Wednesday, February 28, 2007

He Should Know, He Invented the Dang Thing

Former Vice President Al Gore sees the Internet throwing a monkey wrench into political money raising.

Mr Gore says the Internet has changed the way information gets to voters and that could alter the need for raising money. But that won't likely change so long as the 30 second TV ad remains the most effective way to advertise a campaign.

Most campaign contributions go toward paying for media ads. Television is the most expensive -- and still most effective -- way of getting a candidate's message to voters.

A 30 second spot in the 2006 elections cost as much as $25,000 in Los Angeles.

But the Internet has revolutionized the way politicians reach voters. And it can cost practically nothing.

As a result, The Wall Street Journal (see chart) shows politicians doubled their spending on Internet ads between the 2004 and 2006 elections -- from $40 million to $80 million:

A standard-size weekly ad purchased through Blogads costs $2,900 on the progressive site DailyKos for example, or $250 at, a conservative video blog site. By comparison, a 30-second broadcast television spot could set back a candidate anywhere from $90,000 to $110,000 a week in a market like Des Moines, according to Evan Tracey of the TNS Media Intelligence's Campaign Media Analysis Group.
And Internet advertising is putting a dent in other forms of political ads.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project tells 15% of Americans got their political news from the Internet in the 2006 elections. That compares to just 7% in the 2002 midterm elections.

Rove Fears YouTube

White House adviser Karl Rove gets the jitters from YouTube. Speaking at Texas State University, the one time go-to guy for Republican campaigns questioned the credibility of the vast sources of information these days. From the American-Statesman:

"Referring to YouTube, the video site that's a must-see for many, Rove said: 'That can disrupt anything. Just ask former Sen. George Allen.'" points out it was not YouTube -- but Sen Allen's own racial slur caught on tape that disrupted his political career. (

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If I had a Nickle for Every Time He Said That...

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post points out that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has quit charging people to hear him talk -- now that he's running for President.

Hizhonnor was in Washington DC this week, speaking at the Hoover Institute. Mr Milbank reflects on Mayor Giuliani's previous speaking fees and concludes his campaign speeches are a bargin:

"Had America's Mayor charged the going rate, the 46-minute, 34-second speech would have cost the conservative think tank $2,147.46 per minute, including:

  • $5,368.65 for jokes about the weather

  • $21,899.94 for his views on education

  • $9,019.32 for his thoughts on taxes"
The Post estimates Mr Giuliani has made as much as $3.5 million on the speaking circuit. (WaPo)

Charity Begins at Home

Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) forgot all about her family charity when she filled out her Senate financial disclosure forms.

That charity let the Clintons claim $5 million in tax deductions while doling out $1.25 million in donations to charities.
Click on the Washington Post graphic on the left to see a bigger image of where the Clinton's charitible contributions have gone since 2001.

Sen Clinton forgot to list The Clinton Family Foundation it on on five consecutive financial disclosure forms as required under the Ethics in Governments Act. She's amending the disclosure forms to show the chairity. (WaPo)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Going by the Book

A pet project of the Bush administration requires schools to buy products from companies headed up by major Bush campaign donors.

The Education Department's Inspector General issued a report critical of the Reading First program. It's part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The IG says the program violates the prohibition against the federal government telling schools what to teach. It promotes specific reading materials that benefit a select group of companies -- specifically McGraw Hill and Voyager. (CREW)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cheney: Lost in Translation

Vice President Dick Cheney says Britain's planned exit from Iraq is a sign of success. But he suggests the US doing the same thing would be a "policy of retreat." And you though the guy just mumbled out of one side of his mouth.

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well." -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Britain's planned withdrawal from Iraq

"I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat." -- Vice President Dick Cheney on an American withdrawal from Iraq
The UK plans to scale back forces from the current 7,100 troops to just 5,000 by the end of summer. All British troops could be out of Iraq by the end of this year. (ABC)

Meet The Press For Idiots

(NBC/HT: Crooks & Liars)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rudy's Rider -- No Free Speech

Hearing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speak is no cheap trick.

Since leaving office, he's been on the speaking circuit -- and demanding a lot from the folks who invited him to speak. The fine folks at The Smoking Gun got hold of his rider -- the part of his speaking contract listing all the goodies and perks he gets in addition to his speaking fee. They include:
  • First class air fare for Mr Giuliani plus five other people
  • A large sedan and a large SUV to pick him up at the airport and drive him around
  • No press at the speaking engagement -- except for print reporters with trade publications
  • No cameras or recording devices allowed at the event
  • Private photos only allowed without flash -- no candid shots

Mondale's Boyhood Home is on eBay

Former Vice President Walter Mondale's boyhood home (right) is for sale on eBay.

