Sunday, August 31, 2008

Road Trip: Harrisburg / Hershey

It was a little embarrassing to be a state political blogger who had never been to the state capitol so this summer I went not once but twice. The first time was with a group. We toured the Capitol building. If you haven't done this you should. It is truly beautiful. It even captivated the children in the group. The interactive game area was also very popular with them.

The second visit was just with family. We toured the Capitol and again I was deeply impressed with the grandeur of the building. Our original plan included visiting the State Museum of Pennsylvania but time got away from us. We headed on to the National Civil War Museum, on the edge of the city. Some of the exhibits, such as the photos of former slaves showing scars from a whip, and photos of prisoners in the Andersonville prison, are a little intense for younger kids. Older kids, though, might really soak it up.

We stayed overnight at the Four Points Harrisburg, between Harrisburg and Hershey. It fit my requirement (wireless) and also the kids' (pool). The room was comfortable. The pool was kid friendly. The staff was friendly and helpful. There is a shopping area nearby with a few restaurants to choose from, and a Giant grocery store that sells discounted Hershey Park tickets as well as foodstuffs for the road.

Hershey Park is a standard amusement park with a few add ons. We skipped the water park part this trip. In addition to the rides you can tour the animatronic chocolate factory and the 3-D Hershey show. The shop is full of Hershey products.

It was a great overnight trip, about 90 minutes or two hours away from the Philadelphia area, depending on where you are. Yes, I did use the Hershey Park part as a bribe for good behavior in the Capitol and museum part, but I think the kids enjoyed both parts, though perhaps not equally. It is definitely a good combination for a family getaway.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Day Trip: National Constitution Center

Like many Americans we didn't take any long vacations this summer, just some overnight regional trips and a few visits to local attractions.

One of these was the National Constitution Center. I took the kids one morning; none of us had been there before. The opening presentation is very impressive and it was the first time I've seen that kind of hybrid live actor / video technology used. The actor stood in the center of the floor, with the audience on riser seats around him.

The exhibits were very well done. Along the walls the exhibits were chronological, things to be looked at and read. The exhibits in the center of the room as you moved through were more interactive. We found the jury room set up interesting. A video explains the jury system and process as you sit in a juror's chair. The balance of powers exhibit was another favorite. Another let you decide on some Supreme Court cases after viewing some of the evidence. We also voted in the sample voting booths.

One of the last stops is a room with life sized statues of men from the Constitutional Convention, posed in groupings around the room. We wandered around and read the plaques on the floor to see who everyone was.

It was an interesting experience and I'm glad we went. The cafeteria was a little pricey, as museum cafeteria's always are, but they had Odwalla lemonade, my current favorite beverage, so that was good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PA DNC Speakers Videos

For those who missed the three Pennsylvania politicians who spoke from the podium in prime time at the Democratic National Convention, you can find them on You Tube. Here are the links to the video (and text, full or partial, where available):

Gov. Ed Rendell, text

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., text

Congressman Patrick Murphy, text

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday PA Highlights at the DNC

Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak both get the podium this evening. Murphy will have a few minutes to speak and Sestak will lead a townhall meeting. The full schedule is out with general time frames but I've noticed this is subject to change.

One pet peeve -- of the eight women congressional representatives scheduled to speak, three are from California and two from New York. What, there's no room for our only congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz? I feel dissed.

Philly and P'burgh on Another Top 10 List

These "best cities" lists seem to come out every day now. Best place to raise a hamster hasn't been done yet, but maybe that will show up next week.

In more practical news, Forbes has released a list of the Best U.S. Cities to Earn a Living. Philadelphia comes in at 10 and Pittsburgh at 6.

Book Review: Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden

Biden, Joe. Promises to keep: on life and politics. NY: Random House, 2007.

With my usual sense of timing I bought this early on the day that Biden dropped out of the presidential race. It has been sitting, unread, on my bookshelf. This past weekend, early Saturday morning in fact, it suddenly seemed a lot more interesting.

This review is organized in three parts, first as a description of it chapter by chapter (there is, for some unfathomable reason, no index) so those who want to find a specific topic or section can do so more easily. The second part is a note on Pennsylvania-related mentions; this is a Pennsylvania blog after all. The third part is just some personal observations. Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the book; in the paperback edition page numbers may not match up.

Those looking for in-depth analysis, intellectual history of issues, academic discussions on political context, or brilliant writing should look elsewhere. If you want an outline of what’s in the book, sprinkled with quotes from it, this is the place for you.

Chapter by chapter description

The title is taken from a Robert Frost poem. While no co-author is listed at the end of the book Biden acknowledges the assistance of Mark Zwonitzer, who did editorial work, fact checked, and polished.

Prologue (xi – xxiii)
Biden provides a cultural background, talks about visiting his mother’s family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and talking politics or listening to people talk politics. His grandfather Finnegan was a newspaper reporter there. He provides some family history and mentions that his father didn’t like his job at a car dealership. In a section on how politics, and the senate, has changed in his time there he mentions the election of Barack Obama and Carol Moseley Braun and alludes to Hillary Clinton in mentioning the sixteen women in the senate, “one of them has a ready shot at the presidency. (xviii). As a summation of his senatorial work he offers this:

I ran my own race for president and had to pick up the pieces after the train wreck … then nearly died from a cranial aneurysm. In the aftermath I had to remake my health, my reputation, and my career in the Senate. The years since then have been my most rewarding. I count my role in helping to end genocide in the Balkans and in securing the passage of the Violence Against Women Act as my proudest moments in public life. (xix)

He gives this description of the American people in reference to Sept. 11th:
But when I got home and put on the television, I saw that the American heart was still beating strong. Doctors and nurses were standing by at hospitals in New York City, ready to treat the wounded. Snaking through the streets and up the avenues were long lines of New Yorkers waiting to give their blood, even though word was being passed that no more blood was needed. I could see it in their faces: They were hungry to do something, anything. Nobody was talking about war footings or payback. They just wanted to do their part. That was the day that reminded me that even in a moment of almost total silence from their leaders in Washing, Americans would rise to the occasion. (xxii)

He considers the first principal of life to be Get up! When you’ve been knocked down or fail at something, just get up and keep going.

Impedimenta (3-23)
Biden’s childhood home was Scranton but when he was in elementary school the family moved further south to just across the Delaware line and then later into Delaware. He discusses his religious upbringing and education in Catholic schools. This is one example:
Wherever there were nuns, there was home. I’m as much a cultural Catholic as I am a theological Catholic. My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It’s not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It’s the culture. The nuns are one of the reasons I’m still a practicing Catholic. Last summer in Dubuque, Iowa, a local political ally, Teri Goodmann, took me to the Saint Francis Convent – a beautiful old building that looked like it belonged on an Ivy League campus. On the way over we’d stopped by the Hy-Vee to buy some ice cream for the sisters, because Jean Finnegan Biden’s son does not visit nuns empty-handed. (7)

He had missed a lot of 3rd grade after having his tonsils and adenoids removed so when the family moved, he repeated the grade; he was a small child and even when oldest than his classmates he was still one of the smallest. As a child he had a stutter and worked hard to overcome it. For the record, he said he tried the Demosthenes method, putting pebbles in your mouth and practicing speaking; he said it didn’t work. One of his teachers, a nun, made fun of his stutter and mother went down to the school and said if the nun did it again she could “come back and rip that bonnet off your head” (11). You go, Mrs. Biden!

As a boy he lived near the private Archmere High School. His family couldn’t afford the tuition so he got in on work study and landscaped or washed windows over the summer to pay for it (18). His father had grown up with wealth but lost his money in bad business deals (16). He sometimes worked two jobs to keep the family going. One of his mother’s brothers, who had drinking problem, lived with them for awhile (21). Biden discusses the importance his family put on education and on him going to college. He also discusses his family’s values, such as never badmouth family in public (13).

Neilia (24-39)
Biden went to the University of Delaware and then to law school at the University of Scranton. He wanted to go into public service and looking through the biographies of congressmen, he noted that those without wealth and/or connections, often had law degrees. His undergraduate years were not marked by studiousness, nor were his early years in law school. At one point he was accused of incorrectly citing a source in a paper:
About six weeks into my first term I botched a paper in a technical writing class so badly that one of my classmates accused me of lifting passages from a Fordham Law Review article; I had cited the article, but not properly. The truth was I hadn’t been to class enough to know how to do citations in a legal brief. The faculty put my case on the agenda of one of their regular meetings, and I had to go in and explain myself. The deans and the professors were satisfied that I had not intentionally cheated, but they told me I’d have to retake the course the next year. (36)

While at the University of Delaware he met his first wife, Neilia, who was from a wealthy family. They married while he was in law school. He found his first law job through a friend of his father. Note, he doesn’t drink alcohol (27) and didn’t drink coffee (37) until he was in law school.

Something That Will Last (40-56)
The first law job didn’t last long. He quit after watching his boss defend a corporation against a welder who had been injured on the job. His second job(s) were as a part-time public defender and a part-time lawyer at a firm doing contingency work. He and his wife dabbled a little in real estate, often asking relatives to stay in houses they later intended to sell. They themselves lived in a cottage rent-free provided they managed the private swimming pool nearby. Biden sometimes worked as a lifeguard on weekends. He ran for New Castle County Council and started his own law firm. To add further complexity to life, he and his wife had three children.

He also discusses events that helped form his view of civil rights. Wilmington, Delaware was under martial law for at least six months in 1968, with armed soldiers in the street. One summer in college, in 1962, he worked as a lifeguard at an inner city pool; he was the only white lifeguard there.

