May, 2015

How Did Dennis Hastert Get So Rich?

Ana Marie Cox: “How did Hastert happen to have enough money lying around that paying out $3.5 million was even within the realm of possibility?”

“Hastert’s ability to participate in the blackmail is, after all, itself a general indictment of D.C.’s ‘revolving door’ money culture, in which former lawmakers move easily from government into lobbying. In Hastert’s case, the ability to profit off of one’s legislative position is especially galling: While in office, Hastert used the earmarking process to turn his investment in some Illinois farmland into a profit of 140 percent when a federal highway project just happened to make its way through those very fields. Indeed, it was this instance of a completely legal form of insider trading that helped prompt Congress to end earmarks.”

“And, of course, Hastert made even more money once he was out of office. One study found that, on average—and when the information is publicly available—former lawmakers get a 1,425 percent raise when they make the jump from Capitol Hill to K Street. Hastert, who was worth between $4 million and $17 million when he left Congress, was making $175,000 as a representative. His K Street bump would be to almost $2.5 million a year.”

Graham’s Bid Hopes to Make Case for Hawks

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “plans to enter the crowded Republican presidential primary field Monday with a campaign that probably won’t deliver him to the White House, but will highlight the party’s divide over national security,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Graham lacks the big-money backing and name recognition that’s likely to be needed to pull away from the party’s increasingly unwieldy field. But for him, that may not matter.”

“For the last several years, Graham, a former Air Force colonel and legal officer, has played a central role in a sometimes-bitter battle between the GOP’s traditional defense advocates and newly emergent isolationist-leaning libertarians led by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is also seeking the party’s presidential nomination.”

O’Malley Kicks Off Bid on Defensive

“When Martin O’Malley announces his bid for the presidency Saturday in Baltimore, he is hoping that backdrop will strengthen his effort to become the leading candidate for progressives,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the backdrop also could be his albatross. In preparing to seek the Democratic nomination, he has cast himself as the only candidate with the vision, record and hands-on experience to attack urban problems such as poverty and crime. But the stubborn urban decay that continues to afflict sizable swaths of Baltimore threatens O’Malley’s pitch.”

Kansas Republicans Concede They Must Raise Taxes

“With the state facing a $400 million budget hole for the coming fiscal year, the conservatives who dominate the Legislature here say they are agonizing over the likelihood of doing something that did not seem to be in their DNA: raising taxes,” the New York Times reports.

“Just three years ago, many of these lawmakers passed the largest tax cuts in state history, saying they would lead to economic growth. But that growth did not appear, and after repeatedly trimming spending to close shortfalls, legislators again find themselves in a prolonged budget battle with no easy answers, where both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature are proposing tax increases.”

“The reason: even anti-tax Republicans are acknowledging that there is not much more to cut without significantly hurting popular programs, including education.”

Why are Prosecutors Keeping Hastert’s Secret?

Noah Feldman: “There’s something very worrisome about the government secrecy here — particularly in conjunction with the criminal prosecution on the morally mild charge of withdrawal structuring. I’d sum up the secrecy problem this way: Either Hastert did something terrible, in which case the government shouldn’t be suppressing it, or Hastert was being unjustifiably blackmailed, in which case the government shouldn’t be prosecuting him for breaking the withdrawal laws to avoid ruin.”

Hastert Was Trying to Cover Up Sexual Misconduct

Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was paying an individual from his past to conceal sexual misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“One of the officials… said Individual A, as the person is described in Thursday’s federal indictment, was a man and that the alleged misconduct was unrelated to Hastert’s tenure in Congress. The actions date to Hastert’s time as a Yorkville, Ill., high school wrestling coach and teacher… The other official confirmed that the misconduct involved sexual abuse.”

The New York Times says that Hastert “was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago.”

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed reports investigators considered including a second victim in indictment but ultimately chose not to.

The Supreme Court Could Give GOP More House Seats

The Supreme Court “surprised election-law experts and said it would hear arguments this fall about whether voting districts should continue to be drawn by using census population data, which include noncitizen immigrants who are in the United States both legally and illegally, or whether the system should be changed to count only citizens who are eligible to vote, as conservative challengers are seeking,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“In California and other states with large noncitizen populations, a switch in who gets counted could have a huge effect.”

