Friday, September 29, 2006

7th Circuit Hears Reparations Suit Appeal

Ann Althouse notes that a lawsuit against several major banks seeking reparations for being involved in the slave trade was heard in the 7th Circuit. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner asked why the case was just being brought now. "If you think you've been wronged, it shouldn't take 100 years to investigate the conduct [of the accused companies]," Posner said.

Legal action couldn't have come until after the Civil Rights movement, and it would have come earlier if companies had disclosed their ties to slavery, attorney Roger Wareham countered.
Posner is of course right in his observation, which is why the suit was thrown out of U.S. District Court.

But these suits just, for lack of a better word, piss me off. Assuming for a moment that these banks, most of which did not exist in the early 19th Century, actually took part in financing the slave trade--IT WAS PERFECTLY LEGAL BUSINESS AT THE TIME!!!!!! These banks did nothing illegal. Was it immoral--from our viewpoint in our time frame yes, but that is beside the point.

The banks in question were totally set up. A few years ago, groups of slave descendants, led by "need a headline right now to prove I am still relevant" Jesse Jackson and others essentially browbeat a number of banks and companies into admitting that they, their predecessor companies or companies they had bought long ago participated in the slave trade. Once these companies admitted to this fact, they might as well have retained attorneys right then since there were going to get sued.

The longer term problem with this suit is that we still can't erase the past and complaining and suing about in the present will not help the future of race relations in America. The fact that this country, despite its founding ideals permitted the slave trade cannot be changed--it happened and it was shameful. But we can recriminate all we want about the past, we can rue the slave traders and we can remember but if we as a nation are ever going to move forward with race relations, we have got to learn to leave the past in the past. Again, from the Sun-Times:
Among the descendants to show up Wednesday was Marcelle Porter, 77, of Chicago, who said his great-grandmother was a slave in Louisiana in the late 1800s. Porter said bringing the issue to an appeals court isn't about the money. "We're not after a check. We're after equality in schools, in jobs, in things most people talk about as the American Dream," Porter said.

"This is for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It's not for me."
If the suit is not about a check, what is the suit about? If it is about an apology, they already have that from the defendants. If the suit is prove that these companies were invovled in the slave trade, how will that be proven? This suit is about money and only money. What will the suit prove in the long run?

It has been over 140 years since slavery was abolished in this country. I am not suggesting we forget history, but I am suggesting that we stop living in it.

Maine Grassroots Communication Case Tossed Out as Moot

Allison Hayward reports:
A three-judge panel of the DC District court dismissed the Maine grassroots lobbying case as moot. Christian Civic League of Maine v. FEC, No. 006-614, 9/27/06. It should be available here, eventually.
Presently it seems to be the case that a group (not a PAC) intending to run an advertisement naming a federal candidate within the electioneering period, cannot obtain an injunction because of their inability to show a likelihood of success on the merits, cannot obtain a ruling in an as-applied challenge in the ordinary course because the time for running the ad will have come and gone, and cannot rely on any regulatory exceptions the FEC might author, because the FEC punted that opportunity.
The counsel for the Christian Civic League reportedly made the argument that these cases are capable of repitition, but evading review because of the short time frames involved. Yet the argument was rejected. I don't know if they would work with another Judge or not, but, as Allison notes, the only course of action for groups like the CCL is to run their ad and deal with the consequences later.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Note to self, never get on Bob Bauer's bad side.

Presidential Public Funding Dead: George Will

Prof. Hasen points to this op-ed from George Will who notes taht while the Presidential campaign funding system will still exist, it is on its last legs.
In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush declined public funding -- and its accompanying restrictions on raising and spending money -- for the primaries, as did Howard Dean and John Kerry in 2004. In 2004, candidates accepting taxpayer funding were restricted to spending $45 million before the conventions. Bush and Kerry raised $269.6 million and $234.6 million respectively before the conventions. Any candidate who accepts public funding in the 2008 primaries will be considered second-tier. And, almost certainly, neither party's nominee will accept public funding for the fall campaign.
The problem with public funding of the primaries is that it perpetuates a 1970's era concept of campaigning, where primaries were spread all over the calendar and where spending was smaller and easier to contain in a given geography. Aside from my general dislike of government subsidizing political speech, the matching program tends to prolong the life of candidates with nothing to say and no mechanism for saying nothing.
Sen. Mitch McConnell rightly says taxpayer funding of politics has been the subject of the largest, most sustained and most accurate polling in American history. The polling occurs every year when 90 percent of taxpayers refuse to participate. Could it be that Americans recoil from funding political advocacy with which they disagree -- Republicans funding Democrats, Democrats funding Republicans, everyone funding fringe candidates such as the felon Lyndon LaRouche, who got infusions of taxpayers' money for a campaign he ran while in jail for fraud and conspiracy?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Is Karl Rove really that smart?"

The Instapundit posts this about the NIE:
Reader Dale Harkey suspects a Rovian plot, given that the full document actually says that we're doing pretty well:
The set-up is oh so beautiful. Rove (it has to be Rove, right?) has the worst-case-scenario portions of a generally favorable NIE leaked to a gullible and traitorous media salaciously eager to run with it. The left-wing nuts explode in glee and establish their bonafides with all manner of stupid utterances. And since it is easily observed to be a politically motivated leak, (here comes the left hook the appeasers have leaned into because they can’t see it coming) what more justification can there be than to de-classify the original so the whole picture is available (and oh by the way, get the good stuff out there before the elections.) They sure couldn’t just hand the media a copy of the NIE and say, “hey, check this out, it says we’re doing okay,” could they? A dirty trick inside a dirty trick that turns the passion of the Bush-haters onto itself.

Is Karl Rove really that smart? "
Yes, I believe Karl Rove is smart enough to come up with the scheme, but also smart enough not to go through with it. Let's assume for a moment that Rove orders some underling to reveal parts of the NIE and the underling follows orders. While the NY Times, et al, may salivate over the possibility of publishing the material, despite their bias, they may ask questions of the source. It may not take too long to get back to Rove.

It is long past time for people in this country, especially on the left, to stop seeing Rove behind every little move that turns out to benefit the Bush Administration or comes back to bite the Dems on the ass. If a story is too good to be true, it usually is. To me this is just a case where the newspapers did not do a good job fact checking and looking for the original source but just rushed ahead with publication because it will boost circulation/ratings.

Could it be just that simple that the leftie press and the Dems want to embarass the Administration, selectively quote from a classified document and then point to Bush "dirty tricks" when it blows up in their faces?

A Very Good Question

There are a lot of people blogging about the National Intelligence Estimate, so I don't want to add anything, but John Podhoretz poses a very good question for the NY Times, LA Times and the Washington Post:
If the declassified version to be released today reveals that you were deceived about the contents, tone and interpretation in the NIE, will you reveal who leaked the information?
Hat Tip: The Instapundit

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Porkbusters Busting Down the White House Gates

Porkbusters has arrived and will present at teh signing of the Coburn-Obama bill that will create a federal database of government spending. Although I have rarely commented on the porkbusters crusade, I have alwasy found it enviable and perhaps the single most important project for the public done by bloggers.

Asking the Hard Question: A Book Report

It is not that I have finally finished reading Our Underachiveing Colleges by Derek Bok, it is just that it has taken me this long to actually sit down and finish my review. All the buzz in the air at this time of the year about education, it is understandable that people are talking about the need to reform education, and Bok's book may be the best place for everyone to start, whether citizen or politician, whether your interest lies in k-12 education or higher education. While Bok focuses on higher education, the questions he presents are just as applicable in elementary and secondary education.

Among all calls for college exit exams and accusations of political bias, it is easy to forget to ask the basis questions. Unlike many books that criticize higher education as too politically correct, bastion of left-wing liberalism or having a curriculum that is out of touch with the needs of modern America, Bok takes to task the system which focuses too much on process and not enough of purpose. That is the thrust of Bok's book, what is the purpose of a college education? What should be the main themes of a college education, no matter what your major might be? Bok believes that most university officials and faculty, who are responsible for the provision and administration of curricula and policies, simply spend too much time reacting to various pressures, market, social, political and personal, that they fail to understand and account for the potential impact of their educational decisions. Too many of the decisions, Bok argues, are made from a standpoint of turf wars among faculty and not enough oversight and supervision by the administration to make the education experience a valuable one for students.

