Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Home stretch on Fair Share

We've got until the legislative session ends on June 22nd to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act. The fight to pass the bill will center on the State Senate, and - in typical Albany fashion - the Senate is likely to drag things out until the end of the session to see how much public support there is for the bill.

We need to show the Senate that we want Fair Share Health Care. Take a minute to tell your State Senator that you want action.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Election roundup for late May

The National Journal has 4 New York House seats in their list of the 50 most competitive races in the country (via Capitol Confidential). The races (most competitive first) are:
  • 14. New York-24 (Open-R)
  • 24. New York-20 (Sweeney-R)
  • 48. New York-25 (Walsh-R)
  • 49. New York-19 (Kelly-R)
The Cook Political Report lists more New York House seats in play (via MyDD). Those six races (in order of district number) are:
  • NY-19 Sue Kelly (R)
  • NY-20 John Sweeney (R)
  • NY-24 Open (Boehlert-R)
  • NY-25 James Walsh (R)
  • NY-26 Tom Reynolds (R)
  • NY-29 Randy Kuhl (R)
And this Newsday article drives home the fact that the fight to win back the U.S. House will center on New York.

The big news for May has been who is and isn't running. In CD24, Les Roberts has decided to drop out and support Michael Arcuri. In CD25, Ken Howland has decided to drop out and support Dan Maffei. In CD26, Tom Reynolds is facing a primary challenge. And there's a crowded field fighting to take on Sue Kelly in CD19.

I somehow missed this when it first came out: a poll in CD29 shows Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa in a tight race, with Kuhl's lead down to three points as Massa lays out what he would do differently.

And in CD20, John Sweeney has stopped saying he's a Republican as he campaigns for reelection. Is he ashamed?

What do you think, how many competitive House races will we see in New York this election?

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Update on our Spitzer Message

Early results in the vote on our Spitzer Message for this year's election:
  • Vote Your Values 31%
  • Cast a Health Care Vote 8%
  • A Mandate for Progressive Change 42%
  • Write-in ideas 19%
We're going through the write-ins now, and (once again) are impressed by how good they are. More soon - keep your ideas coming!

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Note to W: Sometimes Sorry Isn't Good Enough

(via ThinkProgress)

From the transcript of yesterday's Bush/Blair news conference:

QUESTION: Mr. President, you spoke about missteps and mistakes in Iraq.

Could I ask both of you which missteps and mistakes of your own you most regret?

BUSH: Sounds like kind of a familiar refrain here.

Saying, "Bring it on"; kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know. "Wanted, dead or alive"; that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that.

As the ThinkProgress blog observes:
Since that time more than 2200 U.S. troops have died.
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Help Frame Our Spitzer Message

Last year we endorsed Eliot Spitzer for Governor. Now we're starting to frame our message, and we're asking people how we can best convince voters that it's important to not just vote for Eliot (that's not hard), but to do so on the WFP ballot line. We've set up a survey you can take to share your opinions with us.

Here are three early drafts:
1. Vote Your Values: Voting Working Families Party lets you vote for the best candidate and the party you most closely identify with. When you vote on the WFP line, you're not just voting for a candidate. You're voting for good jobs, good schools, good government and affordable health care. Vote your values, vote Eliot Spitzer on the Working Families Party line.

2. Cast a Health Care Vote: A parent with a sick child, with no health insurance. A candidate with a plan to insure every child in the state. Together, New Yorkers can cast a health care vote for Eliot Spitzer on the WFP line on November 7. Imagine that he wakes up the next day to read that 200,000 New Yorkers stood up to vote for health care for every child. Together, we can fix a broken system.

3. A Mandate for Progressive Change: Give Eliot Spitzer a mandate for change. If 200,000 New Yorkers vote for Spitzer on Row E, then we'll give him a mandate for real progressive change. Better jobs, affordable health care, fair funding for our schools and real campaign finance reform. Voting on Row E is how we make sure Spitzer can and will fight for us.
Vote in our survey or share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fair Share hearing round up

Here's the witness list for the Assembly hearing on the Fair Share for Health Care Act, the links provide more detail on each person's testimony.
  1. Ed Donnelly
    Director, Legislative Office
    AFL – CIO

  2. Bob Master (testimony here, doc)
    Working Families Party Co-Chair
    Director of Legislative/Political and Mobilization
    Communication Workers of America, District 1

  3. Ted Potrikus and here
    Executive Vice-President and Director of Government Relations
    Retail Council of New York State, Inc.

    Dan Murphy
    New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association

    Eliot Shaw
    Director of Government Affairs
    The Business Council of New York State

  4. Kasheef Moore (doc)
    Affected Worker from Buffalo

    Sharlett Cummings (doc)
    Affected Worker from Albany

    Renee Villanova (doc)
    Security Officer at the Empire State Building

  5. Barbara Crosier
    Executive Director
    Cerebral Palsy Association of New York State

  6. Jennifer Cunningham
    Executive Vice President

  7. Paul Sonn
    Deputy Director, Poverty Program
    Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law

  8. Rima Cohen (doc)
    Vice President, Insurance Options for the Uninsured
    Greater New York Hospital Association

  9. Kinda Serafi
    Senior Policy Associate
    Childrens Defense Fund of New York

  10. Kate Keller (doc)
    Executive Assistant to UFCW Region 1 Director
    United Food and Commercial Workers/Retail Workers and Department Stores Union
The hearing also got a lot of press coverage, here's a sampling:
We want to hear your stories and thoughts from the hearing. Who's first?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Grannis scores again

Potrikus is complaining about the potential effect of Fair Share on store prices.

