Non-Denial Denial

YNN has dueling statements from Brooks and Slaughter on the rape comments Here’s Slaughter:

Maggie Brooks has been deliberately hiding her anti-choice views from the public during this campaign, and has repeatedly aligned herself with some of the most conservative voices in Washington who have tried to strip women of their health care rights and redefine rape to satisfy their radical ideologies. The only thing we really know about Maggie Brooks is that she’s willing to take money from any right-wing group that will try to buy her a seat in Congress.

This is Brooks:

Louise Slaughter should be ashamed of this outrageous and dishonest attack on Maggie Brooks’ character. It’s sad to see Louise bring her hyper-partisan brand of Washington politics to our community. The voters of Monroe County know and trust Maggie and her record of protecting taxpayers, and won’t be fooled by Louise’s dirty tricks.

That statement says nothing about Brooks’ position on “forcible rape” or the rape exemption for abortion in general, so we’re left to assume that Brooks doesn’t want to talk about it. When a campaign resorts to “I’m rubber, you’re glue”, it’s because they don’t want to address the underlying issue, and that’s clearly what’s going on here.

Here’s a Question for Maggie

Maggie was indeed very quick to condemn Akin’s statement, but what about Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans in the House who co-sponsored a bill containing language referring to “forcible” rape, language that was removed only after an intense media firestorm. Does Maggie, like Paul Ryan, think that Congress should draw a distinction between forcible rape and other kinds of rape when it comes to abortion? Or does she condemn that?

By the way, this is apparently the “lie” that Brooks is referring to, from a Slaughter fundraising letter:

My “pro-life” opponent has continued to take tens of thousands of dollars and endorsements from those attacking women’s health, including Paul Ryan who has been working with Rep. Akin to redefine rape this entire Congress.

Ryan co-sponsored the bill with the original language. Maggie “applauded” the choice of Congressman Ryan. Maggie got money from at least three of the co-sponsors of the forcible rape bill (Roskum, Grimm and Sam Johnson on the last fundraising report). Where’s the lie here?

Maggie Fears the Reaper

Maggie Brooks seems a little shaken by the nomination of the Grim Reaper of Medicare, Paul Ryan, to the Republican ticket, since she’s repeating the same lie that Mitt Romney used when he introduced Ryan this weekend. The $700 billion figure is a mainly a cut to the wasteful Medicare Advantage program, which is a failed experiment in using private insurers to provide Medicare coverage. Medicare Advantage is less efficient, so seniors on that program will be moved to regular Medicare–nobody’s losing anything. Alan Bedenko fully destroys the myth of the $700 billion cut today if you want all the details, so instead of focusing on that, let’s move on to what Brooks is trying to hide, courtesy of the Associated Press:

ROMNEY: “Unlike the current president, who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security and keep them there for future generations.”

THE FACTS: You could fill an arena with all the details left out in this statement. Ryan’s reputation as a fiscal conservative is built on a budget plan that would overhaul the Medicare program and introduce a voucher-like plan that future retirees could use to buy private health insurance. Whether that results in a better or worse situation for Medicare recipients is a matter of debate. But under Ryan’s plan, traditional Medicare would no longer be the health insurance mainstay, just one of many competing options.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Ryan plan — which Romney endorsed in broad strokes in the past — would slow the increases in money for seniors. A typical 66-year-old would receive about 35 percent more than last year — $7,400 in 2011 dollars. Under current law, that person would probably receive at least 56 percent more in 2030, and quite possibly 75 percent more — $9,600 in 2011 dollars. The CBO said his plan grows spending for Medicare enrollees “at a much slower rate” than under current law or other policy scenarios. In Washington, a slower increase in spending is tantamount to a spending cut.

Romney’s assertion that the team would preserve Social Security left out the fact that he proposes significant change. He would protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generations of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients. At least with this program, he has offered more specifics than President Barack Obama has in dealing with the entitlement’s long-term financing shortfall, though neither has laid out a comprehensive solution.

As for his accusation that the president cut Medicare, Obama’s health care law does cut billions from the Medicare Advantage program, hospitals and nursing homes, to pay for expanded insurance coverage.

Maggie Brooks doesn’t want to run on Medicare vouchers, and who can blame her? I don’t know anyone who’s 80 years old who thinks they can buy as good a policy as Medicare for $7,400 today, much less for a few thousand dollars more 18 long years from now. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Ryan plan is the death of Medicare, and Maggie’s right to fear the reaper, because voters won’t be happy once they learn more about the number two guy at the top of her party’s ticket.

Run Away and Hide

Lucy at Mustard Street found Kathy Hochul ducking the Democratic Convention, which is probably a smart move since her race in the Republican (R+7) NY-27 (formerly NY-26) is rated as a toss-up by Charlie Cook. But now that we have a contested race in Democratic (D+3) NY-25, the question is whether Maggie Brooks will follow Hochul’s lead and run away from her party.

