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The Washington Report – April 4, 2014
04 Apr 2014

The Washington Report – April 4, 2014

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


Beer, Cows and Happy Hour…Winners and Losers of Supremes Ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC … Late Surge on Obamacare … another Tragedy at Ft. Hood and other news of the week.


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

P.S. Final Four madness here in Wisconsin…Go Badgers!

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bd2dbedbcac826dae30b7acb_280x178FLOODGATES OPEN: THE SUPREMES RULING ON McCUTHCHEON v. FEC The Fix writes, “The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning struck down a 40-year-old ban on aggregate contributions that a single donor can give to candidates and party committees. In short, the court’s ruling means that a single contributor is no longer capped on how many candidates and party committees he/she can give to in a given election cycle. It keeps in place the federal campaign limits that restrict how much a donor can give to any one candidate or to any one party committee.”




Before, a single donor could contribute up to $5,200 to every House and Senate candidate up to a limit of $48,600. Now, if a single donor gives $5,200 to every House and Senate candidates of one party in a 468-race election cycle, the total would be $2,433,600.

Party committees

Before, contributions to party committees were limited to $74,600 total. Now, a single donor can give $32,400 to each of the three federal party committees each year and $10,000 to each of the party’s 50 state committees for up to $1,194,400 in donations in a two-year election cycle.

Political Action Committees

Before, contributions to PACs were limited to a total of $74,600 in increments of up to $5,000. There were 2,757 PACs in the 2012 election cycle. Now, a single donor can give up to $5,000 to each PAC aligned with his or her political interest. If a donor spent $5,000 on every PAC in the 2012 election cycle, that would equal $13.7 million.


I FOUGHT THE LAW AND I WON Shaun McCutcheon, an electrical engineer from Alabama, is the man of the political hour, with the Supreme Court handing down a hugely important campaign finance decision bearing his name on Wednesday.

MEET McCUTCHEON: Q. What is your reaction to the decision? A.Very excited and very happy. I was a little bit surprised; I thought it was going to take longer. So I wasn’t really ready to do it today. Q. How significant do you think this is in the grander scheme of campaign finance? A. To me, it’s very important because it involves private individuals – “We The People” – being able to spend more money directly on campaigns and parties and committees. To me, it’s significant.




JOINT FUNDRAISING COMMITTEES which will almost certainly be the preferred vehicle that candidates and party committees set up to collect — and disburse — big checks from wealthy individuals.” PARTY COMMITTEES The competition among party committees – RSCC, RCCC, RNC for example — is over.  To the extent they can find donors willing to write those checks ($32.4k) — there were fewer than 700 people in the 2012 cycle who would have been affected by McCutcheon — that’s a financial boon.

BIG DONORS Wealthy individuals are now able to spend more of their own money on more candidates and more campaign committees. STATE PARTIES They have been starved by the aggregate limits. Donors, especially major givers, like to give to the politically sexier causes. And that tends to be federal candidates and national party committees. By the time that giving was done, donors were typically at or close to their $74.6k limit. POLITICO PROS More money sloshing around political campaigns = more business for political consultants. FIRST AMENDMENT


CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORMERS While the aggregate limit was part of the post-Watergate campaign finance reforms in 1974, it was adopted as part of the package of changes to the campaign funding system that Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) pushed through Congress at the start of the last decade. ANOTHER DAGGER IN THE HEART OF McCAIN-FEINGOLD “I am concerned that today’s ruling may represent the latest step in an effort by a majority of the Court to dismantle entirely the longstanding structure of campaign finance law erected to limit the undue influence of special interests on American politics.- Sen. McCain said in a statement Tuesday morning. FIRST AMENDMENT

DEMOCRATS BASH – REPUBLICANS CHEER SCOTUS RULING Democratic lawmakers and campaign finance reform advocates quickly bashed Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down total limits on individual campaign contributions, warning of future corruption in elections. Meanwhile, Republicans largely cheered the ruling from the narrowly divided court, which found it unconstitutional to impose caps on the aggregate amounts that one person can donate to campaigns, parties and political action committees.


A must read by our own Kate Venne, on “ Why to Love Facebook.” Hint…it concerns her Great Aunt Ruth.


NO DEALING ON WAGE HIKE Politico writes, “…the few senators willing to negotiate on the minimum wage are finding resistance from their own leadership.  …On the Democratic side, moderates like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and those facing reelection like Mark Begich of Alaska are open to finding a middle ground with Republicans. But they are up against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his leadership team, who are refusing to entertain any wage increase below their party’s target of $10.10 per hour. A similar dynamic is unfolding on the GOP side where lawmakers like Bob Corker of Tennessee are willing to at least open debate on the plan. But he’s not finding a receptive audience from GOP leaders, who are signaling they are prepared to block the measure from even coming to the floor. On the Republican side, Susan Collins of Maine is quietly working with a group of Democrats and Republicans – who she refuses to name – to build a bipartisan proposal that can appeal to centrists in both parties.”

