Editorial December 13, 2013



“Unfortunately, Harper’s compassion for sick children is suspect…”

If you were asked, “Would you rather pay $3.00 to increase research into pediatric diseases or pay $3.00 to the public financing of presidential campaigns?” which would you chose?

Such is the question presented to House Members this week HR 2019, the Kids First Research Act of 2013 introduced by Rep. Greg Harper (R-MS-3rd).

On the surface Harper has presented a ‘no brainer’ so to speak; who would deny sick children a chance at life through increased National Institutes of Health (NIH) research at the expense of giving money to the Presidential Campaign Fund (PECF) and political parties that will use the funds for their campaigns or their conventions?

Who would give money to politicians when kids need help? As it turns out about 12% of tax filers check off the $3 allocation which is not taken from the donor’s taxes but paid from the general fund. In other words the governments ponies up the cash as directed by the taxpayer. One answer to Harper’s question of “Who?” is the wealthy. Data shows that the poor seldom check off the box but percentage of the wealthy checking the box rises with earned income to 23% as opposed to the 10% of low earners checking the box.

Unfortunately, Harper’s compassion for sick children is suspect by the fact that his Party has opposed the donation to campaign contributions on the IRS form for quite some time. It looks like Harper has come up with the latest tactic; to embarrass Members into voting for an unnecessary bill. The research is already funded and can be further funded without removing the the Presidential Election Campaign Fund from existence.

To support Harper’s bill is to provide $13 million in funding but also to deny taxpayers the opportunity to invest in public financing of campaigns if they chose. As the Tax Foundation (taxfoundation.org) points out, “The Presidential Election Campaign Fund is indeed designed to level the playing field for candidates. To this end, the PECF provides candidates with public funding for their presidential primary campaigns and their general election campaigns. For primaries, the PECF works by matching individual donors’ contributions dollar for dollar up to a limit. Only contributions from individuals are eligible for matching, and the limit is $250 per individual. This limit should not be confused with an individual’s limit on total contributions to a candidate, which is currently set at $2,300 per election. In other words, an individual is allowed to contribute a maximum of $2,300 to a candidate’s primary election fund, but only the first $250 would be matched by the PECF.

“A candidate seeking his or her party’s presidential nomination must also meet certain qualifications in order to receive public funds. A candidate must raise at least $5,000 in 20 different states and must agree to an overall campaign spending limit as well as various spending limits in each state. For 2008, the overall spending limit for primaries is just over $42 million.”

Simplistically, then, a taxpayer can chose to donate, without partisan positioning, to help fund those campaigns and do so without reaching in their pockets. It is a safe conclusion that the $3.00 of Treasury funds they earmark are likely funds the taxpayer paid in his taxes.

But Harper’s bill faces another challenge; it first eliminates the options to donate to the campaigns on your IRS form by repealing the Fund, but then says that money in the fund would be shifted to some National Institute of Health child disease research programs. Where is this going? If you eliminate the fund and assume there is some money in there for the NIH issue now, how will the fund be replenished for future funding of NIH programs if it doesn’t exist? One could begin to conclude that Harper’s agenda here is most certainly to erase the presidential campaign fund, which the bill accomplishes, since it has no part in his NIH donation plan. Harper’s answer to that conundrum is to request appropriations of $13 million for 2014 through 2013. So he has done what he could have done all along, request more money for pediatric research at NIH and leave the PECF in place but, instead he produced a ruse, a logical fallacy in which the existing PECF is suddenly, somehow in the way of curing sick children and the only solution is to remove it. Which is about as logical as believing that if you eat a cereal with Tiger Woods on the box, your golf game will improve.

