• Michigan: Welcome to the Hotel California. A front group called the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity, apparently backed by the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, just submitted almost twice as many signatures as required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall. The measure would require a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to raise any taxes—a move conservatives love, of course, and one which would also put the state on a path to being as ungovernable as California.
As you may know, the notorious 1978 ballot initiative in the Golden State called Proposition 13 imposed the same requirement on the California legislature, paving the way for regular cutbacks of government services because tiny minorities of Republicans can block any proposed tax hike. The proposed Michigan amendment has received little attention so far, but it may be one of the most important measures on the ballot this November.
• CA-26: Julia Brownley (D): $637K raised, $320K cash-on-hand
• CO-03: Sal Pace (D): $410K raised, $790K cash-on-hand
• CT-Sen: Rep. Chris Murphy (D): $1.2 mil raised, $3.1 mil cash-on-hand
• IL-10: Brad Schneider (D): $582K raised, $567K cash-on-hand
• IN-02: Jackie Walorski (R): $330K raised, $720K cash-on-hand
• KY-06: Rep. Ben Chandler (D): $398K raised, $1.3 mil cash-on-hand; Andy Barr (R): $392K raised, $758K cash-on-hand
• MN-02: Rep. John Kline (R): $428K raised, $1.3 mil cash-on-hand
• NH-02: Annie Kuster (D): $484K raised
• NM-Sen: Rep. Martin Heinrich (D): $1.4 mil raised, $1.8 mil cash-on-hand
• PA-07: Rep. Pat Meehan (R): ~$500K raised, $1.4 mil cash-on-hand
• WA-10: Denny Heck (D): $310K raised, $1.1 mil cash-on-hand
• House Majority PAC: $4.3 mil raised
• AZ-Sen: Ironically enough, businessman Wil Cardon is out with two new 15-second ads hitting his GOP primary opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake, for being soft on illegal immigration—a day after the Arizona Republic published a big story showing that Cardon is far from pure when it comes to immigration matters himself. A brief summary:
In the case of immigration, some of Cardon's business interests have drawn scrutiny from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A Subway franchise company co-owned by Cardon was fined three years ago for federal violations related to failure to document the legal status of more than 150 employees suspected of being illegal immigrants, federal and state records show.Cardon's campaign is trying to defend their candidate by saying he "never exercised day-to-day control over this business." But Flake trackers have caught Cardon on tape claiming to be a very hands-on sort of guy, saying stuff like "the best way" to run a business is via "walk-around management" which means "you have to go out there" to the actual stores—something Cardon said he does "every day."
Investigators for ICE reported that nearly half of the 315 employees at some Subway restaurants owned by RCC Partners were believed to be "undocumented alien workers." Investigators also reported that their employer failed to comply with federal employment-eligibility paperwork. Two of the ownership groups for RCC Partners are at least partly owned by Cardon, according to state corporate records.
Flake immediately pounced, launching an ad attacking Cardon for hiring illegal aliens on the basis of this report. The spot is reportedly "part of a $200,000 statewide broadcast and cable television buy." Cardon also has yet another ad out, in which he runs off a list of fairly generic "he's not really a conservative" hits against Flake. But right now, Cardon is the one on the defensive.
• HI-Sen: Dem Rep. Mazie Hirono's new minute-long ad starts out with a very compelling story she tells herself—about how her mother plotted to flee an abusive husband in Japan and literally "set sail for America" aboard the S.S. President Cleveland with an eight-year-old Mazie in tow. Halfway through, though, the spot abruptly changes gears, with Hirono saying how the experience taught her to be "self-reliant"... and then an announcer chiming in with her five-point plan to make Hawaii "more energy- and food-independent, too." I personally think the first half of the ad would stand well on its own.
• MI-Sen: If businessman Clark Durant, who's running out of time to make a dent into ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra's big lead in the GOP primary, is going up on the air with a reported $385K buy. Durant unveiled the ad a month ago but apparently is only now airing it; the spot touts his work running a network of Christian private schools and taking over a bankrupt railroad. (I thought conservatives hated trains?)
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow just announced she purchased $3.3 million in television ad time for the fall campaign. Despite the huge expenditure, she still has $4.5 mil left on hand as of the end of the second quarter.
