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Chris Lee

Gawker makes shocking new claims about our former congressman

By Howard B. Owens

"New to area. Very fit classy, successful guy. 39, 6ft 190lbs, blond/blue. Smooth hard body. Looking for a sexy ts/cd that i can spoil. I promise not to disappoint."

In a shocking new post, this is the ad suggests  ex-Congressman Chris Lee posted on Craigslist in January.

However, almost by writer Remy Stern's own admission, holes could be poked into the "evidence" that Lee was seeking transgender and transvestite hook-ups through the free classified site. Yet, there's enough to the story that makes it hard to ignore.

Hardest to disregard is the new photo published by Gawker that seems to show a shirtless Lee posing in front of a mirror. It's very similar to an image Gawker published with the initial story about the married Lee allegedly trolling Craigslist for dates. Still, it's different enough in key ways, making makes it hard to believe it's a PhotoShop counterfeit.

Stern reports that the photo was submitted by a transvestite prostitute, whom Gawker calls "Holly."

"The first thing Holly sent us was a never-before-seen picture of Chris Lee's now-familiar torso and red Blackberry. She edited the picture to obscure the Congressman's face, however, and printed her e-mail address over his chest. (We have covered up the address in the photo above.)" If we wanted to publish the unedited image, Holly explained, we'd have to pay her for it."

As for the ad above, Stern claims that it came from a transgender woman who said she found the ad posted on Craigslist and later figured out that the person who posted it was allegedly Lee.

Read the whole thing and see what you think about the claims.

Political world still grappling with sudden departure of Chris Lee

By Howard B. Owens

Rumors of Chris Lee flirting with women, and possibly more, have swirled around him since his 2008 campaign for Congress, the Buffalo News reports today.

Several people contacted the campaign of Lee's Democratic opponent in 2008, Alice J. Kryzan, to say they had firsthand knowledge of Lee cheating on, or attempting to cheat on, his wife, two sources with knowledge of the campaign said.

Kryzan decided against pursuing the accusations because she didn't want to run a dirty campaign, the sources said.

Lee's alleged behavior reportedly drew the attention of House Majority Leader John Boehner. According to various reports, including the Buffalo News, Lee was allegedly behaving inappropriately toward female lobbyists. Boehner reportedly told Lee, "knock it off."

Boehner has told reporters that Lee resigned on his own with no pressure from leadership.

Politico reports that Lee's sudden departure caught the GOP by surprise.

House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans were unaware of the brewing scandal before Gawker posted the story early Wednesday afternoon, meaning party leaders were caught flat-footed when the controversy broke.

“Lee’s people tried to handle it internally,” a senior Republican aide said of Lee and his staff, adding that such a move was “a big mistake.”

Meanwhile, Lee's former staff is now under the supervision of Clerk of the House of Representatives. All of Lee's offices are remaining open to handle constituent matters.

Reaction in Genesee County to Lee's resignation and allegations from the Internet news site -- that Lee sent a shirtless picture of himself to a woman he met through Craigslist -- has been one of shock and disbelief.

County Legislator Ray Cianfrini said Lee was a guy he had high hopes for.

"From everything I could gather he was a rising star," Cianfrini said.

"He was appointed to Ways and Means in his second term, so obviously, he had some respect (in Washington), so for him to self-destruct like this is a real disappointment."

Legislator Jay Grasso said, "We all worked really hard for him, so I'm disappointed."

Dean Norton, president of the Farm Bureau, said Lee's departure from the House is a potential set back for the agriculture interests in New York, both because of Lee's quick rise in power and his expressed interest in the ag business.

"We were looking forward to to having an ally on the Ways and Means Committee who would bring ag funding issues to the forefront," Norton said.

Batavia's Town Supervisor Greg Post had a little bit different take.

Post heard a talk-show host complaining about the fall of another leader and Post said, "He's not my leader. He's my representative."

"My comment would be that I'm not surprised by the higher percentage of failures in elected positions," Post said. "It's an accurate representation of what our nation has evolved to over the past 50 years. This isn't the same country I grew up in."

