The biggest Republican primary of 2014 looks like it’s going into overtime.
Neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his tea-party-backed primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, appeared able to secure the majority needed to win their party’s nomination in Mississippi on Tuesday night. That triggers a June 24 runoff, extending their nasty campaign — and the accompanying expensive barrage of television advertising.
With 94 percent of the vote counted, McDaniel was ahead of Cochran by about only 1,000 votes. A third candidate, little-noticed real-estate agent Thomas Carey, took just enough to play spoiler for both candidates.
But McDaniel’s team was confident on Tuesday night. He entered the race last October before Cochran had announced his reelection bid, and the state legislator quickly drummed up support from the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and an assortment of other conservative groups. Cochran was planning to retire toward the end of the primary, he told The Washington Post, but he answered pleas from establishment-minded supporters to run again as McDaniel and allies attacked him as a symbol of pork-barrel spending profligacy.
Not surprisingly for a race that became the preeminent showdown between the Republican establishment and the tea party, it attracted heavy spending from outside groups. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, they spent more than $8 million in the race, and more money will likely come in over the next few weeks as both sides try to keep their supporters engaged for the quick runoff. Cochran would be the first Republican senator to lose renomination this cycle, and his finishing below 50 percent in the initial primary won’t do anything to deter his opposition.
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The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."
"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.
"Hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms" have been submitted "since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries. The number of first-time filings ... rose 50 percent to 102 between 2016 and 2017, an NBC News analysis found. The number of supplemental filings, which include details about campaign donations, meetings and phone calls more than doubled from 618 to 1,244 last year as lobbyists scrambled to avoid the same fate as some of Trump's associates and their business partners."