Teachers union opens contract for givebacks

Representatives for the teachers union are asking members to accept a salary schedule in 2008-09 that could save the financially embattled Kaukauna (WI) Area School District up to $250,000.

The proposal, which goes to the district's 289 teachers today, would reopen the 2007-09 contract and seek changes in how teachers and district share the cost of health insurance in the next school year. The board would have to ratify the changes, perhaps even today, said Supt. Lloyd McCabe.

Under the settlement, teachers received a 4.7 percent package increase for each year.

The Kaukauna Education Association's move comes a week before administrators announce a round of job and program cuts to counter a projected $1.5 million deficit this coming fall. It would be the third time administrators make reductions of more than $1 million since summer 2006, and it could be another three or four years before Kaukauna recovers.

"The public will often perceive the teachers as being to blame for this financial deficit. I know it sounds like a question of semantics, but I don't think it's fair to blame the teachers," said Shawn Allen, a high school Spanish teacher and union president.

The budget constraints stem from the 2005-07 and 2007-09 contracts a majority of the Board of Education approved in May 2006 not knowing the calculations were based on inaccurate information. Auditors, a month later, found the district was carrying a $1.3 million deficit for 2005-06.

Board Vice President Todd Arnoldussen has asked district financial officer Bob Schafer for a detailed report that breaks down additional costs the district has incurred because of the contracts.

"I was financially attuned to the fact that these language changes were going to end up costing the district money in the long run," he said.

Early on, he was critical of the 4.7 percent package increase the contracts provide each year and had sought a third-party analysis before the board ratified them.

"There's no question that we are a part of the problem but I don't think it's fair to say that we caused the problem," Allen said.

Estimates released last month show the settlements accounted for an additional $668,000 from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

Under the contracts, teachers require fewer steps to move up. The district also established a new system for lane advancement, where teachers can earn points through mentoring, book-study groups and in-service.

"The numbers will be presented with a lot of cautions that it's very difficult to really nail down the impact because there are too many variables," McCabe said.

Arnoldussen recognizes the board has little recourse with the remaining time on the contract but says he wants to introduce a plan regarding the district's finances, though he declined to give specifics.

Savings to the district, if teachers accept a revised salary schedule, will not be known until the district has its new insurance rates in May, said Kevin Hansen, a retired high school social studies teacher and a hired consultant for the teachers union.

McCabe and the board are preparing for a series of budget workshops through February, three of which are for the public.

The sessions, to be held in three locations, are designed to give district residents time to ask questions and make recommendations regarding finances before the board acts on any proposed cuts, which will be announced Jan. 14.

As part of cost-saving measures, administrators have expressed interest in selling the historic building on Main Avenue that houses the district's central offices.

The public meetings kick off at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 15 at River View Middle School. The second public meeting is at 7 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Sherwood Village Hall. The final session is at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at Haen Elementary School.

The public is invited to participate in a board meeting Jan. 21. The board votes on the reductions Feb. 11.


School unions in labor-state face dues hit

More than 33 teachers -- and a total of 80 school employees -- could lose their jobs this month as the public schools of Salem, MA work to close a $4.7 million deficit, up from the $1.8 million gap that surfaced in the fall.

Superintendent William Cameron Jr. announced yesterday that at least 100 Salem school employees will be affected by the cuts, either through job loss or the reduction in the number of hours they work. That will include teachers, aides, secretaries, custodians and central office personnel, he said.

"Any reduction in force is painful," Cameron wrote in a letter to all school employees yesterday. "They will now face uncertainty and likely financial hardship as they seek on short notice to find new jobs that will make it possible to support themselves and their families."

The cuts could increase class sizes and reduce periods of specialized instruction like art, music and gym. Cameron, who called the mid-school-year cuts "deplorable," said the goal is to notify the affected employees in person by Friday. Laid-off staffers will work their last day on Jan. 25, to coincide with the end of first-semester final exams at Salem High School.

"There truly has been an effort to minimize the effect on students," said Cameron, who became superintendent in July. "... None of us saw this tsunami coming."

Teachers, parents and city officials packed last night's School Committee meeting for Cameron's announcement, which he read from a prepared address.

The gaping school deficit includes $1.8 million in fiscal year 2007 expenses that were deferred and paid with fiscal year 2008 money, as well as a projected deficit of $2.9 million this school year -- all of which officials have blamed on former school business manager Bruce Guy.

Mayor Kim Driscoll has said Guy intentionally deferred payments until the next fiscal year, falsified budget reports to the School Committee and broke into the city's computerized accounting system to cover up the mounting deficit. Cameron said Guy knowingly underbudgeted line items for this year, most significantly special education costs, which are more than $1.8 million short.

But the explanation didn't satisfy three parents at last night's meeting, who noted that Guy had already garnered a bad reputation when he was city finance director before solely overseeing the schools.

"I think there ought to be more accountability," Bates School parent Mike Blatty told the committee. "It just seems to me that somehow the responsibility extends beyond Mr. Guy."

"Just knowing his background, it would've raised flags and had somebody question it," said Tracy Kapantais, whose children attend Horace Mann Lab School.

"It really goes back to one person," replied School Committee member Kevin Carr. "Mr. Guy and his fraudulent activity. ... Myself and the people on this committee take the position seriously."

Guy has not publicly addressed the complaints against him and has not returned repeated calls from The Salem News.

The School Committee voted unanimously at the end of last night's meeting to allow the superintendent to commence talks today with the Salem Teachers Union and its paraprofessionals unit, as well as the AFSCME union of support personnel. The discussions will center on the targeted positions.

Salem High School student activities coordinator Diane McGraine -- who attended last night's meeting on behalf of the Salem Teachers Union -- said the union will do everything it can to help its members if they lose their jobs. She said that the teacher contract calls for "seniority clauses" so that job cuts are more likely to affect teachers who came to the district in the last three years.

"It's going to impact the teachers and it's going to impact services," McGraine said of the cuts. "Hopefully, as a union we can help some of them out. There will probably be workshops in terms of low- or no-interest loans."

The principals, mayor, city and school finance directors, and other officials pored over the city and schools budgets and made millions of dollars in nonsalary cuts before resorting to layoffs, Cameron and Driscoll said.

In December, the City Council moved to absorb the $1.8 million deficit that resulted from the deferred bills in FY07, and the city and schools worked to renegotiate contracts for equipment and services.

When it came to the job cuts, Cameron said he charged the city's nine principals over winter break with eliminating a certain amount from their budgets.

