Eric Cantor

The Beltway Way (Moneygoround Mix)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL15). (Detail of photo by David Banks/Bloomberg)

We get a glimpse into the Beltway moneygoround; Curtis Tate looks into Congressional PAC spending:

The leadership political action committee affiliated with Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois has splurged on Napa Valley wine tours, Miami Beach luxury hotels and Washington Nationals baseball tickets worth tens of thousands of dollars over the past four years, federal campaign disclosures show.

The nine-term Republican represents a coal-producing region of southern Illinois and frequently speaks in defense of fossil fuels as a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But earlier this year, his John S Fund PAC put down a deposit for a fundraising event at a California spa hotel that’s powered by solar panels.

PACs are lightly regulated entities that members of Congress typically use as fundraising tools for their party, but not for their own campaigns.

The McClatchy report notes Rep. Shimkus (R-IL15) is not uncommon: “Most senior lawmakers with PACs spend at least some of the money on perks their salaries don’t cover”, Tate explains. Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics calls the PACs “a nice little piggybank to have”, explaining, “There are so few restrictions on how you can use it.”

The thing is that the story really is just a glimpse; the whole thing sounds sordid but in this framework it is a matter of aesthetics versus law, and the question of how to make these things work just right is pretty much as complicated as any other question of freedom versus civilized society as a suicide pact. That is to say, good luck electing a Congress that will get rid of the things; the Supreme Court is pretty much a wildcard, though we can easily guess it would be something of a stretch to imagine the judiciary banning these practices outright. And, really, just how badly will society and its political institutions fail at not being undignified if we hold a big sit-down in the public discourse and parse out the details of what is or isn’t acceptable?

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Armchair Political Theatre

The House has hired a new lawyer to prosecute its lawsuit against President Obama after previous counsel bowed out, citing political pressure, the House Administration Committee confirmed on Friday (David M. Drucker, 19 September 2014)

The question does arise at some point whether anybody but the wonks and politigeeks are paying attention. And a notion does mutter and creep about insinuating all manner of analogy ‘twixt political talk radio and sports radio. But setting aside the elderly woman who once railed against local sports radio hosts because laughing at the idea of stock car racing—Go fast! Turn left!—was somehow akin to “what happened to the ‘Coloreds'”, there is a different sort of comparison. That is to say, one might have far more associates who listen to sports radio without ever calling in, but discuss various issues with enthusiasm and detail verging on the excruciating. They might not be calling in to compare NASCAR to the Civil Rights movement, but they will talk their favorite teams and leagues as if the soul of the world depends on whether or not this or that trade makes sense, or the subtleties of whether this power-hitting manager knows how to handle his pitchers.

Try it this way: Once you move beyond that majority portion of the audience who just, say, learned Roger Goodell’s name this month, or found that American pro sports leagues have ‘commissioners’, you might find some who are willing to give you an in-depth analysis of, for instance, how David Stern screwed Seattle twice, or what the NBA commissioner has to do with the politics of getting an NHL franchise in the Emerald City.

Imagine if people paid that kind of attention to public affairs. No slam dunks, merely metaphorical five-holes, and considerably less domestic violence; public affairs just aren’t sexy … well, unless there’s a sex scandal going on.

But to the armchair wonks, David M. Drucker’s lede for the Washington Examiner last Friday is hilarious:

The House has hired a new lawyer to prosecute its lawsuit against President Obama after previous counsel bowed out, citing political pressure, the House Administration Committee confirmed on Friday.

It is, to a degree, jaw-dropping news. Then again, the drooling astonishment is really more of a cumulative effect.

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An Obvious Question

Outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA7)

Surprise is one thing, but Emma Dumain’s report for Roll Call only begs the question:

Perhaps the most revealing assessment of the evening’s turn of events came from Speaker John A. Boehner. Earlier, he exited from a local Italian restaurant and declined to speak with reporters who were waiting for him.

Once safely out of the media’s reach, however, the Ohio Republican released a brief statement that touched, in just three sentences, on just how surprising Cantor’s defeat really was, and how at a loss all politicians and political operatives are to explain how the loss transpired:

“Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together. He’s a good friend and a great leader, and someone I’ve come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing. My thoughts are with him and Diana and their kids tonight.”

This keeps happening, as in 2012 when the Romney campaign apparently had no clue what was actually happening out in the voting districts.