The Doors Swing Open (57-78)
In 1971 he was asked to run for Senate in the 1972 election against incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs, though no one expected him to win. In fact, he is almost ineligible to run. Senators have to be 30 years of age. Biden would be 29 at the election but have a birthday shortly afterwards, so he would just barely make the cutoff. He decided to try it. His sister, who had managed his county council campaign, managed this campaign as well, and one of his younger brothers was the chief fundraiser. At one point they were surprised by checks from developers in New Castle County as Biden had often opposed development plans. One developer said they would do anything to get him out of the county. There are some stories (70-72) of Biden’s intemperate words getting in the way of large campaign donations, but told in a way that makes him look good. He throws in other self-deprecating anecdotes, like the seagull droppings that land on his head two days before the election; he interprets it as a sign of coming success (73).

Biden won the race and Boggs called to concede:
And when he said it and I knew I’d won, it felt nothing like I thought it would. It was supposed to feel great. I was supposed to be elated. But when Senator Boggs started to talk, I could feel myself filling up, like I might cry. I didn’t think I’d be able to talk. So Boggs spoke again: “You ran a good race, Joe.”
“I’m sorry, Senator,” was all I could say, “I’m sorry.” (74)

He tells another “foot in mouth” story about meeting other senators after the election. When one elder statesman asks him what inspired him to run he answers “civil rights” before remembering the man had been a segregationist.

Give Me Six Months (79-82)
Kleenex alert! Have tissues nearby. Just before Christmas, after the election and before the swearing in ceremony, Biden’s wife and children are in a serious car accident. His wife and infant daughter are killed and both of his young sons are seriously injured. He considers resigning as “Delaware could always get another senator, I told people, but my boys couldn’t get another father” (80). But Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Sen. Hubert Humphrey kept calling and asking him to stay in the Senate. Biden decides he owes it to his late wife, who helped him get elected, and is told his sons would make full recoveries, so he agrees to stay for at least six months. However, he stays in the hospital with his sons instead of going to Washington to be sworn in.

A Start (83-101)
This covers his first few years in the Senate; because of his relatively young age he is sometimes mistaken for a staff member. Though he and his wife had intended to have a second home in Washington, instead he commutes home every night to see his children. His sister and her husband, and his mother, take care of them while he is gone. His staff is told to always put the boys through when they call, no matter where he is or who he is meeting with. He describes meeting other senators, including this memorable event:
Teddy [Kennedy] said it [the senate gym] would be a good place to get to know some of my colleagues, most of whom I still hadn’t met. “C’mon. I’m taking you to the gym.” So I went. And the minute we walked through the gym door, we ran smack into three legendary senators. I knew who they were. I’d seen their pictures. I’d read about them for years. And before I could speak, Teddy was saying, “Joe, I want you to meet some of the guys.” One was Jacob Javits, the New York Republican and a renowned expert on foreign policy; another was Stuart Symington, a Democrat of Missouri who had been mentioned for years as a possible presidential candidate; and the third one was – well, I really lost focus. They were standing there, two feet way, reaching out to shake my hand. And they were all naked as the day they were born. I tried hard to keep eye contact, but I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to say. They were perfectly at ease, but for me it was like one of those dreams where you look down in class and realize you aren’t wearing any pants. (85-6)

As his sons become more secure he travels more to campaign for others. He comes out of his grief to some degree and focuses on work more, such as campaign finance reform. One of his brothers sets him up with the woman who would become his second wife.

Again there are references to his being outspoken, such as when Henry Kissinger mispronounces his name and in response Biden calls him Secretary Dulles (84).

Jill (103-116)
The courtship continues in this chapter, and leads to marriage.

He continues to discuss his first senatorial term and provides his view on abortion:
”Well, my position is that I personally am opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have the right to impost my view – on something I accept as a matter of faith, and my position probably doesn’t please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he [Abe Ribicoff] asked as we headed toward the Capitol corridors.

“Well, I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.” (105)

Later on the page he elaborates a little more:
I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than thirty years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to find ways to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice. That position has earned me the distrust of some women’s groups and the outright enmity of the Right to Life groups.

He also tells the story of being 20 years old and going on to the Senate floor when it was not in session. A capitol police officer stops him and sends him on his way. Ten years later when he came back as a Senator a policeman says “Do you remember me?” It was the same officer, who was retiring the next day. He welcomed Biden back (104).

Although it put him at odds with some senior senators, including Humphrey, Biden began to think more about fiscal responsibility:
I thought it was time to start watching the spending side of government. Good intentions had to be balanced with good finances. I told my staff that anytime they recommended I vote for a program, they had to write down how much it would cost and how we were going to pay for it. And I joined a bipartisan effort to force Congress to reauthorize federal programs every four years, so we would have to continually assess the real outcomes for real people. (108)

Transitions (117-136)
Joe and Jill get married and adjust to the new family arrangement. They have a daughter.

As a second term senator, Biden takes on issues such as busing (a good deal of the chapter is taken up with this topic) and mandatory sentences. Busing was especially contentious in Delaware and public meetings could be heated. Biden notes his role:
I think I instinctively understood that my most important duty was to be a target. People were desperate to vent their anger, and if they could yell at a United States senator, all the better. Part of being a public servant, I came to understand in 1978, was absorbing the anger of people who don’t know where to turn. If I couldn’t solve the problem for them, I had to at least be an outlet. (127)

Biden was the first elected official outside of Georgia to endorse Jimmy Carter for president (130), but was disappointed by the Carter presidency (130-131):
Jimmy Carter was a man of decency and a man of principle, but it wasn’t enough. That’s the first time I realized that on-the-job training for a president can be a dangerous thing. (133)

He gets a slot on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the permanent committee overseeing the U.S. intelligence agencies (120). He discusses world leaders, such as Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of Germany.

In closing he mentions in passing that he was asked about running for president in 1980 (135).

This Can’t Hurt Us (137-162)
This chapter addresses his 1988 run for presidency. On the day he announced his candidacy the Scranton Tribune put the story on the front page. They also had one of those “passing of the torch” photos:
But the centerpiece of the section about me was a fuzzy photograph dug out of the dead files by one of Grandpop Finnegan’s old friends, Tommy Phillips, the longtime political reporter for the paper. It was a picture of a long-ago Saint Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Scranton, and the focus was on that day’s grand marshal, the recently retired president, Harry Truman, gliding by in a big convertible with the top down. In the bottom of the frame, among the crowd lining the parade route, was the fuzzy figure of a school kid named Joe Biden. (137)

The same people who approached him around running in 1980 asked him to think about running in 1984, but again, he declined (139). Of the 1988 run he says:
If somebody had hooked me up to a lie detector in 1986 and asked if I was going to be a fully announced candidate or 1988, I would have said, “No.” If they had asked me if I was building a base to run for president in 1992 or 1996, I would have said “Absolutely.” (146)

He discusses foreign policy experiences, such as meeting with Golda Meir, Alexei Kosygin, and others.

Just as his presidential campaign was taking off he became chair of the Judiciary Committee and worried that a possible Supreme Court nomination process would conflict with campaigning.

Biden’s relationship with the press was not a particularly good one. His first view of the national press had been after the death of his wife and infant daughter, and he felt they were ghoulish, asking specifics about his sons’ injuries. The urgency to get back to Wilmington every evening meant there was no time for cultivating reporters. So when he was running for president he didn’t have the kind of familiar relationship with them that other candidates might have. A 1974 interview with Kitty Kelley led to an article that he felt did not paint him in a balanced or accurate way (152).

He starts to mention having serious headaches (foreshadowing of his cranial aneurysm?). At one point he had to leave the podium in the middle of a talk to wait for the pain to subside (157). He mentions that he had another headache at a campaign event in New Hampshire when he felt someone was questioning his intelligence. He responded by saying he thought he had a higher IQ than the questioner and went on to list his degrees and awards, without realizing he has exaggerating his academic record (158). He makes some efforts to repair the rift with the press but with little success and he admits he did not do well in making his views known.

Intellectual Combat (163-187)
While Biden was in Washington chairing the Judiciary Committee meetings on the nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, his wife campaigned in his place. One of the key issues in the Bork hearings is the right to privacy, with the sample issue being whether or not married couples have a right to access to birth control.

He also addresses the Kinnock controversy:
And on a few trips I made to Iowa and New Hampshire that August, I started quoting from the ad in my stump, always with a nod to Neil Kinnock. (184)

He is discussing a speech used in an ad for British politician Neil Kinnock. At the Iowa State Fair debate on August 23rd he didn’t have the time to prepare that he would have liked. In his closing statement he used Kinnock’s words without attribution. One of his staff told him he had forgotten to attribute the speech. Biden admits he should have gone to the press gathered there and corrected the error (186).

You Have to Win This (188-207)
More on the Bork hearings. Worried that the campaign gaffes will distract from the Bork hearings, Biden offers to step aside as chair of the Judiciary Committee, but the offer was declined (200).

The lack of attribution of the Kinnock quote continued to get more bad press. The Dukakis campaign sent around a video of the event. The press found other examples of unattributed quotes, some put into speeches by speechwriters without his knowledge. His continuing poor relationship with the press did not help matters. Another reporter found the old law school charge of plagiarism. A tape surfaced of his “IQ” comments earlier in the campaign. He comes to this conclusion:
And it was my fault. When I stopped trying to explain to everybody and thought it through, the blame fell totally on me. Maybe the reporters traveling with me had seen me credit Kinnock over and over, but it was Joe Biden who forgot to credit Kinnock at the State Fair debate. I had been immature and skipped class and blown the Legal Methods paper. I was the one who thought it was good enough to just get by in law school. I lost my temper in New Hampshire. What I’d said about my academic achievements was just faulty memory or lack of knowledge. I hadn’t remembered where I finished in my law school class. I hadn’t cared. But to say “Wanna compare IQs?” was so stupid. All of it was my fault, and I didn’t want to compound the mistakes. (203)

He drops out of the race soon after.

