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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, October 26, 2009

You Ask, I Answer

A commenter on one of today's posts thought a particular Roanoke Times article was important enough for me to (find it and ...) render an opinion on it.

Having read the piece, I agree.  It is important.  Very much so.

Here's the meat of it:
Lawmakers walk fine line of conflict
Bill Sizemore and Julian Walker , The Virginian-Pilot, and Michael Sluss, The Roanoke Times

The 2009 Virginia General Assembly was a fiscal nightmare. The national recession had left the state a record $3.7 billion short of revenue needed to balance its two-year budget, and everything was on the chopping block.

Nevertheless, the lawmakers found $250,000 in planning funds for a new library at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.

David Prior, chancellor of the branch campus in the Appalachian Mountains, couldn't contain his excitement. And he knew just whom to thank.

"Senator....LIBRARY!!!" he e-mailed state Sen. William Wampler, R-Bristol, hours after the Assembly adjourned. "I am frickin' stunned ... thrilled and deeply appreciative ... thank you does not capture the depth of my feeling for all you do ... I am not the huggy type, but would lay a Green Bay Packer, Brett come-from-behind winning drive hug on you were you standing here with me this morning."

A month later, Prior e-mailed Wampler with news of a different sort: He had a green light from the university board of visitors to offer the senator a half-time position on the college faculty. Wampler went on the payroll June 1 at an annual salary of $60,000. [link]
The related story that drew the most attention this past summer had to do with another delegate working a similar angle.   From the same article:
Each case is different, and none is an exact parallel to that of Del. Phil Hamilton, who lost his $40,000-a-year position at Old Dominion University in August following revelations that he was lobbying for the job while he was shepherding the state appropriation that funded it. The Newport News Republican is now the target of investigations by a House ethics panel and a federal grand jury.
First, I should put up a cautionary thought.  These guys and gals don't get paid squat for what they do.  What? $17,000 a year (plus expenses)?  So it's understandable that they are going to have outside income.  Some latitude is appropriate.

But the potential conflict of interest is there - in part because these folks don't make squat, one might argue.

And William Wampler, if the information presented above is accurate, crossed well over the line.  Perception, in politics, is reality, sir.  And though Mr. Wampler may be able to separate the quid from the pro quo in his mind, the voters of the commonwealth cannot.  And should not.  He is receiving cash across the table from the university for which he secured taxpayer cash.

That's wrong.  Unequivocally wrong.

William Wampler should have refused the position offered by the university or refused to continue being a member of the House of Delegates, and accepted the offer.  But he should not have done what he did.

There is another example cited in the article, of a politician - again a delegate to the House - who, by all appearances, handles himself properly, and understands where that clearly defined line is:
Del. David Nutter, R-Christiansburg, has worked for Virginia Tech since 1988. After his 2001 election to the House, he moved from the school's office of university relations to the office of economic development. He takes unpaid leave during legislative sessions and earned $61,000 in 2008.

Nutter said he is careful to avoid potential conflicts between his legislative and university work.

"I just try to walk the line as best I can," he said. "Fortunately, I haven't had to abstain much."

Nutter said that he abstained from voting on a 2006 bill authorizing management agreements that gave Tech, William and Mary and the University of Virginia greater autonomy "because that was so specific" to those institutions.
That, friends, is how it should be viewed.  And that's commendable.

Nutter avoids even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

How to handle this and maintain one's position (as well as one's credibility)?  "Nutter said that he abstained from voting ..."  It's as simple as that.

Some, it seems, just don't get it.  Or don't want to get it:
Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, has worked for Christopher Newport University off and on since 1996. He is now associate director of CNU's Virginia Electronic Commerce and Technology Center. The center will cease operations Dec. 31, and Miller plans to leave the university then.

Elected to the Senate in 2007, he has taken unpaid leave during legislative sessions. He earned $79,000 in 2008. He introduced $33 million in CNU-related budget measures this year.

