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Archive for 2011



Barbour Flirts with CA Press, Ducks Key Questions

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

In a brief fly-by media avail, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Saturday ducked two of the more contentious issues facing any Republican seeking the GOP nomination for president in California: oil drilling off the California coast and a path to citizenship for immigrants living and working here illegally.

Before a dinner speech to the California Republican Party meeting in Sacramento, Barbour (who says he’ll decide on running for president by the end of April) took questions for about 10 minutes from reporters, demonstrating his masterful ability to respond without answering.

Asked about his stance on a path to citizenship, Barbour first cut off and argued with the premise of a question from San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, who began, “You lobbied for the government of Mexico on the issue of amnesty and a path to citizenship . . . ”

“Actually, your facts are incorrect,” he said, saying his firm (but not he) had lobbied for the American Trucking Association in an attempt to ensure that American trucks would not be prohibited from Mexico if truckers had to return home before getting their visas renewed.

Not only is that version harshly at odds with documented reporting, which shows Barbour personally was a lobbyist for the Mexican government and helped push for more lenient treatment of Mexican nationals seeking to remain in the United States (which his critics called “amnesty”), but it also side-stepped the real question – which Calbuzz asked in a follow-up: Where does he stand on the issue of providing a path to citizenship?

“First, we have to close the border,” Barbour replied “Once we have a closed and secure and controlled border, then you can start talking about what should we do and what shouldn’t we do. But I can tell you, there’s not going to be any agreement among Americans until we close the border.”

In other remarks, Barbour has gone further, saying that whatever is decided, it cannot include “amnesty.”

When we tried another approach – “Is it your position that until the borders are closed, you cannot support a path to citizenship?” – Barbour replied:

“I don’t think there should be any attempt at overall immigration reform until the border’s closed. Now, there’s one thing that’s not part of the greater sort of broader immigration reform and that’s H1B visas. We ought to have a whole lot more H1B visas in the United States.

“It is silly for us to take these very, very bright young people from other countries that come here to go to school and they get great educations, PhDs, whatever, and then we make ‘em go home. We ought to make it easy for ‘em to stay here because we’re in a global battle for talent in the United States as well as a global battle for capital. So we need to do everything we can do to be the place where all the best talent in the world wants to come.”

He cut off another follow-up from Calbuzz that began, “What about housekeepers…”

We also asked whether he’d like to see more oil drilling off the coast of California and Barbour again took a duck:

“I’d like to see more drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Thirty percent of the oil produced in the United States  year before last come out of the Gulf of Mexico. Now we have a permatorium on the Gulf of Mexico drilling. The administration, now that gasoline has shot up, is saying ‘oh well we’ve given two permits in the last two weeks.’ Well, if you look at the fine print, the two permits are not for new wells to be drilled, they’re permits to resume drilling on wells that had already been started more than a year ago.”

What about here?

“I don’t know enough about it here. What I do know about is the Gulf because we have been drilling oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico for 50 years – 31,000 oil wells. And the United States depends on that production, a lot of people in my part of the country worry about the loss of jobs.

“Well, I do too. But more than that I worry about how when we reduce the amount of petroleum we produce in the United States it makes us more reliant on foreign oil and every president since 1973 has had a policy to try to make us less dependent on foreign oil . So stopping drilling in the Gulf, taking lands off line in Alaska, fighting the bringing in of tar sands produced oil in Canada – all of these things are contrary to a country that needs more American energy. And that’s what our policy should be – more American energy.”

Calbuzz Joins the Party with the GOP in Sacramento

Friday, March 18th, 2011

At least half of the Calbuzz Crisis Intervention and White Russian Affairs Desk will converge on Sacramento today to follow the progress of the Sovietization of the California Republican Party.

Our wall readers have been keeping close tabs on postings from secret members of the Comintern, and here are some of the key questions they’ve raised that may be answered this weekend:

1. Will the troglodytes triumph? Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly, has drawn widespread attention with her resolution to purge the party of the “traitors” who dare to take seriously their responsibility to govern. Next up: the CRA calls for exiling all GOPers who turn left at stop signs.

