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The Washington Report – April 25, 2014
25 Apr 2014

The Washington Report – April 25, 2014

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This week’s Washington Report! To sign up for the direct email, click here.


Earth Day Politics, Affirmative Action, 2014 Midterms, Diplomutt … and other news of the week.

Both the House and Senate are still on recess, they will be back in session on Monday.


Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kate Venne)

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682043bd6698147864980b63_120x120EARTH DAY NJ writes, “For years, mentions of Earth Day have sprung up each April from members of both parties. But no Republican has uttered the words “Earth Day” on the House or Senate floor since 2010.

WHY? Mostly … the increasing polarization of Congress. Since Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, the League of Conservation Voters has been scoring the votes of members of Congress on environmental matters. Over the past 40 years, members have become increasingly concentrated [into two polar-camps].

But it was not always so. …On the LCV’s 100 point scale, within each party, the shifts to the ends of the spectrum have been dramatic. In 1971, only 17% of House Democrats received LCV scores higher than 80; in 2013, 83%. In 1971, just 16% of House Republicans received scores below 20; in 2013, virtually the entire House Republican Conference—97 %. No wonder, then, that House and Senate Republicans don’t talk much about Earth Day anymore.”


ADVANTAGE REPUBLICANS IN A POST MCCUTCHEON V. FEC WORLD  National Journal writes, “It’s been three weeks since the Supreme Court stripped away the overall limits on how much money top political donors can give, and this much is clear: Republicans are moving more swiftly than Democrats to take advantage of the new rules. Republicans have already rolled out two new supersized vehicles to collect bigger-than-ever checks from their top contributors since the Court allowed donors to make contributions to an unlimited number of politicians and party committees.”

DEMS APPEAR WAY BEHIND Democrats have created no vehicles to coordinate between the party’s three key committees yet, and there are no imminent plans to do so. …As well when the Court loosened the rules for outside groups’ spending through Citizens United and other [Supreme Court] decisions, Republicans quickly mobilized to take advantage on the 2010 midterm elections. It wasn’t until February 2012 that President Obama signaled to top Democratic donors that he would want them to give to Democratic super PACs. Notably, that tactical decision came two years after Citizens United.”


SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF MICHIGAN’S AFFIRMATIVE-ACTION BAN A federal appeals court had previously ruled that Michigan’s constitutional amendment barring universities from considering racial preferences unfairly targeted minorities. But the high court overturned that decision by a 6 to 2 vote, with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting. (WaPo)


GEORGIA LAW OKS GUNS NPR writes, “Georgians will now be able to carry firearms in such places as schools, bars, churches and government buildings under a sweeping new law signed by the governor on Wednesday. The “Safe Carry Protection Act,” also known to critics as the “guns everywhere bill,” was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, who said it will allow “people who follow the rules [to] protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules.  … A similar measure in Arizona, which would have allowed people in the state to carry guns into public buildings and events, was vetoed on Tuesday by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.”


FDA REGS FOR E-CIGS “The FDA’s sweeping new proposed rules … extend its regulatory authority from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that have grown into a multibillion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for American consumers. The regulatory blueprint, with broad implications for public health, the tobacco industry and the nation’s 42 million smokers, would also cover pipe tobacco and cigars, tobacco products that have long slid under the regulatory radar and whose use has risen sharply in recent years. The new regulations would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to Americans under 18, and would require that people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states. Once finalized, the regulations will establish oversight of what has been a market free-for-all of products, including vials of liquid nicotine of varying quality and unknown provenance. It has taken the agency four years since Congress passed a major tobacco-control law in 2009 to get to this stage, and federal officials and advocates say it will take at least another year for the rules to take effect — and possibly significantly longer if affected companies sue to block them.” (NYTimes)


WEB FAST LANE NYTimes reports, “The principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead. The FCC said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.

NET NEUTRALITY The proposed changes would affect what is known as net neutrality — the idea that no providers of legal Internet content should face discrimination in providing offerings to consumers, and that users should have equal access to see any legal content they choose. The proposal comes three months after a federal appeals court struck down, for the second time, agency rules intended to guarantee a free and open Internet.  … the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers.

