Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Ethan Berkowitz Said at the LWV/KTUU Debate

One thing in the Democratic Party first half of last night's Candidate Debate at UAA bothered me. Here's how Sean Cockerham described it today in the Anchorage Daily News:

Berkowitz, for his part, asked Benson if she regretted running for governor on the Green Party ticket in 2002, and taking votes away from Democrat Fran Ulmer to help Republican Frank Murkowski to get elected.

Benson said she didn’t regret it. “I learned a lot… I certainly didn’t influence the outcome of that race.”

Murkowski beat Ulmer in that race 129,279 votes to 94, 216 votes. Benson brought in 2,926 votes, according to the state division of elections.

I pointed this out in yesterday's entry about the debate. Cockerham understates what Mr. Berkowitz actually did. I got a transcript of Mr. Berkowitz's rejoinder to Benson today.

When Ms. Benson countered that the margin of defeat Ulmer underwent was far greater than the number of votes the former had received, Mr. Berkowitz replied,

"I think you should have some regrets about helping to elect Frank Murkowski and getting in the way of Fran Ulmer's election. Think of what this state would have been if we had Fran Ulmer as our governor instead of Frank Murkowski."

Mr. Berkowitz's statement is totally untrue, demonstrably false. And it was made immediately after Ms. Benson stated the matter correctly.

In some states, Mr. Berkowitz's false characterization of facts about a primary race opponent would expose him to Party sanction and a withholding of funds in the general election. Although what he did, if intentional, was far less serious than Ray Metcalfe's leaps to conclusions about Mark Begich's real estate business, it is essentially quite similar.

Additionally, it is negative campaigning, pure and simple.

In spite of the hundreds of times Mr. Berkowitz has said he wants to take the high road, discuss the issues, show a new standard of integrity, and so on, he accused his opponent, a fellow Democrat, of being responsible for the worst administration in the history of Alaska.

To accuse Diane Benson of that is an outright lie.


Anonymous said...

Diane Benson ran as a Green Party Candidate, after helping to found the Green Party and to therefore execute one of the great splits of the Democratic Party in Alaska. While it is certainly true that she didn't garner enough votes to turn the tide in the election, she did split the voters, muddy the issues, and in so doing contribute to Fran Ulmer's loss. You know, that whole "House Divided" concept.

We all know that third party candidates with no chance of winning often have an electoral impact far greater than that of the number of votes they take. It's why they run, typically - to help shape the debate. Every time Diane spoke, she forced Fran just a little bit further to the left to stop the bleeding-off of what would normally have been a key component of the Democratic base. That in turn alienated more and more moderate swing voters who were not thrilled with Murkowski but were more afraid of the increasingly left-of-center Ulmer. And THAT cost Ulmer the election.

It's also the strategy that Benson seems to be employing again, which is deeply troubling for all us Democrats who actually want to WIN in November.

No part of Mr. Berkowitz's statement was false. Stupid, yes. Mindnumbingly wrongheaded and far too nuanced for a 30 second question on a tv debate, yes.

False, no.

Philip Munger said...


What you just said!

1) This is a free country. If there were no 3rd party history in the USA, we'd still be the old Democrats and Whigs.

2) Diane Benson was not in on "helping to found the green party." The people who helped start the Green Party the most, were the likes of Sheffield and Cowper, and their sellout buddies in the 80s Democrats. Where are those two now? Showing up at Ted Stevens lovefests (while Stevens i under indictment), and lobbying in Houston for Big Oil.

3) "Every time Diane spoke, she forced Fran just a little bit further to the left to stop the bleeding-off of what would normally have been a key component of the Democratic base. That in turn alienated more and more moderate swing voters who were not thrilled with Murkowski but were more afraid of the increasingly left-of-center Ulmer. And THAT cost Ulmer the election."

THAT is pure, unadulterated BULLSHIT! Go back and read 2002 news accounts, interviews with Ulmer, her campaign materials. Nothing that you said holds a grain of truth.

I campaigned for Ulmer, spoke with Benson, despised Murkowski. You have just described a campaign dynamic that never, ever existed.

4) "It's also the strategy that Benson seems to be employing again, which is deeply troubling for all us Democrats who actually want to WIN in November."

Once again, you're blowing out your nether end, my friend. This party needs to GROW in order to win. Healthy debate within an evolving party draws new voters. Go down to any of the Obama offices and see who the youngest people there like when comparing Benson to Berkowitz. I have.

But negative campaigning, if this is what Ethan is now embarking upon, lowers voter turnout. Ask Karl Rove.

As I told Ethan at his Palmer office opening, if 75,000 or less people vote Dem on August 26, he wins. If 85,000 or more vote, Benson does. And we need at least 80,000 or more voting on our ticket on August 26 to take control of the State Legislature in November. He seemed to agree.

Philip Munger said...

Won't be around today to answer comments. Judy, Alex, Strider and I are headed to Whittier...

Anonymous said...

Phil, let's talk about hypocrisy for a moment. Diane receives money from PACs, even PACs who receive money from Emmanuel - you know, the folks you and Diane are trying to use to paint Berkowitz as a special interest shill. You know, the 4th highest ranking member of the US House of Representatives and the man who helped engineer the 2006 Democratic takeover.