"I would hope we would not require everyone who works in the public sector to find another career after they are elected to the legislature," Miller said. "Christopher Newport University is a big part of my district, and the folks that work there are my constituents.

"When the president of the university comes to me and says 'I'd like you to offer budget amendments' that don't affect me in any way, I'm proud to introduce them."

Miller's wife, Sharron Kitchen Miller, also works at CNU in the office of university advancement. She earned $62,000 in 2008.
No, Johnny Boy, we don't expect you to find another career (for both you and your wife, ahem).  But we do expect you to stop padding the wallet of those who are padding yours.  There's no gray area here.  It's flat out black-and-white wrong.  So stop it.

Either that or have a widely read and influential weblog denounce you for the impropriety of your actions and watch as I call upon the voters of your district to bounce your ass from office. (Like you and your wife really need the state gig anyway).

Why don't you have a sit-down with Dave Nutter and have him explain to you how to avoid the obvious.  Learn the word A-B-S-T-E-N-T-I-O-N.  And F-I-D-U-C-I-A-R-Y.  Make us proud.

Or move on.  And make us proud.

- - -

* By the way, a simple heads-up when things like this appear in the paper would be nice.  That's partly why I offer up my email address.  Use it.  I try to read EVERYTHING written here in the United States EVERY DAY, but I occasionally miss one or two news items that are worth comment.  Drop me a line.  I enjoy the mental exercise. And I enjoy equally the opportunity to expose the work of good reporters to the world around us.

And thanks to the commenter for bringing this article to my attention.  Good stuff.

This Is Interesting

As you know, the Roanoke Times yesterday endorsed the candidacy of Creigh Deeds for governor (poor guy; he didn't deserve the humiliation).

On the same day the Bristol Herald Courier endorsed Bob McDonnell.

Here's what's interesting:  The rationale behind those two decisions.

Here's part of the Roanoke Times's explanation:
The difference is strikingly evident on the single most crucial issue facing the state: how to fund Virginia's crumbling and inadequate transportation infrastructure.

McDonnell boasts that he has a plan while Deeds only promises to work with the General Assembly to develop one.

McDonnell would have a point if not for one thing: His plan, as detailed as it may be, is a farce.
Here's the Herald Courier's reasoning:
Virginia has two chief problems – higher than acceptable unemployment and transportation needs across the commonwealth. We believe Republican Robert F. McDonnell has outlined the most robust plans to address both as governor of Virginia.

McDonnell’s transportation plan includes 12 measures – from privatizing ABC stores to adding tolls to issuing bonds – with the money going directly to transportation.

Democrat R. Creigh Deeds proposes a bipartisan commission to study the problems, if he is elected.

It’s an inclusive step, but one that seems slow in a state with enormous and mounting transportation needs. Everything McDonnell is pitching might not work, but he has done more to offer specific solutions during this race.
Two views that diverge.

Where both agree?

Deeds has no plan.

For that the Herald Courier rejects his candidacy while the Times, being the deep thinkers that the boys there are, well, the Times is apparently okay with being left clueless ("Deeds could have shown more political leadership by putting forth a specific proposal with clear sources of revenue. But he at least has the guts to tell Virginians the truth."  Like O.J. Simpson was being truthful when he said, "I think I'm a good guy."  No faulting that truth.)

Anyway, two perspectives on the same topic.

The Bristol Herald Courier rejects the candidacy of Creigh Deeds for governor because - in part - he has no plan for transportation.  The Roanoke Times supports him for the same reason.

You decide which holds more credibility.

Another Reason To Vote For McDonnell

The radically liberal National Organization for Women (Virginia chapter) endorses Creigh Deeds.

It's help like this that has doomed the poor guy.

Food For Thought

A quote from Cardinal Sean O'Malley of the Boston diocese of the Catholic Church:

"We will stop the practice of abortion by changing the law, and we will be successful in changing the law if we change people's hearts."

