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?

Politics Technology

Is Maggie Brooks’ cyberbullying bill just shallow politics?

Whilst working on another post about cyberbullying, I’ve had time, thanks to good friends in conventional media, to review the actual bill the Monroe County Legislature just passed on the issue. Near the bottom, I find this curious passage:

382-8 Reverse Preemption

This law shall be null and void on the day that statewide or federal legislation goes into effect, incorporating either the same or substantially similar provisions as are contained in this local law or in the event that a pertinent state or federal administrative ….

So in English, this basically means that the whole law gets thrown out the minute another, similar law at the “statewide or federal” level goes into effect. But this bill was signed into law one day after a state law was passed, and a mere six months before it goes into effect. The bill was initially introduced to the Monroe County Legislature on March 20th. So what is the need for this law that garnered so much press?

Even had there been more time for the law to go into effect, it is difficult to imagine how Monroe County could possibly enforce such a law. There is nothing in the bill itself to indicate any additional powers or responsibilities on the part of law enforcement, the County or any other body. It merely says that violation of the letter of the law will be punishable by up to a year in jail. By whom? How do they intend to apprehend an attacker?

A basically unenforceable law with a six month shelf life. Hard to see what benefit there is for anybody not running for US Representative in NY25.

I attempted to contact Legislator Barker for comment, but he was not available. I’m waiting to hear back from him.

Politics Rochester

MC Airport Authority: Its (Still) Not About the Credit Carts

Another opportunity to explain what the problem is, lost:

Authorities Budget Office calls out Monroe County executive in open letter | Democrat and Chronicle |

Those reforms included restrictions on business travel expenses and credit card use and prohibited the purchase of alcohol and tobacco.

In its report, the state concluded that the reforms were insufficient and criticized the board for only moving to correct lapses after it was under pressure from the county executive to do so.

Sigh. A few expensive dinners and presumably kick-ass cigars are not the problem, nor are they the major prescriptions in the original Authorities Budget Office report. There is no accountability and instead of appointing someone nominally independent, Brooks chose to install someone who was part of the problem from the beginning.


No More Phones and Cars for County Workers?

Monroe County Democrats say they want to save the taxpayers money by eliminating a few perks that go with select County jobs. Specifically, according to WHAM13 news, they want to eliminate taxpayer-funded cars and phones:

Democrats: Eliminate Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones and Cars – Rochester, News, Weather, Sports, and Events –

They estimate that the savings for the taxpayer would be in the range of $600k a year. Wow! That’s a lot.

Whether or not their math adds up is not a question I can answer. I suppose we’ll have to see if further information is made available. But that they’re specifically targeting the County Exec and Clerk seems like a tactical move. Call me a cynic. And it *is* a sore spot, after all, since Maggie Brooks has not yet given back the Airport Authority credit card she had her $1500 “whoopsies” with.

I wouldn’t hold my breath for this one. And I wonder how much we’re paying for Legislature cell and car expenses? But if nothing else, I think we see the shape of elections to come.

Politics Rochester

MC Airport Authority: Who is Susan Walsh?

So, I’m obviously very late to this party. But now that it’s piqued my interest, I started to wonder last night: who is Susan Walsh? And when I Googled David Damelio first, lo and behold:

David Damelio quits airport job | Democrat and Chronicle |

Brooks announced in a news release that she had appointed the county’s budget director, Susan Walsh, to replace Damelio effective immediately. The appointment requires approval of the County Legislature, which is expected next week.

Budget director…. Why does that strike me as a problem? Oh, yes:

The board merely adopts the budget amount presented to it by the county, without any detail for the cost of managing and maintaining the airport.

So, now does changing directors resolve the issue? Or no?

Politics Rochester

The Rochester Intl. Airport: Its Not About the Credit Cards

For all the hoopla about the Rochester International Airport and the the County Airport Authority, you’d think cigars and credit cards were the real issue. You could be forgiven in thinking that, since just about every report on the issue brings those two things up. Every. single. time.

But Rochester City Newspaper has published the full report(PDF) and even the executive summary makes it clear: the problem isn’t expenses or credit cards. The problem isn’t the Authority at all, really. The issue is the fact that the Authority is a patsy agency for the Airport itself and County at large:

This report concludes that the board of directors of the Monroe County Airport Authority (Authority) has consistently fallen short of this duty … The Authority does not follow its own policies. The board … defers management and policy decisions to Monroe County … The board has shown a lack of independence and a willingness to be directed by the county’s Aviation Department, which operates the airport. The board merely adopts the budget amount presented to it by the county, without any detail for the cost of managing and maintaining the airport. Moreover, the County Executive, as the appointing authority for the board, and the County Legislature, which approves those appointments, have not held directors to the standards of accountability expected of public board members.

This is about the County using the Authority as a sop for lots of extra payments for… what, exactly? Who is going on these trips that aren’t accounted for? Where did those cigars go? And why is it that the only people being scrutinized by Maggie Brooks and the rest of the County are the people at the Authority?

County Executive Maggie Brooks said in a press release that by appointing a new airport director, recovering improperly spent money, and implementing new travel and credit-card policies, county officials have taken appropriate action.

County officials defend airport board

LATE UPDATE: It occurs to me that, in light of the actual charges levied against the Authority in the report, the issue of Maggie Brooks’ use of the Airport credit card deserves a closer look.


Ha! April Fools Fun!

The news item about Maggie Brooks outsourcing DMV services to Taco Bell has been great fun, but it was April Fools! More than a few people commented on this gag on FaceBook, falling for the joke, which is just great fun but we had to stop early to make sure no one showed up at the “protest.”

I don’t often get involved in April Fools, but I figured what the heck? Hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!


Seriously? Taco Bell?

Metro Justice is gathering it’s supporters together this evening to protest Maggie Brooks’ new plan to turn over the day-to-day operations of the Department of Motor Vehicles to Yum! Corporation, the owners of Taco Bell. Monroe Watch, a blog by one of the organizers at MJ, has the story.

They also point out that Yum’s stock price highs of a few years ago are vanishing. That might be one reason for the company’s receptiveness to the plan. And of course, the state budget crunch is probably the reason for Brooks’ interest.

I’m surprised that none of the local media is picking this up yet. We’ll be following the story closely here at DFE.


Pile-On Alert!

The Rochester Business Journal asks: How are Duffy and Brooks Doing? Geeze, kinda like asking “Are You a Democrat or a Republican,” only playing cutsie.

Don’t hesitate to give them your opinion.


F.A.I.R.well, Foul Law

Great news that’s being reported throughout the Rochester/Monroe County blogosphere: the F.A.I.R plan was rejected by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, and Maggie’s a-poutin’:

Pouty Maggie

For more on the story, RochesterTurning picks it up, as does Monroe Rising.


Client 9 from Outer Space: Morning Roundup

After all the craziness happened yesterday afternoon, it seems like a good idea to pull the pieces of the Spitzer Strumpet Scandal and add my own thoughts. Things moved fast through the blog community and elsewhere, and there’s a lot of ground to cover. I’m sure I’ll miss some stuff, so don’t be afraid to hit me with corrections in the comments. But be warned: this is a very long roundup!