Republican Party

 

 

Feb 9, 2018
Politics PA
GOP Releases Redrawn Maps

 

The state Senate and House GOP released the redrawn Congressional map they are submitting to the Governor for his approval or as a starting point for negotiations ahead of the February 15th deadline.

“The Republican Legislative Leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to a Congressional District Map that complies fully with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order and opinion.  We will be submitting our map to the Governor this evening,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai said in a release.

The submission comes hours before the deadline the state Supreme Court set for the legislature to draw a new map after it ruled the current map unconstitutional.

Governor Wolf said in a statement he will review the map submitted.

“While the Court’s order did not appear to allow for two individuals to draw a map on behalf of the entire General Assembly, Governor Wolf will review Speaker Turzai and President Scarnati’s submission in consultation with the experts retained by the administration to determine his next course of action,” Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said in a statement.

You can view the map obtained first by the Morning Call below.  Source

Nov 17, 2016
mcclatchydc.com
The strange tale of a congressman’s fight to build a U.S. listening post in the Azores

A powerful California congressman of Portuguese descent has pushed for years for the installation of a costly U.S. intelligence facility in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic.

On Thursday, Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, the Republican chair of the House intelligence committee, kept at his campaign, confronting two senior Pentagon officials and the top U.S. intelligence chief over why they favored a site in England.

“Are you aware that the Azores Islands are a popular vacation spot for people from the U.S. and Europe and have daily flights?” Nunes asked National Intelligence Director James Clapper, seeking to knock down arguments that the archipelago is backward or out of the way.

“No, I’m not,” responded Clapper.

“Do we have trouble getting people to move to Hawaii?” Nunes asked.

“Actually, we do because there are issues there with compensation for the very high cost of living,” Clapper said. “Living there permanently, supporting a family, that sort of thing. I spent two tours in Hawaii, and it’s quite expensive.”

SO THE AZORES IS ALSO A VACATION SPOT AND IT HAS THE CHEAPEST COST OF LIVING IN WESTERN EUROPE. WHY WOULD THAT NOT BE A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE WOULD GO?

Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of House intelligence committee

“So the Azores is also a vacation spot and it has the cheapest cost of living in Western Europe. Why would that not be a place where people would go?” Nunes asked.

“Well, in Hawaii there are high schools, and there are medical facilities, and there are PXs and commissaries, and that’s kind of lacking right now in Lajes (air base),” Clapper said, referring to a NATO facility on Terceira Island in the Azores.

Nunes, whose forebears came from the Azores, represents California’s 22nd district in the heart of the fertile Central Valley, winding around Fresno from the north to the southeast. The area has a high concentration of Portuguese-Americans, with ancestors who arrived on whaling ships to settle in California in the mid-1800s.

Despite fierce opposition by Nunes, and to a lesser extent other legislators, the Pentagon has moved ahead with plans to build a major intelligence complex at a Royal Air Force base 70 miles northwest of London. The site at Croughton would anchor U.S. intelligence operations of the U.S. military’s European Command.

But Nunes accused the Pentagon of fast-tracking Croughton and not giving sufficient consideration to 15 other potential locations, especially Lajes Air Base in the Azores, where a U.S. military contingent already exists.

The rare open session of the intelligence committee began on a curious note, with Nunes asking the officials about their views of Wikipedia, then dropping a zinger: Sections of a Pentagon document responding to queries from his committee about the matter had been lifted from Wikipedia, he said.

“I’m just alarmed, Secretary Work, that you would rely on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that is famously known for high school students plagiarizing their homework,” Nunes said, ripping into Robert O. Work, the deputy secretary of defense.

I WOULD SAY THAT I’M SURPRISED THAT THIS COMES DIRECTLY FROM A WIKIPEDIA PAGE.

Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense

“I would say that I’m surprised that this comes directly from a Wikipedia page,” Work said, leading into a back and forth over whether the Pentagon had withheld information from the House committee over the intelligence complex because it didn’t like the “tone” of an inquiry from Nunes and the House panel, an allegation that Work rejected.

In early 2015, the Pentagon announced a downsizing at Lajes, saying it would reduce a contingent of 650 airmen and other personnel to 168. The reduction sent shockwaves across the Azores, which has played a major role as a defense outpost since World War II. Nunes, a member of the congressional Portuguese-American Caucus, has visited the islands and sought to reverse the decision.

Government Accountability Office report Sept. 30 cited “shortcomings” in how the Pentagon selected a site for the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex. A separate inspector general probe is ongoing into whether cost estimates for the various locations were doctored to favor RAF Cloughton.

Clearly irritated, Nunes said the Pentagon had not cooperated in answering questions.

“Why for nine months did your department decide not to provide information to this committee?” Nunes asked Work.

WE BELIEVE WE’VE BEEN EXTRAORDINARILY RESPONSIVE.

Robert O. Work, deputy secretary of defense

“We’ve provided over 1,000 pages of documents,” Work said. “We believe we’ve been extraordinarily responsive.”

Nunes peppered Clapper with questions about the complex, asking if the Pentagon chose locations “based on where employees want to live.”

Clapper confirmed that morale was an issue and that employees would probably not move their families to the Azores.

“These are older people, you know, that have children in schools, particularly high school age, and the general reaction to that, to move to an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, was not very positive,” Clapper said.

Before adjourning the hearing, Nunes got in the last word, saying the committee had looked into the Azores and “I don’t think there’s anything lacking there.”      Source

Feb 1, 2018
CNN
Schiff Accuses Nunes of altering memo before sending to White House

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff is accusing chairman Devin Nunes of sending a different version of the memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses to the White House than what the committee approved.

In a letter to Nunes, Schiff said that his staff discovered Wednesday evening that the memo sent to the White House was “materially different” than the version on which the committee voted.
The White House is currently reviewing the four-page classified memo after the committee voted on Monday night to make it public.
“It is now imperative that the Committee Majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House,” Schiff wrote. “If the Majority remains intent on releasing its document to the public, despite repeated warnings from DOJ and the FBI, it must hold a new vote to release to the public its modified document.”
A spokesman for Nunes responded to Schiff’s letter by calling it an “increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo,” saying changes were made that were “minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves.”
“The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said. “To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”
But senior Democratic committee official disputed that characterization of the alterations to the memo and said they did not resolve the factual problems that have been raised by the FBI or Justice Department.
“The changes are not cosmetic and almost all of them are unrelated to concerns about sensitive information. Instead, they try to water down some of the Majority’s assertions,” the official said. “While the Minority has continually pointed out flaws in the majority document, we have not requested any changes because we feel the whole document is fundamentally flawed.”
Earlier Wednesday, a transcript of the meeting where House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted to release their memo was released, which showed Nunes playing hardball with Democratic efforts to delay the vote and refusing to say if the White House had any involvement in his efforts.
In the transcript, Nunes clashed with Democrats over whether his staff was talking to the White House about the memo. The hour-long meeting Monday broke sharply along partisan lines, with even one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, joining Nunes in voting down Democratic motions, including to allow the Justice Department and FBI to review the classified four-page memo and brief their panel before its release.
Schiff said he had spoken to FBI Director Chris Wray about his concerns with the document — which alleges abuses of the FISA law connected with obtaining a surveillance warrant on a member of Trump’s campaign team — but Nunes rejected the motion.
“I would say to the gentleman that the Department of Justice and the FBI have been under investigation by this committee for many, many months for FISA abuse and other matters,” Nunes said. “That investigation continues. And I would urge my colleagues to vote no, we are not going to be briefed by people that are under investigation by this committee.”
The committee’s dispute with the FBI escalated on Wednesday as the bureau issued a statement expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Nunes responded Wednesday in a statement dismissing their “spurious objections” to the memo. But the same fight was already playing out behind closed doors on Monday. At the meeting, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California asked Nunes what the FBI had told him about releasing the memo publicly.
“Our goal as to make sure that we were not going to disclose any issues of national security, and we believe we have met that threshold,” Nunes said.
Democrats warned Republicans they were playing with fire by voting to invoke a never-before-used committee rule to bypass the declassification process to make the memo public.
“Believe me, if it turns out that the majority memo is wrong, there will be hell to pay,” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat.
Nunes and the committee’s Democrats clashed over whether there was a formal committee investigation of the Justice Department and FBI, and both Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Schiff demanded to know why Democrats were not informed about the investigation. Under committee rules, the minority party is required to be consulted under the rules when launching an investigation.
“It is one thing to subpoena government officials for information as part of an investigation. It is another to say that those very entities are under investigation,” Schiff argued. “So this is a revelation for us.”
Nunes said the committee issued several subpoenas opposed by Democrats, and told Quigley “every member of this House can conduct (investigations) — you have always had my strong support to investigate, review anything under our jurisdiction.”
Nunes and Quigley also had a heated exchange in which Quigley pressed whether Nunes had “conversations or consultations with anyone in the White House” about the memo.
“I would just answer, as far as I know, no,” Nunes responded.
Quigley then pushed about whether any of Nunes staff consulted with the White House, which prompted Nunes to say: “The chair is not going to entertain … a question by another member.”
“Does that mean just questions you don’t like or questions in general, sir?” Quigley shot back.
Nunes ignored the question and moved onto the next member.  Source
Jan 29, 2018
nytimes.com
House Republicans Vote to Release Secret Memo on Russia Inquiry

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that it has been a “sad day” for the committee and that Republicans had voted “to politicize the intelligence process.” Credit Al Drago for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, disregarding Justice Department warnings that their actions would be “extraordinarily reckless,” voted Monday evening to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.

