Walt Minnick

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Minnick: Open Internet with Reservations

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Telecom Lobbying in 2009
  • freepress.net
  • Telecom Lobbying in 2009
Between January and September 2009, phone and cable companies spent an estimated $75 million on 500 Washington lobbyists.

One of the key issues at stake in the first two years of Obama's presidency is regulation of what the government calls "open Internet principles," commonly referred to as network neutrality. AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have stirred up controversy by blocking political information or competing services over their networks, as I mentioned in my broadband stimulus article this week. So the Federal Communications Commission wants to make clear rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from discriminating based on the content Americans choose to send and receive.

Back in October, Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick and 71 other Democrats sent a letter to Obama's new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowksi, opposing net neutrality rules. The letter read, in part:

"As the FCC embarks on its much anticipated rulemaking addressing the subject of net neutrality, we therefore urge the Commission to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment ... We remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve."

Public interest advocates jumped all over the letter-writers, and some critics even began calling them "Blue Bell" Democrats, suggesting they are beholden to the telecommunications giants descendant from Ma Bell.

“In parroting the misinformation put forward by the big telecom companies, The Blue Bell Caucus only condemns their constituents to inferior service and limited opportunities to succeed in an Internet-based economy,” wrote Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn.

After joining Idaho Republicans in opposing the Recovery Act, it was a pleasant surprise to hear so many Idaho broadband stimulus applicants champion the efforts of Minnick's office, particularly of staffer Marie Hattaway, in keeping them informed and even helping them apply. (See Mapping Out the Jedi Mind Trick for more on Idaho applicants.)

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis was one of the other 71 Dems, but he quickly posted to Daily Kos that nothing in the letter was against net neutrality. BW sent a follow-up email to John Foster, Minnick's senior adviser, asking for clarification on Minnick's net neutrality position and the impact of telecom lobbyists in DC. Here is what Foster had to say:

"Walt signed on for some specific reasons, foremost among them a desire to make sure that we don’t inadvertently limit the ability of small, regional telecoms (and in some cases, we’re talking service to just a couple hundred people) from expanding what they do to include broadband internet service.

Walt of course believes in a free and open Internet. But as the letter makes clear, you have to keep all segments of private enterprise in mind as you consider net neutrality — not just the Verizons and other Baby Bells, but also the guy in Grangeville or Kooskia who wants to be able to manage the flow of bandwidth for the satellite services he’s thinking of setting up. I think that’s part of what Polis was trying to say.

And as to the lobbyists, I’m not really sure. Lord knows we don’t see them in Idaho, where Walt spends most of his time. And his committee assignments mean he doesn’t see telecom folks that often. So I can’t really say."

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Minnick to Vote No on House Health Care Bill

Posted By on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick just released the following statement indicating he will vote against the House's Affordable Health Care for America Act:

“Over the last several months, I have met with thousands of constituents from all over Idaho’s First Congressional District. They are gravely concerned about the economy, about job security, and about the kinds of opportunities their children and grandchildren will have to make a better life.

“Like most of them, I believe that cutting down the cost of health care is one important step we can take in moving our economy forward. We need to reform the insurance industry by demanding accountability and increasing private-sector competition. We must reduce government spending on programs such as a Medicare, and look to Idaho for examples of ways to do just that. And we must reduce costs throughout the health-care system, so the long-term benefits of reform will truly help our economy to grow and our nation to prosper.

“Unfortunately, the new health-care bill in the House does not adequately meet those goals, so I will vote ‘no.’ However, I am encouraged by the work of the U.S. Senate, and am hopeful that the final bill I vote on will be one that all Idahoans can support.”

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Minnick Up $1 Million for the Year

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 5:58 PM

Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick has raised more than $1 million for his presumed re-election bid in 2010.

Raising $286,727.55 in the last three months, Minnick is far eclipsing the two Republican contenders vying for his freshman seat.

