Archive for February, 2008

Letters to Donnelly Watch

February 29, 2008

(The following are two emails received by Donnelly Watch during this past week)

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Dear Representative Donnelly:

I am a Democrat living in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, and I just want to
remind you that the Iraq War is still the main issue for many of us,
although the Administration and the Media would like to tell the
country the main issue is something else altogether.

We entered into this war through lies and deceit. Those the likes of
Paul Wolfowicz(spelling?), and Richard Perle, among other Neocons, had
George Bush’s ears; hence our involvement is involved in a war which
never should have been. The ultimate goal is to make the country
(Iraq) ours — to steal its oil, and to bring our brand of Capitalism
to that country. It is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I believe that there is a Universal Law — What goes around comes
around; Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap, etc., etc.,
etc. We are sowing a whirlwind, and I am afraid we are going to reap
a whirlwind.

There is only one reason to stay in the war — to continue filling the
pockets of a few with a lot of money, while the rest of us and the
poor Iraqi victims of this war are going down the tubes.

Sarah Haefner
Rolling Prairie, Indiana

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TO: Second District Watchdog group (Indiana progressives)
In reference to your website, you posted that Donnelly will not face a Primary opponent due to the fact that none are registered across the Federal district in your part of N. Indiana; there is more of a chance that he as a Democrat will be targeted by wealthy ultra-conservative media savvy groups like “Defense of Democracy” (an unaligned with candidate media group that swiftboats vulnerable incumbents). Please post on your website what you can find out about this PAC (political action group).
An interested media consumer who lives in SW Michigan,
Tee Jay
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Women demand Donnelly help cut cost of birth control

February 28, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune. Emphasis in the text below by Donnelly Watch)

MARGARET FOSMOE
Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Some Indiana University South Bend students and employees are demanding that Congress take action to reverse a steep hike in the cost of birth-control pills sold at the campus health center.

Prices for oral contraceptives last year began doubling and tripling at college health centers, the result of a complex change in the Medicaid rebate law that essentially ended an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges.

IUSB students and employees recently delivered a petition with 600 signatures gathered on campus to the local office of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger. Spearheaded by IUSB’s Feminist Student Union, the petition demands that Congress restore affordable birth control to colleges. It urges Donnelly to push his congressional colleagues and take action to reverse the price hikes.

IUSB has been dispensing prescription birth control for about five years, since the campus Health and Wellness Center was established. The center also sells emergency contraceptives (the “morning-after” pill) and provides free condoms. The center is not open to the general public.

IUSB senior Erin Tracey, 26, of Niles, started taking birth-control pills several years ago after a physician prescribed them to treat dysmenorrhea (cramps and painful menstruation) and adult acne. Tracey’s health insurance does not cover the cost.The name-brand version recommended by her doctor is not available at IUSB because of the high price, $50 to $60 a month, so she buys a generic version at the health center for $15 a month. “A couple years ago it would have been much less expensive,” she said.

Tracey said the name-brand version is more expensive than she can afford.

She signed the petition and helped collect signatures. “It’s important to me because I strongly believe that sex education and access to affordable birth control would prevent abortion and unwanted pregnancies,” she said.

The price hike at colleges is the result of a chain reaction started by a 2005 federal deficit-reduction bill that focused on Medicaid. Before the change, pharmaceutical companies typically sold drugs at deep discounts to a range of health care providers, including colleges. For drug companies, one motivation was attracting loyal customers.

The discounts didn’t count against the drug companies in a formula calculating rebates they owed states to participate in Medicaid.But in the 2005 bill — which went into effect in early 2007 — Congress changed that. Discounts to colleges mean drug companies have to pay more to participate in Medicaid. So fewer companies offer discounts.

Before the price hike, IUSB students and employees paid about $10 for a month’s worth of name-brand birth-control pills.

The fee now is about $15 a month, and that’s for generics. The center stocks three brands of generic birth-control pills, because the name-brand prices have increased so much, said Laura Hieronymus, director of IUSB’s health center. “We can’t afford to purchase the more expensive brands,” she said.

The price compares to about $32 a month for generics at a commercial pharmacy, she said.

Women sometimes are prescribed birth-control pills for various health conditions, not just to prevent pregnancy, she noted. “The (varieties) we have work well for some students but not for all,” she said. The issue isn’t about providing inexpensive birth control to young single college students, Hieronymus said. “The majority of women we take care of are married and have kids and families,” she said. About 40 percent of IUSB’s students are over 26 years old.

