Friday, October 03, 2008

Minnick statement on passage of bailout bill

By John Foster - Friday, October 03, 2008 at 11:02 AM

Walt Minnick today issued the following statement on the U.S. House of Representatives passing the economic bailout bill:

“It’s been two weeks since Congress was asked to take responsible and immediate action to save Main Street and prevent a global depression. They were asked and advised to pass a bill with strong regulatory reforms and loans to shore up our struggling financial system. However, in yet another sign that the system in Washington is broken, the House today approved a bill that is simply not the answer. This bill is a giveaway to Wall Street. It does not do enough to protect the American taxpayer, and it adds far too much debt to our record deficit. This is fiscal recklessness, and so I continue to oppose this bill. I am strongly supportive of reducing taxes by offering credits for renewable energy, and I have been one of this state’s strongest advocates for extension of the Secure Rural Schools program. But the addition of those measures to a broken bill is yet another example of the failed system in Washington.”


Analysis from Minnick, a businessman running for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District:

- Action is required to shore up our struggling financial system, protect Main Street businesses and prevent a depression that would have a devastating impact on American taxpayers.

- The bailout bill passed today was the wrong answer to rescuing our failing financial system. If taxpayer dollars are required to keep the economy afloat, those dollars should go out in the form of loans to banks and financial institutions, and in the form of credit to buyers of distressed mortgage-backed bonds. Simply purchasing those bonds is not the answer.

- This bill contains no regulatory reforms to prevent from happening in the future the problems that got us here in the first place.

- This bill contains over $100 billion in new spending that is NOT paid for, and comes at a time when we are already facing the largest federal budget deficit in U.S. history.

- This bill is loaded with special-interest pork spending and earmarks, such as eliminating the excise tax on wood-arrow makers in Oregon. Pork spending is one of the worst problems in Washington, and a critical financial rescue is not the time to be handing out special-interest favors.
Congress has for two years ignored broad bipartisan support for continued tax relief for middle class families faced with paying the Alternative Minimum Tax. Their decision to put that off until the final moments of the last session before an election is one of the worst examples of the failed system in Washington.

- The Secure Rural School program is critical to the future of a host of Idaho schools and counties. It has become a political football, caught up in partisan bickering and sniping as local governments have struggled to make ends meet. As a Congressman, one of my highest priorities will be working collaboratively and quickly on a long-term solution. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Another new poll in Idaho’s First Congressional District race

By John Foster - Thursday, October 02, 2008 at 09:51 AM

2nd poll shows Minnick increasing lead: Incumbent Congressman Bill Sali ‘one of the most vulnerable members of Congress’

Thursday, October 2, 2008
For immediate release

The Walt Minnick for Congress campaign today released another internal poll showing Minnick pulling ahead of Bill Sali in the race for Idaho’s First Congressional District.

The poll was completed by Harstad Strategic Research, a respected national firm with a client list that includes U.S. Senators Ken Salazar (Colorado), Barack Obama (Illinois) and Jack Reed (Rhode Island.)

“The horserace was 43% Minnick to 38% Sali earlier this month (Sept. 9-11), and the vote now stands at 44% Minnick to 38% Sali (Sept. 25-28) with both candidates now airing TV ads,” states a memo from Harstad. “Sali is without question one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress.”

The poll also found that a stunning 41 percent of voters had an unfavorable opinion of Sali.

Click here to download a copy of the polling memo.

For more information, contact John Foster by responding to this e-mail or by calling the number below.
John M. Foster
Communications Director
Minnick for Congress
208.559.3547 (c)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sandpoint paper exposes Sali abuse of taxpayer dollars

By John Foster - Wednesday, October 01, 2008 at 08:43 PM

A highlight from the Sandpoint Reader story pasted below: “Even more problematically, according to multiple anonymous sources, members of Sali’s staff on multiple occasions, while being paid with public funds, on trips to conduct Congressional business, conducted Campaign activities ...”

Bill Sali: Maverick or Moron?
By John T. Reuter
(Reprinted here with permission from the Sandpoint Reader)

First-term U.S. Congressman Bill Sali is perhaps the most independent-thinking politician in a state of independent-thinking politicians. Often his incorrigible desire to do whatever he thinks is right – or at least to do and say whatever he feels like at the moment – has gotten him into trouble.

Sometimes (okay, often) Sali’s willingness to buck authority and go with his gut has gotten him labeled a dummy, a moron or an idiot.

As when, to name one example, then Idaho Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb infamously said of him, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot.”

This quote has been used (usually out of context) to attack Sali on numerous occasions – including this week in an email from the Idaho Democratic Party.

But, hey, what’s wrong with being called an idiot by one of the leaders of your party? Doesn’t it just underline your independence?

While the instance certainly does showcase the thumb-your-nose-at-authority style that defines Sali’s approach to politics, the trouble is that when you put the quote in context it becomes clear why Newcomb considered Sali an idiot.

