SSP Daily Digest: 6/21 (Afternoon Edition)

CT-Sen: You might recall that late last week Peter Schiff was looking unlikely to qualify for the ballot, not having enough signatures. Well, now it looks like he will qualify; I’m not sure whether the outcome was ever in doubt or he was gaming expectations. At any rate, he managed to get the signatures of 2% of all registered Republicans in the state, and the SoS announced his certification today. Also in the Nutmeg State, Joe Lieberman, who’d floated the idea of a Linda McMahon endorsement, now sounds like he’ll stay out of the Senate race entirely… given the choice between supporting arch-foe Richard Blumenthal or McMahon (who, given her unlikeliness of winning, isn’t a good use of political capital).

IL-Sen: The optics on this just aren’t good for Mark Kirk: after an appearance at the Metropolitan Planning Council, Kirk literally ran out the door instead of taking questions from the media (who probably want to know about his military and teaching claims) and peeled out in his SUV. Alexi Giannoulias was also present; in a sign of how the worm has turned, instead of running out the door (as he probably would have several months ago) he lingered comfortably. Bad news on the cat fud front, though: Mike Niecestro, the rich guy who came out of nowhere last week to announce that he had 25,000 signatures and $1 million for an independent Senate bid to Kirk’s right, has had to back down. Turns out he didn’t have enough signatures after all. However, here’s some limited good news: Niecestro says he’s backing somebody by the name of Randy Stufflebeam, who’ll be running under the Constitution Party banner. Stufflebeam doesn’t seem to have Niecestro’s money, but he at least seems to have enough signatures to qualify. (Also on the filings front, pawnbroker-turned-LG-nominee-turned-laughingstock Scott Lee Cohen brought in 130K signatures for his independent IL-Gov bid, five times as many as he needs.)

AL-Gov: The recount is over in Alabama, and as expected, Tim James’ $200K was very badly spent. The official tally: he now finished down by more than 200 votes, instead of the 167 he trailed by on Election Night. This means that Robert Bentley has clinched the slot in the GOP runoff against Bradley Byrne.

IA-Gov: In what’s not a surprise, Terry Branstad has been on bended knee trying to get the backing of GOP primary rival Bob Vander Plaats, but it’s not going well. Vander Plaats reportedly requested the Lt. Governor spot, which Branstad isn’t going to do. However, this is a surprise to me: apparently Iowa doesn’t have a sore loser law, because now there’s talk of this leading to an independent run by Vander Plaats, which he’s now “seriously considering.” A kamikaze run by Vander Plaats that peels off 10% might actually give Chet Culver a route to staying in office.

MI-Gov: Another EPIC-MRA poll of the Michigan governor’s race is out, this time only of the two primaries. On the Dem side, Andy Dillon has a 34-24 lead over Virg Bernero (leaving 42% undecided). On the GOP side, here’s a new development: Mike Cox is actually pulling into the lead, at 26. He leads Peter Hoekstra at 24, Rick Snyder at 20, Mike Bouchard at 16, and Tom George at 2, with 12 undecided. Is this just a blip, or is Cox really gaining some ground, having gotten some big conservative endorsements (Michigan Right to Life, the DeVos family) lately? Chances are it’s for real, now that there’s another round of attack ads out targeting Cox for allegedly helping cover up a party-out-of-bounds at then-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s mansion. (The radio ad is paid for by the mysterious Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, which the Cox camp seems to think is linked to Snyder.)

NV-Gov: The Hatch Act is an obscure little piece of legislation, although it’s at the core of what the GOP thinks is illegal about the PA-Sen/Co-Sen “jobsgate.” Well, it might just bite the Republicans in the butt, too: there are increasing questions over whether Brian Sandoval, who stepped down from the federal district court in order to run for Governor, engaged in politicking with still on the bench. The RGA’s Haley Barbour and Nick Ayers reportedly heavily recruited Sandoval into the race; considering how little time passed between his resignation and his entry into the race, some of that recruiting must have happened while son the bench.

SC-Gov: Mitt Romney really, really wants to see Nikki Haley as Governor (probably because he’d like to have someone in charge of S. Carolina in 2012 who owes him a favor or three); he just gave $42K to Haley, who faces a GOP runoff tomorrow. (He was able to give that much, despite contribution limits, by harnessing six different PACs.) There have also been some eyebrows raised over a $2,000 consulting fee paid to Haley in 2008 by a construction firm, revealed when she disclosed her tax returns; it has a quid pro quo-ish whiff to it (the firm’s head said it was to pay for business leads and “help with things”), but isn’t likely to put a dent in the outcome of tomorrow’s runoff at this point.