We also asked for a comment from Elba's Bill Kauffman, writer and iconoclastic historian, author of nine books, including "Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette," and  a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal. Here's Kauffman's response:

"For 20 years, Genesee County was represented in Congress by Barber B. Conable, a thoughtful, rooted, humane man who was exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. The series of Erie County hacks who have succeeded him -- Bill Paxon, Tom Reynolds, and now the Shirtless Wonder -- have been disgraces.

"I'd love to see a decent, honorable insurgent Republican from one of the rural counties take on whichever humdrum timeserver the GOP bosses choose. And I hope the Democrats run a vigorous populist instead of a suburban liberal who gets the shakes when he/she crosses the Pembroke town line."

BREAKING: Rep. Chris Lee resigns his seat following report of sex scandal

By Howard B. Owens

 U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, representing New York's 26th District, including Genesee County, has reportedly resigned his congressional seat following a report by that he was trolling Craigslist for women.

UPDATE: Chris Lee released this statement:

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.

“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”

Lee became caught up in a sex scandal today when New York City-based Gawker reported the the second-term congressman was apparently trolling Craigslist for women.

According to reporter Maureen O'Connor, Lee exchanged e-mails with a woman who placed a personal ad on Craigslist in the women-seeking-men category. Lee had told her he was divorced and a lobbyist, according to the report, and in the course of the e-mail exchange he sent along a shirtless picture himself.

The woman, according to Gawker, cut off correspondance with him after doing a little Google research and finding out who he really was. She then contacted Gawker thinking it was a 'humorous story."

There's no allegation in the story that Lee actually "hooked up" with that woman or any other woman through Craigslist.

UPDATE: Here's how the Washington Post reported it:

Lee experienced his fall from grace in a single afternoon, undone at the speed of the digital age. At lunchtime Wednesday, he was an obscure but promising second-term congressman. Then, at 2:33 p.m., the Web site posted an alleged e-mail exchange between a man who used Lee's name -- but identified himself as a divorced lobbyist -- and an unidentified woman. Gawker reported that the two had met through the personals section of Craigslist.

After that, the familiar cycles of a Washington sex scandal were compressed into a blur of tweets and news alerts. There was confusion, a hint of denial, then a pledge from Lee to "work it out" with his wife.

By 6 p.m., a clerk was announcing Lee's resignation in the House chamber.

Congressman Lee votes to cut spending to '08 budget levels

By Billie Owens

Here's a news release from Congressman Chris Lee's office:

Congressman Chris Lee voted today to cut federal spending back to at least 2008 budget levels to help return fiscal responsibility to Washington.

Lee voted for H. Res. 38, which instructs the House Budget Committee to implement spending levels set for 2008 for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.

“The majority of the Western New Yorkers I’ve spoken with want Washington to get its fiscal house in order, and I’ve heard their calls loud and clear,” Lee said. “Today’s vote sends a message that the House will not continue the incredible spending binge that we’ve seen over the last few years.

"Every second that passes, Congress adds thousands of dollars onto an already record-high $14 trillion debt, and that needs to change.”

Non-defense discretionary spending – including the failed $787 billion “stimulus” bill – has increased 84 percent from 2008 through last year, while the national debt has soared from nearly $11 trillion in 2008 to more than $14 trillion today.

“Washington needs to get serious about cutting spending so future generations are not buried under a mountain of debt,” Lee said. “Cutting overall spending to 2008 levels is an important start to getting Washington to live within its means, just as Western New York families have always done.”

Congressman Lee to co-chair Dairy Farmers Caucus

By Billie Owens

Here's a news release from Congressman Chris Lee's office.

Congressman Chris Lee was chosen to serve as a co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus for the 112th Congress

Lee served as vice-chair during the 111th Congress until its adjournment last year. He will lead the caucus with fellow co-chairs Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Timothy Walz (D-MN), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Thomas Petri (R-WI).

The bipartisan caucus works to aid dairy farmers across the United States, and last Congress worked closely with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on important issues affecting Western New York’s dairy farmers.

“Western New York has some of the finest family farms in the country, and since coming to Congress in 2009 I’ve been focused on ensuring our region’s agricultural producers have the resources they need to survive,” Lee said.

