Hypocrisy and Tea Party Candidates

December 8, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

ARE TEA PARTIERS, ESPECIALLY IN LOUISIANA,

SELLING OUT FOR CAMPAIGN MONEY?

It was just a few months ago when we listened to Tea Party candidates across the country declaring that they were going to Washington in order to shake up the political establishment.  No more “politics as usual” was the battle cry.  But in a matter of a few weeks, these new guys and gals on the block have rapidly embraced the Washington culture of big-money fundraisers. Special interests galore and numerous lobbying groups are falling all over themselves to host fundraisers for these progressive agents of change.  And the new so-called reformers are taking the bait and gathering up the big bucks for their campaign war chests. The more we hear about change in Washington, the more things stay the same.
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In my home state of Louisiana, newly elected congressman Jeff Landry was the Tea Party’s poster boy for opposing the Washington culture of bowing to special interests. On election night, he told his followers that it’s going to be a new day in Washington, and “we need to get our country back on the right track.”  Three weeks later, Landry was in the heart of Washington at the posh Capitol Hill Club on the hunt for Washington campaign dollars.  He’s two months away from even being sworn into office, yet Landy is asking for money from K Street lobbyists and other Washington power brokers.Getting to visit with Landry doesn’t come cheap. 

 The high priced “meet and greet” with the new Louisiana 3rd District Congressman carried a price tag of $5,000 for the “PAC Gold Level; $2,400 for the individual Gold Level; $2,500 for the PAC Silver Level, and $1,000” just to get in the door.  All of a sudden, just weeks after getting elected, many new congressman like Landry found that Washington went from a “cesspool” when they were campaigning, to a “hot tube” once elected.

A guest on my weekly nationally syndicated radio show this week will be Gabriela Schneider, who tracks political fund raisers for the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group.  She observes that “the lobbyists are all saying, ‘Welcome to Washington — let me help pay off your debt.’  It’s particularly interesting when so many of this year’s freshman congressmen were running against Washington.  But as soon as they get elected, they come to Washington and put out their hand.”

Another guest on the program this Sunday will be Meredith McGehee, who serves as policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington.  She told me this week that debt-retirement events and other post-election fundraisers “are God’s gift to special interests,” that allows corporate PACs and lobbyists to curry favor with grateful congressmen.  And she says these early fundraisers for newly elected lawmakers are a way to get an inside relationship for some lobbyists who had ignored or even opposed the congressman-elect back during the campaign.“If you were on the wrong side or just AWOL during the election, this is your chance to make it up,” McGehee told me. “It’s a great way to get in good with members of Congress.”

The good news for Landry and other new Republican congressman is that, with the Republicans now in control of the U.S. House, the campaign money spickets have opened and are abundantly flowing. These new GOP Tea Partiers strongly oppose earmarks, unless the earmark is a campaign donation sent in their direction.  The bad news is that many states like Louisiana could well become the “wild, wild west” for political fundraising with candidates no longer in control of their own campaigns. 

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court declared that corporations and unions can now spend money on political advertising.  In the future, corporate boardrooms will soon become political cockpits for plotting the success or demise of candidates like Landry. Better tow the special interest line, or guess who just might come after you?It’s no secret that in the majority of elections there are two key elements in getting elected to a major political office.  The first is money. I’ve forgotten the second.  My home state of Louisiana is often the most expensive for campaign spending, per capita, in the nation.  Out of state corporate and special interest money regularly flood into the campaign coffers of Louisiana candidates. Current Governor Bobby Jindal has raised over $10 million for his re election campaign. The New Orleans Times Picayune reported this year that Jindal has more contributions from outside Louisiana than from within. One might wonder why almost 1000 California contributors are so interested in Louisiana issues.

How do Louisiana citizens benefit when large amounts of campaign cash flood into the state to influence Louisiana elections?  The same question could be asked about out of state dollars being sent in to any state. Isn’t there a built in conflict of interest as to where an official’s loyalties lie when large, out of state donations are accepted? 

