A post-election Tweet fired off on Nov. 3 made Twitter's list of the 10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010.
@foster208—aka John Foster outside the Twitterverse—who served as Rep. Walt Minnick's campaign manager, sent his congratulations to Minnick opponent Raul Labrador via Twitter in less than 140 characters:
Congratulations to Raul Labrador on a hard-earned win, and best of luck as Idaho's next Congressman.
Two days later @foster208 announced he was going off-grid and didn't return until yesterday after the top 10 list went public.
The company @foster208's Tweet keeps on that list is pretty impressive. So much so, in fact, it's a wonder the concession Tweet even made the top 10. No. 6 was a Tweet announcing Prince William's engagement. No. 3 was a call for help from an injured triathlete whose Tweet saved her life. No. 2 was from the White House welcoming Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to Twitter. And perhaps most curious of all: @foster208 bested @ConanOBrien, who placed 10th. #YepthatConanO'Brien.
One of the key issues at stake in the first two years of Obama's presidency is regulation of what the government calls "open Internet principles," commonly referred to as network neutrality. AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have stirred up controversy by blocking political information or competing services over their networks, as I mentioned in my broadband stimulus article this week. So the Federal Communications Commission wants to make clear rules that prohibit Internet Service Providers from discriminating based on the content Americans choose to send and receive.
Back in October, Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick and 71 other Democrats sent a letter to Obama's new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowksi, opposing net neutrality rules. The letter read, in part:
"As the FCC embarks on its much anticipated rulemaking addressing the subject of net neutrality, we therefore urge the Commission to carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment ... We remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve."
Public interest advocates jumped all over the letter-writers, and some critics even began calling them "Blue Bell" Democrats, suggesting they are beholden to the telecommunications giants descendant from Ma Bell.
“In parroting the misinformation put forward by the big telecom companies, The Blue Bell Caucus only condemns their constituents to inferior service and limited opportunities to succeed in an Internet-based economy,” wrote Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn.
After joining Idaho Republicans in opposing the Recovery Act, it was a pleasant surprise to hear so many Idaho broadband stimulus applicants champion the efforts of Minnick's office, particularly of staffer Marie Hattaway, in keeping them informed and even helping them apply. (See Mapping Out the Jedi Mind Trick for more on Idaho applicants.)
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis was one of the other 71 Dems, but he quickly posted to Daily Kos that nothing in the letter was against net neutrality. BW sent a follow-up email to John Foster, Minnick's senior adviser, asking for clarification on Minnick's net neutrality position and the impact of telecom lobbyists in DC. Here is what Foster had to say:
"Walt signed on for some specific reasons, foremost among them a desire to make sure that we don’t inadvertently limit the ability of small, regional telecoms (and in some cases, we’re talking service to just a couple hundred people) from expanding what they do to include broadband internet service.
Walt of course believes in a free and open Internet. But as the letter makes clear, you have to keep all segments of private enterprise in mind as you consider net neutrality — not just the Verizons and other Baby Bells, but also the guy in Grangeville or Kooskia who wants to be able to manage the flow of bandwidth for the satellite services he’s thinking of setting up. I think that’s part of what Polis was trying to say.
And as to the lobbyists, I’m not really sure. Lord knows we don’t see them in Idaho, where Walt spends most of his time. And his committee assignments mean he doesn’t see telecom folks that often. So I can’t really say."
Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick just released the following statement indicating he will vote against the House's Affordable Health Care for America Act:
“Over the last several months, I have met with thousands of constituents from all over Idaho’s First Congressional District. They are gravely concerned about the economy, about job security, and about the kinds of opportunities their children and grandchildren will have to make a better life.
“Like most of them, I believe that cutting down the cost of health care is one important step we can take in moving our economy forward. We need to reform the insurance industry by demanding accountability and increasing private-sector competition. We must reduce government spending on programs such as a Medicare, and look to Idaho for examples of ways to do just that. And we must reduce costs throughout the health-care system, so the long-term benefits of reform will truly help our economy to grow and our nation to prosper.
“Unfortunately, the new health-care bill in the House does not adequately meet those goals, so I will vote ‘no.’ However, I am encouraged by the work of the U.S. Senate, and am hopeful that the final bill I vote on will be one that all Idahoans can support.”
"I am pleased and humbled by the support Idahoans are showing for my independent, fiscally responsible voting record," Minnick said in a press release. "I'm just doing my best to keep my promises to them, and to represent their values and beliefs as I work in Congress."
The rare, bipartisan pairing drew a record crowd at the venerable public affairs forum—some 420 people. But, as with most of their votes, Minnick and Simpson agreed more than they disagreed.
