October 6th, 2010
By MICHAEL R. BLOOD and CRISTINA SILVA ,
LAS VEGAS - The chairman of the Tea Party of Nevada resigned Tuesday after a recording was made public capturing Republican Sharron Angle badmouthing GOP leaders during a meeting with the shadowy group's U.S. Senate candidate.
The exit of chairman Syd James is another blow to the candidacy of Tea Party of Nevada nominee Scott Ashjian, who has been denounced by state tea party leaders who say he has no connection to the movement that advocates limited government and tightfisted public spending.
In a statement, James said he was endorsing Angle, whose uneasy relations with national Republicans were laid bare in the tape, which Ashjian recorded secretly and later released to the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.
James said he arranged the meeting to see if Ashjian would consider withdrawing from the race and backing Angle, who is trying to oust Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"I gave the Angle campaign my word that this was to be a private meeting and not tape recorded. I feel my personal integrity and honor was violated when Scott taped what was to be a private conversation and then made it public," James said in a statement.
"I can understand why the Angle campaign feels that they were double-crossed. The Angle campaign trusted me and that trust was violated," James added.
Angle has the support of national and local tea party groups, but Ashjian's candidacy threatened to drain votes away from her, which would help Reid in a close race. There are several minor-party candidates on the ballot — a recent poll showed Ashjian with just 1 percent support — and Nevada voters can also choose "none of these candidates."
In the recording Angle tells Ashjian, "I'm not sure you can win and I'm not sure I can win if you're hurting my chance, and that's the part that scares me." She laments that the GOP leaders have "lost their standards, they've lost their principles." She refers derisively to "that good old boy thing" and depicts herself as an underdog David fighting Goliath — the constricting machinery of the national party.
On the tape Ashjian complains his reputation has been unjustly damaged in the campaign. He grumbles about the Tea Party Express, a national political committee that ran ads earlier this year questioning his credentials and supporting Angle. He declines to support her.
It's unclear who will succeed James as the leader of the obscure party that has done little fundraising or organizing so far and has been blasted by Republicans as a Democratic plant.
The recording surfaced at a potentially awkward time for Angle — the political arm of the Senate GOP is holding several fundraisers for her Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington.
A spokesman for John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the group will continue to help Angle build her war chest.
"We continue to have a great relationship with Sharron and her campaign," spokesman Brian Walsh said.
Kirsten Chadwick, a Republican lobbyist and former White House aide under President George W. Bush who is helping the GOP elect women candidates, was unmoved when told of the recording flap.
"I honestly hadn't heard of it," she said.
Las Vegas tea party volunteer Joyce Burnett said the meeting with Ashjian "might not have been the smartest move."
"If I were sitting across the table from her, I might say, 'Boy, what were you thinking with that?'" said Burnett, who hosted a house party for Angle in August.
But Burnett said Angle's attempted dealmaking had not dampened her support.
"There is always going to be a certain give and take," Burnett said. "That's how the political system works."
Blood reported from Los Angeles.
October 6th, 2010
October 6th, 2010
Recipients of 352 federal stimulus contracts, grants and loans have failed to report how they spent the money, the status of their projects or how many jobs were funded, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Despite orders from the White House to crack down, enforcement is spotty.
The reports are important because they provide the most detailed disclosures of government spending, and are the keystone of government transparency efforts. Last Friday, the beginning of a new fiscal year, OMB expanded the use of recipient reporting, requiring it for the first time on non-stimulus spending.
OMB controller Danny Werfel said those 352 are less than 1% of the more than 88,000 stimulus projects required to report — a big improvement over a year ago, when reporting started and about 8% of recipients didn't file.
But as compliance goes up, repeat offenders stand out. As of the last report, 32 recipients have missed two consecutive quarterly reports —and eight have missed three. They account for $7.4 million in awards.
"Once you get to a second instance, you're sensing more of a pattern," Werfel said. "It's no longer a miscue or disconnect."
In May, then-OMB director Peter Orszag instructed agencies to take action against repeat offenders within 20 days. That action could include investigations for fraud and suspensions from all future federal contracts.
It's unclear whether that's happening.
Werfel would not release OMB enforcement reports. But a USA TODAY review of debarment actions — companies excluded from receiving federal contracts — found only one non-reporting recipient suspended.
That company, International Trading CCT LLC of Livonia, Mich., wasn't suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which gave it $442,096 in stimulus money to rent equipment in Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan.
It was the Defense Logistics Agency that suspended the company, accusing it of delivering substandard construction materials for Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan and then forging documents to cover it up. The company owes the Defense Department $305,256, according to an agency memo.
