Virginia election will be a referendum on Obamacare

Terry McAuliffe (left) and Ken Cuccinelli.
Terry McAuliffe (left) and Ken Cuccinelli.

In Virginia, candidates on both sides of a long, bitter race for governor spent the weekend turning the final hours into a referendum on President Barack Obama’s health care “reform.”

The decision to nationalize the race is a question that voters — at least those who care enough to turn out — will answer on Tuesday.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, armed with lots of campaign cash and polls which show him ahead, campaigned with President Barack Obama in Northern Virginia.

Republcian Ken Cuccinelli, out of money and running out of time, hit right-wing strongholds in Southwestern Virginia hoping to increase campaign fervor of those who don’t like Obamacare or the President behind it.

Most think Cuccinelli is acting like a desperate loser.  Others say he is going what he must to make the best of a bad situation.

Some may find it ironic that Obamacare, the federal government shutdown and the extreme fanaticism of the tea party are the issues of choice in the closing hours of a state race that should be focused on the economy, jobs and other more pressing issues.

Neither candidate, however, has spent much time on state issues.  Cuccinelli, of course , is normally busy defending his questionable acceptance of free lodging at a mufti-million dollar waterfront mansion at Smith Mountain Lake and other lavish goodies from scandal-scarred Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams so maybe he doesn’t really want to talk about what he does for — or against — Virginia.

McAuliffe has never held public office, lives in Virginia because he made his name in Washington as a master fundraiser for former President Bill Clinton and as chairman of the Democratic party.  He’s a fairly successful businessman with investments in a lot of companies but little of his operations or activities had much to do with Virginia.

These are the only two real choices in a tough governor’s face that has left most Virginians in both parties scratching their heads and asking “how the hell did this happen?”

How indeed.  The bottom line for Virginians in this year’s governor’s election is a choice between two transplants with nothing really tangible to offer the Old Dominion:  Ken Cuccinelli from Edison, New Jersey or Terry McAuliffe from Syracuse, New York.

A third candidate in the race is Libertarian Robert Sarvis.  He’s the only Virginia-born candidate, having entered this world in Fairfax in 1976.  He’s a lawyer and software developer who will probably pull about 10 percent of the vote and most of that will come from those who might have gone for Cuccinelli who can then blame his loss on something besides his own extremism.

Several hardcore Republicans in Floyd County, Roanoke and surrounding areas have said they will vote for Sarvis only because they can’t stand to cast a vote for Cuccinelli.  So they will vote for Sarvis knowing full well that such a vote helps McAuliffee and is, in the end, a vote for the Democrat.

If the polls are right, McAuliffe will win easily with a seven-to-fifteen percent margin over Cuccinelli, who is predicting he will come through and win with an upset.

McAuliffe planned to campaign Monday with Vice President Joe Biden a day after Obama weighed in, throwing national Democrats’ full backing into the race. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, would be campaigning with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and planned his final campaign rally with former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a hero of the libertarian wing of the GOP.

Seeking an upset, Cuccinelli pledged to continue his fight against the Democrats’ national health care law. As Virginia’s attorney general, he was the first to file a lawsuit trying to declare it unconstitutional. While the Supreme Court rejected his argument, he has not stopped his crusade against it.

McAuliffe has embraced the law and has pledged to use it to expand Medicaid in the state to provide health coverage for 400,000 Virginians. The federal government picks up the entire tab for expansion in the first few years, with the state picking up a portion of it in later years.

Cuccinelli says that is going to blow a huge hole in the state’s budget and binds future governors.

“No more Obamacare in Virginia,” Cuccinelli said Sunday. “That’s the message we can send.”

McAuliffe says the Medicaid expansion keeps Virginia tax dollars closer to home. He says the alternative is for Virginians to pick up the Medicaid coverage for other states.

In advertising, direct mail and phone calls, the health care law is the top issue both candidates are pushing.

