Saturday, March 30, 2013

If You're Taking Flak, You're Over the Target

A lot has already been written about the John Avlon piece at the Daily Beast that casts Governor Palin as some kind of hypocritical charlatan who exploits donors to her PAC. I don't want to re-hash what has already been said too much.  Please just read here, here, and here.

I do want to make a few points though. Please excuse this atypical format. I'm writing after a long work day combined with overindulgence in caffeine. If it's not too violence inciting, I just want to make a few bullet points. I'm italicizing my sarcasm to avoid confusion:

* John Avlon is the co-founder of No Labels, an organization that is supposedly centrist, but stands for nothing in particular. This No Labels organization is classified as a 501c4, which is not required to itemize their disbursements nor reveal their donors. While Avlon is decrying SarahPAC's FEC report, he himself doesn't even have to report anything specific. No labels, no transparency. (By the way, Avlon's wife is Margaret Hoover, former staffer in the Bush White House and in Bush's 2004 campaign, meaning she worked with the likes of Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace).

* Avlon also tries to conflate a PAC with a political campaign. When Governor Palin called for consultants to be fired and pollsters to be furloughed, she was referring to the types of overweight consultant schmucks who told her what to eat, micromanaged her every move, and suggested to her running mate that suspending his campaign was a good idea in 2008.  If you want to look at the kind of "consultants" Governor Palin hired, consider the following descriptions.  The speechwriter she hired, that Avalon snarkily blasted, is as grassroots as you can get, yet could run circles around Peggy "Thousand Points of Spite" Noonan. This speech writer is a from far outside the beltway and started as #justablogger who started a site you may have heard of with a $10 domain name purchase. Other "consultants" the Governor hired include advance people. You know, the people who ensure that all the logistics are worked out when she stumps for candidates. Yes, those are the real entrenched guys who corrupt the political process that the Governor called out--the guys who make sure that she gets from the airport to the stump, make sure her notes are on the podium, and usher the Governor through rope lines, among a lot of other tasks. But wait, weren't we told earlier this week that the Governor never talks to the grassroots? Additionally, there are those who do things like assist with clerical and administrative things like websites and mailing lists, and of course, a treasurer. But, no, Palin should not pay a treasurer to make sure she's in compliance with the oh-so-simple FEC regulations! She should just use TurboTax, just like that smart guy who used to be a Cabinet secretary. 

*Avlon also mentions that Governor Palin spent a chunk of change on postage for direct mailings. What's that? A political figure sends out direct mailers. That never happens! It's amazing that Governor Palin employed a government agency like the post office as a "consultant"! Shouldn't the Left be praising the Governor for being so generous to an agency that is essentially bankrupt? Or are they saying that Governor Palin should hand deliver her mailings by snowmachine? This piece at RedState, written by a fellow Illinois conservative, goes into more details on specifics. Yes, I'm recommending a piece at RedState. They're few and far between, but there are some good ones.

*Avlon also whines about the return on investment of Palin's endorsements and the amount of overhead, but he fails to mention the limits that PACs have on giving. He'd rather take advantage of the fact that casual readers won't know the FEC caps on giving. The maximum amount a PAC can give is $5,000 per election (general and primary are counted separately). Even if the Governor devoted one-third of her spending to candidates, she would have to give the maximum to both the primary and general elections to over 150 candidates, but even then I suppose she would be criticized for hiring any staff and not supporting 450 candidates.  She should have endorsed every GOP Congressional candidate! However, Palin is a force multiplier (h/t RefudiateGOPe). When Governor Palin gives an endorsement, the phone rings off the hook  for those candidates. Perhaps we should just ask Senator Dewhurst how effective Governor Palin's endorsement? No? 

* A final point. Social media is not the absolute barometer of what we loosely call the "conservative movement", but it is a barometer. People who decried this news are the same ones who tongue lashed conservatives who were critical of Romney in 2012. They certainly didn't have a problem when news came out weeks before the 2012 general election that Governor Romney's campaign invested over a hundred million dollars in consulting firms owned by his senior staffers and he lost! No circular firing squads, they say! Unless they're the ones who get to hold the gun. This is par for the course in the "conservative movement" though. When Governor Palin worked her butt off to try to get McCain elected generating more excitement in the GOP than had been there in over 25 years, she ultimately got blamed for the loss. When Governor Walker was getting hit with a recall, the GOP and "conservative movement" was eager to help, but when Governor Palin got inundated with dozens of frivolous ethics complaints, crickets. When Governor Palin was cast as accomplice to murder in Tucson, there were conservative bloggers and some media personality who defended her, yet again, overwhelming crickets from her own party machinery. However, when Ann Romney was told "she never worked a day in her life", you couldn't get Mr.overgrown college Republican and the RNC to calm down in demanding an apology.  Today, you certainly didn't hear outrage when Marco Golden Boy spent over 90K of his PAC donors' money on political consultants in just the month of February alone, did you?