“Dairy farmers in particular have been hard-hit during the tough economic times, but they are a resilient group of families closely tied to the land they farm and the industry they love. I look forward to working with the other co-chairs and members of the Caucus who share my commitment to strengthening family farms for this and future generations.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Lee’s congressional district is the 22nd highest dairy producing district in the nation, with a market value nearing $500 million.

New York State as a whole produces about 12.5 billion pounds of milk each year. For more information on Congressman Lee’s commitment to Western New York’s dairy farmers, visit <>.

Chris Lee honored by American Farm Bureau

By Howard B. Owens

Congressman Chris Lee with New York Farm Bureau President and Genesee County resident Dean Norton, right, accepting an award from the American Farm Bureau for being a "Friend of the Farm Bureau." Lee announced the award this evening on Twitter.

Chris Lee holding Twitter Town Hall at noon

By Howard B. Owens

If you have a question for Congressman Chris Lee, he will be available online to answer it for you at noon today, but to ask it, you'll need to have an account on the popular social networking service Twitter.

Lee announced that he is holding a "Twitter Town Hall" today, and through his Twitter account @chrislee_ny26 he has said questions have already started flowing in.

Lee has 2,086 followers on Twitter.

People with or without Twitter accounts can follow the conversation through the hash tag #askchris.

People who ask questions of Lee should direct them to @chrislee_ny26 and tag them with #askchris.

Twitter has gained wide popularity around the world for its ability to allow friends and associates to quickly share information even though messages are limited to 140 characters.

In a press release, Lee's staff says the congressman has held some 30 town hall meetings during his first term either in person or by telephone. This is his first Twitter Town Hall meeting.

Lee's office also maintains accounts on YouTube, Facebook and Picasa.

Congressman Lee appointed to influential Ways and Means Committee

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County's congressional representative Chris Lee (R-26) has been appointed to the House Ways and Means Committee, perhaps the most significant committee in Congress.

Ways and Means is the chief committee for any revenue-related issues and reviews a broad range of legislation. It is among the most sought-after committee appointments in the house.

Members of Ways and Means are prohibited from serving on other congressional committees.

Lee is beginning his second term representing New York's 26th Congressional District.

Full press release after the jump:

Lee Appointed to Influential Ways and Means Committee Seat on Powerful Panel Gives Lawmaker Greater Voice to Help Strengthen the Economy and Create Jobs in Western New York and Across the Country

WASHINGTON – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today was appointed to the influential House Ways and Means Committee for the incoming 112th Congress. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Lee will play a greater role in efforts to jumpstart our economy and create jobs. Lee has served on the Financial Services Committee since coming to Congress last year.

The Ways and Means Committee is widely considered the most powerful committee in Congress and formulates the nation’s policies and laws on taxes, trade, welfare, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and other important issues vital to both the short- and long-term economic security of our nation.

“I’m honored to have been selected to join my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee, and am committed to working with members on both sides of the aisle to strengthen the economy and get more of our neighbors back to work,” said Rep. Lee.

“As a businessman I know firsthand what it takes for small businesses to succeed and create jobs, and I look forward to working with Chairman Camp and my Democrat and Republican colleagues to continue the fight to allow hardworking Western New York taxpayers keep more of what they earn and get government off the backs of small businesses that are struggling to succeed.”

“I’d like to congratulate Chris Lee on being selected for the Committee on Ways and Means,” said incoming Chairman Dave Camp (MI-4). “Since coming to Congress last year, Chris has used his experience in the private sector to be a leader on a number of issues critical to job creation. I look forward to him serving on the committee and I know he will continue to serve his constituents well in this new role.”

Lee joins a long line of New York State Republicans to serve on the Ways and Means Committee, dating back to Congressmen Daniel A. Reed (1947-1959) in the modern era. Congressman Reed was followed by Congressmen Steven B. Derounian (1961-1965), Barber B. Conable (1967-1985), Raymond J. McGrath (1985-1993), Amo Houghton (1993-2005), and finally, Thomas M. Reynolds (2005-2009).

One of the issues Lee looks to immediately bring to the committee is a manufacturing agenda he has put forward to return highly skilled, well paying jobs back to the United States.

Lee’s “Manufacturing for Tomorrow” agenda takes a multi-pronged approach to solving America’s jobs crisis and strengthening manufacturing in Western New York. Putting our economy back on the right track will require an innovative, thoughtful and long-term approach to make America competitive again.