"The principal knows more about his or her school than I do," Cameron said. "They were in the best position to do the least harm."

Cameron assured parents last night that class sizes will not exceed -- or bump against -- the contractual limits, which are 28 students for kindergarten through fifth grade and 30 students for the middle and high schools.

Cameron also promised increased oversight and accurate budgeting to prevent a future budget debacle.

"Open budgeting, based on accurate estimates of costs, and sound fiscal management are now the order of the day," Cameron wrote in yesterday's letter to his staff.

While the majority of the shortfall in this year's budget is in special education, Cameron said the bulk of the cuts will affect regular education because SPED jobs are mandated.

"I just, as a parent, feel the solution you've come up with is not acceptable," Blatty said. "To me, it's not enough to say, 'Sorry we made a mistake; this is all we can do.'"

By the numbers

* $4.7 million -- total known and projected deficits

* $1.8 million -- deficit left by use of FY08 money to pay FY07 bills

* $2.9 million -- deficit projected for this school year (FY08)

* $1.2 million -- savings to be realized through a layoffs and reductions in work force

* $1.7 million -- savings that the city and school were able to realize through nonsalary cuts

* $67,000 -- underbudgeted in regular education transportation in FY08

* $497,000 -- underbudgeted in special education transportation costs in FY08

* $1 million -- underbudgeted in special education tuition in FY08

* $173,000 -- underbudgeted in special education evaluation services in FY08

* $140,000 -- underbudgeted in special education medical service costs in FY08

* $800,000 -- underbudgeted in special education and regular-education salaries in FY08

* $223,000 -- underbudgeted in miscellaneous costs in FY08

This information was provided in a report from Superintendent William Cameron Jr.


Gov't unions' fear campaign v. Florida taxpayers

A coalition of local labor unions and civic groups ramped up its battle against a property-tax reform proposal this morning in Orlando (FL), highlighting fears for public safety if voters approve the measure.

The property-tax cut set for the Jan. 29 ballot, known as Amendment 1, has pitted Republicans lead by Gov. Charlie Crist against Democratic-allied unions over the fear that it will cost police officers and firefighters their jobs.

At a press conference in front of Orlando Police headquarters this morning, opponents said those lost jobs will put citizens at risk.

"It's both disingenuous and misleading for the politicians in Tallahassee to say there will be no negative impact," said Jeff Candage, an agent with Teamsters Local 385, with represents law-enforcement in Orange, Seminole and Volusia counties. "It has a direct and negative impact on safety for both the citizens and the employees involved."

Polls show that more than half of likely voters support the reform but not the 60 percent required to approve a Florida constitutional amendment.

The $12.4 billion five-year savings would mostly reduce tax collections in cities and counties. The plan would save the average Florida homeowner $240 in the first year.

Despite the small savings, opponents said they would add up for cities, especially small municipalities, who will have no choice but to freeze jobs, consider layoffs and delay buying new equipment or building new stations.

The effect of those decisions will offset any savings from the tax overhaul, said Bob Saunders, a lieutenant with Orange County Fire Rescue and third-district vice president with the Florida Professional Firefighters.

"In the future, that will mean longer response times and higher insurance ratings for homeowners," Saunders said, adding rates could increase $50 to $100 a year for homeowners.

"The local governments in your area should set the tax rates, not Tallahassee," he added

Crist has argued that the proposal will bring much-needed relief to homeowners. He is campaigning for the measure as a way to reform the state's homestead exemption.

The proposal would expand the $25,000 homestead exemption by about $15,000, cap annual appraisal increases for second homes and commercial properties at 10 percent, and allow most homeowners to transfer their Save Our Homes tax savings when they move, up to a $500,000 limit.

Businesses also would get a new $25,000 tax exemption for business equipment.

Whether the average promised savings of $20 a month will override fears of lost services will determine whether the measure passes later this month.

Beverly Campbell joined public-employee unions at the press conference to show her activist group that works in low-income communities sides with the unions.

Campbell, who heads the East Pine Hills chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, said with the increase in violent crime proves the need for more, not less, public safety workers.

"It is simply not worth it to endanger my children," she said of the proposed savings.


Union political violations: Denials ring false

This is interesting. The Huffington Post had a blockbuster scoop today reporting that top independent expenditure groups backing Hillary are thinking of creating a massive anti-Obama "527 committee" to go after the Illinois Senator.

But two major players in this world are already moving rapidly to disavow any involvement in any such effort.

ASFCME president Gerald McEntee's office sends over the following statement:

"We’re not about the business of swift-boating any Democratic candidate. We will not be party to any kind of effort of this type. Our campaign is about promoting Hillary Clinton – not tearing down any other candidate. Our number one priority is having the strongest Democratic candidate to take back the White House in November."

The background to this is interesting, too. As you may recall, McEntee, who backs Hillary, has already taken lots of heat from the heads of ASFCME locals for the union's campaign against Obama.

But McEntee is a Hillary backer, so he'll presumably be playing some role in the primary going forward, which explains why his statement doesn't rule out any activity at all. That McEntee has to aggressively vow to engage in no negative activity suggests the dilemma McEntee now faces as Obama wins over members of his union.

Meanwhile, Emily's List, which also supports Hillary, has released this:

"We are absolutely not setting up a 527 to engage in the presidential primary. We have a proven mode of engagement in elections via our WOMEN VOTE! program and we are proud of the work WOMEN VOTE! has done for more than a decade to engage and mobilize women voters to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

All in all, it's yet another measure of the protectiveness of Obama that his candidacy has awakened among his supporters -- something that could make Hillary allies like these reluctant to go after him as aggressively as might be necessary.

Late Update: The American Federation of Teachers also denies they're on board with this.


Pro-union Clinton surrogate lacks credibility

At first glance, it sounds as if either the governor or one of his accusers in connection with the Goldschmidt scandal is not telling the truth. But not necessarily.

Fred Leonhardt, a former speech writer for Neil Goldschmidt, accuses Gov. Ted Kulongoski of having known about but ignoring Goldschmidt’s sexual conduct with a young teenager while Goldschmidt was mayor of Portland in the 1970s. Kulongoski says he never heard of this illicit relationship until May 2004, just before it hit the news and forced Goldschmidt off the Board of Higher Education and into a reclusive private life.

Because Kulongoski is a lawyer who served as attorney general and then as a justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, the Oregon State Bar was asked to investigate. Last week the Bar concluded that it could not get to the bottom of the complaint against Kulongoski. The investigator heard conflicting stories from Leonhardt and Kulongoski, and he believed them both.

