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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Problem for Anti-Clinton Issue Advocacy Ads

At Politico, Tarini Parti and Kenneth Vogel tell why some 501(c)(4) groups have been slow to run anti-Clinton ads:
“The IRS’s standards are hopelessly vague and complicated,” fumed Jim Bopp, a top GOP campaign finance lawyer who brought the landmark Citizens United to the Supreme Court. “They aren’t standards. They are un-standards when you’re figuring out what’s lawful or not.”
The tax provision in question — section 501(c) — allows groups such as AFP and the Karl Rove-conceived Crossroads GPS, to keep donors secret. But it requires them to spend more than half of their total cash on issue advocacy that is not expressly election-related.
That’s easy when your target is a sitting president, cabinet member or senator, because you can criticize them on issues — even when they’re on the ballot — and count it towards your so-called “primary purpose” of issue advocacy.
It’s harder, though, when the target hasn’t been in public office for many months, like Clinton, who stepped down as Secretary of State in early 2013 and hasn’t occupied an elected office since she left the Senate for the State Department in 2009. Compounding the ambiguity, conservative legal sources say, is an unclear Internal Revenue Service interpretation of the provision.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The GOP Is Not Doomed

At USA Today, Ross Baker questions forecasts of GOP doom, noting that while pro-Democratic population groups are growing, populations and electorates are two different things.
The very groups predicted to swell the numbers of Democrats are also those least likely to show up at the polls, especially in non-presidential elections. For example, in 2014, a non-presidential year, voters ages 18-29 constituted only 13% of the electorate, compared with those 65 and older, who were 22% of those casting ballots. In 2012, a presidential year, the youngest cohort of voters was a more robust 19%.
A strong youth turnout in presidential elections favors Democrats, but the falloff of the youth vote in non-presidential elections magnifies the influence of Republican-leaning groups such as seniors. This tends to produce a situation in which, increasingly, Democratic presidents will face a Republican Congress and hostile governors.
Turnout for Democrats is equally underwhelming in non-presidential years with minorities, most notably African Americans, the most loyal Democrats. The party has been heartened by the rise of Hispanics in the population, but a portion of that rise includes the estimated 11 million undocumented residents of the U.S., most of whom are Hispanic and cannot legally vote. Even among those who can, turnout has been dismal. Last year, more than 43% of likely non-voters were identified as non-white. President Obama lamented this anemic contribution to Democratic voting strength shortly after the 2014 elections. But what of 2016?
Intensity of feeling drives participation in elections, and one of the most intense groups has been the backers of Donald Trump. This is partly because of his celebrity and bumptious oratory, but there is an audience out there for the issues he has chosen to emphasize that extends well beyond Trump himself, an unlikely GOP presidential nominee. These issues, captured by a more electable Republican, will certainly enhance GOP turnout in 2016.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Abortion in 2016

Jeremy W. Peters writes at The New York Times:
Rick Perry’s voice softens when he talks about the joy he gets from looking at his iPad and seeing “that 20-week picture of my first grandbaby.” Marco Rubio says ultrasounds of his sons and daughters reinforced how “they were children — and they were our children.” Rand Paul recalls watching fetuses suck their thumbs. And Chris Christie says theultrasound of his first daughter changed his views onabortion
If they seem to be reading from the same script, they are. 
With help from a well-funded, well-researched and invigorated anti-abortion movement, Republican politicians have refined how they are talking aboutpregnancy and abortion rights, choosing their words in a way they hope puts Democrats on the defensive. 
The goal, social conservatives say, is to shift the debate away from the “war on women” paradigm that has proved so harmful to their party’s image.

Democrats were jolted by the latest and perhaps most disruptive effort yet in this line of attack by activists who want to outlaw abortion: surreptitiously recorded video of Planned Parenthood doctors casually discussing how they extract tissue from aborted fetuses.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Crossroads 2016

Patrick O'Connor reports at The Wall Street Journal:
Crossroads has spent months conducting polls, focus groups and other research to determine the best ways to undercut Mrs. Clinton. The group is hoping to craft specific attacks that resonate with individual segments of the electorate, rather than lob the sort of broad-brush attacks that didn’t work against Mr. Obama in 2012. 
It is a lesson Crossroads operatives learned in the 2014 midterms. In Alaska, polling and focus groups showed ads linking former Democratic Sen. Mark Begich to Mr. Obama weren’t that effective. Instead, the Crossroads team discovered Anchorage residents didn’t have a favorable view of Mr. Begich’s tenure as mayor. They ran three separate ads tapping into those concerns. The first two didn’t move the needle, causing Mr. Law to question the strategy. The third struck a nerve, forcing the Democrat to respond to the attacks. Mr. Begich never recovered. 
“We were building stories, not simply throwing punches,” Mr. Law said of the group’s ads in 2014. “That’s a key part of connecting with voters, especially in a highly cluttered environment.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Clinton: Drip Drip Drip

Lloyd Green writes at The Daily Beast that Hillary Clinton has some problems.
But it’s no longer about just about optics, polls, crowds, and visuals. It’s coming down to a drip-drip-drip of foot-dragging and wrongdoing by Clinton and the Obama administration. It’s about whether or not Clinton broke the Criminal Code, and whether or not the government itself is above the law.
  • Item. According to a June 29, 2015 memo obtained by the New York Times, inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies concluded that Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.”
  • Item. According to a memo sent on July 17, 2015, also obtained by the New York Times, the inspectors general determined “that at least one email made public by the State Department contained classified information.”
  • Item. On Monday, Judge Richard J. Leon of United States District Court for the District of Columbia zinged government lawyers about why that had dragged their feet in responding to Freedom of Information requests made by the Associated Press, some of which were four years old. As the Judge put it, “for reasons known only to itself,” the State Department “has been, to say the least, recalcitrant in responding.”
  • Item. On Wednesday, the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks announced that it planned to call Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff to explain why the State Department has not produced documents subpoenaed by the Committee. As Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chairman, framed it, “The State Department has used every excuse to avoid complying with fundamental requests for documents.” Can you say cover-up?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scandalabra: Investigation

Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails.” The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.
It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them.
But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.
The Washington Post has an update:
The Justice Department said Friday it has been asked to investigate the “potential compromise of classified information” in connection with the private e-mail account that Hillary Rodham Clinton used while serving as secretary of state.
A statement issued by the Department said it had received a “referral” on the matter, although it did not say whom it had come from.
“It is not a criminal referral,” the statement said.

Justice officials also said that no decision has yet been made about whether to open an investigation.
The statement came after media reports — initially confirmed to The Washington Post by Justice Department officials — that a criminal investigation was being considered. The New York Times first reported Thursday that the inspectors general of the State Department and the intelligence agencies had asked for a criminal investigation related to Clinton’s e-mail account.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump: Not Really Republican

Carl Cannon writes:
Certainly, there are thrice-married Republicans in this country. There are also Republicans who consider Bill Clinton a successful president, just as there are Republicans who believe George W. Bush was “the worst president in history.” Some Republicans care so little about abortion that they can’t explain if they are pro-life or pro-choice. There are also Republicans who have said that all 11 million illegal immigrants in this county deserve “a path” to citizenship—and there are other Republicans who have called for an impenetrable wall between the United States and Mexico. There are even a few Republicans who have donated money to Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid.

But there are no Republicans about whom you can accurately say all those things—unless you count Donald Trump. In a recent interview, Ari Fleischer, who was White House press secretary under George W. Bush, said it was clear that Trump was “no conservative.” The real issue is more basic: there’s not much evidence he’s even a Republican.