The vote, made along party lines, threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia’s brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo that they had compiled. It was an extraordinary maneuver, cheered on by President Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and a sham.

Committee Republicans said the memo’s release would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation without compromising intelligence gathering. Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, a senior Republican on the committee, said on Monday that he was confident the Republican memo itself would not present a national security risk and was complete and fair as written.

Democrats called the three-and-a-half-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department’s continuing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context. Speaking to reporters after the closed-door vote, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, said Republicans had voted “to politicize the intelligence process.”

“Sadly, we expect that the president of the United States will not put the national interest over his own personal interest,” Mr. Schiff said. “But it is a sad day indeed when that is also true of our own committee.”

Mr. Schiff said the committee had opened new avenues to investigate the Justice Department and F.B.I., a characterization disputed by Mr. Conaway.

What comes next was less clear. Under the obscure House rule invoked by the committee, Mr. Trump now has five days to review the document and decide whether to try to block it from going public. The White House has repeatedly indicated that it wants the memo out, but Mr. Trump’s Justice Department had been working to slow or block its release.

Shortly after Monday’s vote, the memo was taken to the White House, where it was being reviewed by White House lawyers, according to a person familiar with the review.

Voting as a bloc, Democrats tried to advance a series of motions on Monday that they said would help put the Republican memo in context. All but one of those motions failed along party lines. The committee did make a Democratic memo rebutting the Republican version available to the full House, but Republicans said they wanted time for members to review the document before considering its public release.

The Republican memo, which was made available to all members of the House, is said to contend that officials from the two agencies were not forthcoming to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge. Republicans accuse the agencies of not properly disclosing that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign helped finance research that was used to obtain a warrant for surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. The research presented to the judge was assembled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.

The memo is not limited to actions taken by the Obama administration, though. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a top Trump appointee, signed off an application to extend the surveillance of Mr. Page shortly after taking office last spring. The renewal shows that the Justice Department under Mr. Trump saw reason to believe that Mr. Page was acting as a Russian agent.

The inclusion of Mr. Rosenstein’s action in the memo could expose him to a torrent of criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from conservatives in the news media who have seized on the surveillance to argue that the Russia investigation may have been tainted from the start. Mr. Rosenstein is overseeing that investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. It was Mr. Rosenstein who appointed Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.

Mr. Page, a former Moscow-based investment banker who went on to found a New York investment company, was on the F.B.I.’s radar for years. A trip he took to Russia in July 2016 while working for Mr. Trump’s campaign caught the bureau’s attention again, and by the fall of 2016, shortly after he left the campaign, American law enforcement officials began conducting surveillance on him.

To obtain the surveillance warrant, the government would have had to demonstrate probable cause that he was acting as an agent of Russia. Investigators must seek approval from the Justice Department for such a warrant, and then prosecutors take it to a surveillance court judge.

People familiar with the underlying application have portrayed the Republican memo as misleading in part, they say, because Mr. Steele’s information was insufficient to meet the standard for a FISA warrant. They said the application drew on other intelligence material that the Republican memo selectively omits. That other information remains highly sensitive, and releasing it would risk burning other sources and methods of intelligence-gathering about Russia.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully on Monday to push forward a motion for the F.B.I. and the Justice Department to brief the entire House in a private session on that material before the release of the Republican memo so that they could make a more informed judgment about its contents.

There is no known precedent for the Republicans’ action. Though House rules allow the Intelligence Committee to vote to disclose classified information if it is deemed to be in the public interest, the rule is not thought to have ever been used. Typically, lawmakers wishing to make public secretive information classified by the executive branch spend months, if not years, fighting with the White House and the intelligence community over what they can release.

Until this past weekend, the committee had refused to let anyone from the Justice Department or the F.B.I., who provided the materials underlying the memo, review it. Representative Devin Nunes of California relented on Sunday, allowing Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, to review the document. But Mr. Schiff said later in the day that Mr. Wray had conveyed to him that he still had concerns about its release.

In a letter last week to Mr. Nunes, the committee’s Republican chairman, Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, said it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release a memo drawing on classified information without official review. He said the department is “unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process.”

Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin largely stayed out of the dispute, deferring to Mr. Nunes and the committee on how to proceed.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, was not so circumspect.

“Clearly, House Republicans’ desire to protect President Trump has clouded their judgment and caused them to lose sight of what’s at stake: the security and integrity of our elections,” her office said in a statement.

Jan 28, 2018
The Sentinel
Republicans seeing lion’s share of turnover in Legislature
Pennsylvania State Capitol

HARRISBURG — Retirements and other departures are poised to hit Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature particularly hard this year, as most of those who have already announced they are leaving belong to the GOP.

The party that has wielded broad power in the General Assembly in recent years, thanks to strong majorities in both chambers, looks to also have far more open seats to defend in 2018.

At least eight state House Republicans are running for Congress or state Senate, and the party is also losing several veteran committee chairs to retirement. In all, 15 of the 16 representatives who have said for certain they are not seeking re-election this year are Republicans.

In the state Senate, all four who are definitely leaving are Republicans.

Some may return to the House or Senate if they lose or drop out of races for other elective positions. But it’s entirely possible that more than 30 newcomers will take legislative seats early next year.

Republicans currently control the Senate 34-16, and the House 120-81 with two vacancies, one from each party.

Pending court challenges to the state’s congressional map could have a domino effect, as candidates who want to run for Congress might change their minds, depending on what map is in eventually in place for the May 15 primary.

Openings at the top

The state House’s two highest ranking members, Speaker Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County, and Majority Leader Dave Reed, of Indiana County, both Republicans, are running for other offices. Turzai is a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and he’s said that if he wins the primary he won’t also try to retain his House seat. Reed, seeking the nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, has ruled out returning to the state House.

Changes in Senate

Among Turzai’s primary opponents in the governor’s race this year is York County Republican Sen. Scott Wagner, who is giving up his seat in the Senate. Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for Shuster’s congressional seat. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, is not running for a fourth term. Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has said he may run for Congress in the Philadelphia suburbs but has not decided — his Senate seat is not up until 2020. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is retiring.

Ambitious members

Rep. Judy Ward, R-Blair, wants Eichelberger’s spot in the Senate. Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, is running to succeed Wagner. Both have said they don’t plan to run for House and Senate at the same time.

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, has said he is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for the congressional seat opening with the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, is part of a crowded field running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Dean is simultaneously running to keep her House seat. Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, is running in the March 13 special election for a vacant congressional seat, held most recently by Republican Tim Murphy. Saccone is not seeking another state House term.

Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland, wants the seat that Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is giving up as he runs for U.S. Senate. Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, is battling with Barletta for the Senate nomination and is not simultaneously running for another state House term. Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, has announced plans to run against Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks, while seeking re-election to the House at the same time.

House retirees

This year’s retirements include 18-term state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery; Rep. Harry Lewis, R-Chester; Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland; Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair; Rep. Ron Marsico; R-Dauphin, Rep. Will Tallman, R-York; Rep. C. Adam Harris, R-Juniata; and Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks. Another notable retirement is 17-term Rep. John Taylor, one of only two remaining Republicans in the Philadelphia delegation and chairman of the Transportation Committee. Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny, is seriously considering retiring and plans to announce a decision in the coming days.