I'm tired of this. Tired of the lies. Tired of the finger pointing and intellectual dishonesty. Tired of the attacks. However, as the World War II saying goes, "if you're taking flak, you're over the target", which is good if you're loaded for bear:


Crossposted here and here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Blagobamajevich Sequester: Paper Cuts, Not Real Cuts

In the Fall 2008, then Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich had to make cuts to attempt to balance the state's budget. In doing so, Blagojevich decided to close numerous state parks and historic sites:
 Gov. Rod Blagojevich is closing the parks and historic sites to help balance the state budget. Never mind that some of the parks he is closing actually make money. Never mind that all of them bring in substantial tourist revenues that create and support jobs in nearby towns. Never mind that millions of visitors each year enjoy our Illinois parks. 
Never mind that people all across America are getting ready to celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday on February 12th of next year. Anyone planning to visit the Lincoln Log Cabin on Goosenest Prairie near Charleston, the last home of Lincoln's parents, or the Vandalia Statehouse, where Lincoln served as a state legislator, will be locked out, too. Those potential visitors will have to find something else to do - along with the 450 employees whose jobs are being axed because of Blagojevich's budget cuts.
In addition to the park closing and job cuts (mostly in southern and central Illinois), Blagojevich closed a prison in central Illinois.  At the time, southern Illinois Republican state senator, Dave Luechtefeld said, "I know he's trying to make people feel the pain." In short, rather than making better, prioritized cuts, Blagojevich made cuts that hurt people furthest away from his Chicago most.

Does this sound familiar? 

President Obama is using the same political tactic today with the sequester. In the past, President Obama has criticized Republicans for wanting to use a hatchet to cut spending while he wants to use a scalpel. Meanwhile, the President is currently making small paper cuts and adding salt to the wounds.

The White House is closed for tours, but open for business. Additionally, much like Governor Blagojevich, under President Obama, the National Park Service is making oddly prioritized cuts, as Anne Sorock at Legal Insurrection writes:
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk’s handling of the situation: freeze permanent hires, hire fewer seasonal employees, and delay plowing entrances to the park by two weeks, resulting in late openings. In response to Wenk’s decision, local business owners that would be hurt by the delayed opening (estimated loss at $250,000) banded together via the chambers of congress to provide equipment and personnel to facilitate plowing, reviewed in detail by Bill Croke at the American Spectator
Yet what has been lost in this story is Wenk’s inability to make a different type of cut. 
I spoke with a resident of Jackson, WY, a gateway community to Yellowstone, who mentioned the recent construction of a network of bike paths that go up into the park, each path afforded bridges to cross rivers. The use of park rangers to put forth environmental evangelization — is there room for a cut there, at least in order to save the communities $250,000 in lost business?
To be sure, both parties are responsible for the sequester happening at all and  for the massive spending that was the impetus for such legislation. A Republican majority House passed the Budget Control Act of 2011 that eventually triggered sequestration, and the Democratically controlled Senate and White House supported it too. However, the President has "flexibility" in how those cuts are made through apportionment, transfer authority, and reprogramming, which allow for agencies to shift money between accounts. For example, the Department of Interior could shift money into the National Park Service "account" or within that "account" to re-prioritize funding.  The American people have had to engage in such budget re-prioritization when the "fiscal cliff" deal allowed the payroll tax holiday to expire. Why can't the federal government do the same? This tax holiday expiration is the equivalent of a 2% pay cut for most people, which interestingly, is the same percentage of cuts present in the first several months of the sequester.

If you look at the massiveness of federal spending, the spending cuts in the sequester are minimal. In 2013, the cuts actually amount to $44 billion, not the $85 billion usually reported. Additionally, FY2013 spending will ultimately be $20 billion higher than FY2012. The only cuts being made are those paper cuts affecting tourists to the White House and national parks and others throughout the country, like the non-government employee air traffic controllers whose towers will closed later this year. If the president truly wants to get surgical with his budgetary analogies, why is he augmenting the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian Authority while he is giving paper cuts to Americans? The answer is simple. The sequester is a not a budgetary tool; it is solely a myopic divisive political tool that the President is modeling a fellow Illinois corruptocrat.

Crossposted here and here

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Governor Palin: What is America's Leadership Thinking?

 On her Facebook page, Governor Palin shared this clip of President Obama's ridiculous comparison of Palestinian-Israeli conflicts to American-Canadian disagreements:


 She also writes:
Regarding this comparison, is he thinking it's America or Canada that would be lobbing mortars across the other's border to strike fear and kill innocents? And is he thinking that America is compared to Israel or Palestine? Or is it Canada that's more like Israel or Palestine? Really, friends, if anyone else, ANYWHERE, had made such a claim, that person would be skewered and pilloried forever. Again, what is America's leadership thinking?
She is absolutely right. Canada and America are allies. Our disagreements are based on issues like whether or not the Keystone pipeline should be built, and people certainly aren't fearing for their lives over these disagreements. Also, since when has an American leader said the following about Canada," I will never allow a even a single Canadian to live on American land"? Never! But that is exactly what Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said about Israelis in 2010. Disagreements over energy policy are one thing, but disagreements over a nation's claim to its own land are another. Again, what was President Obama thinking with his ridiculous moral equivalency argument?

Crossposted here and here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Will ACES Be Discarded?

During her CPAC speech last Saturday, Governor Palin included some Alaskan constitutional populism (emphasis added):
If Mrs. Thatcher were with us here today, she would remind us that there is a big difference between being pro-business and being pro-free market. On this there can be no mistake where conservatives stand. It's time for “We the People” to break up the cronyism and put a stake through the heart of "too big to fail" once and for all. 
That includes these resource-rich states like Alaska, my home state. Read your constitution, Alaskans. Realize that the natural resources that God has created for man's use -- they're not owned by the big multinational conglomerates and the monopolies. They're owned by the people. They don't own them, so don't let them own you. You have a right to those resources to be developed for our use.
Governor Palin rightfully notes two important issues in particular--1) the Alaskan constitution's charge that development of resources for the good of the people 2) the warning that the people (and politicians) of Alaska  not allow themselves to be owned by the oil companies.

