How likely is it that Karl Rove is right, and that Republicans will hold both the House and Senate in the 2006 elections? I don't pretend to know -- and remember, I'm the guy who once again is betting the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Superbowl, but let me offer a few thoughts as to why the GOP might very well have grounds for confidence. Let me also note that I don't have any particular Rove obsession: He's human, and he may well be absolutely wrong or saying something he knows is wrong for tactical reasons--declaring "Woe is me" might well be one of those sorts of things that depress turnout. In any case, here goes...
We've gotten some great feedback on planning the next round of our Congressional Family Business investigation, both from inside the office, from some of the folks who made the first round such a success, and from some smart observers (thanks to David Cohn for posting that at Digg!).
We're starting to design phase two now (what this means in practice is that I get to keep bothering our Sunlight Labs geniuses with questions that begin with cringe-inducing phrases like, "How quickly could you..." or "How hard would it be to..." or "Would it be possible to..."). I'm really excited about round two; and even though we won't be able to incorporate all the excellent suggestions we've gotten right away, this step will include some of your ideas while also giving us the building blocks to do some never-before-seen investigations, like figuring out whether spouses work for companies or organizations that have gotten federal contracts or grants (something our friends at OMB Watch have made possible through FedSpending.org), or for firms that lobby or hire lobbyists to influence Congress.
CNN reports this morning a new poll which shows the depths to which people have come to think that Congress is corrupt.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Half of all Americans believe most members of Congress are corrupt -- a figure that has risen 12 points since the start of the year -- and more than a third think their own representative is crooked, according to a new poll released Thursday by CNN. According to the poll, a majority disapproves of how both parties are handling their jobs in Congress. Just 42 percent approve of how the Democrats are doing in Congress, while 54 percent disapprove. The GOP fares even worse -- only 36 percent approve of their performance in Congress, while 61 percent disapprove. Pollsters from Opinion Research Corp. interviewed 1,012 Americans from Friday through Sunday. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. In January, 22 percent of those polled said they believed their own member of Congress was corrupt, a number that has jumped to 36 percent since then.
I thought it might be useful to take stock of how much attention the new databases released by Center for Responsive Politics (Congressional Personal Financial Disclosure and Travel) and OMB Watch (Government Grants and Contracts) attracted last week.
From Massie Ritsch at CRP:
In the first six days that the new personal finances and travel databases were online OpenSecrets.org logged nearly 140,000 unique visitors (though some may have visited over multiple days). OS logged more than 1.6 million page views and more than 7 million hits in that time.
A lot of cars have passed through the intersection since Woody Allen famously dismissed leaving his beloved New York for the California glitz of Los Angeles, “where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”
Give it up, Woody. California’s done it again – this time with a new and intriguing web-based template for matching political contributions with legislative votes.
It’s on a new website, launched just yesterday, called MAPLight.org. (The MAP stands for Money And Politics.) The site is the brainchild of Dan Newman, executive director of Take Back California, a campaign finance activist group that created the website as its latest project.
<p>Maybe when your seemingly wonky topic (e.g. transparency) makes it to status of a joke circulating on the Internet, your time has come. That's sort of the way I felt this morning, when the following appeared in my morning email. (See the last item.)</p><blockquote><br /><br />Put about 100 bricks in some particular order in a closed room with an open window. Then send 2 or 3 candidates into the room and close the door. Leave them alone, come back after 6 hours, and then analyze the situation.<br /> <br /> If they are counting the bricks, put them in the accounting department.<br /> <br /> If they are recounting them, put them in auditing.<br /> <br /> If they have messed up the whole place with the bricks, put them in engineering.<br /> <br /> If they are arranging the bricks in some strange order, put them in planning.<br /> <br /> If they are throwing the bricks at each other, put them in operations.<br /> <br /> If they are sleeping, put them in security.<br /> <br /> If they have broken the bricks into pieces, put them in information technology.<br /> <br /> If they are sitting idle, put them in human resources.<br /> <br /> If they say they have tried different combinations, yet not a brick has been moved, put them in sales.<br /> <br /> If they have already left for the day, put them in marketing.<br /> <br /> If they are staring out of the window, put them in strategic planning.<br /> <br /> If they are talking to each other, and not a single brick has been moved, congratulate them and put them in top management.<br /> <strong><br /> Finally, if they have surrounded themselves with bricks in such a way that they can neither be seen nor heard from, put them in Congress.</strong><p> </p>
The Washington Post, and reporters R. Jeffrey Smith and Carol D. Leonnig, have more on the investigation of Rep. Curt Weldon, his daughter, and some of his close political allies. What's interesting to me is how much of the information in the story comes from documents that federal law requires lawmakers and the lobbyists that try to influence them to disclose, and how little of that information is actually available to the public in a useful, searchable form.
For example, Smith and Leonnig report on privately funded junkets to Serbia, Russia and Jacksonville, Fla., taken by Weldon and a member of his staff; if it weren't for the efforts of groups like the Center for Public Integrity and now the Center for Responsive Politics, those reports would be available only to researchers who trekked down to the Capitol.
USA Today, and its reporters Matt Kelley and Peter Eisler, have an astounding story out that today that really advances our knowledge of the extent of insiderism on Capitol Hill, and how Congress really has become a family business. And as you read the next few paragraphs, remember that they looked at two committees--JUST TWO COMMITTEES--the House and Senate Appropriations Committees--to get their totals.
Think what we'll turn up when we've done the whole Congress!
Members of Congress and their staffs are barred from using their positions for personal profit. But their spouses and other relatives can — and often do — cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars.
<p class="MsoNormal">The Washington Post is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/16/AR2006101601120.html">reporting today</a> that GOP candidates in close congressional races have a big advantage in campaign funds over the Democrats that are trying to send them packing. While this isn’t exactly a surprising revelation – in fact, the opposite would be real page one news – it’s at least one bright note for the party’s beleaguered standard-bearers in a year that’s probably not going to go their way.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Does it matter? Personally, I don’t think so. I’d argue – <a href="1266">as I did a couple of weeks ago</a> – that in this year’s political climate, it’s not the spending difference between the candidates that so important. Rather, it’s the amount of money raised by the challenger. </p>
...to personal uses, it appears that Sen. Harry Reid, hot on the heels of amending his financial disclsoure reports to accurately report the details of a land deal, has also decided to reimburse his campaign $3,300 after using it as a petty cash stash to donate to a fund that buys Christmas gifts for the support staff who work in the building (which happens to be a Ritz-Carlton) where he has his Washington area home.
Incidentally, I tend to be much closer to the Captain Ed Morissey view of this--that additional spade work is warrented--as opposed to the Paul Kiel view--that the Associated Press's initial story doesn't add up.