Assemblymember Grannis points out the obvious with devastating effect: Consumers may spend a penny or two more at Wal-Mart, but they will save nearly a billion dollars in taxes if stop subsidizing health care through Medicaid for the employees of corporate freeloaders.

Potrikus admits the truth

At last, a moment of truth!

Potrikus was speaking and the room - it's huge theatre-style room - went dark. Pitch black for 2 seconds.

The lights came back on, and Potrikus, the lobbyist of large retailers, said, "I represent the dark side."

"We've been at this debate for a long time, perhaps too long."

That's a quote from Eliot Shaw from the Business Council in his testimony.

A sign of hope?


Turns out Shaw thinks that the Fair Share for Health Care bill is unfair to employers with profits of billions of dollars per year.


Potrikus said retailers provide "robust" benefits. Assemblymember Grannis is curious about Potrikhus's definition of "robust." Touche!

Low-wage employers testify

Ted Potrikus from the Retail Council of NYSN, Dan Murphy of the NYS Hospitality and Tourism Association and Eliot Shaw of the Business Council of NYS are testifying - a murderer's row of representatives of low-wage employers.

Potrikus quite graciously acknowledged substantive discussions with the WFP.

But Murphy is radically mischaracterizing the Fair Share bill, its scope and its effect. Apparently, he thinks that spending $150 a month on health insurance can buy decent benefits in New York. Maybe in 1971, but not today.

Fair Share hearing underway

When Bob Master stepped up to the witness table he got a HUGE roar from the audience (nearly completely dressed in Fair Share blue). Bob also got a big laugh by saying, "I think that was a bit of an over-reaction."

His message was clear: "The failure of employers to provide health care is not just a human tragedy," it imposes significant costs on taxpayers and *responsible* employers.

350 supporters at Fair Share hearing

350 people arrived at the State Capitol this morning in 7 buses and dozens of cars to show their support for the Fair Share for Health Care Act. It's an inspiring sight, with a river of supporters wearing blue "Working families support Fair Share for Health Care" t-shirts snaking through the lobby of the Legislative Office Building to line up at the security checkpoint and enter the hearing room. Pretty exciting!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Assembly hearing on Fair Share tomorrow

Everyone's getting ready for tomorrow's Assembly hearing on the Fair Share for Health Care Act. If you can't come be sure to sign on to our testimony and then keep an eye on this blog for reports from the hearing throughout the day.

Melville Joins the Blogosphere

Newsday's New York City coverage may be thinning (or giving way to its non-union sister, AMNewYork), but the paper's staff has started a new blog called Spin Cycle. Nothing earth-shattering there yet, but it's on our radar.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Support growing for Fair Share

Over 800 people have signed on to our testimony in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act and people's testimony is still rolling in. Buses going to Albany for the hearing are filling up fast, so RSVP today.

For folks coming from Wake-Up Wal-Mart, you can read more about our version of the Fair Share for Health Care Act here and more about the Working Families Party here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


(via Ben Smith)

Apparently. the rebuttal (or is it prebuttal?) industry response ads to An Inconvenient Truth, the Al Gore enviro-flick use the tagline:

"Carbon Dioxide: They Call It Pollution. We Call It Life."

Before its latest venture into cheerleading for global warming, CEI has made a name for itself by advocating for things like dioxin.

Sweeney sleds again

Sleddy Sweeney is holding a big money fundraiser this weekend for his faltering Congressional campaign. No word on whether it's open bar.

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George Will's Values

The normally abominable George WIll actually makes some sense in his column today, which runs under the headline "Who Isn't a Values Voter?" in the Washington Post. His thesis is that social conservatives do not have a monopoly on values:

It is odd that some conservatives are eager to promote the semantic vanity of the phrase "values voters." And it is odder still that the media are cooperating with those conservatives.
...Today's liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.

Will's general argument is correct. And from the WFP's perspective, expect to hear a lot of discussion about the WFP allowing New Yorkers to vote their values.

The party's task is to be clear about what those values are, and to explain that voting on the WFP line gives you the freedom to vote your values while still voting for the candidate with the best chance of winning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Health insurance and "individual responsibility"

It’s worth remembering that despite all the problems with our health care system, it could be worse.

Progressives have long criticized our system of private, employment-based health insurance, and advocated replacing it with universal public insurance. But many on the right dislike employment-based health benefits either. Their solution? Eliminate health insurance as we know it.

The conservative critique is logical enough. Health costs are high, they argue, because people consume too much health care, and the wrong kinds. They get expensive procedures they don’t need, visit the doctor too often, and take too many drugs. And why? Because of insurance. When people aren’t paying for health care out of their own pockets, they treat it as if were free, and don’t worry about whether they really need it. Or as Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee put it, One of the reasons we have a healthcare crisis is because, as a consumer, I don't have that much skin in the game.”

The right-wing solution is to replace traditional health insurance, with its focus on employer responsibility, with a system based on individual responsibility instead. While details vary, there are three constant elements: high-deductible catastrophic policies, health savings accounts, and individual mandates.

High-deductible policies require the individual to pay the first several thousand dollars of a medical bill before the insurance kicks in. This is supposed to turn health insurance into genuine insurance – protection against rare, unforeseeable events. Consumers are expected to budget for regular check-ups, drugs, and treatment for minor injuries the same way they would for any other routine, predictable expense. (Never mind that this discourages people from getting cost-effective preventative care.)

