Nearly every major political figure in the country, and even some not-so-major figures, has an email list. When used effectively, officeholders and candidates can use these lists to send out news, alerts, announcements, and plenty of appeals for contributions.
But once in a while, these lists are used in a very different kind of way. Take former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who's maintained a sizable list for years, and who parlayed his failed presidential campaign into an even larger email list.
And how, pray tell, does Gingrich put it to use? Yesterday, an email was sent from the "Office of Newt Gingrich," with a subject line that read, "CIA Insider issues urgent warning for seniors." The email identified "an advisor to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence" who, the message claimed, "probably knows more than anyone else in America about the inner workings of the government, the economy, and the U.S. banking system."
All of which led to the demagogic pitch:
"In short, Jim Rickards sees a big challenge ahead for any American in the process of saving for Retirement. We're talking about not only a huge collapse in the stock market (up to 70% or more) but also a collapse in the currency system, which could wipe out bank deposits, retirement plans, and more.
"But... and this is important...
"Even though the next collapse is imminent, there's still time to make the necessary moves to protect you and your family. That's why Jim Rickards just wrapped up a brand new 'playbook' for the coming collapse."
And wouldn't you know it, the message from the "Office of Newt Gingrich" is ready to send you a copy of the "playbook" so you'll be ready before the "huge collapse," which could "wipe out retirement plans." (Remember, the email subject line said this is a warning "for seniors.")
The email's postscript adds that there's an exclusive "missing chapter" to the book, which can also be sent to you, but "is not available anywhere else."
So, Newt Gingrich was, not too long ago, the most powerful lawmaker in Congress. He was, for a while, a leading presidential candidate. He's a staple on the Sunday shows and co-hosted his own national television program.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who's developed an unflattering reputation as one of Congress' fiercest anti-immigrant voices, managed to coin a new noun this week. As msnbc's Aliyah Frumin noted on Tuesday, the far-right Iowan "created waves shortly before President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night when he characterized one of the commander-in-chief's guests as 'a deportable.'"
King was referring to a young Texas woman who entered the country illegally as a young child, but who's now able to stay in the United States thanks to Obama's DACA policy.
And at a certain level, it's tempting not to care. So, Steve King, the "calves the size of cantaloupes" guy recently labeled an "a**hole" by his own party's Speaker, makes a lot of ridiculous and offensive comments. What else is new?
The answer to that question, it turns out, is quite a bit. Whereas Steve King was once considered a fringe buffoon, he's now helping dictate Republican strategy on immigration policy, and just as importantly, tomorrow many of his party's presidential hopefuls will make their way to the Hawkeye State to kiss his ring.
The largest gathering of potential Republican presidential candidates so far will descend on Iowa on Saturday to test their messages at a forum shaping up as the informal starting gun for the 2016 campaign.
The event, which is being hosted by Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, offers Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, the most prominent establishment figure on the schedule, a chance to test his appeal among grass-roots conservatives.
And not just Christie, a longtime ally of the right-wing Iowan. The "Iowa Freedom Summit," co-hosted by King and Citizens United, will feature a small parade of unannounced presidential candidates.
Now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, there will be a variety of changes Americans will be able to see quite easily, such as President Obama putting his veto pen to good use for the first time in a long while.
But other changes will be far more subtle and will unfold largely behind the scenes. We've seen some of this already -- GOP lawmakers embraced "dynamic scoring," for example -- but we're poised to see another shift when it comes to congressional subpoenas.
Regular readers may recall that former House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), near the end of his tenure on the panel, began issuing subpoenas in an unusually aggressive way. Ordinarily, when a committee is weighing whether to issue a subpoena, its members are supposed to debate the issue and vote, but Issa decided to streamline the process -- whenever he felt like subpoenaing someone, he simply did it unilaterally. No debate, no vote.
Jennifer Bendery reported this week that Republicans leaders have decided they like this model, too.
House Republicans are quietly moving to give unilateral subpoena authority to at least seven committee chairmen, a shift from longstanding rules that have required a full committee vote to issue a subpoena. The change would allow GOP chairmen to issue subpoenas without input from Democrats, letting them challenge nearly all of President Barack Obama's signature accomplishments, including the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, immigration reform and environmental protections.
Congressional committees have the ability to issue subpoenas to compel witness testimony or to obtain documents. But until recently, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was the only committee where a chairman unilaterally issued subpoenas. Now, as more chairmen have begun signing up for unilateral subpoena authority, Democrats fear that Republicans plan to bury agencies in congressional requests for information so they can't get their work done.
A House Democratic aide told the Huffington Post everyone should get ready for two years of "re-litigating everything."
In theory, Republicans are desperate to destroy the Affordable Care Act and take insurance and related benefits from millions. GOP lawmakers in Congress have demonstrated their commitment to this goal with literally dozens of votes to repeal "Obamacare."
But these efforts generally come with an important caveat: they're hollow. Republicans know these efforts won't become law, at least not anytime soon, so it's all for show -- GOP lawmakers are effectively pounding their chests in a display intended to make themselves feel better.
When the debate is less theoretical and more practical, Republican bravado isn't quite so effortless. Take yesterday, for example, where Arkansas' new GOP governor was weighing whether to kill the state's Medicaid expansion policy.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced [Thursday] morning at UAMS that he will ask the legislature to fund the private option through the end of 2016. He will create a task force to come up with a new plan for 2017 and beyond.
Hutchinson said that the new plan should cover the beneficiaries currently covered by the private option, but be more sustainable in terms of cost.
This outcome was hardly assured. Hutchinson, a former congressman elected governor just a few months ago, would not take a position on Arkansas' Medicaid-expansion policy during the campaign. Just 24 hours ago, it was not at all clear whether he intended to take coverage away from 200,000 low-income Arkansans.
But as it turns out, it was a step the Republican governor just wasn't prepared to take. There's a larger significance to this that extends past Arkansas.
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Nick Confessore, political reporter for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the breadth and influence of the Koch brothers and the new degree of openness they're showing about their political operations. watch
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