Campaigns for three establishment candidates— Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and John Kasich — have spent a combined $47.5 mn in TV ads in the 2016 presidential race so far, according to ad-spending data from NBC News partner SMG Delta. By contrast, campaigns for the three Republicans who have been leading or surging in the most recent polls — Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz — have spent just $2.9 mln.

The biggest spender in TV ads has been Jeb Bush, whose Right to Rise Super PAC spent $28.4 mln, while his campaign has chipped in an additional $460,000. Bush, however, has been stuck in single digits in national and early-state polls, Mark Murray noted at NBC News (12/1).

The second-biggest spender has been Marco Rubio — with his campaign and two outside groups backing him having shelled out $10.6 mln, with $8.5 mln coming from the Conservative Solutions 501c4 dark money PAC and $640,000 from Conservative Solutions Super PAC. Unlike Bush, though, Rubio is in double digits in most polling. Hillary Clinton, at $9.7 mln, with $9.5 mln from her official campaign and $200,000 from Priorities USA Super PAC, is third-largest advertiser in the 2016 race, and she leads the Democratic presidential race.

Kasich’s $8 mln in ads came from two outside groups. Team Christie spent $6.4 mln, with $6 mln from America Leads Super PAC and $400,000 from the official campaign, but both remain in single digits.

Bernie Sanders’ official campaign spent $4.9 mln on TV ads. He has no super PAC.

Team Carson spent $2 mln, with 1.9 mln form his campaign and $73,000 from the 2016 Committee outside group.

Team Paul spent $869,000, including $743,000 from America’s Liberty Super PAC. Team Cruz spent $665,000, with $462,000 from his campaign and the rest from super PACs. Team Trump spent $217,000, all from his campaign.

TRUMP SURGES AS CARSON TANKS, WHILE DEM RACE STATIC. Markos “Kos” Moulitsas had a theory that went like this:

“Donald Trump’s support is shallow (only 1/3rd of Republicans), but strong and steady, and he’s maxed out. Ben Carson will crater and Ted Cruz will pick up his support. Marco Rubio will consolidate the establishment support but trail in the low teens.”

So far, the founder of DailyKos writes (12/2), his Rubio theory appears to be bearing fruit, but Trump? He’s suddenly the biggest beneficiary of Carson’s collapse! To wit: In November, Trump was at 28.4%, Carson was at 21%, and Cruz was at 8.8%. In December, Trump is up to 35.1% (+6.7), Carson is at 13.9% (-7.1), and Cruz is up to 11.4% (+2.6). “It’s quite obvious who the big winner is,” Kos writes. 

“Carson is genuinely toasty toast toast. His campaign was predicated on honesty, and then it turned out he was a pathological liar. Goodbye! But don’t cry for him, the grift will keep him going for years, a la Sarah Palin. It’s lucrative being a dumb … conservative. 

“Cruz has gained, but barely. He’ll get more of Carson’s waning support, but enough to be a threat? I’m not so sure anymore. Same with Rubio as he picks up Jeb Bush’s crumbs, but enough to matter? 

“Holy sweet jesus, Trump is going to be their nominee! Can the early states save the GOP from itself?”

Trump’s New Hampshire lead is deceptively dominant. While his lead over the rest of the field is massive, his specific number—27.3%—represents barely a quarter of the GOP electorate. He’s got more support in Iowa and nationally, despite having smaller leads in those two geographies. 

So Rubio has nearly 12% in New Hampshire. Say he picks up Bush’s 7 and Kasich’s 7, and suddenly he’s at 24%, nipping at Trump’s heels. In other words, if the establishment wants a real shot at damaging Trump, consolidating around Rubio (or Christie, etc) in the Granite State might be their best shot at stalling the frontrunner’s support. Easier said than done, of course, but not out of the realm of possibility. 

On the Democratic side, Kos notes, Hillary Clinton is up! Bernie Sanders is up! Good news for both, and bad news for both. But the overall state of the race is pretty much the same.

“In November, it was 54.7 Clinton to 30.4 Sanders. Today (12/1) it’s 56.6 (+1.9) to 31.7 (+1.3). It’s quite astonishing seeing two candidates in a de facto two-person race both trend upwards, but that’s what we’re seeing. Of course, this is ultimately good news for Clinton because at 56.6%, she’s well above the 50% mark. For Sanders to have any chance he has to cut into her support, and all he’s doing is splitting the undecideds with the frontrunner. 