The Alaskan constitution notes that the state's natural resources belong to the people and are to developed for their maximum benefit :
 The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people. 
Governor Palin's point is especially salient and timely when it comes to Alaska's natural resources. On Wednesday night, the Alaska state senate passed a bill that if passed in the House and signed by Governor Parnell would overhaul the oil tax reform plan, ACES, that Governor Palin signed into law in 2007. Unlike Governor Palin's ACES, however, this bill was not discussed in a transparent and comprehensive manner:
 The newest version of the oil tax bill was introduced Thursday. In the hours before it passed there no public testimony. There was no testimony from Alaska's independent oil explorers. The only industry testimony came from Alaska's Big Three oil producers, which had been invited to testify. 
"It was sort of striking that the oil industry gets a chance for public comment and the rest of Alaskans don't," Wielechowski said. 
Many of the smaller independent players in Alaska's oil patch are the beneficiaries of tax incentives aimed at new production from new fields, rather than the strategy pushed by Parnell and championed by legislative leaders of pumping oil, faster, from known fields. 
Testimony from the Big Three acknowledged that the oil-tax changes proposed under SB 21 would make Alaska a more competitive tax environment. But they would not promise new production.
One of the positives of ACES is that smaller, independent oil companies have been able to develop in Alaska. In fact, the number of oil tax returns filed with Alaska has increased 383% since ACES was passed. Annual capital expenditures have nearly doubled since FY2007, meaning that producers are engaging in increased infrastructure development (i.e. more rigs) and the like. These expenditures are helping to lead to increased profits for even the major oil companies. For example, in 2012, 13% of Conoco Phillips's oil and gas development occurred in Alaska, but Alaska contributed to 34% of their income. Additionally, according to Alaska's own labor statistics, oil and gas jobs increased more than 15% between 2007 and 2012.

So, why is there a push for reforming ACES? Because of the very thing that Governor Palin warned against in her CPAC speech--being owned by the oil companies. In theory, the Senate bill is better for the oil companies because it flattens ACES's tax rate and provides incentives for new oil. This sounds pro-business, right? That's what Governor Palin warned about in her CPAC speech as well. There's a difference between the invisible hand of the free market and the hand-in-hand "pro business" relationship between business and government. This "hand-in-hand" relationship is the very type of relationship that was the impetus for ACES being passed in the first place, as the Murkowski administration prior to Palin's administration was shrouded in corruption due to the pay-to-play deals between the oil companies and lawmakers. Governor Parnell has not had that kind of relationship in his dealings, but he has had a revolving door relationship between the oil industry and politics. As I wrote nearly two years ago:
In the early and mid 1990s, Parnell served in the Alaska House of Representatives and Senate. Following his time in the Senate, Parnell became director of government relations for ConoccoPhillips. He then went to work for Governor Murkowski as the director state division of oil and gas from 2003 to 2005. During part of this period time, Governor Palin had served as an oil and gas commissioner until she encountered unethical behavior from another commissioner and Alaska GOP chair,Randy Ruedrich, and she resigned and lodged a complaint against Ruedrich. Prior to running for Lt. Governor in 2006, Parnell worked at Patton Boggs, a law firm that represented ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil in the Exxon Valdex oil spill case.
Although the bill was passed in the Senate, it was proposed at the request of Governor Parnell. He found 11 allies in the Senate, and the bill passed 11-9. One Senator, Peter Micciche, who is also employed as a ConocoPhillips natural gas plant supervisor,  paid lip service support to ACES, indicating he would reject Governor Parnell's proposal. However, Micciche ended up voting for the modified Senate bill that Governor Parnell applauded.

The Senate bill removed the capital expenditure credits that ACES has, which particularly benefited the smaller companies who were not given the opportunity to testify before the Senate. The credits gave companies breaks on infrastructure development and expansion (e.g. new rigs) and the like, which because of economies of scale, helped smaller companies (with their smaller budgets) be able to grow.  This was another thing Governor Palin noted during her CPAC speech, "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu".  Such may be the case for these smaller companies who were not given a voice in these Senate debates.

ACES has not only helped boost Alaskan jobs and investments by oil companies, it has strengthen Alaska's fiscal health. ACES has helped create $16.5+ billion in state savings and has contributed to Alaska being upgraded to a AAA credit rating by both Fitch and Standard and Poor's in the past 14 months. As a House committee begins to discuss this bill today, one would hope that, rather than appeasing the oil companies for increased production that may or may not occur, legislators would look at the economic and overall fiscal benefits that ACES has brought to the state.

Crossposted here and here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Here's to Liberty!: Governor Palin's CPAC Prescription

While the GOP issued a 2012 GOP "autopsy report" yesterday, Governor Palin played political apothecary on Saturday in her barn burner of a speech on Saturday at CPAC. Her prescription for the GOP and the conservative movement was not one of consultants, pandering, navel gazing, and restraint of principles, but a prescription of the grassroots, outreach,optimism, and liberty. If the energy from the ballroom where she gave her speech could be harnessed, America would be energy independent in no time.

