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Posts tagged ‘Al Franken’

Rove: Republicans Have Good Chance to Win Senate Control.


Image: Rove: Republicans Have Good Chance to Win Senate Control

 

By Cathy Burke

Seven Democratic senators are hobbled by diminished fundraising and their support for an increasingly unpopular President Barack Obama — giving Republicans a clear shot at regaining the Senate, political consultant and policy adviser Karl Rove says.

In an op-ed piece published in the online Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night,
President George W. Bush’s former deputy chief of staff says other nail-biters are shaping up in both traditionally GOP and swing states.

If Republicans can claim 10 Democratic seats, “the chances of regaining Senate control and providing an important institutional check on Mr. Obama’s agenda during his last two years go up dramatically,” Rove writes.

Rove argues that the dollar figures show it’s possible, citing Federal Election Commission filings, news reports on campaign fundraising for the fourth quarter of 2013, and cash-on-hand Dec. 31.

Rove says that in the seven states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 where Democratic senators are on the ballot, filings show the leading GOP contenders have raised $6.5 million, compared with the Democrats — including four incumbents — who have drummed up $6.7 million during the last quarter.

Five Republicans in the targeted states outraised their Democratic rivals, including in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, where the Democratic senators are leaving, Rove writes.

Similarly, GOP contenders have collected more money in two of the four targeted states — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents are in tough re-election bids.

Obama’s dismal job-approval rating also spells trouble for Democrats, he writes. It was stuck at an overall 42 percent for the week ending last Sunday, and is averaging about 36 percent in the seven Senate states up for grabs.

“If that’s the case on Election Day, he will likely sink his party’s candidates, who probably cannot run more than 5 points ahead of Mr. Obama’s rating,” Rove predicts.

According to Rove, voting patterns of senators who were ardent supporters of Obama’s policies might work against them as well.

Four “red state” Democratic senators running for re-election gave the president nearly absolute support, including Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and Alaska’s Mark Begich at 97 percent, followed by North Carolina’s Kay Hagan at 96 percent and Arkansas’s Mike Pryor at 90 percent.

“They are now trying to distance themselves from the president,” Rove says.

“These problems . . . could cause problems for Democratic senators in purple states as well,” Rove writes, noting that in 2010 Republicans picked up six Senate seats, five of which were won by Obama in 2008: Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Rove says four purple states “appear promising.”

In Michigan, Republican Terri Lynn Land has out-raised Democratic opponent Rep. Gary Peters in the last two quarters. In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has backed Obama policies 99 percent of the time in 2013, has raised $3.4 million.

“What happens if former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown . . . runs?” Rove asks. “”He raised $28.2 million for his last campaign.”

In Minnesota, Democratic Sen. Al Franken rolled up a perfect record of backing Obama last year; in Virginia, Sen. Mark Warner was behind the president’s policies 97 percent of the time.

“Both could face Republican challengers — businessman Mike McFadden in Minnesota and former GOP National Chairman Ed Gillespie in Virginia — who can raise money and could take advantage of Mr. Obama’s unpopularity,” he said.

Other “purple possibilities” could include Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa, Rove writes.

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Seniors Group Leader Vows to Kill ‘Death Tax’.


Jim Martin, founder and chairman of the 60 Plus Senior Association, vows that his 7.1 million-member group’s efforts to repeal the estate tax will play a huge role in the 2014 elections.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax, the man who put the phrase “death tax” on the political map to describe the estate tax predicted a big Republican capture of the Senate because of what he called a “tsunami of senior power reaching gale force this November.”

Virtually every Republican competing for a Senate seat this year supports repealing the estate tax. In 2006, the repeal effort came within three votes of overcoming a Senate filibuster.

Martin also pointed out that there is a growing sentiment among Democrats in and out of Congress to repeal the tax.

“The repeal bill in 2006 passed the House by a vote of 272 to 162,” Martin said, adding that “42 Democrats were on the repeal side and [Georgia Democratic Rep.] Sanford Bishop became the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote to kill the death tax. I suspect his vote had a lot to do with the number of family farms in Georgia that were hit hard by the tax that forced family members to scramble and borrow to pay it.”

Currently, the “death tax” is a 40 percent levy applied to estates over $5.34 million and is indexed for inflation.

