Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Don’t Name That Senator

Posted in Barack Obama, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 25, 2009

David Segal

image4749710xNOW that Gov. David Paterson of New York has completed his operatic quest to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat and Roland Burris, chosen by the embattled Illinois governor to succeed Barack Obama, has made it past Capitol Hill security, we can safely conclude that appointing senators might not be such a good idea.

Actually, Americans came to that conclusion in 1913, when the 17th Amendment mandated regular senatorial elections. Reformers pushed the amendment as an antidote to the inevitable cronyism that surrounded the selections. In essence, however, it just allowed governors to pick replacements, as opposed to state legislatures.

The very problems the amendment was meant to address persist. Consider this: Nearly a quarter of the United States senators who have taken office since the 17th Amendment took effect have done so via appointment. Once Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, Mr. Paterson’s choice, joins the Senate, she will be one of more than 180 senators named by governors since 1913.

By contrast, the Constitution mandates special elections for all vacancies in the House — even though representatives are far less powerful than senators.

Yet only a handful of states routinely fill vacated Senate seats by special election. The result is a tyranny of appointments.

This is bad for the legislature, and the constituents. Even when appointments are not explicitly put up for sale, a governor’s deliberations are surely informed by political expediency and personal ambition. (It would be impossible to look at the New York debacle and not think otherwise.) And even when the process is explicitly political and maybe even corrupt, as appears to be the case in Illinois, it seems as if there’s not a lot anyone can do about it. After all, the Illinois Legislature was unable to wrest power from Gov. Rod Blagojevich to force a special election.

There’s much talk of a “change agenda” in Washington these days. We would do well to add another item to the list: We should stop letting governors appoint senators.

Last year, I sponsored legislation in Rhode Island to require vacancy elections for the United States Senate. Congress should now step in and push all states to do the same. Though Congress’s power to force special elections is untested, it could surely create incentives for putting them in place — or push for another constitutional amendment.

If Congress won’t act, the states should move forward on their own. Special elections have their difficulties — among them, clogged fields of candidates and time-consuming and expensive runoffs.

But these challenges are surmountable. Instant runoff voting, which compresses runoffs into general elections by having voters rank candidates in order of preference, is one solution.

And, as we’ve learned in Illinois and New York, elected officials provide a lot more hope for genuine democracy than their gubernatorially appointed alternatives.

David Segal is a Rhode Island state representative and an analyst for FairVote, a voting rights advocacy group.

Kennedy Out. Gillibrand In.

Posted in Democrats, politics by allisonkilkenny on January 22, 2009
398px-kirsten_gillibrand_official_photo_portrait_2006

"I'm not a Democrat. I'm a Blue Dog."

Politico and other media sources are reporting that governor David Paterson has chosen Kristen Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

Gillibrand is a Blue Dog Democrat, which is the name moderate Democrats gave themselves so people stopped confusing them with Republicans. Gillibrand is a pro-gun, fiscally conservative “Democrat.” Blue Dog Democrats are the people who cower at the word “liberal,” and fail to acknowledge that the only gains we — as a country — have made regarding civil rights were because of those dreaded, damn liberals

I have previously criticized the nomination of Caroline Kennedy because she was clearly a legacy selection. Let’s pretend her name was Caroline Smith, or Caroline Martinez, and she boasted of zero legislative experience, and could only incoherently mutter something about her daddy when asked why she wanted to fill one of two coveted Senate seats. No one would have considered such an applicant. Hence, why I hated the idea of Caroline Kennedy in the Senate. I’ve heard just enough about Camelot, thanks very much.

But Gillibrand is part of the same politically incestual community. During the Clinton years, she serves as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Andrew Cuomo, another nominee for Clinton’s seat. She too hosts lavish fundraising parties (out of state, an accusation she ironically used against one of her former political opponents, John Sweeney). Kennedy, no doubt, was seriously considered for the Senate role specifically for her fundraising abilities (the name Kennedy brings in a hefty chunk of change,) so it’s to be expected that cash cows are always at the forefront of these kinds of nominations.

I was really hoping Paterson would go for a fresh political name like Nydia Velasquez, who has served in the House for 15 years, and was the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress. She has dealt primarily with small businesses, and is largely unknown in the political community, but I think that’s a good thing. Kennedy is very well known, has less experience than Velasquez, and I was supposed to take her seriously as a candidate, so why not Nydia? Oh, right, she’s not a legacy, or a Blue Dog.

At least Caroline was unapologetically liberal, a privilege only afforded to Kennedys, it seems. If you have a yacht, you get to look your fellow Democrats square in the eyes and say, “I believe in equal rights and not torturing foreigners. Fuck you.” But if you’re a middle-rank Democrat, you have to pathetically triangulate and apologize until you don’t even look like a Democrat anymore, and -BAM!- you wake up and your name is Kristen Gillibrand and you’re in the Senate.

