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“Who Wants The Worst Job In Washington?”: Who In Their Right Mind Would Actually Volunteer For The Job Boehner Is Giving Up?

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) communications director told Time magazine yesterday, “He’s not going anywhere. If there’s a small crew of members who think that he’s just going to pick up and resign in the middle of his term, they are going to be sadly mistaken.”

That was literally yesterday afternoon, reinforcing the fact that this morning’s news was, to put it mildly, unexpected.

There are all kinds of questions surrounding this story, but near the top of the list is a pretty straightforward inquiry: who in their right mind would actually volunteer for the job Boehner is giving up?

Not only is it practically impossible to lead the current crop of House Republicans, but there’s also the inconvenient fact that recent GOP Speakers tend to meet unwelcome fates: Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace; Bob Livingstone resigned in disgrace; Dennis Hastert is under criminal indictment; and John Boehner is quitting mid-term.

Already today, we know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has withdrawn from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tried to oust Boehner, said he’s not running, either. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was going to be Speaker, but his Republican constituents abandoned him in a primary last year.

And that apparently leaves his successor, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Politico reported today:

[McCarthy] is widely expected to serve as the next speaker. But there is serious unrest in the House Republican ranks, as a small clutch of conservatives have continuously clashed with establishment Republicans. It takes 218 votes on the House floor to win the speakership, and many GOP insiders believe that McCarthy is the only person who could cobble together a coalition to win. […]

 Boehner allies appear to be rallying around McCarthy for speaker already, providing him a hefty base for the internal House Republican Conference election, and a speaker vote on the House floor.

It would have been difficult to imagine such circumstances up until very recently.

Remember, when McCarthy was elevated to the #2 slot in the House Republican leadership, he’d only been in Congress for seven years – making him easily the least experienced Majority Leader in American history. By one count, during his brief tenure, McCarthy sponsored only three bills, and only two of them actually passed.

One of them renamed a post office.

The other renamed a flight research center.

Now he’s going to be Speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession?

In June 2014, I wrote that with Boehner’s future uncertain, McCarthy is “well positioned to lead the House in the not-too-distant future, despite a very thin resume and an extremely brief tenure in Congress.” And 15 months later, here we are.

I noted earlier that there was some scuttlebutt about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) eyeing the Speaker’s gavel, but that chatter quickly faded and the far-right Louisianan has instead announced his intention to run for Majority Leader – which reinforces the impression that McCarthy is poised for a historic promotion.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“One Million For Me, None For You”: How Carly Fiorina Screwed Her Campaign Staff And Paid Herself First

After Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful 2010 run for Senate in California, it took her more than four years to fully pay staff and vendors for their work on her campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

But a review of Federal Election Commission records by The Daily Beast shows that Fiorina first paid herself back for more than $1.25 million in personal loans she made to the campaign, including a $1 million check on the day before Election Day. That check set the campaign back so far it was impossible to pay staff and vendors what they were owed for years.

Marty Wilson, Fiorina’s then-campaign manager, said Fiorina knew at the time that there would be debts at the end of the campaign, but that it was difficult to know how deep the debt would be.

“The problem with campaigns is you project debt based on what you think revenues are going to be,” Wilson said. “People say they are going to send money, but Election Day comes and goes, and you’ve lost, and those receivables don’t materialize.”

With more than $1 million out the door at the last minute and a shortfall in fundraising commitments, the campaign ended nearly $500,000 in debt, unable to pay vendors and staff, including Wilson, who was owed more than $60,000.

“We certainly talked to her after the campaign quite a bit about the nature of the debt, who the money was owed to, did some things to get some of the bills paid off after the election,” Wilson said. “Was I frustrated? Yes. But there were other people who were more frustrated than I was.”

The best part? This is totally, 100 percent legal.

Under federal law, self-funding candidates can spend unlimited money on their campaigns. Some donate the money outright, while others, like Fiorina, make loans to the campaign with the hopes of being paid back once the money is raised from other sources.