Bok asks the simple question, what should a college education provide? Bok answers with some fairly simple and straightforward answers, some we expect and some you might not. For example, of course critical thinking, writing and speaking skills make it on the list. Other goals, such as civic responsibility and preparing for a career might not surprise people. Bok also suggests, contrary to the relativist ethics currently espoused by many university settings, that character education, a favorite of conservatives should also be a goal of a university education. But fear not, liberals would also be happy to see sections on living with diversity and preparing for a global society also make the list.

In each of these sections, Bok takes us through what he believes should be taught, all based on a solid logic, and then proceeds to chastise the entire higher education establishment at one time or another for failing to achieve those goals or outright opposing the goal. From petty disputes over what should be taught in general education courses, to the dominance of faculty departments over the requirements for a major, Bok says that lack of an integrated thought about the purposes of a college education short-changes the consumer of education--the student and ultimately the employers and society that those students join upon graduation.

However, the significance of Bok's book does not start upon matriculation in college, but has proper application to the debate over reforming k-12 education. I have been just as guilty in the past of leaping in to the fray of reforming K-12 education without stepping back and looking first at what we are trying to accomplish? Some of the same goals Bok lays our for a college education also apply to K-12 education as well, namely, what are we trying to accomplish with elementary and secondary education? Certainly, skills such as reading, writing, and math skills are important. But what else should be looking to achieve? That is why things like character education--which Bok describes not as teaching a particular moral code, but asking students to examine moral questions, learning how to analyze the moral implications of particular actions and developing framework for addressing moral questions--are a questions to be asked.

Too often decision made about education occur in a vacuum, looking at dollars and cents, labor, curricula and other matters in a very narrow view. Bok reminds us that the education establishment and others involved in education need to look first at the purpose behind education and ask the hard question--what are we trying to achieve? Without an answer to that question, you can't begin the process of making education relevant, no matter what level concerns you most.

Other books I have read and reviewed

Charter Schools Defined

Terrence O. Moore is the principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools, the number one ranked public school in Colorado and has written a wonder piece on charter schols, available at Edspresso. In addition to defining charter schools and debunking some of hte common myths and misunderstanding about charters, Moore discusses choice and how choice holds schools accountable in ways that traditional public schools are not held accountable.
Opponents of charter schools must oppose them on one of these principles: their independence, their public funding and openness to the public, their reliance upon choice, or their accountability. Realize that these are extremely compelling, indeed extremely American, principles to oppose. If we study the arguments of these opponents, we shall find that their criticism boils down to their fear of competition and to charter schools’ receiving public funding based on the number of students they have. In short, these critics are monopolists. They want regular public schools protected from competition at all costs. I suppose there is an argument for monopoly, but we must wonder whether critics of monopoly would practice what they preach in other matters in which we take choice for granted. Do the critics of charter schools wish to be forced to buy Fords simply because Ford has fallen on hard times and could use the business or be required to buy HP computers though they might prefer Apple or Dell? If they go to church, do they wish to pay tithes to the church located closest to their house, though it is Catholic and they are Protestants? What if they do not go to church? If they live in Fort Collins, Colorado would they agree in all cases to send their children to C.S.U. and not to U.N.C. or to Colorado College or to The Citadel or to M.I.T.? Would these public-school apologists as parents agree to have their children go only to the closest pediatrician or dentist? Might they agree to being Denver Broncos fans even if they grew up in Pittsburgh or Dallas?

Choice is as American as apple pie in most everything except for schools. Indeed, Americans who do not like apple pie can always eat cherry or rhubarb without being thought un-American. Parents who send their children to charter schools, on the other hand, are often looked upon as some kind of traitors. Americans have accomplished wonders to make themselves the freest people who have ever lived, but in this one domain, the one that philosophers such as Plato considered the most important, they are substantially unfree, both in their practice and their thinking. Consequently, charter schools constitute a “rebirth of freedom” in an important human endeavor, the formation of children’s minds and souls, that has remained unfree for far too long.
So choice, for opponents of charters, is okay, so long as it is a choice defined by them.

Can They Call a Truce?

My article on amending the Maryland Charter School Act is available at Edspresso. I will probably post it here in a week or so.

Highway Backer a Steady Ehrlich Donor -

Well, golly geewillickers, I am shocked that a company and a developer that has wanted to build a road in Maryland gave money to a candidate who won approval for building that road.

The only purpose behind this story to try and make Gov. Bob Ehrlich out to be a tool of the developers. But later in the story, some facts come out. Kingdon Gould, the developer in question, paid a fair amount of money to former Governor Parris Glendenning's campaign as well, but soured on supporting Glendenning when the former Governor soured on the idea of the Intercounty Connecter--a stretch of highway that it is hoped will alleviate some congestion on the Washington Beltway.

Dear readers, if you have read this space for long, you know that I don't believe that political money buys votes or governmental actions, rather it is the other way around.

The timing in teh article is meant to suggest that the money flowing to the Ehrlich campaign somehow got the final hurdle signed off by the department of transportation. In all likelihood, Gould had good sources in teh office and knew the report would be approved. Finally, keep in mind that although there is good communication between the office of Governor Ehrlich and his campaign staff, they are not one in the same.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Costs of American Education

From Edspresso comes this article by Dan Lips who explores what the cost of American education is. On the one hand:
How much does K-12 public education in America cost? One way to answer that is to look at direct taxpayer expenditures on education. In July, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the average per-student expenditure in public schools was $8,310 in the 2003-04 school year. State's per-student expenditures ranged from a high of $13,338 in New Jersey to a low of $4,991 in Utah.

Altogether, spending on all elementary and secondary education topped more than $500 billion in 2003-04, or about 4.7 percent of the entire economy as measured by GDP. The U.S. spends more on K-12 education than the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, or Sweden spends on everything.

Based on the most recent per-pupil expenditure figures, the average student enrolled in public school for the next 12 years can expect to have about $100,000 spent on his or her education.
Half a trillion dollars, and decidedly mixed results. But Lips points to another, even more drastic concern--remediation--that is the expenses and lost productivity incurred by businesses and colleges and universities on teaching their workers and students that which is expected to be taught in elementary and high school.
Another growing cost of our failing public education system is remediation, which is the burden that other institutions like colleges and businesses shoulder to help people develop the basic skills they should have learned in primary or secondary school. The Department of Education reported that 100 percent of all community colleges and 81 percent of four-year colleges offer remediation. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy estimates that remediation costs colleges and business in just the state of Michigan approximately $600 million per year. If the other 49 states and the District of Columbia are anything like Michigan, the country spends tens of billions of dollars each year making up for public schools' shortcomings.
To do the math on that score alone, we are looking at $30.6 billion dollars spent on remediation, on a conservative estimate.

Education today, as it has been for a number of years, is a black hole for money. Even now, despite decades of effort, we are just now coming to the realization that money doesn't buy everything--and it particuarly doesn't buy an education.

Friday, September 22, 2006

West vs. Islamofascism: We're Too Nice

At Human Events, Deroy Murdock notes the difference between the West and Islamfascists:
"Throwing olive branches at Islamofascists is beyond futile. This is the War on Terror, not the Summer Olympics on Terror. If America won’t fight this like a war -- and win -- we might as well cut our losses, hand out the Korans, and start the mass conversions. "
It might seem a trifle harsh, but for years we have been making excuses, trying to talk to Islamic fanatics as if they were a trading partner or another democracy that can be reasoned with to some end. However, when the starting and ending point of the radical Islam position is "convert to Islam or die" there is not a lot of wiggle room in that position. When you are dealing with religious extremist, of any sort, you cannot expect to reach beyond fervor to rationality--it doesn't work.

Charles Krauthammer, a man whose writing I rarely agree with, makes a beautiful point:
"How dare you say Islam is a violent religion? I'll kill you for it'' is not exactly the best way to go about refuting the charge. But of course, refuting is not the point here. The point is intimidation.

First, Salman Rushdie. Then the false Newsweek report about Koran-flushing at Guantanamo. Then the Danish cartoons. And now, a line from a scholarly disquisition on rationalism and faith given in German at a German university by the pope.

And the intimidation succeeds: politicians bowing and scraping to the mob over the cartoons; Saturday's craven New York Times editorial telling the pope to apologize; the plague of self-censorship about anything remotely controversial about Islam -- this in a culture in which a half-naked pop star blithely stages a mock crucifixion as the highlight of her latest concert tour.

In today's world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders.

Wisconsin politics as usual

The Milwauke Journal Sentinel Editorial Boardis none too happywith the goings on related to Mark Green, Jim Doyle and legislature uniwlling to do anything about it.
Members of the public are free to contact board members, of course, but the e-mails from attorney Michael Maistelman reveal a coziness that should cause discomfort for anyone who believes the board should be independent of partisan pressure.

