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March 27th, 2006:

A roundup of immigration links

I haven’t paid enough attention to the fierce debate over immigration that’s currently brewing in the Senate, the streets, and even the schools. Since I don’t think I have any original thoughts to add at this time, let me say that I endorse the ideas expressed by David Neiwert and Kevin Drum that the way to approach this problem is to aim for policy that makes citizenship the goal. We want, or at least we should want, immigrants who want to assimilate, who value the idea of becoming Americans, and who will take positive steps towards that ideal. Constructing a framework that helps immigrants achieve these goals is a necessary first step.

Some things to read as you ponder all this:

Stace reports from various marches, and gets feedback on the student walkout at Eisenhower High School.

Vince reflects on Cesar Chavez Day and HR4437.

Matt expands on HR4437 and explains that Rep. Lamar Smith is on the wrong side (no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Smith’s record).

Rico Politico on A Day Without Mexicans.

South Texas Chisme writes about “business” interests in immigration.

Got a link I’ve missed? Leave a comment. Thanks!

From the “People who are easily annoyed” files

I have no idea what this guy is talking about.

Donald Younger read last Monday’s article about the challenges faced by MetroRail operators. “I would like to say a little about the passengers and pedestrians,” he writes.

“First of all, you have to wait at the rail stops in a cloud of smoke most of the time. When the train arrives all the smokers flip their butts on the platform or the rail.”

“Then there is a barrage of announcements from the P.A. system which is usually turned up to maximum volume. There is the ‘suspicious package’ announcement, then the ‘be sure you have a fare item’ announcement, which everyone ignores.

“Of course these are in both English and Spanish so they can be doubly annoying. Then there are four announcements to let you know about the arrival of the next train.”

And the train doors screech when they close. You get the picture. Younger said he has gone back to riding the bus.

Frankly, anyone who rides a train every day and does not learn to tune this sort of thing out is beyond my help. That said, having ridden the light rail back to my office from a downtown meeting today, the only announcements I can recall are the ones about the train arriving (which I for one am always glad to hear, because it means I’ll be boarding my train soon) and the ones about what the next station is. These are short messages, and neither of them qualify as a “barrage”. We did get the “fare item” announcement – once, as we approached the TMC Transit Center stop. We also got the suspicious package announcement once, as we departed TMC Transit Center. Again, not my idea of a barrage.

If the doors screeched, I didn’t notice. (Like I said – tune it out.) Maybe the poor guy just needs a change of scenery. Here’s hoping he can find whatever it is he’s looking for on the bus.

Is this the end for Carol Alvarado?

The Chronicle runs a story on Carol Alvarado today that’s one part biography/career retrospective and one part political obituary. The big question: Will she ever be able to run for political office successfully again?

“Even taking the best case, that she’s telling the truth and didn’t know what was going on, it’s still a huge political misstep and probably ends any possibility that she could be elected citywide to any seat like controller or mayor. That’s probably unrealistic,” says University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray, who taught Alvarado when she attended UH.

“Very likely she would have to go for a district seat, maybe congressional down the line, but more likely a state representative or Senate seat based substantially in the community that she grew up in, where voters would be more forgiving.”

I figure Alvarado would have been a strong contender in a wide-open Mayoral race in 2009. She had a pretty nice resume prior to the recent unpleasantness, but it obviously doesn’t look quite as good now. So, I think that ship has sailed.

As for the other possibilities, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that she’s in a soldidly Democratic part of town, so assuming she can make it to the general election for whatever seat she wants, she’ll win. The bad news is that she’s in a solidly Democratic part of town, so she’ll either need to knock off an incumbent in what would surely be a nasty and bloody primary fight, or wait till someone steps down and win a slightly less nasty and bloody primary fight for the open seat.

Looking at a map of District I and comparing it to the various maps on the redistricting resources page, Alvarado currently represents parts of State House Districts 142 (Harold Dutton), 143 (Ana Hernandez), 145 (Rick Noriega), and 147 (Garnet Coleman). Dutton and Coleman aren’t going anywhere; Hernandez is in her freshman term, so even if she has her sights on higher office, she’ll likely stay where she is for awhile first. I’d say her best bet here is to hope that Rick Noriega decides to make a statewide run in 2008.

Much of City Council District I is also within State Senate DIstrict 6. Mario Gallegos might be vulnerable to a primary challenge, and he might decide to hang up his hat when this term expires in 2008. This is also a possibility to watch for. As for Congress, I can’t see her attempting to take out Gene Green in CD29, and I don’t see any reason why Green might retire soon. Barring a surpise there, I’d say it’s not on the table.