Health savings accounts are the tool for paying for those routine expenses, before the high-deductible policy kicks in. They allow people to set aside money tax-free that can be spent only on medical bills. (Never mind that like any tax-favored savings accounts, HSAs would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, who do the lion’s share of personal saving.)

Finally, the individual mandate ensures that no one “free rides” by scamming free emergency-room care. (Never mind that, desptie facile analogies with car insurance, most of the uninsured simply can't afford even high-deductible coverage.)

It’s not hard to knock holes in these ideas – do you really want the “freedom” to choose your cancer treatment the same way you choose a window treatment? Is the problem with health care in the United States really that people get too much of it?

But they not going away. And even if they have been stymied – for the most part – at the state and federal level, that has not stopped individual businesses from putting them into practice, as I’ll discuss in my next post.

So my plea to health care reformers: while you continue to point the better alternatives to employment-based health coverage, don’t forget there are worse alternatives too. And if we don’t do something to shore up employment-based health insurance now, we may soon discover just how much worse they can be.

We're Going to Albany

We're headed to Albany next week on the 23rd for the Assembly hearing on the Fair Share for Health Care Act. The opposition has let their lobbyists loose, but our buses are filling up quickly with people from across the state who want multi-billion dollar companies to provide decent health care and there are already over 700 people who have signed on to our testimony. I've been enjoying reading why people support the bill - you can read what people are saying at the bottom of this page.

Be sure to sign on to support our Fair Share testimony, and if you can come to Albany then RSVP today! We're providing buses from New York City, Buffalo/Rochester, Long Island, Syracuse and Westchester.

It's going to be a fun time with all of us together in one place!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Fair Share fight heats up

The fight to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act is heating up as the bill becomes the central focus of the state Legislature. From Crain's Insider (no link):
"A key supporter of the controversial state bill to require large employers to provide health insurance says it won't pass without a compromise with the NYS Business Council. State Sen.Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, predicts, 'If the labor movement is the only one making this argument, we will not prevail.' Yet the organization remains firmly opposed to Fair Share for Health Care. The council's Elliott Shaw contends the bill would be 'suicidal' for the state. In this week's paper, Crain's predicts the bill will be Albany's main focus through the end of June."
Registration is required to read the article in Crain's, but here's an excerpt:
"Activists from the Working Families Party are mobilizing across the state, pushing a watershed bill that would force New York businesses to buy health insurance for employees. They have knocked on doors in a dozen Senate districts, secured resolutions of support from county legislatures and campaigned relentlessly for media coverage.

Business interests are galvanizing to defeat the bill, called Fair Share for Health Care. Fast-food restaurants, retailers, temporary employment agencies and even amusement park operators organized a 'war room' to plot strategy. The Business Council of New York State is marshaling advocates from chambers of commerce.

The struggle over the bill, the most comprehensive of its kind in the nation, is the most important issue in the five weeks left in the state legislative session."
Be sure to sign on to our testimony.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Greenburgh Rising...

... Low-road employers falling. Working Families Party Man's blog has the info on a resolution passed by the Town of Greenburgh in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act:
Yes, one of the most progressive towns in the well known county of Westchester, NY has unanimously passed a Fair Share for Healthcare resolution in support of the Fair Share for Healthcare Act that's winding It's way through both houses in Albany. The Greenburgh Town Board has been known for passing progressive resolutions like this in the past. Another example would be the resolution they passed against the Patriot Act which the county then followed along with.

As a resident of Greenburgh, NY I'm happy to see that the Town Board voted unanimously to endorse this resolution. As a town we take our politics seriously, and I mean seriously. Ever been to a Town Board meeting? It's no holds barred I tell you! But this leads me to ask the question, can you get your towns, cities, and villages to endorse a resolution calling for Albany to pass the Fair Share for Healthcare Act? The more Albany hears from the local municipalities the better.
The Greenburgh board joins the county legislatures of Suffolk County and Westchester County in passing pro-FSHC resolutions.

It's Showtime

Folks who have been to WFP events over the last 6 months may have seen this video, 13 minute video documentary about the party.

If you're interested in the WFP, it's worth checking out: (a high-speed connection is very helpful, and sound is a must)

Special guest commentators include:

Errol Louis (Daily News)
Steve Malanga (the Manhattan Institute)
Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio (NYC Council)
David Soares (Albany County DA)
and many WFP leaders and members

Working Families Party interviews Bill Perkins

We recently interviewed Bill Perkins, the WFP-endorsed candidate for the State Senate in the 30th district, for this blog. Here's the interview:
WFP: First, congratulations on the endorsement vote by the WFP's Harlem/East Harlem club. Our members are very excited to help your campaign. How helpful do you think the endorsement will be?

Bill Perkins: This endorsement means a lot to me both personally and to help win this election. I thank them for their support and what they do everyday to improve our community. These are the people on the ground that power a campaign, that make it work and that make it successful. Having the Working Families Party Harlem/East Harlem Club on board, together with 1199 SEIU, and so many other groups and people gives us the ability to spread our message across the District as we run an aggressive grassroots campaign and is another sign of the strength of this campaign.

WFP: You're running on your record of action and results. What professional accomplishments are you proudest of?

Bill Perkins: I'm proud that I've built a record of action and results, winning tough fights and making a difference for people. I'm proud of my successful fight to protect our children from the deadly effects of lead in their homes. I am proud of sponsoring the Living Wage Law, which requires companies doing business with the City to pay their employees a living wage. I'm proud of standing up early against the War in Iraq and sponsoring and passing a Council resolution against the war, an action that was repeated in cities across the country. But perhaps I am most proud that everyday my office was able to help people - neighborhood people who felt that they had no where to turn or nobody to speak for them - and we were able to get them the assistance they needed. I look forward to continuing these efforts as State Senator.