"We need to accomplish the following," reads one e-mail to two Democratic board members. Another said, "Even if this ends up in Court, it is a PR victory for us since it makes Green spend money and have to defend the use of his Washington DC dirty money."

We? Us?

The Elections Board counsel is probably correct in saying that no laws were broken. Nonetheless, the ruling in the Green case does not deserve one iota of public confidence.

Doyle's campaign says the governor had no knowledge of the hiring of the attorney, who met with the campaign chairman. So who's in charge?

We'll wait to see if today's outrage over this translates into resurrected ethics legislation. If it doesn't, then it will be clear that today's howls of protest are every bit as partisan as the Elections Board ruling so obviously was in the Green case.

Green faces questions on individual donors

More on the legal saga of Mark Green. As noted earlier, there are now questions about Green's individual donors. According to a story yesterday in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Associated Press asked a group called Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to compile figures on individual donors. Alledgedly, Green has received some $48,000 in excess individual contributions, according to the group. But one has to question the motives of a group with some left leaning members.
Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said he thought the individual contributions would fall under the order that had already been issued to the Green campaign. McCabe's group had filed the complaint about the PAC money that prompted the Elections Board ruling against Green.

Elections Board legal counsel George Dunst said, however, that the board's order applied only to PAC money, so anyone challenging individual donations would have to file a separate complaint.


The Green campaign has argued that Democrats on the Elections Board took their cue from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in making what Republicans have said is a partisan decision that he must divest himself of the money.
Actually, as seen in these documents, it appears as more than just a cue from the Doyle campaign but it was everything short of a directive.

On a side note, why does the AP need the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign to compile the figures? The WIDC claims that is has the only searchable database of campaign donors in teh state. The problem is that it is not very searchable. For candidates like Green, with over 10,000 individual contributions, it is difficult to search for anything other than a big list.

Mark Green Case Explodes

As I had previously reported a few weeks ago, Wisconsin Republican Gubernatorial candidate Mark Green had been orded by the Wisconsin State Elections Board to divest some $480,000 because of an ex post facto rule change. At the time, the action stunk of a partisan ploy. Now the news coming out of Wisconsin is that the ploy was not only partisan but appears to have been orchestrated by Democratic operatives and Governor Doyle's campaign staff actively lobbied Democratic Members of the Elections Board for a ruling that would put Green in a jam.

On January 25, 2005, Mark Green, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, transferred funds from his federal campaign to his campaign fund for Governor, in a move that had been allowed for nearly 30 years and was in 2002 by Democrat Tom Barrett. The very next day, the Democratically controlled State Board of Elections voted to outlaw the practice, including Green's transfer, indeed Green's transfer was the only such transfer affected. The state legislature had an opportunity to overturn the regulation, but failed to do so before the legislature adjourned in July 2006.

After the failure of the legislature to permanently revoke the initial SEB ruling, on August 30, the State Elections Board ordered Green to divest his PAC funds that he transferred from his federal campaign to his state campaign that were over the aggregate limit of PAC funds for gubernatorial candidates, some $480,000 dollars. Green then vowed to defy the order. Yesterday Green went to court in Dane County, Wisconsin to have the order overturned.

What is most shocking is the role and activities of the Doyle campaign. According emails (available here), As early as August 24 (nearly a full week before the ruling), Michael Maistelman, a lawyer for Doyle's campaign, contacted three Democratic members of the SEB, Kerry Dwyer, Carl Holborn and Robert Kasieta and began lobbying for a ruling that would punish Green (the title of the original email reads "Follow the law when it is good for me but not when it is not...."). On Monday August 28 , according to the emails, Kasieta met with Maistelman in his office to discuss the case and come up with some sort of plan of action. Later that day, in an email dated 8/28/06 at 3:53pm Maistelman thanks Kasieta for meeting with him that day and provides him with additional information regarding the case. Just nine minuts later, Maistelman sends material on the case to Dwyer and Holborn. The goal of the plan was to obtain SEC rulings saying:
  • Bottom line-Green has a PAC limit like any other Gov candidate i.e. $485,000. When Green transferred his 1.3 Million dollars in January 2005, the PAC money that he transferred into his STate account should we {sic} counted towards that PAC limit...
  • Bottom line-Non-Registered PAC's - a finding that he wrongfully accepted monies from PAC's not registered in WI. Nonetheless, the SEB will give him 7 days to get those non-registered PAC's registered in WI...

In an email dated 8/29/06 at 9:31am, Maistelman tells Dwyer and Holborn, "I have also been told that the Gov's Campaign and the Dem party and others will give you cover on this in the media."

Some more damning evidence of Doyle complicity comes in emails dated 8/29/06 at 9:33am, in which Maistelman says he has run the ideas past "Madison" and gotten the "green light" on the idea. Miastelman seeks a conference call the night before the vote to talk about plans with Dwyer, Holborn and Kasieta, but noted they should keep Sherwin Hughes off teh call in order to avoid violations of the open meeting laws. Hughes, by the way was directly appointed to the Board by Governor Jim Doyle. Maistelman also later amends the plans so that only two SEB board members would be on the conference call in order to not violate Open meeting laws. Maistelman also has the audacity to write:
"I am permitted as a member of the public to communciation with SEB members and to send to SEB members info and correspondence but I want to make sure whatever we do complies with the Open Meetings law."
While Maistelman is indeed a member of the public, he is not acting in this case as a citizen, but as a retained counsel and lobbyist. His actions and those of Dwyer, Holborn and Kasieta violate at the very least the spirit if not the letter of the law regarding Open Meetings. The fact that these ex parte communications are not divulged points more and more to a cover-up.

In teh meantime, it appears as though two separate investigations into Maistelman's activities are going to be opened, one by the state's Justice Department and one by the Waukesha District Attorney.

Here is a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial on the matter as well as a the Wisconsin Justice Deparment's response to the Green campaign motion for a temporary injunction. Brad Smith has comments here (and thanks to Brad for letting me know about these events).
It is highly disturbing that Wisconsin election officials seemed to think nothing of this. I served five years on the Federal Election Commission, and cannot imagine not recusing myself, and making public the communications, if lawyers for an interested party had ever lobbied me in such a fashion on an enforcement matter.

Update: Green is also facing questions about contributions from individual donors as well.
According to figures prepared by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign at the request of The Associated Press, 30 donors have exceeded the $10,000 maximum they are allowed to give under state law.
Not sure who the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is, but what I don't understand is why the AP can't do the research themselves, since the contribution information is publicly available.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Education Carnivals

Check out the 85th Carnival of Education over at The Median Sib.

The 38th Homeschooler's Carnival is up at The Thinking Mother


Monday, September 18, 2006

Rebuttal Material for Democratic Anti-War Statements.

The next time you see and/or hear some Democrat talk about how Iraq is such a mess, send them these quotes and facts about Iraq from leading Democrats. My personal favorite:
Those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be President, or the credibility to be elected President.
John Kerry, Speech at Drake University in Iowa, December 16, 2003

Democrats Invent-Republicans Perfect

Bestsy Newmark has this post aboutthe GOP Get out the Vote Machine, commenting on this Washington Post article about teh GOTV effort on behalf of Lincoln Chaffee. Despite my disapproval of using the effort in a primary, I agree with Betsy that it is good to see the GOP warming up the GOTV muscle in advance of Nov. 7.

James Joyner seems to think that it is only a matter of time before the Democrats start copying the GOP turnout operation. Betsy disagrees and so do I. Betsy notes:
the Republicans have been bragging about their GOTV efforts since the 2002 elections and I have expected since then that the Democrats would copy it, but they haven't seemed to do so. In 2004 they outsourced a lot of their GOTV work to independent groups and they found out that it just doesn't work as well to have some independent effort that isn't run out of the Committee office. You'd think that the Democrats could imitate the massive computer effort that the GOP utilize.
The secret GOP weapon--nothing but a good database and sweat equity. As described in the Post:
About six months ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sat down with the Chafee campaign to construct a voter-turnout program. Weekly phone calls followed and a number of NRSC senior staffers -- including political director Blaise Hazelwood -- made regular trips to the state to ensure the structure was being built. They identified potential Chafee voters and pressed Democrats to change their party identification to "unaffiliated," a move that would allow them to vote in the Republican primary.

