On Wednesday evening Senator Claire McCaskill (D) met with a small group of Missouri political bloggers for a conversation at her Kansas City office. Blue Girl (They gave us a republic... and Show Me Progress), Sean (Fired Up!), and I were in attendance. This is the fourth and final part of that conversation.
The continuation of the transcript:
....Michael Bersin: When it comes to, um, energy policy do you see any move for, um, increasing things, uh, at the federal level, support, try to expand, uh, renewable energy?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I think you’re gonna continue to see support for what we’ve got in place. We’ve got some pretty good incentives in place now. We were able to extend them, um, for this new sector of our economy that does have great potential for job growth. That’s a place where we really can realize some, some, some net new jobs. And, you know, mean, Missouri’s a good example. We’ve, we’ve got things going on in Missouri that are netting jobs that are in the alternative fuel sector. Um, lots of different kinds. We’ve got electric cars, we’ve got wind farms, we’ve got ethanol, we’ve got biomass, and I think all of it is part of the equation. It’s just how much of it can we do and afford in terms of expanding it. Uh, I think the current programs, what I don’t like the idea of doing, if someone has put together a financing plan and, for a, a company based on incentives that have been given they deserve a little certainty because they can’t the financing unless they’ve got the certainty. So, we’ve gotta give enough certainty to make these incentives work. Which means we can’t be playing around with them every six months going, ah, should we or shouldn’t we? So I’d like to see us have some certainty about extending the level of incentives we have now, maintaining them, and allowing the market to get to move in and take care of itself as you have more demand and you have more profit.
Michael Bersin: But, but in, in, in the big picture is the more we invest in now it, it takes a lot of pressure off on, on, in another area. Uh, you know, if we can increase production of energy from the green sector it lessens the demand in other areas that can cause problems or, uh, alleviate shortages, or at least mitigate some of the shortages. How do you educate people about that?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I think, um, a lot of it, I mean, Dr. Chu [Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Energy] is pretty articulate about this. There is, speaking of low hanging fruit, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit in, in retrofitting buildings, in, uh, energy efficiencies, uh, weatherization of homes. People don’t realize the massive amount of energy that could be conserved and saved by some of the things that don’t require a massive capital investment. Um, that’s why I think a lot of weatherization programs have been, um, something that was very helpful during the stimulus because, not only did they put some people to work, but the end result is we’re gonna conserve some energy, we’re gonna make people’s homes more affordable for them to live in and healthier in the long run. So, um, you know, they’re, they’re now doing a lot of this on retrofitting buildings. I think this, you know, we’ve got architects here in Kansas City that have been leaders in the green building, uh, LEED qualified buildings, going in and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. I think if we continue to focus on those things, it is just, I mean, I know that I disappoint some people in my party about my position on cap and trade. But, um, it is not realistic to think that right now we can get there from here without coal. We can’t. Eventually can we? I hope so. But we don’t have the technology or the ability to charge enough money to Missourians to get the technology in place to completely divorce ourselves from coal. And Missouri is one of those states that Missourians would pay a very, very high price. Working class, poor, fixed incomes, Missourians would pay a very high price. And that’s what I’m concerned about. It’s not that I have a love affair with coal. It’s that I have a love affair with people in Missouri that are trying to live on a fixed income.
Michael Bersin: But, then the steps need to be taken, taken in some way to, to sort of shift us to, to move us away [crosstalk] from that...
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, we have a renew, we have a renewable standard in Missouri that was voted on by the people of Missouri. That’s good. Uh, you’ve seen meaningful steps taken by all of our utilities to move towards different, uh, uh, utility generation. I’m somebody who believes we’ve gotta do nuclear. I believe we have to do nuclear. I think it’s clean. I think it is safe. And I think it needs to be part of the equation. So I’m one of these we’ve gotta do it all. We’ve gotta clean up coal, we’ve gotta do nuclear, and we’ve gotta develop alternatives. All of it.
Staff: Guys, we’ve been going about an hour. Um, you want to, one more question each, kind of thing? I want to let you guys get out of here before it [snow] gets too [crosstalk] terrible.
Sean: Campaigns look a little different in two thousand eleven and two thousand twelve than they did in oh-five, oh-six. [Inaudible] there. But can you just reflect a little on that and what’s exciting or scary about how things have changed?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I wouldn’t carry something like this [iPad] around [crosstalk]...