WFP: You made an impact on the netroots with your support for Howard Dean in 2004. How important are online efforts to your campaign this year?

Bill Perkins: We are reaching out to people in every way. We are at the subway stations, on the streets and in the neighborhoods running a grassroots campaign. And we are excited by the energy we feel on the Internet as well, as people from all over, particularly fellow Dean supporters, are getting involved, spreading the word and helping our strong, progressive campaign. I welcome everyone to come join us and visit us at

WFP: You're a marathoner. Will you be running two races this year (your election campaign and the NYC marathon), or just one?

Bill Perkins: I have run five New York City Marathons. Running marathons requires energy, persistence, focus, endurance, planning and sheer determination. These are exactly the qualities that have helped me win campaigns and be an effective legislator. In fact, after winning the long, tough fight to protect our children who were being poisoned by lead paint, Juan Gonzalez wrote in the Daily News, "It took the stamina of a long-distance runner to prevail against the city's powerful landlord lobby, which has resisted stronger lead paint removal laws for decades."

This year, I will run the campaign marathon - starting early in the morning to meet voters at the subways stations and finishing days late at night attending community meetings. No one will outwork us. Next year, I look forward to again running the New York City Marathon as the State Senator for the 30th District.

WFP: What's the key to winning your race?

Bill Perkins: The campaign is off to a great start. Already, Councilmembers Bob Jackson, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Miguel Martinez, former Councilmember Ronnie Eldridge, Local 1199 SEIU, the Working Families Party and others have endorsed us. We are getting a great reception on the street. The key is to work hard and get our message out and to raise the money we need to fund our effort. The vote history shows we can win. Our message and record are strong. We are working hard to raise the money we need to get the job done.

WFP: What are your goals as State Senator?

Bill Perkins: It's not enough just to talk about problems. I will be a State Senator who is willing to expend the political capital needed to solve them. With the same tenacity, passion and determination that has enabled me to get results as a neighborhood leader, tenant leader and for eight years as a City Council leader, I am ready to go to Albany to fight for change, for our values and our vision and to achieve Democratic control of the State Senate.

I am running for State Senate to help provide good schools for our children, safe, affordable homes for those who live here, quality health care accessible to all and good jobs with good wages. I am running to open up the process so all voices are heard and to continue my lifetime fight to knock down barriers and create opportunities. I will be a strong advocate for all New Yorkers and their families.

WFP: Among New York elected officials, you were one of the first and one of the loudest opponents of the war in Iraq. It seems like all of your concerns, unfortunately, have come to pass. Do you have thoughts on what the next steps should be for the anti-war movement to ensure the fastest possible exit from Iraq?

Bill Perkins: We need to continue to stand up and make our voices heard. Recently, I rallied with the Grandmothers Against the War. As they say, we need to listen to our grandmothers and end this war. Current policy is undermining both the safety of our country and the promise of America. We need this money to help our children get a better education, to provide accessible health care and better services for our seniors, to create affordable housing and for so many other unfunded projects that truly meet the public interest.
The WFP, particularly our new Harlem/East-Harlem club, is very excited about helping to elect Bill Perkins to the State Senate. We'll be following his campaign closely.

Look for more interviews to come, and let us know what questions you think we should be asking.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Required Reading for Mother's Day

A lot of good thinking is being done around on the country on developing working-family-friendly policies -- from paid family leave to workplace flexibility and universal early education. Some of these will undoubtedly become priority issues for the WFP in subsequent years (the party's hands are full with health care this year).

Why? Here are a couple of reasons:
  • The only countries which do not have some kind of government policy providing paid leave to new mothers are… Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and the United States
  • Half of all bankruptcy filings in 2001 were related to medical issues.
  • Non-mothers make 90 cents to a man's dollar, moms make 73 cents to the dollar, and single moms make 56 to 66 cents to a man's dollar.
To see some of the more interesting thinking, check out some of these articles, manifestos, sites and thinkpieces:

Election rundown, early May edition

A new CNN poll (pdf) (story here) shows Republicans running behind in their Congressional races by double digits while a WNBC/Marist poll (pdf) (via Capitol Confidential) shows Spitzer and Clinton with big coattails. An LA Times article (via Donkey Rising) lays out some challenges and makes the point that New York will be central to the fight over who controls Congress.

In CD20, the Working Families Party endorses Gillibrand while Sweeney goes back to the frat house (maybe he couldn't stop thinking about his earlier drinking binge).

In CD24, Arcuri and Meiers get early endorsements.

In CD29, Massa and Kuhl are making news as they tour the district.

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SEIU on 60 Minutes

This Sunday, "60 Minutes" will air a segment on the SEIU. From the SEIU announcement:
"It's not often the news media tells the truth about what's happening to working families, but the show includes some straight talk from SEIU President Andy Stern about the crisis facing working people in America and the strategies SEIU members have chosen in order to build new strength and unity."
Should be interesting.

You Know We're in Trouble When...

... Jack Cafferty says on CNN:
"We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter ... because he might be all that is standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Working Families Party endorses Kirsten Gillibrand for Congress

The Working Families Party (WFP) has formally endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand for Congress.

The endorsement decision was based on the recommendation of members of the party's Capital Region chapter. Every candidate for the 20th congressional district was invited to complete the WFP's issue questionnaire and be interviewed by members of the Capital Region chapter.

