Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Collins Hits Back

I've only found one on-the-record response from the Collins camp to the Allen ad on the economy. And sure enough, it's all bluster and misdirection. No attempt at an actual rebuttal.

Sen. Collins has also launched two new ads (here and here) that aim to blunt Rep. Allen's attack with a mix of gauzy, bipartisan language and misleading statements.

To wit: "She voted to increase the minimum wage." You mean at least once? Sure, fine. But she's also cast at least one downright ugly vote against it.

Specifically: She was one of just 16 senators to oppose both the early-2005 minimum wage increase plan put forward by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and the Republican substitute.

It's a vote that, as far as I know, she's never explained. Even though it puts her well to the right of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) on the issue.

Of course, Sen. Collins is more popular on Wall Street--and in corporate boardrooms--than Santorum ever was. It's not hard to see why.

UPDATE: Kevin Wack says it's "disingenuous" for Democrats to criticize Collins for voting against the Santorum substitute...because Democrats themselves opposed it.

Um, no. Either Wack is unfamiliar with the context of Collins' hypocritical vote, described at the bottom of this post, or he and I have different opinions about what the word "disingenuous" means.

What's really disingenuous, of course, is portraying yourself as a defender of working people while voting for policies that help make the gap between the rich and poor wider than it's been since the Great Depression.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Allen 'Yea' On Bailout?

The New York Times links to this page for the House bailout roll call.

The bill's title appears to be wrong, but the vote tally seems correct. So it's hard to know what to conclude.

We're waiting for official word.

UPDATE: Maine Politics links to this article. Allen voted for it.

Allen Steps Up

Rep. Allen has an ad up that is (finally) telling the truth about Sen. Collins:

It will be interesting to see how the Collins camp responds to the ad since the spot's two-fold central claim is hard to dispute:

1. Most people understand that the Bush administration's economic and regulatory policies have led us into the current disaster.

2. From the beginning, Susan Collins has been an unwavering supporter of President Bush's economic policies.

So it's hard to see what the substantive case against the ad's argument looks like.

What we're likely to get, instead, are attempts to distract and mislead. And to shift the discussion from substance to tactics.

Collins camp, what say you?

How Will She Vote?

Still no word from either candidate on the Wall Street bailout bill. That's understandable--the language wasn't finalized until about twelve hours ago.

While it's always risky to try to infer Sen. Collins' position on legislation from her public statements, here's a stab at it.

First, to recap: After several days of flailing, Collins began parroting Rep. Allen's talking points on the bailout bill. She followed Allen in calling for curbs on executive compensation, taxpayer protections and more oversight.

It was a transparent effort by her camp to eliminate any daylight between the candidates on the issue.

But on one point, she was unwilling to echo Allen. And it leads to a conspicuous difference.

Namely: From the beginning, Allen had asked for a "lifeline" for homeowners. He later spelled out that criteria, calling for the legislation to include--in the words of PPH reporter Matt Wickenheiser--"authority for bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of mortgages on first homes."

It's not hard to understand why Collins refused to parrot that demand: For her friends in the real estate, financial and construction industries, it crosses a bright line.

And guess what: The real estate, banking and construction industries won. After heavy lobbying, the bankruptcy provision was excised. It didn't make it into the final draft.

So Allen has plenty of reason to vote against the legislation. By contrast, all of the principles Collins enunciated have been met.

What's more, the bill is quintessentially bipartisan: It's an almost paradigmatic example of centrist legislation, crafted with strong input from both sides of the aisle and the White House.

In short, it's the product of just the kind of consensus-building process that Collins has made a career out of fetishizing. So it's hard to see how the junior senator could avoid voting for it.

Of course, it also gives Collins' big business allies and patrons most of what they want. And after spending eight years enthusiastically supporting economic policies designed to widen the gap between the rich and everyone else, it would seem like election year pandering for her to turn around and abandon her Wall Street friends.

So Collins looks like a likely bailout supporter to us. Allen has a bit more room to maneuver, but it would make plenty of sense for him to oppose it.

We'll know where things stand soon enough.

Question of the Day

Why isn't someone running this several times a day, every day, on Maine's television and radio stations?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Collins: Palin "A Great Choice"

I missed Tuesday night's edition of Nightline. But I caught up with it this morning.

About two minutes in to the eight minute clip (-06:12 on the clock at lower right) the discussion turns to drilling, and to Gov. Sarah Palin.

Note that the above quote is actually stronger and more unambiguously laudatory than the language Collins used immediately after the Palin choice was announced. The impression that's left is that the nomination has, if anything, grown on Collins.

Let me say this: After what we've seen from Palin since her selection, and given that her running mate is a 72 year-old cancer survivor, I find it utterly unconscionable that an informed, patriotic American adult could believe what Collins professes to.

I'll leave it at that.

Photo of the Week

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quote of the Day

Christian Potholm, in his 2003 book The Splendid Game:

"In the governor's race in 1994...BDN turned true objective reporting upside down in a desperate effort to find some reason why Susan Collins could and should win. Their tortured machinations the last two weeks of the campaign were only matched by the very one-sided presentation provided by the Portland Press Herald."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Collins and Birth Control

We still have no idea where the junior senator stands on the Bush administration's controversial new health care regulation.

Question of the Day

So, the man that Sen. Collins has for years wanted to be president is in the middle of a bizarre, slow-motion tantrum that looks very much like a mental breakdown.

Anyone feel like asking the junior senator for her thoughts?

Turning Maine Red?

Sen. Collins continues to run away from the big issues. Her campaign homepage doesn't mention the fact that she's a Republican. And her corporate allies are appropriating Obama for President's branding and graphic design on her behalf.

So does it really make sense for her campaign to reinforce its red state aspirations on all its t-shirts, signs and paraphernalia?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Distract and Deceive

Sen. Collins is still harping on the role of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the current crisis. But it's a dodge.

Don't get me wrong: Those companies were guilty of serious excesses over the last several years. You won't see me defending them.

But they're not what the current crisis is about. And they've got nothing to do with the the Bush administration's $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan.

Rather, the plan is targeted to Wall Street institutions that packaged home mortgages into exotic (unregulated) securities; sold them to each other; and then made disastrous, leveraged bets based on their holdings.

If only the mortgages themselves were a problem, we wouldn't be facing a global financial crisis. We certainly wouldn't be talking about a $700 billion bailout.

It's not exactly a lie for Sen. Collins to continually place Freddie and Fannie at the center of the crisis. But it is an attempt to deceive. And to distract attention from the main culprits here--the huge multinational corporations that have pretty much run Washington over the last eight years of Republican domination.

Those companies are now, of course, receiving a barrage of criticism.

