Category Archives: U.S. politics

Kochs, AFP pouring millions into Senate races

kochsAmericans for Prosperity is spending millions of dollars trying to shift control of the U.S. Senate. AFP, which is linked to the Koch brothers, already has spent $8.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads attacking Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Politico reported. That’s more than all Democratic outside groups have spent in every Senate race in the country combined. So far, AFP has spent about $15 million on Senate races and more than $4 million on House races. “It’s just not fair to have two folks in the country potentially determine the outcomes of these Senate races in states where they don’t even live,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Sullivan: Kansas bill also about national GOP

gayweddingcakeThe scathing national commentary about the Kansas House’s passage of HB 2453 included a thoughtful condemnation by Andrew Sullivan, who said the bill “is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.” Sullivan, an openly gay conservative, also wrote: “If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it.” And he said: “This is about Kansas, but it is also about the Republican Party. Are there any Republicans willing to oppose this new strategy? Do the GOP’s national leaders support it?”

AFP still not welcome in Coralville

thumbsdownThe group Americans for Prosperity was lampooned on “The Daily Show” for its failed results last year after bringing attack-style politics to the small town of Coralville, Iowa. At one point, correspondent Jason Jones appeared before the Coralville City Council with a straw hat and cane, singing a “Music Man” spoof about why Coralville needed to get itself a super PAC. Council members were not amused. The most brutal comments came from Chris Turner, the fiscally conservative candidate who got blamed for AFP’s negative ads (and came in tied for last in the council race). He described AFP’s tactics as “reprehensible” and said that “when AFP came to town, it was kind of like being endorsed by Charles Manson.”

Koch brothers have even bigger political plans for 2014

kochs“If the Koch brothers’ political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what’s in store for 2014 and beyond,” Politico reported. It said that this year the Kochs’ close allies are “wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.” Though the Koch network tries to mask the source of its funding, tax filings show that the network raised more than $400 million during the 2012 campaign, the Washington Post reported. Charles and David Koch convened an invitation-only gathering of wealthy GOP donors and officials in Palm Springs, Calif., last weekend that Politico said was aimed at raising “millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.”

Pompeo joining in ‘destination’ fundraising

pompeo,mikeRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, was one of the lawmakers mentioned and pictured in a New York Times article on “destination fundraisers, where business interests blend with pleasure in exclusive vacation venues.” Pompeo was among the “special guests” at a “Winter Escape to Vail Weekend” early this month at the Four Seasons Resort, when the “suggested contribution” was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,500 per individual. “Neither the lawmakers nor the lobbyists attending the events want to talk about them, even though such trips are permitted under the law,” the Times reported, though Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was quoted as saying of the Colorado gathering: “This was a good way to raise some funds.” A health care lobbyist who attended called it “a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker’s time.” The fundraising trend is bipartisan: “It has become kind of the norm,” said Democratic lobbyist Vic Fazio, a former California congressman.

Moran says GOP should share ideas for economic opportunity

morannewSen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told the Wall Street Journal that Republicans should be eager to discuss GOP ideas to promote economic opportunity. “It’s very beneficial for us to talk about the things we are for, the things we care about, and most importantly how they impact the lives of people around the country,” Moran said. Although “there are legitimate philosophical and policy differences. . . we ought to do everything we can to avoid this being the political show that is trying to categorize Republicans and Democrats in ways that is only useful for partisanship,” he also said.

Lack of moderates not just a problem for GOP

donkeysIt’s not just the Republican Party that is losing moderates. The number of moderate Democrats in Congress is also shrinking. During the 111th Congress, from 2009 through 2010, there were 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers. Now there are only 15 members, the Washington Post reported. Some of the lawmakers lost elections after redistricting placed them in Republican-leaning districts. Others retired out of frustration with gridlock and partisanship. The loss of moderation on both sides is a key reason why this past Congress was the least productive ever.

Christie did good job with apology, but will it be enough?

christie,chrisNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did a good job today apologizing for the closing of highway lanes to punish a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election. Though he again denied any knowledge of the actions taken by some of his associates, he took responsibility for what happened. He also announced the firing of one of his top staff members, who he said lied to him about the incident. But the investigations into bridge-gate will continue. If information comes out indicating that Christie knew anything about the closure – or other examples surface of how Christie or his staff retaliated against political opponents – Christie’s hopes for a 2016 GOP presidential nomination could quickly fade.