Karen Scharff, WFP Capital Region chapter co-chair, said
"WFP members are excited to support Gillibrand's campaign . . . Her strong candidacy offers real change for New York and the country . . . The 20th congressional district deserves a candidate committed to accountability and ethics. John Sweeney has been a disappointment."
Tom Comanzo, WFP Capital Region chapter co-chair, said
"Kirsten impressed us with her views on reforming the Medicare prescription drug benefit and expanding access to Medicare for all U.S. residents and her clear exit plan for the U.S. to leave Iraq."
Kirsten Gillibrand enthusiastically accepted the party's endorsement, saying
"The WFP endorsement demonstrates to the voters of my district that I am committed to supporting the men and women who work hard everyday to not only support but to make a better life for themselves and their families. In a district where a large percentage of the households contain at least one member of a union, WFP support will also help me promote my message of bringing accountable and honest leadership back to Washington. Your support will underscore my commitment to give a voice to those who can't speak on Capitol Hill."
More to come. It's going to be an exciting election season.

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The Times Union Editorial Page: Channeling Scharff

Karen Scharff, WFP Capital Region Co-Chair (T-U Capitol Confidential blog, 5/9/06): "Maybe he thinks he can talk that way in a frat house, but it doesn't play real well with grown-ups."

Times Union Editorial (5/11/06): "That sort of talk might be OK at, say, a fraternity party, like the one Mr. Sweeney recently attended."

Both commenting on Rep. John Sweeney.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Working Families Party in the American Prospect

Thanks to everyone who blogged on the article about the Working Families Party in the May 2006 issue of the American Prospect. Here's a rundown -
Read the article (pdf) and let me know what you think. And if I've missed a blog post about the article (or if you blog about it and want a link) let me know in the comments.

Jumping the Shark: Part Deux

(As if Suozzi's scheduler was channeling this blog:
6:30 p.m.
Gubernatorial candidate Thomas Suozzi enters the UniverSoul Circus ring alongside the ringmaster; Roy Wilkins Park, 177th & Baisley Blvd. Queens.
No word on whether Scott Baio will be joining him.

(Suozzi schedule via Ben Smith at the Daily News):

Fair Share: Correcting a Misunderstanding

Richard Frederick, an executive from Autotask, a software company in the Capital Region, writes in a letter published today in the Times Union:
The cost of providing health insurance to our employees continues to rise at double-digit rates. We now pay more than $1,000 per month for family coverage. Our company believes that it is our responsibility to provide this coverage for our employees. Why tax us when we already are providing this coverage? Go after the bad guys. I suggest that companies doing business in state either provide coverage or pay the taxes as proposed, but do not require companies that are already providing coverage to pay twice.
Mr. Frederick is exactly right that the problem is "the bad guys" who aren't providing health insurance. But his firm will not be subject to a tax, fee, assessment or any other charge if his firm is, as he suggests providing decent benefits.

Under the Fair Share for Health Care Act, the only firms subject to any kind of charge are those that pay voluntarily instead of providing decent benefits to their employees.

So, in fact, the legislation operates exactly as Mr. Frederick wishes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Suozzi Jumps the Shark

In calling for the ouster of Shelley Silver and Joe Bruno today, Nassau County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi has jumped the shark.

Let's consult the unofficial wikipedia definition:
"a metaphor that has been used by US TV critics and fans since the 1990s to denote the tipping point at which a TV series is deemed to have passed its peak. Once a show has "jumped the shark," fans sense a noticeable decline in quality or feel the show has undergone too many changes to retain its original charm."
Kind of fits the bill, right? Suozzi clearly hit his peak in 2005 with his Fix Albany campaign that can be given some credit for the enactment of caps on county Medicaid spending (whether you think it's genuine and meritorious reform or not). And there were other high points:
  • At roughly the same time, pressure from the Brennan Center and other groups led to implementation of a number of procedural reforms in the state legislature. Again, let's be generous and give Suozzi some credit.
But since announcing his campaign for governor, Suozzi's ratings have slid. The shtick hasn't been working. And Suozzi has had to push the envelope to claim political relevance while trailing by roughly 60 points in some polls of Democratic primary voters.

And to this observer, today's comments by Suozzi are vaguely reminiscent of that moment late in the "Happy Days" series when Fonzie donned water skis to hurdle a shark.

The tv series was ultimately replaced by "Joanie Loves Chachi."

What would be Tom Suozzi's equivalent?

CD20 News this Wednesday

We'll have an announcement on the CD20 Gillibrand-Sweeney Congressional race on Wednesday, May 10, at 7 pm at Ristorante Paradiso, 198 Central Ave, in Albany.

Come join us if you're in the area.

Westchester County supports Fair Share Health Care

The Westchester County Board of Legislators passed a resolution in support of the Fair Share for Health Care Act last night by a vote of 12-4 with one member absent.

Voting for the resolution:
  • Thomas J. Abinanti (WFP-D, District 12)
  • Jose I. Alvarado (WFP-D, District 17)
  • William Burton (WFP-D, District 9)
  • Michael B. Kaplowitz (WFP-D, District 4)
  • James Maisano (WFP-R, District 11)
  • Judith A. Myers (WFP-D, District 7)
  • Vito J. Pinto (WFP-D, District 10) Majority Whip
  • Martin Rogowsky (WFP-D, District 6) Majority Leader
  • William J. Ryan (WFP-D, District 5) Board Chair
  • Bernice Spreckman (R, District 14)
  • Andrea Stewart-Cousins (WFP-D, District 16) Board Vice Chair
  • Clinton I. Young, Jr. (D, District 13)
Voting against the resolution:
  • Gordon A. Burrows (R, District 15)
  • George Oros (R, District 1) Minority Leader
  • Ursula G. LaMotte (R, District 2) Minority Whip
  • Suzanne R. Swanson (R, District 3)
  • Lois T. Bronz (WFP-D, District 8)
Thanks to everyone who called the Westchester County Legislature - they definitely got the message.

