Barack Obama

More ideas for transparency and ethics

Mark Tapscott notes my post on ethics and proposes some more ideas that would involve real pain for legislators and their staff:

First, apply the Freedom of Information Act to Congress. Most Americans resent that Congress passes laws it expects the rest of us to abide by but exempts itself. Ending the 42-year-old congressional FOIA exemption would be a major step in the right direction and one that would call the Democrats bluff on the transparency issue.

Second, require Members and their key personal and committee staff members (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, committee staff directors, legal counsels, possibly others) to maintain online daily calendars recording names and titles of all participants in meetings concerning any proposed legislation or expenditure of federal funds.

Third, abolish the absurd categorical values in the annual financial disclosures required of Members. Show us the money, the shares, the property, the consideration, Congressman. Require the same level of disclosure for key staff members included in the second suggestion.

I have also heard the idea of limiting lobbying by spouses or family of members, an issue that is coming up in Barack Obama's transition.

Time to strike with a Republican transparency and ethics agenda

With Rod Blagojevich and Charlie Rangel in the news and under pressure from the media, now is the time for the House and Senate GOP caucuses to push a real transparency and ethics agenda. On January 6th, both Houses will meet and begin the work of passing rules. We need to have some specific proposals, and this is not something that I follow well. Furthermore, the GOP ought to shoot big here. Frankly, we aren't going to run Congress for a while, so let's max this out.

Imagine some proposals:

First, in both bodies, allow individuals to submit ethics complaints and require the various ethics committees to officially reject complaints.

Second, faster and more complete campaign finance proposals. All contributions down to $5, or even just all contributions, should be disclosed. Electronic contributions should be disclosed within 72 hours, and checks should be disclosed within 72 hours of deposit. These would be real-time disclosed on the FEC website. This would solve the problem that the Sunlight Foundation and others have tried to address with S. 223.

Third, put video of all publicly accessible business meetings online. I am sure that C-SPAN and Google would be happy to help. I know that many committees keep video of markups, but release neither the video nor transcripts.

Fourth, I am sure that there are things that are specific to disclosure of financial interests that we have learned out of the Rangel affair. Throw that in.

Only the second item needs to be implemented in law. If it got to Barack Obama's desk, he would have to sign it, and it would be embarassing.

The others can be the basis of a rules fight at the beginning of the session. Make these new Democrats who ran on ethics vote against transparency and for their leadership or against their leadership.

Furthermore, let's seperate Obama from the Demcratic Congress. Let's praise his transparency measures, like disclosing meetings of his transition teams, while smacking the Congressional majorities around.

Hey, Rahm, you can dish it out....

Remember when Rahm Emanuel was such a tough guy

Rep. Rahm Emanuel is leading the Democratic charge to retake the House next year. Will his old-school combativeness rub off on his more timid colleagues?....

"He's got this big old pair of brass balls, and you can just hear 'em clanking when he walks down the halls of Congress," says Paul Begala, who served with Emanuel on Clinton's staff. "The Democratic Party is full of Rhodes scholars — Rahm is a road warrior. He's just what the Democrats need to fight back."

Friends and enemies agree that the key to Emanuel's success is his legendary intensity. There's the story about the time he sent a rotting fish to a pollster who had angered him. .........And there's the story of how, the night after Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting "Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!" and plunging the knife into the table after every name. "When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape," one campaign veteran recalls. "It was like something out of The Godfather. But that's Rahm for you."

well, he isn;t now.

ABC News says he’s “beet red” and “pissed” that he can’t go anywhere without someone asking question about his role in Blago-gate.

Oh, booo, freakin hoo

You know Rahm, you did a great job in '06 of targeting all the various reprobates in the Republican House caucus and making sure even the ones in safe districts had credible opponents. And one by one you picked them all off, the Curt Weldons, the John got to the point I e-mailed one editor here on the point , citing Queen....Another One Bites the Dust for Emanuel's strategy

Including one Mark Foley. And Emanuel is alleged to have scammed people about getting the goods on Foley   as well as knowing his opponent was equally slimy And don;t underestimate the damage the Foley flap had even in Blue States--GOP incumbent numbers that week went down a mineshaft.

