Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Vet Candidates: Financial Records

It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve seen this kind of crony capitalism before. It’s is the same good old boy politics-as-usual that I fought and we defeated in my home state. I took on a corrupt and compromised political class and their backroom dealings with Big Oil. And I can tell you from experience that sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power-brokers. So, please you must vet a candidate’s record. You must know their ability to successfully reform and actually fix problems that they’re going to claim that they inherited.

-Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin September 3, 2011, Indianola, IA

If you've vetted a candidate's voting record, the next step is to vet financial records. "Forensic accounting" is a discipline unto itself, and while the average voter cannot be expected to be the next Peter Schweizer, we can examine some basic records and apply common-sense. We are looking for:

  • Expenses reasonable and customary vs. outlandish and extravagant.
  • Irregularities that could suggest embezzling funds.
  • Irregularities that could suggest cloaking sources of income.
  • Understating income or expenses.
  • Income from trade, industry or interest groups who benefit from legislation sponsored or voted on. This is a tell-tale sign of reg neg and possible crony capitalism.

To keep this simple, three websites are key to vetting financial records to the level of a very well-informed voter if not a semi-professional level.

Federal Election Commission Disclosures

The Federal Election Commission website houses income, disbursement and other financial data pertaining to candidates, campaigns, 527 organizations and Political Action Committees. Palinistas who donate to SarahPAC (listed as "Sarah PAC" - two words - Committee Number C00458588), should be familiar with its filings. Just as investors should understand that in which they invest, donors should understand that to which they donate. For instance, Palinistas should know that SarahPAC stumps for candidates who support its principles and that monies from the PAC cannot legally be used for purposes outside SarahPAC's purview, such as a campaign for any office by Gov. Palin. A campaign would have to be done with separate monies.

Like all government sites, the FEC site has a bit of a learning curve, before you are able to find the desired information. If you are comfortable navigating the FEC site, reading and understanding SarahPAC's filings, you are ready move on to other candidates and committees to apply what you've learned from reviewing SarahPAC's filings.

FEC Website

Open Secrets

Open Secrets is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics and is an excellent way to vet financial information pertinent to federal candidates and committees. Being privately owned and operated, it is somewhat easier to navigate than the FEC site. I used it almost three years ago for a campaign financing study and it is a goldmine of valuable information. Considering that I had only been supporting Gov. Palin all of six months at the time and was a complete newbie to elective politics, the site is easy to use.

Open Secrets

Follow The Money

Follow the Money is used for vetting financial records of state candidates. Like Open Secrets, Follow the Money is a non-partisan organization. The website has several tools that help you see who is lobbying to include well-heeled individuals. Tools of particular interest include: Follow the Money

The Final Installment

We'll discuss using the clock as a vetting tool in our final installment of this candidate vetting series.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gov. Palin on Bolling: Candidates Should Attract Diverse Voters

Candidates "can't just be preaching to the choir...Candidates should not be afraid to debate in front of the nation regardless of who the host is," former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said tonight in a wide-ranging two-segment TV interview with Eric Bolling of Follow the Money from her home in Wasilla, Alaska.

Gov. Palin was referring to Donald Trump's proposed debate which Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman both declined. She said both candidates should reconsider their attendance and if she were a candidate would be attend so as to get her message out to a diverse audience which includes independents and those who are "not into the inside baseball."

Bolling said that he does not consider either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney true conservatives and queried Gov. Palin as to how someone like him should proceed with the field of candidates. "You and so many Americans are in the same boat," she said. Our choice is between "being socialist" or "being a nation of free men and free markets."

"You are looking for the perfect candidate," she continued. "We're going to have to support the GOP nominee."

Like Hannity before him, Bolling asked Gov. Palin if she was going to endorse a candidate before or after Iowa. She reiterated that her endorsement will not come before Iowa and that Iowa is the beginning, not the end. She said that Gringrich has risen in the polls because he has reached out to Tea Party and Constitutional conservatives, who in turn have forgiven some of his past political sins. Romney has yet to reach out conservative voters.

But, Gov. Palin warned that Gingrich cannot pretend to be a DC outsider when he was an insider. She said that he had in fact done good things as an insider, such as balancing the budget during the Clinton administration, and he needs to remind voters what he has done to reform corruption.