The Kind of Man I Wanted to Be (208-223)
Biden suspects that the White House encouraged some of the bad press during his presidential campaign.

Robert Bork nomination’s for the Supreme Court is defeated. Anthony Kennedy is appointed.

Journalists and the public react well to him; he has worried that his reputation was permanently damaged.

Shortly after ending his presidential bid, Biden is rushed to the hospital with a cranial aneurysm. When his wife gets to the hospital she finds a priest giving him last rites. He is moved in an ambulance to a different hospital during a snowstorm, where he has brain surgery.

Time Will Tell (224-236)
Biden would eventually need two surgeries to repair two aneurysms, with treatment for a blood clot in his lungs in between. He was treated at Walter Reed:
The nurses at Walter Reed were the embodiment of absolute comfort and unquestioning love; they brushed my teeth, washed me, were familiar with me in ways I could never have imagined allowing another human being to be – and in a way that never shamed me. (226)

While at home friends and family (and his favorite sub shop in Delaware) helped his wife keep the household going, the same was happening in Washington:
I found out later that [Ted] Kennedy and his staff had taken up the slack on the Judiciary Committee for me, and although it’s rare in the Senate, they had generously deferred to the wishes of my staff members while I was gone. This gesture of friendship made me fell less guilty about my seven-month absence. (232)

Engage (237-257)
This chapter concerns the influence of his religion on his political beliefs and action, his work on the Violence Against Women Act, the war in Yugoslavia, and his growing frustration with the administration.

He explains the role of his faith here:
As I worked on that Georgetown speech, I saw that the lessons I had learned growing up had alwaysbeen the guiding principles of my career in politics and that the issues that captured my attention had always all related to the abuse of power. From civil rights and voting rights to my interesting in putting police on the streets to protect people from violent criminals in their own neighborhoods, to stopping banks from redlining practices that made it nearly impossible for people living in black neighborhoods to get loans, to pushing for federal guidelines that made criminal sentencing more fair and uniform, to fighting violence against children, to the disgust I felt at watching Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover abuse their high offices (I was one of the few senators who voted against naming the FBI building after Hoover), to the fight against the drug cartels of the 1980s, there was a single common thread. As I looked back on my career, it was obvious that what had always animated me was the belief that we should stand up to those who abuse power, whether it was political, economic, or physical. (238)

His work on the Violence Against Women Act was inspired when he noticed, in 1990, that violent crimes against men had fallen while violent crimes against women had increased (239). He assigned a woman on his staff to work on this issue full-time. There was a great deal of resistance and ignorance, in the Senate and the populace generally, or, as he says “The stupidity was infuriating” (244). This section is a good description of how a legislator gets interested in an issue, especially one where there is an ambiguity of popular opinion, such as where date rape or marital rape are concerned, and develops meaningful legislation to try and correct the problem. At this point there were very few women in the Senate and Biden is to be credited for taking on the problem in a male-dominated venue.

The problems in Yugoslavia came to his attention when a young Croatian monk visited his office. Biden also discusses his friendship with Averill Harriman who, early in Biden’s senatorial career, sometimes invited him to dinner parties attended by people like Henry Kissinger. Harriman also took Biden with him to a meeting with Josip Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia for many years. In the early 1990’s Biden chaired the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Yugoslavia was included in his area. His descriptions of some of what he learned was happening in the region under the leadership of Milosevic is not for the squeamish. Biden held Senate hearings on Yugoslavia in 1991 and was frustrated by the lack of action, or seeming interest, in the Bush administration.

Effort Pays (258-289)
Biden continues his work on the Violence Against Women Act, which passes with help from Orrin Hatch (!) and Phil Gramm (!). He is eventually able to persuade Pres. Bill Clinton to bomb Kosovo.

On the situation in Yugoslavia, he says:
The truth is, in 1992 it was up to the United States to lead. As long as there is one good actor in the world, every other nation can play at the margins. Every other nation can act out of realpolitik and the basic decency of the work won’t collapse. But when every country is acting with nothing but self-interest in mind, it’s a much more dangerous world. It was up to the United States to stand up to the abuses of the power where we saw them. (260)

His work on this issue changed his view of the military and he speaks highly of the generals and other high ranking military personnel he met with; he specifically mentions Mike Boorda (who later killed himself) and Wes Clark.

He discusses his views of newly elected Bill Clinton, but doesn’t go into a lot of depth. Sen. John McCain rates a positive (285) and negative (275) mention in this chapter.

New Opportunities (290-310)
Biden chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and writes about conversations he has with Pres. Bush on Europe.

This chapter covers the 9/11 attacks. Biden mentions his serious doubts about Bush’s leadership, although he thinks the military action in Afghanistan following 9/11 was the correct thing to do.

One interesting tidbit, on page 308, Biden says he heard rumors in 2001 that Bush was planning to “take out” Saddam Hussein.

The Dark (311-325)
Biden’s 2002 trip to Afghanistan is detailed here. Their accommodations were sparse and he did not invoke senatorial privilege, sleeping on cots and showering with a bucket like everyone else.

The Informed Consent of the American People (326-341)
Biden worries about the growing influence of neoconservatives and the Bush buildup to war. He tries to pass the Biden-Lugar resolution limiting the reasons for going to work but many Democrats wouldn’t support it. Biden votes for the less restrictive resolution that passes.

I am not going to attempt to summarize or pick out representative quotes. This is a thoughtful chapter with a lot of depth and detail. You should read it yourself.

My Mistake (342-353)
This chapter is all on Iraq, Colin Powell’s influence wanes as that of Cheney and Rumsfeld grows. Biden says:
Of course, a small percentage of American families were asked to sacrifice. The burden of the war was falling on the middle-class and poor Americans who make up the overwhelming bulk of the fighting forces in Iraq. The soldiers I met in the Middle East went to Iraq gladly and performed heroically in a deteriorating and frustrating situation. They were sent to Iraq ill-equipped, undertrained for the mission, and undermanned to counter an insurgency that the Defense Department bosses had dismissed. (350)

He makes passing mention of trips to Iraq.

Why (354-359)
In the 2004 elections, John Kerry talked of making Biden his Secretary of State.

Biden details his fourth trip to Iraq.

His family asks him to run for the presidency again.

Promises to Keep (360-365)
Biden discusses the beginnings of his presidential run and some of his political philosophy. One of my favorite passages:
And it struck me in that moment that sometimes we in American don’t understand how important we are to the rest of the world – not just because of our military power and our foreign aid, but because of the values we hold dear: compassion, honesty, integrity of thought, generosity, freedom, and hope. We sometimes forget that the United States of America stands as a reminder to billions and billions of people that there is a better place in the world. We sometimes forget that America is the one country in the world that still shimmers, like that “shining city on the hill” as a promise of a brighter tomorrow. (362-363)

Pages 363 and 364 are an outline of his priorities and domestic policies.

Pennsylvania references

In addition to the references mentioned above (memories of Scranton, etc), there are some other Pennsylvania references in the book. His law school buddy, Jack Owens, worked on Peter Flaherty’s Pittsburgh mayoral race, and Milton Shapp’s gubernatorial race. Biden hired Owens for his first senate campaign but Owens clashed so much with Biden’s sister / campaign manager that he left (62). The relationship warmed, however, and Owens later became Biden’s brother-in-law.

In 1974 among the places he visits to campaign for other candidates, are several Pennsylvania cities, Johnstown, Philadelphia, Scranton, and Harrisburg. The only Pennsylvania candidate he mentions by name is congressional challenger John Murtha (95).

His first date with his second wife was to a movie in Philadelphia. She claims he held a grudge against the Philadelphia Flower Show for years because it was the last date she had with someone else (100-102).

When Biden tried to set up a meeting for the PA AFL-CIO with the Carter White House he was told that since the AFL-CIO had backed Humphrey, the Pennsylvania state council would get nothing (131).

Mentions of Sen. Arlen Specter: on Bork hearings (175, 191,198, 209), on his presidential campaign (204)

Son Beau went to Penn.

Biden gave a speech on the INF Treaty at the University of Scranton (216).

On Sept. 11th, Congressman Bob Brady gives Biden a ride home to Wilmington (302).

Personal observations
Biden writes well. This is clearly a campaign autobiography, designed to present him in a good light and allow him to clarify some of his particular issues and interests and areas where he has done well. He doesn’t gloss over his weaknesses, though, and while trying to explain why he might have said or done some things, he takes responsibility for his actions.

Reading the book gave me a better idea of who Biden is and what he stands for, which means the book fulfilled its purpose. Better yet, it led me to develop a fuller appreciation of who he is and where his values are from, warts and all. He is wordy. He doesn’t schmooze well, at least from his description of himself. But he has used his senatorial powers to try and improve some areas. Working on what he describes as his signature issues, passing the Violence Against Women Act and trying to stop genocide in the Balkans, took many years of persistent patience and constant effort. These are not necessarily flashy issues and many people don’t understand them. They aren’t instant gratification, quick fix problems. It speaks well of him that he is highlighting them.

So I am left with a good impression of Biden. I don’t know that I would want to sit next to him at dinner but I think he would make a good vice president.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PA Related Speakers at the Convention Today

There are three points of interest, besides Sen. Clinton, on today's DNC schedule. Our own Gov. Rendell is slated to speak between 8 and 9 EST, and Sen. Casey is up sometime between 9 and 9:30 - ish EST.

The pledge of allegiance, shortly after 5 EST, is being given by Kobe Langley, described in the program as:

From Fort Mead, Maryland, he received the Bronze Star for leadership in the US Army
Credited with design & implementation of 1st Foreign Torts Claims Policy Act - Iraq

Those who have read Congressman Patrick Murphy's autobiography, Taking the Hill, a few times (and, really, who hasn't?), or those who followed him in the early stages of his 2006 congressional campaign, may remember the name. Langley appeared at several events on Murphy's behalf. When Murphy went to Iraq it was to replace Langley as the leader of a Brigade Operation Law Team, and the two overlapped for a week's transition. Like Murphy, Langley is Catholic and was part of the 82nd Airborne. I hope they have a chance to catch up with each other at the convention.

