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Posts published in “Carlson”

Crapo and the veterans

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Idaho’s senior senator, Mike Crapo, spent a large part of the August Congressional recess listening to Idaho’s veterans. He deserves genuine kudos for doing so, especially when one realizes he is neither a veteran nor a member of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs committee.

Asked if there was something in particular that had motivated the interest, such as a member of his extended family who was ill-served by the VA, an aide replied “nope.” The aide said it was a function more of the senator having encountered too many stories of average citizens who had served their country not being treated in a manner consistent with their service and sacrifice.

Additionally, with national attention focusing on the deficiencies of many VA hospitals around the country, the senator saw Congress typically reacting with a “just throw more money at the problem approach.”

Not necessarily doubting that in some instances more money might help, the senator, who soon may be in a position to chair the Finance committee when (not if, folks) the Republicans take over the Senate, nonetheless wants to know if the tax dollar is being spent wisely, efficiently and is effectively bringing about the changes many veterans say the overly bureaucratic, paper-heavy system needs.

(Somewhat surprisingly, Senator Crapo’s colleague, Senator Jim “No” Risch, also voted yes on the final funding increase bill for the VA .)

A good way to do that is to establish a baseline poll and then measure the audience a year or two down the road. Thus, Senator Crapo has on his website a short six question survey which can be filled out online or by folks who obtain a copy at the various town hall meetings he held as he traveled around the state.

Taking proper care of veterans should not be a partisan issue, either, the senator rightly says. For a number of years the committee chair was Washington state’s senior senator, Patty Murray. The ranking minority member was Idaho’s Larry Craig. He and Murray did work well together.

Murray was especially eloquent when speaking about the heavy emotional toll the Iraq and Afghan engagements were having on families. The divorce rate among those serving overseas was an astronomical 75%. Few marriages survived and the toll on children as well as spouses was devastating and costly.

What Senator Crapo has astutely done is establish a grass roots focus group and baseline of over a thousand veterans and/or family members. When he next surveys them he will have a good idea whether reform has really come to the VA and services are uniformly being delivered efficiently and effectively. (more…)

Jim Risch could lose

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Most voters start to pay attention to November elections after Labor Day. Here’s a gut guess that by mid-October Jim Risch will recognize that many voters have figured out he’s done nothing but vote no on everything, has been “mailing it in,” and is taking re-election for granted.

In addition, with virtually no television advertising, voters will have learned Risch has a worthy opponent who, if elected, will work for the people of Idaho. Yes, a perfect storm and a lucky break may have to happen to put Boise attorney Nels Mitchell in position to pull off the upset, but it could happen.

One key will be the phenomenal success Mitchell’s social media strategist, Morgan Hill, will enjoy. He convincingly can demonstrate his strategy is well on its way to penetrating homes of all voters who have computers.

Hill’s credentials are impeccable. Some credit him with the succcessful repeal of the “Luna Laws” because of his skill at using the Facebook connections of teachers and administrators to get out the repeal message. Republicans, with all their money, have nothing to match it.

Nels Mitchell is also demonstrating an ability to adapt as he campaigns. Initially, he talked only about Risch’s negatives. Now he skillfully weaves in a personal narrative that is starting to resonate.

And Risch is reacting. Mitchell has hit Risch hard in a newspaper ad that he will be a “working senator,” as opposed to the “coasting senator” Risch is. In an August appearance on a southeast Idaho radio station the friendly interviewer repeated a half dozen times how hard Risch is working for the people of Idaho.

It just ain’t so, but as Risch knows, you repeat the Big Lie often enough most people will believe it. However, in his case recent polling still shows his automatic re-elect to be well below the 50% number. For whatever reason, a lot of voters have doubts.

Mitchell’s challenge is to let voters know there is a worthy opponent without having virtually any money to build his name identification in the traditional way. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has from the very beginning written Mitchell off. This has led the traditional Labor PACS to follow suit and not contribute either. The advantage is Mitchell will arrive in D.C. beholden virtually to no one other than the people who elected him.

