Stephanie Akin

Congress Turning a New Leaf on Marijuana
Burgeoning business in states with legal sales sparks momentum for reform

Just two years ago, pot lobbyist Michael Collins was a pariah on Capitol Hill.

Marijuana reform was too much of a risk. 

How Trump's Latest Hire Could Cause Problems
New national field director was fired by Chris Christie over Bridgegate

Donald Trump on Friday continued his string of controversial campaign hires, reportedly snatching up a New Jersey political operative who was a central figure in the Bridgegate scandal that later derailed Chris Christie's presidential campaign.

Bill Stepien will serve as the Trump campaign's national field director,  NBC News reported. He was hired by the campaign's new CEO, Steve Bannon, according to The Daily Beast.

Poll: Debbie Wasserman Shultz Has Double-Digit Lead in Florida
A bright spot for embattled former DNC chairwoman

At last, some good news for Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In spite of the most challenging summer of the Florida congresswoman's career, she still commands a 10-point lead over opponent Tim Canova in next week's Democratic primary, according to a poll released by the South Florida Sun Sentinel/Florida Atlantic University.

Civil Rights Group Asks for International Election Monitors in November
Group cites weakening of Voting Rights Act, Trump rhetoric

A coalition of civil rights groups, concerned about the "weakening of the Voting Rights Act" and Donald Trump's call to supporters to challenge voters at the polls, has requested international election monitors to increase efforts to observe the U.S. elections in November. 

In a letter released Tuesday, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights asked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to consider beefing up its efforts to monitor the U.S. elections in November, and to target states that have recently imposed restrictive voting rights laws.

Arizona House Candidate Drops Out, Vows to Ensure Front-Runner's Defeat
Statehouse Speaker David Gowan says he wants to consolidate against Sheriff Paul Babeu

Arizona's statehouse speaker suspended his congressional campaign Thursday, saying that his departure would consolidate the crowded GOP primary field. 

But David Gowan's announcement was not a call to unity: He said he wanted to ensure the defeat of front-runner Paul Babeu, a county sheriff and border security hawk who Gowan said had no chance of winning the general election, according to several media reports.

McConnell Says GOP Chances of Keeping Senate 'Very Dicey'
Senate majority leader reaffirms Trump endorsement

Mitch McConnell said Thursday that his party's chance of maintaining control of the Senate in 2016 are "very dicey" and he could not be sure of his status as the majority leader next year.

McConnell did not specifically mention Republican nominee Donald Trump's drag on down-ballot races at the meeting with a Louisville-area civic group in his home state, according to The Associated Press, but he chided Trump's campaign tactics and said he hopes Trump "settles down and follows the script."

Rubio's Lead in Florida Evaporates as GOP Struggles to Overcome Trump Slump
Poll: Pennsylvania race is also too close to call

House GOP Report: Intelligence Officials Pressured to Alter Reports on ISIS
Analysis skewed to make U.S. campaign against ISIS look more successful, report says

Defense Department officials were pressured to skew their reports on the military campaign against the Islamic State, making it appear more successful than "was warranted by facts on the ground," and "consistently more positive than analysis produced by other elements of the Intelligence Community," according to a report by a House Republican task force released on Thursday.

The report, issued by a joint task force on the U.S. Central Command, largely backed up the allegations of a "whistleblower" who claimed that analysts at the agency were pressured to "manipulate" their work after management changes in 2014, the report said. A Daily Beast story published in September cited 50 intelligence analysts who said their reports were altered to offer a rosier picture of the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Better Talk Fast: Wasserman Schultz Invites Challenger to 15-Minute Debate
Bernie-backed Canova has been asking for debate for months

After months of demurring, Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has reportedly agreed to debate her Bernie Sanders-backed primary rival.

For 15 minutes. At 8:30 am. On a Sunday.

Trump Bashes Clinton for Rally Guest, with Disgraced Ex-Congressman Behind Him
Former Florida Rep. Mark Foley's appeareance at Trump rally lampooned

Donald Trump on Wednesday lambasted Hillary Clinton for allowing the father of the Orlando nightclub shooter to sit behind her at a campaign event, while a disgraced former congressman sat behind him.

