Browsing the archives for the elections category.


More on the Kansas Experiment

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elections, Republican Party

Y’know, maybe we all should have been paying more attention to Kansas. I wasn’t fully aware that Gov. Brownback had not only refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA; he actually privatized it.

Let’s start with what looks like a re-written press release from 2011.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his administration’s top social service officials today unveiled their proposal for reforming the state’s Medicaid program.

In a nutshell, it would expand managed care to all currently on Medicaid, including nursing home residents, the disabled and the mentally ill. It also would prompt reshuffling of departments at four state agencies. Officials said the plan would save the state $12.5 million in the coming fiscal year and a total of about $367 million over the next five years.

The plan was to turn the Kansas Medicaid program over to private companies, who as we know always do everything better for less money, right? Anyway, the retooled Medicaid program was named KanCare, and lots of stuff got shuffled around from this department to that one, which obviously was another cost saving. So how did it work out? This is now:

Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been forced off of the Medicaid physical disability (PD) waiver. In January of 2013, Brownback became the first governor to fully privatize Medicaid services, claiming he would save the state $1 billion in 5 years without having to cut services, eligibility, or provider payments. Now, under Brownback’s “KanCare,” PD waiver cases are handled by for-profit, out-of-state, Fortune 500, publicly-traded managed care services. Kansas has contracts with three managed care profiteers — United Healthcare, Sunflower State Health Plan (owned by Centene Corporation), and AmeriGroup. Amerigroup and Centene each gave $2,000, Kansas’ maximum allowed contribution, to Brownback’s re-election campaign. …

… Brownback’s claims of savings without risking patient eligibility is mere sleight of hand when taking a closer look at the numbers. When Kansas experienced a $217 million revenue shortfall in April of 2014, Brownback actually broke a promise made to the federal government as to how many people with disabilities would be served. When applying to launch the KanCare program, the Brownback administration originally promised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services it would accommodate 7,874 people on the PD waiver, according to numbers from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. After the first revenue shortfall, Brownback changed that number to 5900 – nearly a 25 percent cut in services amounting to $26 million.

Note that some of the services being cut could mean life or death for some people.

Death panels? Do I hear death panels?

One of the people whose services were cut complained.

Bullers, a former 15-year veteran reporter for the Kansas City Star and father of two, fought from the time of his managed care review in January of 2013 all the way to New Years Eve of 2013 for his full-time care to be restored. He used his status as a public figure in Kansas to organize awareness campaigns in both traditional and social media, and even arranged a meeting with Gov. Brownback. Bullers said he “got really pissed off” at Brownback’s response to a question he asked about not having a home care provider available if his ventilator came loose, stopping air from getting into his lungs.

“He said, ‘Just go over to your neighbor’s house and they’ll put it back on for you,’” Bullers said. “I mean, here’s the governor of the state of Kansas, telling me that, you know, your life isn’t worth it, that it’s okay if you die and leave two small children without a father.”

Death panels!

About a year ago The Pitch published a long expose on the screwup that is KanCare. The points it makes, in brief — Privatizing a service doesn’t make the cost go away; it just shift the cost around. And then in addition the private companies take profits and administrative costs, so less money goes to the patient. How in the world this scheme was going to save the state money seems to have been magical thinking. Ultimately the only way to make the program less expensive is just to pay for less stuff.

And I understand there have been issues with the private companies failing to disclose information to the state that has frustrated people responsible for eliminating fraud. See also KanCare companies lost money in first year.

And, of course, Brownback turned down million of federal dollars by refusing to expand Medicaid.

The wonder to me is that while Brownback has been trailing his Democratic opponent in polls, it hasn’t been by a huge amount. Apparently a substantial percentage of Kansas voters intend to return this loser to office.

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Sparkly Things That Distract Us From the Really Bad Stuff

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elections, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The Washington Post has a story about evidence that non-citizens sometimes manage to vote in U.S. elections. The story is a bit squishy about actual numbers, however. It seems to be a very small number, although in an extremely close local election a small number of votes matters.

Note also that the story says there’s no evidence requiring photo IDs at the polls makes any difference. People who manage to register and vote without being citizens don’t seem to have a problem getting photo IDs. Duh. Interestingly, the authors of the article suggest that non-citizens most likely to vote possibly don’t understand they aren’t legally allowed to vote. More educated non-citizens are less likely to try.