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

(This article includes material from Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue and Philip Elliott and Jose Lederman of The Associated Press)

 

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Is Virginia the beginning of the end of the tea party?

Virginia Republican governor candidate Ken Cuccinelli. (AP/Steve Helber)
Virginia Republican governor candidate Ken Cuccinelli. (AP/Steve Helber)

If, as expected, tea party-favorite Ken Cuccinelli goes down in a governor’s race in Virginia where he was once expected to easily win over flawed Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the party of the elephant will intensify its inward look at what is gutting them from within and alienating voters in droves.

The finger-pointing has already begun as the GOP braces itself for a bitter defeat in a key swing state where Republicans have controlled the governor’s mansion and the general assembly with ease over the past four years.

“It’s not supposed to be this way right now,” longtime GOP strategist Gary Atkins tells Capitol Hill Blue.

In Virginia, longtime GOP donors and supporters have walked away from Cuccinelli, a hard-core conservative who marched to the regressive beat of the tea party.  Polls showed an increasing number of Republicans viewing Cuccineli as a prime example of the extremism that now defines the party.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $973,000 four years ago promoting the campaign of Republican candidate Bob McDonnell, did nothing for Cuccinelli this year.  At last count, 27 of the 43 donors who gave $50,000 or more to McDonnell gave nothing to Cuccinelli.

“He didn’t get the money,” says Virginia political strategist Bob Holsworth.

As Attorney General, Cuccinelli drew headlines with a string of high-profile, often incendiary, ultra-ideological stances that included telling state universities to ignore racial equality regulations, using the state’s outdated anti-Sodomy laws to go after gays and questionable enforcement of laws with racial overtones.

A string of scandals that engulfed both Cuccinelli and current Republican governor McDonnell, including involvement with scandal-scarred Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams and failure to report lavish gifts from him, didn’t help either.

Some big-time GOP donors donated to McAuliffe.  Others sat out the race.

Some saw the handwriting on the wall earlier when voters rejected a return to the Senate by Republican racist George Allen and elected former Democratic governor Tim Kaine to join fellow Democrat Mark Warner in the Senate.

Some Republicans hope a resounding defeat of Cuccinelli will drive the tea party out of the GOP.  Many feel the party needs more moderates like Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey.

Virginia, they say, will serve as a textbook example of what happens when the party kowtows to the right wing and the very real question of electability.  Cuccinelli angered many Republicans this year when he engineered a change in party rules to assure he got the nomination over more moderate and current Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and those rules also allowed hard-core conservatives to bring in E.W. Jackson, a rabid right-wing ideologue, as the new candidate for lieutenant governor.

Jackson trails Democratic candidate Ralph Northam by a large margin.

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Amazon founder buying Washington Post for $250 million

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

The shocking announcement Monday left reporters and editors of The Washington Post speechless.  It left Washington stunned.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, was plunking down $250 million in cash from his personal fortune to buy outright The Washington Post and some of its subsidiaries.

Bezos becomes the latest billionaire to venture into the newspaper business, following Boston Red Sox owner John Henry’s purchase last week of The Boston Globe and the burgeoning newspaper empire of Warren Buffet, who bought out the Media General newspaper chain and is buying up other newspapers on a regular basis.

“Buying newspapers seems to be the new fad among the rich,” financial consultant Arnold Block tells Capitol Hill Blue.

Bezos, the 19th richest man in the world, promised Post employees in a letter that the “values” of the venerable newspaper “have not changed.”

Wrote Bezos:

You’ll have heard the news, and many of you will greet it with a degree of apprehension. When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change.

So, let me start with something critical. The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in “the other Washington” where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.

While Donald Graham will remain, for the time being, the head of the Post, insiders at the newspaper tell Capitol Hill Blue that change is “inevitable” and coming.

Readership and ad revenue at paper has declined, an economic downturn that is hitting all print media but reporters and editors at the paper that has broken many news stories didn’t even know their place of employment was for sale.

