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The Senate: Advise and Consent Or Just Consent?

By Don Todd

ALG Editor's Note: In the following feature, ALG's top researcher—former Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, former director of research for the George H. W. Bush 1988 campaign, former research director for the campaign to re-elect President Ronald Reagan in 1984—gives us the scoop on some of the upcoming Obama Administration appointments pending approval in the Senate.

The Obama Administration currently (03/09/09) has 50 executive nominations pending before the Senate for confirmation. This includes the Timothy Geithner nomination to the International Monetary Fund. What follows is a brief look at seven of them.

Karen Gordon Mills – Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator

Karen Mills is a millionaire dilettante with a reverse Midas touch. An heir to the Tootsie Roll fortune, her experience is for the most part is in ventures that have either failed or brought mediocre results to investors. Like many Obama appointees, Ms. Mills went to Harvard. During the 2008 cycle Ms. Mills made political contributions totaling $47,100, $29,500 of which went to the Obama campaign. Ms. Mills is a member of the venture capital community which is attempting through legislation to divert funds from real small businesses to small firms largely owned by huge venture capital funds. This destroys the entire purpose of the SBA.

Gil Kerlikowske - Drug Czar

Mr. Kerlikowske is currently the Chief of Police in Seattle Washington. He has a “don't ask” policy on illegal immigration, favors stringent restrictions on private firearms ownership, has a very poor record on civil rights and to top it off feels the enforcement of some drug laws (marijuana) have a very low priority. His law enforcement skills were tested during an unnecessary Mardi Gras riot in 2001. Chief Kerlikowske pulled the police back and let them watch as one young man was killed and over 70 were injured. The city of Seattle reached a settlement with the slain man's family. Seattle agreed to pay $1,750,000. to the family and acknowledged that its police strategy had presented a public safety threat. In March of 2001, the Seattle Police Officers' Guild overwhelmingly (88%) voted no confidence in Kerlikowske.

Gary Locke – Secretary of Commerce (Third Choice)

Mr. Locke, the former governor of Washington, is a partner in a Seattle law firm practicing among other things, “corporate diversity counseling.” During Locke's tenure as governor questions were raised regarding conflicts of interest stemming from the state's business dealings with his brother-in-law's company. His brother-in-law happened to be living in the executive mansion at the time. Locke also seems to have used the Buddhist temple method of campaign fundraising similar to Al Gore, collecting money from people who later didn't remember making the contributions. Locke's administration also apparently liked to keep secrets such as the details of a $3.2 billion tax break to Boeing Corporation. When his administration wasn't handing out subsidies like this tax break it was promulgating regulations such as the ergonomics standard from the state OSHA, a standard that the business community estimated would cost over $725 million per year.

Dr. Ashton B. Carter – Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics

Dr. Carter of Harvard has made his reputation opposing weapons not acquiring them. His first appearance on the national scene was outspoken opposition to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. He is another Clinton retread having served in that administration as Assistant Secretary for International Security Policy. His confirmation to that post was held up for over 6 months because he was clearly exercising the authority of his office before he was confirmed. He is currently a partner Global Technologies Partners a firm founded by former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry. While the firm claims not to lobby it appears to advise defense contractors how to get contracts. The firm's web site brags that it “Identified a unique, classified U.S. government technology as a critical enabler for an aerospace company's growth strategy, identified a way to acquire that technology, and advised in its acquisition and integration.” (Emphasis added.)

Julius Genachowski – Chairman Federal Communications Commission

Little is known of Mr. Genachowski views at this time. What is known can be classified as truly bizarre. Mr. Genachowski sits of the board of an organization name Beliefnet. The organization's web site touts the belief in such things as Wicca, Unicorns, Faeries, Astrology and various other belief systems that are to say the least out of the mainstream.

Roy Kienitz – Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy

A brief analysis of data available to anyone over the internet shows that Americans choose private transportation over public transit at a rate of about 20 to 1. Mr. Roy Kienitz, President Obama's appointee for Transportation policy, has a track record of advocating anti-car policies. From 1996-2001 he worked at the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a non-profit that advocates growth that does not involve cars or infrastructure for cars, in favor of public transit, or what they call “smart growth.” Under his direction, the STPP put out a paper claiming that the solution to aggressive driving is to limit how much people drive and how fast they can drive, through “smart growth” policies (including public transit and the engineering of roads to make people drive slower) and another claiming that solution to traffic congestion was not road expansion so that the greater number of people wanting to drive could do so, but public transit, since more roads simply breed more cars. He was a founding member of another organization called “Smart Growth America,” that advocates similar policies.

His time in public office shows that he brings these private sector views to public service. As Secretary of Planning for the State of Maryland in 2001 he intervened in three land use proceedings in order to “support transit –oriented development”: in one case, he had the state oppose the building of a Wal-mart in Kent County, because it was inconsistent with his “smart growth” policies, and in the other two he had the state government come out in favor of development in Gaithersburg and Annapolis that was centered around public transit and other forms of transportation. As deputy chief of staff to Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, he advocated placing tolls on I-80 through Pennsylvania, as well as the leasing of the PA Turnpike to a foreign company, in order to raise revenue for “roads, bridges and public transportation.”

It is clear that Mr Kienitz, if confirmed, will advocate public transit over maintaining and expanding the roads that Americans support as a transportation choice over 20 to 1.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2006 there were 244 million registered cars in the United States of America. According to the American Public Transportation Association in the fourth quarter of 2008 there were 2,670,023 trips taken on unlinked transit. Rounding generously and assuming that this was an average quarter that comes to about 11 million transit rides in 2008. While it would seems that car registration has probably gone up since 2006, the rough figure of 244 million registered cars should serve for the purposes of this comparison. Thus, a rough comparison shows us that Americans are choosing cars 22 to 1 over public transit.

Information found at

http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership/riderep/documents/08q4cvr.pdf and http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/files/enercomm.html

Ron Sims – Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Ron Sims has been a disaster as King County Executive. Time and again he has been told of county problems, and time and again he has ignored those warnings. He has tolerated and even praised gross incompetence and mismanagement. He has knowingly violated the law, and he has turned a blind eye as his employees refused to comply with the law. He has catered to the union fat cats and ignored the plight of the hard- working average citizens adversely impacted by his and his employees' actions.

Ron Sims seems to have the view that whatever he does is right. He was perfectly willing to trample the law to get the $1.8 billion Brightwater boondoggle built; and he was remorseless about trampling the rights of rural county residents by arbitrarily and capriciously limiting their ability to use their own land.

Ron Sims also seems to believe that county employees are uniformly doing a very good job. After the numerous problems at the medical examiner's office, the animal shelters, the elections office, and the jail, one wonders what Ron Sims thinks a firing offense looks like. Ron Sims may be a nice man, but he is one of the last who should be given control of a $39 billion budget.


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