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Username: Jeff Versteeg
PersonId: 2703
Created: Wed Jan 02, 2008 at 11:27 AM CST
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Thoughts on the McMurrey-Noriega Debate

by: Jeff Versteeg

Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 04:55 PM CST

( - promoted by Phillip Martin)

Update: go here for audio of the debate!  Thanks to Mike Heidenreich at UT's Liberal Arts ITS.

First off, let me apologize to Trey for my earlier insinuations that the questions might be filtered.  The questions were fantastic ones for McMurrey, and I was very pleased to see that the candidates had a good deal of time to speak on the most important issues.

Burkablog has a decent rundown of the candidates positions, question by question, and I've posted a comment that adds some things to his list.  Burka called the debate for McMurrey, and I agree 100%.  McMurrey played to win, while Noriega played not to lose.

I agree with Phillip that both candidates did well last night, but for different reasons.  For McMurrey, this was his big chance to inform people about his progressive platform, which he did a fabulous job of.  He addressed the crowd directly, listed specific policies that he would support, and showed a broad knowledge of the various topics.  McMurrey was energetic, challenging Noriega on a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and on his commitment to national health care.  Noriega took a more cautious approach, avoiding direct engagement with McMurrey and declining to move beyond generalities about his policy positions.  This was smart strategy for the front-runner, just get through without any mistakes, and Noriega did just that.  Noriega was also fairly good at delivering jokes - both of his laugh lines about not hunting with Dick Cheney and wanting public funding of elections because John Cornyn has such a big lead in fundraising went over well.

Commenting on the health care question, there is a big difference between McMurrey and Noriega on this issue.  Noriega supports "guaranteed coverage," according to his website, and said last night that he would support Hillary's proposal to mandate that everyone go out and get coverage.  But Noriega still envisions a major role for private insurers, which will leave us with many of the same problems of the current system - playing the deductible/copay game, dealing with red tape, doctors having to deal with these companies, and most importantly, the insurance companies will still decide what get what gets covered and what doesn't, and will still be able to leave doctors off their lists on a whim.  This plan is similar to Cornyn's plan in all of the above ways.  It is a step in the right direction in terms of affordability, but it is not nearly enough.

On the other hand, the single-payer system that McMurrey is touting will allow everyone to be insured by the government.  This way, the people will have a say in the type of coverage they have, the system will be streamlined through one processing center, we will cut costs far more effectively by cutting bloated executive salaries and corporate profits out of the system, and best of all, we won't have to deal with the insurance companies.  When we need care, we'll simply go get it, secure in the knowledge that the national health care system will provide that care.  There is a huge difference between Noriega's corporate-centric plan and McMurrey's people/government-centric plan, and McMurrey is right to draw the distinction here, and to point out the similarities between Noriega and Cornyn on this issue.

Another big difference between the two candidates was on Iraq - McMurrey took the lead on this issue, not simply saying it's time for us to leave now, but that he has gone on record opposing the war at the time we invaded Iraq.  He called the occupation illegal and immoral, and set a clear timetable for withdrawal - 15 months.  Noriega agreed that it was time to go, but did not talk about his feelings on the war when it began, and would not commit to a timetable, despite being asked twice by a moderator.  He seemed more interested in talking about his military experience, frankly.

Noriega came out in favor of publicly funded elections, which was a surprise, having never heard him make a public statement in favor of clean elections.  He listed off a bunch of campaign finance bills that he's supported without going into any details, but I wonder if any of those were related to public financing of campaigns, which is different from campaign finance writ large.  Can anyone give me a bill number and session number on a bill in the Texas lege over the last few years that has called for public financing of elections?  At any rate, money still runs politics in Texas, so if Noriega has acted on this issue, we don't have any results.  I'm glad he's for it, though, and I hope he'll make it a major issue.  Maybe McMurrey has pulled him to the left on this one, since this has always been one of Ray's top issues.

I liked that the mods worked the Hutto debacle into the question about immigration - that was a national shame, and a lot of people still don't know about it.  If you're one of those, read here.

I do want to thank KAB and UDems for finding the room and the moderators, setting up all the sound stuff, and emceeing.  This was a sizable undertaking, and I appreciate their efforts.  One question I have for the hosts - why were the audience questions cut out at the end?  They are an important part of any debate, and were promised in the debate format agreement, yet were dropped without explanation.

Discuss :: (14 Comments)

Has Rick Noriega Given Away Bob Perry's Campaign Contributions?

by: Jeff Versteeg

Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:46 PM CST

On Friday, January 18th, in two posted comments on the Burnt Orange Report, Karl-Thomas Musselman, the publisher of BOR and a paid member of Rick Noriega's campaign staff, claimed (third comment down) that campaign contributions given to Rick Noriega by Bob Perry had subsequently been given away to charity.  In response to a comment by Hugh Stearns, who noted that he had been criticized for commenting that Rick Noriega should not have taken money from Bob Perry, Mr. Musselman replied that Noriega had "donated that money away," and that the donations were "visible on his TEC report."  

In a subsequent comment, Mr. Musselman linked to Rick Noriega's most recent Texas Ethics Commission report on campaign spending, highlighting two specific donations:  a $3,000 donation to the Deployed Soldiers Family Foundation, and a $5,000 donation to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  Both donations were made on December 24th, 2007.  According to Mr. Musselman's earlier comment, the two donations were made in order to "donate[] ... away" the money given to the campaign by Bob Perry.

As far as I know, the Noriega campaign did not issue a press release regarding these donations, and no one associated with the campaign has spoken publicly about them, until now.  The claim that Bob Perry's money has been given away does bring to mind a number of questions, some of which I put up under the original post:

1) Did Rick Noriega in fact make those two donations because he wanted to give away the money that Bob Perry gave him, as Mr. Musselman claims?  Or would he have made the donations anyway?

If Noriega did in fact make those two donations because he doesn't want Bob Perry's money anymore, that raises other questions:

2) Does Noriega now think he was wrong to take money from Bob Perry, or  

3) Does Noriega think it was okay to take the money, but now wants to distance himself from Bob Perry politically?

4) In whose name was the money given to these charities, Rick Noriega's, or Bob Perry's?

5) If the money was given in Noriega's name, do the charities involved know that the money was really Bob Perry's?  This could be a big deal for charities affiliated with the military - it's entirely possible that they wouldn't want to take money from someone who spent millions of dollars trying to tarnish the service record of a decorated combat veteran.

6) Why did the Noriega campaign not issue a press release regarding the donation of Bob Perry's money, when it would clearly be of interest to the voting public?  Why is the Noriega campaign instead using unofficial channels (e.g. this blog) to get the word out about these donations, rather than going through the press (or its own website)?

7) Rick Noriega has received $9,500 dollars from Bob Perry over the years, but the two donations listed above total only $8,000.  If Noriega is giving away Perry's money, why not give it all away?  Or is he simply giving away the $7,000 that he received in 2006 alone?

8) Melissa Noriega received $20,000 in donations from Bob Perry, his wife, his son, and his son's wife in her recent successful campaign for Houston City Council.  Even if Rick Noriega has given Bob Perry's money away, what effect will these donations to his wife's campaign have on Noriega the senatorial candidate?  Does Melissa Noriega plan to donate away all monies that she has received from Bob Perry and kin as well?

9) Is it ethical for the Noriega campaign to be donating this money to charity, and reaping the goodwill that goes along with such a seemingly magnanimous gesture, while at the same time scoring political points by having one of its paid staff members claim that the campaign has dispensed with Bob Perry's money?

Discuss :: (11 Comments)

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