NYT Takes A Mulligan

Or at least it appears that after their god-awful, factually inaccurate product of failed due diligence editorial, the Times is giving space for columnist Gail Collins to make up for their bad behavior. Her Saturday column was a great run-down of the yeoman’s work Chris Dodd has done thus far in the Obama administration, essentially presenting the case that Dodd has been the peoples’ most active and involved legislator thus far this Congress. Collins’ look at Dodd and AIG is one of the few times I’ve seen a traditional journalist recognize how unwarranted the attacks against him were:

During the bank bailouts, he was blamed for protecting the A.I.G. executives from bonus payment caps. This is deeply ironic since Dodd was one of the very few people in the Senate to show any interest whatsoever in salary caps until the cameras came on and our elected representatives began frothing with rage and demanding to be allowed to beat leaders of the financial industry with brooms and sticks.

Dodd’s role was complicated, but at bottom, the A.I.G. charge was so unfair that we can only hope he did something really, really bad at some previous point in his career and got away with it, thus balancing the scales of justice.

Collins goes on to look at what Dodd is busy doing during a tough campaign season:

While Dodd was busy watering down bankruptcy laws, he was also establishing himself as a leading progressive voice on a raft of other issues.

He resisted the siren call of Republican tax cuts in the Reagan and Bush administration. He was a persistent champion of quality early child care — an issue whose importance is matched only by its complete and total lack of vote-getting or donation-collecting potential. He authored the Family and Medical Leave Act. And he developed a close working relationship with his ailing friend Ted Kennedy, who designated Dodd as his surrogate on the health care legislation. In Kennedy’s absence, there is really no other Democrat in the Senate with so much ability to reach across the aisle and negotiate with Republicans while still keeping his eyes on the prize.

Like most seasoned political animals, Dodd’s response to his plummeting polls is to Do Stuff. Run around your home state. (He had a listening tour!) Make a splash in Washington. (Four bill-signing ceremonies in four months!) Find new ways to reach out to the masses. (Oh, Lord! He’s Twittering.)

Meanwhile, by his estimate, he spent 30 hours this week alone talking with Republican senators about the health care bill. On the phone, he sounded exhausted, but you can tell he sort of loves it. “It’s what I do,” he said.

Actually Collins is flat-out wrong in her first clause: Dodd is one of the strongest advocates for protecting strong bankruptcy laws in the US Senate. During the presidential campaign eRiposte of The Left Coaster did an intensive analysis of all the Senate Dem candidates records on bankruptcy reform legislation in 2000, 2001, and 2005. Concluding a ranking of Dodd, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama

Senator Chris Dodd has the best, and a near-perfect, voting record on Bankruptcy legislation. He has been consistently and strongly progressive on the topic of Bankruptcy “reform” at least since 2000.

Also, it’s a small point of pride that Chris Dodd has been using Twitter since 2007 – one of the first politicians to do so at the federal level.

But beyond these two quibbles, Collins really lays out the hard work Dodd is doing. There are a lot of bombs being thrown at him now in an effort to make one of the Senate’s liberal lions seem vulnerable at home. But the political barbs just don’t match the reality of what Dodd has actually done and is continuing to do in his role as one of the Senate’s most effective legislators.

Unfortunately while Collins’ column shows Times’ readers the great work Dodd is doing, it doesn’t undo the crap that the Times threw at Dodd earlier this week. But at least it’s an improvement…and a sign that someone at the Times is still paying to what Chris Dodd is actually doing and not merely the attack press releases Rob Simmons and the Connecticut GOP are putting out on a near-daily basis.

Idiocy: Glenn Reynolds Edition

Glenn Reynolds is probably the biggest anti-Chris Dodd blogger out there, so it’s no shock that he’s lobbing every grenade he can at Dodd. Unfortunately, instead of throwing grenades, Reynolds sometimes seems content to grab the back side of the underwear he’s currently wearing, lean back, and pitch the waistband forward with all his might. To wit, Reynolds thinks he’s somehow hitting Dodd’s credibility on healthcare reform legislation by posting a story about Jackie Clegg Dodd serving on the board of four pharmaceutical companies. Reynolds provides this bit of “Ah-ha!” commentary:

It’s like he was trying to keep this under the radar until after the bill was done.

