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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's positions on immigration.

 Seung Min Kim at WP:
President Trump and his top administration officials repeatedly warned Wednesday that unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the southern border are potentially exposing the nation to eventual gang crime. 
Immigrant advocates have long said that the children, primarily from Central America, are fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking safe harbor in the United States.
But the Trump administration has used their plight to justify cracking down on policies that allow these migrants to be released and obtain hearings before immigration judges, rather than being deported immediately. 
“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”
Trump added: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bad Days for Ryan

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

Melanie Zanona at The Hill:
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday pushed back against reports that some Republicans want him to give up the gavel before November, arguing that holding leadership elections before the midterms would be “divisive” for the GOP conference.
“Obviously I serve at the pleasure of the members. Those are the people who drafted me in this job in the first place,” Ryan told reporters. “But I think we all agree, the best thing for us is to complete our agenda and not wedge into the middle of the completion of our agenda divisive leadership elections.”
The Weekly Standard reported over the weekend that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and some White House officials were weighing an effort to push out Ryan before he retires in January so that McCarthy could take over as Speaker. That plan would also put Democrats on the record voting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the midterms.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appeared to back up some of the reporting during a conference sponsored by The Weekly Standard, saying he has discussed the idea of Ryan handing over the gavel to his successor before November.
"I've talked with Kevin about this privately but not as much publicly,” Mulvaney reportedly said. “Wouldn't it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election? That's a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it."
McCarthy vehemently denied the report on Tuesday.
A group of moderates frustrated with the lack of action to protect Dreamers from deportation is expected to collect enough signatures to force bipartisan immigration votes in the coming days, according to lawmakers and aides tracking the effort. And conservatives who oppose those bills are threatening to hold Republican leaders — starting with Ryan — responsible if they don’t stop it.
“If we run an amnesty bill out of a Republican House, I think all options are on the table,” Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters Monday night when asked whether Ryan could remain speaker if the so-called discharge petition succeeds.
“If leadership doesn’t stop it, they would be violating their own word, which was the Hastert rule, majority of the majority,” agreed Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), referring to an unofficial Republican policy of not holding votes on matters that aren’t backed by more than half of the conference.
Conservatives are so desperate to stop the discharge petition that they’re suggesting Ryan strong-arm moderates to get them to back down — though they decried ex-Speaker John Boehner’s use of such tactics against them in the past. Leaders should consider revoking National Republican Congressional Committee financial help or other perks to keep moderates from forcing the issue, several have said. Such a move would be devastating for those centrists, many of whom hail from swing districts targeted by Democrats.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Future of Parties

In Defying the Odds, we discuss changes in the major parties.

Bruce Cain at The American Interest considers the future the party system,.
I am more inclined to think that U.S. politics is headed down a third path where we retain the duopoly form and the essential intermediating function of political parties, but the party as organization moves into the largely unregulated internet space. The history of U.S. political reform is that political activity gravitates into the areas of least legal resistance. This is no clearer example of that principle than campaign finance reform. We imposed stricter restrictions on campaign donations after Watergate, and it eventually gave rise to PACs, independent spending, and now Super PACs. We passed disclosure regulations, and big money found safer ground in nonprofit 501c4s. We tried to offset private campaign money with public subsidies, but the restrictions proved too burdensome, and presidential candidates now avoid the public finance system entirely.

In this third scenario, the Democratic and Republican parties are still dominant and favored in many ways by state and federal laws. But the political parties continue the present trend of morphing into networks of party affiliated groups that spend “independently” on behalf of candidates. Outside groups and social media figures with large followings enforce party discipline rather than Congressional leaders.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Oppo 2018

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss opposition research.