So . Rahm, you've lived by the sword. Doesn't feel very nice coming back at ya, now does it? 

You also know, being a snitch like Whitey Bulger Go to fullsize image doesn't get you a lot of respect either from cops or robbers

This is the life you chose to lead, Rahm. Hope you are enjoying it. 

By the way, where's that pair you are supposed to have?

Learning lessons from Obama's campaign: Budgeting, technology, field, and media

A fantastic interview with Barack Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe. It really shows the link between organization, technology, and media. It also shows how we need to shift focus on budgetting.

In response to a question about how much the campaign spent on media, Plouffe responds:

D.P.: Right, the playbook is 70 to 75 percent, and we did much less than that. Under 50 percent.

I have argued that the fundamental innovation of the Obama campaign wasn't technology, but it was the investment in grassroots. You can see this Plouffe's explanation:

D.P.: Well, we spent obviously a lot of money on TV, but as a ratio of our spending, it was much lower than historically is done, and that's because we spent a lot of money in the field and on the ground. And, in fact, when we did our baseline budget, the field was fully funded because we thought it was very, very important. If we were to raise excess funds, we bolstered the field a little bit, but it went in advertising. Our first priority was the ground operation because we thought that was essential to us winning. It's very much, I think, a unique approach. In a lot of campaigns, the media gets funded first, then if you have extra money that comes in, you bolster the field and things of that sort. And we kind of did it in reverse.

Patrick, Mindy, Turk, and others have had to argue for shifting a couple of percent of the media budget to online expenditures. They are correct. It is important to enhance an organization. But where do you get the organization? Obama decided to build it.

Think of the seeming insanity of the Obama approach. Build an organization early on, with a minimal media budget. And then use the overage for media, if you can get it.

But it worked. Read on for some of the details.

A Different Kind of Offline Campaign

Many of the tactical postmortems on the Obama campaign have been focused online. But it's worth remembering that that is only one piece of the puzzle. The fact is that Obama ran a better kind of offline campaign. A couple of parts really stand out from the Lloyd Grove interview of David Plouffe:

L.G.: How much money is allocated to the various units of the campaign? One always hears that paid advertising takes significantly more than 50 percent—putting commercials on the air, radio, and television. Can you break down the percentages?
D.P.: Well, we spent obviously a lot of money on TV, but as a ratio of our spending, it was much lower than historically is done, and that's because we spent a lot of money in the field and on the ground. And, in fact, when we did our baseline budget, the field was fully funded because we thought it was very, very important. If we were to raise excess funds, we bolstered the field a little bit, but it went in advertising. Our first priority was the ground operation because we thought that was essential to us winning. It's very much, I think, a unique approach. In a lot of campaigns, the media gets funded first, then if you have extra money that comes in, you bolster the field and things of that sort. And we kind of did it in reverse.
L.G.: Can you give me a rough breakdown of percentages?
D.P.: Well, no. I would say that it's lower.
L.G.: One always hears historically it's almost 70 percent that goes to media.
D.P.: Right, the playbook is 70 to 75 percent, and we did much less than that. Under 50 percent.
L.G.: What gave you the chutzpah to think you should break the model, and spend more than 50 percent on non-media?
D.P.: First of all, we knew that we had to get really good turnout, and that we thought a human being talking to a human being in a state is the most effective in communication. So we needed an organization that was able to facilitate that. Secondly, a presidential campaign is a very well-covered enterprise, people are talking about it all the time, they see it on the newscast, they're reading about it online. In many respects, advertising in a senate race or governor's or congressional race can have more impact because those races aren't front and center for people. I always believed that advertising was very, very important. I think we went right in and it was very helpful—makes it meaningful because people have 100 percent knowledge of the candidate and are following pretty closely. So I thought we could afford to trim a little bit. Now we ended up raising a lot of money, so our point levels were very big in September, October, but we could've won without that. Then the McCain campaign likes to say, "we were outspent, that's why we lost on TV"—and I think that's complete malarkey.