Gross.

Kennedy Is Said to Withdraw Senate Bid

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 21, 2009

New York Times

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn from consideration for the vacant Senate seat in New York, according to a person told of her decision.

On Wednesday she called the governor, David Paterson, who is making the selection of who should succeed Senator Hillary Clinton. Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s deteriorating health (he was hospitalized after a seizure during the inaugural lunch on Tuesday ) prompted her decision to withdraw, this person said. Coping with the health issues of her uncle, with whom she enjoys an extraordinarily close bond, was her most important priority; a situation not conducive to starting a high profile public job.

She was planning to issue a statement on Wednesday evening.

Ms. Kennedy’s decision comes nearly two months after she, along with several members of Congress and leading political officials, began auditioning to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the coveted position.

The decision is certain to startle the political world.Ms. Kennedy had gained the support of some powerful backers in the state, including several labor officials and a top aide to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Kevin Sheekey.

But her pursuit of the seat also set off resistance, with some local Democratic officials suggesting it smacked of entitlement, and polls showing voters preferring Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for the position. Ms. Kennedy, 51, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy and a resident of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has never served in public office.

Gov. David A. Paterson plans to announce on Saturday whom he has selected. The governor has been coy about his decision, and while he has praised Ms. Kennedy, he has also spoken approvingly of other candidates, including Mr. Cuomo and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is beginning her second term as a congresswoman from the Albany area.

Mrs. Clinton resigned from the Senate late Wednesday, immediately after being sworn in as secretary of state.

Pro-Israel Supporters Praise Gaza Assault as Justified Despite Mounting Civilian Death Toll

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 13, 2009

Max Blumenthal, Democracy Now

israeldemowebOn Sunday, thousands turned out in New York for a rally to support the attack on Gaza. Speakers included New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor David Paterson. The journalist Max Blumenthal, also a Jewish American, spoke to some of the demonstrators. 

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

(more…)

Caroline Kennedy: Paying to Play

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on December 16, 2008

kennedyThe media has been focusing on the Rod Blagojevich scandal with all the zeal of a torch-wielding mob, but they fail to acknowledge that the dirty pay to play model demonstrated in Chicago is a microcosm of the political world. Everyone pays for everything, and only the wealthy can buy access to power.

New York can offer two other example of paying to play with Senator Chuck Schumer, and the legacy candidate gunning to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated seat, Caroline Kennedy.

Blagojevich’s swear-laced scheming was crude, super illegal, and what ultimately led to his public demise, unsubtle. The governor never learned how to delicately press the boundaries of acceptability, and instead charged through them with all the nuanced skill of a rabid bull.

The fallen governor should have looked to Chuck Schumer, who demonstrates how to us pay to play the acceptable way. Schumer is the official beneficiary, advocate and overseer for Wall Street. A Democrat, he fully embraced the free market principles that have led to the current financial turmoil. Since Chuck’s largest contributors are from Wall Street, he votes to please his corporate masters, and in doing so, he continues to buy access to power. It doesn’t matter if deregulation is bad for his state, and the country, as long as those fat Wall Street checks continue to roll in.

Blago should take note: at no point did Chuck get on the phone and demand, “his fucking money.” Instead, he quietly and assertively raised Wall Street contributions by 50 percent. Then he used that money to hold onto his power, and vote in the interest of Wall Street, and not New Yorkers. The contributions keep rolling in, and Chuck does it all over again. That’s the acceptable way of paying to play.

Caroline Kennedy is also subtly pressing her bony elbow into the back of David Paterson, demanding what is rightfully hers. I write “rightfully” because…ya’ know…she’s a Kennedy, and we’re supposed to live under their rule until Jesus comes back, I think. That’s written in the Constitution, or something.

But seriously, no one can offer a compelling argument for why Caroline is particularly well-suited for the job other than her ability to raise a ton of money for the Democratic party. That Kennedy money is another tricky way of paying to play. If Caroline can cough up around $70 million, she gets to play, but if she was a poor gal named Smith or Gonzalez with an impressive resume, winning smile, and a noble spirit, she’d get her little ass booted to the curb.

To all the future, corrupt politicians out there, here are some parting words of advice: deceive wisely. Politics is a dirty, foul game for the rich and unscrupulous, so lie, but lie wisely. Steal, but steal subtly. Pay to play, but for God’s sake, do it in the most quiet, underhanded way possible to spare us all the embarrassment of having to acknowledge what a morally bankrupt system we vote to uphold.