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PowerPlayer: Congressional Candidate David Vogel

Monday, October 08, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Independent Congressional candidate (1st District) David Vogel. Mr. Vogel was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about why he’s running and his vision for Rhode Island and the country.

1) What made you decide to run for Congress?

On my candidate's page at Facebook, the following phrase has become my slogan:

Because Compla(I)n(I)ng About Government (I)s Gett(I)ng U.S. Nowhere

Over the last 30 years, the federal government has come under increasingly intense pressure from industries that are ready, willing, and able (not Abel) to spend vast sums of money in order to influence (or simply buy) Congress in order to favor those few sectors -- at the expense of the remainder of the population. As one would expect when an ecosystem is thrown ever-more out of balance, the result has been a constantly widening gap -- not just between the "haves" and the "have nots," but between the electorate and those it sends to Washington.

Within the context of the legislature, there is only one thing I find to be more disheartening than watching our government sell out -- that is the way in which our population has allowed itself to be manipulated into believing that our problems will be solved if we continue to vote for the very groups (Democrats and Republicans) whose actions created the problems in the first place. At this juncture in history, it does not appear to matter whether a particular politician is a (D) or an (R); the reality is that when one is a cog in a major-party machine, one is pushed into conformity with a specific ideology -- an ideology that is bought, paid-for, and dictated by party bosses and, in turn, by their corporate masters (this is the true meaning of "trickle-down government"). Sadly, the evidence is mounting that this phenomenon has forced the priorities of Democrats and Republicans to converge with those of K Street, and to diverge from those of Main Street.

Which is why I am running as an Independent.

Although I enjoy a healthy debate, I am not a protester by nature. At the same time, I have concluded that if I ever am to count myself as being part of the solution, it is necessary for me to become involved in a way that is substantive in nature. While this takes me outside of what (in the past) has been my comfort zone, there is truth to the concept that you never know where you can go until you try to go to places where you never have been.

2) Tell us the three biggest issues that need to be addressed to turn around Rhode Island’s economy.

1. In the short-term, the most important thing Rhode Island needs to do is to decide that we want to make our state an inviting place in which to conduct business, and also an inviting place in which to actually live. The reason I place these two together is because it makes no sense to grant incentives to an employer without also offering some good reason why employees would want to come here to live. By designing some type of hybridized package, we stand a chance of not only attracting quality employers, but of the employers, in turn, being able to draw good employees. This would help to broaden the population base, and thus relieve the stress under which our state currently operates.

2. In the medium-term, Rhode Island must establish a clear direction in which to go. While it's nice to discuss the notion of "attracting business now" in order to stimulate our economy, it is necessary to have a plan for what we would like to showcase as the "identity" of our state. For example, Silicon Valley specializes in high-tech, New York specializes in finance, and Las Vegas specializes in gaming and conventions. If Rhode Island weren't so small, I would say that finding an identity for an entire state would be pure folly; but in this regard, our size could be an asset. (With apologies to Hasbro, the "Mr. Potato Head" theme was something less than satisfying.)

3. In the longer-term, Rhode Island must work to improve its system of public education. While technology certainly has taken hold in the modern classroom, I would argue we are not being as efficient or as productive as we should be. We know that children are capable of learning within the first twenty-four hours of life, and yet we waste their first several years by not teaching them much of anything in the way of the basic problem-solving skills that are such clear necessities in an information-driven economy. If it is true that locations with higher-quality systems of education traditionally do better than places without such a feature, imagine what being known as an innovator in education could mean for a place like the Ocean State.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I practice law, so my routine can be pretty tedious. These days, of course, my schedule is peppered with interviews, appearances, discussions, and more e-mails than I normally receive. I am proud of the fact that I answer every communiqué that is sent to me by actual people (corporations are not people), and that I have had to decline only a very few invitations to appear.

4) You’re an immigration lawyer. What does “comprehensive immigration reform” actually look like?

When you read (or hear) the phrase "the immigrant community," what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Raise your hand if the screen inside your head is showing images of highly-qualified engineers, computer programmers, web-developers, attorneys, physicians, entrepreneurs, and a host of others who work in industries that are integral to the economic fabric of this country.