Don’t scoff. It is possible to remember something and be completely wrong. It is also possible to not remember something that actually happened.

Memory is a tricky thing indeed. It is affected greatly by what happens to us and what we think about.

This is so even with relatively recent events to which we were eye witnesses. In high school or college, teachers sometimes illustrate the phenomenon by having someone stage a disruption in class, one that is sufficiently upsetting that witnesses feel their adrenaline flowing. As little as 20 minutes later, there usually are as many different accounts of what just happened as there are students in the room.

The problem gets worse the more we try to recollect something that happened years ago. Chances are that we’ll remember it wrong, that we’ll miss important details and reconstruct some that weren’t present when the events took place.

That is one reason it is troubling that sometimes people are put on trial for crimes that happened decades before. In such cases the testimony of witnesses ought to be discarded.

The fallible nature of memory makes it entirely possible that when Mr. Leonhardt and Gov. Kulongoski remember things completely differently, they are both telling the truth.


Political left explained

It is one of the ironic, but unfortunate facts of publishing reality that the commentators who make a living writing about politics are almost uniformly unable to write serious and significant book-length works of non-fiction. The overwhelming majority of books published by members of the mediacracy are as banal as they are ephemeral; the ability to dash off pithy rhetorical sallies seldom translates well into an aptitude for constructing detailed arguments supported by documented evidence.

This may be due to the baleful influence of talk radio and sound-bite television, or perhaps it is simply a question of perspective and not being able to see the forest for the trees. But regardless of the reason, it comes as a delightful surprise to discover that it is none other than the cheerful joker of the conservative commentariat, whose most notable previous accomplishment was offending the entire nation of France by quoting a cartoon, who has written the most ideologically significant work of political non-fiction since Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind."

Although the left will surely react to it with its customary hysteria, "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning" is not a polemic in the style made fashionable by Ann Coulter and Al Franken. Goldberg's restraint in avoiding cheap shots and resolutely sticking to the documented facts of his subject matter is remarkable, especially for those familiar with his political columns and Corner posts at National Review Online.

Unlike most of his maleducated peers in the media, Goldberg rejects the historically ignorant view still dominant in American pop culture that perceives Fascism and National Socialism as right-wing political phenomena.

Goldberg correctly identifies both revolutionary ideologies as being inherently of the political left; more importantly, he provides substantial documentary evidence proving his case beyond any rational doubt. And in doing so, he exposes six decades of intellectual fraud committed by American academics, 60 years of university professors averting their eyes from the historical realities and teaching the literal Stalinist line to multiple generations of college students. This is a book that not only needed to be written; it is one that is long overdue.

At 496 pages, "Liberal Fascism" is also a long march. Nor is it always an easy one, since Goldberg takes what is perhaps best described as a biographical approach to the subject rather than a methodical one; the case is made effectively, but not efficiently. However, the chaotic structure of the book is at least partially due to the historically fluid nature of fascism itself; for as Goldberg notes, the Italian Fascists were eminently pragmatic political animals, led as they were by an audacious, highly intelligent man of outstanding political gifts who was about as concerned with ideological purity as William Jefferson Clinton. It is somewhat disappointing to discover that this structural synchronicity is not a brilliant literary metaphor, but merely a fortuitous coincidence.

While it will be very difficult for even the most stubborn leftist to take serious issue with Goldberg's proper placing of historical fascism on the political spectrum, it is the controversial connection he draws between European fascism and American progressivism, which he references as the source of both Hillary Clinton's "politics of meaning" as well as George Bush's "compassionate conservativism," that will provide legitimate grounds for argument. Goldberg presents a reasonable case for this aspect of his argument, but not an entirely conclusive one, and it is clear that a more methodical approach would have likely served him better on this particular point.

It must be noted that this is Goldberg's first book, and at times, it shows. I would have liked to have seen more extensive citations from the historical sources in the text, especially the Italian ones, as well as a more detailed examination of the connection between fascism and feminism, from the famous Mitfords and the first plank in the Fascist platform to the grim lesbian blackskirts surrounding Hillary Clinton today. Nevertheless, "Liberal Fascism" shows that Jonah Goldberg fully merits his position as the most widely syndicated columnist of his generation and provides fair warning of his development into a significant intellectual figure of the future on the American right.

I highly recommend "Liberal Fascism" for anyone who has ever been called a fascist, has ever called anyone else a fascist, or simply wishes to understand the history of the ideologies that pervade modern American politics.


Newspaper Guild backs Writers Guild strike

Newspaper Guild-authored stories about the Writers Guild strike are getting really, really boring.

Perhaps it's because of America's collective addiction to the TV set, but we really cannot understand why the writer's strike has captivated so much media attention (Google lists over 1,700 stories on the topic).

Karl Marx once proclaimed that religion is the opiate of the masses; however, he never tuned into American Idol, Desperate Housewives, or Monday Night Football. Talk about opiates ...

The Golden Globes ceremony has been scrapped ...(yawn).

The Oscars may be next ...(Zzzz).

Then there's the faux sympathy for the strikers (see Letterman and O'Brian) as some late night talk-show hosts return to the air. And don't forget the faux anger from other late night talk show hosts who decided to become strike-breakers (see Colbert's sarcastic 'I don't like unions and I don't need writers' comment).

And, poor, poor Jay Leno, the doughnut-bearing friend of the strikers who now may be put on trial by the Writer Guild for (gasp!) writing his own jokes.

Why it's enough to make the average American ...

... go to sleep.

However, there is the occasional moment of interest like today's op-ed in the LA Times from writer John Ridley on why he decided to become a financial core member and the hassle he's had to endure as a WGA member over the last 15 years.

So, what exactly is the issue that has over 10,000 writers out on the streets and the media in such a snit? (Drum roll please ...)

Residual payments for the writers when their content is put out on the internet or DVD. That's it in a nutshell.

The writers want more money when their products are used outside the boob tube and the producers are saying 'no.'

End of story. Time for REM.

That said, from time to time, we get comments from our blog readers that we like to post. A couple of days ago, we got an anonymous comment on our blog that really put the whole issue of the striking writers into perspective, as follows:

"A writer has no more claim to downstream income than a set designer or a caterer, they are all just components in a complex business process that involves many people in many roles, from Janitor to Financier ..."


Like a clap of thunder, this anonymous reader's comment kicked the living crap out of our ho-hum, we're-so-bored-and-could-care-less observations on this whole stupid scribe strike.