Anyway, since these non-citizens tend to vote for Democrats, the wingnuts are freaking out.  The Right increasingly has to depend on gerrymandering and voter suppression to win elections, so it’s understandable that they’d seize upon any excuse for why it’s becoming harder for them to win elections fair and square on an even playing field.

But while the Right is having an outrage spasm over what may be a relative handful of illegal votes — as I said, the article is squishy about actual numbers — millions of dollars in dark money are underwriting much of the current campaign season. Thanks to Citizens United, we have no way to ensure that voters aren’t being “educated” and influenced by ads and literature paid for by foreign governments, companies and interest groups. And those foreign interests may not have America’s interests in mind.

Nicholas Confessore writes,

More than half of the general election advertising aired by outside groups in the battle for control of the US Congress has come from organizations that disclose little or nothing about their donors, a flood of secret money that is now at the center of a debate over the line between free speech and corruption.

The advertising, which has overwhelmingly benefited Republican candidates, is largely paid for by nonprofit groups and trade associations, some of which are established with the purpose of shielding the wealthy individuals and corporations that contribute. More money is being spent on advertising by the secret donors than by super PACs, the explicitly political committees whose fortunes have dominated attention with the rise of big money in politics.

Andy Kroll wrote back in 2012,

… for the secretive nonprofit groups pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 elections, the rules are different. These outfits, organized under the 501(c) section of the US tax code, can take money from foreign citizens, foreign labor unions, and foreign corporations, and they don’t have to tell voters about it because they don’t publicly disclose their donors. What’s more, with a savvy attorney and a clean paper trail, a foreign donor could pump millions into a nonprofit without even the nonprofit knowing the money’s true origin.

We don’t know that foreign interests are trying to sway the election, but we don’t know that they aren’t. We have no way to know. Although foreign money is supposed to stay out of our elections, thanks to Citizens United it wouldn’t be impossible for foreign elements indifferent or even hostile to American interests to influence how Americans vote. And if such interests haven’t tried it yet, they’ll get around to it eventually.

But you can’t get most wingnuts to understand why that’s a problem. Our righties are simple critters, easily distracted by the little stuff so they don’t notice the big stuff.

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The Wave That Is Not Waving

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elections

The GOP have their hopes pinned on a “wave” election in November, but right now several of the “statistical models” being use to predict the Senate elections are moving in the direction of Democrats. Nate Silver says the Dems have drawn almost even. The Washington Post’s prognosticators  have moved from predicting a huge Republican win to giving Dems a 51 percent edge. The New York Times now says it’s a tossup, although their model has shifted around quite a bit. Sam Wang still says 80 percent Dems.

What seems to be happening with at least some models is that as we move closer to the election the models are giving less weight to history and more to actual polls. We have many conditions in place that history says point to a Republican wave. But in real world land, it appears the wave isn’t waving.

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Nate Silver vs. Sam Wang

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elections, Obama Administration

In 2012, as I remember, Silver and Wang’s election forecasts remained close to each other. But right now they are considerably apart. Silver says Republicans have a 63.8 percent chance of winning a majority. Wu says Dems have a 79 percent chance of keeping the Senate.

Where do they differ? Silver thinks Pat Roberts of Kansas will keep his Senate seat; Wu does not. The pair of prognosticators also split over North Carolina. They must disagree on some other races but I cannot tell which ones.

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When Facts Don’t Matter

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elections

File this under “Lies Speak Louder Than Facts.” A professor at Loyola University has been looking at elections going back to 2000 for actual incidents of the sort of voter fraud that would have been stopped by voter ID laws.

So far, he says, out of more than a billion ballots he has found all of 31 examples.

Arguments for voter ID laws use misdirection, the professor says, by citing examples of voter fraud that would not have been stopped by voter ID laws.

Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you’ll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren’t designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. …

…Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.

But of course, these facts won’t make a damn bit of difference in our ongoing political discourse, in which all elections won by Democrats are assumed to be illegitimate by the Right. And it especially won’t matter because the people pushing voter ID laws don’t give a hoo-haw about clean and fair elections. They just want to be sure that the majority of people who are able to vote are white and Right.

