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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some Riddles For Congressman Charlie Dent

Unless he starts listening to his campaign advisers, I'll be meeting Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent this morning at 10:00 AM. Below you'll see the questions I've prepared, organized into different topics. Most of them come from you. Most of you seem very concerned about our energy policy. They're tough questions, but they're also a lot more intelligent and diverse than I could come up with on my own. I thank everyone who contributed.

I'll get as many answers as time permits.

Energy Update Congressional Mailer

1) Over the weekend, your constituents began receiving your six page "energy update." The Bennett camp has complained that it is funded by taxpayer money. “With the $75,000 Congressman Dent’s received from Big Oil, you’d sure think he could afford to pay for a mailing out of his campaign funds. Instead, he’s leaving Lehigh Valley taxpayers footing the bill.” How do you answer this accusation?

Personal Background

2) Ms. Bennett's campaign talks a lot about needing change and facing big changes in the future. Bennett likes to call you a "career politician" while she is a "change agent who's been doin' it for years here in the 15th." She even claims she goes to church more often than you. Your detractors call you an "empty suit." Do you think Bennett is really a "change agent"?

3) How has your time in office qualified you to represent us again? How have you made yourself an effective and experienced Congressman, one who can make a difference for his constituents?

4) In her interview with me, Bennett made this charge: "Charlie Dent has suddenly become wealthy since he became a Congressman. How has that happened? Who is he representing here?" The implication here, of course, is that you're enriching yourself in Congress. Is this true?

5) You have free, lifetime Pa. health care afforded to former state legislators instead of federal health care. You don't work for the state any more. Bennett said this "deeply bothers" her. "The only health insurance he's taking care of is his own." She calls it "double dipping." She pledged she won't take any health insurance from Congress until every American has access to the same thing. Your reaction?

6) You have deferred your state pension payments (between 50k-100k for 2005 and the same in 2006) from when you were in the state house and senate (opensecrets.org). You deferred another 50k-100k from the state (opensecrets.org). What is this from? Do you plan to receive back payments from those deferrals after you are done in congress? And what is a PA Tap account? Sounds like you're sitting on a huge taxpayer pay day the day you retire. To be fair, it appears that Alyson Schwartz and Tim Murphy are doing the same thing. Why won't you lead by example and put an end to this kind of abuse?

7) Air Products' workers are major contributors. Air Products gets great treatment when it comes to earmarks. Is this a quid pro quo? Why not simply refuse to take money from anybody affiliated with organizations that get money from the pork barrel?

8) Can you explain dividend payouts from Air Products in 2004, 2005 and 2006?

Debate Ducker?

9) Bennett's camp is claiming you won't debate energy policy. “Congressman Dent is so deep in the pocket of Big Oil companies and special interest groups he’s refusing to publicly defend his record and have an open debate about the issue,” said Kathryn Seck, Sam Bennett’s campaign manager. “He should explain why he’s taken $75,000 from Big Oil and given them billions in tax breaks while middle class Pennsylvanians are struggling to afford high gas prices. Voters deserve an open dialogue on the issues and Congressman Dent is ducking the issue.” Last week, on a local talk radio show, she actually conducted a mock debate with "Chicken Charlie the Dented." I think Joe Long was moderator.

So are you afraid of Sam? Do you know why she wasn't in Parkland for that debate? Were you supposed to pick her up?

Iraq & Foreign Policy

10) How do you see America responsibly handling the War in Iraq and America's growing debt at the same time? What condition are we going to leave the country in for our children? (See this NYT article for basis of question.)

11) You have voted against the Bush Administration on some issues in the past. But you have not voted once for timelines, funding cuts, or any other change of direction on the Iraq War. You have voted the White House position on each vote since his 2004 election in regards to Iraq. You now support John McCain for President, who has done the same. Seventy per cent of America wants the war to begin drawing to a close. Even Iraq has agreed that we should begin to wind down our presence. In light of this, how do you plan to assert your independence from Bush and McCain on this issue? How do you plan to begin to drawing down the war, without a precipitous and dangerous withdrawal? Do you agree with the 16-24 month timeline being discussed now?

12) Do you now support the "time horizons" proposed by Bush and McCain?

13) What's your take on the situation between Russia and Georgia?

