READ IN: Monday, August 4, 2014: Tough U.S. response to Israeli strike, African leaders descend on D.C., Toledo still without water, Kan., Mich. primary preview, 7 GOPers hit Iowa this week

August 4, 2014

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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- Israel has begun a seven-hour unilateral cease-fire in most of Gaza amid early signs it is scaling down its almost month-long offensive. The State Department issued some of its harshest criticism of Israel in years after an airstrike outside at U.N. school in southern Gaza killed at least 10 people; it's the seventh U.N.-run school hit by Israeli artillery. One child and one U.N. employee died in the strike, which also killed three militants. (Washington Post)

-- Almost 50 African heads of state meet in D.C. this week at President Obama's invitation, the first time a U.S. president has convened Africa's leaders at a conference. The event is effectively a networking opportunity, bringing American business executives in contact with African leaders; the Commerce Department will announce U.S.-African deals worth nearly $1 billion during the conference. (Washington Post) So, where do four dozen heads of state stay? Mostly downtown hotels. (Washington Post) No August respite from terrible commutes this week.

-- President Obama has not decided what executive actions he will take on immigration, White House officials said Sunday. He's asked the Justice Department and Homeland Security to present him with options by the end of the summer. Two sets of announcements are likely, one dealing specifically with the border crisis and the other with a systemic overhaul of immigration rules. (USA Today) On Fox News Sunday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said any executive action would spark conversation of "that 'i' word that we don't want to say."

-- Three weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal between two Afghanistan presidential candidates, they are still fighting over an audit of the June 14 runoff elections. When the audit continued after a holiday break, candidate Abdullah Abdullah refused to participate over a dispute on how to disqualify ballots. More than 700 elections observers are in Kabul to audit ballots. (New York Times)

-- Residents of Toledo, Ohio are without water for a third day after an algae bloom in Lake Erie near the city's water treatment plant. Late Friday, the city issued its first-ever "do not drink" order. In a 2 a.m. news conference Monday morning, Mayor Michael Coleman (D) said he was keeping the order in effect after new test results show a toxin created by the algae bloom is still close to unsafe levels. (Toledo Blade)

-- USAID secretly sent young Latin Americans to Cuba to advocate for political change, under cover of health and civic programs. The agency sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian activists to Cuba hoping to spark a rebellion against the Castro government. Memos called an HIV-prevention workshop the "perfect excuse" for identifying possible Cuban political activists. (Associated Press)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with fresh doubts about a 2004 Texas execution (see C1, below). LA Times and NYT lead with the Israeli strike on another U.N.-run school. WSJ looks at the political divide inside Hamas. USA Today previews the African leaders summit.

Primary Primer: What to watch for this Tuesday.

-- Voters in four states -- Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington -- are headed to the polls Tuesday to pick party nominees. Here's what to watch in each state:

-- Kansas: Sen. Pat Roberts (R) squares off with physician Milton Wolf (R), one of the Tea Party's last best chances to knock off an incumbent this cycle. Roberts hasn't run as aggressively as some of his fellow incumbents, and Wolf has made a big, big deal of his residency (Good preview from Zach Goldfarb here). In the 4th District, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) wants his seat back. He jumped into the race against Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) late, but he's gotten big backing from a wealthy local resident (not named Koch). Pompeo is the rare incumbent to earn support from the Club for Growth.

-- Michigan: Rep. Gary Peters (D) and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) don't have notable opposition in their bids for U.S. Senate nominations. The real action is in the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 11th and 14th Districts. In the 3rd, Rep. Justin Amash (R) has faced down the Chamber of Commerce and their candidate, businessman Brian Ellis (R); Amash is favored to win, but it's been a tough race. In the 4th, three Republicans, including state Sen. John Moolenaar (R), are vying to replace Rep. Dave Camp (R). Former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) is Rep. Mike Rogers' (R) hand-picked replacement; he faces state Rep. Tom McMillin (R) in the 8th District. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R) has a tough fight on his hands to keep the 11th District, where he's up against attorney David Trott (R). And four Democrats, including former Rep. Hansen Clarke (D), are running to replace Peters in the 14th District.

-- Missouri and Washington: All eight members of Congress from Missouri are safe bets tomorrow. Most state constitutional offices are up next in 2016. Two Republicans are likely to emerge from the top-two primary in Washington's 4th District, where Rep. Doc Hastings (R) is retiring. Of the eight candidates, watch former NFL player Clint Didier (R), state Sen. Janea Holmquist (R) and former state Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse (R).