See also Proof That Voter Impersonation Almost Never Happens and Missing the Point at the Times.

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The Virginia 7th District Congressional Election

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elections, Obama Administration, Republican Party

The Democratic nominee is Jack Trammell, who is a professor at Randolph-Macon College. Here is his Wikipedia page and his “faculty focus” page. He has written a bunch of books and has a particular interest in addressing education discrimination and disabilities.

It appears Trammell was caught a bit flat-footed by Cantor’s defeat; he doesn’t even have a proper “Trammell for Congress” web page, just a donation page. If you want to throw him some money to get a proper campaign going, here is his Act Blue page.

The Republican nominee, David Brat, also is a professor at Randolph-Macon. He does have a proper “Brat for Congress” site, and here is his “issues” page. You can see it’s pretty much a wingnut checklist.

Along with a Ph.D. in economics Brat, a Catholic, has a master’s in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. The new Rick Santorum? According to Brat’s Wikipedia page, his published papers include “God and Advanced Mammon: Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?” and “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” I seriously hope those go online sometime. See Steve M for more on Brat’s connections to the Church of Ayn Rand.

David Weigel’s analysis of how Brat defeated Cantor is essential reading. A lot of people are focusing on the education reform issue, but Weigel shows there’s a lot more to it than that. In a nutshell, the baggers and the lunatic fringe — Allen West, Laura Ingraham, et al. — are interested only in total opposition to President Obama. They are no longer interested in enacting conservative policies if doing so means compromising so much as a hair. Cantor was caught trying to please the U.S.Chamber of Commerce / ALEC / American Enterprise Institute crowd — the GOP’s chief sponsors — and in doing so he ran afoul of the bagger agenda, which is that Washington must do NOTHING that requires Democratic votes to pass. And as long as Dems hold the Senate, that pretty much means Washington must do NOTHING.

But Cantor made the mistake of trying to do SOMETHING.

In 2013, Cantor and the counter-establishment flew apart. Less than a month after Obama’s second inauguration, Cantor debuted a vision for a new GOP that would “make life work.” What if the GOP incentivized people to buy better health care and seek more useful college degrees? What if it went a little easier on immigrants? “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home,” Cantor said at a February 2013 speech at the American Enterprise Institute. He pushed through school choice bills (The Student Success Act), and helped amend the farm bill to add more work requirements for food-stamp recipients.

None of this was “liberal,” per se. It just wasn’t what the conservative base had asked for, campaigned for, voted for. It was the agenda of the establishment, simpatico with the Chamber of Commerce. The business community had been there to elect Republicans in 2010 (and with less success in 2012), but in 2013 it was asking for Republicans to pass some sort of immigration reform and avoid a government shutdown. Cantor went with Democrats on a three-day tour to boost reform; he sought out a number of ways to avoid a shutdown, including a failed gambit to split the “defund Obamacare” vote from a separate appropriations vote.

My understanding is that Cantor was the one Republican leader in the House who could most skillfully thread the tactical needle, obstructing President Obama without allowing the GOP to shoot itself in the foot, Ted Cruz/government shutdown style. Without him, the freak flag is more likely to fly. Heh.

I don’t think anyone has any true sense of where this election might go, or if Trammell has even a remote hope of winning Cantor’s gerrymandered district. No matter who wins, though, I think losing Cantor in the House is going to b a huge handicap for the GOP.

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Eric Cantor Has Been Primaried!

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elections, Republican Party

This just in

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated Tuesday by a little-known economics professor in Virginia’s Republican primary, a stunning upset and major victory for the tea party.

Cantor is the second-most powerful member of the U.S. House and was seen by some as a possible successor to the House speaker.

His loss to Dave Brat, a political novice with little money marks a huge victory for the tea party movement, which supported Cantor just a few years ago.

What can one say but …

I don’t know who the Democratic nominee may be. And of course if the baggers prefer this guy Brat to Cantor, Brat’s got to be downright frightening. Still …

HOO-yah.

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The Koch Brothers’ Labyrinthe

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elections

Someone at WaPo actually committed an act of journalism; see “Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012.”