At New York, Gabriel Debenedetti writes about American Bridge, America Rising, and the changing world of oppo:
In the old days, the group’s trackers — junior staffers with cameras who follow Republicans around, waiting for a gaffe — were instructed to identify themselves as American Bridge operatives when they got to an event, and they were told to remain passive, not asking questions or trying to trick their targets. Rule eliminated. (It took just until May 2017 for the group to post unflattering footage of a Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate grabbing a tracker’s camera and then angrily pushing him away.) In the pre-Trump era, the group stopped short of snooping for dirt beyond publicly available documents or clips. The no-digging-and-no-working-the-phones-and-no-sniffing-around-in-person guideline is now gone, fully thrown out the window by the time American Bridge dispatched staff to Alabama to look into Roy Moore last winter. And, after consulting local campaign finance and consent laws, Brock convinced some of his funders to set up a small fund that trackers can now tap into if they want to pay their way into GOP candidates’ private events where that’s legal. That move opened up a massive new stream of potentially damaging material for Republicans who think they’re speaking behind closed doors to friends and supporters. The tactic didn’t take long to pay off, either: it’s how the group caught Ed Gillespie, 2017’s Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, calling the northern part of his state “enemy territory” in a private fundraiser last September.

American Bridge’s bet is that most of the old laws of politics remain intact, but that it takes a new kind of alert system to call out violations. At a time that Missouri’s Republican governor is hanging onto his seat while he fights a handful of scandalous charges — including an explicit accusation of sexual assault — a Montana GOP congressman was elected one day after body-slamming a reporter (and is now favored for reelection), and, of course, Trump remains firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, it’s not clear that politicians around the country are so confident in the old rules’ stability.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ryan Signed Discharge Petitions

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race.

House GOP leaders oppose a discharge petition to consider immigration bills. Last week, Speaker Paul Ryan said “[W]e don’t like discharge petitions because it surrenders the floor to the minority. So, I don’t think the majority should ever do a discharge petition. So yes, we do not think our members should be doing discharge petitions.”

As a member of the minority, however, Ryan signed at least 17 discharge petitions:
  1. H.Res. 220 to consider HR 511, 110th Congress, support for military, signature #63
  2. H.Res. 559 to consider H.Res. 479, 110th Congress, House rules, signature #153
  3. H.Res. 694 to consider HR2905, 110th Congress, Fairness Doctrine, signature #144
  4. H.Res. 1025 to consider HR1843, 110th Congress, temporary workers, signature #15
  5. H.Res. 1331 to consider HR1399, 110th Congress, DC gun rights, signature #116
  6. HR2279, 110th Congress, refining on military facilities, signature #135
  7. HR3089, 110th Congress, energy, signature #83
  8. HR4088, 110th Congress, immigration, signature #113
  9. HR5440, 110th Congress, FISA, signature #122
  10. H. Res. 359 to consider H. Res. 251, 111th Congress, AIG, signature #170
  11. HR391, 111th Congress, greenhouse gases, signature #85
  12. H.Res. 554, 111th Congress, require bills & reports on Internet, signature #59.
  13. H.Res. 847, 111th Congress, health legislation transparency, signature #123
  14. HR2294, 111th Congress, Gitmo, signature #30
  15. HR3105,111th Congress, Central Valley Project, signature #28
  16. HR4972,111th Congress, Obamacare repeal, signature #136
  17. HR5141, 111th Congress, corporate reporting, signature #107

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Top Two News

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race

Jonathan Cooper at AP:
Cox is backed by much of California's GOP establishment, including U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who is close with Trump.
"I am honored and deeply grateful to my President and I am looking forward to working with him to make California great again," Cox said in a statement. "Like the President, I'm businessman who knows how to get things done."
Trump's decision is a blow to Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican who has been aggressively courting Trump supporters and often points out that he's the only candidate for governor who voted for the president. Cox voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson — a decision he now says he regrets.
Following the announcement, he declared on Twitter that Californians deserve a governor who actually voted for Trump.
If conservative voters split between Cox and Allen two Democrats could advance to November — an outcome Republicans fear would hurt them in down-ballot races for Congress and the Legislature, potentially compromising GOP control of the House.
Lisa Hagen at The Hill:
California and national Democrats have brokered an agreement between two House candidates to cease negative campaigning ahead of the June 5 primary in a key race that had gotten increasingly nasty.
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman announced that he had helped to engineer a deal between health insurance executive Andy Thorburn and veteran and lottery winner Gil Cisneros.
Bauman said Cisneros and Thorburn agreed to stop attacking each other and instead will focus on “promoting their positive visions” and “highlighting their contrast with the corrupt, incompetent Trump Republicans.”