In a clear sign that Reynolds hadn’t read the paragraph he just quoted from the AP, the article actually says:

Dodd, who as Senate Banking Committee chairman also has been an architect of the nation’s financial industry and housing rescue plans, did not file a new disclosure report outlining his personal finances as most other senators did in May. The Senate was releasing those reports Friday. Dodd sought a 90-day extension to file his report covering last year, giving him until mid-August to submit his report, but released his report Friday to The Associated Press.

Dodd could have actually kept these disclosures “under the radar until after the bill was done” if he wanted to. He had until mid-August, a timeframe that would have certainly included the introduction of the bill he’s working on in the HELP Committee. Except, you know, Dodd didn’t. As Reynolds quotes.

For those who were wondering, Glenn Reynolds has just provided us with the definition of what it means to be hoisted by one’s own petard.

Where’s the Due Diligence, NYT?

The editorial page of the New York Times today attacked Senator Chris Dodd for his receipt of fundraising contributions from pay day lenders and, according to them, subsequently not acting to reform pay day lending laws to cap interest rates.  They write:

Forget what it looked like, this was a private fund-raiser by Mr. Johnson for his friend Mr. Dodd, not payday lenders wooing a senator whose committee was considering a bill that could seriously cramp their business.

That bill, sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, caps interest rates on consumer loans at 36 percent. That’s the reasonable limit that Congress placed on loans to members of the armed forces.

Mr. Dodd, who was recently praised after Congress passed a bill limiting abuses by credit-card companies, should follow the same crusading impulse to go after the egregious exploitation of payday loans. He should avoid even the slightest hint that he is cozying up to it.

Unfortunately, the Times has gone off more than half-cocked.  Dodd not only supports reforming pay day lending and has voted for it repeatedly in the past, but he’s a cosponsor of the Durbin legislation in question.

On May 13th, Dodd voted was one of only 33 senators to vote in favor of Bernie Saunders amendment to provide even stricter interest rate caps than the Durbin legislation.

On May 23rd, the Hartford Courant reported:

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Dodd said there are still two major issues that remain unfinished business: a cap on interest rates and limits on fees that merchants pay when a customer uses a credit card for a purchase.

You can go back in history and see many other votes and other statements that have shown Chris Dodd’s commitment to protecting worker Americans’ interests when it comes to usurious lending. But what is most stunning is that the Times ran an editorial criticizing Dodd for being so close to pay day lenders that he wouldn’t support legislation capping their interest rates when he is a cosponsor of the legislation in question.

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I don’t know if the NY Times knew that Dodd had cosponsored this legislation when they chose to run their op-ed. I hope that it’s the case that they simply failed to do their basic fact checking before running it. Because if the Times knew that Dodd had cosponsored this legislation yesterday, it would mean that they ran an op-ed attacking a senator for giving undue influence to contributors and not sticking up for working Americans when they knew that he in fact was doing the exact opposite of what his contributors want and is standing up for working Americans.

It’s quite common elected officials to receive campaign contributions from corporations and industries that they’re trying to regulate. The act of them receiving this money, while not always savory, does not in itself constitute any form of obligation for the official to act on the corporation or industry’s behalf. In fact, it can be an opportunity for a public servant to show that they are beholden to no one other than the interests of the voting public.

That’s precisely what Chris Dodd has done when it comes to any number of financial players who have contributed to his campaigns over the years. From banks to credit card companies to the insurance industry and now, especially, pay day lenders, Dodd has held true to his Democratic values of protecting the interests of working Americans and not been swayed by campaign lucre.

What’s so unfortunate is that the New York Times is unwilling or incapable of identifying the clear difference  between the people who give Dodd money and the interests on whose behalf Dodd legislates. The two aren’t even in the same ballpark.

The simple fact is that the New York Times fundamentally missed the mark in their editorial attacking Chris Dodd. At best the attack comes from a failure to do their due diligence before publishing. At worst, the Times has maliciously attacked a man for doing precisely what they say he should be doing.

Update:

Tparty at My Left Nutmeg adds more:

As both Chair of the Banking Committee and a  vulnerable incumbent up for re-election, Dodd will continue to be a huge target for those looking to influence politics and/or policy on all sides, and sorting through competing arguments and knocking down spurious claims is apparently going to be a challenge for a traditional media still largely uninterested in doing that type of real work. But at the very least, Dodd deserves accurate reporting and praise when he does the right thing, even if that means re-writing an editorial before it goes to press – or printing a correction after it does.