Absenteeism

A state representative under fire for missing many session days and votes told the Scranton Times-Tribune this week he is not seeking another term. Rep. Kevin Haggerty, a Democrat, had explained his poor attendance record by saying he needed to be with his children as he and his wife were divorcing.   Source

Jan 27, 2018
Reading Eagle
GOP grapples with fallout over U.S. Rep. Pat MeehanA day after U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan announced he will not seek re-election, party leaders were working on a plan-B to help them hold on to the suddenly vulnerable seat in the 7th Congressional District.A Delaware County Republican who represents part of Berks County, Meehan dropped out of the race amidst the outcry over reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a former aide. He abandoned his campaign three days after the state Supreme Court ordered state lawmakers to draw new boundaries for Pennsylvania’s congressional districts in time for the 2018 primary.”The timing is terrible,” said U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, an Allentown Republican representing part of Berks County.”The redistricting will complicate matters because of the uncertainty that has been injected into the situation,” Dent said. “If they draw a new map, people will have very little time to make up their mind if they are going to run.”Val Digiorgio, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, called it an unprecedented challenge for Republicans, brought on by a hyper-partisan judiciary.
“You have a compressed amount of time to see if there is someone interested and vetted enough to be endorsed – someone with a good resume and ties to the community. With the right candidate, we have a good chance of holding on to the seat.” Digiorgio said.The state GOP will file an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court next week asking it to issue a stay in redistricting until after the 2018 election, Digiorgio said.

‘It’s just disappointing’

A former federal prosecutor, Meehan had planned to run for a fifth term. But last week, Meehan lost his seat on the House Ethics Committee after The New York Times reported on the settlement of a sexual harassment claim. The committee has launched an investigation of Meehan and House Speaker Paul Ryan said Meehan should repay any taxpayer money used in the settlement.

Initially, Meehan said he was still going to run despite the controversy and some calls for his resignation.

But in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Meehan described the former aide as his “soul mate” and acknowledged he had strong feelings for her. He said he never pursued her romantically and denied ever harassing her. Nonetheless, political analysts said the interview and a letter he released describing his fondness for his former aide derailed his chances of weathering the storm.

“Before the interview maybe he could have survived,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. The “soul mate” comment made it appear he was smitten with her, Madonna said.

Meehan, 62, a married father of three, announced Thursday night he would not seek re-election.

“That is a personal choice. He knows the details behind the decision better than anyone else,” said state Sen. Bob Mensch, a Montgomery County Republican. “It is not necessarily a sign of guilt.”

Dent said it is appropriate for the Ethics Committee to investigate Meehan and he would let that process take its course. Dent is retiring and not seeking re-election, leaving his long-held Republican seat in the 15th District also without an incumbent. Now, two of the four congressional districts in Berks County won’t have incumbents on the ticket in November.

“I’ve been a friend of (Meehan’s) for 30-years. He has been a friend on many issues,” said Dent. “The situation is what it is. He has been a guy I’ve grown to respect and admire. We have worked together on a number of matters.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said in an email statement that Meehan made the right decision to not seek another term.

“It was disturbing to learn of Congressman Meehan’s behavior, and frankly it’s just disappointing. Everyone needs to be treated with respect at all times, and members of Congress should be setting that example,” Smucker wrote.

Joe Rudderow, chairman of the Berks County Republican Committee, had a similar message in an email statement.

“The Berks County Republican Committee believes that our elected officials need to always preserve the public trust and be good financial stewards of the offices that they hold. Without exception, their actions and deeds need to always be honorable and forthright. Congressman Meehan’s decision not to seek re-election is the right decision for himself, his family and the voters of the 7th Congressional district,” Rudderow write.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Chester County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said he does not want to pile on to the situation, but it should be investigated by the Ethics Committee.

“Obviously the situation is a serious issue,” Costello said. “I do think that when you look at his 30 years of public service, he did a lot of good as district attorney of Delaware County, as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District, and he has been an effective legislator.”

The 7th Congressional race is unpredictable not only because there is a short time to find a candidate, Costello said, but the state Supreme Court decision to invalidate the map also causes additional confusion about what the district might ultimately look like.

Across the state, candidates may have invested time and money into running and could find, after a new map is drawn, that they live in a different district and face a new incumbent.

The 7th district is now a prime target to be reshaped, Madonna said, because Republicans have no incumbent to protect.

“Given the state Supreme Court’s order that to redistrict you can’t create all these funny fingers (on the map), there is a good likelihood that the district will have more Democrats,” Madonna said.

In the spring, Joseph Billie of Aston Township in Delaware County filed as a Republican primary challenger to Meehan. He didn’t get too much attention but suddenly his phone is ringing off the hook.

“People are reaching out to me,” said Billie, 45, a machine operator working in paper manufacturing. “I’ve been running for months and I’ve had people come to me quietly. Now people from the party had been meeting with me. I had been getting a little bit of support but nothing like now.”

Billie was at an event for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Hazelton Republican, Thursday night when he learned that Meehan is out of the race.

“I kind of expected it, but not now,” Billie said. “I thought it would happen later. My whole game plan is changed now. I’m still in the process of waiting to see who will come in. We will deal with that in May.”

Sean Gale, a Plymouth Township attorney, is exploring a run for the Republican nomination. Gale is the brother of Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale.

“I’m very happy Pat Meehan has decided not to run,” Gale said.

“If Pat was going to run, I was going to run. I always thought he was a fraud. He runs like a Republican and votes like a Democrat,” Gale, 26, said.

Gale is going to wait to see how redistricting goes and to see if there is a candidate he can get behind.

Digiorgio said the party will sit down with interested candidates and pick the best one to endorse.

There are five Democratic candidates vying for the party’s nomination: attorney Dan Muroff of Springfield Township, Montgomery County; Molly Sheehan, 31, a biochemistry researcher from Delaware County; Elizabeth Moro, a Chester County real estate agent; Drew McGinty of Jenkintown, who works in Information Technology; and state Rep. Daylin Leach of Upper Merion Township.

Leach was recently accused of sexual harassment and said he was stepping back from his campaign but he has not dropped out of the race.  Source

Jan 23, 2018
philly.com
Top Pa. Republicans give Pat Meehan benefit of the doubt
Top Pennsylvania Republicans are giving U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan the benefit of the doubt as he tries to chart a path forward in the face of a report that he used thousands of taxpayer dollars to quietly settle a sexual harassment claim.While a number of Democrats have called on the Delaware County Republican to step down, key GOP leaders acknowledge the report is troubling, while arguing in the next breath that there may be more to the story, if only it could be revealed.Republican leaders’ responses give Meehan space to consider his next move and decide whether he can ride out the political furor as he faces what was already expected to be a difficult reelection campaign in a battleground suburban district.The GOP comments mirrored the tactic Meehan used over the weekend: raise questions by suggesting that a full airing of the facts might reveal more, while offering no hard information to contradict the initial story, which the New York Times reported Saturday, citing 10 people familiar with the situation.Meehan instead issued a statement denying the harassment allegations and requested that his accuser, a former Congressional aide, agree to release them both from a confidentiality agreement.Republican state party chairman Val DiGiorgio said in a statement Monday that the organization “is troubled by the claims against Congressman Meehan” and that they “must be treated seriously and fully investigated.”
But he also called the congressman “a dedicated public servant for over three decades” and echoed Meehan’s call to lift the non-disclosure pact. Like Meehan, DiGiorgio criticized Congress’ system for handling harassment, saying it “denies transparency for both the complainant and the accused.”As the congressman ponders his political future, one local Republican leader suggested that Meehan, who passed on a rumored Senate run this year, may have been unsure about running for a fifth House term even before the explosive story.  Read more here
Jan 22, 2018
Republican Party of PA website

PA GOP Statement on Congressional Map Ruling by PA Supreme Court

 

HARRISBURG — Today, Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio released the following statement on the congressional map ruling made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s politically motivated decision is a partisan attempt to overturn the will of the legislature, which approved these congressional maps with Democrat votes in 2011. Back in 2010, this same court said these district lines were constitutional — the only things that have changed between then and now are makeup of the court and Democrats being dissatisfied with the results.

“This decision by judicial activists contradicts two-hundred years of precedent along with the findings of their own fact-finder, Judge Brobson. By legislating from the bench, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is throwing our elections into chaos and confusion. We intend to support efforts to secure a stay from the United States Supreme Court, similar to the recent stay granted in North Carolina.”

