August hit the doldrums for a few weeks, but political scandals have hit the media. With over 80 percent of the governors, states may be changing parties this coming year. The luckiest governor is Texas’s Rick Perry because he isn’t running for re-election. Perry has, however, been indicted for abuse of official capacity and for coercion of a public servant, both felonies. After DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving, he threatened to defund the state Public Integrity Unit if she didn’t resign. She stayed, and he took away $7.5 million from the investigating.
Although Perry has ridiculed the charges, there are two legal issues. First, this looks a lot like extortion: the funding would stay if she quit. The second is the lack of outrage for other drunk DAs, maybe because they were both Republicans. The Kaufman County DA’s conviction for drunk driving was his second offense, and the Swisher County DA’s conviction was accompanied by a scandal involving the prosecutor and a bad sting operation. Lehmberg, however, was investigating one of Perry’s friends for corruption.
As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote, “Perry blasted the indictments and called for a return to an era of limited government that focuses on requiring gynecological procedures. ‘We are living in dark days indeed when the state of Texas is spending time and money probing its officials instead of its women,’ he said, to thunderous applause.”
Fortunately for Perry, his presidential hopes are a couple of years off. Yet his statements such as referencing Ukraine in complaints about “historic” breeches of the border “from countries with terrorist ties” will return to haunt him.
Wisconsin’s governor, however, is campaigning for another term, and he’s had a bad week. At least on the outside, Scott Walker seemed to think that the investigation into his allegedly fraudulent use of campaign resources was going away—until records went public last Friday. Apparently, he personally solicited millions of dollars in contributions for a conservative group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls. For example, Gogebic Taconite gave $700,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth and got legislative approval to streamline regulations for a massive iron ore mine in the northern part of the state. Wisconsin Club for Growth ran ads supporting the governor and helped disperse campaign funds to conservative allies. An aide gave Walker these talking points when he asked Sheldon Adelson for donations in Las Vegas:
“Stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits. Let [potential donors] know that you can accept corporate contributions and it is not reported.”
A Walker campaign consultant referred to donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth as “investments.” The same email to a campaign adviser stated that “as the Governor discussed … he wants all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging.” In short, Walker illegally rerouted donations to, then coordinated with, Club for Growth. Walker’s sordid background is available here.
Even worse for Walker, he’s losing ground to his opponent, Mary Burke. He’s slightly ahead with registered voters but behind two points with likely voters.
Wisconsin GOP’s Gov. Scott Walker got elected four years ago partly on his promise to create 250,000 jobs for the state. His philosophy to take from the poor and give to the rich has raised a great deal of ire, especially since the state has seen only 100,000 new jobs during his term. In bragging about the state being #1 in Midwest personal income growth, he skipped the growth for the wealthy and decrease for the rest of the population.
In claiming that Wisconsin has also seen the lowest unemployment since 2008, he used the October figures. State current unemployment is 5.8 percent compared to 4.7 percent in 2008. Wisconsin rates 25th in the nation in unemployment and 37th in job creation, nothing to brag about.
Another GOP governor in trouble is Michigan’s Rick Snyder who took over many municipalities by assigning dictators called “Emergency Managers.” Snyder’s pension “reform” raised taxes for the poor, elderly, and middle class by 36 percent and reduced corporate income taxes by 81 percent, while the legislature refuses to repair crumbling roads. Now Snyder is trying to identify with his constituents—like the residents in Detroit who have had their water turned off and the others suffering from recent floods.
He told WJR radio host Frank Beckmann about a leak at his vacation home:
“I’ve been through a lot of things like that, Frank. We just recently had holes in our roof from storm damage to our lake house. We have a vacation place and we had a limb come down on the roof and had water running through the whole place; those experiences are not pleasant ones and they had to take some trees down.”
At least three people died because of the flooding: one woman suffered seizures while stranded in her car, a 100-year-old woman drowned in her basement, and a man died while trying to push his van out of flood waters.
Democratic candidate Mark Schauer has taken a slight lead in the polls.
Republicans may survive election efforts in Florida because of the gerrymandering that the court currently upholds, but the governor’s position is state-wide and Rick Scott has a lot going against him. Questions have been raised about Scott’s campaign and the GOP paying over $227,000 for a jet owned by his wife’s business. Another problems were whether Florida campaign finance laws have been violated through undisclosed expenditures and the transfer of money from a communication organization to a political committee.
An analysis of polls on Nate Silver’s website shows that Scott and his opponent, Charlie Crist, are both so unpopular that it is not predicting the winner. Crist, once a Republican governor, was far more popular before Scott poured money into negative campaigning instead of explaining why people should vote for him. Crist has come back with his own ads, reminding people of the biggest Medicare fraud while Scott was CEO of the hospital company. The company ended up paying $1.7 billion. The ad also points out Scott’s tax giveaways while taking money from seniors.
The lieutenant governor who helped Scott win four years ago because of her outreach to minorities and was forced out in 2013 and now has a new book. It’s not a pretty picture of the GOP candidate for governor. In “When You Get There,” Jennifer Carroll states that Scott got six percent of the black vote because of her actions that the campaign opposed. Without those votes, she wrote, “Scott would have lost the election.”
The good news today in Pennsylvania is the Gov. Tom Corbett has become the ninth GOP governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This act will give 500,000 low-income individuals subsidies to purchase private insurance and reduces the number of available benefit plans to be reduced from 14 to two, a “high-risk” option and “low-risk” options. Much as I would like to commend Corbett for his humanitarian impulse, I’m more likely to think that he was reacting to the latest poll numbers: he’s down 25 points to his Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf.
Looking good is Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), one of six governors who Gov. Chris Christie (NJ), responsible for GOP governors’ campaign fundraising, placed high priorities on; the others are the four above and Paul LePage in Maine. Projections say that LePage will lose, but he may be lucky again in another three-way race against Democrat Michael Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler.
Meanwhile things are so economically bad in Koch-country Kansas, that the once popular Sam Brownback is eight points down. Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, is up by four points over incumbent Nathan Deal in Georgia. A lot can happen in the next 68 days.