Seems to me that your problem isn't that Berkowitz gets PAC money, so much as that he's getting more than Diane. That's pretty hypocritical

For the second time, Diane Benson has stood up and run against a corrupt incumbent, and for the second time she isn't getting the respect and support from the Party that any Democrat taking on this task deserves. That's the real problem, and that's what you should be talking about. Instead you are attacking the other guy for raising campaign contributions from groups which work tirelessly to elect Democrats. Pretty hypocritical

You are also being pretty hypocritical on this new "negative campaigning" theme you're trying out. As another poster put it, Diane essentially calls Berkowitz a special interest whore on television, radio, and in person every chance she gets. She hopes that in doing so the people will forget that he's the one who stood up to VECO first. She also lied in the debate Monday night when she said that Berkowitz stood up when it was safe to do so because the FBI was already investigating. That is totally false and is easily proven so by looking at the timeline of events. So, lies and accusations from Benson just don't seem to be a problem for you.

Now, you have the nerve to say Berkowitz is campaigning negatively - because he pointed out the fact that Diane ran as a Green party candidate against Fran Ulmer and diminished the chances of keeping Murkowski out of office.

So tell us, oh enlightened progressive, how much further are you and your candidate going to sink over the next three weeks, and how much are you willing to damage the chances of Alaska electing a Democrat in the fall? Because that's exactly what you are doing.

Philip Munger said...

Listening to Diane Benson from Walter Reed Hospital right now. As soon as her press availibiity is over, the family is jumping in the truck and headed to Whittier to go fishing for the day, so I'm not around to answer question today, folks.

Linda Scates said...

Berkowitz was in Juneau in the House of Representatives for eight years, from 1998 to 2006, if I remember correctly. Surely he knew what was going on down there with VECO's influence long before he made his famous comments on the legislative floor. What did he do to stop the corruption before the FBI had to get involved? Why couldn't Alaska's lawmakers have cleaned up their own mess without the feds having to come to our rescue?

Anonymous said...

I rarely comment on blogs but do so when questions of financial accuracy arise. I am the Treasurer for the Benson campaign and would like to provide the following information.

1. Lynn Woolsey attended the Democratic Convention in Wasilla and listened to both Diane and Ethan's speeches. She was very impressed with Diane and spoke with her quite a bit afterward. Subsequently, Ms Woolsey donated $1,000 form her Campaign Committee account to Diane. The claim has been made that since Ms. Woolsey received support from Rahm Emanuel (in the 2006 elections), in effect, Rahm’s money went to Diane through Ms. Woolsey in 2008. Seems like a bit of a stretch.

2. Contrary to Ethan's misstatement on the air, Diane has received over 70% of her campaign contributions from Alaska. It is impossible to determine this just from FEC reports since the FEC reports do not offer any detail for donations totaling less than $200. Since Diane has such large grassroots support, most of her contributions are far less than $200. Regardless, the Benson campaign reports every contribution, large and small, but the FEC reports only give the detail for the donations aggregating more than $200. A more detailed accounting of Diane’s Funding Sources is clearly listed on her web site.

3. I believe that the point that Mr. Munger has been making was that a significant amount of Ethan's contributions came from outside industry lobbyists and funds received thru the intervention of Rahm Emanuel and his PACs. From a cursory review of the FEC reports, I believe that this comes to perhaps dozens of contributors and many thousands of dollars. I suspect that most of the contributors probably have no idea who Ethan is and only donated because they were asked/told to do so by Mr. Emanuel and his machine.

4. So, are you trying to compare these two scenarios and draw a conclusion that Diane accepts "soiled" contributions just like Ethan does? From my point of view, this does not appear to be an accurate assessment.

5. For the record, while attending the National Congress of American Indians, Diane spent most of her time working on resolutions in support of Native American Veterans and their families. For her efforts, Diane received a standing ovation from the Congress and subsequently received about a dozen contributions from various Native American tribes, totaling about $10,000. Diane has also received small contributions and endorsements from the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus, the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Organization for Women, all because of her support of women’s issues. All of this activity is documented on Diane’s web site.

6. No other remotely significant financial support has been received by the Benson campaign from any lobbyists, industry PACs or political PACs.

Respectfully submitted,
AS Vita

Anonymous said...

Mr. Vita

Since you are posting in the interest of accuracy:

84% of Berkowitz contributions came from Alaskans in the second quarter, compared to your own note of 70% state contributions for Benson for the same period.

Also, the State Convention was in Palmer, not Wasilla.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the correction on the convention location.

The 70% represents the TOTAL Benson campaign contribution dollars through 7/31/2008. Do you have a similar figure for the Berkowitz campaign?

Is the 84% the number of contributors or the total dollar amount? If the former, what is the percentage for the dollar amount? The 70% for the Benson campaign represents the dollars; if we look at the contributors, the percentage would be higher. So the 84% to 70% is very much comparing apples to oranges.

You have me at a bit of a disadvantage by posting anonymously. Can you verify your figures, other than by an incomplete extraction from the FEC reports?

Thank you for taking the time to respond.
AS Vita

Anonymous said...

Who gives a fuck who anybody is that comments on blogs. If the argument is sound, and the data to back it up is legit, then focus on what he/she is saying.

No more of Phil's "I have the balls to post my own name on my own blog" shit (duh!) and Vita's "you have me at a bit of a disadvantage by posting anonymously." The only disadvantage anybody has is faulty logic and/or bad data.

Mr. Vita has good data that he has cited. The other anonymous poster could be correct as well, but he/she did not cite it or link to it. That means it could be accurate or it might not be.

Point = Vita!

Philip Munger said...

back from fishing. didn't keep any.

Anonymous said...

All of you need to read the dramatic reenactment of the debate from Own The Sidewalk. She boils it down to the basics.

red said...

thank you