Lawmakers fundraise off Russia inquiry

With Zach Montellaro, Daniel Strauss and Elena Schneider

The following newsletter is an abridged version of Campaign Pro’s Morning Score. For an earlier morning read on exponentially more races — and for a more comprehensive aggregation of the day’s most important campaign news — sign up for Campaign Pro today. (

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RUSSIAN TO FUNDRAISE — “Lawmakers raise cash off Trump-Russia probe,” by Austin Wright and Darren Samuelsohn: “Rep. Eric Swalwell’s campaign website features ominous photos of President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. It warns about Russia’s attacks on last year’s presidential election and asks visitors to sign a petition demanding that a bipartisan commission investigate. Those who sign are then asked to contribute $5, $10, $25 or more to the California Democrat. Swalwell is one of the junior members of the House Intelligence Committee, which has long had an unspoken rule against engaging in partisan fundraising related to the panel’s secretive work. But the panel’s high-profile Russia investigation is now putting that rule to the test, and experts are warning that some committee members’ recent appeals for campaign cash could undermine everyone’s credibility. … Democrats aren’t alone in mixing the Russia probe with raising cash. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rep. Trey Gowdy have also done it. Gowdy’s request for campaign cash came last month after Schiff told Bloomberg News the South Carolina Republican was acting like a ‘second attorney’ for Kushner during a closed-door committee interview with the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser. In an email to supporters, Gowdy boasted that he had ‘ticked off’ Schiff and Democratic leaders.” Full story.

MO BROOKS, MO’ POST MORTEMS — Rep. Mo Brooks texted journalists, lawmakers and top Republican officials a short post-mortem on why he lost the Republican primary for Senate: “Our tracking polls had us surging ahead of [Luther Strange] until the [President Donald J. Trump] endorsement. LS got a bump then stabilized 2 or 3 points ahead of us (both our poll and other polls). Over the weekend we caught back up. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, voters started getting a personal robocall from the President urging them to support LS. You can imagine the impact on a rural or elderly voter to hear PDJT calling! That final phone call caused LS to surge past us. Also, the nonstop LS/[Mitch McConnell] attack ads pushed anti-LS voters from me to [Roy Moore]. Hence, the final result. In the 5th Congressional District, we won 42% to 29%RM to 28%LS. An interesting note. 68% of Alabama GOP Primary voters rejected PDJT’s endorsement and voted against LS. Not yet sure what the national implications of that might be but we will find out.”

PRO Q&A — Campaign Pro’s Elena Schneider sat down with VoteVets President Jon Soltz. Here’s a transcript of her conversation with the blunt-spoken leader of the Democratic veterans’ group.

How’s the election cycle going for VoteVets so far?

There’s been some huge growth in certain areas that I think a lot of the progressive political organizations have, like on Twitter and social media. Organically, on Twitter alone, we’ve gone from 14,000 to 81,000 [followers]. [President Donald] Trump blocked us on Twitter — that was another big moment. It was like, ‘Really, dude?’ It’s true on Facebook, too. … It’s exploded the community. On online alone, we see numbers right now that’s more consistent with what we’d do at the end of a cycle in terms of fundraising. We’ve done $700,000 in $15 donations, so far. That’s the first six months. You’re seeing that across the board from progressive groups. And, you know, it’s also that some of the big boys are out of the room and it’s allowed us to engage Trump directly.

What do you mean by that?

There’s no one from Hillary [Clinton]’s team who says, ‘You can’t run that ad.’ There’s no Priorities people there saying, ‘No, we want to talk about this today.’ We can go after this guy. There’s no Bernie-Hillary politics going on. There’s a clean shot at this guy right now for the base groups. … The activism, born out of Trump, turns on small donors that we can then push towards candidates. The Amy McGrath email we did last week did $7,000 just for her and $5,000 for us, just in one hit. Randy Bryce is raising online right now. So some of the candidates that maybe the DCCC isn’t as keen on, based on the fact that they’re in harder districts, have become a little bit of darlings. ….

Do you think Democrats will retake the House or the Senate in 2018? Is this a wave?

I have no idea. I mean, I’ll tell you this — there’s a lot of races that Democrats should be competitive in. If this was a corporation, I would buy stock. I would buy stock in Democrats’ chances because history tells me that Democrats in the House should have some interesting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get all the way there. … The Senate map is really, really hard, but there’s the overarching dynamic and our base is more fired up than their base, so that’s worth a couple of points. Full story.

