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At the Races: We have 2020 vision

By Stephanie Akin, Bridget Bowman and Simone Pathé

Welcome back to At the Races! We are relaunching just as the campaign cycle gets interesting. Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Democratic lawmakers slowly take sides in 2020 primary
30 percent of congressional Democrats have endorsed, with most backing Joe Biden

From left, Massachusetts Reps. Lori Trahan, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Katherine M. Clark have all endorsed their home-state senior senator, Elizabeth Warren. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers have yet to take sides in the presidential primary, a sign that the race remains in flux. But the campaigns that have nabbed congressional endorsements so far could benefit from shows of support, particularly from high-profile freshmen.  

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to back Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley’s endorsement of her home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, grabbed national headlines. But support from lawmakers with lower profiles can still help presidential campaigns generate local media attention, demonstrate support from key constituencies and provide a team of surrogates who can be deployed across the country. 

GOP group launches TV and digital ads thanking Elise Stefanik
New York Republican’s profile has risen during the impeachment inquiry

American Action Network is launching a new ad campaign to boost Rep. Elise Stefanik in her upstate New York district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

An outside group aligned with House Republican leadership is launching new television and digital ads thanking New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose national profile has risen during the impeachment inquiry.

Stefanik is the only Republican woman on the House Intelligence Committee, which began public hearings last week in the probe of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The group, American Action Network, is spending $150,000 on the new ad campaign in Stefanik's upstate New York district, according to an announcement shared first with CQ Roll Call.

Uncertain times could bring new lobbying strategies
Workarounds include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions

Even as more lawmakers have shrugged off donations from PACs and as the Trump era has disrupted the nation’s politics, K Street has not suffered a noticeable hit to its bottom line. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives. 

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.

Campaigns look to capitalize on first impeachment hearings
Both parties used different strategies on the campaign trail

Campaigns sought to capitalize on national attention on Wednesday’s impeachment hearing that featured testimony by senior diplomats William Taylor, center, and George Kent, right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Loath to waste a national spotlight, campaigns on Wednesday sought to take advantage of the first public impeachment hearing in two decades, though groups pushing Republicans seemed more willing to urge angry voters to contribute as the hearing unfolded while Democrats were more low-key.

War rooms for the Democratic and Republican national committees each issued dueling fact checks as the House Intelligence panel began public hearings into whether President Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense by withholding military aid while pressing Ukraine to investigate a chief political opponent. But the similarities between the parties’ approaches stopped there.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 6
Taylor transcript released, Schiff announces first public hearings, No. 3 State Department official testifying on ambassador’s ouster

President Donald Trump cited the testimony of former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, shown here arriving for his Oct. 3 deposition, as proof that House Democrats are conducting a “witch hunt.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democratic impeachment investigators Wednesday unsealed testimony of one of their potential star witnesses, William Taylor, who alleged some of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers sought a quid pro quo from Ukraine to advance the president’s political interests.

Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told lawmakers at his deposition earlier this month that some top officials in the Trump administration, led from the outside by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pressured Ukraine to publicly announce anti-corruption investigations into the Bidens and other Democrats in exchange for the U.S. unfreezing $400 million in military aid.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 5
Sondland reverses himself on Ukraine quid pro quo; investigators want to hear from Mulvaney

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives at the Capitol for his deposition on Oct. 17. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, revised his initial testimony significantly, amending it to say he told a top Ukrainian official that the country would “likely” not receive military aid unless it announced investigations into President Donald Trump’s political rivals, according to a transcript released Tuesday by the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

In an amendment to his transcribed testimony, Sondland said his recollections were “refreshed” after reviewing opening statements from diplomats William Taylor and Tim Morrison.

Amid troubles, Trump has huge cash advantage for 2020
But Democrats have already raised $700 million from small-dollar donors giving $200 or less

President Donald Trump may have many barriers in the way of a smooth campaign, but fundraising will not be one. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For all the drama surrounding President Donald Trump — an unfolding House impeachment probe, former aides in prison and his personal consigliere reportedly under federal investigation — there’s one worry he doesn’t face: money for his 2020 campaign.

The White House incumbent, who took the unprecedented step of opening his reelection coffers the same day he took the oath of office in 2017, recently reported holding more than $83 million for his next race. Trump has raised a total of $165 million so far. Plus, he’s helped haul in millions more for the Republican National Committee, which will help all GOP candidates get the vote out, while outside organizations allied with the president have amassed their own big bundles of political money.

Huawei lobbying cash lands on Trump donor with Ukraine clients
Chinese tech giant increased lobbying expenditures 2,000 percent in the third quarter

K Street Northwest is seen as the center of the lobbying world in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Huawei Technologies USA Inc. upped its lobbying expenditures by more than 2,000 percent between this year’s second and third quarters, with most of the increase going to pay a Trump donor with recent Ukrainian clients.

The U.S. operation of the giant Chinese technology company disclosed nearly $1.8 million in federal lobbying expenses between July 1 and Sept. 30, recent lobbying disclosures show.

Republicans scramble to dispose of campaign cash from Giuliani associates
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas plead not guilty Wednesday to violating campaign finance laws

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has ties to two men indicted for campaign finance violations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican lawmakers unwittingly entangled in a campaign finance scandal have scrambled to get rid of contributions from two men at the center of the alleged wrongdoing, both of whom were back in court Wednesday.

Igor Fruman and and Lev Parnas pleaded not guilty to violating campaign finance laws when they appeared in federal court in New York for their arraignment. Fruman, Parnas and two other men were indicted earlier this month for “engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates.” The indictment alleged the two men did so to “buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”