A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- An Iraq war veteran opened fire at several locations at Fort Hood, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon, killing three people and wounding 16 before taking his own life. The shooter, whom Army officials identified as 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, was being evaluated for PTSD; military officials said there was no link to foreign terrorist organizations. (Washington Post)
-- The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down aggregate limits on the amount donors can contribute to candidates, while upholding the actual limits on per-candidate contributions, in a 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. It's a win for political parties that have to compete with super PACs, and the latest blow to campaign finance reformers, who have watched the Roberts Court dismantle the McCain-Feingold law and, in this case, elements of Buckley v. Valeo. (New York Times, Washington Post) We asked some leading legal minds for their takes on the ruling; don't miss them below, in our Long Reads section.
-- The U.S. Agency for International Development paid for and operated a secret program to develop something similar to Twitter in Cuba, using cell phone text messages, in hopes of uniting opposition and undermining the country's communist government. At its peak, the system, dubbed ZunZuneo, the Cuban sound a hummingbird makes, attracted 40,000 subscribers. (Associated Press)
-- Members of the Republican National Committee's site selection committee will choose among six cities -- Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., and Las Vegas -- for their 2016 convention. Columbus and Phoenix didn't advance beyond an initial round of voting on Wednesday. (Las Vegas Sun, Washington Post) Vegas, Dallas and Kansas City are seen by Republican insiders as the front-runners.
-- A new NPR poll, conducted by pollsters Stan Greenberg (D) and Whit Ayres (R), shows more people support the Affordable Care Act (47 percent) than approve of the job President Obama is doing (46 percent). Democrats lead the generic ballot by a single point, 44 percent to 43 percent. And, shockingly, voters disapprove of the Republican-controlled House by a 48-point margin, and of the Democratic-controlled Senate by a 25-point margin. (NPR)
-- Front Pages: WaPo, NYT and WSJ front with both the Fort Hood shootings and the McCutcheon decision; USA Today puts Fort Hood atop McCutcheon. The shooting takes up the entire front page of the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald, Fort Hood's hometown paper.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- Arizona: The LIBRE Initiative, an arm of the Koch network aimed at appealing to Hispanic voters, will begin running $700,000 in ads critical of Reps. Ron Barber (D) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D) over Obamacare, they told Read In exclusively. The messengers in both ads (here and here) are Hispanic women; both seats are top GOP targets this year, though Barber, who faces a rematch against retired Air Force officer Martha McSally (R), is in more trouble than Kirkpatrick. The LIBRE group has already spent money against Reps. Pete Gallego (D-Texas) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.).
-- Michigan: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) leads Rep. Gary Peters (D) by 40 percent to 38 percent, according to a new Marketing Resource Group survey. The same poll shows Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading former Rep. Mark Schauer (D) by 47 percent to 39 percent, tighter than the 14-point lead Snyder held in October. Democrats need to watch out for President Obama, whose approval rating is a dismal 41 percent in the poll. Schauer, meanwhile, will name Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown (D) as his running mate in three stops around Michigan today. (MLive, twice) Reid's Take: If Obama's rating is only 41 percent in Michigan, imagine what it is in Arkansas and Louisiana and Alaska.
-- Georgia: Businesswoman Michelle Nunn (D) is out with the first ad of her Senate bid. George H.W. Bush cameo! (YouTube) Meanwhile, Republican front-runner David Perdue is on video contrasting himself with former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), who has only a high school degree. "I mean, there's a high school graduate in this race, okay? I'm sorry, but these issues are so much broader, so complex." (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Hey, David: Only 27.8 percent of Georgians over 25 have a bachelor's degree.
-- WH'16/Florida: Sen. Marco Rubio (R) hinted to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that he will not run for re-election in 2016 if he decides to run for president. Florida law doesn't allow a candidate to appear on the ballot twice; Rubio said he supports that law. (Washington Post, Huffington Post)
-- Pennsylvania: Fallout continues over a cancelled sting operation targeted at Philadelphia-area state lawmakers, as Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) said Wednesday she would support unsealing court records related to the investigation. The state House on Wednesday passed new ethics rules banning members from accepting cash gifts from anyone with business before the government. (Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) How was that not a rule already?
-- California: Rep. Mike Honda (D) has outraised challenger Ro Khanna (D), the young tech-savvy former Obama staffer rival in the race to represent Silicon Valley. Honda's bank account is about half of Khanna's in advance of the June 3 primary; the two Democrats are likely to advance to November's general election. (San Francisco Chronicle) Khanna is the flavor of the month, but Honda is no Pete Stark. Check out this smart Peter Hamby breakdown of the race from last month to get a sense of the challenges Khanna faces.