CO-04: Cory Gardner’s decision to bail on a fundraiser with unpalatable Iowa Rep. Steve King may hurt him more than if he’d actually gone through with it. King is still harping on Gardner’s lack of fortitude. King was joined on a conservative radio talk show in Colorado last Friday by ex-Rep. Tom Tancredo, who took turns tag-team insulting Gardner for an hour.

ID-01: I don’t know how much weight to give this, but Rep. Mike Simpson (from the 2nd) is publicly saying it’s possible that Rep. Walt Minnick could play a role in voting in a different speaker than Nancy Pelosi, if the Dem majority is small enough after 2010 and whatever Blue Dogs are left hold the vote in the balance. Minnick, for his part, shrugged it off, although without a categorical denial, saying it’s “premature.” In a weird way, though, Simpson might be doing Minnick a favor here. Already a beneficiary of endorsement as the Tea Party Express’s token Democrat, this gives Minnick further cover to keep Dem leadership at arm’s length in the runup to November.

NC-08: “I’d do everything the crazy guy would do; I just wouldn’t do it in a crazy way,” seems to be the argument here, which may not be the best electability argument. But that’s Harold Johnson’s way of framing tomorrow’s GOP runoff in the 8th, saying that he’d vote the “basically the same way” as Tim D’Annunzio.

SSP Daily Digest: 5/5 (Afternoon Edition)

FL-Sen: With drillin’ and spillin’ suddenly on everyone’s minds these days, the Florida legislature’s Dems are trying to force newly-minted independent Charlie Crist’s hand on the drilling issue. They plan to ask Crist to call a special session to take up a constitutional amendment on banning drilling close to Florida’s shoreline. With Crist having taken pretty much every possible position on drilling already, who knows what he’ll do… obviously, he’s flexible. Meanwhile, with Crist out of the GOP picture, Jeb Bush is now free to publicly out himself as the Marco Rubio supporter that anyone with a pulse has known he’s been along.

KS-Sen: Although it’s a little late in the game, the Dems actually landed a bona fide state legislator to run for Senate (one of their biggest recruiting gaps this cycle). State Sen. David Haley of Kansas City, who’d been rumored to be interested many months ago, now says he’ll take the plunge, giving the Dems at least something of an upgrade from retired newspaper editor Charles Schollenberger. Haley hasn’t fared well in his last couple attempts at a promotion, though; he lost both the 2002 and 2006 SoS races. Meanwhile, over on the GOP side, Rep. Todd Tiahrt has settled into an underdog position against Rep. Jerry Moran, but he’s trying to rally the social conservative grassroots. Religious right leader James Dobson (last seen pulling a weird switcheroo in the Kentucky GOP primary) cut a radio ad on Tiahrt’s behalf.

NY-Sen-B: Could the GOP manage to coax one more second-tier contender into the Republican field to go against Kirsten Gillibrand? Orange County Executive Ed Diana is reportedly “gearing up” to challenge Gillibrand, although he hasn’t made a final decision. Diana would have at least one leg up over David Malpass, Bruce Blakeman, and Joe DioGuardi: he’d be the only one to currently hold elective office (although Orange County, in the Hudson Valley, makes up less than 2% of New York’s population).

PA-Sen, PA-Gov (pdf): Today’s daily hit from the Muhlenberg/Morning Call tracker: Arlen Specter has a slightly bigger lead over Joe Sestak, at 48-40. Dan Onorato is at 34 in the governor’s primary, followed by Joe Hoeffel at 11, Anthony Williams at 9, and Jack Wagner at 8.

WI-Sen: As was generally expected, Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson seems to be ready to launch his Senate bid on the Republican side, with an official announcement in the foreseeable future. Johnson apparently is on good terms with the teabagger community, unlike other GOP candidates Dick Leinenkugel (a veteran of the Jim Doyle administration and thus an impure collaborationist) and Terrence Wall.