Onward to Albany!

WFP Responds to Sweeney's Latest Gaffe

With his penchant for campaign gaffes and ethical blunders, it's been clear for some time that Rep. John Sweeney has a masochistic streak. Now it seems he may also have misogynistic streak.

Sweeney, who is facing a fierce challenge from Kirsten Gillibrand, was quoted in Sunday's Troy Record "You can't take a resume and a pretty face from New York City and say to people this is good for you simply because we can spend a lot of money and raise a lot of money."

Here's the WFP response:


"Maybe he thinks he can talk that way in a frat house"
The Working Families Party responded today to Rep. John Sweeney's latest campaign gaffe. Sweeney, who is facing a fierce challenge from Kirsten Gillibrand, was quoted in Sunday's Troy Record as saying: "You can't take a resume and a pretty face from New York City and say to people this is good for you simply because we can spend a lot of money and raise a lot of money."

Karen Scharff, a co-chair of the WFP's Capital Region chapter and resident of Hannacroix, NY, had this response:

"John Sweeney is nearing the end of his political road. Maybe he thinks he can talk that way in a frat house, but it doesn't play real well with grown-ups. That empty feeling he may be sensing today comes from thousands of New York women leaving the Sweeney tent to go vote for Kirsten Gillibrand."

The Working Families Party is scheduled to announce its endorsement of Gillibrand at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Ristorante Paradiso at 198 Central Avenue in Albany.


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The Force Is with the WFP (Updated)

The WFP's policy director, Josh Mason, was a guest on the "Face-Off" show on WLIW (Long Island Public Television) yesterday, a "Crossfire"-style debate program. Josh was pitted against Matthew McGuire, the communications director from the Business Council of New York State.

Josh started off on an upnote: After McGuire's organization was introduced, tongue-in-cheek, as the "Darth Vader of progressive politics," Josh described the WFP as "the Luke Skywalker, the new hope for New York."

And it just got better from there.

By the end of the show, which was primarily a debate of the Fair Share for Health Care Act, co-host (and Newsday columnist) Larry Levy said he agreed with Josh: "Business has got to be willing to be step up."

UPDATE: So you want to actually watch the show? Bless you. Tuesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 21.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Soares Update

Updating our earlier post, Democracy in Albany is reporting that the members of the Albany County legislature who wanted to advance a resolution critical of D.A. Soares chickened out saw the wisdom of their ways.
The word is that the motion or resolution or whatever was withdrawn at the beginning of the meeting. Then a large crowd spoke in favor of Soares, none against. Put this one in the "boneheaded" political move column.
An ironic occasion for a bit of justice in this world.

Soares Rises to the Occasion

Full disclosure: David Soares is a WFP hero. But even we are mightily impressed with the Albany County DA's courage and grace under fire.

Soares' remarks at a drug policy conference have caused a stir in his jurisdiction. Basically, Soares reminded a gathering of wonks and advocates that the war on drugs in the United States has been a losing one, and that the financial incentives built into the criminal justice system offer at least a partial explanation for the slow pace of reform.

A portion of the Albany Couty law enforcement community took offense, with one union official even suggesting Soares should resign.

Today, Soares held a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol, with Democrats (including Speaker Shelley Silver) who support further reform of the Rockefeller drug laws by his side. Soares has always been pasisonate about the cause, and today, it seems his eloquence rose to the occasion. From the Times Union:

Soares apologized to local rank-and-file police officers "from the bottom of my heart'' if they were offended by his remark that America has continued its failed war on drugs ``because it provides law enforcement officials with lucrative jobs.'' He admitted ``lucrative'' might have been a "poor choice of words,'' adding that "expensive'' might have been better.

"This is not a lucrative business, I would say other than people like myself and other high-ranking executives that make substantial salaries,'' Soares said. "I am saying we have an incredibly expensive criminal justice system that continues to expand as a result of laws we pass.''

Soares expressed admiration for the "courage'' of law enforcement personnel patrol Albany's streets, but added: "It is possible to criticize the war without being unpatriotic.''

Overall, Soares, who dealt a blow to the Democratic establishment when he defeated his former boss, Paul Clyne, in a 2004 primary, refused to back down from the sentiments behind the speech he delivered to the 17th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm in Vancouver.

"I stand by my statements, we are losing this drug war,'' Soares said. ``We are losing it ultimately here on the streets and I don't mind telling you this.''

Later, he added: "I would rather experience the alienation of 400 people, than stand by and witness the annihilation of an entire generation.'' Soares was referencing a statistic long highlighted by drug reform advocates: That the majority of people incarcerated on drug charges in New York's prisons are African American or Hispanic.

There has been talk that the county legislature may consider a resolution critical of Soares tonight. Hard to believe they could still be thinking of doing that after this afternoon's event. But, if you're in the area, it's hard to think of a more worthwhile use of a couple of hours this evening than going to the meeting and showing support for speaking truth to power. Here are the details, courtesy of Citizen Action of New York.

TONIGHT - Come to the County Legislature's meeting tonight at the Old County Courthouse, 2nd floor.
Public Comment Period 6:30 - 7:00, arrive by 6:15. Call ahead of time to sign up if you wish to speak in support of David.