Starting bid on the Elmore, Minnesota homestead is $50,000 dollars. The house was a former Methodist parsonage, built in the 1880s. Mr Mondale's father was a preacher when the family moved into the house in 1937.

The current owner bought it for $15,000 in 2003 and has refurbished it.

As of Friday, there were no bids.

Now, the Ronald Reagan boyhood home on the other hand... (Star-Tribune)

Is Our Congressmen Learning?

You don't have to pass a history test to be a Congressman.

That's been amusingly clear during debate over the resolution supporting the troops while opposing the President's troop surge.

Rep Todd Akin (R-MO) (right) talked about Davy Crockett getting a message on his Blackberry at the Alamo.

And that's just the beginning of the historical wierdness.

Rep Akin asked his collegues to imagine what Mr Crockett would have thought getting a message saying Congress supported him, but they wouldn't be sending any more troops.

Thing is, Congress had no stake in the Alamo. Texas was fighting for it's independence, so no American troops were ever involved. And to add insult to Rep Akin's ignorance -- Sam Houston never did send any troops. That decision allowed the Texans to fight another day and win the war.

Then there was Rep Don Young (R-AK) (left) who attributed a quote to Abraham Lincoln:
"Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."
Just one problem. Lincoln never said it. Here's Rep Young misquoting Lincoln on the House floor:

The quote is actually from conservative scholar Michael Waller. He wrote it in a December, 2003 article for Insight magazine. has counted at least 18,000 instances where the quote has wrongly been attributed to Lincoln in the last three years.

Lets hope Rep Young text messages Davy Crockett and lets him know he'll quit putting words in Abe Lincoln's mouth. (FOX News/WaPo)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Billions Wasted in Iraq

Government auditors report at least $10 billion in US taxpayer dollars wasted or lost to fraud in Iraq.

The Government Accountability Office says the problem is poised to get worse as the Bush administration widens America's presence in Iraq.

The GAO, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency all had people testifying before Congress.

They found sloppy record keeping and contractors overcharging taxpayers for their work.

Of the $10 billion in waste and fraud they found -- Halliburton Co. was responsible for at least $2.7 billion.

The government watchdogs told Congress that for every six dollars spent on rebuilding Iraq, at least one dollar is going toward waste and fraud. (USA Today)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

In what Roll Call calls "the nerviest behavior so far among members of this year’s freshman class of Congress," Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN) called the cops on the Congressman next door -- Rep Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

The problem: Rep Tancredo was smoking a cigar in his Capitol Hill office.

“Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.” -- Rep Tom Tancredo (R-CO), to Roll Call
Rep Ellison noticed smoke coming in through the walls of his office and had a staffer call the Capitol Police. An officer showed up, looked around, and went next door to tell Rep Tancredo he'd been called.

The smoking didn't stop. Congressmen are allowed to smoke in their own offices. But it should set off some fireworks next time the two Congressmen run into each other. (Roll Call)

Ex-Congressman Pulls a Boner

Former Rep Joseph McDade (R-PA) has been ticketed for exposing himself on a Sanibel, Florida beach. The 75-year-old faces a maximum misdeameanor sentence of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Rep McDade was indicted in 1992 in a bribes for defense contracts case -- but a jury cleared him in 1996. He retired from Congress in 1999 after 38 years in the House. Rep McDade is currently a lobbyist in DC. (ABC)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Message from Al Franken

Al Franken is running.

Hookergate Breaks

A new indictment in the bribery case of former Rep Duke Cunningham (R-CA) says a defense contractor supplied the former Congressman with prostitutes. From ABC:

"On Aug. 15 and 16, 2003, Cunningham was in the company of prostitutes in his private quarters of the Hapuna Suite at Hawaii's Hapuna Beach Prince hotel (see photos), the document states.

The indictment appears to have been written carefully so as not to disclose the names, gender or other identifying characteristics of the prostitutes."

The indictment says Brent Wilkes, owner of ADCS Inc, had an employee hire two hookers at $600 per visit -- and tipped one of the prostitutes $500. Mr Cunningham helped direct millions of dollars to ADCS. (ABC)

Monday, February 12, 2007

FBI Loses Guns and Laptops

The FBI has managed to lose more than 300 weapons and laptop computers in less than three years.

Some of those computers contained sensitive or secret information.