We had a bit of a hint earlier this week when Maggie showed some sympathy for Obama’s immigration plan, but the real test will be the Ryan Plan. In her D&C interview, Maggie said she supports the Simpson-Bowles budget plan, without the tax hikes, which means she doesn’t support the Simpson-Bowles budget plan. (By the way, as those of us with a memory will recall, Simpson-Bowles was never adopted by the Simpson-Bowles committee so it was even more of a nothing than the nothing that committee reports usually are in DC.)

Republicans in tight races are throwing the Ryan Plan under the bus in West Virginia and Montana.  Here’s the language Rep. David McKinley (R-WV-1) used in one of his mailers:

“Congressman McKinley recently voted against the 2012 budget passed by the House because of the plan’s negative impact on northern West Virginia seniors,” the mailers read. “The plan would privatize Medicare for future retirees, raise the retirement age and keep in place the Medicare cuts included in last year’s healthcare bill. The Congressional Budget Office determined the plan would nearly double out-of-pocket healthcare costs for future retirees.”

Maggie’s brand-new issue page mentions that she’ll vote to repeal Obamacare to “restore Medicare”, which is an odd statement to make since Medicare hasn’t been diminished by Obamacare (a fact which has been fact-checked to death yet Republicans still claim it.) The real threat to Medicare in this election, as Maggie’s Republican brethren in West Virginia and Montana correctly identify, is a Republican House that will vote for the Ryan plan.

Maggie at the D&C

Maggie Brooks went to the D&C Editorial Board yesterday, and because this is still 1955 and everyone waits for the paper newspaper to hit their steps before they’re sure it’s news, Jim Lawrence will write it up on Sunday. Until then, here’s the D&C’s liveblog transcript.

Editorial board member Larry Frye thinks he caught Maggie saying something out-of-sync with her party’s position on immigration, quoting her as saying “We can agree in principle with the president’s position”, referring to the Obama Administration’s recent decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children.

Brian Sharp at the D&C has a follow-up story where the Slaughter campaign addresses Brooks’ criticism that she’s a Washington insider who’s never in the district by trotting out Maggie’s scandals. As a sidelight, Gerald Gamm gets to be as wrong as he was the last time he was quoted in the D&C:

Both are well known in the district and have “enormous reservoirs of goodwill,” said Gerald Gamm, chairman of the University of Rochester political science department. “Most voters like both of them. I think it’s really a risky strategy for either one of them to start attacking the other one.”

Brooks is running against an Democratic incumbent in a Democratic district. Presumably these Democrats are in general agreement on the issues with their fellow Democrat, Louise Slaughter. How the hell is Brooks going to win if she doesn’t convince voters there’s something wrong with Louise Slaughter?

Finally, as kind of an amusing sidelight to this little event, Maggie Brooks finally put some national issues on her website on the day of the meeting according to my monitoring software. I’ll have more on that in later posts.

Oh, Look, Something Happened

The firing of the director of the Monroe County Crime Lab, Janet Anderson-Seaquist, has Maggie Brooks on the defensive.  Louise Slaughter’s office released a statement linking the firings to two scandals with the Airport director and the ROBUTRAD incident. Brooks’ weak defense is that her opponent is “playing politics”.

Since, as Clarke pointed out yesterday, every peep from the Brooks campaign has been about Brooks’ record in Monroe County rather than her position on national issues, it’s pretty weak sauce to complain when your opponent raises questions about trouble that happened on your watch. And Brooks’ statement that she fired Anderson-Seaquist the moment that she got the Inspector General’s report just raises the question of why it took a state investigation for Brooks to find out that her crime lab director told a pretty serious lie and mishandled a fair amount of evidence.

As News 10 points out, a California court ruling in 2011, a year after Anderson-Seaquist was appointed, was pretty scathing about Anderson-Seaquist “[making] things up as she went along”. Making stuff up becomes a lifelong habit, so this report makes me wonder whether the hiring process was mishandled by the Brooks administration.

Rachel Barnhart has some more details on the genesis of the Inspector General’s report, and points to this D&C piece on disagreements between the Crime Lab and the DA’s office. She also notes that defense attorneys approved of Anderson-Seaquist’s changes at the crime lab. Maybe Rachel has other information from her sources, but it sounds like the DA’s disagreement on some evidence was legitimate, and that the DA’s use of an outside testing lab proved they were right in at least one instance.

As with the firing of the last Airport Director, Brooks handled this one quickly and cleanly. Unless some new evidence comes up, I doubt this will have a major political impact on its own, since it doesn’t involve cigars, strippers or years of blatant political favors. But it does add one more to the list of personnel issues under Brooks’ watch, and that list was already long enough for Slaughter to name it as a serious issue this Fall.

(Photo by Clarke Condé.)

Slaughter’s Absenteeism

Lucy at Mustard Street caught the New York Times erasing this line about Slaughter’s voting record:

[she] had one of the worst attendance records in the House last year […]

Slaughter’s attendance record was poor last year because of family issues, and she’s missed more votes this year. As Lucy notes, the Buffalo News reported on this last year, and Slaughter’s attendance was the worst of the Western New York delegation.