I’d have to imagine Senator Dodd is pushing for a correction to the editorial. Who knows if they’ll get it? But unfortunately more people will read this editorial than will read the correction, even if it is forthcoming.

Dodd Filling In

The New York Times has a very interesting article today about the impact Senator Ted Kennedy’s absence from the Senate for health reasons is having on the process towards landmark healthcare reform. What’s especially important to note is that reform is moving forward in Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee because of the work of the number two Democrat on HELP: Chris Dodd.

Mr. Kennedy’s close friend, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who is the No. 2 Democrat on the health committee, has taken on the main role. He is supported by the leaders of three health care “working groups” that Mr. Kennedy created in November, which is when he tapped Mr. Dodd to be his “chief deputy.”

Mr. Dodd met with Mr. Kennedy about the health legislation and had dinner at his home on Sunday. Mr. Kennedy is also in touch by phone with President Obama.

Mr. Dodd, in a conference call with reporters, said he was holding out hope for Mr. Kennedy’s return. “My hope is he’ll be back at any, any one of these days,” he said.

“There is also a spirit he brings to, a dynamic that is hard to quantify,” Mr. Dodd said. “And so, he’ll be missed when he’s not there. But my hope is that he will be back as frequently as he can to play that role.”

What’s interesting about the Times piece is that it’s on a subject that seems to largely be ignored by the press: the functional impact of Senator Kennedy’s battle with brain cancer and how Senator Dodd has stepped in to ensure that healthcare reform moves forward at full speed. Dodd has not received any noticable credit, either in the DC press or back home in Connecticut, for the yeoman’s work he’s doing to guarantee we get major healthcare legislation authored and passed.

Yesterday Dodd penned an op-ed in the New London Day in which he described his vision for HELP’s healthcare reform legislation and the importance that any healthcare bill include  a public health insurance option.

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will put forward a historic health care reform proposal. As a senior member of that committee, I’ve been asked by its chairman, Sen. Edward Kennedy, to help lead these efforts, working with President Barack Obama and our congressional colleagues.

For me, the bottom line is that we need to preserve the ability for people to choose their own doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans. If you like what you have, you can keep it; if you don’t, you’ll finally have affordable options available to you. In my view, that must include a public health insurance option in addition to private options.
Almost equally as important, the bill must drive down costs for families, businesses and government alike. The Council of Economic Advisers just found that if we shave a mere 1.5 percent off the growth of health care costs each year, families will have thousands of extra dollars in their pockets to spend on a down payment for a first home or to send a child to college. Small businesses, which pay higher premiums than larger businesses, will have more affordable choices they need to compete and innovate. Reducing costs is absolutely essential to getting our economy back on track.

Thirdly, we need to expand coverage. Eighty-six million Americans go without coverage at some point every year; millions more live in fear that they may lose their job and with it their health insurance. Failing to cover everyone costs the average family in Connecticut $700 every year.

I know that Senator Dodd would want nothing more than for his dear friend Ted Kennedy to be healthy and driving healthcare reform himself from the HELP committee. But Dodd’s leadership in his absence has been tremendous and it’s good to finally see it recognized, if even in passing, by the Times.

I think a landmark piece of healthcare legislation that includes a public health insurance option will pass this year. And when it does, its passage will only have been possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of Senator Chris Dodd to improve the lives of all Americans by ensuring they have the healthcare they need and deserve.

Swan on Dodd

Tom Swan of Connecticut Citizen Action Group (and former Ned Lamont campaign manager) is one of the people I most respect in Connecticut politics. He’s a dyed in the wool progressive with a history of getting results, from forcing Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party to fighting for marriage equality and universal healthcare. Swan and CCAG have also done a lot of work around credit card reform, which is the subject of his Connecticut Post op-ed from yesterday on Chris Dodd’s achievements in that area and beyond. Swan writes:

That it happened at all is a credit to the leadership of our senior senator, who took on the banks and beat them. It’s no secret that Chris Dodd has been attacked from all sides recently. And certainly, public sentiment during the economic crisis helped make this moment possible.

