Stephanie Akin

Retiring Kansas Lawmaker Opens Lobbying Shop While Still in Office
Watchdogs say Lynn Jenkins’ new business flouts ethics laws

Retiring Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins launched a new lobbying firm in her home state weeks before she officially steps out of public office, according to a local media report published Friday.

Lawmakers are restricted from working as lobbyists until they have been out of office for a year. But the federal law that restricts their activities is porous, and former lawmakers routinely find ways to trade their influence before the prohibition expires.

How Climate Cause Could Boost Future Democrats
Pollsters find local environmental issues proved winning midterm strategy in Montana, New Jersey and California

Democratic candidates who focused on local environmental issues were able to sway swing voters and pull ahead in several key midterm races, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a group of left-leaning pollsters and strategists.

“The top takeaway from 2018 is quite simple: that the environmental message works and is politically salient,” said Joe Bonfiglio during a briefing of research from Global Strategy Group, a consulting group that works with Democratic campaigns. Bonfiglio is the president of EDF Action, the advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund.

These House Newbies Are Already Fundraising for 2020
Just weeks after midterms, some candidates have started raising money for the next round

New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew just got elected to Congress. He won’t be sworn in until Jan. 3. But his campaign is already working to keep him there.

Just weeks after he flipped a South Jersey seat that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, Van Drew joined a handful of other newly elected lawmakers in making appeals for donations for their next campaigns.

Party Leadership Duped Voters With Millions for ‘Dubious’ Midterm Ads, Report Finds
Congress, FEC could close loopholes so voters know who is paying for campaigns, group says

Newly elected members of Congress benefited from millions of dollars indirectly tied to party leaders in Washington. But much of that money was spent on ads that appeared to be from local groups, according to a study released Thursday.

The tactic is legal, thanks to campaign finance laws that have not been updated since the dawn of the digital age and Supreme Court rulings that have struck down limits on money in politics. But such strategies, laid out in the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center’s “Dodging Disclosure” report, represent the acceleration of “big money trends” that have given deep-pocketed groups outsize influence over elections and made the 2018 midterms the most expensive in American history, the report said.

How FEC Babysitting Decision Could Pave Way for More Hill Diversity
Candidates, advocates say barrier has been broken for young mothers and middle-class candidates

Amy McGrath broke records with the millions of dollars she raised in her congressional bid in Kentucky. But for most of her campaign, the first-time Democratic candidate struggled to pay for one critical expense: the $15-per-hour babysitter that federal officials said she had to pay from her own pocket.

So she did what dozens of other candidates with young children do. She brought plastic cars and old puzzles to her campaign headquarters for after-school entertainment. She brought her kids to her stump speeches. And every time she was expected to attend an evening campaign event with her husband, she paid from a family budget already stretched to its limits, or she stayed at home. 

Black Voters Propelled Blue Wave, Study Finds
African-Americans increasingly associate GOP with Trump, racist rhetoric

Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms were driven largely by African American voters — particularly black women — who increasingly associate the GOP with President Trump’s perceived hostility toward people of color and immigrants, according to an analysis released Monday.

The report by the NAACP, the racial justice nonprofit Advancement Project, and the political action group African American Research Collaborative found that across competitive elections 90 percent of black voters supported Democratic House candidates, compared to 53 percent of voters overall. It also found 91 percent of black women, 86 percent of black men and 50 percent of white voters believe Trump and the GOP are using toxic rhetoric to divide the nation.

Time Running Out on Hill Sexual Harassment Reforms, Former Staffers Warn
One year after #metoo movement spurred Congress to action, House and Senate bills could expire

Congress will forfeit a passed bill from each chamber aimed at curbing sexual harassment unless lawmakers can come together before year’s end.

“Time is running out,” said Kristin Nicholson, co-founder of Congress Too, a group of former Hill staffers that has sought to reform the way Congress approaches staff training and response to sexual harassment allegations. “We really want all that progress not to go to waste, and for that to happen, we need something to be passed this year.”

Women Won at the Ballot in Record Numbers. Here’s What’s Next
4 things we’ll watch as the ‘Year of the Woman’ matures

Historic wins for women in the midterm elections drove home the interpretation that 2018 was, indeed, the “Year of the Woman.” But it remains unknown whether women’s political capital will continue to rise.

The 101 women and counting who won House races face numerous obstacles to standing out in a divided Congress where seniority often plays more of a role in determining political power than success at the ballot box or legislative ingenuity.

Veterans Still Outpace Civilians in Congress, But Declines Continue
Midterms saw House increase in Democratic Vets, women with military experience

The number of military veterans in both chambers of Congress will at best remain unchanged despite a midterm cycle featuring dozens of candidates with military experience on both sides of the aisle.

Seventy-four veterans won House seats Tuesday night. Eight others were locked in races still too close to call Wednesday afternoon. In the Senate, a projected win for retired Air Force office Martha McSally in an Arizona race would bring the number of veterans in the next Congress to 17 — the same number that finished the 115th Congress. Even if veterans win all the outstanding races in the House, the percentage of House lawmakers with military experience will remain unchanged: 19 percent. 

