Heard on the Hill

Word on the Hill: What’s Buzzing on Capitol Hill?

By Alex Gangitano

Power, Confirmation & Lies

By Jason Dick

Rohrabacher Ridicules Kavanaugh Accusation

By Griffin Connolly

A group of female Democratic lawmakers launched an effort Thursday to recruit pro-choice women to run for office, a campaign they tied to efforts to peg 2018 as the second “Year of the Woman.”

Elect Democratic Women will be chaired by Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and raise money for female candidates within the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees “Red to Blue” program, which seeks to identify and funnel support to candidates with a strong shot of unseating Republican incumbents.

“Diversity is a cornerstone of our democracy and right now, only 20 percent of Congress is female,” Frankel said. “We need our elected officials to better reflect our country and we can do that by electing more women who will bring different perspectives and experiences, thus making better decisions for American families.”

Other congresswomen behind the project include Reps. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Julia Brownley and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire.

The announcement is the latest sign both parties are seeking to capitalize on a surge in interest from female candidates sparked by the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, the #metoo movement and most recently, the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Those factors have resulted in speculation that the 2018 midterms could see more new female congress members than any year since 1992, when record numbers of women were inspired to run by the way Anita Hill was treated when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

Republicans have a group called VIEW PAC dedicated to electing women in the GOP. And New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the first chairwoman of recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee, focused this year “pounding the pavement” to look for viable female candidates.

Such efforts have already paid off. Record numbers of women have run for and won, their parties nominations in 2018, with Democratic women faring particularly well in the primary cycle, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. But women are still underrepresented as a proportion of all congressional candidates and nominees. While 51 percent of Americans are female, only one in five Members of Congress are women, a statistic the newly formed Elect Democratic Women pointed out in its press release.

Women who have won offices from both sides of the spectrum have shown interest in supporting future generations of female political leaders, said Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University — Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

“They make the point that not only do they want to be in Congress themselves,” Dittmar said, “but they want to increase the numbers of females in this body in which they are underrepresented.”

Individual women in Congress have previously offered support to candidates through their own leadership PACs, political action committees that can be founded by current and former members to support their colleagues and gain clout within their own party, Dittmar said.

Democratic women have also long had the added support of the fundraising juggernaut EMILY’s list, a political action committee dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. There is no Republican equivalent.

Dittmar said the new organization would offer Democratic women in Congress the ability to pool their resources and wield more control over which candidates they support.

Candidates who would receive initial support were singled out in the press release. They include Mikie Sherrill, a Navy pilot running in New Jersey’s 11th District; Lauren Underwood, a nurse running in Illinois’ 14th District and Katie Hill, a non-profit executive running in California’s 25th District.

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Florida congressional candidate Michael Waltz originally did not divulge on his financial disclosure form to run for office that he owned a 50 percent stake in a consulting firm that led U.S. aerospace and defense manufacturers on a trip to Libya in 2013 to meet with government officials there.

Waltz, the Republican candidate for Florida’s open 6th District seat and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, has since filed an amendment to his financial disclosure form listing himself as a partner in the defense consulting firm, Askari Associates, LLC.

The amendment was added to his file at the House Clerk’s office this past Sunday, Sept. 16.

Askari co-founder and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long confirmed in a Sept. 11 interview with Roll Call that Waltz, who is listed on multiple defense think tank websites as a co-founder and partner at Askari, still has an ownership stake in the company.

Long said Askari produces minimal revenue — and one year did not produce any at all — because their sole client has “a different fiscal calendar” and “they tend to catch up sporadically.”

“It’s maddeningly delayed some years,” Long said.

The House Ethics Committee’s disclosure rules state that any “partner” in a limited liability company who is running for a House seat must report that position on his financial disclosure forms “regardless of whether or not compensation was received.”

It’s not unusual for candidates to file amendments to their financial disclosures since many of them have extensive financial portfolios and sources of income, Adav Noti, the senior director at the Campaign Legal Center who worked at the Federal Elections Commission’s Office of General Counsel from 2007 to 2017, said.

Waltz is unlikely to face much scrutiny from ethics officials over his disclosure, especially now that he has amended it.

“Amendments to the personal financial disclosures are pretty common and they very rarely lead to any sort of penalty,” Noti said.

Waltz submitted his original disclosure July 28, but soon realized he had left off Askari and Campaign Partners, Inc., a fundraising software for charities, his campaign said.

“When I realized I had inadvertently left off two companies, I attempted to amend my financial disclosure the same day,” Waltz said in a statement.