 There is a simple and constitutional way to keep Louisiana elected officials focused on Louisiana issues. A candidate for public office should only raise campaign funds in the district from where he or she is running.  If a candidate is running statewide, he or she should raise all their financial resources within the state.  If a candidate is running parish or countywide, the limits should be within the home district.  Legislators would be limited to raising campaign dollars from within their respective districts.  Simple.  Keep fund raising local.  Make the candidates focus and be responsive solely to the voters in the boundaries that put them in office.To be sure, there would be loud protests from lobbyists who hand out the campaign dollars to gain their “special access.”  And incumbents, who can work the system from day one in office, would object at having to forgo all the many out of district fund raising opportunities.  The voters would be the beneficiaries. 

 But don’t count on any groundswell of change.  The recent Supreme Court decision was touted as a catalyst for major campaign changes.  But as long as out of state money floods into any state, it’s going to be the same old, same old in both Baton Rouge and Washington. Yes, the more we hear about change, the more it’s just the same old song and dance. 

                                                                                    *****

People used to complain that selling a campaign was like selling a bar of soap. But when you buy soap, at least you get the soap. In this campaign, you just get two guys telling you they really value cleanliness.”— David Brooks

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown 

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.  

time for a TOUCH-UP? Doctors report increase in elective cosmetic procedures including breast and Lasik surgeries and facial injections.(BUSINESS)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) October 18, 2010 Byline: DEE DePASS; STAFF WRITER Bryn Collins paid nearly $10,000 for a facelift and eyelid surgery 10 years ago. Now, at age 65, she could have another, but opted instead for “facial fillers” — those $1,500 injections that smooth eye wrinkles and marionette mouth lines for 18 months.

Though Collins’ psychology practice was still smarting from the recession, she found a way to finance the shots. She quit shopping, hoarded the change in her pockets, and set aside the first $20 of every ATM withdrawal until she’d saved enough.

“Psychologically, it’s healthy for us to feel good about how we look,” Collins said. “When I look in the mirror and see my grandmother’s lips and all, I say, ‘No!'” Collins’ willingness to part with hard-earned cash resonates with cosmetic clinicians who say demand for Botox, fillers, chemical peels, breast enlargements, nose jobs, Lasik eye surgeries and other out-of-pocket procedures are creeping back after a dismal three years in the elective surgery business.

“We have heard some recent rumblings that things are on the upswing,” said Brian Hugins, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Although hard numbers for 2010 are hard to come by, anecdotes and industry surveys suggest a mild comeback.

And economists are keeping a close eye.

“We saw one of the biggest pullbacks in consumer spending and confidence in 50 years,” said Wells Fargo senior economist Scott Anderson. “So the fact that this demand [for elective surgery] might be coming back is the first sign that the consumer is starting to come out of its deep freeze.” As printing, manufacturing and retail were smacked by the recession, so were medical procedures that patients elected to pay for on their own. Cosmetic surgeries plummeted 9 percent in 2008 and another 9 percent in 2009, according to the 6,000-member ASPS.

And more expensive procedures such as liposuctions, tummy tucks and breast augmentation surgeries dropped dramatically. Breast augmentations, for example, dropped 12 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2009. Liposuctions dropped 19 percent in 2008 and 2009. go to website deviated septum surgery

Practitioners blame layoffs, stock market declines, underwater mortgages and tightened home-equity and other loans for throttling the $10 billion industry.

But the siege may be easing. An ASPS survey this year found that 15 to 29 percent of respondents nationwide acknowledged wanting a beauty procedure that was not covered by insurance. Another ASPS survey of physicians found that minimally invasive procedures, such as the facial filler injections that Collins received, rose 6 percent this year after climbing just 1 percent in 2009.

Several Minnesota surgeons now report that more patients are pairing insurance-covered procedures, such as deviated septum surgery, with out-of pocket cosmetic work like rhinoplasty or liposuction. Others find patients forgoing vacations, new cars and clothes or working extra shifts to pay for the quick-fix surgery of their dreams.