Newcomb’s blow-up came after Sali, then a State Representative, insisted repeatedly on having a discussion about studies linking breast cancer to abortion. (For the record, no credible connection exists.)

Sali’s time in the Idaho Statehouse were filled with such instances of grandstanding – much to the apparent detriment of his political career. He was unceremoniously yanked from his only assignment as chairman of a committee and, for a short period of time, was removed from all of his committee assignments (a highly unusual step of chastisement).

Soon after these events, though, without ever changing his style, Sali won the Republican Primary and was elected a U.S. Congressman.

Before we go back to look at how Sali won that first election, and how he is trying to win this year, let’s examine a more recent example of Sali’s dogged independence and disregard for authority – regardless of the consequences.

During this year’s Idaho Republican State Convention, Congressman Sali made a splash by having his staff work the delegates and actively advocate for Idaho Republican Chairman Kirk Sullivan (Governor Butch Otter’s pick for the position) to be replaced by Eagle City Councilman Norm Semanko.

Politically, on the surface at least, it was a boneheaded move. Sali had little to gain from Semanko winning the chairmanship and, in helping him get it, Sali had to break one of the unspoken rules of Idaho Republican politics: the Governor gets to pick the State Chairman.

However, Sali, it seems, isn’t someone particularly concerned about politics or playing by the rules (unspoken or otherwise) – regardless of the consequences.

And make no mistake about it, there were consequences to his decision to challenge Governor Otter – or were there?

First, Sali was successful in getting Semanko elected. (For once, he wasn’t acting completely independently and actually had help from two other key elected officials, Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna and Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, but Sali and his staff were the key players in the outcome.) For Sali, this was clearly a positive outcome.

Not only did he get the chairman that he wanted, but he demonstrated his popularity among Idaho’s conservative Republican base (most of the delegates at the State Convention) and in demonstrating this support, strengthened it.

In understanding Bill Sali’s seemingly unlikely political rise it is important to understand his conservative supporters. They love his independence. They celebrate his independence. They’re thrilled to finally have a “real Republican” in office.

When they see Bill Sali standup against the Governor to demand that a more conservative State Chairman is elected, they get excited. This is what they’ve been waiting for.

We’ll talk more about these supporters in a few paragraphs, but first back to the drama initiated at the State Convention.

Some pundits have suggested (for example, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey and, I hate to admit it, me) that Otter would retaliate for Sali’s insubordination at the State Convention by not supporting him in the General Election. Not that he would ever directly say as much, but rather that Otter wouldn’t raise any money for the first-term congressman, who clearly desperately needed it (more on that later).

The thing is that Otter has never really raised money for Sali before – so it’s not exactly a loss for him to not start now. In fact, the entire Idaho Republican Establishment (as in the people who hold the purse strings) has never significantly financially supported Sali.

In 2006, when Sali first ran for his Congressional seat in Idaho’s First District, his relatively narrow victory was largely funded by the Club for Growth (an out-of-state, anti-tax organization), Sali taking on a significant amount of debt and ads purchased at the last minute by the National Republican Party.

As reported by the Reader at the time, at least a dozen significant Republican insiders were actually disappointed by the support for Sali coming in from the National Party.

One Republican staffer told the Reader, “Why not let him lose and let [Larry] Grant [his Democratic opponent] serve a term? We can easily win the seat back in two years.”

Several Republican operatives, who spoke with me for this article, evocated a similar sentiment in regards to this year’s election. Their logic generally went that it would be easier to deal with a Democrat, who could be dumped after a couple of years, than to continue indefinitely with someone who is apparently so devoted to not being a team player.

Ultimately, as you hopefully have figured out by now, in 2006 Sali won and, while the out-of-state funding and into-debt spending helped, ultimately the key to victory (particularly in the primary) were those ardent supporters I mentioned earlier.

You see, the people who loved Bill Sali’s in-your-face independence were the same people who make up much of the Idaho Republican Party’s foot soldiers. They’re the people who lick stamps and knock on doors.

They wanted Bill Sali and, in a crowded six-way primary, this vocal minority was able to get him to the General Election. In Idaho, as we all know, getting the ‘R’ behind your name is half the battle. Having enthusiastic volunteers ready throughout the District to spread the word and show up on Election Day was the other half Sali needed.

Perhaps if Bill Sali had been embraced by the Republican Establishment earlier in 2006, he would have shed some of his independence, opting instead to work and learn from his more experienced colleagues in D.C.

Instead, from the moment he was sworn in, Sali was as brash as ever.

At first, perhaps mistaking his brashness for know-how, his fellow inexperienced Republican Congressmen elected him President of their small Freshman Class.

Soon after briefly playing with being part of a team –even leading it – Sali returned to his grandstanding ways.

One of the first bills he introduced was to outlaw gravity. Next he criticized a Muslim colleague for taking his oath on the Koran.

Early in his term, Sali also introduced a pair of bills aimed at reforming the way that Congress worked. In introducing the bills, Sali stated that things were easier to understand in the Idaho Legislature than in the U.S. Congress.