DIGITAL UNCONGESTED CAR POOL LANE For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail. The rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes.

CONSUMER GROUPS POUNCE saying that big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups — stifling the next FB or Twitter.

WHAT NEXT? The rules will be circulated to the agency’s other four commissioners and released for public comment on May 15, with a likely vote by the full commission by the end of the year.  Let the lobbying begin.”


ABE POURED THE SAKE.  THEN PRESIDENT OBAMA DRANK IT. The Fix writes, “President Obama launched a week-long swing through Asia by dining on fine sushi Wednesday night (Japan time). Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and their guests dined at Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of the finest sushi restaurants in the world, located in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Also along for the meal were Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.”


2014:  THE YEAR SELF-FUNDERS STRIKE BACK? The Fix reports, “Businessman Curt Clawson (R) took a big step toward becoming a member of Congress Tuesday, winning a special primary election in Florida for the House seat formerly held by Republican Trey Radel (cocaine scandal).

$2.7 MILLION REASONS HE WON That’s how much he loaned his campaign through early April, a hefty sum for a House race. It was also the latest example of a wealthy self-funder running as a government outsider achieving success in the 2014 elections.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2012 Self-funders didn’t do very well in 2012. Of the two dozen House and Senate candidates who gave the most to their campaigns, just five were winners. Among the top 10 self-funders, there were no victors.

TOO EARLY to say that 2014 is going to turn out much better for self-funders than 2012, when candidates like Linda McMahon and Tom Smith poured in millions only to lose contests that didn’t end up being close despite earlier signs the margins would be slimmer. But it’s safe to say Clawson’s win is bound to boost the hopes of a few other 2014 candidates.”

50 RICHEST If Curt Clawson wins in this GOP-leaning district in the special election on June 24th, he will be among the richest members of Congress.” (RollCall)


CLIVE BUNDY Repugnant, despicable racist. That’s it.


100 YEARS “If Senate Democrats retain the chamber in November, their work won’t be over. They’ll still have to manage the loss of more than 100 years of committee experience as several veterans retire from Democratic ranks. With new faces already in Finance and Energy, and openings coming to Banking, Commerce, and Armed Services, the turnover could be a  blow. Committee chairmen, while perhaps not as powerful as in years past, still wield considerable influence in the Senate, shaping the agenda through hearings and shepherding legislation to the floor. Of the 100 bills that have become law so far this Congress, 91 have moved through committees, according to congressional records. More important, some experts say, is the loss of institutional know-how that is key in an age of increasing government complexity.” (National Journal)


DOD … IF BUDGET CAPS REMAIN DefenseNews writes, “The Pentagon has laid out plans for how it would cut $66 billion in procurement and R & D projects between 2016 and 2019 should US defense spending caps remain in place. The cuts would affect dozens of Defense Department programs … DoD’s 2015 base budget proposal conforms to spending caps. However, the White House submitted an additional $26 billion request in a separate measure known as the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. The Pentagon’s five-year spending plan submitted with its 2015 budget proposal is $115 billion above defense spending caps [between 2016 and 2019]. And though its budget runs the risk of being cut through sequestration as long as the caps are in place, don’t expect DoD to submit conforming budgets, one senior Pentagon official said.”


NDAA PROCESS STARTS NEXT WEEK Defense News writes, “The US House Armed Services Committee next week will begin cobbling together its 2015 Pentagon policy bill, the first defense panel to begin work on annual military legislation. The panel’s six subpanels will be holding markups of their portions of the House’s 2015 NDAA. In previous years, the subcommittee markups have been relatively short affairs. Contentious issues and amendments typically are reserved for the full committee markup, which is slated for May 7.  Chair McKeon and other HASC Republicans would like to inflate the Pentagon’s $495 billion base 2015 budget amount, but are limited by spending caps set in a 2011 deficit-reduction law and extended in a December bipartisan budget resolution.”