But the loans are not indefinite. The 2002 McCain-Feingold Act limits the window during which a candidate can be reimbursed for those candidate-sponsored loans, which could explain Fiorina’s haste to get at least some of her money back.

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said the law was supposed to keep lobbyists from paying candidates’ campaign expenses, but it also entices candidates to repay themselves quickly or never be paid back at all.

“The unfortunate thing in this scenario is that a bunch of other vendors and staff were seemingly shafted by this move,” said Ryan. “It’s not illegal, but one may draw their own conclusions about the type of person who would rather pay themselves back a loan, when they are free to spend as much money as they want on their campaign, rather than repay others who they owe money to.”

Even going into the campaign, it was clear the Senate bid would be a wildly expensive proposition for any Republican candidate. Fiorina, a first-time candidate who had made her name, and much of her estimated $120 million personal fortune at that time, as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 until 2005, was no exception.

Although Fiorina’s run at HP was rocky, with more than 30,000 layoffs and a stock that lost more than half its value, Fiorina left with a $21 million payout and more than $20 million more in additional compensation.

Altogether, Fiorina financed nearly $7 million of the $21 million Senate campaign through personal loans to her campaign at 0 percent interest. In November 2009, she launched Carly for California and quickly pumped $2.5 million into the nascent Senate bid. She then repeatedly dipped into her personal fortune as the campaign went on, including a $1 million loan in the final weeks of the campaign to pay for a last-minute ad buy against Boxer.

Having declared all of her loans during the primary as a loss, Fiorina paid herself back in full for loans she made in the general election, using cash on hand to repay herself $250,000 two weeks before the election and $1 million on the day before Election Day.

Over the next four years, the Carly for California campaign pushed its debts back month after month after month, year after year. As Fiorina and her husband relocated to a multimillion-dollar Virginia estate and campaign treasurers came and went, the vendors and staff remained unpaid, including the widow of a close adviser who had died suddenly during her Senate bid.

Only as Fiorina began to publicly consider launching a presidential campaign in 2015 did she pay off her 2010 debts, quietly writing a personal check for $487,410 to finally pay the outstanding bills and close the Carly for California campaign.

Three months later, Carly for President launched, quickly raising $1.4 million for Fiorina’s presidential bid. But unlike Carly for California, the new campaign is making do without her personal fortune. So far, she and her husband, Frank, have given $2,700 each, the maximum allowed for any average donor.

That may be partially explained by Marty Wilson’s observation of Fiorina’s 2010 experience. “I don’t think anybody likes parting with a substantial percentage of their net worth for a speculative venture.”

The Carly for President campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this story.


By: Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Campaign Staffers, Carly Fiorina | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Conservatives Hate John Boehner”: They Wanted Someone To Beat Obama, As Their Presidential Nominees Couldn’t Do

When Marco Rubio announced to the Values Voter Summit on Friday morning that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning, the crowd of social conservatives cheered. The Florida senator and 2016 presidential contender seemed to share the sentiment.

“I’m not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page,” Rubio said. “It is time to turn the page and allow a new generation of leaders.”

Fellow 2016er Sen. Ted Cruz had a similar shtick. “You want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington?” he asked the crowd of conservative activists. “Yesterday John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is, can you come by more often?”

Some of this is self-serving. Both men are younger Republican leaders who have a personal stake in seeing the old guard shuffle off to retirement. And both are competing for a similar slice of conservative primary voters and playing to the same audience.

The fact that Boehner’s impending departure is an applause line at conservative gatherings, however, is reflective of the Republican leadership crisis. Large parts of the base do not trust the party’s leaders, do not believe they have GOP voters’ best interests or conservative principles at heart, and would mourn their leaving office about as much when Barack Obama’s presidency is over.

House speakers aren’t often leaders of inspirational movements. They are usually legislative tacticians and enforcers of party discipline. Boehner is a survivor, having been booted from the leadership team in the 1990s only to claw back to the minority leader and then speaker’s position.