It's not about legislation.  It's about convincing people that the lives lost were - are - precious.

The legislation will come.

Quote of the Day

From one of the Democratic Party's shining stars.  A man who came close to being president of the United States.

John Kerry:

"I don't want--you know, I don't even--I don't think that's appropriate, de facto, whatever, whatever."

The Edward Everett of our time.

Out Of Control

You thought the government spending $1400000000000 more than it took in in revenue this year was a point of concern? 

Did you forget who's in charge in Washington?

You might want to be very concerned:
The Spending Rolls On
Wall Street Journal

The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases.

Yes, 12.1%.

Remember, inflation is running close to zero, or 0.8%.

These spending hikes do not include the so-called mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which exploded by 9.8% and 24.7%, respectively, in the just-ended 2009 fiscal year. All of this largesse is also on top of the stimulus funding that agencies received in 2009. The budget for the Environmental Protection Agency rose 126%, the Department of Education budget 209% and energy programs 146%.

House Republicans on the Budget Committee added up the 2009 appropriations, the stimulus funding and 2010 budgets and found that federal agencies will, on average, receive a 57% increase in appropriated funds from 2008-2010. By contrast, real family incomes fell by 3.6% last year. There's no recession in Washington. [link]
Make no mistake. The Democrats in Washington cannot keep this wild and undisciplined effort up.  The day of reckoning is approaching.

This Can't Be Good

Even the notoriously liberal "60 Minutes" is questioning the viability of government-run health care?  Can this be true?
'60 Minutes': Medicare Fraud Raises 'Troubling Questions About Our Government's Ability to Manage a Medical Bureaucracy'
By Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters

"60 Minutes" did a fabulous exposé Sunday on Medicare fraud that should be required viewing for all people who support a government run healthcare program in this country.

The facts and figures presented by CBS's Steve Kroft were disturbing as were the details concerning how shysters bilk the system for an estimated $60 billion a year.

As Kroft warned viewers in the segment's teaser, "We caution you that this story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy." [link] [emphasis in the original]
We already know the government can't run a post office bureaucracy. What makes anyone think it can manage 1/8th of our economy - health care! - without killing off the population?

Can we talk about this?

If This Doesn't Frighten You ...

Think about it.  The joker who is promising cheaper, more abundant, more effective health care coverage for all Americans is the same dude who is overseeing the swine flu vaccination program.

We're in big trouble, folks:
From the people who brought us the swine flu vaccine shortage - Government-run health care!
By Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner

President Obama's late-night declaration of a nationwide public health emergency last night shouldn't be allowed to obscure the most important lesson of the developing swine flu crisis - The same government that only weeks ago promised abundant supplies of swine flu vaccine by mid-October will be running your health care system under Obamacare.

On Sept. 13, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, told ABC's "This Week" program that the government was on schedule to deliver an "ample supply" of swine flu vaccine by mid-October:

"We're on track to have an ample supply rolling by the middle of October. But we may have some early vaccine as early as the first full week in October. We'll get the vaccine out the door as fast as it rolls off the production line."

But here we are five weeks later and news reports are coming in from across the nation of long waiting lines of people wanting the shot, but being turned away because of grossly inadequate supplies. The typical explanation from public health offiials is that the swine flu vaccine requires more time to be cultivated than seasonal flu vaccine.

That's no doubt true, but did federal public health officials just discover that fact? [link]
Obama wants to run the doctors' offices, the hospitals, the insurance companies, the research and development facilities, the hospices, and ... ultimately the funeral homes.  One-eighth of our economy.  And he can't even get this right. 

I have a suggestion.  How about we give him the task of lighting the National Christmas Tree on time and without incident before we let him mess up our lives and start killing Americans off in droves.  I'd feel a little more comfortable with Mr. Wonderful, a man who was elected health care emperor without ever having accomplished anything in his entire life, a man who is not having an auspicious, confidence-building beginning.