But not from Susan Collins.

BDN Shills For Collins

Yesterday, we noted that Sen. Collins was working to collapse any space between her and Rep. Allen on the $700 billion Bush bailout for Wall Street. And now, BDN is doing that work for her.

Check out this lede:

Maine’s U.S senators and representatives all share the same point of view on the $700 billion bailout plan and the Bush administration’s efforts to have it approved by the end of the week: The Congress should not act in haste.
It's true that all of Maine's reps are calling for deliberation. But it's completely wrong to imply that they've all responded to this crisis in the same way.

In fact, it's nearly the opposite of the truth.

Naturally, in its survey of the state's four representatives, BDN gives Collins the most--and most prominent coverage. Rep. Allen is quoted only once--in paragraph eight--after Rep. Michaud gets a chance to weigh in. (Collins is quoted in paragraphs four, 12 and 21--where she gets the last word.)

Biased coverage in BDN isn't unexpected or unusual. Far from it. But this piece is about as brazen as anything we've seen from them this cycle.

More on the SUSA Poll

Kevin Wack points to a purported 46% gap among the 18-34 demographic--in Collins' favor. And Survey USA's companion poll on the presidential race has Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) up 12 points with the same demographic.

To be blunt about it: There's just no way that these numbers are accurate.

So it's probably worth taking both polls with a grain of salt.

New Poll: Collins +16

Survey USA is out with a new poll that has Sen. Collins up 16 points:

Tom Allen (D): 39 (38)

Susan Collins (R-inc): 55 (55)

Numbers in parenthesis represent results from a Survey USA poll conducted October 26, 2007.

Clearly, the figures have barely budged. And at first glance, that looks like more lousy news for Rep. Allen. But once you wade into the polling data, the situation becomes a bit murkier.

Because while the poll's partisan breakdown is 35-34-28 among Dem-Rep-Ind, the latest figures show that Maine's actual breakdown is 32-27-38.

In other words, the poll overweights Democrats and Republicans--but it overweights Republicans disproportionately.

When the results are re-weighted to bring them in line with Maine's current partisan profile, the gap shrinks to about 12 points.

That's still leaves Allen with quite a task in front of him. (He still needs, for example, to cut into Collins' 24% share among Democrats--which is lower than we've seen in other surveys, but still way too high for him even to come close to victory.)

But overcoming a low double-digit deficit in six weeks is the kind of thing that does happens in congressional races with some frequency.

On the other hand, the closer things get to twenty points, the more far-fetched the scenarios become.

Follow The Follower?

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has suspended his presidential campaign and appears to be pulling his ads off the air. This is a dumb move--politically and every other way.

But will Sen. Collins close ranks behind her party's nominee? And if so, will Rep. Allen be foolish enough to follow her lead?

Eye On The Prize

Thus far, the only thing resembling a substantive criticism of the Bush administration's $700 billion Wall Street bailout from Sen. Collins is her complaint that it doesn't include curbs on executive compensation.

But as Kos suggests, that's really the least of it.

I don't want to send thousands of dollars to Wall Street in exchange for a rejiggering of the way financial companies compensate their employees. I wouldn't be in favor of sending Wall Street ten dollars to accomplish that. And I suspect you feel the same way.

No, the real issue is the $700 billion: Who gets it, to what end, and what we all get in return. Those are the things to keep your eye on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Keeping Current

New readers: If you use a newsreader, our feed is available here.

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Insiders (and others): Please send tips here.

Fellow bloggers: The Collins Watch Flickr pool is open for business. We'll be adding copyright-free photos there as the campaign proceeds. Check it out.

And while we're on the subject of sharing, remember that you can contribute to Collins Watch using the "Donate" button at right.

Federal Assistance

Long time readers will have fond memories of the Howe Brothers. (Also see here.)

Looks like they're getting another $3.5 million cash infusion courtesy of Sen. Collins. That's almost 30 times the company's reported annual sales.

Does anyone seriously think that money wouldn't be better spent on a weatherization pilot program? (I mean, other than the Howes themselves. And Susan Collins.)


It took a surprisingly long time, but as we predicted, Sen. Collins is finally describing the Bush administration's $700 billion Wall Street bailout in language that's slightly less mealy-mouthed. Slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the PPH story:

Collins said she remains concerned that the plan doesn't have adequate protections for taxpayers, accountability for decisions made by the Treasury Department or provisions to hold accountable those financial executives who made poor decisions that contributed to the crisis.

"What I don't want is a plan that creates moral hazards or rewards individuals on Wall Street who made high-risk decisions and now are looking for soft landings," said Collins. "That's why there should be a means of curbing excessive executive compensation as part of this plan--but there are an awful lot of details to be worked out."


"I'm not convinced that the outline that we've been given is the right answer, but I am convinced that emergency legislation is required to prevent economic chaos here and a complete drying up of credit that would affect small businesses, small banks, automobile dealers, people who are completely blameless in this crisis," she said.
So let's review.

Collins thinks legislation is necessary but she wants "protections for taxpayers"; "accountability" for the Treasury; and curbs on executive compensation.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like the set of principles Rep. Allen laid out three days ago?

It's a cute move, and its' probably smart politics. But no one should be fooled: Susan Collins is Wall Street's candidate in this race. She's proven it time and again.

Trying to pretend that she's Tom Allen doesn't change that fact.


When asked about the Bush administration's unprecedented $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan, Sen. Collins has tried repeatedly to change the subject.

She talks about more hearings. She talks about Democrats. She talks about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae--even though they're not who the bailout is being arranged for.

The only thing she doesn't want to talk about, it seems, is what the American people should get in return for giving the irresponsible firms in need of bailouts almost inconceivably large infusions of taxpayer dollars.

It's almost as if she's was trying to protect someone, or some thing.

Wonder who that would be.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Seizing the moment, the DSCC weighs in.

As regular readers know, there's a lot more to Sen. Collins' sorry record on economic policy and pocket book issues than gets mentioned in this spot. And her behavior in the last couple days adds a whole new chapter to the story.

But this ad does at least begin to get the word out on Susan Collins' dismal pattern of standing up for powerful corporations and the super-rich at the expense of average Mainers.

(But again: This is really just a start.)

Collins is a great sport at parades and a wonderful middle school guest lecturer. But when it comes to fighting for Maine's middle class? Not so much.

Thought of the Day

I'm told there are quite a few Republicans in the second congressional district. And my impression is that advertising in CD-02 is relatively inexpensive.

I wonder what those CD-02 Republicans would think if they knew how much difficulty Sen. Collins has had articulating specific reservations about the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan.

Especially given her down-the-line support for the Wall Street agenda.

I really wonder.