— Val DiGiorgio, Chairman, Republican Party of Pennsylvania
Source

Jan 23, 2018
Media Line Times
GOP: Keep an open mind on Meehan scandal allegations
Delaware County Republicans on Monday urged voters not to jump to conclusions regarding allegations that U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint from a former staffer.
“There are always two sides to a story,” said Michael Puppio, the Springfield Republican Party chairman and chairman of Meehan’s election campaigns. “Hopefully the constituents of the 7th Congressional District will not rush to judgment on reports that were based on unnamed sources and wait until the facts are available for public view before coming to a conclusion.”The New York Times published a story Saturday alleging Meehan used office funds to settle the complaint last year after a former aide accused him of making unwanted romantic overtures toward her.Meehan, a married father of three who has served in Washington since 2011, denied the harassment claim in a statement, but indicated he is bound by the conditions of a confidentiality agreement from commenting further.Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly said he had not heard anything of the matter until someone forwarded him the Times story Saturday and he had not spoken with Meehan or his staff by Monday afternoon.“Hopefully there will be a process for both Pat and the staffer to get due process,” said Reilly. “He is entitled to due process, as is the former employee, and there will be a House investigation and I think Pat’s going to cooperate with that.”Reilly said it is up to Meehan whether he wants to run for re-election, but Delco Republicans will not hold endorsement meetings until mid-February. He said there are typically a few Republicans eying a congressional run and the party will keep the nominating and endorsement process open.“This is all new and the senator is shocked, quite frankly,” said Michael Rader, a spokesman for state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield. “Congressman Meehan has been a dedicated public servant for over 30 years and has denied the factual allegations of any type of harassment. All such allegations do need to be taken very seriously while understanding that every individual, even in this very judgmental environment, is entitled to due process and an ability to present their side of the story.”Meehan spokesman John Elizandro did not have an update Monday. He referred to an initial statement denying the allegations Saturday that called for reform of the process to resolve complaints. Both parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement.“At Congressman Meehan’s request, the congressional attorneys handling the case have asked the complainant’s counsel to release all parties from the confidentiality requirements of the agreement to ensure a full and open airing of all the facts,” Elizandro said. “The congressman is hopeful that they will agree to this request for full transparency.”

An attorney for the former staffer, who was reportedly not a source for the Times story, has indicated her client does not wish for that to happen.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Democrats in the race have meanwhile called for Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney for eastern Pennsylvania, to step down. Information technology consultant Drew McGinty said the settlement “is just another example of Washington’s incompetence when handling issues related to sexual misconduct,” while attorney Dan Muroff said House leadership should strip Meehan of his committee assignments if he does not resign.

“That Meehan was allowed to remain a member of the House Ethics Committee while working to settle his own sexual harassment claims, with taxpayer money, demonstrates a stunning lack of personal ethics and is an absolute disgrace,” said Muroff.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, removed Meehan from the House Ethics Committee Saturday and launched an investigation. Source

Jan 18, 2018
Arkansas Times

Activists say Tom Cotton has issued do-not-call-or-write notice to some constituents. UPDATE. Such letters sent in ‘extreme circumstances’ says Cotton’s office.

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Ozark Indivisible, the activist group that has been pressing members of Congress from Arkansas on health care, immigration and other issues, reported on its Twitter account last night that people calling Sen. Tom Cotton’s office had received cease-and-desist letters and posted the image above.

The letter:

 This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton.

All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police.

The Office of US Senator Tom Cotton.

I’ve placed a phone call and sent an email to Cotton’s press aide to ask if this is legitimate and, if so, what prompted the letter. She has not responded.

Billy Fleming, a Times contributor, also sent me a copy of the image and an account from a person who reportedly received the letter. That person wrote:I received a letter from the office of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas after calling and expressing my grave concerns over his actions and support of this administration’s agenda concerning a wide variety of subjects from the attack on our healthcare, DACA and immigration issues, to national security, to the rise of white nationalist fascism, to the environment, the gutting of our State Department, the attack on the free press…and similar deeply troubling actions & motives I’ve seen Senator Cotton support & condone. It was odd to receive this letter as I’ve called other Members of Congress to express my strong thoughts and opinions about their actions and thought this to be not only my duty as an American citizen but my First Amendment right granted all U.S. citizens by our U.S. Constitution, the foundation of our Democracy.

I believe if Tom Cotton’s office were to respond as to why they sent this letter, I think they just honestly don’t want to listen to any citizen’s opposing view or hear the numerous grave concerns U.S. citizens have about the serious & ongoing attack on our Democracy and past election cycle in which a foreign, hostile Russian government interfered, they don’t want U.S. citizens to call and speak their mind and truth in a very direct manner and they obviously don’t want to be held accountable for their words and actions while serving all the people in this nation. I may have used unprofessional and unbecoming language at times as the anxiety and stress of what I’m witnessing is at times too great a burden to control and I have vehemently expressed my righteous anger at Senator Cotton’s complicitness with this harmful regime.

Fleming said he knew several people who’d received such a letter. He said he believed they all had made repeated phone calls to deliver similar talking points, but he said they were unlikely to have made rude or disparaging remarks.

The lobbying HAS gotten heated.

Circulating yesterday was the film of an effort some months ago by a Boone County activist to pose questions to Rep. Steve Womack. She was persistent. He was not amused.

Yesterday, demonstrators — self-identified as being from “shithole countries” — were asked to leave Cotton’s Washington office after a noisy encounter with staff members who told them they’d be arrested for unlawful entry if they didn’t leave. They did, chanting “Dream Act Now.”

Democracy can be a noisy thing. It seems to have some impact on members of Congress, too.

UPDATE: Cotton’s office, in keeping with custom, refused to respond to our requests for information. But Michael Buckner of KTHV was able to get a  seeming
confirmation
of the letter from Caroline Tabler, Cotton’s press aide.

 Tabler said that these letters are rare and only used “under extreme circumstances.”

“If an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section,” Tabler said.

Still more from the Washington Examiner:

 A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Thursday that cease and desist letters sent to an unspecified number of individuals in October were sent because staffers were being harassed and have nothing to do with activists who have been protesting outside the senator’s office this week or payback for constituents simply voicing opposing views.

Cotton’s communications director Caroline Rabbitt Tabler told the Washington Examiner the practice of sending these types of letters is “rare” and “only used under extreme circumstances” when previous warnings have not been successful.

“Senator Cotton is always happy to hear from Arkansans and encourages everyone to contact his offices to express their thoughts, concerns, and opinions. In order to maintain a safe work environment, if an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication,” Rabbitt Tabler said in a statement.

Rabbitt Tabler did not share the actions that prompted Cotton’s office to take these actions or the identities of the individuals.

John Noonan, counselor to Cotton on military and defense affairs, said the letter was sent to a constituent who threatened a 19-year-old intern.

“Letter went out in October. To one constituent, who called one of our 19 year old interns a c*** and threatened her physically,” Noonan tweeted.

On Wednesday, activists who had gathered outside Cotton’s office to protest his opposition to the Dream Act were asked to leave.

Later that day, liberal activist group Ozark Indivisible tweeted that its members had been sent cease and desist letters.

“This letter is immediate notification that all communication must cease and desist immediately with all offices of US Senator Tom Cotton. All other contact will be deemed harassment and will be reported to the United States Capitol Police,” the letter states.

FURTHER UPDATE: Noonan is now backing off his initial Tweeting. From his Twitter account:

 update: tone was threatening, no threats made. But c-word invoked.

