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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- Residents in two eastern Ukraine regions voted overwhelmingly for a referendum on self-rule on Sunday. The measure won 89 percent of the vote, the head of the separatist election commission in Donetsk said late Sunday. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the vote a "criminal farce," and both the E.U. and the U.S. said they would not recognize the results. (Washington Post)
-- Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan refused international help for weeks in the search for more than 300 girls kidnapped by Islamic extremists before finally accepting assistance under pressure. The U.K. offered help as early as April 15, the day after the kidnapping. Jonathan was angry that President Obama brought up alleged human rights abuses by Nigerian forces during a conversation about aid. (Associated Press)
-- The Senate will vote tonight to cut off debate on the Shaheen-Portman education bill. Paul Kane's take: It's not likely to get 60 votes; each side blames the other for double dealing in negotiations over the amendment process. Assuming tonight's vote fails, it also formally ends a side deal that would have allowed a free-standing vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Senate will spend the rest of the week on a package of tax cut extenders.
-- Fall ad preview: Four states spent a combined $474 million building ObamaCare exchanges that are now in shambles. That's about one-tenth of the almost $4.7 billion the Kaiser Family Foundation says the federal government has approved for states building their own exchanges. Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland have scrapped their exchanges completely, while Nevada is still considering its future. The costs could climb higher if other states, perhaps Hawaii and Minnesota, have to make changes before the next open enrollment period. (Politico)
-- Top Secret Service officials ordered members of a unit responsible for guarding the White House perimeter to abandon their posts and protect then-director Mark Sullivan's assistant, who lived in La Plata, Md. Sullivan was concerned the assistant was being harassed by her neighbor. The agents assigned to check in with the assistant were concerned their absence increased risks to the president, people familiar with Operation Moonlight said. (Washington Post)
-- The RNC on Friday voted to penalize any presidential candidate who participated in a debate not formally authorized by the national party. The resolution is part of an effort to reassert control over how debates are staged, and how many take place. Most candidates privately told RNC chairman Reince Priebus they supported the move. (New York Times)
-- Most, not all. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal advisor Curt Anderson (@CurtOnMessage): "America, we hear you, so we're putting our political party bosses in charge of debates. If our candidates don't obey, we will silence em!" (Twitter)
-- Front Pages: WaPo and USA Today lead with the Ukrainian referendum. NYT reports from the town where the Nigerian girls were kidnapped. WSJ goes four columns on Ukraine, and leads with the FAA and drones. And the Lexington Herald-Leader leads with the Washington Monument reopening (see below).
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Columba Bush has an intense distaste for the limelight, which weighs heavily on her husband Jeb as he considers a 2016 presidential bid. "He's not going to do it over her objections," one family confidante says. The two met when Jeb was on a high school study-abroad trip to Mexico; Columba still appears shy when speaking English, her second language, and rarely shows up with Jeb at policy or political events. (Washington Post) How important is family? See Daniels, Mitch.
-- More WH'16: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hit the New Hampshire trail this weekend, stopping by fundraisers and sitting for interviews with local reporters. It was his first Granite State trip in almost two years. Coverage of his trip in the Tampa Bay Times, New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR. Our sources tell us former Sen. Scott Brown (R) stopped by Rubio's fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party in Bedford.
-- Georgia: Philanthropist Michelle Nunn (D) leads all five top Republicans running for Sen. Saxby Chambliss's (R) seat, according to a new Abt SRBI Inc. poll. Nunn's leads range from a 46 percent to 45 percent edge over businessman David Perdue (R) to a 52 percent to 37 percent lead over Rep. Phil Gingrey (R). The poll has bad news for Gov. Nathan Deal (R), too: His approval rating, 44 percent, is equal to President Obama's approval rating. Deal leads state Sen. Jason Carter (D) 46 percent to 43 percent. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
-- More Georgia: An NBC News/Marist poll shows Nunn trailing Perdue by four and within the margin of error against others. Perdue leads the Republican field with 23 percent, compared with 18 percent for Rep. Jack Kingston (R) and 14 percent for former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R). (MSNBC)
-- Arkansas: We're sensing a trend here. Sen. Mark Pryor (D) leads Rep. Tom Cotton (R) by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin in another NBC News/Marist poll. Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R) leads former Rep. Mike Ross (D) in the governor's race, 49 percent to 42 percent. Gov. Mike Beebe's approval rating is at 79 percent; President Obama's approval rating is at 34 percent. (MSNBC) Quibble with methodologies all you like, Pryor has led three recent polls by 10 points or more. Cotton has led three polls, all from Republican firms, this year, all by five points or less.
-- Kansas: A state objections board will hear testimony today that Sen. Pat Roberts (R) no longer maintains residency in Kansas, charges brought by supporters of physician Milton Wolf. Roberts owns a duplex in Dodge City, where he's registered to vote, but his primary residence is in Virginia. Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) make up the panel. (Topeka Capital-Journal)
-- Iowa: When state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) told media consultant Todd Harris she castrated hogs growing up, it startled him. But the campaign built a stump speech and an ad around her childhood chore; they spent just $9,000 to air an ad touting her castration skills, and it went viral, earning more than 400,000 views on YouTube in three days. Her second big ad shows her firing a gun and riding a Harley. Now, despite being outspent by businessman Mark Jacobs (R), Ernst says she considers herself the front-runner. (Washington Post) Note to consultants: Pig castration gets clicks.
