Political MoJo

Ballot Initiatives in 6 States Capitalize on Eminent Domain Outrage

| Fri Oct. 20, 2006 9:06 PM EDT

One sentiment that has cut across party lines in the past year is eminent domain outrage. Libertarians and environmentalists, Nascar dads and the NAACP, everyone seems to object to Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court decision that allows a city to force working class neighborhoods to sell out to developers.

A year ago, at a public hearing about New London, I saw a shaggy, bearded activist in Connecticut read what sounded like beat poetry about eminent domain. Rumor had it that Urban Outfitters was selling "Kelo" shirts.

Joking aside, now developers are taking advantage of the public opposition.

I wrote a couple weeks ago how one New York real-estate magnate paid $5 million to get a few eminent domain initiatives on the state ballot. Such initiatives are on the ballot in six states that if passed would cripple environmental land-use regulation, and cost the states billions of dollars.

Called pay-or-waive schemes, they require the government to compensate landowners for new regulations that devalue their property, or waive the regulations altogether. (In Oregon, which already has pay-or-waive, property owners in the past three months filed more than $5 billion in claims).

Here's a rundown of the initiatives by state.

--April Rabkin

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Twain's Frog Scores Victory Over Pombo

| Fri Oct. 20, 2006 2:50 PM EDT

Much to the likely chagrin of Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) the EPA has agreed to protect the threatened California Red-Legged Frog, according to a settlement reached this week in a lawsuit filed in 2002.

Pombo once blamed the species for causing nearly $500 million in "regulatory costs" for homebuilders and held Twain's frogs up as Exhibit A in his Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, a deceptively-named bill that would eliminate mandatory habitat restrictions for any species. The settlement agreement will protect Rana aurora draytonii by prohibiting the use of 66 pesticides in and near red-legged frog habitats.

Read more about Pombo's battle against these amphibians in the name of development in Dick Russell's story in the current issue of Mother Jones.

And according to poll numbers released today Pombo is neck and neck with his Democratic opponent Jerry McNerney, with Pombo at 41 percent and McNerney at 40 percent.

Frogs should be the least of his worries.

Democratic Tidal Wave in New York

| Fri Oct. 20, 2006 2:01 PM EDT

It won't come as a surprise,but the bellwether Marist Poll in New York State out today is showing Democrats are set to sweep the state, and on pretty wide margins.For governor, Eliot Spitzer has 70 percent to John Faso's 22 percent

Former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo is running well ahead of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, 56-36.

Hillary Clinton leads Republican John Spencer by 37 percentage points, and she gets a 58 percent approval rating from likely voters..

A majority of likely voters -- 62 percent -- in New York State intend to support a Democratic candidate for Congress. That includes non-enrolled independent voters and about one in 5 Republicans. Twenty seven percent of the likely voters will cast a Republican ballot.

Key issues: 82 percent of registered voters think the Iraq war and the war on terrorism are major factors, followed by Bush himself.

And then there is this: CQ Politics quotes an unnamed insider Republican as saying, they are trying to shore up voters painting ``fear of a Democratic majority,'' adding, "We've pretty much blown every other issue. Fear is the only motivating factor left on the table."

And the GOP is wildly trying to scare its base by painting the horrors to come should Nancy Pelosi become Speaker.

Republicans Want Republican Out in Orange County

| Fri Oct. 20, 2006 12:58 PM EDT

California's well-heeled Orange County has a long history of hostility to immigrants, but a letter aimed at scaring Latinos away from the polls, sent out by the campaign staff of a Republican congressional candidate, was too much even for the local GOP. The chairman of the county's Republican Party is calling on Tan Nguyen to drop out of the race, and the US Department of Justice is even considering filing charges, the Orange County Register says this morning. The letter, which went out to about 14,000 Latino voters, warns (falsely, of course) that it's a crime punishable by jail or deportation for immigrants to vote.

The New American Image?: All Americans Carry Guns

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 8:24 PM EDT

When musician and activist Michael Franti was in Iraq in 2004, he was the only American without a gun. He brought a wooden guitar instead. Hear Franti on Mother Jones Radio this weekend talking about his film and book I Know I'm Not Alone featuring laughing and singing Iraqis we never see on TV. And even though violence is spinning out of control, he'd go back now. Seriously. He wants all the troops to come home.

