An Open E-mail To The Bill Sali Campaign
Update 2117 04 Sept: I did get a response from the Ada County coordinator in the Sali campaign, saying they'd try to get me some answers. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything.
[Local Idaho politics warning!]
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I've been thinking about writing an E-mail to the campaign of the Republican nominee for the Idaho 1st Congressional District race, Bill Sali, to see if I could get his comments on some of the issues that have come up during the campaign. Too much modern political discourse involves the supporters of opposing candidates snarking at each other from their respective blogs, without anyone trying to find out what the opposing candidate might actually have to say about the issues. Being a Republican who's supporting Democrat Larry Grant in this race, I figure I have a foot on both sides of the divide, so I decided to try to bridge the gap, and give Mr. Sali's campaign a chance to answer some questions. Here's what I came up with to send to his campaign staff:
I'm Joel Kennedy, a mil-blogger (someone who writes a military-themed web log, or online journal) in Meridian. My website, The Stupid Shall Be Punished, gets about 500 visits per day -- making it, as near as I can tell, the 2nd most-visited blog in the Treasure Valley (behind only Clayton Cramer; notably, I get 2 to 3 times the daily visits of your main defender in the Idaho blogosphere, Adam Graham). I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sali at the Flag Day event at the Capitol building, where he gave a very good speech. He was very heartfelt in thanking me when we talked afterwards for my 21+ years of service in the Submarine Force, and I could tell he was sincere in doing so. While I've been a Republican my whole life, right now, for various reasons, I'm supporting Larry Grant in the 1st District Congressional race. Even so, I'm very interested in fairness, and would like to give the Sali campaign a chance to answer some questions and concerns that have come up among district bloggers. While bloggers (or "online journalists") are not traditional media, I would urge you not to ignore this potential source of getting your message out to the voters. I assure you that any response you provide to my questions will be reproduced without changes in my blog. (A copy of this E-mail has been posted in my blog here -- I'll put your response in the same post.)
Here are the questions that have been brought up:
1) Your website indicates that Mr. Sali intends to focus on "Supporting our troops" (as the last-listed "important issue"), but contains no additional information on how he intends to do so. Can you provide any specifics at all on how he intends to do this? Will he seek increases in the defense budget? Does he support Secretary Rumsfeld's proposal to reduce the number of active-duty troops?
2) Your website also mentions Mr. Sali's support for using the National Guard to defend the border against illegal immigrants. What Rules Of Engagement (ROE) would Mr. Sali expect for this mission? Does Mr. Sali support changes to the Posse Comitatus laws to actually allow the troops to do anything other than build fences, or does he envision that they'll just stand around and watch illegal immigrants cross the border, hoping that they can contact someone with arrest authority on the radio?
(The rest of the E-mail is in the extended entry)
3) Regarding Mr. Sali's recent vote in favor of Governor Risch's property tax reduction / sales tax increase: How does Mr. Sali reconcile his "yes" vote with his previously stated opposition to any tax increases? While it's true that many Idahoans (and all out-of-state vacation homeowners) will see a net reduction in taxes, non-homeowners (I've seen estimates that these make up 25-30% of the electorate) will end up paying more in taxes. Can Mr. Sali provide a clear explanation of his reasoning?
4) On TV last Friday night, a clip of Rep. Sali was shown where he said that those who opposed the Governor's plan (paraphrasing here) "apparently think it's OK for people to lose their houses because they can't pay property taxes". It was fairly obvious to essentially all interested observers that the opponents of the plan favored an alternate plan that would have similarly reduced property taxes for homeowners (along with no increase in the sales tax). Does Rep. Sali actually believe that those who opposed the Governor's plan really want people to lose their houses because they can't pay the property tax, or was he "fudging" the truth in his floor statement? If he does believe that was the case, is that an indication that Mr. Sali didn't really follow the issue? Can we expect him to do better as a Congressman?
5) Regarding the Vice President's recent fundraising visit to Boise, most media observers estimated that there were 150-200 contributors in the room. The Sali campaign put out a statement saying that there were "approximately 200-250" people there. It's been a couple of weeks now, so I'm guessing you've gotten the final numbers of contributors nailed down. How many people were actually there? Did you count Secret Service agents? Will those numbers be confirmed when you submit your next disclosure of campaign contributions? If not, why?
6) Regarding the recent fund-raising breakfast in Post Falls headlined by the Speaker of the House, Rep. Hastert, media observers said the Sali campaign initially stated that there were 120-140 contributors attending, but later issued a press release indicating that there were 150 contributors there. One person reported on the Spokesman-Review website that he estimated there were only 80 contributors in attendance, outside of the Speaker's group and the Sali campaign staff. How many people who paid the $35 to get in were really there? Will these numbers be reflected in your next campaign contribution disclosure? If not, why? And why aren't there any reports about the event on your website? I know if the Speaker of the House came to an event in my honor, I'd write about it.
7) Also regarding the fund-raising breakfast, there were media reports that your campaign had announced that the event was closed to the press in accordance with the Speaker's normal procedures. At a media availability, Rep. Hastert seemed surprised by this report, indicating that his events are normally not closed to the press. Did the Speaker's staff really ask you to close the event to the press, or did you do it because you were afraid of negative publicity from a 2nd consecutive lower-than-expected turnout for a high-profile guest? If they did ask you to do this, can you provide the name of the staffer that made this request? If they didn't, was the decision to close the event due to bad communications among your staff? If that was the case, do(es) the responsible staffer(s) still work for your campaign?
8) Especially with respect to the last three items, I think you can see that a reasonable observer might conclude that the Sali campaign is systematically over-estimating the number of attendees at fund-raising events. If it turns out, from your next campaign finance report, that the number of contributors were in fact lower than you reported, what will be your explanation? Will you blame poor staff work? If so, will you make a commitment that the staffers who made this mistake will not be part of your Congressional staff in D.C. if you're elected?
I look forward to your response to any or all of the questions I raised. As I said earlier, I will publish, without changes, any response you send in my online journal.
Thanks for your time,
Joel Kennedy -- "Bubblehead"