As the campaign wore on, Republicans began another slew of phone calls to unaffiliated voters to tell them that they could vote for Chafee and then immediately change their registration back to unaffiliated or Democrat. The RNC road-tested a new technology in the race that officials said is making their targeting program faster and more precise. It is based on a program that allows volunteers to call potential voters, note their political views and preferences on sheet of paper and immediately scan the results into a huge database known as the Voter Vault. Experts in the political practice known as microtargeting can then instantly analyze the results to determine which issues are moving voters and adjust their pitch.

All told, the Chafee campaign spent $500,000 on the effort, while the Republican National Committee chipped in an additional $400,000. The NRSC spent $1.2 million on the race -- primarily on an extended television campaign that attacked Laffey. Heading into the final day, Chafee said he had "deep apprehensions" about his ability to win.
So the GOP just works hard and uses some smart technology--but not technology that is so new as to be unproven.

But in a conversation last week with a client (the lovely and talented Cynthia) we discussed how the Democrats have invented many of the tools of modern campaigning, but the GOP has perfected it in the past forty years since Barry Goldwater. First the Democrats created a climate of ideas, starting with the New Deal. There were foundational prinicples upon which the party stood for. But by the 1960's and 70's a number of those ideas had been implemented and other discarded. But after the drubbing of Goldwater in 1964, the GOP sat back, took stock and started building a principaled platform that has resulted in a solid GOP core, culminating in our current posture, with the GOP in control of much of the governmental machinery. Even now, in the time when Democrats are chastising the GOP for its policies, there is a GOP machine behind the scenes that continues to churn out ideas. Democrats have made a practice of criticizing GOP policies without offering any of their own proposals.

Now, as a minority party, it is common to take the path of criticism, but if the Democrats want to be a party in control, they need convince the voting public that they have better policy proposals to offer. The danger in being contrary is that no one will believe you can do anything else. But the danger is not just for Republicans, but rather it is also for the nation as a whole. Multiple policy proposals, from multiple points of view generates compromises and often leads to better policy than one party rule. Ideas get tested, adjusted and tested again. Mere criticism comprising "that's bad policy" helps no one.

But ideas alone will not win elections. If the GOP had great ideas, but lacked the ability to move voters, they would not have won in 1980 with Reagan or in 1994 with the GOP ascension to power in Congress. In teh 1930's and 40's the Democrats built a solid, low tech method of winning elections--voter turnout--primarily with the aid of unions, but also within their own machinery. Democrat registration and voter turnout was king in the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, Ronald Reagan nontwithstanding. Even after Reagan's victory in 1980 and his landslide in 1984, the GOP continued serious efforts at maximizing their turnout machinery. Arguably, even the 1992 and 1996 elections could have been won by the GOP had it not been for the right sided challenge of Ross Perot. The GOTV efforts became, if not microtargeted in modern parlance, at least 50% more efficient through a solid ground organziation. The GOP learned that they can spend a lot of money on the air war, but if you don't have a ground orgnaization designed to get your voters to the polls, all the advertisements in the world are not going to win a campaign.

More in another post on GOP election operations.

The Other Districting Problem

Because this story in the washington Post over the weekend has a personal connection (in that my family is considering a move to Urbana), I thought it was interesting.

In many posts in this space, I have railed against the mechanisms by which political districts are drawn, decrying everything from majority-minority districts, to various efforts at redistricting reform and how the Voting Rights Act plays the role of an obstacle. But in reality, the way in which school district lines are drawn can have massive reprecussions for many students. Now the difference in the quality between Urbana Elementary and Centerville Elementary schools are probably more rooted in facility age than in anything else, that may not always be the case in school districting issues.

Given that the movement of a school district line from one side of a street to another can mean a great deal in some cases, the fact that parents get all riled up is not surprising. a district line that puts your child in a poorer quality school is likely to a cause for moving as getting a new job. All of which creates a death spiral as far as school quality, no matter how it is defined, goes. Kids with parents who can, leave the school's district for greener pastures. The school gets neglected because those who reamin lack the political efficacy of the motivated parents who move. Teach quality declines, teh facility deteriorates and the school slides further down the quality ranknigs.

Of course, some measures can be taken to arrest the slide. But a wholesale change in schooling would probably do more as schools that are more responsive to market forces (yes that is a euphamism for school choice, would be able to retain students no matter where the district lines are drawn. As Sara Mead noted:
Call me naive, or maybe one-note, but I have to wonder if these situations wouldn't be a bit easier if schools let parents choose their schools and differentiated the educational programs to balance demand. Of course, I realize this approach would have complications of its own.
Perhaps it does have complications, but I am willing to accept those complications.

Support for Electronic Filing of Senate Candidates' Campaign-Finance Records Gains Momentum -

Those of us who work in the campaign finance field have known this dirty little secret for years. It is nice to see the media taking up the cause.

The fact is, any Senate campaign with any hope of an impact uses software (sometimes even the software provided by the FEC for free) to manage their campaign finance reporting. It seems stupid to file on paper in the age of the Internet.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Claremont Institute: The Year Liberalism Died

If you don't read Michale Barone on a regular basis, you should. Here an example:
American liberalism died in 1980. Of course, no one knew it at the time, and if the journalistic coverage of that year's presidential campaign was any indication, you might have thought liberalism was still a vital force in American life and conservatism a credo of cranks. That was, after all, the conventional wisdom from the 1930s clear up to the end of the 1970s. The liberalism of the New Deal and the Great Society, of Keynesian economics and Phillips Curve manipulation, was, we were told, the only rational way of governing a large industrial society. And after the apparent failure of the American effort in Vietnam, we were lectured that conciliation and negotiation were the only rational means of managing foreign policy in a world heading toward convergence of our system and that of our adversaries.

But 1980 changed all that, as Andrew Busch ably demonstrates in his incisive Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right. As Busch makes clear, Ronald Reagan's smashing defeat of Jimmy Carter was the result not just of a political failure by the Democratic party or a particular president, but of the policy failure of American liberalism itself. Those of us who remember the 1980 campaign sometimes forget how dire things seemed as we entered that election year. Busch begins his narrative with an account of Jimmy Carter's July 15, 1979 "malaise" speech (which, as he notes, never included that infamous word), and quickly sketches how we'd come to that point. He reminds us that in the 1970s, Time magazine featured cover stories like "Can Capitalism Survive?" Keynesian economics, which had promised us endless low-inflation economic growth, had in fact produced high-inflation economic stagnation--"stagflation," as it came to be called.
Read more of Barone here:

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings On RedState Radio

RedState Radioconducted an interview with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings which was rather enlightening. This from the transcript with regard to school choice:
RedState: Do you think the administration might be able to make a push forward on a national school choice initiative?

Secretary Spellings: Well, I'll tell you what Erick, what we're seeing as No Child Left Behind has matured is kind of a trajectory of accountability. Accountability is really meaningless if there are not real consequences attached to it and we've said to the schools "these are our expectations and we're going to have some measurements and then when you don't meet those requirements or those standards some things are going to have to happen."

In No Child Left Behind now, already parents and families have the opportunity to transfer to better performing public schools or get some extra help through tutoring or summer schools, but there will come a time in year five or six when we have these chronically underperforming schools, of which today we have about 2000 in our country, and that number will go up some next year, where we have to be real with ourselves and say we're not going to trap kids in failing schools which have been so for six years and what ought to happen. The President believes they ought to have some options including private school choice opportunities. So I think that is going to be part of the discussion we will have next year. I think we have the moral high ground in that regard because it isn't like after six years of trying and a real understanding of what the issues are in schools, something else has to start happening.
Interesting indeed.

Accountability has become the watchword in education today. Unfortunately, political pressure, or perhaps even bad management, has led Spelllings to back on on the enforcement of some matters, but the language on school policy has shifted from how much money are we spending, are we spending enough, to what are we getting for the money we spend. This cannot help but move the school reform process forward.

Charter School Contracts Broken

As reported today in the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City charter schools are facing yet another obstacle put in their path--this time the utility bills.
The Baltimore school system has violated the terms of a contract with a charter school guaranteeing free utilities and maintenance through June 2008, documents show, a move that could leave the school unable to pay all its staff.

The system has decided to make eight charter schools that use its buildings pay for such services, a move that's left leaders at some of the schools scrambling to find the money. One of the hardest hit is Southwest Baltimore Charter School.

Last year, the system signed a three-year agreement with the new school allowing it to operate in extra classrooms at James McHenry Elementary for $1 annually, with utilities and maintenance included. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently.