But after the 2010 midterm elections, when Democrats lost the House while keeping the Senate and the presidency, Boehner found himself the ranking Republican in Washington. It’s a role for which he was in many respects ill-suited.

If you compare Boehner’s reign to that of disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, conservatives should consider it an improvement. Hastert, with the help of President George W. Bush, jacked up government spending and presided over a culture of earmarks and corruption. They authorized the Iraq war.

Under Boehner, the House helped deliver sequestration that put the brakes on explosive spending growth. He effectively ended earmarks. His fellow Republicans tried to stop a war in Libya and succeeded in averting one in Syria, though not always with the speaker’s blessing.

Yet conservatives were looking for someone more like Newt Gingrich, albeit with better long-term results. They wanted someone who could communicate conservative principles and fight for the Republican platform. They wanted someone to beat Obama, as their presidential nominees couldn’t do. They wanted someone to stop playing defense and go on offense against ObamaCare and a slew of liberal programs that offended them.

Even Boehner’s conservative accomplishments were not universally beloved by the right. Many hawks detested sequestration’s impact on defense spending, and were willing to trade away the budget caps. The earmarks ban was criticized as too loose by some conservatives, and too detrimental to getting things done on the House floor by some in the Republican establishment.

What Boehner mostly did as House speaker was rescue the more conservative members of his caucus from dire political miscalculations while offering little alternative vision of his own. That was never good enough for conservatives and became increasingly untenable as Boehner began to advance legislation with Democrats and a rump of Republicans.

Can conservatives do better at running the House and governing in general, or can they only function as an opposition party even when they are among the majority? Will they even get the opportunity to replace Boehner, or will he be succeeded by another establishment figure? Can the GOP ever resolve its leadership crisis?

Tea Party leader Mark Meckler crowed, “Boehner is gone, and we are still here.” Now, perhaps, we’ll see to what end.


By: W. James Antler III, The Week, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Sinful Tendency To Pervert Faith”: Pope Francis’ Familiar Denunciation Of ‘Ideological Extremism’

It’s hard to overstate just how furious conservatives were in February after hearing President Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. I’ll be curious to see how many of them are equally livid with Pope Francis today.

Nearly eight months ago, the president noted that while many faith communities around the world are “inspiring people to lift up one another,” we also see “faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” The president explained that no faith tradition is immune and every religion, including his own, has chapters its adherents are not proud of.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history,” he said. “And lest we [Christians] get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ…. So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

Conservatives, quite content atop their high horse, were disgusted. Just this week, we saw Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) continue to whine about the Prayer Breakfast remarks, pointing the speech as evidence of the president serving as an “apologist for radical Islamic terrorists.”

But take a moment to consider what Pope Francis said this morning during his address to Congress.

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.”

In U.S. News, Gary Emerling noted, “The pontiff said all religions are susceptible to extremism and violence, just like Obama said in February.” I heard it the exact same way.

In fact, as best as I can tell, when Pope Francis said that “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism,” the only difference between this sentiment and Obama’s in February is that the president bolstered his point with examples.

Will the right lambaste Francis with equal vigor? Somehow I doubt it, but if readers see any examples of this, I hope you’ll let me know.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Faith, Ideological Extremism, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Want To Torch Washington, Not Run It”: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner

“I consider this a victory for the crazies,” said one Republican congressman who attended the meeting in which Speaker John Boehner shocked the political world by announcing his resignation.

Boehner, the consummate congressional dealmaker, faced another looming government shutdown. His abrupt decision to resign at the end of October is a sign that there are no more deals to be made with the conservative Kamikaze caucus.

The fundamentalist crew that Boehner-allied Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has called “lemmings with suicide vests” and “right-wing Marxists” has been preparing to take the country to the brink of shutdown and default again this fall over their demand to defund Planned Parenthood and refusal to raise the debt ceiling.

