Republican congressional candidate Chris Lee told me this afternoon that Congress should have passed the "stabilization package" (he doesn't like the word "bailout") on Monday.
He said what Congress passed Friday, with it's millions of dollars in pork spending, demonstrated that some members are "more concerned with saving their seats than with doing the right thing for the country."
When I asked him about how Democrats blame deregulation, and Republicans say there are still too many regulations -- such as Sarbanes-Oxley, which did nothing to help matters -- Lee said, "We have all of these new exotic financial instruments, so we need updated regulations to ensure we have control."
"There have mistakes made, and I don't like to point fingers," said Lee, adding again that both Republicans and Democrats share the blame. "I don't care about any of that. I care about getting to a solution and protecting taxpayers."
In the middle of our talk, Lee changed subjects to the Democrats attacking him for sending jobs to China.
"We run a business today that employs people from more than 300 families in Western New York," he said. "The comment that we export jobs to China is as far from the truth as possible."
He added that his company exports parts to China, made in Western New York, and those pieces are then assembled in China to build products that are sold to Chinese.
The reason to do that, he said, is so the competition does not create those products in China for export to the United States to compete with his company. "It's very smart," he said.
So, here I am, in our Batavia office on a Saturday afternoon. My wife isn't too happy with me because I should be home cutting the lawn and now rain clouds are gathering. But this morning when I heard that Lee was in Batavia today, I wanted to talk with him about the bailout issue. It's been hard for anybody to get much of an answer out of him on the topic.
I brought my video camera and wanted to get his answer on video. This is an important issue, and I thought it would be a fairer bit of journalism to let Lee answer it in as an unfiltered way as possible. To me, it's for Lee's own good to speak right to the voters and say what he wants to say.
Lee's campaign manager Nick Longworthy did not want me video taping the interview. I pushed the issue a little bit with Lee, but he wanted to go along with his campaign manager's advice, and I'm not here to be a jerk and insist on having my way. I'm not Mike Wallace playing "gotcha journalism." Also, I get Nick's concern. It would be very easy for the opposition to take a quote out of context and use it in a negative ad.
The 26th District is close, but a reasonably safe GOP district. I'm sure Lee's advisers are continually counseling him to be cautious and not do or say anything that could turn the district against him. I get that. But I also believe that it is during an open-seat election that voters have their best chance to get inside the head of the man or women who might represent them for many years. Once the winner is safely in office, they often retreat behind press releases and sound bites. Now is the time to get as much unvarnished information from them as possible.
I did use my little Flip camera to get a bit of quick video from the GOP open house, just to capture the scene a bit. I'll post that shortly.
BTW: If Chris Lee, Nick Longworthy or anybody else from the Lee campaign wishes to clarify or amplify on anything I wrote, you're welcome to post in the comments, or in a new blog post. Nick is also welcome to post the audio tape that he captured of the interview.
Here's the quick video. NOTE: Flip batteries went dead just as Lee started to speak (after Tom Reynolds). I did hear what Lee said, because I immediately ran to my car to get my other video camera, but Lee's statement had to be pretty short. My car wasn't far away at all. (Disappointing, too, because it wasn't that long ago that I put new batteries in the flip).
UPDATE: Here's a short Buffalo News story on the GOP HQ grand opening.