Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lessons Learned, or Not.

I write in the morning, having awakened to find, not surprisingly, that Representative Ed Markey, the Democrat, defeated Gabriel E. Gomez, the Republican, 55% to 45%. It was a special election, held on a stifling hot day in June with 27% turnout. That means that 15% of registered voters cast a ballot for Senator-elect Markey, and 73% of the registered voters didn't bother with the election. Nevertheless, a win is a win.

It would be interesting to poll registered voters who did not participate in the election and try to determine why they were not interested. Were they just two uninspiring candidates? I can't speak for the rest of the Commonwealth, but in my neighborhood I witnessed very little interest in either man, outside of few persons who are passionate about every election. Was there in sufficient difference between the candidates on issues that matter to voters that nearly three-quarters simply didn't care which one won. Or did large numbers of registered voters accept the conventional wisdom that Markey was going to win anyway, so there was not much point in bother to vote? We'll probably never know which answer, or combination of answers is correct. I have one bit of advise for my Republican friends: Don't believe anyone who claims to have THE answer to why Gomez lost. All you are getting today and for the next several days is people's speculation.

In that spirit, let me offer my speculation, carefully worded to sound like brilliant insight, yet consisting of little more than my personal bias.

1. The more experience man, Mr. Markey, who had run for and won a seat in the state legislature, followed by a seat in the national legislature, continued in a career he had been following with success for decades and has been elected to the U.S. Senate. A man who had never run, let alone won, any office before, tried, and failed, in his attempt at one of the highest offices in the land on this first time out. Lesson: Politics is not for amateurs. Sure, there are some "super stars" who pop in and win a Senate seat on their first attempt at public office (Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, for example). But who other than his own mother had heard of Mr. Gomez before he ran for Senate?

2. The vast majority of the Hispanic vote would have gone Democratic in this election no matter who the GOP ran, so having a first-generation Colombian-America candidate was not going to help the GOP this time. For years Republicans, overall, have treated the Hispanic vote in three ways --

(1) Ignore the Hispanic vote. They won't vote for us anyway, so why bother.

(2) Vilify the Hispanic vote. Call them illegal aliens, welfare frauds, and criminals.

(3) Condescended to the Hispanic vote. Don't you realize that you, a Catholic with strong family values, "should" be Republican (as if to say you are too stupid to know your own mind).

That said, the GOP can appeal to Hispanics if we persist and give reasons for at least considering our party. I fear the brain trust that runs the GOP will say: "Tried that, it didn't work, see what happened with Gomez." It took decades for the Black vote to realign from 90% Republican to 90% Democrat, but too many on our side think if we can't re-align the Hispanic vote in a single election, it's not worth trying.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Party On, IRS!

Res Publica
Party On!
by David Trumbull -- June 14, 2013

Revisiting the 1992 motion picture Wayne's World on television the other night it struck me that there are adults, 21-year-olds, alive today who were not even born when Mike Myers' and Dana Carvey's homage to adolescent concupiscence first played on the big screens of movie houses. After a hard day at work it was pleasant to relax with a silly movie about people who party on, doing outrageous and stupid things, with no consequences -- you know, people like the employees of the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last week release a report that IRS spent $4.1 million on a conference in Anaheim, California in 2010 that included questionable expenses for planning trips, outside speakers, video productions, and promotional items and gifts for IRS employees.

Examples of the management control weaknesses and questionable spending identified at the Anaheim Conference include:

  • IRS management did not use available internal personnel to assist in searching for the most cost-effective location as required by IRS policy. Instead, they relied on outside event planners who had no incentive to negotiate a favorable room rate for the IRS. Instead, the three hotels paid the event planners an estimated $133,000 commission based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

  • The IRS reported that it expended $50,187 on videos for the conference, but was unable to provide any details supporting this cost.

  • IRS management contracted with 15 outside speakers for presentations at a total cost of $135,350. Costs for outside speakers included a $17,000 fee for a keynote speaker whose presentation included creating six paintings of famous people to reinforce his message of finding creative solutions to challenges. Two of the paintings were given away at the conference, three were donated to charity, and one was lost, according to IRS management. Another keynote speaker was paid $27,500, which included a $2,500 fee authorized for first class airfare.

  • IRS employees made three planning trips at a cost of approximately $35,800 prior to the conference.

  • The IRS also paid over $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who reside in the local area to stay at the hotels and incur per diem expenses while at the conference.

  • Numerous gifts/promotional items were provided to attendees at an estimated cost of more than $64,000.

According to information on the IRS website, the mission of the IRS is to "Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all" -- NOT!