The full DNC schedule is available online, just remember to adjust for the time difference. Those who prefer their convention coverage unmarred, uninterrupted, and unedited, can watch a live stream at

One Last Monday Thought

I was flipping around through 3 channels and cannot remember which one I was watching when this happened. Two male commentators were watching a screen showing Biden and both felt the need to comment on how drop dead gorgeous Jill Biden is. A minute later they came back nervously to say she also has several advanced degrees.

Monday Night Convention Notes

A few thoughts on tonight's convention coverage:

Talking head commentators are boring.

Spotted Joe Hoeffel in the audience at one point, and at another I think I saw the side of Sen. Casey's head and the back of Patrick Murphy's.

Keystone Politics, PA Dems, Blinq and Pennsylvania Avenue are all in residence and blogging.

Tomorrow: a long review of Joe Biden's autobiography.

Monday, August 25, 2008

CNN: Only One PA Key Player

CNN has set up a list of key players at the Democratic National Convention. They have 19 brief profiles. Although Pennsylvania has a number of big names at the convention: Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., Gov. Ed Rendell, assorted congressional representatives, etc., only one Pennsylvanian made their list: 8th district Congressman Patrick Murphy.

You can see the profile and the list of others here:

Why isn't Allyson Schwartz on the list?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Interview with Mary Caraccioli

Mary Caraccioli serves as CN8’s Director of Business and Consumer News and Host of “Money Matters Today,." Her recent interview with Gov. Ed Rendell will be rebroadcast Monday, August 25 at a special time, 6:30 p.m. Turning the tables, she is the interviewee here.

A 2005 study by Johns Hopkins found that 27% of the jobs in Philadelphia are at non-profit organizations. Some of these are large, like universities or insurance companies; others only employ a few people. Is that percentage a matter of pride or concern? (see also a recent Inquirer article)

I think a city or region always needs to be concerned when a large number of jobs come from one particular sector. You want to have diversity in employment just as you have diversity in a financial portfolio. It helps you weather both the good times and the bad. If tax incentives for charitable giving change or major economic shifts happen you could see a major upset in the nonprofit arena, resulting in major job losses.

However, you also need to look at the quality of the jobs and the quality of the organizations that make up the employment base. In the case of Philadelphia, it is an education hub. Many of the universities, while non-profit, are well endowed and have a solid financial foundation. These are attractive anchors for any city. Education as an employer attracts educated people, not just the students and faculty but the small businesses and large businesses that find it advantageous to be close to educational hubs. Small businesses can benefit from incubation centers at major universities. Larger employers have easy access to a rich talent pool. This part of the non-profit story is attractive and should be leveraged by the region to attract for-profit businesses.

Charitable non-profits are also valuable to communities in other ways. They often meet the social needs of communities more nimbly than government, and they also tend to have a lower failure rate than for-profit start-ups. But too many non-profits in one region, doing similar type work, is inefficient. Fortunately, major foundations that often fund these programs, have very strict rules and standards for non-profits. This helps create a more efficient flow of cash, but it does not work out all the inefficiencies. In time, if a non-profit is not doing its job better than the competition, that non-profit will likely not survive. The internet age has also brought more transparency to this process. I can check the ratings of most charitable organizations now, before I write a check to support it. Philadelphia has a long tradition of volunteerism and charitable giving—it is part of the community’s DNA, which makes it overall an asset to the region.

Pennsylvania is home to a number of community banks. Is this good, bad, or neutral for the state’s economy?

Two years ago I may have given you a different answer to this question. Today, with the credit crisis still gripping the nation, we see a much greater need for community banking. One of the underpinnings of the credit crisis is the mortgage mess created by the securitization of mortgages. Mortgages from unrelated parties were packed together and sold as safe securities to anyone who would buy them. People, pension-funds and governments around the world snapped them up. What became clear about a year ago is that these securities were not safe investments. Companies were giving mortgages to people who clearly would never be able to pay them back. No effort was made to see if information on the loan documents were true, and we now know that fraud was committed all over the country. Community banks, while not having the same access to capital as the larger banks, know who they are lending to. They know their communities. That makes them much better at risk assessment than the big banks.

Do tax abatements really work as an incentive to bring businesses to the area?

I have witnessed tax abatements turn communities around. If you give people financial incentive to rebuild their community, they will take advantage of that and hopefully make a profit. The community benefits because abandoned homes hurt an area due to the danger of fire and crime coming to a street that has a deserted home. When tax abatements are offered, either builders or potential home owners will see the value in buying these types of properties and in the process they breathe new life into the community.

As a television journalist are you concerned about the reduction of print journalists and the smaller newspapers we have now, as opposed to a more robust print media in the past?

I often think about the economic climate that is resulting in more and more layoffs in the print community. I can tell you right now, this will come back to bite everyone. A strong force of print reporters needs to exist—people who don’t have to worry about presenting their reports on the internet or TV, but instead know how to report and know how to write. So many websites get their content from newspapers through links and reprints. Yet the newspapers continue to do worse financially. They have not figured out how to properly monetize their content, and instead of solving that issue, they are laying off good reporters and their content (their lifeblood) is getting weaker.

For some aspects of green jobs, such as solar panel installation and windmill technician, skilled tradesmen are needed. Do you think the area has the resources to provide people with these skills, and how does it fit into the regional labor environment?

I recently visited the Gamesa plant, a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Bucks County, and learned they had 200 job openings. I also did a story not long ago on the unemployment rate of returning veterans, many of whom have excellent skills in the trades. We need to do more to get these two sides together. A program called Helmuts to Hardhats is helping, but it is not enough.

Do you think green jobs will come in the form of established businesses, like Gamesa, or in small business startups?

Green jobs, should not be called green jobs. They are jobs, some technical, some in the trades, marketing, engineering—you name it. They are jobs in the emerging energy sector. I have no doubt that there will be tremendous opportunities in this field. There is no other choice. One day, the world will not have enough oil to fuel all of the global needs, and the sooner the U.S. commits to developing and supporting alternatives to oil, the better for the entire nation. Oil isn’t going away overnight, but the sooner we become more independent, the better. The political will is there and so are investment dollars from the private sector.

You recently interviewed Gov. Rendell. How does he compare as a guest on your show?

Governor Rendell has always been very passionate about the causes he believes in. Energy independence is an area where he has become a national leader. He knows the issue well and knows there are facets to every choice and every investment. He is also a political leader who has made partnerships on both sides of the aisle. He is a leader in his Democratic Party and as a result has access to all the top newsmakers in politics. Being in the loop and being passionate about the issues that affect Pennsylvanians help to make the Governor a terrific guest.

While finance is a predominantly male field there are precedents for having a strong, calm female voice in the media, such as Jane Bryant Quinn and Suze Orman, though they have dealt primarily with personal finance. Maria Bartiromo reports on financial matters more generally. Do you see this as a field that is becoming more open to female reporters and analysts or is it still mostly a boys’ club?

Women have taken a leading role in the last few years when it comes to covering money issues, but they are still taking a back seat to the boys when it comes to running the big money institutions. Wall Street has a few women, but leadership on the street is dominated by men.

You were the first reporter to do live reports from the floor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. The exchange was recently purchased by NASDAQ. What does this mean for the region?

Not much, the exchanges make money by the volume and by proprietary products. I think it helps Philadelphia to be part of this bigger exchange organization, but trading floors like New York and Philadelphia are slowly disappearing because of electronic trading. My last visits to the NYSE and to the PHLX were eye opening – it was so quiet. That is because so much is done electronically. The Nasdaq does not have a trading floor because it is all electronic.

Earlier this year, you spoke at the Governor’s Conference for Women on investing and creating long-term wealth. In a nutshell, and in uncertain economic times, what are the top two or three things people need to do to ensure their financial security?

1) Be engaged. When times are tough we often want to put our head in the sand and ignore things hoping they will go away. But if you get involved with your finances early and often, you will be able to react and make appropriate changes to better ride the storm.
2) Get educated. Women especially, love to pawn the financial stuff off on the guys. Don’t do it. Know what is going on in your own household and use the internet and other free tools to help you (like watching Money Matters Today on CN8 or visiting :) ).

Thanks to Mary to taking the time to answer questions!

Friday, August 22, 2008

All A-Twitter

I've dipped my toes in the latest social networking craze. Yes, I'm now a twit, having joined twitter. So far most of my tweets have announced a future post. Should this be something you are interested in, you can follow me at:

PA in the Sept Issue of Money Magazine

While we are all waiting for the VP announcements and conventions to start, I’m catching up on my reading, in this case the new issue of Money Magazine.

Wharton prof Lyle Ungar, who was part of a team that developed a longevity calculator, is quoted in “Are you ready to live for a century?” by Jean Chatzky. You can check you own estimated lifespan by clicking on mortality at (I am estimated to live until 92, difficult for me to grasp as my father died at 57).

Diane Corrigan, CFO of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is quoted in the “Question of the month” (on whether people should carry their Medicare card as it has the SSN on it).

Philadelphia is included in the chart accompanying “Is it wise to downsize,” by Carla Fried

Ursinus College is mentioned in “Is college still worth the price,” by Penelope Wang ” We also find this quote:

According to a 2004 University of Pennsylvania study, prestigious degrees aren’t as valuable at major corporations as there were a generation ago.
As a graduate of a state university I find this reassuring.

