Rep. Rangel is seeking to use his campaign cash to pay for a portrait.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – It’s one of the perks of being the top lawmaker on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee: an official portrait to hang in the committee's hearing room.
And Chairman Charles Rangel, D-New York, wants to make sure his portrait is the cream of the crop.
In a letter dated August 20, Rangel's attorney asks the Federal Election Commission if the New York Democrat can use $64,500 from his campaign funds to commission the portrait in question - a price, the attorney says, that "is commensurate with the usual and normal charge for works by artists of similar renown." (Read Letter [PDF])
"Portrait artists determine fees based largely upon reputation, but the size of the subject and detail required also factor heavily in the pricing," writes Rangel's attorney, Phu Huynh.
Huynh, who consulted an "art broker for eight museum-quality portrait artists," said the chosen artist's base price is normally between $30,000 to $50,000, but the cost of a custom frame, "three-quarter body length size" and "important details" jack up the price.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Republican, said Thursday that if the charges against Idaho Senator Larry Craig are true, they are "despicable."
"Clearly such actions, if they are true or as they have been painted, are despicable, the sorts of issues that ultimately will impact whether someone like Larry Craig or others will be re-elected," Frist said. "I think the people of Idaho, the people of the individual state, will have to look at the facts, as the facts really are, and make that decision."
Frist is in South Carolina promoting "ONE Vote '08," the ONE Campaign's effort to get presidential candidates involved in the fight against global poverty.
He also predicted when his friend and fellow Tennessean Fred Thompson would finally jump into the Presidential race.
"I do expect that he'll announce sometime in the next month," Frist said.
"His announcement is likely to be a little bit different than the announcement of any other candidate to date, and with that he will be one of the major contenders to represent the Republican party as the next President."
Frist hinted that Thompson's announcement would involve some kind of new media, saying the former Law & Order actor understands how to use the Internet to speak to voters "in innovative and creative ways."
Thompson has made blogging and web outreach a staple of his presidential "testing the waters" phase.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Clinton got another big endorsement Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is moving ahead in the endorsement wars as another major union announced Thursday that it is officially supporting her presidential bid.
“Hillary Clinton earned the IAM’s endorsement by focusing on jobs, health care, education and trade – the bread and butter issues of the American middle class,” said International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Tom Buffenbarger. “She is the only candidate of either party to come forward with a comprehensive manufacturing policy and the only candidate to connect with millions of Americans who feel invisible to the current administration.”
The union, comprised of over 750,000 active and retired members, said it will launch a massive education campaign aimed at swaying other union members to choose Clinton. The IAM also boasts that 450,000 of its members will vote in twenty-five early primary states.
Sources say Thompson will get in the race sometime next week.
(CNN) - When will Fred Thompson officially jump into the race for the White House? That's the question all of us would like to know. Well, here's what we're learning.
A handful of sources working on Thompson's formal entry into the race for the GOP presidential nomination tell CNN to expect the former Tennessee senator and actor to make his announcement on the web, some time as early as the middle of next week. They say Thompson will travel and campaign in key primary states following the Internet announcement.
The sources tell CNN that the web announcement will not take place before next Wednesday's GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire. They say they don't expect Thompson to attend that debate. (Related: New Hampshire paper: Thompson better go to debate)
On June 1st, Thompson created a fundraising committee that allowed him to begin raising money for his probable presidential campaign.
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) – Money matters in politics, and Sen. John McCain insists his campaign is refilling its coffers after spending itself almost broke in the first half of this year.
“The money is coming in fine,” the Arizona senator told CNN in an interview Wednesday.
Insiders, however, say September is a key month after modest progress in July and August.
The McCain campaign raised about $2 million in July and spent about $1.4 million, according to sources familiar with the fund-raising operation who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. In August, the campaign raised about $1.1 million and spent about $1.4 million, these sources said, leaving a little wiggle room for the final few days of the month.
