April 16, 2014

An Opening to More Corruption

Norm Ornstein: "Thanks to McCutcheon, only quid pro quo corruption is sufficient to trigger any restrictions on campaign contributions--meaning, direct bribery of the Abscam or American Hustle variety, presumably captured on videotape for the world to see. The appearance of corruption? Forget about it. Restrictions on elected officials soliciting big money? Forget about them, too."

"To anyone who has actually been around the lawmaking process or the political process more generally, this is mind-boggling. It makes legal what has for generations been illegal or at least immoral. It returns lawmaking to the kind of favor-trading bazaar that was common in the Gilded Age."

Conversation with Skip Rutherford

Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, joins us on the Political Wire podcast for a fascinating discussion of Arkansas politics.

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Warren's Book Out Next Week

The Boston Globe got an advance copy of A Fighting Chance by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and notes "the campaign-style book undoubtedly will stoke more calls for the Democratic Massachusetts senator, who won her Senate seat in 2012, to mount a 2016 presidential campaign. Warren has insisted she will not run for president in the next election, but even so the book and her heavy promotional tour will keep her in the national spotlight."

"Unlike the former Harvard law professor's previous books, which focused heavily on policy prescriptions and economic studies, this one is penned in a folksy style and contains extensive biographical sections and family photos, along with colorful stories from her battles over financial regulations in Washington."

Bonus Quote of the Day

"He was always nice and friendly and respectful of elder people, you know, he respected his elders greatly. As long as they were the same color as him."

-- Marionville, Missouri Mayor Dan Clevenger, quoted by KSPR, on the white supremacist accused of killing three people at a Jewish community center.

Could Sebelius Win in Kansas?

Harry Enten is doubtul that Kathleen Sebelius (D) could win the Senate race in Kansas she's reportedly weighing.

"The last time a Democrat was elected to the Senate from Kansas was 1932. That's not only the longest drought for the party, it's by far the longest winless streak. (The next longest drought for Democrats is in Wyoming, where they haven't won a Senate seat since 1970.) Democrats have lost 29 consecutive Senate races in Kansas, and they just don't win federal statewide races. Since 1940, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was the only Democratic presidential nominee to win in the Sunflower State."

Graham's Approval Rate Still Negative

A new Winthrop poll in South Carolina finds Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) still upside down, 40% to 44%, despite months of television ads from his re-election campaign.

Law Firm Leading Internal Christie Probe Donated $10K

"Nine days before a team of its top lawyers made public a report clearing Governor Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal, the law firm donated $10,000 to the Republican Governors Association, a group he heads," the Bergen Record reports.

Jeb Bush's Wife Key to 2016 Decision

"Republican donors and operatives are chattering about Bush's publicity-shy wife, so worried she isn't on board with a 2016 White House run that they're urging people in the family's orbit to make the case," Politico reports.

"Columba Bush has long been deeply averse to the spotlight, especially after an embarrassing encounter with U.S. Customs while her husband was still in office. Donors also wonder whether Bush is willing to subject his family and their personal lives to the inevitable scrutiny that comes with a national campaign. Two of his children have been in the news in past years for arrests linked to drug problems and public intoxication."

Outside Spending on Record Pace

Morning Line: "Federal campaign finance reports were (in theory) due at midnight for the first quarter of 2014, and we're going to be looking at a few different angles on money in this election. First, what's available comprehensively is outside spending (because it's updated more regularly). So far, outside groups have spent $56 million, outpacing every other midterm election to this point and more than doubling 2010 spending (which was $23 million at this point), the previous record year for midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, outside spending has already outpaced every PRESIDENTIAL election except 2012."

Sebelius Weighs Senate Bid

Kathleen Sebelius (D) is considering running against Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who called on her to resign after the bungled launch of Obamacare last fall, the New York Times reports.

"Several Democrats said this week that Ms. Sebelius had been mentioned with growing frequency as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Mr. Roberts, 77, who is running for a fourth term and is considered vulnerable. One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea."

The Downside of Pay Equality?

Wonk Wire: Phyllis Schlafly says women won't find husbands if paid the same as men.

The Martinez Tapes

Mother Jones published previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages and emails which reveal a side of New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez (R) the public "has rarely, if ever, seen."

"In private, Martinez can be nasty, juvenile, and vindictive. She appears ignorant about basic policy issues and has surrounded herself with a clique of advisers who are prone to a foxhole mentality."

Top Bush Official Advised Obama on Gay Marriage

The New York Times has a must-read look at how President Obama reversed his position on same-sex marriage.

"David Plouffe, a mastermind of the 2008 victory and a senior adviser to the president, reached out to Ken Mehlman for advice. The previous year, Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who engineered President George W. Bush's re-election, came out as gay and began working with the foundation Griffin set up to fund the Proposition 8 lawsuit, attracting well-known G.O.P. donors, strategists and officials to the cause. Mehlman had already met with Obama over lunch at the White House and told him that people voted for him in 2008 because they viewed him as an idealist who would put politics aside and do what was right. Endorsing same-sex marriage would remind voters that he was still that man."