Gov. Palin said whoever rises to the top must campaign on sudden and relentless reform. "If you've been part of the problem, you are not going to get my support or the support of Constitutional Conservatives."

"Any of the candidates would be infinitely better than Obama." Further, Gov. Palin noted that all the candidates have cut budgets, taxes or fought for smaller, more limited government. "I have studied their records." She said a good bellwether on where conservatives might go would be to see who Ron Paul endorses if he leaves the race. Though Gov. Palin disagrees with Paul's foreign policies, she agrees with his domestic spending policies.

Gov. Palin also again said that she did not believe this had become a two-candidate race. "History shows that the winner or second place in Iowa doesn't necessarily get the nomination."

In the second segment, Gov. Palin said that it was typical that Nancy Pelosi and others in Congress would lie about their insider trading - a practice that is illegal for every US citizen outside of the Congress. She said that this activity is appalling and accounts for why people of modest means leave the Congress unusually wealthy. Bolling spoke about how Senators and Representatives were calling and trading stocks after meeting with Treasury Secretaries - accessing both tax payers' money and inside information.

The loans given by the Obama administration to campaign bundlers and friends are also a form of crony capitalism. Gov. Palin referenced Peter Schweizer's Throw Them All Out and said it's time to do precisely that.

About Obama's forthcoming 17-day trip to Hawaii, Gov. Palin said he is "deaf, dumb, and blind" to what is going on in the nation. She predicted "he threw the number 17 days out there just to tick people off, then will come back in 15 days to address some issue in the White House and look like the hero."

Video retrieved from SarahNET

Gov. Palin on Hannity: "Obama is Phony," No Endorsements

"I'm very encouraged by these poll numbers and we will have a candidate rise to the top to beat Obama. We want undo what Obama has done to this country," Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said tonight in her single-segment TV interview with Sean Hannity as her fireplace roared in her Wasilla, Alaska home. Gov. Palin was referring to a poll in which a generic GOP candidate would beat Obama 49% - 41% if the election were held today.

Hannity recited a list of Obama's negative statements about the Republican Party and Gov. Palin responded, "you gave examples of more of Obama's hogwash. He doesn't mean it and he doesn't walk the walk. He is a phony. Obama is a phony."

Gov. Palin acknowledged that her ticket "missed the boat during the last go-around," but said unlike in 2008, Obama does have a record.

Hannity asked Gov. Palin if she ready to make an endorsement.

"I am not ready to make an endorsement. This is a long process. Iowa is not the end. It is the beginning. We can't be complacent with this poll....Obama will have $1 billion 90% of the lamestream media in his back pocket," Gov. Palin said.

He followed up by asking Gov. Palin specifically if she would support either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney.

"At the end of the day, I will support the GOP nominee," Gov. Palin said, adding that any of the independents and unsung candidates would be better than Obama.

Even the lamestream media might be souring to Obama. A coworker informed me about a hard-hitting column written on October 30 by Matt Patterson, a columnist for the Washington Post, the New York Post and the San Francisco Examiner, in which he refers to Obama as an "Affirmative Action President" and discusses Obama's lifelong lack of accomplishment in all of his pursuits.

Video retrieved from SarahNET.

H/T Michael Monahan for lead to Affirmative Action President article.

“Smoking Gun” in Fast & Furious?

Governor Palin today posted on Facebook:

For anyone following the Obama administration's scandalous cluster-of-an-operation Fast & Furious, which resulted in the deaths of innocent people, please see the article excerpted below. (And in my humble opinion, I do believe the anti-2nd Amendment characters working in the Obama administration purposefully used their Fast & Furious gun walking operation to propose more gun control regulations.)   Scour this article and let me know if you too think this might be a “smoking gun” in the Fast & Furious case.  
ATF officials didn't intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called "Demand Letter 3". That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or "long guns." Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.   On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF's Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:   "Bill - can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks."   On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as "(A)nother time to address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue." And a day after the press conference, Chait emailed Newell: "Bill--well done yesterday... (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case."   This revelation angers gun rights advocates. Larry Keane, a spokesman for National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group, calls the discussion of Fast and Furious to argue for Demand Letter 3 "disappointing and ironic." Keane says it's "deeply troubling" if sales made by gun dealers "voluntarily cooperating with ATF's flawed 'Operation Fast & Furious' were going to be used by some individuals within ATF to justify imposing a multiple sales reporting requirement for rifles." The Gun Dealers' Quandary   Several gun dealers who cooperated with ATF told CBS News and Congressional investigators they only went through with suspicious sales because ATF asked them to.   Sometimes it was against the gun dealer's own best judgment.
Retrieved from:

SarahPAC: Get Signed Undefeated for Christmas

SarahPAC Supporter,

We stand at the edge of an uncertain future. From the uncertainty of the millions of unemployed to the uncertainty of future tax burdens for small business owners, it is clear that we must now fight against the fundamental transformation taking place against all that has made America truly exceptional. We must bring certainty back into the lives of the American people.