Those aren't the images that come to your mind? Then you are acquainted neither with the immigrant community, nor with its achievements.

If our nation is to undergo an economic renaissance, participation by the immigrant community is vital; its members are industrious and, for these people, thriving in the United States is more than a mere goal -- it is a true status symbol.

While our philosophy of immigration, and thus our policies, should be centered around the foregoing, we instead have a federal government that actually imposes untenable obstacles to legal immigration. This is done via inconsistent rules across agencies, inadequate requirements for the competence of employees, ineffective training, nearly unfettered discretion for decision-makers, virtually no accountability, little recourse for when the systems fails, and entirely unpredictable results.

An overhaul would include the following:

*Decoupling the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) from Homeland Security;

*Shifting funding into the USCIS;

*Addressing/correcting extant inadequacies of training;

*Imposing accountability upon government personnel who exhibit blatant disregard for the underpinnings of the system;

*Harmonizing (and simplifying) the rules across the agencies;

*Retooling the artificially low numerical caps that exist for lawful immigration.

Ultimately, the focus must be upon providing a workable framework for the system, real hope for families who wish to be united, true predictability of results, and the meaningful purpose our government is so fond of pretending it already gives.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I'm a lifelong insomniac. Unless I'm sick, I don't sleep for "normal" durations of time; rather, I live on an endless series of naps.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My Jewish mother

Favorite Restaurant: My father’s kitchen.

Best Beach: If it's a beach, if it's summertime, and if the menu includes New England lobster and fresh Rhode Island Butter & Sugar corn.... then it makes the list.

Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: Ninety-nine percent of my reading is informational in nature, which means that rather than reading books, I usually am reading reports and analyses.

Advice for the Next David Vogel: So far, here is what I have learned about running for office as an alternative candidate:

*Conventional wisdom is not as wisdom-filled as one might think;

*Money does not need to be the key to this endeavor;

*An unwavering genuineness, coupled with a lengthy perseverance, will garner lots of positive attention. I believe if I had executed my strategy over a period of twelve to eighteen months, instead of just two to three, my profile at this time would be substantially higher;

*Answer all e-mails you receive from real people (corporations are not people). This also applies to the communiqués that appear to be from individuals whom you think will disagree with you -- they might hate your position, but they will respect the fact that you took the time to draft a personal response;

*Until our political environment changes in a fundamental way, third-party candidates don't get many opportunities to connect with lots of voters. Treat every single interaction as though it is your only chance to state your case.

*Do your homework. While nobody can be expected to know everything, it needs to be clear to those with whom you are speaking that you have taken the time to educate yourself about the salient points of the issue.

*Don't fake it. If you lack certain pieces of information, or if you have not given enough thought to a topic, it's ok to say so; in the same vein that answering your e-mails earns respect, so too does intellectual honesty.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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"De-coupling"CIS from DHS may be sounding good as theory,but in day to day operations,it would have the net effect of hampering investigations conducted by ICE by moving files to another Cabinet department where access could be limited by the Privacy Act.CIS and ICE need to be separate but both within DHS.
Mr.Vogel doesn't address a single measure to improve border security or internal enforcement of immigration laws.I'd like to hear his rationale for opposing e-Verify.And not the same old BS about inaccurate records-the Social Security database seems to be very adequate for its other assigned functions.

Comment #1 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

@ Joseph Bernstein:

You either have very poor reading skills, or are so hopelessly biased that you ascribe to anyone and everyone whatever is your personal slant.

Show me how you reach the conclusion of what you now have unequivocally stated is my position regarding e-verify. And don't give me, as you would say it, "the same old BS about" drawing a conclusion based upon your personal imaginary premise.

Go ahead, show me the quote....

Are you even aware of the capabilities and the logistics of conducting investigations where they are necessary? If you are, then you do a good job of hiding it (my guess, however, is that you haven't the slightest idea of what you are talking about).

I suppose you are absolutely confident in your ability to tell the world what I might propose as ways to begin improving the quality of the system. Go ahead -- put more words in my mouth so that your narrow-mindedness and ignorance can be laid bare for the world to see.

