Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tom Emmer's per diem switcheroo

Tom Emmer has the Emmer Truth page on his website to try and spin some of his past statements and actions, in response Alliance for a better Minnesota launched a Real Emmer Truth page. Last Friday Xavier posted about the newest Emmer fact, his flip flopping on per diems.
Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer told the St. Cloud Times that he would like to cut benefits and per diem to state elected officials. Yet throughout Emmer's legislative career he has taken full advantage of this perk, at the cost of thousands to taxpayers.
It's not just per diems that Tom Emmer wants to cut though:
Emmer proposed one cost-cutting move: eliminating job benefits and per-diems for state and local elected officials. Minnesota's constitutional officers and legislators receive benefits including health insurance, pensions and per diems, which may be claimed for attending meetings and other events.

Such perks encourage public servants to become career politicians, Emmer said.

"People seek to serve, and once they get elected, it's too good a gig to give up," Emmer said.
As Xavier notes, in 2005 Tom Emmer was singing a different tune, from a Pioneer Press article:
Rep. Tom Emmer, a freshman Republican from Delano, said he and the other legislators who claimed per diems have no apologies to make. Emmer, an attorney, said the $1,320 he earned in special session per diems was far less than he would have made in his law practice. 'You're talking to a guy who at 44 years old made a significant personal and financial sacrifice to serve my constituents,' Emmer said.
Ah yes, here we have the class act that is Tom Emmer, he is not ashamed of taking per diems because he has made tremendous sacrifices to serve his constituents. To be clear, I don't have a problem with per diems, it's the arrogance with which Tom Emmer talks about the sacrifices he has made to serve his constituents. It's called public service for a reason Tom, because you are doing a public service, not enriching yourself.

When Tom Emmer was not running for Governor and not trying his best to show how extremely conservative he is per diems were okay and he claimed his as does virtually every other legislator. Now that he's running for Governor per diems are like welfare benefits, keeping legislators on the dole and in office for perpetuity, even though he has received $5,764 already this year in per diem. This is yet another example of the class act that is Tom Emmer.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chaudhary out, Goodwin in, Chaudhary still running

From The Big E at Minnesota Progressive Project:
At an emergency meeting of the DFL SD50 Central Committee, Sen. Satveer Chaudhary was unendorsed 33-12 (exact totals unconfirmed) 32-12.  After unendorsing Chaudhry, they endorsed former two-term legislator Barb Goodwin 33-7.  Apparently, several Chaudhary supporters stormed out of the meeting after the unendorsement. 
So there you have it, Satveer Chaudhary is no longer the DFL endorsed candidate, Barb Goodwin is. So that's that right? Not quite.
Chaudhary will appeal the unendorsement to the DFL's Constitution Committee.  Brian Rice will be representing him.  Allan Weinblatt will be representing the SD50 Central Committee.

All he can contest is whether or not SD50 Central Committee were within their rights to unendorse him and will probably contest whether they did it correctly and had a quorem present.
So Chaudhary will appeal the action on the basis that the committee didn't actually get a 2/3 vote of those eligible to attend, just a 2/3 vote of those who actually attended. While I'm not too familiar with the unendorsement process, my suspicion is that his appeal will fail. That leaves us with a primary between Goodwin and Chaudhary, as Chaudhary has said he will run to the primary regardless of what happens with the appeal.This sets up what should be an interesting race, as Barb Goodwin is someone whom people in SD50 will be familiar with from her time in the state house.

One thing that I think is worth knowing about Chaudhary's attempts to keep the endorsement prior to last night's meeting (via Minnpost):
He'd also angered party leaders by supporting former Sen. Mark Dayton in the governor's race over DFL-endorsed House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Chaudhary tried to remedy that problem over the weekend when he sent a letter and a $100 check to the Kelliher campaign.
That is close to a perfect encapsulation of how Satveer Chaudhary has handled this whole situation, a day late and a dollar short.

I'll have more on this race as it develops further.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Moving to a new district, 50(A)

Over the weekend I moved from Minneapolis to Columbia Heights; from district 61A represented by Karen Clark and Linda Berglin, to district 50A represented by Carolyn Laine and Satveer Chaudhary.

Tonight is the SD 50 DFL Central Committee meeting to decide if Chaudary will keep his DFL endorsement. The outcome will determine if the primary will be contested or not as former state Rep. Barb Goodwin has said she will challenge Chaudary in the primary if he is stripped of the endorsement, which she also characterized as a likely occurrence. I'll have more on this after the committee meeting today.