Congressman Lee’s 5-point jobs plan includes (1) a more competitive tax code, (2) improved education and training in engineering fields, (3) liability reform to curb job-killing lawsuit abuse, (4) ending customs red-tape and (5) creating U.S. jobs and expanding American-made exports through the opening of new markets.

Lee's appointment, approved today by the House Republican Steering Committee – a panel comprised of elected leadership, committee chairs, regional representatives and incoming first-term members – is expected to be ratified by the entire House Republican caucus in the coming days.

Chris Lee calls for investigation into Lockerbie bomber's release

By Billie Owens

Here's a press release we received from Congressman Chris Lee's office:

Representing the families and friends of victims in the attack on Pan Am Flight 103, Congressman Chris Lee and two other freshmen NY lawmakers are demanding an investigation into new allegations surrounding the release of the infamous Lockerbie bomber.

Lee and Reps. Michael E. McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn) and Daniel B. Maffei (D-Syracuse) circulated a bipartisan "Dear Colleague" letter urging fellow members to sign onto their demand that the British Government immediately investigate the circumstances surrounding the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.

The congressmen represent districts which suffered numerous losses when the aircraft exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988.

Recent reports have linked British Petroleum’s (BP) interest in securing a $900 million oil-and-gas exploration deal off Libya’s coast with al-Megrahi’s inclusion in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

These allegations are incredibly concerning and are further complicated by reports that al-Megrahi remains in notably good health a year after being released on compassionate grounds for his terminal illness.

“Like most Americans, I was outraged by the release of the Lockerbie bomber, but the allegations that have recently surfaced really add insult to injury for the families of the victims,” McMahon said.

“If it turns out that an ally of the U.S. could have released this terrorist to further its own business opportunities, that country will not only have disgraced itself, it will have utterly disrespected the victims and their families for the most vile reasons. We deserve answers and the British Government needs to provide them immediately.”

Maffei said: “Central New York lost dozens of our own in the bombing of Pan AM Flight 103, so our community felt a particularly acute pain when Scotland released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi last year. We are concerned that the U.K. may have released al-Megrahi because of lobbying from a private company.

"If that is the case, it is worse than an international embarrassment: it is an affront to justice, an insult to the victims who died in 1988, and a slight to the families who have dealt with that unimaginable pain for more than 20 years.”

Lee said: “Megrahi’s release was outrageous and an insult to the families of his victims. Western New Yorkers, and all those who lost loved ones on Pan Am Flight 103, deserve a full investigation into Megrahi’s release and the possibility that a business deal was behind it.”

Four of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing came from Rep. McMahon’s district, with the two youngest age 20 and the oldest age 33. All four were traveling home for the holidays.

Forty victims of the bombing came from Rep. Maffei’s district, including 35 Syracuse University students who were returning home after having studied abroad.

Similarly, Western New Yorkers in Rep. Lee’s district who lost friends and family on Pan Am Flight 103 have reached out to him in recent days after the allegations about Megrahi’s release surfaced.

The letter being circulated by the freshmen lawmakers requests not only for an investigation into allegations surrounding al-Megrahi’s release to Libya, but also for British Government officials to address Congress on the matter.

Chris Lee says he's cooperating with probe into fundraising activities

By Howard B. Owens

The fundraising practices of Congressman Chris Lee, are being examined by the House Ethics Committee.

From the Buffalo News:

The Office of Congressional Ethics this month sent letters to banking lobbyists, seeking information about their fundraising contacts with Lee and the other lawmakers, a mix of Democrats and Republicans who serve on the House Financial Services or Ways and Means committees.

The letter to lobbyists, which was first reported Monday afternoon by a Capitol Hill newspaper called The Hill, did not name any specific charges against the lawmakers and identified the probe as a “preliminary review.”

Lee, a first-term Republican, told the News that he has "nothing to hide," adding, “The more accountable and transparent we can be, the better off things will be in the long term.”

He said he's cooperated fully with the investigation.

Since the beginning of 2009, the committee has started 48 ethics probes and 22 of those were dropped in their preliminary stages.