That Other Meltdown

Gerald reminds us that Sen. Collins voted against closing the
Enron loophole.

An Opening

Sen. Collins has clearly given Rep. Allen an opening with her cowardly, hypocritical reaction to the widening financial crisis.

Admittedly, it's not clear how big the opening is. But against the backdrop of her staunchly pro-corporate record and her campaign's heavy reliance on business PACs and business-backed astroturf groups, an opportunity for Allen undoubtedly exists.

The question is whether Allen and his allies will capitalize on it.

Will the Allen campaign and third-party groups draw sharp contrasts that show the yawning gap between the two candidates on the economy?

Will they connect the dots between Sen. Collins eager support from Wall Street and the votes she's cast over the years?

The Silly Season

Sen. Collins is now--get a load of this--blaming Democrats for refusing to pass stricter financial regulations. And yet at the same time, she's still refusing to call for attaching any strings to the $700 billion Bush bailout.

In fact, she continues to try to confuse reporters into believing the bailout is all about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae--rather than her corporate patrons and allies on Wall Street.

Is this charade going to fly? Can Collins repeatedly mischaracterize the political dynamics of regulatory reform over the past decade without any consequence?

Will she be allowed to stand quietly by her regulation-averse Wall Street buddies as the financial system melts down?

Is Rep. Allen going to let her get away with this? Is the Maine media?

Debate Schedule

PPH has it:

• OCT. 2, Portland, Portland Regional Chamber Eggs & Issues breakfast, Holiday Inn by the Bay, 7:30 a.m., $26 for nonmembers.

• OCT. 7, Brewer, Jeff's Catering Banquet & Convention Center, open to members of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor Rotary, the Bangor Breakfast Club and the Action Committee of 50.

• OCT. 9, WGAN, 7:30 a.m., broadcast at 560 AM.

• OCT. 14, Portland, hosted by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, News 8 WMTW and Central Maine Newspapers, at the University of Southern Maine's Hannaford Lecture Hall, 11:30 a.m. The debate is free and open to the public. It will be broadcast live on Channel 8 and wmtw.com.

• OCT. 15, WGME Channel 13, 7 p.m. broadcast.

• OCT. 16, Auburn, Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, Hilton Garden Inn Riverwatch, 7:15 a.m., open to the public, $20.

• OCT. 20, WAGM Channel 8, broadcast in Aroostook County.

• OCT. 22, WCSH Channel 6, 8 p.m. broadcast.

• OCT. 23, Portland, hosted by MPBN, the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine's Hannaford Lecture Hall, 8 p.m., open to the public, free.

Alito: On The High Court

(This is the seventh in our series of posts on Justice Samuel Alito. Read the first six posts here, here, here, here, here and here.)

In 1985, when he was applying for a senior post in the Reagan Justice Department, Samuel Alito wrote:

I am and always have been a conservative and an adherent to the same philosophical views that I believe are central to this administration...

Most recently, it has been an honor and source of personal satisfaction for me to...help advance legal positions to which I personally believe very strongly. I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court...that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion. (Emphasis added.)
Since he's been on the Supreme Court, he's had an opportunity to put those conservative beliefs into action. And he's seized that opportunity--siding with advocates of the imperial presidency in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, going to bat for corporations in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and shredding the First Amendment in Morse v. Frederick.

And then there's Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld a ban on a particular abortion procedure that the court had struck down before Alito joined the court, just a few years earlier.

Here's an NBC news report from April 19, 2007, the day after the decision was handed down:

George W. Bush is far from the peak of his power as president, but in one area of social policy--the regulation of abortion--Bush’s agenda is triumphant.

Wednesday's Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on the procedure called partial-birth abortion is a victory for Bush and for social conservatives at a time when they've had little to celebrate.

In the 5-4 ruling in a case called Gonzales v. Carhart, Bush’s two appointees to the high court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito supplied the margin of victory.


Ellen Malcolm, head of the Democratic abortion rights group Emily’s List, said Gonzales v. Carhart will be on the minds of independent and Democratic voters in next year’s elections.

"They will understand that we are now only one vote away from completely overturning Roe and so you don’t want the Republicans in there appointing one more Supreme Court justice," she said...

For abortion-rights advocates, Wednesday’s ruling was an "I told you so" moment, and a reminder of what might have been, had Senate Democrats chosen to mount a more vigorous effort to block Alito with a filibuster. "Let this decision be a lesson to those senators, editors, and pundits who thought it unseemly to filibuster Sam Alito's nomination," said Kim Gandy president of the National Organization for Women.


Alito was confirmed 58 to 42. Two GOP senators, Collins and her Maine colleague Olympia Snowe, who’d voted against the partial-birth abortion ban, also voted for Alito.
As recently as last week, Susan Collins was still dodging questions about her vote in favor of Alito.

She continues to press the point that, when it came to Alito, she refused to "apply a litmus test."

But as we've amply demonstrated in our series on Alito, opposing his nomination didn't require a litmus test. All it took was a careful consideration of his statements and his record.

Collins refusal, even now, to voice any regrets about her vote--or about Alito's tenure--speaks volumes. It tells us all we need to know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Hamlet Act

Sen. Collins' refusal to stake out any concrete position on the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan is unethical. It's irresponsible.

But it's also pretty typical behavior from the junior senator. At least in certain circumstances.

When the Republican position on an issue is politically palatable in Maine, Susan Collins has no problem toeing the party line.

But the rest of the time--when the Democratic position is preferred (health care, Iraq) or when partisan divisions get scrambled--Collins resorts to describing the problem instead of offering solutions. She resorts to calls for hard work and hearings. And she resorts to empty calls for less partisanship and more moderation.

And then at the last minute before the vote, she hops off the fence and sides (almost always) with the Republicans, while bemoaning the absence of a non-ideological alternative.

This is what happened in the egregious (and now unconstitutional) Military Commissions Act. It's what happened on Alito. And it happened on Iraq in vote after vote after vote.

The only difference this time is how quickly events are unfolding, how fluid the partisan landscape seems to be, and how high the stakes are.

There is, of course, a cost to all the vacillating: It's no wonder that Collins ranks 68th in effectiveness among senators and in the bottom half among Republicans. Or that she ranks 63rd in bringing home earmarks.

After all, how much sway can you have with colleagues if you're more comfortable responding to events than shaping them? How much leverage can you amass if you refuse to stand up publicly on major issues until the last minute?

With Maine's media in her pocket, it's been a politically astute approach for Collins. But it's been a disaster for her constituents.

The Fannie and Freddie Dodge

As we just mentioned, Sen. Collins either no idea what she's talking about or she's so eager to avoid a discussion of the financial crisis that she's content leaving that impression.

