Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sen. Jon Tester on days with "no public events" -- also, how to read between the lines on "Begin Travel..."

Montana Headlines recently had the honor of being linked to by a site we hadn't heard of -- Firedoglake -- which was celebrating our Sen. Jon Tester's PAC fundraiser at the home of progressive activist Rick Jacobs. (Check out the cool pic -- apparently Sen. Tester drinks beer when having a story done on him for the media, but drinks wine when cruising for checks in Beverly Hills.)

At least we assume that this was the location, since Mr. Jacobs lives in Beverly Hills -- perhaps Mr. Jacobs also has a home in the Virgin Islands for tax shelter purposes. (Yes, that was gratuitous, but it is simply too gratifying to talk about Democrats and their use of or defense of tax shelters for their super-wealthy -- hard not to find an excuse to work it in.)

Anyway, Firedoglake linked to the MH post commenting on the votes Sen. Baucus and Tester cast against the confirmation of Judge Leslie Southwick.

The blog uses the MH post as evidence for crediting Sen. Tester with being a "good influence" on Sen. Baucus. But of course as we have extensively documented and discussed, while on occasion Sen. Baucus casts a vote in the general vicinity of the center-right, he doesn't particularly need any liberal/progressive influences when it comes to voting against conservative judicial nominees.

But we digress.

Getting back to the Tester PAC fundraiser, we checked Sen. Tester's schedule for the day. It just says "No Public Events" for November 10. And for the prior day, it simply says "Begin travel" at the end of the day's schedule.

Attentive readers will note that the schedule is otherwise peppered with "Begin travel to Washington, D.C." or "Begin travel to (insert name of town), MT."

Of course, there's nothing on November 9 that says, "Begin travel to Beverly Hills."

Those who laud Sen. Tester for his transparency justify the adulation at least in part by pointing out that when we know who a public official is meeting with, we can know whether they're being unduly influenced by money and what-not.

So why wouldn't Sen. Tester put his fundraisers on the schedule -- letting us know where he is traveling to raise money and who he is meeting with? After all, don't we want to "follow the money" when it comes to transparency? Or are U.S. Senators only unduly influenced by meetings that happen in their official Senate offices?

Might other meetings happen that twist a Senator's arm to vote in a certain way if he wants to get certain campaign contributions? Ones that aren't on the official schedule? Seems as though we've had this discussion before here on MH.

From the Firedoglake post, it is pretty clear that while the folks at that soirée were still pleased with having a Montana Senator of their very own (it's the new status symbol,) they were hammering Sen. Tester pretty hard when they didn't think he was toeing the line adequately, or when he wasn't doing enough to influence the votes of wayward (from their perspective) Senate Democrats.

At one point, the reader is almost led to feel sorry for Sen. Tester after he gets grilled on Senate votes that could have indirectly forced troop withdrawals from Iraq. An observer who was present said afterwards that Tester "looked forlorn" following one exchange.

Yes, Sen. Tester, these out-of-state progressives who pumped money into your campaign (and to whom you are still holding out your hat) do indeed expect to get their money's worth. Get used to "looking forlorn" when you go asking for cash when you haven't voted properly.


Anonymous said...

Kinda off topic, but have you heard if Roy Brown is choosing Senator Jim Peterson as his running mate?

Montana Headlines said...

I've heard the rumor. It is now on the left-wing blogs, so it must certainly be true.

From what I've heard about Sen. Peterson, it would seem that Sen. Brown could hardly do better.

Matt Singer said...

My guess is that he can't use Senate resources to talk about fundraisers. It would probably violate ethics rules.

Still -- good question to ask next time the Senator does a conference call and invites you on to ask questions.

Montana Headlines said...

Seems like this ground has also been covered before in Montana Headlines posts: since I don't see the publication of schedules as being particularly revealing, any question I pose are not directed toward Sen. Tester. (As you intimate, the Senator's office has been kind enough to invite me to participate in conference calls -- which is much appreciated.)

My rhetorical questions are directed toward Tester supporters who seemed to think that the publication of an official schedule was some sort of giant step in the direction of transparency.

If such a schedule were the meaningful tool for tracking influence that most people think of when they think of transparency, then those who believe it is meaningful would be asking probing questions about fundraisers, travel, content of meetings, etc. based on said schedule.

If that is happening, it is being kept terribly quiet. You are probably right that Senate resources can't be expended in publishing a schedule of fundraisers, where they are, who hosts them, and who attends them. That would more properly be a job for the Senator's PAC.

Ed Kemmick said...

I will only add to this discussion one thing: I am a confirmed beer drinker. Ninety-eight percent of the times I drink, which is fairly regularly, I drink beer. But if somebody invites me to a party and there's good wine being served, I'll drink it, you bet. I would expect nothing less of our senator.

Montana Headlines said...

I had just read something by a Democrat talking about the need to get away from the image of the "wine and cheese" Democrat.

So I could hardly resist the urge to comment.

Leave it to you, Ed, to turn a gratuitous political cheap shot into a serious discussion.

You are of course right that it would only make sense for Sen. Tester to drink fine wine when it is offered to him. Maybe I'm just jealous.