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March 11th, 2004:

“He was wrong”

You’ve probably heard that the Senate just passed a rule to require a supermajority for any new tax cut or spending increases that don’t have a counterbalance over the next five years. I’d like to call your attention to what Sen. Tom Carper (D, Del) had to say about the reasons for this unusual measure, which drew the support of four Republicans (McCain, Snowe, Collins, and Chafee):

In 2001, the first year I was here, and when George Bush was President, he said:

We can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits.

He was wrong.

He said:

Our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term.

He was wrong.

In 2003, he said:

Our current deficit is not large by historical standards and is manageable.

He was wrong.

Now he says:

The deficit will be cut in half over the next 5 years.

He is wrong again.

My friends, our budget deficit this year is going to be about a half trillion dollars. When you actually take away the surplus funds from Social Security that mask the Federal budget deficit, it is even larger than that. While there is a little downtrend starting this year for a couple years in the budget deficits, the real budget deficit, the operating deficit, is about $450 billion. Then it climbs steadily up. The boomers, my generation, will begin to retire, and we are looking at a budget deficit for 2014 of about $785 billion.

That is three-quarters of a trillion dollars. Those are operating deficits, not debt.

Amen. You want fiscal responsibility, you know for whom to vote this year.

Via the NDN blog.

Settlement in Tulia civil suit

All of the still-living Tulia drug bust defendants will share in a $5 million settlement of a civil suit against the city of Amarillo. Amarillo also agreed to disband the multi-agency task force that oversaw Tom Coleman, the lying undercover cop whose uncorroborated testimony was enough to put nearly all of the accused in jail.

“There’s no amount of money that could ever compensate the people in Tulia,” said attorney Jeff Blackburn at a news conference announcing the settlement. “In our view this was a whole systemic failure.”

The agreement with the city of Amarillo disbands the multi-agency task force that oversaw the sting’s undercover agent, Tom Coleman, who is white, Blackburn said.

“The law on who is responsible for the task force is very unsettled and the city could not risk a $30-, $50- or $100- million dollar judgment,” said Marcus Norris, Amarillo’s city attorney.

On July 23, 1999, 44 people — 37 of whom are black — were arrested in the busts, which civil rights groups claimed were racially motivated. Coleman worked alone for 18 months and used no audio or video surveillance. Little or no corroborating evidence was introduced during the trials.

Though the settlement involves a civil rights lawsuit filed last summer by Zuri Bossett and Tonya White, two women whose drug charges were dropped after they provided alibis, all but one of the 46 arrested will receive some portion of the settlement. One defendant died before going to trial and is not included in the settlement, Blackburn said. A claims administrator will determine how the funds will be apportioned, taking into account factors like the amount of jail time served.

Norris, who called the settlement the responsible thing to do, said that the city recognizes the “misjustice” done in Tulia by the task force.

“The courts simply have not dealt in a definitive way with who is responsible for a task force operation,” said Mike Loftin, an attorney hired to help the city defend itself.

In a move that Norris said is “connected” to the settlement, Amarillo police officers Sgt. Jerry Massengill and Lt. Mike Amos, two of those who had supervised Coleman, will retire before the end of the year.

[…]

The women’s suit was filed Aug. 22, the same day Gov. Rick Perry pardoned 35 prosecuted in the Tulia cases. Those 35 defendants spent a combined 80 years in jail.

Norris said that Perry’s decision to pardon those cases “had a direct impact on our ability to defend the case.”

Following evidentiary hearings in which a judge pronounced Coleman “simply not a credible witness under oath,” Swisher County officials approved a $250,000 settlement for those imprisoned on Coleman’s word. In exchange, those defendants promised not to sue the county. Bossett and White did not receive any of the settlement because their charges had been dropped.

Coleman is scheduled to stand trial May 24 on perjury charges related to testimony he gave during evidentiary hearings in March 2003.

Good for the city of Amarillo for recognizing that the right thing to do was also the smart thing to do. If this has a chilling effect on enthusiasm for that kind of massive anti-drug task force, so much the better.

Mail problems

If you’ve sent me email since last night, I’m not ignoring you. My web host is experiencing some technical difficulties, and one of them is affecting webmail. I haven’t been able to log in all day. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Campaign web sites

I’ve added links on the sidebar to the Contributions/Donations page for each of the Democratic candidates for Congress this year who a) are not unopposed and b) have a campaign website that I could connect to. Hopefully, this will make it easier for those of you who want to support the Democrat in your district or who want to help out in a high-profile race elsewhere. I’d like to thank the Politics1 folks for saving me a lot of Googling in this endeavor.

Obviously, not all of these candidates and races are equal. Some will be a better investment than others, and some will line up with your views (and mine) better than others. I trust we can all figure out for ourselves what to do.

After looking at some of these web pages, I’m reminded why I wrote a list of dos and don’ts for campaigning on the web. I’ll also say again that it would be an outstanding idea for the national and state parties to provide free standardized web templates and secure contribution code, and to strongly encourage candidates – especially ones on a shoestring budget, who I’m guessing are the more likely to roll their own HTML code as a cost-saving measure – to take advantage of them.

Ideally, I’d love to have links to all Democratic candidates’ web pages, but they have to have them first. If anyone knows about and can point me towards pages for the following people, I’ll add them.