"Mehlman sent Plouffe an email suggesting that the president announce his support for same-sex marriage in a TV interview with a female host. He also laid out specific language for Obama to use. Explain that this was a family decision and not a political one, he advised."

Christie Favors Abolishing Campaign Donor Limits

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) voiced support "for an end to campaign-finance limits, which he said have led to a system that has obscured the sources - but not stemmed the rise - of money in politics," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Said Christie: "The idea you're going to take money out of politics is just not going to happen. None of these laws change that. So let's just have transparency to it."

Democrats Hold Edge in Generic Ballot

A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds Democrats have staked out a lead over Republicans in the generic Congressional ballot, 48% to 42%.

However, just 45% approve of President Obama's job performance, while 52% disapprove.

Will Personhood Become Issue in Key Senate Races?

Greg Sargent: "The issue isn't being discussed at all by Washington prognosticators these days. But you can bet that some of the most hard fought Senate races this fall will feature big fights over 'Personhood' measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization."

"A number of GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form. Once primary season is over, and the Senate general elections get underway in earnest, you are likely to see Democrats attack Republicans over the issue -- broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Dems have used to their advantage in the past."

Castro Brothers Looking for Higher Office

The New York Times profiles the Castro brothers, who "seem to be everywhere these days, and not just because they are hard to tell apart."

"While the Castros have projected a fresh Latino face for their party, some Democrats are concerned that the brothers suffer from both an overabundance of political caution and a lack of Spanish skills. Mr. Castro, for example, passed on a potential cabinet position in the Obama administration that might have made him a more appealing running mate. Neither brother, both of whom graduated from Stanford and then Harvard Law, speaks fluent Spanish. And neither is learning it."

Republicans Narrow Cities for Convention

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that six cities are finalists to host the Republican National Convention in 2016, "including Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City."

"Las Vegas and Dallas are thought to be the favorites in the competition -- thanks mostly to generous GOP donors who will help raise at least $60 million to put on the convention. But GOP leaders said the cities are all under equal consideration."

Quote of the Day

"I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close."

-- Michael Bloomberg, quoted by the New York Times.

GOP Governor Signs Ban On Minimum Wage Increase

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a bill "prohibiting cities across the state from establishing mandatory minimum wage and employee benefits, including vacation or sick leave days," the Huffington Post reports.

"Advocates of the new law contend that efforts to increase the minimum wage across various municipalities could potentially harm local business communities."

GOP Lawmaker Calls Breastfeeding 'Smart and Sexy'

A Republican legislator in the Alaska state House apologized for touting the benefits of breastfeeding by calling it "smart and sexy," the Huffington Post reports.

Said state Rep. Shelley Hughes (R): "My intent was to draw attention to this incredibly important issue. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of attention I hoped to receive. I take full responsibility for the headline. I apologize for the poor choice of words, and am sorry if I offended anyone."

Outside Groups Have Raised Nearly $1 Billion

"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sitting on one of the largest bank accounts in politics, both among party-linked campaign committees and outside groups. Among party-backed groups that have disclosed their fundraising, the closest rival is the Democrats' Senate committee, sitting on $22 million at the end of March... House Republicans' committee ended February with almost $24.8 million banked," the Miami Herald reports.

"But party-aligned committees are just one piece of the political money puzzle that is already approaching the $1 billion mark -- completely independent of candidates whose names are on the ballots."

The Fix has the Q1 fundraising winners and losers.

Bloomberg Plans $50 Million Challenge to NRA

Michael Bloomberg, "making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association," the New York Times reports.

"The considerable advantages that gun rights advocates enjoy -- in intensity, organization and political clout -- will not be easy to overcome. Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars trying to persuade members of Congress to support enhanced background check laws with virtually nothing to show for it."

First Read: "Bloomberg's new multi-million-dollar effort is striking, because it's a recognition that his earlier gun-control push didn't work."

April 15, 2014

Landrieu Staged Hearing for New Ad

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) released a very effective ad using footage from local and cable news broadcasts.

However, the Weekly Standard notes at least one scene -- Landrieu speaking at a committee hearing -- was re-enacted for the ad.

"The reenactment fixes a verbal flub from Landrieu's original speech. Originally, she said 'Do you think there are a bunch of fairy godmothers out there that just wish a magic wand?' The line is cleaned up for the campaign ad."

See more...

Mayor Quits After Saying Disabled Shouldn't Have Sex

"The Conservative mayor of Swindon has resigned after he called disabled people 'Mongols' and questioned whether they should be allowed to have sex," Huffington Post UK reports.

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