But there's another wrinkle to her decision to look back at the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bailouts instead of discussing the current crisis: Before they were absorbed by the feds, Freddie and Fannie were government sponsored companies.

And clearly, Collins would rather talk about the (admittedly abundant) failures of government-linked entities than focus on the crisis at hand, which implicates not the government but rather her Wall Street friends, patrons and allies.

So there's a good chance that there's cynicism at play here, too.

You'd think kind of cynicism might melt away in the heat of a global financial storm, with the Maine economy--and the assets of Mainers--on the line.

But apparently, you'd be wrong.

UPDATE: The market just closed for the day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 400 points.

Oh Dear

Sen. Collins talks to WCSH on the bailout:

Senator Susan Collins...[agrees] that some sort of bailout in the wake of the "meltdown" on Wall Street is necessary.

"The SEC regulations that apply to publicly traded corporations should be extended to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae," says Collins. "They are at the heart of this financial meltdown because they either own or back eighty percent of the mortgages in this country. In addition, they should be required to the same capital requirements that apply to commercial banks. We need more regulation of mortgage brokers."
This is flat-out, factually wrong. Is Collins completely misinformed about what's going on here?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already been bailed out--at a cost of about $25 billion. And at least so far, that action has been rather successful.

What's currently on the table is a new bailout, thirty times as large, for institutions that hold mortgage-backed securities.

As far as I know, those securities were neither packaged nor sold by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

But say they were: The bottom line is, Freddie and Fannie have already been dealt with. It's all well and good to impose tighter restrictions on those entities going forward. But doing that does nothing to solve our current dilemma.

It does nothing to stem the crisis that's threatening the financial system and the economy right now.

So talking about Fannie and Freddie today is like walking up to the microphones on September 12, 2001 and vowing to step up efforts to catch the U.S.S Cole perpetrators. And then sitting back down.

Bottom line: The junior senator has still yet to voice an opinion that has any bearing on the difficult, dangerous circumstances in which we find ourselves.

But worse than that: Collins appears to be seriously out of her depth on this issue. She seems to have no idea what she's talking about. Either that or she's dodging a candid discussion under the guise of being misinformed.

Either way, it's a positively disastrous response to a grave situation.

Talk about a meltdown.

Thought of the Day

You'll remember that, at yesterday's debate, Sen. Collins characterized market discipline as a critical part of solving the finance crisis. In fact, it was one of the only prescriptions she cited.

But isn't market discipline just another term for self-regulation?

And isn't self-regulation what led us into the mess we're now in?

Just Posted

On a day when turmoil on Wall Street has pushed the global financial system and the American economy to the edge of disaster, the Collins campaign is weighing in with this bit of urgent news from the Cumberland Fair.

I kid you not.

Apparently, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were on the scene. Maybe they can get a straight answer from Sen. Collins on what Congress should and shouldn't do to keep the economy from sliding into a depression.

But What Is She For?

To its credit, PPH is taking a midday look at the Wall Street crisis, and the reactions of both candidates.

Allen has laid out his position. But from the Collins camp, it's still pops and buzzes:

Collins said Congress should stay in session until the financial mess is unraveled.
Okay. What else?
"Right now there seems to be a rush to act on this bill so we can adjourn this weekend," she said. "It's a staggering cost, we shouldn't be a rubber stamp on that. We've got to carefully look at what happened and why."
"Carefully look"? This is madness. The financial system has been slowly coming apart for the last two years. Everyone from Rep. Allen to the folks at Goldman Sachs now agrees that insufficient regulation is a big part of the problem.

Surely, Sen. Collins, you have enough information by now to stake out some position on the issue. Don't you?

Look. What's happening here is crystal clear: Susan Collins is stalling. She's ducking the issue so that she can spend some time sticking her finger in the wind.

And no doubt, tomorrow or the next day she'll surface with a statement that sounds pretty without actually committing herself to much of anything.

But the last couple of days have been a real test of leadership and of character: Faced with a category five financial hurricane, the junior senator is simply unwilling to take a position until some consensus has formed and she can find political cover.

Until then, she's unwilling to break with her anti-regulation corporate patrons even though the financial system itself may be on the line.

That's not loyalty. It's blind fealty. And it's a disaster for Maine and the country.

Calling The Maine Media

We're in the middle of a historic financial meltdown. And on Friday, the Bush administration announced the outlines of a $700 billion rescue plan.

By Sunday, Rep. Allen had embraced the idea of bold action and on Monday morning he laid out a series of principles that any package must adhere to ("minimize taxpayer exposure, make sure homeowners get a lifeline, include oversight of the Treasury and limits on excessive compensation for executives").

Sen. Collins, by contrast, was musing about the origins of the crisis and asking for hearings and more "market discipline" while stopping short of endorsing tighter regulation of Wall Street.

So one of these pols is demonstrating something like leadership; the other is showing us all something else.

But here's the question: Where does Susan Collins stand on a $700 billion taxpayer funded bail out? Does she really think Wall Street deserves that kind of propping up in the absence of stricter regulation?

Andrews: Collins Doesn't See It

Allen campaign spokeswoman Carol Andrews comments, via e-mail, on Sen. Collins' call, in the midst of a full-blown financial crisis, for more hearings and more "market discipline":

Just as with the health care crisis, it is clear to everyone except Senator Collins that it is time to act, not...study.

Laissez Faire

Even investment banks are now begging for tighter regulation.

So why is Susan Collins still maintaining that more regulation isn't the answer?

Their Gal in Washington

Mike Tipping is taking things into his own hands.

Good for him.

Pocket Book Flashback

Remember, Sen. Collins:

--voted for all three of George Bush's tax cuts for the super-rich, and was the only member of the Maine congressional delegation to do so.

--voted against closing the loophole that gives companies a tax break for shipping jobs overseas.

--voted for the bankruptcy bill written by the credit card companies.

--was one of just 16 senators to vote against raising the minimum wage.

--has raised more than twice as much money from PACs as she has from Mainers.

--has raised almost twice as much money from business PACs as she has from Mainers.

--has raised more money from the finance, insurance and real estate sector than she has from any other industry.

--has been supported via expensive television ad campaigns by no fewer than four corporate-backed, pro-business special interest groups.

Allen: Collins Put Wall Street First

Rep. Allen pounds Sen. Collins' record on economic issues:

This crisis is a vivid illustration of what happens when the federal government refuses to do responsible regulation and oversight of the financial markets. That is exactly what the Bush Administration and its allies like Susan Collins and John McCain have adopted--policies and positions that have led us to the edge of financial disaster...