So the news was shocking and many are nervous about the future.

Bezos acknowdged that in his letter to employees:

There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.

Capitol Hill Blue founder and publisher Doug Thompson knows something about takeovers by billionaires.  He works as a contract reporter/photographer  for a newspaper purchased last year by Buffet.  He also knows something about Internet publishing.  Capitol Hill Blue is the oldest news site on the web.  Thompson started it in October 1994.

“The world, it is a changing,” he said Monday.

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Democrats and Republicans alike worry about Obamacare

So, is there a right side to this mess?
So, is there a right side to this mess?

Seems all sides are nervous about Obamacare.

Republicans in the House of Representatives voted Friday for the 40th time to repeal parts or all of the health care “reform” law, this time saying the scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service can’t do anything when it comes to the act.

In Milwaukee, Democratic governors admit they are nervous about getting the new law implemented in their states while Republican governors around the country openly do anything they can to resist it.

“There’s some angst, and you can see that from the decision the administration made a couple of week ago,” Delaware Gov. Mack Markell admitted to the Associated Press. “There’s a lot of work to do.”

But while Democrats say there is a lot of work to do to be ready for January 1, when most people in this nation are required, by law, to have health insurance, Republicans say there is a lot of work to do to stop Obamacare outright and most have targeted the October 1 deadline for states to have exchanges in place for uninsured individuals to start buying subsidized coverage.

Under the law, any business with more than 50 employees would be required offer “affordable” health care to workers or face escalating and crippling penalties from the IRS.  That’s what Republicans, and some Democrats, in the House spotlighted in the Friday action to prohibit the IRS from taking any action in such cases.

However, like nearly all of the anti-Obamacare actions taken by the GOP-controlled House, the legislation stands no chance of passage in the Senate.

Businesses claim they need more time and the Obama White House gave in and extended the deadline another year to Jan. 1, 2015.

That prompted some Congressional Democrats to worry the program might not be ready on time and could end up getting scrapped completely — an outcome that plays well with Republicans.

Obama, trying to soothe nervous Democrats, tried to assure them this week by saying they would be “on the right side of history” if they stayed with him on the health care “reform.”

But as Congress heads home for the month-long August recess, many members of the House and Senate worry more about being on the right side of voters.

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Another right-wing legislative act in the House going nowhere after passage

Anti-abortion marchers walk near the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, in Washington. The rally comes 35 years after the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas woman with the pseudonym Jane Roe had a constitutional right to have an abortion. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Anti-abortion marchers walk near the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

In a monumental waste of time, effort and resources, the right-wing controlled House of Representatives is expected to pass tough anti-abortion legislation that stands no chance of approval in the Senate and a veto promise from the White House should such restrictive legislation.

“This is typical, hypocritical actions by the hard-core conservatives that control the Republican Party, which controls the House,” political activist Theresa Compton tells Capitol Hill Blue.  “The right claims it is for less government intrusion into our lives, unless that intrusion is something outrageous like a bill outlawing abortion.”

The bill, driven by the anti-abortion agenda of social conservatives, would ban abortions of virtually any fetus after 20 weeks and ignores a Supreme Court order in 1973 that rules a fetus is not a viable human being until at least 24 weeks.

Rabid right groups have managed to get similar bills passed in 11 state legislatures and most of them face court challenges on legality.

The Supreme Court decision in 1973 ruled a woman has a right to a late-term abortion but the strong conservative arm of the Republican Party continues to claim the the court is wrong, even though public opinion polls show a majority of Americans oppose tougher anti-abortion laws.

“In reality, the legislation is all show and no substance,” says former House Republican staffer Al Morrison.  “It can’t pass the Democratic controlled Senate so it’s dead.  It’s like the repeated attempts by the House to overturn Obamacare.  A lot of wasted time and effort that goes nowhere.”