Since Mitchell, from his first day, also said he would only serve one term he will not have to spend time dialing for dollars begging special interest groups to contribute. (more…)

Crapo’s message to Labrador

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Republican Senator Mike Crapo, and his political advisors, lost little time this past week in reading and reacting to First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s hiring of Idaho Statesman ace political reporter Dan Popkey as his press secretary.

Some pundits speculated the move indicated Labrador was contemplating a possible run for the United States Senate. The next Senate election is in two years with Senator Crapo presumably standing for re-election to a fourth term, but there has been additional speculation that Crapo might retire and stay in D.C. to earn some big bucks like his former Senate colleague, Dirk Kempthorne.

The message to Labrador was unequivocally clear: “If you think this is going to be an open seat you can just waltz into, you’re whistling past the graveyard.” The senior Idaho senator’s move is considered somewhat unusual in that his current colleague, Senator Jim Risch, is up for re-election this year. One’s colleague normally waits until the other’s race is finished before declaring his intentions.

Crapo wants there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he intends to serve a fourth term. His announcement specified unfinished work on addressing major national issues such as coming up with an acceptable formula for reducing the debt and federal spending with a plan that will put the nation’s fiscal house in order without itself becoming a catalyst for furthering economic doldrums.

Despite the Senator’s staunch conservative credentials, his willingness to include tax reform and even some possible “revenue-enhancers” as part of a solution package is one of the reasons Labrador may challenge the incumbent. Labrador of course has signed the Grover Norquist “no new taxes will I ever vote for” pledge, whereas Crapo, to his great credit, endorsed the Simpson/Bowles Commission approach to resolving the national debt crisis.

One presumes that Labrador can read the message. Whether it scares him off or not is another issue.

It does, however, draw additional attention to his hiring of Popkey. Normally, a congressional delegation in which all seats are filled by one party, would be expected to work in some degree of harmony.

Labrador’ hiring of Popkey, though, is going to cause both the congressman and his new press secretay some real problems for the simple reason that neither is going to be trusted. Harmony in the delegation will disappear and in particular Popkey is going to find out that the many mainstream Republicans from Idaho who have remained in D.C. are never going to include him on the inside. (more…)

Flawed giant

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Idaho has produced its share of congressional mavericks - folks who because of their character and style, were colorful and quotable. In the language of the time, they were “good copy.”

Senator Glen Taylor, the “Singing Cowboy,” who reported for duty in 1944 by riding a horse up the Capitol steps all decked out in his cowboy regalia, stands out. His autobiography also is remarkable for its candor. The first chapters cover his work as a youth in a north Idaho house of ill-repute and his loss of his virginity therein.

If any other Idaho political figure could match Taylor for generating questionable publicity, and being a character, it has to be Second District Congressman George V. Hansen, who passed away last week at the age of 83. “Big George” stood six foot six and weighed two ninety-five (Yes, think of the hit song from the 60’s, Big John). His ego and ambition matched his size. His flair for publicity included a one-man mission to Tehran to try to free the American hostages.

He had an uncanny ability though to inspire blind loyalty in voters not because he was a gifted speaker (He wasn’t), but like only one other Idaho political figure, Cecil Andrus, he looked you in the eye and even if just for 30 seconds, made one think they were the most important person in a room. And like Andrus, he had an incredible memory for names and faces.

That combination made the two of them hands down the two most formidable one-on-one campaigners in Idaho political history. To watch either working those attending a must-do event like the Eastern Idaho Fair was to watch two consummate professionals at the peak of their game.

Hansen rose quickly in Second District politics, first as the Mayor of Alameda before it merged with Pocatello, and after an abortive run for the Senate in 1962, won the Second District House seat in 1964 by knocking off incumbent Ralph Harding in the year of the Lyndon B. Johnson landslide.

That race though revealed early Hansen’s penchant for shamelessly exploiting his Mormon faith on the alter of his ambitions. Harding had rightly criticized Church President Ezra Taft Benson on the floor of the House for Benson’s questioning the loyalty of President Dwight D. Eisenhower for whom Benson had served as the Secretary of Agriculture. Benson was playing footsy with the ultra-right John Birch Society at the time.