“As long as Clinton remains in the mid-to-high 50s, Sanders’ upside is limited. He remains stuck in that low-30s region, proving his continued inability to break out of his demographic cul de sac (young, white, educated, male).

“As with the GOP side, there isn’t any new polling in Iowa and New Hampshire, but given national trends, I wouldn’t expect much movement from the status quo. [In November, Clinton led Sanders 53.6% to 36.3% in Iowa while New Hampshire was essentially deadlocked, with Sanders at 42.7% and Clinton at 42.4%.]

“I’m praying to the political gods that New Hampshire remains this tight right up to election eve! It’d be nice to have at least some drama on our side of the aisle,” Kos wrote.

SANDERS LEADS TOP GOP CANDIDATES. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, is gaining steam against top Republican rivals, according to a national Quinnipiac University poll released 10/2. 

In a matchup against the current GOP front-runner, business mogul Donald Trump, Sanders takes 49% of the vote to Trump’s 41%. Against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sanders leads 44-43-. He also beats Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) by 10 percentage points and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by 6 points. 

Of likely voters, 59% say Sanders is honest and trustworthy — placing him well above former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, and above all top Republican candidates tested in the poll.

Clinton, for her part, also gained ground in the race, spelling good news for Dems overall. She now performs better against top Republican rivals compared to October, when she was slightly ahead of Trump and losing against all other Republicans in a Quinnipiac poll. In the new poll, Sanders performs equally well as Clinton against Republicans or better. 

In the Democratic primary, Clinton continues to lead with 60% of the vote to Sanders’ 30%. Her lead has widened by 12 points since an October Quinnipiac poll. In the Republican primary contest, Trump gained 3 points, to 27%, while Carson, who was in second place one month ago, has fallen to third place. Rubio jumped to second place with 17% of the vote. Cruz is now tied in third place with Carson at 16%.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,453 general election voters with a subsample of 672 Republican voters and 573 Democratic voters. The national poll was conducted 11/23-30 using live interview calls to landlines and cell phones. The overall margin of error for the poll is 2.6%.

RIDER KILLING NET NEUTRALITY THREATENS MUST-PASS SPENDING BILL. Republicans have tucked a rider into a must-pass government spending bill that would block the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing its open Internet rules.

The provision is just one of many riders in the financial services appropriations bill currently being hashed out by House and Senate negotiators. But as dozens of these unrelated policy measures are dropped, this one is sticking around — a fact that is especially troubling to net neutrality advocates, who worry it may make its way into a final must-pass spending bill, known as an omnibus, Amanda Terkel reported at HuffingtonPost.com (12/1).

Other riders include provisions that would tighten screening for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and defund Planned Parenthood. 

The federal government is currently running on a stopgap funding measure, which will run out on 12/11. If Congress doesn’t reach a new agreement, the government will shut down.

DEAL CLEARS $305B HIGHWAY BILL; 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS LEFT OUT. Congressional negotiators have agreed to a $305 bln measure to fund highways and mass-transit projects for five years, The Hill reported (12/1). It also reauthorizes the controversial Export-Import Bank until 2019.

Among the strategies to pay for the projects include selling oil from the nation’s emergency stockpile and taking money from a Federal Reserve surplus account that works as a sort of cushion to help the central bank pay for potential losses, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Senate Democrats say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a provision to help 9/11 first responders from being included in the highway bill, NBC News reported (12/1).

The James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act would reauthorize an expiring health care program for 9/11 first responders permanently, while at the same time reauthorizing a victims compensation fund for five years, aides say. But aides familiar with the negotiations told NBC News that McConnell asked that the highway bill also lift the US ban on oil exports, and when that was not agreed to he stopped the Zadroga Act from being included in the five-year highway legislation.

“I believe that Senator McConnell was using this as a negotiating position—give us something, we’ll give you help for the 9/11 rescue workers,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters. “And in the end he was the one, Senator Schumer and Gillibrand ticked off every box of every potential opponent, Democrat, Republican, House and Senate, and it all came down to one box at the bottom: Mitch McConnell. He stopped it.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says an agreement on the Zadroga Act has been “done for weeks,” and that he was “surprised” when he was told it would not be included in the Highway Bill.

