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Cover Article on Jim Marcinkowski in the Lansing City Pulse

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pwreid Donating Member (25 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-06-06 11:47 PM
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Cover Article on Jim Marcinkowski in the Lansing City Pulse

Running uphill
Written by Kyle Melinn, Wednesday, 06 September 2006

Jim Marcinkowskis last attempt at elective office saw him finish last place in a race for township trustee as a Republican. So why do Democrats view him as their best shot yet to oust Congressman Mike Rogers?

By the time everyone shuffled in and picked up sandwich wraps, chips and diet sodas, the Michigan AFL-CIOs main boardroom was standing room only. Dozens of labor leaders from across the state were surrendering their lunch hour Aug. 24 to listen to AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney pitch Jim Marcinkowskis bid to deny U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers a fourth term in Congress.

Rogers, a pro-business Republican, isnt exactly a friend of organized labor. According to Gaffney, the Brighton Republican has a 14 percent voting record when it comes to workers issues, which isnt that different from most other congressional Republicans. But there was more than that. Gaffney told the crowd that this race was different.

Pressing the flesh: Gov. Jennifer Granholm (left) and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Jim Marcinkowski speak to a supporter at a July 22 campaign event in Lansing. (Karissa Chabot/Marcinkowski for Congress.)

Most everybody in the room must have known that Republicans and Democrats more or less split up congressional seats after a 2001 redraw of Michigans 15 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans, who were in charge of drawing the maps, carved out nine seats to give them a strong advantage in every election. For Democrats, six were drawn in a similar fashion.

The 8th District was drawn with Ingham, Clinton, Livingston, southern Shiawassee and northern Oakland counties, a much different set-up than the Lansing-based seat that now-Sen. Debbie Stabenow held and Democrat Dianne Byrum nearly won in 2000. The new district was concocted to have a 56-percent Republican base.

With the new district in place, Rogers went on to paste Democrats Frank McAlpine in 2002 and Bob Alexander in 2004. Rogers even won Ingham County, including heavily Democratic Lansing, in 2002, and almost won Ingham County again in 2004. Liberals were deflated; it seemed that Rogers would have a job representing Lansing and its surrounding areas in Washington as long as he wanted it.

But now, Gaffney told the crowd, there are special circumstances: The 51-year-old Marcinkowski, a former CIA agent and card-carrying union member, has a shot.

Maybe just enough voters blame President Bush for the states economic woes. Maybe just enough voters see Republicans as the cause for the open-ended war in Iraq. Maybe just enough voters are tired of hearing about Republican congressional leaders resigning in shame, caught feathering their own nests.

Maybe, just maybe, the strong anti-incumbency mood simmering nationwide will spur an upset in this district. Maybe, with its relatively high number of union households, more voters will see that under the economic climate created by Republican leaders in Washington, working men and women are crossing their fingers that they have a job when they punch the clock each morning.

And all the while, Rogers voted with President Bush 91 percent of the time, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

At least that was Gaffneys pitch.

Frontrunner: U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton (right), campaigns at the Howell Jaycees Melon Festival on Aug. 19. Rogers is seeking a fourth term in Congress. (Sean Freedberg/City Pulse)

This is the one that is on the top of the list, Gaffney said, glancing at the distinguished-looking Marcinkowski, deputy city attorney for Royal Oak.

Then it was the candidates turn to gin up the crowd, to sell them on the idea that he had a chance. Congressional Quarterly, a prestigious Washington publication, recently re-ranked the 8th Congressional District from a safe Republican district to a Republican favored district, making it the only district in Michigan that isnt viewed as safe for either party. (In a roundup of House races this week, however, The New York Times did not include Rogers or any other Michigan Republican as endangered.) Marcinkowski noted that Bush only defeated Democrat John Kerry in this district 54 percent to 45 percent in the 2004 presidential election, a sign that things are trending in a different direction.

He pointed to a letter sent by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean in which Dean mentioned Marcinkowski and 7th District candidate Sharon Renier (whose opponent, Tim Walberg, defeated incumbent Joe Schwarz in the GOP primary) while discussing the results of the Aug. 8 primary election.