Hansen charged Harding with publicly exposing a family’s dirty laundry so to speak and cast himself as the Church and the Church president’s defender. Harding was history despite his own “good standing” within the LDS Church. (more…)

Republican stumbles

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Senator Jim Risch, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, and Representative Raul Labrador all remain favorites to win re-election given the heavy Republican bent of the Idaho electorate. Risch and Otter though are showing evidence of an ability to lose their race.

Though recent polling shows each with a double-digit lead, the polls also indicate the proverbial mile wide but inch deep support. A Risch upset would be especially surprising whereas few would be surprised if Governor Otter’s bid for a third term was rejected by an electorate that recognizes he has done virtually nothing to warrant it.

Risch’s problem remains his arrogance and, candidly, his laziness. He takes for granted that he will be re-elected, is proud of his ranking as the most conservative senator by virtue of voting no on almost everything¸ and has never really repudiated remarks he made to the Idaho Statesman editorial board regarding how easy the job of senator is because nothing gets done due to partisanship paralyzing everything. Therefore one can just coast along and he clearly is coasting.

Even supporters and former staffers have been heard expressing their disappointment in the “coasting” senator. They cannot help contrasting his energetic seven months as governor when he seemed to be eveywhere pushing his agenda that included unfortunately the switch away from the property tax and to the sales tax.

Not only did this hit the middle class hard, it provided unneeded relief for large property owners, including Risch, who failed to disclose to anyone that he would pernonally benefit from this switch by an admittedly modest $4500. His failure to be transparent indicates at a minimum that he is ethically challenged, not to mention that it also resulted in further erosion of state support for public education by a cool $50 million.

Risch claimed that it would be revenue neutral, but proved to be wrong. (more…)

Some friendly counsel

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Dear Dan:

As you begin your new career as press secretary to First District Congressman Raul Labrador, here is some advice that will help you succeed. I preface it by saying I will miss your excellent political reporting.

I hope you understand skills you polished in your distinguished reporting career are not all transferable to making for a successful career as a press secretary. Thus,this counsel:

1) There is only one name on the ballot. Your job of course is to promote your Boss’ name. Too many “flacks” make the mistake of allowing themselves to be quoted directly. As a general rule speak only on background and not for direct attribution so that the information your Boss wants out is delivered but the quote is something like “an aide close to Congressman Labrador said. . . . .”

2) Physical proximity to your horse is critical. If you want to be the “go to” person for the media you have to be where he is, which is D.C., most of the time, not Meridian. I know Senator Mike Crapo has his media staff largely in Boise, but he does not seek the national profile your Boss is well along the path of obtaining. Already, your Congressman has established a record of sorts for the number of appearances on Meet the Press for a sophomore member. You want the producers of that show to be calling you when they want him, not some D.C. assistant.

3) You were a somebody in Boise; you’re a nobody in D.C. Your Boss has a right to expect you to start developing good relations with national, D.C. based media, many of whom may know you from your award-winning journalistic career but none who know you in your new role. All they will be interested in is can you return phone calls promptly, can you speak for your Boss and when necessary can you deliver him quickly. You’ll also have to court the veteran press secretaries as well as pay homage to the media “stars” for the press has indeed become major influencers of events not just reporters. Read This Town by Mark Lebovich, if you haven’t already.

4) Take a media training course and run your Boss through one periodically. There is an art form to talking with the media and delivering your message, then staying on that message regardless of what the media may want. Every interview is as an opportunity to get your message out and you have to control the interview. Thus, you’ll master such devices as “block and bridge,” where one learns quickly to block the thrust of a reporter’s question and bridge to the message you want. Pull Florida Governor Rick Scott’s CNN interview off of You Tube when he was a candidate. His message was “jobs” and every question he took he turned back into “I’m all about creating jobs.” His interviewers were frustrated but he sure got his message across. (more…)

Idaho Falls tea leaves

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In politics there are rarely coincidences. Additionally, sometimes an event occurs which one can read much more into than just the surface appearance. It becomes a telltale indicator of something more significant than one at first glance would think.

