Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Congressman Dertinger? Behind in the $ Battle But Way Ahead in Communicating With Ordinary People

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingA few weeks ago, I blogged the fundraising disparity in the Lehigh Valley's U.S. Congressional race. Incumbent Charlie Dent has a 100 to 1 advantage over Democratic rival Charles Dertinger. Dent's $840,000 warchest includes $60,000 in Big Oil money ($51,500 in 2004 and $8,600 in 2006). Notwithstanding this huge lead in campaign bucks, Dent still used taxpayer money to send an "informational" mailer in the last weeks to a targeted audience with the "facts" about those nasty illegal immigrants, the very issue Republicans have identified as their key to congressional control.

Now I've tried contacting Congressman Dent. He is, after all, my Congressman. I wanted him to pledge to refuse money from Big Oil. Dent not only continued collecting, but actually voted to block a Congressional inquiry into price-gouging, something we see every time we fill up. While Dent was using our money to send mailers to people who didn't ask for them, he ignored several emails from me, a constituent, as well as another commenter to this blog.

One of the anonymous commenters to this blog, exasperated by our all too traditional candidates, wrote an open letter to Charles Dertinger as a comment. Here's the letter.


I admire your courage in stepping up when no other Democrat had the balls to challenge Dent. From what little I know about you, you might just have what it takes to be a very good Congressman.

But lets face it. There is no way you are going to get anywhere close to Dent in money. And the Morning Call, whose first torpedo against you kind of misfired, has plenty more ammunition which will be headed your way. So, "politics as usual" for you has but one inevitable outcome -- and it doesn't get you to DC except as a tourist.

So why not try an experiment? After all, what have you got to lose? Why not forget about trying to say the right things to get money rolling in, and simply say what you think. Why not speak to the Americans in the 15th District as one of them. Educate them, and learn from them. But in the end, come down with your own informed ideas, opinions, and policy proposals, and not those of your "handlers".

For example, if you think that the medical insurance system in this country is an embarrassment, say so. If you think that the ban-the-gays amendment is a distraction from much more important issues, say so. If you think that the War has diverted our resources and greatly weakened our fight against terrorism, say so. If you think that our knee-jerk support of Israeli military actions is not in our national interest, say so.

My list may not be your list, but get a list based on what you really believe. And then communicate forcefully and respectfully to your fellow Americans. We will know where you stand, and I think people will respect that.

If you do this and lose by 40 points, it will be the same result as losing by only 20. And, if you can win without very much money, think of the message that that would send to our political system. It would give people hope that the very real problems we face can be dealt with.

You have your moment on the stage. Make the most of it, win or lose. That will offer the best chance that you, and we, will win. Best of good fortune to you.
I expected that to be the end of it, especially since I've been pretty tough on Dertinger. He has no reason to contact me. After all, I'm pals with his nemesis, Ron Angle. But that's exactly what Dertinger did, and he has an answer for the anonymous commenter.

Dear Anonymous,

First of all, thank you for the open letter. I appreciate your passion for Lehigh Valley politics as well as your thoughts on running a strong campaign to represent the 15th Congressional District.

In short, you're absolutely right: This is my time to show you, Bernie and all the voters of this district that, if elected, I would in fact stand against "politics as usual."

You challenged me to run a campaign where I speak my mind. If you look at my positions on the issues, you'll find that this is exactly the kind of campaign I've run. I don't have a large team of political strategists crafting safe stances on the pivotal issues facing our country. I take clear positions that come from my core beliefs and values, not from what I think will attract donations.

So, for instance, when I recently pledged to refuse Big Oil money, it was because I believe this industry has harmed working people and our environment. It was not merely a position that grew out of some political calculation or convenience.

Further, I've stated my opposition to spending public dollars on private schools, my support for the right of working Americans to earn a living wage, and my willingness to fight for lower prices on pharmaceuticals for seniors. I think you'll agree that these can hardly be called positions that pander to the big-cash donors.

As you say, I may not be able to catch Charlie Dent in the fundraising department. But I believe that as Lehigh Valley residents start to tune in to this race in the coming weeks, they'll respond to my willingness to fight for working families and to my vision for bringing positive, tangible changes to our district.

Again, thanks for your very thoughtful and constructive letter. I hope you'll stay engaged in this important Congressional race, and I invite you to share your further thoughts with me at

Dertinger is behind in the battle for the bucks, but he's certainly winning the communication battle, and he's not using taxpayer money to send unsolicited mailers about bogus issues.

While Dent was brushing off my emails, Dertinger has not only communicated with real live constituents, but has pledged to take no money from Big Oil. He also appeared at a rally in south side Bethlehem to promote oil independence. That's the first time I've ever seen a Congressional candidate from the Lehigh Valley at a grass roots demonstration.