2. Will the GOP 5 be tarred and feathered? Senators Tom Berryhill, Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Canella, Bill Emmerson and Tom Harman are already being denounced for negotiating with Governor Jerry Brown about the shape of the table. If any of them shows his face at the Hyatt Regency bar, here’s hoping a rabies-ridden delegate doesn’t try to chew it off.

3. Will Sutter Brown show up to debate Grover Norquist? Party leader Ron Nehring backed down instantly when the governor’s office offered First Pooch Sutter to accept Mr. Chairman’s invite for a debate with anti-tax jihadist Norquist. Now we hear the cagey Corgi may be prowling the lobby in an effort to sniff out Muppet Man Grover.

4. Will the Stalinistas strike a blow for authoritarianism? Fiercely  determined to shrink the size of their party as much as possible, ideologically pure apparatchiks are sponsoring a rules change to put all the power to decide which candidate in any top-two primary is or is not a “real” Republican in the hands of the GOPs most conservative bureaucrats. This one’s so far out even the Tea Party’s against it.

5. What will Fleischman’s bar bill be? Jon “Ice Axe” Fleischman, the noted bitter-ender Bolshevik blogger, has promised to buy drinks for the entire press corps. It’s a small price to pay for the ink slingers’ outstanding efforts to make him a Big Deal. You like me, right now, you like me!

We can only wish that we were making this stuff up. In fact, our key questions align quite closely with the actual struggles being waged within the Grand Old Party.

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Convention cognoscenti tip sheet

Barbourian at the gate: Beyond all the turf battles and litmus tests, the biggest behind-the-scenes convention story has been been the hair-pulling and garment-rending by members of the so-called “news media” about the awful timing of the speech by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, which has prevented Dr. P.J. Hackenflack from organizing one of his spectacular dinners.

Instead, people on expense accounts – we name no names — will have to listen to and report on the pearls of wisdom offered by the corpulent drawler, even though the chance that he’ll be the next president of these United States is about as likely as finding a Union flag in Yazoo City.

The only presidential contender who decided to come, Barbour will be the keynote speaker on Saturday night, although reporters may be more interested in asking him about how he made a fortune as a lobbyist for big oil, tobacco companies and the Mexican government (just for starters).

He also is still trying to explain his relationship to some of the less savory racial forces in the South. As this Wiki excerpt accurately puts it:

In December 2010, Barbour was interviewed by The Weekly Standard magazine. Asked about coming of age in Yazoo City during the civil rights era, Barbour, who was 16 when three civil rights workers were murdered in the state in the summer of 1964, told the interviewer regarding growing up there, “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”[54]

Barbour then credited the White Citizens’ Council for keeping the KKK out of Yazoo City and ensuring the peaceful integration of its schools. Barbour dismissed comparisons between the White Citizens’ Councils and the KKK, and referred to the Councils as “an organization of town leaders.” Barbour continued in his defense of the Councils, saying, “In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

Barbour’s statement did not address the role of the white supremacist group in publicly naming and blacklisting individuals who petitioned for educational integration and how it used political pressure and violence to force African-American residents to move This led to a considerable outcry in which critics such as Rachel Maddow accused Barbour of whitewashing history. In response to criticism, Barbour issued a statement declaring Citizens’ Councils to be “indefensible.”

Calbuzz will attend Gov. Barbour’s press avail: inquiring minds want to know.