The more we thought about it, the more pathetic the writers' claim for their strike seems.

Our reader is right.

If a worker is paid for his work on a product, should that worker be paid more if the buyer of that work has found other uses for it? Wouldn't that basically be double-dipping?...Getting paid for your product, then getting paid for it again and again and again?

We think that's the fundamental question that should be answered. So, in an effort to further define this, let's apply it to other industries.

Sports. Michael Jordan gets paid a gazillion dollars to play for the Chicago Bulls. He plays, he gets paid. Although he makes a gazillion more dollars on endorsing underwear and sneakers, he doesn't get paid every time a re-run of his jump shot is shown, does he? Nah.

Medicine. The Jarvik dude on TV who invented the artificial heart has made a ton of money, right? Hell, he invented a ticker that keeps ticking when your real one doesn't--that's something, right? Well, anyway, he got a patent on his pumper, and probably gets a legal kickback whenever someone installs one of his pumpers. BUT (here's the question), if one of the recipients of his pumps kicks the bucket and another doc reuses the same pumper, does Jarvik get to double dip?

How about this example: If you work in a lawnmower factory and you build a lawn mower, you should be entitled to some recompense for every blade of grass your mower mows?

You think that's ridiculous, don't you?

Well, what's the difference?

If you're writing a story and being paid for that story at the time of product delivery, why does the buyer of your story need to keep paying you over and over again?

Seems to us, that's double-dipping and that's what the writer's are striking for.

Now, if you'll pardon us, we're going to watch some re-runs so we can fall back to sleep ...


Becoming a labor-state?

When Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter eased the path for organizing state workers in November, he set off just one of the high-profile fights destined to take place here in 2008.

Employers and conservative interests also want to place a "right to work" measure on the November ballot. It would make paying union fees voluntary even at workplaces that have voted to unionize and reduce the bargaining power of employees.

And there's more: Efforts to broaden health care coverage for all could reward workers but diffuse a key reason workers seek unions.

And some Republicans would love to come up with a way to rein in the political fundraising of Democratic-leaning unions; they square off against labor advocates who say their voices are still overwhelmed by corporate money.

But the relative power of unions and employers can no longer be tallied in even columns. Numbers say union strength is greatly diminished from a few decades ago. But there are also stories of places where unions are still making life better for Colorado workers.

"We are seeing the next generation of union members coming along," said Mark Schwane, Colorado director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Members like Carmen Monsivuis, a sandwich maker at a small factory called Culinaire in southwestern Denver.

Monsivuis, originally from Mexico, has assembled appetizers and box lunches for nine of her 17 years in Colorado. She helped push her family toward the immigrant dream of bilingualism and high school graduation, despite the low wages and lack of job security.

Few of the Culinaire workers speak English, and it took years of frustration for Monsivuis to find the courage to unionize her colleagues. She knew that a formal avenue to approach the boss might, for example, get workers the cold-weather gear they needed to stay healthy on the plant's chilly food lines.

It's exactly that kind of bureaucratic, mandated dialogue that employers find meddlesome
Norberto Ricardo, left, a full-time organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, talks with Aracely Salazar, center, and Carmen Monsivuis about organizing workers. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post )
in an era when many workers are already empowered by safety laws, bars against discrimination and more progressive management.

The arguments intensify even as Colorado's actual union rolls steadily shrink — to 165,000 members and 7.7 percent of the workforce last year, down from 8.3 percent in 2005. Union ideals, if not unions themselves, manage to wield enormous workplace clout and draw bitter partisan enmity.

"It's a testimony to unions' earlier success," said Jeffrey Zax, a University of Colorado economics professor. "If you're an employer who wants to stay non-union, you treat your employees well."

A call for savvy help

Mixing raw beef and assembling lunch meat in an obscure corner of food service, Monsivuis felt she needed the backing of an outside voice. She and 50 co-workers, a group that has since grown to about 80, were paid the federal minimum wage of $5.25 an hour with no overtime, health care or seniority for shifts and duties.

Monsivuis called Norberto Ricardo, a full-time organizer for the United Food and Commercial Workers union who makes runs at businesses ranging from Wal-Mart to Sofa Mart. Ricardo, bilingual and street-savvy, is key to recent growth spurts by the UFCW and other service unions.

Highly-paid factory workers may lose their jobs by the thousands, but small groups of janitors and line cooks are banding together. They are risking their minimum-wage jobs for a chance at health insurance — or even just a predictable work schedule.

"The company has grown a lot, but we haven't had any benefits," said Monsivuis. Culinaire management declined to comment.

New way to air disputes

A more open forum for airing such differences was the goal of Ritter's Nov. 2 executive order creating "partnerships" with state workers, the governor said.

What his order actually means will be tested at bargaining tables, legislative committees and courtrooms for years to come.

Opponents believe Ritter gave unions the right to negotiate for wages and benefits. But wage increases have to fit under strict Colorado budget limits, and some analysts believe Ritter left himself plenty of outs.

"My reading is, any agreement isn't enforceable," said CU's Zax. "If the governor wants to ignore it, he's free to."

Leaders of employer groups who vow to fight the order in the upcoming legislative session raise the specter of crippling strikes by state snowplow drivers. Yet legal scholars argue public employees had the right to strike long before Ritter's orders, while union leaders say employees wouldn't sanction walkouts.

"We will make a positive difference, and we will show people that," said Mitch Ackerman, president of Service Employees International Union Local 105. The union helped raise office-janitor wages in central Denver from $4.75 to $10 an hour with health benefits.

In scrambling to organize state workers, Ackerman argues that SEIU, AFSCME and other unions aren't interested in a "1950s" labor model, and neither is Ritter.

"Academic study after academic study shows that partnerships work," he said. "They produce cost savings, more reliable goods and services."

But Ritter upended the business-labor balance by handing unions huge new resources to organize, said Mike Severns, president of the Mountain States Employers Council. "You have 30,000 classified state employees; take $50 in dues a month, that's $1.5 million a month, $18 million a year. A lot of money going into the unions to turn around and use that money for their own gains," Severns said.

First, though, the unions will have to spend months, if not years, persuading state workers to sign up.

14 months of meetings

Monsivuis and other Culinaire workers met in a nearby park and held barbecue meetings for 14 months. A turning point came late in 2006, when Culinaire's local chief stopped work and asked employees who supported the union idea to stand on one side of the room. Slowly but surely, every employee on the floor trickled over to the union side.