Providing economical, reliable birth control is a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions, she said.

IUSB no longer stocks the NuvaRing, a once-a-month form of contraception, because its price rose to more than $40 per month, she said. “The NuvaRing was our No. 1 seller,” Hieronymus said.

IUSB has dispensed about 150 monthly packs of birth-control pills since August, serving at least 50 students and employees. The center has dispensed about 30 morning-after doses since August, at $20 per dose. About 1,000 free condoms have been distributed on campus this academic year.

At the campus health center, students and employees can receive a physical exam, be treated for minor illnesses, and get prescriptions filled. About 30 percent of the center’s business is related to women’s health issues. As a nurse practitioner, Hieronymus can legally write and dispense prescriptions. IUSB is among four IU campuses that sell prescription contraceptives at on-campus health centers. The others are IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“The rising price is indicative of the general upward trend in health-care costs and drug prices,” Donnelly said in a written statement issued Wednesday. “More than that, it’s indicative of a federal government that is constrained in what it can do to help people with those rising costs by a budget that is deep in deficit.”

(Why is the federal government so constrained, Joe? Could it be that the incredibly expensive and disastrous War in Iraq has something to do with it? – DW)

The congressman said he’s tackling both problems at the same time: working to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable, and working to reduce the deficit. Sound fiscal policies will make it easier for the federal government to invest in health programs for everyone, especially those in the working and middle classes, Donnelly said.

About 39 percent of undergraduate women use oral contraceptives, according to an estimate by the American College Health Association based on survey data.

IUSB student Alyssa Malott, 20, of South Bend, doesn’t buy contraceptives at the campus health center, but she is concerned about how rising prices will affect students, employees and their families.The price hike “affects many people in many ways,” Malott said. Some people on campus might not be able to afford the higher prices, she said. “If even one student had to drop out of school (as a result), it’s an outrage,” she said.

Puckett hits Donnelly on delayed terror act extension

February 27, 2008

from the South Bend Tribune (emphasis in the text below by DW):

by Nancy Sulok

Luke Puckett, a Republican candidate for 2nd District U.S. representative, said incumbent Joe Donnelly and other Democrats “will have a lot of questions to answer” about the failure to reauthorize an expiring law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA would allow the government to continue eavesdropping on suspected foreign terrorists.

The bill was reputed to have unanimous Republican support in the House after its passage in the U.S. Senate. Enough Democrats, including Donnelly, were expected to join the Republicans to approve a 21-day extension until a permanent extension could be negotiated.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recessed the House for a week in mid-February without voting on the extension.

Republicans have latched onto the issue to accuse Democrats of selling out to the trial lawyers lobby. “The true reason for blocking the bill,” Robert D. Novak wrote in a Feb. 18 column in the Washington Post, “was Senate-backed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government.”

In a news release issued Tuesday, Puckett sought to paint Donnelly with the same brush as the other Democrats.

As Donnelly and the others return to Congress this week, Puckett said, they will have to answer questions “about risking America’s national security in an effort to provide a litigation frenzy for the same trial lawyers who have filled their campaign coffers.”

Puckett’s release quotes the Washington Post from Feb. 23 as saying some telecommunications companies have refused to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders since the bill expired.

Donnelly, part of group of moderate Democrats known as the Blue Dogs, actually was part of a Democratic minority in favor of extending the act. “I support updating and extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Donnelly said in a statement responding to Puckett’s release. “On January 13, two days before the latest iteration of the FISA law lapsed, I voted for a 21-day extension of that same law. I stand ready to vote for another extension or a permanent new FISA law.”

He added that “Congress and the president must put aside partisan differences to resolve this matter as soon as possible.”

Despite Donnelly’s support of the act, a national organization known as Defense of Democracies has been running television ads in the South Bend market that single him out.

Brian Wise, director of media relations for Defense of Democracies, said Donnelly is one of 15 congressmen in 17 different media markets targeted by the 30-second ad. Locally, it urges constituents to contact Donnelly and ask him to use his influence to bring the matter to a vote.