-- Mark your calendars: Primaries tomorrow in Nebraska and West Virginia. Republicans in Nebraska will choose Senate and gubernatorial nominees; the smart money is on former Bush administration official Ben Sasse in the Senate race, while Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) and former Senate candidate Pete Ricketts (R) are running neck-and-neck in the gubernatorial race.
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama meets President Jose Mujica Cordano of Uruguay at the White House today. This afternoon, Obama meets National Association of Police Organizations TOP COPS award winners in the Rose Garden. Vice President Biden hosts President Mujica for lunch at the Naval Observatory.
-- The Senate meets at 2 p.m. for morning business, followed by a vote on Shaheen-Portman. Senators will also consider an Eleventh Circuit judge nominee and a nominee to be General Counsel at the Energy Department.
-- The House is on recess this week.
-- Tours of the Washington Monument begin at 1 p.m. today, 994 days after an earthquake shook the region and cracked the obelisk. Repair crews added 2.7 miles of sealant and 53 anchors to bolt slabs of the monument in place. Reserve tickets at recreation.gov. (Washington Post)
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where
-- Alaska: If anyone is buying ads the traditional way, working backwards from Election Day, it's Sen. Mark Begich (D). Begich's campaign has boosted its October ad buys to nearly $250,000 during the last three weeks before Nov. 4, an amount that equals about 500 points in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Put Alaska First, the Democratic super PAC, has reserved $3.2 million in TV time, 1,000 points a week in Anchorage and Fairbanks, for the Labor Day-to-Election Day sprint.
-- Nebraska: Here's who's been on TV for the last week, in advance of tomorrow's primary: Sasse spent $111,000. Senate Conservatives Fund spent $70,000 for Sasse. Legacy Foundation Action Fund spent $147,000 for Sasse. The Club for Growth spent $60,000 for Sasse. Citizens United spent $135,000 and 60 Plus spent $225,000, both for Sasse. Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn spent $51,000, while bank president Sid Dinsdale dropped almost $160,000.
-- To review: Pro-Sasse, $748,000. Everyone else, $210,000.
-- North Carolina: Remember last week, when Senate Majority PAC dropped more than $650,000 against North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R)? Well, they weren't joking: The PAC filed papers with the FEC on Sunday showing another $844,000 in TV time.
-- Kentucky: Speaking of jaw-dropping outside buys, here's the first ad from Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, the pro-Mitch McConnell group, that takes aim at Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), tying her to ObamaCare and the "war on coal." FEC reports show the group spent $552,000 on ads running now through May 20.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- "The tension between the federal government and Westerners who want to use government-owned land garnered new attention last month, when the Bureau of Land Management moved to round up cattle owned by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. Some state officials fear a decision to list the sage grouse, which would severely limit everything from grazing to energy development on a huge swath of land, could create a slew of new Bundys all over the rural West."
-- Point of Personal Privilege: Your humble author spent a few weeks taking a look at the sage grouse, the bird that holds the key to development rights of 160 million acres of Western lands. Remember the fight over the spotted owl? This one involves eight times more land. (Washington Post)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- The three-year old ban on earmarks has hurt lobbying revenues at firms like Van Scoyoc Associates and Cassidy & Associates. To make up for lost revenue, firms that specialized in appropriations and earmarks are increasingly turning their focus to the Department of Transportation, the Pentagon and other agencies that give grants. "There's still a massive government out there, even in tight times, spending large sums of money," Stu Van Scoyoc says. (Washington Post)
-- IBM is aggressively marketing the technology behind Watson to the federal government, pitching it as an analytics engine capable of processing health records or diagnose diseases. IBM recently announced it would expand its federal health-care practice, and it's marketing Watson health IT software to the Pentagon. (Washington Post)
-- Stock futures are up in pre-market trading. The Nikkei lost a fraction, but European markets are trading higher. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Heck of a lede: "Michele Bachmann, one-time GOP presidential contender and still one of Minnesota’s most polarizing politicians, was on stage in front of 10,000 college students taking a stab at her next life chapter: Staying relevant. … At 58, Bachmann is attempting to cast herself as more Margaret Thatcher, less Sarah Palin." (Minneapolis Star Tribune) Yes, but will she ever actually donate any of her PAC money to real candidates?
-- Former Wisconsin Gov. Patrick Lucey (D), who served as ambassador to Mexico and later as John Anderson's running mate in 1980, died over the weekend at age 96. "I don't think I would recognize charisma if it hit me on the head, and I've only learned how to pronounce the word in recent years," he once said. (New York Times)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford beats up his friends, yells at his wife for stealing his drugs and really wants someone to punch him. All that and more in this night on the town piece. (Toronto Star) There are probably more than a few Torontonians who wouldn't mind punching Ford.
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- More than 200 ATV riders careened through Recapture Canyon to protest the Bureau of Land Management's control of federal land in Utah. BLM closed the canyon to motorized use seven years ago; San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman organized the ride to highlight what he and backers called the federal government's "overreach" into local jurisdictions. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on ABC's "This Week": "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it." More Rubio: "Our climate is always changing. … And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activities." (Los Angeles Times)