Are there any TPM Readers out there from New Jersey or Illinois? If there are, we've got a contest for you. Actually, you don't have to be from either state. But folks from New Jersey and Illinois might be most motivated.
As mentioned earlier, we've been starting to compile our nationwide list of Social Security phase-out weasels -- congressional candidates who refuse to reveal whether they favor preserving Social Security or phasing it out and replacing it with private accounts (aka, the Bush plan).
So today we're starting out with two candidates: senate candidate Tom Kean, Jr. (R-NJ) and House candidate Peter Roskam (R-IL), who's running for the 6th District seat in Illinois.
In both cases, it's pretty clear they support President Bush in his desire to phase out Social Security and replace it with private accounts. But now that an election is coming they refuse to state their views publicly. From what we can tell, Roskam's site contains no mention of Social Security at all even though signs indicate he'll support phasing it out as President Bush says he'll try to do next year if he keeps his majorities in Congress. Kean's site ducks the issue. So we're looking to find out clearly and definitively which side they're on.
Are they for phasing it out? Or against phasing it out? Which is it?
If you can find out where either Kean or Roskam stands you'll win a special TPM 'Privatize This' t-shirt, a TPM mug and ... and a special place in our new TPM Hall of Social Security Heroes.
So, how do you find out? Well, all sorts of ways. You can pose the question at a town meeting. You can call in on a radio call in show. Candidates have to campaign and that means going out and meeting voters and answering their questions. So there are plenty of opportunities. You can do research on the web. You can call their campaign office and ask. Maybe some reporter in the area gets a scoop and gets the candidate's position. If you're the first one to send us the link to the article, you win.
(Sub-contest: If you get a chance to pose the question to Kean or Roskam and you have a video or audio recording or the question is written up in the press, you'll win a special runner-up TPM mug, even if Kean or Roskam weasel out and refuse to answer your question. In fact, anyone who can provide particularly choice examples of Social Security weaseldom from Kean or Roskam will be awarded a TPM mug.)
Here are some quick rules.
1. If you find out where a given candidate stands on phasing out Social Security, the answer must be independently confirmable by TPM reporters. For example, if you ask a candidate at a candidate forum and you get an answer, you've got to have some sort of proof -- a tape recording, a video, a news write-up of your question being answered, etc. Different circumstances will require different sorts of proof of authentication. But the point is that we can't just take your word for it.
2. You are encouraged to be creative and persistent in your quest for an answer to this critically important question. However, any evidence that a contestant's behavior has been disrespectful, harrassing or in any way inappropriate will be grounds for immediate disqualification. Be firm, polite and persistent.
3. Full-time, professional journalists covering the races in question are not eligible. (This is mainly a favor to them. If they won by doing their job, it would place them in an awkward position anyway.)
4. All questions about what constitutes a straight answer and who got the answer first are to be decided by TPM.
We'll be announcing other contest candidates soon.