With Kevin Robillard, Elena Schneider and Daniel Strauss
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. (http://www.politicopro.com/proinfo)
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ISSUE CAMPAIGN ALERT — “Kochs boost Trump tax plan,” by POLITICO’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Brian Faler: “In a potential boost for President Donald Trump’s largely stagnant tax reform effort, … the two leading groups in the conservative advocacy operation spearheaded by the billionaire mega-donors Charles and David Koch on Thursday unveiled an outline of tax reforms and announced that they intend to launch a robust campaign to rally public support for the blueprint. The campaign is notable because the Kochs expressed deep reservations about Trump during the campaign, and their deep-pocketed network declined to support Trump, but it has a history of mounting aggressive congressional issue advocacy pushes. The Kochs’ tax reform push is being funded by the Koch-backed nonprofit groups Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, and it will include digital advertising, direct mail and grass-roots mobilization, according to James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners.” Full story.
ONE WEEK OUT — “Republicans pour late cash into Montana special election,” by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt: “With the White House enveloped in crisis, a Republican-friendly group is rushing a last-minute $200,000 ad buy onto the Montana airwaves ahead of next week’s special congressional election. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will air TV commercials boosting Republican candidate Greg Gianforte. The spots will begin running on Thursday and will last through the election on May 25, one week later.” Full story.
SUMMER PREVIEW — “Strange to face serious fight for Alabama Senate seat,” by Campaign Pro’s Daniel Strauss: “Nearly a dozen Republicans will battle for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat this summer, in a primary that looks set to become a fierce reprise of recent fights inside the GOP. … Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the Freedom Caucus, and conservative firebrand former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore look set to be [Sen. Luther] Strange’s main challengers, appealing to the more insurgent or anti-establishment wings of the GOP. … But Strange — who has support from the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — was saved from having to fight within the establishment lane when state Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh announced Wednesday morning that he would not run. The state legislator was a longtime critic of Strange’s connections to Bentley, the former governor who resigned amid a sex scandal earlier this year, and Marsh had taken significant steps toward launching a Senate campaign.” Full story.
THE FINAL (RE)COUNTDOWN — South Carolina will tally votes for second time on Friday: Tuesday night’s GOP primary for the special election in South Carolina’s 5th District ended with Ralph Norman holding a 200-vote lead over Tommy Pope, setting up a recount. Here’s what will go down: On Thursday, county election will meet to certify the ballots. At 10 a.m. on Friday, the South Carolina Elect Commission will meet to certify results and order any necessary recounts, and are expected to issue an order at around 10:30. Counties will start re-counting voters by re-scanning all paper ballots and re-reading electronic ballots. The election commission will meet again at 2 p.m. on Friday to certify the recount results.
Days until the 2017 election: 173.
Days until the 2018 election: 537.
PLANE VIEW — “Rokita spent thousands in campaign cash on small-plane LLC he co-owns”: “Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a likely candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018, has used nearly $100,000 in campaign funds to reimburse a limited liability company he co-owns for use of a private plane. Rokita didn’t disclose his ownership of the company, Hoosier Seneca, on congressional personal financial disclosures, but he had permission from the House Ethics Committee to leave it off. There is no evidence Rokita, who’s held a pilot’s license since he was 19, broke any ethics rules or laws. But campaign finance advocates have long questioned the use of campaign funds to reimburse companies owned by members. (President Donald Trump used campaign funds to reimburse himself for the use of his large plane during the 2016 campaign.)” Full story.
HOLY GUACAMOLE — “Ken Griffin gives Rauner’s campaign $20 million,” by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Billlionaire hedge fund founder Ken Griffin has donated $20 million to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, ramping up next year’s big-money race for Illinois chief executive. The contribution by the founder and CEO of Citadel, reported to the State Board of Elections on Tuesday, brings to nearly $33.6 million the amount of money and services that Griffin has contributed to the governor’s political fund since Rauner began running for office in 2013. The donation appears to be the largest noncandidate contribution ever given to a campaign. Rauner gave his own campaign $50 million in December of last year.” Full story.
— AIR WAR — State Solutions out with TV ad to boost Gov. Bruce Rauner: State Solutions, a group affiliated with the RGA, released a TV ad that attacks previous governors as a part of the “Duct Tape Dynasty” that “ruled Springfield” and “taped over problems.” Then, it cuts to Rauner, who says: “We need real reform, not the same old broken ideas that got us into this mess.” Watch the ad here.
2018 WATCH — “Storage company CEO files to run against Tester,” by the Associated Press’ Matt Volz: “The head of a California-based self-storage company has filed to run against U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana in 2018, the second Republican so far with plans to challenge the two-term Democrat. Troy Downing, 50, filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on May 8, but did not planned a public announcement until later this month, he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.” Full story.
DATA DIVE — “End DNC’s data ‘monopoly,’ tech coalition tells Perez,” by POLITICO’s Nancy Scola: Full story.
CASH RACE — NRCC raised $10M in April: “The NRCC raised more than $10 million in April, the fourth month in a row that the group has broken that double-digit threshold, per a statement from the committee. It is also the committee’s longest fundraising streak in its history.” Full story.
ALSO ON THE AIR — Gillespie releases Spanish, Korean-language TV ads: “Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie is out with Spanish and Korean-language versions of his first television ad in Virginia’s gubernatorial race, which touts his plan to cut the state’s income tax.” Watch the Korean-language version here and the Spanish-language version here. Full story.
— In Georgia: The NRCC continues to hit Democrat Jon Ossoff on “resume puffery,” accusing him of inflating his national security credentials. Watch the ad here.
— In Montana: MoveOn.org is out with a five-figure digital ad that attacks Republican Greg Gianforte on health care, part of a larger Democratic shift to focus on that policy in the final days of the race. The ad — which targets voters on Facebook, YouTube and Pandora — highlights a recording of Gianforte telling “DC donors he was ‘thankful’ for the bill that would increase healthcare costs for seniors and low income families.” Watch the ad here.
OPPO FILES — “Quist declines to discuss personal marijuana use, health record,” by The Missoulian’s Jayme Fraser: “Congressional candidate Rob Quist declined Tuesday to discuss his support for decriminalizing marijuana usage after a revelation in court records that, at least at one point, he had smoked it ‘two or three times a month.’ …It is unclear how long Quist smoked marijuana, for what purpose, and if he continues to do so today. It is also unclear what the positive TB tine tests mentioned in the lawsuit might mean for his current health.” Full story.
— “Montana GOP Candidate Owns Stake In Company Accused Of Paying Off ISIS,” by The Huffington Post’s Alexander C. Kaufman: “A Republican congressional candidate owns a stake in a French-Swiss cement company accused of making payments to the Islamic State militant group in Syria, according to financial disclosures HuffPost reviewed. Greg Gianforte, the millionaire GOP contender for Montana’s open seat in the House, reported owning $47,066 worth of shares in LaFargeHolcim as recently as December. The shares are in an individual retirement account at TWP, a brokerage firm and private wealth manager, on which he and his wife, Susan Gianforte, are listed as trustees.” Full story.
WEB WARS — Let America Vote launches digital ad in N.H. specials: Let America Vote is paying for digital ads in two May 23 special elections for New Hampshire House seats. One ad is attacking Republican Mark McLean, while the other is supporting Edie DesMarais.
CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The risk is that you lose control of your agenda. It’s an enormous distraction. It’s an energy suck.” — Robert Luskin, a Washington white-collar attorney who represented Bush senior adviser Karl Rove in the Plame investigation, on the effect of having a special counsel investigating the Trump administration, via POLITICO.