Governor Palin realizes that the circumspection for the GOP post-2012 should be pretty simple: the GOP lost, and President Obama won. Rather than dwelling on the defeat, she opted for a positive, "tundraroots" message of looking to focusing on the people, rather than the politicians and consultants. In doing so, she lreferenced an op-ed penned by fellow Lady Liberty, Margaret Thatcher, after her party lost in England in the mid 1970s which in part read:
Politicians should not be either professional efficiency experts or amateur industrial consultants. Their concern is with people, and they must look at every problem from the grassroots, not from the top looking down. International interest rates must be thought of in terms of the young couple's mortgage as well as of the balance of payments. 
Her speech was a rhetorical Expo Eraser to the dry erase board wielding architects of the Republican party. She called out the architects of political destruction like Karl Rove and called for re-building the country rather than attempting to re-brand a party. She called for liberty in the political process and encouraged more everyday Americans to run for office free from the constraints of focus groups, pollsters, and the like that are nothing more than political pyramid schemes.

As has been her bread and butter issue for her entire political career, she called out the cronyism of the permanent political class and called for embracing pro-free market principles. Again, she focused on liberty. The liberty that comes from opportunity of the invisible hand of the market, not the clenched fist of socialism or the hand-in-hand workings of crony ties between business and government.

One part of her speech that received the greatest crowd approval was Governor Palin's recognition of the College Republicans. In doing so, she called for young conservatives to not only drink Sam Adams, but to think Sam Adams. Adams, of course, was one of the Founding Fathers and signer of the Declaration of Independence. His words more than 230 years ago were akin to Governor Palin's speech when he said, “Nil desperandum, -- Never Despair. That is a motto for you and me. All are not dead; and where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will rekindle it.” That's the patriotic optimism of Palin and Adams.


What received the largest response however, as shown in the clip above (H/T Ryan), was not what she said, but what she did. In our image driven, visual culture, a meme is worth a million words, such the Palin "Liberty Pose" that has gone viral over the last several days, so much so that my grandma even shared it on her Facebook page (with no prompting from me whatsoever). With a single swig, Governor Palin took a shot at the government overreach of the Bloombergs of the political world. One of her heroes, C.S.Lewis once said, "[o]f all the tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of the victim may be the most oppressive", and Palin's toast  brought that quote to life.

The media, who weeks before had written the Governor's own "autopsy report" after she chose not to renew her contract with Fox, were all in attendance to document her supposed irrelevance. Here is just one section of the media covering her "irrelevance" during her speech:

If that wasn't indication enough of her continued influence, here is the list of the topics trending on Twitter immediately following her speech:

It's not just about media coverage though--legacy media or social media--nor is about Governor Palin herself. It is about re-building a country, as she stated in her speech. Whatever her future plans may be, she certainly has called to arms those who toast to liberty along side of her and are willing to fight for liberty and American exceptionalism. It's what #sarahpalindoes.

Crossposted here and here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Forbes's Strawman Attack on Governor Palin and Death Panels

 An article at Forbes today discusses a Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in health care, which are created to, as the author says, " which gather doctors and other caregivers under one umbrella and are paid by  Medicare and private insurers to treat groups of patients." ACOs are non-government organizations that work to treat older patients and assist with end-of-life care using Medicare payments. There is nothing in ACOs that is government mandated or legislated in their structure other than Medicare as the payor. As a whole, the article talks about Donald Berwick, formerly head of Medicare under President Obama, as a proponent of care coordination. However, Berwick is a proponent of full blown government coordinated healthcare, which is completely different.

Beyond the crux of his misguided, the author, Bruce Jaspen, decides to build and attack a strawman of Governor Palin's actual criticism of Obamacare::
A key part of Dr. Donald Berwick’s approach to health care delivery is outlasting intense criticism from Sarah Palin, the former 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate who contributed much-publicized demagoguery in regard to advanced directives to forego life-sustaining care.
As many in the media have done before, the author misrepresents Governor Palin's criticism of President Obama's version of healthcare reform. In her famous "death panel" Facebook post, she wrote (emphasis added):
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
It is pretty clear that Governor Palin is talking about rationing of care as a general health care construct, not end-of-life care as a specific medical discussion. However, as many have done, the Forbes author criticizes the Governor for an argument that she never made. When the New York Times  more than two years ago tried to make  a similar argument as Forbes today, I wrote:
Shortly following this post from Governor Palin, Medicare funded end-of-life counseling was removed from the Senate version of the health care bill in August of 2009. While Governor Palin’s Facebook no doubt had an impact on the removal of that section of legislation, it was not specifically what she first opposed, which was rationing of care based upon decisions of government bureaucrats. Governor Palin has continued to oppose “death panels” including most recently expressing opposition to Medicare’s Independent Payments Advisory Board in her op-ed support Congressman Ryan’s Roadmap. It must be noted, however, that in the Fall of 2009 following the removal of the end of life counseling provision in the bill, Governor Palin did express opposition to such government funded counseling, even providing a written statement to the New York Senate Aging Committee which in part said:
I have been vocal in my opposition to Section 1233 of H.R.3200, entitled “Advance Care Planning Consultation.”[1] Proponents of the bill have described this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients. That is misleading. The issue is the context in which that information is provided and the coercive effect these consultations will have in that context 
. … 
To understand this provision fully, it must be read in context. These consultations are authorized whenever a Medicare recipient’s health changes significantly or when they enter a nursing home, and they are part of a bill whose stated purpose is “to reduce the growth in health care spending.”[4] Is it any wonder that senior citizens might view such consultations as attempts to convince them to help reduce health care costs by accepting minimal end-of-life care? As one commentator has noted, Section 1233 “addresses compassionate goals in disconcerting proximity to fiscal ones…. If it’s all about obviating suffering, emotional or physical, what’s it doing in a measure to ‘bend the curve’ on health-care costs?”[5]
Essentially what such legislation would do is provides physicians with a potential financial incentive to initiate end of life counseling discussions with patients. The argument against this counseling is if patients were to opt not to seek certain treatments at the end of their life, it would save Medicare money. This would be due to potential coercion rather than autonomous or solely family influenced decision making. 