HILLARY AND BERNIE PROPOSE INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING. Hillary Clinton proposed to spend $250 bln over five years to improve the nation’s infrastructure (11/30), a plan that could create 3.25 mln jobs improving roads and bridges, transit systems, energy systems, high-speed broadband networks in underserved areas and electric grids.

In addition to a $250 bln federal investment, her plan calls for establishing a $25 bln national infrastructure bank to encourage private investments. The campaign said the proposals will be paid for through business tax reforms.

Bernie Sanders in January proposed $1 tln in infrastructure projects in his Rebuild America Act. In addition to upgrades in roads and bridges, passenger and freight rail lines, airports, air traffic control systems and inland waterways, coastal harbors and shipping channels and broadband networks in underserved areas, it includes a $125 bln National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private capital to finance new projects.

Sanders does not yet have a specific individual and corporate tax proposal, but he has proposed a financial transaction tax and says he will close loopholes.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that every $1 bln in infrastructure investment creates 13,000 jobs. And a report by Standard & Poors last year found that investing $1.3 bln in infrastructure in 2015 would add at least 29,000 jobs and $2 bln to economic growth while reducing the deficit by $200 million, ThinkProgress.org noted (11/30).

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the US a D+ grade on our roads, bridges, waterways, electrical grids, and other infrastructure, and says the country needs to spend an additional $1.6 tln by 2020 to get it all up to par. Clinton’s plan would target much of the country’s struggling industries with direct investments.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly blocked President Obama’s attempts to invest in the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. In March, Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic amendment to the proposed 2016 budget which was offered by Sanders and called for $478 bln in new spending over six years without increasing the deficit.

COUNTRYWIDE FINANCIAL EXECS SCATTER TO OTHER MORTGAGE BROKERS. Back at the height of the housing bubble, Countrywide Financial was responsible for about 15% of all the mortgage loans in America, Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (11/30). “This turned out to be disastrous because the people who ran Countrywide showed no interest at all in the quality of the loans they originated. Thanks to this, their business eventually imploded and in 2008 they were acquired by Bank of America. But fear not. The executives behind Countrywide are still around, and they’re still shoveling out the loans.”

James Rufus Koren reported at the Los Angeles Times (11/30) that PennyMac, AmeriHome Mortgage and Stearns Lending have several things in common. All are among the nation’s largest mortgage lenders — and none of them is a bank. They’re part of a growing class of alternative lenders that now extend more than 4 in 10 home loans.

All are headquartered in Southern California, the epicenter of the last decade’s subprime lending industry. And all are run by former executives of Countrywide Financial, the once-giant mortgage lender that made tens of billions of dollars in risky loans that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. But unlike their subprime forebears, the new firms maintain that they adhere to strict new lending standards to protect against mass defaults.

Still, some observers worry as housing markets heat up across the country and in Southern California, where prices are up by a third since 2012.

COPS STEAL MORE THAN BURGLARS. Economist Martin Armstrong noticed that in 2014, police in the US seized through “civil forfeiture” more of the property of their fellow citizens than was stolen by all the burglars in the country. Between 1989 and 2010, Armstrong noted at ArmstrongEconomics.com, US attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 bln in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged 19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by 52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. By 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 bln for the year. According to the FBI, burglars in 2014 stole an estimated $3.9 bln in property. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.

Charles B. Pierce noted at Esquire.com (12/2) that “Civil forfeiture has been a license to steal—or, more politely, a license to use your constituents as a revenue stream—ever since some genius in the Reagan Administration came up with the idea of the Justice Department’s having a Civil Assets Forfeiture Fund as part of the then-newborn idiocy of the ‘War’ On Drugs.”

The law allows police to seize cash, cars or real estate that may be involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime, but they must go to court to prove the seized asset was not connected with any crime.

“Now, it seems, local cops and county sheriffs are more skilled at extracting wealth from civilians than are America’s finest thieves,” Pierce wrote. “I do not think this is what the Founders had in mind.”

MOST AMERICANS WANT GLOBAL AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE. As Republican leaders herald Congress’ power to hinder a global climate deal, most Americans say the US should join an international treaty requiring America to reduce emissions, according to a new poll.

