Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, July 9, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- more about CD9 Dem race funding

Five days ago, I posted some information about campaign contributions Andrei Cherny has received.

Since then, he has issued a press release under the headline, "Countrywide Influence Peddling Scheme Shows Need for Reform" touting an ethics reform proposal he claims was his idea.

Last week, Cherny offered one of the toughest and most comprehensive ethics plans of any candidate for federal office. If Cherny's plan had been in place, members of Congress who took special mortgage rates would have been forced to disclose their meetings with Countrywide lobbyists. (emphasis mine)
• Limit Special Interest Influence
• Demand Greater Accountability and Toughen Ethics Rules
• Prohibit Personal Enrichment from Public Service
• Public Financing of Federal Campaigns 
Cherny's the first/only candidate to suggest we "limit special interest influence?" Really? Do I even have to provide references to show how absurd that claim is?

Prohibiting personal enrichment from public service was something that a couple of Members of Congress have been championing for years. The STOCK Act was first introduced years ago.



WE know about the issue because 60 Minutes recently broadcast a segment on the subject. Shortly after the 60 Minutes broadcast, the legislation suddenly gained traction. The bill was signed into law by President Obama in April 2012. As enacted, it still leaves a significant gap in accountability for a specialty called "political intelligence."
Political intelligence professionals get paid big bucks to gather information about government policy and pending legislation, often through lawmakers or other public officials. Their clients include hedge funds, mutual funds, pension funds and wealthy individuals who use the information to guide investment decisions.
Cherny's ethics reform proposal includes a promise to disclose meetings with lobbyists.

Cherny proposes to require that all Members of Congress disclose their meetings with lobbyists as well as the topic of those meetings. Cherny will lead by example on this issue and disclose each of his meetings with lobbyists along with the topics of the meeting on his House website.
This builds on the work of Arizona leaders such as Gabrielle Giffords and Harry Mitchell who brought transparency to the earmark process by making their earmark requests public.
In 2010, Cherny called on state legislators and officials to make their meetings with lobbyists public; they refused, and continue to refuse to do so. Cherny will take this call to Washington and lead by example.

I will not tell you that this is right or that it is wrong. But I will tell you that I neither believe he would keep the promise, nor would it be possible to enact a workable requirement that all such meetings (or telephone conversations) be disclosed. Therefore, I believe this claim and this promise is disingenuous.

I am willing and eager, however, for him to prove me wrong... well BEFORE early voting starts for the upcoming primary. For Cherny to demonstrate the feasibility of this notion, he will have to do more than just make a rhetorical claim or promise. Lay out how it will work, how people will try to get around it AND how those "loopholes" would be closed at the time the requirement is enacted.

If Cherny cannot do that, he should not be taken seriously as a candidate.

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Oh, yes, I said this would be about the CD9 Democratic primary funding.

This afternoon, after spending time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, I returned home to several comments on the previous post on this subject. Those comments claim that what I posted was incorrect or incomplete. So, I started looking into it.

Chris Addelia claims that Bobette Gorden contributed to both Kyrsten Sinema and David Schapira, in addition to Cherny. Addelia provided a link. However, the information at that linked site shows Ms. Gorden did, in fact donate to Sinema ($262.00) as well as Cherny ($5,000.00). But does NOT show anything given to Schapira. However, the Federal Elections Commission's database does show Gorden donated to Shapira ($250.00).

Rae Waters commented that Dennis DeConcini (Mr. Private Prison company director) donated to both Kyrsten Sinema and David Schapira. According to Open Secrets, in one place he did not; in another query, he did. On the FEC website, and here (also FEC) it shows that the former US Senator from Arizona did, indeed donate to Sinema and Schapira, in addition to Cherny. And it appears that DeConcini, who does lobby these days, did give $1,000 to each of the three of them.

So, one of the first things I learned is that the data on the FEC and on the opensecrets.org websites are not complete and not synchronized. Secondly, despite the protestations by Cherny's surrogates, I'm not sure how they can claim that $250 is at all comparable to $5,000.

Rae also took issue with citing donations from Bain Capital employees to Cherny, pointing out that they also gave to Democratic candidates Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton,  and John Kerry, as well as the DCCC and DSCC. I do NOT like the system. But this is not a question regarding your choice on whether to vote for Obama, Clinton or Kerry. Only one of the three is facing election this year anyway. And for Obama, there are a whole lot more things to consider comparing Obama with Mitt Romney. I will not get into that in this post.

That brings us to another of the bullet points in Cherny's press release. Calling for public financing of Congressional campaigns.




It's EASY for a candidate to use rhetoric s/he knows an audience wants to hear. It's not so easy to say it if he does not know what the audience wants to hear. Cherny's experience speaking to tea partisans during his campaign for State Treasurer in 2010 highlights this problem. And I do believe it is of the utmost urgency and importance to institute public financing for Congressional campaigns.

We are not going to find much, if any difference in position on particular issues in what the candidates publish from their campaigns. But there is dramatic difference in how they have conducted themselves in campaigns and while holding office.