But last month, the school was notified that the system would charge it $420 per pupil for utilities and maintenance plus an "optional" $200 per pupil for custodial services, which the school previously covered mostly with volunteers. It then began deducing for all three services from its payments to the school.

The fees total $74,400, or 11 percent of the budget of Southwest Baltimore Charter, which serves 120 pupils in kindergarten through second grade. The school had finalized its budget months before it learned of the extra fees, three weeks before the new academic year began.
Charter schools have generally had a rough road in Maryland, a state with a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature, a fairly politically potent teachers' union and a number of school systems reluctant to embrace charters. In addition to less than full funding (required by law and now to be enforced by court order), school systems appear not to be operating in good faith.

This latest move by the Baltimore City school board (which oversees arguably the worst school system in the state), puts the charter schools on the defensive once again. With a contract violation, they should have a practically slam dunk case in court, but going to court costs money and even if they get representation pro bono, the school system has time on its side.

Maryland's charter school law is barely four years old and there are 24 charter schools in teh state, with 17 schools in Baltimore alone. Like most charter schools, finding space is one of the biggest challenges facing the Baltimore charters. However, half of the charters are housed in unused public school facilities. Since Baltimore City schools have more space than students, the arrangement seemed like a match made in heaven. But Charter schools, which tend to run on a shoestring budget to begin with, argue that they should be paying only for the services used, not on a per pupil basis.

Charter schools in Maryland not only provide an alternative education environment, they must also operate in a much more fiscally sound manner. Between lower per pupil payments to start and massive overhead fees being charged to cover "central administrative" costs, most charters are left with a much smaller per pupil budget than the public school system. Yet, they tend to make due, with volunteer help and soliciting private donations.

Maryland, and particularly Baltimore, school systems are walking a fine line. On the one hand, teh school systems that struggle, like Baltimore City, Prince Georges' and some parts of Montgomery counties, face increasing pressures from parents and communities to provide either a better education or educational opportunities like charter schools. On the other hand, school boards and teachers unions are not enamored with charters for many of the common reasons.

Education is likely to play a key role in this year's gubernatorial and state legislative races. With the pressure on, a parental revolt is likely and if the politicans don't heed the call, you can bet that a bunch of them will be out the door in November and in four years.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Maryland Charter Schools to Get Same Funding as Public Schools

Last week, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (the intermediate level appeals court in the state) issued this opinion in the case of City Neighbors Charter School vs. Balitmore City Board of School Commissioners. At issue in the case is the amount of funding the public school board must give to charter schools. Under Maryland law, the boards of education must
disburse to a public charter school an amount of county, State, and federal money for elementary, middle, and secondary students that is commensurate with the amount disbursed to other public schools in the local jurisdiction. (Emphasis in orginal)
Interestingly enough, it appears as though the application process requires the charter applicant to request a per pupil funding level, which the charter schools in the case did, setting their request far below the city's average per pupil expenditure. According to the facts laid out in the Court's opinion, the City school board authorized a cash payment of $5,011 and in kind services valued at $2,943, a total of $7,954 or less than 75% of the public school funding of $10,956, which was the per pupil expenditure of the Baltimore city public schools in 2004-2005.

The charter schools appealed the decision of a Baltimore city circuit court ruling arguing that Maryland law required the payment of an equal amount of money and that the provision of services in lieu of cash was not acceptable. The Court of Special Appeals agreed with the charter schools. Now all Maryland school systems must provide the same funding level for charter students as traditional public students. But the city school board remains worried that if it must pay the same amount to charter schools as it does per pupil for traditional public schools, then there could be problems. According to a statement
The ruling "no doubt would pose a financial hardship on the vast majority of our traditional schools, which ironically could result in these schools receiving less money per student than charter schools."
Which leads to the question: if the students now in charter schools were to remain in traditional public schools, what would their funding level be?

This episode demonstrates a couple of things for me. First, yet again, local school boards don't like charters and will continually put obstacles in the path of charter success. Second, it seems obvious that charters must do the same amount with less money than traditional public schools. More actually, since if charters fail to achieve they are shut down. Third, local school board mismanagement now borders on the illegal. Fourth, were it not for hte legal courage exhibited by the charter schools in this case, the funding disparity would have continued. Too many charters, more worried about survival might accept such disparate funding levels, despite what the law says. Well, at least in Maryland, that is no longer the case.

The law is written quite clearly, charter schools should receive esentially the same per pupil funding as all other public schools. While a small discount may be permissible, (the Court said a 2% discount for administrative services was acceptable), there is a vast difference between a 2% discount and a $27% discount.

This episode also demonstrates the need for a chartering authority separate and distinct from the local school boards, an agency with no current turf to defend and preserve.

Liberals, Conservatives, and the Use of Racial and Ethnic Classifications:

Prof. Ilya Somin has a great post at the Volokh Conspiracy in which he discusses Liberals, Conservatives, and the Use of Racial and Ethnic Classifications, brining to light a wonderful dichotomy of thought in both camps:
I have long been fascinated by the fact that most conservatives support racial and ethnic profiling for national security and law enforcement purposes, yet are categorically opposed to the use of racial or ethnic classifications for affirmative action. Most liberals, by contrast, take exactly the opposite view. Both ideologies oppose racial and ethnic classifications as a matter principle in one area, yet defend them on pragmatic grounds in another.


In both cases - terrorism profiling and affirmative action - race or ethicity is used as a proxy for other characteristics in order to help overcome the problem of imperfect information. If we knew who is a terrorist and who isn't, there would be no argument for security profiling. If we knew each college applicant's degree of victimization by racism or degree of contribution to diversity, the case for racially based affirmative action would be greatly weakened. Since we don't know these things and it would be difficult or impossible to find out, race or ethnicity are used as a crude proxy for them.
Admittedly, the post intially brought a bout of defensiveness about my, dedicedly, conservative thoughts on the matter. But after some reflection, admittedly, race and ethinicity are indeed used as a proxy for a lack of information. But for the the lack of information and the proxies that are used in place of that information is a matter of probability and statistics.

The use of racial profiling in all criminal investigations and counter-terrorism efforts is merely a projection of probability, statistics and the finite resources that can be applied in a given circumstance. Is it a cure-all? No and I don't profess to believe that profiling should be used as a substitute for good police work. But, when most of the terrorism, or crime, is perpetrated by an identifiable group, why should a law enforcement agency use that information to its advantage and concentrate resources accordingly. If terrorism were perpetrated more by Scandavian women over the age of 50, that is were I want resources devoted.

In short, racial profiling for terrorism and crime fighting is simply a matter of devoting governmental resources, already finite, in a way calculated to produce the best results. Put crudely, but unabashedly, racial profiling imposes costs on a small number of people for a demonstrable benefit to the greatest number of people.

But on the other hand, affirmative action, or racial preferences, in academia or any other field, imposes costs on both sides of the dispute, with no demonstrable benefit to either. Affirmative action costs everyone in a school because it perpetuates the fallacy that a person's skin must reflect a difference in upbringing. While this may be true, how do account for poor white kids trying to be the first in their family to go to college?

As I have advocated before in this space, where do we draw the line? How much "racial diversity" is enough? How long must we, the current generations, pay for the sins of our fathers? How much is enough reparation? (one of the commenters to Somin's original post argued that conservatives should put up money for reparations or shut up)

For me, I can justify my opposition to affirmative action in terms that Somin presented--race is a poor proxy for the achievement of the stated goal of affirmative action--that of achieving a diverse student body or workforce. I will admit to the proposition that race can play a role, but, as one commenter noted, elite universities recruit economically well off minorities and even non-American blacks and hispanics to achieve diversity--leaving out the so-called intended beneficiaries. For example, if you have two kids who went to elite private high schools, whose parents have professional degrees with a combined family income exceeds $500,000 per year and one is black and one is white--what have you accomplished in terms of diversity?

But affirmative action continues to punish the very class it seeks to help. Instead of pushing students of all races to succeed, affirmative action implicitly tells minorities "you don't have to do as well because there will always be set asides for you. There will always be a place for you because you are black or hispanic." Instead of pushing a more inclusive society, affirmative action continues to perpetuate the notion, among minorities and non-minorities, that there exists a class of second-tier citizens. The paternalistic nature of affirmative action does little to actually remedy the very ills it seeks to address, rather it perpetuates the matter.

Finally, race has become a ineffective and crude proxy for socio-economic status. But in doing so we ignore large segments of poor who are not minorities. We punish those groups who have no official policy as a recourse. How do we as a nation reconcile our efforts at helping poor blacks or hispanics achieve greater academic or business success, while at the same time denying the same governmental preferences to poor whites or asians? The answer is we cannot do so with any degree of finality.