Marcinkowski yielded the floor to Gaffney for a final time. The labor leader closed the pep talk with this: Democrats have a very real chance to take the House in 2006. And wouldnt it be great if Michigan were able to help make that happen by trimming the Republicans in-state 9-6 majority by one?

Im not sure we can do that without this race, Gaffney said.

At that, he told the packed conference room six things everybody in the room could do to help Marcinkowski win.

Most everyone took notes.

From red to blue

The son of an industrial supply worker and a stay-at-home mother, Marcinkowski grew up in soon-to-be suburbia in eastern Macomb County. After graduating from Clinton Township High School, Marcinkowski took a clerical position with the FBI and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

He spent five years in the Navy, ultimately becoming an expert in anti-submarine warfare and collecting shipboard intelligence on the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy and returned to Michigan. He received a political science degree at Michigan State University (where he ran Ronald Reagans 1980 campus campaign) and later a law degree from the University of Detroit.

Marcinkowski joined the CIA, where, among other assignments, he worked as a spy in Central America during the Cold War. While there, he met Valerie Plame, whose acquaintance would later spur his run for Congress. He received an Exceptional Performance Award upon leaving the CIA and he joined the Oakland County prosecutors office.

Later, as a deputy city attorney for Royal Oak, Marcinkowski and crew charged infamous suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian with criminal contempt of court in 1998, ultimately securing the first (albeit a misdemeanor) of what would be many criminal convictions against Dr. Death.

Technically, Marcinkowski still works for the city of Royal Oak. The divorced father of three still collects his $97,625-a-year salary. But city leaders are not giving him or the other in-house counsel any work to do, opting to contract the citys work out to other attorneys as part of a year-long internal spat that Marcinkowski describes as the citys attempt to union bust.

Marcinkowski is a member of the three-person Teamsters Local 214, which went after the city for unfair labor practices. In an odd twist, theyre arguing they want a fair days pay for a fair days work but theyre not getting the work. He still punches in and out. He shows up to work. The city just doesnt give him anything to do when hes in the office. Marcinkowski is exhausting his personal and vacation time to run for Congress, his third bid for public office.

His first run for office came in 1992, when he lost a Republican nod for the state House. Then in the 2000 primary election, Marcinkowski, still at that point a Republican, came in fifth in a field of five candidates vying for the Oxford Township Board of Trustees.

But a lot has changed since 2000; Marcinkowski says the Republican Party left him behind.

The spark came in October 2003, when Plame, working as a CIA spy specializing in non-conventional weapons and passing herself off as a private energy expert, had her cover blown in the national press. Bush administration officials leaked her name to several reporters in response to a New York Times column penned by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, which criticized the administrations handling of the Iraq War.

That woke me up in a very big way to say, You know what, there are some principle, fundamental issues that are at stake in this county, and Republicans have mounted a full-scale assault against those principles, Marcinkowski says. Theyve mounted a full-scale assault on the Constitution. If theyre willing to do that, what else are they willing to do?

I gave a significant portion of my life fighting the evils of the Soviet Union, he says. I didnt give 10 years of my life to fighting these evils only to see them manifested here under the policies of the extremist Republicans.

The issues

Q: Pro-choice or pro-life?
Marcinkowski: Choice
(Rogers is pro-life.)

Q: Yes or no on the death penalty?
Marcinkowski: No.
(Rogers voted twice in favor of capital punishment for federal crimes, including for terrorism-related crimes.)

Q: Are you in support of gay marriage?
Marcinkowski: No. I dont think its a federal issue.
(Rogers voted yes on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.)

Q: What about civil unions? Again a state issue?
Marcinkowski: State issue.
(Rogers also believes civil unions are a state issue.)

Q: What about flag burning?
Marcinkowski: The people represent the United States, not the flag. I dont like flag burning. I think its despicable for people to do that, but I also understand that its an issue of free speech.
(Rogers voted yes on a constitutional amendment banning flag desecration.)

Q: Out-of-state trash?
Marcinkowski: Big problem with out-of-state trash. Weve become a depository for out-of-state trash. Probably a bad idea. Were the last state that should be importing garbage. This is not a desert. We have the best ground water of probably any state of the union. We have more lakes than any other state in the union. My concern is that were putting in so many dumps that sooner or later were talking about destroying our aquifers, our water supplies.
(Rogers is one of the leading voices behind a House bill that would allow states to control the importation of trash, which Rogers views as a permanent fix toward controlling out-of-state trash.)