Homeland Security

14) As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, how do you explain our total lack of progress in securing our ports and industrial and energy infrastructure as well as countless other points of vulnerability?

15) Can you explain your vote to grant telecoms retroactive immunity regarding warrant-less wiretapping collusion?


16) In your G.R.O.W. energy plan, the "R" is to "Research new technologies...that will spur the development of alternative and renewable energy resources like wind, solar, geothermal..." Exactly how do you expect to implement your own plan, when you:

- Voted against ending oil company subsidies in order to invest in renewable energy incentives;

- Voted to allow offshore oil and gas drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf in places like New Jersey’s coast; and

- Voted to reduce oil company payments to the federal government. I think our "energy security" will only become "secure" when we stop depending on and supporting big oil companies. Eliminate oil subsidies and use the money more wisely like investing in new technologies and giving credits to taxpayers who want to purchase such technology (thereby making it more affordable). I think someone who calls an approach to our energy dilemma a "G.R.O.W." plan needs to step up to big oil in congress. Exactly when do you plan on doing that?

17) Sometimes the Bennett camp claims you've taken $75,000 from Big Oil. Other times, it is $100,000? Can you explain what is really going on here?

18) Have you or do you plan to visit the ANWR, more specifically the area where exploration is proposed? signed, a democrat that voted for you.

19) Every government agency of relevance, and every non-industry run think tank has said that drilling off shore will not produce significant drops in gas prices. They also say it will take several years to produce anything usable anyway. In light of this, do you support any of the Democratic ideas, as well as drilling, to address our energy issues?

20) Would you support building a nuclear power plant in the 15th Congressional district?


21) What will you do to ensure that ANY qualified student can receive advanced education using INTEREST-FREE loans?

22) What do you believe needs to be done to improve our education system in Pennsylvania? Do you believe that NCLB needs to be re-organized to better serve our schools or erased all together? Please be specific.

23) Would you vote to eliminate the Department of Education?

Health Care

24) Healthcare is not just a problem for the uninsured. It is a problem for those workers with insurance. Companies make reimbursement forms obtuse, then refuse claims and set up cumbersome appeal processes. Even if you can get through to a human, they can't answer your question. My question, Would you agree to a no-fault health insurance law that states if you were accepted and paid at least a year of premiums, the company must cover the claims.? No saying you had heartburn 10 years ago and didn't mention it and it is a pre-existing condition for a bleeding ulcer. No fault health insurance; you get accepted, you pay premiums, they pay medical bills? Would you agree yes or no?

25) Also a no-cut policy. I pay premiums for years. I get sick and they pay. Then they drop me as too risky or jump my premium 500%. Will you sponsor legislation for no-cut policies and reasonable rate hikes?

26) A bad flu could wipe out a health savings account. What meaningful ideas do you have regarding the current state of healthcare in the country?

27) Your website states: "A government bureaucrat or politician should not be telling you what treatments, surgeries or prescription drugs you are allowed to have." Why do you think an insurance company clerk should have that right? Do you not believe that Medicare is working?

28) Why do you oppose allowing the federal government the right to negotiate pricing for the Medicare prescription drug program? Does this position not favor the pharmaceutical companies to the detriment of seniors?

Social Issues

29) You support a woman's right to choose. Why do you oppose the rights of a parent to transport a minor across state lines to circumvent local abortion law?

30) You support a Constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage. Why?

31) What is the basis for your opposition to online gambling? Do you support the casino project in PA?


32) Do you support the moratorium on Internet sales tax?

33) Do you support net neutrality, in which Internet usage is not throttled based on the amount of money an organization can pay?


34) Will you support elimination of the Bush tax cuts? If so, will you propose a soft landing for married couples who stand to lose $6K in take home pay, or low-earning singles who'll lose $1,500 to $2k?

35) How about the dividend exclusion that put $8 billion in retained earnings into the pockets of the investor class (i.e. 86% of us)?

Term Limits

36) Would you support term limits? Would you agree that if you serve your three terms in the House that is it for your political career at the federal level—no jumping to the Senate for another term or two? Would you write and introduce an amendment on term limits?


37) Would he vote to end earmarks?

Living Wage

38) Would you support a LIVING WAGE over a minimum wage considering the low wages America has had is a real problem in this energy crisis. (Living Wage would mean any worker over 18 years of age or parent of a child would make at least $11 a hour.)