He also claims there was only one letter. My sources say that’s not true and they are also disputing Noonan’s account of the talk with the intern.  Source

Jan 17, 2018
The Hill
Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ lead with CNN, ABC’s Ross, NY Times’ KrugmanThe Republican National Committee unveiled the “winners” of President Trump’s “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday night with a list that includes frequent Trump targets in the media as well as a surprise website crash.The awards list New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as the top winner.Also awarded: CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.“2017 was a year of unrelenting bias, unfair news coverage, and even downright fake news. Studies have shown that over 90 percent of the media’s coverage of President Trump is negative,” according to the announcement.The awards, hosted on the GOP’s national website, were unavailable immediately following Trump’s tweet announcing them, likely from a traffic overload.“The site is temporarily offline, we are working to bring it back up. Please try back later,” it read for nearly an hour after Trump sent out a tweet to the site.“The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover,” according to the GOP-hosted website. Krugman’s No. 1 listing is contrasted with a headline that shows the Dow hitting a record high.No. 2 on the list says “ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.” ABC News was required to correct a report in December when Ross incorrectly reported that Trump directed a campaign aide to make contact with Russians during the campaign. The network later corrected the report to say it was during the transition, after Trump had already been elected. Ross was suspended for the error.No. 3 blasts CNN for “FALSELY” reporting that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks. CNN also corrected that report in December.No. 4: “TIME FALSELY reported that President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.” That incident was a January tweet by a Time Magazine reporter. The reporter sent out more than a dozen tweets correcting the mistake and apologizing immediately following the first tweet that reported a bust had been removed.No. 5 blames the Washington Post for reporting that “the President’s massive sold-out rally in Pensacola, Florida was empty. Dishonest reporter showed picture of empty arena HOURS before crowd started pouring in.” That reporter also apologized in a subsequent tweet, saying he was “confused” by another user’s shared images.The list also “awards” CNN for making it appear that Trump “defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister” even though the “Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding.”CNN also gets attention for reporting about former White House communications director “Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian.” CNN retracted and apologized for that June story.CNN is also blamed on the list for reporting that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute Trump’s claim “that he was told he is not under investigation.” Comey confirmed that claim in congressional testimony.

The awards also blame Newsweek for reporting that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake President Trump’s hand. A video that appeared to capture the missed handshake went viral on social media at the time.

The New York Times also “falsely claimed on the front page that the Trump administration had hidden a climate report,” the awards say. The report was actually publicly available at the time and the paper was forced to issue a correction.

Finally, the “Fake News Awards” note that “Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!” Trump has repeatedly maintained that, despite an investigation into allegations that his campaign colluded with Moscow-linked hackers during the 2016 election, his campaign was never involved.

The awards go on to cite what appears to be a recent study by the conservative Media Research Center, which showed “the media spent 90 percent of the time focused on negative coverage or fake news, the President has been getting results,” according to the awards page.

It goes on to list accomplishments that Trump frequently touts from his first year in office, related to job and wealth creation, the minority unemployment rate, and legislative and regulatory successes such as tax cut reform being passed, Obama-era regulations cut, Keystone pipeline approval, as well as the ISIS retreat in Iraq and Syria, Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel, and Neil Gorsuch being named to the Supreme Court.

The “Fake News Awards” are another example of Trump’s ongoing war on the media. The president frequently refers to some unfavorable or inaccurate stories about him or the administration as “fake news.”

In October, for example, the president slammed NBC News after it reported that Trump had suggested increasing the nation’s nuclear arms stockpile “tenfold” during a closed-door meeting with his cabinet.

“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Trump tweeted.

The president also recently suggested taking “a very, very strong look” at libel laws in order to ensure false claims by the press have “meaningful recourse in our courts.”

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values and American fairness,” he told reporters. “We’re going to take a very, very strong look at that.”

A string of media mistakes at the end of the year provided more fodder for Trump’s criticism, as did a recent Pew Research year-end analysis of media coverage that showed the president received just five percent positive coverage in 2017.

In contrast, President Obama’s coverage in his first year was 20 percent negative. Overall, Trump received more than three times more negative coverage than his predecessor, according to Pew.

A Harvard study found that CNN’s and NBC’s coverage of Trump was negative 93 percent of the time over the course of his first 100 days in office. The New York Times coverage in the same study was 87 percent negative, while the Washington Post’s was 82 percent in that direction.

One of Trump’s favorite targets is CNN.

CNN’s Jim Acosta has engaged in daily debates with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her predecessor, Sean Spicer, who departed in August. Critics have accused Acosta of grandstanding in making himself the story, while supporters say he’s holding the administration accountable.

It was also almost one year ago that Trump as president-elect called Acosta “rude” and blasted the network as “fake news.”

“Your organization is terrible,” Trump told Acosta on Jan. 11, 2017, when he repeatedly attempted to ask a question.

“You’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Acosta replied.

“Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump responded, before calling on another reporter.

CNN responded in October with a “#FactsFirst” ad campaign mocking the president for telling falsehoods.

“This is an apple,” the ad’s narrator begins over a photo of an apple. “Some people might try to tell you it’s a banana.”

“They might scream ‘banana, banana, banana,’ over and over and over again. They might put ‘banana’ in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple,” it continues.

The Washington Post launched a new slogan in February, shortly after the president took office: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

The New York Times launched a “truth” ad campaign, also in February. “The truth is our nation is more divided than ever,” the ads say. “The truth is alternative facts are lies,” it continues.

“The truth is … The truth is hard. The truth is more important now than ever.”

A November Quinnipiac poll found American voters disapprove of media coverage of the president by a 20-point margin. However, 54 percent said they trust the media to tell the truth about important issues more than Trump, while 34 percent said they trusted the president more.  Source

Jan 17, 2018
nytimes
Politics
With Trump’s Visit to Pennsylvania, G.O.P. Scrambles to Save a House Seat

Campaign workers in Canonsburg, Pa., made calls this week to drum up support for Rick Saccone, a Republican candidate for the House. Credit Michael Henninger for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Republicans are scrambling to save a heavily conservative House seat in western Pennsylvania, dispatching President Trump to the district on Thursday while preparing a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to stave off another embarrassing special election defeat in a district that was gerrymandered to stay Republican.

When Representative Tim Murphy was pushed out of the House last year after the revelation that he encouraged a mistress to have an abortion, Republican leaders gave scant thought to his successor. The odd-shaped district in the southwestern corner of the state was drawn to skirt Democratic Pittsburgh and concentrate conservative-leaning, steel and coal country voters.

But since then, Democratic enthusiasm has surged, especially after the improbable Senate victory of Doug Jones last month in Alabama, and Republicans continue to lose lower-profile special elections in friendly districts — the latest in a Wisconsin State Senate race on Tuesday.

That has raised alarms in the White House and among Republican leaders anxiously eyeing the House special election on March 13. Holding just a 24-seat majority, with retirements of veteran lawmakers piling up, House Republicans can scarcely allow Democrats to snatch a seat they have not even competed for in recent elections.

And Mr. Trump is loath to suffer another electoral humiliation, particularly in a district that he carried by 19 percentage points in 2016.

So a constellation of conservative groups are planning an extensive intervention to carry the Republican nominee, Rick Saccone, a state representative and former Air Force officer, across the line in a House seat that has been in the party’s hands for 16 years, but where internal polls from both parties now reveal a single-digit race.

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Mr. Trump will appear at an industrial equipment sales and repair company to trumpet both Mr. Saccone and the recently passed tax overhaul.

Vice President Mike Pence will follow on Feb. 2, according to Republican officials familiar with the planning, attending a similar, policy-oriented event before hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Saccone. And Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence both may make additional visits, according to party officials.

National Republicans worry that Mr. Saccone, 59, is proving to be a lackluster candidate, an assessment that was reinforced when he raised only $200,000 as of the end of the year, nearly half of it in cash transfers from House lawmakers eager to preserve their majority.

To prop him up, the House Republican campaign arm hosted a fund-raiser Wednesday evening in Washington with Mr. Saccone; Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and each of the Republican winners of special House elections last year.

Mr. Saccone will return to Washington next month for a fund-raiser featuring the entire roster of House Republican leaders including Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Further, a group of well-financed outside Republican groups is planning to unleash a biting advertising campaign against Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee and a Marine Corps veteran. A pair of conservative organizations have already broadcast about $700,000 worth of commercials in the district and the best-funded House “super PAC,” the Congressional Leadership Fund, is preparing to go on the air next week with a spot blistering Mr. Lamb.

“We will attack Conor Lamb, we will define Conor Lamb, and we will explain why he is a Nancy Pelosi rubber stamp,” vowed Corry Bliss, who runs the Congressional Leadership Fund and had already opened two field offices in the district, referring to the House Democratic leader.

But Mr. Lamb, a former prosecutor, may not be so easy to link to Ms. Pelosi.

“They can throw anything they want at him, but he’s already said he’s not voting for Pelosi as speaker,” said Marcel L. Groen, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairman.

Mr. Lamb, 33, hails from a prominent Pennsylvania political family — his grandfather was once the Democratic leader in the State Senate — and has indicated he wants to run a local race.