Romney Shades Away From Trump as High Profile Senate Role Awaits
Not since Hillary Clinton’s 2000 election has a Senate candidate come with such clout

Mitt Romney easily defeated Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson to clinch an open Utah Senate seat, positioning him to become the highest-profile freshman senator since Hillary Clinton’s successful New York bid in 2000 when her husband was still president.

With his more than 60 percent win, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee is poised to fill a power vacuum in the Senate GOP. The party has lost many of its most senior members and moderate voices through retirement, not to mention the death of John McCain. Purists from both parties have looked to Romney as one of the lone — if only — politicians with the clout and gravitas to become both a counterweight to President Donald Trump and a defender of the institution.

Why 2018 Is the New ‘Year of the Woman’
Number of incoming female freshmen lawmakers will exceed 1992 total

Democratic women picked up more than two dozen House seats Tuesday, helping to power both the party’s takeover of the chamber and an election widely considered a watermark in the political representation of women.

They shattered the previous record of 24 women elected during the 1992 “Year of the Woman,” following the previous year’s confirmation fight over Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who faced sexual harassment allegations from Anita Hill.

Aftab Pureval Campaign Cleared From Finance Fog, But Will it Matter?
Ohio Election Commission decision dismisses majority of charges against Democratic House candidate

Just days remain for Ohio Democrat Aftab Pureval to recover his momentum after a last-minute decision cleared him from allegations of campaign spending irregularities that overshadowed his bid for a Republican-held House seat.

The Ohio Election Law Commission dismissed Thursday the majority of a complaint that Pureval, a county official, had improperly used his county campaign account to make a $16,400 payment on a poll he used for his congressional bid against Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st District, according to local media reports. After a six-hour hearing, the commission could not determine whether a violation had occurred.  

Paid Family Leave Could Make It To Next Congress After Midterm Boost
Elections have seen unprecedented push for paid leave

Vangie Williams, a mother of six, was facing foreclosure and a pile of medical bills for her 2-year-old daughter’s rare lung condition when she wrote to her congressman. She wanted help. But she got a form letter, she recalled.

The experience was one of many that convinced the Virginia Democrat several years later to challenge 1st District Republican Rep. Rob Wittman on a platform that includes paid leave so families caring for sick relatives can avoid some of the impossible financial decisions that she faced.  She and her husband ended up tapping out their retirement accounts and losing their home, she said. 

Democrats Go Back on Air in Ohio’s 1st District
New ad spending comes as GOP questions momentum behind Aftab Pureval

Democrats are going back on the air in support of Ohio’s Aftab Pureval, after Republicans seized on a brief lapse in spending early this week to speculate about the viability of his House campaign. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee renewed its ad reservation in Ohio’s 1st District on Monday night, which would leave a lag of about one day between the time the previous reservation expired and when the new one goes into effect Wednesday morning, spokeswoman Amanda Sherman said. 

Are Democrats Giving Up on Ohio’s 1st District?
Pureval’s campaign has struggled after reports of spending irregularity

Democrat Aftab Pureval captured national attention this summer as a rising star with a shot at unseating longtime Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st District. But questions about irregularities in his campaign spending set off a flurry of GOP attacks that may have dented expectations.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s last ad in the Cincinnati-area district expired Monday and other major groups are not active there, said Bob Kish, a consultant for Republican candidates who has access to reports of spending totals that are not publicly available. 

Majority of Republicans Want Legal Marijuana, Poll Shows
Gallup poll finds nearly two-thirds of Americans support legalization of pot, a record high

Almost two-thirds of Americans think marijuana should be legal, according to a Gallup poll released Monday

That represents the highest number in the nearly 50 years since the polling organization began asking about the issue, according to a press release. 

At the Races: 19 Days Left
Our weekly newsletter on the latest in congressional campaigns

Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin

Ohio Race Was Worth Millions to Outside Groups in August. Now? Not So Much
Some see opportunities for Democrats in Balderson/O’Connor rematch

The national attention showered on this summer’s special election in Ohio’s 12th District may have moved elsewhere. And the font of spending from outside groups has all but dried up. But the losing Democratic nominee Danny O’Connor has not stopped running. 

That’s what Paul Beck, a longtime campaign observer, noticed when an O’Connor canvasser came knocking on the door of his Franklin County home: It was the candidate’s dad. 

Democratic PAC Pulls Spending From Top Nebraska Pickup Opportunity
Money now going to support Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne

A super PAC tied to House Democratic leadership has pulled its television advertising funding from a competitive Nebraska district, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The money the House Majority PAC had committed to Democrat Kara Eastman’s bid to unseat freshman GOP Rep. Don Bacon in the Omaha-area 2nd District will now go to support Cindy Axne in Iowa’s 3rd, the spokesman said. Election forecasters see that race as a slightly better pickup opportunity for Democrats. 

GOP Ad Defends Rep. David Joyce on Health Care Protections
Ad doubles down on strategy to run Republican as health care centrist

A group supporting Rep. David Joyce is releasing an ad Tuesday touting the Ohio Republican’s commitment to “protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

The $125,000 ad buy from Defending Main Street, the political arm of the Republican Main Street Partnership, doubles down on Joyce’s campaign strategy of painting the candidate as an independent voice who has bucked his party on health care and who has “stood up to President Trump.”