Despite his inability to bring in the big bucks that always seem to go the way of incumbents, Dertinger's willingness to engage ordinary voters like you and me is both refreshing and impressive. He seems to be impressing the hell out of Charlie Dent. In addition to the "informational mailer" at taxpayer expense, Charlie's also been waging a phone campaign the past few weeks.

All this before Labor Day? Rendell and Casey are way ahead in the polls, and that won't help Dent. We just may have a contest.


Anonymous said...

1) Sir Charles Dertinger is an arrogant, pompous imbecile.

2) Sir Charles has no money and no professional help from the DCCC because he has no chance of beating Charlie "I look like JFK" Dent.

3) "I look like JFK" Dent will not take anything for granted this cycle, given Bush's low approvals, Swann's Hall of Fame Inept Campaign and Santorum's "Hitler negatives."

4) Politics 101 = you can't beat somebody with a nobody.

5) For as much as Valley Democrats want to register their extreme displeasure with Bush's litany of failures, they are NOT stupid and will not vote for an idiot like Sir Charles over JFK Dent.

Mad batter said...

I recently read a comment on one of the other blogs that said anytime someone starts a discussion with an attack, you know their argument is worthless. In this political climate, I think anything is possible. Mr Dertinger is standing up and taking his pounding from the morally bankrupt right wing, and I salute him for it.

Anonymous said...

Dertinger might as well pledge not to take any money from Big Democrats either, since he's not going to get any.

But here's a little something, something.

It's easy to do research on this stuff because the FEC actually has a good website.

According to FEC reports Charlie Dent took $1000 from the American Gas Association. They represent natural gas producers and pipeline companies.

The American Gas Association gave $5000 just in June this year to the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee and then gave another $5000 to the Democrat National Committee.

Dertinger should make a pledge not to accept any money from the tainted Democrat Party.

Oh, they also gave $1000 to uber-liberal Democrat Congressmen David Obey and John "Impeach Bush" Dingell.

So, I guess Charles Dertinger won't be taking any money from those two.

Hmm, Buckeye Pipeline is a part of the AGA. Don't they have a pretty big presence in the Lehigh County portion of the 15th District?

Hey, this is fun. More "tainted" Big Oil Democrats to come.

As Yogi Berra said, "You can look it up!"

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dear Anon., Where have I read these remarks before? Let me respond, point by point:

1) Like you, I think personality is important. I'll vote for a conservative if I like him. I admit it. And Dertinger didn't make a good first or second impression with me. But he's impressed me a lot since June. He's answered emails from a person who's called him a carpetbagger, criticized his blog, noted his heavy reliance on union money, and challenged almost everything he's done on Council. His appearance at an oil independence rally astonished me, especially since those sorts of things usually don't attract much media attention unless someone gets arrested. And when he spoke with me one on one, he was not arrogant or pompous at all. And he's no imbecile. If you make that assumption, you do so at your peril.

I have to warn you I also like guys like Billy Givens and Ron Angle. I'm very twisted.

2) The DCCC really dropped the ball here. The 15th Congrssional District is vulnerable this time around, but they did nothing. These are the same rocket scientists that have delivererd the 15th District to the Rs on a silver platter for far too many years. First, we had Ritter, then Toomey, and now Dent. And this is not exactly R country. Does it really surprise you they've done nothing for Dertinger? I'm surprised they haven't written a check for the Dent campaigns.

3) Dent is smart and a formidable candidate, but he's making mistakes. First, his support for the misadventure in Iraq is an obscenity. Second, his unwavering support of Big Oil will disgust voters, especially when they know he's taking money from them. Third, he's LOUSY at communicating with local voters. That will hurt him more than anything, especially in the LV.

4) Politics 101 - If you can't beat somebody with nobody, how do you explain John Stoffa? How do you explain all the incumbents in Pa who recently lost their seats? It takes a lot, but voters do get mad at times. Ask Nix.

5) I think the safe money is on Dent right now, but that's why we have horse races, jury trials and elections. We have a few months to go and it should be fun.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anon 9:51 AM, First, I agree the FEC has a pretty good site, but I like for a nice picture of specific industries.

As far as the gas industry contributions to the DNC and DCCC are concerned, you are absolutely right. It disgusts me, and is just more proof that the people on top have lost touch with their grass roots. I'm sure you see the same thing with Rs, where a R controlled nation has produced the biggest deficits in history.

And although the game is young, neither the DCCC nor the DNC has been knocking on Dertinger's door. They haven't given him a dime. "You can look it up."

Having said that, I don't usually decide to vote for or against a candidate based on a single issue.

It's a factor. And I do question the sincerity of Ds or Rs who take money from Big Oil because we have a serious problem that has been ignored for far too long.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

The point is not whether they have given a dime yet. The point is that if they would offer him a dime he would have to refuse it because of the pledge he made to you.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! Democrat Whip Steny Hoyer took $2500 from DTE Energy PAC in April of this year.

But Steny is the guy who was standing there at a press conference decrying the "record profits" of oil companies.