The Justice Department's Inspector General tallied up the losses.

The IG's report shows 160 weapons were lost or stolen. And 160 laptops met the same fate. At least ten of the laptops had classified information on them. One had information identifying FBI personnel.

Seven missing computers belonged to counter intelligence or counter terrorism divisions. But the FBI couldn't decide if there was any important, national security information on any of those.

This isn't as bad as a 2002 report that found the FBI had more than 300 weapons and more than 300 computers stolen in the previous 28 months.

Back then, the IG came up with a list of reccomendations the FBI should follow to hang on to guns and computers.

But this time around, the IG found the FBI didn't always take their 2002 suggestions seriously. (Reuters)

Washington Math: We'll Save Money By Costing the States More

Colorado's cracking down on illegal immigrants using Medicaid.

New federal rules require patients to show proof of US citizenship for coverage.

It means 200 people will lose coverage in Colorado and it will save the state $300,000.

On the other hand, it'll cost Colorado $2.9 million dollars to enforce the new rules Washington wants.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Planes Dipped in Gold, and Covered in Caviar

The Daily Show takes on the missing 363-tons of money the US flew to Iraq.

Homeland Insecurity Strikes Again

When Cheshire, Massachusetts-- population 3,500 -- needed a new fire truck, they turned to Washington for help.

The braniacs at Homeland Security cut them a $665,962 check -- with one stipulation. They couldn't use any of that money to buy a firetruck.

The money is enough to cover the little village's annual fire department budget for 26 years.

But Homeland Seucrity decided what the village really needed was money to increase the number of firemen -- in case terrorists attack Cheshire.

And what would terrorists want to attack?

The Boston Globe suggests the Cheshire Cheese Monument -- commemorating the Thomas Jefferson's 1801 gift of a three-quarter ton cheese wheel to the town.

The money comes from the same Homeland Security Department which last year declared New York City -- home to the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and Statue of Liberty -- should have security funding cut because the city had no national landmarks.

Cheshire, Massachusetts only wanted a new fire truck.

But now Washington is requiring them to spend $600,000 to run radio and television commercials to recruit high school students into the Fire Department instead.

Pre-War Intelligence Attacked in IG Report

The Pentagon's acting Inspector General has sent a report to Congress showing pre-war intel was manipulated to suggest a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that never existed. The New York Times reports:

"Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group 'developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,' the report concluded."

The 9/11 Commission discredited the connection in its final report. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also working on its own investigation. (NYT)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Meet the Beatles -- From the Bush Administration

As if late night comedians weren't enough, scientists have poked their own fun at the Bush administration. reports on how scientists often name their discoveries of new species after celebrities:

Apparently, these names aren’t always flattering. I was kind of shocked to learn that some scientists wear their politics on their labcoat sleeves… and even worse, that they use their powers to poke fun! Such was the case with Agathidium bushi, A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi, which are now all scientific names for types of slime mold beetles.

Today in Congress

Today's Schedule for the 110th Congress (WaPo)

Uncle Buck

Add President Bush's Uncle Bucky to the list of problematic Presidential relatives like Billy Carter and Roger Clinton. From Reuters:
"President George W. Bush's uncle, William H.T. 'Bucky' Bush, was part of a group of outside directors at a defense contractor who realized about $6 million in unauthorized pay from an options backdating scheme, according to U.S. securities investigators."
The SEC filed a civil complaint Tuesday. (Reuters)

If at First You Don't Succeed, Keep Throwing Money at It

President Bush wants to spend millions on an ad campaign that the government's own research has branded a failure.

The President wants $130 million -- a 31% increase -- for anti-drug commercials.

But a Government Accountability Office report on the ad campaign shows the ads have not reduced drug use -- and may have actually encouraged illegal drug use among teens.

The GAO reviewed and endorsed a private study's findings that exposure to the ads led to higher rates of first-time drug use.

Washington has spent more than $1.4 billion on the campaign since 1998.

This is your government spending. This is your government spending on drugs. (

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Getting His Priorities Straight

Rep Dan Burton (R-IN) missed an entire week's worth of votes in the House to play in a golf tournament.

Roll Call reports Rep Burton missed 19 votes in four days to play in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs, California.

Nothing new for Rep Burton. Roll Call found burton once scheduled a 'field hearing' in Los Angeles the same week as the Bob Hope Classic in 2000, so he could slip out to the golf links. (Roll Call via Raw Story)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

That's a Ton of Money -- Uh, er...363 Tons

Ever wonder how much $4 billion in cash weighs?

