Reasons to vote no on Wall Street reform don’t hold up

Wall Street reform looks to be in as much trouble as the energy bill. Though the bill was passed out of conference, it’s actually now losing votes on the Senate floor despite the addition of Maria Cantwell. Robert Byrd’s death is one and Repub Scott Brown is two, and four others are threatening to walk.The original vote was 59-39 with Specter and Byrd not voting. Factor them in, and we can only afford to lose two votes after gaining Cantwell's. If Russ Feingold continues to filibuster, then we need all four of the remaining waverers lest the 2007-8 status quo stands and Wall Street brings down the economy again.

Brown is opposing the bill and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Maine twins are threatening to oppose it because of a $17.9 billion fee on big banks from the House version. Democrat Evan Bayh has also grown wishy-washy.

This is ridiculous. Big financial firms and banks have caused trillions of dollars worth of damage to this country - $700 in TARP funds, $787 billion in the stimulus, two consecutive quarters of 6% decline in US GDP, 10% unemployment – yet Repubs would risk it happening all over again rather than tax these crooks a paltry $18 billion? Puh-leaze! It's even more hypocritical when one considers the anti-bailout bleating of most of these Repubs. Here’s our chance for another Main Street bailout, and yet just as with the stimulus and unemployment extension, they’re saying no. Any good will Brown generated by introducing Elena Kagan to the Judiciary Committee yesterday is gone now.

Dodd and Franks have made some small changes to address these petty concerns, but that won't solve all the bill's political woes - and not just because Brown is still playing coy. Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is also planning to vote against the legislation, as he did before conference. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also voted against it in May, but her concerns about derivatives seem to have been addressed. Feingold, however, is almost taking the position that unless we end too-big-to-fail (and it is too bad that the bill doesn't), then we should leave the current system in place exactly as it its.

I truly admire Feingold and am happy to fundraise for his re-election campaign, but I think he's making a terrible mistake here. If the bill’s strength is already losing it votes, holding out for something better will lose even more. Give Feingold what he wants and not only do the four Republicans firm up their opposition, perhaps we lose not only Bayh but Ben Nelson as well, who voted against an initial procedural motion. That takes us from a possible 61 and passage to a ceiling of 56-57 and failure.

It made sense to filibuster in May when there was still a chance to strengthen the bill, but we’re in the end game now. Either we pass this bill or one very close to it, or we don’t pass a bill at all. This wasn’t the case before conference when the August recess was still far away, but it is the case now. If Feingold and others want to register discontent, they should vote for cloture and against the bill, but a vote against cloture is a vote for Jamie Dimon and a vote for the 2007-8 status quo.

IA-Sen: Grassley up on tv

Senator Chuck Grassley's re-election campaign unveiled its first television commercial of the year yesterday:

Rough transcript by me:

 

Unidentified woman: "Tightwad."

 

Unidentified woman: "Penny-pincher."

Unidentified man: "He's frugal."

Unidentified man: "Blunt."

Unidentified man: "Straight-talking."

Unidentified woman: "One of us."

Female voice-over: Chuck Grassley visits every county every year to stay in touch. He's a farmer and a senator. He'll do what needs to be done. He's just like Iowa. Chuck Grassley works ... and he never forgets he works for us.

Grassley: I'm Chuck Grassley for Iowa, and I approved this message.

 

Once Roxanne Conlin went up on television, I figured it wouldn't be long before Grassley's campaign responded. He has more than $5 million in the bank and can probably afford to run television commercials from now until November.

Although this commercial doesn't mention Grassley's likely Democratic opponent in the general election, I infer from the language in this ad that he'll run against Conlin as a rich, free-spending lawyer who's not "one of us."

This doesn't seem like a strong commercial to me, but it shows Grassley recognizes he can't afford to be seen as the candidate representing special interests. The female voice-over suggests to me that Grassley knows he needs to shore up support among women. The most recent Rasmussen poll showed Conlin trailing narrowly among women, and the most recent Research 2000 poll for KCCI showed Conlin slightly ahead of Grassley among women.

Grassley will be hard-pressed to defend his "penny-pincher" reputation when he has voted for every blank check for war and the Wall Street bailout. He also voted for every Bush tax cut for the wealthy, which massively increased our national debt and budget deficits. In the current fiscal year, "a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits [from the Bush tax cuts] will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers. Meanwhile, Grassley voted against many policies that benefit hard-working Iowans, like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Any thoughts about the Iowa Senate race are welcome in this thread.

IA-Sen: Conlin (D) launches first tv ad

Roxanne Conlin, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, begins television advertising across Iowa this week. I'm not able to embed the commercial, but click here to watch. The Conlin campaign released this transcript:

“I’m Roxanne Conlin. Taking on the special interests has been the cause of my life. Like taking on the big banks to help family farms at risk of foreclosure. I took on corrupt politicians and corporations who violated the public trust. I’m running for U.S. Senate to take this fight to Washington. Fight for relief on Main Street, not more bailouts for Wall Street. Because the special interests have had their turn. Now, it’s our turn. I’m Roxanne Conlin and I approved this message."

I noticed a small omission from that transcript: in the commercial, Conlin says, "As a prosecutor I took on corrupt politicians..." That's important, because many Iowans may not remember that she served as U.S. attorney for Iowa's southern district from 1977 to 1981.

This ad is a shorter version of the introductory video Conlin's campaign released last fall, which I discussed here. It's a fairly basic message for Iowans who haven't heard of Conlin, and it makes sense for her to raise her profile just before the June 8 primary. Though this ad doesn't mention five-term Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, it starts building the case Conlin will make later in the campaign: Grassley has stood up for special interests throughout his career. I believe Grassley voted for the financial reform bill last week in order to undercut the narrative Conlin will build against him.

