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Archive for June 2006

Dire Straits was wrong: It’s ‘Money for Something’

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In Congressional District 29 in New York state, farmers don’t grow many beets, sugar or otherwise. In the district’s counties — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Monroe, Schuyler, Steubens and Yates — only 19 farms produced beets on approximately 350 acres, according to the 2002 U.S. Census of Agriculture.

Yet my congressman, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl (R-Hammondsport), has received in the 2006 election cycle $6,500 from PACs associated primarily with Midwest sugar and sugar beet cooperatives, according to FEC filings as of May 29. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 30, 2006 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

To hell with campaign finance reform

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Now that the Supreme Court of the United States says that it’s okay to screw with congressional districts any time the party in power wishes, we might as well throw out any limits on campaign contributions or expenditures as well.

Yep. Incumbents and challengers, raise what you want; spend what you want. But here’s what I want in return: Congress will provide the means necessary for any citizen with a computer to track every goddamned penny campaigning politicians collect and spend. And that goes for their “leadership” PACs and the state and federal party campaign committees. Show us the money.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 29, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Jolie juices Coop’s ratings (surprise! surprise!)

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In case you missed it, here’s the ratings bump for CNN from the Anderson Cooper-Angelina Jolie hype onslaught of last week. From MediaBistro:

Anderson Cooper’s interview with Angelina Jolie was the number one program in the 25-54 demographic Tuesday night.

In the 25-54 demo, Cooper averaged 754,000 at 10pm and 511,000 at 11pm. Among total viewers, Cooper averaged 1,568,000 at 10pm and 1,097,000 at 11pm. His two-hour average was 633,000 demo and 1,333,000 total viewers. (He was up 96% in total viewers and 218% in demo viewers versus his year-to-date average.)

The 10pm hour of Cooper’s two-hour special beat Larry King (253k demo, 973k total), Hannity & Colmes (295k demo, 1528k total), and Greta Van Susteren (284k demo, 1344 total). Bill O’Reilly still beat him among total viewers (with 2,197). Thanks to the interview, CNN beat FNC in primetime in the demo, but FNC was #1 among total viewers…

Now let’s see how he does this week without Jolie.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 26, 2006 at 11:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Check the finances of your representative or senator

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So how much money did your representative or senator in Congress make in service to the Republic (and in other ways) in 2005? Thanks to The Washington Post, you can find out here.

My representative from District 29 in New York, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, filed his disclosure form a day late. The deadline’s May 15; the disclosures are released to the public in early June. I wonder if he’ll have to pay the $200 penalty for late filing.

Rep. Kuhl, (R-Hammondsport), reported income of $200,851.50 — his $129,691.14 House salary and his 2005 $71,160.36 pension from the “New York State & Local Employees Retirement System” (sic). He’ll report more House income in 2006; the House gave itself a $3,100 “cost of living adjustment” raise in 2005.

In Cattaraugus County, (the part of District 29 in which I live) the median income for a household was $33,404, and the median income for a family was $39,318, according to the 2000 Census.

Rep. Kuhl has a property in Bath, N.Y. (worth between $100,001 and $250,000; asset values are reported in ranges) from which he reported income of $2,501 to $5,000. He has a condo in Haines City, Fla., worth between $50,001 and $100,000. He reported income of $5,001 to $15,000 from Johnson & Johnson (presumably dividends, but it was not specified as such).

He reported “assets and/or income source” from T. Rowe Price Equity, Fidelity Magellan, Fidelity OTC and Janus Fund. The values for each were reported from $15,001 to $50,000. He reported transactions for each between $15,001 and $50,000.

His disclosure form reports these liabilities:

• Bank of America Visa: credit card revolving account; $10,001-$15,000.
• Bath National Bank: line of credit; $100,001 to $250,000.
• Equitable Life Insurance: policy loans; $15,001 to $50,000
• MBNA America: credit card revolving account; $15,001 to $50,000
• Chase Bank: credit card loan; $15,001 to $50,000.
• Bank One: credit card loan; $15,001 to $50,000

Rep. Kuhl reported no gifts. He reported travel to Israel for a week with a family member paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation.

Rep. Kuhl’s voting record is available here.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 25, 2006 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tom DeLay and his legal fees …

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If you’re worried that poor Tom DeLay, Texas’ favorite indicted former congressman, won’t be able to pay his legal fees, fear not. Says the Political Money Line:

Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust Files Final Report

The legal defense fund of former Rep. Tom DeLay filed their last public report covering financial activity from April 1, 2006 until June 9, 2006, the last day DeLay was in office.

The Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust reported raising $18,500 in amounts in excess of $250, and spent $43,282 in amounts in excess of $250. Smaller amounts do not have to be reported and no cash-on-hand at the end of the period need be reported.