Certes, there are times when an electoral flameout is a surprise insofar as a titan falls, but usually there are hints on the front side. To the other, there probably were, and maybe we all should have paid more attention when the House Majority Leader was booed in his own district. But how is it that the people responsible for planning the tactical outlook that preserves and hopefully, for House Republicans, grows the majority, can possibly be surprised this evening? That is to say, how could they not have seen this coming before it happened?

Surprise, yes, but one wonders at the degree of blindness required if absolutely nobody saw any hint that this was coming. Over the course of the next few days, cooler heads will prevail and everyone will start explaining how they knew it all along.

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Dumain, Emma. “Boehner Statement on Cantor’s Defeat”. 218. 10 June 2014.

Crawford, Jan. “Adviser: Romney ‘shellshocked’ by loss”. CBS News. 8 November 2012.

A Weak Analogy

Four guys set out from Los Angeles, road-tripping north on a week-long beer run to Bellingham. You know, get themselves some Boundary Bay IPA.

BARACK: Damn it, I told you, we should have stayed on I-5. Now we’re in Lodi, damn it!

JOHN: That’s your fault, you know.

BARACK: Yup. I listened to you. “Go right! Go right!”

ERIC: You always want to go left! How far are we from Boston?

BARACK: Boston? Why Boston?

ERIC: That’s where the beer is.

BARACK: Boston?

ERIC: Yeah. We agreed to go get some beer. Why can’t you ever compromise?

BARACK: Compromise? Hey, I’m driving two thousand miles, alright? I still don’t see why we couldn’t just pop down to Stone, or maybe stop off at Firestone-Walker.

JOHN: We always have to do it your way.

BARACK: My way? Bellingham was your idea!

JOHN: Just head west, or we’ll never make it to St. Louis.

BARACK: Saint L— . . . . Wait, what?

ERIC: We’re looking for good American beer. Made in the U. S. of A.

BARACK: Freakin’-A.

MITCH: Who’s the scary black man? And why’s he drivin’? Carjacking! Carjacking!

ERIC: Head west, or we’ll never make it to Kentucky.

BARACK: Turn left?

MITCH: [singsong] The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home . . .

ERIC: You always want to turn left.

JOHN: True.

ERIC: I said head west.

BARACK: We’re heading north. And—

ERIC: I know! We need to be heading west to get to Kentucky.

BARACK: You’re kidding, right?

MITCH: [singsong] ‘Tis summer, the Darkies are gay . . .

ERIC: Why can’t you be more cooperative? You know, try to compromise?

BARACK: [shrugs] Fine. Where we going?

JOHN: Well, you’re driving. Isn’t it your job to know?

BARACK: Two minutes ago, we were going to Bellingham.

JOHN: Well, show some leadership.

BARACK: Okay. We’re going to Bellingham, just like we agreed when we started.

ERIC: [muttering] Always trying to make people do things your way.

BARACK: Okay, how ’bout this? You don’t want to follow the original plan. You can’t figure out where we’re supposed to be going. So, pick one and let’s go.

MITCH: [singsong] Weep no more, my lady . . . .

JOHN: [rolls eyes, mutters aside] The fool can’t even make a decision on his own.

ERIC: Kentucky!

BARACK: [sighs] Alright. Kentucky it is.

ERIC: Yay! Gonna get me some Jack Daniels!

BARACK: Um . . . that’s in Tennessee.

JOHN: [tears springing to his eyes] Damn it, man! Why do you always have to be like that?

BARACK: Like what?

ERIC: Angry liberal elitist!

MITCH: [singsong] For the old Kentucky home far away . . . .

ERIC: [angrily] And look, you made him cry.

BARACK: [quietly, irritated] I need a cigarette.

JOHN: You and me both.

ERIC: Wait! Why are you turning?

BARACK: Explain it to him, John?

JOHN: [barking laughter] Like that’ll work.

MITCH: [singsong] They hunt no more for ‘possum and coon . . . .

At a press conference today, congressional Republicans furiously criticized the president’s leadership skills. “You’d think he couldn’t find north on a map,” said Speaker Boehner. “And he can’t make a decision for himself.” Senate Minority Leader McConnell agreed: “He thinks he can carjack the economy and drive it into the ocean. Well, we won’t let him.” House Majority leader Cantor added, “He can’t compromise with anyone, always trying to take his elitist attitude and shove it down your throat. Yeah, like Tennessee is in Kentucky.”

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