AL-Gov: Here’s a smackdown for Rep. Artur Davis: the United Mine Workers, which had previously done a joint endorsement of Davis and Ron Sparks, pulled its Davis endorsement and will endorse Sparks solely. (Sparks also got the UAW’s endorsement last week.) Davis did manage to score one other endorsement, though, from equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter (whose namesake bill is one of the few pieces of marquee Democratic legislation that Davis actually voted for this cycle).

FL-Gov: Rick Scott, the former health insurance exec and professional anti-HCR astroturfer who just got into the GOP gubernatorial primary, is bringing a whole lot of his own money with him. AG and presumptive nominee Bill McCollum may need to start looking back over his shoulder: Scott has either bought or reserved $4.7 million in airtime for the coming months. That’s about as much money as McCollum has raised since entering the race.

NY-Gov: The RGA left Steve Levy hanging, in a big way. Levy had (laughably) claimed last week that the RGA had promised him $8 to $10 million for his gubernatorial run as an incentive to get into the race and save the GOP from the specter of Rick Lazio. RGA chair Haley Barbour (not publicly, through back channels) said, um, no: the RGA is neutral in the primary, and will spend in that race only if it looks close down the home stretch. With state chair Ed Cox having put his credibility on the line to bring in ex-Dem Levy (who’s sucking in both GOP primary and general election polls), the NYT is reporting that’s created something of a “war” within the state party, to the extent that Michael Steele had to head to New York for a recent emergency intervention with Cox. When Michael Steele is suddenly the voice of reason, you know you’re doing it wrong.

SSP Daily Digest: 3/31

NH-Sen: The scurvy dogs at ARG! take their first reading of the 2010 New Hampshire senate race since Judd Gregg announced his retirement, finding that Rep. Paul Hodes beats ex-Sen. John Sununu 42-36. Hodes leads Sununu 38-31 among independents. (MoE ±4.2%)

KY-Sen: In the days leading up to 1Q fundraising reports, Jim Bunning has publicly admitted that his fundraising has been “lousy,” although he says “Surprisingly, we’ve had pretty good success the last month.” He’s looking forward to some April fundraisers starring such luminaries as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and fellow baseball celeb Tommy Lasorda.

GA-Gov: Roy Barnes is sounding very interested in another try at the governor’s race. Barnes got bounced by Sonny Perdue after one term in 2002, but populist anger plus demographic changes in Georgia may make a Barnes comeback feasible. (Insider Advantage found earlier this month that Barnes would defeat several of the likely GOP candidates.)

LA-02: Joseph Cao is signaling he may actually break ranks and vote for the Obama budget this week, telling The Hill that his constituents are “split.” (In the sense that they are likely to “split” his head open if he keeps voting the party line.)

History: Roll Call takes an interesting look back at the spate of special elections during the 1993-1994 session of Congress, and the structural reasons we aren’t likely to see a repeat of the disastrous 1994 election again.

MS-Sen-B: Could Barbour Run?

Columnist Bill Minor thinks it’s possible:

Two theories were in play last week about Barbour’s choices: One, that he will start a young Republican such as Chip Pickering on a path to keep the Senate seat in GOP hands for decades. Or two – an intriguing scheme – that Barbour will name a seat-warmer who would not run for the unexpired term, so that Barbour himself could run and return to the Washington scene he loves.

Early on, Barbour said he would not appoint himself to succeed Lott, but that does not rule out him asking voters in November to elevate him to a higher level.

However, that scenario will depend on Barbour getting the court to OK his Nov. 4 special election date rather than the 90 days Hood’s team will argue.

Minor also thinks it’s “inevitable” that AG Jim Hood will go to court to force Barbour to call the election within 90 days. Let’s hope he’s right.

MS-Gov Haley Barbour’s Ethical Wide Stance

The following was written by Matthew Krell for Cotton Mouth.  He writes at Street Prophets and Daily Kos under uID mkrell.

Haley Barbour has led, by most accounts, a fairly charmed life.  He’s gone from being a Republican in a single-party Democratic state, to being the second Republican governor of Mississippi since Reconstruction.  Along the way, Gov. Barbour has been chairman of the Republican National Committee and the lead partner in the most influential lobbying firm on the Republican side of the aisle.

But Barbour may have reached his apogee, and although I know it’s hardly Christian of me, I think his star may be about to fall – and it’s about time.

