Last week, Congressman Dave Obey shocked the Wisconsin political world when he decided to step down after 41 years of service to the 7th District. When asked why he was leaving, Obey gave every reason in the book – he was “bone tired,” he didn’t want to go through reapportionment, he thought more representatives of the “lowest common denominator” (read: Republicans) would be in office, etc.
It just so happens Obey is facing a tough challenge from Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, a Republican. When asked if he was quitting because he might lose his upcoming race, Obey pointed out that he has won 25 straight races, and wouldn’t lose again. To emphasize his point, Obey said he made his mind up to retire once the recent health care bill passed. He said:
“Over the past few years, whenever a member of the press asked if I was contemplating retirement, I would respond by saying that I did not want to leave Congress until we had passed health care reform. Well, now it has.”
Pressed by reporters, Obey said he would have announced he was leaving sooner if the bill passed in September, as he expected it to. But he had to announce his retirement later, since the bill passed in March.
So we get it. Obey had made his mind up to retire months ago, and was just waiting for the health care bill to pass. Sean Duffy’s campaign had nothing to do with it.
Obey’s emotional speech said one thing. But his campaign finance reports tell quite another.
With Obey presiding, the health care bill passed, on March 21st of 2010. On March 30th, Obey’s campaign accepted a $4800 in contributions from Brian Goad of Reno, Nevada. A day later, Obey’s campaign cashed a $1000 check from tennis star Andre Agassi. (Take a minute to let that one soak in.)
In fact, between the health care vote on March 21st and April 1st (the last day of the campaign finance report), Obey collected 64 contributions, for a total of $18,230. (Many of the larger amounts from California and Nevada.)
So if Obey had his mind made up for months to retire after he passed health care, why was he still raising money after the bill passed? Why was his campaign still depositing $10 and $20 contributions from little old retired teachers in his district?
The reason is simple – Obey may have fully intended to run after the health care bill passed, but saw that he had a fight on his hands. And he was the poster boy for what had gone wrong with Congress. Not wanting to leave his office as a loser, he used the bogus health care bill excuse, and everyone lapped it up.
Perhaps more telling will be Obey’s next finance report. If it shows he kept raising money past April 1st and into May, when he made his announcement, it will contradict his whole “we finished health care so I decided to retire” line.
Surely, candidates say things of dubious veracity all the time – but there’s a reason Obey has to sell this whopper. He can’t admit that he had any part in the electoral debacle that is about to befall his fellow Democrats.
(SIDE NOTE: On Andre Agassi’s campaign finance entry, he lists himself as a “Philanthropist.” That must be from his tireless work teaching young people about the dangers of hair extensions.)
Obey’s finance report also showed that he spent a whopping $30,000 on a poll on February 8th. I wonder what that poll told him? Perhaps the results made him a little more “bone tired” than he had been.