DEM CANDIDATES BECOME MORE VOCAL IN SUPPORT OF ACA “So far, 76% of all Republican-sponsored general election spots in House and Senate races this year have attacked the Affordable Care Act, making the law the most mentioned issue in such ads, according to Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising. But Democrats, who this cycle have run largely on a “fix, don’t repeal” strategy concerning the law, are now gingerly experimenting, mostly in primaries and through outside groups, with ads that endorse the law and also say what could be lost if Republicans repeal it.” (New York Times)

OBAMACARE IS STILL A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR DEMOCRATS: People who hate the law really, really hate it. And they’re willing to vote against their member of Congress over it. (The Fix)

TOO LATE TO JUST REPEAL OBAMACARE: “(To) repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer,”  Speaker John Boehner (R) said Thursday in his Ohio district. “…The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight.” (Roll Call)


FOREIGN POLICY WILL IMPACT 2014 ELECTIONS…REALLY Stu Rothenberg for RollCall, ” …I am not going to try to make the case that foreign policy will be at the forefront of this year’s elections, or that international issues are a high priority for most Americans. They aren’t. But foreign policy could have an indirect yet significant impact on the midterm elections, making the issue more relevant than you otherwise might assume.The growing perception that President Barack Obama over-promised and has under-delivered on international issues could add to the already hardening perception that his presidency has not been an unadulterated success. And that’s not good for vulnerable Democrats as the elections approach.”


WHEN IS $100 MILLION NOT ENOUGH? Politico writes, “Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer plans to spend big money making an impact in the 2014 midterm elections. Like $100 million big, according to a report. But in an interview Tuesday, Steyer suggested that elevating the most crucial climate and environmental issues of the day in the eyes of the public might require even more money.”


TAKEAWAYS FROM SENATE POLLS The Fix writes, “The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation are out with new polls in four key Southern Senate races today. The one finding everyone is talking about is Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK) leading Rep. Tom Cotton (R) by 10 points, 46-36. But there are plenty of other takeaways as we continue to survey the Senate landscape. Here are some of the key points:

1) Pryor’s surprising lead Most polling has shown a much closer race between Pryor and Cotton, with early polling even showing Cotton with a lead. But this poll suggests Pryor is still well-liked, with a 47% approval rating and just 38% disapproving. If the GOP’s Obamacare attacks are going to weigh him down, they haven’t really done the trick just yet. The poll seems to confirm that idea that Arkansas remains something of a political anomaly. It’s still quite conservative, but it’s more in touch with its Democratic past than are some other Southern states.

2) It’s not all bad for the GOP The Arkansas result is getting all the attention, because some have suggested Pryor is a sitting duck. But the poll shows the GOP continues to have a great chance to unseat incumbents in two other states. Yes, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) leads a crowded field in Louisiana’s open primary by a lot (the highest Republican is Rep. Bill Cassidy at 18%). But she’s at just 42% which also happens to be Sen. Kay Hagan’s (D-N.C.) level of support against state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). Hagan leads 42-40, within the margin of error. Democrats say they’re heartened that both incumbents are leading, but being in the low-40s is generally very tough territory for an incumbent. And given Louisiana’s runoff law, Landrieu needs to get to 50 percent-plus-one to win — either in the general election or in a December runoff.

3) Kentucky is (still) very, very close It shows Senate Minority Leader McConnell at 44% and Grimes at 43%. McConnell isn’t in the low-40s like Hagan and Dole, but he is in the mid-40s, which is also pretty dangerous territory, especially for a guy who has been around for decades and is a known quantity. The poll also shows McConnell’s approval rating is at just 40%. The one advantage McConnell has on folks like Hagan and Landrieu is that he’s running in a state that clearly favors his party. That suggests that more of the undecided voters might be GOP-leaning.

4) Sampling questions Republicans and some journalists have questioned the poll’s sample. The overall takeaway from these numbers is that Louisiana, North Carolina and Kentucky are about where we thought they would be. As for Arkansas, we’ll have to see if other polling backs up the idea that Pryor is now the favorite.”