The ideas widely held by the Bush Administration and its allies like Susan Collins and John McCain that the market will take care of itself without federal regulation and oversight have failed our middle class miserably...We need to change our economic policies in order to strengthen our middle class instead of feeding the superwealthy and big corporations.

Collins on the Crisis

Gerald makes a good point. And it's echoed in the Blethen write-up.

Namely: In the midst of the worst financial crisis in 75 years, Collins is resisting calls for more regulation of Wall Street. Instead, she wants "extensive oversight hearings."

But does anyone with a money market account or a 401K doubt that financial institutions need new, more rigorous rules? Does anyone doubt that they're needed fast?

In the midst of a cataclysm, Collins is sticking with the script supplied to her by her big money allies. In other words, the very people who got us into this mess.

But her mogul-friendly posture completely ignores the facts on the ground--to the detriment of taxpayers, retirees and small investors.

She needs to be pounded for it.

(Photo by Willow Lawson.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

First Debate

TMB has it.

Unfortunately, the staid structure made it possible for Sen. Collins to gloss over her record on key issues.

But then, late in the game, things turned.

Roughly ten minutes before the event is over, it's as if a fog suddenly lifts: The last few exchanges give you some indication of what this race might look like if it ever turned to the records of the candidates.

So let's hope that future debates are a bit more freewheeling--more like the last 10 minutes than the first 50--and that the questions going forward are a bit more pointed.

Three highlights:

1. The contrast on health care, starting at about 36:00. Rep. Allen comes out, unambiguously, for universal health care. And the junior senator? It's all gobbledygook and more hearings. I still have no idea where she stands.

2. Allen gives a very strong answer on taxes at about 47:30. This kicks off the shift in the debate's tone.

Collins replies with a disingenuous riff that completely mischaracterizes what was at stake in the 2001, 2003 and 2006 tax cuts. And then she shifts into a defense (finally!) of her vote for the Cheney energy bill.

Only she doesn't offer up much of a defense--except to note that the bill was, yup, bipartisan. And that there were a bunch of good initiatives in it. (The Farm Bill had lots of good things in it too, Susan.)

Allen's response generated the only standout moment of the debate: "The 2005 energy bill was bipartisan and it was wrong. Just like the vote to go into Iraq was bipartisan and it was wrong."

3. At 53:45, the last question of the debate--on term limits . Allen said Collins should keep her promise to serve only two terms. And Collins trotted out a new defense for finking on her pledge: The world is a dangerous place. Maine needs knowledgeable, effective leaders like me.

(Maybe someone should tell Roll Call.)

Photo of the Week

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another Question

This distortion-riddled column in yesterday's PPH and this much better piece in the same day's New York Times raise another set of question it would be worth asking Sen. Collins.

Namely: Should pharmacies be allowed to reject valid prescriptions for the morning after pill depending on who's on duty? Should health clinics and hospitals be free to pick and choose which patients they want to provide with emergency contraception? How about condoms and IUDs?

In pro-choice circles, these are hot topic.

And as everyone in the Maine press knows, Sen. Collins is a strong supporter of reproductive freedom. (Right, guys?) So these should be easy questions for her to answer.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Poll: Collins +13

Rasmussen's September numbers are out, and they show the race narrowing modestly since August:

Tom Allen (D): 42 (38) (42) (42) (42) (38)

Susan Collins (R-inc): 55 (53) (49) (49) (52) (54)

Numbers in parenthesis represent results from previous months.

The poll is certainly better news for Rep. Allen than last week's Research 2000

On the other hand, it shows Sen. Collins gaining rather than bleeding support. So it's still true that Allen will need to shake up the race, and the narratives that have cropped up around it, if he is going to make this thing close.

Much of Allen's improvement in the latest survey seems to come from a six point drop in Collins' support from Democrats--which still clocks in at a relatively high 23%.

So there's plenty of room for further narrowing.

End of Days?

On Sunday, for literally the first time in years, Sen. Susan Collins will take questions from adult Mainers in an open forum. TMB has the details.

So if you're near Portland, get out there. And arrive early.

If we had the chance, we'd probably ask about Collins' support for the Cheney energy bill. Or her opposition to even former Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) version of the minimum wage increase.

Or how she squares Samuel Alito's dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey with her sense that he's a principled jurist.

But whatever question we asked, we'd be sure to make it narrowly tailored, and about the junior senator's record.

And we'd be sure to preface it with a request that she restrict her answer to discussing what she had done and why rather than what she might support going forward.

A Dozen Debates?

So says USA Today.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Allen and Collins Interviews

WMTW interviews the candidates. Live and in person.

Links to footage of answers--from both candidates--on a variety of topics can be found at the bottom of the page.

More on this later.

UPDATE: While the open-ended format makes the interviews less helpful than they might have otherwise been, this is the best candidate-to-candidate comparison we've seen so far. Certainly better than anything else we've seen in the Maine media--although that's setting the bar awfully low.

To put it another way: If the AP isn't ashamed of their perfunctory, pared-down Q & A, they ought to be.

Some brief highlights:

--Allen: "If John McCain is elected and Susan Collins is re-elected then Roe v. Wade is gone."

--On the wars: Collins didn't voice any objection to an open-ended commitment in Iraq. But she did come out against sending more troops into the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Even though that's where everyone believes bin Laden and his inner circle actually are.

--On making health care more affordable: Allen makes a clear, concise case for his universal coverage plan. Collins, on the other hand, goes to bat for...well, it's not really clear.

Big Pharma Boosts Collins

The Maine Race catches the pharmaceutical industry using a disingenuous ad to help re-elect Sen. Collins.

This is at least the fourth pro-business group to run ads in Maine designed to distract viewers from the major contrasts in the Allen-Collins race.

It's not hard to understand why corporate fatcats might not want to run spots lauding Collins for supporting tax subsidies for companies that outsource US jobs while opposing Republican-sponsored minimum wage increases--even if these are the real reasons they support her.

Of course, in a mature, sophisticated democracy, a vigorous press would shed light on these cynical maneuvers, neutralizing their effect and perhaps even prompting a backlash against the organizations themselves.

But that's not exactly a risk in Maine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's All Good?

Am I the only one who sees something odd and dissonant about this new ad from Sen. Collins?

As Gerald demonstrates, Maine hasn't exactly been an economic juggernaut these last few years.

Now, I can see why an incumbent who's ahead in the polls might want to accentuate the positive. And I understand that politicians find it hard to resist taking credit for all the good things that happen to their constituents.

But in an ad on jobs and the economy, you'd think Collins might at least acknowledge that some Mainers are going through tough times. Wouldn't you?

You'd think that she'd propose--or at least allude to--some program of economic reform. Or does she think everything is just hunky dory?