Well maybe, he doesn't count Natural Gas producers and pipeline companies as "Big Oil" companies.

But if you give Ol' Steny the benefit of the doubt -- wouldn't you have to do the same for Charlie Dent?

Anonymous said...

Now I definitely can't vote for Charlie.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Union made a $4000 contribution to his campaign!

That's not very George Bush like of Charlie, getting a major labor unions support.

But I'm sure Charles Dertinger is right and Charlie's just a rubber stamp.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anon 11:34 AM & 11:49 AM, Thanks to both of you for your posts. You both make good points. A lot of Dems are guilty of the very thing for which they criticize the Rs. It disgusts me that special interests play such a heavy role in the electoral process, no matter who's getting th dough.

But here's my real point - Dertiger at least had the courtesy to respond to my request concerning a pledge and even supplied an answer to an anonymous commenter. At the same time, Dent ignored my emails but sent thousands of mailers at your expense to people who didn't ask for them. What a guy!

Now you can say this or that Dem does it, but my point is they're ALL wrong. People are tired of this. And this is "politics as usual."

Thanks for your posts and your strident defense of Charlie.

FtHillDem said...

I think that there is a big difference between directly taking a contribution from oil companies, and taking one from an organization like the DCCC which may get a minor portion of its funds from energy companies. There's no getting around the fact that Dertinger will not accept these contributions and Dent will.

But, I still keep on wondering about why all this money is necessary anyway. It seems to me that people in a democracy should be well enough informed to make their decisions without massive and deceptive advertising campaigns. Why aren't they?

Actually, I would like to think that blogs like yours are a step in the right direction. I think that in many ways, you do a better job than the local newspapers in informing public about important issues. You would think that who represents the people of the 15th District in Washington is a pretty big deal, but the Morning Call hasn't had a single article about this since the primary.

Anyway, I really appreciate that you are one of the few people who appreciates the significance of the energy issue. More important for Dertinger than his pledge not to accept oil money are what energy policies he would advocate. I hope he has good ones, because time is real short on this.

The Republicans actually had an energy policy. It was: "steal Iraq's oil", and this would have let us continue our energy profligate lifestyle for another decade or so. Besides being immoral, it doesn't appear to have worked. Now its time to come up with real solutions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

FtnHillDem: Thanks for the very nice words. To be honest, blogs don't come close to newspapers, but they're a useful complement. November's a long way off, and I'm sure we'll be getting plenty of perspectives from the local papers.

I think the best way to eliminate the influence of money, aside from clean election laws, is to have shorter campaign periods.

FtHillDem said...

You are too modest, Bernie. I vaguely remember a quote to the effect that anyone who wants true freedom of speech should buy and own his own printing press. That is in effect what you have been able to do through the medium of your blog.

There is a good link which supports one of my earlier comments. It was written by Kevin Phillips in the American Conservative magazine.

Bernie O'Hare said...

FtHillDem, Thanks for the link. I just checked it out. Syriana? Once again, you provide a link that needs a separate post, especially now that we are running out of fuel. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

politics watchers would do well to read Walter Karp's "Indispensable Enemies" to find out why the local Democratic Party High Rollers think a first-term no-name (Dent) is unbeatable (ergo, run another no-name, no money candidate against him to sell out the district).

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll check it out tonight and thank you for your comment.

Consigliere said...

i want a clear statement on the war on terrorism before i vote for any more demos.

years ago the demo party moved left and i with it. suprisingly it was the neocons who moved right and who won the cold war. i won't make that mistake again.

i hope voters don't let "nutroots" people sway them from war on terror.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fair enough. But unlike you, I'm tired of looking for the bogeyman every night when I go to bed. Rs played that issue nicely last time around, and now it's illegal immigrants.

But I don't doubt your sincerity.

Anonymous said...

I don't know very much about Mr. Dertinger but I have had absolutely enough with anything or anyone remotely connected to the Republicans. Am I better off than I was 2-4 years ago? Hell no! My property taxes and healthcare costs are at an all time high. The war in Iraq was a lie. If I had a son or daughter and this country still had the draft, there is no way I brought this life into the world to go over to some foreign country and possibly be killed for some jerks who continuously thumb their noses at us, even when we help them. Let them blow each other off the face of the earth. I'm sick of people getting entrenched in politics and making a career of it. There should be term limits, that way I know you know that you only have a certain amount of time to get something accomplished. Right now getting something accomplished is at the pace of molasses on a glacier. One more thing, when a vote comes up on a bill, vote on the merits of the bill, not who sponsored it. This constant bickering among both parties is sickening. Too bad there aren't more Jesse Venturas on the horizon. Does it sound like I am a cynical voter? You bet I am. I don't trust 90% of the people in politics and I don't know who the other 10% are that I should.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon7:30, Thanks for your very interesting comment. I think there's a lot of people who share your attitude. Join the clib!

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