But it was Chris Dodd — who’s been on the right side of this fight for 20 years — who held the line, insisting on much tougher protections than those included in a similar bill that had already passed the House of Representatives. As chairman of the Banking Committee and a 30-year veteran of the Senate, he shepherded the legislation through the chamber, drawing upon his unique ability to reach across the aisle to get some very conservative Republicans to join him.

In a career filled with big, bipartisan victories — the Family and Medical Leave Act, election reform after the 2000 debacle in Florida — passing meaningful credit card reform during a time of economic crisis may well prove the senator’s most lasting.

But the real winner here isn’t any public official, industry or interest group. It’s the American consumer, including the people of Connecticut, who have a right not to be deceived, misled or ripped off — particularly during a recession when they can least afford it. [Emphasis added]

Swan’s whole op-ed is worth a read, as it shows the remarkable scope of Dodd’s credit card reform legislation, which will surely go down as yet another piece of landmark lawmaking that will have a lasting impact on our country.

Stupid Attacks

Suzy Khimm is listed by The New Republic as a “reporter-researcher.” I haven’t yet waded through her three page article on Chris Dodd and his coming perilous reelection campaign to judge her overall ability as a reporter, but by the second paragraph it’s pretty easy to see that she’s not a researcher. Khimm writes:

Today, Dodd–five-term senator, established Washington powerbroker, the man whose “magnificent handshake,” The New York Times gushed two years ago, is “the grip of a pro, a … political pro, which he is”–has been reduced to shoring up his liberal bona fides by railing against credit card companies on a blog called My Left Nutmeg (motto: “Where Connecticut Dems Scratch That Progressive Itch”).

Senator Dodd’s first diary on My Left Nutmeg was on March 7, 2007, over two years ago. I know because at the time I was a front-page contributor and administrator of the site. I bumped his post from the diary section to the front page.

About two months later I joined Dodd’s presidential campaign’s internet department. Our campaign frequently posted updates from the campaign trail in diaries on MLN, so Nutmeggers could continue to see the hard work Dodd was doing both for our country and for Connecticut as a legislator, using his heightened profile as a presidential candidate to get more done for us all in the Senate. Additionally, during his frequent live chats with blog readers on the campaign trail, Dodd engaged with readers on My Left Nutmeg. Dodd wasn’t alone in the CT delegation in engaging this community from the campaign trail – Congressmen John Larson, Chris Murphy, and Joe Courtney all recorded strong endorsements of Dodd that we posted on MLN.

All of this is to say that Dodd has not been “reduced” to anything this cycle. He is doing what he’s always done – engage constituents in meaningful ways. He’s long viewed MLN as a key part of the Connecticut progressive-Democratic infrastructure and that he’s continuing to engage it not is not only not a shocking, bad thing, but a positive note that augurs well for his reelection prospects. It’s unfortunate that the TNR’s “reporter-researcher” didn’t bother to fact check one of her first sentences, as even the most cursory research would have proven her premise wrong.

Good Dodd News

Yesterday Chris Dodd’s Credit CARD Act passed overwhelmingly. It’s a victory for regulation of an industry run amok and will provide a great deal of protection for consumers from predatory lending practices and usurious rates. The Hartford Courant calls it a “big win for Dodd.” Former Ned Lamont campaign manager, Tom Swam, has a great bit of analysis in the Courant piece:

 “This is the first real significant step by Congress to protect [consumers from] some of the more abusive practices,” said Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. “Sen. Dodd has had a tough couple of months, and a victory like this reminds people of his ability to get things done. …[It] is this exact type of thing he needs between now and next November.”

Beyond Dodd’s Credit CARD legislation, Dodd also received high praise today from President Obama for his work on housing legislation.

Present at Obama’s bill signing Wednesday afternoon were two Democrats headed for high-profile Senate races in 2010.

One was embattled Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, who Obama credited with passing a key housing measure.

“We wouldn’t be here without my good friend Chris Dodd,” he said.

One of the ways Dodd can solidify his numbers in Connecticut is by continuing to be the effective, progressive legislator he’s been for the last 30 plus years for the citizens of Connecticut. When he leads, he gets strong recognition from key influentials both in Connecticut and at the national level. It’s this sort of success that makes me confident Dodd will be able to weather the storm and win reelection in 2010.