Admittedly, these distinctions are based upon a rationale I have created, which appears internally logical to me. Each policy is inherenly discriminatory and such discrimination carries consequences. So while I don't have a resolution, or perhaps even a good defense of my actions, I will readily admit that I believe racial profiling to be an effective policy and affirmative action not. I am open minded enough to listen to evidence to the contrary.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hugo vs. Katrina--"Character Counts"

Michael Graham compares what happened during the aftermath of Katrina with was happened in teh aftermath of 1989's Hurricane Hugo which hammered Charleston, South Carolina.
Hurricane Hugo gave the people of South Carolina the opportunity to rise, or fall, to the challenge. The character of South Carolina was revealed in the months and years that followed, and the result is the prosperous, thriving Charleston of today.

The people of New Orleans had the same opportunity. They responded by re-electing the worst big-city mayor in America, committing so much violent crime that the National Guard was forced onto city streets, and blaming their problems on racism by Bush, who is sending more than $110 billion to the Gulf Coast.

The billions will be spent, but the problem of New Orleans won't be fixed. The real lesson of Hugo and Katrina one year later is this: Character counts.

Diane Weir Dismantles Universal Preschool In MA

School Board member and blogger Diane Weir takes a long hard look at some numbers underpinning a move for Universal Preschool in Massachussets.
Just look at the items folks at the Early Education for All (EEA) campaign found worthy of state funding:

- $12.5M for the subsidized child care provider salary rate reserve

- $10.9M for the Department of Early Education and Care's administrative account

- $1.3M increase for Resource and Referral Agencies

- $1M increase for Head Start

- $1.5M for Professional Development

For those of you counting, that's $24.9M for administration, salaries, and professional development compared with $2.3M that may actually flow to the families who need it.
You read that right, ten times the administrative costs for a program that probably won't serve nearly enough kids in poverty.

My Latest Watchblog Post is Up

Essentially a reworking of this post. It is just too much on my mind.

Do We Coddle Our Kids Too Much

I admit, as a father, I may do too much to protect my kids, but I don't think I take it that far, but maybe I am like the parents described here. I would like to think not.

Hat Tip: Mike Antonucci

Coburn-Obama Bills Passes Senate

Holy Cow--who would have thought? Now if the House can pass the bill, we can actually have a good law on the books.

Hat Tip: Club for Growth Blog

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What Does Losing (The War) Really Mean?

I saw this post and just had to link to it. I have found few better descriptions of the need for our current foriegn policy.
First, let's examine a few basics:
1. When did the threat to us start? Many will say September 11th, 2001. The answer as far as the United States is concerned is 1979, 22 years prior to September 2001, with the following attacks on us: Iran Embassy Hostages, 1979; Beirut, Lebanon Embassy 1983; Beirut, Lebanon Marine Barracks 1983; Lockerbie, Scotland Pan-Am flight to New York 1988; First New York World Trade Center attack 1993; Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Khobar Towers Military complex 1996; Nairobi, Kenya US Embassy 1998; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania US Embassy 1998; Aden, Yemen USS Cole 2000; New York World Trade Center 2001; Pentagon 2001. (Note that during the period from 1981 to 2001 there were 7,581 terrorist attacks worldwide).

2. Why were we attacked? Envy of our position, our success, and our freedoms. The attacks happened during the administrations of Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2. We cannot fault either the Republicans or Democrats as there were no provocations by any of the presidents or their immediate predecessors, Presidents Ford or Carter.

4. Who were the attackers? In each case, the attacks on the US were carried out by Muslims.

5. What is the Muslim population of the World? 25%

6. Isn't the Muslim Religion peaceful? Hopefully, but that is really not material. There is no doubt that the predominately Christian population of Germany was peaceful, but under the dictatorial leadership of Hitler (who was also Christian), that made no difference. You either went along with the administration or you were eliminated. There were 5 to 6 million Christians killed by the Nazis for political reasons (including 7,000 Polish priests). ( Thus, almost the same number of Christians were killed by the Nazis, as the 6 million holocaust Jews who were killed by them, and we seldom heard of anything other than the Jewish atrocities. Although Hitler kept the world focused on the Jews, he had no hesitancy about killing anyone who got in his way of exterminating the Jews or of taking over the world - German, Christian or any others. Same with the Muslim terrorists. They focus the world on the US, but kill all in the way - their own people or the Spanish, French or anyone else.. [5] The point here is that just like the peaceful Germans were of no protection to anyone from the Nazis, no matter how many peaceful Muslims there may be, they are no protection for us from the terrorist Muslim leaders and what they are fanatically bent on doing - by their own pronouncements - killing all of us infidels. I don't blame the peaceful Muslims. What would you do if the choice was shut up or die?

6. So who are we at war with? There is no way we can honestly respond that it is anyone other than the Muslim terrorists. Trying to be politically correct and avoid verbalizing this conclusion can well be fatal. There is no way to win if you don't clearly recognize and articulate who you are fighting.

Read the Whole Thing.

Top Ten No Sympathy Lines

While there more than ten, I can't help but agree with each and every one of the Top Ten No Sympathy Lines by Professor Steve Dutch of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. His home page warns of blunt language. Indeed.

Hat Tip: Joanne Jacobs

FEC Reports 18 Month PAC Activity

Last week, the FEC reported on the 18-Month PAC Activity for 2006. The FEC's release of this data happens every six months during the election cycle and provides a good insight into the financial activity of large sectors of the PAC community. According to the FEC, federal PACs have:
  • Raised $773.5 million
  • spent $656.3 million (all told)
  • contributed $248.2 million to federal candidates
These totals reflect a 23%, 27% and 21% increases, respectively, over activity in 2004.

The press release contains lots of links to tables and other data that can show more specifics.

Before anyone gets all riled up, this activity is completely legal and completely above board. By law, each federal PAC must account for every penny that comes in the door and every penny that goes out. There is no hiding the information.

PACs in general have profited enourmously in the McCain-Feingold era, since the law prohibits contributions by corporations and labor unions to anyting that may influence the election of federal candidates. As result, the practice of many corporations in teh pre-McCain-Feingold time of using coprorate funds were possible was replaced by an emphasis on raising money for the PAC. More and more federal PACs are raising an ever-increasing amount of money as the stakes become bigger and bigger in the political world.

In case you are wondering who raises the most money, it is EMILY's List--far and away. They raised $20,143,427 in the first 18 months of the 2006 cycles, more than twice than the nearest PAC, the SEIU, who raised $9,978,864.

Of PACs, Newspapers and Candidates

Today, the Washington Post carried this story about the Maryland Senate race, arguing that because the leading candidates have accepted PAC money, their claims as "outsiders" are not valid.

Taking PAC money, in and of itself is not an indicator of whether a candidate is on the "inside" or the "outside" any more than it is a cause of why some legislators vote one or the other. Raising PAC money is simply that, raising money.

Generally, raising PAC money is much easier on the candidate than raising money from individuals. Candidates raise money for their campaigns in one of three ways--contributions from individuals, contributions from PACs and/or loans. Since loans from anyone other than individuals and the candidate are unlikely, I will not discuss those here.

Contributions from individuals comes in a couple of different forms. One can sell tickets to a fundraising event, like a dinner or lunch. Usually, this requires a great deal of outlay in terms of overhead, from renting a place to have the dinner, to food and perhaps booking a big name draw to help bring in the donors. Thus, fundraising events are by their nature tend to draw high end donors since teh campaign needs to cover the costs of the event plus make something akin to robber baron profits. These type of events tend to get press attention (whether intentionally or not) because of the presence on wealthy donors, which in turns feeds the beast of "candidates are bought by the wealthy" that dominates most mainstream accounts of fundraising.

Second, a candidate can "dial for dollars," but this method is time intensive for the candidate. Because teh candidate's time is limited, he/she must spend their time talking to big donors. Again, this provides more grist for media complaints of capture by the wealthy. The drawback for hte candidate is that they must listen to donors who may have an opinion on all matter of issues, using up more of the most precious commodity on a campaign--time.

Finally, all candidates use some form of direct mail, which yields the greatest number of contributions, if not the greatest total. Direct mail is relatively cheap, and with internet and email appeals, practically costless. This type of work gets scant media attention, since the bulk of these contributions are small, usually less than $100. But these contributions should be the media's biggest clue as to whom is getting support--particularly in primary election cycles. Since small donations are not itemized on FEC reports, though, they don't get the attention they deserve.