The top 2 of the ten top-performing stocks, Philadelphia Consolidated, and Rohm & Haas, are located in the Philly area. I didn’t check # 3 – 10, maybe some of them are too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer Movie

From the inbox:

An important documentary film, Stealing America: Vote By Vote is making its Philadelphia area premiere this Friday at the Ritz Bourse in Center City . Plan to see it.

STEALING AMERICA : Vote by Vote brings together behind-the-scenes perspectives from the U.S. presidential election of 2004 – plus startling stories from key races in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2006. Unbiased and nonpartisan, the film sheds light on a decade of vote counts that don't match votes cast – uncounted ballots, vote switching, under-votes and many other examples of election totals that warrant serious investigation.

See this powerful nonpartisan film (look for a review in The Inquirer and other papers) and participate in a forum afterward with experts and activists. This is an opportunity to not only learn more about the problems of American elections but join with others in the greater Philadelphia area to discuss actions that citizens can take to protect the vote on November 4.

Show times start Friday, Aug. 22 and go through Thursday, August 28 at 2:40 pm and 7:30 pm.

Experts interviewed in the film include:

:• Bob Hagan – Ohio State Senator and first-hand witness to on-screen vote switching.

• Paul Craig Roberts -- Economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and sometimes called the

“Father of Reaganomics.” He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and Scripps

Howard News Service, and is at present a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate.

• Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. – Activist, author, environmental lawyer and co-host of Ring of Fire on the Air America Radio


• Charles Lewis – Investigative journalist and former 60 Minutes producer. Founder, Center for Public Integrity.

• Bruce O' Dell and Chuck Herrin – Fortune 100 company computer security analysts.

• Greg Palast – BBC investigative journalist whose reportage on the issue made the front page in U.K. and Europe , but was

suppressed in the U.S.

• Dr. Avi Rubin – Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University .

• Ion Sancho – Leon County Supervisor of Elections. Appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to count the votes

in the disputed 2000 presidential election, Sancho blazed a trail in proving that it is possible to "hack" into voting

machines and change the totals.

• Dr. Jonathan Simon – Data analyst, who has been focusing on exit poll discrepancies.

• John Zogby – International polling authority.

Stay informed about the vital issue of election integrity . Find out what you can do in your community to ensure a fair, efficient and safe election on November 4. See Stealing America : Vote By Vote at the Ritz Bourse ( Fourth street between Market and Chestnut) this week. And spread the word.

PA Dems Monitoring Convention

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party will be providing daily updates, photos, videos and interviews with Pennsylvania's delegates and other VIPs from the convention. You can also get updates as text messages. See the party site for further information.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Candidates Comedy Night

Last night was the 18th annual Stu Bykofsky Candidates Comedy Night, to benefit Variety, the children’s charity. Over the years the event has raised over $300,000 for children with disabilities.

This is an insider’s event. Candidates or groups can buy tables or individuals can buy single tickets. Looking at the layout of the room, there were only a few seats that weren’t at reserved tables. There was also a program that included three introductory letters (one from Bykofsky, two from Variety) and a page length description of Variety. Following that is a letter from Gov. Rendell. The rest of the 24 page book (plus the inside front cover and inside back and back cover) is full and half page ads from candidates, officials, and businesses.

This year 18 candidates were scheduled, but one, the Republican candidate for the first congressional district, did not show, although it sounded like he might never have agreed to or that he had not returned Bykofsky’s phone calls. Could be wrong on that though.

These are notes I took while listening. It is not, by any means, a complete transcription, and is not necessarily even-handed. There were a lot of comments I didn't even try to jot down. Please also see personal observations at the end.

Bykofsky and his co-host radio personality Rhea Hughes gave introductory remarks, including a note that over 400 people were in attendance. In addition to those speaking I also saw Seth Williams, Jonathan Seidel, Lou Freimiller, and Michael Nutter. There were likely others that I just didn’t see or recognize.

Bob Brady, incumbent Democratic congressman for the 1st congressional district was up first. This is his 17th year participating.

Marina Kats, Republican challenger for the 13th congressional district, and the only woman candidate to take the podium. She was right off a plan from Croatia. Kats mentioned she had a LLM degree and won a prize for best opening statement in a foreign language. Her jokes were mostly lawyer jokes.

Patrick Murphy, incumbent Democratic congressman for the 8th congressional district was up next. He mentioned that he will be speaking the Democratic National Convention Wednesday evening in prime time. His jokes were primarily self-deprecating, about being relatively young for a congressman. One related to finally being carded when he came in, another on being too young to make the Chinese gymnastics team. He said he had hidden his campaign strategy in a place where no one would look and held up a copy of his autobiography. He also took a few jobs at McCain.

Rob McCord, Democratic candidate for state treasurer, took the podium. Say the F word several times, talk about swearing in front of your pre-teen children, and you will have an approximation of his 3 minute routine.

Allyson Schwartz, 13th district Democratic congresswoman could not attend but sent her chief of staff, Daniel McElhatton as her surrogate. He read what he said was a letter from Schwartz but I doubt she had seen it. There were a lot of F words and some political jokes. She loves kids, especially Patrick Murphy. Josh Shapiro weeps at the sound of Murphy’s name.

A representative from Conestoga Bank, the primary sponsor of the event, gave a brief welcome speech. He mentioned that he and his wife are expecting their 5th child on November 4th. Congratulations!!!

Jack Morley, Republican candidate for the open 1st state senate district (Vince Fumo) told several Fumo jokes, jokes about being home schooled, and then moved on to making jokes about the city’s public schools, such as kids have a better chance of surviving Iraq than graduating (something like that) or they considered getting their girlfriends pregnant a biology experiment. [blogger’s note: what about the young women in biology class? He implies all the students are male.] He was booed.

John Perzel, Republican representative from the 102nd state house district told several jokes about himself.

Joe Conklin, a radio personality, said the theme song for the presidential debates should be “Ebony and Elderly” and did a lot of voice imitations of political candidates and officials.

John Morganelli, Democratic candidate for Attorney General said if elected he would be the shortest Attorney General in Pennsylvania history.

Bob Barr, former Georgia congressman and Libertarian candidate for president, was a surprise guest. He said he was a member of both the ACLU and the NRA. Several of his other jokes were good but he’s not from Pennsylvania so I didn’t take the time to note them. Sorry.

Adam Lang, Republican candidate for the 2nd congressional district, said he was looking forward to meeting Chaka Fattah (who was not in attendance), and so were many of his neighbors. He said Fattah wasn’t there because he thought it was a community meeting. Among the reasons he gave as to why people should vote for him was that he is not married to a woman who broadcast her artificial insemination but wouldn’t release her tax records for privacy reasons. [blogger’s note: I thought that was the most biting and wittiest line of the entire evening.]

Larry Farnese, Democratic candidate for the open 1st state senate district (Vince Fumo). His jokes were mostly self-deprecating about how small his campaign staff and office are. He said during his last campaign run his office had four tires and a steering wheel. Recently he said he had trouble with the lights in his office but when he called the electricians they never came out. He also read a good humorous poem. [blogger’s note: His opponent, Jack Morley, was standing so he was directly in Farnese’s line of sight while he talked.]

Tom Ellis, Republican candidate for state treasurer, came to the stage dressed as Napoleon. He said he had ruled Montgomery County until Joe Hoeffel exiled him. He told a lot of jokes about being short and sang the “Lollipop Guild” song from “The Wizard of Oz.” He also told a joke about a sign at a fair that the world’s largest rat but when he told Bruce Castor, Castor has said that wasn’t possible because Jim Matthews was in town that day.

Craig Williams, Republican candidate for the 7th congressional district, told a lot of good news / bad news jokes. The good news is Charlie Sexton called and offered to help with his campaign; the bad news is Charlie Sexton called and offered to help with his campaign. The good news is God wants you to vote for John McCain; the bad news is it’s only because they were high school buddies. The good news is that his wife, a federal prosecutor, successfully prosecuted Milton Street; the bad news is the airlines kept losing their luggage.

Rich Costello, candidate for the 172nd state house district, mentioned he was a police officer for over 30 years. He told a lot of sports jokes and said he would designate the middle finger as the PA state bird.

Mark Collazo [blogger’s note: I cannot verify the spelling of his name; it is just an approximation], surrogate for Tom Manion, Republican candidate for the 8th congressional district, is an attorney. He told some Hillary Clinton jokes, one of which had “old cow” as the punch line.

Tom Corbett, Republican incumbent Attorney General, was up next. He said Ed Rendell won’t come back to Philadelphia after his term as governor ends, because the city has banned trans fats. He said Lynne Abraham had hired his daughter and that Abraham was so tough that gang members had her face tattooed on their arms. He said if people voted for him he would ensure that all future bonuses were donated to Stu Bykofsky’s Comedy Night. One of his other jokes was that Paris Hilton said it was okay to vote for the old white-haired dude.

Joe Sestak, Democratic incumbent congressman for the 7th congressional district, ended the show. He said there wouldn’t be a nativity scene in Washington this year because the city can’t find three wise men or a virgin. He also said it was better to offend God than another politician because God will forgive you.

Personal observations: This wasn’t really my cup of tea. A lot of the humor was vulgar and profane, just not my style, and not suitable for a family blog. I didn’t take notes on most of it; I just didn’t want to write it down. However, you might think it is hilarious. If you are curious I would encourage you to attend next year and see for yourself. It is certainly for a good cause.

Like most political events the audience was about 70% (or more) male. One notable exception took me awhile to figure out. Some very young provocatively dressed women kept walking from their table in the back of the room to the other side of the room, where the bar was but came back without drinks. The ladies’ room was by their table so they weren’t headed there. The only other stops along the way that I know of were the mens’ room, the registration desk and the elevator. At one point Bykofsky mentioned that Club Risque was a sponsor and had bought a table. My theory is that the ladies were at that table and that they might have been walking advertisements for “Delaware Valley’s premier gentlemen’s club.” But I could be completely wrong about that.