• MO-Sen: So it turns out that Republican John Brunner also paid taxes on a private plane late—a revelation about Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill last year that the GOP has been eager to exploit. There's a pretty considerable difference in size, though: Brunner's company, Vi-Jon Services, was fined $700 for late payment. McCaskill, however, owed $300K. I guess, though, that this puts Brunner in the situation of having to explain the distinction, rather than being able to make a clean hit on the incumbent.
• MT-, OH-, VA-Sen: Crossroads GPS, the worst charity in the world, just launched three more ads in three hotly contested Senate races, claiming they're putting $2.5 million behind the whole effort. The Huffington Post says that nearly half is going to their Ohio spot, which uses a variety of imagery from different game shows (Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, etc.) to castigate Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown for being the "biggest supporter of the Obama agenda in Ohio."
Meanwhile, the Virginia spot goes after Democrat Tim Kaine on another one of those "check out this goofy thing in the stimulus!" plot lines. This time, it's "studying ants... in Africa!" ZOMG! And finally, the Montana ad attacks Dem Sen. Jon Tester, telling the usual lies about the Affordable Care Act.
Also in Montana, a group called the Montana Hunters and Anglers Leadership Fund is running an ad... attacking Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg. You might expect a group with a name like that to be pro-GOP by default, but their spot goes after Rehberg for voting for a bill which gave the Border Patrol and U.S. Customs broader access to federally-owned lands within 100 miles of the border—which those who like to hunt and fish worry will mean less access for the public. Another interesting detail is that the group is backed in part by the League of Conservation Voters, as reported Mike Dennison explains. Size of the buy: a serious $350K.
• ND-Sen: We've got a couple of new Democratic ads out in North Dakota. The first is from the DSCC; it's a decently-enough done spot, attacking GOP Rep. Rick Berg, but to an astute political observer, it'll sound like they're reading off a polling memo that tells them which Democratic messages play well in a red state: Berg = one of richest members of Congress, voted to hike own pay, give tax breaks to millionaires, voted against increasing minimum wage, voted to "essentially end" Medicare.
That's actually not a bad array, though I think I'd prefer a more focused ad that doesn't try to kitchen-sink everything. And that's what Majority PAC has come up with, focusing extensively on the Medicare issue (i.e., Berg's vote in favor of the Ryan budget), with a quick hit on tax cuts for richie riches. The buy is reportedly "in the low six figures."
• NE-Sen: Uh, WTF? Bob Kerrey's already established that he's running one of the weirdest campaigns this cycle... and now his own wife, Sarah Paley, has penned a piece in Vogue dissing him for deciding to make a comeback bid! I mean, yeah, hah hah, Paley is a comedy writer, but based on descriptions of the piece in the Omaha World-Herald, it doesn't seem like her essay is all that funny. And if people have to guess whether you're making a joke or not, then you've already failed. What's more, this is politics, where nerves are always on a knife's edge and sensitivities are sharp—making cracks about how hickish Nebraska seems to Paley, a New Yorker, is just never going to play well. I mean, did she think writing this piece would be a net positive for her husband? Oy vey.
So you can probably understand why in any other race, I'd call this ad a pretty good hit, nailing your opponent as a millionaire "welfare rancher" who's taken "$3 million in taxpayer subsidies"—"a sweetheart deal that only a handful of ranchers get." Unfortunately, the target is Republican state Sen. Deb Fischer, and the intended beneficiary is Bob Kerrey (courtesy the Nebraska Democratic Party), so it's just hard to see much point.
• NV-Sen: You'd be forgiven if you got Patriot Majority USA and Majority PAC mixed up—not only are they both Democratic super PACs with similar names, but on Tuesday, they even sent out a press release together, touting both Patriot Majority's new Nevada ad and Majority PAC's new North Dakota spot (see ND-Sen item above). Patriot Majority also hits GOP Sen. Dean Heller on his vote for the Ryan plan—or I should say, pair of votes. Thanks to a wily move by Harry Reid, Heller became the only person in America to vote to end Medicare twice, once in the House, then again a few weeks later after he was elevated to the Senate when John Ensign resigned... and the ad most definitely delights in pointing this out. Size of the buy: $220K, though that includes production costs. (The Hill says $200K is going toward putting the spot on the air.)