The company's phone is disconnected.
A USA TODAY analysis of missing reports shows the Department of Agriculture has the biggest problem: 100 recipients receiving $103 million have failed to submit reports.
Agriculture spokeswoman Stephanie Chan said 98% of recipients have reported. For those who haven't, the department "has worked aggressively on a case-by-case basis to achieve compliance."
One recipient, a Fort Morgan, Colo., ranch that received $56,286 for irrigation improvements and has missed three quarterly reporting deadlines, has received little more than form letters. Ranches Inc. has received three reminder letters from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Earl Devaney, chairman of the agency that runs Recovery.gov, told Congress last year he supports even harsher penalties for not reporting — something Congress didn't do in the Recovery Act. "Even if criminal penalties are not practical, the fact that some would willfully not file is distressing and must be addressed," he said.
Recipients of more than $162 million in federal stimulus spending haven't reported to the government what they've done with the money. A breakdown by agency:
|Department or agency||Awards not reporting||Total (in millions)|
|Health & Human Services||73||$22.4|
|General Services Administration||6||$8.5|
|National Science Foundation||8||$3.4|
|Bureau of Land Management||21||$3.1|
|Bureau of Indian Affairs||19||$2.5|
|Housing & Urban Development||2||$1.7|
|National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration||3||$1.0|
1 – includes Economic Development Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Transportation, Energy, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Communications Commission and Labor.
Source: USA TODAY analysis of Office of Management and Budget data
October 6th, 2010
Wall Street Journal
By SARA MURRAY
Middle-class Americans made their deepest spending cuts in more than two decades, slashing spending on such discretionary items as restaurant meals and alcohol during the recession.
Households in the middle fifth of the population sliced their average annual spending to $41,150 in 2009, the Labor Department said Tuesday in its annual spending breakdown. That was down 3.1% from 2007 and 3.5% from 2008, the steepest one-year drop since records began in 1984. The drop came even as those households' after-tax income remained relatively stable over the two years, at an average $45,199.
Meanwhile, the poorest Americans spent more as prices for necessities like food and rental housing climbed. Spending rose 5.6% from 2007 to 2009 for the poorest fifth of consumers, the most of any other income group, despite a 5.5% drop in after-tax income to an average $9,956 a household. In some cases, elderly people and others with low incomes dipped into savings or relied on credit to get by.
"What you're looking at here is people at the bottom trying to hang on," said Timothy Smeeding, public affairs professor and director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "You can't go below a certain level."
Average annual expenditures for people in all income groups dropped 2.8% from 2008 to 2009, the first spending decline on record. The numbers don't account for inflation, which has been significant in some areas such as food and rent. One consistently rising cost for all income groups was health care, where spending rose 9.6% from 2007 to 2009 as the cost of care climbed.
"I've become a lot more cautious," said Doug Pendery, who owns a small Cincinnati-based plastics manufacturer and considers himself somewhere in the middle to upper-middle class. He said he has seen health care and taxes eat up a larger share of his income. "You're really not saving more," Mr. Pendery said. "You'd like to [but] your expenses and everything else continue to go up."
Middle-class households reined in spending mainly on discretionary items. On average, from 2007 to 2009, they cut spending 20.1% on alcoholic beverages, 15.2% on clothing, and 9.5% on restaurants and other food away from home. They also spent less on some groceries, cutting back on items such as fresh milk and cream, as well as seafood.
Some of the change in spending could reflect a shift to cheaper alternatives, such as picking McDonald's over sushi. Still, the relative austerity reflects a broader retrenching among consumers spooked by high unemployment and a sharp drop in the value of their homes and investments.
The lowest earners spent 15.4% more on food last year than in 2007, shelling out more for cereals, meat and processed vegetables. Since many in the lowest income group may already rely on discount shops and make few discretionary purchases, it can be difficult for them to scrimp.
Among the poor, rent expenditures increased 5.3%. Those who managed to stay in homes they owned saw their mortgage payments rise 27.8%, suggesting that policy makers' efforts to reduce mortgage-debt burdens aren't reaching the most needy. Across all income groups, mortgage payments were down 7.6%.
Judy Sheppers, 69 years old, said she was doing her best to get costs down. Laid off as a receptionist at the end of 2008, Ms. Sheppers relies mainly on monthly Social Security of $1,422, which will put her in the lowest income group when her weekly $133 unemployment benefits run out.
Ms. Sheppers said her group of friends in Aiken, S.C., who used to meet for cocktails and dinner every couple weeks, has created a more cost-friendly routine now.
