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

-- The Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $200 million in wrongful death payments in the decade following Sept. 11, 2001, to nearly 1,000 families of veterans who died under the VA's care. Some committed suicide after being denied mental health treatment. Others were misdiagnosed. Still others were victims of bad surgeries or fatal neglect. (Center for Investigative Reporting via Seattle Times)

-- Senate Democrats up for reelection this year have submitted wish lists to the Obama administration, seeking agency decisions that benefit their states and aid their reelection bids. The requests range from allowing snowmobiles in parts of Alaska to keeping a call center dedicated to the Affordable Care Act that employs 600 people open in Bogalusa, La. (Washington Post) Look for vulnerable Senate Democrats to get prominent roles spearheading legislation in the next several months, too. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) will lead on a Medicare eligibility age bill, while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) will get help with energy efficiency legislation. (Politico)

-- Paul Kane adds more for Read In: A complicating factor in this relationship between the White House and Senate Democrats has been the irregular existence of the political affairs office in the West Wing. Previous administrations had political point men, such as Ken Mehlman, Rahm Emanuel and Haley Barbour. The Obama White House has only just brought back the political office, run by David Simas, an unfamiliar face to most Democrats whose specialty is data and polling. Senators more frequently take their requests to someone they know better, Katie Beirne Fallon, in the legislative affairs office.

-- The Senate on Monday unanimously passed a measure that would ban Iran's newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States, a rare legislative win for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). The ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, was part of the student group that led the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. (Washington Post)

-- Freedom Partners, the funding arm of the Koch brothers network that funneled $256 million from anonymous donors to various affiliated groups around the country in 2012, will begin spending $1.1 million against Democratic Senate candidates in Iowa and Colorado over the next three weeks. It's the first foray into paid media for the group, one of a handful of Koch-connected organizations designed to protect donors who wish to remain anonymous. (Sunlight Foundation)

-- Matea Gold's Take: The Koch brothers and their operatives are exerting more control over the political activities they finance, reflecting the discipline that attracts donors to their network. In January, sources told us Freedom Partners was going to bring many of its political activities in house; that reassures conservative donors that their money is being well spent, with attendant accountability.

-- Front Pages: WaPo and NYT lead with increased tension in Ukraine. WSJ fronts the Ukraine situation and leads with feuds between the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom. USA Today heads with Obama's actions on equal-pay laws. Minnesota and Maryland papers are making a big deal of minimum wage deals struck in state legislatures. Here's the Duluth News Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- Louisiana: A West Monroe newspaper on Monday published surveillance video allegedly showing Rep. Vance McAllister (R) kissing a woman the paper said was a member of his staff. McAllister, who is married and who has made his faith a centerpiece of his brief political career, said in a statement released late Monday he had "fallen short" and that he promised "to do everything I can to earn back the trust of everyone I've disappointed." (Washington Post).

-- All you need to know about LA 05: McAllister finished second with 18 percent in the Oct. 19, 2013 all-party primary election, behind state Sen. Neil Riser (R), who took 32 percent. McAllister beat Riser 60-40 in the Nov. 16 runoff. The top-performing Democrat took just 15 percent. President Obama won just 38 percent in the district in 2012. Candidates have until Aug. 22 to file to run for the seat. Roll Call floats a few names of possible candidates, including ex-Rep. Clyde Holloway (R), state Rep. Jay Morris and McAllister's own chief of staff, Adam Terry. Reid's Take: Louisiana voters are pretty forgiving. Case in point: A Magellan Strategies poll [pdf] taken late last month showed Gov. Bobby Jindal's favorable rating at 45 percent. Sen. David Vitter's favorable rating is at 56 percent.

-- New Hampshire: So much for the People's Pledge. The conservative outside group Ending Spending Action Fund began running ads on Monday backing the comeback bid of former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.). The ad, produced by Larry McCarthy, will run on WMUR and statewide cable. Ending Spending is funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. (NH Journal) Brown formally announce his bid Thursday in Portsmouth. Ex-Gov. John H. Sununu will introduce Brown. The Boston Globe says Brown is retiring from the National Guard.

-- West Virginia: House Majority PAC will launch a new ad Tuesday aiming at state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R), who's challenging Rep. Nick Rahall (D), making a political issue out of a chemical spill in the Elk River that poisoned drinking water around Charleston. Bonus points for shoe-horning the Koch brothers in there.