"It was a very difficult day," Monsivuis said. "We knew we could get fired, but we had to take the chance.

From there, the Culinaire talks were tough, but not angry, Monsivuis said. "The bosses, they try to be nicer now that we know about our rights. They've corrected some of the problems."

American workers make strides even without local union representation by exploiting the ongoing social and political clout of the union tradition, other observers say.

The fact that unions struggle to win new members these days may be a testament to the widespread acceptance of so many union-backed policies forged in the industrial heart of the 20th century, from health and dental coverage to minimum wage and family leave policies.

At the Culinaire catering plant, persuading co-workers to support a union and then negotiate benefits left one-third of the effort still to come.

A key question in unionized workplaces is whether all covered employees have to pay dues or a smaller administrative fee, whether they support the union or not. Such a "union shop" appeals to vocal unionizers like Monsivuis — all her co-workers enjoy the newly negotiated wages, benefits and protections, so they all should pay something to the union that made it happen.

But many employers and workers object to rules in these closed shops that can result in firing employees who don't pay the fees. Twenty-three states are "right to work," meaning they prohibit mandated membership.

Colorado is the only state that is neither closed- nor open-shop — it instead requires a second layer of worker voting to require workers to pay dues or fees. Once the majority at Culinaire voted for a union, Monsivuis had to help persuade three-quarters of her co-workers to also close the shop and mandate the fees.

The $8.70 a week in dues, she believed, was a fair fee for all they'd won. She was ecstatic to see the second vote go 100 percent for the union.

Democrats and labor leaders proposed a bill last year that would have eliminated the super-majority vote. Ritter eventually vetoed House Bill 1072 but managed to anger both sides in doing so. Business fears a renewed effort in 2008, and employers are going on the offensive, backing signature-gathering for a fall ballot measure that would make Colorado a right-to-work state.

Politics gets its dues

What happens with the Culinaire union dues will also chafe relations for years to come.

For Monsivuis, nearly two decades from Mexico, all politics is local: She is glad the union will use part of her dues to pay for organizing and legal fees not just at Culinaire, but at coming fights at employers like Sofa Mart.

When her union starts using some of the Culinaire dues for its political action committees, workers must "opt out" if they disagree with the practice. This near-automatic aggregation of largely Democratic political money provokes Republican leaders like state Rep. Rob Witwer of Jefferson County.

Under Amendment 27, passed in 2002, individuals and most corporate donors can send only about $400 to each candidate, Witwer noted.

But "small-donor" committees can take $20 anonymously from many donors and give $4,000 to each candidate, multiplied over and over by each union committee. Only unions are in a position to reap donations from members and tip huge amounts to sympathetic candidates.

For the 2006 election, the UFCW donated $151,075 to 44 candidates. All 44 were Democrats.

"Any time you have that kind of imbalance, you have an opportunity for disproportionate influence in the process," Witwer said.

"Corporations in this country outspend labor by millions" in elections, countered Kaiser nurse and Democratic state Rep. Sara Gagliardi of Arvada.

And her union, SEIU, and others frequently support Republican candidates if they agree on the issues, she said.


Nevada SEIU places side-bet on Obama

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has won the endorsement of the Nevada chapter of the Service Employees International Union, union officials said.

The influential union claims to represent 17,500 health care and county workers in Nevada. Its executive board approved the decision in a conference call Tuesday night, shortly after the Illinois senator finished a close second behind Hillary Rodham Clinton in the New Hampshire primary.

SEIU President Vicky Hedderman said she believes Obama is a candidate "who could take the campaign all the way through November."

Nevada's Jan. 19 caucus is the next major Democratic nomination contest. Under union rules, the endorsement allows SEIU locals in other states to lend resources and volunteers to its Nevada counterpart on behalf Obama.

Obama has won the support of SEIU locals and state councils in five states, including his home state.

The decision is a blow to the campaign of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who came in third in the New Hampshire.

Edwards has the backing of the 600,000-member SEIU California State Council. He had hoped to put that manpower to work in neighboring Nevada.

The announcement came as Obama was expecting to get another boost from labor in Nevada. The 60,000 member Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 was scheduled to announce its endorsement Wednesday.


Mrs. Clinton braces for more union opposition

In what would represent a major shift in union support, Unite Here, which represents 460,000 hotel and apparel workers, is expected to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination today, according to people familiar with the union's plans.

The decision would be the first national labor endorsement for Mr. Obama and would give him a leg up in the Jan. 19 caucus in Nevada, where the union's 60,000-member culinary-workers local is by far the state's largest labor presence and is expected to turn out a sizable percentage of caucus-goers.

So far, most unions have endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton or former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. But the strength of those endorsements has been called into question during the campaign, when union members have three strong pro-labor candidates to choose from and no clear front-runner among organized labor.

Mr. Obama breezed past his opponents in the Iowa caucus last week despite the efforts of union organizers campaigning for his opponents. Some labor experts viewed the outcome in Iowa, where union members make up about 11% of the work force, as a repeat from four years ago. Then, most union officials backed Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt, while members preferred John Kerry, who won in Iowa and eventually became the Democratic presidential nominee.

Both cases showed "a dwindling ability of labor unions to dictate the outcome during the primaries," said Robert Bruno, a labor expert at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "It raises questions as to how strongly associated the union endorsement is to actual rank-and-file sentiment."

Labor experts view a Unite Here endorsement for Mr. Obama following his success in Iowa as an effort by the union to back a candidate who appears more electable.

Until recently, Mr. Edwards was widely expected to receive Unite Here's endorsement, in part because he has been a big supporter of the union's organizing campaign for hotel housekeepers. The union endorsed Mr. Edwards in the 2004 election cycle, and in December its Midwest region, representing 50,000 workers, endorsed him. Losing the national endorsement this time would be "a devastating blow" to Mr. Edwards's campaign, said Mr. Bruno.

D. Taylor, head of the Culinary Workers union, declined to confirm which candidate Unite Here would endorse, or whether electability would be the deciding factor. "Whoever we pick will be based on a lot of considerations and we'll let people make their own conclusions on that," he said. "There's no shortage of good candidates on the Democratic side."

Other unions continue to support other candidates in Nevada. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades are backing Sen. Clinton in the state. Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union, the United Steelworkers, the Communications Workers of America and the United Mine Workers of America are supporting Mr. Edwards. "We still believe that Edwards is the most-electable," said Jim Little, president of the Transport Workers Union.