Paid advertising can have a dramatic impact on high valence issues that are getting short shrift in the media. I've seen this enough to not be a hater on paid advertising. That said, even Senators and Governors races have enough of an earned media component these days to dilute the value of TV ads even in downballot races.

When you're spending 70% or more of your budget on any one thing, be that advertising, field, salaries, online, etc., that does not make for a very well balanced campaign. At some level, a certain laziness about how to spend money kicks in. Since the basics of a campaign -- staff on the ground, websites, office space -- come relatively cheap compared to points on TV, there is a much greater tolerance for waste on the airwaves than there is in any other area of the campaign. A lot of this, particularly at the local level where candidates are even more reliant on consultants, is driven by consultants preferring commissionable advertising over non-commissionable field efforts. Morton Blackwell has been preaching this gospel for years.

So Obama decided to something radical in the context of traditional campaigns. They decided to construct their entire budget around field. This proved to be a wise investment, as it was the nose-to-the-grindstone focus on caucus states that won them the primary and their massive investment in field in the general that shifted the electorate 3-4 points in their direction. That turnout wasn't dramatically up from 2004 misses the point. Every serious person who's looked at this agrees that their turnout was way, way up, and ours was down. So: a relative wash in overall vote count but a sea change beneath the surface.

Should TV people have something to fear? Ultimately, David Axelrod was not lacking for funds. If given a choice between a bigger piece of a smaller pie and a smaller piece of a much bigger pie, TV consultants would be stupid not to take the latter. But that will require a fundamental shift in how we look at Republican campaigns: from staid, establishment-only affairs towards a more freewheeling, participatory, and bottom-up culture consistent with our capitalist philosophy. And it will require different types of candidates, not just a change in tactics.


Nearly a year ago on December 27, 2007, Barack Obama delivered a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, that has been called "OUR MOMENT IS NOW", in that speech Obama emphasized a NEW KIND OF POLITICS:

I chose to run because I believed that the size of these challenges had outgrown the capacity of our broken and divided politics to solve them; because I believed that Americans of every political stripe were hungry for a new kind of politics, a politics that focused not just on how to win but why we should, a politics that focused on those values and ideals that we held in common as Americans; a politics that favored common sense over ideology, straight talk over spin.

The American Public is starting to get a glimpse of the New Kind of Politics with the arrest of the Illinois Gov. Blagojevich. Yesterday, during a press conference with Al Gore, President-elect denied having any contact with the Illinois Governor in regard to his vacant Senate seat. OBAMA: I HAVE HAD NO CONTACT WIth ILLINOIS GOVERNOR VIDEO.

Asked what contact he'd had with the governor's office about his replacement in the Senate, President-elect Obama today said "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."

However, on November 5, 2008, Barack Obama met with Governor Blagojevich in the afternoon to discuss the upcoming vacant Illinois Senate Seat. READ FULL STORY

Also, on November 23, 2008, his senior adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Chicago and said that, while insisting that the President-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a "kingmaker," Axelrod said, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

Now the Obama's transition team is denying that the discussion with Obama and the Governor ever took place. Axelrod even issued a statement last night saying:

"I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject."