In this post I instead wanted to focus on Carolyn Laine's GOP opponent for state house this year, Timothy Utz. Let's just start with the quote on the front page of his website:
"Liberty only endures when Americans diligently use the chains of the Constitution to restrain the three branches of government."
~Timothy Utz
February 9, 2010
What exactly does that mean? What are the "chains of the Constitution"? I thought that the point of the three branches of government was to restrain each other. Aren't the three branches of government made up of Americans? This is one of those quotes that's meant to sound really deep and meaningful, but it doesn't mean anything. How about some more?
So many elected officials at the Minnesota state level, Democrats and Republicans alike, continue spending our taxes, restricting our personal liberties and creating an ever greater heavy hand of government. The result is an endless gorging of Minnesota tax payer's dollars and intrusion in our lives. Party affiliation fails to draw any real distinction when considering electing leadership in Saint Paul. Year after year the state government continues expanding to the point where few if any elected officials today understand the proper or legal function of State government.
I wonder if you "understand the proper and legal function of state government" Tim? The reason that "so many elected officials at the Minnesota state level, Democrats and Republicans alike, continue spending our taxes" is because that's why taxes are collected, to be spent. This should be obvious. Conservative calls for lower taxes are one thing, but what Tim seems to be saying is that the problem is not the taxing, but the spending of the taxes. What does he propose we do with all that tax money that isn't spent? He doesn't elaborate.

The other critique contained in the above passage is about "restricting our personal liberties and creating an ever greater heavy hand of government." What examples of this does Tim Utz tell us about on his website? Exactly one, the primary seatbelt law. That's it. That's the totality of government intrusion. Look, I'm not going to say that the states seatbelt laws are the greatest thing in the world, but to hold it up as the pinnacle of government intrusion in our lives is ridiculous. If the primary seatbelt law is the extent of government intrusion in our lives than I'm not concerned about government intrusion in the least. Seriously, how hard is it to buckle your seat belt?

Not surprisingly he is also against the smoking ban.
I am a non-smoker and I would still vote to repeal the statewide smoking ban. Our constitution and logic (a quality long lost in Saint Paul) dictates free association. Two examples are local watering holes or bars and Middle Eastern Hookah eateries where culture dictates smoking.

As stated before, when government taxes, they legitimize goods, services or products. Restricting, limiting and banning them, they become hypocrisy. Well-intended legislators and lobby groups have long forgotten that "We the People" rule our personal lives, not government. A government's first duty is to protect personal liberty, not dictate conduct.
What he is saying is that if the government taxes something they legitimize it and therefore it should be subject to no restrictions whatsoever. I suppose he feels this way about everything the government taxes than; like prescription drugs, we should just be able to go into CVS and buy as much Oxycontin as we want right? Who's the government to tell us we can't? What about Alcohol, minors should be allowed to buy beer at school I guess, you can't place any restrictions on it if it's being taxed right? Same with cars, we don't need drivers' licenses because we pay taxes on the car itself.

Suffice it to say if you believe any of the above Tim Utz is the guy for you. If, however, you are a sane, rational person who values quality government you will be supporting Carolyn Laine in house district 50A.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tom Emmer, Class Act

The StarTribune's Pat Doyle published an article yesterday entitled "Emmer's feisty spirit fuels legal fights." That's putting it as graciously as possible given the content of the article. I would have gone with "Emmer's douchy nature fuels frivolous legal fights," or more simply "Tom Emmer, giant asshole." But whatever, let's get to the good stuff.
Tony Poppler, 35, of Corcoran, runs a small landscaping business that was hired by Emmer's wife, Jacquie, in 2006 to grade land, build a rock wall, dig a trench and replace rocky soil at Emmer's Delano home. Jacquie Emmer later added excavation for a hockey rink and garden.

There was no formal, written contract. When he finished the work, Poppler sent Emmer a bill for $3,237, which included removal of 18 truckloads of soil.

Emmer gave him $2,000 and said in his statement that the landscaper "overcharged for work."

When Poppler took Emmer to small claims court to recover the remaining $1,237, Emmer sought $3,600 in attorney's fees for his time in small claims court.
You should see the contracts that our clients have to sign and it's because of assholes like Tom Emmer that we need them. There are caveats in our contract that if you saw, you would think to yourself "well, no one could be that bad." Yes they can, and this is a perfect example. Tom Emmer had a contractor come to his house to do work and then he decided that the contractor was charging too much so he only paid what he thought he owed, no explanation of what he believed he was overcharged for, just that he was overcharged.