Koch-linked network raised $407 million last election

kochs“The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors,” the Washington Post reported. Tax filings show that the network backed by the Kochs and other donors raised at least $407 million during the 2012 campaign. “A labyrinth of tax-exempt groups and limited-liability companies helps mask the sources of the money,” the Post reported, but more than half of the money was funneled through the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose board includes current and former Koch Industries officials.

Conservatives push back against libertarians

voterepublicanFormer Bush administration officials Mike Gerson and Pete Wehner are pushing back against the rising influence of libertarianism in the Republican Party. They wrote in the journal National Affairs that “responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries, which is why a conservative political philosophy cannot be reduced to untrammeled libertarianism.” They argued that “conservatives should offer a menu of structural reforms that do not simply attack government but transform it on conservative terms.” But as Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza noted, a nuanced explanation of when and where government is necessary doesn’t fire up the GOP base the way savaging Obamacare does.

Fewer Republicans believe in evolution

evolutionThe purging of moderates from the GOP might explain why the percentage of Republicans who believe in evolution has decreased sharply. In 2009, 54 percent of Republicans believed that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” but now only 43 percent believe that, according to polling by the Pew Research Center. In contrast, 67 percent of Democrats believe in evolution, up 3 percentage points since 2009. Sixty percent of U.S. adults believe that humans have evolved over time, about the same as in 2009.

Is Roberts’ conservatism a ‘foxhole conversion’?

rightturnonlySen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was recently ranked as the fifth most conservative member of the Senate by Heritage Action for America. So how could some tea party groups consider him not conservative enough? The Madison Project, which is headed by former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun, attributed Roberts’ current ranking to an election-year foxhole conversion, the Washington Times reported. Roberts was ranked much lower on Heritage Action’s 2012 list, before he was facing a primary challenge for 2014. His 65 percent rating for 2012 was the lowest of the Kansas delegation. But other conservatives warn that tea party groups are undermining their credibility by trying to paint Roberts as some liberal.

Roberts isn’t conservative enough for Ryun

ryunjimSen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., long ago locked in the 2014 endorsements of the state’s GOP officeholders. But it made news in the political world last week when former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun (in photo) effectively endorsed Roberts’ tea party challenger, Milton Wolf, via the conservative group Ryun now heads, the Madison Project. Ryun issued a statement praising Wolf, a Leawood radiologist and distant cousin of President Obama, for a “command of the issues and a dedication to conservative values that is lacking among most individuals in Washington,” adding that the Senate needs “fewer career politicians and more citizen leaders.” But Heritage Action ranked Roberts as the fifth most conservator senator, and he has an 86 percent lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union. “Some of our friends out there are getting a bit out of hand,” Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told the Washington Times of Wolf’s challenge to Roberts.

ALEC not just any special-interest group

alec-logo-smThe American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed special-interest group, is not the bogeyman that some people make it out to be. But it also isn’t merely one of “hundreds of groups that do model legislation and hold meetings,” as Gov. Sam Brownback said this week in trying to downplay ALEC’s influence. As the Lawrence Journal-World noted, both Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, have held high-ranking positions with ALEC, and about 50 GOP Kansas legislators are members of the group. Brownback wrote the foreword for ALEC’s annual report in 2011, and he and the Legislature have approved several of ALEC’s model bills – some virtually word for word.

A peek behind curtain of free-market think tanks

cashA document obtained by the Guardian newspaper offers a preview of the plans of some free-market think tanks in 2014. The July 29 document from the State Policy Network summarized 40 funding proposals from groups in 34 states. The proposals, which ranged in cost from $25,000 to $65,000, include efforts to reform public-employee pensions and benefits, repeal state wage laws, and eliminate state income and estate taxes. The Kansas Policy Institute requested $46,800 “to conduct a campaign calling for deregulation as an alternative to economic development incentives.”

Koch network biggest source of ‘dark money’

cash“It’s clear that no other conservative or liberal dark money network matched, in combined size and complexity, the constellation of Koch-linked groups that churned hundreds of millions of dollars into elections around the country last year,” OpenSecrets.org reported. “Dark money” refers to funds given to groups to influence elections in which the donors aren’t disclosed. In 2012, $301 million poured into this system. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that $86 million of the total – or about 28 percent – came from grants from Koch-linked groups (though that doesn’t mean all the money came from the Koch brothers). Often, dark money is funneled from group to group in an attempt to further mask its origins.

Tiahrt: Political consultants ‘warp’ elections

tiahrtnewmugDuring the 2010 GOP primary battle for U.S. Senate, which pit two conservative Kansas congressmen with similar voting records against each other, it seemed a safe bet that political consultants were as responsible for the mudslinging as the candidates themselves. The loser in that contest, former 4th Congressional District Rep. Todd Tiahrt, now says that consultants “warp” elections. “Their advice is based on polling data … and fear. The results drag elections to the lowest common denominator and yield timid elected officials afraid of helping their constituents,” Tiahrt told the Kansas City Star, in an article on the more than 3,000 consulting firms across the country that make up the billion-dollar “political industrial complex.”

ALEC trying to expand support, influence

alec-logo-smThe Guardian newspaper got hold of internal documents showing that the American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to regain some of the support it lost after it was linked to state gun and voter-ID laws. ALEC is a corporate-backed group that is most known for drafting “model legislation” that lawmakers can introduce, often word for word, in state legislatures. “The network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding,” the Guardian reported. “In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.”

Polls reflect Washington’s ineptitude

thumbsdownWoven together, new polls showing President Obama with a 39 percent approval and Congress with a 9 percent rating tell the story of Washington’s ongoing ineptitude, wrote columnist Joshua Green. “Americans are fast losing faith in the president, his party and his signature policy achievement,” Green wrote. “But while they’re open to the idea of handing power to the opposition, Republicans are busy demonstrating that they have no idea how to govern.”

Cuccinelli’s loss a reason to push harder?

Even as some pointed to Ken Cuccinelli’s loss of the Virginia gubernatorial race as a signal that tea partiers should moderate their extremism, Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf (in photo) lashed out at “surrender Republicans” in a USA Today commentary and called for conservatives to push harder. “This fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party is not just about winning elections,” Wolf wrote. “It is about saving America.” Wolf, a cousin of President Obama, is challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in the GOP primary next year.

Election offers clear message for GOP

Gov. Chris Christie’s (in photo) big re-election win Tuesday in New Jersey, contrasted with tea party favorite Ken Cuccinelli’s loss in the Virginia governor’s race, “could hardly provide a starker contrast for the GOP and a clearer message about how it wins in the future,” wrote Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. “Exit polls showed Christie winning among women and running even with his Democratic opponent among Latinos. If Republicans could emulate that in other states, they would win just about all of them.” On the other hand, Christie campaigned as an un-Republican. “He spent very little time talking about his Republican credentials and much more time talking about his own accomplishments in the state,” the reporters noted.

Fiercest Obama opponents come from poor districts

The 45 House Republicans who have most consistently pushed their caucus to brinkmanship represent districts (mostly in the Deep South) that are significantly worse off economically than the nation at large, the Washington Post reported. “The median income in those districts last year was 7 percent lower than the national median, according to the Census Bureau,” the Post said. “The unemployment rate averaged 10 percent. That was almost 2 percentage points higher than the national rate, and 2 percentage points higher than the overall rate in the states that contain each district.”

AFP coming to a local election near you?

Americans for Prosperity, the free-market group founded by Charles and David Koch, has been focusing more of its attention and money lately on state elections. Now it is inserting itself into local elections. AFP has been aggressively campaigning in Tuesday’s mayoral and city council elections in Coralville, Iowa, a town with fewer than 20,000 residents, the New York Times reported. Why AFP cares in unclear. AFP is criticizing the city’s debt and economic development strategy. A Democratic state representative from Coralville thinks that AFP officials are “doing whatever groundwork they can for the 2014 elections.”

Norquist kicks defund caucus while it’s down

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform didn’t temper his criticism of the fellow Republicans who gained nothing in their quest to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government and risking default. “It’d be a good idea if they stopped referring to other Republicans as Hitler appeasers because they opposed the strategy they put forward which failed,” Norquist told reporters, clearly referring to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Norquist added: “I think if you make a mistake as big as what they did, you owe your fellow senators and congressmen a big apology – and your constituents, as well, because nothing they did advanced the cause of repealing or dismantling Obamacare.” He even likened the would-be defunders’ strategy to that of the Iraq invasion. “These are the people who said, ‘Plan: Step One. Invade Iraq. Step Two. It turns into Kansas.’ Could I ask if there’s anything in between Step One and Step Two? ‘Oh, ye of little faith.’”

Conservatives forming firing squad

Not only did congressional Republicans get hammered in public opinion polls over the government shutdown, but many of their traditional allies turned on them, too. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week complained: “This is the quality of thinking – or lack thereof – that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown. They picked a goal they couldn’t achieve in trying to defund Obamacare from one house of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn’t sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit.” Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post said that the only good thing about the shutdown was that it helped people identify which conservatives were reality-based and which ones were “unwilling or unable to combine conservative ideology with real-world political strategy.”