One of these “more than meet the eyes” events happened in Idaho Falls on the evening of the 4th of July and went largely unnoticed by what Texas Senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz calls the “chattering class”---the political pundits and commentators.

Multi-millionaire and Melaleuca founder Frank Vandersloot sponsors a well attended 4th of July fireworks show. Its his way of showing his patriotism as well as his appreciation for “the shining city on the hill” as Ronald Reagan so eloquently once put it when describing the still greatest country on the earth.

Vandersloot is justly proud of this event and he often has a special guest. His guest this year not surprisingly was an Idaho gubernatorial candidate. What was surprising was that the guest was neither Tea Party endorsed State Senator Russ Fulcher nor was it incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. It was none other than the Democratic nominee, Boise businessman A.J. Bulakoff.

The “chattering class” as well as the general voting public ought to sit up and take notice for this could portend more than Vandersloot just covering himself in case Bulakoff pulls off the upset. It could signal that the traditional Republican Latter Day Saint vote is starting a seismic shift away from the incumbent governor.

There is no question that most LDS voters mark their ballots for the Republican candidates, and in the past some Democratic strategists have made the mistake of assuming that Mormon voters would go for a Mormon Democrat in good standing over a non-Mormon Republican.

Otter himself disproved this gambit four years ago in dispatching Mormon gubernatorial nominee Keith Allred, as did then Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne when he won a race for a U.S. Senate seat by defeating Second District Congressman Richard Stallings.

A. J. Bulakoff though just may be an exception to this general rule that LDS voters vote party first and their religion second. While he is smart enough not to wear his religion on his sleeve, nor ever even to make a pitch to voters based on a common held set of beliefs, it is well known among the LDS community that he is a Saint in good standing, has the so-called “temple pass,” is a graduate of the “Y” (Brigham Young University in Provo), has a large and loving family, and is happily maried to Susie Skaggs, one of the heirs to the Skaggs Drugstore chain.

Additionally, A.J. is a largely self-made multi-millionaire who, like Vandersloot, has enjoyed considerable success in the business world.
Vandersloot is nobody’s fool and has adroitly played the political game for years. He recognizes that public policy is all about politics, whether local, state, or national. Thus, he takes an interest in races from local judgeships to presidential elections. (more…)

Campaigning on your dime

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter brought his “dog and pony” show called Capital For A Day to St. Maries on July 21st. My, oh my, how it has changed since Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who initiated the program in 1973, and I walked the streets of the temporary “capital” (usually a county seat).

No entourage. No security detail. No advance team. No “show and tell.” No setting up a town hall meeting and expecting the citizens to come to us.

Nope. Just Cece and I, popping in and out of various businesses on Main Street, chatting with the owner and asking if they were having any difficult issues with any facet of state government. The day’s agenda usually included a noon speech at a Rotary or a Kiwanis Club and in the afternoon drop by visits to the local paper and other media to report on what he was hearing.

My role was to take notes, handle any media that might want to tag along and pass out the “Capital for A Day” post cards wherein folks could write a brief description of their issue and their contact info.

When we got back to Boise the governor would deal the cards out to appropriate staff with instructions to have an interim report back to the constituent within two weeks and a definitive answer within four weeks.

There was another significant difference. Once the Republicans selected their nominee to challenge Andrus in the August primary, the governor suspended the program.

“Butch” should take note and follow the Andrus lead. No matter how one slices it, or rationalizes it, to continue Capital For A Day in an election year after your opponent is selected is to have the taxpayers underwriting a campaign-like endeavor.

It's a clear "conflict of interest" and a clear illegal contribution to the governor's re-election effort by the taxpayer. Frankly, I'm amazed that no one has called Governor Otter out on this matter. State senator Russ Fulcher from Meridian should have confronted Governor otter on this in his closely contested primary challenge. (more…)