Koch brothers plot to fix their perception problem

Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton share a stage at the National Urban League … Ben Carson will address the group too – as will other Democratic candidates…. Hillary Clinton talks Cuba, though her call to lift the embargo isn’t as brave a position as it once was… Clinton camp clashes with the New York Times … Another State Department email release is coming today..  Hillary Clinton’s perception problem when it comes to Foundation donations … and Document Dump Friday – what else might be coming?

FIRST THOUGHTS.

The New York Times writes that the Koch brothers are working on an overhaul of public perceptions about them. “After two elections in which Democrats and liberals sought to cast them as the secretive, benighted face of the Republican Party, the Kochs are seeking to remake public perceptions of their family, their business and their politics, unsettling a corporate culture deeply allergic to the spotlight.”

With the first debate and the convention both in Ohio, the GOP is investing heavily in trying to win back the state in 2016.

Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton share a stage: On a busy Friday, the big event today comes in Ft Lauderdale, where both Clinton and Bush – along with other top Democratic candidates and Dr. Ben Carson – appear today to speak to the National Urban League conference. For Bush, it’s a moment to make his “Right to Rise” pitch to an audience that’s traditionally been one of the more friendly African-American groups to Republicans. But there are potential pitfalls here for Bush too; liberal group Center for American Progress has been highlighting Bush’s backing of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which it says has disproportionately affected minorities, and ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists have derided him for appearing to discount the importance of their rallying cry as a ‘slogan.’ Bush will talk one-on-one with NBC’s Lester Holt, so tune in tonight on NBC Nightly News and throughout the weekend on Nightly News, TODAY and Meet the Press to see the full interview.

Ben Carson is the other Republican speaking to the Urban League today: We’ve noticed that, when there are only one or two Republicans appearing at a Democratic-leaning event, Ben Carson is usually one of them. (He was the lone GOP candidate at the NALEO gathering last month, for example.) But no other Republicans are making the trip this time to Ft. Lauderdale, including Rand Paul, who’s campaigning in Iowa. It would seem like a positive platform for Paul, who spoke at the conference last year. He’s done conspicuous outreach in the past in the black community and is backing some of the criminal justice reforms championed by them. (His campaign attributes the nonappearance to a scheduling conflict.) By the way, one of us(!) will talk to Ben Carson on Sunday’s Meet the Press.

The Cuba Clash: After  the Urban League, Clinton heads to Miami for an 11am ET speech calling for the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. According to excerpts, she’s expected to say “Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people.  By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America.  They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people.  They want to bring their country into the 21st century.  That is the road toward democracy and dignity.  We should walk it together.”  

Cuba is just one of several areas where Clinton is trying to cast the Republican Party as stuck in the past when it comes to engagement with the world. But it’s worth noting that her position isn’t as brave a stance as it once was  (A Pew report found 72 percent of Americans in favor of lifting the embargo, including 59 percent of REPUBLICANS). It’s not even a particularly bold stance in South Florida, where the Cuban community is divided on this issue. By the way, here’s the response from the Rubio campaign to Clinton’s speech, per an aide: “President Obama and Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and repressive governments, and weakens America’s global standing in the 21st century. As president, I will stand with the Cuban people and only support an end to the embargo that is accompanied by real democratic reform.”

Clinton vs. the New York Times:  Overnight, NBC News obtained a letter the Clinton campaign wrote to New York Times Editor Dean Baquet criticizing the newspaper’s handling of its email story from last week, which turned out to get key pieces of information wrong. “Just as disturbing as the errors themselves is the Times’ apparent abandonment of standard journalistic practices in the course of its reporting on this story,” writes communications director Jennifer Palmieri.  This wasn’t a short letter; it clocks in at almost 2,000 words with a blistering critique of the Times’ “egregious” errors. Here’s the one thing the Clinton campaign has in common with the right: a long-standing battle with the New York Times.

Another Clinton email dump: The State Department is expected to release another tranche of some four thousand emails today from Hillary Clinton’s private server. The release comes a day after McClatchy first reported that the classified emails stored on her server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies – AND after news that her lawyer has a thumb drive with copies of the emails, including the classified information.