Wise said the ad is not anti-Donnelly. He acknowledged that Donnelly would have voted to stay in session until the FISA matter was resolved, and said, “to be honest, that’s the kind of support this bill needs.” Now the Granger Democrat needs to put pressure on the House leadership to have a vote as soon as possible, Wise said. Every day that passes, he said, is more lost information the government could be gathering about potential terrorism in our country.

Protect America Act Ads running in northern Indiana

February 26, 2008

from the South Bend-based J to the Power 7 blog:

They’re Running the Protect America Act Ads in Heavy-rotation in Indiana 

How much you want to bet that the shadowy group running it to pressure Rep. Joe Donnelly to vote for the retroactive immunity version are being funded with Defense Department funds illegally? Being very wishy-washy, dumbo Joe might actually cave-in, hence the other reason they’re running it here.

Hoosier Democrat congressional candidates ahead in fundraising

February 25, 2008

From the The Northwest Indiana Times: 

The percent of funds going to candidates in Indiana’s 9 Congressional candidates (Republicans and Democrats) during each election cycle:

2000: Republicans 53 percent, Democrats 47 percent
2002: Republicans 60 percent, Democrats 40 percent
2004: Republicans 53 percent, Democrats 47 percent
2006: Republicans 56 percent, Democrats 44 percent
2008: Republicans 35 percent, Democrats 65 percent

(The NW Times also reported that Joe Donnelly has thus far raised more than $1 million towards his re-election. – DW)

Donnelly responds on Hydro power in South Bend

February 25, 2008

(from Kathleen Petitjean’s blog, If We Only Connect):

This is Encouraging

I recently called Joe Donnelly’s South Bend office to ask whether there was federal funding available for a hydro electric plant on the East Race as was once envisioned in the 1980’s. Today I received his response; the entire text of his letter follows:

“Dear Kathleen,

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office about the recently-passed energy bill and to inquire about federal funding for a hydroelectric power plant in South Bend.

I share your interest in clean, renewable energy sources, and I believe that creative and clean energy generation projects are vital not only for the protection of our environment but also for ensuring the sustainable future of our communities.

As you know, last December the president signed The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008 (PL 110-140). This important, bi-partisan legislation was an important first step in our efforts to put America on the path to energy independence, respond to global warming, and grow our economy.

A key element of the legislation was a section dedicated to the promotion of marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy technologies. This particular section authorized funding to be used to research and develop technologies to produce electric power from waves, tides, and free flowing water–including rivers and man-made channels like South Bend’s East Race.

The bill also authorized an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to assist local governments in reducing fossil fuel emissions and total energy use and improving energy efficiency in an environmentally sustainable manner. Although the grant program has not yet been funded (my emphasis), it would appear that the concept of completing a hydroelectric power plant on South Bend’s East Race would meet the basic qualifications outlined in the legislation.

In addition to this new grant program established in The Energy Independence and Security Act, there are a number of other federal, state and private grants available to assist communities in the development of clean, renewable energy sources. My office stands ready to work with the City of South Bend and other communities to find the available resources needed to make these projects possible. To learn more about alternative energy grant opportunities, please contact my Grants Director, Beth Barrett, in my South Bend office.

Thank you again for your interest in hydroelectric power, and your commitment to making South Bend a healthy and sustainable community. Creative ideas and emerging technologies hold tremendous potential for the City of South Bend, and I look forward to working in partnership with you and others to turn these ideas into action.

Sincerely,

Joe Donnelly

Member of Congress

Today is deadline for primary candidate filing

February 22, 2008

Thus far, Joe Donnelly is unopposed in the Democratic primary. It remains to be seen whether he will face a competitive race in the general election. He most likely will face Republican Luke Puckett, but more intriguing for 2nd district progressives is the question of whether Donnelly could face an independent or 3rd party insurgency.

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According to HoosierAccess, Puckett issued the following statement on the recent debate over the extension of the FISA law:

“Without the act in place, vital programs would be plunged into uncertainty and delay, and capabilities would continue to decline. Under the Protect America Act, we obtained valuable insight and understanding, leading to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks. Expiration would lead to the loss of important tools our workforce relies on to discover the locations, intentions and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad.”

The conservative HoosierAccess blogger, Brian Sikma, had this analysis:

“Puckett’s opponent, Joe Donnelly (D), played an interesting role in last week’s events. On Wednesday morning Donnelly bucked party leadership and joined the Republicans on a roll call vote on the subject. In the afternoon, however, Donnelly changed his position and joined his party leadership in the afternoon vote on the bill.