Six other lawmakers are also being investigated.

Wasting Federal Tax Money

By bud prevost

So, I took the time one fine afternoon to visit a staffer from Rep. Chris Lee's office at the Leroy village hall. I expressed to him my desire to have any mailings from Rep. Lee stopped, and I further requested he explain the need for 3 fully staffed offices. This nice young man went on to speak politically, and bash the current administration, all the while extolling the virtues of his boss. He never really did give me a straight answer. That tells me one day he'll make a fine politician himself.

In any case, after the personal appeal, and a mailed request to stop this waste of tax dollars, I received another self-serving, egotistical "pamphlet" in the mail, in which Rep. Lee pats himself on the back for asking Congress to pass a bill extending tax credits to people getting a US passport. I normally would just toss such "junk-mail", but I took a closer look this time. In small print in the corner, it explained this mailing was produced, and delivered to all for less than the price of a stamp. Really? That seems remarkable given the quality and size of the mailing. So why if this can be done, why is everything else in government so expensive? We're all familiar with the $800 hammers, and the $3000 toilets, and the $300,000 FEMA trailers. What is different? I hope to find out someday.

Republicans and Democrats are equally culpable for the insane waste in Washington, and We the People need to speak up loud and clear! Stop expanding government, and stop burying the citizens with taxes that just get mismanaged anyway.

Congressman's staff member to meet with Oakfield residents

By Billie Owens

From noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, a member of Congressman Chris Lee’s staff will be available for one-on-one meetings with Oakfield residents at Oakfield Town Hall.

“These office hours provide Genesee County residents with a unique opportunity to meet with a member of my staff one-on-one, whether it be to troubleshoot interactions with federal agencies or discuss the issues of the day,” Congressman Lee said.

The town hall is located at 3219 Drake St.

Event Date and Time

Chris Lee says it's time to stop wasteful printing of proposed legislation

By Howard B. Owens

BATAVIA, NY -- Congress is behind the times, according to Rep. Chris Lee (NY-26). While society is moving to an increasingly paperless existence, the congressional printing office still delivers five printed copies of every bill to the staff of each bill's co-sponsors.

Those can be pretty hefty tomes -- hundreds of pages long -- to dozens of congressional offices.

And they are bills that usually just get tossed in the garbage or recycling bin, because most legislators and their staff members read and track bills on computers.

At the Genesee ARC recycling center today, Lee announced legislation he hopes will pass to end the practice of printing these copies of bills. He called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has talked before about the "greening of DC" to support the bill, which already has nine Democratic co-sponsors.

"We don't practice what we preach," Lee said.

If passed, Lee said he estimates that the bill would save taxpayers $2.5 million per year.

"This is a win-win," Lee said. "It takes care of our environment and it shows that we’re looking after every penny that comes into our treasury."

As an example, Lee held up all five copies of a recent bill that was 153 pages long and was delivered to the offices of 80 co-sponsors. 

The freshman congressman is concerned that the bill won't be taken seriously in the House, because in an environment were most legislation is dealing with billions or trillions of dollars, $2.5 million is practically "spare change."

"To me, $2.5 million is a lot of money," Lee said. "Unfortunately, there’s this premise that unless it has a “B” or a “T” after it, in Washington, most of the people don’t care."

Congressman attends auction at Bureau of Public Debt

By Howard B. Owens

Congressman Chris Lee attended an auction yesterday.

He wasn't there to buy an old Queen Anne sideboard. He wanted to get a firsthand look at the nation's debt getting sold to overseas concerns.

The auction was held at the Bureau of Public Debt, and it featured $10 billion of our national debt being auctioned off as four-week treasury bills.

“As our national debt has risen to a record high, I wanted to get a firsthand look at the process by which our debt is auctioned off to China and other foreign countries,” said Congressman Lee. “We need to get serious about reining in government spending and decreasing our debt. We cannot afford to be beholden these foreign counties any longer.”

Lee then met with Commissioner of the Public Debt Van Zeck.

I wonder if he asked how much it costs to administer a Bureau of Public Debt?

