READ IN: Tuesday, August 26, 2014: 10 weeks to Election Day, Obama to American Legion, Coakley lead shrinking?, Ex-Im becomes issue in Senate battle, third time could be charm for ‘Personhood’ backers

August 26, 2014

Hey folks, August recess is almost over! Don't forget to sign up for Read In before Congress comes back in session!

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

-- President Obama has approved surveillance flights over Syria, a prelude to airstrikes, as White House officials debate how to beat back ISIS militants without helping President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon will send manned and unmanned flights over Syria, and the administration will begin sending more support to moderate Syrian rebels who want to oust Assad. Syria said Monday it would view airstrikes against ISIS inside its borders as an "act of aggression." (New York Times)

-- The NSA is providing 23 U.S. intelligence agencies with a search engine of more than 850 billion records of phone calls, emails, cell phones and locations and internet chats, according to new documents. The program, ICREACH, contains information on private communications of foreign residents and those of possibly millions of American citizens as well. A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not say whether ICREACH had been used to aid domestic investigations. (The Intercept)

-- Remember those mysterious airstrikes on Islamist militia positions in Tripoli? Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are behind the attacks, which have occurred twice over the last week. The two countries did not inform the U.S. of their plans, and U.S. officials worry they could further destabilize an already-volatile situation. They haven't worked, either: Islamist militias seized control of Tripoli's airport after the second round of strikes this week. (New York Times)

-- Former FBI director Louis Freeh was seriously injured in a car accident in Barnard, Vt., state police said Monday. Freeh's vehicle, a GMC Yukon, drove off the road and hit a mailbox and a row of shrubs, though the cause of the accident is still under investigation. Freeh was airlifted to Dartmoth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. for treatment. (Burlington Free Press)

-- The Emmys for people who don't watch The Emmys: Breaking Bad won outstanding drama series, and Bryan Cranston picked up best lead actor. Modern Family was the best comedy. Julianna Margulies won the outstanding actress nod for The Good Wife. Benedict Cumberbatch won outstanding lead actor in a miniseries for his performance as Sherlock Holmes, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus won best lead actress in a comedy series for her role on Veep. Read Hank Stuever's roundup here. Game of Thrones was robbed.

-- Election Day is 70 days away.

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with Egyptian and Emirati airstrikes in Libya. NYT and WSJ lead with Obama's approval of air surveillance in Syria. USA Today leads with Michael Brown's funeral in Ferguson, Mo., and with new poll results showing distrust of police, especially among African Americans. LA Times fronts a billion-dollar iPad contract between Apple and the city's school district.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is dispatching two dozen staffers to Iowa, New Hampshire and other states with competitive gubernatorial and Senate races this year. The staffers will be paid by O'Malley's PAC, a spokeswoman said. (Washington Post) St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline: "Has Nixon's national political future been lost in the smoke of Ferguson?" Trick question, he never had one!

-- More WH'16: What's the best way for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to distance himself from DREAMers and the immigration reform advocates he once worked alongside? Get them to protest when he travels to an early presidential battleground! Rubio's appearance at a fundraiser in Anderson, S.C. was interrupted Monday by immigration reform advocates. The almost 1,200 die-hard conservatives in the audience shouted down the protestors while Rubio scolded them from stage. (CNN, Associated Press)

-- Texas: Gov. Rick Perry's (R) attorneys have filed a 60-page motion to dismiss the two-count indictment as violations of both the U.S. and Texas constitutions. The motion says the indictment relies on unconstitutional or misinterpreted state laws. Either side can appeal Judge Bert Richardson's decision; the two appellate courts, the 3rd Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals, are both controlled by Republican majorities. (Austin American-Statesman)

-- Virginia: Prosecutors began aggressively questioning former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on cross-examination on Monday, his fourth day on the witness stand. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry forced McDonnell to admit he knew about and personally benefited from gifts and loans given to his family by Jonnie Williams, the businessman at the heart of the case. But McDonnell maintained he did not know whether his wife had pushed state employees to advance Anatabloc, Williams' supplement. (Washington Post)

-- Massachusetts: Uh oh: In the race to replace Gov. Deval Patrick (D), Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) leads state Treasurer Steve Grossman (D) by a 42 percent to 30 percent margin, a far closer contest than previous polls have showed, according to a new Suffolk-Herald poll. Former HHS official Donald Berwick (D) comes in third with 16 percent. The Democratic primary is Sept. 9. (Boston Herald)

-- Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has vetoed legislation that would have established statewide regulations on ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) and Quinn's opponent, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner (R), had both called on him to nix the regulations, which Quinn said imposed a "one-size-fits-all" set of rules. Taxi companies wanted him to sign the bill. (Chicago Tribune) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) criticized Illinois' new same-day voter registration law. (Newark Star-Ledger)

-- Colorado: A so-called "Personhood" amendment on the ballot this year has abortion rights groups worried, even after similar measures have failed twice in the last decade. This version defines a fetus as a person under the criminal code, making it a crime to injure or kill the unborn. Planned Parenthood will spend at least $3.8 million to try to defeat the measure, which they say would be used to limit access to abortions. (Washington Post)

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

-- President Obama heads to Charlotte today to address the annual American Legion convention. Later, Obama meets Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office.