Matea Gold writes,

The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents. …

…A labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helps mask the sources of the money, much of which went to voter mobilization and television ads attacking President Obama and congressional Democrats, according to tax filings and campaign finance reports.

The article goes on to describe the Koch’s several astroturf organizations are set up in a way that cloaks the donors, so there is no way to find out where money originates. The article doesn’t say this, but seems to me there could be all kinds of foreign money flooding into our election process through this labyrinth, and we’d never know about it.

For that matter, we don’t know how much of their own money the brothers Koch are pouring into this.

I liked this part:

Tracing the flow of the money is particularly challenging because many of the advocacy groups swapped funds back and forth. The tactic not only provides multiple layers of protection for the original donors but also allows the groups to claim they are spending the money on “social welfare” activities to qualify for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

As sure as the night follows the day, some commenters got on WaPo and chalenged them to print an expose of George Soros and the Unions and what they are contributing. But that wouldn’t be an expose, because that appears to be public knowledge. According to Open Secrets, Soros Fund Management spent $2,775,000 during te 2012 election cycle. By comparison, Sheldon Adelson was snookered for paid out $92,796,625 during the same period. But I couldn’t find information on the Koch brothers’ donations at all. It’s like they don’t exist, or something. Very creepy.

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Is Virginia a Bellwether?

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elections

At the moment, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a decent lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race. It’s way early to declare victory, of course, and I’m lukewarm about McAuliffe generally. But what’s interesting here is that McAuliffe is ahead mostly because he has a huge lead among women.

The shift in the race has come almost exclusively from female voters, who prefer McAuliffe by a 24-point margin over Cuccinelli. The candidates were effectively tied among women in a Washington Post poll in May.

McAuliffe’s strength among women is probably due in part to an intense campaign to portray Cuccinelli as a threat to women and the issues they care about most deeply. A new McAuliffe ad, for instance, features a Norfolk OB-GYN speaking directly to the camera about how she is “offended” by Cuccinelli’s position on abortion.

We saw a lot of this during the 2012 elections, but it’s so good to find Dems unabashedly supporting abortion rights and learning this can win elections for them.

Dave Wiegel doesn’t mention McAuliffe’s support among women, but says the GOP is gobsmacked that McAuliffe is winning.

What mystifies Republicans is that McAuliffe, who they consider a homonoculus made of pure sleaze, trounces Cuccinelli on questions of “trustworthiness” and ethics. Voters simply know more, and worry more, about Cuccinelli’s financial scandals than about McAuliffe’s. And they narrowly prefer the Democrats in the downballot lieutenant governor and attorney general races, before Democrats have really gotten on the air to amplify the social conservative positions of the GOP candidates. (LG candidate E.W. Jackson is the guy who worries that Satan might fill the hearts of people who engage in meditation. For an example.)

It’s by no means clear that Republicans know how to combat this. The most effective ad I’ve seen (in D.C., we get a decent amount of Virginia TV) comes from Citizens United; it condenses their documentary about McAuliffe’s failing businesses and disappointed employees into a spot reminiscent of the anti-Romney spots that worked so well in 2012. More recently, I saw this spot from the new Super PAC Fight for Tomorrow. It started running on September 12.

[The ad is a hoot, btw]

The ad speaks to the conservative frustration with Virginia — how, how, how can voters not see that McAuliffe is a Democratic sleeper agent? In a fundraising pitch, FF asks for “$400,000-$600,000″ to run the ad and promises that Virginia “can be a Gettysburg for the whole Obama-Clinton nightmare.”

I haven’t spent enough time in Virginia to have a feel for what works there and what doesn’t. If you ran that ad in New York City media, people might assume they were watching a rerun from Saturday Night Live. And if McAuliffe is a radical leftie, I’m a blowfish.

Republicans accuse McAuliffe of being obsessed with social issues. That’s rich, considering Cuccinelli’s war on oral sex.

This race could easily tighten up again before it’s over. But if McAuliffe wins because of women’s votes, it would make the GOP crazy. Heh.

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Thompson Concedes to de Blasio

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elections, New York New York

More good news — the NY Times says that William Thompson will concede the NYC mayoral Democratic nomination to Bill de Blasio. So there will be no messy runoff.

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