Perception problem: There’s a lot of Clinton news out there, but two more stories today underscore a point we’ve been making since the Clinton Foundation controversy began. The Wall Street Journal writes that the Foundation “saw a significant increase in donations this year from fundraisers who also have volunteered to steer at least $100,000 each to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” And the New York Times notes that the Foundation accelerated its fund-raising even as the Foundation was under fire for its solicitation of donations from abroad. No matter how much Team Clinton says that there is absolutely no relationship between donations to the Foundation and influence with a Clinton campaign/possible administration, these correlations just highlight that, if there was even a whiff of possibility for gaining  additional influence through donations, donors certainly didn’t want to risk missing out on it. It’s the same concern that Dick Lugar brought up in Clinton’s confirmation hearing in 2009: “The core of problem is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” he said.  Replace “Secretary of State” with “a potential President” and the quote is still relevant

Document dump Friday: In addition to the big speeches and the State Department email dump, it’s the filing deadline for super PACs to report their hauls to the FEC. Once again, it’s a document dump Friday – and smack-dab in the middle of summer vacation time, too. What else gets dumped today on this very busy last Friday of July?

On the trail: Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham and Scott Walker campaign in Iowa… John Kasich holds a town hall in Keene, NH.

OFF THE RACES: More Clinton Foundation stories

CLINTON: The Wall Street Journal: “The Clinton Foundation saw a significant increase in donations this year from fundraisers who also have volunteered to steer at least $100,000 each to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a review of a list of the donors made public Thursday shows.”

More on the Foundation, from the New York Times: “The Clinton Foundation accelerated its fund-raising in the first six months of the year, officials said Thursday, as Hillary Rodham Clinton was gearing up for her presidential run amid a crush of news reports scrutinizing the charity’s solicitation of foreign donors. Foundation officials said there were 10,516 donors so far this year, compared with 8,801 during the same six-month period last year.”

From POLITICO: “Hillary Clinton’s private lawyer has a thumb drive containing classified information from as many as five U.S. intelligence agencies — but the State Department told POLITICO the law firm is taking “appropriate measures” to secure the files. The agency declined to detail steps made to protect the sensitive information in attorney David Kendall’s possession, but the issue is raising concern among Republicans on Capitol Hill who’ve criticized Clinton’s handling of the email controversy. The thumb drive has copies of emails Clinton kept on a private server while she served as secretary of state, a trove now known to contain classified documents.”

As McClatchy first wrote yesterday: “The classified emails stored on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies and included material related to the fatal 2012 Benghazi attacks, McClatchy has learned. Of the five classified emails, the one known to be connected to Benghazi was among 296 emails made public in May by the State Department. Intelligence community officials have determined it was improperly released.”

“When Hillary Clinton calls on Congress to lift the Cuban embargo, she’ll try to make history in two ways Friday: she’ll be the first presidential candidate to make the demand in the heart of Miami’s Cuban-exile community and she’ll be exorcising a political ghost from her family’s past. It was her husband, President Bill Clinton, who signed the embargo into federal statute in the first place,” POLITICO notes.

GRAHAM: His super PAC raised $3 million.

SANDERS: Msnbc.com’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes that labor unions have a choice to make in granting their valuable endorsements. “Do labor unions make the pragmatic decision and go with Clinton, who has a near-lock on the Democratic nomination, and a long memory for betrayals? Or do they side with Sanders, who idolizes labor organizer Eugene Debs and could hardly be more pro-union if he had been cooked up in a secret union laboratory? “

WALKER: The billionaire Ricketts family has given $5 million to Scott Walker’s super PAC, the Washington Post writes.

TRUMP: The AP notes that Trump turned his trip to Scotland for a golf tournament into an extension of the campaign trail.

And around the country…

NORTH CAROLINA: The Washington Post looks at how the debate over overhauling voting laws in the state represents a pivotal moment.

VIRGINIA: “Arguments over whether the Confederate battle flag can be dropped from specialty Virginia license plates will be heard Friday in a federal court,” notes WTOP.

CONGRESS

The Senate has passed a three-month short-term fix for highway spending. “The question is whether the two chambers, which have taken sharply different approaches, can work out a multi-year package by the end of October, when the three-month patch would expire.”

The Senate will vote as soon as Monday on defunding Planned Parenthood, although the bill isn’t expected to get the 60 votes needed to advance. 

Additional reporting by Carrie Dann.

Ben Carson, Cuba, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Koch Brothers

Koch brothers plot to fix their perception problem