Bottom line: raising about $3.1 million and spending $2.8 million in the two months since a major campaign re-organization. McCain’s September is packed with fund-raising events. The campaign also recently brought on former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, a prodigious fund-raiser, years ago, for George H. W. Bush, and hopes his Rolodex provides some new prospects for the McCain fund-raising machine.
McCain could get a much-needed cash infusion if he decides to accept federal matching funds. But opting into that system – and its spending limits – could hurt big-time in the long term because his major rivals are not accepting the federal funds and therefore not subject to spending restrictions.
“If we make that decision, and I guess we’ll have to fairly soon,” McCain told CNN.
“I’ve never won a campaign on the basis of money,” he said. “I won campaigns because I can out-campaign everyone else, and I can do that in the nomination [contest]…. So it’s not going to be money that wins or loses any campaign of mine.”
- CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
LOS ANGELES (CNN) – In a new campaign video, Cindy McCain ventures into territory her husband, John, takes pains to avoid on the trail: citing the wartime military service of two McCain sons as a reason she believes her husband should be the next commander-in-chief.
“Our sons are serving and will serve, and I just think we need a commander in chief that understands that,” Cindy McCain says in the video, which the McCain campaign provided to CNN. “I just couldn’t really see my sons serving for someone else who didn’t get it.”
The candidate himself seemed surprised when CNN raised the issue in Wednesday’s interview in Los Angeles.
“We don’t talk about our sons,” Senator McCain said. “We’re proud that they’re in the military, but we don’t talk about it any more than that. My wife, like any mother, is proud of her children and all our children. But the fact is I am the most experienced and the most prepared and my family has long generations of service to this country and I am proud of that.”
With regard to the other candidates running for president, he added, “I don’t say they are unqualified or unprepared. I’m saying I am the most prepared.”
- Chief National Correspondent John King
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton out on the campaign trail.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will return $23,000 in donations from a fundraiser who has an outstanding arrest warrant in California.
Norman Hsu, a well-connected Democratic fundraiser, has come under scrutiny in recent days after news reports called into question some of his fundraising and also revealed a criminal record.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that six members of the family of a San Francisco mail carrier have donated a total of $45,000 to Clinton since 2005. The Journal also reported that those donations closely track donations made by Hsu. Then, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hsu is wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant because he failed to appear for sentencing in a criminal case in which he had pleaded no contest to a single felony count of grand theft in 1991.
Several Democratic candidates across the country have decided to purge their campaigns of Hsu's contributions in light of these revelations. Comedian Al Franken, a U.S. Senate candidate in Minnesota; Rep. Michael Honda of California; and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania have all said they would return contributions from Hsu.
"In light of the new information regarding Mr. Hsu's outstanding warrant in California, we will be giving his contributions to charity," said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Hsu said he was "surprised to learn that there appears to be an outstanding warrant - as demonstrated by the fact that I have and do live a public life." In the statement, Hsu added, "I have not sought to evade any obligations and certainly not the law."
On Tuesday, Hsu's attorney disputed any suggestion that his client had improperly directed contributions.
–CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Martina Stewart
Snow told CNN Thursday his health is improving.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - While remaining coy about exactly when he plans to leave his post, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told CNN Thursday his health is improving, citing two new medical tests this month which found the cancer has not spread beyond his colon.
"The tumors are stable - they are not growing," Snow said of the results from an MRI and a Cat Scan. "And there are no new growths. The health is good."
The press secretary, whose hair has turned gray during chemotherapy treatment, said his black hair is expected to grow back in about a month. "I'm also putting on weight again," he said after returning from a 10-day vacation. "I actually feel very good about" the health situation.
Snow added he has an appointment Friday with his oncologist where they will decide on some minor forms of chemotherapy to start as maintenance treatment.
Snow, who has previously said he will leave his post before the end of President Bush's second term, repeated that the decision is based on finances and not health. He took a major pay cut after leaving the world of cable television and talk radio to come to the White House in the spring of 2006.
The press secretary again refused to be precise about his departure date. "When I have something to announce, I'll announce it," he said.
- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The McCain campaign — in a new video unveiled exclusively to CNN on Wednesday — is aiming to showcase the Arizona Republican's service in the Vietnam War, including his time spent in a North Vietnamese prison.
Called "Courageous Leadership," the twelve-minute video begins with footage of McCain being interrogated by enemy soldiers.
The video then details McCain's experience as a prisoner of war, and includes interviews with the senator himself, as well as several others who served with him.
The campaign says it plans to use the video to introduce the White House hopeful at house parties and speaking events. The campaign is also likely to use the video as the basis for a number of television commercials.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* "Sen. Larry Craig needs to resign. For the good of a state he loves, a state he has served for more than a quarter century." – Idaho Statesman editorial
* "The White House is growing more confident that it can beat back efforts by Congressional Democrats to shift course in Iraq, a significant turnabout from two months ago" (New York Times)
* Democratic '08 hopefuls are "likely to defy" the DNC by campaigning for the early FL and MI primaries. "Contenders have signaled through 'back channel' communications that they will probably participate in both contests." (Washington Times)
* A new McCain campaign video is aiming to showcase the Arizona Republican's service in the Vietnam War, including his time spent in a North Vietnamese prison. Called "Courageous Leadership," the twelve-minute video begins with footage of McCain being interrogated by enemy soldiers.
Full story and video on The Ticker
* "Mitt Romney took interactive campaigning to a new level yesterday, inviting supporters to come up with a new official TV ad for his presidential bid."
The campaign has invited to supporters to mash up "372 photos, 44 video clips, and 36 audio files" into a 30 or 60-second spot. (Boston Globe)
* And in other ad news, how is Joe Biden applying the "adopt-a-highway" model to his communications strategy? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* No public events.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) participates in the SEIU ‘Walk A Day In My Shoes’ program, spending the day with Marshall Clemmons, a custodian at the Harding Middle School in Cedar Rapids, IA
* John Edwards keynotes the Spartanburg County Annual Democratic BBQ and Rally at 6 pm ET in Spartanburg, SC.
* Mitt Romney kicks off his Mitt Mobile SC bus tour with "Ask Mitt Anything" stops in Myrtle Beach (8 am ET), North Charleston (11 am ET), and Columbia (1:15 pm ET).
Romney also sits down for an interview with CNN's John King along the way.
* Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) begins a three-day tour of IA, NH, and NV to roll out his International Association of Firefighters endorsement. Today he stops in Iowa City (10 am ET), West Des Moines (2 pm ET), and Council Bluffs (5:30 pm ET).
* Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) visits Greensburg, KS, to survey tornado recovery efforts.
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) appears on "The Late Show with David Letterman."
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
GAO WRITES "STRIKINGLY NEGATIVE" ASSESSMENT OF IRAQ BENCHMARKS: Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration. The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. Washington Post: Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
ON IRAQ, "PRESIDENT'S HAND IS STRONGER NOW" THAN IN JULY: The White House is growing more confident that it can beat back efforts by Congressional Democrats to shift course in Iraq, a significant turnabout from two months ago, when a string of Republican defections had administration officials worried that President Bush’s troop buildup was in serious danger on Capitol Hill. Current and former administration officials say they realize that the September battle over the troop buildup will be difficult. But they also say the president’s hand is stronger now than it was in early July, when Republican senators like Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana publicly called for a change of course. New York Times: White House Is Gaining Confidence It Can Win Fight in Congress Over Iraq Policy
U.S. CAN'T SUSTAIN SURGE PAST NEXT AUGUST: The Pentagon cannot sustain its current force levels in Iraq beyond next summer, effectively giving the Bush administration and the Iraqi government until the middle of 2008 to capitalize on recent security improvements before the US military must draw down its forces, according to US military officials and foreign policy analysts. When the 15-month combat tours end for the nearly 30,000 additional US troops President Bush sent to Iraq earlier this year to secure the country, the Army will be unable to replace them without damaging morale or troop readiness, senior Army officials say. Those forces will complete their tours during the spring and summer of 2008, according to Army deployment schedules. Boston Globe: Analysts say Iraq surge can't last past Aug. '08