His two proposals would have made the process more like the one he was familiar with from the Idaho House. It’s easy to see this as an honest attempt at reform, but it is equally easy to see it as accusing the system of being too complex rather than taking responsibility for learning it.

Sali’s staff has largely followed their boss’ lead in being slow to learn the ropes. Months after he was elected, according to sources close to his office, they still had difficulty adding a new staff member to payroll and were having difficulty running the Congressional software to sort and respond to mail.

Current campaign staffers (who are essentially identical to his Congressional staffers) have blamed the Federal Election Commission for errors they made in their financial filings and the fact that they turned them in well past the deadline.

The Sali Campaign has also blatantly disobeyed the spirit of Campaign Finance Law and likely the letter of the law as well.

Recently, much has been made of Sali’s Boise Congressional and Campaign Offices because they are located outside of the District he represents. What has been missing from these reports is the close proximity of the offices to the Idaho State Republican Party Office (they’re in the same building).

The Campaign Office was just opened in August. Prior to its opening, according to sources close to the campaign, the State Headquarters was used frequently by the Sali campaign – most likely as the primary place to plan campaign activities.

This is an issue because it could represent an illegal donation of resources funded by “dirty” money (i.e. funds not subjected to Federal Campaign Finance laws).

Even more problematically, according to multiple anonymous sources, members of Sali’s staff on multiple occasions, while being paid with public funds, on trips to conduct Congressional business, conducted Campaign activities – delivering promotional materials to potential supporters.

If this is true (and I believe it to be) this is the equivalent of having taxpayers pay campaign expenses.

On the face, these actions suggest a lack of competency. However, I think there is another compelling possibility: Sali and his staff simply don’t care about Federal Campaign Finance Laws. They have always been fiercely independent and happy to pick a fight with the Establishment.

If they happen to break the rules, it’s not because they’re doing anything immoral. Instead, it must just be a dumb rule that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

In an odd way, even with what are likely rampant violations of Campaign Finance Law, Bill Sali’s integrity as a voice of independence remains intact. After all, he wasn’t elected to follow D.C.’s rules (written and unwritten), but to break to them – and, for better or worse, whether out of incompetence or moxie, break them he has.

John T. Reuter is the Reader’s Managing Publisher. He is actively involved in Idaho Republican Politics. He writes this article as a pundit/analyst/etc., not a journalist.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sali Debt Watch: FINAL DAY

By John Foster - Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 08:16 PM

Will Bill Sali pay off his $125,673 bill?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Federal Election Commission campaign finance deadline is midnight tonight, and the question remains: Will Bill Sali pay what he owes?

Learn more about Sali’s debts here, find information about Sali’s FEC reports here and read about Sali’s “cash-only” consultant here.


Did you know that Bill Sali still owes $27,464 to a company called Blue Point Consulting, even though the company’s work was completed two years ago? Blue Point also did work in 2006 for Club for Growth, the same group funding hundreds of thousands of dollars in “independent” expenditures on Sali’s behalf that year. The relationship between Blue Point, the Club for Growth and candidates was the subject of a series of FEC complaints.

Did you know Sali still owes over $12,000 in back pay to his staff from the 2006 campaign? Click here to see the list, which includes family members who were collecting salaries from the campaign.

Did you know that Bill Sali’s ongoing debts to corporations are likely violations of federal campaign finance laws? Click here and read page 121. Sali owes thousands to Blue Point Consulting, SPARTAC and Hammond and Associates, a Republican fundraising firm.

Did you know that the last time Bill Sali made a payment on his campaign debt was almost six months ago?

Did you know that Sali’s spokesman misrepresented Sali’s debt to the press? When Sali’s campaign finance reports were late and withheld from public scrutiny, Sali’s spokesman first claimed that Sali had paid off half the debts, then claimed that Sali had paid off $10,000 in debt. When final version of the report was finally filed, the debt was unchaged.
John M. Foster
Communications Director
Minnick for Congress
208.559.3547 (c)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sali Debt Watch and Tidbit: 2 Days Left!

By John Foster - Monday, September 29, 2008 at 08:00 PM

Will Bill Sali pay off his $125,673 bill?

DEBT TIDBIT OF THE DAY: Sali still owes $27,464 to a company called Blue Point Consulting, even though the company’s work was completed two years ago. Why might Blue Point let a client like Sali avoid paying off debt? Perhaps it’s because Blue Point also did work in 2006 for Club for Growth, the same group funding hundreds of thousands of dollars in “independent” expenditures on Sali’s behalf that year. In fact, the cozy relationship between Blue Point, the Club for Growth and candidates was the subject of a series of complaints to the Federal Elections Commission.

- Read about Sali’s financial troubles here.
- Read about Sali’s “cash-only” consultant here.
- Read about Sali’s spokesman claiming his boss had paid his debts here.
- Read about Sali’s problems with campaign finance laws here.

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