January 26, 2006

Liberal groups funding anti-DeLay ad won't disclose donors

Samantha Levin files this from the Chronicle's DC bureau:

The two liberal groups behind the TV ads that criticized some of Rep. Tom DeLay's political funding connections paid for the commercials in a way that avoids mandatory disclosure of their donors.

The groups, whose ads ran on Houston-area stations that reach DeLay's suburban district, also refused to voluntarily disclose the names to the Houston Chronicle.

The Public Campaign Action Fund and the Campaign for America's Future said they used the nonprofit arms of their organizations to buy about $80,000 worth of broadcast time. Such organizations, unlike national political action committees and other campaign groups, do not have to list their contributors for the federal government.


Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, said the group "discloses exactly what is required."

Its tax returns show how much was received in contributions, but not donor names or what they gave.

The groups denied the Chronicle's request for a list of top contributors.

According to tax records, the Campaign for America's Future got more than $1 million in donations during 2004 and gave $50,000 to the liberal group People for the American Way.

The Public Campaign Action Fund has taken more than $1 million since 2000. For 2004, the latest figures available, the group reported spending about 80 percent of its $155,000 in revenues to "promote non-partisan reform in the funding processes for political elections."


DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said that the law might allow the groups to shield the names of those who funded the ads,"but they can't hide their liberal ties to George Soros and the AFL-CIO, and their agenda of electing Nancy Pelosi Democrats to Congress."

California Rep. Pelosi leads Democrats in the House. Soros contributed millions to an effort to defeat President Bush in the 2004 elections.

The liberal groups' 30-second ads in Houston, which aired through Wednesday, called for the resignation of DeLay, R-Sugar Land. They cite contributions to him from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a golf trip DeLay took with Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is cooperating with a federal investigation of influence peddling.


The original version was slated to begin airing Jan. 11 on KTRK (Channel 13), KRIV (Channel 26), KHOU (Channel 11) and KPRC (Channel 2). The stations balked after DeLay's campaign lawyers complained that the ad was false and warned that the stations could face legal action if they aired it.

The groups revised the ad last week with more detailed information about donations to DeLay and more complete excerpts from cited newspaper stories. All but KTRK aired the spot.
There will be many more spots like these.

George Will on DeLay

George Will came down to Houston and files this column:

Out here, where the tendrils of Houston's growing exurbs reach for open ground, sits Rio Bend, a cluster of new houses and other facilities for parents having difficult times with troubled foster children -- difficulties like those Tom and Christine DeLay experienced with several teenagers they took into their home. Rio Bend was built by the DeLays, with help from friends, of sorts.

She, an acerbic realist from south Texas, says more houses are planned by their charitable organization, but: "I hated to lose the leadership position because it helps me to raise money for those kids." Note her agreeably guileless acknowledgment that some friends of Rio Bend may not have been seized by simple altruism. She shares her husband's credo -- power is useful and should be used -- and knows the moral ambiguities it can involve.


Earmarks? Although recently "they got out of hand," they are, he says, necessary and proper because it is best to have spending dictated by a politician who knows his district's needs: "We are an equal branch of government -- why should we let a bureaucrat decide?" He says that in a state such as Illinois, which is dominated by Democrats "who play hardball," earmarks are the only way even House Speaker Dennis Hastert can get highway money spent in his district.


Referring to his trial on campaign finance charges brought by a notoriously political Democratic prosecutor, DeLay says, with a confidence that might be misplaced but clearly is unfeigned, "I'll be acquitted by the end of April." Then he says he will secure a 12th term, winning "the most expensive congressional race ever ." The national Democratic Party and several liberal groups -- already running ads and phone banks -- spend, well, liberally.

Because undecided voters are thin here -- he estimates they are about 13 percent of the district -- this election will be about mobilizing the faithful. So the piling on by his critics -- their wretched excesses in response to what they perceive to be his -- may help him.
No question that the DeLay campaign wants a polarized partisan race, because if this race is about Republicans vs. Democrats, then DeLay wins.

One thing I snipped was Will's statement that redistricting "ma[de] [DeLay's] district more Democratic in order to make others less so." A more precise statement is here. The district only got a few points more Democratic.

January 25, 2006

Not much happening

And that's why I'm not posting.

January 23, 2006

A random walk down US 59*

Lone Star Times publishes an email from Dr. Murray.

Meanwhile, Dr. Murray's son Keir, who worked this past summer for the Nick Lampson campaign, defends the poll at Houtopia.

I'm in class right now, so I probably won't get a chance to comment until this afternoon or tonight.

UPDATE: Charles Kuffner posts on the poll as well, with some of his own research.

*US 59, of course, is the freeway that connects Sugar Land to Houston.

Chronicle reader rep ignores substantive criticisms

I didn't start blogging to do media criticism. In thirteen months of blogging at Perry vs World, I haven't criticized or cavilled. The only exception I can think of is when I offered an opinion that the state's reporters were not treating Kinky seriously enough, when it was becoming clear that he could be a credible candidate.

Nor did I start DeLay vs the World with any desire or expectation that I would have to criticize the media. However, the Chronicle clearly deserves it. They commissioned a poll that ended up being flawed. They did not recognize those flaws, and instead published the poll on the front page, including the most flawed results prominently in a graphic.

However, mistakes happen. What is truly sad is that that Chronicle will not admit mistake, instead choosing to stand behind the poll in its entirety, despite detailed entreaties from myself and others that they correct or clarifying their misleading reporting.