One last thing to keep in mind: Carol Alvarado is only 38 years old. She has plenty of time to go off and do something else for awhile to rebuild that resume of hers and let this scandal fade from the public memory. Who knows what the political landscape will be like in 2014 or 2016? What she’s going through now is bad, but unless she actually gets convicted of something, or perhaps just arrested, it’s way too early to say she’s forevermore unelectable to anything outside her neighborhood.

UPDATE: Stace adds his thoughts.

Enriching Ed

This WaPo piece is a companion to the National Journal piece whose excerpts were in TPM Muckraker that I linked to over the weekend. It’s about DeLay buddy and former Chief of Staff Ed Buckham and the money he made via a phony nonprofit that got much of its money from Russian oil interests that sought to influence how DeLay voted on key legislation. A few highlights for you:

A top adviser to former House Whip Tom DeLay received more than a third of all the money collected by the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit organization the adviser created to promote a pro-family political agenda in Congress, according to the group’s accounting records.

DeLay’s former chief of staff, Edwin A. Buckham, who helped create the group while still in DeLay’s employ, and his wife, Wendy, were the principal beneficiaries of the group’s $3.02 million in revenue, collecting payments totaling $1,022,729 during a five-year period ending in 2001, public and private records show.

The group’s revenue was drawn mostly from clients of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to its records. From an FBI subpoena for the records, it can be inferred that the bureau is exploring whether there were links between the payments and favorable legislative treatment of Abramoff’s clients by DeLay’s office.

[…]

The group’s payments to the Buckhams — in the form of a monthly retainer as well as commissions on donations by Abramoff’s clients — overlapped briefly with Edwin Buckham’s service as chief of staff to DeLay and continued during his subsequent role as DeLay’s chief political adviser.

During this latter period, Buckham and his wife, Wendy, acting through their consulting firm, made monthly payments averaging $3,200-$3,400 apiece to DeLay’s wife, Christine, for three of the years in which he collected money from the USFN and some other clients.

[…]

Wendy Buckham was not the only spouse of a DeLay staffer to benefit from the USFN revenue stream sustained by Abramoff’s clients. A consulting firm owned by the wife of Tony C. Rudy, DeLay’s deputy chief of staff, was paid $15,600 by the group in 1999 and another $10,400 in 2000. Rudy resigned to work with Abramoff in 2001. It could not be determined what the payments were for.

[…]

Records obtained by federal investigators after [a previous article in The Post] appeared and reviewed by The Post make clear just how unusual USFN’s spending was. Its revenue was lavished not only on DeLay’s advisers but on a variety of expenses that experts say are atypical for such a small nonprofit: $62,375 for wall art, a vase listed at $20,100, airfare and meals for Abramoff that cost $11,548, and $267,202 in travel and entertainment expenses that appear to have benefited mostly Buckham, the group’s board members, and its tiny staff.

“They were using donor funds for interior decorating,” said Chris Geeslin, a pastor in Frederick, Md., who between 1998 and 2001 served as one of the group’s directors and then its president. He blamed what he described as the group’s misspending on Buckham, who he said “would tell us where you should put things. He orchestrated all this. . . . He used us.”

Emphasis mine. That’s now a Chief of Staff and a Deputy Chief of Staff for DeLay who are under investigation for being seriously crooked. Quite the office you ran there, Tom.

Link via Josh Marshall, who includes this tidbit:

Like Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY), Buckham siphoned off funds off of political contributions and converted them into personal income by having his wife take ‘commissions’ for a nominal role as fundraiser. Her cut was 10%.

In 1997, for instance, on $524,975 contributed by a handful of Abramoff clients, Wendy Buckham pocketed $43,000 in ‘commissions.’

The family that siphons together stays together, I suppose.

Radnofsky and Harris

Barbara Radnofsky is guest-blogging again at Capitol Annex, while her campaign manager Seth puts in a few words on her behalf at Wampum. As unhappy as I was that she did not win the Senate nomination outright on Primary Day, I feel like she and her team have done a good job in turning the runoff into a positive. All of the endorsements she’s gotten from various elected officials, SDEC members, and other members of the establishment (one name to add to this story about her campaign headquarters opening is HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg) have helped put a little focus on this race. It would have been nice to have had some of this before March 7, but better late than never.

Also appearing on Wampum is David Harris, where he writes about environmental issues, where he obviously contrasts sharply with Smokey Joe Barton. Take a look at Breath of Life for a more ecumenical view of the environment while you’re there. Dave is also writing about immigration issues at BOR. Check it out.