Both candidates are running in a crowded Democratic primary in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce. The race is seen as leaning Democrat given Royce’s retirement.
Democrats are growing fearful that they'll get boxed out of the general election, however, thanks to California's unique election laws.
The state’s “jungle primary” puts all candidates, regardless of party, in a single primary, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election. Democrats worry that the crowded primary fields could split up the party's vote and lead to two Republicans moving on to the November election.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Life After Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump.
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli
Tarini Parti at Buzzfeed:
Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them.
Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly. BuzzFeed News reached out to them after previously reporting during an especially chaotic stretch for the Trump White House that some officials were trying to leave but finding their job prospects to be “pretty bleak.” That’s especially pronounced for more junior staff.
The leadership at a prominent, bipartisan Washington public affairs firm went as far as to make an active decision not to hire from the Trump White House because of the "reputational risk" associated with it, a former White House official was recently told. The official asked BuzzFeed News not to disclose the name of the firm.
In another case, a White House official said he was rejected out of the blue for a job after being given indications he would be hired and was explicitly told his affiliation with the Trump White House had been a problem for some at the company.
Annie Linskey at The Boston Globe:
Part of the problem, especially for the White House staffers who came from Trump’s ragtag campaign, is they don’t necessarily know how Washington works.
“There are not as many people who have the experience downtown,” said a Republican with ties to Trump who runs a lobbying firm.
The person has talked to some West Wing aides looking to jump ship and hasn’t been all that impressed. “When they talk about drafts, sometimes there’s a weak draft,” the lobbyist said. “This is a middle-of-the-road draft.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Senators Report on Russia

A release from Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):
 Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today held a closed hearing to complete its review of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.”  The testimony of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Director of CIA John Brennan, and former Director of NSA Mike Rogers will inform the Committee’s final report on this “chapter” of its Russia inquiry.
Chairman Burr said, “The first task in our inquiry was to evaluate the Intelligence Community’s work on this important piece of analysis.  Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.  There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.  I look forward to completing the Committee’s inquiry and issuing our findings and recommendations to the American people.” 
“Despite the short time frame they had to prepare it, the intelligence community did a very good job with the ICA,” said Vice Chairman Warner. “After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the ICA conclusions were accurate and on point. The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. In order to protect our democracy from future threats, we must understand what happened in 2016. And while our Committee’s investigation remains ongoing, one thing is already abundantly clear – we have to do a better job in the future if we want to protect our elections from foreign interference.”
Today’s closed hearing is a bookend to the hearing the Committee held in January 10, 2017, on Russian Active Measures.  Staff will finalize this chapter of the report on the Intelligence Community’s work and submit it for a classification review.
A release from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
Senate Judiciary Democrats today released preliminary findings from the Committee’s investigation into the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting where top Trump campaign officials sought incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) released the following statement along with the findings:
The June 9, 2016, meeting is one piece of a much larger puzzle and confirms that the Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia’s assistance. The Committee’s staff interviews reveal that top Trump campaign officials were frustrated and angry that the meeting did not produce enough damaging information on their opponent. Their efforts to conceal the meeting and its true purpose are consistent with a larger pattern of false statements about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.”

“We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia. While Senate Judiciary Democrats have sought to conduct a robust and independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, there are more questions than answers given the lack of cooperation by many of the individuals involved. The investigation has yet to be completed and dozens of witnesses’ testimony as well as critical documents have yet to be obtained. In addition, without the cooperation of Republicans and the ability to subpoena witnesses, much of the truth remains hidden.”