Poinsett’s Popular Poinsettia

Courtesy House Clerk

Sure, he was a Representative from South Carolina, the first U.S. Minister to Mexico, and a Secretary of War. But what is Representative Joel Roberts Poinsett really famous for? This time of year, the answer might be found in a nearby display of holiday decorations.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on March 2, 1779, Poinsett trained as a physician in Scotland; however, he ultimately showed greater aptitude for languages and natural sciences than medicine. Poinsett abandoned his studies to travel extensively through Europe and the Middle East. He eventually served as a commercial agent to several South American countries before returning to South Carolina. Poinsett developed an interest in local and national politics as an advocate of internal improvements in his native state. He was elected to the South Carolina legislature in 1816 before he won a seat in the U.S. House in 1820. Poinsett’s political support extended to national issues, including tariff legislation and greater independence for new South American nations. His Latin American expertise caught the attention of newly elected President John Quincy Adams, who appointed Poinsett the first Minister to Mexico in 1825. Upon his return to the United States in 1829, Poinsett allied with his old friend, President Andrew Jackson, and famously opposed South Carolina’s adoption of the doctrine of nullification. Poinsett later served as Secretary of War under President Martin Van Buren.

Poinsett’s successful cultivation of this specimen earned him international recognition. On June 6, 1829, the plant—exhibited under the Latin name Euphorbia pulcherrima—was a popular specimen at the first PHS flower show. (The society’s exhibition was the precursor to today’s prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show.) In 1835, Buist informed Poinsett that the brightly colored plant was making quite a splash across the pond and—in consultation with a leading Scottish horticulturalist—Buist had christened it Euphorbia Poinsettia in honor of the South Carolinian’s success. The new

The poinsettia’s popularity blossomed in the United States in the early 20th century, due primarily to southern California farmer Albert Eckes and future generations of his family, who cultivated a hardier version and promoted its decorative use. By 2001, poinsettias contributed $256 million in sales at a wholesale level and on July 20, 2002, the House passed H. Res. 471, designating December 12 National Poinsettia Day.

Though a statesman most of his life, Poinsett’s political contributions before his death in 1851 remain a footnote in history. Instead, the cultivation of this holiday plant—“the high point of his scientific endeavors” according to one biographer—became this worldly South Carolinian’s lasting contribution.


The Creation of the Senate Seal


1831 Senate Seal

On July 4, 1776, immediately after declaring the United States independent of Great Britain, the Continental Congress established a committee to design an official seal for the new nation.  The resulting Great Seal of 1782 became a principal symbol of American sovereignty and independence.

Meeting in Philadelphia in the 1790s, members of the early Senate so admired the visually appealing Great Seal that they had it reproduced on a carpet woven for their chamber.  They also selected a similar design for the first official Senate seal.

The earliest surviving impression from the first Senate seal appears on a 1798 impeachment trial summons.  It displays a German imperial eagle, with a shield at its breast, its talons clutching arrows and an olive branch.  Rays of light burst from clouds above the eagle, symbolizing the emergence of the new nation.

In 1830, the Senate commissioned a replacement seal.  Following the then-popular neoclassical style, that device featured three goddesses symbolizing justice, liberty, and strength.  A chain of twenty-four links, representing the existing number of states, formed an encircling border.  That second seal appears among the official documents of President Andrew Johnson’s 1868 impeachment trial.

The nation’s 1876 centennial renewed interest in such national symbols and prompted a redesign of the Great Seal.  On March 31, 1885, the Senate took notice of that redesign and ordered an updating of its own.  Heavily used during an 1876 impeachment trial, the old seal had been left in poor condition in a Capitol basement.  As the Senate approached its one-hundredth anniversary, it paid a Philadelphia engraver $35 to design a third version featuring a liberty cap above a central shield, emblazoned with thirteen stars and an equal number of vertical stripes.

Today, that seal—first used in 1886—remains in the custody of the Secretary of the Senate.  Measuring one-and-a-half inches in diameter, it is used on impeachment and treaty documents, and on presentation copies of Senate resolutions recognizing appointments, commendations, and notable achievements.

In the mid 1980s, designers of the Senate’s first official flag debated which color best symbolizes the Senate: dark blue or deep red.  Although they settled on blue for the flag’s background, they had no doubts about the best choice for that banner’s centerpiece: the Senate seal.  Today, this once obscure symbol of Senate power and prerogatives is now easily visible in every senator’s office and above the dais of the Hart Building’s central hearing room.

Courtesy; Senate Clerk