Archive for the ‘Political Observations’ Category

Where’s the money?

Friday, February 21st, 2014

“Where’s the money” is the question facing legislators as they enter the final stages of the 2014 legislative session.  It appears the only ideas for getting more money to balance the state budget is a tax on cigarettes or tapping into the rainy day fund.

Here some ideas that will never fly – in an already election year risk adverse Legislature – along with the strong challenge planned by Republicans to capture the House of Delegates.  But there is 2015 and someone should be looking at and researching the potential of these revenue producing opportunities as well as others.

Internet gaming could open up a world of opportunity.  Only three states (Nevada, Delaware & New Jersey) have legalized this option.  In a recent POLITICO article Keith Smith, who heads Boyd Gaming said, “… online gaming [is] an opportunity to be relevant to a new generation of customers, one that is already playing online.”  The piece noted that despite the murky legal status of online gambling, last year $6 billion of the estimated $15 billion worldwide market came from the United States.

A growing market is Advance Deposit Waging (ADW).  It is a form of betting on the outcome of horse races in which the bettor must fund their account before being allowed to place bets.  State governments receive a cut of ADW revenues.  It is not legalized in our state.

Generally, Advance Deposit Waging companies are licensed in Oregon and are known as “wagering hubs.”  These include well know names like Churchill Downs, The Racing Channel, Keeneland, TVG and  Research would tell us how Oregon is taxing this activity.  States have long offered tax relief to attract businesses from other states.  What’s wrong with competing with Oregon for these ADW companies?

Nearby in Kentucky two tracks (Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park) have Instant Racing which are electronic pari-mutuel gaming machines, which rely on the outcome of previously run Thoroughbred races to generate winning numbers.  Kentucky Downs operates 390 machines that grossed $291.2 million in handle and averaged nearly $24.3 million per month in 2013, while Ellis Park’s 187 machines handled more than $27.7 million last year and averaged $2.3 million per month.

West Virginia already allows video lottery machines.  Maybe those thinking about the future should consider Off Track Betting.  Fans in localities where there are no race tracks could have access to simulcast racing across the country and included Instant Racing machines like in Kentucky.

Finally, let’s not forget the growing use of tablets and smartphones.  No doubt these will play an important role in future gaming experience.  These devices must be considered if state leaders decide to look at any of these concepts.

I am offering these ideas not as an advocate but with the hope those wondering “where’s  the money” will put some type of process in place to look for all opportunities – not just gaming – to avoid a certain tax increase for our citizens in 2015 if nothing is done.

Political Observations

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Over the last four years various readers say they like the pieces I post from elsewhere.  Today all the newspapers are full of commentary.

Jim Lees long involved in reform efforts and WV Democratic politics writes  about an “election of ideas” saying the 2014 U. S. Senate contest offers that potential.  Read it here.

THE SUNDAY TAKE by columnist Dan Balz picked up on a paper “Persuasion Is Not Power” presented to the American Political Science Association the weekend before Obama said he would go to Congress before taking military action in Syria.  You will find the Balz piece “Obama, Syria and the limits persuasion” interesting and enjoy comparisons to Reagan, LBJ and FDR.  Read it here.

“To save the GOP, look to Bill Clinton” by Democrats William A. Galston and Elaine C. Kamarck goes back a quarter of century when their party was in a bad way.  Read it here.

“Bucking the RINO charge” by Dana Milbank offers a look at what is faced by some congressional Republicans in the Syria debate. Read it here.

Democrats Dilemma

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Democrats current dilemma in West Virginia is not unlike that confronted by Republicans over the last fifty years.  During those years Republicans seemed only to win elections with candidates named Moore or Underwood.  The Party was never strong, organized, well financed, working together or developing the future.  Besides, with few exceptions, the GOP faced the problem of Democrats voting a straight ticket.

All that began to change in 1996.  Though the national Democratic ticket was headed by popular incumbent President Bill Clinton, Democrat voters showed they knew how to crossover.   WV Democrats helped Republicans elect the only non-incumbent Governor in the nation that year – Cecil Underwood.  Little did anyone realize or think then the GOP dilemma was being transferred to the Democrats.

Like the Republicans in the 20th Century only a few famous names Byrd, Randolph, Rockefeller and more recently Manchin have carried the Democrats to victory.  Though Democrats have won statewide Board of Public Works offices the 2011 primary special election for Governor showed none have emerged to take the place of the famous.

A two-party system appears to be in the making for West Virginia.

It started seventeen years ago with Underwood getting majority party voters to place an X by his name.  The next step was in 2000 when voters made Governor George W. Bush the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to carry the WV in seventy years.  Another Moore (Shelley Moore Capito) entered the scene that year winning a seat in Congress while Bush won again in 2004 and the Republican legislative pick up in 2012.  There have been other GOP wins in state races strengthening the move to a two party state.