-- Obama will use the speech to announce executive actions aimed at improving access to mental health care for veterans, improving suicide prevention programs and programs designed to treat PTSD. The White House will issue an executive order that automatically enrolls military personnel receiving care for mental health disorders into VA programs, and Obama will tout new partnerships with banks like Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America that will make it easier for service members to get mortgage rate reductions. (Associated Press)

-- Vice President Biden attends a fundraiser for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown (D) at The Powerhouse, a former paper mill that's now an event site in Georgetown. Biden will sit in on the meeting with Kerry, then he's got other meetings at the White House to attend.

-- Two weeks until Congress is back. Two weeks until Congress is back. Just keep repeating that to yourself.

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

-- Michigan: Conventional wisdom holds that Rep. Gary Peters (D) has a big lead over former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R). The League of Conservation Voters is pounding a few more nails into Land's chances: They're dropping almost $400,000 into Michigan TV, according to new FEC filings. (FEC) Land goes up with her own flight of cable ads, on which she'll spend $125,000 over the next week and a half.

-- Montana: We forgot to mention this yesterday: American Crossroads is canceling three weeks of television it had reserved across Montana in late September and early October after Sen. John Walsh (D) quit the race earlier this month. They will spend the $1.7 million elsewhere, now that Rep. Steve Daines (R) is the overwhelming front-runner.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- The six commissioners on the FEC have deadlocked more than 200 times in the past 6 years. Those 3-3 votes don't hinder the commission's work, however; they create a new body of unofficial law, loosening restrictions on candidates and outside groups by demonstrating what rules will be enforced -- and therefore what won't be enforced. (New York Times) Smart and important piece: A proposal requires four votes. Without a four-vote consensus, campaigns are free to do what they want.

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- The Export-Import Bank is becoming an issue in key Senate races like North Carolina, Iowa and Louisiana. And in the absence of some overarching national theme, the Republican divide on Ex-Im could drive a wedge between some candidates and their business bases. (New York Times) This quote from a Thom Tillis (R) spokesman made our jaw drop: "The Export-Import Bank is set up to play political favorites and give huge taxpayer handouts to big, billion-dollar corporations, a glaring example of what’s wrong with Washington." Paging Rob Engstrom...

-- Both House Speaker John Boehner and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have benefitted from corporate inversion, the process by which a U.S. company moves overseas to avoid American taxes. The lawmakers owned shares in Covidien, the Dublin-based company purchased by Medtronic during Medtronic's inversion. Covidian stock jumped more than $20 a share after the merger was announced June 15. Important to note that both Boehner and Camp got lucky; there's no hint of wrongdoing here. But hey, that's a nice payday! (Bloomberg)

-- Stock futures are trading higher this morning after markets gained about four-tenths of a point on Monday. Asian markets closed lower today, but European markets are trading higher. (CNN)

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

-- Another race in which turnout is everything, with a powerful metaphor: "On the wall of Charlie Crist’s new field office in the largely African American suburb of Miami Gardens, it is still possible to see traces of the previous tenant. Faintly visible through the fresh coat of white paint is a familiar blue O rising like the sun over red stripes."

-- "Crist’s career as a Republican was effectively ended by a famous 2009 photo of him hugging Obama. Now he’s hoping the president’s staunchest supporters will squeeze him back. ... While Crist is counting on the strength of a retro-fitted Obama operation, [Gov. Rick] Scott (R) has had to build his practically from scratch. The campaign estimates that its volunteers have already knocked upon 700,000 Florida doors -- far surpassing the 200,000 that Romney’s campaign had reached by this point in the 2012 election." (Washington Post)

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

-- Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (D) has questioned whether Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock (R) has "even had a real job." Comstock, a Bush administration and Capitol Hill alum and lobbyist before she ran for a delegate seat, left the full-time workforce to raise kids. (RedState) War on Republican women!

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Conservative headline of the day: "Is President Obama a sociopath? The Alabama Republican state chairman is asking this." Well, actually Bill Armistead is criticizing Obama for not cutting short his vacation in response to tumultuous world events. Here's his take: "Since 2009, the president has played more than 185 rounds of golf. Expensive vacation homes, fine dining, spontaneous trips, private concerts by the world's top music artists; Obama's life seems more like that of a celebrity than a president." (AL.com)

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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Alexander Becker · August 25, 2014