WHO IS SUSAN COLLINS? The Fix writes, “Collins is the Senate power broker you’ve never heard of — or at least the one that people often overlook or forget about. … Part of the reason that members of both parties are willing to work with Collins is that her voting record matches her rhetoric. Of the 45 Republican senators, she has the 45th-most conservative voting record, according to the most recent National Journal vote rankings. Seen from another ideological view, she’s the most liberal Republican in the Senate .. that gives her cred on both sides of the aisle.”


JOBLESS AID VOTE Politico writes, “Final approval of the Senate’s unemployment insurance proposal has been delayed until next week, as Democrats rejected Republicans’ request for a vote on their amendment.

WHAT HAPPENED The jobless aid package did pass several procedural votes on Thursday, clearing a final filibuster of the bill, 61-35.

REEEE-JECTED The GOP coalesced around an amendment from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that would, among other things, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, cut taxes for small businesses and repeal Obamacare’s medical device tax. Republicans presented it as an alternative to the bipartisan jobless aid package that many in the GOP argue only treats the symptoms of the unemployed, rather than the cause. In addition to seeking a vote on their own economic ideas, Senate Republicans also wanted to force vulnerable Democrats to vote on Keystone and the medical device tax, provisions some Democrats have supported in the past. But Democrats rejected having their senators up for reelection this year vote on such proposals as a condition to more speedy passage.

AND SO … the Senate’s work on a jobless aid package won’t be complete until [likely] Monday evening.


CIA REPORT Politico writes, “The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday afternoon to declassify a 480-page summary of a report on the CIA detention and interrogation programs. The report now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s review and possible redaction.”


LATE SURGE Bloomberg writes, “More than 1 million people waited until the last five days to sign up for 2014 health coverage under Obamacare, and early indications are that many were young minorities, insurance analysts and enrollment groups said. That may be good news for health insurers who have been concerned that the customers enrolling in health plans through the new insurance exchanges are sicker and older than the average American. About 7.1 million people signed up for private plans under the ACA by the close of the first enrollment period on March 31. The figure, a symbolic triumph for the president, met a year-old projection by the CBO that was thought out of reach after the exchanges were plagued by computer malfunctions last October.”


TAX DAY Politico writes, “April 15 will be the last day for most people to enroll in Obamacare exchanges for health coverage during 2014. Although the official deadline was midnight Monday (March 31st), the Obama administration had offered anyone who started an application by then the chance to continue enrolling — and now its confirmed a hard deadline for this grace period.

“White House officials sought valuable primetime air for a rare, impromptu Tuesday night address to tout the accomplishment of signing up more than 7 million people under the ACA. But network officials refused … and Obama was left instead cutting into the much smaller audiences of ‘Ellen’ and other daytime shows.” (Buzzfeed)


HEALTH CARE REFORM WAR WITHOUT END  AP reports on the latest move from House Republicans, “The GOP-led chamber voted 248-179 to change the law’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week (52nd vote to repeal or change the ACA). The result would be that fewer workers would get employer-sponsored health coverage and hundreds of thousands more people would be uninsured, according to the CBO. Republicans, backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, said the change would restore the traditional definition of full-time work while providing needed relief to businesses that are struggling with increased costs from the health care law … the measure faced certain death in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Eighteen Democrats joined with all Republicans in approving the bill, named the Save American Workers Act of 2013.”


TAX EXTENDERS Bloomberg’s writes, “The U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted to revive almost all of the 55 tax breaks that expired Dec. 31, providing benefits for wind energy, U.S.-based multinational corporations and motor sports track owners. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said today he supports the package of U.S. tax breaks totaling more than $86 billion. … The proposal, which faces an uncertain future in the full Senate and the House, would extend the tax breaks through Dec. 31, 2015.”

WIND INDUSTRY BREATHES SIGH OF RELIEF National Journal writes, “An amendment offered by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to gradually phase out the wind production credit was deemed non-germane and did not see a vote. Amendments offered by Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Michael Bennet to rewrite a tax credit for solar projects that would include start construction language was also deemed non-germane.”


