Sunday, November 05, 2006

Final Battle Report

The battle to decide who shall represent GreeneLanders and other District 20 residents in the United States House of Representatives is almost over. Among episodes in the final days of campaigning:

(DIS)ENDORSEMENT. On Wednesday the REPUBLICAN candidate for election to the House of Representatives from District 21 (Albany County and elsewhere) announced that, with regard to the contest next door in District 20, he recommends the DEMOCRATIC candidate. We mention this event first not because it is the most recent but because, although by conventional journalistic standard it is A-grade news, it has been ignored by the regular news purveyors. The text of Warren Redlich’s endorsement of Kirsten Gillibrand, including a rationale which imputes to the Republican candidate, John Sweeney, an intolerable scale of corruption, can be accessed at .

SWEENEY ENDORSED. Friday's Saratogian carried an endorsement of Mr Sweeney for re-election, with “effectiveness at securing federal funds” cited as the decisive consideration. At the same time, the editorial faults Mr Sweeney for (1) a “lame” excuse for refusing to debate his opponent, (2) improper “junkets” at taxpayer expense, (3) “unsettling” behavior with regard to that 911 domestic dispute report (discounting it, then promising to see that it is made public, then reneging), and (4) pitching imprudently into the “nastiest, dirtiest” of political campaigns.

Also endorsing Mr Sweeney, this morning, was The Troy Record. While saying "we are closer to Gillibrand's positions than Sweeney's" on most issues, the editorial recommended Mr Sweeney in light of his "track record of bringing home millions for the district and working on its behalf." Mr Sweeney "knows how to play the game." He is "in a position to ensure that New York state and his district get their fair share in federal funding." (About that line of reasoning, see Specious Argument, below).

GILLIBRAND ENDORSED. Yesterday’s Register-Star and Daily Mail carried a joint endorsement of Ms Gillibrand. While acknowledging that Mr Sweeney “certainly has brought home funding for any number of projects” the editorial credits Ms Gillibrand with superiority of wit and “platform.” (The editorial also said “Residents of Columbia and Greene counties have had ringside seats for the heavyweight bout” between the Congressional candidates. That characterization is warranted by the volume and terms of the contestants’ television advertisements, but is not warranted by Daily Mail coverage of the campaign. Until yesterday, and in contrast to all other District 20 dailies, there hadn’t been any. Readers of New York City’s Daily News were told more about the race than were readers of GreeneLand’s Daily Mail).

SWEENEY DISENDORSED. Last Sunday the Post-Star of Glenns Falls NY recommended returning the incumbent to office. Its endorsing editorial argued that although he has exhibited serious character flaws, Mr Sweeney's record in securing Federal funds for his district and voting in Republican interests overrides the concerns about his unofficial conduct. On Friday, that recommendation was repudiated. The new Post-Star editorial said “we can no longer stand behind our earlier endorsement of [Sweeney’s] candidacy.”

THE DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE. The Post-Star reversal stemmed from events that received lavish publicity (across the country) on Wednesday and Thursday. Three newspapers published the reputed text of a State police report about a 911/domestic disturbance call back in December, from Mr Sweeney’s wife. News organizations had tried for months to obtain the report. In spite of their appeals to the Freedom of Information Act, they had been thwarted. Finally, they did obtain a copy. They published it along with accounts of their struggle and of how Mr Sweeney, his wife, and his spokespeople responded to invitations to comment. The respondents initially were silent or denied the authenticity of the well authenticated report, and they claimed to be victims of a mendacious attack from the Gillibrand camp. The Sweeneys said they wanted the ‘real’ report released, but they did not take the necessary steps to make that happen. The TimesUnion editorial board, the New York Daily News (!) and the Associated Press offered to expedite the paper work, but “the Congressman angrily refused.” He also denounced the media for puffing up a “non-issue.” His “curt dismissal of the domestic violence incident as a ‘non-issue’,” says The Post-Star, “demonstrates that [Sweeney] either doesn’t understand the seriousness of this matter as it relates to his role as a member of Congress, or that he simply hopes to divert attention from it so he can win the election.” His conduct “reflects disturbingly not only on his character, but on his credibility to serve effectively as a representative of all the people.”