At least it’s not Michael Bolton: In addition to informative and enlightening remarks from the likes of Congressman Jeff Denham and Damon “Hard Hat” Dunn, Friday night’s main speaker will be John Bolton, whose star-spangled career has included: fighting reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during WWII; neck-deep involvement in the Iran-Contra affair; derailing a 2001 biological weapons conference in Geneva; pushing for inclusion of a false statement in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address that British Intelligence had determined Iraq had attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger (inhale) and being named U.N. ambassador on a recess appointment (after losing Democratic and Republican support), having argued that “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”

Saturday’s lunch speaker will be alleged pollster Frank Luntz. His sparkling resume includes being reprimanded by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, censured by the National Council on Public Polls and called a “moron” by respected Republican pollster Bill McInturff for mocking Sen. John McCain’s inability to use a Blackberry (which he can’t because of the injuries he sustained as a prisoner of war in Vietnam).

Luntz is the wordsmith who coined favorites like “death taxes” (estate taxes), “energy exploration” (oil drilling), “climate change” (global warming) [he actually advised environmentalists against using "climate change"] and “government takeover” (health care reform). He also once argued in a radio interview that “To be ‘Orwellian’ is to speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct, to explain what the event is, to talk about what triggers something happening… and to do so without any pejorative whatsoever.”

We can hardly wait.

Meanwhile: Fully half of the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk will be in the Republican stronghold of the Central Valley, paying homage to the late David Broder by discussing the weighty matters being debated at the weekend confab with Actual Voters (and soon-to-be-in-laws). Vox populi, vox dei.

Notebook: eMeg, DiFi, Gay Rights, Pensions, Districts

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The week’s most distressing political post comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire, reporting that Meg Whitman says she is “definitely not” running for the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Say it ain’t so, Meg.

As the rumor mongers who first proposed the notion that Her Megness should challenge Dianne Feinstein for Senate in 2012, we were disappointed beyond measure to read the piece, filed by Cari Tuna of the Journal’s San Francisco bureau. Beyond our pride of political authorship on this one, let’s face it, a Herself vs. Herself match-up between these two would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime campaigns we’d pay to cover.

Although eMeg threw cold water on our dream scenario, a close reading of the WSJ piece shows that she didn’t slam the door shut, either. Consider:

1-“Definitely not” ain’t exactly a Shermanesque statement, and it leaves her plenty of wiggle room down the road.

2-Even at that, there’s no full quote from Whitman saying she won’t run. The headline and the lede both attribute the fragment phrase “definitely not,” to eMeg, but she doesn’t utter those words inside the story.

3-In fact, her quotes suggest she remains quite interested in public office:

“I want to stay involved in public policy,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview Friday evening. “Now I see things in a way that I” had not prior to running for public office, she said.

4-The aforementioned Ms. Tuna went to Yale, ferhevinsake.  Boola frickin’ boola.

Yeah, we understand that taking on DiFi at this point looks like an absolute  fool’s errand. She’s the most popular pol in California, and the only survey taken on potential match-ups shows her skunking every possible Republican foe, including eMeg, 55-to-35 percent. Plus, the current lineup of loony tunes, losers and snoozers in the GOP’s 2012 presidential field won’t make such a run any easier.

But  eMeg is and, to us, always will be, a special case. Some key factors that make a Senate bid worth her consideration:

1-Despite spending $144 million to lose to Jerry Brown, Whitman’s net worth stayed steady, as the reliable Seema Mehta reports, leaving plenty more where that came from.

2-While Feinstein eked out a win against mega-bucks Michael Huffington in 1994, she still has scars from that campaign, and the prospect of another year-long brawl against a free-spending zillionaire at this stage of her career is not a happy one.

3-Whitman doesn’t have to hire Mike Murphy this time.

4) While eMeg got badly burned in the governor’s race because she illegally employed Nicky Diaz, Feinstein back in the day had her own, murky,  undocumented worker situation, as the late, great Susan Yoachum reported, which could neutralize the issue in a second Whitman statewide run.

5-Whitman’s business record, from eBay to Goldman Sachs, got a pretty fair airing last year, but it’s been a while since reporters and Republican oppo types took a close look at the financial dealings of Feinstein hubby Dick Blum, which could make for some interesting campaign reading, not to mention TV attack ads.

6) Most importantly, a Senate run would afford Her Megness a splendid second chance to have dinner with Calbuzz, thereby reversing the biggest blunder of her failed campaign for governor.