However, raising money from PACs is generally easier. First, the candidate may not need to do much of it himself since there are always willing individuals in teh PAC community willing to take on the task. Second, PAC managers are professionals, they know when the candidate calls, the PAC manager is not likely to spend a great deal of time on the phone. Finally, a candidate can go to a small, one hour reception and raise $30,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 in a short span of time. Little effort, lower cost and a lot less hands to shake.

But PACs are something else--a entry into organizations that can push their members to support the candidate. Generally, a PAC is made up of individuals who have some common identity. If the PAC supports a candidate, generally, the organziation does too. That key factor can move voters to support a candidate. This factor usually escapes the notice of the media, but PAC support often means, in most cases, some sort of tacit or even explicit assistance from teh organization that may provide even more support than monetary.

Raising PAC money means very little as an indicator of "outsideness" or lack thereof. Rather raising PAC money should be viewed as no different than any other form of fundraising.

Speech Limitations In Effect Today

For those of you watching the election calendar know that today is the 60th day before the Nov. 7 election. What some may not know, but people like Ryan Sager, Mark Tapscott and others are trying to tell you, is that today is the day when political speech rights are now limited by law.

In 2002 the McCain-Feingold bill was signed into law. The legal monstrosity alledgedly seeks to keep the pernicious influence of "soft money" out of federal elections, preventing many common types of political speech from being bought using--gasp!!--unregulated money. Aside form the largely anti-American concept of political speech restrictions, the one big restriction is on electioneering communications, that is speech designed to influence and election or in FEC language, promote, attack, support or oppose (PASO) a candidate for elective office.

The problem with PASO (aside from some not insignificant definitional issues) is that candidates for federal elective office are currently working on federal legislative issues. They are holding hearings, issuing legislation, conducting votes and otherwise (supposedly) conducting the business of the nation. While we, as individuals, can continue to call and write our representatives, various interest groups cannot call our attention to issues under consideration. It is the rare individual who can tell you what Congress is doing on any one given issue and thus we rely upon interest groups to do so. However, starting today, those very interest groups, upon whom we all rely, are no longer capable of airing ads that urge legislative action. The rationale, as Sager put it:
The logic behind these restrictions is that ads about particular bills in Congress might really be "sham-issue advertising" - with the real aim of electing or defeating a candidate for office. And, therefore, the money used to buy those ads might really be an illegal and unregistered campaign contribution.

But the years since McCain-Feingold's passage have shown that, whatever supposed risk of corruption may lie in allowing issue ads to run unfettered, there's simply no way to regulate unwanted speech without restricting perfectly legitimate speech.

Plus, there's a tremendous arrogance in the idea of even trying to determine what speech is legitimate and what is unwanted. Who gets to decide? The answer is simple: Incumbents (a k a congressmen) do. And their only agenda is to hold onto what they've got: their incumbency.
Now some writers have gotten in wrong. it is not that these groups can't run ads, they can. But in order to do so they must use PAC money, money that is regulated under federal campaign finance laws.

The FEC tried to grant a limited exemption, but failed last week. But a limited exemption is not what is necessary, but rather a wholesale reassessment of our campaign finance laws in this area. Lobbying is not campaign finance. Lobbying is a protected First Amendment right.
Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But McCain-Feingold is just such a law.

There are cases, two of them in fact, brought by the Wisconsin Right to Life organization who have in succsssive elections sought to criticize Sens. Feingold and Kohl on issues of concern to them. However, their lawsuits are still pending in the court system and any resolution is unlikely before the election.

So for yet another election cycle, we are faced with a severly limited speech right that does not favor fair play--only incumbents. Not since the Alien and Sedition Acts of the late 18th Century, a stain on the early American history, have we faced such restrictions on our ability to criticize the government and the representatives who are, after all, beholden to our votes to keep them in office. If we can't hear both sides of the story, how can we as voters balance their desire for re-election with our need for effective representation.

The good news, such that it is, is that the Alien and Sedition Acts were repealed and hopefully so too will McCain-Feingold.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

RealClearPolitics - Articles - A Rare, Intriguing Race

Even though the 2006 elections are still 2 months away, the speculation on 2008 is running deep. At least Michael Barone makes the ruminating on 2008 moe interesting.

Class Size Reduction Obstacles

Last week, I posted on a campaign proposal by Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martin O'Malley to pay signing bonuses of $200,000 to recruit principals for the state's worst performing schools. The initial press coverage was impressive, which of course was the point, but some of the comments started me thinking. One comment in particular, heard from a number of different sources, said that it would be better to take that money and spend it on hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes. While I agree that the money may indeed be better spent in other areas, I am not sure how much bang for the buck can be gotten by spending to reduce class sizes.

In this post, I want to explore some potential problems with the concept of reducing class sizes. I am not a firm believer that smaller class inevitably lead to better student achievement, although I can certainly understand the intuitive appeal. Nor am I convinced that spending money to reduce class sizes, no matter how you achieve that goal, is a wise use of resources. There are a couple of assumptions that I want to explain before beginning. First, this discussion will feature Maryland school data, which is apropos given that O'Malley's proposal and the arguments for and against revolve around Maryland schools. Second, although research differs greatly on what is the optimum student teacher ratio, I am going to base this discussion on a 12:1 ration for elementary, 15:1 for middle schools and 20:1 for high schools as optimum. As you will see from the data provided by the Maryland Department of Education, it is impossible to make that segregation.

Obstacle #1: No Widespread Need

While the Maryland school data does not break down adequately the student teacher ration for all levels of school, it does provide aggregate data. For example, the data does show the number of instructors (without defining what that is) per 1000 students and the number of instruction aides (again without a definition). From there you can calculate a student teacher ratio. For Maryland's 24 county level jurisdictions, the student teacher ratio ranges from a high of 16.78:1 to a low of 12.17:1, with an average of 15:1. The range of student/teacher ratios, while perhaps not optimum in every classroom, certainly exist in a tolerable range across the jurisdictions.

If one considers a instructor/student ratio, with instructional aides included, you get a range of rations ranging from 9.14:1 to 14.2:1 with an average 12.3:1. For half of Maryland's counties, the number of instructors and aides is at or below even the elementary optimum level of 12:1. How much further should we go?

Obstacle #2: Teacher Quality

In the NCLB era, no discussion of teacher hiring can ignore the question of quality teachers. Of course, there are many arguments regarding what constitutes a quality teacher and such a subject is beyond the scope of this post. However, no matter how you define quality, simply going out and hiring more teachers without assessing their quality is an obvious blunder

I had previously discussed my thoughts on smaller class sizes and the impact on teacher quality. Simply put, no matter how you define teacher quality, there is a finite number of people possessing that quality and those people are usually in great demand. Without drastically increasing you pool of eligible people or changing the definition or quality, usually by lowering your standards a little, you cannot get more people possessing the necessary features of a quality teacher.

If you must overly dilute the qualities of a good teacher by hiring more teachers, will reducing class size improve the learning of most students? A teacher of lesser quality may be able to do okay in a smaller classroom, but at what price? Is the investment worth it in terms of return?

Obstacle #3: Where Will You Put New Teachers

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Maryland does decide to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes. The next obstacle is probably the hardest to overcome and the solutions alternative solutions are quite wasteful of resources. Let us assume that to reduce class sizes even further, each school in Maryland hires 10 percent more teachers.

Where do you put them?

The most finite resource in any school system is not teachers, or money, and certainly not students. No classroom space is the single most precious commodity. Simply hiring teachers without expanding classroom space will strain the space resources of any school.

For example, let us assume a school in growing Frederick county has 850 students (which is pretty close to the average size in Frederick) and a student teacher ratio of 16:1 (which is the Frederick average), this means that there are 56 or 57 teachers in the school. Assuming that each teacher has his/her own classroom in which to work, there must be 56 or 57 classrooms. Let us assume again, for the sake of argument that the school has 60 spaces available for classrooms. When the new 10 percent of teachers is hired, you will be getting 6 new teachers, but there are only at best 3 available classrooms. Where will you put the other three teachers?

One possible ideas that have been floated are add portable classrooms at each school as needed. Portables have the appeal of being low cost, easy to build and easy to move in and out of situations as need be. But in reality, there is only so much real estate available to place portable classrooms. While this is a viable solution in some states (in Florida where I grew up, they were common and useful), but in Maryland, suggesting the use of portable classrooms borders on political suicide.