Try 363 tons.

That much money, in US bills, was stacked on pallets and loaded onto US military planes and flown into Iraq just before the US turned over control to the new Iraqi government. And that money was only two of many shipments of currency to Iraq.

The story came from Representatives looking into how Washington's been spending money in Iraq.

The shuttling of bills made the possibility of theft and embezzlement possible. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported in 2005 that $8.8 billion sent to Iraqi ministries could not be accounted for. (CNN)

Thank You, Ralph Nader!

Ralph Nader is threatening to run for President again in 2008. Has to make the GOP happy!

Cheney's Got a Gun Day

Vice President Dick Cheney still has a hard time living down his hunting prowess -- or lack of it. Democrats are seeing to that. From the Caller-Times:

"U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent out the Democrats' 2007 calendar this week, which includes the House vote schedule, holidays, commemorative days, the dates when key economic data is published, the anniversaries of key acts of Congress and other special events."

And among those special events -- February 11 is highlighted to mark the first anniversary of Mr Cheney's hunting accident.

Wow. His own holiday. But unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and WMDs in Iraq -- Mr Cheney is real. (Caller Times)

Iraqi Lawmaker Once an Anti-American Terrorist

Remember all those purple fingers in Iraq? Looks like the US got the middle one.

Seems an Iraqi parliament member was under a death sentence in Kuwait for bombing the US and French embassies in Lebanon back in 1983. Now, US intelligence says he's a member of the Iraqi prime minister's ruling coalition. CNN reports:

"Jamal Jafaar Mohammed's seat in parliament gives him immunity from prosecution. Washington says he supports Shiite insurgents and acts as an Iranian agent in Iraq. "

The two bombings killed a total of five people and wounded another 86. (CNN)

Bush Less Popular than a Kick in the Crotch

With President Bush's approval rating at 28% in the latest CBS news poll of such things -- the folks at Radar decided to see who and what polls higher than the President. Some of their findings:
At least President Bush can be happy that at 28% approval he tied with:

Monday, February 05, 2007

Romney's Facebook Page

Former Gov Mitt Romney (R-MA) has become the first Presidential candidate to launch a recruiting drive on

He's shooting for 1,000 friends in the first 24 hours.

Giuliani Ready to Go All the Way

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is on the verge of finally announcing his White House candidacy. ABC reports:

"In a sign that he's serious about running for the White House, the two-term mayor was filing a so-called 'statement of candidacy' with the Federal Election Commission. In the process, he was eliminating the phrase 'testing the waters' from earlier paperwork establishing his exploratory committee, said an official close to Giuliani's campaign."

Which gives us another excuse to run this video of the Mayor in drag, making out with Donald Trump:

Exxon Valdez sails On

Eighteen years after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound -- it's oil is still there.

A new, federal report shows more than 26,000 gallons of oil from the 1989 spill is still floating in the water there. It's declining by only 4% per year.

Exxon posted the largest profits ever recorded by any US company just this month.

But they won't spare any of the $39.5 billion in profits to provide any more help with the cleanup they never finished back in the 80s.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Great Lite Brite Scare of '07

Boston over reacts to the light brite scare of 2007. Boston freaks out over lighted signs.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jet Set

Congress kicked off the year with ethics reforms, but they had some bills left over from last year.

9/11 security could cost $21 billion

Defending against terrorism won't come cheap. One of the first things the Democratic majority did when they took control of Congress was pass a bill implementing most of the 9/11 Commission's reccomendations. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it'll cost $21 billion over five years.

Rep Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, says the report validates his opposition to the plan -- saying it costs too much. (CNN)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Scooter's Trial So Far

Having trouble keeping up with the Scooter Libby trial?

What did we do before the Daily Show?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday's Political News Roundup

Google Searches for Tax Breaks

Internet giant Google is accused of muscling North Carolina lawmakers in a bid to win $100 million in tax breaks in a move to the Tarheel State. Johnathan Cox writes in the News Observer:

"Google tried to silence lawmakers and pushed -- at times with a heavy hand -- to influence legislation designed to bring the company to Caldwell County.

The company demanded that legislators never speak its name, and had them scolded when word of its interest in North Carolina leaked out, according to records made public this week."
Google had promised $600 million in investment and 200 new jobs in a move to Caldwell County, North Carolina.

Biden on The Daily Show

Sen Joe Biden (D-DE) managed to announce his White House candidacy, pull off a major embarassment, and make light of it all in the same day. Jon Stewart interviewed the Senator on The Daily Show Wednesday night: