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Gun laws may not be changing, but the gun debate certainly is
Fewer and fewer elected Democrats fret much anymore about taking on the NRA

Students march to the Capitol in April 2018, calling on Congress to act on gun violence prevention. Gun control groups have spent more than $1.2 million on federal lobbying so far this year, keeping them on pace to spend the most they ever have. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — That almost nothing has changed in federal gun policy since Newtown or Parkland or any mass shooting before or after belies the enormous transformation underway in the lobbying and political landscapes of the issue.

Gun safety groups now operate a lot more like their opponents: amassing a national network of grassroots activists that descend on Capitol Hill and show up in lawmakers’ districts; spending big on political campaigns; and retaining some of the biggest names on K Street, firms that also represent the likes of Amazon and Goldman Sachs.

Democratic debate moderators haven’t done American voters any favors
Three debates in, candidates and media seem averse to discussing economy, jobs and growth

Moderators at the next Democratic debate should go deeper on extreme policies such as Elizabeth Warren’s assault on capitalism and Bernie Sanders’ socialist health care proposal, Winston writes. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

OPINION — The first three Democratic presidential debates — five, if you count the double features in June and July — are, thankfully, in the political rearview mirror. It turns out that despite the hours and hours spent debating, and then the hours and hours talking about the debates, and then the inevitable polls trying to pick winners and losers, the political landscape hasn’t changed much. 

A Sept. 13-15 Morning Consult poll of Democratic primary voters done after the latest debate found Joe Biden still in the lead at 32 percent. Bernie Sanders was in second place at 20 percent with Elizabeth Warren closing in at 18 percent. Everybody else huddled at the bottom with 6 percent or less. The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.

Rodney Davis seeks to ban public financing in campaigns
Illinois Republican’s bill is unlikely to move in Democrat-controlled House

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis says public financing of campaigns will fill the swamp. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Rodney Davis said Tuesday he was introducing a bill to ban public financing of congressional campaigns, hitting at a signature piece of House Democrats’ political money overhaul.

“Public financing of campaigns will fill the swamp, and any member who voted for it was voting to fill their own pockets and the pockets of political operatives nationwide,” the Illinois Republican said on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, according to remarks sent out by his office.

Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock off the hook after concluding deal with feds over fund misuse
Illinois Republican left with clean record, leaving open a political comeback

Federal charges against former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., were officially dropped in a deal with prosecutors. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Aaron Schock was officially cleared Wednesday of criminal charges alleging he used his campaign funds as a personal piggy bank, six months after the Illinois Republican struck a deal with federal prosecutors.

The deferred prosecution agreement, first announced in March, required Schock to pay $42,000 to the IRS and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. His campaign committee, Schock for Congress, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses. Schock admitted to overbilling the House of Representatives for mileage as he drove around his district for both official and campaign purposes.

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.

David Koch leaves behind legacy of dark money political network
Allies and foes agree libertarian billionaire transformed the nation's politics

David Koch will be remembered for the political fundraising network he and his brother, Charles, built to promote conservative causes. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Republican mega-donor David Koch, who helped pioneer a network of often surreptitious organizations aimed at influencing elections and public policy, leaves behind a legacy of dark-money groups and a volatile political landscape.

Koch, one half of the Koch Brothers along with his older brother Charles, died at age 79, the billionaires’ company, Kansas-based Koch Industries, said Friday. David Koch had stepped away from business and politics in 2018 for health reasons and had previously battled cancer, though the company did not say the exact cause of death.

Democrats still at square one
In wake of debates, party is largely status quo in its presidential contest

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., got a bump from the Miami debate in June, but became a target in the July debate in Detroit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — With two debates down and too many more still to go, Democrats are pretty much where they were before the June debates in Miami and the July debates in Detroit.

That shouldn’t surprise you. The Iowa caucuses are still almost six months away, and voters are just starting to tune into the campaign. They know full well they don’t have to embrace one hopeful now.

Scalia, skilled at upending rules, may soon write them at Labor
Trump’s Labor secretary choice, Eugene Scalia, built his reputation by upending regulations on behalf of business

Eugene Scalia, left, pictured with then-Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., at his 2001 confirmation hearing to be solicitor of the Labor Department, has a record of defeating labor regulations in court. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

With three major regulations on the launching pad at the Labor Department, the Trump administration may have found the man with the right stuff to issue air-tight rules that can withstand legal challenges.

The president’s new choice for Labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, built a reputation as a skilled litigator by upending regulations on behalf of the business community, from worker injury cases under 1990 disabilities legislation to an Obama-era rule requiring financial advisers to put clients’ interests first.

3 things to watch: Trump returns to trail after racist ‘send her back!’ chant
President holds rally days after saying he expects to face ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden in general election

A supporter of President Donald Trump displays a campaign flag before his “Salute to America” celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial on July 4. Trump goes to the swing state of Ohio for a rally Thursday night. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail Thursday night in Cincinnati with his first political rally since his supporters in North Carolina chanted “send her back!” about a Somali-born House Democrat.

That chant was directed at Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar — who has been critical of U.S. policy, Israel and Trump — by a crowd in Greenville. It prompted a rare instance of the president criticizing, though lightly, his conservative base, saying the next day he disagreed with the chant. He also falsely claimed he quickly tried to shut down the chant, a contention that was undone by video showing him standing silent behind his podium for more than 10 seconds.

Sherrod Brown uses stock buyback bill announcement to give fellow Dems campaign advice

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wants Democratic presidential candidates to talk about the dignity of work in their campaign messaging. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio wants his Democratic colleagues running for president to plagiarize his favorite line.

“I want our presidential candidates to talk more about the dignity of work,” he said at a press conference Wednesday to announce a new bill to force public companies to pay workers a special “dividend” whenever they increase the amounts returned to shareholders.