The New York Times/CBS poll (11/30) also notes that 63% of Americans favor limits on carbon emissions. The poll comes as delegates from nearly 200 countries met in Paris in hopes of negotiating a climate deal that puts the world on a track to limit global warming to no more than 2°C. Many scientists believe that global warming would be irreversible and cause catastrophic effects beyond this threshold.

The survey puts the American public in line with international public opinion. A recent Pew Research Center poll across 40 countries found that 78% of respondents “support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.”

Meanwhile, Republican leaders were ramping up attacks against President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Republicans in Congress expressed their opposition to any international agreement that they say could hamper the nation’s energy industry, and many pledged to oppose financial commitments to help other countries curb carbon emissions.

“It would obviously be irresponsible for an outgoing president to purport to sign the American people up to international commitments based on a domestic energy plan that is likely illegal,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a recent Washington Post op-ed. He went on to say that international negotiating partners in Paris “should proceed with caution before entering into an unattainable deal with this administration.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also used a recent op-ed to establish Congress’ power and its potential opposition to a climate deal. “Congress will promote the American energy story and reject commitments based on a misguided understanding of our climate, economic progress, and our needs for tomorrow,” McCarthy wrote in Reuters. The NYT/CBS poll, however, suggests that most Americans are even willing to pay more money to help reduce global warming. About 55% of respondents said they willing to pay more for electricity if it were generated by renewable sources like solar or wind energy. That’s in spite of the fact that only 14% of respondents said they worry a “great deal” about global warming or climate change. (Alejandro Davila Fragoso, ThinkProgress.org, 12/1)

ALL BUT ONE WOMEN DEM SENS RALLY FOR HILLARY. Hillary Clinton received a public embrace (11/30) from 13 female Democratic senators who praised her as a trailblazing leader ready to be president, AP reported (11/30). But there was one noticeable absence: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Clinton joined with a power base of female Senate Democrats, who said a second Clinton in the White House would ensure that generations of young women would view a female president as a normal course of American progress — a notion Clinton welcomed.

"If you're ready for me, I'm ready for you," Clinton said on a stage that included 13 chairs — one for each senator.

Clinton has locked up dozens of endorsements from governors and members of Congress. The fundraising event with 1,000 supporters served notice to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's main rival, who has served with many of the same female lawmakers for years, AP reported.

"She's got the right stuff and it's her time to be president," said Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who pointed out that women first gained the right to vote in 1920. "Don't you think after 95 years we should have a woman president?”

Warren told the Boston Globe in September that she would likely endorse during the primaries but said at the time, "Right now that's not where we are." Her spokeswoman declined comment on the Clinton event.

Warren was among a large group of female senators who in 2013 urged Clinton to run for president. She has been promoting a corporate tax overhaul recently and by withholding her endorsement, she maintains leverage among a Democratic field courting her support, the AP noted.

SUPREME COURT EYES ANOTHER SWIPE AT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION. Chief Justice will have a chance to achieve one of his longtime dreams — ending affirmative action in university admissions — if he can obtain the votes of four fellow conservatives in the case of Fisher v Univeresity of Texas at Austin. Since ascending to the Supreme Court, Roberts has made eliminating much of the legal infrastructure intended to address America’s legacy of discrimination a personal mission, Ian Millhiser noted at ThinkProgress.org (12/1). He’s already succeeded in undercutting lawmakers’ ability to fight public school segregation and to cure racial voter suppression. Fisher v. UT, a case the Roberts Court is hearing for the second time, could easily allow Roberts to stick a knife in race-conscious policies and leave them to die.

Except that, in order to do so, Roberts will need to betray another cause that he advocated with considerable passion prior to joining the bench: the Court’s Standing Doctrine. Standing, in short, is the requirement that federal plaintiffs must have suffered an injury that can actually be fixed by a favorable court decision. As the Supreme Court explained in *Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife*, the opinion Roberts praised in his 1993 law review article while he was in private practice, a plaintiff must not simply show that they’ve been injured by the party they are suing, they must show that “‘likely,’ as opposed to merely ‘speculative,’ that the injury will be ‘redressed by a favorable decision.'”

In the Fisher case, the attorneys for Abigail Fisher, the sole plaintiff in this attack on affirmative action, failed to take actions other affirmative action plaintiffs took to preserve their right to be in court in the first place — and this may prove their undoing now that Fisher is before the justices once again.