And THIS IS about evaluating three candidates for one seat in Congress. We can and must compare the experience in office, the campaign styles and the personal character in addition to stands on issues.


One person told me s/he thought Schapira was overbearing. I never experienced him that way. But given his physical stature (he's a BIG guy), I can see how people can get that impression. But if he is going to be assertive with his colleagues in Congress on issues that reflect MY values, I'm just fine with that. Nobody, to my knowledge, has made allegations that Schapira's demeanor even comes close to how inappropriate Daniel Patterson conducted himself in office. Schapira would not have been elected Senate Minority Leader if he did not have the respect of his colleagues.

Some people have told me they think Sinema is "too liberal" for this district; that she has "baggage" that will make it difficult for her to appeal to moderate and independent voters. Hispanic voters will have her support for Russell Pearce and a human trafficking bill in 2011 brought up to question her loyalty to their values. I don't know how to evaluate that until or unless she gets the opportunity to face a Republican in the general election this fall. If she does, I will support her.

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On Friday, when Cherny's campaign issued the press release cited above, they also posted it to his facebook page. Very shortly thereafter, people posted comments asking about the campaign contributions Cherny had received from Countrywide during his campaign for the California Assembly in 2002. The company (not an employee) gave him $1,000.00.





That comment quickly disappeared. Then someone else posted about it.




This evening (almost midnight Sunday night), Ms Volpe's comment is no longer on Cherny's page.

Even so, the response, "there is no censorship going on..." together with, "If folks want to engage with the substance of the post and offer their thoughts about ethics reform then they are welcome to but our Facebook page is not here for people to post random attacks that have nothing to do with the subject..." demonstrates without any one else having to say anything, that they DID, in fact, censor comments that were directly to the question of ethics reform.

Also Friday afternoon, I sent an email to Cherny's campaign manager, Seth Scott asking him, "what about campaign contributions as a way to curry favor with elected lawmakers?"

I was actually surprised that he replied to the email, even though he did not reply to the question. We exchanged several notes with him trying to bait me into tangents and making the situation about me. I repeated the question. Several times actually. He finally decided to acknowledge the question by saying it was too vague.

So, I clarified the question:

What distinction does Andrei make between the gift giving (i.e. tickets to sporting events, or below market interest rates on home loans, or anything else like that) and a contribution from a business (e.g. $1,000 from Countrywide Homeloans, Inc.) to a political candidate? In what way is the campaign contribution not an attempt to secure favorable treatment from the candidate in the event he (Andrei) is elected?


The closest he ever came to answering the question was this:
Gifts are intended to influence politicians when the gift-giver says they are. Countrywide told investigators they offered discounted loans to top government officials and members of Congress these gifts in an attempt to secure favorable treatment. Here in Arizona, the Cardinals said they offered state legislators free NFL tickets in order to get more favorable treatment from lawmakers. Not only were the Countrywide gifts wrong, but they were undisclosed, and kept hidden from the public. That was also true with free sports tickets at the state legislature, where voters had no idea what kind of special treatment their representatives were accepting from those trying to influence decisions at the state capitol.
Since Scott did not address the question of campaign contributions AT ALL, I replied by restating his reply and asking him if I understood him correctly. I said this:

If I read your answer correctly, you’re saying that disclosed gifts (i.e. campaign contributions) are acceptable because they are disclosed, as long as the donor does not articulate that they want something in return. Is that a fair summary of what you wrote?
If I did not understand the essence of your response, please clarify for me. Thanks.

He replied thus:
Here's an updated response that will hopefully be more clear:
The problem with gifts is that they benefit a politician's personal pocketbook, and there can be no question that a gift is intended to influence a politician when the gift-giver says it is. That is what is especially troubling about the free gifts we've seen offered to politicians in Washington, D.C. and here in Arizona. Countrywide officials said the discount mortgages that personally enriched lawmakers were intended to influence, just as Arizona Cardinals officials said they gave free NFL tickets to state legislators in an effort to gain favorable treatment on votes at the state legislator.  
Is that more clear or less? Does that address AT ALL the issue of campaign contributions?

Ask yourself this, if Andrei Cherny REALLY believes that Congressional campaigns must be publicly funded, why will he (or his campaign manager) NOT address the issue of how private contributions establish a link of obligation between the candidate and the donor?


Another thing Scott tried to get at in the email exchange was that I told him I experience dissonance between Cherny's words and actions. He wanted me to explain what I meant. I told him that if he would answer my question, I would answer his. He never answered mine. But in this post, I answer his.

He was persistently evasive and defensive in all of the emails on Friday, even though he persistently claimed that he was not. He accused me of attacking his candidate. Isn't that being defensive?

Anyway, there's no question the Cherny campaign will consider this an attack.

However, I invite people to show me the error of my reasoning. Chris Addelia and Rae Waters did and did so without going off on wild tangents or name calling. I found that they were at least partly correct. I respect how they presented their disagreement.

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