We’re just sayin’.

DiFi update: Feinstein meanwhile has been staking out a very high-profile position on behalf of gay rights. Our old friend Hank Plante, the former longtime political editor of KPIX-TV, reports:

“Senator Feinstein on Wednesday introduced legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a target of the gay rights movement since it was passed in 1996.

The law, which DiFi voted against when it was enacted, blocks the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples:

‘My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,’ she said.

Her move is the latest twist in her long evolution on the rights of gays and lesbians. Feinstein was one of the first San Francisco politicians to actively court gay voters when she first ran for the Board of Supervisors in 1969.

In 1982, as the city’s mayor, however, she angered many in the gay community by vetoing the city’s first domestic partners’ bill, saying the bill was poorly drafted.  Later in her term, however,  Feinstein’s AIDS budget for S.F. was bigger than President Reagan’s AIDS budget was for the entire nation.

‘Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein’s was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice,’ the late Randy Shilts wrote in “And the Band Played On,” his history of the AIDS epidemic.

In 2008, Feinstein became the most prominent political voice opposing Proposition 8, the ban on California’s same-sex marriages. She said that her views on gay marriage had ‘evolved’ over the years from originally not supporting it, to enthusiastically supporting it today.

At her Wednesday press conference, DiFi cited the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married in California before Prop. 8 passed. DOMA prevents those couples, and other legally married lesbian and gay Americans, from receiving survivors’ social security benefits, from filing joint federal income taxes and from taking unpaid leave to care for a sick partner.

Her bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein is a long-time member.”

New Field Poll: California voters now believe pension benefits for public employees are too generous and strongly support a host of reforms – but oppose the idea of taking away their collective bargaining rights as part of a budget deal.

The new findings are certain to sharpen the Capitol debate over public pensions, which not only  is a key issue in negotiations between Governor Gandalf and Republican lawmakers, but also the focus of a war of words between Treasurer Bill Lockyer and the Little Hoover Commission, which recently recommended many of the reforms tested in the Field survey.

Field honcho Mark DiCamillo reported that a 42% plurality of voters believes that pension benefits for public workers are too generous, while 34% say they are about right and 14% that they are not generous enough. This represents a marked shift from 2009, when just 32% of registered voters told Field benefits were too generous, 40% said they were about right and 16% not generous enough.

Significantly, however, 50% of voters oppose combining a deficit reduction measure with legislation that would take away some collective bargaining rights of unionized public sector workers, a move that was taken by Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, and set off a volatile political battle between labor and Republican politicians across the country. In California, 42% say they would support an effort to limit public employee collective bargaining.

The complete Field Poll can be found here after about 6 am today.

Partisanship and Redistricting: While Republicans squawked at the notion of hiring Karin MacDonald of the  nonpartisan Statewide Database at UC Berkeley to draw new district lines, they’re suddenly silent about the only other candidate for the job — Republican Douglas Johnson,  a fellow at the conservative Rose Institute and the head of National Demographics, Inc. Wonder whyHere’s an idea: hire them both and make them split the contract and agree on a proposal — like newspapers do when they hire a Democratic and Republican pollster.

Calbuzz at Two: Wild Parties, Lady Gaga & a Field Poll

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

From Sydney Harbor to the Taj Mahal and Tiananmen Square, from  Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, raucous crowds numbered in the tens of millions gathered Wednesday amid pomp, pageantry and majestic bombardments of M80s and Megabangers to wildly cheer and celebrate the Second Anniversary of Calbuzz.

“Ich kann es nicht glauben,” murmured staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, weeping openly as he listened to reports of the global revelry on a transistor radio in his mom’s basement. “When we started this brave journey, there was no one who believed Calbuzz would still be around two years later, least of all me.”

There were no injuries.

