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Leading Off:

CA-07: A little over a month ago, a story broke about a fraudulent voter registration drive in the Sacramento area, led by one Monica Harris, a Republican operative who, it turned out, had a serious criminal record that included embezzlement, theft, and prison time. And one of Harris's recent clients, as it happened, was GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, who denied involvement, saying that the "registration effort was not being run by the campaign."

Now, remarkably, he's defending the drive—to the hilt:

Lungren said he supported the voter drive and understood that there were sufficient safeguards in place to prevent fraud. "The overall registration effort made by the party was very successful. I am unaware of any single registration that was paid for by that program that had any problems," he said last week, adding that it's possible that the voters filling out the forms made mistakes.
Let's just revisit what the Sacramento elections board—which doesn't have any skin in this game, apart from wanting valid voter registration rolls—said about Harris's fraud in May:
Jill LaVine, Sacramento County's registrar of voters, has turned over evidence of what she called registration fraud to the California Secretary of State's Office. She said that at least one-fourth of the 31,000 registration cards submitted by Harris and her circulators since September have been rejected for inaccuracies.

Momentum Political Services was hired by the Republican Party of Sacramento County to conduct voter registration drives. LaVine said her office found numerous examples of people of having their political party affiliation switched to Republican against their wishes.

Does Lungren plan to blame these magical party switches on the people who filled out the forms? I'm just baffled. Why isn't he just shutting up and letting Harris take the fall?

Senate:

CO-Sen: As part of its Colorado miscellany, PPP took an early look at the 2014 Senate race, when freshman Dem Mark Udall will be up for re-election. Tom Jensen summarizes:

Udall has a solid 42/34 approval rating and would lead in hypothetical match ups against 7 different potential GOP foes we tested him against. The strongest of the GOP folks we tested is former Governor Bill Owens, who would trail Udall 47-43. The only other Republican who can hold Udall to a single digit lead is Congressman Mike Coffman, who trails 48-39.

The other Republicans we looked at were 2010 primary runner up Jane Norton (trails 48-38), former Congressman Tom Tancredo (trails 49-39), Attorney General John Suthers (trails 48-38), Congressman Doug Lamborn (trails 49-36), and 2010 nominee Ken Buck who has the widest deficit at 50-35. That has to be a frustrating fact for the GOP, because it suggests they could have knocked off Michael Bennet in 2010 if they'd run just about anyone other than Buck. Buck's favorability is an atrocious 18/35 spread.

PPP also finds voters narrowly supporting an initiative to legalize marijuana, 46-42. Also of note, Dem Gov. John Hickenlooper is extremely popular, with a 60-26 job approval rating. Amazingly, even Republicans give rate him at 36-43, which demonstrates some exceptional crossover appeal.

FL-Sen: I have to admit, I rather liked having ex-Sen. George LeMieux in the Republican primary, if only because he clearly enjoyed ragging on front-runner Connie Mack as much as I do. But LeMieux, whose fundraising and polling generally sucked, has now dropped out of the race. I can't decide whether this is actually good or bad for Mack, but I think it's possible it could be the latter. Now, at least, ex-Rep. Dave Weldon, a late entrant to the race, could at least try to consolidate the anti-Mack vote. The problem, though, is that there are still some other minor candidates out there drawing support of their own, and Weldon has only two months until the primary. Oh well. Bye, George.

P.S. Quinnipiac has some job approval numbers for Dem Sen. Bill Nelson (47-32, up from 44-35 in May), but their full head-to-heads in this year's Senate race won't be out until later today.

NM-Sen: The Internet has the longest of memories—longer, it seems, than Heather Wilson's. A Democratic operative gave BuzzFeed a nice little hit on New Mexico's Republican Senate nominee. Wilson this week:

I've always opposed the privatization of Social Security.
Ah, but Wilson in 1998:
I support innovative approaches that would allow working people to put at least some of their Social Security payments into personalized pension funds.
Is Wilson now going to attempt AEI's Orwellian "personalization is not privatization" dodge? (Or as we used to call it, "the bad kind of SSP"—Social Security privatization, that is.) We'll just have to see.