-- Michigan: Rep. Mike Rogers (R) has tapped state Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R) as his anointed successor. Rogers endorsed Bishop in a statement on Monday; Bishop faces Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett (R) in the Aug. 5 primary. (MLive)

-- Maryland: Legislators finishing this year's 90-day session on Monday voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2018 and to provide $15 million in film credits, but lawmakers were unsure if that would be enough to keep "House of Cards" filming in the state. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Monday he would sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. (Washington Post, Baltimore Sun)

-- California: Addressing an NFIB fundraiser in Sacramento, Karl Rove said if the state GOP has to lose to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), it should pick someone who won't damage its future chances with Hispanic voters. California Republicans "would be stupid not to pick" ex-TARP administrator Neel Kashkari, Rove said. (San Francisco Chronicle) Freshman Rep. David Valadao will appear on the ballot next to the descriptor "Farmer/Small Businessman." No mention of his current job title. (Roll Call)

-- Montana: Headline of the day: "Senate candidate finds backpack with $12K cash." (Helena Independent Record)

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

-- In the East Room, President Obama announces two executive actions aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women. Obama and Vice President Biden have their weekly lunch date in the private dining room, then they meet with Secretary of State John F. Kerry in the Oval Office. Biden meets with Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic this afternoon.

-- The House begins four hours of debate on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) have asked the Congressional Budget Office for an analysis on the Ryan budget's impact on poverty. (Roll Call) Three conservatives who voted for last year's Ryan budget, Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), are remaining undecided. (Roll Call)

-- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for morning business, adjourns for weekly party lunches, then debates an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act giving aid to victims of wage discrimination. A cloture vote is expected on Wednesday.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- "The notion that Jeb Bush is going to be the Republican presidential nominee is a fantasy nourished by the people who used to run the Republican Party." A smart reality check on Bush, the "eat your broccoli" Republican taking on his own party on Common Core and immigration, the two issues that fire up the conservative base more than anything else. (BuzzFeed)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Tea Party Patriots will announce Tuesday it has hired Scott Hogenson as its new communications director, the group told Read In. Hogenson comes from Dezenhall Resources after helping found He managed radio operations at Republican conventions in 1992, 1996 and 2004.

-- Don't check your 401(K) today. The markets took a whack yesterday, with all three major U.S. indices dropping by more than 1 percent. Stock futures are mostly down this morning, and European markets are taking their own beating. The Nikkei was down 1.4 percent, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 1 percent. (CNN)

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

-- Ryan Lizza's deep dive into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's world reveals a big ugly nasty split with Christie's mentor, the former governor Tom Kean Sr., after Christie tried to oust Tom Kean Jr. as state Senate minority leader. Kean Sr.: "I know how tough Chris is on people, and if you cross him he never forgets." Kean Sr. didn't expect his son to keep his job, but Kean Jr. won reelection to the legislative post. More Kean Sr.: Christie "makes enemies and keeps them. As long as you're riding high, they'll stay in the weeds, because they don't want to get in your way. But you get in trouble, they'll all come out of the weeds, and come at you."

-- Christie's mantra during his time as U.S. attorney, according to Essex County executive Joseph DiVincenzo (D): "If you’re getting an envelope with cash, it’s coming either from your mother, because it’s your birthday, or from one of my agents. Don’t take it unless it’s your mother."

-- Some other nuggets we found fascinating: Jon Corzine considered quitting his reelection bid just three months before Election Day 2009 (In Jersey, that's called pulling a Torch). Tom Kean Sr., on political boss George Norcross: "His influence is huge around the state, greater than any nonelected leader in my lifetime. And he's made a fortune in the process." Rahm Emanuel once worked as a researcher for Norcross. And a warning to future Christie opponents, from Norcross: "Christie, as I've come to know him now, is somebody who if he has a head shot he will take it." (The New Yorker)

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- "Biden on sleeping with a college professor." Well done, CNN.

-- Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D), running for secretary of state, told supporters they can drop off a completed absentee ballot at their local polling place. The candidate for the state's highest election administration office got that particular election rule wrong. (Columbus Dispatch)

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

-- At the same time Obama announces the executive actions, critics are pointing to data that show women on the White House staff earn 88 cents to every dollar earned by a male staff member. The survey, conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, showed the annual median salary for women in the White House was $65,000, compared with a $73,729 median salary for women. (New York Times)

-- Liberal radio host Ed Schultz snapped at a caller last week, firing off an obscenity that got past the seven-second delay. No one picked up on it until Laura Ingraham played the tape on her radio show yesterday. (Fargo Forum)

Attn HuffPo: Things liberals will be outraged by today.

-- GOP activist Aaron Miller, who this weekend won the endorsement of the Minnesota Republican Party for the right to face Rep. Tim Walz (D), got into the race because his daughter was learning too much evolution. According to Miller, his daughter's teacher admitted not believing in the theory of evolution but said the government forced him to teach the lesson. (Mankato Free Press)