As for political humor, I thought Adam Lang and Craig Williams had the wittiest jokes, but that is very much a matter of personal taste. As challengers they have greater latitude in taking jabs at their opponents.

Lois Herr Blogs the Convention

Lois Herr has started a blog to share her experiences at the Democratic convention in Denver.

Check out:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Interview with Robert Traynham (Part 1 of 3)

CN8, the Comcast Network will air live nightly from 8-11 p.m. on Aug. 25-28 at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and from Sept. 1-4 at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

One of those reporting will be Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief Robert Traynham, who also hosts his own show on the network, “Roll Call TV with Robert Traynham.” Locals may remember him as former Sen. Santorum's communications director. Last February I posted a note with links to interviews with him on Capitol Ideas and in Campaigns & Elections' Politics magazine. I am now adding to that list.

This is part one of a three part interview with Traynham. These are basic biographical questions. Part two will follow the Democratic convention and part three after the Republican convention.

On your website ( you mention your work on legislative staffs but don’t say which representative and senator (Santorum) you worked for. Why?

I decided that it was more important for me to highlight the work that I did in the United States Senate, as opposed to any particular politician. I’m proud of my work in the Senate, and even more proud to have worked for a United States Senator who truly made a difference in the lives of many Americans.

Your graduate work focused on what and how candidates say and how voters hear those messages. Can you tell us a little about what you learned, briefly?

What I learned academically has proven time and time again to be right on point in terms of what I actually experience politically. My graduate work taught me that you and I can hear the same political message from a candidate, but we may interpret it differently based on our background, culture, religion, etc. In my nearly 16 years in politics, this theory has proven to be true time and time again.

What is it like being a trustee at your alma mater, Cheyney University? What do you hope to accomplish there?

Cheyney University is a wonderful university. I get goose bumps every time I step foot on campus. Its legacy is full of rich stories of African Americans helping other African Americans with something that is priceless: an education. I stand on the shoulders of many African Americans who helped me throughout my educational experience and my hope is that I can return the favor by serving as a Trustee.

You were consistently named one of the 50 most powerful staffers on Capitol Hill. How did you exercise that power?

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” That type of thinking helped me when I was a Senate staffer. I used my influence behind the scenes to influence legislation that I felt very strongly about. Instead of grandstanding in front of the cameras or in front of reporters, I would pull a Senator aside and tell him or her the pros and cons of a particular piece of legislation. I would then tell how this would help African Americans, the disabled, young people, etc. I’m very proud of that and even more proud of the fact that I did it humbly and without fanfare.

How have you adjusted to being in front of the cameras after being behind the scenes for so many years?

I’m a guy that talks about politics. I just so happen to do it in front of the camera. Every day, no matter where I am—in a hotel, on a train, or in my office—I always take a few moments out of my day to remind myself that I am not special and that I put my pants on one leg at a time just like the other person and to thank the man upstairs for many blessings. It keeps me grounded. I do have to chuckle at some of the people that are on TV that think the world revolves around them. When I see this, it’s a reminder of how I do not want to be. I will say that I am fortunate and very blessed and being on camera is no different from my father delivering the mail, or my brother teaching inner city males about adulthood. It’s a profession. One that I enjoy and sometimes laugh out loud that people actually pay me to do this. Gosh. Only in America.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Bryan Lentz Goes to the Dogs (Again)

State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D-151 161)is holding another public meeting on dog cruelty bills. From the inbox:

State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-Delaware, will hold a discussion on three bills currently being considered in the House that would strengthen current dog and animal cruelty laws in Pennsylvania.

The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 at the Radnor Township Building, 301 Iven Ave. in Wayne.

The bills would seek to raise standards for commercial breeding kennels without affecting other types of kennels that house dogs.

A panel of guest speakers will include Bill Smith, founder of the Main Line Animal Rescue, recently featured on "Oprah"; Tom Hickey, member of the governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board; and Jessie Smith, special deputy in the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.

Lentz said many pet owners have contacted him about the dog legislation to express their support, and his local public forums provide an opportunity for everyone to share concerns and information about these proposals.

The first bill, H.B. 2525, would double the minimum floor space for dog enclosures and require solid flooring, as well as access to an outdoor exercise area twice the size of the dog’s primary enclosure. The legislation also would mandate annual veterinary care, and eliminate the stacking of cages for adult dogs.

A second measure, H.B. 2532, would allow only veterinarians to perform debarking, the practice of cutting or destroying a dog’s vocal cords. Tail docking would be allowed by individual owners until a dog is 3 days old, after which point it would have to be done by a veterinarian.

Under a third measure, H.B. 499, fines would be increased for cruelty to animals. It would also require owners of dogs seized for cruelty to pay reasonable expenses for the care and keep of a dog while it is held at a humane society or animal shelter – or surrender ownership of the dog.

Obama's Rural Pennsylvania Strategy

Sen. Obama is starting a special outreach to rural Pennsylvania voters. There is a page on his presidential campaign site specifically for that constituency with links to relevant resources, including a one page handout on his policies for that region.

There was a conference call today with State Rep. Dan Surra, an early supporter of Obama's and Obama for America Rural Vote Deputy Director David Lazarus. Surra, who represents the 75th district in rural Elk and Clearfield Counties, is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a member of the Game and Fisheries Committee.

Two points from the press release after the call:

The Obama Campaign is going to compete very aggressively for rural voters who have been ignored by the Bush administration. The campaign has opened several rural offices already in places like Lewistown, Lancaster, Beaver and Uniontown, with more on the way as the campaign continues. The campaign has a strong base in rural Pennsylvania of over 4,300 volunteers and 5,300 donors.


Democratic registration in rural areas of Pennsylvania is up nearly
28,000 this year, while Republican registration has declined by more than 5,700.

Some of the topics discussed on the call (and outlined on the rural policies page linked above) include the impact of high gasoline costs on rural areas where people have long commutes and little or no access to public transportation, the importance of investing in rural infrastructure, and combating the manufacture and use of methamphetamines. There are more. You should read for yourself. More details on policies and planned events will be released later.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Bloggy Welcome to Philadelphia Criminal Law Blog

My old pal Peter Amuso, who ran for District Attorney of Montgomery County last year, has returned to private practice and started his own blog on Philadelphia Criminal Law. He also writes on veterans law.

Give it a look see.

Studying Philadelphia Region Non-Profits

The Economy League will be studying the regional non-profit sector. From their press release:

The Economy League was commissioned by the Philadelphia Foundation to conduct a two-part analysis of the state of nonprofits in Greater Philadelphia. While more than 15% of jobs in the five-county region are in the nonprofit sector, the state of the financial health of the sector remains unknown.

The research will:

* benchmark the current state of economic health of the region's nonprofit sector,
* quantify measures relating to the sector's value and impact, and
* compile aggregate measures of size and employment to develop a region-wide database of nonprofits.

The intent of the research is to:

* identify challenges, risks, and opportunities relating to the effectiveness and sustainability of the region's nonprofit community,
* develop tools for analyzing trends relating to the financial health of the local nonprofit sector, and
* identify potential opportunities and risks.

The goal of the study is to help nonprofits build their capacity so they move toward becoming more self-sustaining and less vulnerable to economic swings.

The Inquirer ("Growth Sector: Nonprofits in Philadelphia," by Mike Armstrong 8/14), citing a 2005 Johns Hopkins study (Pennsylvania Nonprofit Employment by Lester M. Salamon and Stephanie Lessans Geller), says that 27% of those employed in the private sector work for a non-profit; six of the 10 top employers in the area are non-profits (think Blue Cross and the University of Pennsylvania).

There are a lot of smaller nonprofits, though, who may only employ a few people. Last weekend's Center Square column by Chris Satullo, "Their calling: re-invigorate the region's nonprofits," profiles one of these, Philly Fellows. Its purpose is to help place recent college graduates in one year fellowships with local service agencies. For a few more examples, see the job listings on the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations website,

The Economy League's preliminary results should be out in early 2009. It will be interesting reading.

A Short Meditation on Wooden Spoons

From age 18 to about 32 I moved or changed jobs or both every two years. One benefit of moving so frequently is it tends to keep one's possessions at a manageable level. Once you settle somewhere things just tend to accumulate.

Today, in order to avoid doing something else, I cleaned out the kitchen utensil drawer. It was cluttered with straws and ketchup packets and sets of plastic forks and spoons. There were also three potato mashers, three pasta servers, four can openers, two apple slicers, four peelers/corers, three spatulas, assorted scrapers, and fifteen wooden spoons. Too much.

I kept six of the spoons, varying handle lengths and bowl shapes, and no more than two of everything else. The rest will be donated somewhere.

Wooden spoons were a staple in my mother's kitchen. Ma said she tried plastic ones at one point but decided they weren't as good. I remember wooden spoons in my grandmothers' kitchen. I've never cooked with anything else. There is something very simple and basic about a wood spoon.

My favorites are made from one piece of wood, as opposed to those that are clearly composites. It's part of a tree, a piece of nature, just like the food. You can get a real workout with a wooden spoon. After a stressful day or when I'm angry nothing quite gets out the aggression like blending two sticks of cold butter into some brown sugar. And you get to eat cookies later. The constant attention a white sauce requires can provide a focus when life goes flying in all directions. Stirring up a casserole or a salad can be a positive and productive act in a chaotic world.

Give me a wooden spoon, a bowl, a stocked kitchen, and I'm a happy camper. But fifteen is way too many.

Election Protection

An edited version of a press release from the inbox:

During the 2008 primaries, Election Protection found that many eligible voters across the country lost their right to vote because of inaccurate voter rolls, poorly trained poll workers and problems with voting machines.