Meanwhile, the Defenders of Wildlife, leaders of the Planeteers a coalition of environmental groups who have banded together to defeat Wilson this November, filed a $38K expenditure report with the FEC for direct mail expenses in this race. (David Nir & James L)

NE-Sen: Wow. This statement from Democrat Bob Kerrey is just baffling. He starts by quoting legendary economist John Maynard Keynes, who once said, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." Then, this:

In spite of the TV ads suggesting I have become more liberal during my time in New York, the opposite actually happened. The things I have done during my time away from politics the past ten years have given me a view of the world that has made me much less the slave of some defunct economist (and of paid political advertisements). I have come much more firmly to believe in the wisdom of the masses. I do not believe that a million people making the same decision (what am I going to wear this morning) will all make the right choice. Maybe 10% will make a terrible choice. Maybe 10% will make an inspired choice. Maybe the rest of us will do OK. We're all better off making the decision on our own than we would be having one person make that decision for all of us in order to keep 10% of us from making a mistake. Besides: I am much more likely to learn from my mistakes anyway.
It's like Deep Thoughts... by Bob Kerrey.

Uh, where were we? Oh, right, Nebraska Senate race. Well, you can certainly understand why Project New America isn't shopping this poll around, unlike their gaudy AZ-Sen survey from a day earlier. But an unnamed source tells Politico's Alexander Burns that PNA's poll, from Garin-Hart-Yang, finds Republican Deb Fischer leading Democrat Bob Kerrey 52-38. Even Barack Obama does better than Kerrey, trailing Mitt Romney by "only" a 12-point margin, 52-40. Well, at least these numbers are a bit better than that recent Fischer internal which had her up 58-33. That's some pretty frosty comfort, though.

VA-Sen: That Majority PAC ad against George Allen that we wrote about yesterday? We now have word on the size of the buy: $487K.

WA-Sen (PDF): You could be forgiven if you'd forgotten that Washington is having a Senate race this year. I mean, I live in Washington, and I often forget there's a Senate race this year. At any rate, PPP included the oft-overlooked race in its sample this week, and they find that Dem incumbent Maria Cantwell is continuing to have an easy time of it. She leads Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner 51-35, basically unchanged since February when she led 51-36. Cantwell has 46/39 approvals, while Baumgartner is a cipher, with 72% with no opinion about him. (At the top of the ticket in the Evergreen State, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 54-41, including a 52-36 lead among independents.) (David Jarman)

WI-Sen: Marquette Law School is out with the first reputable poll of the Badger State since the gubernatorial recall, but note that they're already using a likely voter screen for the November general election even though it's still over four months away. In any event, they find Republican Tommy Thompson up 49-41 over Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the Senate race, while Baldwin ties or leads the other GOP hopefuls. Thompson also garners a pretty unimpressive 34% in the Republican primary, but the rest of the field is quite fractured. Meanwhile, Barack Obama leads Mitt Romney 49-43. Click through for all the numbers and our analysis.

Gubernatorial:

NH-Gov: Apparently, New Hampshire law allows the creation of two different kinds of political committees for gubernatorial campaigns: standard campaign committees and PACs. I'm not clear on the distinctions between them, or why you'd choose one over the other, but one important difference is that PACs had to file fundraising reports on Wednesday while campaign committees aren't obligated to do so until August 22. Consequently, Democrat Maggie Hassan, who chose the PAC route, just announced her totals, saying she's taken in $700K so far and has about $400K cash-on-hand. Hassan's rival for the Democratic nomination, Jackie Cilley, also created a PAC, so her numbers should be available soon, too.

The two principal GOPers, Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith, both operate regular committees, so their reports are due for a while yet. But as we mentioned the other day, Lamontagne leaked some early numbers, saying he'd raised $910K, with $500K in the bank.

