A thumb on the scale

I recently wrote about the similarities and differences between the 1998 and 2014 campaign for the U.S. House. One of the main reasons the 1998 DCCC broke the six year itch (picking up seats in the sixth year of a president’s eight year term) for the only time in the twentieth century was the strong effort we made in recruiting good candidates. If the DCCC is to have a chance to repeat that success in 2014 it will need to have a strong recruiting year.

Part of strong recruiting is that sometimes you have to put your thumb on the scale and help the strongest possible candidate win your party’s primary.  Senate Republicans failed to do this in the last two cycles and thus wasted golden opportunities to take back control of the Senate by permitting weak candidates to win primaries in Delaware, Nevada and Colorado in 2010 and in Missouri and Indiana in 2012.

Let me cite five examples of how we put our thumb on the scale in 1998 when I chaired the DCCC.


New EPA sulfur regulations mean more pain at the pump

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out sweeping new regulations to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline. According to EPA, these rules would be the equivalent of taking 33 million automobiles off the road. While this looks good on paper, it could have devastating effects on hardworking American families.


It's time for Congress to act and get things done

Small businesses expect direct decisions and actions from Congress this year. We expect Congress to carry out the people’s business in an orderly fashion. On the surface this seems peripheral to business, and that specific bills or budgets should be the order of the day; however, those bills that come up to Congress that seem to be socially weighted dramatically effect small businesses. Should the government act on banning assault rifles? Maybe, but there is more than the gun industry that is affected by this decision. Many school districts are scrambling to find budgets for additional private security, and one issue facing them is imminent need, and with the assault rifle being viewed as a direct threat, you can bet local authorities are developing budgets and asking for federal assistance to hire companies.


The six year itch

There has been a lot of back and forth in recent weeks about whether House Democrats can beat the six year itch in 2014 and re-take the majority.

The six year itch means that the president’s party almost never gains House seats in the sixth year of a president’s eight year term. It happened only once in the 20th century – 1998 when Democrats gained five seats.

As the resident authority on this subject – I was chairman of the DCCC in 1998 when we accomplished this feat – I have a few thoughts which I have refrained from expressing until now.


The Republican Party is not dead

I’ve got bad news for the national press: The Republican Party is not dead. I know much has been said, written and pontificated upon about how terrible the Republican brand has become and how the party needs to change. I disagree – one can look no further than Republicans in the United States House of Representatives to see an alive, vibrant and thoughtful group of Republican leaders. 

True, the GOP suffered a large-scale defeat in the presidential race and, true, the GOP failed to win important seats in the U.S. Senate. But elections do not defeat ideals and policies – elections defeat candidates. What happened in November was a wakeup call to the party that candidates and principles matter. Some of our candidates lost, but the foundation of the GOP is as strong as ever. We stand for liberty, freedom, less government, a strong defense, growth and more prosperity.


Immigration reform: The view from California

As home to a quarter of the nation’s immigrants, California has the most to gain – or lose – in immigration reform. Undocumented immigrants aren’t “unseen” in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, or Eureka: they’re a vital component of every community in our state. They are our children’s classmates, our church leaders, and our family members.


Republicans should tackle party's blight in urban centers

Following Mitt Romney’s loss in November, our country’s pundit class wasted little time delivering a diagnosis: Republicans have a serious electoral problem with Hispanics and African-Americans.

As a representative to the Republican National Committee from the country’s only urban party committee, my exasperated response to this was, “Tell me something I don’t know.” In fact, I’ll do the pundits one better. Our problem isn’t limited to specific demographic groups—our problem extends to entire cities.


FCC can help keep elections honest and transparent

We’ve only had a break from those nasty political ads for just a few months.  But, get ready.
The negative attack ads are coming back in a big way. Shadowy outside groups are already trickling into the Bluegrass state in anticipation of the 2014 Senate race there.  And, soon there’ll be no end in sight.
It’s something I’m pretty familiar with: some of these same groups spent more than $20 million in Florida in an attempt to distort my record during the 2012 election. They ran ads that were deemed “pants on fire” false by independent fact checkers like PolitiFact and Yet third-party group spending on these ads hit record highs during the 2012 election cycle as a whole. 


Learning the lessons of the Irish peace process

In December 2012, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Dublin City University (DCU) to launch the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction (IICRR). This is an important new initiative that will ensure the lessons learned in the Irish peace process can be applied elsewhere in conflict and post-conflict societies. 

The achievement of peace in Ireland involved a process of unparalleled complexity involving community, economic, religious and international relations.  The new Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction (IICRR) at DCU will ensure that the definitive story of the Irish peace process is captured, analyzed with academic rigor and made available to actors in various peace processes globally. In the institute today, leading academic experts in international relations, security policy, conflict resolution, law, enterprise and other relevant areas are working on:


Attack ads do not promote social welfare

Last month, former Democratic congressional candidate Dr. David Gill, his campaign committee, and my organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), sued the IRS for misinterpreting the Tax Code and creating a loophole that allows some tax-exempt organizations to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on political activity while keeping their donors secret.
According to federal law, groups seeking tax exempt status under section 501(c)(4) must be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  The IRS, however, issued a regulation undermining this clear language by requiring such groups only to be “primarily engaged” in promoting social welfare. This has allowed some groups to conclude up to 49 percent of their overall activities may be political. The lawsuit simply asks the court to require the IRS to interpret and apply the law the way Congress wrote it.