The Hotline, will be available now through Election Day, with thousands of trained Election Protection volunteers and legal experts providing direct assistance to voters. Election Protection helps voters understand voting rights, verify registration status, help ensure correct information about polling place or securing an absentee ballot, and that ballots are cast and counted on Election Day. Initial hours for live assistance are M-F 9am-5pm EST.

“It is important that there are resources available to those who will encounter problems when they register or attempt to cast their ballot,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “All those who wish to vote should be aware of their registration status and their rights at the polling place so they can cast a secure ballot and have it count. These are issues of both accountability and fairness,” she said.

For the phone number see the website

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brett of Pennsyltucky Moves On

One of my favorite newspaper bloggers, Brett Lieberman of Pennsyltucky Politics is moving on. The Harrisburg Patriot-News is closing its Washington bureau after the November elections. For the near future Brett will be writing for New York based publication, covering the elections for them. I hope he returns to blogging soon.

PA in the WSJ

This is a list of articles regarding Pennsylvania in this week's Wall Street Journal. Chances are I missed something, but these are the articles that caught my eye.

It should be noted that I routinely do not read the editorials in the WSJ. So any discussions of the state, its elected officials, businesses, or citizens, in editorials will not be mentioned here.

PA Politicians

We have a trio this week.

Lawmaker’s Aide pleads guilty to obstructing probe,” on the Fumo case (8/12)

McCain in Erie, “McCain bristles over Russia’s “aggression”,” by Elizabeth Holmes and Amy Chozick (8/12)

Congressman John Murtha is prominently mentioned and quoted in “Attack on George gives boost to big U.S. weapons programs,” by August Cole (8/16)

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.,’s scheduled appearance at the Democratic National Convention later this month is mentioned in “Young clergyman leads Obama’s drive to attract ‘faith voters,” by Amy Chozick (8/16)

In presidential news, both candidates are buying ad air time in Pennsylvania, see “Obama floods Florida airwaves,” by Aaron Rutkoff (8/12)

Pennsylvania is mentioned in “Voter registration is the new battleground,” by Corey Dade and John D. McKinnon (8/12)

The Democratic Party platform committee met in Pittsburgh, as discussed in “Democrats seek unity in preparing party platform,” by Amy Chozick (8/11)

PA Businesses

Dick’s Sporting Goods of Pittsburgh is mentioned in “Tiny detergent makes scores big as U.S. sponsor,” by Stephanie Kang (8/11)

Dranoff Properties is mentioned in “Change of plans,” by Riva Richmond (8/11)

Glenville farmer John Breckenridge is quoted in “Prime cutbacks: farmers seek a little less bull,” by Jennifer Levitz (8/12)

Tim Stark of Lenhartsville’s Eckerton Hill Farm is the focus of “The accidental tomato farmer,” by Dennis Nishi (8/12)

AKA Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia is mentioned in “Crashing at extended-stay hotels,” by Charles Passy (8/14)

“Toll brothers is seeing signs of hope for housing market,” by David Benoit (8/14)

On Urban Outfitter, “Clothier’s net income up 79% on sales gains,” (8/15)

Matt Breyer of Breyer Construction in Reading, Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, and unnamed Amish are mentioned in “From barn raisings to home building,” by Nancy Keates (8/15)

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Pittsburgh is mentioned in “Cracking the code of restaurant wine pricing,” by Juliet Chung (8/15)

Other PA

The Countrywide Mortgage bankruptcy court case in Pittsburgh is mentioned in “Countrywide deal with critic is disputed,” by Peg Brickley (8/11)

Lawyers for drug companies and plantiffs met for their annual conventions near each other in Philadelphia. See “plaintiffs lawyers fight restrictions on product-liability suits,” by Alicia Munday (8/13)

You know those annoying wavy letter things you have to type in before posting comments or other things on the web? Designed by Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University. He has a new plan, read “Web-security inventor charters a squigglier course,” by Ethan Smith (8/13)

Pennsylvania residents are among those switching from oil to gas heat in “Ditching oil, converting to gas,” by Jeremy Singer-Vine (8/13)

Lawrence Brown, statistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania is quoted in ”Boston Scientific stent study flawed,” by Keith J. Winstein (8/14)

Mitchell Fink of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has some questions about a new therapy for Sepsis infections. Fink and some colleagues have been dubbed “The Pittsburgh Pirates,”. See “New therapy for sepsis infections raises hope but many questions,” by Thomas Burton (8/14)

“Increased taxes in Pennsylvania ignite another whiskey rebellion,” by Clare Ansberry (8/15)

Some University of Pennsylvania researchers were involved in the study discussed in “Obesity study looks thin,” by Carl Bialik (8/15)

From “USDA expands its recall of beef,” (8/15):

Nebraska Beef’s intact meat products have been linked to 27 illnesses in Canada, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Henry B. R. Brown, whose obituary appears on 8/16, was a native of Pittsburgh. “Co-inventor of money-market account helped serve small investors’ interest,” by Stephen Miller outlines Brown’s contribution to investing.

Other Interesting Tidbits

String’em up: “New plea in Iraq, Kuwait troop-supply plot,” by Joel Millman (8/13). Anyone who profits at the expense of soldiers in the field is really slimy, at least in my opinion.

From “Home solar jumps in Europe,” by Emma Charlton (8/13):
There is eight times as much residential and commercial capacity to produce solar energy in Europe as in the U.S., according to estimates from Swiss private-banking group Bank Sarasin.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Matthew 25 Network

There are all sorts of public policy and issue oriented PACs springing up. One of the more interesting, at least to me, is the Matthew25 Network. It takes its name from Matthew 25:40 (And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." )

Part of their mission statement reads:

Therefore, while no elected official will be without flaw, we come together as individuals to support candidates for public office who share the values of the Matthew 25 Network: promoting life with dignity, caring for the least of these, strengthening and supporting families, stewardship of God’s Creation, working for peace and justice at home and abroad, and promoting the common good.

They have a new ad out promoting Barack Obama's views on the family and family oriented issues. Items that might have appeared in the news recently aren't mentioned directly, neither are any peculiarities in Sen. McCain's background, but some people might feel they are being alluded to. In cases like this I tend to think it is not so much a case of John 8:7 ("He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.") as it is "There but for the grace of God go I." (much as I wanted this last statement to be Biblical, it isn't -- the quote seems to have originated with a man named John Bradford in the 1500s.)

But I still think the Matthew25 Network sounds cool.

Ed Rendell on "Money Matters"

Gov. Rendell appeared on CN8's "Money Matters" with Mary Caraccioli last Tuesday. They spoke about renewable energy at the beginning of the show, and politics at the end. In the middle a financial investor spoke about a selection of stocks. I did not transcribe any of the investor's remarks. They were interesting, to be sure, but that isn't the focus of the blog.

These are rough notes. My apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions. You can watch the episode yourself on "On Demand."

M is Mary Caraccioli, ER is Gov. Rendell

M: Today I met Gov Ed Rendell at one of the two major wind manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania. They have a backlog of orders for their wind turbines.

ER: Gamesa came here because we passed Advanced Energy Portfolio Standards. We said by 2021 18% of the energy sold at retail must come from renewables, wind, solar, geothermal, clean coal. Prior to that happening PA was the lading state in the Eastern US in creating wind power but only barely. Gamesa came in and we are on track to produce 10 times as much.

M: Must be a market for it. When oil goes up the market goes up.

ER: Have to help create the market. Incentivize. Gamesa fairly mature already. Others are newer -- radiowaves off water, turn tobacco leaves into ethanol, microwave old tires. Incentivize early state industries. Tax advantage for investing in renewables for consumer. Right now congress considering extending tax credit for incentives. W/o that tax credit you won’t get investment in private sector. Govt won’t be enough to keep industry going.

M: timetable to get to 18% renewable in PA.. As a nation to get to a place where we are far more energy independent.

ER: 2021, some are other years. I think we can get there even faster. Boone Pickens thinks we can get 20% of our energy from wind in 5 years if we make the commitment. Helps environment. Could use natural gas now used for electricity for cars to decrease dependence on foreign oil. New president must convene Manhattan Project on first day. Cellulosic ethanol from wood chips agricultural waste, landfill waste switchgrass. Iowa is capitol of corn ethanol. We could be the capital of cellulosic.

M: How close are we?

ER: We have woodchips and wood fiber, a lot of agricultural waste, big landfill state, switchgrass and landgrass galore. Two cellulosic ethanol plants in construction. If they are successful in the first year then in 5 years you will see a lot more. We will have to call on everything. Solar, wind geothermal, clean coal, hydro. Everything’s got to be on the table. Rising demand in the world, India, China, Africa, means no matter how much we produce the supply will never meet the demand. C word, conservation. McCain made fun of Obama’s comment on air pressure. But Obama is right. Air pressure, air filters, drive speed limit

M: Jimmy Carter, wear sweater lower thermostat, perceived as a defeatist message.

ER: It’s how you sell it. President should say “are you ticked off about energy and gas prices?” The govt will do something but it will take time but if you want to send a message to the world, cut your consumption by 10%. It will send a message that will shake their eye teeth. If demand drops then price will drop.

[John Morris, principal, from Crestwood Advisors / investments discusses green stocks]

M: Millions of dollars already spent on presidential tv ads. In PA John McCain outspending Barack Obama. Can McCain win PA?

ER: McCain is the most attractive candidate in winning PA in 20 years. He can win it. We have to draw the difference between McCain and Obama on the issues. When they learn McCain, while a nice man, is a conservative not a moderate. Won’t play well in Philly suburbs. Will chose Supreme Court judges like the ones Bush chose.