He then went on to cite Governor Palin’s and Congressman Boehner’s opposition to such provisions and also noted that decision was more political than ideological, essentially conceding that the Obama administration still approved of the regulation even though they weren’t implementing it. The end of life provision in the House bill that Governor Palin expressed opposition to in her written statement to the New York Senate was dropped from the bill, and she has not claim (sic) that it was still present in the bill later signed by President Obama. The Medicare advisory board that she referenced in her op-ed supporting Ryan’s Roadmap was in the final legislation, and she expressed opposition to that. In a piece entitled, “Sarah Palin Proves Lying Can Be Effective”, the Washington Post parroted the misrepresentation from the New York Times. 
Governor Palin was right in her opposition to both rationing via “death panels” or Medicare funded end-of-life counseling, and the media continues to fail to understand her opposition, nor the truth that lies in it. Her initial opposition and continued opposition is against undue influence by government who willingly admit that rationing is desired at the expense of quantity of care. However, her influence and truthful statements proved to have an impact on end of life counseling regulation and continues to be at forefront of everyone’s mind when health care reform and rationing are discussed.
Not only does Jaspen misrepresent Governor Palin's argument, he also tries to promote end-of-life care, advanced directives and the like coordinated without government involvement, other than Medicare being the payor, and without financial incentive.  Actually, Governor Palin supports this general principle as well, as she wrote in August of 2009:
I agree. Last year, I issued a proclamation for “Healthcare Decisions Day.” [6] The proclamation sought to increase the public’s knowledge about creating living wills and establishing powers of attorney. There was no incentive to choose one option over another. There was certainly no financial incentive for physicians to push anything. In fact, the proclamation explicitly called on medical professionals and lawyers “to volunteer their time and efforts” to provide information to the public.
More than three and a half years later, the media and pundits continue to try to misrepresent the Governor, but it's rare that the media's argument is so convoluted that they ultimately end up agreeing with the Governor without even realizing it.

 Steve Flescher at C4P has a good post up on this article as well. See here.

Crossposted at The Speech A Time for Choosing and Palin4America.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Drillinois!: Could Fracking Come to the Land of Lincoln?

Illinois often doesn't seem to produce much more than corrupt politicians,but behind the graft and crime, Illinois ranks 11th in energy production in the country. According to the Energy Information Administration, Illinois produces more nuclear energy and ethanol than any other state in the country.  Beyond the reactors and car booze, Illinois runs in the middle of the pack (twenty-sixth) when it comes to development of natural gas. That could change with the new technology that is booming in places like Texas and Pennsylvania --fracking.

 In December, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce released a study indicating that fracking for natural gas could has much as a nearly ten billion dollar economic impact and bring tens of thousands of jobs to southern Illinois.  Fracking has yet to be even tested in the New Albany shale of southern Illinois, but the Chamber hopes that their research will provide the necessary impetus to move things forward legislatively. The study evaluated drilling costs, but not specifically the cost of regulations, royalties or taxes, nor did it assess any oil that may be present in the shale. A few months ago, a southern Illinois Democratic legislator, energy developers, and environmental groups sat down to draft a plan that would aim to appease all involved:
After years of clashing over the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the oil industry and environmentalists have achieved something extraordinary in Illinois: They sat down together to draft regulations both sides could live with. 
If approved by lawmakers, participants say, the rules would be the nation’s strictest. The Illinois model might also offer a template to other states seeking to carve out a middle ground between energy companies that would like free rein and environmental groups that want to ban the practice entirely. 
The Natural Resources Defense Council supported a failed attempt at a fracking moratorium last year. So with lawmakers clearly ready to allow fracking in southern Illinois, the NRDC wanted to ensure there were significant safeguards, including making drillers liable for water pollution, requiring them to disclose the chemicals used and enabling residents to sue for damages. 
“One of the positive things here has been the table to which a wide range of interests have come … to address the risks in an adult way,” said Henry Henderson, director of the NRDC’s Midwest office. “We have gotten over the frustrating chasm of ‘Are you for the environment or for the economy?’ That is an empty staring contest.” 
Negotiations took place over four or five months, primarily at the Statehouse in meetings led by state Rep. John Bradley, a Democrat who lives in the area where fracking would occur, participants said. 
Bradley whittled negotiators down to a core group — four from industry, four from environmental groups, plus representatives from the attorney general’s and governor’s offices, regulatory agencies and lawmakers, said Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. 
That group was pared even further for the toughest negotiations, which included discussions with outside technical experts on complicated issues, said Ann Alexander, an NRDC senior attorney. 
“I won’t say there weren’t times that voices got raised a little bit, but … it’s a very good model of cooperation,” Alexander said. “It beats the (typical) model of having drafts furtively circulating … or emerging at the last minute when nobody has had a chance to read them.”
A bill with robust bipartisan support is currently being discussed in committee the Illinois House. The bill has extensive regulatory provisions on permitting , environmental restrictions and liability, and transparency of development. Governor Quinn has even voiced is support for fracking in his budget speech on Wednesday.

