Iowa GOP will continue straw poll fundraiser

The Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee voted unanimously today to hold a "straw poll" fundraiser next August, as has occurred every year before the Iowa caucuses since 1979. The date and location will be announced later; the three most likely venues are the Iowa State University campus in Ames, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, and the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

I’ve enclosed the official Iowa GOP statement after the jump. Note that it identifies former Republican presidential nominees George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney as past winners of the straw poll, but does not mention Michele Bachmann, who won the 2011 straw poll and went on to finish fifth on caucus night. O. Kay Henderson posted the audio from the committee deliberations and vote. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann emphasized that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is strongly supportive of Iowa’s first in the nation status, and said the straw poll will not jeopardize that role.

Shortly after the 2012 presidential election, Governor Terry Branstad declared that “the straw poll has outlived its usefulness.” That’s easy for him to say when he is able to raise millions of dollars through other events. There’s no way the Iowa GOP would fail to hold some kind of statewide fundraiser featuring as many presidential candidates as possible. Continuing the straw poll element will increase the national media’s interest in the event.

Speaking to State Central Committee members after today’s vote, Kaufmann thanked Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Representative Steve King for their feedback on the straw poll. He added that Branstad had offered to help the party secure presidential candidates’ participation if the straw poll continues. Some analysts have speculated that certain candidates would skip the fundraiser, either because the event is seen to skew toward social conservative activists, or simply to save money. (Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the presidential race shortly after the Ames straw poll.) Kaufmann said today that if some candidates decide not to participate, “I can guarantee that RPI will maintain its strict neutrality policy whether or not that candidate attended the Straw Poll or not.”

During today’s meeting, several State Central Committee members praised the straw poll’s role in giving every presidential candidate, not just well-funded ones, an opportunity to address activists from all over Iowa. A few also favorably cited the straw poll’s function in “winnowing the field.” Sam Brownback ended his presidential campaign soon after the 2007 straw poll, and Tim Pawlenty did the same soon after finishing a distant third at the 2011 event. I suspect that this year, presidential candidates will not invest as much money in winning the straw poll, nor will they over-react to a less than stellar showing. Bachmann started fading almost immediately after winning the 2011 straw poll. By the time the Iowa caucuses rolled around, Republicans had cycled through three more front-runners (Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich), before Rick Santorum surged to finish in a near-tie with Romney and Ron Paul. According to some reports, Pawlenty regretted dropping out of that race so early.

Any comments about the next Republican presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Twitter was used in "cutting edge" scheme to evade campaign finance laws

The Federal Election Commission rarely enforces laws against coordination between political campaigns and groups making independent expenditures for and against candidates. Meanwhile, outside spending is exploding to the point that in some races, independent expenditures dwarf money spent by the candidates.

As a result, each election cycle brings more actions that raise suspicions of campaigns and outside groups coordinating their work. In Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, Joni Ernst’s campaign magically knew exactly when to launch a very small ad buy to maximal effect—on the same day an outside group released a months-old unflattering video of Bruce Braley. Later on, a super PAC came into existence solely to run a $1 million television commercial targeting Braley, and that super PAC just happened to be headquartered in the same office as a senior consultant for Ernst’s campaign.

CNN’s Chris Moody reported today on a newly uncovered, brazen scheme to share information between campaigns and political advocacy groups. Click through to read his whole piece about Twitter accounts that communicated polling data from competitive U.S. House races.

At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP. […]

The accounts that CNN reviewed were active in the months ahead of this month’s election, which gave Republicans their largest majority in the House since World War II and control of the Senate. They were live until Nov. 3 but deleted minutes after CNN contacted the NRCC with questions. […]

The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.

Deleting online content minutes after a journalist starts asking questions sends a strong signal that these operatives knew they were doing something shady. Moreover, Philip Bump noticed that the American Action Network was one of the biggest outside spenders in the Congressional race in Florida’s 26th district. That race was the apparent focus of at least one now-deleted tweet containing polling data, which showed a very close race in FL-26.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Republicans warning Iowa Facebook users: We'll know who "voted GOP"

Political parties and outside groups are increasingly using tactics known as "vote-shaming" as a way to get unreliable voters to participate in the midterm election. Evidence suggests that "voter report cards" and similar techniques based on peer pressure can increase turnout.

Judd Legum reported for Think Progress yesterday that the Republican National Committee is taking this approach to a new and deeply dishonest level.

Screenshots of Facebook ads, promoted by the official Facebook page of the Republican National Committee feature an ominous message: “NOTICE: All Voting Is Public.” The ad tell voters that “In a few months, Iowa will release the list of individual who voted in this election.” Most troublingly, the ad includes an [aerial] view of a neighborhood with checkmarks indicating that “These People Voted GOP.”

Click through to view a screenshot of these Facebook ads. Five houses on the same street in what looks like a wealthy suburban area have check marks near a badge reading “THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP.” The one house marked with an “X” is labeled, “DIDN’T VOTE DON’T LET THIS BE YOU.”

Anyone can purchase a voter file from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office that shows who has cast ballots in any recent election. But as Republicans know very well, that information does not reveal how any given individual voted. The Facebook ad is crafted carefully: text the RNC posted above its photo refers accurately to how “Iowa will release the list of individuals who voted in this election.” But the misleading graphics in the photo (“THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP”) are more eye-catching.

It’s not the biggest lie Iowa Republicans have been pushing this year for political gain, but how disgraceful to stoke fears that neighbors may know whether you voted for the “right” candidates. No wonder the Iowa GOP did not respond to Legum’s request for comment.

I’m interested to know how many states the RNC is targeting with these Facebook ads.

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Rest in peace, Jim Jeffords

Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont passed away today at the age of 80. When he was first elected to Congress in 1974, New England Republicans were well represented in Washington, DC, and were more progressive than many southern Democrats in the Capitol. By the time he retired in 2006, only a few Congressional Republicans hailed from states to the north and east of New York.

Jeffords will be most remembered for becoming an independent in May 2001, shifting control of the Senate to Democrats just a few months into George W. Bush’s presidency. Emily Langer notes in her Washington Post obituary that Jeffords had been out of step with his party on many occasions before then.

In 1981, while serving in the House, he was the only Republican to oppose President Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts. Later, as a member of the Senate, Mr. Jeffords opposed President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court and publicly agonized before supporting the president on the invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

During the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton, Mr. Jeffords broke with his party by backing the president’s health-care plan and voting against the articles of impeachment brought against him in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Even so, leaving the GOP caucus was a difficult choice for Jeffords. You can watch his May 24, 2001 speech here or read the transcript at the Burlington Free Press website. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among the GOP colleagues most hurt by Jeffords’ defection. Speaking to reporters on that day in 2001, Jeffords said his meeting with Republican senators had been

the most emotional time that I have ever had in my life, with my closest friends urging me not to do what I was going to do, because it affected their lives, and very substantially. I know, for instance, the chairman of the finance committee has dreamed all his life of being chairman. He is chairman about a couple of weeks, and now he will be no longer the chairman. All the way down the line, I could see the anguish and the disappointment as I talked.

So many elected officials have remained loyal to parties that no longer represent their views. It’s hard to redefine one’s political identity and jeopardize longtime relationships. Jeffords stands out because he took a painful step for principles he believed in.

Incidentally, Grassley focused on the policy implications of Jeffords’ switch, not his personal loss of power. As it happens, he didn’t have to wait long for another chance to chair the Senate Finance Committee, from January 2003 through December 2006.

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