Archive for June, 2008

61% of Donnelly’s fundraising comes from PACs

June 28, 2008

A Donnelly Watch reader alerted us to some interesting information regarding Rep. Donnelly’s fundraising. According to information made available electronically by Federal Election Commission on June 24, 2008, 61% of Donnelly’s fundraising comes from Political Action Committees (PACs).

Interestingly, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has rejected PAC money.

Why isn’t Rep. Donnelly following Sen. Obama’s lead?

Rep. Donnelly’s opponent, Luke Puckett has received only 1% of his fundraising total from PAC contributions.

Furthermore, Rep. Donnelly’s top contributor thus far is the Renco Group, a New York City-based holding company controlled by Ira Rennert.

From Rennert’s wikipedia entry:

Rennert was awarded the The Awful Truth Man of Year Award in 1999 by filmmaker Michael Moore, based on a 1996 EPA Report which lists Magnesium Corp Of America as the top single polluting industrial facility in the United States and a second EPA report from the same year which lists Renco Group Inc. as the top most polluting parent company (based on total on-site and off-site releases)

The Renco Group is essentially a holding group that owns other companies, such as Doe Run, and used to own AM General, manufacturer of the Hummer. Ira Rennert, bought AM General for $133 million in 1992. Ronald Perelman, a Wall Street corporate raider, bought a 70 percent interest in AM General of Mishawaka, Indiana. The deal reportedly cost close to US$1,000,000,000. The company makes the military Humvee, as well as the Hummer H1 and H2 sold by General Motors. In February 2008 the Company acquired Delphi’s interiors and closures business which has been renamed Inteva Products, LLC.

The Renco Group’s wikipedia entry includes the following section under the heading “Pollution.”

The Renco Group also owns mills and mines in the United States and South America, and pollution problems at the company’s properties have sparked public outcries, environmental lawsuits, and hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental penalties and fines. One Renco subsidiary, U.S. Magnesium, is accused of polluting the Great Salt Lake.

Smelting operations by another Renco subsidiary, Doe Run Company, have caused are responsible for elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and cadmium in Herculaneum, Missouri and elevated levels of lead, copper, zinc, and sulfur dioxide in La Oroya, Peru and Doe Run, Missouri.

In 2007, La Oroya was listed by Blacksmith Institute as one of the “World’s Worst Polluted Places.”


Donnelly (again) capitulates on ANWR

June 26, 2008


Thirteen days ago, an all time high at the pump for Hoosiers meant an all time low when emotions got in the way. Gas prices reached $4.19 a gallon.

Wednesday, prices like $3.79 in the morning, going back up to $3.91 in the evening shows the rollercoaster keeps going.

Ryan Deeter says, “I think it’s discouraging. It’s very difficult.”

That’s why the 21 year-old says he decided to take a seat and listen for some possible solutions from Republican Congressional candidate Luke Puckett.

Deeter says, “I think sometimes the issues can be oversimplified in political rhetoric.”

Puckett says that’s not true.

He says, “We can bring the price of gas down. We can do it.”

Puckett’s plan is to drill and refine American oil. That’s why he’s taking a trip to ANWR to see if drilling there is a good idea.

Puckett says, “It’s either to say we’re going to drill or not drill. We’re going to debunk the theory if need be or we’re going to put an x on the ground and say x marks the spot.”

That’s an idea his rival, Congressman Joe Donnelly, also supports.

Donnelly says, “I’ve said a number of times we need to be drilling in ANWR and we need to be drilling in our continental shelf.”

Again, that’s another area they agree on.

Puckett says, “We have 45 billion barrels of oil off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. It doesn’t matter, we have China drilling in our backyard off the coast.”

Puckett says Donnelly hasn’t always lived up to his claim.

Puckett says, “He’s gone back and forth and voted against it and he’s voted for it, but at key leadership times he has voted against drilling and refining American oil.”

The incumbent Representative says more drilling is just one part of his plan.