At this point there are no allegations that Barack Obama had anything to do with the alledged crimes of Governor Blagojevich. But, we are starting to see a pattern with Mr. Obama when he is confronted with a problem, CONCEAL HIDE, and DENY. It all goes back to the question What do we know about Obama? I would love to see his birth certificate, law school records and the list goes on. Now, we have the new kind of politics Illinois style, in fact, when Obama met with Meet the Press and Tom Brokaw this past weekend. Mr. Brokaw asked Obama about Hillary Clinton's potential replacement in the US Senate and Obama answered,

"But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics. I've got enough trouble in terms of Illinois politics." FOR TRANSCRIPT CLICK HERE

President-elect talked with the Governor of Illinois and he even told Mr. Brokaw about Illinois Politics. Also, Obama is deeply tied to Governor Blagojevich. Jake Tapper an ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau writes about this relationship with Obama and the Illinois Governor in his article,

Questions Arise About the Obama/Blagojevich Relationship

And, it should be pointed out, Mr. Obama has a relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, having not only endorsed Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006, but having served as a top adviser to the Illinois governor in his first 2002 run for the state house.

That 2002 endorsement came at the same time that Axelrod had such serious concerns about whether Blagojevich was ready for governing he refused to work for his one-time client.

According to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Mr. Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Emanuel, then-state senator Obama, a third Blagojevich aide, and Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, David Wilhelm, were the top strategists of Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial victory.

Emanuel told the New Yorker earlier this year that he and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two."

The Obama relationships continue and what is so amazing, is that, January 20, 2009 is still over a month away, Obama is hoping he can CONCEAL, HIDE, and DENY until he is sworn-in as our 44th President, then his "New Kind of Politics" of CONCEAL, HIDE, and DENY will be easier with EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE.


The Case Against Blogs and Twitter

Okay, I'm being facetious. The other explanation that I'm self-hating, as a blogger going on seven years and an avid Twitter user with a network of 2,451.

There is a serious point to this, and one that should be dramatized for the candidates running for RNC Chairman: the Internet is not just blogs and Twitter. New media is a big world -- from websites, to e-mail lists, to fundraising, to online advertising, to search engine optimization, to GOTV applications, to internal databases, to APIs, to YouTube, to mobile, to emerging platforms like iPhone/Android, and yes, to social media. Done wrong*, creating a Twitter account and holding a few blogger conference calls is the lowest cost form of engagement and can be a fig leaf for continuing business as usual in other parts of the organization. The hard part is integrating new media in everything the organization does, using it to transform volunteer recruitment, or open a new eight and nine figure revenue stream. Those are the big challenges the next RNC Chairman needs to be worrying about.

To understand where the growth markets are, let's look at how many people the Obama campaign had in each of its online programs, according to recent media reports:

The Obama-is-not-a-Citizen Lie

Over the coming weeks and months, we will have an opportunity to decide what kind of opposition we will be. Count me firmly in the camp against the kind that pulls this kind of crap:

The Supreme Court Monday rejected one case contending that Obama is not a "natural born citizen," as the president is required to be under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The case, referred to the court by Justice Clarence Thomas after Justice David Souter had rejected it, argued that because Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya, at the time a British colony, the president-elect was born with dual citizenship.

Another case, filed by Attorney Phillip J. Berg, effectively contends that Obama has outright lied about having been born on American soil. The high court has yet to rule on that argument.

Obama's mother was American, so he is a natural-born citizen -- period. At least according to every mainstream interpretation of the natural-born citizen clause. And a more restrictionist interpretation (limiting it only to those born on American soil) would have disqualifed John McCain (born in the Panama Canal Zone), Barry Goldwater (born in Arizona before it became a state), and George Romney (born in Mexico City) from the presidency. Full disclosure: I speak as someone who falls in this latter category -- I also think the Constitution should be amended to allow for immigrants who have been here for at least 25 years to run for President.

The Obama citizenship smear hasn't gained traction in mainstream conservative circles, but this is exactly the kind of stunt the left will use to tar all conservatives and silence legitimate criticism of Obama and his policies. We need to be vociferously calling out people who traffic in this nonsense.

Scandal stories didn't get much traction during the campaign, so if we are smart, I am hopeful we won't see a repeat of the '90s opposition to Clinton, which was primarily scandal driven, and tarnished the Republican brand so that only Bush's big-spending conservatism could save it. Which is got us in the pickle we are in today.