To do this, SarahPAC will continue to be a driving force in the discussion for reforms that tackle the problem of crony capitalism and promote free markets, smaller government, domestic energy development, and removing the excessive tax and regulatory burdens that have left American industry more uncertain and less prosperous.

With the 2012 elections right around the corner, now is the time to join Governor Palin and SarahPAC’s continuing efforts to take our country back.

If you give a gift of $100 or more to SarahPAC, we will send you a copy of "The Undefeated" DVD signed by Governor Palin to show our appreciation for your ongoing support.

With the holiday season upon us, this collector's item is the perfect gift for a friend or family member and if your gift is received by December 18th, we guarantee delivery of the DVD by Christmas!

With your donation of $100 or more to SarahPAC, you will not only be receiving this exclusive signed copy of "The Undefeated," but you will also have a direct impact on the 2012 election cycle by ensuring that Governor Palin and SarahPAC have the resources needed to help elect conservative candidates and send them to Washington.

The future of our country belongs to those who are willing to fight for it, and with your vital support we can continue to help elect commonsense conservatives who will do what is necessary to ensure that America’s prosperity is renewed.

Once again, I ask you to take this stand with us.

Thank you for all you do for Governor Palin and SarahPAC,

Tim Crawford Treasurer, SarahPAC


Paid for by SarahPAC Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee

P.O. Box 7711 Arlington, VA 22207

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Vet Voting Records

"I have great respect for the wisdom of the people....the American voter doing their own homework, knowing who these candidates are, what they represent, what their experience provides them - they will be making up their own mind."

-Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
December 1, 2011, Hannity

An incumbent seeking re-election or a candidate having served in a prior office has a voting record. The purpose of examining voter records is to assess:
  • Congruency of stated position in campaign materials and actual voting record.
  • Integrity or lack thereof.
  • Consistency of position on issues vs. "flip-flopping."
  • If a change in position on an issue is heart-felt or motivated by political expediency.
  • Possible evidence of crony capitalism or other forms of corruption when assessed along with financial data. A key indicator is the legislation benefits a business or industry and there are major campaign or PAC contributions from interests associated with the business or industry. You likely need to cross-reference voting records and financial data to see this.
Note that legislators have a penchant for attaching amendments to bills that have nothing to do with the bill itself. A legislator might vote against a bill that seemingly aligns with your values because of these amendments. So, you may need to look up public statements about the decision to see if this factor was operative. Similarly, many bills are deceptively named. Just because the name sounds like something you agree with does not mean that it is. If something about a candidate's vote on a bill causes alarm bells to ring, investigate further.

Remember that no one in the House or Senate can truthfully claim to have cut a budget. Gov. Palin noted this in her December 1, 2011 TV interview with Sean Hannity and Eric Felten's The Ruling Class: Inside the Imperial Congress detailed how "services baseline" budgeting works back in 1993. Nothing has changed since then.

At the federal level, both the House and Senate provide complete official roll call voting records, so if your candidate has served in the House or Senate, you will find the voting record here. These records are organized by the legislation or resolution voted on. You cannot go to one of these sites and search a particular person's complete record, so using these sites fast becomes a real chore. Some Representatives and Senators do list their complete voting records, but it is not common practice.

We should push our elected representatives to post their complete voting records, not just at the federal level but at the state and municipal levels as well. We should also be able to see complete voting records, not just sponsored or introduced pieces of legislation.

US House of Representatives

US House of Representatives Roll Call Votes

US Senate

US Senate Roll Call Votes

Project VoteSmart

Project VoteSmart is a non-partisan organization consisting of an equal number of liberals and conservatives. A search on a person's name will pull up the voting record, and in some cases financial disclosures. VoteSmart has a Political Courage Test which virtually no major candidate of either party has taken. Thus, nearly every candidate will have "Lacks Courage" under his or her name. Is this an indictment of all candidates of both parties, or is it more an indictment of VoteSmart? We'll leave that question for our readers to decide.