“I apparently missed a field which caused an error and prevented the form from fully submitting and leaving the form in limbo. I appreciate the House Clerk’s Office assistance in helping me correct the issue,” he said.

Waltz left a message with the House Clerk’s office to ask about the status on his amendment form on Sept. 12, a day after Roll Call had spoken with Long, his former business partner, about the discrepancy on the financial disclosure form.

A representative at the Clerk’s office left him a message, reviewed by Roll Call, saying he had not completed the amendment, which is why it wasn’t “showing up.”

On Sept. 16, Waltz submitted the amendment listing his stakes in Askari and Campaign Partners and received an automated email notification that the file had been received, which was provided to Roll Call.

“That is not an implausible scenario,” Noti said of Waltz’ struggle to submit his amendment.

Candidates submit their forms to the Federal Elections Commission, which does not have any oversight over the process but merely acts as a collection service. They file their disclosures on the same online portal as high-ranking federal officials in the executive branch.

“It really is possible that somebody could fill it out and not click the final step because it’s not a well-designed system,” Noti said.

In September 2013, Askari led a contingent of roughly eight to 11 aerospace and defense manufacturers — including Lockheed Martin, Iomax, and others — to Tripoli where they met with the newly installed minister of defense and other military leaders, according to Long, who represented Askari on the trip, and a press release from October of that year on Askari’s website.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce set up all the meetings with the Libyan officials, where they focused mostly on “understanding Libya’s border situation more clearly, specifically with Egypt,” Long said.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed a year earlier in the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, had asked Long at a breakfast shortly before he died to help bring U.S. and Canadian manufacturers to the country that was plunged in civil war, she said.

GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, who represented Florida’s 6th District resigned last week to focus on his bid for governor against Democrat Andrew Gillum.

He will be replaced by either Waltz or Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

Soderberg had nearly quadruple the amount of cash on hand as Waltz at the end of the second filing quarter, the FEC’s online database shows.

But Waltz has a distinct advantage given the district’s recent voter history: President Donald Trump carried Florida’s 6th District by 17 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

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Trump Calls Spending Plan ‘Ridiculous’

By John T. Bennett
Heard on the Hill

Congress’ Hurricane Caucus Keeps On Growing

By Alex Gangitano

The gun violence prevention group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is launching its second TV ad against Rep. Barbara Comstock, specifically going after the Virginia Republican’s ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association. 

The spot, debuting Wednesday and obtained first by Roll Call, opens with footage of a parent playing with a small child.

“Congress should be doing everything it can to protect families from gun violence,” the narrator says. “But time and again, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has sided with the NRA over us.” 

The ad is part of Giffords PAC’s $1 million investment in the suburban D.C.-based 10th District, which is near the NRA’s national headquarters. It will air on cable across the district, with heavy play in Loudon and Fairfax counties.

In the group’s first general election ad, which aired in late August, Giffords spoke directly to the camera, calling out Comstock’s coziness with the NRA. 

Comstock’s race against Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton represents one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities. Both Hillary Clinton and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam carried the district by double digits. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Tilts Democratic.  

Watch: House Ratings Change in Favor of Democrats

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McCaskill to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh

By Roll Call Staff

Minnesota is ground zero for the 2018 midterms. With four competitive House races, two Senate elections and a gubernatorial contest, there’s been no shortage of campaigning across the Gopher State. 

Roll Call is in the state all week, capturing the candidates and talking to voters, so keep following along for more coverage.

Photographer Tom Williams began his Minnesota tour in the 1st District. It’s an open seat that Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Tim Walz is vacating to run for governor. Republicans are on offense here, hoping to flip a blue seat red.

Democrat Dan Feehan, an Iraq veteran and former Pentagon official, is trying to keep the seat in the Democratic column. His Republican opponent, perennial candidate Jim Hagedorn, came within a point of knocking off Walz in 2016, when President Donald Trump carried the district by 15 points. After winning the August primary, Hagedorn is back for his third try at the seat. 

Democrats are on offense in the 3rd District, where GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is running for a sixth term in a district that backed Hillary Clinton by 9 points in 2016. Democrat Dean Phillips, whose family was in the gelato and vodka business, is putting Paulsen in more danger than he was two years ago. 

GOP state Sen. Karin Housley is challenging DFL Sen. Tina Smith to fill out the remainder of former Sen. Al Franken’s term. Republicans have a better shot at defeating Smith than they do of unseating the state’s senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, but Housley has still trailed Smith in polling.

Here are more photos from the weekend events:

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Prepare to Be Disappointed on Election Night

By Nathan L. Gonzales