Martin cited Frank Blethen, publisher and chief executive officer of the venerable Seattle Times, as one prominent Democrat in the “kill-the-death-tax” camp. Hailed by the left-wing Daily Kos as “the new Citizen Kane,” fourth-generation newsman Blethen runs a newspaper that has been in his family since his great-grandfather Alden bought it in 1896.

“Frank is a liberal Democrat who backed Bill Bradley for president [in the 2000 Democratic primaries] over Al Gore because Gore wasn’t liberal enough,” Martin said with a chuckle.

“I’m a conservative Republican, so we don’t get into talking politics. But the only thing we have in common is something critical: Frank is a vigorous supporter of death tax repeal,” Martin said. “I think practical experience has something to do with it. He’s just seen too many family-owned newspapers like his go under because the families couldn’t pay the tax on the estate of a deceased owner.”

Other major repeal players hailed by Martin include Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform — “who never met a tax he doesn’t want to drown in his bathtub,” Martin mused — and Alabama tax attorney Harold Apolinsky, who Martin affectionately calls “the Godfather of repeal.”

“Harold and I have testified before Congress on the harmful effects of this anti-family, anti-small business tax,” Martin said.

The next repeal measure — which is sponsored by South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, both Republicans — will have more Democratic support than ever, Martin predicted. But he also noted that nearly all the Democrats running for Senate seats this year oppose repeal.

“That will give Republicans — nearly all of whom are on the repeal side — control of the Senate,” said Martin, who in August of 2009 became one of the first conservatives to forecast the wave in 2010 that gave the GOP its largest majority in the House since 1938.

Martin, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spelled out the “battlefields” where he and 60 Plus national spokesman and legendary singer Pat Boone plan to energize their members into action.

Three states where Democratic senators are retiring are what Martin called “lead-pipe cinches” for pickup by Republicans candidates. He also said Republican challengers are better than even money to defeat Democratic senators and repeal opponents in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

“Mark my words: [Louisiana Sen.] Mary Landrieu is finished,” Martin vowed. “She has won three terms by very tight margins. This year, we’re going all-out to show Louisiana’s senior citizens how she has consistently opposed death tax repeal — and that will make the difference for her opponent.”

The 60 Plus chief went even further than many Republican-leaning pundits and forecast a Republican pickup of the seat of retiring Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and defeats for Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Al Franken of Minnesota.

“The senior vote went heavily Republican in 2010 and went for Mitt Romney by 20 percentage points nationwide in 2012,” said Martin. “If other voters who favored Romney turned out for him in the numbers seniors did, we’d be discussing ‘President Romney’ and how he was eager to sign death tax repeal.”

Since he picked up what he calls “my megaphone” and started building 60 Plus nearly two decades ago, Martin has been credited with popularizing the phrase “death tax” to describe the estate tax. In his book “Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes,” Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft’s co-founder, cites Martin for reviving the phrase.

“Truth be told, President Reagan coined the term many years ago,” Martin told Newsmax. “But I take pride in having hammered it home. A tax ought to have a socially redeeming value. The estate tax has none. Instead it tears away at family businesses and stymies wealth creation and jobs. If Bill Gates Sr., George Soros, and Warren Buffet want to keep the death tax, fine. Make it voluntary and let them pay. But don’t preach to others about how they should be happy to pay. The estate tax needs to die.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By John Gizzi

Education Bill Rewrite Would Protect Gay Students.


Buried in the proposed rewrite of the nation’s massive education law are protections for gay and lesbian students that its supporters liken to the landmark 1972 protections for the rights of female athletes in high school and college.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday released a 1,150-page revision of the law governing the nation’s elementary and secondary schools, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but more commonly called No Child Left Behind.

In it, they include student nondiscrimination language that, if passed, would threaten schools’ funding if gay and lesbian students are bullied or harassed.

The supporters praised the language as similar to Title IX, the federal law chiefly known for mandating gender equity in high school and collegiate sports.

The legislation’s text on gays and lesbians begins on Page 694 of the massive school bill.

“This is a significant moment for our nation’s education system and one that addresses the vital needs of all students in K-12 schools,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “We are thrilled that the Senate is moving to address the long overdue issue of school bullying and harassment. This bill includes critical components to ensure safer learning environments.”