Senator John Cornyn’s Alamo PAC gave $5,000. The Friends of Dave Weldon gave $2,500. Howard Jones, founder and chairman of IDT Corp. (Houston, TX) gave $5,000. Larry D. Johnson, chairman of Johnson Company (Houston, TX) gave $5,000. Attorney Donald B. Roseman of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, et al. gave $1,000.

The Trust paid $25,000 to Bracewell & Giuliani (TX) for legal fees. They paid $10,012 to Richardson Consulting for fundraising. They paid $5,978 to Duff, Kitchel & Co (TX) for accounting, and $2,292 to Brent Perry for administrative expenses.

Since its initial filing on 6/28/00 the Trust reported $1,851,177 in receipts from contributions in excess of $250. The Trust has reported spending $2,173,533 in expenses in excess of $250. [emphasis added]

The Legal Expense Trust is separate from the campaign account called the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee, that reported 3/31/06 cash-on-hand of $1,450,959.

Wonder what he’s gonna do with that nearly $1.5 million in his campaign committee, now that he’s (apparently) not going to run for Congress again? And, since the legal trust seems to be running a deficit … hmmm. I can’t believe DeLay would reach into his own pocket to cover his legal fees.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 24, 2006 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How to buy influence: the ex-Senator version

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John B. Breaux is the former Democratic senator from Louisiana who left that august body in 2005 after not seeking re-election in 2004. But he lingers on. Or, rather, his money and its influence lingers on.

Read on. Dessert’s at the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 20, 2006 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A better FOI law ahead for New York state?

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New York’s state Legislature, not necessarily known as a benefactor of John and Jane Q. Public, has done something right for a change. Both chambers have passed a bill that would strengthen the state’s freedom of information law.

If you’re looking for a public document that reveals a no-bid sweetheart contract or an underhanded, devious land deal, the state FOI law — assuming Gov. Pataki signs the bill into law — would penalize government officials who put roadblocks in your path. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 20, 2006 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Network neutrality: politics as usual wins again

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My representative in Congress, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl (R-Hammondsport), voted for the reprehensible Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act that gutted attempts to preserve network neutrality. That bill passed the House this week, 321-101. (How did your representative vote?)

This isn’t good news for District 29 in New York, one of the most rural areas of the state, that he represents. And it isn’t good new for Rep. Kuhl, either — at least if he’s expecting my vote for his re-election. (Learn how you can find out how your rep voted and why. It’s easy. Anyone with unfettered ‘net access can do it.) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 16, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

FEC donation limits no barrier to Romney

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If you’d like to see why campaign finance reform, or, rather, the lack of it, stands in the way of overhauling the ills of American elections, look no farther than Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

According to the Boston Globe, Romney “is financing the early stages of his potential presidential campaign with a novel, multistate fund-raising operation that is allowing him to maximize legal donations, outflank top Republican competitors, and minimize public scrutiny.”

Here’s how he does it: Romney has a political action committee — the Commonwealth PAC. Federal law limits contributions to federal PACs to $5,000 for individuals.

So Romney sets up affiliates of his PAC in in Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Arizona. So now his well-heeled pals can evade federal contribution limits. In this way, the Globe says, Romney can raise big bucks quickly from relatively few donors. An accompanying graphic to the story shows that some of his top donors have given between $45,000 and $95,000 in this way.

Just when I think that campaign financing can’t be contorted any further around loopholes in the law, along comes this.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2006 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mr. Cub buying the Cubbies?

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There it was, a small summary item on Romenesko this morning — Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub himself, wants to buy the Chicago Cubs.

I clicked to the Crain’s Chicago Business story. Banks, the team home run recordholder with 512 dingers, told Dennis FitzSimons, the CEO of team owner Tribune Co., he wanted to buy the Cubbies. He was, the story says, “gently rebuffed.”

The team, experts say, could fetch $500 million. And given the new pressures on the Tribune Co. (remember what happened to Knight-Ridder?), we might see the same fate ahead for the Tribsters.

But the Crain’s story (and a short rewrite in the Chicago Trib) didn’t clearly answer my immediate question: How the hell could Ernie afford it?

True, the Crain’s story mentioned a few investors’ groups had approach Banks. But why didn’t a reporter simply ask Ernie: Ya gots the dough, Mr. Cub?

If this had been Michael Jordan buying the Bulls, you can get his finances would be reported on at the very faintest whiff of interest. Why not Ernie?

Prediction: The Cubs will be sold sooner rather than later. Newspaper chain assets are being put in play by unhappy major stockholders. So maybe Ernie’s dough (or lack of it) will eventually become reportorial fodder.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2006 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized