Menendez Indicted on Corruption Charges

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) “was indicted on federal corruption charges on Wednesday, setting the stage for a bitter court fight and putting his political future in doubt,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Menendez was charged with seven counts of bribery, which carry up to 15 years in prison on each charge. He was also charged with conspiracy, fraud, and making false statements on government documents… Mr. Menendez is the first senator to face federal bribery charges since another New Jersey Democrat, Harrison A. Williams Jr., was indicted in 1980 in the Abscam scandal.”

Mike Pence’s Presidential Ambitions Up in Smoke

Politico: “Since Pence resigned as chairman of the House Republican Conference in November 2010 to run for governor, conventional wisdom held that he would bide his time in Indianapolis, padding his résumé with executive experience before mounting a presidential bid. After all, no one gets elected president from the House—American voters prefer governors, chief executives who have actually governed.”

“The working theory of a Pence bid, according to his allies, such as Kellyanne Conway, his longtime pollster, was somewhat Rube Goldbergian but plausible: If establishment and movement conservatives deadlocked in a primary, Pence could emerge as the consensus candidate. But when Pence signed the religious freedom bill into law last Thursday, that theory began to crumble.”

Smartphones Could Change the 2016 Presidential Race

A new Pew Research study finds “64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. Smartphone ownership is especially high among younger Americans, as well as those with relatively high income and education levels.”

Politico: “The new mobile reality is changing the state of news and advertising, and it will also change the dynamic of American politics — especially during the 2016 campaign season, journalists and political operatives said.”

Quote of the Day

“Over the past few months, my administration has received a lot of recognition for our bipartisan approach to governance. It seems to me that approach is something that is desperately lacking in Washington, D.C. So after much encouragement and reflection, I’ve come to the decision today to announce my candidacy for the president of the United States.”

— Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), quoted by the Baltimore Sun, before noting it was April Fool’s Day.

Politico: Pols celebrate April Fools’ Day with terrible, terrible jokes

Arkansas Governor Will Not Sign ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he “will not sign a controversial religious liberty bill, saying he wants lawmakers to recall the bill and change it so that it more closely resembles federal law,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Hutchinson: “This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. But these are not ordinary times.”

New York Times: “Several businesses, including the state’s largest employer, Walmart, as well as the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Municipal League and other civic groups have come out against the legislation.”

Kentucky Says Straight People Can’t Have Same-Sex Marriage Either

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) “says the state’s ban on gay marriage should be upheld in part because it is not discriminatory in that both gay and straight people are barred from marrying people of the same gender,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports.

“In an argument labeled absurd by gay marriage advocates, Beshear’s lawyer says in a brief filed last week at the U.S. Supreme Court that ‘men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex’ under Kentucky law, making the law non-discriminatory.”

“The argument mirrors that offered by the state of Virginia nearly 50 years ago when it defended laws barring interracial marriage there and in 15 other states, including Kentucky, by saying they weren’t discriminatory because whites were barred from marrying blacks just as blacks were barred from marrying whites.”

Are Republicans Losing Big Business?

Rick Klein: “The culture wars are raging again, bringing the predictable splits. Democrats say one thing; Republicans – including all of the potential 2016ers — say another, reflecting real divisions among voters. But there’s something missing on the GOP side: some of the biggest voices in the business community. Leading the way in criticizing the new Indiana law and its cousins in other states are titans of the corporate world: Apple, Walmart, Marriott, Eli Lilly, even Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce.”

“There are few signs that corporate leaders’ splits with the political right will last permanently, or matter for things like campaign contributions. But it’s instructive to see how things are lining up in this fight. It’s as if big slices of corporate America are glimpsing a demographic and ideological future ahead of their political counterparts.”

Wonk Wire: An erosion of gay rights?

A Lesson for Republicans in Indiana

First Read: “Here’s the bad news for Republicans: The political fight over religious freedom and gay rights that erupted in Indiana has forced Gov. Mike Pence to retreat; put the Republican 2016 contenders to the RIGHT of Pence; and further exposed that the GOP is in a different place on gay rights than the rest of the country. That includes big business. But here’s the good news for the party: They’re learning this lesson early — as opposed to having it play out next spring or even in the fall of 2016.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “The positions that play well in a small bubble of party politics and on Fox News may go wrong when the larger November 2016 electorate is exposed to them.”

More Approve of Congressional Democrats Than GOP

Washington Post: “Congressional Democrats get higher approval ratings than congressional Republicans, and the gap has widened since last fall. In October, 30 percent said they approved of congressional Democrats compared with 25 percent who approved of congressional Republicans. In the new survey, approval of congressional Democrats has risen to 38 percent while congressional Republicans are up a slight 2 points, to 27 percent.”

“Public approval of Congress remains low, though not as low as it was in the year after the partial shutdown of the government in October 2013. Today, 22 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is doing its job — a 7 point increase since last September. with the shift driven by a rise in support among independents and Republicans.”

Could Anyone Beat Clinton?

New York Times: “We asked three of the smartest Democratic strategists we know to imagine this situation: You are running the campaign of a liberal Democrat against Mrs. Clinton. You have $50 million to spend. What is your message? How do you run against her?”

“The strategists agreed to sketch out a blueprint anonymously, so as not to anger Mrs. Clinton. Some common themes immediately emerged.”

Cruz MIA at the Senate Armed Services Committee

“Sen. Ted Cruz,  has the committee’s worst attendance record — by far. The Texas Republican attended just three of the panel’s 16 public hearings so far this year, according to a Politico review of transcripts from full committee hearings. The average committee member attended 13 of the 16 hearings, and Cruz is the only one of the panel’s 26 members with an attendance rate below 50 percent.”

GOP Hopefuls Attack Obamacare While Taking the Money

“Several Republican governors likely to run for president have secured hundreds millions of dollars under Obamacare while working to dismantle the healthcare law,” Reuters reports.

“Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, all staunch opponents of President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, have collectively applied for and won at least $352 million through grant programs set up by the law, federal records show.”

“The action is at odds with the public stance of all four potential candidates, who have blasted the law as an unprecedented expansion of government and called for its repeal.”

New Group Will Secretly Funnel Money to Bush

Jeb Bush “has given his tacit endorsement to a new group that can collect unlimited amounts of money in secret, part of a bold effort by his advisers to create a robust external political operation before he declares his expected White House bid,” the Washington Post reports.

“The nonprofit group, Right to Rise Policy Solutions, was quietly established in Arkansas in February by a friend and former Bush staffer. The group shares the name of two political committees for which Bush has been aggressively raising money — blurring the line that is supposed to separate a campaign from independent groups.”

“While ideological nonprofits have become major players in national politics in recent years, this marks the first time one has been so embedded in the network of a prospective candidate.”