Full press release after the jump:

Press release:

Congressman Lee Attends Auction Of Our Nation’s Debt
Lawmaker Attends Public Auction to Witness the Result of Borrow and Spend Policies

WASHINGTON – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) today attended an auction at the Bureau of the Public Debt to witness exactly how our $12.3 trillion debt is being auctioned off to foreign countries and individuals. The auction featured $10 billion of our national debt being auctioned off as a 4-week Treasury bill. According to records held by the Bureau of Public Debt, Asian countries hold nearly 50 percent of our nation’s debt.
“As our national debt has risen to a record high, I wanted to get a firsthand look at the process by which our debt is auctioned off to China and other foreign countries,” said Congressman Lee. “We need to get serious about reining in government spending and decreasing our debt. We cannot afford to be beholden these foreign counties any longer.”
While at the debt auction, Congressman Lee met with Commissioner of the Public Debt Van Zeck and other officials within the Department to discuss the process and concerns he has with our record-high national debt. Purchasers of the debt participate through an online interface managed by the Bureau and the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, and the sale of $10 billion in Treasury securities was completed in mere minutes. Bureau officials commented that the frequency of auctions has risen in recent years to accommodate the need to borrow more money.
“The longer we continue to borrow and spend the more future generations will be forced to pay,” added Congressman Lee. “The time to reduce spending and pay down our debt is now.”

Chris Lee talks with WBTA about trip to Afghanistan

By Howard B. Owens

Congressman Chris Lee has returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan. WBTA interviewed him this morning and Dan Fischer has posted an extended audio file on (mp3).

Tune into WBTA's Main and Center tomorrow to hear Lee talk about the health care being considered in the House of  Representatives.

Lee supports House rule change aimed at more transparency in legislative process

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

WASHINGTON – Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) issued the following statement today after signing a discharge petition to amend the House rules to require that legislation be posted on the Internet for at least 72 hours before a vote on the House floor. More than 170 Members of Congress have signed on to this petition, which are used to force a vote on legislation that has been blocked by the majority leadership. Lee said:

“Western New York taxpayers deserve the ability to weigh in on these important and complicated pieces of legislation which are being rushed through Congress.

“As we saw with the ‘cap and trade’ national energy tax legislation and the enormous ‘stimulus’ spending bill, leaders in Congress have denied the American public the right to full transparency in the legislative process.

“This bill will allow Members of Congress, the American public and the press 72 hours to actually read the huge bills that are often introduced in the dead of night. This common-sense reform is long past due."

Dairy farmers getting some help on prices from USDA

By Howard B. Owens

With dairy prices at a 30-year low, Genesee County dairy farmers may find some relief in new USDA price supports.

The government is essentially agreeing to pay above-market prices for some dairy products as part of the Dairy Product Price Support Program. In this 60-year-old program, the government buys dry milk, butter, and cheese and stores these products until they can be sold on the open market or donated to domestic or international charitable programs.

From a Rep. Chris Lee press release:

The increase, announced this morning by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will raise the price paid for nonfat dry milk from $0.80 per pound to $0.92 per pound, the price paid for cheddar blocks from $1.13 per pound to $1.31 per pound, and the price of cheddar barrels from $1.10 per pound to $1.28 per pound. Temporarily raising the price of these dairy products increases the price that dairy farmers receive for their milk.

The price increase will be in effect for three months. It is expected to boost dairy revenue by $243 million.

In a press release, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is taking some credit for the USDA action, and she says:

“While this is great for New York’s dairy farmers, this is only a temporary solution to the fundamental problems with the dairy pricing system,” Senator Gillibrand said. “When I met with Secretary Vilsack on Wednesday, I made it clear that the current system is not working for New York dairy farmers – who have been pushed farther and farther toward bankruptcy. During these tough economic times, this increase will bring some much needed relief for our farmers.” 

Here's Lee's statement in support of the increase:

“While this is certainly good news and will provide some relief, Washington still needs to be doing more to support our dairy farmers,” Congressman Lee said. “Dairy is such an important economic driver in Western New York, but when you have milk prices declining rapidly, and the cost of feed and fuel going in the other direction, it makes it impossible for even the most experienced farmers to make ends meet.”  

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is apparently critical of the price-support program, saying in a report "the program has not demonstrated results."