House:

CA-21: I don't think there's any reason to hope that Fresno City Councilor Blong Xiong can make up the rest of the gap with fellow Democrat John Hernandez, even though Hernandez's 6.8% election night lead has now closed to just 1.3%. (God, California, you really suck at counting votes. The primary was over two weeks ago!) The problem, as John Ellis at the Fresno Bee notes, is that "[i]t is unknown how many votes are left to count in the district." The answer, though, is "probably not nearly enough" for Xiong to prevail. What's more, he hasn't even issued any public statements—not even a tweet—since election day; you'd think if he still felt he had any shot, he'd have said something to that effect.

FL-16: GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan, who faces multiple investigations into his ethics, is also embroiled in related legal disputes, and now he's finally going to have to testify under oath in one of them. It's not clear exactly when Buchanan will have to take the stand, but it's in a "lawsuit involving his former partner, who alleged Buchanan was the architect of a plan to violate federal elections laws." More details are available at the link.

FL-18: Democrat Patrick Murphy has won the DCCC's "grassroots champion" contest that you probably got some spam about at some point or another. So what does Murphy win? "The campaign that receives the most unique votes overall by June 15th receives the title of DCCC Grassroots Champion and a fundraising e-mail to their state from the DCCC." And the D-Trip, of course, gets all those email addresses people had to provide in order to cast ballots.

Over on the GOP side, one of the strangest Republican campaigns in existence this cycle belongs to Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder, who is rather improbably trying to unseat Allen West in the primary by running to his left. Crowder's already made a series of statements that show he's wildly out of step with the modern Republican Party, but his new interview with the Palm Beach Post editorial board is something else.

Just a sampling: Crowder won't speak out in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act (and won't even say if he thinks the mandate is unconstitutional); he says that "at some point in time taxes have got to go up in some areas"; he rates Obama a "C+ or a B" overall; and says he hasn't even decided whether to vote for Obama or Romney in November! Crowder's obviously a member of the wrong party—he's just too reality-based, saying of the President: "I would be upset if he was actually doing some of the things he’s accused of." Dude, it's well past time to think about switching teams.

KY-06: Harry Reid's Patriot Majority PAC is out with a new Medicare-themed TV ad (backed by a $64K buy) in support of Democrat Ben Chandler. Note that the add uses 501(c)-type language ("tell Ben Chandler to keep fighting to protect Medicare"), which is the first time that I can remember Reid's PAC doing this. It's nice to know that so many groups are concerned with social welfare these days! (James L)

MA-06: Most of the early reservations for fall ad time we've seen so far have been in swing states, but here's one guy making the most of cheap rates in a state that's definitely not on the presidential radar: Republican Richard Tisei just reserved $650K on cable and broadcast "for the last month" of the election campaign. Joshua Miller points out that both the NRCC and DCCC have made substantial reservations of their own in the Boston media market, and I'd also add that the top-tier senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren will eat up a lot of available ad slots.

NY-11: Politicker's Colin Campbell reports he's obtained confirmation that the FBI investigation into GOP freshman Mike Grimm's shady campaign finance practices is indeed ongoing. (You'll recall the New York Times piece which broke the story early this year.) According to Campbell, "the FBI has been speaking to at least one individual about fundraising allegations against his 2010 campaign in the last couple weeks. One such person, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, confirmed that the FBI reached out to him to inquire on the matter."

The Daily News, following up on Politicker's story, adds that at least four people have been questioned in connection with the Grimm inquiry.

NY-19: It's not much of a primary, but Democratic attorney Julian Schreibman just earned the endorsement of retiring Rep. Maurice Hinchey. Hinchey's seat, the old 22nd, was largely dismantled in redistricting, but the largest chunk of his district made it into the redrawn 19th, where he currently represents 37% of population. Schreibman is looking to take on GOP freshman Chris Gibson in November, but first he has to dispatch Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, whose shoestring campaign has fallen apart in tragi-comic fashion. (Click through for some serious insanity.) The primary is June 26.

