NY25: whither the Crossroads GPS machine?

The great thing about post-election analysis is: there’s almost no limit to the myriad ways to slice the pie and come to your own conclusions about what happened the night before. Last night was no exception, but in the NY25 race between Louise Slaughter and Maggie Brooks, I have to wonder where that great boogeyman, Crossroads GPS went to?

Crossroads GPS is Karl “Turdblossom” Rove’s Political Action Committee, which is Washington speak for “giant bank account for political ads.” After the Citizens United case effectively eliminated the limits on private financing of elections, CGPS served as the poster boy for everything disastrous that could happen when unlimited funds entered politics. And there’s no question that exorbitant sums of money were spent on this political season: one report has Conservative groups alone spending $800m on this election season. Nearly one billion dollars from only one demographic. Other reports have put the total expenditure for the season in the $2bn range.

I kept waiting for things to get really ugly in NY25. Here you have two well-liked, well-known candidates in a brand new district, duking it out in what should be a bad year for incumbents. Sooner or later, I thought, those Crossroads ads are going to get pretty nasty.

But instead, it seems like Crossroads were partying like it was 1999. Pay raises? Generic “taxes?” “High-flying junkets?” When and in what district has there been an election in which these attacks were not used? They are practically boilerplate Conservative attacks: you use this in addition to – not exclusively in lieu of – more relevant, local and timely attacks.

Its worth noting that, for a politician with 26 years in Congress of all places, Louise Slaughter has what can only be considered a shockingly clean record. No scandals, not even much argument over “earmarks” or sops to patrons. Even so, there must have been something – something – that the Crossroads people could have dredged up if they really wanted to. But despite the NY25 campaign being one of the most expensive in the state, it doesn’t seem like Crossroads spent much of that cash on research.

It would be a mistake on a number of levels to assume that this means outside money and unlimited cash have no effect. But its clear that simply dumping a bunch of money on a race will not by itself win that race. Yes, there is such a thing as bad advertisement. Perhaps in other races, Crossroads’ efforts were more focused, but in this race at least, their results cast a pretty dim light on the organization.

Politics Science

Politics 2012: will Rochester candidates be asked for science-based answers?

As we get closer to that time in the election season where we hope we see debates between Congressional candidates, it is worth asking whether those moderating those debates will seek out concrete, science-based answers. A myriad of issues facing our nation concern themselves directly with science, from energy policy to education to food and water policies. the ScienceDebate 2012 site lists a number of other issues that bear directly on objective science.

Neither does this mean an open invitation to bash Maggie Brooks over the head with questions about rape and abortion[1. But, hey! It if happens, it happens]. There is no particular reason why the former Chair of the House Rules Committee should not be able to answer a straight-forward question about her view of the government’s role in driving innovative research and how that affects her district. Voting for our President is important. But sending a representative to Washington who is clear on our scientific priorities and will vote that way is at least as important.

But don’t let national politicians be the only ones who get queried on these important science issues. Considering the primacy of fracking in our state government debates, we should probably as Ted O’Brien or Sean Hanna their positions on fracking, what they support and what they do not. And most importantly: why.

A representative that can’t articulate an intelligent answer for why the support a position is probably doing so for the benefit of a donor or a perceived constituency, not because they understand the issue. That bodes poorly for their ability to adapt to emerging information on the scientific issues of our time. That’s not someone I want in office, how about you?