Q: Where are you on Second Amendment rights?
Marcinkowski: I believe responsible people should have the responsible right to own arms.
(Rogers has been given an A by the National Rifle Association for his pro-gun rights record.)

Q: Do you believe we should be drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge?
Marcinkowski: We have an energy crisis and we are not going to drill our way out of it. We cant take those types of risks with our fragile environment. I oppose drilling in the national wildlife refuge and drilling underneath the Great Lakes. Mike Rogers is the only member of the Michigan congressional delegation to vote yes on drilling under the Great Lakes.
(Rogers voted no on prohibiting oil drilling and development in Alaska.)

Q: Hindsight being 20/20, would you have voted to use force in Iraq?
Marcinkowski: I would have voted against it. I would have followed the advice of the intelligence community and the international diplomatic community. We knew from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that the occupation of a Middle Eastern country is a very dangerous production. To think that we could do the same thing, occupy a country, and not expect the same results, I think thats the definition of insanity.

Q: What do we now in Iraq?
Marcinkowski: Mike Rogers and the Republicans control the entire government. They should have a plan. They dont have a plan. Stay the course is the status quo. Thats not a plan. No. 1, they need to come up with the plan. No. 2, we need to send a strong definitive message to the people of Iraq that were not going to be there indefinitely. We need to establish benchmarks for withdrawal and we need to establish those benchmarks now.

The debate now is, How do we win? Rogers says. Under what circumstances do our troops come home?

What has this taking the fight overseas meant to the War on Terror? Rogers says. Once we clearly define where we are and what we need to do get our troops home, I think people are with us on this. Even people who were opposed to this from the beginning are saying that we shouldnt withdraw right away. The new security plans are adapting to the situation. I was in Iraq two or three weeks ago. We talked about the security situation in Baghdad. They have a security plan to deal with it.

But will it stick?

Mike Rogers is up to his hubcaps in the Republican culture of corruption, Marcinkowski says. Theres no doubt about it.

But isnt there?

Rogers name has never been mentioned in connection to any federal investigation into beleaguered former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff or disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif.

Its only circumstantial evidence that Democrats use to connect Rogers, the House Majority Deputy Whip, to DeLay. Remember, DeLay didnt run for re-election this year after two of his aides were tied to a scandal in which Abramoff and friends bilked millions in excessive fees from Indian casino interests only to secretly lobby against these clients to force them to pay more.

Cunningham resigned last November after pleading guilty to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004. He is serving an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, among other things.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee notes that Rogers took $19,500 from DeLays ARMPAC and $1,000 from Abramoff associate and former DeLay staffer Tony Rudy. Cunninghams political action committees have given Rogers $4,000 in contributions since 2000.

Also, the DCCC notes that Rogers voted with DeLay 94 percent of the time and voted with the Republicans 96 percent of the time.

Political observers would note that its not unusual for members of Congress to give one another PAC money, particularly when the recipient is part of the leadership team (which Rogers is) and when the recipient expects more than a nuisance challenge in the next elections (which Rogers is). PAC money is not walk-around-town money. It can only be spent on political races.

Rogers, a former FBI agent, says the conviction of Cunningham and the bribery investigation into Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., were individual cases that are being handled appropriately by federal authorities.

When you find a bad apple, you have to go after them and put them in jail, Rogers says. Most of the members I meet in Congress are pretty good people, even the Democrats I disagree with. Theyre good people. Theyre trying to do the right thing.

Corruption should be rooted out where we find it, but this notion that theres wholesale corruption I think the public is a lot smarter than to fall for some shifty campaign that everybody is Tom DeLay or everybody is Duke Cunningham or everybody is Bill Jefferson. I dont believe it. Voters are a lot more savvy, a lot smarter than that.

A matter of support

According to the campaign finance watch dog service,, the top industry fueling Rogers campaigns since 1989 is the health professionals sector, which gave the congressman $232,700. That total rises to $328,000 when pharmaceutical companies are added to the mix. Insurance interests are close behind with $223,000 donated, followed by automotive ($207,000) and real estate ($198,000) interests.