Danny Thompson, head of the Nevada state federation of the AFL-CIO, said the culinary workers' political clout is great enough to sway the result in the Nevada caucus. "They have a well-oiled political machine, and it certainly could make the difference," Mr. Thompson said. The state AFL-CIO federation represents 200,000 active union members.

Meanwhile, many labor officials expect that most unions could rally behind a single candidate as early as next month, if one candidate pulls ahead. At that point, the labor movement is expected to work together more closely on a national voter-turnout campaign, where it has proved most effective in recent elections. "In a close general election, organized labor is clearly going to be the best friend that the Democratic Party has," Mr. Bruno said.


Union $$ propel Dem lead in political bribery

If you are in search of details on financial traffic moving about, paying for all the political ads we come across, plus high living for the traffic cops, go to your computer and try searching for "Federal Election Commission" on the Internet.

Pause. If you do not have a computer or ready access to one, just accustom yourself to a widening world of privation, as if, every day, one fewer light bulb in your universe came on.

A subheading in the Federal Election Commission's listing takes you to "Presidential Campaign Finance Map." Here we get a reading on campaign-finance traffic as of last fall. All of this year's presidential candidates taken together had received $372 million from individuals. The size of the donations bears thought. The two most substantial groups of givers are those who gave $200 or less and those who gave $1,000 or more. From the modest givers, $76 million; from the high rollers, $260 million; with an even $100 million coming from all the categories in between.

From which parts of the country did the money flow? There are no great surprises. One finds the biggest balloon in California, one nearly as big in New York state, and sizable ones in Greater Washington, D.C., Texas, Florida and Illinois.

And now for the recipients.

Democrats had taken in $241 million; Republicans, $175 million. These are close enough to warrant rapid reading: a dollar for the party that sponsors the things I've been getting, a dollar and 37 cents for the party that promises me more than I am now getting. Albert Jay Nock put it crassly 75 years ago when he said that politics is a means of accumulating money without manual labor. Of course, there are a hundred other uses of government than merely to act as the agent for redistribution, but for such purposes as we have in mind, Nock's adage is useful.

All right then, who are the recipients? The party out of power quite reasonably catches the eye of the petitioner: the party from which better conditions, in his view, will come than have come from the party in power. As noted, $175 million for the maintenance team, $241 million for the aspirant replacement team.

And the eye comes, finally, to individuals being courted by the donors, stimulating thought as to why the numbers went as they did. No. 1 was Mrs. Clinton, with $89 million. Much of the money received reflects the donors' attraction to a favorite. In some contests, only the winner matters; this is not quite the case in a presidential race, because the runner-up may gain influence from a strong showing. And there can always be the candidate who is campaigning on a novel doctrine that catches the favorable notice of the backers.

Surprisingly close to Mrs. Clinton's $89 million was Barack Obama's $79 million. This presaged the revolution that was. Next in line were three Republicans: Romney with $62 million, Giuliani with $47 million and McCain with $31 million. Then came Edwards at $30 million. A caution: These figures do not disclose self-financing. Thanks to the Buckley-Valeo bill -- co-sponsored 30-some years ago by the sainted junior senator from New York, on the grounds that then-new campaign-financing law violated freedom of speech -- no limits are permissible on what John Edwards can give to Edwards for President.

Then there are a few eclectic distributions. Who on earth gave $13 million to Senator Dodd, and why? And meanwhile, Huckabee, with $2.3 million, was down near the bottom of the list, behind candidates such as Joe Biden and Sam Brownback.

So the net of the distribution of political giving so far is, up to a point, reassuring. We learn that the huge sum of $76 million can come in from small donors. The big contributors -- corporations, labor unions, trade associations -- continue dominant, but not decisive.

And the entire exercise can be carried away by one truly explosive political tornado -- as we saw last Thursday.

- Columnist, author, novelist and TV host, William F. Buckley Jr.’s career has taken him from Yale to the United Nations and into politics and journalism. He is the founder of National Review, the journal of conservative thought and opinion.


How Mrs. Clinton won NH: Gov't Unions

Hillary Clinton defied all expectations on Tuesday, winning the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. Despite predictions that Barack Obama was coasting to a strong victory in the state, Clinton held her own among late deciders, beating back the Obama surge and winning courtesy of a significant Granite State gender gap and support from other traditional wings of the Democratic Party.

The Coalitions

New Hampshire women went big for Clinton, supporting her 46 percent to 34 percent for Obama. And as 57 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, women were enough to make the difference. Among men, Obama turned the tables, beating Clinton 40 percent to 29 percent. In third place, John Edwards received 19 percent of the male vote and 15 percent of women's votes.

Clinton pulled together a traditional coalition of Democratic voters for this victory - labor households, voters with relatively low incomes and education, and, of course, women.

Union households, which make up one-fifth of the New Hampshire Democratic primary electorate, voted for Clinton 40 percent to 31 percent for Obama. Among voters with household incomes less than $50,000 a year, Clinton beat Obama by 15 points, and by 18 points among those with no more than a high school diploma.

Similarly, Clinton won the votes of self-described Democrats in this open party primary state. Among those who typically consider themselves Democrats she won 45 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Obama.

For Obama, the generation of new and young voters that propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses last week was not there in New Hampshire. While Obama won nearly half of voters who had never voted in a primary election before, these voters made up only 19 percent of the primary electorate.

And while Obama beat Clinton by 60 percent to 22 percent among the youngest voters - those 18 to 24 years old - his advantage among other voters under 40 was much slimmer than seen in Iowa.

Obama did win the independent vote in New Hampshire. He beat Clinton among those considering themselves independents by 10 points - 41 to 31 percent. The rest of Obama's support base in New Hampshire came from the more elite elements of the Democratic electorate. He won the vote of those in households making more than $100,000 a year 41 percent to 36 percent for Clinton. And he won voters with advanced educational degrees by 12 points.

Clinton stemmed the Obama tide in the last three days of the campaign in New Hampshire. While Clinton trailed by 15 points among voters who decided their vote sometime last week, she split the late-breaking vote with Obama- 36 percent and 37 percent respectively.

The Issues

Voters in the primary election were looking for a candidate with whom they agreed on the issues, rather than a candidate whose personal qualities appealed to them. This was likely a key to the Clinton victory.

Economic worry was high among Democratic voters. The top issue for primary voters was the economy, and among the 38 percent who chose it as the most important issue, Clinton beat Obama 44 to 35 percent. Fifty-eight percent said they were "very worried" about the direction of the economy in the next few years. And among the third of voters who said the economy is currently in "poor" shape, Clinton won by 13 points.