Not only that, he then turns around and tries to collect attorney's fees for more than the entire landscaping project. In Tom Emmer's world small claims court attorney's fees > the cost to grade land, build a rock wall, dig a trench, replace rocky soil and excavation for a hockey rink and garden.

One has to wonder if this is how Tom Emmer is planning on balancing the state's budget, by stiffing contractors and paying expensive lawyers to deal with it. But it gets worse.
Emmer took his appeal to District Court, where his lawyer argued that he wasn't responsible for the landscaping bill because his wife had initiated and modified the job.

Earlier, Mottl had disagreed with that notion. "She essentially did so as her husband's agent," she wrote.

But District Judge Dale Mossey ruled that Emmer was not responsible for his wife's actions. Poppler said Jacquie Emmer has not paid the $1,237.

He said he's considering suing her, but he is concerned about attorney's fees.
So one judge rules against Emmer and he appeals, arguing that he's not responsible his wife is. He blamed it on his wife. I don't doubt that she's the one who made the actual requests for more work, but essentially what Tom Emmer is saying is that they are not really partners in life, he has his own life and she has hers and he's not responsible for the bills when his wife tells the contractor to "excavate for a hockey rink and garden." What's funny is that earlier in the article, when discussing another of Tom's many legal disputes over the years there is this nugget.
McElroy wouldn't comment on the deal, but her husband said she maintains her innocence and wants to avoid more legal fees.

"It cost me an arm and a leg," said Todd McElroy.
Patricia Anne Thomson McElroy was charged by Tom Emmer with stealing $7,901. The case was settled with an order of repayment and a letter of apology. Todd McElroy didn't throw his wife under the bus, he didn't pass it off as her problem, he paid Emmer $14,146 and moved on. Tom Emmer threw his wife under the bus for $1,237. I mean, really Tom? Really? Really?
Emmer concluded in his written statement that "the billing dispute was presented to the court and properly resolved."
Has it been resolved Tom? Has the $1,237 been paid? Are you going to keep blaming your wife or will you man up and pay your bills?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Senators

Over the past few weeks I've been analyzing Minnesota's congressional delegation, focusing first on the state's house delegation, and then on some specific house members. Now it's time to look at the state's Senators.

You can go here for a more detailed explanation of what the different numbers represent; briefly, the "DW-Nom" number is the legislators DW-Nominate score and the "PVI" number is Minnesota's Partisan Voting Index score. The "PVI v ave" and the "DW-N v ave" represent a comparison between the legislators score and the average score of their party caucus. The "SILVER" score is a composite of these two comparisons and the rank number is the legislators SILVER rank among their party caucus.

This shouldn't be that surprising; Al Franken is one of the most valuable liberals in the Senate, behind only Russ Feingold (-0.757) and Sherrod Brown (-0.375) in SILVER and his DW-Nominate score is to the left of even Keith Ellison, making him the state's most liberal legislator. Amy Klobuchar meanwhile is the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation who has a SILVER score on the wrong side of 0 for her party.

In a strange coincidence Wisconsin has a similar situation with Russ Feingold being the most liberal member of the Senate, according to SILVER, and Herb Kohl (0.112) ranking 44th, tied with Amy Klobuchar.

Let's take a look at another chart.

Here you can see the DW-Nominate score's of Minnesota's last eight Senators, as well as a graph of the total DW-Nominate scores for the state's two active Senators combined. As you can see, besides the 107th congress when Minnesota had an all liberal Senate delegation, the total DW-Nominate score of the current Klobuchar/Franken alignment is as liberal as Minnesota's had since the Humphrey/Mondale/McCarthy days. And that probably won't change anytime soon, given the current dynamics there's a pretty good chance that this will be our Senate configuration until at least 2014 when Al Franken will be up for re-election.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Gov Poll, Entenza on the move

SurveyUSA is out with a new poll on the Minnesota Governor's race today that should put to rest any doubts about Matt Entenza's viability in the DFL primary. Here's the breakdown:

That's some serious movement for Entenza, going from 6 and 10 points in the last two polls to 22 in this one. The toplines of this poll match up pretty well to the more than one month old MPR/Humphrey poll for both Mark Dayton and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and if you add Entenza's topline to the undecided number in both polls the result is very similar, meaning it appears a lot of Entenza's movement is coming from undecideds. The problem now for both Entenza and Kelliher is that there are not enough undecided's left to put either of them on top of Dayton. What this means is you can expect the attack ads to start coming because the only way Entenza or Kelliher can win is to bring down Dayton's numbers.

