Friday, January 25, 2008

Senate Candidate Udall: Against Afghanistan Before He Was For It

I wrote earlier about the damage done by Al Franken to his Senate campaign this year. Turns out the Democrats have another Senate candidate in a critical swing seat, who appears to be doing the same thing.

Mark Udall is the likely Democratic candidate for the open Senate seat in Colorado (Wayne Allard is retiring). He is regarded as another of the Democrats' top recruits for a swing seat (polls have shown the race quite close). The race is sure to be a barn-burner, given that Colorado appears to be one of the most competitive states in the nation -- at all levels.

The NRSC however, points out that Udall recently declared Afghanistan to be the 'real central front' in the war on terror. That's a curious opinion, unless if you're prematurely declaring Iraq won -- which would be foolish at this point.

Whatever Udall's thinking, it's odd that he regards the war in Afghanistan as so important -- considering how many times he's voted against it:

  • In 2003, Udall voted against $87 billion in supplemental funding for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, including funds for body armor, armored humvees, and health care for National Guard members and reservists.
  • Udall voted against a bill intended to expedite the delivery of armor to troops on the ground in 2004.
  • Udall voted against $453.5 billion in defense spending in 2005.
  • In 2005, Mark Udall voted against $50 billion for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Udall voted against authorizing nearly $289 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 and 2001 defense funding -- including funds for six F-22 fighters.
  • Udall voted to cut $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2001 defense spending.
  • In 2007, he voted against protecting funding for homeless and disabled veterans from cuts, against increasing military housing funding by $275 million, against lowering college loan rates for graduates serving in the military or National Guard, and to prevent senior military officers from working at major defense contractors for a year after retiring.
(Click over to the NRSC site for specific vote citations.)

At least Udall will be able to benefit from the experience of others. Presumably he won't argue 'but I was for the $87 billion before I was against it.'

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Labor Department to Crack Down on Union Pension Abuse?

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Labor has issued an unwelcome reminder to the managers of the AFL-CIO pension fund: while they may wish to use pension funds to advance political goals, the law forbids them from doing so:

The Labor Department letter addressed a reported AFL-CIO plan to promote shareholder proposals that press companies to offer more generous employee health-care benefits, and that would require companies to disclose political contributions so shareholders could see if support was being given to candidates who don't share labor's views on health care.

Before undertaking "to monitor or influence the management of corporations," the department said, fiduciaries "must first take into account the cost of such action and the role of the investment in the plan's portfolio, and cannot act unless they conclude that the action is reasonably likely to enhance the value of the plan's investments."

The Labor Department letter comes at an important time. A recent University of Chicago study showed that union-affiliated funds do indeed systematically exercise their proxies to support labor objectives rather than simply to increase shareholder value. This was already evident in unions' statements about their shareholder power, in corporate campaigns such as the attempted ouster of Safeway's leadership during its 2004 labor dispute, and the refusal of some union health and welfare plans to do business with Wal-Mart, despite its low prescription drug prices.

The Department of Labor is required to protect the interests of workers and Union members, not to turn a blind eye to efforts by Union bosses to steer member contributions to their favored goals. If legal action is required to get unions to comply, it would be welcome.

A Late Entrant to the 2008 Race

The Onion has the story:

After spending two months accompanying his wife, Hillary, on the campaign trail, former president Bill Clinton announced Monday that he is joining the 2008 presidential race, saying he "could no longer resist the urge."

"My fellow Americans, I am sick and tired of not being president," said Clinton, introducing his wife at a "Hillary '08" rally. "For seven agonizing years, I have sat idly by as others experienced the joys of campaigning, debating, and interacting with the people of this great nation, and I simply cannot take it anymore. I have to be president again. I have to."

We should have seen it coming.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Whither the Fredheads

Patrick Ruffini is conducting a poll on whom the Fred backers will support if Thompson gets out of the race. The big leader right now: Mitt Romney, with Giuliani in a distant second. Strong reason for Senator McCain to hope Fred stays in.

If Thompson elects to stay in the race, will it be seen as a tacit move in support of Maverick? At every turn, Thompson has been accused of being in the race more to help McCain than to win the nomination himself. One wonders if there's anything he can do at this point to escape the accusation.

Ruffini's poll seems to confirm one of the real oddities of Thompson's candidacy: almost all of his supporters express a real strong dislike for McCain. Considering the friendship between Thompson and McCain, and their similarities, it's bizarre that they have such different constituencies.

That's a big reason that there wouldn't be any point to Thompson endorsing McCain if he does get out; none of his backers can stand McCain, it seems.

Another thought: if Fred does end his campaign, does that mean I can no longer call it 'Fredstate?'

Conservatives Gain a Powerful Ally

I've written before about Freedom's Watch (over at the Weekly Standard). Today the Washington Post takes notice of them:

Freedom's Watch has loudly announced that there will be no limits to what it might do. From its $15 million summer ad campaign defending the Iraq strategy to its six-figure effort in the House special election in Ohio, the group has put Democrats on notice that its agenda will go far beyond the conservative principles of its largest financial backers.

"We're a permanent political operation here in town. We're not going to be Johnny One Note," said Joe Eule, executive director of the expanding group, a nonprofit organization that many are describing as the of the right.

Read the whole thing. Freedom's Watch will be influential in the 2008 cycle, pushing conservative ideas and candidates. For Republicans, it will be a welcome change not to be savaged by 'independent' liberal groups, without support from the Right.