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Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 11
Recalled Ukranian ambassador takes on accusations; Sondland will testify after all; Trump loses in court

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrives to testify behind closed doors at the Capitol on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled in May after butting heads with the White House, told members of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Friday that her removal was “based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

In her opening statement, obtained by the New York Times, Yovanovitch said she was told by her superior that she had done nothing wrong and that there had been “a concerted campaign against me” and that the State Department had been under pressure “from the President” to have her removed since the summer of 2018.

McCarthy will donate indictment-tainted money to charity
Minority leader was among recipients of contributions from indicted Giuliani associates last cycle

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was among the recipients of campaign donations from two indicted Giuliani allies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he will donate to charity campaign contributions received from two indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani. 

McCarthy, along with the National Republican Congressional Committee and other groups, were the beneficiaries of campaign cash from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen who are also subjects of the House impeachment inquiry. The pair have been working with Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, on his investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who served on the board of an energy company in Ukraine.

Former Rep. Pete Sessions met with indicted Giuliani associates, accepted donations
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested on campaign finance violations

Former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, met with and accepted campaign donations from two men indicted this week on campaign finance charges. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who just last week announced a new bid for the House, appears to play a role in the indictment Thursday of two Soviet-born businessmen who are also subjects of the House impeachment inquiry.

While the indictment does not mention Sessions by name or charge him of any crime, he told a Texas radio show on Sunday that he met with them and Federal Election Commission documents show he accepted campaign donations from them last cycle. 

Appeals court will hear Rep. Duncan Hunter’s argument, jeopardizing January trial date
California Republican is accused of spending more than $250,000 in campaign money on partying, vacations, personal expenses

The federal trial of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., could be pushed back even further after a federal appeals panel in California agreed to hear briefs on his case. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A federal appeals court agreed Wednesday to hear Rep. Duncan Hunter’s argument to dismiss the corruption case against him, potentially stalling the start of his trial slated for January 2020.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Appeals Court for the 9th Circuit will hear briefs in December from Hunter’s defense team and the federal prosecutors in San Diego and will decide whether prosecutors violated the California Republican’s rights under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate clause, multiple outlets in Southern California reported.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas spent $148,000 fighting dropped civil lawsuit
California Democrat still has over $20,000 left that will likely go to outstanding balances

California Rep. Tony Cárdenas has spent well over $100,000 on legal expenses for a lawsuit that was dismissed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Politicians can pay a heavy price when they’re accused of sexual misconduct — even when the case is dismissed. Just ask California Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas.

He racked up almost $150,000 in legal expenses defending himself against a lawsuit that alleged he sexually assaulted a minor. In July, the alleged victim agreed to have the case dismissed with prejudice, meaning that she can’t file it again. But that doesn’t wipe out those expenses, even when the case is dropped.

That ’70s Show: Biden edition
Political Theater, Episode 93

Former Vice President Joe Biden arrives for his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia on May 18. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Say this for the Democratic presidential field: Voters certainly have choices. From former vice presidents to tech entrepreneurs, from senators to mayors, from wizened veterans to young upstarts.

Out of this crowded roster, Joe Biden is arguably the most recognizable. The affable No. 2 to President Barack Obama and longtime former senator is among the most known political quantities.

Capitol Ink | Tax Cuts R Us

Could take FEC a while to regain a quorum, but don’t expect a ‘Wild West’
Watchdog agency will not have enough commissioners to hold meetings or issue guidance

The hearing room sits empty at the Federal Election Commission's headquarters in Washington. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even as the Federal Election Commission prepares to grind to a halt on the cusp of the 2020 elections, campaign finance experts say politicians and donors who flout the nation’s political money rules may still suffer consequences.

The hobbled agency, which is supposed to have three Democratic and three Republican commissioners, will be down to just three total commissioners starting next week with the departure of Republican Matthew Petersen on Aug. 31. That means the FEC can’t hold meetings or hearings, let alone take enforcement action against rule-breakers, because it lacks the minimum of four commissioners required for a quorum.

Sen. Ted Cruz gifted Houston Rockets tickets worth $12K
Texas Republican was criticized for cursing the team in last year’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz received over $12,000 worth of Houston Rockets tickets in 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

Sen. Ted Cruz stood courtside, gleefully grinning during pregame on the night the Houston Rockets were bounced from the 2018 NBA playoffs in a devastating Game 7 Western Conference finals home loss to the Golden State Warriors, a marquee matchup the Texas Republican was able to watch for free thanks to a powerful Republican donor.

Cruz attended the May 28, 2018, game with a ticket gifted to him by Robert Marling, the CEO of Woodforest National Bank and a financial supporter who contributed to his Senate and presidential campaigns.

Small dollars a big deal as GOP sees untapped potential in Trump supporters
Party effort to steer campaigns to new ‘WinRed’ system met with grumbles and suspicion

The Trump campaign has endorsed WinRed, the GOP’s new fundraising platform that the RNC is trying to get all campaigns to use. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Convinced there is untapped potential with conservative grassroots donors, Republicans have long bemoaned their lack of a fundraising tool for small-dollar donations as pervasive as the Democrats’ ActBlue. 

But since Republicans rolled out their own centralized platform earlier this year, there’s been grumbling within the party that the effort runs afoul of conservative free-market ideas.