The bill bans discrimination against students who are gay — or who are perceived as gay — in any program that receives federal education dollars. Schools that do not provide sufficient protection to gays and lesbians could find their dollars cut.

“No child should dread going to school because they don’t feel safe,” said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin. My proposal extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who shouldn’t ever feel afraid of going to school.”

Two years ago, Franken offered a similar provision to the same education bill and likened it to Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women.

At the time, Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wanted the rewrite to have bipartisan support coming out of his committee. Franken withdrew the provision.

The full Senate did not vote on the 2011 bill.

This time, Harkin, D-Iowa, applauded the protections “because every child deserves a safe and healthy place to learn.”

“These provisions will help to ensure that all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, are treated fairly and afforded equal opportunities to succeed in the classroom,” Harkin said.

The provision was not highlighted in the news release announcing the bill, which would rewrite parts of the 2001 law to give states greater flexibility in improving schools.

Harkin’s committee planned to start work on the bill on June 11, but Democratic aides said the bill had not yet been scheduled for consideration by the full Senate. Aides suggested it could be autumn before it reached all senators.

The gay protections are a minor part of the sweeping bill that governs all schools that receive federal dollars for poor, minority and disabled students and those whose primary language is not English.

Twenty-nine percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school or online, according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. Its definition of bullying included name-calling, rumors, physical harm or exclusion from activities.

The statistics do not indicate a cause for such bullying.

The most well-known parts of the education law up for debate are its one-size-fits-all national requirements. Under Harkin’s rewrite, states would develop those standards for themselves but they would require Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approval.

The state-by-state approach to education standards is already largely in place in the 37 states that received waivers to the requirements in exchange for customized school improvement plans. Some of those states already operating under waivers would have to tinker with their improvement plans to comply with the proposal. Other states would be forced to develop their own reform efforts.

The overhaul faces an uphill path and its gay provisions weren’t expected to win it support from Republicans.

A politically polarized Congress has failed to renew the law since it expired in 2007. Harkin’s Republican counterpart, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has supported updating No Child Left Behind, but his approach has not always melded with Harkin’s.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led House, meanwhile, were reluctant to take steps that could be seen as telling local schools how to best teach their students and enrage tea party activists. Many GOP lawmakers also have been critical of Duncan’s tenure as secretary and are unlikely to rush to give him more authority.

A separate legislative wrangle over student loans is certain to get higher priority. Interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans are set to double on July 1 without congressional action. Competing versions of legislation to avoid that increase on students are making their way through the House and Senate.

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Schumer, Democrats Urged IRS to Target Tea Party Groups in 2012.


More than a year before the recent revelation by the Internal Revenue Service that it had targeted conservative and Tea Party organizations, a group of Democratic senators headed up by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer asked the agency to do that very thing, the Daily Caller reports.

Schumer, along with fellow Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall, Jeanne Shaheen and Al Franken, contacted the IRS last year requested the agency cap the amount of political spending by groups presenting themselves as “social welfare organizations.”

They said gray areas in the IRS rules had created a loophole allowing political groups to improperly claim 501(c)4 status and may even be permitting people who donate to these groups to wrongly claim tax deductions for their contributions.

The senators said they would present legislation to rectify these problems if the IRS did not act to fix them first.

In a press release from Shumer’s office dated March 12, 2012, the senators wrote:

“We urge the IRS to take these steps immediately to prevent abuse of the tax code by political groups focused on federal election activities.

But if the IRS is unable to issue administrative guidance in this area then we plan to introduce legislation to accomplish these important changes.”

A number of those senators participated in a press conference about their efforts on March 21, 2012, and Franken addressed what he called lack of oversight of 501(c)(4) status.

“I think that there hasn’t been enforcement by the FEC and the IRS, and so there are entities that are taking a 501(c)4 status, and under that they’re supposed to have more than half of their activity be non-political,” Franken said.

“That’s pretty hinky. I mean, they really aren’t doing that, and that I think there needs to be a look at that — that even under the laws that already exist, there are people who should be disclosing who aren’t.

And I think that is where we’re seeing the effect of — lack of effective enforcement and just oversight.”

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