Donnelly says, “We also need to be doing wind and solar hydrogen and we have to be better at conserving.”

He says Congress is working on getting a bill passed that starts to put crude oil back on the market from the country’s reserves.

He’s also working on a plan to drive speculators out of the market by tightening regulations and demanding more “up front” money from people who buy oil contracts.

The price of oil has doubled in a year and a senior oil analyst from Oppenheimer investments testified before Congress this week and said the majority of that increase was because of speculation.

Donnelly breaks with mainstream Dems (again)

June 15, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune with bold type by DW)

Article published Jun 15, 2008
Hoosier Blue Dogs don’t heel on command

Tribune Columnist

As the fate of a $3.1 trillion budget proposal was hanging in the balance, Congressman Joe Donnelly was hanging out in the House gallery.

But it wasn’t dereliction of duty. The Democrat from Granger, who represents Indiana’s 2nd District, already had voted “no,” doing his duty as he sees it to be a Blue Dog with a bite.

As House members continued voting on the floor below, the running tabulation showed that the budget measure backed by the Democratic leadership was in trouble. All Republicans were voting against it. And Donnelly wasn’t the only Democrat belonging to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition to vote “no.”

The two other freshman Democrats from Indiana elected in 2006, Reps. Baron Hill and Brad Ellsworth, also Blue Dogs, also voted “no.”

Since Donnelly was next to me in the gallery, explaining some of the drama down on the floor, I asked an obvious question: “If Nancy Pelosi needs one more vote, would you switch?””No,” Donnelly said. “That’s why I’m up here,” he added, laughing.

Not really. There are other “safe” places. But the floor, as the final tally approaches in a close and crucial vote, is not one of them for any member viewed as possibly susceptible to arm-twisting or offers from either side.

Actually, Donnelly said, the leadership knew he was voting “no” and wouldn’t switch.

Final tally: 214-210 for passage.

House Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership did gain support of a majority of the Blue Dogs, a necessity to avoid defeat of the budget plan, a plan that already had survived a close Senate vote. An analysis by the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call found that of the 47 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, only nine voted against the budget — only the three Indiana members and six others. In all, 14 Democratic House members voted in opposition.

Roll Call also pointed out that all three of the Democrats elected in recent special elections in what had been regarded as “safe” Republican districts voted “no.”

This brings up a trend that could have profound effect on what Congress could or would pass after the election this fall, no matter whether there is a President Obama or a President McCain.

Increasing Democratic membership in the House — with projections for more increases this fall — is coming through election of moderate Democrats with fiscally conservative views in districts where Republican incumbents have lost favor.

Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat who masterminded the successful ’06 effort to gain a House majority, knew that targeted GOP incumbents in districts with basically moderate voter makeup, though vulnerable, still would likely beat a liberal challenger.Thus there came the successful challenges by Donnelly, Hill and Ellsworth, moderates who defeated Republican incumbents in Indiana, and similar results elsewhere.

The three Hoosiers and other freshmen Democrats joined and strengthened the Blue Dogs. They often bark loudly, sometimes forcing a change in course by Pelosi and the rest of a leadership that would prefer to lead in a more liberal direction.

Some of the Blue Dogs who voted for the budget plan, which also maps spending priorities for the next five years, thought their barking had forced improvements. More pay-as-you-go provisions. More emphasis on an eventual balanced budget. And the promise of hearings on the looming problems of Social Security and Medicare.

Others still thought it was necessary to bite, to vote “no” because of the spending and deficit levels, and the avoidance of decisions on changes in taxation, Medicare and Social Security.

All Republicans voted “no,” reflecting their position in the minority, even though most had voted “yes” for huge deficits accumulated by the Bush administration while they controlled Congress. The president had proposed a $3.1 trillion budget, but with some different priorities.The Blue Dogs are in the tradition of congressional coalitions with colorful monikers. Their coalition was formed after Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress in the 1994 elections.