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): ...in two thousand five, two thousand six. I’m excited about how it’s different. I see great opportunities, uh, through the social media, through, uh, the online opportunities, through, um, doing different things that, I mean, my big thing about campaign finance has always been the way you clean up campaign finance, no matter what we pass there’ll be loopholes. The way you get big money out of politics is by getting a lot of little money in. The Internet gives us the opportunity to have thousands and thousands of people give ten bucks. That is much different than me sitting on the phone calling people that are perfect strangers saying, can you write me a check with a comma in it. I mean, that is a really weird system that I detest. So, I want to really work hard at, at utilizing all the technology that’s out there, um, you know, this, the, I don’t know why my party hasn’t been more aggressive about adopting some of the tools that are out there. If you look at the people that are tweeting in Congress, most of the ones that are, I think using it a lot effectively, are Republicans. I don’t know what that is. Um, I don’t know why that is. I think it’s great. I think, um, uh, paying attention to things like having different kinds of media available on your Facebook page and figuring out ways to interact with people, the interactivity that you can embrace, uh, with some of the technology, I think it’s exciting. And I am busy thinking of creative ways to do things that haven’t ever been done before. Um, joining together some of the traditional campaigning with some of the new campaigning, like, you know, figuring out something to do online to figure out who wants to ride on the RV this week. You know, all different kinds of things that we could do that would, um, bring the campaign closer to folks, uh, with the technology that’s available. I think it’s gonna be fun. I’m looking forward to doing much more online that, than we even thought about doing, uh, four years ago. It’ll be a big part of the campaign.
Blue Girl: I think I read somewhere that the average contributor to Barrack Obama’s campaign gave eighty-six dollars in, in five to twenty-five dollar increments throughout the, throughout the course of the campaign.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Yep, I used to tease him and say, you know, you don’t, you don’t have to pick up a phone, you just walk in, unlock this door, open the cash register and it’s full. [laughter] You know, the Internet was just on fire with people giving money in small amounts to, to Barrack Obama. [crosstalk]
Blue Girl: My, my college age [crosstalk]...
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): It was very exciting. [crosstalk]
Blue Girl: ...kids were hitting the [crosstalk], were hitting that button.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Mine, too! With my money!
Blue Girl: Yeah!
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Because I’d, you know, they get allowance, right?
Blue Girl: Uh, huh.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): And I’d look and I’d go, what is this? And, well, and they, in fact, this last cycle I noticed my daughter gave contributions. I, I said, who are these candidates? She said, they’re people I believe in. And I said, well, what about people in Missouri? She goes, mom, I don’t live in Missouri [inaudible]. [laughter]
Blue Girl: Uh, okay. Do you think we’re ever gonna see anybody go to jail or any of the money come back from the, from the fraudulent contracts like, uh, uh, the, when, when projects in Afghanistan are falling apart before they’re complete that’s not poor stewardship on the part of the Afghans, that’s shoddy construction. I’ll, I tell you what I want to see. I want to see one sentence of legislation passed so Afghan companies can be paid directly by the military instead of mandating a third party, usually a U.S. company, that may or may not pay for the labor at the end, at the end of the con. You know, they may or may not fulfill the contract. They may or may not live up to their financial obligations to the Afghan company. Who slipped that line in for their buddies?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, there, there, as you well know, um, there are, uh, books that have been written and will continue to be written about contract abuses in a contingency. It has obviously been a theme of my time in the Senate. It’s not the stuff that most people are interested in. I am vitally interested in it. And I think we’ve gotten the military’s attention. Um, I can tell you the difference in my trip on contracting oversight to Iraq in two thousand and seven and to Afghanistan in two thousand and ten were dramatically different. Um, my questions could at least be answered. There was someone who had the answer. There, they, they had an idea of how many contractors were in the country. They had an idea of how much money was being spent. I mean, when I went to Iraq it was jaw dropping how little they knew and how little oversight was really going on. So, not that we need to be satisfied with the progress that has been made, but there has been some progress made. Having said that, we are saddled with a very big challenge. And that is, spending way, way more money in a country that it has in gross domestic product.
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I mean, their GDP is very small and we are flooding their country with money and it is inherently corrupt [crosstalk].
Blue Girl: Corrupting.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): So, when you have a coun, country that is already riddled with corruption and you bring a lot of money in it is really, really hard to figure out how you do what you need to do to stabilize the country without losing a lot through fraud and a lot through just downright just walking away with the cash. But, um, there are a number of criminal investigations ongoing and that’s why I felt so strongly about removing the Special Inspector General [crosstalk]...
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): He was not up for the job. I think we now are in a position to get a really strong inspector general that has a law enforcement background. Um, somewhat like the [crosstalk]...
Blue Girl: Are they gonna consult with you on that? [crosstalk]
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): ...inspector general like we got over TARP who has experience in criminal prosecutions and will not only be looking to see what is going on with the contracts but where is there somebody that needs to go to jail.
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): And you’re exactly right. I mean, it, it, you know, we’ve gotta quit giving performance bonuses to bad contractors. And instead, we need to be putting corrupt contractors in prison.
Blue Girl: Yeah.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): That’s what we need to be doing.
Blue Girl: I agree.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): That’s the example [crosstalk] we need to set.
Blue Girl: I agree...
Crossposted from Show Me Progress.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): a conversation with bloggers in Kansas City (January 20, 2011)