In the closed-door meeting, the speaker warned against a government shutdown, telling the assembled Republicans that shutting down the government was self-defeating for the GOP and the pro-life cause. But his announcement “took all the air out of the room,” the attending congressman told The Daily Beast. “No one expected it.”

Boehner is an old-school Main Street Midwestern Republican—he’s conservative, but not crazy. His insistence that governing is more important than grandstanding has made him a punching bag for presidential candidates playing to populists. Take the recent cattle call hosted by the conservative frat-boy scam that parades under the name Heritage Action. Candidate after candidate blamed Boehner for all the ills facing their party. One of the attendees, a man named Valentine Sanchez, told The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy that he wanted Boehner out “the sooner the better. We need conservatives in there.”

In fact, Boehner’s been one of the steady voices of sanity in an unhinged time for the Republican Party.  He’s been the adult in the room filled with red-faced tantrums and toddler-esque factional squabbles. And he’s been constrained from pursuing many of his true goals by trying to hold in check the Tea Partiers that got him elected speaker in 2010 as they morphed into the Troll Party, more welcoming to ultra-right absolutists than to conservative reformers.

Not only that, his longtime friends have disappeared one by one. Veteran Reps. Tom Latham, Steve Latourette, and Buck McKeon have all retired in recent years, leaving more and more him alone on the throne.

Still, he’s given as good as he’s got, calling Ted Cruz as a “jackass” for cheerleading the last shutdown and slamming Heritage Action and other members of the conservative activist class, saying, “They’re using our mem­bers and they’re using the American people for their own goals…This is ridiculous.”

As a result, Boehner’s ambition to shepherd conservative immigration reform through the House fell apart. In the spring of 2014, he noted that the immigration “problem’s been around for at least the last 15 years. It’s been turned into a political football. I think it’s unfair…I think it’s time to deal with it.”

This pronouncement was swiftly declared a “Death Warrant for Conservatism,” by the Powerline blog, while Heritage Action’s Dan Holler told The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy that Boehner’s statement was “a full-throated embrace of amnesty.” This kind of overheated exaggeration is typical of the kind of opposition Boehner faced.

Boehner’s ambition was abandoned once his deputy, Republican Majority leader Eric Cantor, was cannibalized in a primary, losing to an activist who joined in the anti-immigration reform chorus. In the closed-door meeting, Boehner referred to the upset, saying that he only intended to serve two terms as speaker but then Cantor lost. “Life changes, plans change,” Boehner explained.

The emotional impetus for his surprising decision might have been Pope Francis’s historic speech to Congress the day before, in which the progressive pontiff made a case for exactly the kind of bipartisan reasoning together that has been targeted by the Kamikaze caucus: “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.” This approach to governing has been effectively criminalized by too much of the current conservative movement. It is a firing offense.

And so Boehner decided to jump before he was pushed, tired of the prospect of another self-defeating fight with the extremists in his own party. Maybe Boehner could’ve held on as speaker—if he’d decided to depend on votes from Democrats to retain his seat. But while most of Boehner’s recent legislative successes required bipartisan coalitions, that degree of career-saving support was likely too much to ask from Nancy Pelosi & Co.

Now President Obama has witnessed the vanquishing of two conservative congressional leaders—Boehner and Cantor—who were deemed insufficiently radical by the conservative populists they first empowered.

With the Republicans still reeling under the Capitol dome, the impact of Boehner’s surprise decision and his successor is still unclear, but it does not bode well for hopes that the United States can avoid another stupidly self-inflicted shutdown. Names like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Budget Committee Paul Ryan were quickly floated as Boehner replacements—and were just as quickly shot down for being insufficient in their fealty to the crash-and-burn Kamikaze caucus.

Moments after the speaker ended his announcement by reading the Prayer of St. Francis (“where there is hatred, let me sow love”) stunned Republican congressmen saw “the crazies already huddling in the hallway.”


By: John Avlon, with additional reporting by Michael Daly; The Daily Beast, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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