Another solution (floated by a teacher friend of mine) is to have the new teachers float in and out of classrooms when other teachers have their planning period. Well, that is fine, for a short term solution. But if you are looking to retain teachers--putting them in bad working conditions is not going to help your cause.

Of course, it is possible to double teachers up in a classroom. But what does this accomplish, other than being a waste of hiring resources. Team teaching can do a great deal for students, but if you are hiring two math teachers for a high school, what does it accomplish to put them together in the same room. Sure, you reduce the class size by half (sort of), but you are sacrificing the intellect and teaching skills of one teacher upon the altar of smaller class sizes, with no real impact.

Of course, building new schools is going on all the time, and it is possible to design schools to hold the modern ideal of a 15:1 student teacher ratio by building enough classrooms. But building new schools is an expensive proposition and does not solve the immediate problem since, even on the most optimistic schedule, you will need between 1 year and 2 years to build depending on the size and nature of the school to be built. New schools, built in rapidly developing areas, tend to get up to capacity pretty quick, sometimes exceeding capacity by the time they open.

While new schools can be built, at a not insubstantial cost, older schools cannot be simply be redesigned to accommodate a new desired student teacher ratio.


While spending more money to make class sizes smaller, the investment goes well beyond simply hiring more teachers. On top of the teacher salaries and benefits, themselves pretty hefty, a school district must decide how and where to house these new teachers. Many schools are simply not designed to handle a 20:1, 15:1 or particularly a 12:1 ratio, there are simply not enough classrooms. To build enough classrooms would require an infrastructure investment that economically cannot be made.

Finally, at least in Maryland, there is not a widespread need to hire a lot of new teachers. While O'Malley's proposal for signing bonuses is not a wise spending decision, neither is spending the money to reduce class sizes in a state where the average class size is already 15:1 statewide.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hasen on Election Law Litigation

Prof. Rick Hasen has a commentary at dealing with the recent election law litigation that is going on all over the country. Topics include ballot access, sore loser laws, and replacing candidates on the ballot.

Why not as sexy as voter identification laws that are also being challenged, these disputes have real implications for election administration and voter choice.

Read the whole thing.

See also Brad Smith's recent Washington Post op-ed on the topic.

Repeal McCainFeingold

Well, I am not so sure about a full repeal, but certain facets of it are certainly worth a trip to the circular file. Mark Tapscott argues that the recent FEC non-action regarding a limited exemption for grassroots lobbying ads, is the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to this monstosity. In the incumbent protection racket that results from this law, has yet another obstacle in the way of criticizing incumbents:
Something almost without precedent in America will happen Thursday. That’s the day when McCain-Feingold — aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — will officially silence broadcast advertising that contains criticism of members of Congress seeking re-election in November. Before 2006, American election campaigns traditionally began in earnest after Labor Day. Unless McCain-Feingold is repealed, Labor Day will henceforth mark the point in the campaign when congressional incumbents can sit back and cruise, free of those pesky negative TV and radio spots. It is the most effective incumbent protection act possible, short of abolishing the elections themselves.

How can this possibly be, you ask? McCain-Feingold — named after the law’s main advocates, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis. — bans all broadcast political advocacy advertising that mentions candidates by name, beginning 60 days before the election.
Earlier this week, the FEC deadlocked on a limited exemption that would allow for groups to air ads that were legislative in nature. The exemption from the electioneering communications rules (which prohibit mentioning a candidate by name in any context that promotes, attacks, supports or opposes that candidate within 60 days of a general election) carried lots of very strict, but common sense limitations, such as the ad must pertain to a pending legislative vote. The problem that these communications present is that they look an awful lot like those dastardly issue ads that had everyone up in arms.

There have been various comments by others on the minutae of the deadlock, so I will leave that matter alone.

But Tapscott does frame the issue quite well. Not since the Alien and Sedition Acts of the late 18th Centry, has American government shut down such a vital aspect of speech, that of political speech aimed at our own representatives.
None of this would surprise Alexander Hamilton, who argued in “The Federalist Papers” that written guarantees of things like freedom of the press would be purposely misconstrued by ambitious politicians and used as a pretext to do that which the Constitution banned: “I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.” That is just about exactly what has happened now with the First Amendment and freedom of political speech, thanks to McCain-Feingold.

By election day, it should be clear to all reasonable persons that McCain-Feingold was a serious mistake and, like Prohibition, ought to be repealed. But proponents of campaign finance reform have always been right about one thing — there is an incredible amount of money in politics and voters should know who it is coming from and to whom it is going. Thus, McCain-Feingold should not simply be repealed; it ought to be replaced with a new law that uses transparency in campaign finance rather than censorship in political expression.
So what can we do? Well, as Tapscott says, campaign finance needs to be transparent, but it also needs to be fair. Political speech needs to be free, open and subject to no limitations save for libel and slander. A functioning democracy depends on it, like humans depend on air to breath.

Hat Tip: James Joyner at Outside the Beltway

Green to Defy Wisconsin State Elections Board

Despite what I thought, Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green, who was ordered to divest some $480,000 in funds earlier this week, has decided not to go to court himself, but rather he will not comply with the order, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

According to the story:
Green's campaign dismissed the decision as "incredibly partisan and hasty" and said Green complied with all applicable laws when he converted $1.3 million from his federal account in January 2005.

"We're going to continue to follow state Election Board rules and state law," campaign manager Mark Graul said, adding those allowed Green to spend the money.

In any event, Graul said, the money already has been spent.

Anticipating the refusal, the board authorized executive director Kevin Kennedy to hire outside counsel if Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager declines to represent the board in any enforcement action, which could start in 10 days.

Green was also ordered to divest his campaign of any PAC donations that exceeded the state limit for a gubernatorial campaign of $485,190.
By declining to comply with the order, Green has put the onus on the state to prove that he is violating the order, and with their counsel not supporting the board decision, they may have to get outside counsel to prosecute the case.

Similarly, by declining to comply, Green succeeds in an additionally putting the attorney general on the hot seat. AG Lautenenschlager, an elected Democrat also running for re-election this year, is now in a difficult position. If she declines to prosecute the case, will she alienate her voters, but if she takes the case, she could very well lose her job.

The most troubling aspect of this whole case is the undercurrent of rank partisanship.
Wednesday's actions were in response to a complaint brought by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which alleged Green should be subject to an "emergency rule" the board passed prohibiting candidates for state office from converting funds from prior federal campaigns if the donors are not registered in Wisconsin or the gifts exceed state limits.

The Elections Board, which is dominated by Democrats, first adopted the rule in 2005, one day after Green transferred his federal money to his state account.

The rule was quickly suspended by a committee of the Republican-controlled Legislature. But the full Legislature never adopted the required follow-up legislation to permanently kill the rule before lawmakers went home July 12.
The timing of the events seems suspect. The initial action by the Board, including the timing of the "emergency rule" coming the day after Green's transfer, as well as the substance are difficult to reconcile with a glaring need to halt an abuse. Green followed the law, which inclded two independent precedents, including on as recent as the 2000. Furthermore,
this action by the Board smacks of an ex post facto law, something prohibited Art. 1, Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution.

Election laws are set up to ensure a standard of play that is the same for everyone. The fact that some poeple may file complaints for perceived violations is a part of the process, but to seek a wholesale rule change to suit partisan needs is a dangerous path to take, because you can never tell when you might be on the receiving end of a similar attack.

Complaints need to be filed, otherwise there is no way to enfore the rules. But there should be some sort of mechanism to prohibit and prevent malicious complaints unfounded in law.

As the primary election draws near in a little less than two weeks, this drama provides another attention diverting issue for the voters and Green.

Update 9:48am: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Green has kicked off a 72 hour fundraising blitz to raise some $450,000. Other news links here.
Meanwhile, Green campaign lawyer Don Millis said the campaign is planning a court fight to try to overturn the Elections Board order. If the matter ends up in court, it might not be resolved until after the Nov. 7 election, said Elections Board Executive Director Kevin Kennedy.

"We anticipate that we're going to have to go to court to protect our rights," said Millis, a former Elections Board chairman.

Green would win in court, said Mike Wittenwyler, a Madison lawyer who specializes in election and campaign-finance law.
At the same time, the Journal-Sentinel has this editorial, which states that the Board was wrong, but also that Green is wrong to ignore the order.

In related news, the Elections Board's Libertarian member, Jacob Burns, claimed the matter was an issue of law. From the same article comes a thought that Green may benefit from the brouhaha:
The Elections Board's decision requiring Green to forfeit nearly $468,000 in campaign donations could actually help Green, according to Marquette political science professor John McAdams.