As Tom Meyer released a limited edition cartoon commemorating the founders of Calbuzz celebrating the great day, the site’s Department of Archival Inquiry and Dewey Decimal System Research reported that the must-read web site has soared to Number 1,074,351 among the list of all the blogs in the world (you could look it up).

More: Amid reams of deep-think policy reporting on such fascinating subjects as the Sinclair Paint decision, the Parsky Tax Reform Commission and the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project, Dr. H is pleased to  report that our all-time, nothing- else is-even-close,  first place most hits ever, popular post was the one and only piece that carried a headline that included Lady Gaga (you could look it up).

God, we love us some internets.

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.Note to Neanderthals: the most important finding in the Field/UC Berkeley poll out today is that six in 10 voters – including more than half of Republicans — support Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a special election on tax and fee extensions to close about half the state’s $26 billion deficit.

And providing evidence for why the anti-tax jihadists are so adamant about NOT allowing Brown’s plan to reach the ballot, 58% of voters – 69% of Democrats and 66% of independents but just 35% of Republicans – say they’d vote to approve those extensions.

These are some of the findings from a survey in English and Spanish by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley of 898 registered voters Feb. 28-March 14.

Only a handful of voters – 11% — prefer to deal with the state’s deficit mostly through raising taxes and just 32% prefer using mostly spending cuts. Rather, the favored approach – by 52% — is a mix of budget cuts and increased tax revenues.

Moreover, as Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll put it: “By a 55% to 43% margin, Californians say they are not willing to pay higher taxes for the purpose of helping the state balance its budget. However, by a 61% to 37% margin, voters agree with the statement, ‘I would be willing to extend temporary tax increases enacted several years ago to help the state balance its budget.”

Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, Jon Coupal, John and Ken take note: California voters would rather extend some minor tax and fee hikes and cut spending by about $12 billion than slice, dice and decimate schools or health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. You may have no heart but the voters of California do.

Of 14 areas suggested for budget cutbacks, only two – courts and prisons – receive majority support. And voters are vehemently opposed to cutbacks in some areas that would almost surely have to be slashed if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot and approved, including public schools, law enforcement and police, health programs for  low-income and disabled Californians, higher education, child care and mental health programs.

By far, the most contentious issue in Sacramento right now is whether the Legislature should place a special election on the June ballot. This requires a 2/3 vote which means Brown and the Democrats need two Republicans each from the Assembly and Senate to agree to the special election.

The most conservative voices in the GOP are threatening legislators with expulsion from the Republican Party and fevered opposition if they even vote to place Brown’s plan on the ballot. Yet the Field Poll/UC Berkeley study finds that registered Republicans – a more diverse group than the anti-tax crusaders – would prefer that approach as seen in the chart above.

As your Calbuzzers told you back in January, the whole battle is about whether Brown’s proposal is seen as extending or increasing taxes.

[Calbuzz gets the Field Poll from sources because one of the survey's big subscribers has complained that we should not be allowed to pay for a subscription on our own (which we actually offered to do). Since we don't have the proper link at post time, here's a link to the Field Poll's list of surveys which ought to have this one up by the time you read about it here. Here's the link to the survey]

One-way street: As Jerry Brown’s talks with the GOP 5 teeter, it’s tough to disagree with the sentiments of the Republicans’ top negotiator, Senator Bob Huff, as reported by Steve Harmon:

But Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, the lead GOP budget negotiator who has been aiding the GOP 5, said Republican backlash isn’t a concern. Republican activists would credit them, Huff said, if they forced Democrats to place pension and regulatory reforms, as well as a spending cap, on the ballot.

“They are asking us to cast a vote that separates us from our base,” he said. “So, Republicans would like to see Democrats going to the ballot with something that separates them from their base.”

Faced with the torches and pitchforks of state GOP wingnuts and crazies, the Republican lawmakers who have been hunkered down with Brown are putting it all on the line: at some point, he needs to man up and give something in return.

Budget talks add: Nice work by the Sacbee’s Torey (Don’t call me Tulip) Van Oot in churning out a set of mini-profiles of the GOP 5, about the only thing we’ve seen that tells people who these guys actually are.

