As Congress gets perilously close to its October 17 deadline to lift the nation's debt ceiling, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) isn't worried. Default? King shrugs. If anything, he says, the real risk is President Obama's scaremongering about a partial default by the United States on its obligations.
That was King's message Wednesday morning during an appearance on CNN's "New Day." "I'm not worried about this thing they term default because we are going to service our debt," he said. "But I am concerned about all the rhetoric around this, about the weeks and months building up to this point and the utilization of that term default."
The real risk, he went on, is blowback from Obama's dire rhetoric about the debt ceiling. "I'm concerned that it will scare the markets; I'm concerned that the president's remarks will scare the markets."
King is hardly the only the debt ceiling "denier" in Congress. In fact, there's so many of them that my colleague Tim Murphy divided them up into seven different caucus; they include the Debt-Limit-Is-Too-Damn-High Caucus (those who want to lower, not raise, the debt ceiling), the #YOHO Caucus (comprised solely of Florida's Rep. Ted Yoho, who believes default would be a good thing), the straight-up Default-Deniers (who believe the government cannot default on its debts), and the It's-Just-a-Flesh-Wound Caucus (you get the point).
Not a member of any of these caucuses: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). He's tried for weeks to convince and cajole his more conservative Republican colleagues into a deal, with no luck. As ofWednesday morning, media reports suggest that Boehner will bring a Senate-passed bill to the House floor, attempting to pass it with Democratic votes.
In June, an anti-corruption bill that included the holy grail of money-in-politics reforms—public financing of elections—died in the New York State Senate. Progressives and election reformers had pinned their hopes on passing a public financing system modeled after New York City's, a system that helped Bill de Blasio clinch the Democratic mayoral primary. But they weren't left empty-handed when the bill died: In its place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) created the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption to get at the root of Albany's corruption woes and to study the funding of state elections.
Now, it looks like Cuomo's commission is not all it's cracked up to be. And the Cuomo administration is partly to blame.
State lawmakers are refusing to turn over the information about their outside income that the corruption commission requested, the New York Times reports. Cuomo's staff, meanwhile, "has leaned on the commission to limit the scope of its investigations," according to the Times.
Here's more from the Times:
The turmoil over the commission began in late August, when it asked members of both houses of the Legislature to release information about their outside income above $20,000. Several weeks later, lawyers for the Legislature refused, saying, "These demands substantially exceed what New York law authorizes."
The commission's relationship with the governor's office has also been freighted. It issued a flurry of subpoenas at the start, but then was slowed by Mr. Cuomo's office in several instances, according to people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity because they feared retribution by the governor.
In one such instance, when the commission began to investigate how a handful of high-end residential developers in New York City won tax breaks from Albany, its staff drafted, and its three co-chairmen approved, a subpoena of the Real Estate Board of New York. But Mr. Cuomo’s office persuaded the commission not to subpoena the board, whose leaders have given generously to Mr. Cuomo's campaign, and which supported a business coalition, the Committee to Save New York, that ran extensive television advertising promoting his legislative agenda.
A Cuomo spokeswoman told the Times that "ultimately all investigatory decisions are up to the unanimous decision of the co-chairs." Still, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he's worried about "interference and micromanagement" at the commission, and good-government groups are increasingly disillusioned over the commission's trajectory. "New Yorkers are losing patience with the continuing culture of corruption in Albany and the continued indictment of their representatives," reads a letter from Common Cause New York to Cuomo. "The commission was established to help restore their faith in government, not confirm their cynicism that the system will never change."
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case that's been dubbed "the next Citizens United." The plaintiff, GOP donor Shaun McCutcheon, and his conservative allies say the case is about getting rid of restrictions on political spending that stifle free speech. Campaign finance watchdogs, meanwhile, fear the case could eviscerate an important piece of what's left of the federal laws governing money in politics. McCutcheon, says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, will decide "whether we return to the system of legalized corruption we have had in the past and that has led to some of the worst Washington corruption scandals in the nation's history."