987153bf0351bb9a73584fe8_440x272FOUR RESONS THE BLACK VOTE COULD DECIDE WHO CONTROLS SENATE The Fix writes, “Black voters played a huge role in delivering Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012. And in 2014, they will play a huge role in determining whether the president’s party can stop Republicans from taking the Senate.

1. Black voters are hugely influential on the 2014 map Six of the 16 states with the highest black populations are holding key Senate contests in 2014. A seventh — the most African American state in the country, Mississippi — is holding a contest that could get interesting if there’s a tea party upset in the GOP primary. Three of the states listed above — Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas — are widely considered to be the most pivotal when it comes to the GOP’s hopes of winning the majority. These three races are expected to be the difference between a GOP majority and a Democratic majority — at least the way things look right now.

2. Black voters are among the biggest midterm dropoff voters If you look just at the seven states with Senate races listed above, five of them had higher black turnout than white turnout in 2008, and three had the same in 2012. None of them had that distinction in either 2006 or 2010. And in many of them, black turnout lagged far behind white turnout.

3. Louisiana tells that tale In the Pelican State, the average black share of the vote in the four presidential elections: 28.5%, midterms: 26%. Viewed another way, the average black share of the vote with Obama on the ballot is 30.1%. The average black share of the vote in the two midterms preceding Obama’s wins drops to 25.3%. That five-point difference should not be underestimated, for the following reason…

4. Basically every black voter who stays home is a Democratic voter.”


COLORADO’S GENDER GAP LEADS THE WAY NJ writes, “Thursday’s Quinnipiac University poll showing a dead heat between Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R) in Colorado is not good news for the incumbent. But the survey and Udall’s campaign (and Gardner’s, for that matter) are singing from the same hymnal on one front: the importance of women. The “war on women” narrative and the fight over female votes is national, but it might matter more in Colorado than anywhere else. — The first thing that sticks out about the Q poll is the gender gap. Women support Udall 52%-35%, while men go for Gardner 53%-38%. A gender gap by itself is not notable: they’re present in most elections now. But the 32-point swing in this survey is enormous. — It’s not just that there’s a gap in Colorado: Men and women have been polarized with almost exactly opposing intensity. Another notable takeaway from our exit poll survey: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D) 2008 win in New Hampshire also featured a 31-point gap, and Scott Brown’s (R) 2012 loss cracked the top ten, at 24 points. Those results, as well as the interesting 2008 exit poll from Georgia, may hint at what’s to come in those campaigns as well.”


STRANGE BEDFELLOWS Politics makes for strange bedfellows. The politics of pot makes those alliances even more peculiar. Case in point? Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have the exact same position on this aspect of marijuana enforcement: that people caught with small amounts of it should not be prosecuted.”The proximate cause is simply the huge swing in public opinion,” said Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA. “It’s no longer a fringe position.”

COUNTDOWN IN DC RollCall writes, “Unless Congress steps in, possession of pot in the nation’s capital will become a civil offense this summer, with penalties similar to a parking tickets.”


Have you considered adding a public relations agency to your team, but don’t know how to take the first step? Capstone’s Kathryn Wellner lays out the questions to consider when researching potential agencies to hire.


65067a5f84a8af42e4448e88_280x157DIPLOMUTT Thursday was bring your child to work day. And, since Secretary of State John Kerry’s kids are all grown up, he brought his dog, Ben. He has his own Twitter handle — @diplomutt. Get it? (Diplomutt currently has 866 followers although he’s only tweeted twice. He follows five people, all of whom are State department employees.) Added the Secretary, “There is one rule in show business, don’t do anything with kids or animals. I’m breaking those rules today, big time! Ben proved John’s point by jumping up on him. (Bad dog!) It’s been a busy week for Ben Kerry.  He celebrated his 1st birthday on Tuesday.”


Capstone Public Affairs is a full-service public affairs firm with offices in Washington, D.C and Milwaukee, WI, with more than 20 years of experience developing effective ways to tell their clients stories. Specialties include social media, crisis communication, advocacy campaigns and government relations.


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