• TX-Sen: Either FreedomWorks, which is backing Ted Cruz in the runoff, just paid for an exceptionally expensive poll, or a bill for a bunch of polling came due all at once. The group filed an independent expenditure report for about $100K worth of surveys conducted by Basswood Research. Maybe a tracking poll?
• WI-Sen: PPP's new look at the Wisconsin Senate race finds that Republican Eric Hovde's self-funded ad blitz has paid dividends: Hovde has catapulted into a lead over Tommy Thompson in the GOP primary, 31-29, shoving aside Thompson's other two more conservative opponents. Hovde is also performing just as well as Thompson against likely Dem nominee Tammy Baldwin, leading her 45-44 in November. Click through for our full analysis and all the numbers.
One of those conservative also-rans, ex-Rep. Mark Neumann, is out with his first ad, reportedly backed by a $160K buy. It carries an ultra-conservative message:
Barack Obama thinks the government should make every decision for you. Now with Obamacare, he's forcing Church-run hospitals to provide abortion-causing drugs. It's bad enough Obamacare will bankrupt America, but government telling religion what to do? That should scare you to death."And that's probably good news for ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson. To the extent Neumann can pick up any votes from movement conservatives, that ought to hurt businessman Eric Hovde, since he's competing for the same pool.
Speaking of advertising, can anyone tell me what exactly is EMILY's List thinking? They just filed an independent expenditure report for their new Wisconsin ad, which rather oddly attacks both Thompson and Hovde. But it turns out they're also spending money on web ads hitting all four Republicans running for Senate, including Neumann and Jeff Fitzgerald. That's just not how this game works. If you're going to subscribe to the Harry Reid school of "picking your opponent," then you've got to actually pick one person that you want to face and lay off them while you hammer their biggest rivals. Doing a full-spectrum blast against the entire GOP field makes no sense. (David Jarman & David Nir)
• CA-52: Lori Saldana, who narrowly lost the top-two primary to fellow Democrat Scott Peters, has now endorsed him for the general election. Peters is challenging GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray in this redrawn district in the La Jolla area to the west and north of San Diego. The seat went from Obama +4 to Obama +12 in redistricting, so it represents a strong pickup target for Democrats. Daily Kos Elections currently rates it a Tossup.
• FL-16: The House Ethics Committee cleared GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan of charges that he failed "to report certain information regarding positions he held with certain entities, as well as income from those entities on his annual Financial Disclosure Statements." Basically, the committee found that "everybody does it," saying that up to half of the disclosures they review every year contain mistakes, and that they found "no evidence" that Buchanan's errors "were knowing or willful." But this was the least of ol' Vern's worries: He still has another ethics committee inquiry pending into more serious campaign finance allegations, as well as related investigations by the FBI and IRS.
• MI-06: A group called the Direct Selling Association is spending $18K on a bunch of random media (ads in the Kalamazoo Gazette, radio spots, etc.) aimed at helping GOP Rep. Fred Upton, who faced a primary challenge from the right from ex-state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk. I'm trying to figure out why the DSA is getting involve here; they're a trade group for companies which sell "directly to consumers"—namely, door-to-door. One thought I had is that one of the best-known direct sellers is Michigan-based Amway, whose owners, the DeVos family, are big power-brokers in Republican politics. Indeed, two DeVoses (Amway president Doug and former president Dick) were honored by the DSA just last month. I have no idea if there's any actual connection between the DeVoses' interests and the DSA's decision to spend on Upton's behalf, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were one.
• MI-11: So there will be a special election to replace ex-Rep. Thad McCotter after all. Gov. Rick Snyder just announced that a special primary will be held on Sept. 5, while the special general will coincide with the regularly-scheduled general election on Nov. 6. The special will take place under the old district lines, and the winner will only get to serve for the final two months of the year, so it doesn't sound like much of a prize. However, as we saw in a similar situation in WA-01, there is one compelling reason for candidates to run in both races: You can raise twice as much money from big donors, since the normal cap of $2,500 per contributor get doubled because you're running in two elections.
• NC-08: Eric Cantor's YG Action Fund is upping its involvement in the NC-08 GOP primary. First it was mailers (PDF) attacking dentist Scott Keadle; now they've upgraded to television and radio ads. Their TV spot tries to accuse Keadle of "vot[ing] to grab over a million bucks" of "failed stimulus" money while he served on the Iredell County Commission. The ad is very weak, lingering on Obama and taking almost 18 seconds to even mention Keadle's name, but it's backed by a hefty $358K buy. (There's another $23K thrown in on those mailers, too.)