The bill still needs to pass through committee, the House as a whole, and the Senate before arriving at the Governor's desk. To be sure, the bill does includes rather strict regulation that will impact producers. However, it has the potential to produce clean natural gas and provide jobs for many--something that states like with fracking moratoriums, like New York, have yet to do. For a state known for ineptness, this could be a small step in the right direction.

 Useful links:

  HB 2615: Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act
  House member contact list

 Crossposted from Illinois4Palin.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

President Obama's anti-Keystone Cronies

Last week the State Department released a report indicating the Keystone XL pipeline would have little impact on the environment and would create more than forty thousand jobs during construction. With this news (confirming what we already knew), why isn't the Obama administration moving forward on developing this pipeline? Because regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built, his cronies stand to benefit.

It is already widely known that Obama crony Warren Buffett has gained from the lack of construction on the pipeline. Without the presence of pipeline, much of the oil developed in the Canadian oil sands are transported by train. Per Bloomberg:
 Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit. 
With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department. 
“Whatever people bring to us, we’re ready to haul,” Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said in an interview. If Keystone XL “doesn’t happen, we’re here to haul.”
Interestingly, Buffett did not buy this railroad until a year after President Obama was elected. Per the American Thinker:
 A year after the election of Obama, Warren Buffett bought a giant railroad, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The BNSF has more than 32,000 miles of track and right-of-way in this nation, running from the west coast and through the agricultural heartland of America. It is also hauls coal from the mines in Montana and Wyoming and is the railroad with the best existing north-south infrastructure. In fact, it's quite well-situated to perform precisely the task for which TransCanada has proposed to build a pipeline. 
Should the pipeline fail, the oil will still be extracted, but it will then be transported by rail, and Mr. Buffett, thanks to the efforts of his friend Mr. Holland, will be uniquely situated to derive a fortune from that business, as well as enhance the value of his holdings in Conoco-Phillips petroleum. Is it possible that Warren Buffett's assistance to Obama in both policy and public relations lately may be his way of trying to tip the regulatory scales in his favor? After all, nothing says "I love you" to a Democrat better than a public plea for more taxes.
Additionally, Buffett's Union Tank Car Co is raking in loads of cash from transporting oil from the Bakken formation in the northern plains states. If built, the pipeline would transport 100,000 barrels of oil a day from the North Dakota portion of the Bakken alone.

Fast forward to this year. Just last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported a between China and a Canadian oil company with holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and in Canada's oil sands:
The Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) reached a “definitive agreement” with Nexen, Inc., a Canadian energy company, announced on July 23, 2012, to buy all of the company’s outstanding public shares. Nexen has holdings in the Gulf of Mexico and Canada, giving the Chinese government access to millions of barrels of Keystone XL and Gulf reserve oil. 
Nexen’s holdings in the Gulf, coupled with the Chinese government’s ownership of CNOOC, meant the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had to approve the takeover, which it did on Feb. 12
Judicial Watch, an organization focusing on transparency and integrity in government, announced last week that they are suing the Obama administration for documents relating to the approval of this deal to communist China. In their press release, Judicial Watch notes multiple ties between the Obama administration and investors who profited from the deal:
* Taconic Capital, which reported in its third quarter SEC filing that it had acquired six million shares of Nexen between July 1 and September 30, 2012. Taconic’s founder and managing director is Frank Brosens, an Obama bundler who has raised more than $1 million for the President. Brosens was Timothy Geithner’s first choice to run the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program). 
*Farallon Capital Management LLC, which bought 8.7 million shares of Nexen (1.65 percent of the company) between July 1 and September 30, 2012. The founder of Fallon Capital is Thomas Steyer, is a long-time Democratic fundraiser who ridiculed Romney’s energy plans at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. 
*Eton Park Capital Management, which bought 6,737,000 shares (1.28 percent) of Nexen. Eton Park was founded and is directed by Eric Mindich, a bundler who raised more than $71,000 for Obama this cycle and has given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates since 1990. 
*D.E. Shaw & Co., which increased its position by 5.8 million to 6.5 million shares, or 1.22 percent of the company. D.E. Shaw was founded by David E. Shaw, an Obama bundler in the $200,000 to $500,000 range. He also sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, as he did under the Clinton administration.
*Covington & Burling LLP, in which Eric Holder was formerly a partner, was hired by Nexen to lobby on behalf of the acquisition’s approval.
While the Obama administration continues to hem and haw about whether or not they will ever approve the pipeline, his cronies continue to benefit from the lack of a pipeline. Buffet's train company ownership rakes in the dough from the lack of the pipeline. Nexen will benefit regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built as the Washington Times notes:
 If not through Keystone, mined oil will be transported by rail, truck, or planned pipelines in Canada. Last month, the China Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) completed the purchase of Nexen, a major producer of oil from Canadian sands, for $15 billion. CNOOC would not have purchased Nexen without assurance by the Canadian government that the oil can be harvested.
Last April, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that approval of the pipeline would "preemptively sacrifice American sovereignty". However, in approving this deal with the Chinese government, the Obama administration is allowing the largest foreign holder of our debt greater access to North American energy resources--resources that America should gladly develop in concert with an ally. Where is the protection of American sovereignty in that?