Must-see TV:

-UCLA scholar demonstrates why there are so many dumb blonde jokes.

-What Sarkozy’s marital woes and Yeltsin’s tennis shorts have in common.

-How does he get these women to do such things?

-Second greatest buzzer beater of all time.

-Greatest buzzer beater ever.

Happy Anniversary all!

Why the CA Republicans are Flirting With Stalinism

Monday, March 14th, 2011

In preparation for the statewide convention of the California Republican Party this weekend, the Calbuzz Department of Process, Rules and Schadenfreude has been in secret discussions with apparatchiks who are cooking up what you might call your Soviet Rule – whereby the GOP Politburo determines who’s pure enough to get the party imprimatur in a top-two primary.

The idea is to ensure that before actual voters decide which candidates they want to consider in a November run-off election, the most conservative activists in the California GOP will meet and determine who the “actual” Republican in the race is, so that no polluted candidate can lay claim to the party label.

We’ve also taken a look at the GOP Alien and Sedition Act proposed by the cave-dwelling California Republican Assembly, which would expel any GOP legislators who vote to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax extension on the June ballot.

The proposed resolution (and we quote)  “censures these traitorous Republicans-in-Name-Only, ask(s) for their resignation(s) from their positions within the California Republican Party, pledges to endorse and support efforts to recall them from office, and directs the California Republican Party staff, agents and officers to refuse to provide them with funding or assistance in future elections.”

As if the CRP had any money or assistance to give.

In the words of Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader and perhaps the smartest GOP thinker in the state: “If the California Republican Party spent half as much time trying to elect Republicans in November as they do trying to purify the party in June, we’d have a lot more elected Republicans.”

But the true believers would rather have 20% of the Legislature populated by purist ideologues than have 50% and a healthy dose of diverse thinking.

The Democrats also have a system for endorsing candidates that was adopted before the top-two primary was approved by the voters. But in cases where there are open seats and several candidates, the party seldom endorses because the threshold is so high. And when it does, whoever wins the primary – endorsed or not — is automatically the party’s nominee. How that will work in a top-two primary remains to be determined: maybe the Dems will come up with a similar system of purging one of their own, too.

But for now, it’s the upcoming Republican convention that’s at hand and it looks like it’s going to be a warriors’ weekend. There’s even a proposal on the table to ensure than any incumbent legislator is automatically endorsed by the party – even though those legislators may be running in different districts after the citizens’ reapportionment is completed.

Comrade Jon “Josef” Fleischman explained why the Reeps are so stirred up: “The idea is that unless the Republican Party is behind someone, we might not have a candidate in the top two.”

But what if the voters in a district opt for the non-endorsed, unpure (perhaps even –gasp – a moderate) Republican as one of their top-two choices? How will the Politburo react? Just because a candidate says he or she is a Republican doesn’t necessarily mean the party considers him or her an actual Republican. What if it’s a pro-choice Republican? Or a Republican opposed to offshore oil drilling? Or – OMG – a RINO who voted to put Brown’s tax measure on the ballot?

That’s where Celeste Greig’s grand ole’ CRA resolution comes to the rescue – with a Great Purge, cleansing the party of unclean, odious moderates, seeking to make sure cats don’t mix with dogs, that people can’t marry chickens and that marginal tax rates aren’t treated like bad cheese.

How else to ensure a robust, thriving and united party? How else to stamp out democratic centralism? How else to eliminate those Trotskyites lurking in secret cells in Anaheim, Redlands or Redding? Give ‘em the axe, the axe, the axe, we say.

This is why we love covering politics: because just when you think things can’t get more bizarre, some party chairman invites some dog-ass ideologue to debate the governor whose spokesman, appropriately, offers up an actual dog as a surrogate. Or the last remnants of a dying party apparatus sponsor resolutions and rule changes designed to narrow their party even further.

We should have to pay to cover this stuff. Oh wait, we already do.