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Iowans are about to get their first real rush of presidential contenders. Seven possible candidates are showing up over the next week and a half: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended a fundraiser Saturday and returns this coming saturday for a Family Leadership Summit in Ames. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke at a fundraiser for state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and hit the same party Cruz attended on Saturday. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is holding a dozen events in all four congressional districts today through Wednesday. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) meets with social conservatives on Friday morning and at the Saturday summit in Ames. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has evens planned Friday and Saturday, including a stop at the Iowa State Fair. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) hits Boone, Ames and Des Moines on Friday and Saturday. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has nine stops planned over four days, beginning Saturday. (Des Moines Register)

-- Florida: State lawmakers will meet Thursday to vote on a deal redrawing several north Florida congressional districts, after a judge ordered them to submit new lines by Aug. 15. Legislative leaders still don't think the new lines can impact this year's elections, though Judge Terry Lewis hasn't made a final call. (News Service of Florida) The judge ruled districts held by Reps. Dan Webster (R) and Corrine Brown (D) violate the state's anti-gerrymandering rules. (Tampa Bay Times)

-- Kentucky: State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer (R) used his speech at Fancy Farm, the annual church picnic in western Kentucky, to declare himself a candidate for governor in 2015. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) used his speech to tie Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to President Obama and national Democrats, while Grimes made the case that McConnell has been in D.C. too long. (Lexington Herald-Leader, Washington Post) Is there any event in national politics that matches Fancy Farm for raw intensity?

-- Montana: The Billings Gazette is done with Sen. John Walsh (D). In a weekend editorial, the paper called on the appointed senator to stop campaigning in the wake of a plagiarism scandal that rocked his campaign last week. "Haunted by a serious lapse in academic honesty, Walsh is finished as a U.S. Senate candidate." (Billings Gazette)

-- New Jersey: The state legislature is moving toward taking action on bills that would exempt New Jersey drivers from traffic tickets issued by red light cameras in other states. Speed cameras are already prohibited in the Garden State, but the measure would actually prohibit the state Motor Vehicle Commission from sharing license information if that information is used to collect a fine levied by a camera. (Newark Star-Ledger) No guts, no glory.

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama only has one event, a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, on his public schedule today. He's likely to drop by the African leaders summit at some point, though.

-- Vice President Biden delivers remarks at the summit, which takes place at the National Academy of Sciences building. That's the only thing on his schedule, too.

-- The House and Senate are gone. Hill staff, when you roll in to work, at 10:30, at least pretend to stay until 3 p.m. to make the rest of us feel better.

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.

-- Kansas: The Alliance for Freedom, a D.C.-based super PAC, is spending big on behalf of Gov. Sam Brownback (R). The group has dropped $280,000 on ads since July 16 praising Brownback, who faces a surprisingly difficult re-election fight. They're on cable and broadcast in the Wichita, Tulsa, Kansas City and Topeka markets through Aug. 10.

-- Tennessee: Character Counts is running $85,000 in new ads on behalf of Weston Wamp (R), a venture capitalist and son of ex-Rep. Zach Wamp (R) who's running against Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R) in Thursday's primary, according to new FEC reports. (FEC)

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, on the dangers of falling into the trap of easy rhetoric: "The polarization merry-go-round in Washington can be very attractive for a member of Congress to fall into selling a partisan only message to their constituents. But, when Americans run into a TV show they don't like, they turn the channel. Voters are desperate to know about what can be accomplished to help them. Climate change isn't going to cut it for Democrats and abortion isn't going to work for Republicans. They simply don't connect to the average voter concerns." (CNN)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) still has $4.4 million in his re-election account. State law allows him to use that money for a PAC as he considers a second run for president. (Houston Chronicle)

-- Stock futures are up in pre-market trading after one of the worst weeks for U.S. markets in recent years. Most world markets are trading higher. (CNN)

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- The whistle-blower who first shed light on early problems at the Phoenix VA hospital, once the hospital's lead spokeswoman, now sits in a basement, answering phones. A whistle-blower at an Energy Department office in Washington was relegated to a windowless room in a basement. In many cases, those who bring problems to the attention of authorities still suffer consequences themselves, despite laws designed to protect them. (Washington Post)

-- In new recordings, the informer who said a Texas man confessed to setting the fire that killed his children admits to lying on the witness stand in exchange for a prosecutor's efforts to get his jail sentence reduced. The prosecutor, John Jackson, worked for years to get prisoner Johnny Webb out of jail after he threatened to recant his testimony. That testimony sent Cameron Todd Willingham to death row; he was executed in 2004. (Washington Post) It's complicated, but anti-death penalty advocates believe Texas executed an innocent man. Background on the case from The New Yorker.

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- The Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010, will require new nutritional requirements on school bake sales beginning this fall. The law requires the USDA to impose standards on all food and beverages sold during the school day, which includes bake sales. (Wall Street Journal)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R) has five holdings based in the Cayman Islands, allowing him to shield some of his millions of dollars from U.S. taxes. A spokesman said the holdings were created when investing in non-U.S. companies. (Chicago Sun-Times) Democrats didn't hesitate to draw comparisons to Mitt Romney.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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