COLEMAN, McCAIN, HOEKSTRA CALL FOR CRAIG RESIGNATION: Sen. Norm Coleman joined two other Republican legislators Wednesday calling for the resignation of embattled Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has pleaded guilty in connection with an incident with an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport restroom. "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator," the Minnesota Republican said in a terse, two-sentence statement. "He should resign." In separate statements, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., also called on Craig to step down in light of the allegations of sexual solicitation, which came to light in news reports on Monday. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Coleman calls on Craig to resign from Senate
WILL MORE '08ERS FOLLOW SUIT? Sen. John McCain called on his embattled Republican colleague Sen. Larry Craig to resign Wednesday, two days after it was first reported that the Idaho Republican was arrested in an airport bathroom and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. "I believe that he pled guilty and he had the option to plead innocent," McCain told CNN's John King. "So I think he should resign." "My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime you shouldn't serve," the Arizona Republican added. "That's not a moral stand, 'holier than thou,' just a factual situation." "In this case it's clear it was disgraceful," McCain continued. The Ticker: McCain calls on Craig to resign
CRAIG STEPS DOWN FROM COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS: [E]mbattled Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) agreed [Wednesday] to comply with a request by Senate GOP leaders to step down as ranking member on one committee and two subcommittees... GOP leaders released a statement Wednesday saying that Craig stepping down “is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the Ethics Committee.” Craig has temporarily stepped down from three panels: the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, and Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. Roll Call: As Craig Sheds Committee Leadership Posts, Colleagues Call for Resignation
GOP "RESPONDING WITH LIGHTNING SPEED": Last year, the House's Republicans had Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, and his courting of Capitol pages scandal, to contend with near an election that would determine party control of the Congress. This year, more than a year out from the next critical election, in which Republicans hope to reclaim a narrowly divided Senate and Democrats hope to build upon their majority, the Senate's Republicans have Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, who has pled guilty to disorderly conduct following his arrest in an airport men's room. But this time, the GOP has a long time to recover. And this time, the GOP is responding with lightning speed - with party leaders stripping Craig of committee assignments and some of the party's senators calling for their longtime colleague's resignation. Chicago Tribune: GOP acts swiftly to make Craig scandal 'go away'
STATESMAN REPORTER DESCRIBES PAPER'S DECISION TO PUBLISH STORY: Dan Popkey, the Idaho Statesman reporter who spent eight months digging into allegations that Larry Craig had engaged in gay sexual encounters, recalls a recent stroll around the Republican senator's childhood ranch with a couple who have known him for decades. As they showed him the ranch, 24 miles from the nearest paved roads, and Craig's old one-room schoolhouse, says Popkey, "they were weeping at the prospect that he might not be telling the truth." Washington Post: For Idaho Paper And Reporter, Craig Story Posed a Moral Dilemma
OFFICIAL REPORT "BLASTS RESPONSE" OF VIRGINIA TECH TO SHOOTINGS: The toll in the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech could have been lessened if authorities had canceled classes and promptly alerted students that a killer was on the loose, a panel appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine says. "But none of these measures would likely have averted a mass shooting altogether," a report released late Wednesday night on the governor's Web site concedes. Virginia Tech should have notified students sooner of the first shootings on campus the day of the massacre and may have violated its own policies, the report says. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Report blasts response at Tech
CANDIDATES LIKELY TO CAMPAIGN FOR FL, MI EARLY PRIMARIES DESPITE DNC: The top 2008 Democratic presidential candidates will likely campaign for the Jan. 29 Florida primary, and a potential earlier primary in Michigan, in defiance of the party's threat to strip the states of their convention delegates, Democratic strategists said yesterday. The candidates have been quiet about the fight between Florida Democrats and the Democratic National Committee over the DNC's ban on holding any additional primaries before Feb. 5. But Democrats say the contenders have signaled through "back channel" communications that they will probably participate in both contests anyway. Washington Times: Hopefuls likely to defy DNC