The biggest critics of the pipeline are environmentalists. However, the lack of a pipeline is likely to cause more environmental problems than the pipeline. Transportation of oil by rail or road cause more injuries, death, and environmental damage than pipelines.Additionally,transport of the oil to China will use large amounts of energy (i.e. more carbon emissions). Rejecting the pipeline is not an environmentally noble decision; it's just another example of how President Obama rewards his cronies at the expense of the American people.

Crossposted at Palin4America and The Speech A Time for Choosing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Urge Illinois Legislators to Support the Second Amendment

In addition to pension reform, the Illinois legislature is debating gun legislation this week. In mid December, a court of appeals struck down a ban on concealed carry of guns in the state, giving the state 180 days to pass concealed carry legislation.  Just a couple weeks ago, the appeals court denied Attorney General Lisa Madigan's request to re-hear the case. The Illinois state legislature has a several bills being discussed in committee including bills requiring gun owners to have liability insurance , bans on specific types of guns, and legislation delineating specific reasonable requirements for training and licensing among a host of  other bills.  The Illinois State Rifle Association has a page with links to each of these pieces of legislation, the status of the bill, and their stance on  these  bills.  Please see here for more information.

 The National Rifle Association shares this caution with the legislative approach currently being taken by 2nd amendment opponents:
[This week], the Illinois House will consider extreme anti-gun legislation that will ban commonly owned semi automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines. The particular language will most likely be attached on the House floor as amendments to shell bills, so no language is currently available. While under a federal court order to pass a state Right-to-Carry law, anti-gun Chicago politicians continue to play games with your right to self-defense. Rather than working on measures to reduce violent crime, they continue to play politics and attack the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
Economist John Lott Jr. warns that the legislation being proposed, at least with the amendments discussed last week, would be "the most restrictive concealed hand gun law in the country", as the amendments' vague language essentially prohibit guns from being carried almost anywhere.  As an example, one amendment prohibits concealed carry on college campus, not even allowing individual campuses to make that decision themselves. This is in spite of the fact that campuses that allow concealed carry showed a reduction in crime following implementation of such policies.

 Also this week is the extremely timely Illinois Gun Owners Lobby (IGOLD) Day in Springfield on Wednesday, March 6th. For information about the day's scheduling and transportation options to Springfield, please see here. Please contact your legislators and ask them to uphold their oath of office in supporting the 2nd amendment. Contact information for Illinois state representatives can be found here and state senators here. The right to bear/bare arms in Illinois should not apply only to Michelle Obama's fashion choices.

Crossposted from Illinois4Palin.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The North Star for Fixing Illinois's Pension Problems