I fully expect that because you will have no way in which to defend your statements with actual answers, you instead will attempt to deflect the discussion, and therefore will respond by trying to raise different issues, toss out more collateral rhetoric, and spew a host of irrelevancies.

Come on.... surprise everyone by actually staying on point.


Comment #2 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

@ Joseph Bernstein:

In a case where I have made a mistake, I always endeavor to correct it as soon as I have discovered the error.

Assuming you are the same Joseph Bernstein who worked for INS, and then for ICE, for twenty years, I must concede that you understand fully the logistics involved with conducting investigations.

Therefore, on that point, I apologize.

However, you still need to show everyone where you came to your conclusion regarding my position with respect to e-verify, and still need to demonstrate how you know what I might propose as possible solutions to the structure of the immigration apparatus.


Comment #3 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

Thank you for the ad hominem attacks on me.
I arrived at my conclusion about your opinion of eVerify by the fact that you never mentioned it.
Now-you just walked into it friend.
I was a US Immigration officer from 3/76-11/96 retiring as a Senior Special Agent after starting as a Border Patrolman.
I spent most of my career in the INS Investigations Division in Chicago and providence.
I conducted investigations involving illegal status,fraud,fugitives,criminal aliens,human trafficking,and my last 9 years assigned to narcotics enforcement.During that 9 years many investigations I pursued related to the ongoing drug investigations.
Specific enough?

Comment #4 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

To be accurate I never worked for DHS/ICE since I retired in 1996,but thank you for being decent enough to correct yourself.
I was around for the last "comprehensive"reform and since it didn't result in REAL verification for employment,a whole new underclass of workers illegally in the country was created.I thought it was something you needed to address.

Comment #5 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

I think our posts "crossed in the mail"-I didn't see your second one until after I wrote mine.Obviously we both have experience in the subject,albeit from different perspectives and if there have been a lot of changes in the immigration laws,it's not like I keep up with them as you have to.
Let me re-phrase what I said-what are your thoughts on eVerify?

Comment #6 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

I am frankly dumb-founded that a Congressional candidate would respond to a potential constituent with such "kindergarten - school yard" attacks, regardless of how the inquiry was posed. Clearly, Mr. Vogel appears not-quite-ready for prime-time candidacy.

E-verify is a necessary tool, if for nothing else to prevent ineligible workers from gaining employment in Rhode Island and the United States. Secure Communities, likewise, is a no-brainer.

Comment #7 by David Allen on 2012 10 08

@ David Allen:

You might be dumb-founded, but anyone who knows me (including people from Newport to Cumberland who have indicated their support for me) probably wouldn't be.

I did not see it as a "school yard attack" as much as I felt it was a challenge to see if someone would be able to back-up flatly-made accusations.

Right after I finish this response, I will write again to Mr. Bernstein.

I will not pander for votes, and will not say what someone wants to hear merely because they live in this district.

If you want someone who simply will treat you with kid gloves because they think it will garner your vote, the field is chock-full of such choices. On the other hand, if you want someone who is sincere enough and consistent enough to treat you like an adult, and not simply smile and nod, then your choices for whom to cast your vote are quite limited.

If your idea of "ready for prime-time" candidacy is treating potential constituents as though they are nothing but easy votes, then you will like the field instead of me.

Otherwise, perhaps there is a different definition of "ready for prime-time" that could be considered.


Comment #8 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

No one suggests that you should pander, but responding like a child is not treating someone or acting like an adult. For some reason, at the end of reading your initial response to Mr. Bernstein, I was 100% sure, he would not only be flabbergasted by the sophmoric attack, but he would also be pulling bubblegum from his hair.

Comment #9 by David Allen on 2012 10 08

@David Allen-bubblegum-LOL-hey,at least Mr.Vogel isn't above acknowledging a mistake-neither am I-I sort of jumped the gun with the eVerify comment,but I've been amazed at how much criticism such a common sense,ethnic/race neutral concept can generate.
Secure Communities is also as you said,a no brainer-EVERYONE gets screened-it's indisputably not biased except that it applies only to people arrested(hint:don't get arrested).