Not sure what is happening in the Democrat party, but from the outside the dilemma appears to me not unlike what Republicans have faced for fifty years, too few known names, a lack of organization, adequate funds, a united team and a bench to assure the future.

West Virginia will be the winner if the dilemma ends for both parties.  Nothing would be better for our State than the checks and balances brought on by a strong two party system.

Gool Ole Days

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Anyone who follows the happenings in Washington sees a place where it seems no one can get along, find solutions or enjoy themselves after hours.  That was not always the case when Ronald Reagan was President, Tip O’Neill served as House Speaker and Howard Baker lead Republicans in the Senate.

Back in my days in Washington we all worked together.  A longtime friend who happens to be a Democrat sent me a video that portrays what it was like back then.  It sets an example which should be followed today.

Trust me you will enjoy this video and as my friend said “this is laugh out loud fun.”  Click here you will not regret it even if like what goes on in the nation’s capital today.

“Closed for Repairs”

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Sage advice was offered to Republicans by former presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole over the weekend.  “I think they ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says closed for repairs until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agenda.”

A recipe to address the current bad state of needed repairs may be the one used after the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater then.  The Party was even more divided by ideological bickering – and a fix was needed.

The big names in the GOP were able to agree on the Party’s senior state chairman Ray Bliss to run the Republican National Committee.  He was known for his “nuts and bolts” approach to politics.

As luck would have it after Nixon’s presidential defeat in 1960 Bliss was asked by national chairman Senator Thruston Morton to conduct a survey of Republican organizations in the big cities and metropolitan areas where Nixon lost.  The Bliss Big City Task Force findings came down to one word – “Pitiful.”  That came in handy.

As Bliss took over in 1965 he already knew the sad state of affairs.  His initial efforts to repair the 1964 damage were not glamorous.  He held workshops with state chairman, county chairs, small, big and suburban chairman across the country.  It was reported twenty thousand party workers participated (including the writer) in the seminars.

The message was “nuts & bolts”:  recruit qualified candidates; put programs in place that are meaningful to the constituency; strengthen the women’s organizations; reach out to a larger financial base; look for young voters; open conversations with the educational community; leave no one unregistered; establish doable vote quotas and insist that precinct captains meet them; and do not work independently of elected Republicans.

These same efforts are mandatory now if there is not to be a repeat of 2008 and 2012.   The GOP Growth & Opportunity Project outlined many worthwhile ideas.  However, the Bliss approach of workshops, seminars and bringing the party workers together at the local level may need to be repeated 48 years later.

After an election like 1964 where GOP leaders in state after state did not agree with the platform – something needed done even though Bliss found dealing with issues and ideology difficult.

The answer came from Rep. Melvin Laird the number-two in House minority leadership, chairman of the Republican Conference.  He proposed a Republican Coordinating Committee.  They put out bland position papers but that was expected from such a diverse and large group.  In some cases they moved the Party away from 1964 platform positions.  Since it appears an ideological fight is in the making not unlike 1964 – maybe even worse – such an effort might help bridge the differences until the Party gets a presidential nominee in 2016.

Ray Bliss message was “There are no push button methods for victory…The Republican is out manned, out-organized, out-spent and outworked.  We need more full-time staff people at all levels.  We need more precinct workers.  We need to realize on all levels that politics is a full-time job not a three-month fling.”

Think about it my fellow Republicans.





Required Reading for Republicans

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

We were present for the Reagan Revolution.  Jenny and I served in the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  Often over dinner we recall the Reagan approach to government and issues.  Likewise, we discuss that the “conservatives” in today’s world must engage in redefining the Republican Party not just hold on to Reagan.

As the 2012 presidential campaign unfolded we talked about how most GOP candidates wanted to be like Reagan.  That was not the answer to defeating Obama nor is it the answer in the future.  If we continue down this path it will lead to more defeats at the presidential level.  That approach may work in some congressional elections but not in a changing America.

An analysis that fits this discussion has been written in the Right Turn blog by Jennifer Rubin.   All those engaged in the Republican Party regardless of political philosophy would be well served to read this piece in its entirety.  It is long but on target.  Click here to read.

Rural Fight Ahead?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Small States

The significance of small states is the subject of a lengthy article in The New York Times. The focus is on their growing importance in the U.S. Senate. Throughout the article you can feel the message of unfairness to urban America. When a publication such as this New York newspaper gives this much attention to a subject it normally means just the beginning of a fight against rural states.  As pointed out small state Senators are influencing the outcomes of filibusters, forming legislation and sharing the federal dollar.  We don’t want to lose that influence.