Voters most concerned with the war in Iraq - the second most important issue at 31 percent - preferred Obama by 9 points: 44 percent to 35 percent for Clinton. The candidates split voters most concerned with health care, who made up 27 percent of voters.

The Candidates

Voters in New Hampshire believed that Clinton was the candidate most qualified to be commander-in-chief, and that she would be the strongest leader. Voters were more likely to see Clinton as the strongest leader over Obama by 38 percent to 35 percent. And 38 percent said Clinton was the most qualified to be commander-in-chief, compared to only 26 percent who felt that way about Obama.

At the same time, Obama was the candidate primary voters believe was most likely to take them to the White House in November. Forty-four percent of primary voters said Obama would be most likely to beat the Republican nominee in November, compared to 35 percent who said Clinton would. They also felt he was the candidate most likely to unite the country if elected.

On honesty and trustworthiness, voters were divided. Thirty percent said Obama was the most honest and trustworthy, while 27 percent said Clinton was. On this measure, Edwards turned in his strongest performance - 21 percent of primary voters felt he was the most honest.

A majority - 54 percent - said they were looking for a candidate who could bring needed change to the country, and these voters went 55 percent for Obama. But in a race where issues rather than leadership dominated the voters' choices, this characteristic clearly was not enough.

The Shadow

While Clinton may have beaten the other current Democratic candidates, the exit poll shows she would not have beaten her own husband. When asked to choose between their candidate and Bill Clinton - were he allowed to run for a third term - 56 percent of Hillary's supporters chose Bill.

Poll results are based on a National Election Pool exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research. Interviews were conducted with 1,955 Republican primary voters as they entered polling stations around the state. The margin of error for the poll is + 2 percentage points.


Unions co-ordinated against Obama

The leaders of Emily's List, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), have become ensnared -- through their own actions -- in the complexities of federal campaign law.

Emily's List, an organization that backs Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, and the two labor unions, have each set up independent expenditure (IE) subsidiaries for this election cycle to be able to finance thousands of dollars worth of television ads in support of Clinton.

Under the federal election law, these 'IEs' must completely sever all communication with their parent groups. The staff running the Emily's List IE is barred from talking to Ellen Malcolm and all other leaders of Emily's List. The same rules apply to AFT and AFSCME.

After Clinton came in third in the Iowa caucuses on January 3, staffers working on the three pro-Clinton IE operations not only discussed creation of an anti-Obama 527, the Huffington Post has been reliably told, but even went to the extent of broaching the idea to a number of Democratic operatives to see if any of them would be interested in running such a 527.

IE staffers did not discuss the 527 proposal with officials of Emily's List, AFSCME or AFT. To do so would have put them at risk of criminal prosecution for violating federal election statutes.

Now, after publication of a report earlier today by the Huffington Post on the proposed pro-Clinton, anti-Obama 527, AFSCME president Gerald McEntee and AFT president Edward J. McElroy -- ignoring the distinction between the 'parent' groups they head, and their separately regulated IE 'offspring' -- have asked the Huffington Post to clarify this matter.

McEntee and McElroy may or may not have had any idea as to what their IE sub-organizations -- financed by them, but independent of their control in the arcane world of campaign finance rules -- are up to. If they were to engage in strategy coordination they would have broken the law. No one has come forward to make that allegation, and Huffington Post did not report that anyone had.

Spokespersons for both organizations have made statements that neither McEntee nor McElroy have talked to staff hired to run the two labor IEs.

Ellen Malcolm of Emily List said through spokesperson that no member of the parent organization had conferred with the staff of the Emily's List IE.

The Huffington Post stands by its story, which accurately reported:

"Three groups conducting independent expenditure campaigns in behalf of Clinton - Emily's List, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) - have explored the possibility of trying to put together a multi-million dollar effort privately dubbed the Anybody-But-Obama 527 Committee, but they have run into problems finding any Democratic operative willing to become the director of a campaign against the man who now is the odds-on favorite to become the party's nominee."


Co-ordinating union political groups dodge FEC

As the kick-off state for the presidential nominating season, Iowa figured in almost every organization’s equation for making an electoral impact.

At least 15 interest groups spent millions of dollars to influence Democratic and Republicans caucus-goers through a dizzying array of Web campaigns, television advertising, mailings and phone banks.

But with the primaries and caucuses now coming at a fast and furious clip – 30 states will hold contests during the next three and a half weeks – independent groups, like the candidates themselves, will be forced to carefully single out which states are likely to return the biggest bang for their bucks.

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary was an obvious next step for most union and issue advocacy groups, which have already tallied about $7 million in independent expenditures designed to promote or oppose a particular candidate.

A coalition of three political heavyweights supporting Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is hoping for better results in New Hampshire after Clinton’s disappointing third place showing in Iowa. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers’ AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education and EMILY’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice women candidates, spent a combined $1.9 million on advertising and get-out-the-vote activities in Iowa in behalf of Clinton.

According AFSCME Political Action Fund Associate Director Ricky Fieller, the three groups are spending about $560,000 in New Hampshire to generate support for Clinton — once again among women — through direct mail, phone banks and targeted advertising.

Fieller said AFSCME is in the process of determining what states to target post-New Hampshire, with a variety of considerations entering into the final decision.

“You look at the demographics of the state, you look at the type of contest it is – open primary, closed primary, caucus, that type of thing,” Fieller said.

Spending by the teachers’ union provides a glimpse into the coalition’s direction. According to FEC reports filed Tuesday, the teachers’ union has spent $95,000 on radio ads in Nevada, which holds its presidential caucus Jan. 19.

Other labor groups that are backing Democrat John Edwards are also eyeing Nevada, which boasts a strong union presence. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners’ political action committee purchased signs and other Edwards paraphernalia in mid-December to help steer voters to Edwards.

Other groups, playing off the strategies of their chosen candidates, have come up with very different calculations. Though legally prohibited from directly coordinating with candidates they support, it’s not too difficult for a group to track a candidate’s campaign and demographic targeting.

For example, the National Right to Life Committee’s PAC, which in November endorsed former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson for the Republican nomination, is zeroing in on South Carolina, where Thompson focused his attention after narrowly edging Sen. John McCain , R-Ariz., for third place in Iowa.

Mailers from the group are now touting Thompson’s pro-life record to South Carolina’s voters.
What Next?

While Iowa represented the opening salvo in what could be a protracted battle, for some independent groups the state’s famous caucuses turned out to be a single shot.