Willingness to move this sort of the story will be a major dividing line between the last right and the next right.

Can Hope change a spark plug?

Last month, America cast a vote to feel better about itself. Much as I had predicted in July , in the absence of a well reasoned economic alternative from the McCain campaign the voters would revert to casting a vote that would expunge the Bush years.

I do not need to link to every quote where someone has said how good the Obama win made them feel about themselves, or their country.  It's like the entire clientele of Whole Foods Market has obtained validation that those crass, bellicose Republicans have lost.

But in the end, this is all ephemrical feelgood nonsense. We elected a Gatsby candidate who now must enact real policies that do real things, which his resume offers scant evidence of.

Indeed, the election of Obama reminds me of this scene from the movie Dave, where the stand-in President is looking for money for a homeless program and inquires why the government is spending lavishly on making existing car owners feel better about their cars.

 Dave: I don't want to tell some eight-year-old kid he's gotta sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their *car*. Do *you* want to tell them that?
Secretary of Commerce: [quietly] No sir.
[sits back in his seat and reflects]
Secretary of Commerce: No I sure don't

Well, the Obama Presidency may prove to be a multitrillion dollar effort in making people feel better about themselves. Whether it accomplishes anything useful for non-idealogues will probably be answered in how it handles the auto bailout.

It appears likely that the Bush adminstration and Congress have agreed on floating the car firms enough money to get into Barack's term I'm actually OK with this. Much as I had to drop well over a thousand this morning to keep the wife's jalopy on the road, we probably need to do this.   Better quick and incomplete than to allow these firms to sink deeper.

There's no time to figure out a comprehensive recovery plan and hardly any money after the $700 Billion TARP program is funded.  And for those convinced the Detroit Three are on their way inevitably to the Wilmington bankruptcy court; well, it might be better if they filed when the rest of the economy was a little more robust. Much as I would rather buy a new car along with the wife when things settle down a bit 

The problem is long term the Democratic Party has identified three mutually exclusive requirements for a auto bailout.

a) Protect taxpayers by making sure the firms return to profitability and pay back the loan.

b) Protect organized labor by limiting concessions and maintaining as much employment as possible.

c) Advance the environmental agenda by promoting electric cars.

I presume everyone here would favor a). But you can't get there when there's going to be labor efforts to keep plants open and compensation high, especially when even before the credit crisis there were too many car firms and too many car plants

I would suggest those who foresee Detroit moving seamlessly to green cars consider how hard Toyota had to work to deliver a hybrid to market Toyota is now hoping to get the Priius profit margin up to that of the Corolla. Maybe. Notice the ubitiquous incentives behind sales of this car Toyota is hoping to sell 200,000 Priuses per year in the U.S.; By comparison, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup still sells twice that

Now, does anyone think such brilliant economic minds like Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and Chris Dodd are going to take economically prudent steps to revive the auto industry, or are they going to "save the planet" by sacrificing the taxpayer.

I suspect that in a couple of years when highly profitable Tundras are flying off the Toyota lots a lot of Japanese businessmen will be saying Domo Arigato  to the D.C. Democrats.

I also suspect that we will be all made to feel good about the American car industry by the DC Democrats, but much as British Leyland proved an expensive and futile effort in corporate socialism for the UK, the new world of domestic car manufacturing will prove politically correct and financially unsustainable. 


December 5, 2008, and not a word form the Supreme Court on the Natural Born Citizen of the U.S. case Donofrio v. Wells. The SCOTUS BLOG announced TODAY's Orders from the United States Supreme Court and Donofrio v. Wells, is absent from the cases granted Certiorari, click here.

However, THE SWAMP reports that from a Supreme Court watcher, that that does not necessarily mean THE END to Donofrio v, Wells. READ FULL STORY


It looks like good news for Obama, cert denied on natural born citizen of the USA case CERT DENIED.


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