With the possible exception of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., few high-profile Democrats would help Mr. Lamb by dipping into the district, which includes affluent precincts around Pittsburgh and more working-class enclaves along the West Virginia and Ohio border.

To date, the House Democratic campaign arm has kept its distance and is unlikely to pour money into the race, preferring to husband its resources for less Trump-friendly terrain up for grabs in November. But Mr. Lamb still outraised Mr. Saccone in the last quarter of 2017, bringing in more than $550,000.

And some members of the Pennsylvania Democratic delegation are making the case for Mr. Lamb. A group of them hosted a $1,000-a-person fund-raiser for him in Washington on Wednesday.

“I’m more bullish on our chances than I think the consensus,” said Representative Brendan Boyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “While it would be an upset, we can win it in this environment. The Wisconsin results last night show that.”

Already buffeted by the announcements last week by Representatives Ed Royce and Darrell Issa of their retirements from their highly competitive California districts, Republicans absorbed another body blow on Tuesday when Wisconsin Democrats captured a State Senate seat that Republicans had held for 17 years.

Photo

Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for the House, has said that he will push for new party leadership if the Democratic Party wins a majority in the House this year. Credit Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

In the state’s first special election of 2018, Patty Schachtner, a Democrat and the medical examiner for St. Croix County, beat Representative Adam Jarchow, a Republican member of the State Assembly, by 11 points, flipping a seat in a rural district near the Minnesota border.

“Everything is in play now,” Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said on Wednesday. “This is a district that has been a very red district for a long time, and the numbers last night were very blue.”

Gov. Scott Walker, the state’s Republican chief executive, all but agreed.

“Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin,” Mr. Walker, who is facing re-election this fall, wrote on Twitter Tuesday night. “Can’t presume that voters know we are getting positive things done in Wisconsin.”

The defeat was ominous for Republicans chiefly because it came in the sort of exurban and rural stretch of the Midwest where Mr. Trump romped in 2016. Even as he won Wisconsin by less than a point, he carried St. Croix County, the population center of the district, by 17 percentage points.

The day after her victory, Ms. Schachtner said she was overwhelmed by the results, barely able to keep track of the phone calls and emails coming in.

When she first entered the race only months ago, the local Democratic Party was grateful but not confident that she could beat a Republican in the district.

“It was, ‘Thank you for stepping up,’ that type of conversation,” she said. “They said the G.O.P. kind of owns this area, but it’s good to have a name we know.”   Source

Jan 16, 2018
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Democrats grab key Wisconsin Senate seat in Tuesday’s special elections

MADISON – Democrats snagged a GOP-leaning state Senate seat in western Wisconsin on Tuesday, buoying progressive hopes that they could ride a wave of victory this fall.

Patty Schachtner, the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, will take the seat that had been held for 17 years by former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Harsdorf stepped down in November to take a job as GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s agriculture secretary.

In an interview, Schachtner said she thought she beat state Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) because the race had turned nasty in mailings from groups outside the district.

“It wasn’t nice. It was mean,” she said of the campaign literature. “People just said, ‘You know what? We’re nicer than that.’”

In a post on Twitter, Jarchow said he had called Schachtner to congratulate her.

“I look forward to working with her as our new state Senator,” he wrote in his tweet. “Thank you to all who worked so hard for our campaign.”

Also Tuesday, in special elections for the state Assembly, voters in Washington County chose a Republican and voters in Racine County chose a Democrat, according to unofficial results.

But the focus Tuesday was on the 10th Senate District, which consists of parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, Pierce and Dunn counties along Minnesota’s border.

Schachtner’s win gives Democrats momentum, but they remain deep in the minority. Once she is seated, Republican will hold an 18-14 advantage, with one district vacant. That seat belonged to Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), who joined Walker’s administration last month, and won’t be decided until November, when 17 of the state’s 33 Senate districts are up for election.

Schachtner said once she joins the Senate she hopes to focus on improving access to health care and helping drug addicts get treatment.

She sidestepped a question about whether she thought opposition to President Donald Trump helped her win.

“I’m just worried about western Wisconsin right now,” she said. “Right now, in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin values is what keeps us going.”

The district has not been good to Democrats in the past. Mitt Romney won the district in 2012 even though he lost the presidential race in Wisconsin and nationally to Barack Obama. Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in the district in the 2016 presidential election and John McCain almost won the district in 2008, despite Obama’s easy statewide victory.

Democrats saw Tuesday’s victory as a sign they were taking hold of the energy that benefited their party in special elections last year in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma.

A former emergency medical technician who a decade ago appeared on the show “Wife Swap,” Schachtner serves on the board of the Somerset School District and has served on the town board for Star Prairie.   Source

Jan 16, 2018
The Hill
Democrats search for 51st net neutrality vote
Senate Democrats are hunting for one more Republican vote to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from repealing net neutrality rules.Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that all 49 Democrats have endorsed legislation to preserve the rules. With Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) already on board, Democrats need the support of just one more Republican to ensure the legislation is sent to the House.The bill, which will be introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s vote last month scrapping the 2015 net neutrality rules. The rules have required internet service providers (ISP) to treat all web traffic equally, and supporters say they’re essential to preventing companies such as Comcast and Verizon from abusing their control over internet access.The Democrats plan to use procedural rules under the CRA to force a vote on their bill in the coming months.Even though the bill is unlikely to pass the House or be signed by President Trump, Democrats see an opportunity to capitalize on the outcry surrounding the FCC repeal and force Republicans to vote on net neutrality ahead of the midterm elections.“With full caucus support, it’s clear that Democrats are committed to fighting to keep the internet from becoming the Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to only the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday.He added, “When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will — for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.”On the House side, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) announced Tuesday that he had lined up 82 co-sponsors for his companion CRA bill, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the procedural rules for CRA bills are different in the House; Democrats do not have the power to force a vote by securing co-sponsors.That’s left the Senate as the primary venue for the net neutrality fight.Supporters of the rules looking for the 51st vote for the CRA bill could have several targets.Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for example, who made headlines last year by bucking the administration on a handful of judicial nominees, said last week that he is undecided on Markey’s bill.“There a lot of nuances, and there are very good arguments on both sides,” Kennedy said to reporters, according to the National Journal. “I’m honestly undecided. Right now, to me, it’s a very, very close call.”Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who’s seen as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in this year’s midterm election, is another possible target in the net neutrality push. Spokespeople for Kennedy and Heller did not respond to requests for comment.Still, Republicans have largely opposed the Obama-era rules as heavy-handed regulation that has stifled investment from broadband companies. They say existing antitrust and consumer protection laws are already sufficient to secure an open internet.Democrats and their allies disagree and think Republicans will pay a political price for that stance.Fight for the Future, a group that helped rally internet users to protest the FCC vote, has already launched an online scorecard to track members’ positions on the CRA, directing supporters to reach out to their representatives.“Net neutrality is going to be an election issue in 2018 and every member of Congress knows it,” Evan Greer, the group’s campaign director, said in a statement.“The CRA is steamrolling through the Senate because lawmakers are reading the writing on the wall that it’s the only viable legislation on the table. Cleanly reversing the FCC’s unpopular and illegitimate decision is, on substance, the correct policy move, and the only one that has support from voters,” Greer said.It could be months before the net neutrality bill reaches the Senate floor. The FCC’s final order still needs to receive approval from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and must be published in the Federal Register before Congress can review it. At that point, lawmakers will have 60 legislative days to take up the CRA bills.Even if the effort in Congress fails, as expected, the FCC’s repeal order will be facing court challenges for years to come. That will allow Democrats to extend the shelf life of a political battle in which they see themselves on the winning side.“Republicans now have a clear choice — be on the right side of history and stand with the American people who support a free and open internet, or hold hands with the special interests who want to control the internet for their own profit,” Markey said in a statement Tuesday. “I urge them to join the majority of Americans, embrace the bipartisanship of net neutrality, and support this resolution.”   Source
Jan 16, 2018
The Hill
Week ahead: GOP looks to overhaul natural gas, utilities laws
Week ahead: GOP looks to overhaul natural gas, utilities laws
© Getty Images
A House panel will meet in the coming week to debate three Republican-backed bills meant to overhaul how federal regulators oversee liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and electric utilities.The hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Energy subcommittee is part of the GOP’s ongoing drive to “modernize” the nation’s energy laws, bringing them out of an energy scarcity framework.Two of the bills being debated Friday, both from Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), aim to ease the permitting process for companies wishing to export LNG.Currently, companies must get approval for their export facilities from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and then Department of Energy (DOE) approval to export the gas to countries that do not have free trade agreements with the United States.The Unlocking Our Domestic LNG Potential Act would remove the DOE from the process, so that once FERC approves a facility, exports could begin.The Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act, meanwhile, would make approvals to export up to 140 million cubic feet of gas per day mandatory and automatic.Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Mich.) PURPA Modernization Act would overhaul the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, the main law governing electric utility regulation by states.Walberg’s bill would ease the standards that require utilities to purchase small amounts of electricity and allow that requirement to be eliminated if a state agency approves, among other changes long sought by utilities.Elsewhere in the House, the Natural Resources Committee’s energy and mineral resources panel is planning a series of hearings on how the Trump administration oversees energy production.First, in a Thursday hearing, the panel will look into the administration’s efforts to ease energy production on public land.The next day, lawmakers will host a hearing on permitting problems for offshore oil and natural gas seismic surveys, which companies use to estimate resource potential.Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, will be in Washington, D.C., in the coming week for the U.S. launch on Tuesday of the agency’s annual World Energy Outlook, an extensive report on the status of energy across the world in 2017.That will take place at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp., which introduce him.Earlier Tuesday morning, Birol will testify at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the global and domestic energy outlook.Also on Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center will host an event to discuss Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to prop up coal and nuclear plants, which FERC recently rejected.  Source
Dec 1, 2017
Business Insider
Top Republican who led Benghazi panel used $150,000 of taxpayer money to settle claim with a fired staffer
trey gowdy benghazi committee
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina reportedly settled a veteran discrimination and retaliation claim from a former aide for $150,000 in taxpayer funds, according to a Washington Post report published Friday.The confidential settlement was identified in an Office of Compliance report released on Friday. The Post said it was able to link a mention about the settlements contained in the documents to the claims made by Bradley Podliska, the former staffer, identified by The Post.Podliska, who was fired in 2015 from the House Benghazi committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, alleged that he was wrongfully terminated in part for his unwillingness to engage in what he believed was a partisan investigation into Hillary Clinton’s time as US secretary of state. Podliska alleged that the high-profile investigation focused its attention on Clinton and the State Department after discovering she had used a private email server to conduct government business.As part of his veteran-discrimination claim, Podliska, an Air Force Reserves officer, alleged that he was discriminated against when he took leave for his service-related obligations.In October 2015, Gowdy claimed that Podliska was fired for mishandling classified information. Podliska alleged that Gowdy had defamed him and harmed his career prospects, according to the Associated Press. The case was eventually settled in 2016, and the terms of the settlement were reportedly secret at the time.Peter Romer-Friedman, Podliska’s attorney, declined to discuss details of the settlement when contacted by The Post, but he noted that he was unaware of any similar cases that had been settled within the last five years.  Source
Jan 12, 2018
Vanity Fair
THE REPUBLICAN EXODUS IS BECOMING A DELUGE
And the White House is struggling to respond. 