Fisher challenges one part of the University of Texas’s two-tiered admissions program. The majority of UT’s students are admitted through a “Top Ten Percent Plan,” which automatically admits Texas students in the top 10% of their high school class. This plan effectively leverages housing segregation in Texas to diversify much of the student body, since students in the top 10% of a public school that almost entirely serves people of color will generally be people of color themselves. At its peak, over 80% of students were admitted through the Top 10% Plan, which is not being challenged in Fisher.

The remainder of UT’s class is selected through “holistic review” a process that “looks past class rank to evaluate each applicant as an individual based on his or her achievements and experiences.” Under this process, race, a low-income background and similar factors can give applicants a slight edge over similarly qualified applicants. Fisher, who is white, claims that the university cannot consider race even in this limited capacity.

Fisher was originally denied admission by UT in 2008 and filed this lawsuit shortly thereafter. Though the Court’s conservative majority was widely expected to rule in Fisher’s favor after they first heard her case in 2012, they instead surprised most court-watchers by sending the case back to the conservative US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. If the conservative justices expected the Fifth Circuit to strike down UT’s admissions policy for them, however, they were disappointed. A divided panel of that court upheld the program again in 2014. It’s now 2015, and Fisher’s college career is over. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012.

That, combined with errors by her lawyers, may prove fatal to her case. As UT argues in its brief, Fisher’s request to be admitted in UT became moot upon her graduation from LSU — she no longer seeks to be admitted into an undergraduate program now that she has a bachelor’s degree. Recall that a plaintiff is not allowed in court unless they’ve experienced an injury that can be “redressed by a favorable decision.” But a favorable decision by the Supreme Court will not allow her to go back in time and attend UT.

Alternatively, Fisher also seeks “monetary damages in the form of refund of application fees and all associated expenses” — specifically, the $100 she paid when she applied to UT. Yet the university also makes a strong case that this injury cannot be addressed by a favorable decision. “While obtaining a $100 damages award might provide some ‘psychic satisfaction,'” to Fisher, UT explains in its brief, the Constitution requires her to show “that the requested relief will redress the alleged injury.” Here, however, the alleged injury is the fact that she was not admitted into the university (or, alternatively, the fact that she was evaluated under an allegedly unconstitutional process), but the $100 fee bears no relationship to this injury. To the contrary, she “would have paid the application fees even if UT had not considered race at all—and even if she had been admitted.”

Lawyers in other major cases challenging affirmative action avoided similar problems by bringing a class action “on behalf of future applicants,” thus allowing them to continue to represent these future applicants even after their original plaintiff graduated. But Fisher’s lawyers failed to jump through this procedural hoop. That leaves them without a client who has experienced a redressable injury.

The question of whether Fisher proves to be a major case or a minor jurisdictional hiccup, may once again be up to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is very conservative on race, but he has shown more capacity for nuance on this topic than his four fellow conservative justices. Last June, for example, Kennedy surprised many Court watchers by casting the key fifth vote to save longstanding protections against housing discrimination. Kennedy also dissented in *Grutter v. Bollinger*, the 2003 Supreme Court decision preserving affirmation action, so he remains a very likely vote to kill race conscious admissions programs in *Fisher*. Nevertheless, he’s shown some trepidation about actually handing down a majority decision cutting off admissions programs like the one at UT.

During the Court’s 2012 term, the last time that Fisher’s case was before the justices, the Court initially voted 5-3 in favor of Fisher (with Justice Elena Kagan recused), according to Joan Biskupic’s book “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice”. After Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned a blistering dissent, however, Kennedy agreed to a compromise that sent the case back down to the Fifth Circuit. “Kennedy,” Biskupic says, “wanted to lower the temperature among the justices and he was open to a position that would draw as many justices as possible to an opinion.” Eventually, he got that wish. Seven of the eight justices hearing Fisher I joined the compromise opinion.

Fisher graduated from LSU shortly before her case reached the Supreme Court the first time, and the Court was not moved by the argument that she lacked standing in Fisher I. Nevertheless, if Kennedy still wishes to avoid a hot war among his colleagues, the standing argument gives him a way out. He wouldn’t even have to depart from the Court’s previous standing precedents in order to take it.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2015


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