A Report from the DMI Fair Share Event

Daniel Millstone posts a report over at DailyGotham on the conference about the Fair Share for Health Care bill sponsored by the Drum Major Institute this morning.

They were discussing what may be a log-jam breaking proposal to force moderate and large retailers to provide health case insurance for their employees. Sen. Lawlah focused on her experience getting a similar health insurance bill enacted in Maryland. While there are four bills knocking around in Albany, only the WFP bill seems to have legs -- because only it has a Republican State Senate sponsor (Yonkers' Nick Spano). As currently drafted, the WFP Fair Share Bill would require retailers with more than 100 employees to provide health insurance or pay into a fund for the uninsured. Everyone at this morning's panel viewed the Fair Share Bill as a partial step, not a solution, for getting health insurance to those not now covered.
And in breaking news (actually, I think Daniel broke it), the Assembly will be holding on the bill on May 23. WFP Press release here (.pdf).

Update: Don't forget to RSVP to see David Sirota speak at another Drum Major Institute event this Wednesday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wal-Mart Against Homeland Security

Congressman Jerry Nadler, a great progressive,* has a great posting on TPM Cafe highlighting the resistance of Wal-Mart and other retailers to his Sail Only if Scanned (S.O.S) Act.

The bill requires that all containers be scanned for radiation and density at the port of origin. It's a matter of great concern to Nadler, whose district includes substantial stretches of waterfront.

However, the issue is of less concern to a select group. The Congressman writes:
Wal-Mart and other mega-importers, under the umbrella of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, have been lobbying fiercely against 100-percent scanning. The industry alleges that scanning every container would slow down commerce and harm their profits. If that sounds achingly familiar, it's because that's the same objection raised by industry groups when Congress decided, after 9/11, that every airline passenger and every piece of luggage needed to be scanned. Lobbyists foretold clogged airports, massive delays, and the death of the airline industry. But, as so often happens, common sense trumped corporate paranoia. Our flights depart on-schedule, and every bag is scanned.
Profits before the human health and safety. Sound familiar?

Bowing to pressure from Wal-Mart and others, the House passed a substantially weaker bill yesterday. A vote to strengthen the bill by including 100% scanning lost 222-202. Every single Republican congressmember from New York (Sweeney, Kuhl, Fossella, Reynolds, Walsh, Kelly, King, McHugh, Boehlert) voting for weakened scanning.

* Full disclosure: My first full-time job on a campaign was as deputy press secretary on Jerry's 1989 campaign for City Comptroller.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Editorial boards wonder why the Republican Party in New York has fallen has far as it has. When the most vigorous debate in the party's internal campaigns is bigamy (?!?), one doesn't have to wonder why.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

WFP Harlem/East Harlem Club Endorses Perkins

The members of the WFP's brand new Harlem/East Harlem club voted this evening to endorse Bill Perkins for State Senate in the 30th district, the seat being vacated by Sen. David Paterson.

See the press release (.pdf) here.

What's Suozzi up to? May edition

If it's the start of the month it must be time for the May version of the rumor that Thomas Suozzi, currently a Democrat, will switch parties and run for governor as a Republican. Suozzi denies it, but he denied it in April and March and the rumors still keep coming.

Any theories about what the real story is? The Republican candidates for governor are weak, but this really seems like grasping at straws.

One Business's (Unfair) Hysteria

A letter to the editor published in today's Albany Times Union reflects some misunderstandings about the Fair Share for Health Care legislation.

First, the letter writer, the CEO of Hannay Reels, a manufacturer of fire-fighting and fueling equipment, will be pleased to know that his firm would not be covered by the bill. Manufacturing firms are exempted from the scope of A10583/S7090.

Second, virtually no businesses would be subject to any form of tax or fee under the legislation. Only a business that voluntarily chooses to make a payment to the state instead of providing benefits to its workers would make any payment. Stop me when you find a business that would rather give money to the state rather than invest in workforce retention and productivity.

Third, the legislation only applies to 100 or more employees.

Mr. Hannay's concerns are genuine, I'm sure, but, he'll be glad to know, unfounded.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kicking May off right

From Crain's Insider, WFP plans to pound pavement (no link):
"To push its 'Fair Share for Health Care' bill, the Working Families Party will soon go door-to-door in the state Senate districts of Republicans Tom Morahan, Caesar Trunzo, Mike Balboni, Carl Marcellino, and Dean Skelos to pressure them to vote in favor. Later, WFP staff, volunteers and paid college students will hit the districts of John Flanagan and Ken LaValle. In June, the advocates will blitz Syracuse, lobbying the constituents of John DeFrancisco and Democrat Dave Valesky. The bill, requiring most firms with more than 100 workers to pay for health insurance for their employees, is opposed by the Business Council of New York State and other business interests."
Our thanks go out to everyone who made a donation in April to give us the resources to kick May off right.

Now That Was a Strike

(via Gothamist)
Anyone know anything about the Actor's Strike of 1919 in New York? Actually, there's a pretty interesting history on the Equity web site here.

The picture above is from a new photo archive operated by the Library of Congress. Lots more great labor history photos too.

Springsteen's Indictment

You may have read about Bruce Springsteen's performance on Sunday in New Orleans. Here's video from the event (note: the clip, from MSN, seems to require Internet Explorer, rather than Firefox or other non-Microsoft browsers).

Bruce's sound bite attack of the day on the Bush administration comes about 25 seconds into the clip: "The criminal ineptitude makes you furious. This is what happens when political cronyism guts the very agencies that are supposed to serve American citizens in times of trial and hardship. This is what happens when people play political games with other people's lives."