The entire industry is coming back “a little bit by little bit,” said Dr. Joe Gryskiewicz (pronounced Gris-KA-vitz), who performs about 500 breast surgeries, tummy tucks, rhinoplasties and injections a year at the Minnesota Valley Surgery Center in Burnsville. “We are seeing more people go for the cheaper procedures. In the last two years, I would say business has tripled [for] lower-level entry procedures.” Finding a way To keep his revenues level throughout the recession, Gryskiewicz booked more shots and more patient consults. Before the recession, most of his clients qualified for surgery loans. Today five out of 10 discover just before the operation that they can’t get the loan because of poor credit or tighter lending guidelines, he said.

Still, some determined patients find a way to finance their procedures.

Lisa, a 32-year-old health care worker who asked that her last name not be used, has wanted to surgically enlarge her breasts for three years. “Breast feeding just sucked the life out of them. But once I was done having kids is when the recession started,” she said. “My husband is a Realtor, so that [meant there was no money for implants]. But now home sales are just starting to pick back up again and I just decided it was time.” Lisa doubled work shifts, brought in leftovers for lunch and quit shopping until she’d saved $5,500 to pay for her surgery. here deviated septum surgery

One friend, who persuaded her not to wait any longer, had her own breast surgery a few months ago. Another friend goes in soon.

On Oct. 6 it was Lisa’s turn. “I’m ready and excited,” said Lisa while lying on a gurney, draped in blue surgical gowns that matched her eyes.

Dr. Gryskiewicz and his team soon put her to sleep, cut a one-inch slit in each armpit and used a dissector to open a pocket beneath each breast. Gryskiewicz rolled up each implant like a cigar and fed them into the slits as nurses injected saline to inflate the orbs.

It took just 30 minutes, some adjusting and lots of antiseptic and novocaine rinses to transform Lisa from an A to a C cup. “That looks good. Real good,” Gryskiewicz said rechecking her symmetry from every angle. Fifteen minutes later, a groggy Lisa was smiling and responding to nurses, while the doctor stepped out of the operating room to prepare for his third breast surgery that day.

“Business is actually up a titch,” he said.

Pent-up demand At the University of Minnesota Medical Center, plastic surgery chief Dr. Bruce Cunningham said he’s seeing more cosmetic patients because the economy’s improving and people finally feel comfortable taking sick leave again.

“Early this summer suddenly we had a lot of people who came in. [They] were putting off health care that they thought was elective,” Cunningham said. “They noticed a lump in their breast but put off doing anything about it because they were working overtime, people were getting laid off and they felt insecure about their jobs. They just didn’t want to take the time off. But now we suddenly have a lot more breast” surgery patients opting for out-of-pocket breast surgeries as well as insured procedures such as lumpectomies, and post-cancer reconstruction.

Steve Parente, a health economics professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said he is not surprised that several types of cosmetic surgeries appear to be improving.

“There is probably a little bit of pent-up demand in the market for that type of element,” Parente said. “It’s not unlike a kitchen makeover. Once people have discretionary cash again, they may say, ‘It’s time to get tuned up.’ ” LCA Vision Inc., one of the largest Lasik eye surgery centers in the country, sees pockets of growth in Minnesota and signs of stability nationwide after two years of pure misery.

The company shut 17 of 78 LasikPlus Vision Centers as recession-weary workers stuck with eyeglasses in lieu of corrective laser surgery that can run $2,100 an eye.

“Procedures at all of our vision centers declined throughout this recession. But now we do see signs of stabilization,” said CFO Michael Celebrezze. “We are just not sure it has been long enough for us to call it permanent.” Dee DePass – 612-673-7725 COSMETIC SURGERY TRENDS Total cosmetic procedures in 2009: 12.5 million, down 1% 11 million minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, up 1% 1.5 million cosmetic surgical procedures, down 9% TOP SURGICAL PROCEDURES 2009 vs. 2008 Liposuction down 19% Nose reshaping down 8% Eyelid surgery down 8% Breast augmentation down 6% Tummy tuck down 5% TOP NONSURGICAL PROCEDURES 2009 vs. 2008 Chemical peel up 9% Microdermabrasion up 8% Facial filler injections up 7% Botox down 4% Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons


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