoder if he decides to run for Attorney General (as was rumored earlier this cycle)!

In our eyes, a campaign check written for John Smith for State Representative should be for John Smith for State Representative, not John Smith for State Senate or John Smith for Governor. If John Smith wants to run for Governor, John Smith can open an account and file with the GEC so people can write a check for that purpose.

This bill would essentially allow for people who once ran for one office to hoard their money without ever giving intention of what other office they plan on seeking. It also would set up a weird situation where someone who decided to leave office could keep their money in their campaign accounts because one day, they might run for another office. It also sets up scenarios for Machiavellian shenaningans:

Case in point: say a State Rep builds a huge war chest of say, $80,000, raising it on the notion he's going to run for re-election in 2010. Down deep, however, he has his eyes set on the State Senate in 2012. So, with his name ID already fairly high, on the day before the filing deadline, he opts not to run for re-election. A few months later, he opens a State Senate account and immediately transfers the $80,000, giving him a gigantic head start against any potential challengers.

This bill is wrong on a host of levels, and needs to be rethought and rejected in the Kansas House.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Polls show Republicans at 49 in Senate Races

Just a few months ago -- or even just last week -- it seemed that Republicans would be happy to gain 3-4 seats in the United States Senate, a signficiant but not reality-changing event. That's because the majority party typically loses seats in mid term elections, and Democrats, though not able to simply ram things through, would still have in the range of 55-56 seats.

That reality is gone. As it appears now, if nothing changes -- the Republicans, just by showing up on November 2, will emerge with 49 seats in the United States Senate -- with 2-4 others up in the air.

With Obama's poll numbers in all polls -- not just Rasmussen -- hovering in the mid to high 40's with an extremely high amount of people who passionately dislike him, the Democrats around the country are in deep trouble. Poll after poll shows previously safe and unthreatened Democrats now losing with high profile challengers taking them on. The latter part is important because even if said vulnerable Democrats retire -- the high profile Republican is still likely to win.

The only case that will likely not be true is Connecticut, where Chris Dodd, who was going to lose, resigned. The Democrat, popular State AG Richard Blumenthal -- holds a 20 point lead over his challengers, Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon. Though that will almost certainly narrow, the fact that Blumenthal is in the mid 50's makes him a strong lean at this point.

So, that's one the Democrats can breate easy about. The ONLY one.

Outside of Pat Leahy in Vermont, Barbara Mikulski in Maryland, Ron Wyden in Oregon and Chuck Schumer in New York, every single other Democrat is either in the fight for their life, a potential fight for their life, or LOSING.

Of course, to get to 49 -- or 50 or 51, certainly -- the Republicans have to hold on to the seats that they have which are open. That's Missouri (Kit Bond), Ohio (George Voinovich), New Hampshire (Judd Gregg) and Kentucky (Jim Bunning).

In all four -- the likely Republican winner -- Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, and Rand Paul (who will likely beat Trey Grayson, now) -- holds general election leads over their Democrat challengers. Ayotte and Paul still have to win very competitive primaries, but if they win, they will probably win the general. In NH, if Lamontagne were to win, he would have some ground to make up vs. Paul Hodes, but it would certainly be competitive. In Kentucky, even if Paul were to lose to Grayson, Grayson would win the seat.

Quick side note -- let's not forget that conservative challengers are likely to beat moderates in primaries in Florida (Rubio over Crist) and Utah (anyone over Bob "ObamaCare Lite" Bennett), moving the Senate further to the right.

So let's assume for a moment that we hold all of those open seats, and the Republicans still are at 41 as a baseline number. This is where the fun starts.

In order of likelihood of victory, let's start counting:

42. North Dakota -- Governor John Hoeven will walk away with this seat, currently held by retiring Senator Byron Dorgan.

43. Delaware -- Rep. Mike Castle will walk away with this seat, currently held by Ted Kauffman, who was going to be a place holder for AG and VP Son Beau Biden, who appears unlikely to run.