When Roy Moore unexpectedly lost the Alabama special election just a month after Democrat Ralph Northam triumphed in Virginia, Democrats emerged from their burrows to sniff hopefully at the air. Pundits proffered dire predictions of a Democratic wave in 2018, warning that Moore, despite the messy scandal he embodied, was not an outlier.

So following the surprise resignation of Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy, the White House seems to have decided that there is no such thing as overcompensation. In the next few weeks, Donald Trumpwill visit the district, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and several Cabinet members, to campaign on behalf of Rick Saccone, their preferred replacement candidate. Their outside allies in the R.N.C., the N.R.C.C., and the smattering of PACs in conservative donor world, plan on spending over a million dollars in the district—a district, it should be said, that Trump won by 20 points. “It should go Republican,” G.O.P. Congressman Charlie Dent told Politico, “but in this environment, one can never take anything for granted.”

Both Murphy and Dent belong to the growing group of Republicans who will vacate their seats for a bevy of reasons, potentially throwing G.O.P. control of the House into jeopardy. Their number swelled to 31 on Wednesday, when veteran representative Darrell Issa announced that he would not seek re-election. Most are leaving for reasons similar to Issa’s: the powerful congressman barely won re-election in 2016, and saw his Orange County district tilt alarmingly in Hillary Clinton’s favor. And one, Trent Franks,was swept up in the recent sexual harassment dragnet, forced to resign after allegations of inappropriate behavior toward female staffers.

But in one way or another, all face the political reality of belonging to a wildly unpopular party, led by the most unpopular president in the modern era. Worse, they face an energized grassroots Democrat electorate, which has so far turned races for even surefire Republican seats into contests that are uncomfortably close. Meanwhile, talk of a Democratic resurgence has reached a fever pitch: “You can’t really look at tonight’s results and conclude that Democrats are anything other than the current favorites to pick up the U.S. House in 2018,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, the House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, after Northam’s win.

For the G.O.P., it remains maddeningly unclear how the White House, and the Republican party at large, will respond to the exodus. The administration’s political office, which is overseen by Bill Stepien,recently underwent a shake-up to address last year’s legislative and political failures. But insiders have suggested that the organization is still hopelessly directionless, and that “nobody knows what the f— [Stepien has] done or is doing to advance the president’s agenda politically.” (Politico implied that the Trump White House only understood the grave importance of the Pennsylvania race after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a presentation about it during a party huddle at Camp David last week.) As such, Republicans may be right to pour undue resources into a House race they’d normally take for granted—should they lose the election, they may be helpless to stop the ensuing tide of fleeing congressmen.
Source

Jan 11, 2017
The Hill
GOP angst over midterms growFor some Republicans, it’s starting to feel like 2006 — a wave election year that swept Democrats back into power in the House and Senate.The retirement of two longtime California Republicans this week — just the latest in a string of House Republicans heading for the exits — has caused panic among some in the GOP who say it’s yet another sign that an anti-Trump, Democratic wave is forming.“It’s a tough election cycle for Republicans; we know that going in,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who is not running for reelection after representing a heavily Hispanic Miami district for nearly 30 years.“It’s starting to feel very scary for moderate Republicans,” she said.Rep. Darrell Issa, who won reelection by a slim 1,621-vote margin in 2016, said Wednesday this term would be his last, despite insisting for months that he was running for reelection.The stunning announcement from the former Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman came just two days after another veteran Republican from Southern California, Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, also called it quits.
Asked for his reaction to Issa’s retirement, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) paused, smiled, then exclaimed: “We’re gonna win the House back!”The pair of retirements in California has altered the 2018 midterms landscape, forcing the House GOP’s campaign arm to decide whether it will defend two districts that overwhelmingly voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 or shift resources elsewhere.Winning both districts could be costly. San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who’s led a campaign to impeach President Trump, this week pledged $30 million to help Democrats take back the House and said he would specifically target Issa.Republicans have other reasons to be worried about the elections, including Trump’s approval rating, which sits in the high 30s.History shows that a president’s party typically loses an average of 32 House seats during a midterm election. But Ros-Lehtinen said Trump might be a bigger liability than past GOP presidents in many parts of the country.“In many districts like Darrell’s and mine, having President Trump an ever-present figure is a drag on the ticket,” she said. “In many districts, he’s a positive, but in districts like mine, it doesn’t help the Republican candidate.“The Trump symbol, the Trump brand and Mr. Trump himself is a drag on moderate districts.”The wave of GOP retirements in competitive districts also has set off alarm bells among some senior Republican strategists.“I’m alarmed, but we should have already been alarmed. It’s a tough environment, and there’s a chance the Republicans can lose control of the House,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP political strategist who has worked on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reelection campaigns.“It’s starting to feel like 2006 to me,” he added, “which was a bad year for Republicans.”Democrats picked up 31 House seats in 2006, a victory that propelled them forward to win complete control of Washington in 2008.This year, House Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to win back the majority. And the path to that new majority runs right through Orange County and San Diego, where traditional Republican districts like Royce’s and Issa’s have been getting more diverse and trending bluer. Read more
Jan 9, 2018
Philadelphia Weekly
All the Pennsylvania political dramas you need to know about in 2018
Politics2018
As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on. (Photo: City of Philadelphia/Flickr)

This time last year, Democrats were locked in a hopeless stupor following the upset election of Donald Trump, with no clear path forward – while Republicans looked to add even more power in the Commonwealth.