MILITARY DREAMERS Breitbart‘s writes, “House Republicans are quietly working to insert immigration legislation into the text of the DoD authorization bill that would allow so-called DREAMers to obtain permanent legal residency by joining the military. The language, which if successful would mark the first effort by House Republicans to provide any form of amnesty since the GOP took control of the House in 2010, has set off a panic among top immigration hawks that the effort could open an immigration Pandora’s box, paving the way for broader legislation.

ENLIST Act The idea comes from Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), who “drafted the so-called ENLIST Act – which stands for ‘Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training’ – that allows immigrants who came here illegally before the age of 15 and who are able to enlist in the military to qualify for permanent residency in the United States. Despite the fierce pushback from the hard-right lawmakers in the House Republican Conference over Denham’s push, the policy itself is generally non-controversial. Denham’s legislation currently has 42 co-sponsors.”  The NDAA could come to the House Floor as early as next month.


ANOTHER TRAGEDY Politico writes, “A soldier receiving mental health treatment killed three people and himself and wounded 16 others on Wednesday afternoon at Fort Hood, five years after another soldier killed 13 people and hurt more than 30 at the same post. Last year, a civilian gunman with a history of mental illness killed 12 people on the Washington Navy Yard before he was killed by police.

SOMETHING IS NOT WORKING Preventing violence like the latest shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, is one of the Pentagon’s toughest challenges because it requires achieving two seemingly contradictory goals. On the one hand, defense officials want to “de-stigmatize” mental health issues inside the military services, to make it clear to troops that it’s OK for them to come forward after deployments, or in times of stress, to seek help. On the other hand, commanders want everyone to be on the lookout for erratic or unusual behavior and report it early, in an attempt to stop shootings like the ones at Fort Hood or last year at the Washington Navy Yard.”


33e166f8668c29177a6987f5_440x238BEER, COWS AND HAPPY HOUR Politico writes, “The FDA has proposed a regulation that could threaten happy hour. For cows. Though few Americans realize it, the byproducts of their booze consumption actually help feed dairy cows and beef cattle across the country. But a proposed rule from FDA that aims to ensure the safety of animal feed and pet food — part of a sweeping new food safety reform law signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 — includes new regulatory requirements that could make the practice cost-prohibitive, sending grains left over from beer and whiskey into landfills.

NOT HAPPY The proposal has brewers, distillers and some members of Congress up in arms. The relationship between alcohol makers and farmers is a centuries-old symbiotic partnership that even George Washington took part in.

WHY IS IT CALLED HAPPY HOUR? Brewers and distillers have tons of wet grain left over from making alcohol, and cows just happen to love it. They love it so much that many farmers call it “happy hour” when they feed their animals spent grain, whether it’s the byproduct of bourbon or IPA. The arrangement makes beer, bourbon and other alcohol producers happy, too, as they avoid paying to dispose of massive quantities of grain while also helping reduce farmers’ feed costs. This week, 13 senators led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) expressed their concerns to FDA and urged the agency to not unduly burden the beer industry. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), whose state is known as “the Napa Valley of beer” as it is home to a long list of craft producers and major breweries, like MillerCoors, wrote his own letter to the agency this week seeking a risk assessment before any proposal moves forward.


OFF TO FAST START The Hill writes, “The House Appropriations Committee moved the first of 12 annual spending bills for 2015, marking the earliest start on record for the committee, according to Chairman Harold Rogers.”


BUDGET SPEED BUMPS Politico writes, “As Rep. Paul Ryan was laying out his Path to Prosperity budget Wednesday, Republican leadership was working behind the scenes to make sure there was a path for passage. … an unexpected hiccup has surfaced: A small pocket of Republicans are threatening to vote against the Budget Committee chairman’s proposal because they are angry about a controversial parliamentary maneuver GOP leadership deployed last week on the so-called doc fix. … Passing Ryan’s House Republican budget has always been a heavy lift for leadership, with little margin for error. Last year, Ryan’s budget passed by a seven-vote margin with 10 Republicans voting no.

EGREGIOUS! This is the most serious fallout from the leadership’s effort last week to pass a “doc fix” bill. In the blink of an eye last Thursday, Republican leadership used a voice vote to pass a patch of reimbursement rates for physicians who serve Medicare patients. No one had the chance to vote for or against the bill, which faced opposition from both parties. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have spent the past week explaining the doc fix tactic, trying to contain the damage and solidify their vote count.”


BALLOON BURSTS FOR POLITICAL CONVENTIONS NPR writes, “Legislation the president signed Thursday afternoon means those huge political extravaganzas will no longer receive {about $18 million) in taxpayer support.”


3d5b2888ba991935b93599c4_280x186Today, 46 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  What an extraordinary life. His legacy of hope and inspiration continues today.


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