CD01 – Max Sandlin
CD07 – John Martinez
CD11 – Wayne Raasch
CD15 – Ruben Hinojosa
CD16 – Silvestre Reyes
CD18 – Sheila Jackson Lee
CD20 – Charlie Gonzalez
CD23 – Joe Sullivan
CD26 – Lico Reyes
CD27 – Solomon Ortiz
CD28 – Ciro Rodriguez
CD29 – Gene Green
CD30 – Eddie Bernice Johnson

I know that incumbents have their own house.gov web pages, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I want campaign sites, with contribution information. Any help is appreciated.

UPDATE: OK, I guess that was a little confusing. I’ve changed the sidebar links to the main campaign web pages, and where there is a separate contribution/donations page, added a link to that. As before, please do let me know of any additions or corrections.

Survey says

Has this ever happened to you? I got a call on Tuesday night from some outfit that was doing a survey on banks and financial institutions. Midway through the call, my call-waiting chirps. I pick up the other line, and am greeted by some other outfit that wanted to survey me on employment. Are we in the middle of Survey Sweeps Week or something?

For the record, I told Surveyor #2 that now was not a good time. They called back last night and got what they wanted. All I can say about the experiences is that for a guy who spews his viewpoint several times a day in public, I gave a lot of “no opinion” answers to these people. Make of that what you will.

Primary wrapup

The closest race of the primaries may not be over, as challenger Henry Cuellar contemplates asking for a recount in his loss to Rep. Ciro Rodriguez.

The drama surrounding the already spirited race was amplified by election night woes in Zapata County, the southernmost county in the district. Some optical scan equipment broke down and 3,600 ballots had to be counted by hand — a task that took 13 hours to complete.

The problem raised a red flag in Texas Secretary of State Geoff Connor’s office.

“I am extremely concerned and disappointed by the reporting of election results in Zapata County,” Connor said in a written statement released Wednesday. “My office made repeated requests for a timely processing of election returns and found local officials unresponsive.”

A faulty computer chip was blamed for the counting delay.

County Clerk Consuelo Villarreal said the computer efforts were ditched late Tuesday evening.

Four groups of four registered voters each then worked through the night.

Most of the counters were recruited Tuesday when they came to check election results.

Then early Wednesday, a dozen advanced-placement students from Zapata High School came to help.

[…]

Cuellar campaign spokesman Colin Strother said they were looking at all their options before determining whether to request a recount.

“I think it’s still too close to call,” he said. “We have to ascertain whether or not we’re convinced every vote was counted accurately.”

In particular, Strother lashed out at Bexar County returns, which he said need to be examined closely.

“Cliff Borofsky hasn’t run an election right yet,” Strother said.

Borofsky, the Bexar County elections administrator, said Strother is entitled to his opinion.

“I appreciate his candor,” Borofsky said. “If he wants to request a recount, he’s perfectly entitled to do so.”

If conducted throughout the district, a manual recount could cost Cuellar up to $14,000. Or he could focus on specific counties for review.

He could have up until March 23 at 5 p.m. to make up his mind, depending on when the statewide canvass of votes is completed, said Jennifer Waisath, a spokeswoman with the Texas secretary of state’s office.

San Antonians are unhappy with Borofsky as well.

Returns showing 100 percent of the vote weren’t posted till 3:17 a.m. Wednesday, leading some county commissioners to publicly chastise Borofsky for failing to meet expectations.

“We underestimated the time it would take to read the (mail-in) ballots,” Borofsky told commissioners, referring to problems tabulating more than 3,000 vote-by-mail paper ballots cast in Tuesday’s primaries.

Those problems didn’t delay tabulation of votes cast early or on Tuesday using the county’s new $8.5 million touch-screen system.

However, Borofsky also was taken to task for failing to make adequate arrangements for post-election precinct party conventions, failing to follow up on serious complaints against a handful of election judges, and for delays in opening about 10 of the 267 election-day polling sites.

Election results from Bexar County were delayed by more than a full day in 2002; ironically, one of the races that was decided when those results finally came in was Rep. Henry Bonilla’s close-shave win over challenger Henry Cuellar. Borofsky pledges to do better in November. Let’s hope he’s right this time.

Ron Wilson is claiming vindication despite his electoral defeat. I don’t particularly feel like quoting from this article, so I’m just going to reiterate what I said yesterday – if the price for booting his sorry ass is the loss of a freshman Congressman, I’ll take it. Greg sees it differently.

Of much greater interest is what effect the defeats of Wilson and Glenn Lewis will have on committee memberships. The Quorum Report has been all over this, as according to both House rules and state law, “A duly appointed senator’s or representative’s membership on the Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Library Board, Legislative Audit Committee, Texas Legislative Council, or any other interim committee terminates if the member: (1) resigns the membership; (2) ceases membership in the legislature for any reason; or (3) fails to be nominated or elected to the legislature for the next term.” Wilson and Lewis were on the House Select Committee on School Finance, meaning that replacements for them will have to be found prior to the still-not-yet-called special session. Keep an eye on the people that Tom Craddick picks to fill in.

One last thought on Chris Bell: For your next gig, may I suggest checking out neighborhoods in State Senate District 15 and considering a move there in order to challenge the incumbent in the 2006 primary? I have a feeling you’ll get a decent amount of support from the Democratic Party establishment if you do.

Finally, my condolences to Rob Humenik for losing the election for precinct chair. I’d have voted for you if I could!