44. Pennsylvania -- former Rep. Pat Toomey will beat either Arlen "act like a lady" Specter or Joe Sestak.

45. Nevada -- Harry Reid is toast -- the question is, who puts him in the toaster? Our guess is Sue Lowden, though Danny Tarkanian is also a great candidate.

46. Arkansas -- Blanche Lincoln could be defeated by anyone, at this point, polls show. Previously, we thought we might need to recruit Mike Huckabee here. Not now, as Gilbert Baker or any of the other potentials would win easily.

47. Colorado -- Former Lt Governor and Susan B Anthony-endorsed Jane Norton is currently blowing out interim Senator Michael Bennett. While Norton still has a primary battle on her hands, she probably wins -- and then will coast in the general.

48. Illinois -- RINO Mark Kirk proved victorious this past week in the Lincoln state, setting aside a cast of conservatives. Credit goes to him, and now polls show him with a healthy lead over State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. While Kirk is not ideal, and would likely team up with the Maine Senators often, winning Obama's seat (on top of Bidens and Reids) makes Mark Kirk acceptable -- particularly when you consider the last candidate we ran here was Alan Freaking Keyes.

49. Indiana. Yes, Indiana, where former Senator Dan Coats is now challenging the man who replaced him, Evan Bayh. Polls showed previously that Mike Pence would beat Bayh, and we expect the popular Coats to win as well -- though it will certainly be competitive, as the conservative and likeable Bayh isn't seen in the same class as other Democrats. That said, he has been part of the 60, and though he's been outspoken lately about the Dems needing to move to the center, he's in trouble.

So, that's 49. If nothing else happened, the Democrats would have 49 seats, the Republicans 49 seats plus Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman. Sanders would most certainly caucus with the Dems, of course, but Lieberman could force a tie by caucusing with the Republicans. If he did so, the Dem leader -- not Reid, of course -- would still be called "Majority Leader", due to the fact Biden would cast a tiebreaking vote.

But, the Republicans might not be done. Let's look at other potential wins for the GOP, in order of likely victory:

50. Wisconsin. Former Governor Tommy Thompson is weighing a bid against Russ Feingold. Polls show he would win if he ran. If he does, you can move this seat to the 8 above.

51. Washington. Patty Murray has been an awful Senator yet has somehow stayed in since 1992. Yes, that woman has been in since 1992. The Republicans are hoping to recruit a top tier candidate here -- such as Dan Reichert -- and if they do, Murray may be done. Even if they don't, even internet conservative-star Chris Widener could present an interesting contrast.

52. California. Boxer is under 40 here, and the fact three strong challengers -- Fiorinia, Campbell, and Devore -- are all within six shows she is vulnerable. Heck, if Scott Brown can win in Massaschusetts, where there are virtually no Republicans, one of the three can win in Calfornia, where, despite it's reputation, there are tens of millions of Republicans -- and where Boxer is a highly polarizing figure. While conservatives should get behind Devore -- he's by far the best choice -- RINO's Campbell and Fiorina certainly would be formidable.

53. New York (Gillibrand) -- this is one we would have if Rudy ran OR Pataki ran. Right now, that appears unlikely but its conceivable a strong alternative could emerge who could defeat the weak and primary-challenged Gillibrand. She would be best to answer positively to the question "have you driven a Ford out of the race lately?", because Harold Ford will cause her all sorts of problems.

So, what is our prediction? Our prediction is that Thompson runs in Wisconsin, bringing the Republicans to 50. That wouldn't be an upset. Right now, the Republicans would need to either find candidates or come from behind in the other three, but given how the GOP is recruiting people quickly, don't be surprised if come November 4, the Republicans have picked up 10 seats and are in control of the United States Senate in perhaps one of the most stunning sweeps in history.

Good news for the GOP -- some of those pickups come in seats like Arkansas, North Dakota, and Indiana -- where trends show they are unlikely to lose it in the future.