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Wednesday, October 9,2013

Political notes from around town

by Walt Sorg

Pain-free shutdown for our reps Both Lansing-area U.S. representatives continue to collect their congressional paychecks during the federal government shutdown. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, are paid $174,000 a year. As former state legislators, both also are eligible for state pensions and health care.

Walberg receives an additional $61,000 state pension for his 14 years as a state representative. The amount of Rogers’ pension was not immediately available. Their state retirement benefits include lifetime health care for themselves and their wives. Rogers, however, does not utilize his state-paid health care, but is insured through the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. Walberg playing defense Walberg, who was one of the 80 tea party members signing a “shut it down” manifesto, is now playing defense with an email to constituents over the weekend detailing his efforts to end the shutdown — without mentioning that he helped trigger it. Walberg’s aggressive response to the shutdown comes as a new poll by Public Policy Polling shows him with just 33 percent voter approval and 46 percent disapproval. He trails a generic Democrat 51 percent to 42 percent. The PPP poll was commissioned by the liberal group MoveOn.org. The poll also shows U.P. Republican Dan Benishek and Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, trailing unnamed Democrats.

Political cowards, part 1 A political coward is someone who attacks a candidate anonymously. Typically the coward(s) create an innocuous-sounding committee to legally launder their money (think “AIA Car Wash”). Lansing At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries is the subject of an attack mailer from “Capitol Region Progress,” one of those mystery organizations which is not registered with either the state elections office or county clerk. The organization’s return address is the home of Republican political operative Matt Muxlow, a state House staffer and who ran the losing 2012 campaign for 67th District House candidate Jeff Oesterle. Muxlow refused several requests for comment on the mailer.

Political cowards, part 2 An anonymous automated telephone “push poll” made the rounds last week attacking both Jeffries and At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar. “Push polls” are calls masquerading as public opinion research that are actually designed to push political talking points. The poll started with positive questions about Dunbar and Jeffries as well as At-Large challenger Judi Brown Clarke. But it then went negative on Jeffries and Dunbar, the two incumbents. Several of the questions were crafted to raise questions about the character and integrity of the two.

Council campaign no-shows Two Lansing City Council candidates are maintaining a very low profile on the campaign trail. At-Large candidate Ted O’Dell and 2nd Ward challenger Charles Hoffmeyer are rarely seen at events around the city, missing meet-thecandidate forums and declining to meet with the City Pulse endorsement advisory panel. Both also turned down invitations to appear with their opponents on City Pulse’s TV show, “Newsmakers.” O’Dell said he recently accepted a new job requiring intensive training that takes time away from his campaign, but “I am still in the race and campaigning.” Hoffmeyer said in an email that he objects to traditional campaign activities such as phone calls, campaign mailers and yard signs. He also prefers to respond to inquiries by email to allow him “the opportunity to research and consider all angles of a topic before responding.” O’Dell is one of four candidates on the ballot for two at-large seats, running against Dunbar, Jeffries and Brown Clarke. Hoffmeyer is challenging 2nd Ward incumbent Tina Houghton.

Brown Clarke’s campaign receives a major publicity and financial boost tonight when nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis headlines a campaign fundraiser. The two became friends at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where Brown Clarke won a Silver Medal in the 400-meter hurdles. The fundraiser is priced at $50 to $500.

The new political insider Bill Ballenger, editor and publisher of the highly regarded political newsletter “Inside Michigan Politics” is retiring. After 26 years, Ballenger has sold IMP to Susan J. Demas Communications LLC, which is headed by political columnist Susan Demas. Monday’s announcement of the deal said Ballenger will stay on for three years as associate editor.

Ballenger, 72, is a former Republican member of both the Michigan House and Senate. He also served as director of the state Department of Licensing and Regulation and state racing commissioner.

Demas, 36, is considered more liberal politically than Ballenger. In addition to her MLive column, Demas has covered state government for the MIRS newsletter. Both she and Ballenger are regulars on “Off the Record,” the weekly public television chat-fest about state politics and government.

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