"I am pleased and humbled by the support Idahoans are showing for my independent, fiscally responsible voting record," Minnick said in a press release. "I'm just doing my best to keep my promises to them, and to represent their values and beliefs as I work in Congress."

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Minnick, Simpson Groveside Chat

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Minnick, SImpson, greet fans, critics after City Club show
  • Nathaniel Hoffman
  • Minnick, SImpson, greet fans, critics after City Club show
Idaho’s Congressmen, Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick appeared side-by-side at City Club of Boise last week, agreeing with one another an awful lot and even joking about who should sit on the right side of the dais.

The rare, bipartisan pairing drew a record crowd at the venerable public affairs forum—some 420 people. But, as with most of their votes, Minnick and Simpson agreed more than they disagreed.

Simpson said sometimes his wife does not like how he votes and Minnick said sometimes his wife likes Simpson better. Each talked over the other trying to be the first to deliver a verbatim rendition of the pharmaceutical industry talking points on health care reform and then both made emphatic statements that campaign contributions do not influence votes.

One interesting difference emerged when Minnick admitted to canceling several appointments at the University of Idaho recently because he was behind on his fund raising goals (U of I president Duane Nellis was sitting right up front at the Grove Hotel during the forum). Simpson then said he has only made one fund raising call in his entire federal career.

And then moderator Marty Peterson asked about earmarks and Minnick launched into an impassioned argument against them, asserting that earmarks shortchange the competitive process and deplete funds available for competitive grants.

Simpson said if Congress does not direct earmarks then the administration will; pork is partisan any way you cut it.

But they still agree on earmarks—agree to disagree, that is.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Minnick on the PBS News Hour

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 10:15 AM

News Hour Health Correspondent Betty Ann Bowser followed Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick to the Caldwell Night Rodeo and around Nampa and Caldwell for a report that aired last night on health care reform views. Minnick reiterates his position on reform: “I want every American to have access to comprehensive, affordable health insurance and for those that can’t afford it, I want the government to make it possible financially for them to buy a policy as well.”

And many of the voters PBS speaks with echo that view, including one rodeo guy who rattles off a list of bones he's broken from both legs to his neck.

But one voter, Michael Hoffman, an Idaho film maker and major Minnick supporter took exception to Minnick's health care stance, especially after the film crew caught Minnick failing to recognize Hoffman at the rodeo.

“I think Walt is an intelligent man, I think he’s a good man, I ‘ve been surprised and disappointed by the way he’s been voting, I don’t understand it. And so given that, I’d have a hard time voting for him again,” Hoffman tells the camera.

This interview comes the same week Minnick made headlines for attending a Tea Party sponsored "town hall" meeting on health care reform. Minnick got kudos for facing the hostile audience and criticism for kissing their asses. Then he got it from the other end, just for being a Democrat.

One question: In every other state, congress people organized the town halls and the tea baggers crashed them. Why was Boise's organized by tea baggers and crashed by Minnick?

Extended interview with Minnick:

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Politicos weigh in on tea bagging

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 3:17 PM

While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch sent boastful letters to Idaho Tea Partiers this week, and Rep. Mike Simpson sent good tidings as well, Idaho Democrats had a a message for the throngs as well.

The Idaho Democratic Party released the following statement on the “tea parties,” laying blame for deficits and corporate malfeasance on the Bush Administration and praising Rep. Walt Minnick's leadership:
"Idahoans agree that we must take aggressive action to get our country out of the current recession. Americans are frustrated that eight years of irresponsible policies pursued by the Bush administration have left the economy in a shambles with record deficits, record unemployment and record home foreclosures...

Continue reading »

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Workers’ choice

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 5:54 PM

The Idaho Senate delved into national labor politics this morning, passing a resolution opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The Act, which is just short a vote or three in the U.S. Senate, would make it easier for labor unions to organize workplaces by eliminating employer-controlled elections if a majority of workers sign on to the union at the outset.