When Barbour was elected governor, he placed his assets in a blind trust.  For those of you who don’t know, a blind trust is a mechanism whereby a property owner can receive benefits from their property without having to abandon offices of public trust that might have a role to play in determining the value of their property.  In a blind trust, the trustee manages the beneficiary’s property, but the beneficiary can receive no information regarding the disposition of the property – they just receive the payouts to which the trust structure entitles them.

In Gov. Barbour’s case, he was entitled to $25,000 a month in payouts.  His initial trust included shares in his old lobbying firm worth over three-quarters of a million dollars.  Here’s what’s interesting, to me, at least:

What we have here is that some times Barbour has made statements that he did hold an equity position in the parent company of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers — now very much in the news for its representation of the Iraq political ambitions of former Iraq Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi — and at other times he said he had severed all ties to the firm but was getting a “retirement payment.”
  – Steve Clemons, The Atlantic

As Clemons points out in that same piece, Barbour’s old firm doesn’t provide retirement benefits.  So, either the Governor is receiving a benefit that no one else at BGR is getting (which might be legal, but certainly isn’t ethical), or the firm is making payments into his blind trust in return for some continuing service.

What sort of continuing service could the sitting Governor of Mississippi be providing to a lobbying firm?  Nothing good for the people of Mississippi, I’m sure.  But let’s not assume the worst.  Let’s assume that Gov. Barbour is simply receiving a pension benefit from BGR that no other member or employee of the firm gets.  Because you know, that’s totally fair.

But that’s not the end of the Governor’s ethical lapses.  Much has been made of the Governor’s nephews’ lobbying business in the Great State.  Particularly impressive has been the efficacy with which their client’s causes have made progress through the Legislature.  But more important than that, the Governor has seen fit to appoint family members time and time again to various governmental commissions that are overseeing the recosntruction of the state in the wake of Katrina.

Bloomberg News points out that the Barbour family members that have been overseeing Katrina reconstruction have been paid for lobbying services during their time on the panels.  Interestingly enough, the clients that paid the Governor’s nephews during this period managed to benefit from the work that they did on recovery, to the tune of almost three million dollars.  Isn’t that a strange coincidence?

I’m not so naive as to think that government doesn’t work via the personal connections between people.  As the governor’s lawyer puts it, Barbour “naturally is not going to be disinclined to help [his nephews] whenever he can.”  And I accept that.  The problem is the interconnectedness of the remunerative relationships.  The way that the Governor’s family gets appointed to help make recommendations for storm recovery – and the recommendations just magically happen to throw a lot of business to a lobbying client of the family.  There’s just something about the process that stinks.

And that stink is starting to stick to Haley Barbour.  The Clarion-Ledger is pissed about the monumental waste that Katrina recovery has involved.  Bloomberg’s Tim Burger is knocking the ball out of the park with his reporting on this, and the legalistic arguments of Barbour’s representatives ring hollow in a state that has seen two years of bull on the question of recovery.

If John Arthur Eaves is smart – and he must be, or he wouldn’t have been so successful, all evidence on the campaign trail to the contrary – he will hammer Barbour’s unwillingness to talk.  He will ask, what is Barbour hiding?  If there’s nothing to hide, why won’t Barbour let us see?

If Eaves can make this issue have legs, he may be able to make a race of it.

Cross-posted at Cotton Mouth

MS-Gov John Arthur Eaves, Jr. To Run Against Haley Barbour In Mississippi

Crossposted to BlueSunbelt.Com, DailyKos, and Swing State Project

The Mississippi election for governor has finally attracted a well financed Democratic candidate. Trial lawyer John Arthur Eaves, Jr. has filed to challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Haley Barbour. Eaves will face an uphill challenge against the popular Barbour who received high marks after Hurricane Katrina. His father John Arthur Eaves, Sr. ran strong races for governor in 1975 (Eaves did not make the runoff between William Winter and Cliff Finch) and 1979 (won by William Winter).

Barbour is expected to be a heavy favorite for re-election. Thus far, Democrats with statewide campaign experience, such as former Attorney General Mike Moore, have opted not to challenge Barbour. Eaves, a well known Jackson attorney whose father ran unsuccessful campaigns for governor in the 1980s, might be the best funded and best known Democrat to get in the race.

Eaves’ only other political experience is that he was the Democratic nominee for the 3rd District U.S. House seat in 1996. He lost to Republican Chip Pickering.

Bill Renick of Ashland, who has served in various government capacities, including chief of staff to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, also has qualified as a Democrat to run for governor.