Iowa's primary election takes place on June 8. Two other Democrats are challenging Grassley: Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen. Most people expect Conlin to win the primary easily. She began the race with more name recognition and has campaigned in all 99 counties since the start of the year. Conlin has already raised more money than all of Grassley's previous challengers combined. She out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31, while the Krause and Fiegen campaigns had less than $1,000 on hand between them.

Late last week Conlin called on Grassley to denounce Kentucky Republican Rand Paul's comments about civil rights. Paul suggested that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. Without mentioning Paul's name, Grassley's spokesperson told Iowa Independent,

Sen. Grassley’s position is that if a place is open for business it should be open for everyone. You may know that Grassley was a co-sponsor of the 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 companion to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was in the middle of the agreement reached on the 1982 legislation. Grassley also supported the 1991 extension of the Civil Rights Act. That was the last major amendment to the Civil Rights Act. It was broadened in 1972, after its passage in 1964.

Grassley is wise to put some distance between himself and Paul's views. As Assistant Iowa Attorney General in the 1970s, Conlin prosecuted the first cases under our state's civil rights law.

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: New Rasmussen Iowa poll

A new Rasmussen poll finds five-term incumbent Republican Senator Chuck Grassley's lead shrinking against Roxanne Conlin, and Republican Terry Branstad still over 50 percent against Governor Chet Culver. Rasmussen surveyed 500 Iowa likely voters on April 29, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

In the Senate race (survey questions and toplines here), Rasmussen found Grassley ahead of Conlin 53 percent to 40 percent. Grassley led Conlin 55-36 in Rasmussen's previous Iowa poll, taken in mid-March. Rasmussen's summary notes that Grassley "now leads Conlin by only five points among women."

Grassley leads Democrat Bob Krause by 57 percent to 31 percent, the same as in Rasmussen's March poll. He leads Tom Fiegen by 57 percent to 30 percent, a slightly smaller margin than his 57-28 lead in March.

This race is still Grassley's to lose; Rasmussen finds 63 percent of respondents have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the incumbent, while only 34 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion. The corresponding numbers for Conlin are 44 favorable/30 unfavorable.

However, a few stumbles by Grassley could make this race highly competitive in a hurry. At the very least Conlin is going to make it a lot closer than any other Democrat has against Grassley in the last 25 years.

I expect Conlin to have little trouble winning the Democratic primary on June 8. Not only is she the best-known candidate, she out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31. According to FEC reports, Krause had $352 and Fiegen had $582 on hand at the end of the first quarter. The Des Moines Register recently profiled Conlin, Fiegen and Krause.

Rasmussen's numbers on the governor's race continue to point to a tough road ahead for Culver. He trails Branstad 53 percent to 38 percent, little changed from Branstad's 52-36 lead in Rasmussen's March poll. Bob Vander Plaats leads Culver 45-41 in the new poll, up from a 42-40 lead in the March poll. Culver is barely ahead of Rod Roberts in the new poll, 43-41, little changed from the 40-38 lead Culver had against Roberts in the previous poll.

It's not encouraging for an incumbent to be stuck around 40 percent against all challengers. Culver needs to bring up his own numbers and get out there to tell voters about his administration's successes. For a preview of the case Culver will make with Iowa voters, watch his appearance on Chuck Todd's MSNBC program last week.

Assuming Branstad will be the Republican nominee, Culver's campaign will have to take him on aggressively. The race is bound to tighten up, but as long as Branstad is polling above 50 percent the odds are against Culver. Perhaps the governor can needle Branstad and provoke the same kind of response Vander Plaats got during the second Republican debate over the weekend.

IA-Sen: Conlin outraises Grassley in 1Q

Iowa Democrat Roxanne Conlin raised more money than five-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley in the first quarter. She gave her U.S. Senate campaign $250,000 during the first three months of 2010 and raised nearly $630,000 from other donors. (She is not accepting any PAC contributions). Grassley raised $613,577 in the first quarter and has over $5 million cash on hand, compared to just $1 million for Conlin. Still, she has now raised "more than all of Grassley's past challengers combined," according to a campaign press release. More numbers from that release:

FACTS:

No PAC or Washington lobbyist funds.

81 percent of donors are Iowans.

78 percent of contributions are $100 or less.

Breakdown:

Campaign to date raised: $1,483,191

First Quarter 2010 raised: $629,615

Candidate contribution: $250,000

First Quarter PAC Money: $0

First Quarter Federal Lobbyist Money: $0

First Quarter 2010 total: $879,615

Cash on hand: $1,000,455

Those are impressive numbers for a challenger, especially since Grassley is not considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. Grassley's last Democratic opponent, Art Small, only raised about $136,000 during the whole 2004 campaign, and about $70,000 of that total came from the candidate himself.

I knew Conlin was holding a lot of fundraisers, but I am surprised that she was able to out-raise the incumbent for the quarter even if you don't count her own large contribution to the campaign. While she won't be able to match Grassley's spending, she will have the resources to run a statewide campaign, assuming she wins the June 8 Democratic primary. I haven't seen first-quarter numbers for the other Democratic candidates, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, but at year-end Fiegen had about $400 on hand, and Krause had about $3,500.

At Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock covered a recent dustup among the Democratic candidates over debates before the primary. I hope we will see some debates in addition to candidate forums, and I hope the final weeks of the primary campaign won't become too divisive. I plan to vote for Conlin, whose work I have long admired and who is best positioned to make the race competitive. Not only has she raised money, she will have a strong volunteer base. Just in my own precinct I know several Democrats who are not inclined to volunteer for Governor Chet Culver but will knock on doors or make phone calls for Conlin. By next Monday she will have held campaign events in all 99 Iowa counties.

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