Idaho’s business lobby, including the Retailers and the Lodging and Restaurant associations supported the resolution, which was first introduced by Mountain Home Rep. Pete Nielsen in the House, but then pulled and reintroduced by Caldwell Sen. John McGee in the Senate.
While the best legislators can do is opine and perhaps jockey for future campaigns—McGee lives in the First Congressional District*—Idaho’s federal delegation is not quite decided on workers’ rights.

Sen. Jim Risch opposes what Republicans call the card check bill (after the union cards that organizers collect) but Sen. Mike Crapo is still taking a hard look at the language, though spokesman Lindsay Nothern said Crapo opposes the move away from “secret ballots” in the current version.

Rep. Mike Simpson also opposes the bill and favors the secret ballot. But First District Rep. Walt Minnick, the only Democrat in the delegation, is hoping for a compromise version of the bill before he has to vote on it in the House.

Earlier this month, Minnick told state Democrats at the Frank Church banquet that he favored a measure “to ensure that every working man and woman has the unfettered opportunity to join a labor union free of corporate coercion.”

Idaho AFL-CIO boss, Dave Whaley, and many of the union organizers at the Democratic banquet heard that as an endorsement of EFCA and Whaley told citydesk last week that Minnick had pledged his support.

But Minnick told us today that negotiations over the language of the bill in the Senate are underway and he has not decided how he’ll vote.

“I think that the bill I’m going to vote on is going to be different from the bill that was originally submitted,” Minnick said.

Minnick said he thinks workers should be able to organize without coercion and that neither labor nor management should know which way they vote.

“I would prefer a bill that does give both sides in an organizing drive an opportunity to state their case,” he said.

EFCA has been cast as a partisan measure, with a U.S. Senate cloture vote hinging on Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, who said last week he'd oppose it, denying Democrats the 60 votes they need to force a vote. Idaho's Senate also considered it through a purely partisan lens, with McGee and Majority Leader Bart Davis praising the secret ballot as a virtue of democracy.

“If Congress passes the EFCA employees will effective lose their right to private ballot elections,” McGee said. "Private ballots are a basic American right."

Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly countered that EFCA allows for a secret ballot but takes the decision to hold an election out of the hands of management.

“The Employee Free Choice Act lets workers, not companies, decide how a union is formed,” Kelly said. “Those who have jobs need to be able to advocate for themselves.”

Davis referred to an August 2008 letter from Democrat George McGovern published in the Wall Street Journal opposing EFCA and asked for an explanation. Kelly told him privately to ask McGee.

But whether or not a card check system for forming unions would help or hinder business in Detroit or New York, there is one not-so-small remaining problem: union membership is optional in Idaho's "right-to-work" climate.

What we're watching for is the Right to Free Choice Work Act of 2010. We know how we'd vote on that one.

*McGee's district has been corrected from an earlier version of the post. 

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama's schemer

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 2:17 PM

The guy who has Karl Rove's old job—deputy chief of staff to the president—was in Boise last weekend as a guest of the Idaho Democratic Party ... and of his mother in Nampa.

While Jim Messina, 39, bragged of being a "private schemer" (as opposed to a public speaker), he was more mama's boy than Bush's brain.

"How am I doing, Mom?" Messina asked in the middle of his speech at the Democrats' annual Frank Church Banquet. (Mom was gushing.)

[Photo at right: adoring fans try to get Messina to chill downtown; word is he ended up with Idaho Sen. Nicole LeFavour and friends at Reef. LeFavour stole the camera citydesk borrowed and snapped this shot because citydesk could not get a decent angle.]

Messina, who said he consulted with White House speech writers prior to his engagement in Boise, seemed to project much of his speech in the general direction of his family, just right of center stage. The president's top speech writer actually told him to look at his mother if he got nervous.

Earlier in the day, BW asked Messina how he got a job that involves meeting with the President of the United States every morning and, as he perhaps jokingly said later, helping run the world and storing the nuclear codes.