The top contributor to Rogers campaign coffers is the ultra-conservative Club for Growth (the fueling force behind last months primary ouster of Schwarz in the neighboring 7th District) with $59,610 in contributions since 1989. The United Parcel Service ($40,250) is next, followed by Associated Builder & Contractors ($35,000), General Motors Corp. ($32,300) and the National Association of Home Builders ($30,600).

Democrats are focusing on three points from Rogers campaign finance disclosures the pharmaceutical money, $155,000 in oil and gas interest campaign money and a $2,000 donation from the Iraq War super-contractor, Halliburton.

Rogers voted for the Republicans Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, which Democrats argue gave billions of dollars to businesses at the expense of seniors. But he also voted for a Democratic proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices and ease drug importation in from Canada.

The Rogers camp argues that the legislation in question allowed 38 million seniors to save 50 percent or more on their prescription drugs. It also connects more than 4 million Americans, most of whom never had health coverage in the past, with Health Savings Accounts, which are portable from job to job.

Democrats say Rogers is kowtowing to oil and gas interests by voting for a special interest energy bill that includes $33.5 billion in tax breaks and other incentives over 10 years for the power industry. The idea is that the money will increase oil and gas exploration, develop new coal-burning technologies and promote nuclear energy.

Republicans herald the energy bill as the United States first comprehensive energy in decades. They say it puts the nation on track to accelerate development of alternative fuels with an eye toward getting the country off its dependence on foreign oil. They argue its designed to strengthen the economy and protect American jobs.

Meanwhile, theres no debating where Marcinkowski is getting his money its the people who held the lets-get-serious-about-Jim get-together. The people who believe Marcinkowski has a shot. The people who are ready to knock on doors, send letters and talk to neighbors. The unions.

The Bricklayers Union, Teamsters and UAW have given $10,000 a piece. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave $7,500 and the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of American and Ironworkers Union gave $5,000.

Its also interesting to note who didnt give. For as much as Rogers has received from his Republican colleagues to prop up his campaign ($276,000 from leadership PACs), Marcinkowski has received nothing from the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee or any of the big PACs sponsored by House Democratic leadership.

The DCCC doesnt list Marcinkowski or any other Michigan congressional challenger in either its first or second wave of 35 red-to-blue list of candidates. That raises a key question: How seriously are beltway Democrats taking this race?

Marcinkowski insists that the DCCC is helping with personnel and resources. He said hes not expecting money until the end of the campaign, which is not unusual. In the end, he believes he will raise between $1 million and $2 million possibly enough to air television ads.

Marcinkowski says his campaign has done polling on the district. Asked what it showed, he says only: It reveals the path to a victory. To say anything more than that would be a matter of tactics.

And then theres Rogers, who said hes taking nothing for granted as he prepares for his most aggressive challenge since 2000. His public relations team has been on overdrive in recent months, issuing press releases and press statements. Hes pinning medals on veterans, walking at the Melon Festival parade in Howell, announcing grants for juvenile justice improvements and so on.

Robo-calls are being made throughout the 8th District against Marcinkowski, pointing out his former Republican ties. Thats a sign that somebody is at least marginally concerned.

Rogers refuses to get out-hustled by his Democratic challenger, who also shook hands at the Melon Festival in Howell and at the Mint Festival in St. Johns.

The way Rogers sees it, he has proven himself to be a good steward of the people and deserves another two years. He said his work on the House Intelligence Committee and his work on ethanol and alternative fuels is proof that good policy is good politics.

Its just a matter of getting out and letting people know who we are and what weve done, Rogers says. Weve handled 5,000 constituent issues and responded to 400,000 phone calls, e-mails and letters.

That kind of work and policy, folks feel comfortable with, Rogers says, even if they dont always agree with me.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 06 September 2006 )

City Pulse. 2001 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI 48912.
Phone: (517)371-5600. Fax: (517)371-5800. E-mail:
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SharonRB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-07-06 11:10 AM
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1. Good article
Thanks for posting, pwr.

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Lefty48197 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-07-06 09:05 PM
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2. "Rogers voted with President Bush 91 percent of the time"
Edited on Thu Sep-07-06 09:06 PM by Lefty48197
That means Rogers is only 9% smarter than stupid. Marcinkowski is going to kick Rogers' butt.
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