M: need Hillary Clinton

ER: doesn’t need her but it would be easier to win PA with her. Obama must spend time here must spend money here. People start getting interested after the conventions and Labor Day. He has to deliver those messages, esp to moderates and Republican women. Best surrogate is Hillary Clinton. Spoke to her on Monday she said she would be back to campaign for Obama.

M: His vice president may upstage him

ER: Yes, if you listen to him talk, he talks in glowing terms about the book Team of Rivals, Lincoln put many of his primary rivals on his cabinet, 4 of chief rivals in primary. People thought he was crazy but he said the nation is challenged and he needed best people available. Willing to have Joe Biden as vp. Great foreign policy experience. Also best help other than Clinton in winning PA. Biden was born in Scranton and Joe’s commercials have aired in Philly for 20 years.

M; You are always mentioned for jobs. If you could pick your own job in Obama’s White House what would it be?

ER: I have an implied contract with the voters to serve out term as governor. If I finish my term in January 2011 and secretary of energy or transportation were available would like to do that. Would do virtually anything Obama asked me to do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Look at Freedom's Watch with a Note on Pennsylvania

While 527’s, like the 2004 group Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, are often discussed in political circles, another type of group, 501c4s, are equally influential. One of these, Freedom’s Watch, debuted last year.

General History

The idea for FW came out of an event held at the American Enterprise Institute in Dec. 2006 but did not get formally off the ground until a March 2007 meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Florida (Van Natta 9/30/2007)

The group’s early announced plans were ambitious:

Next week, the group will move into a 10,000-square-foot, or 930-square-meter office in the Chinatown section of Washington with plans to employ as many as 50 people by early next year. One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. (Van Natta 10/01/2007)

However, in January, 2008 there were 20 people on the staff, though it was expected to double. Joe Eule was quoted as the executive director, and Ed Patru, formerly of the House Republicans, was on board to be in charge of communications, and they were expecting to raise $250 million (Kane and Weisman). A few months earlier Bradley Blakeman was quoted as president of FW. Blakeman had been a deputy assistant to Pres. Bush. Matt S. David was quoted as a spokesman for the group (Van Natta, Jr., 9/30/2007) The group went through some growing pains in March, 2008, with “a leadership change and internal disagreements about its direction” (Mosk). In July Carl Forti is mentioned as the executive vice president (Kronholz and Audi), Tim Pearson is quoted as being the group spokesman (Singelton). That same month Patru is also quoted as an FW spokesman (Whittington).

Things have not gone exactly as planned. In June it was reported:
Freedom’s Watch has disavowed published reports that it would spend more than $200 million and has been roiled by staff turnover and infighting (Bolton)

The principal financial backer is Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner. Last February he “feigned ignorance” on what FW was (Kronholz and Audi). Other investors include:
Among the group’s founders are Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chieve exective of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who ranks sixth on the Forbe Magazine list of the worlds billionairs; Mel Sembler, a shopping center magnate based in St. Petersburg, Fla, who served as the ambassador to Italy and Australia; John M. Templeton, Jr., the conservative philanthropist from Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and Anthony H. Goia, a former ambassador to Malta who heads an investment group based in Buffalo, N.Y. (Van Natta, Jr., 9/30/2007).
Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for Pres. Bush is another founder (Kane and Weisman). However, in its goal to be the conservative answer to MoveOn, FW intends to build a broad base of support and do grassroots fundraising (Kane and Weisman)

These groups can be involved in election activities provided more than half of their work is geared towards nonpolitical goals. Perhaps as part of the fulfillment of that obligation, it was reported last September (Van Natta 9/30/2007) that FW would sponsor “a private form of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States.”

Initially the group intended to focus on the war in Iraq but later expanded to include ads on illegal immigration and, more recently, offshore drilling. In June 2008 they commented on mortgage deals received by two Democratic senators (Weisman and El Boghdady). In Sept. 2007, the group spent $15 million in television ads in 20 states, supporting Pres. Bush’s Iraq strategy. Later that month the group ran its first ad focusing on an individual district, in support of Rep. Brian Baird. (Seelye). This program continued and in Nov. 2007, seven freshmen Democrats were targeted in newspaper ads on emergency funding for the Iraq War (Miller). In May 2008, the group ran ads in two special congressional elections, both won by Democrats. That same month FW paid for robocalls in several Democratic congressional districts criticizing Congress for its strategy on funding the Iraq war (Beam). FW also decided to focus primarily on congressional races, no the presidential election (Thomma).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has filed numerous complaints with the FEC over FW’s work. One was in April, 2008:
The DCCC says a Microsoft Word computer file of the ad sent to a Louisiana TV station contained an electronic identifier with the name Carl Forti, a Freedom’s Watch official and a former NRCC employee.

Political party committees are barred from coordinating with outside groups on ads that refer to federal candidates within 90 days of an election.

FW’s response from the same article:
A spokesman for Freedom’s Watch said the electronic identifier with Mr. Forti’s name was created by an outside vendor who used the same Microsoft Word template for multiple clients. The spokesman said the two groups have not coordinated on any campaigning. (Lengell and Sheffield)

This year:
Democrats also have challenged the tax-exempt status of Freedom’s Watch by contending that its ads inappropriately target candidates. Federal tax laws allow such groups to lobby on public policy, but not to advocate for or against specific candidates. The Internal Revenue Service declines to discuss whether it is investigating. (Kronholz and Audi)

The DCCC filed four complaints with the FEC in April or May.
In a Federal Election Commission complaint filed Wednesday, the DCCC alleges that the outside conservative group “aired multiple electioneering communications without filing reports with the commission,” specifically television ads starting April 22 and April 29 the at “clearly identified, and advocated the defeat,” of now Rep. Don Cazayoux (D. La). (Murray)

A similar complaint was filed in Mississippi.

Democrats have not simply filed complaints but fired back:
Democrats, initially caught off guard by Mr. Adelson and Freedom’s Watch, have since tried to turn them into a liability for candidates the group has supported. During two special elections in Louisiana and Mississippi this spring, the Democratic Party bought ads on Christian radio stations that linked Republican candidates to Freedom’s Watch, Mr. Adelson, his gambling interests and his business relations with China – a country, the Democrats noted, where an authoritarian government promotes abortion. Both Republicans lost. (Fronholz and Audi)

Pennsylvania Connections

In August of 2007, a focus group in Pennsylvania viewed the group’s ads on Iraq. Later that month FW spent around $1 million in Philadelphia to encourage Sen. Arlen Specter to support the president’s Iraq strategy (Meek). Among those targeted in November 2007 with newspaper ads was Chris Carney of Pennsylvania’s 10th district:
As for the pro-military ad campaign, Mr. Carney, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, who was activated for service in the Afghanistan war, bristled at the ad that ran in his district in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

“As someone who still wears the uniform, he will always support giving our troops the resources they need,” said Carney spokesman Rebecca Gale (Miller).

Dr. John Templeton is often listed as one of the major donors to FW. Templeton was recently listed in PolitickerPA’s 50 most influential people in Pennsylvania politics. Other Pennsylvania donors include:
Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; … and Richard Fox, who is chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and was Pennsylvania state chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980. (Spak)

Ardmore businessman Gary Erlbaum is also connected to FW (Carpenter).

In May of 2008 FW used robocalls in specific House districts, criticizing Iraq War spending bill votes. Among those targeted were Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney and John Murtha (Kurtz)

Democratic Congressmen Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney were among 16 House Democrats targeted by radio ads in July 2008. The ads were identical and accused the incumbents of voting against offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR. Robocalls proceeded the radio ads (Singleton).


Beam, Alex, “Adelson bets big on right-wing politics,” Boston Globe 6/03/2008

Bolton, Alexander, “Left’s cash crushing right,” The Hill 6/04/2008

Carpenter, Paul, “The propaganda crusade on Iraq has a local link,” Morning Call 9/09/2007.

Kane, Paul and Jonathan Weisman, “Political advocacy group formed by former Bush aides plan a broad agenda,” Washington Post 1/20/2008

Kronholz, June and Tamara Audi, “Jackpot: Vegas tycoon bankrolls Republicans,” Wall Street Journal 7/15/2008

Kurtz, Josh, “Freedom’s Watch hits Democrats with calls,” Roll Call 5/27/2008

Lengell, Sean and Carrie Sheffield, “GOP accused of FEC violation; activist group linked to ad,” Washington Times 4/17/2008

Meek, James Gordon, “Don’t give up, ads urge GOP 15M blitz aims to keep pols’ support for war,” New York Daily News 8/25/2007

Miller, S. A., “Ads target new House Democrats on war funding: debate on ’08 bill set to start,” Washington Times 11/14/2007

Mosk, Matthew, “Leading GOP donor push to catch up to liberal groups,” Washington Post 4/21/2008

Murray, Matthew, “Freedom’s Watch gets hit again by DCCC,” Roll Call 5/08/2008

Seelye, Katharine Q., “Battle over Iraq strategy,” New York Times 9/05/2007

Singleton, David, “Kanjorski, Carney targets of Freedom’s Watch ads,” (Scranton) Times-Tribune 07/01/2008.

Spak, Dan, Republican group plays on patriotism for selfish reasons,” Wilkes Barre Times Leader 9/01/2007

Thomma, Steven, “The failed assault; Republican attrack groups are largely silent about Obama,” National Post 6/30/2008

Van Natta, Jr., Don, “Big coffers and a rising voice lift a new conservative group,” New York Times 9/30/2007

Van Natta, Jr., Don, “Group aims for wealthy U.S. donors on the right,” International Herald Tribune 10/01/2007

Weisman, Jonathan and Dina El Boghdady, “Countrywide gave special attention to lawmakers,” Washington Post 6/14/2008.

Whittington, Lauren W., “DCCC goes for broke; new site hits Freedom’s Watch,” Roll Call 7/31/2008