Sex Scandal-Roiled Louisiana Senate Candidate Sues Poll
Independent candidate sues polling organization for wrongly identifying him as Republican

A Louisiana Senate candidate — who is reportedly under federal investigation for allegedly extorting a woman for sex — sued a polling organization Tuesday, claiming that misrepresenting his party is responsible for his foundering campaign.

Troy Hebert, who is running as an independent in a hotly contested race, was wrongly identified as a Republican on a poll used to determine which candidates could participate in local forums, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Forum

Poll Suggests Campaign Has Damaged Trump's Brand
Clinton's lead continued beyond convention bounce

That golden escalator that Donald Trump rode to announce his Republican presidential campaign doesn't look so enticing to many voters anymore, a poll released Wednesday suggests.

A majority of voters — 61 percent of them — are now less impressed with the billionaire real estate mogul's business acumen than when the campaign started with his flashy announcement at the 5th Avenue Trump Tower in June of 2015, a Bloomberg Politics poll showed.

Clinton, in Miami, Will Urge Congress to Return for Zika Vote
Lawmakers pointing fingers over stalled funding

Hillary Clinton plans to call on Congress to return from recess and approve emergency funding to fight Zika during a visit Tuesday to a Miami neighborhood deemed ground zero for the U.S. spread of the virus, according to a campaign aide.

[Standoff Over Zika Spending Arrives at Convention]

Two Families of Americans Killed in Benghazi Sue Clinton
Wrongful death suit claims Clinton's use of private email server led to attack

The families of two Americans killed in the 2012 attacks on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi have filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, claiming that she was responsible because of her use of a private email server while she was head of the State Department, according to media reports. 

The lawsuit filed by Patricia Smith and Charles Woods, the parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, also claims that Clinton defamed the families in her public statements. 

Giuliani Makes Good on Long-held Grudge Against Crist
Giuliani claims former governor hurt his 2008 presidential campaign

Rudy Giuliani never forgets.

The onetime mafia prosecutor told a newspaper columnist Monday that he still blames former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for his dashed presidential ambitions in 2008 — because, Giuliani maintains, Crist didn't keep a promise to endorse him.

Jeb Bush's Son Breaks With Father, Urges Republicans to Back Trump
Others in the Bush clan have declined to endorse the Republican nominee

Jeb Bush's son is breaking from the rest of his family and urging Republicans to back Donald Trump, according to a local media report.

Remarks from George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner, at an event for state Republican activists Saturday, signify a break with other members of the Bush family, including his uncle, President George W. Bush, and grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, all of whom have declined to endorse the Republican nominee.

To the Moon, Donald!
Trump web ad features spaceships, astronauts

A new batch of Trump campaign advertisements featuring astronauts and spaceship launches has attracted attention from an advertising industry publication, which pointed out that Trump has never mentioned any substantial plans for the U.S. space program.  

The internet advertisements juxtapose portraits of Trump peering into the distance with the poorly blended NASA images and the slogan, "Aspire to greatness." They first appeared in July, shortly after the Trump campaign reportedly launched a massive increase in online ad spending.  

Trump Admits He was Wrong on 'Iran' Plane
Admits he saw video of hostage plane, not offloading of cash in Iran
...
Polls: Clinton Pulling Ahead in Battleground States
Democratic advantage seen in Senate races, too

Clinton was leading over Trump by an average of 8 points in polls compiled by Real Clear Politics in early July. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet was polling an average of 12 points  ahead of Republican Darryl Glenn. Bennet was once considered vulnerable and offered Republicans a rare chance to flip a Senate seat. The Republican challenge, though, has been hampered by allegations of voter signature fraud and resignations of top party officials.  

The numbers show similar spikes for Clinton and down-ballot Democrats in other states.  

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette Dies of Cancer at 62
Ohio Congressman, a centrist, led anti-tea party offensive after retirement

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, a moderate Republican who surprised the GOP by retiring in 2012 in protest of what he termed the "dumbing down " of the party, died on Wednesday of pancreatic cancer, according to media reports. He was 62.  

LaTourette, an Ohio defense attorney with a professorial beard and an irreverent wit, came to Congress in 1994 amid a wave that gave the Republican Party control of the both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. After his departure, he led an offensive against the tea party and other conservative groups, predicting that their refusal to compromise would destroy the GOP .