For the 2012 POTUS election, VoteSmart offers a tool known as VoteEasy which asks you to answer 20 questions about various issues and rank their level of importance to you. Based on your answers, the algorithm will pick one or more candidates who supposedly most closely align with your position on the issues. How reliable is it? All I will say is run it and judge for yourself. I certainly would not stake my voting position on VoteEasy, but it can be valuable as a starting point.

The VoteSmart site does a very good job with highlighting voting records of those candidates who have House or Senate experience. It also goes to the state and municipal levels, though not as comprehensively.

Project VoteSmart


Cross-Referencing VoteSmart, Senate and House Sites

The easiest way to vet a candidate with House or Senate experience running for re-election or for POTUS is to first use Project VoteSmart. This is because VoteSmart will pull up the voting record associated with a candidate. If a candidate voted a certain way on a piece of legislation that you determine warrants further investigation, you can go to the appropriate site and search on the legislation to read its text. By doing this, you can see if the candidate in fact "flip-flopped" or found an amendment to a bill or act objectionable.

State and Municipal Offices

State and municipal records are much harder to track down than House and Senate records. Each state and city site has its own quirks and there will be a learning curve in accessing them. As the offices get smaller in scale, the records get more scarce. Some states and cities may not have this information online, making vetting a real chore.

Still, the procedure is similar to the federal offices. In New York State, all legislation sponsored by a state Senator or a State Assembly member is available online. The same is true for the New York City Council. But, finding how these elected officials voted on legislation they did not sponsor is very difficult. Sponsored legislation should give you enough information to make a reasonable assessment.

Here are some examples using New York State and New York City:

New York State Senate: Diane Savino

New York State Assembly: Matthew Titone

New York City Council: use the advanced search. You can find sponsored legislation, by picking the council member's name off the drop-down menu and it's organized by first name first.

Executives: Governors and Mayors

Executives sign and veto legislation, thus they have a "voting record." Visit the state gubernatorial website and the city's mayoral site where the official served. Executives do more than sign and veto legislation, however. The governor is the president of a state and the mayor is the president of a city. Executives fill appointed positions, administer budgets, and manage crises. A governor has ultimate command over the state's National Guard units and the state police. A mayor has ultimate command over a city's police and fire departments. Executives sign ceremonial proclamations. Don't pooh pooh these. Just ask any sitting or prior executive how riled up a voting bloc gets if a pertinent proclamation is forgotten or omitted one year. These proclamations reflect somewhat on issues that may be important to the executive. Everything matters when vetting, even those items that on the surface appear petty.

When you vet someone who has executive experience, you need to look beyond "voting record" - legislation signed and vetoed - to consider all facets of the executive's job and how well he or she performed in these areas. Gov. Palin's accomplishments throughout her life, for instance have been thoroughly compiled and continue to be updated. The point in using Gov. Palin's accomplishments for this exercise is not to compare others to her, but to see the various aspects of what an executive does.

Using New York State as the example again, here is the list of Governor Andrew Cuomo's signed legislation, and Gov. Cuomo's initiatives, including budgets. Here is Project VoteSmart's Key Issues Summary on Gov. Cuomo. There are a fair number of bills vetoed, and you can see he used the line item veto on a budget vote. I learned something new writing this. I had no idea my home state has the line item veto.

New York City's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg does not list legislation signed or vetoed, but he does list his accomplishments, issues that matter to him, and his executive orders.

While state and city sites are excellent resources for sitting executives, finding the accomplishments of a prior governor or mayor will require some real digging, because much of that information is archived.

Google (or Bing, or whatever) is Your Friend

For instance, just on a Google search, I saw that my councilwoman, Deborah ("Debi") Rose received the endorsements of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW and is favorably predisposed to the Working Families Party. She is a hard leftist and her sponsored legislation (mainly resolutions) confirms that. All this came up without my even having to open the links, but I could see the links themselves were authoritative. Using a search engine is a good supplementary tool for vetting voting records.

The Next Installment

The next installment will show you how to vet financial data and why you should cross-reference it with voting records.