In its investigation so far, the Committee has found evidence of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin, which warrant further investigation. The transcripts released today represent limited examples of Committee interviews with just five of the eight participants in one such meeting.
The Committee’s investigation remains incomplete, including review of this meeting. Nonetheless, the following preliminary findings are clear and described in more detail here.
  • The Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia’s assistance.
  • Top campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner accepted the offer of incriminating information on the campaign’s opponent from a hostile foreign government.
  • These Trump campaign officials did not report the offer of Russian assistance to proper authorities.
  • Top campaign officials made clear their frustration that more damaging information was not produced at the June 9 meeting in Trump Tower.
  • Donald Trump Jr. and the White House misled the public about the June 9 meeting with Russians and other campaign contacts with Russia.
  • Several significant questions remain unanswered about this meeting and the numerous other contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian associates.
To read the preliminary findings of the Senate Judiciary Democrats in full, click here. To read the appendix of pending requests, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Primary Voters Don't Always Pick the Most Electable Candidates

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich discusses the upset victory of liberal Kara Eastman over moderate former Rep. Brad Ashford in a Nebraska primry for the US House.  Other liberals prevailed in the night's primaries, too.
The potential problem for Democrats is that Eastman’s outspoken liberalism may turn off general-election voters in Nebraska’s 2nd District, which, while not ruby red, is still red. True, Barack Obama carried it 50 to 49 percent in 2008 — but that was 10 years ago and in an election where Democrats won the popular vote by 7 percentage points. Since then, Mitt Romney carried the district by 7 points (while losing nationally by 4 points), and Trump won it by 2 (while losing nationally by 2).2 All in all, the 2nd is 6 percentage points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric.3 Democrats currently lead the generic ballot by that same 6 points. If that remains true in November, that would theoretically translate to a tie ballgame in the 2nd District — the kind where small considerations, like a candidate’s appeal to the median voter, could tilt the outcome.
And Ashford would have probably bought Democrats a few extra percentage points. In 2016, he lost his re-election race in Nebraska’s 2nd District by 1 percentage point, running slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton. In 2014, he won the seat by 3 points in a year in which Democrats lost the national House popular vote by 6 points. While it’s possible that excitement for Eastman’s candidacy among the progressive grassroots will draw more Democrats out of the woodwork, she may have trouble winning over persuadable voters too. There’s plenty of evidence that candidates closer to the ideological poles do worse than moderate ones; it’s been demonstrated in political science research, and we saw reallife examples of it in 2010, when Republicans had a wave election of their own against an unpopular first-term president. Although Eastman could certainly still win in a strong Democratic year, we may also look back on her nomination as Democrats’ first “tea party” moment: a general-election opportunity squandered in the primary (or, at least, made more difficult).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Scrubbing Jared

Monday presented a jarring split screen between U.S. and Israeli officials jubilantly inaugurating a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and Palestinian protesters being shot and gassed by Israeli forces at the Gaza border, a few miles away. Israeli forces shot dead 57 people, wounded 2,700 more, and a small child died after inhaling tear gas, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, briefly alluded to the protests in his speech at the embassy ceremony, but for some reason, the White House removed that section from its official transcript.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Trump and Jesse Jackson

In Defying the Odds, we trace Trump's outsiderism to earlier figures. As I mentioned in a previous post, Elizabeth Drew's Election Journal, I came across this passage, which sounds as if it could apply to Trump.
For a large portion of [his] supporters and would-be supporters, whether his proposals stand up to scrutiny is irrelevant. Their support for him is in a different category -- as the leader of a movement. [He] has become the vehicle for their discontent -- with current policies, with the other candidates. He stands in bold, interesting contrast to some fairly dull candidates. He is the anti-politics candidate. Measuring his program is linear, rational, while most of the support for him is based on emotion.
In this case, the candidate was ... Jesse Jackson. The comparison is less bizarre than it may seem at first. Like Trump was also a morally-compromised leader with deep prejudices and a disregard for factual accuracy Jackson was an sought adulation for himself while giving voice to the inchoate frustrations of large group of Americans who thought that the system was rigged against them. In the book, we quote Jackson's description of his followers: "My constituency is the desperate, the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the despised."
Trump voters complain that there is no respect for President Trump or for people like them who voted for him. One older white working class woman from Macomb recalled when she first started voting “there was so much respect for the president. And I don't care what he did, or what he said, there was always respect. It was always ‘Mr. President.’ And now, it disgusts me.”