Simpson said sometimes his wife does not like how he votes and Minnick said sometimes his wife likes Simpson better. Each talked over the other trying to be the first to deliver a verbatim rendition of the pharmaceutical industry talking points on health care reform and then both made emphatic statements that campaign contributions do not influence votes.
One interesting difference emerged when Minnick admitted to canceling several appointments at the University of Idaho recently because he was behind on his fund raising goals (U of I president Duane Nellis was sitting right up front at the Grove Hotel during the forum). Simpson then said he has only made one fund raising call in his entire federal career.
And then moderator Marty Peterson asked about earmarks and Minnick launched into an impassioned argument against them, asserting that earmarks shortchange the competitive process and deplete funds available for competitive grants.
Simpson said if Congress does not direct earmarks then the administration will; pork is partisan any way you cut it.
But they still agree on earmarks—agree to disagree, that is.
News Hour Health Correspondent Betty Ann Bowser followed Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick to the Caldwell Night Rodeo and around Nampa and Caldwell for a report that aired last night on health care reform views. Minnick reiterates his position on reform: “I want every American to have access to comprehensive, affordable health insurance and for those that can’t afford it, I want the government to make it possible financially for them to buy a policy as well.”
And many of the voters PBS speaks with echo that view, including one rodeo guy who rattles off a list of bones he's broken from both legs to his neck.
But one voter, Michael Hoffman, an Idaho film maker and major Minnick supporter took exception to Minnick's health care stance, especially after the film crew caught Minnick failing to recognize Hoffman at the rodeo.
“I think Walt is an intelligent man, I think he’s a good man, I ‘ve been surprised and disappointed by the way he’s been voting, I don’t understand it. And so given that, I’d have a hard time voting for him again,” Hoffman tells the camera.
This interview comes the same week Minnick made headlines for attending a Tea Party sponsored "town hall" meeting on health care reform. Minnick got kudos for facing the hostile audience and criticism for kissing their asses. Then he got it from the other end, just for being a Democrat.
One question: In every other state, congress people organized the town halls and the tea baggers crashed them. Why was Boise's organized by tea baggers and crashed by Minnick?
Extended interview with Minnick:
While Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch sent boastful letters to Idaho Tea Partiers this week, and Rep. Mike Simpson sent good tidings as well, Idaho Democrats had a a message for the throngs as well.
"Idahoans agree that we must take aggressive action to get our country out of the current recession. Americans are frustrated that eight years of irresponsible policies pursued by the Bush administration have left the economy in a shambles with record deficits, record unemployment and record home foreclosures...
The Idaho Senate delved into national labor politics this morning, passing a resolution opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The Act, which is just short a vote or three in the U.S. Senate, would make it easier for labor unions to organize workplaces by eliminating employer-controlled elections if a majority of workers sign on to the union at the outset.
The guy who has Karl Rove's old job—deputy chief of staff to the president—was in Boise last weekend as a guest of the Idaho Democratic Party ... and of his mother in Nampa.
While Jim Messina, 39, bragged of being a "private schemer" (as opposed to a public speaker), he was more mama's boy than Bush's brain.
"How am I doing, Mom?" Messina asked in the middle of his speech at the Democrats' annual Frank Church Banquet. (Mom was gushing.)
From BW correspondent Scott Weaver:
U.S. Representative Walt Minnick's office confirmed today that Minnick's chief of staff Isaac Squyres has left the position a little more than a month after Idaho's newest congressman was sworn in.
"Isaac is a trusted friend and one of my closest advisors, and proved the right choice for overseeing my transition from candidate to Congressman," Minnick said. "I had hoped to keep him a little longer, but I support him fully and wish him well as he takes advantage of this new opportunity."
A press release from Minnick's office said that Squyres will return to the lobby firm Gallatin Public Affairs where he worked prior to joining Minnick's campaign. Minnick ousted Republican incumbent Bill Sali by a small margin in last November's election and immediately hired Squyres as his chief of staff. Squyres, a Boise native, worked on Minnick's unsuccessful U.S. Senate run against Larry Craig in 1996.
"It's been a tremendous experience being on the inside of setting up a congressional office, helping recruit a fine staff and getting Walt off to a great start," Squyres said in a press release. "It's been fun and a challenge, but over the last couple of months I've also had a chance to reflect on what I really enjoy and I came to understand that I really enjoy work as a strategist who helps find solutions to problems, which is precisely the work that I so enjoyed at Gallatin and why I'm delighted, with a whole bunch of new experiences under my belt, to go back to a job I love. Walt is going to do a fine job representing Idaho and I thank him for the opportunity to help him get launched on that very important work."
Kate Haas, who is based in Minnick's Washington D.C. office, will serve as acting chief of staff, according to Minnick's office. John Foster, Minnick's senior advisor and communications director, will serve as acting district director.