Thursday, August 17, 2006

The source of my greatest frustration

As you may remember, last Tuesday I announced that I had sent out a questionnaire to all 150 candidates in contested races here in Iowa. I posted a response today from Brian McLain, who is running as in independent in a 3-way race on southeastern Polk County. I've also listed his result below.

But if you've been paying attention, you also know that after 10 days this is only the second response I've received from 150 candidates. One Republican has replied, and one Independent. No Democrats. Also, no incumbents. Walt Tomenga (R) sent me this:

Please be advised that it is my policy not to fillout any surveys. To fill out one and not anotehr could infer something that is not ture. I stand by my voting record. After reviewing it if you have any questions please contact me.


That's the full, unedited text of his response. It's not the BEST response, though. On Thursday, a source that will remain anonymous forwarded me this email from the Iowa Democratic Party's Deputy House Caucus Director, Kevin Boyd:

Lots of folks have gotten a survey from a blogger. We recommend not answering questionnaires like this. There is no benefit to filling it out and there are lots of potential problems in completing it. Please don't complete it.

Yes, that's right, a paid employee of the Democratic Party is telling candidates for elected office not to tell people where they stand on issues.

I've touched on this problem with the party before, as you may recall. But seeing the Democratic Party literally muzzle candidates on issues is absolutely enfuriating to me.

By the way, as I mentioned before, I received the forwarded email from Kevin Boyd last Thursday. When I got it, I called him to ask about it and left a voicemail. It's been a week today and I've received no response. Imagine that, he doesn't want to stand up for his decisions either.

When I sent out the questionnaire, I imposed an August 25 deadline for replies. That deadline is eight days from today. If you're a candidate who would like to prove you stand for something, you've still got time to send it back.

Here are Brian McLain's answers:

Brian McLain (N), House District #67:

Public financing of campaigns: DO NOT SUPPORT There is something that I would find amusing about anyone complaining about government handouts to those in need, then turning around and getting the same to run a campaign. Maybe I'm a little biased, but I am running out of my own, lower middle-class pocketbook. If I can do it, then there should be no reason for taxpayers to foot the bill on obnoxious ads and annoying automated calls.

A woman’s right to choose: SUPPORT Abortion, in my opinion, is a wretched thing. However I will steadfastly defend anyone's rights so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others, and with abortion being proven as a valid medical procedure, it should remain legal and I would make no attempt to ban it. Everyone should have the ability to receive or decline any medical treatment they would receive, it only makes sense.

Iowa Values Fund: DO NOT SUPPORT The values regarded to in this misappropriation of taxpayer revenue are not the real values of the state. If companies need a bribe to do business here, then let them stay out of the stay and make room for companies that recognize the hard-working and educated people who live in Iowa, contribute to their community, and raise their families here, as great people to do business with and employ. I want to restructure this fund to serve a more important and useful purpose as a 10-year graduated student loan forgiveness program. This will offer an incentive for our best and brightest to stay in the state, support those who took the initiative to further their education, and draw business into Iowa the right way.

Universal Health Care: SUPPORT As a national system, this idea would be a disaster, but at the state and local level it could be more easily managed and appropriated system. Necessary medical treatment should always be available to all, regardless of income level. After all, it is the duty of the state to insure the health and welfare of its citizens.

Local Control over CAFO’s: SUPPORT I shudder at the idea of passing the buck to anyone higher up the food chain as it becomes more general and more book smarts come into play then common sense. If there must be regulations, let them come from the region that knows about this sort of thing (I will be honest, I did have to Google CAFOs and study up before answering this question).

Local control and ownership of renewable energy: SUPPORT See my answer above. What's the point of developing something great and then selling control over it to the highest bidder? It would be much more economically prudent to retain local control and ownership in the long run.

Raising the minimum wage (please include amount in comments): DO NOT SUPPORT. What purpose would raising the minimum wage serve, but to increase the cost of living. It's a big catch-22 if you ask me, as more money in the system means inflation creeps up in general area. I believe that other alternatives such as better accessibility to education, health care, and job training programs (that aren’t managed by Archie Brooks) would be much more effective than just jumping the base wage up again.

More community based corrections for non-violent offenders: SUPPORT After all, where would you have a better time learning how to behave like a good community citizen? A community or jail?

Civil Unions for same-gender couples: SUPPORT. No changes in the law required in this one, which is why many moralists are scrambling to amend their states' constitutions. Honestly, government is not in the business of determining morality. If two people are perfectly capable of placing a valid signature on a contract then so be it. Government services are available to all, it's called EQUALITY. The opposite of DISCRIMINATION. Leave morality to the churches and get back to legislating.

My rating: 7/9, or 77.8%. Clean elections are a deal-breaker for me, but once you get past that, he's good on most issues.



Chris said...

Very interesting! I too am surprised at the Democratic Party's reluctance to state their platform. I heard Senator Joseph Biden say the other day that Democrats come across as "tentative." This is a perfect example of that.

noneed4thneed said...

McLain gave some good answers and reasoning behing them especially the question on universal health care and civil unions.

Matt ( said...

Seriously, Kyle. Do you not read more than surveys? There are a NUMBER of candidates running for seats in the Iowa House that CLEARLY state their platforms - for example:

Andrew Wenthe

Eric Palmer

Todd Taylor

& many others (Ed Fallon for example)....Just because candidates didn't want to answer your survey.

KL Snow said...