"We've started doing more at-home entertaining, pot-luck-type things," Ms. Sheppers said. "Everyone brings a dish and someone brings a bottle of wine. In a way, that's nice."
Even the richest fifth of consumers responded to the recession by closing their wallets. Their spending fell 2.6% from 2007 to 2009.
"While their incomes are stable, their assets have declined," said Luigi Pistaferri, an economist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. "They're waiting to buy the boat or the expensive watches," and trying to rebuild wealth instead.
Write to Sara Murray at email@example.com
October 6th, 2010
WASHINGTON — Desperate for jobs and cool toward President Barack Obama, working-class whites are flocking to Republicans, turning a group long wary of Democrats into an even bigger impediment to the party's drive to keep control of Congress.
An Associated Press-GfK poll shows whites without four-year college degrees preferring GOP candidates by twice the margin of the last two elections, when Democrats made significant gains in the House and Senate. The poll, conducted last month, found this group favoring GOP hopefuls 58 percent to 36 percent — a whopping 22 percentage-point gap.
In 2008, when Obama won the presidency, they favored GOP congressional candidates by 11 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters. When Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006, the Republican edge was 9 percentage points.
Compared with better-educated whites, working-class whites tend to be older and more conservative — groups that traditionally lean Republican and are uneasy with the young president's activist governing. Their wariness is reinforced by a prolonged economic funk that has disproportionately hurt the working class and shown scant signs of improvement under Obama and Congress' majority Democrats.
Though accustomed to trailing among working-class whites, Democrats can hardly afford further erosion from a group that accounts for about 4 in 10 voters nationally. Their GOP preference is in contrast to whites with college degrees, who the AP-GfK Poll shows are split evenly between the two parties' candidates, and to minorities, who decisively back Democrats.
Many of these working-class voters were dubbed Reagan Democrats in the 1980s, when some in the North and Midwest who had previously preferred Democrats began supporting conservative Republicans. Many never warmed to Obama during the 2008 presidential race, when he said some bitter small-town residents cling to guns and religion for solace. They preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, by 2-1 and in the general election backed Republican nominee John McCain by 18 points.
"They try to make everybody think the economy is better, and it isn't," Jennifer Moore, 40, a school bus driver from Amherst, Va., said of Democrats. "Gas prices are going up, food is going up and people working for the minimum wage can't make it."
In the AP-GfK poll, working-class whites were likelier than white college graduates to say their families are suffering financially and to have a relative who's recently lost a job. They are less optimistic about the country's economy and their own situations, gloomier about the nation's overall direction and more critical of how Democrats are handling the economy.
"Democrats are more apt to mess with the middle class and take our money," said Lawrence Ramsey, 56, a warehouse manager in Winston-Salem, N.C.
They are likelier than better-educated whites to dislike Obama personally and are more negative about his leadership. Over half say he doesn't understand ordinary Americans' problems. They are also likelier to disapprove of Obama's performance as president, including more than two-thirds who are unhappy with his stewardship of the economy.
"The country hasn't come up the way it should have under Obama," said Barbara Schwickrath, 64, a clothing store employee from Brooksville, Fla.
Polls from around the country show the impact of working-class whites' disaffection with Democrats. While a Marist Poll shows both of New York's Democratic senators running strongly, one trails and the other is even among white working-class voters. Quinnipiac University polls show clear advantages with this group for GOP Senate candidates in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
To appeal to them, Obama has used nationally televised chats in people's backyards to emphasize his efforts to lift the economy. The Democratic-led Congress passed legislation with tax cuts and loans for small businesses before breaking for the election. On the campaign trail, Democrats pounced on Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon's refusal last week to rule out reducing the minimum wage to help ailing companies.
"Democrats have to make it a choice between two individual candidates, not a referendum on do you like where things are or not, because no one likes where things are," said Democratic pollster Dave Beattie.
Republicans had their own message, unveiling a "Pledge to America" that broadly promised tax and spending cuts and criticizing congressional leaders for adjourning without voting to extend expiring income tax cuts.
A TV ad by Wisconsin Republican House contender Sean Duffy features a man in an orange hardhat and safety vest getting flung off a rolling log into a pond. "Our working folks have been tossed aside," Duffy says in the ad.
One ray of hope for Democrats is that 28 percent of working-class whites in the AP-GfK Poll say they may still switch candidates. Republicans say it's too late.
"Obama and Democrats have had almost two years to try to get things back on track," said GOP pollster David Winston.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Sept. 8-13 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,000 randomly chosen adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Included were interviews with 416 whites without college degrees, for whom the error margin is plus or minus 6.6 points.
AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.