What's this case about? During the 2012 election season, McCutcheon, an electrical engineer who lives in Alabama, started making donations to all the candidates he supported. He made (PDF) many $1,776 donations, a few for a couple thousand dollars, always staying within the donation limit of $2,500. Eventually, though, McCutcheon bumped into a different limit: the cap on the overall amount of money a single donor can dole out. Political donors can give no more than $123,200 during the two-year election cycle—$48,600 to federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and related committees. McCutcheon believed the aggregate limit was unreasonable and unconstitutional, and so, with the backing of the Republican National Committee, a coplaintiff in his case, he sued his way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
At stake in McCutcheon is whether it's constitutional for the government to cap overall donations made by a single political donor. McCutcheon, his lawyers, and their conservative allies say the limit curbs First Amendment rights and does little to guard against corruption or the appearance of corruption, the court's justification for placing limits on political giving and spending. On the other side, campaign finance watchdogs and their lawyers say ending the aggregate limit would create a system in which wealthy donors could cut multimillion-dollar checks to candidates and parties, making Republicans and Democrats alike even more beholden to wealthy contributors.
Here's a political ad that gets right to the point.
House Majority PAC, the super-PAC angling to win back the House for the Democrats next year, is on the airwaves with a new TV ad depicting a crying baby and likening a crew of House Republican lawmakers to petulant children. The ad targets House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and a crew of tea party lawmakers—including Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio), Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)—saying these GOPers are, well, big crybabies throwing a temper tantrum over their failed efforts to derail Obamacare.
"Speaker John Boehner didn't get his way on shutting down health-care reform," the ad's narrator says. "So he shut down the government and hurt the economy." The ad features the Twitter hashtag #GOPTemperTantrum.
The partial shutdown of the federal government now enters its second week, with no resolution in sight. On ABC's This Week, Boehner said he would not move to reopen the government until President Obama agrees to negotiate over Obamacare, the centerpiece of which went into effect last Tuesday. Asked whether the nation was set to default on its obligations in mid-October when it hits the government's borrowing limit, Boehner replied, "That's the path we're on." Obama, of course, refuses to enter talks about weakening or defunding his health insurance overhaul.
Don't be surprised, then, to see more crying babies on your TV set in the days ahead.
In an email to potential donors sent earlier this month, Katzenberg said of the Kentucky Senate race, "There is no more important election being held next year in this country." Katzenberg wrote that he sees McConnell as an obstructionist who has crippled the US Senate and hurt the democratic process in Congress. "Alison is the antidote to McConnell and all he represents," Katzenberg wrote. "She can win, and she will win if she gets the support she needs."
Here's more on Katzenberg's fundraiser from the Hollywood Reporter:
As the event concluded shortly before 8 p.m. and the room emptied out, the studio head and his political adviser, Andy Spahn, lingered at a table chatting with the candidate. As Grimes made her own exit, she paused to thank lingering campaign staff members, who laughingly told her the effort “came from the top down,” a reference to the intense hands-on role Katzenberg took in orchestrating the visit.
Asked for names of donors, Katzenberg simply responded, "Everybody."
The total was particularly impressive since individual donors can contribute only $5,200 to a candidate for federal office.
One of the Hollywood insiders who sized Grimes up during the whirlwind visit told THR that—while there are no formal records kept–the $1 million total is thought to be a record for a single visit by a senatorial candidate raising money in the L.A. entertainment industry.
A knowledgeable source also told THR that Katzenberg is preparing to renew his strong support for Democratic Super PACs as a way to level the electoral playing field in Kentucky, where Republican independent expenditure committees are expected to spend major cash to secure McConnell’s reelection.
Grimes herself made a strong impression at the luncheon, cocktail event and private meetings she attended during a visit that began Wednesday and wrapped up Thursday night. "I spent some time talking with her," said one Hollywood supporter. "She's very smart, very attractive, very poised. She has a good story about her Kentucky roots and her life there. She is very serious. She really wants to win this.