OK-01: The American Academy of Anesthesiologists are spending another $25K on direct mail in order to numb Republican primary voters into a state of deep sedation on behalf of Rep. John Sullivan. (James L)

PA-12: Dem Rep. Mark Critz is out with a new internal poll of the general election, where he faces Republican Keith Rothfus, the 2010 nominee in the old PA-04 (which makes up about two thirds of the new 12th). The survey, from Global Strategy Group, finds Critz up 46-36 over Rothfus. Critz's favorables are 38-19, while Rothfus is less well-known, at 14-7.

TX-14: While I don't think you could call either of the two Republicans in the TX-14 runoff "Paulists," one of them has indeed earned the backing of the man they're trying to succeed in Congress. Rep. Ron Paul has endorsed state Rep. Randy Weber, who is facing off against Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris. (Weber took 28% in the first round to 19% for Harris.) It seems like Paul's been body-snatched, though. His statement on behalf of Weber is pure anodyne GOP:

"As a small business owner, Randy understands how excessive regulation and reckless overspending by government is destroying jobs and squeezing our community. Randy Weber will be a strong and consistent voice to get Washington off our backs so we in the Fourteenth District can work and grow."
Nothing about fiat currency, the Federal Reserve, or the NAFTA Superhighway? I'm disappointed!

UT-02: Just like baseball, there's no crying in politics, either. Yet a bunch of Utah Republicans have been wailing like babies for months, ever since Air Force vet Chris Stewart won his party's nomination at the GOP's state convention back in April. Four also-rans have filed a complaint with the FEC about how things went down, which seems a bit like appealing to the World Court at the Hague because your mom grounded you. Anyhow, this is what they allege:

The complaint stems from an anonymous letter that a virtually unknown candidate—Eureka Mayor Milton Hanks—said was sent to delegates leading up to the state Republican convention April 21 that alleged the four candidates had crafted a deal to ensure Stewart wouldn’t win the nomination by developing an "ABC Club" (Anybody But Chris Club).

Hanks delivered an explosive speech to delegates that resulted in a chaotic series of events that left Eagar, Wallack, Clark and Williams unable to rebut Hanks’ allegations before delegates voted.

The 14-page complaint charges the Stewart campaign with creating the letter to destroy the four candidates’ chances of securing the nomination and includes a list of witnesses who received the missive just days before the convention. The complaint also alleges Hanks was a supporter of Stewart in early February before deciding to jump into the race himself and filing a statement of candidacy on Feb. 24. Hanks on Monday denied the charge and said he supported Bob Fuehr for Congress before entering as a candidate himself.

An internal investigation by the state GOP already found no wrongdoing, though. And in any event, even if the FEC did agree (at some distant point in the future) that Stewart acted improperly, the complainants are only seeking a fine. So it's not really clear what they're hoping to accomplish, except perhaps to damage Stewart and soften him up for a primary challenge in the future.

Grab Bag:

American Crossroads: Last Friday, we got word of the size of the buy behind American Crossroads' broad-spectrum attack on multiple Democratic Senate candidates. Well, it now looks like the PAC is quickly doubling up on their buys in these states – in NE-Sen, they're spending another $127K; NV-Sen, another $167K, and VA-Sen, another $358K. No word on whether they'll be making an NM-Sen re-up, though. (James L)

Americans for Prosperity: A breathless Lando Calrissian reports: "That blast came from the Koch Brothers! Those douchebags are operational!" Yup, Americans for Prosperity is targeting the Democratic Senate fleet with a $3 million ad buy spread between FL-Sen, MO-Sen, MT-Sen, NV-Sen, VA-Sen, and WI-Sen. A copy of the Montana ad is available at the link, and the Wisconsin ad can be viewed here. (James L)

CPA/NY-13: Well, well, well. Look who's getting in on the 501(c)(4) racket. It's none other than the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the already-notorious super PAC which loves to target incumbents of both parties, supposedly just for the crime of being incumbents. But they've got a non-profit arm as well, called the "Alliance for Self-Governance." As you know if you've been reading our commentary lately on groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, these non-profit "social welfare" organizations can't engage in direct candidate advocacy, but they skirt the law with bogus "issue" ads. That also allows them to hide their donors (non-profits don't have to publicize who funds them) and their expenditures. (Super PACs, like ordinary PACs, have to file both fundraising reports and independent expenditure reports with the FEC.)