Several gerrymandering lawsuits were floating through various courtrooms with no clear timeline or immediate relevance. Mike Stack and Daylin Leach, at least to much of the general public, were just a couple of relatively uncontroversial state-level electeds.

To say the least, much has changed – except for the state’s grim financial prospects. As Pennsylvania gears up for another (likely bruising) political season in 2018, here are some top people and trends to keep an eye on.

“The Wave Year”

Not so long ago, Pennsylvania Republicans had dreams of adding the Commonwealth’s other U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s mansion to the growing list of elected offices held by the party. But today, many inside the GOP view the challenges against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf as increasingly uphill battles. Worse, in a midterm election that will serve as a referendum on the popularity of President Donald Trump, both incumbents could wind up facing presidential surrogates.

Former Congressman Lou Barletta, who built a political base in part off of an anti-immigrant platform and his relationship with Trump, is widely expected to secure his party’s nomination for the Senate race. State Sen. Scott Wagner, an arch-conservative polemic who also draws comparisons to Trump, is a top contender in a gubernatorial primary field that includes House Speaker Mike Turzai and businessman Paul Mango.

Some politicos on the right are privately expressing concerns about even staving off first-timers like Conor Lamb, a Democrat running in the socially conservative 18th Congressional District. That special election, which will be held in March, will be a critical bellwether for the staying power of a conservative surge that helped deliver PA for Trump in 2016. Lamb, a moderate Democrat, will face state Rep. Rick Saccone, yet another far-right Republican who has highlighted his similarities to Trump.

The outcome of that early race could impact how willing donors will be to finance other hotly contested Congressional seats. Virtually all of the House seats in Southeastern PA are up for grabs, with Democrats looking for wins against US Reps. Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Brian Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan. Dent and US Rep. Bill Shuster both notably announced their retirement – although the latter was unlikely to face serious Democratic opposition.

Those second-tier races – not to mention numerous others for state House and Senate seats – could complicate costly Republican quests for Casey’s seat and the governor’s mansion. Some on the right were already concerned with the pace of fundraising for Barletta’s campaign, which had also struggled to find a permanent campaign manager.

“If the Barletta campaign is anemic, that’s a problem,” said Democratic consultant Ken Snyder. “What happened to Roy Moore in Alabama takes the wind out of his sails. If he has Republicans grumbling that they made a bad bet on a flawed candidate who was too far right down south, in Pennsylvania, they must be thinking twice.”

Not all Democrats are cheering next year’s contests. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady was rocked by a scandal over a payout to a past electoral challenger that disabled two of his top campaign aides. He will face a primary test in former deputy mayor Nina Ahmad – his first real challenger in years – and indicted traffic court judge Willie Singletary. More are likely to come.

Worse than losing his top two advisors may be a resurgent interest in ward politics by younger voters who helped put outsider candidates Larry Krasner and Rebecca Rhynhart into office. Events priming newcomers to run for committee person slots in 2018 sold out last year – a trend that may not work in the Democratic City Committee chair’s favor.

A Whole New Playing Field

Some still believe that at least one lawsuit over Pennsylvania’s infamously gerrymandered political districts could change the status quo.

There are many variables at play. In a state lawsuit that holds districts drawn in 2011 in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson recently ruled that the current map does indeed benefit Republicans, but stopped short of ruling the districting unconstitutional. However, the case will now be fast-tracked through the state Supreme Court, which is dominated by Democrats.

Both sides of the suit, initially sponsored by the League of Women Voters, claimed victory. State Senate leadership, which has loudly opposed the suit, praised the decision for finding that the petitioners had failed to demonstrate that politicized gerrymandering was actually unconstitutional. But some Democrats viewed Brobson’s decision – which endorsed key findings presented by petitioners – as setting the stage for the Supreme Court to establish a new precedent.

However, the timing is extraordinarily tight to impact impending midterm elections and Republicans have intimated that they would fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also separate cases winding through the nation’s highest court filed in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere that could potentially have their own far-reaching ramifications if the justices decide to wade into an issue traditionally left to the states.

Of course, changes will eventually be coming to PA’s congressional map no matter what. Redrawing will commence with or without a new system in place, while the impending 2020 census looks primed to cost the Keystone State another House seat.

The End of the Boys’ Club

With revelations that both Congress and the state House have dedicated – and used – protocols to settle sexual harassment charges leveled at elected officials, some pols are likely more worried about getting taken out by their own past transgressions toward women than by an electoral challenger.

In the last month alone, congressional candidate and state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, state fire commissioner Tim Solobay, state Senate security chief Justin Ferrante, and state education chair Larry Wittig have all been confronted by media reports of harassment or other sexual misconduct towards women. That same month, LancasterOnline uncovered some $8 million paid out to settle state trooper harassment charges and, in November, Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams was hit by multiple sexual harassment suits.

Leach, Caltagirone and Williams seem determined to continue with their political careers, but the other state officials named in recent reports have all stepped down. The furor is unlikely to die down soon – the continued scandals have spurred bills to bar anonymous sexual harassment settlements and restrict the use of state funds for such payouts.

Others say that there are still more scandals to come. Many women who have worked in Harrisburg and other political circles have noted that these revelations are hardly surprising given the infamous culture of sexism that pervades the male-dominated statehouse – or the Commonwealth’s all-male congressional delegation’s home away from home on Capitol Hill.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Race (yes, really)

As bettings odds for Wolf’s reelection swing in his favor, an increasing number of candidates seem to think Lt. Gov. Mike Stack is on his way out. The scandal-plagued second banana was hit by allegations he abused his state employees and, perhaps, his office expense account.

Those debacles – which are still unfolding – spotlighted a long-tense relationship between Wolf and Stack, who will face no fewer than five challengers in his bid for reelection: Iraq war vet Aryanna Berringer, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, State Rep. Madeleine Dean, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, and Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman.

The race can seem like much ado about nothing. The lieutenant governor has few official duties beyond staying alive in the event that the governor keels over – principally, overseeing the state Senate, where he can cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, and performing the same function with the Board of Parole.

But for many of the declared Democratic candidates, it’s a statewide platform that serves as a stepping stone to higher office. Fetterman has talked openly about his interest in challenging U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Even the current officeholder was, prior to the abuse scandal, reportedly eyeing the governor’s mansion himself.

There is also more political intrigue than just the high-profile governor’s race. Many Senate Democrats took the unusual step of publicly backing Stack last month – which one source said was aimed as a show of support for a loyal Democrat and telegraphing that Gov. Tom Wolf ought to avoid meddling in the race. Wolf has said repeatedly that he is staying out of the race, but Senate staff grumbled that he has privately favored Dean.

On the GOP side, candidates will be forced to choose between influential Republican gubernatorial candidates – Wagner and Turzai  – without knowing which will ultimately triumph. The field continues to grow, as Otto Voit recently joined Jeff Bartos and Gordon Denlinger in the primary, while state Sen. Dave Argall is still rumored to be waiting in the wings.

The billion-dollar question

No one likes the state budget process. Despite public rhetoric, most electeds on both sides of the aisle hate cutting services or raising taxes. Everyone, voters included, hates following the endless and internecine horsetrading that has marked the last several years of budgeting in Harrisburg.

Despite Republican calls to force a more expeditious budgeting process, the oft-delayed fiscal deals are the product of long-term issues with no easy solutions. Deficits, like the estimated $3 billion hole faced by officials for the 2018 budget, are likely to become perennial features in a state with a moribund economy, stagnant tax revenues, growing pension obligations and little hope of aid from Washington.

Budgeting has been complicated by hesitancy to make additional cuts to the state budget and general opposition from a GOP majority to tax hikes – which has led to several rounds of boutique tax hikes and borrowing to patch recent budgets. These strategies have led to a radical expansion of gambling and liberalization of liquor sales as more traditional revenue generators become tapped out.

For 2018, Republicans have already made clear they have their sights set on welfare reform. Democrats, reduced to a vocal opposition party after years of electoral losses in Harrisburg, are still calling for a natural gas severance tax. But both efforts have fallen flat in past years and pols will be even more on edge with tough elections on the horizon.  Read more

Jan 2, 2018
New York Times
Opinion
The Republicans’ Fake Investigations

Credit Harry Campbell

A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

Today, amid a growing criminal inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, congressional Republicans are again chasing rabbits. We know because we’re their favorite quarry.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.

We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.

Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?

What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.

We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.

After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.

We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.

It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.  Source

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