Comment #10 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

@ Mr. Bernstein:

I never mentioned e-verify because I happen to be in favor of preserving the integrity of this nation's workforce. I find it loathsome that there are employers in the U.S. who flout the law by utilizing unauthorized labor. Obviously, we do not know exactly how many such employers there are because they are in fact operating in violation of the requirements.

In my experience as an attorney (which spans fourteen years in all, including three years in another field of federal law -- taxation), I have come to believe that the key to implementing meaningful statutory and regulatory reforms is with a "carrot and stick" approach.

With respect to the area of employment, it needs to be made clear to U.S. employers that the hiring of unauthorized personnel will carry far stiffer penalties than those that currently are on the books. At the same time, the system should be adjusted so that employers would have available, if you will, a "pre-approved" supply of labor. In other words, rather than the time-consuming process of employees needing to apply after positions become available, I see little harm in allowing potential applicants (non I-140 self-petitioners) to apply in advance. Giving U.S. employers such a "ready supply" of talent would send the message that the government actually is interested in working to improve what is, currently, a process that can take up to a decade.

Since you retired, there have been changes in the system that are for the worse, not for the better. My more senior colleagues speak almost wistfully of the days of the old INS, and there are very few practitioners with whom I am acquainted who have many nice things to say about DHS and its control of the apparatus of immigration.

Anyway, I hope that gives you a better understanding of where I stand, and I'm glad we both seem to see that we can discuss the issue without walking away all mad at each other.


Comment #11 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

That's not a bad idea.I saw what happened in 1986-the amnesty recipients no longer had to put up with substandard wages and conditions so the employers just hired more freshly arrived people who had no work authorization and there was no effective system(the I-9's are a joke)to monitor who was hired.
I haven't heard much good about DHS and the complete separation of ICE and CBP is crazy.ICE doesn't make much sense either-we had very,very little interaction with Customs Investigations in my time.Just different jobs.
I liked the old system except with a separation between enforcement and service but both within the Justice Dept.

Comment #12 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

PS:I support Brendan Doherty mainly due to the facts that we've been acquainted for about 27 years and have worked together,but since I live in CD2 I can't vote in the CD1 election anyway.

Comment #13 by Joseph Bernstein on 2012 10 08

I wish we could get as many stories on our Third Party Candidates as we do with the Democrats and Republicans.
I would also like to see all candidates that are on the ballot and have qualified for an office to be allowed to debate.

Comment #14 by Wuggly Ump on 2012 10 08

Mr. Bernstein:

At least you have an opinion, and you will vote, and you support somebody (even if you do live in the other district).

Part of what I have been trying to get people to understand is that government needs to be a participatory activity. If one doesn't care enough to take a proactive stance and get involved in some way, then that person unequivocally forfeits the right to complain about the government, or how it relates to the greater population.


Comment #15 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

@ Wuggly Ump:

You might be happy to learn that I am scheduled to participate in the debate that is being sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island; the event will be televised live on WLNE TV (Channel 6), and also simulcast live on WRNI Radio.

As I understand it, all three of us (Mr. Cicilline, Mr. Doherty, and I) have agreed to participate. The date is October 23rd, and the start time is 7:00 p.m.

I hope you will watch.

Additionally, if you want to know more about me and my schedule of upcoming appearances, you may find such information on my website:


Also, I have been interviewed several times in recent weeks on both television and radio, and most of those interviews and programs are on-line in podcast form. The stations are:

WJAR Television ("10 News Conference" -- September 30, 2012);

WRNI Radio ("Political Roundtable" and the "Bonus Q & A" -- September 28, 2012);

Rhode Island Public Television ("State of the State" -- see the website at www.stateofthestateri.com).

If you go to the various websites (or maybe even google the interviews), it should not be difficult to find the podcasts.


Comment #16 by David Vogel on 2012 10 08

@ David Vogel Thanks for the info. If I'm not watching I'll be recording.

Comment #17 by Wuggly Ump on 2012 10 09

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