Opinion

The Great Debate

from Stories I’d like to see:

The Oracle Oregon fiasco, crying wolf on an Obamacare tax, and anointing the ‘Politico 50′

1. The Oracle Oregon fiasco:

We all know by now that the dominant story line of the Obamacare website’s failed launch is that the federal government is terrible at doing high-tech projects -- let alone one that involves the e-commerce wizardry that has made Silicon Valley the envy of the world.

But it turns out that one state exchange to sell Obamacare insurance plans has had an even more disastrous launch than the 36-state HealthCare.gov. It’s CoverOregon.com -- the website for the Oregon exchange.

In fact, as this Associated Press story notes, last week state officials cancelled an advertising campaign to get people to sign up at CoverOregon.com because the website still isn’t up and running.

But Oregon didn’t rely on a bunch of bureaucrats to supervise its launch. Far from it. The state farmed the entire project out to … drumroll … Oracle, one of the crown jewels of hi-tech America. The company’s chief executive officer, Larry Ellison, perpetually appears near the top of the Forbes 400 list (he’s number three this year) and was eagerly available to the press when he financed his successful America’s Cup entry last fall, at the same time that the website was supposedly being finished.

Nick Budnick of the Oregonian has been all over this story, but the Oregon/Oracle fiasco has escaped the national attention it deserves. And Budnick has been unable to get Oracle to provide any comment.

Democrats: It’s the states, stupid (Part 2)

ILLUSTRATION: Matt Mahurin

Since the government shutdown, public opinion of the Republican Party has hit a new low. Yet the Democrats might not be able to gain from it. Despite the GOP’s fall from grace — and even if they suffer a lower vote count in the 2014 midterm elections — the Republicans might still control the House of Representatives and many state legislatures after the polls close.

Our Constitution is unique in that it gives state legislatures virtually complete control over how we elect the president and Congress. In other democracies, the national government runs elections, usually through an impartial commission. Our system, however, lets the party that controls the state legislatures manipulate election rules to help itself and harm its opponents in both the state and House races.

Realizing this, powerful Republican leaders, including former Bush White House Counselor Ed Gillespie and Senior Adviser Karl Rove decided in 2009 to concentrate on winning control of the state legislatures. Through a combination of money, luck and skill, in 2010 the Republicans captured almost a majority of the state legislatures, and then added a few more in 2012. This has given them the power not only to shape the electoral rules and control the House, but also to pass other laws that shape many aspects of our lives.

Democrats: It’s the states, stupid!

ILLUSTRATION: Matt Mahurin

Unless the Democrats wake up to the importance of winning state legislative elections, they are likely to remain a largely impotent minority in the House of Representatives and equally feeble in the state legislatures. The momentous Supreme Court decisions on the Voting Rights Act, same-sex marriage and affirmative action make winning these races all the more vital, for all these rulings deal with state action. The huge Republican victory in the 2010 election could turn out to be a gift that keeps giving.

The GOP electoral sweep in 2010 was no accident. Republicans understand the importance of the state legislative races. After the 2008 election the GOP adopted a strategy called the REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP). As Karl Rove explained:

“[S]ome of the most important contests this fall will be way down the ballot in . . . state legislative races that will determine who redraws congressional district lines after this year’s census, a process that could determine which party controls upwards of 20 seats and whether many other seats will be competitive.”

What the IRS should be scrutinizing

President Barack Obama, making a statement at the White House, announced that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner had been ousted, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The tempest about the Tea Parties and the Internal Revenue Service is a gift for the Republican Party — and one that obscures the real issues.

Why, for example, has the IRS been so indulgent of far bigger, flagrantly partisan tax-exempt groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity?  Such groups spent hundreds of millions of tax-exempt dollars to influence the last two elections, in clear violation of IRS rules.

Will the Bush team kill Perry’s campaign?

By Joshua Spivak
The opinions expressed are his own.

Rick Perry’s quick ascent to the top tier of Republican Presidential candidates has been met with the expected sniping from other Republicans. What has been unexpected, though, is the source of the attacks against the Texas Governor. Criticism is not just coming from other candidates or interest groups, but, from former members of President George W. Bush’s team. In fact, they are the ones leading the charge against Perry. And, if history is any judge, this could be a real cause for concern for Perry’s election prospect.

Recently, Bush’s biggest supporters, including campaign strategist Karl Rove, have not been afraid to take swings at Perry. The anti-Perry movement actually began in 2010, when Bush supporters, including George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State and the leader of W.’s 2000 legal team James Baker, all lined-up behind Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson in her failed campaign to topple Perry from the governor’s mansion. Perry’s triumph in 2010 led the Bush team to tamp down their criticism, but it is starting up again. Lately, Rove has called Perry “unpresidential.”

George W. Bush has shied away from the attacks so far, but there is an unmistakable sense that he is strongly opposed to Perry. What makes this all the more surprising is that Perry arguably owes his political success to Bush. Perry was Bush’s elected Lieutenant Governor during Bush’s second term as Governor of Texas, and Perry stepped up to the Governor’s mansion thanks to Bush’s 2000 election.

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