That's really not the point.

First and foremost, most candidates, even those who do lay out their platforms don't answer all my questions: Eric Palmer, for example, only answered one.

I have met and like Eric Palmer, for the record. I haven't had the chance to meet Wenthe or Taylor, but they also failed to answer my questions.

Ed Fallon doesn't belong in that group. I know for a fact he returned all but one survey he received during the governor's race.

The issue, at least for me, is this: I want to elect candidates who are proud to voice their position on the issues, and I'm really frustrated when my party is encouraging them not to.


Wendy Barth said...

I'm Wendy Barth, Green Party candidate for Governor, and I would love to do your survey. I'll even post my answers on my web site,, as I have done with the surveys sent by the Organics Consumers Association and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

see my blog at

Send your survey to

Matt ( said...

Kyle...I understand your frustration but I still wonder about your methods.

1) Is a "survey" format the best possible way to solicit information or to distribute information to your readers? Amazingly, not all candidates have a position on campaign finance reform...especially at the statehouse/senate level. Maybe that's why they don't have the information on their websites.

2) Project Vote Smart & other surveys are regularly used to disparage and distort the records/positions of candidates - Many of the major "survey the candidates" sites make their surveys very cut & dry and leave no room for nuance...The result? Records, votes, and positions are often taken out of context by candidates and used in attack pieces. The sites say not to - but it is done.

3) Your party doesn't discourage them from voicing their opinion - What I got from your original post is that they discouraged the candidate in question to not respond to YOUR survey. I'm guessing that if you called the candidate and said, "Hey, what's your opinion on stem cell research?...or Hey, do you support public financing of campaigns at the state level?" they would probably answer your question if they had an answer.

I think it's ultimately a question of format. The blogosphere, and the internet in general, is very much lacking in accountability. The Krusty Konservative blog is but one despicable example. Just mailing out a survey and saying "I'm a blogger with XXY readership" doesn't necessarily qualify you as important.

cr said...

Republicans and Democrats aren't terribly concerned with accountability when they write campaign ads.

d_morgan said...

"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." -Milton Friedman, economist,

The Real Sporer said...

The IDP really told candidates not to answer your questionaire?

I know its hard to find the Democrat platform but that's a new low in the politics of distortion if true.

Brian McLain said...

I gues I'm curious how my disagreement of publicly funded campaigns implies that I do not support clean elections. Please explain.

Matt ( said...

Thing is that it's generally "assumed" that money = dirty. Politicians letting money BUY their votes is "dirty". Using aggregated campaign contributions from PACs and other groups is not necessarily "dirty campaigning". It could be a form of campaign that you feel excludes some people from the process because they don't have access to founts of campaign contributions - but that doesn't necessarily imply that the money is "dirty".

Also, in Fallon's mind what's the difference between a $2,400 check and a check for $2,575? Ones dirty and one isn't? It's a very poor bright line to draw.

Ask the "Real Sporer" if he really understands what the brightline test in a debate about the definition of the word "substantial" is....

KL Snow said...

Actually, Matt, that's not what I meant.

By "Clean Elections," I was referring to a "Clean Elections Act," like those in Maine and Arizona. These are the laws that allow for public financing of campaigns in these states. So while you're not against clean campaigns, you said you are against Clean Elections legislation.


Brian McLain said...

Ah, I understand your meaning then. But wouldn't it be better stating my position if you simply said I did not support public funding of campaigns and limits on campaign spending? I'm all for clean election legislation, however I believe that the Maine act is not the way to go about it.

Regardless of the amount of income a person, group of people, corporation, etc make, the contributions that they donate are, in fact, a part of political speech. They are supporting candidates they feel would best serve their needs. Also the money spent by a candidate is an extension of their political speech. That is, this funding is giving them the ways and means of getting their message out. While PACs and special interests are a problem in this system, and the amount of money often spent is obscene in many regards, I feel it is unnecessary to quell the whole thing by limiting what may be raised and what may be spent. That is a rather iron fisted method of dealing with the problem.

First off, one of the points I am making in my own campaign is that I am running out of my own pocket. This is not the only reason I am running, however I would like to be an example that no matter what party you are running with (if any) and how much money you are able to raise, one can still run for office, and make a legitimate run at that. All you need is a little bit of a shoe string and the willingness to do some hard work.

Secondly, to require my tax dollars, your tax dollars, and everyone elses' tax dollars to go to any and all candidates, regardless of whether such taxpayers actually support the individual or not, is rather tyrannical. I have the option to put money or not put money into the coffers of a candidate, and I would like to keep that option. I don't think legislation requiring public money (that could be going to schools, infrastructure, aide programs, etc) to go to somebody just because they were able to get a few signatures on a piece of paper, or worse yet, impress their friends at the party headquarters enough. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they are entitled to my money without saying a word to me about why I should be voting for them in the first place.

Third, how can we be certain that publicly funded and limited spending campaigns will actually be clean?

Why don't we try this...better visibility of who is donating and how much and to whom. You are doing your part by selecting certain individuals and showing where their money is coming from. Cityview sort of does the same thing, but seems to only focus on those who are currently in trouble in the public eye. I would like to see at ever polling place a list of contributors that each candidate took money from, including city and state location of said contributors. Every candidate would be listed; therefore it would only be more information for the voters to base their decision on and nothing for or against any candidate in particular.

I apologize for the long response. What do you, or anybody else, think of this idea?