Chronicle reader rep James Campbell is given space in the Sunday op-ed section to defend the Chronicle's flawed survey (it's a survey, not a poll, but I often use the terms interchangably). Campbell's column delineates exactly how ignorant he is of the substantive criticism of the survey. Campbell clearly is not knowledgable about polling. Why he chose to offer his opinion on something on which he lacks knowledge, I will not speculate.

Let's go over the important substantive criticisms.

1. 28% of district voters voted straight ticket Republican in 2004. Those who study voting know that voting is a habit, and voting habits are very difficult to break. Thus, the Chronicle's reported poll result of 22% for DeLay would indicate that one in four straight ticket Republican voters won't vote straight ticket this election cycle, and that no one else would vote for DeLay. While I suppose that there are some scenarios that this could happen, they all involve DeLay being in jail.

In other words, this part of the poll doesn't reflect real-world realities. Good pollsters think long and hard about these issues before they put a poll into the field, because when a poll does not reflect real-world realities, then the poll is worthless.

2. They identified Steve Stockman as "a former Republican Congressman" in the general election question. This strongly overstates Stockman's general election support and undermines the accuracy of the results. Good pollsters think very carefully about how they label candidates, and a good poll would never label Stockman this way.

3. The reported primary figures are basically worthless when you combine the following two reasons:
a) the sample size makes the margin of error very large. Once you get past 5% margin of error, as this survey does, they are not accurate enough to be worthwhile.
b) 38% of registered voters in the Chronicle's survey claimed they were "certain" or "likely" to vote in the upcoming Republican primary. However, in 2004 only 0.65% actually voted. The huge, huge disparity between the two numbers means that it cannot be confidently said that the Chronicle's survey respondents represent the people who will actually vote in the Republican primary.

It is obvious that the people who the Chronicle claimed would vote in the Republican primary do not represent the people who actually vote in the Republican primary. According to the Chronicle's data, only 58% of the people who will vote in the Republican primary voted for Republican DeLay over Democrat Richard Morrison.

4. The survey undersamples Republicans. When you push include leaners in party totals, the partisan demographics are 36%D, 50%GOP, and 10% strict independent, in a district that is about 62-63% Republican. That's a pretty big discrepancy that is not easily explained.

Campbell utterly fails to address any of these points. Instead he offers this:
We invite readers to review the poll online. The dispassionate will agree that no matter how the numbers are analyzed, the emerging picture will show eroded support for DeLay in the district.

Moreover, the charge that the poll's methodology was flawed is inaccurate. Neither the Chronicle nor the pollsters deliberately distorted poll results. The poll did not use the entire sample, including Democrats, to measure DeLay's support in the GOP primary.

"The only data reported in the paper was from people in Distict 22 who said they were certain and likely to vote in the Republican primary," Murray said. "If you have a sample with 560 people total, that's usually when you report that the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent. But if you look at a subgroup, like certain or likely Republican primary voters, that's just 213 people. Well, the margin of error is larger, probably about 7 percent at that level. Sometimes people (pollsters) aren't as consistent in pointing out that for subgroups, the error margins are larger."

Murray conceded that critics may have a valid point that the poll should have noted when its margin of error was greater for subgroups.

"What we did — and what the paper reported — was to look at the sample and interpret in terms of the primary, people who told us that they were, a) certain or likely to vote in the Republican primary ... . While everybody was asked, 'If you did vote in the Republican primary how would you vote?' we didn't use the data for the entire sample ... . It's a little bit confusing, but it's a misleading attack on the survey."
I have not heard anyone (including the DeLay campaign) argue that DeLay's poll numbers were not hurt by the news cycles preceeding the poll, as Campbell claims. The DeLay campaign, however, has vociferously complained that the Chronicle poll understates DeLay's Republican support. In this case, the DeLay campaign appears to be right. The Chronicle's polls on the Republican primary are statistically worthless.

Campbell argues that "[n]either the Chronicle nor the pollsters deliberately distorted poll results." I agree. Frankly, it appears that both the Chronicle and the pollsters rushed a poll into the field that they hadn't thought through. As a result, the numbers are flawed, ESPECIALLY the numbers that they've reported for the primary. The poll isn't deliberately distorted, but the poll and its attendant coverage has been very sloppy.

Murray simply refuses to address the fact that he polls 38% of registered voters for an election in which less than 1% vote. Anytime you do that, you ruin the reliability of your data. Murray should know that.

The Chronicle's steadfast refusal to address the substantive criticisms of this poll is a shame. If the Chronicle believes in the truth, they ought issue a correction that a) the reported Republican primary results cannot be supported and b) that, while DeLay's support surely has slipped after many negative news cycles, this poll has methodological errors which render the results imprecise.

Post-writing Memo: this post may be updated as time and candor allows. I'm not yet sure I got the tone right. My goal is that this post should incite the Chronicle to greater accuracy, not antagonize them.

January 22, 2006

Liberal 527 anti-DeLay revised ad to air on some stations

Ruth Rendon -- Chron:

The revised ad calling for DeLay to resign his congressional post is set to air on KPRC-NBC (Channel 2) and KRIV-FOX (Channel 26), according to Campaign for America's Future, one of two liberal public interest groups that joined forces last week to run the ad.


It wasn't until the interest groups altered the ad that the two stations decided to air it.

KHOU-CBS (Channel 11) and KTRK-ABC (Channel 13) have said they will decide Monday whether they will show the ads.