Each year, the opposition party taps a member to deliver a response to the president's State of the Union address. For Tuesday night's speech—President Barack Obama's sixth—Republicans have awarded this duty to Iowa freshman Sen. Joni Ernst, who rose to prominence last spring when she released a campaign ad about castrating a pig.
The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.
Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks.
By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.
Curbelo has broken with his own party on immigration to support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. Ernst has repeatedly expressed opposition to "amnesty."
Update: Following the publication of this article, House Republicans changed their tune. Read more here.
Politics is a family business for potential Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Over the last six years, the Fox News host's political action committee, which was created to raise money for GOP candidates, has paid nearly $400,000 to members of Huckabee's extended family, while spending just a fraction of its multimillion-dollar fundraising haul on the Republican contenders.
Huck PAC, which Huckabee launched in 2008 after dropping out of the Republican presidential race, "is committed to electing conservatives across the nation at all levels of government," according to a statement on its website. But according to review of Federal Election Commission records, a significant portion of the money the PAC has collected has gone into the salaries of family members or the coffers of direct-mail fundraising firms.
One of the most hyped potential candidates of the 2016 presidential campaign has clashed frequently with his party's higher-ups. He is known for his outspoken views on the surveillance state, his opposition to overseas entanglements, his warnings about the broken criminal-justice system, his desire to expand the party's tent to include voters otherwise alienated by identity politics—and for the Confederate-flag-waving supporters who'd follow him anywhere.
Unfortunately for Jim Webb, I'm talking about Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Since launching a presidential exploratory committee last month, the former one-term Virginia senator, author, Navy secretary, and Vietnam vet has spent the first weeks of his nascent campaign drawing a contrast with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party's most likely nominee. The little-touted candidacy of Webb, who was floated as a running mate during President Barack Obama's first campaign, is a reminder of how far the ground has shifted since his first run for office nine years ago. Two years after leaving the Senate, Webb's ideas are finally ascendant—but under a different banner.
After announcing he was forming a presidential exploratory committee last month, former Republican Florida Governor Jeb Bush quickly began pulling together a political operation of strategists, consultants and donors. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that DC insider Richard Hohlt, a Republican lobbyist, has become an informal member of the Jeb Bush campaign team. But the newspaper neglected to note that Hohlt is more than your average Washington influence-peddler.
Hohlt has been a key and somewhat infamous lobbyist for the financial industry, best known for assisting the corrupt savings-and-loan banking industry three decades ago in its battle with federal regulators—at a profound cost to US taxpayers. And in 2009, following the Wall Street-driven economic demise, Citigroup enlisted him to assist its efforts in Washington.
Hohlt has worked the halls of the nation's capital for various corporate giants, including Chevron and Altria. But he is best known for assisting the S&L gang three decades ago. He kept regulators at bay on behalf of these thrifts, which were overextended and speculating with federally insured deposits. The ensuing S&L collapse, which happened during the Reagan and (first) Bush years, helped drive the US economy into the tank, launched a series of investigations, and yielded criminal convictions. As the New York Times reported six years ago, "Critics say that as a top lobbyist for the savings and loan industry in the 1980s, Mr. Hohlt blocked regulation of these institutions and played a pivotal role helping to prolong dubious industry practices that cost taxpayers $150 billion to clean up." (Incidentally, an S&L run by Jeb Bush’s brother, Neil, went belly-up at a cost of $1 billion to taxpayers.)
Conservatives think they've found new ammunition for their campaign against the Clintons—a new Clinton sex scandal. Or sort of.
On Monday, Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the Republican Party, tweeted, "Woman Suing Jeffrey Epstein For Sexual Slavery Claimed Bill Clinton Must Have Known" and linked to a post that in turn referred to a Daily Mailstory from 2011. The Drudge Report went for the more sensational "BUBBA AND THE PALM BEACH PEDOPHILE" and linked to the same story. Conservative viral news sites Twitchy and IJReview piled on, as did pundits at conservative websites, including Breitbart and the Blaze.
What has the right in a tizzy is a six-year-old lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a former Democratic donor who has been accused of luring underage girls to his island resort to give massages before ultimately sexually assaulting them. Epstein, a billionaire hedge fund manager, pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting an underage woman and served 13 months in prison. But unsealed court documents revealed that he had been the subject of a much larger federal probe into alleged prostitution and could have faced 10 years in prison or more, if the case had gone forward. After his guilty plea, two of his alleged victims, who had were underage at the time of their encounter with Epstein, sued him in federal court, claiming that he had a "sexual preference and obsession for underage girls" and that he had sexually assaulted them (and many others). Epstein has consistently denied criminal wrongdoing and downplayed his 2008 conviction, telling the New York Post that he is "not a sexual predator."
Last week a new anonymous allegation was introduced in the case, with a court filing charging that Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth's second son, had sexually abused an underage girl when he was a guest at Epstein's house in the US Virgin Islands. (Prince Andrew has denied any wrongdoing.) And on Monday, The Smoking Gunresurfaced old court documents revealing that Epstein's phone book included telephone numbers and email addresses for Bill Clinton. ("Now that Prince Andrew has found himself ensnared in the sleazy sex slave story of wealthy degenerate Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Clinton can't be too far behind," the site declared.)
Clinton's relationship with Epstein is old news. It's long been publicly known that Clinton and other notable figures hobnobbed with Epstein. Still, the new headlines the case has generated have given GOPers a fresh opportunity to try to link Clinton to a sex scandal. Williams, the GOP spokesman, was attempting to draw attention to a three-year-old story that does not implicate Clinton in any lawbreaking. That article, which relies on court documents, recounts the story of Virginia Roberts, who alleged that she became Epstein's sex slave at the age of 15 and that Clinton had once had dinner with Epstein and two girls whom she believed were underage (but she didn't know their ages). But, according to the Daily Mail, Roberts said that "as far as she knows, the ex-President did not take the bait." Roberts did say that she believed Clinton had to have been aware of Epstein's alleged illegal activities, but provided no evidence to support her assumption.
Clinton and Epstein were indeed once close. The former president used Epstein's private jet. And the presence of numerous teenage girls on the financier's private island might have struck a visitor as unusual or even troublesome. But there certainly was a compelling reason for a politician not to ask too many questions: Epstein had given tens of millions of dollars to political and philanthropic causes. And there's another ingredient to the case that makes it a less-than-natural fit for political point-scoring—one of Epstein's lawyers during his criminal case was none other than Kenneth Starr, whose investigation in the Clinton White House produced the Lewinsky scandal.
With GOPers always eager for more soap opera material on the Clintons, don't expect this story and its (so far) thin Clinton connection to go away quietly.