According to the group’s Web site, founders were mostly from the South and picked the name with sarcastic reference to “the South’s longtime description of a party loyalist as one who would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the ballot as a Democrat.” But the color blue was chosen because they felt that moderate-to-conservative views had been “choked blue” by their party leading up to the 1994 defeats.

Pelosi sent no party whip to the gallery to have Donnelly “choked blue.” Even with his “no” vote, he is a valued member of the majority. After all, there wouldn’t be a Democratic majority without the Blue Dogs and other Democrats who are moderate due to personal inclinations or political considerations or both.

Donnelly (again) plays to the Right on ANWR

June 13, 2008

(The article was originally published in the South Bend Tribune)

Article published Jun 13, 2008
Candidate Puckett to visit ANWR
Republican wants U.S. to drill for oil in Alaskan refuge.

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Republican congressional candidate Luke Puckett will travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska next month to advocate for oil exploration there.

Puckett, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, will travel with four other congressional candidates, including former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., who is running for the 9th District seat in southern Indiana.

He also will be joined by candidates from Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The trip is scheduled for July 14-17.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, has been the subject of debate for years, renewed recently by soaring gasoline prices that recently topped $4 per gallon.

Puckett and other proponents of drilling in the reserve, which is located in the northeastern-most corner of Alaska, say it would add more oil to the market and lower prices.Critics of drilling in ANWR, such as the Sierra Club and environmental groups, say it will disrupt the sensitive environment there, and that any benefits would take decades to realize.

The Republican candidates will visit Prudhoe Bay, where British Petroleum and other oil companies partner to operate the largest oil field in North America.

Then the delegation will travel, likely by helicopter, into ANWR for a look around, Puckett said.

“The whole goal of the trip is to simply go and fact-find,” he said. “Just how much is there? We’ve heard people say 16 billion barrels of oil are waiting for us there.”

Puckett has criticized Donnelly for votes he says have prevented exploration for oil in ANWR, including a vote in June 2007 to prohibit domestic oil and gas exploration.“Last year, Joe voted with a bipartisan majority to maintain the moratorium on drilling on the outer continental shelf, but with $4 a gallon gas, the situation is different,” said Andrew Lattanner, Donnelly’s campaign manager, in an interview June 5. “And the congressman recognizes that we need to look at all our options, and one of those options is looking at the outer continental shelf.”

Donnelly has said he would favor exploring ANWR if the drilling was done responsibly and in conjunction with other measures to help lower the price of fuel and increase energy efficiency, such as exploring biofuels or wind and solar power.

Puckett, meanwhile, said Donnelly’s change of mind on the vote was “political expediency.” He also reiterated an offer to take Donnelly on the trip to ANWR.

It’s an offer Donnelly’s not interested in, his campaign manager said.

Election year ploy: English-only ballots proposed

June 13, 2008

(The following article was published June 12 by the South Bend Tribune)

English-only ballots proposed
Rep. Souder’s bill meets with opposition.

Tribune Staff Writer

Federal election ballots would only be printed in English if a bill co-sponsored by a northern Indiana congressman becomes law.

But critics say even though immigrants need to know basic English to become a citizen and get the right to vote, the language on a ballot is more complicated, making the law unreasonable to a large number of people.

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, is one of 37 representatives backing H.R. 5971, which is titled the American Elections Act of 2008.

It was introduced in early May and would require that ballots be provided only in the English language.

Exceptions would be made for American Indian and Alaska Native dialects, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”English is the unifying language of the United States, and understanding of English is fundamental to participation in our political process,” Souder said in a statement. “Bluntly put, if you can’t read the election ballot, how can you possibly follow the political debate?”

The bill to require English on the ballots would “unite Americans and eliminate the unnecessary division among voters caused by multiple language ballots,” he said.

In St. Joseph County, ballots are only printed in English. Same goes for Elkhart County, about 75 percent of which falls into Souder’s district.

Foreign language speakers who come to the United States and apply for citizenship must learn basic English to pass the required tests, said Marilyn Torres, of the Goshen-based community group Immigration Task Force.”But that wouldn’t be the kind of vocabulary you’d have to have in order to read a ballot in English and understand everything on it,” Torres said.