We have written here from a rural perspective about preserving the Electoral College which is under attack and how the US Secretary of Agriculture has not fought for rural development for states like West Virginia.  All of us Republicans, Democrats and Independents here and elsewhere in rural America must work together to prevent any movement that attacks the Constitution to do us harm.

Read the full story.

Historic Change

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Inaugurations present new opportunities and expectations.  As I sat watching Governor Earl Ray Tomblin take the oath of office for the third time I thought about that day 17 years ago when Governor Cecil H. Underwood took that same oath for the second time.

There is a similarly between these two Governors.  They came to office with a deep knowledge of our State and the experience to begin anew.  The one difference is Governor Tomblin cannot run again and Governor Underwood could.

My expectation on that 1997 day was that Governor Underwood had run his last campaign.  That he would use the enthusiasm and political capital from the “last campaign” to change the course of West Virginia.  That did not happen.  Governor Tomblin has the same opportunity.  He set the stage saying he would not have to worry about campaigning.

Here is my prescription for Governor Tomblin to accomplish an historic change of course and create a lasting legacy.  It is quite simple.

He should seek out the best thinkers available in the country not the normal cast of characters with a policy or political agenda.  This group should include historians, economists, political scientists, government specialists, technologists, sociologists and rural policy experts.

This is not a “blue ribbon” group reporting to the Governor but one in which he personally participates.

Prior to these experts meeting Governor Tomblin should commission a “state of affairs” paper prepared by a neutral party to provide an overview of West Virginia.

This is not an overnight process.  Nor will it be completed prior to the State of the State address in February.  It is a process that will take time, require thinking without regard to potential barriers or whose ox is being gored.  The result should be a comprehensive road map for the 5 to 10 years – not in time for the next election.

Once this work is done there will be the time to determine the steps necessary to implement without regard to existing relationships, political contributions or favors of the past and excuses.


In & Out

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

As we enter 2013 it’s fun to think about what is In & Out.  Here is my list of 13.

In                                                                     Out

RGIII                                                                   Romo

No WV Elections                                               Lost Count

Big 12                                                                   Big East

Less Paper                                                          More Digital

Military Affairs                                                  Petraeus

Smaller Inaugurations                                     Extravagant Inaugurations

? ?                                                                         Haden & Phillips

The Economist                                                  Newsweek

Steve Paine                                                        Jorea Marple

14 Republican Legislators                              14 Democrat Legislators

Pondering other’s views                                 Reading only one opinion

Tea Party                                                           Tea Party

Bus Trips to Greenbrier                                 Exclusiveness


Sunday, December 9th, 2012

(Editor’s Note: I served in the US Department of Agriculture as Director of the Office of Rural Development Policy.  Likewise, worked for Members of Congress who served on House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and the Public Works Committee that handled legislation related to economic development.) 

It is outrageous the person who is charged as the number one advocate for rural America would say “It’s becoming less and less relevant.”  That is exacting what Obama Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a farm forum in Washington over the weekend.

Even worst he based his reasoning on politics.  Vilsack said rural Americans need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.  This came after Republican Mitt Romney won 61 percent of rural voters last month and President Obama was backed by 37 percent.

It appears Secretary Vilsack is looking for a scapegoat as to why his leadership was unable to get a farm bill through Congress in an election year.  “It isn’t just the differences of policy… but that Congress doesn’t understand farm issues the Secretary said.  “There is a huge communication gap between farms and the food-eating public”, he said.  Well whose fault is that?

The Agriculture Secretary should get to Capitol Hill and fill that gap.  He should educate the Members and staff about rural America.  That is the way it used to work.

More distributing to me is how Vilsack has failed rural America in other ways.  Particularly when it is well known he has made revitalization of rural America a priority.  His own Department says about 50 percent of rural counties have lost population in the past four years and poverty rates are higher there than in metropolitan areas, despite the booming agricultural economy.

Secretary Vilsack should be advocating strong new public policy to address the current and past plight of non-farm rural American…in places like West Virginia.

It has been the rural development groups making the case for a strong Rural Development Title in the Farm Bill not Secretary Vilsack.  Last August these organizations sent a letter to Congress attempting to make policy changes to benefit non-farm rural America.  Vilsack backed their efforts but he is the one charged by various congressional acts (going back to 1972 and before) to standup and fight for rural America not just back the efforts of others.

The sad part of my outrage is that when reading the rural development titles of both the Senate and House farm bills nothing has changed.  It is just minor tinkering around the edges.

When are we going to get leadership at the US Department of Agriculture who will take serious what Congress has ask them to do and become an advocate for rural America?