RALLY. Dominating news about the Sweeney-Gillibrand race on Thursday night and Friday morning were accounts of the star-studded rally in Clifton Park, in which Mr Sweeney’s re-election was urged by Governor George Pataki, by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and by State Senate minority leader Joe Bruno. Governor Pataki hailed Mr Sweeney as a “good man” who has brought benefits aplenty to his district. Mr Giuliani urged the re-election of Mr Sweeney for the sake of maintaining a sound Republican-led national security posture. Senator Bruno depicted Mr Sweeney as the victim of an extraordinarily “vicious, slanderous, libelous” campaign waged by a candidate who merely wants a job. (He did not identify the slanders. And if she does get the job, Ms Gillibrand will be taking a pay cut). According to Maury Thompson of the Post-Star, the visitors and Mr Sweeney refused to take questions after the rally; Mr Giuliani’s version of Mr Sweeney’s position on the Patriot Act was counter-factual.

SPECIOUS ARGUMENT. When not engaged in damning his opponent, Congressman Sweeney pins his case for re-election on his record of service--tangible service; Federal dollars--to constituents. That approach to evaluation also is the one that has been invoked regularly by Mr Sweeney’s supporters, from Governor Pataki on down. It is the basis of the Saratogian and Troy Record endorsements of Mr Sweeney, despite misgivings. It is an attractive line of argument. It seems to be as legitimate and rational as other approaches to assessing candidates, such as reputed ideology or values, policy stands, looks, political bedfellows, voting records or personal character. And in Mr Sweeney’s case, the Services Rendered theme serves the dual purpose of diverting attention from those other tests of merit and of highlighting the fact that Mr Sweeney has indeed been extraordinarily effective at steering Federal dollars (or rather, taxpayers’ dollars) to local projects. For that work, Mr Sweeney surely deserves credit. But a high score on Services Rendered does not yield a strong case for retaining the service provider. It is does not suffice to support the expectation that the candidate, if re-elected, would continue to be an effective service provider. The key question here is whether Mr Sweeney would (as The Troy Record so glibly assumes) continue to be "in a position" to bring home the bacon. And the answer is No. Mr Sweeney’s success as service provider has derived, in no small measure, from being a member, and a particularly staunch member, of the House of Representatives’ ruling party. His potential future success as a service provider depends on continuing to be a member of the ruling party. But on Tuesday, that vital condition will be extinguished. Events of the past year make it certain that on November 7th the Republicans will lose their grip on the House of Representatives. That transformation is anticipated confidently by the recognized impartial experts (Cook, Rothenberg, Congressional Quarterly, Sabato) but also by avidly “conservative” notables (Buckley, Buchanan, Brooks, Carlson, Coulter, Keene, Morris, Novak, Will…). The only uncertainty they express is over whether the Democrats will win a majority of House seats or a huge majority. In either case, the Democrats will gain control of the Speakership, committee assignments, the order of business, and appropriations of money for home-district projects. If Mr Sweeney were to buck the national trend sufficiently to be re-elected, he would become, for the first time, a member of the Republican minority. What is more, he would be remembered by the new House leaders as an exceptionally brutal Republican--a capo in the gang led by Tom "the Hammer" Delay. His ability to steer Federal money our way would be greatly diminished.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS. In the few hours since this blog first was posted, several battle-shaping events have transpired:

---Gillibrand Endorsed. Sunday’s TimesUnion contained a Gillibrand-endorsing editorial. While conceding that Mr Sweeney “has worked hard on behalf of his district” and “has boosted efforts to bring high-tech jobs” here, the editorial laments his “prominent and unapologetic support of deleterious Bush administration policies” and of the “ethically challenged House GOP leadership.” Praise for Ms Gillibrand’s positions and qualifications is coupled with affirmation that “It’s time for change in the 20th congressional district and across much of the country.”