Kevin Wack recently wrote about the junior senator's small bore strategy. And this ad does indeed look like it's straight out of 1996.

But of course, the economy looked quite a bit different in the lead-up to that election.

Thought of the Day

It's unfair to focus on Sen. Collins' major votes over the last eight years because the facts have a liberal bias.

DSCC Buy: $170,000

From The Hill:

The biggest [recipient] of national money so far [is] Oregon, where the DSCC has spent $3.7 million to help financially overmatched state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D)...

In addition to its efforts to unseat Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), the DSCC has also spent more than $2 million already against both Sens. John Sununu (R-NH) and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)...

The other three states where both committees have engaged are Mississippi, Colorado and Minnesota...

The DSCC has also listed Kentucky and Maine as top races.

In Maine, it has spent a comparatively small sum--$170,000--against Sen. Susan Collins (R), who holds a solid lead over Rep. Tom Allen (D).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Questions From the AP

It's not worth spending time dissecting the answers Sen. Collins' campaign submitted to the AP.

Sure, several of the replies are misleading. And I agree with Gerald that her camp's answer about the Bush tax cuts is ridiculous.

But what keeps the Q & A from having any real value is the questions themselves: They're generic and open-ended. And because only one of them touches on her record (and she's permitted to sidestep it without any follow-up) they don't illuminate what's really at stake in the race.

Because the main problem with Susan Collins has never been what she says she thinks. The problem is what she's willing do about what she supposedly thinks. And when championing the interests of Mainers has required standing up to the reactionary, corrupt bullies who run the Bush administration, she's wilted pretty much every time.

So it's all well and good for her campaign to cobble together some talking points about energy. But the real question is why--when she actually had an opportunity to weigh in on the issue--Collins voted for enormous tax breaks for big oil companies.

Three years later, we still don't have an answer to that question. And the AP questionnaire doesn't get us any closer to one.

Making It Up

Kevin Wack, formerly of Portland Press Herald, has a new blog on the Allen-Collins race. And he has a great post up about a letter the Kennebec Journal published last week.

But he sidesteps the most salient bit of news: That the KJ is content to publish fabricated statistics and outright lies without any fact-checking whatsoever. At least, that is, when the lies in question benefit Sen. Collins

Remember, this is the same paper that has shown a penchant for publishing pro-Collins astroturf and misleading, Collins-friendly editorials.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Photo of the Week

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

Bowdoin professor and Maine political consultant Christian Potholm:

There is nothing wrong with pointing out where your opponent differs from you on an issue. Otherwise, incumbents (who don't like "negative campaigning") would always be reelected! You simply have to contrast your positions with those of your opponent or the people won't support you over him or her.

This is particularly true in a close race where you and your opponent have already gotten all the votes you are going to get on your personalities and being nice people...

Campaigns in Maine have always had elements of negativity in them...By 1994, however, [the negative 30-second TV commercial] was a staple on the campaign trail...

But neither [then-gubernatorial candidate Angus] King nor his many friends...ever wanted him to use this tactic...

I found this aspect of the campaign very frustrating...Here everybody, especially the candidate, had worked so hard and so long and King was so close to victory. But to prevail, he had to go negative to achieve that goal and he wouldn't...

Finally in order to get the candidate to adopt specific ads, the staff and media consultant finally agreed to call them "contrast ads" instead of "negative ads." I'm sure Dan Payne still uses this fine phrase invented for the King campaign.

I remain convinced to this day that if King had gone negative earlier, or with more force, he would have won by an even bigger margin. Certainly, without going "negative" at the end, King would not have won.
From Potholm's 2003 book The Splendid Game: Maine Campaigns and Elections, 1940-2002.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Poll: Collins +19

Here's the link. More on this later.

UPDATE: First, here are the details:

Rep. Tom Allen (D): 38 (34)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-inc): 57 (56)

The poll was conducted by Research 2000, a non-partisan pollster, from September 8-10. The numbers in parenthesis refer to an identical poll in the field from October 15-17, 2007.

Before I even dive into the numbers, let's be clear: No matter how you slice this, it's a disturbing, sobering result for the Allen campaign. Even if the data is slightly skewed (which I have no reason to believe) it's unlikely to be radically skewed. And the task of whittling down an 8-10 point lead in eight weeks is very different from the work required to overcome a 15-20 point advantage.

Of course, the Allen folks would (and will) likely make the argument that they haven't begun sharpening the contrasts between Allen and Collins--that they're still getting Allen's message and story out to a statewide audience.

Fair enough.

I must say, though, I can't fathom why they've decided to let an incumbent--and one who's been the beneficiary of 12 years of deceptive branding and a supine local media--define herself first, rather than forcing her to respond.

But I suppose they must have their reasons.

Now, the crosstabs: I'm no expert, but nothing in the demographic data seems egregious.

The one number that does stick out is the breakdown among Dems: Collins wins 38%.

There's your whole election right there.

That's obviously a huge problem for Allen, but it also represents an opportunity: If he can get just half of those voters to come home--even if the numbers among Republicans and independents don't budge--we're looking at basically a six point race.

Of course, getting all those voters to come home won't be easy. It'll require telling them bluntly and repeatedly about Collins' record in office these last six years--about the broken promises, the failures of leadership and the pattern of putting President Bush and his corrosive agenda ahead of the interests of ordinary Mainers.

There's time, but there isn't much time.

As someone once said: It's later than you think.

Alito: The Confirmation

(This is the sixth in our series of posts on Justice Samuel Alito. Read the first five posts here, here, here, here and here.)

After three days of uninformative hearings, Judge Samuel Alito was confirmed by the Senate on January 31, 2006. The vote was 58-42.

Sen. Collins voted for Alito.

One thing you inevitably here about Collins' vote from defenders is that it didn't really matter: Alito would have been confirmed anyway, they say.

This is an odd argument: The logical conclusion, of course, is that no one's vote ever matters--except, presumably, when there's a one vote margin.

And downplaying the significance of Collins' support for Alito is more distraction than explanation--a way to avoid discussing the vote or defending it.

But the argument is weak for another reason: It misunderstands how the Senate works.

The truth is, if Collins had declared her intention to vote against Alito, it would have shaken up the entire process.

Sen. Snowe, up for re-election, would have felt tremendous pressure to vote against Alito. And their 'no' votes would have given Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) license to split with their party.

Those defections would have turned up the heat on Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), who was facing a formidable re-election challenge. And with the nomination up in the air, would Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) have wanted to risk the wrath of the liberal grassroots by casting what might be the deciding vote in Alito's favor?

You get the idea.

There's no way to know for certain that a Collins vote against Alito would have had this kind of domino effect. But it very well might have. Those pressures exist, and they're powerful.