Either Joe Donnelly doesn’t know what his position is or he’s just not interested in protecting the American people and providing our national intelligence agencies with the legal tools that they need.

This fall the choice for voters across America will be clear: The Republican candidates have pledged to do whatever it takes to win the defining conflict of our era, the Democratic candidates have continually failed to decisively act on key proposals that have real consequences for our security.”

[bold text by Donnelly Watch]

We can agree on our frustration over Donnelly’s (and, more generally, the Democrat-controlled Congress) lack of principled stands while disagreeing strongly with Sikma’s assertion that civil liberties ought be sacrificed at the alter of fear.

Donnelly’s apparent inability (as evidenced above with his FISA votes) to take a clear stand is, perhaps what is most frustrating. It’s discouraging to see that Donnelly and many of his fellow Democrats do not realize how weak and “indecisive” they seem because of their (in)action since the 2006 election.

USA Today: Turnabout for Donnelly on the Iraq War

February 20, 2008

From the 2/17/08 edition of USA Today:

“I feel we’ve made progress, and the other part is I feel we can see an endgame in sight.

He offered a much different view five months before his trip, when he said on the House floor: “I fear this surge will not lead to an Iraq that will be stable over the long term, but will instead put more … American troops into harm’s way.”

Such turnabouts are rare.

Remember when Joe Donnelly repeatedly pledged not to be a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration’s Iraq War policies? At this point, considering Donnelly’s stated position, where is the difference between Donnelly and the Republican Party?

I believe we’d all like to hear about this “endgame” that Donnelly spoke of in the quote above.

Donnelly on immigration: “enforcement” first, second, and last

February 19, 2008

Rep. Joe Donnelly held a news conference yesterday (Monday Feb 18) dealing specifically with his stance on the immigration debate. Various news sources covered the event (here is WSBT’s coverage “Donnelly touts efforts to curb illegal immigration” and here is Fox28’s coverage “Donnelly works to close off border”).

Yesterday we raised the question of whether Donnelly supports deportation of immigrants. Supposedly, Donnelly claims he didn’t say this… hopefully, there will be follow-up on this question with the reporter.

The possibility that our Congressman was pandering to reactionary, far-right views and is now disavowing his comments out of political calculation is quite disturbing.

As an astute reader suggested to DW in an email message:

“How do you enforce the immigration laws which is Donnelly’s position and NOT be in favor of deportation? Deportation is exactly what happens when you have legal roundups.”

This cuts to the heart of the matter: where does Joe Donnelly truly stand on the issues? Where are his principles? Or is he most interested in projecting a “moderate” i.e. conservative Democrat image in order to, in his view, best ensure his re-election?

Is this what we elected him for? To be more concerned with re-election than standing up for what’s right?

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The immigration issue is very timely in Indiana now as the news came yesterday that the Indiana House Public Policy Committee voted 7-4 to pass what the Indianapolis Star yesterday called “one of the nation’s toughest illegal immigration bills.”

This bill, if eventually passed by the full House and signed into law, would very likely have a chilling effect on many communities across Indiana not to mention the negative consequences to the Hoosier economy.

It is indeed quite sad and discouraging that, yet again, too many are ready to scapegoat immigrants in a convoluted attempt at addressing complex social and economic issues.

Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of this sort of behavior yet it appears that Congressman Donnelly and others representing us in the Indiana state legislature are more concerned with their political careers than standing on principles.

Donnelly supports deportation of immigrants?

February 18, 2008

from an article in the Elkhart Truth:

“Gunn and her husband, Jim, asked Donnelly a range of questions about his views on illegal immigration, the SAVE act and how the federal government can work with Goshen’s local government.

Robinson asked Donnelly what he felt should be done about illegal immigrants. When he agreed they should be deported, she applauded.

The article is also posted on the Congressman’s website as a “News Clipping” with the headline “Donnelly Wins Praise: Immigration key issue residents talk about with rep.”

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Update:  

from a comment to this post:

“Thank you for your interest in this article. I, too, raised my concern about the article in a meeting with Congressman Donnelly today. He assured me that he did not say that he favors deportation. He asserts that he was misquoted. He added that the article will be removed from his website tomorrow (Tuesday), as today is a federal holiday.”

Fr. Chris Cox, C.S.C.

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