---GreeneLand Rally. Ms Gillibrand appeared along with Gen.Wesley Clark at a photogenic, well attended rally this morning at county Democratic headquarters (the former Orens Furniture store on Catskill). Pictures of the cheering throng, and bits of the general’s and the candidate’s speeches, appeared this evening’s local newscasts, inter-cut with accounts of the new polling data.

---Bill Clinton Returning. A second pro-Gillibrand appearance by the former President of the United States has been announced for Monday morning at Warren County airport.

---Poll Reversal. In the space of 19 days, the electoral prospects of the 20th District’s contestants evidently have undergone a huge change. When polled during October 17-18 by Siena College interviewers, likely voters preferred Mr Sweeney by a big margin, 53 per cent to 39 per cent. But when polled last Wednesday and Thursday, likely voters preferred Ms Gillibrand, by 49% to 46%. In both of these sample surveys, conducted by telephone, professed Republicans outnumbered Democrats by about 11 percentage points (as they do in the whole district). In the southern part of the district, the apparent swing was especially pronounced, with Ms Gillibrand now leading Mr Sweeney by 9 percentage points. Respondents in the survey also were asked to which candidate would do a better job on each of seven “issues” (such as crime, education, environment). Ms Gillibrand out-scored Mr Sweeney on five “issues.” For further details, check .(Not asked in either survey, and rarely asked in voter opinion surveys, was which candidate would do a better job of winning Federal financial support for worthwhile local projects).


Anonymous said...

Janet Jackson once sang: "What have you done for me lately?"

Yes, Congressman John Sweeney has a stellar record of delivering much needed funding to his district and, specifically to Catskill and Greene County.

I find it odd that those who, in Catskill that have seemingly most benefited from the generosity of Congressman Sweeney's efforts by bringing in HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of DOLLARS in funding to the beloved Thomas Cole House, would choose to turn their backs on him so quickly. Surely Dick, you and the other patrons of the arts have, as Catskill as a whole has, benefited from the restoration of this historic site.

What has Kirsten Gillibrand done for our community? She lists herself as a "supporter" of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and in fact is listed as Board member, but at last check has NEVER made ONE meeting! Kirsten, what have you done for us lately??

Let's not forget that it was Congressman Sweeney who aided in procuring the $40k in funding to the Catskill Police Department so that they can purchase new police cruisers with updated technology to serve and protect you and the rest of the community.

What has Kirsten done to help the community at all? Has she volunteered any time here? Made any notable charitable contributions? Kirsten, what have you done for us lately?

Dick, your argument of being in the majority vs minority party controlling a legislative body has some merit to it, however as John Faso demonstrated in his years of service as our Assemblyman, even if (and we're not psychic, so it's a big if) Congressman Sweeney finds himself in the minority, is that a reason to forget all the good he has done? All the services he has aided?

In your posting you continually reference the Congressman as being a service provider, likening him to the cable company, internet provider etc. On this comparison, if you have derived Excellent service from any of these providers or any other for that matter, and they were bought out by another company, does that mean now you forget all the good service you've been receiving all these years? Do you switch providers just because the ownership has changed without giving the new owners a chance?

Bottom line is Congressman Sweeney has delivered for our community over and over. If you don't want to keep reaping the benefits of that service, then go ahead and vote for his opponent.

If however, you enjoy the benefits bestowed on the Thomas Cole House, the improvements being planned for the Rte 9W/81 corridor and the tech parks in Coxsackie and the support the Congressman has given to those who protect and serve us and helping them do it with updated equipment to better serve, then please, remember all that Congressman Sweeney has done for us lately and send him back to Washington Tuesday. He'll continue to be our best service provider.

Thank you,

Angelo W. Amato

peter said...

Sweeney may be a 'Service Provider' for the district, but he is also a major enabler of the Bush agenda. Yes, he brings home the bacon for us, but his votes to support Bush on Iraq are costing us trillions. And, Sweeney's GOP has taken the budget surplus left by the Clinton administration and turned it into a $400 billion deficit. We the Taxpayers are ultimately going to foot the bill for that record deficit.