So let's be clear: Collins had a real chance to radically alter the nomination's dynamics or to reinforce them. She chose the latter. And the Supreme Court was given a good hard tug to the right as a result.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DSCC Wakes Up

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has joined the fray with this hard-hitting, factual spot:

Sen. Collins will protest that she supports efforts to recoup reconstruction costs from the Iraqis. But as we've noted, that's a small drop in the world's biggest bucket. It's way too little, way too late.

So Collins can complain, but the ad is right when it asserts that she has repeatedly given President Bush a blank check in Iraq, and that Mainers are bearing the cost.

Sorry: You can't unsign a blank check. And you can't wipe away six years of moral abdication with a token, politically-motivated proposal that does nothing to solve the underlying problem.

UPDATE: We're hearing that this ad is already on the air--and has been since earlier today.

Two New Collins Ads

Just posted on the campaign website.

The education ad takes the unusual step (for Sen. Collins) of making actual substantive claims. But the energy ad? Not so much.

In that spot, the junior senator calls for a bipartisan energy bill. But guess what? Congress passed energy legislation in 2005 with support from Republicans and Democrats. It was called the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (aka the Cheney energy bill) and it gave huge tax breaks to oil companies.

Susan Collins voted for the law. Rep. Allen voted against it. (Sen. John McCain thinks it was a "pinata of pork" and the League of Conservation voters called it the "most anti-environment bill signed into law in recent memory.")

Will Collins ever explain her vote for the Cheney bill? Will she support more tax breaks for the oil companies as long as they have bipartisan support?

Quote of the Day

Sen. Susan Collins to DC insider outlet The Politico:

I have never seen such excitement in the Republican Party as we're seeing in response to Sarah Palin.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Debate Set?

Sen. Collins and Rep. Allen will debate on October 2, according to this news release from the Portland Community Chamber.

We're checking into it, and will let you know what we find out.

UPDATE: According to the Chamber's website, the debate is scheduled for 7am on the 2nd at the Holiday Inn By the Bay.

Quote of the Day

Colby College government professor Sandy Maisel:

The Democratic Party is better organized in Maine than I have ever seen it before, and I think that it is true across the country.

Here Comes Big Business...Again

If you're wondering why Sen. Collins was one of just 16 senators to oppose both a Democratic plan to increase the minimum wage and the Republican substitute, we may have the answer:

There are benefits to having friends with money.

In fact, the corporate-friendly US Chamber of Commerce is one of the few groups the junior senator has sided with more often than she's thrown her lot in with President Bush.

(They pro-business group has pledged more than $20 million to a handful of races around the country.)

As we've mentioned previously, Susan Collins is a dream candidate for big business. So it's not surprising that corporate interests would invest so heavily in her reelection.

And yet, aside from the new AFL-CIO mailer, her economic record has received virtually no scrutiny as of late.

Here's a question: Why was there more and better reporting on Collins' record in 2007 than there's been in the heat of the election campaign?

AFL-CIO Sends Collins Mailer

Maine Politics has the scoop.

Excluding our own coverage, this is the first time I've seen Collins' votes against minimum wage increases mentioned during this campaign. At least as far as I can recall.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Collins Camp: No Point Talking Trade

There's no other way to interpret the quip from the Collins campaign featured in a new wire story:

A Collins campaign spokesman questioned why Allen would bring [Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)] to Maine to talk about free trade when Mainers' No. 1 concern is the cost of energy.

Quote of the Day


Susan Collins, proving that you can have too much money, is now running another ad. In this ad, I think she cures diabetes. So far Senator Collins has solved the energy crisis, funded schools and teachers, eliminated heart attacks and this week she is curing diabetes.

Remember--it's early September. At the current pace, I suspect Senator Collins will end the Iraq war, replenish cod in the Gulf of Maine and eradicate cell phone dead spots by the end of the month.

Cornell du Houx's Mom: Collins AWOL

The mother of the Iraq war veteran featured in the recent VoteVets.org ad writes a letter:

Alex Cornell du Houx...saw what can happen when troops are not equipped with the right armor, have contaminated drinking water and faulty electrical connections. A fellow Marine was electrocuted from faulty wires. Many more troops died from not having proper equipment, the equipment Susan Collins could have fought for, should have fought for--but didn't.

She had the power to hold congressional hearings, as head of the oversight committee, and refused for three years.


As his mother, I am extremely proud of his service and of all those who have served and are serving. While he was in Iraq and I learned about the faulty body armor, I can't describe the emotions I felt. Why was my county betraying our troops? Collins could have made a difference but didn't.

Power Dynamics

Sen. Collins continues to run a campaign completely devoid of the big issues. And eight weeks before Election Day, there's still no evidence that anyone in the Maine media feels an obligation to challenge that dynamic.

But as the junior senator hops around the state touting her skill at bringing home the bacon, there's another important question for the local media: Will outlets let Collins--the 68th most powerful senator in 2007--continue to get away with framing herself as a Capitol Hill power broker?

Remember, Susan Collins ranks in the bottom half among Republicans for effectiveness, and 10 out of 13 from the class of 1996. When it comes to earmarks, she ranks 63rd--behind several senators elected less than two years ago.

Yet she's running as if her ability to get things done for Maine is her strongest suit.

Will anyone in the Maine press come anywhere near challenging that message? Or would that be unseemly?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Clapping on Cue--Weekend Edition

(Explained here.)

Photo of the Week

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lockstep, But With What?

I've seen a few letters like this one from Terry Hamm-Morris. So let me make an obvious point.

The problem with Sen. Collins' voting record isn't that it's somehow unseemly, in the abstract, for her to have sided with the President as often as she has--77% of the time.

No: The problem is that President Bush's radical, illiberal and costly agenda is out of step with the needs of Mainers. And that Collins has supported that particular agenda so often.

So accusing Rep. Allen of being in lockstep with the leaders of the Democratic party isn't exactly a stinging charge. And to be honest, it's a puzzling thing to see Republicans stressing.

Because the Democratic agenda (universal health care, tax cuts for the middle class, energy independence, reproductive freedom) is pretty much the agenda Mainers want out of their federal government.

So it's really no wonder that Allen is squarely behind it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kolbert: Collins Crossed A Bright Line

Kathryn Kolbert--the woman who argued successfully at the Supreme Court for Planned Parenthood in Planned Parenthood v. Casey--thinks Sen. Collins lapsed into extremism, voting against reproductive freedom, when she backed the Alito nomination:

By the time he was nominated to the Supreme Court, Justice Alito had clearly shown how little respect he had for a woman's constitutional right to choose. Senator Collins knew that a vote for Alito would be a vote against reproductive freedom, but she chose to support President Bush instead of standing up for women.