The Rahm Playbook: Recruit Candidates Who Fit Their Districts

At NYT, Alan Blinder and Alexander Burns:
In a string of important races across the country, national Democrats have been embracing recruits near the political center, hoping they will give the party the chance to compete in states like Utah and Kansas where a liberal Democrat might stand little chance of winning. About a dozen crucial House races this fall are likely to feature Democratic nominees who are positioned markedly closer to the middle than the national party’s activist base — more than enough to determine control of the House.
ImageIn a string of key races across the country, national Democrats have been embracing recruits near the political center, hoping they will help the party compete in conservative states.

The party scored an early upset with just such a candidate, Conor Lamb, in a Pennsylvania special election in March. Mr. Lamb, a veteran, opposed Ms. Pelosi, single-payer health care and most new gun regulations, but with a populist economic message captured a district Mr. Trump carried easily in 2016.
Democratic voters have largely been going along in the primaries held so far in these districts, which are often in rural areas. In Illinois the voters chose Brendan Kelly, a prosecutor with a mend-it, don’t-end-it message on the Affordable Care Act, to take on a conservative Republican in a rural district. And on Tuesday, Democrats in several states that President Trump carried in 2016 selected ideological mavericks to carry their banner in difficult House races.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Kelly on Immigration

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's positions on immigration.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on border crossers:
But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don't speak English; obviously that's a big thing. ... They don't integrate well; they don't have skills. 

Ronald Reagan, October 28, 1985
Between 1892 and 1954, nearly 17 million immigrants to the New World passed through the Ellis Island checkpoint. Most immigrants moved through the checkpoint in a few hours to begin their new lives in America and freedom. And I like to picture the scene as a boatload of immigrants leaving Ellis Island for New York, they pass Miss Liberty and crowd the rails to gaze. Someone on board knows English, he reads and translates the inscription that the statue bears, words that have proclaimed the meaning of America for millions of immigrants, for shiploads of returning soldiers in two great wars, for every family that has ever visited that glorious statue. And those words: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door." Well, many of those immigrants remain at the rails until Miss Liberty is lost in the fog. It would be no surprise if some shed tears of joy.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Facebook, Russia, Crime, and Race

Nick Penzenstadler, Brad Heath, Jessica Guynn,at USA Today:
The Russian company charged with orchestrating a wide-ranging effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election overwhelmingly focused its barrage of social media advertising on what is arguably America’s rawest political division: race.
The roughly 3,500 Facebook ads were created by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which is at the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s February indictment of 13 Russians and three companies seeking to influence the election.
While some ads focused on topics as banal as business promotion or Pokémon, the company consistently promoted ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. Some dealt with race directly; others dealt with issues fraught with racial and religious baggage such as ads focused on protests over policing, the debate over a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and relationships with the Muslim community.
The company continued to hammer racial themes even after the election.
USA TODAY Network reporters reviewed each of the 3,517 ads, which were released to the public this week for the first time by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The analysis included not just the content of the ads, but also information that revealed the specific audience targeted, when the ad was posted, roughly how many views it received and how much the ad cost to post.
Only about 100 of the ads overtly mentioned support for Donald Trump or opposition to Hillary Clinton. A few dozen referenced questions about the U.S. election process and voting integrity, while a handful mentioned other candidates like Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush
Alfred Ng at CNET:
 The most successful Facebook ad bought by Russian trolls managed to fool more than 1,334,000 people. 
The post was a promotion for the Facebook group "Back the Badge," which claimed to be a "community of people who support our brave Police Officers." It was actually run by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-linked troll farm that pushed out more than 80,000 posts focused on divisive issues in the US. 
The same group also made posts pretending to be Black Lives Matter activists and Trump supporters, but it was the fake police support that gave it the most traffic.