Springsteen then dedicated a Depression-era song, "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?," to "President Bystander."

(via Democracy in Albany)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ben Smith: Fair Share Is This Year's Sleeper

On his Daily News blog, Ben Smith calls the Fair Share for Health Care Act "this year's sleeper issue, the major post-budget legislative fight," noting that "[t]he coalition behind it, spearheaded by the Working Families Party, is the same that recently won an increase in the state minimum wage."

Learn more here:

Gillibrand offers an exit plan

20th congressional district Kirsten Gillibrand offers an exit plan for redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq.
(via the Albany Times Unon Capitol Confidential blog)

I hear the WFP's Capital Region chapter is getting very excited about helping Gillibrand provide an exit plan for her opponent, incumbent Rep. John Sweeney.

Possible endorsement news may be coming soon.

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See David Sirota in NYC on May 10

Here are a couple more reasons for you to come see David Sirota, blogger and author of Hostile Takeover, on May 10 at 6:30 pm in New York City as part of a Drum Major Institute panel discussion on the 2006 election. This should be popular, so be sure to RSVP in advance.
"Sirota has always had a lot to say about Democratic renewal, but in his first book, he keeps the political advice to a minimum and instead tells the story as he would hope to hear it told. It's a useful discipline and the result is a book that could show any political speaker how to forge a compelling narrative. On issue after issue, from taxes to pensions to health care to energy, corporate interests have used their political influence to undermine the public and their customers, promote their short-term profits over the long-term good, and in general ripped us off. And Sirota argues that on each issue, there is a set of public solutions -- responsible and achievable -- that would answer the takeover and restore public trust . . . Sirota's book is a catalogue of stories that show just how to make that connection [with average Americans], so that every discussion of health care can be a discussion of corruption, reform, and better results."
- Washington Monthly, April, 2006

"David Sirota is the kind of pundit you'd like to have on your side in a knife fight and wouldn't want to cross in a dark alley . . . He stands for the interests of ordinary people, and anyone who disagrees about anything is not merely wrong, but a 'hack' or a 'liar,' a bought-and-paid-for agent of Corporate America . . . Not content to stick with the small-bore corruption of Jack Abramoff's misdeeds, [Hostile Takeover's] target is the entire nexus of corporate cash and the political system. As ever, profit-making firms try their best to exploit customers and workers, and with the assistance of friendly politicians, pundits, and think tankers the government is doing less and less to stand in their way. Right-wing talking points on the full spectrum of economic issues are debunked, progressive alternatives vociferously defended, and no hint of doubt or hesitation enters the picture at any point."
- American Prospect, April, 2006

"One of the most important books to come along in awhile will soon be hitting the book stores and the Internet: Hostile Takeover. The basic premise of the book is that there is no longer any lines between Big Business and government. They are one and the same -- both looking to fleece the average American as much as possible . . . This is true in every arena, but certainly true in the environment, where giant corporations, given complete license by the government, are raping and pillaging the country. If [Americans] want a world where the environment is protected and we are saved from global catastrophe, [their] first step will be to read this book and see what [we] are up against."
- Alternet, April, 2006
Other panelists include Dr. Elizabeth Warren, Howard Wolfson and Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat. RSVP here.

And don't miss Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor two days earlier on the morning of May 8th as part of a Drum Major Institute panel on Fair Share Health Care. RSVP here.

Imperfect Attendance

Follow the Leader contemplates the effect of Citizen Union's poor attendance report on Andrew Lanza's possible bid for John marchi's State Senate seat:
Imagine the mailing: "Andrew Lanza had the worst attendance in the City Council. If he can't bother to get to lower Manhattan, why would he bother to go to Albany?"
Seems like it would be effective, no?

Cantor, WFP Called "Gutsy"

Economic populist/strategist/blogger David Sirota has written a new book called "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government--and How We Take It Back."

He is guest blogging this week at TPM Cafe, plugging his book, and explaining some of his ideas for restoring decency, honesty and common sense to our national politics.

He's also one of the driving forces behind PLAN -- the Progressive Legislative Action Network, whose mission is to provide coordinated research and strategic advocacy tools to forward-thinking state legislators

David is a great speaker, and he'll be in New York City speaking at a Drum Major Institute event on May 10. More info here.

And, oh yes, the headline of this post. It comes from Sirota's first TPM Cafe blog entry. Despite the corruption he finds in Congress, he finds some reason for hope:
To be sure, there are some gutsy people speaking truth to power and fighting this hostile takeover, both in Washington and throughout the country. They run the gamut from Democratic politicians like Sherrod Brown, to reporters like the Wall Street Journal's Ellen Schultz, to third-party leaders like Dan Cantor. Their stories are told in my book. Similarly, there are very clear solutions to the major economic problems our country faces – and they are laid out in my book as well.
Check out the Drum Major event if if you can.

Who Reads Political Blogs?

Middle-aged, middle-class white men, that's who, according to an unscientific survey of 36,000 web surfers conducted by BlogAds, the internet advertising firm:
The median political blog reader is a 43 year old man with an annual family income of $80,000. He reads 6 blogs a day for 10 hours a week. 39% have post-graduate degrees. 70% have contributed to a campaign. 69% have bought music, 87% have bought books. 58% say blogs are "extremely useful" sources of information. 52% leave comments on other people's blogs. Just 18% of political blog readers have their own blogs.
More detail here. And a story in today's Washington Post on the subject here.