For example, Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Dodd’s decision to drop out of the Democratic race after a disappointing sixth-place finish in Iowa ended the International Association of Firefighters’ campaign in his behalf. In addition to Iowa, the union had invested heavily in New Hampshire and Nevada, spending about $500,000. Now all it has to show for the effort is a surfeit of Dodd for President mugs, banners, and rally signs.

A similar fate may be in store for other independent groups following the New Hampshire contest.

But some seem committed to getting their message out across the primary season, regardless of how their preferred candidate fares.

“I’m looking at this as a baseball game,” Fieller said Tuesday, as New Hampshire voters went to the polls. “Today will be the second inning. We’ll go as far as we deem necessary.”


Iowa: Obama rises, Organized Labor falls

Isn’t Election Day grand? Caucus Day ’taint bad, neither. That voters can change their representatives at regular intervals is what I like best about government.

Now don’t get me wrong: Neither Republican winner Mike Huckabee nor Democrat champ Barack Obama is my candidate. But the results from Iowa, including their respective victories, show reason for some hope.

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), center, talks with Fox News Channel television talk show host Bill O'Reilly, left, after O'Reilly shoved Obama's National Trip Director Marvin Nicholson while trying to get to the Senator at the end of a campaign rally in Nashua, New Hampshire, January 5, 2008.

Note that both these men have embraced hope, and they may be on to something. Huckabee is actually from Hope, Arkansas. (You realize, of course, that former President Bill Clinton was also from Hope, Arkansas. Huckabee points out, however, that Clinton isn’t really from Hope. True, Clinton was born in Hope, but he grew up in Hot Springs. Just so you know.)

Barack Obama’s book was entitled The Audacity of Hope. Like Martin Luther King, Obama consistently uses hope as a theme. It’s a good theme, for as Dr. King said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

Right off the bat, the results offer real hope for a break from 20 years of Clintons and Bushes in the White House. That alone is cause for celebration. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats' anointed heir, wasn’t merely nudged out by Obama, she came in nine points back. And in third place, behind John Edwards.

To add insult to injury, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that the Clinton caucus night party was “a completely manufactured event.”

Hillary is running on her experience, her 35 years fighting for folks like you and me. But she’s only been a U.S. Senator for eight years. Before that she was First Lady. Or was that co-president? If she was really co-president, shouldn’t she be asked, “Why did you pardon Marc Rich?”

And going back 35 years? I guess taking pay-offs in cattle futures when Bill was governor of Arkansas counts as fighting for us, too. Indeed, she has loads of Washington-relevant experience.

Best of all, it wasn’t merely a rejection of Hillary Clinton, it was also a hopeful sign that organized labor, especially the government employees unions, may no longer have a complete stranglehold on the Democratic Party.

Obama had no notable labor union support. Meanwhile, Clinton had massive help in Iowa from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Federation of Teachers, along with other unions. The New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, has also endorsed her. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, Edwards has support from the Service Employees International Union.

Obama’s win also demonstrates a new day in politics, one in which race doesn’t matter so much. This is a day too long in coming, but be glad it’s here. Iowa is less than three percent black. And yet that was not a factor. That’s to Obama’s credit, because the Illinois Senator did not run as a black man, but as a man. It is also to the credit of Iowa voters, who saw him that very same way.

Nor, apparently, does gender matter much. Clinton has at times led Obama, nationally, among blacks. And last Thursday night in Iowa, he led Mrs. Clinton among women. There were many affirmative actions taken by voters and candidates, but none forced by government mandate.

The Iowa caucus also contradicted the steady media barrage claiming that money is all-important. To voters it isn’t. Huckabee is badly trailing the other candidates in fundraising, especially former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But he won.

If voters can see through well-funded campaigns, as Iowa proves they can, why all the campaign finance regulations?

No, I’m no fan of Huckabee. Oh, I do acknowledge and appreciate that he has always been a strong supporter of term limits, his rise in Arkansas politics being in part attributed to that stance. But fiscal conservatives in Arkansas have been thoroughly frustrated with his George W-like spending addiction. Both are very compassionate when spending other people’s money.

Nor am I a fan of Barack Obama. But to see the political establishment in both major parties, as well as a whole slew of the nation’s most greedy special interests, get a good whipping in Iowa was extremely enjoyable.

I am a fan of Ron Paul. No miracles happened in Iowa for his campaign, just a decent showing of ten percent, far above his national polling numbers. Now he's polling at 14 percent in New Hampshire, third place in front of Huckabee. He has proved to the world that he is worth watching . . . but not on Fox.

Elections give voters a chance to speak. That’s half the battle. Someday we’ll achieve the other half and make politicians actually listen.

- Paul Jacob is a Senior Advisor at The Sam Adams Alliance, a Townhall.com member group. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web, via e-mail, and on radio stations across America.


Katherine Heigl still won't cross picket line

The always-outspoken Katherine Heigl was one of the first stars to come out and say she would not cross the picket line and attend the Golden Globes and in a new interview with Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson, she continued to stick to her guns.

So what did she think about the newest development in the writers strike – the Hollywood Foreign Press’ decision to cancel the Golden Globes?

“I think it's really important for the writers and their fight and I support that,” Katherine said. “It’s disappointing though, I really, really love that night.”

Though she remained strong in her support for the writers, nothing could keep Heigl from smiling at the premiere of her romantic comedy, “27 Dresses.”

She plays a perennial bridesmaid, but in real life, she wed singer Josh Kelley a little over two weeks ago.

“What was the best thing about it?” Shaun asked.

“I think the fact that we did a destination. [The people who came, were] the people who really wanted to be there,” she enthused. “It was all of our family and our closest friends. There was just an overwhelming show of love and support.”

Katherine, who showed off her sparkly ring with an equally sparkly Bill Blass dress at the premiere, was playful with her new husband. But it hasn’t been all fun and games since the wedding – Josh lost his ring after the ceremony.

“I basically just stood there and was looking down in the snow. There was a little hole there and I thought it's gotta be right there,” Josh revealed.

“Did you have to sleep on the couch the first night?” Shaun asked.

“No, because I found it. No nothing was going to stop me from finding that dag-gone ring,” he smiled.

Ellen Pompeo, bundled in a trench coat, came out for Katherine’s big night, as did T.R. Knight who also served as a groomsman.

“Did you get to tell her anything before she walked down the aisle?” Shaun asked T.R.

“No, no. I just stayed out of the way,” he said. “I'm not allowed to get married so I have no advice!”


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