• MN-06: Well, well, well. Looks like Michele Bachmann's found herself in a bit o' hot water. Writing for the Daily Beast, Fipp Avlon reports that the Office of Congressional Ethics is "interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations" stemming from her very failed presidential bid last year. Here's the nut:
Former staffers tell The Daily Beast that investigators have allegedly asked about allegations of improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments actions by Bachmann's presidential campaign, specifically in relation to the campaign's national political director, Guy Short, and Bachmann's onetime Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson. Questions directly about Bachmann, they said, have been primarily focused on what she knew about those men's actions and when she knew it.There are several other legal matters swirling around Bachmann, including a civil lawsuit filed in Iowa regarding the alleged theft of an email list of "Christian homeschool families" and an accompanying police investigation of the matter, as well as an inquiry by the Iowa state Senate of Sorensen, who is accused of stealing the list and also of taking those "under-the-table payments" from Bachmann. (Sorensen of course denies everything.) On top of that, there's also an FEC investigation into allegedly improper payments to Short (who has refused comment). It sounds like the OCE could well tie all these threads together into a nice little bundle of joy for Michele Bachmann. We'll definitely be staying tuned.
• GA-Sen: Not long ago, some nameless Georgia Republicans from the state's business community, unhappy with the likely crop of GOP Senate candidates, tried floating some new names, including sophomore Rep. Austin Scott. But Scott says he's not running, though several other members of Congress from the Peach State are still considering: Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, and Tom Price. The only declared candidate so far is nutter Rep. Paul Broun.
• MA-Sen: The NextGen Committee, the super PAC of wealthy liberal activist Tom Steyer, just kicked off its first expenditures in the Massachusetts special Democrat Senate primary. Steyer had previously threatened to unload on Rep. Stephen Lynch if he didn't change his mind about supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, so his group is spending $28K on "video mobile billboards" attacking Lynch on the topic. According to Politico, the displays "feature Lynch's face morphing into George W. Bush's." Yow.
It seems like Steyer's help is turning out to be pretty unwelcome, though. Lynch's opponent, Rep. Ed Markey, has castigated Steyer and demanded he remove ads from Facebook, which have triggered a violation of the "people's pledge" Markey signed with Lynch. The pledge requires that each campaign make a matching donation to a charity of the other's choosing if a third party spends money on their behalf. Markey said he'd make good on such a donation, but Steyer is insisting that the Facebook ads aren't campaign-related.
The billboards, though, indisputably are. The difference is that the text of the pledge (PDF) doesn't cover them; it only applies to TV, radio, online advertising, and direct mail. That means things like robocalls and door-to-door canvassing are exempt, as are billboards. But while Steyer might be able to avoid the letter of the law, so to speak, his continued involvement may prove to be an unwanted distraction for Markey.
• MI-Sen: While former Dem Gov. Jennifer Granholm still has her fans, we've written repeatedly that a Senate run was simply not in the stars for her. Not only did she leave office pretty unpopular with voters, she almost immediately thereafter moved to California, where she's taught at Berkeley and hosted a show on CurrentTV. Granholm's Current gig is now over (following the station's sale to Al Jazeera), but that hasn't changed the calculus, so it's no surprise to see that she's finally made it clear she definitely won't make a bid for Senate back in Michigan this cycle.
• SD-Sen: The biggest remaining question mark in terms of possible Senate retirements is in South Dakota, where Democrat Tim Johnson has yet to declare whether he'll seek a fourth term. But that's about to change: Johnson has an announcement planned for Tuesday afternoon. On Monday afternoon, though, multiple media outlets (starting with Reuters) began reporting that Johnson would indeed retire. That would be unsurprising, given his health and the near certainty that he'd face a very tough re-election challenge.
• VA-Sen: In a further sign of just how fast things are shifting on the same-sex marriage front, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner—who is up for re-election next year—has come out in favor of marriage equality. Virginia is a blue-trending but still purplish state, and Warner's own political footing is quite sound, plus Barack Obama carried the Old Dominion after declaring his own support for gay marriage, so Warner makes this move from a position of strength. He could, however, have easily remained silent on the matter.