I’m sure Brooks can turn this into a campaign issue, but the real traction on this issue is if someone can prove that Slaughter missed a vote where it would have mattered.  Unfortunately, most of the votes that Congress takes are meaningless. There are a lot of Post Office names that are decided every session, and those filler votes are used to take up floor time while the leadership decides what’s going to hit the floor. When bills do hit the floor, most of what happens is on pretty strict party line votes. So I don’t think Brooks will be able to point to a specific missed vote.

When you vote for a Representative, you’re essentially voting for the policies of their party and for the power they hold. The power Slaughter holds is based on her seniority and committee membership. The Rules committee is generally considered the second most powerful committee in the House, and she’s the ranking member, which means that if Democrats take back Congress, she’ll lead it. If you don’t agree with Democrats on issues, you’re voting for Slaughter because of her power, and her attendance record doesn’t matter, since she’ll bring home the bacon whether or not she’s voting regularly.  If you don’t agree with Democrats and you don’t care about power, then you’re voting for Maggie Brooks, who will almost certainly have perfect attendance. After all, that’s what Freshmen do, since they lack the power to do anything else on Capitol Hill but stick their card in voting slot.

Not News

Jill Terreri is a pretty good reporter at the D&C, but her latest Slaughter/Brooks story is mainly not news. It contains one fact: Slaughter was released from the hospital yesterday. The rest is speculation from the mouths of various area residents. Some of the least compelling is from the most credentialed, Gerald Gamm, who teaches Political Science at the University of Rochester:

“Congresswoman Slaughter is really going to need to pivot and reconnect with everyone outside the city of Rochester,” said Gerald Gamm, a professor of political science at the University of Rochester. “For her the challenge is going to be making the case to suburban voters and rural voters.”

[…] Gamm noted the “toss-up” nature of the district.

None of the paid political forecasters, the ones who actually bother to study the race, believe that this election is a toss-up (Cook, Rothenburg and Sabato have it lean D, D favored and lean D, respectively). In 2008 and 2004, the Democratic candidate for President won the new 25th district. In 2008, the margin was 18 points. In 2004, it was 4 points. Cook has it as a PVI D+4 district. The new 25th votes for Democrats in federal races during Presidential years, and if Slaughter’s health holds, the challenge will be for Brooks to convince the Democratic voters of the district to vote for a Republican.

Here’s more non-wisdom from Gamm:

In the last five presidential elections, Monroe County has voted for the Democrat, but in countywide races has chosen Republican candidates more often.

Perhaps if you have no idea how Monroe County politics work, this might seem convincing. Those of us who have bothered to look at the results have noticed that 137K people voted for County Executive in the last countywide election (2011), while 360K voted in the last Presidential election (2008). The reason that Republicans win the countywide races isn’t because Monroe County voters favor Republicans in county races and Democrats in federal races–it’s because Democrats simply don’t turn out for off-year elections.

So here we have another so-called expert whose expertise consists of oft-repeated, irrelevant bromides and unsubstantiated, and wrong, speculation. Jill Terreri can do better than this.

Maggie’s “Victories” All Need an Asterisk

Maggie Brooks’ campaign has posted a press release claiming victory over Louise Slaughter because Brooks raised more money, collected more petition signatures and won a Rochester Business Journal poll.

The most reasonable of these claims is the fundraising one. Brooks did outraise Slaughter, but it’s more than a little ironic that a campaign aide is making that claim on a shiny new professional website when Brooks didn’t own up that she’s paid either staff salaries or website developers in her latest filing. If Brooks had acknowledged her expenses, as Slaughter did, her net would have been closer to Slaughter’s total. Never mind that Slaughter has double the cash on hand, which is the number that matters.

The other two “victories” are laughable. Presumably, like almost every other campaign in New York, Brooks or the GOP used paid petition gatherers, so the number of signatures she bought is a pointless metric. And the only way that an unscientific straw poll of Rochester businesspeople would be news is if it hadn’t picked Brooks.

The fact that a campaign press release is a bunch of meaningless puffery isn’t usually worth a remark, but I think it merits some scrutiny in the context of Brooks’ poor performance in her D&C interview this weekend. Instead of writing press releases like these, her campaign should be working on the issues page of her site, which at the moment mentions not one word about the kinds of issues Brooks would be voting on if she were elected to Congress.

Maggie’s First Step Was a Mis-Step

Benjamin Wachs, writing for the Messenger-Post papers, has a pretty good column explaining why Maggie Brooks’ attempt to run what he calls a “generic” campaign just won’t work against Slaughter. Wachs also points out something I’d missed, which is that the optics of Brooks announcing her run for Congress at the airport were pretty bad, considering that the biggest scandal on her watch was centered there.

Update: As Jeremy Moule pointed out on Twitter, Brooks announced at the GOP headquarters, so Wachs’ column is wrong.