Here's the updated G.P.I. for the DFL primary (I have reduced the Pollster weighting for the Mellman poll to 0 since it is an internal poll, the age weighting remains).

A few notes about the crosstabs, it appears as though Matt Entenza's selection of Robyn Robinson as his running mate has given him inroads into the African-American community as seen in the racial breakdown:

All of that support among the African-American community is only worth 1 topline point for both Kelliher and Entenza however.

Now take a look at the regional breakdown:

MAK is going to have a hard time winning the DFL primary if she can't win in the metro area as Dayton does really well in rural Minnesota.

They also polled the general election (previous results in parenthesis):

As you can see Tom Emmer is in big trouble come general election time, he lost ground to all of the DFL candidates and the IP candidate. His position will only become more precarious as voters learn more about him. Here's the updated GPI for the overall race:

I've zeroed out the weight for the first SurveyUSA poll because I only want to use the most recent poll from a particular pollster in the wAve. As you can see the weighted average method is not affected as much by a single poll (the decision resources poll in particular) as the L3 method, so it should be more robust as a forecasting tool.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gubernatorial Polling Index

Now that there are a few polls out on the Governor's race we can create a composite index (G.P.I.) of them that can be updated as more polls come in. Here's what the polling index for the DFL primary looks like.

There have only been two polls done since the DFL nomination (I'm not going to use those from before), so for this race we have an average (Ave) and a weighted average (wAve). The weighted average is an average of all the polls, weighted against a variable called "weight". This variable represents a combination of the Pollster Rating and the age of the poll. The newer the poll and better the pollster the higher it will be weighted. The age of the poll has more effect on the weight then the pollster rating, with the age making up 75% of the weight and the Pollster Rating making up 25%. However the age weighting will essentially fall off at 50 days and this will get adjusted as we get closer to the race in question.

As you can see the weighted average doesn't really change the regular average too much in the DFL primary, this is because there are only two polls and their weights are not drastically different. Let's look at the overall polling in the race now.

Here we have a new type of average, the average of the three most recent polls conducted, similar to what RealClearPolitics does. We'll have to wait for a new poll to see if the upward movement shown by the Deicision Resources poll on the DFL side continues.


* The Mellman poll of the primary race was paid for by the DFL who has an endorsed candidate in the race.

** Decision Resources doesn't have a rating in the Pollster Ratings so they were assigned the Default/New Pollster rating. Additionally a firm that one of the candidates worked for is a client of the pollster.

*** For Tom Emmer and Tom Horner their numbers against all the DFL candidates were used.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Swingers and 2010

Tim Walz and Eric Paulsen represent the two swing districts in Minnesota according to PVI, the 1st and the 3rd. They are both young for congress persons, Walz is 46 and Paulsen is 45, they are both relatively new to the house and while Paulsen has yet to face reelection, Walz breezed to victory in '08 with over 62% of the vote. What Walz has done in his district is what Paulsen appears to be trying to do in his, moderating himself from the parties activist base.


In case you missed the post last week, DW-Nominate is a partisan scoring system ranging from (-1) to 1, with (-1) being very liberal and 1 being very conservative. PVI, partisan voting index is a measure of the partisan nature of a congressional district that I've formatted the same way as the DW-Nominate score, positive for a conservative leaning district, negative for liberal.

What you see when comparing Walz to Paulsen is just how similar they are among their respective party caucuses. They are both from districts that have almost no partisan tilt, far from the average of their party. Their DW-Nominate scores however are very close to the average member of their party, suggesting that they are more valuable to their party than the average legislator, which you can see by looking at their SILVER scores.

While taking out Eric Paulsen would be nice, if Tim Walz's success in the 1st is any indication he will be hard to unseat, especially in a cycle that looks to be favorable to GOP candidates. In addition Paulsen got elected in a three way race with almost 50% in his first go and hasn't really done anything to change voters' perception of him since that time. Based on PVI however, the 3rd is the most favorable district for democratic takeover of the three GOP held districts.