Then again, maybe not: If you rely on socially moderate-to-liberal voters for your own re-election, it's probably starting to grow more difficult to not back gay marriage. That may be especially true when courting wealthy Democratic donors who I suspect will grow increasingly turned off by Democrats who aren't on board with marriage for all couples. Interestingly, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who hails from a much redder state but isn't up for re-election until 2018, also just declared her support for marriage equality, too. Three would make a trend....
• MN-Gov: Minnesota Republicans seem a bit more enthusiastic than their counterparts in, say, Oregon when it comes to their gubernatorial chances, but no one has yet taken the plunge. Reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger nevertheless rounds up nine different names who haven't formally ruled out the race. We've mentioned most of these before, but new to us are businessman Scott Honour and businesswoman Susan Marvin, though neither have made public statements. State Rep. Kurt Zellers, who appeared in a recent PPP poll, now says he's "leaving all my options"... open? I'm guessing he meant to include the word "open" at the end there, but who knows.
• CA-17: Veteran Rep. Mike Honda continues his cavalcade of artillery fire, designed to make Ro Khanna think twice (or thrice) about whether to challenge him in the Democratic primary. Following endorsements from Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, as well as a new internal poll giving him a 52-point lead, Honda has now announced the backing of California's two senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
• Attorneys General: Louis Jacobson of Governing magazine seems to be carving out a niche for himself as the guy who handicaps the races that are too far down in the weeds for the bigger names, stuff like state legislative chambers and downballot statewide offices. With that in mind, he's already out with his ratings of the AG races in 2013 and 2014. Top of the list is the lone 2013 race, in Virginia, left open by Ken Cuccinelli's gubernatorial run and a prime pickup for Dems in a state that's turning blue. (New Jersey's Attorney General is an appointed position, in case you're wondering.) Rounding out the top tier for 2014 are the open seats in Arkansas (Dem-held, being vacated by Dustin McDaniel) and Colorado (GOP-held, vacated by John Suthers), and hapless Republican incumbent Tom Horne in Arizona. (David Jarman)
• LA Mayor: Bill Clinton just endorsed city Controller Wendy Greuel over fellow Democratic city Councilman Eric Garcetti in the May 21 Los Angeles mayoral runoff. Greuel was not only a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008, but she also worked for HUD when the Big Dog was in office.
• Demographics: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I'm talking about the project of turning Texas into a blue state, one that always promises to be right over the horizon but one that we never seem to get to. Well, the Houston Chronicle—which last year did some demographic analysis of the Lone Star State and concluded that Texas would be a tossup by 2024 if current migration and voting patterns continued—is out with a new analysis that says we could be there right now, if Latinos turned out at the same rate as Anglos.
The article estimates Latino turnout in Texas at 24 percent, while it's at 47 percent for non-Hispanic whites. Closing that gap is simply not going to happen right now because of citizenship and voting-age issues, but if it actually were the case, Mitt Romney's 16 point margin would have been reduced to 5, Dem freshman Pete Gallego would have won TX-23 by 22 points instead of 5, and GOP freshman Randy Weber would have won TX-14 by only 3 points instead of 9. (David Jarman)
• TX Redistricting: The three-judge panel in San Antonio that is still presiding over the never-ending saga of Texas redistricting said a while back that it won't issue any rulings until the Supreme Court opines on the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. A decision in that case is expected by June, but in the meantime, the various parties in the Texas matter are wrangling with the judges and each other over what kind of timeline the court should follow, regardless of what happens in Shelby County, and whether the maps used in 2012 can be used once again in 2014. (The GOP says yes, the plaintiffs mostly say no.) Writing at Burnt Orange Report, redistricting guru Michael Li summarizes the state of play, but we won't have much clarity until the SCOTUS and the San Antonio court eventually rule.