Friday, May 11, 2018

McCarthy Signed 19 Discharge Petitions

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

House GOP leaders oppose a discharge petition to consider immigration bills.

"I don't believe in discharge petitions," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy,  (R-CA) said on Wednesday. "You're turning the floor over. I think it's better to use the legislative process."

In the minority, however, McCarthy signed 19 discharge petitions.
  1. H.Res. 554, 111th Congress, require bills & reports on Internet, signature #54.
  2. H.Res. 847, 111th Congress, health legislation transparency, signature #82
  3. HR 391, 111th Congress, greenhouse gases, signature #113
  4. HR2294, 11th Congress, Gitmo, signature #158
  5. HR3105,111th Congrees, Central Valley Project, signature #2
  6. HR4972,111th Congress, Obamacare repeal, signature #144
  7. HR5141, 111th Congress, corporate reporting, signature #134
  8. H.Res. 220 to consider HR 511, 110th Congress, support for military, signature #157
  9. H.Res. 559 to consider H.Res. 479, 110th Congress, House rules, signature #15
  10. H.Res.694 to consider HR2905, 110th Congress, Fairness Doctrine, signature #25
  11. H.Res. 1331 to consider HR1399, 110th Congress, DC gun rights, signature #7
  12. HR5424, 111th Congress, Obamacare repeal, signature #4
  13. HR3089, 110th Congress, energy, signature #147
  14. HR2208, 110th Congress, coal-to-liquid projects, signature #112
  15. HR2279, 110th Congress, refining on military facilities, signature #133
  16. HR3089, 110th Congress, energy, signature #147
  17. HR4088, 110th Congress, immigration, signature #140
  18. HR5440, 110th Congress, FISA, signature #16
  19. HR 5656, 110th Congress, alternative fuels, signature #108
In the health care reform debate, there continues to be a divide among Democrats. Both House and Senate Democrats continue to meet in secret to negotiate the final version of the bill. When then Senator Obama was campaigning, he promised Americans transparency. Instead, all Americans have seen are closed door deals.  My colleagues and I are fighting back.  We want the transparency America was promised.  We are asking all members of Congress to sign a discharge petition (needing 218 signatures) forcing a vote on a bipartisan resolution requiring the health care reform negotiations be open to the public and media.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gerrymanders Can Decay

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race

In many states, Republicans maximized gains in the House by spreading GOP voters across as many districts as possible. Typically, that left Democrats with around 40 to 45 percent of the vote in those districts, making them difficult under normal circumstances for the minority party to contest.
But this election year is anything but normal. Many of the once-secure 55-45 Republican districts are very much in play, even in states that have not had competitive congressional races since 2012, the year new maps were installed. And North Carolina and Ohio — where Democrats chose nominees in primaries on Tuesday — are turning into the prime examples.
Neither national party has spent money in North Carolina or Ohio in the past two elections. But operatives in both states now rattle off a half-dozen Republican districts that could become fierce battlegrounds this fall, including the fast-changing suburbs of Cincinnati, Charlotte, Columbus and Raleigh. President Donald Trump won less than 55 percent of the vote in each of the seats in 2016 — and some of the Republican incumbents have been caught by surprise by the ferocity of their competition.
“The math that was used to create these districts was the same math that was calculated in the anti-Obama era,” said Paul Shumaker, a Republican consultant based in North Carolina. But now, he continued, “because of the way the maps have been drawn and the environment that Republicans are facing, you have a whole bunch of Republicans who have never been in a competitive race in their life, who are running [in one] right now.”