FiveThirtyEight: “A move toward counting only eligible voters, as logistically difficult as it may be, would drastically shift political power away from the urban environs with minorities and noncitizens, and toward whiter areas with larger native-born populations. That’s bad news for Democrats: Of the 50 congressional districts with the lowest shares of eligible voters, 41 are occupied by Democrats (nearly all are Latino-majority seats). Meanwhile, of the 50 districts with the highest shares of eligible voters, 38 are represented by the GOP.”

Cuba Removed from Terror List

“Cuba’s designation by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terror was officially lifted, the State Department said, clearing a hurdle to re-establishing diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Obama recommended to Congress last month that Cuba be removed from the U.S. list, triggering a 45-day congressional notification period in which lawmakers could have challenged the decision. Though Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy has opponents on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers didn’t take steps to do so. The two governments continue to negotiate over the re-establishment of embassies.”

O’Malley to Join Race This Weekend

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will become the third candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination this weekend, joining Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Harry Enten: “O’Malley is a star in Democratic primary polls. But that’s not a good thing. Pollsters give candidates a ‘*’ symbol when they get less than 1 percent support. So just how is O’Malley going to fight all the way back against Hillary Clinton? Reportedly by offering a more progressive vision and running to Clinton’s left. There’s one main problem with this strategy: It makes no sense.”

Rand Paul Can’t Find a Sugar Daddy

“In a presidential campaign defined by billionaire sugar daddy donors, Rand Paul has a problem: He doesn’t seem to have one,” Politico reports.

“While his rivals cultivate wealthy backers who will pump millions of dollars into their candidacies, Paul has struggled to find a similar lifeline. It’s led to considerable frustration in his campaign, which, amid rising concerns that it will not be able to compete financially, finds itself leaning heavily on the network of small donors who powered his father’s insurgent White House bids.”

“It hasn’t been for lack of trying. In recent months, Paul has sought to woo a string of powerful Republican megadonors — from Silicon Valley executives to a Kentucky coal mogul to the billionaire Koch brothers — who, it was believed, would be philosophically aligned with his free-market views. In each case, he met disappointment.”

Hastert Indictment Another Blow to Congress’ Image

First Read: “If you thought Congress’ image couldn’t get worse, well think again. Average Americans who think the place is filled with crooks and creeps may have more ammo. The irony here, as others have pointed out: Hastert became speaker in the late 90s due to scandal, he lost the majority (in part) to another GOP scandal, and he now finds himself in his own scandal — after leaving office.”

Rick Klein: “Scandal-plagued is practically an automatic addendum to define the Hastert years, from Newt Gingrich to Bob Livingston to Tom DeLay to Bob Ney to Duke Cunningham to Mark Foley. But the speaker himself was never a direct part – until now. The indictment of Dennis Hastert qualifies as a true bombshell, with far more questions than answers the day after the news broke. Among the biggest surprises is that Hastert appears to have had something worth millions to him to cover up from his distant past. How would have or could have a secret like that have survived FBI background checks and teams of opposition researchers for decades? And how could Hastert not have realized that the massive cash payouts wouldn’t have drawn scrutiny? Unlike the so-called ‘culture of corruption’ years, which contributed to the Democratic takeover of Hastert’s House, this looks like a deeply personal – and sad – story that’s playing out.”

Bush Outsourced His Campaign Before

“As Jeb Bush circa 2015 considers pushing the campaign finance envelope by offloading expenses to an outside group, he has a ready model to emulate: Jeb Bush circa 1998,” National Journal reports.

“That’s the year the Republican Party of Florida paid for his TV ads, his polling, and even his campaign staff’s salaries as he ran for governor. The advantage was millions of extra dollars. There was a $500 limit on individual contributions to Bush’s regular campaign, but the state party could accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. So Bush spent less time at fundraisers than in his previous run, but socked away far more money thanks to five- and six-figure checks.”