FLORIDA MAY BE "THE DECIDER" FOR REPUBLICANS: The Republican National Committee is expected to sanction Florida for holding its primary on January 29, 2008, but that is not likely to prevent the state from holding the make-or-break contest of the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The rules are clear, a spokeswoman for the committee, Tracey Schmitt, said. Florida will lose half of its 114 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-Saint Paul next September because it jumped ahead of the February 5 firewall the national party sought to maintain on behalf of the traditional early states. But the chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer, appears defiant, saying that even in the "unlikely event" his state is penalized at the convention, 57 delegates "is more delegates than most states." More important than delegates, however, is the momentum Florida will provide to the Republican candidate who emerges victorious. New York Sun: Florida Will Be Decider for GOP Nominee
WYOMING LEAPFROGS TO JAN. 5: Even as they moved up their county conventions to raise the state's presidential profile, Wyoming's Republicans said they wanted a solution to the leapfrogging of state primaries. "Ultimately the goal here is to look beyond 2008 and fix the system, because the system is broken," said Tom Sansonetti, the state GOP's 2008 county convention coordinator. "All this jumping around is because the states feel disenfranchised by letting Iowa and New Hampshire call the shots." Wyoming Republican officials have moved the party's delegate-selection conventions to Jan. 5 - before even Iowa or New Hampshire vote. But that scenario is likely to change. Casper Star-Tribune: Change aims to raise profile
"RETRONOMICS" IS IN: Presidential elections are supposed to be about the future. Yet when it comes to economic policy, the 2008 contest is shaping up as a campaign in which the Republicans hark back to the economic nostrums of 25 years ago, while the Democrats wax nostalgic for the time when U.S. industry faced little foreign competition and every high school graduate could count on a lifelong job in a steel mill or an auto plant. Call it retronomics. "They're looking to the past for their policies," says David Gergen..."The Democrats' center of gravity has moved further to protectionism since Clinton left office, and the Republicans clearly are not going to hold George Bush up as a model president." Bloomberg: Presidential Race Returns to Protectionism, Mythic Reaganism
CLINTON GIVING AWAY HSU CASH: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case. The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to be co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones. New York Times: Clinton Donor Under a Cloud in Fraud Case
BIDEN LAUNCHES ADOPT-AN-AD PROGRAM: Underfunded candidates struggling to get their message heard need to think creatively. And Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign has risen to the occasion. Taking a cue from the "Adopt-a-Highway" promotion that Texas began in the mid-1980s and quickly was copied by many other states, a Biden aide e-mailed supporters today offering them the chance to "Adopt-an-Ad." Those ponying up a mere $9 will pay for a spot for the candidate on CNN in Council Bluffs, the e-mail reports. Other fascinating financial details: $100 will foot the bill for one ad during "Meet the Press" in Sioux City, $300 reserves time during the "Late Show with David Letterman" in Des Moines and $600 buys a commercial on the evening news in Cedar Rapids. LA Times' Top of the Ticket: Biden ads for adoption; cheap to good homes
ROMNEY LAUNCHES AD MASH-UP CONTEST: Mitt Romney took interactive campaigning to a new level yesterday, inviting supporters to come up with a new official TV ad for his presidential bid. Romney announced a contest for backers to craft a 30- or 60-second spot with the help of 372 photos, 44 video clips, and 36 audio files supplied by his campaign. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 17, and an online vote will help determine the winner. The winning entry will be aired the week of Sept. 20, as part of his "Rally for Romney" grass-roots event. Boston Globe: Romney seeking home-grown ads
"A LOT MORE PEOPLE ARE HEARING" HUCKABEE'S MESSAGE: Mike Huckabee's meet-and-greet event on Wednesday – his first in Iowa since a strong finish in the Iowa straw poll earlier this month – was similar to, yet strikingly different from, dozens of such events he has held all over the state. His message at a Pizza Ranch in this community of about 10,000 was mostly the same one the former Arkansas governor had offered many times in the days leading up to the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames... The important difference is, a lot more people are hearing that message these days. Des Moines Register: Huckabee's second-place finish in poll draws more to meetings