Attacking Dodd From the Right

TParty at My Left Nutmeg has a great post on the newly-announced challenge to Senator Chris Dodd from a Democrat named Merrick Alpert, a former Enron and PG&E employee, who is running against Dodd from the right and without any stated agenda besides personal attacks.TParty writes:

Unfortunately, from all initial appearances, Merrick Alpert’s just-announced campaign for Senate falls clearly in the second category [of damaging primaries driven by attacks and personal ambition]. He is already attacking Senator Dodd using right-wing talking points, and is poised to continue running at Senator Dodd from the right.

It seems Alpert has been looking for a chance to run and try to move the Connecticut Democratic party to the right for at least a half-decade now. As far back as February 2004, the Greenwich Time reported on his travels across the state attempting to “create a potent voting bloc” that he – in his own words – hoped would become a “centrist, pro-jobs, pro-business coalition.”  Alpert was at that point a resident of Greenwich and member of the Greenwich DTC (there is apparently some election law of which I am unaware that requires all primary challengers in Connecticut to have lived in Greenwich).

His seemingly-complete website and introductory video are both almost completely bereft of any policy distinctions with Dodd – or really any mention of any issues at all (the word “economy” does not appear there anywhere as far as I can tell). Instead, his campaign has emerged as a full-bore ad hominem assault, attacking Dodd both overtly and obliquely – but always in pitch-perfect right-wing consultant-speak: for being part of a “culture of corruption”, for not telling the “truth” about the AIG bonuses, for moving to Iowa during his presidential run, and apparently – while emotionally describing watching his mother reading the losses on her 401(k) statement and blaming Chris Dodd for letting it happen – even for allowing the entire economic crisis.

If you wanted to, you wouldn’t have to go far to find the many ironies: an ex-Enron employee attacking someone for being part of a “culture of corruption”, a recent resident of Florida attacking someone for not being around Connecticut enough, a big donor who maxed out to Dodd as recently as 2006 and who has been looking to run for something big for half a decade suddenly – by his own account – dropping that support and realizing the error of his ways the very day Dodd stepped in it on CNN and it was clear he was headed for a free-fall in the polls.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Alpert’s mentor in Connecticut politics, John Pelto, doesn’t even approve of what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Pelto says:

“I’m surprised, even a bit stunned, that my former intern Merrick Albert is interested in running against Chris Dodd, let alone that he believes he is prepared to serve as Connecticut’s United States Senator.

“I’ve known Merrick for more than 20 years.  He worked as my legislative intern when he was a student at Trinity College and later helped with various political campaigns.  Always eager and ambitious, everyone who has ever worked with Merrick knows that he’s always wanted to run for political office.  Hopefully, he’ll reconsider this strange decision and focus instead on getting his political career underway by running for a position that he is more qualified for like state representative or state senator.”

Alpert is making his formal announcement today, but it’s hard to look at this as anything other than a self-serving campaign that will only serve to solidify the narratives the CT GOP and Rob Simmons are trying to tell Connecticut voters. Alpert may not want Dodd to represent Connecticut in the Senate any more, but he had better recognize that he won’t be in the Senate come 2011 either. He can only serve as a catalyst that will accelerate the chances of Simmons to defeat Dodd. This is not a good thing.

Update:

Rick Green of the Hartford Courant puts it well: “Somewhere, Glenn Beck and Rob Simmons are smiling.”

Dodd vs CT GOP

Chris Dodd takes to the op-ed page of the Hartford Courant to defend his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, from insane smears and accusations coming from Chris Healy of the CT Republican Party.

Of course anyone who’s paid the slightest bit of attention to the CT GOP and the NRSC’s attacks on Dodd knows that they don’t give a rats ass about the content of the smears they levy, only the political value that is reaped for them. Jay Howser, Dodd’s campaign manager, debated CT GOP chair Chris Healy this morning. In the segment, Howser succeeds in getting Healy to admit what this is all about: getting a Republican Senator who will stand in the way of Obama administration’s agenda — which is overwhelmingly supported by people in Connecticut and Americans around the country.

The GOP is going to keep throwing mud at Dodd and his family, but at least we now know unequivocally why they are doing it. Hopefully Healy et alia stay honest with Connecticut voters and reminds them that their beef is not with Chris Dodd’s distinguished service to the country, but with the possibility of a successful Obama administration during a time of war and economic crisis.