The current bill if called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

 

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Obama takes his anti-gun campaign on the road

     President Barack Obama meets with representatives from Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs Association in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP)

President Barack Obama meets with representatives from Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs Association in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP)

President Barack Obama, who claims to be pro-gun with a highly-suspicious staged skeet shooting photo, is taking his anti-gun campaign on the road, pushing his new gun-control agenda with stops in Minnesota.

Obama’s gun-control agenda includes reinstatement and expansion of the assault weapons ban, reducing the capacity of ammo magazines and increased background checks on those who purchase weapons.

On Monday, we will visit the Minneapolis Police Department‘s Special Operations Center, the first time he has pushed his anti-gun agenda outside of Washington.

His extreme package of anti-gun proposals were unveiled in Washington last month after the mass killing of elementary school children and teachers in Newtown, Conn., promising to use “the full weight” of the Presidency to crack down on gun violence.

Ironically, Obama is not taking his anti-gun campaign to his hometown of Chicago, where the murder rate from gun violence has skyrocketed in recent months.

Instead, the President picked Minneapolis, a city that has taken steps to curb gun violence and one that is pushing increased background checks.

Ahead of his trip, the White House released a photo purporting to show Obama shooting skeet at Camp David last year.  The highly-suspicious photo shows the President mishandling a gun in an obviously-staged situation and has brought ridicule from both sides of the gun control argument.

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Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Romney picks up major newspaper endorsement but does it mean anything?

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney: Liked by the Des Moines Register

Mitt Romney picked up the endorsement of Iowa’s largest newspaper as the Des Moines Register — for the first time in 40 years — gave its nod to a Republican for President.

The last Republican to gain the Register’s seal of approval was Richard Nixon in his re-election bid in 1972.

Romney’s campaign immediately flooded the Internet with Tweets and posts about the endorsment.

But, in the real scheme of things, newspaper endorsements don’t sway voters.  Public opinion polls show most voters hold media is about as low a light as politicians.

“There was a time when newspaper endorsements meant something,” says Capitol Hill Blue publisher Doug Thompson, whose career as a newspaperman began in 1963 and who still reports as a contract writer and photographer for print publications, including Warren Buffet’s BH Media Group.  “But not in today’s digital, Internet-driven world.”

In 2000, most newspapers endorsed Al Gore.  George W. Bush won.  In 2004, John Kerry won the most endorsements.  Bush won again.  During the 2008 Democratic Presidential primary, the majority of newspapers went with Hillary Clinton.  Obama won.

Obama picked up the most newspaper endorsements in the 2008 general election but that was because most editorial boards thought McCain lost his mind when he picked Sarah Palin as a running mate.

In endorsing Romney, the Register called President Barack Obama a failure, noting:

Nothing indicates it would change with a second term in the White House. Barack Obama rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change. A different reality has marked his presidency. His record on the economy the past four years does not suggest he would lead in the direction the nation must go in the next four years.

Romney, the paper added, “has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority–and rightly so.”

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Romney’s clueless remarks about the poor is a major gaffe

Mitt Romney: Poor? What poor? (AFP/Stephen Maturen)

GOP Presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, fresh off victory in the Florida primary, planted his Gucci-clad shoe firmly into his mouth Wednesday with a gaffe that got worse the more he tried to spin.

Romney, trying to explain how his campaign is focused on the plight of the American middle class, said he is “not concerned about the very poor” because they’re OK with a  “safety net.”  He didn’t just say it once, but three times.

In American politics, one does not say he or she is not concerned about the poor and if you’re a Republican trying to corral all those pesky conservative votes you don’t claim a “safety net” of welfare and food stamp programs is the way to go.

“My first thought is that he must be terminally stupid,” GOP strategist Arnold Block told Capitol Hill Blue.  “Then it dawned on me that he really has no clue about what it means to be poor.”

While the gaffe may not stop Romney’s march to the nomination against the weakest field in political history, it won’t help him in what is becoming an increasingly long-shot effort to unseat President Barack Obama.