In Epic Journey: the 2008 Elections and American Politics, we wrote:
House elections are different from Senate elections because members represent districts whose shapes change over time. Before 2006, many Democrats worried that unfair district lines would block a Democratic takeover. The redistricting after the 2000 census did protect House incumbents, making it harder for the minority party to score gains. Nevertheless, some commentators overstated the effect of computer-crafted districts. No matter how clever a redistricting scheme may be, demographic and political changes may blunt its impact over time. Young people and new citizens enter the electorate. Old voters die. Other voters move around or change their party preference. Such shifts were on display in New York State, where a bipartisan gerrymander had once seemed to guarantee the GOP a certain minimum of House seats. But by 2006, shrinking Republican numbers helped nudge three GOP seats into the Democratic column. Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania had notorious Republican gerrymanders that backfired. The Wall Street Journal reported shortly after the election: “Republican leaders may have overreached and created so many Republican-leaning districts that they spread their core supporters too thinly. That left their incumbents vulnerable to the type of backlash from traditionally Republican-leaning independent voters that unfolded this week”[i]

[i] Jeane Cummings, Redistricting: Home to Roost.  How Republicans’ Gerrymandering Efforts May Have Backfired,” Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2006,  A6

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cohen Cash

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandal

Dan Mangan at CNBC:
Drug giant Novartis paid President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen more than $1 million for work that he actually ended up being "unable" to do, the company said Wednesday.
Novartis said that a month after Trump was inaugurated as president in January 2017, it signed a one-year contract with Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants that paid it $100,000 per month.
Novartis said it believed Cohen "could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain U.S. health-care policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act."

But just a month after signing the deal, Novartis executives had their first meeting with Cohen, and afterward "determined that Michael Cohen and Essentials Consultants would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated."
But Novartis kept paying Cohen, despite that.
"As the contract, unfortunately, could only be terminated for cause, payments continued to be made until the contract expired by its own terms in February 2018," Novartis said.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Did Russians Reimburse Payments to Stormy?

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

A company tied to a Russian oligarch sent $500,000 last year to an entity that lawyer Michael Cohen used to pay hush money to a porn actress who said she had a sexual encounter with President Donald Trump, according to attorney Michael Avenatti.

The bombshell revelations, which couldn’t immediately be verified, caught companies and the president’s team off guard when Avenatti unveiled them on Twitter and linked to a publicly available dropbox account. It’s the latest twist in litigation brought by Stephanie Clifford, the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 for her silence just before the 2016 presidential election.

Avenatti, who represents Clifford, said Cohen submitted false information to First Republic Bank when opening a new account in October 2016. Soon after, Viktor Vekselberg -- a Russian oligarch with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin -- “caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account, from which Cohen made the payment” to Daniels, Avenatti said.

It wasn’t the only surprise. AT&T Inc. and Novartis AG also appeared in Avenatti’s report, and AT&T confirmed that it had made payments to Cohen’s company.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Trump and Blankenship

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
Republicans are panicking as internal polls show Don Blankenship, a coal baron who spent time in jail for a mining disaster that killed 29 workers, surging into the lead in the West Virginia Senate GOP primary over Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and Congressman Evan Jenkins.
The results of an internal campaign poll conducted for one rival Senate campaign on Saturday and Sunday were: Blankenship 31 percent, Jenkins 28 percent, Morrissey 27 percent.

The results of another internal poll conducted Friday and Saturday were: Blankenship 28 percent, Morrissey 27 percent, Jenkins 14 percent. Two weeks earlier, the same rival campaign found Blankenship at 14 percent, Morrissey at 29 percent, and Jenkins at 26 percent.
Politico reported Saturday night that internal polling showed Blankenship surging, but the specific numbers are being reported for the first time by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
At the urging of Mitch McConnell -- whom Blankenship called "Cocaine Mitch" -- Trump issued a Tweet:
A few things stand out about the tweet. 

  • Instead of denouncing Blankenship's racist remarks and his responsibility for 29 deaths, Trump merely referred to his electability.  
  • The "Remember Alabama" line makes sense only to political junkies who remember the Roy Moore fiasco -- probably a tiny share of the electorate. 
  • A lone tweet is probably not the best way to reach a state with a relatively low rate of Internet usage.
The tweet will probably not affect the outcome.  Trump was just throwing a cyber-bone to the GOP establishment.