Independent Investigator Finds Palin May Have Violated Ethics Laws
In the first bit of good news for the Republican Party in months, an independent investigator
found evidence that soon-to-be-former governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) may have violated state
ethics laws in the way she raised money to pay for her defense in previous ethics cases.
Palin says that the previous charges were false but that she had to spend $500,000
of her own money on lawyers.
the new charge is also baseless.
The heart of the complaint is that Alaska law requires public officials to report gifts they
have received and the donations Palin received to help her pay her lawyers may qualify as
gifts under Alaska law, even though she set up a trust to funnel them through. Palin has not
reported these donations as gifts.
So why is this good news for the Republican Party. Because although Palin remains immensely
popular with a large fraction of the base of the party, she is viewed as a lightweight by most
of the rest of the country. If she became the Republican nominee in 2012, President Obama
would likely be reelected in a Lyndon Johnson-class landslide, bringing in many representatives
and senators in his wake. It could be an unmitigated disaster for the Republicans.
The more baggage Palin has, the more like that (1) she will not run in 2012 or (2) if she
does run, she will lose the nomination. The likely winners from not having to deal with Palin
are the runners-up from last time, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is actively
campaigning already and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is not campaigning but
staying very much in the public eye. A Romney/Huckabee ticket is probably the strongest one
the Republicans could assemble because the business wing of the party likes Romney and the
evangelical wing likes Huckabee. Unlike Palin, who comes over as wacky (especially after
quitting her job), Romney comes over as a heavyweight who is a plausible President.
Might Palin decide not to run? First it depends on the outcome of the new ethics case.
If she is formally found guilty of violating ethics laws and is slapped with a fine, that
will probably do her in. On the other hand, that will make her a martyr in some quarters
and she can travel around the country raking in large fees as a speaker, write one or more
books, and generally be a celebrity. For someone from a modest background, the opportunity
to pull in millions, maybe tens of millions, of dollars a year at least until the end of 2012
may be as enticing as getting into a presidential race she surely knows is a long shot at best.
Kirk to run for Obama's Seat
Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), after much weighing of options, has finally
to run for the Senate to fill the seat Barack Obama vacated when he was elected President.
The seat is currently being kept warm by Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), who is awash in corruption
charges and who has said he will not be a candidate in 2010.
The Democrats may have a primary for the race, with the leading contenders being
the Illinois state Treasurer and likely Chris Kennedy, a wealthy businessman who is also the
son of former senator Bobby Kennedy.
Giannoulias has already raised $1.8 million for the race and Illinois is a very blue state so
Kirk, although somewhat moderate, has a steep uphill climb here.
Also, the symbolic importance of filling Obama's seat will be a role motivating Democrats.
Kirk's departure from the House will leave open his seat in
IL-10, a D+6 suburban Chicago district, which the Democrats will fight over, but the
eventual Democratic nominee starts out as the heavy favorite.
No Nominees Yet in NY-23 Special Election
The appointment of Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) to be Secretary of the Army created a
vacancy in the House in NY-23, which triggers a special election in a few months for
one of three House seats the Republicans control in New York state. There are no primaries
in New York for these special elections. Instead, the party chairmen of the 11 counties in the
district get together in a smoke-free room to haggle over their nominee.
The Democratic chairmen set July 20 as the deadline for people to apply for the job,
but everyone's favorite, state senator Darrel Aubertine,
hasn't made up his mind yet,
so the chairmen extended the deadline until Thursday. Aubertine's problem is not that
he played Hamlet too many times in a college drama group, but that state senators
have jumped and reboarded ship numerous times in the state Senate recently senate, and currently the
Democrats hold a 32-30 majority there. If Aubertine runs for Congress and wins, this
puts the Democrats' majority in the state Senate in jeopardy. So Aubertine has to
decide if his primary loyalty is to the state Democrats or to the national Democrats.
The Republican chairmen are meeting today to mull over their potential candidates.
This is a swing district (R+1), will generate furious battle no matter who the nominees
are, akin to the recent fight in NY-20, where Scott Murphy (D) edged out
Jim Tedisco (R) by a nose.
Health Care Bill at a Critical Juncture
The health care bill, so important for the 2010 and 2012 elections, is now approaching
a showdown. The House has a single bill it will vote on next week, but there are two
bills in the Senate, one written by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee,
temporarily de facto run by Sen Chris Dodds (D-CT) due to the illness of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA),
the official chairman. The other is being written in the Senate Finance Committee by
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). Baucus is trying to get the Republicans on board, which means
watering down the bill, possibly to the point that Dodds will balk.
Who knows what will come out of this.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has a nice
on "What would Lyndon do?"
about how Johnson was happy to ram Medicare through Congress with as few votes as possible
in order to get the strongest bill possible. In theory, Senate Democrats have the power
to ram a bill through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process, which requires
only 50 senators and Joe Biden to vote for it. This would enrage the Republicans, but George
Bush used the reconciliation process to get his tax cuts through the Senate, so the tactic
is not unheard of.
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