85 billion dollars. That is the amount of money that the much discussed federal sequester purportedly "cuts" from the federal budget. That number is also $11 billion smaller than $96 billion Illinois pension system shortfall, although some calculations put it at upwards of $206 billion. It is the worst funded pension funds in the country at only 39% funded. In recent years, politicians in Springfield have nibbled at the margins on pension reform, implementing reforms for new employees, but doing little to deal with the pension shortfalls for current state employees and retirees. Governor Quinn noted in his budget speech last month that he created a working group of legislators tasked to develop a plan by mid April. Governor Quinn also noted in his speech that the payment due to the pension plan is $5.2 billion this year, a whopping 15% of the general fund budget. Democratic Speaker of the House Mike Madigan proposed a pension reform plan last week that was quickly rejected by the House. This proposal would have done the following:
The proposals would have completely eliminated cost-of-living increases for retired workers or eliminated them until the pension system was 80 percent funded compared with 39 percent funded now. They would also have raised the retirement age to 67 for pension eligibility and required public sector workers to contribute 5 percent more to the cost of their pensions. 
A separate plan put forward by Nekritz [a House Democrat] and Republican House leader Tom Cross, which has received the most support so far in the process, would include most of those elements but would not be as harsh. It would freeze cost-of-living increases for six years and require state workers to contribute 2 percent more toward the cost of pensions.
Madigan's plan also received a lot of blow back from public sector unions like AFSCME, as his proposals arguably are a reduction in pension benefits which are unconstitutional under Article 13, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution. Cross's plan would make a hybrid system of defined benefits (the current system) and defined contribution (similar to 501Ks).  It should be noted that Madigan has been in the Illinois House for over forty years and has been Speaker for over 30 years. Representative Tom Cross has been in the House twenty years. Their calls for reform now ring pretty hollow considering they presided over many of the budgets that have led to the massive shortfall. Additionally, considering Madigan received more than $150,000 from public sector unions for his 2012 election alone, any "fighting" with unions is likely nothing more than political theater. There are additional plans being proposed as well. Deputy Majority Leader, Lou Lang, is proposing that the "temporary" income tax hike passed in late 2010 would be made permanent, the retirement age would be raised, and  employee contributions would be increased. The Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think tank, has proposed a plan that would in part shift pensions from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan:
The only way to end Illinois’ pension crisis is to move benefits for all future work to a defined contribution system. The Illinois Policy institute’s solution cuts unfunded pension debt in half and includes a defined contribution plan as the main pillar of its pension reforms while protecting already-earned benefits for state workers.
Representative Tom Morrison of Palatine has proposed a plan that would incorporate a define contribution plan as part of the reform. The bill synopsis reads:
Amends the Illinois Pension Code. With respect to the 5 State-funded retirement systems: Provides a new funding formula for State contributions, with a 100% funding goal and amortization calculated on a level dollar amount. Provides that no additional service credit may be accrued and no automatic increase in a retirement annuity shall be received. Provides that the pensionable salary of an active participant may not exceed that individual's pensionable salary as of the effective date. Provides that State-funded retirement systems shall establish self-directed retirement plans for all active participants and all employees hired on or after the effective date. Provides that all active participants shall have the option of participating in a self-directed retirement plan. Provides that these changes are controlling over any other law. Effective immediately.
Such a defined contribution pension reform approach has been successful in other states, like Alaska.  As Governor Palin wrote in a Facebook post in December of 2010:
My home state made the switch from defined benefits to a defined contribution system, and as governor, I introduced a number of measures to build on that successful transition, while also addressing the issue of the remaining funding shortfall by prioritizing budgets to wrap our financial arms around this too-long ignored debt problem. When my state ran a surplus because we incentivized businesses, I didn’t spend it on fun and glamorous pet projects for lawmakers – though that would have made me quite popular with the earmark crowd. In fact, I vetoed more excessive spending than any governor in our state’s history, and I used the state’s surplus to bring our financial house in order by paying down our unfunded pension plans that some other governors wanted to ignore. This fiscal prudence didn’t make me popular with the state legislature. In addition to vetoing hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending, I put billions of dollars into savings accounts for future rainy days, much like most American families do in responsibly planning for the future. I also enacted a hiring freeze and brought the education budget under control through a commitment to forward-funding. I returned much of the surplus back to the people (it was their money to start with!) through tax relief and energy rebates. I had proven as the mayor of the fastest growing city in the state that tax cuts incentivize business growth, and though the state legislature overrode some of my veto cuts and thwarted an additional tax relief request of mine, the public was supportive of efforts to rein in its government. 
It’s one thing to veto spending and reduce the size of government when your state is broke. I did it when my state was flush with revenue from a surplus – though I had to fight politicians who wanted to spend like there was no tomorrow. It’s not easy to tell people no and make them act fiscally responsible and cut spending when the money is rolling in and your state is only 50 years shy of being a territory and everyone is yelling at you to spend while the money is there to build. My point is, if I could fight this fight in Alaska at a time of surplus, then other governors can and should be able to do the same at a time when their states are facing bankruptcy and postponing this fight is no longer an option.
What did this reform do for Alaska? As I wrote last Fall, it has improved Alaska's fiscal health:
The reforms that Governor Palin implemented helped lead to a 34.6% decrease in total liabilities during her tenure. In fact, Alaska is third best in the nation in the percentage of its pension system that is funded. Additionally, due in part to pension reform and other fiscal measures implemented by Governor Palin, Alaska's credit rating has twice been upgraded by Standard and Poor's and once by Moody's since 2008. In addition to the bias of the media and the ill intentions of the GOP establishment, Governor Palin's stellar record is not as well known as it should be because she prevented problems from reaching a tipping point by nipping them in the bud. She didn't have to put out the proverbial fiscal fire because she removed the kindling before the fire could start. That doesn't mean, though, that governors on both sides of the aisle can't learn from her by implementing the reforms that helped make Alaska one of the most fiscally sound states in the country.
Illinois has both the worst funded pension system in the country and the worst credit rating. Our legislators and governor would do well to look to a proven pension reform north star to solve the state's Alaska -sized pension problems.

 Useful links:

  HB 3303: Rep. Tom Morrison's pension reform bill
  HB 3411: Rep. Tom Cross's pension reform bill
  HB 2375: Rep. Lou Lang's pension reform bill
  HB1154 and HB1165: Speaker Madigan's failed pension reform bills

 Contact information for Illinois state representatives can be found here and state senators here.

Crossposted from Illinois4Palin.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Illinois O4P/AGU: Re-Affirming Our "Prairieroots" Activism

As a former mayor and governor, Governor Palin is keenly aware of the importance of being involved in local government. For all that is happening with our federal government--from sequestration to aiding rebels in Syria-- it is also important to remain engaged at a local and state level. In Illinois specifically, our state legislature is discussing some very important issues right now. Additionally, there are local school board races throughout the state and a special election in our second congressional district on the horizon.

While we still want to remain engaged with what is going on with our federal government, we also want to re-affirm our commitment to truly being engaged on a "prairieroots" level in our state and local governments. In the coming days, as part of this re-affirmation on more local issues, Illinois4Palin's blog will highlight pension reform, gun control, and gay marriage legislation to help inform Illinoisans of the issues at stake so that we all can take appropriate action. Illinois's pension system is the  most poorly funded in the country which has lead to multiple credit downgrades.  Lawmakers are continuing to wrestle with legislation to reform this mess of a system.  Recently, an appeals court rejected an appeal by attorney general Lisa Madigan to overturn a lower court's decision that would require Illinois to implement concealed carry legislation.Now, the Illinois general assembly is discussion gun legislation that would allow concealed carry of guns, but with extreme restrictions. Legislators are also working on same sex marriage legislation. The  implementation of civil union legislation in recent years has proven to be an assault on faith based social service organizations. Regardless of one's stance on same sex marriage, it is imperative that the same assault on religious liberties that occurred with civil union legislation is not repeated if same sex marriage legislation is passed.

 Please stay tuned for these upcoming posts with information on proposed legislation and how you can make your voice heard.  In the coming weeks and months, we will highlight other legislative issues,  political discussions of local interest, and important political races. If you have anything in particular that you would like to see highlighted or if you would like to contribute a post to the blog, please contact

Crossposted from Illinois4Palin.