That’s why it’s necessary for ballots to sometimes be printed in languages other than English, and it’s why Torres thinks English-only ballots are a bad idea, she said.

Rebecca Ruvalcaba agrees. She’s executive director of La Casa de Amistad, a community center that attempts to address the needs of South Bend-area Hispanics.

“It would be a disservice for our citizens that are Spanish speaking, especially our elders who became citizens but have very little English-speaking ability,” Ruvalcaba said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, still is reviewing the bill, spokeswoman Samantha Slater said.”While ensuring that all citizens should be able to freely exercise their right to vote, Joe believes that new citizens should follow the example of previous generations of immigrants who worked hard to master the English language and who embraced their new country and culture,” she said in a statement.

The bill has been sitting in committees since early May, shortly after it was introduced.

(bold type by DW)

ND College Republicans push Donnelly on oil drilling, Patriot Act; Donnelly reassures the Right he’s with them

June 7, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune)

Article published Jun 6, 2008
Group to Donnelly: Back drilling
Representative’s campaign says he does — as part of a larger solution.

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — A group of college Republicans wants U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly to “change his stance” and support domestic oil exploration.

But Donnelly’s campaign manager says the first-term Democrat is all for responsible domestic exploration — as long as it’s one part of a larger approach to energy independence that has to include other, more sustainable measures, too.

The Notre Dame College Republicans, including two people dressed as a dolphin and a caribou, presented a petition to Donnelly’s district director, Hodge Patel, for Donnelly to consider signing.

The so-called “American Solutions” petition calls on Congress to authorize exploration of “proven energy reserves.”

Translation: It’s asking Congress to allow more off-shore drilling and oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, or ANWR. Proponents think doing so would help lower the nearly $4 per gallon price of gas.Edward Yap, president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, said the price of fuel is a big issue for college students.

“We wanted to focus on ANWR and domestic drilling,” he said. “The last time I filled up my tank, it was $50.” Yap drives a 1998 Volvo sedan.

The College Republicans’ position echoes that of Donnelly’s fall opponent, Luke Puckett, who also has called on Donnelly to sign the petition.

Yap, the president of the college Republicans, is helping with the Puckett campaign. And Puckett’s campaign manager, Kyle Bailey, as well as Brian Sikma, the campaign’s deputy communications director, helped gather signatures for the petition Thursday in downtown South Bend.

And Donnelly’s position on domestic exploration for oil is clear, said Andrew Lattanner, his campaign manager.”In terms of drilling, with $4-per-gallon gas, Joe believes it’s absolutely necessary that we look at all our options, and one of those options is responsible exploration in the outer continental shelf, and in addition to that, he’s also in favor of increased oil production from shale on federal lands and he would support responsible exploration of oil reserves in ANWR,” Lattanner said.

But it’s important that the solution include many options, Lattanner said.

“We need a solution that involves all our options, whether that’s in additional exploration, biofuels, conservation, wind, solar — everything’s on the table,” Lattanner said. “There are good ideas on both sides of the aisle.”


The College Republicans also attacked Donnelly’s votes on extending the Protect America Act, which is part of the larger Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.Yap declined to answer further policy questions beyond what was on the group’s press release, which accuses Donnelly of a “flip-flop” on the issue (thus the person in the dolphin suit — it’s a “Flipper” joke).

But Donnelly actually supports the surveillance act.

He broke with House Democrats and voted to allow consideration of a 21-day extension of the act until a more lasting deal could be negotiated.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., recessed the chamber before a vote could occur.

“I support updating and extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Donnelly told The Tribune in late February, when Puckett criticized his votes. “On January 13, two days before the latest iteration (version) 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.”