-- Tennessee: Today's the deadline for candidates to file for federal office. The primary is Aug. 7.
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama and Vice President Biden have their weekly lunch date today. Later, Obama welcomes members of the Olympic and Paralympic delegations to the White House. Obama will sign the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act into law, then later meets with members of Congress to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Biden will sit in on the meeting with members of Congress.
-- The House meets at 10 a.m., then debates the Save American Workers Act, another effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act. First and last votes expected from 2:30 to 3 p.m. before members bolt for the weekend.
-- The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday will vote on whether to declassify the 400-page executive summary of a 6,300-page report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Wednesday she would vote to declassify those parts of the report, giving committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) the votes she needs. See more in the Buried Lede.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- More on the Senate Intelligence Committee's vote today: "People who have read the report say it is unsparing in its criticism of the C.I.A.’s brutal interrogation methods, and makes the case that the spy agency repeatedly misled Congress, the White House and the public about the value of the program."
-- Feinstein has said she will send the report to the White House to be declassified. The committee will also vote on whether to declassify the Republican dissent and CIA Director John Brennan's response to the investigation. (New York Times) And don't miss this excellent Don Gonyea/Carrie Johnson recap of the Senate's feud with the CIA, which aired yesterday on NPR.
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz snapped a photo with President Obama at the White House Wednesday, a premeditated move as part of a marketing deal with Samsung similar to Ellen DeGeneres's Oscar stunt. The photo, which Ortiz tweeted, was retweeted more than 40,000 times. Ortiz had signed a deal with Samsung on Monday, and the company's mobile team came up with the idea. (Washington Post)
-- The Dow gained 40 points on Wednesday, and all three markets are up in pre-trading hours. Asian markets were up on Thursday, while European markets are down a tiny fraction as of 7 a.m. ET. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Getting smart about McCutcheon: Reid's Take: The ruling, which allows donors to go over the $123,200 aggregate limit, is great news for political parties that have had to compete with outside super PACs for donor dollars. One Democratic official told Roll Call's Eliza Newlin Carney he was "happy as a pig in," well, things pigs roll around in. No kidding: The DNC is millions in debt. RNC chairman Reince Priebus approached the NRCC and NRSC about funding the lawsuit, though both committees demurred. The bottom line: Relatively few people hit aggregate limits. This isn't the decision that completely undermines campaign finance reform. The next one will; it's just up to anti-reform lawyers to figure out which avenue of attack they'll take.
-- We asked two election law experts for their take on the McCutcheon decision. Here's Don McGahn, a former Republican member of the FEC now with Patton Boggs: The decision "is a complete repudiation of the basis of almost all of 'campaign finance reform.' … The logic of today's opinion (and the past several opinions) leads to one conclusion: other than direct contribution limits, everything else will be gone." McGahn's prediction: It's only a matter of time until McCain-Feingold limits on how much state parties can raise and spend are gone.
-- And here's Marc Elias, a top Democratic election lawyer at Perkins Coie, whose firm represents dozens of Democrats in Congress: "The Chief Justice made clear that any campaign finance restriction, other than disclosure, is going to be judged against whether it prevents actual or apparent quip pro quo corruption. Nothing else will likely suffice or survive." The Court now views parties in a more popular light, Elias said, meaning reform opponents will likely target provisions that restrict party activities for their next challenges. "The Court's recent rulings point towards further examination of some of the rules governing party activity," he said.
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Bill Clinton wouldn't be surprised if extraterrestrials are out there waiting to say hello, he told Jimmy Kimmel last night. (Daily Caller)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's official Web site takes on the Koch brothers and levels a pretty serious charge: That Koch Industries pays no corporate taxes (Hmm, where have we heard that from Harry Reid before?). That's a claim first advanced by Austan Goolsbee as early as 2010 -- a claim Koch Industries refuted and then-press secretary Robert Gibbs said was wrong. Check out the ink Reid's site gets from The Weekly Standard and The Examiner.
Attn HuffPo: Things liberals will be outraged by today.
-- Hey, all you "collectivists" who don't like the Koch brothers: Charles Koch's op-ed in Thursday's Wall Street Journal is the latest step in Koch Industries' slowly-increasing public engagement (They're quietly reaching out to journalists, too). But does that graphic that went with Koch's op-ed look familiar? It does to the folks at Daily Kos; it's basically their logo. (Shot, chaser)