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Koch group plans to spend $125 million on midterms

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  May 9, 2014 at 9:23 AM EST
Photo by Flickr user khrawlings

Photo by Flickr user khrawlings

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Koch group to drop $125 million in 2014
  • House approves formation of Benghazi committee
  • New Jersey budget issues raise questions for Christie
  • 2016 name to watch: Mike Pence

Kochs plan to spend big: To the surprise of no one, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s repeated attacks against Charles and David Koch have failed to dissuade the conservative billionaires from investing heavily in the 2014 midterm elections. Politico’s Ken Vogel reports that Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the Koch brothers, plans to spend more than $125 million “on an aggressive ground, air and data operation” to help boost conservative candidates. That sum would “exceed the total 2012 fundraising hauls of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” Vogel writes. The $125 million projection comes after the Kochs’ political network raised more than $400 million trying to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.

Aiming for the red-state Democrats in the South: This time their aim will be vulnerable Senate Democrats in red states such as Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. By the end of March AFP had already spent $7 million targeting Hagan. AFP has so far dropped more money than any other outside group on the right, and Friday’s headline signals that spending is only going to continue — and likely escalate — as the calendar moves closer to November.

GOP turns to Steyer: As Democrats continue to call out the Kochs, Republicans are hitting environmental activist Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager who has pledged to spend $100 million of his own to raise the issue of climate change. The Republican National Committee put out a research memo on Steyer yesterday blaming him for the Keystone XL pipeline not yet being approved, and a conservative web site looked at his hedge fund’s former ties to a Russian oil company later sanctioned by the U.S. It’s that time of year. By the way, speaking of climate change, President Obama is making an announcement on new executive actions on climate policy as well as private groups’ investments at 1 p.m. ET in California.

Benghazi panel sparks partisan fight: The House voted 232 to 186 Thursday night to form a special committee to investigate the September 2012 terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with seven Democrats voting with Republicans. The list, per NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman: Arizona’s Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema, Georgia’s John Barrow, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, Florida’s Patrick Murphy, Minnesota’s Collin Peterson and West Virginia’s Nick Rahall. Democrats meet Friday morning to decide whether to boycott or participate in the committee. Roll Call reports that Democrats are undecided between boycotting completely, going with all five members (of the 12 members allowed to the minority) to be able to check Republicans and try to negotiate for more power over things like subpoenas, or go with just one member to make a symbolic gesture but also so they have access what Republicans are trying to do. The New York Times editorial page says Democrats shouldn’t participate so they don’t lend “legitimacy.” It also dismissed the House GOP’s new Benghazi push, saying the White House email released last week wasn’t more than “a routine attempt to spin the news in the most favorable way to the White House.” The Washington Post’s Robert Costa was on NewsHour Thursday night reporting on Republicans’ motivation for the new Benghazi panel.

From Bridge-gate to budget woes: The leader of the “Jersey Comeback” tour faces an $807 million budget shortfall. With two months to go until the end of the fiscal year, the state’s treasurer told a budget panel that Gov. Chris Christie may delay pension payments until the first week of July to help close the gap. But that could spark another downgrade from Wall Street credit rating agencies. There have already been five since Christie took office in 2010. Bloomberg notes that Democrat Jim McGreevey, who served as governor from 2002 to 2004, had six. Budget analysts cite the administration’s consistently overly optimistic revenue forecasts and the failure to implement long-term revenue solutions (like raising property taxes above 2 percent). The state’s fiscal hole is a political problem for Christie beyond the Garden State — arguably more so than the George Washington Bridge scandal — because it represents a crack in the “Jersey miracle” story of fiscally conservative leadership Christie has sold in speeches to the Republican National Convention in 2012 and as head of Republican Governors Association.

Pence in 2016?: While much of the focus for 2016 on the Republican side centers on Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, other potential contenders are quietly making moves to set up a run without much public fanfare. Among them: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whose possible presidential ambitions were the subject of a piece Thursday by the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa. The pair report on Pence’s travel schedule and effort to cultivate conservative leaders, moves that could signal a potential bid. They write that “some GOP leaders have begun talking up Pence as an under-the-radar standard-bearer who could return the party to the White House.” In an interview with the Post Pence acknowledged that “people have reached out” and indicated he was “listening” to what they had to say. Given Christie’s recent struggles and the uncertainty surrounding a Bush run, the GOP field appears to be much more up for grabs than the Democratic side, where things are seemingly on hold until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes a decision.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1974, The House Judiciary Committee began formal hearings on President Nixon’s impeachment. How many American presidents have been impeached? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed yesterday’s trivia correctly. The answer was: Reims, France.

LINE ITEMS

  • Politics are wading into the Nigeria story with conservatives now pushing that Hillary Clinton’s State Department declined to designate Boko Haram a terrorist group.

  • As more U.S. military officials are expected in Nigeria Friday to try and help with the search of the more than 200 kidnapped girls, President Obama acknowledged that the United States, despite its superpower status, is limited in what it can do.

  • The Republican National Committee leaders took steps Thursday to reduce the number of GOP primary debates to possibly fewer than half of the 20 held in 2012.

  • The Federal Elections Committee ruled Thursday that political action committees can accept bitcoin contributions for federal elections as long as donors identify themselves.

  • A new directive from the Office of the Director of National Security prohibits government employees from referring to leaked information when speaking publicly, writing for publications or producing any other unofficial works.

  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president’s nominee to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, faced a “surprisingly cordial” confirmation hearing Thursday, garnering praise from several Republican lawmakers. Here’s the NewsHour’s report.

  • Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday that he will not appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned the state’s photo ID requirement when voting.

  • United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that public schools cannot deny enrollment for children in the U.S. illegally.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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