(bold type by Donnelly Watch)

SBT Interview with Donnelly’s District Director

June 5, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune)

Hodge Patel, district director for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly’s office in South Bend, got his start in politics as an intern and believes in what the politicians he works for are doing for others. He seems proud of the fact that he can help people on a small scale with their individual problems, though large projects also are rewarding for him. He recently talked with Tribune correspondent Jennifer Ochstein, via e-mail, about his life in politics.

How long have you worked for district director for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly?

I have been working for Congressman Donnelly as his district director since Jan. 4, 2007. However, I have known Donnelly professionally through his work in the community for a number of years.

How did you become interested in working in his South Bend office?

I have worked on the congressional level in the South Bend area for 12 years now, including with former Congressman Tim Roemer and Sen. Evan Bayh. My first experience in a congressional office dates back to when I interned for a congressman while attending Notre Dame. Working in a congressional office in South Bend has afforded me the opportunity to work directly with individuals, businesses, community organizations and public officials in a meaningful way. As an aide to the congressman, I am able to be directly involved in working through problems that constituents may be experiencing, often through no fault of their own. This is often done through accessing information through federal agencies with the goal of resolving a matter favorably in certain situations. It is the small victories of helping others that makes the job rewarding. This is not to say that the large successes don’t mean as much, because they, too, are just as gratifying.What exactly does a district director for a congressman do?

The district director manages the staff and offices within the 12 counties that Congressman Donnelly represents. In addition, I attend meetings that Congressman Donnelly is unable to attend because he is scheduled for votes in Washington. When he is home in the district, which is every weekend, I may travel with him to meetings or work on special projects that are of particular interest within the district to Congressman Donnelly.

What kind of education is necessary to do what you do?

I have a degree in economics and political science from Notre Dame. I think that education has been a foundation in terms of me being able to contribute in various ways to this organization. The position is a constant challenge and it involves being educated on a large cross section of subjects from energy, Medicare, education, the economy, as well as past and current events.

What is a typical day like for you?

I don’t think I can say that any day is a typical day. My work schedule is irregular and really depends on what meetings and events are scheduled and in which cities and towns the meetings are taking place. The morning often can start out with working breakfast meetings, meetings in the congressional office with organizations that want to make the congressman aware of issues that are of particular interest to them, following up with individuals who may have met with the congressman and are seeking assistance from him, attending meetings with elected officials, sharing with groups the congressman’s stance on particular issues that they are interested in, attending evening events where awards are being presented, people are being honored, or small business owners are gathering to discuss the challenges that they are facing in terms of hiring a qualified work force. So as you can see, there are many topics discussed and worked on through the course of the day. Many of these meetings also take place when the congressman is back in the district.

What kinds of skills are helpful to do your job?

The essential skills are listening, communicating and writing. In addition, it is just as important to follow up on requests that are made of the congressman. It also helps to be surrounded by talented individuals, Congressman Donnelly’s staff, who work well together in terms of serving constituents.

What is most challenging about what you do?

I think the pace of the work is probably the most challenging part of the job because things are so fluid. You have to be able to adapt and have a team that adapts well to changes. I also find it to be a challenge when you have to share bad news with people when you were hoping to give a favorable reply to them, or when you are dealing with a tragedy, such as the loss of a military service member.

Are there any misconceptions people have about your job?

I think with any job there are always misconceptions, and it is more about educating others on what you can and cannot legally do. In addition, constituents often think that they do not have a voice in government, or that government cannot help them with their specific needs or problems. Many people find this to not be the case once they contact Congressman Donnelly’s office. One final area that comes to mind is that people think that the job is 9 to 5 from Monday through Friday. It is not unusual to work early mornings and late nights, weekends and holidays, as well. The position requires a degree of flexibility.

Are there job opportunities available for people in politics in this area — how does one prepare for a job in politics or public service?

I would encourage people to be involved in the community from an early age, and I believe that it is never too late to get started. My volunteer work in the community and internships made positions like the one that I currently hold possible. I think voting and being involved are key aspects that have prepared me in terms of getting my foot in the door. Networking is an essential part of public service, and it is a good way to seek out a job in public service.