Journalist Sidney Blumenthal calls Bush radical in his new book How Bush Rules. It's a collection of Blumenthal's columns from The Guardian and Salon.com. Here is what he told us on the radio:

GAO Says Abstinence-Only Education Curricula Must Include Info on STIs and Condoms

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 7:50 PM EDT

The GAO released a legal opinion yesterday affirming that abstinence-only education materials must include accurate information on sexually transmitted infections and the effectiveness of condoms. To date, HHS had insisted that materials produced by abstinence grantees do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Health Service Act, which mandates as much. HHS has instead maintained that:

"Grantees may address issues related to [STIs] in communicating the importance of abstinence, they are to address these issues only within the broader context of abstinence education."

The GAO's legal review came at the request of Congressional dems including the ever-muckraking Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Remember, it was Waxman's 2004 report on abstinence-only sex education curricula that found rampant inaccuracies.

Waxman's report was roundly denounced by the religious right as partisan. Let's hope the GAO's finding resonates through the politics.

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Dems See Pombo Race as an "Emerging Opportunity"

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 6:36 PM EDT

Jerry McNerney, democratic challenger to Richard Pombo (R-Ca) may finally be getting some much-needed support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has just placed Pombo's 11th district seat and John Doolittle's (R-Ca) 4th district house seats on a list of "emerging opportunities" for GOP defeats come Election Day.

Previously, the DCCC had chosen not to focus on ousting Pombo after their chosen candidate, Steve Filson, lost the Democratic primary. Now, even with help from the DCCC, McNerney has a long way to go, cash-wise. So far, Pombo has raised 3.4 million in campaign funds, McNerney 1.16 million (check out the full breakdown here)

So far the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $545,000 to oppose McNerney and $46,000 to support Pombo, while the DCCC has spent only $5,600 to counter Pombo.

Doolittle's campaign spokesman Richard Robinson says this amounts to "a lot of posturing" but given Pombo and Doolittle's recent links to Jack Abramoff there's no telling what will happen.

--Amaya Rivera

Why Is Congress Even Bothering To Pass Laws?

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 4:06 PM EDT

George W. Bush has already made it clear that he may ignore parts of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act. To be exact, he has listed two dozens provisions in the act which he may trash, including the budget requirements for the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush made his stand Tuesday in one of his now-famous "signing statements," which the White House maintains are not unlike other presidential signing statements, but which are, in fact, completely different. Instead of making notes about his personal interpretations of some laws, Bush has used the signing statement to eliminate parts of laws, or the spirit of entire laws, that he does not like.

Some Constitutional scholars say that it is within Bush's legal rights to reject the war budget because, they say, the Constitution does not give Congress the authority to tell the president (or, in this case, Bush) what to request or how to request it.

Bush's other objections include:

• A requirement that he name a "coordinator of policy on North Korea" within 60 days, and submit within 90 days an updated intelligence assessment on Iran.

• A call for reports on subjects ranging from an early education program for military children to a study on assessing the safety of the nuclear stockpile.

• A response plan for remediation of unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions, and munitions constituents.

• A report on a program for replacement of nuclear warheads on certain Trident sea-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.

• Energy efficiency in weapons platforms.

• A report on participation of multinational partners in the United Nations Command in the Republic of Korea.

• A report on the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

• Quarterly reports on Department of Defense response to threat posed by improvised explosive devices.

• A National Academy of Sciences study of quantification of margins and uncertainty methodology for assessing and certifying the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile.

Tet

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 3:36 PM EDT

The apparently popular notion that recent guerrilla strikes in Iraq bear similarities to Tet is succinctly laid to rest this morning by Juan Cole. Here's a paragraph from his Informed Comment blog:

"The current guerrilla war against US troops and the new Iraqi government isn't at all like the Tet offensive. It is deadly serious. Because the US military is not defeating the guerrillas militarily any more. They have succeeded in provoking an unconventional, hot civil war, which was their "poison pill" strategy for getting the US out. The US has alienated the Sunni Arab population decisively. In summer of 2003, only 14 percent of them supported violent attacks on US troops. In a recent poll, 70 percent supported such attacks. And, the guerrilla movement is well-heeled, well-trained, and adaptive.''

You can find Juan Cole's daily analysis at www.juancole.com or write him direct at jrcole@umich.edu.

Christians Counter Climate Change

| Thu Oct. 19, 2006 2:30 PM EDT

Dozens of evangelical Christian leaders, breaking ranks with the Bush administration as well as many of their peers, yesterday launched a new faith-based campaign against global warming. "(M)any of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians," declares their official statement. "But now we have seen and heard enough" to convince them that climate change is real, it's bad, and people of conscience should do something about it. It's signed by 86 people, from Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose-Driven Life," to the new head of the Christian Coalition.