Yesterday, we also mentioned that YG's comrades-in-arms, the American Action Network, was also going up on the air. Their ad is now available; it tries to liken Keadle to an onion (seriously). AAN's claim is that Keadle isn't actually the conservative he claims to be, so if you "cut through enough layers... what you find might surprise you." The problem with this metaphor is that if you slice into an onion... inside is still a fucking onion! If you are surprised at what lies inside, then you have either never eaten an onion or you are a moron.
• NM-01: Hrm, what's all this about? Local writer Joe Monahan reports that state Sen. Eric Griego has still not yet endorsed Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, the winner of the Democratic primary last month—but he's been busy sending out fundraising emails for other candidates, including at least one out of state (MN-05 Rep. Keith Ellison). Sorry, but not cool. I'm a big believer in the notion that if you lose a primary, unless the winner is totally unacceptable (and I'm talking Kesha Rogers-level), you endorse the winner, period.
• WI-02: Democrat Kelda Roys is out with a pair of new ads. In the first spot, she talks about how she "stood up to Gov. Walker and vote to stop his corporate tax giveaways" in the state legislature. The second ad is very similar to the first, both in content (mentioning the Walker fight) and appearance (she speaks to the camera in front of the same backdrop wearing the same shirt).
And it looks like Roys's Democratic primary opponent, fellow state Rep. Mark Pocan, is also up with his first ad, talking about how his parents taught him "how to run a business and how to treat employees and customer fairly." The only partisan notes come when Pocan notes he runs a "union print shop" and when he says he "stood up to" Walker when he "wanted tax breaks for wealthy corporations." (Both candidates' buys (are reportedly in the $50K range.)
Given that this is a very liberal district centered around the city of Madison, I'm surprised at how relatively soft the progressive messages in both campaigns' advertising are. Pretty much everyone promises to "protect Medicare and Social Security." How about offering some red meat to the liberal base? It's not like Republicans are contesting this 70% Obama seat in November.
• WI Recall: It's finally, finally over: Former Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard has decided not to challenge the results of his recall election in court, after a recount failed to budge Democrat John Lehman's 800-vote lead. That officially gives Democrats control of the Senate by a 17-16 margin, but the legislature is out of session until next year, so Dems now have to hold the chamber this November to be able to thwart GOP Gov. Scott Walker's legislative agenda. (One positive is that at least now there's no way Walker will call a special session this year.) I'm also going to guess that we won't see any further recalls in Wisconsin for quite some time.
• Dark Money: Rachel Weiner at the Washington Post has some background on the latest GOP player in the dark money world: American Commitment, a brand-new 501(c)(4) that recently started airing ads attacking Democrats in five different Senate races. Like all such "charities," American Commitment isn't obligated to disclose either its donors or expenditures, but Weiner did dredge up a little bit of background on the group's founder, "Phil Kerpen, who previously spent five years working at Americans for Prosperity. Before that, he worked for the Club for Growth, a Club offshoot called the Free Enterprise Fund and the libertarian Cato Institute." AFP, as you know, is the Koch brothers' outfit, but of course Kerpen refused to say anything about whether the Kochs are behind his new organization.
Weiner also has some more detailed numbers on what the group is claiming to spend in each race, but unless she's relying on media trackers, there's no way to verify any of this—like I said, the group doesn't have to share a single detail about how it uses its money. But in any event:
There’s $1.2 million behind two ads attacking Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio, $1.1 million behind an ad attacking Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida, a little under $500,000 hitting Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, $114,000 against Rep. Martin Heinrich in New Mexico and $110,000 against Rep. Shelley Berkley in Nevada. The group is going on the air next week in North Dakota, attacking Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp on health care.That Heitkamp buy is for a reported $115K.
• WATN?: Dino Rossi—he of the two losing gubernatorial campaigns and one losing Senate campaign—has finally found his way back into political office. How did he do it? It's simple: just get appointed, instead of actually having to win an election. As was expected, he's just been tapped to fill his vacant old Washington state Senate seat in LD-05 in the Eastside suburbs, though he's only a caretaker until the November election. In fact, he won't even have to do anything other than collect $17,000 for his efforts, as the legislature won't even be in session. (David Jarman)