This brings up the question of who the easier target is for Democrats this November, Eric Paulsen or Michelle Bachmann. While Bachmann's district has a much more daunting +7 PVI, Bachmann herself only won reelection by 3 points against a candidate who was underfunded most of the race and only started gaining ground after Bachmann imploded on Hardball. Since that time Bachmann has further defined herself as the nuttiest of wing nuts, capable of saying just about anything.

So, we have a favorable district with a savvy candidate versus an unfavorable district with a loon, which race would you put resources into if you could only choose one?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Chairmen

Among Minnesota's Democratic congressional delegation there are two in top leadership positions; Jim Oberstar is Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Colin Peterson is Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Both have represented the state for a long time; Oberstar for over 25 years, Peterson for close to 20, and both represent large, mostly rural districts. But as we saw with their respective SILVER scores, they are quite different in how they vote, at least in the 111th congress. While Colin Peterson had a slightly liberal for his district score of -.06, Jim Oberstar had a superstar level -.55. Let's take a look at their DW-Nominate scores over the entire course of their time in office to see if that changes our perception any.

What you see is that over the years Oberstar has become marginally more conservative while Peterson has made moves in the liberal direction. This becomes even more evident when you look at their current scores for the 111th congress versus their mean and first year scores.

111mean1st+/- mean+/- 1ststddv

As we saw earlier, in the 111th congress Peterson is voting more liberally then he has in the past and Oberstar is voting slightly more conservatively. What you can also see by looking at the standard deviation of their scores, as well as the +/- versus the mean and first year, is that Peterson's voting patterns have shifted more substantially over the years then Oberstar's, who has essentially the same score now as when he started.

What does this mean? Well, Jim Oberstar has been voting the same way for 25 years and Colin Peterson has ever so slightly become more liberal than when he first joined the congress. If we assume the PVI of the 7th CD is the same now as it was in 1991 (a dubious assumption) then Peterson would've had a SILVER score of .08 in his first congress, compared to the -.06 he has so far this congress, a -.14 swing in the liberal direction. It's probably not incidental that his vote share has also risen steadily over the years to 72% in 2008. While Colin Peterson is no liberal, he is liberal for his district and getting more liberal every year.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation

In an effort to get a better understanding of the voting tendencies of our congressional delegation I compiled the DW-Nominate scores for all of Minnesota's politicians from the 111th congress. DW-Nominate is a scoring system for politicians, running from around -1 to 1, with -1 being very liberal and 1 being very conservative. There's a few ways to look at these numbers; first we'll just look at the raw DW-Nominate scores.

RepresentativeDW-N Score
Average Dem-0.35
Average GOP0.63

This is probably not too shocking of a chart, for the most part reflecting the conventional wisdom about the liberal/conservative spread of our state's delegation, except for maybe Jim Oberstar who ranks as more liberal then I would have suspected. Now let's adjust those scores to the party average, so for instance, the Democrats average DW-Nominate score was -.35, so Keith Ellison would then score a -.23 and Colin Peterson would score a .17, meaning Ellison is more liberal than the average Democrat and Peterson is more conservative.

RepresentativeDW vs average

Again, nothing to ground breaking; Paulson is more liberal than the average GOPer, Walz and Peterson are more conservative than the average Democrat. The next thing I want to do is take a look at the PVI, partisan voting index, for the districts. PVI measures how Republican or Democratic a district is by averaging the districts results of the past two presidential elections and comparing them to the overall results. The difference between the two numbers is the districts PVI score, which for the purposes of this exercise we'll format the same way as the DW nominate scores, positive for GOP leaning districts, negative for Democratic leaning districts.

RepresentativePVIPVI vs Average
Average Dem-9
Average GOP11

Tim Walz and Eric Paulson reside in the two swing districts in the state, according to PVI, with Oberstar's 8th and Kline's 2nd on the verge of being swingy. Obviously Colin Peterson's 7th is in a bit of a special category, being solidly Republican yet sending Peterson back to congress year after year.

Now we can take these two measures and combine them into one number that will tell us how partisan a member is for their district on a rough -1 to 1 scale. We'll call this number the Selectively Integrated Legislator Variance Evaluation Resource, or SILVER for short.


What stands out to me on this chart is when put into the context of their districts Oberstar is quite a bit more liberal than his colleagues; in fact he's 7th among all Democrats in SILVER. My representative, Keith Ellison, whom the conventional wisdom has as an uber-liberal, is right around average. I also think this is vindication of a sort for Colin Peterson who has taken a lot of flak for some of his recent votes but is, by this measure, more liberal then Keith Ellison or Betty McCollum.