I'll gladly surrender whatever pork Sweeney has delivered in exchange for responsible governance in Washington.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats are taking over the Congress so Sweeney won't be able to get us shit. His days of having a voice (being able to get money for his district) are numbered.

The Dems are taking over so we should vote Democratic and stay on the gravy train!

Unknown said...

Sweeney is corrupt. If you take his money, you then have to figure out what kind of chemicals you need to use in order to wash yourself thoroughly enough to get the stink off.

His campaign guy offered me money for my campaign. I turned it down, making the "wash" comment to my wife. She told me I'll never make it in politics. Maybe not, but I'll breathe comfortably.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the other posts here prefer to remain anonymous while spewing profanities rather than posting articulate, intelligent arguments.

Regardless, I have serious doubts as to Kirsten Gillibrand's ability to deliver even if (again, a big if) the Democrats do take control of the House.

Let me recount how much funding Senator Clinton, a prominent name & figure in the US Senate has delivered for Catskill and Greene County. Oh, that's right, I can't because she hasn't. If the darling of the Dems can't deiver, how is it a newcomer to the House will? Especially when you consider Congressman Sweeney's seniority on the all important House Appropriations Committee.

But that's okay, go ahead and vote for Kirsten Gillibrand. We don't need any more federal funds here in Catskill. I know that if elected she will do as good a job in the House as she has in her position on the Hudson River Valley Greenway Board. Her dedication and commitment to helping the communities of the 20th District is unparalleled to Congressman Sweeney's. She has proven this by her hard work and service to our community in the past. That is when she is here vacationing and not in New York City hobnobing with other well-placed, well to do high society folks.

So while Peter and Anonymous vote to close the Thomas Cole House, vote to no longer obtain funding for needed infrastructure improvements in Coxsackie so we can continue to bring in much needed commerce, and vote to no longer obtain funding to help protect the Village of Catskill residents and taxpayers with the latest technologically equipped vehicles, I will vote for Congressman John Sweeney.

Perhaps Peter and Anonymous will be hobnobbing with Kirsten Gillibrand in New York City laughing it up at how they pulled the wool over us country folk. I'll still be here fighting to protect our community from the increased taxes we will see from the increase in local spending needed to save the above mentioned
"pork" as peter so eloquently put it.


Angelo W. Amato
Village of Catskill

Anonymous said...

<< Dick, your argument of being in the majority vs minority party controlling a legislative body has some merit to it, however as John Faso demonstrated in his years of service as our Assemblyman, even if (and we're not psychic, so it's a big if) Congressman Sweeney finds himself in the minority, is that a reason to forget all the good he has done? All the services he has aided?>>

Elected officials serve at the pleasure of their constituents. They are well paid for their time and effort. VOTERS OWE THEM NOTHING. Sweeney doesn't get a free pass this year just because he's brought money home, especially not when he's been a particularly corrupt member of Congress, is a supporter of Bush and his failed policies, and is of highly questionable character. Voters owe him nothing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It is time for a change! John Sweeney has lost credibility in my book, still waiting for him to rquest the release of the police records from the Dec. 5th 2005 incident.

I am sure Kirsten Gillibrand will fight as hard to bring arts funding to the 20th district.

Anonymous said...

It is time for a change! John Sweeney has lost credibility in my book, still waiting for him to rquest the release of the police records from the Dec. 5th 2005 incident.

I am sure Kirsten Gillibrand will fight as hard to bring arts funding to the 20th district.

Anonymous said...

IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE! John Sweeney has lost cedibility, he stated he and his wife would request that the State Police release the records involving the Dec 05 incident at there home he has not done so. I'm afraid he is hiding something. I am sure Kirsten Gillibrand will bring to Greene County funding for the arts and a lot more! for health care, veterans and more as well as tax relief for those who really need it.

Anonymous said...

We all wanted change and we are going to get it.

I hope that I can pat you on the back when our next 9-11 occurs.