I mention all this in the context of New York's 13th Congressional District because, even though the CPA could have hidden behind the cloak of the ASG, spokesman Curtis Ellis nevertheless admitted to Capital New York's Reid Pillifant that they're basically doing bupkes in the Democratic primary, despite earlier claims that they'd spend "six figures" on the race. Ellis says that the group's efforts to boost state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and take down Rep. Charlie Rangel "will be mostly online" (in Pillifant's words), a particularly odd way of trying to reach people in this lower-income district. It seems that all the ASG has done, in fact, is put up a single web-page attacking Rangel, and in English only. (This is a majority-Hispanic district.) I've long urged skepticism about the CPA's supposed target lists, and it looks like that skepticism is indeed justified.

Actually, that skepticism is even more justified than I realized. Aaron Blake has a timely piece out on the CPA, and it turns out they're out of money! They've spent $2.7 million this cycle but now have just $227K on hand. They probably could have used their cash more wisely: Some of the races they've gotten involved in (like TX-04) have been serious head-scratchers. And thanks to the FEC's data portal, we can see exactly how much they've spent and where:

CD Target Target's
%age
Success? Spent
AL-01 Jo Bonner (R) 56% No $123,680
AL-06 Spencer Bachus (R) 59% No $203,109
IL-02 Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) 71% No $89,321
IL-16 Don Manzullo (R) 46% Yes $239,532
IN-05 David McIntosh (R) * 29% No $132,902
NY-13 Charlie Rangel (D) $9,830
OH-02 Jean Schmidt (R) 43% Yes $132,024
OH-09 Marcy Kaptur (D) 56% No $253,179
PA-17 Tim Holden (D) 43% Yes $193,875
PA-18 Tim Murphy (R) 63% No $107,308
TX-04 Ralph Hall (R) 58% No $167,371
TX-16 Silvestre Reyes (D) 44% Yes $240,000
IN-05 was an open seat, but the CPA nevertheless decided to support ex-Rep. David McIntosh in his failed comeback bid. Note also that this table doesn't include spending by the CPA's non-profit arm mentioned above.

DSCC/NRSC: Like its House counterpart, the DSCC outraised its opposite number on the Republican side in the very merry month of May. The DS pulled in $5.6 million, compared to $3.9 mil for the NRSC. Senate Democrats also have a big cash-on-hand edge, $28.3 million to $23 mil.

Governors: The University of Minnesota has some good trivia on which states have gone the longest without electing a Republican to the governor's mansion. The current winner? Washington, where the last member of the GOP to win a gubernatorial race was John Spellman in 1980. The lengthiest drought on the other side is in South Dakota; there, no Democrat has won the top job since Richard Kneip won re-election to a third term all the way back in 1974.

House: Franking, my dear: I don't give a damn. At least, not generally. Complaints about "abuse" of congressional mailing privileges are usually pretty weak tea, though once in a while someone does get busted for doing something egregious. In this case, I bring it up because Roll Call's John Stanton has done a thorough review of franking expenditures, coming up with a list of the top 10 spendthrifts:

Joe Heck (NV-03), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Kenny Marchant (TX-24), Bobby Schilling (IL-17), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), David McKinley (WV-01), Frank Guinta (NH-01), and Todd Young (IN-09).
Eight of these members are Republicans (all save Heinrich and Sherman), but Stanton points out something much more interesting:
Of those 10, at least four of the Republicans—Heck, Schilling, McKinley and Guinta—ran, at least in part, on criticizing incumbents over their mailing practices.

During that period, Heck has spent an estimated $422,000, Schilling has racked up $318,000, McKinley has totaled $312,000, and Guinta has totaled $308,000.

Stanton also rounds up some good quotes from each of these congressmen when they railed against franking last cycle. Heck, Schilling, and Guinta all face competitive elections this year, so their hypocrisy may come back to haunt them.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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