GETTING IN — “GOP state senator Campbell jumps in against Heitkamp,” by Kevin Robillard: “Republican Tom Campbell, a North Dakota state senator and wealthy potato farmer, officially launched a campaign against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on Wednesday and is launching a major advertising buy to kick off his effort. Campbell is the first entrant into the race against Heitkamp, who won her seat by just 3,000 votes over Republican Rick Berg in 2012. Heitkamp is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country in 2018, after President Donald Trump won the state by nearly 36 points in 2016. … Heitkamp has raised money at a brisk pace this year, bringing in more than $3 million for her campaign committee. Meanwhile, Campbell has given his campaign enough personal money to launch an early TV ad blitz, beginning with a 60-second biographical spot.” Full story. Watch the video here.

Days until the 2017 election: 82

Days until the 2018 election: 446.

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CHARLOTTESVILLE FALLOUT CONTINUES — “McAuliffe has change of heart on Confederate statues,” by the Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil: “Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday he wants Confederate statues across the state relocated from public spaces to museums, saying they had become a ‘barrier to progress, inclusion and equality in Virginia.’ … It was a reversal for McAuliffe, who has said he did not support taking down monuments and the decision should be up to local communities. … Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Democrat hoping to succeed his boss, called for relocating statues to museums earlier in the day. … It’s a firmer stance for Northam, who previously treated debates over Confederate memorials as a local issue. … Meanwhile, GOP nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general blasted the idea of moving the statues as erasing history. Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie urged a nuanced approach to the statues that emphasizes education, not glorification.” Full story.

— “Adam Putnam: Fight the hatred, but those statues should stay,” by the Miami Herald’s Steve Bosquet: “The agriculture commissioner spoke at a Reagan Day barbecue to members of Leon and Jefferson county Republican parties. While he condemned the acts of those in Virginia, he stopped well short of calling for the removal of Confederate monuments in Florida and in other southern states. ‘We need to be learning from that process, not just eradicating it from memory,’ Putnam told the crowd. ‘We ought to be focused more on eradicating hate today than eradicating yesteryear’s history. … Are we going to have to rename Jefferson County? Are we going to have to rename Washington County? Rename Jackson County? Where does it end?’” Full story.

BIG MONEY — “Phil Knight contributes $500,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler,” by the Oregonian’s Hillary Borrud: “The cash infusion will help Buehler narrow the fundraising gap with Gov. Kate Brown. But she still has a formidable advantage: $1.4 million on hand, even after spending more than $700,000 this year. Buehler’s campaign has $700,000, after spending only $100,000. Knight’s donation is his largest ever to an Oregon campaign. … The billionaire [co-founder of Nike] has a history of contributing to both Republicans and Democrats.” Full story.

— “Another big-money group has joined Colorado’s governor’s race — this one is backing George Brauchler,” by The Denver Post’s Mark K. Matthews: “The organization is Colorado Strong, whose backers have registered the state-based outfit as an independent expenditure committee — meaning that, unlike an official candidate campaign, it can accept unlimited sums of money from individual donors. Colorado Strong is at least the third such group to enter the 2018 contest — joining Frontier Fairness, which supports Democrat Mike Johnston, and Better Colorado Now, which is backing Republican Walker Stapleton, who is widely expected to enter the governor’s race.” Full story.

RETURN OF RAHM — “Rahm Emanuel rehabs his national profile,” by Natasha Korecki and Kristen East: “Rahm Emanuel’s bungling of the Laquan McDonald shooting case in 2015 so sunk his stature with the African-American community, Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be seen with him during her campaign stops in his city. With one crisis of violence in minority neighborhoods and another with police department morale, he had all but been silenced on national politics. But 18 months after fighting off resignation calls and protests in the streets, the Chicago mayor has rediscovered his national voice — and with Donald Trump in the White House, he’s as emboldened as ever to use it.” Full story.

DECISION TIME — Perlmutter continues to consider House reelection bid: Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who dropped out of the Colorado gubernatorial primary, will decide on whether he’ll run again for his House seat before Labor Day, even as soon as the next week, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. Perlmutter, who initially said he would not run for reelection, has met with candidates who are currently running in the Democratic primary to replace him.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “And no, I do not look like him, he looks like me. I’m the oldest” — Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, who is considering a run in IN-06.

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