Messina thought for a moment and replied that it was winning lots of elections that landed him a windowless office within earshot of President Barack Obama.

"I don't lose," he said. (Later he admitted to a losing campaign for Jimmy Carter at Boise's East End Roosevelt Elementary School; Messina is a 1988 Boise High School graduate, by the way.)

Obama can reportedly hear Messina cursing through the walls at the White House. In his introduction to Messina's keynote, Rep. Walt Minnick recounted a news story on Obama's prolific fundraising in which Messina was quoted saying, "It's like getting the keys to a friggin' Ferrari."

Minnick, who softened some of Messina's language, said that Messina bragged about money raining down in the final months of the election season, while Minnick spent much of that time "dialing for dollars."

"I can't tell you how many times my good friends and supporters put me on hold to send you their friggin' money," Minnick said.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter enthusiastically proclaimed the date—March 7—as Jim Messina day in Boise.

Messina recalled several times in the last year when he heard from his mother. She phoned after he called John McCain a schmuck during the Democratic National Convention (she called him James Anthony on the phone; Obama told Messina to let him make the headlines). And then a few months later as he boarded Marine One in front of dozens of flashing cameras, Mom called to report that she was watching him on CNN.

Messina told the partisan crowd that Democrats were more organized than ever in the wake of the Obama campaign and that they will use that focus to pass a bill that gives every American health care, promote alternative energy production and change the course of history.

He lauded Obama's stimulus bill, repeating that the western states would see key gains from the energy funding in the bill, and praised Minnick for voting his conscience, even though he voted against the stimulus.

"You need to re-elect Congressman Minnick," Messina said.

Minnick for his part, told the crowd he voted with the Democratic majority two-thirds of the time and did not apologize for the other third. He coached the 650 Idaho Democrats through one part of his speech—the part about defending the Second Amendment.

"I think that's an appropriate applause line," Minnick said to the hushed crowd. The ballroom at the DoubleTree Riverside conceded their claps.

Messina closed his speech quoting from Obama's memoir, which the president reminded his staffer that he wrote when he was Messina's age.

And then he echoed one of Obama's own favorite lines, praising a country in which," a skinny, poor boy from Boise can go to work in the Oval Office."

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Minnick Chief of Staff out

Posted By on Thu, Feb 12, 2009 at 3:51 PM

From BW correspondent Scott Weaver:

U.S. Representative Walt Minnick's office confirmed today that Minnick's chief of staff Isaac Squyres has left the position a little more than a month after Idaho's newest congressman was sworn in.

"Isaac is a trusted friend and one of my closest advisors, and proved the right choice for overseeing my transition from candidate to Congressman," Minnick said. "I had hoped to keep him a little longer, but I support him fully and wish him well as he takes advantage of this new opportunity."

A press release from Minnick's office said that Squyres will return to the lobby firm Gallatin Public Affairs where he worked prior to joining Minnick's campaign. Minnick ousted Republican incumbent Bill Sali by a small margin in last November's election and immediately hired Squyres as his chief of staff. Squyres, a Boise native, worked on Minnick's unsuccessful U.S. Senate run against Larry Craig in 1996.

"It's been a tremendous experience being on the inside of setting up a congressional office, helping recruit a fine staff and getting Walt off to a great start," Squyres said in a press release. "It's been fun and a challenge, but over the last couple of months I've also had a chance to reflect on what I really enjoy and I came to understand that I really enjoy work as a strategist who helps find solutions to problems, which is precisely the work that I so enjoyed at Gallatin and why I'm delighted, with a whole bunch of new experiences under my belt, to go back to a job I love. Walt is going to do a fine job representing Idaho and I thank him for the opportunity to help him get launched on that very important work."

Kate Haas, who is based in Minnick's Washington D.C. office, will serve as acting chief of staff, according to Minnick's office. John Foster, Minnick's senior advisor and communications director, will serve as acting district director.

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