Gillibrand says she has a three-point plan to help dairy farmers:

... including legislation to double the amount of money farmers receive from the MILC program, legislation to index the MILC rate to keep up with inflation, as well as plans to hold Senate hearings on dairy pricing both in Washington, D.C. and New York State.  

Gillibrand is not alone is seeking changes to the MILC program, according to the New York Times:

Several caucus members called for more federal action in the short term, including higher payment rates in the Milk Income Loss Contract subsidy.

"It still comes down to a supply-demand issue. We have a lot of supply, demand has decreased, exports are down, and we have mild temperatures here so cows are happy, at least in the Midwest, producing a lot of milk," said David Zaslavsky, a Chicago analyst with Downes-O'Neill.

Apparently, there's something to the cheese and milk marketing campaign in California: "California cows are happy cows." Temperate weather makes cows happy. And we always thought it was just a funny line. (Though, PETA never thought so.)

Additional information from Lee's PR:

New York is the nation’s third largest dairy state, generating $2.4 billion annually, more than half of the state’s total agricultural receipts. Wyoming is the state’s leading county for dairy production. Unfortunately, the economic crisis has had a significant impact on the dairy industry. For the first five months of 2009, the benchmark federal order average price was $11.59 per hundredweight, down 25 percent from the average of the previous five years. In June 2008, New York dairy farmers were paid $18.81 per hundredweight. Milk prices for June 2009 were expected to drop to around $11.40, while the latest USDA estimated cost of producing milk in New York is $25.27 per hundredweight. As a result, dairy farmers in Livingston County are projected to lose more than $23 million this year. In Wyoming County, dairy farmers are projected to lose $28 million, and in Genesee County, $60 million.

Lee joins new caucus of dairy farm representatives

By Howard B. Owens

Congressional members with a shared interest in the fate of dairy farmers have revived a caucus to work together on those concerns, and Rep. Chris Lee has been selected as a co-chair of the committee.

Other representatives from New York are Democrats Paul Tonko and Louise Slaughter.

Caucuses are officially sanctioned groups of lawmakers who join together to promote a common cause. Here's a complete list of such groups.

With dairy prices at historical lows, and production costs remaining high, dairy farmers have been looking to Washington for assistance and support.

The new caucus gives congressional members with a shared interest in dairy farming a means to study dairy farming issues and come up with recommendations that could conceivably lead to legislation or other assistance.

Lawmakers announce tour of Washington, D.C., with veterans

By Billie Owens

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C, I – Batavia) announced his second annual Patriot Trip for veterans to tour Washington, D.C.  This special trip is scheduled for Sept. 24-27 and is being jointly hosted by Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26).

“Last year’s trip was a very special and memorable trip for me on many levels: as a representative, as a veteran and as the son of a veteran," Hawley said. "I was thrilled to be able to share the experience with so many veterans from our region and am even more excited for this year’s expanded trip. I would like to thank Congressman Lee for his support and assistance in the planning of this trip."

The trip, dubbed Patriot Trip II, will include round-trip private-coach transportation from Western New York to Washington, D.C. and accommodations at the Crossroads Hotel on Quantico Marine Base.

It also includes tours of the nation’s Capitol and Arlington Cemetery, as well as visits to a number of monuments and memorials, including World War II, Korean, Vietnam, FDR, Jefferson and Iwo Jima, among other tours and visits. Additionally, the trip includes admission to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Smithsonian Museum and Quantico Marine Military Museum.

“Any time our veterans take the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital, it’s an important event,” said Congressman Lee. “It’s not uncommon to see vets at our war memorials surrounded by grateful tourists and fellow citizens. I hope all local veterans will seek to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Assemblyman Hawley continues to do great work on behalf of our local veterans, and I look forward to working with him to ensure this trip is a success.”

While many veterans were sent a mailer with the trip’s original dates, due to military personnel commitments at the hotel, the trip’s dates have been changed to Sept. 24-27.  Assemblyman Hawley, who's also Ranking Member of the Assembly Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would like to encourage all veterans within the 139th Assembly District who did not receive the mailing, to call his office and ask to be put on the mailing list.

For more information about the trip and its details, pricing, or to sign-up for the trip or mailing list, please call Assemblyman Hawley’s District Office at (585) 589-5780.

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