Free Trade

39) Do you still support Globalization, and free trade now that Americans are struggling to find careers with this floundering economy?
Update: An anonymous commenter has objected to my posting these questions in advance, accusing me of giving Dent an unfair advantage. This is exactly what I did in Bennett's case. There's no attempt on my part to ambush either candidate. In both cases, the questions come mostly from you, the reader. In both cases, the candidates could see what was coming. Laying the questions out in advance, as I have done in both cases, is intended primarily for your benefit.


Anonymous said...

How was $11 arrived at as a living wage?

Bernie O'Hare said...

That comes from J Spike Rogan. Living wage depends on the are and the size of a family. PSU has an online living wage calculator.

In Easton, where Spike lives, the living wage is $11.67 for a family of 2. It's $7.89 for a family of one.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that nice that you telegraphed all your questions so Shawn can get all the answers ready for Charlie when you meet with him. While you are at it, ask Mr. Dent about his position on the minimum wage. If the living wage is $7.89 in Easton, does Mr. Dent support changing the minimum wage to allow people to eat?
The only good thing about your so called "interview" is that Mr. Dent isn't using his Franking privilege to pay for it.

This is no better than one of the Bush administration's "staged" information videos. I better go buy hip waders to read this sh*T.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:06,

The questions have been on this blog for days. I put them in order and loaded them in one post so readers would know what's coming. This is the same thing I did before I interviewed Sam Bennett. Before I met her, I posted each of the questions I was going to ask. I'm following the same procedure.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Bernie throws the "debate" softball for Charlie. Why are you calling a forum a debate? Because Charlie called it a debate? Was Sam Bennett supposed to debate with the State Rep candidates too?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:52,

It does not really matter what it is called. During a congressional or any other race, the times when candidates get to see each other face to face are few and far in between. They are always parts of larger gatherings involving several candidates. If Bennett expects some exclusive venue that just features congressional candidates, she'll be waiting a long time. If Bennett were really interested in contrasting her energy policy w/ Dent, she would have gone to Parkland. It would have been much more informative than a radio show moderated by Joe Long.

Anonymous said...

a PA TAP account is a state tax advantaged, 529 college savings fund that is available to everyone. You contribute to it, and have several options, including a guaranteed savings plan that locks in today's per credit rate for participating colleges. Most colleges and univerities in PA are part of the plan, and most states have similar plans and reciprocate with PA.

Bernie O'Hare said...

So it looks like that is no deep dark mystery.

Anonymous said...

Unless there is some other new super-secret kind of PA TAP that we are not privy to. Good luck with your interview.

Anonymous said...

It does not really matter what it is called.

No no no. You can't simply put a slash in and call it a "debate / candidate's forum" when it was not a debate. Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

Asking Dent any questions is silly
and fruitless.

Anonymous said...

Forget about any living wage figures. Everyone complains about gasoline. So what... wait till winter is here. In March 2007 I bought heating oil at $2.17 a gallon. In Feb. 2008 I bought it at $3.12 a gallon. Now the cheapest price I can find is $4.22 a gallon. All other home heating products are going to skyrocket as well, yet some misinformed people still do not want any offshore or land based drilling for oil and natural gas in the USA. We are no longer talking about the environment, we are now talking about someones quality of life.... big difference. Thank you Henry Schaadt

Anonymous said...

It's worth noting that Dent voted for gaming in Pennsylvania with a vote in favor of acts 71 and 72.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:22

You are wrong. Dent voted against gaming in Pennsylvania. I followed that vote closely and I know Dent called Act 71 the worst bill he'd ever seen.


Anonymous said...

Anon 12:22

You are wrong. Dent voted against gaming in Pennsylvania. I followed that vote closely and I know Dent called Act 71 the worst bill he'd ever seen.


Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Hare:

Your readers can check Congressman Dent's entire voting record themselves at Project Vote Smart or Govtrack, instead of listening to anonymous posters who don't offer any proof of their claims. Anything they find can be verified with the Library of Congress's data base of voting records.

Anonymous said...

The previous post was mine. Sorry about the typing mistake in the identity field.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dent discussed his views on the gambling bill and his votes. Dent did vote against it and considers it a horrible piece of legislation.