“That remark will be one of the centerpieces of the Democrats’ campaign against Romney and anybody on the GOP side of the ticket,” said Democratic strategist Carolyn Maxwell. “It’s a gift from heaven.”

The more Romney tried to explain the remark away the worse it got.

The mufti-millionaire said he isn’t concerned about the rich because “they’re doing OK ” and he doesn’t have to worry about the poor because the “safety net” takes care of them.

Apparently, that’s what he actually believes.

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How Ron Paul used racist newsletters to wipe out debts, get rich

Ron Paul: Newsletters? What newsletters? (AP)

Texas Congressman Ron Paul left the House of Representatives at the end of 1984 deeply in debt, owing $765,000 to various creditors, some of whom threatened to take him to court.

His ill-fated and unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1984 didn’t help his precarious financial situation.  He needed to make money and make it fast.

So with the help of his former chief of staff, Lew Rockwell, Paul hit upon a quick money-making scheme:  A series of racially-provocative newsletters published under his name.

Paul wrote the economic themes of the newsletters, capitalizing on fear of government, hatred of the Internal Revenue Service and investment in commodities.  Rockwell wrote the more provocative parts with racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic overtones.

In 10 years, the $100 a year subscription newsletters not only wiped out the Texas doctor’s staggering debts, but left him with a net worth of $3.3 million. That net worth would continue to grow.

How did he do it?  By targeting the newsletters to racists, anti-Semitics and others who were willing to pay to read such material.  He once bragged to Ed Crane, president of the CATO institute that he sold the most subscriptions by using the mailing list of The Spotlight, a now-defunct white supremacist newspaper that openly advocated racism and claimed the Holocaust never happened.

And while Paul now claims he never saw the racially-charged material, more former insiders from the newsletter publishing company have come forward to say he was closely-involved not only in the decision to go the provocative route but read and personally approved the content.

Ranae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company, and still a supporter, told The Washington Post:

It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product…He would proof it.

One of those involved in Paul’s business, who insists on anonymity, tells Capitol Hill Blue:

You have to realize there are two Ron Paul.  One is the gentle, kind doctor who says he stands for freedom, the Constitution and individual rights and then there’s the other: The opportunist who knows how to play on base fears and ignorance to make money.

One of those involved in Paul’s business also told The Post:

It was playing on a growing racial tension, economic tension, fear of government.  I’m not saying Ron believed this stuff. It was good copy. Ron Paul is a shrewd businessman.

The “shrewd businessman” who once faced a six-figure debt now reports a net worth of more than $5 million and that figure does not include his wealthy foundation — initially bankrolled by leftover funds from two previous failed Presidential campaigns — run by him and his family.

Paul formed Ron Paul & Associates while deeply in debt in 1984.  He dissolved the company in 2001, five years after returning to Congress, after it — and the provocative, money-making newsletters it published — served a singular purpose:  Make him a wealthy man.

Ron Paul & Associates was mostly a family operation.  He served as president, his wife as secretary, his daughter as treasurer and Rockwell as vice president. His family members serve in similar positions today in his foundation and while Rockwell has no official title in Paul’s operations, aides say the two are still “very close.”

Eric Dondero Rittberg, a former Paul aide that the Congressman’s Presidential campaign try to discredit as a “disgruntled former employee who was fired,” says he often saw Paul proofing, editing and signing off on the newsletters, all of which bore his name with articles often written in first person.

“The real big money came from of that racially-tinged stuff,” says Dondero Rittberg, who also claims he resigned from Paul’s staff because he disagreed with the Congressman’s postiion on the Iraq war.

Hathway told The Post that Paul was a “hands-on boss” at Ron Paul & Associates and was closely involved in all aspects of the operation.  The newsletters, which she said had “tons of subscriber,” also featured large ads from Ron Paul Precious Metals & Rare Coins, another Paul enterprise which sold gold and silver coins.

Paul, she said, was always looking for ways to make money.

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