In fact, on a host of issues, the vote for (or against) the Alito nomination is a clear, bright line between moderation and extremism. The Roberts-Alito Court has already been devastating for choice, workers rights, voting right, the environment, and consumer protections. Mainers need to understand that Susan Collins’s votes on judicial nominees have enabled President Bush and the right wing of the Republican Party to gain unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans.

The Youth Vote

More questions from middle schoolers. Still hiding from adult Mainers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Allen: It's One Of Those Moments

Allen makes his big picture case with a clarity and fervency I don't think we've seen before.

WCSH: Collins Brings Ringers?

The report begins: "On her bus tour across Maine, Sen. Susan Collins brings her own cheering section of staff and volunteers."


Hard to know exactly what this means, but the images would suggest we're talking about more than just a handful of aides.

Is Collins really busing around a human applause machine?

UPDATE: Here's a video--posted by the Collins camp just a few minutes ago--where the coordinated clappers can be heard, though not seen:

Talk about feigned enthusiasm.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Alito: Planned Parenthood v. Casey

(This is the fifth in our series of posts on Justice Samuel Alito. Read the first four posts here, here, here and here.)

Planned Parenthood v. Casey [link]

The background: Planned Parenthood brought suit, challenging the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act as unconstitutional on its face in light of the Supreme Court's decisions in Roe v. Wade and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

The Pennsylvania law required (with limited exceptions) that all pregnant women seeking abortions sign a form affirming that they'd notified their husbands of the decision to abort. And the law specified that, "each form must bear a notice that false statements are punishable by law."

The question: At issue was whether spousal notification created an "undue burden" for women--with "undue burden" defined by the Supreme Court as an "absolute obstacle or severe limitation."

The decision: Two of the panel's three judges voted to strike down the spousal notification provision.

They argued that, since the Supreme Court had ruled that forced parental notification for minors created an unconstitutional limitation on the abortion decision, requiring an adult woman to make a similar notification had to be seen as violating a woman's rights as well.

They noted:

Physical force is not the only means at the disposal of a husband who seeks to prevent an abortion...the record reveals that the forms of effective psychological coercion available to a husband are potentially unlimited.
As the Court recognized in Eisenstadt v. Baird, "the marital couple is not an independent entity with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup.

If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."
But Alito had a different view.

In dissent, as in Sheridan v. Dupont and U.S. v. Rybar, he took up a contorted argument, reaching a conclusion that just happened to be in sync with the hard-right conservative ideology he'd enunciated years earlier.

Namely: He argued that since spousal notification would only serve as a roadblock to a small fraction of women, it couldn't possibly fail the the "undue burden" test:

Section 3209 cannot affect more than about 5% of married women seeking abortions or an even smaller percentage of all women desiring abortions...The plaintiffs failed to show even roughly how many of the women in this small group would actually be adversely affected by Section 3209...At best, the record shows that Section 3209 would inhibit abortions " 'to some degree' " or that "some women [would] be less likely to choose to have an abortion by virtue of the presence" of Section 3209.
Of course, by this bizarre logic, a law that created an insurmountable hardship for women seeking abortions would have to be sustained so long as only a small percentage of women were imperiled.

The majority, seeming not to take this line of reasoning very seriously, dispatched it in three sentences:

As we read Justice O'Connor's explications of the concept of "undue burden," they are all consistent with the view that the right to elect not to carry to term is a constitutional right of each individual woman. Where it is clear that a governmental regulation will restrict the ability of some women to choose an abortion...whether there is an undue burden turns on the degree of restriction that the affected women will experience. Accordingly, whether the adversely affected group is but a small fraction of the universe of pregnant women desiring an abortion seems to us irrelevant to that issue." (Emphasis added.)
When the case made it to the Supreme Court, Alito's framework was tossed aside even more quickly. The majority wrote:
The proper focus of constitutional inquiry is the group for whom the law is a restriction, not the group for whom the law is irrelevant.
As in Sheridan and Rybar, the Supreme Court rejected Alito's dissent, vindicating the unanimous judgment of his colleagues.

The reaction: NARAL put out a report, based in no small part on this case, proclaiming that, "The nomination of Alito tests whether Roe will be a mantelpiece memory, or a meaningful part of our Constitution."

Kate Michelman, one-time NARAL head charged that Alito was "treating women like children who need permission from their parents," and that the case was, "an extraordinary window into how he views the law."

Meanwhile, the conservative magazine Human Events dismissed criticism of Alito's role in the case, opining that spousal notification, "is a particularly mild and popular restriction on abortion."

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman gushed: "We believe that this nomination may fulfill Bush's promise to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas...We are now on the fast track to derailing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land."

Palin and Collins

By now it's abundantly clear that Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) makes a disastrous Vice Presidential nominee.

She's mired in an ethics scandal; her views on social issues are basically reactionary; and she's got the thinnest resume we've seen from a nominee in decades--if not longer.

It was an unconscionably irresponsible pick. Everyone who's looked at her record knows this.

Thankfully, many Republicans are finding the courage to admit it. People like David Frum and Ramesh Ponnuru are passionate, diehard conservatives. But they're clearly spooked by the pick, as they should be, and they've been grown-up enough to voice their doubts.

So what about moderate bipartisan centrist Sen. Susan Collins?

Why is she talking up a pick that even Karl Rove thinks is risky and that BDN termed "puzzling"?

The answer is sad but obvious: As usual, she's more interested in being a loyal soldier than being a voice of reason. She's more interested in being a team player than an independent thinker.

It's not the first time she's put her party before Mainers--far from it. But it's a failure of leadership and judgment just the same.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Allen: Don't Look At Me

Via e-mail, in response to the VoteVets.org ad up on the air in Maine:

Congressman Allen stands by his call to third parties to keep tv and radio ads positive.

Rove to Maine Delegates: Elect Collins

Via PolitickerME.com.

Not a shock that he characterizes Sen. Collins' re-election as part of the solution to the GOP's "problems in the northeast."

But it is notable and interesting that he found time, during an extraordinarily busy week, to talk to the Maine delegates.

Maybe he thought of the speech as a favor to his old friend the junior senator?

Labor Hits Back

Though not as directly as they might have.

The ad begins running in Maine today.

UPDATE: The ad isn't bad for what it is.

But it plays more or less directly into the hands of Sen. Collins' big business allies.

Because now, instead of discussing the junior senator's perplexing opposition to even a modest minimum wage increase or her tie-breaking vote for a tax cut skewed toward billionaires, we're still talking about an obscure revision of labor law.

And that suits corporate American just fine.