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U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton speaks during a televised debate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 14, 2014.

Tom Cotton's mysterious friends

10/22/14 10:30AM

Diligent political observers know there are often interesting tidbits in campaign-finance reports, and one appears to have popped up in Arkansas.
 
Sen. Tom Cotton's (R) U.S. Senate campaign has paid $322,963 to something called Right Solutions Partners LLC for "fund-raising consulting." That wouldn't ordinarily be especially interesting, since congressional candidates in both parties routinely write big checks to DC-based consultants.
 
But Jonathan Martin reported that this one is a little different.
[H][ere's the catch: It's not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year.
 
However, the address, 1717 K Street Northwest, is where the Washington office of the law firm Arent Fox is located, and a Republican campaign finance lawyer at the firm signed the organizing papers with the city. When I called that lawyer, Craig Engle, he initially said he did not set up Right Solutions Partners. Then he amended that, saying, "I remember being part of the organizing of it."
 
But he said he forgot who asked him to set up the entity and quickly moved into lawyer-political speak, saying he could not get into for whom he was and was not working. He said he would try to get more information, but, alas, little was proffered. In a subsequent email, Mr. Engle said only that Mr. Cotton's campaign was not a client of Arent Fox, and that he had alerted the campaign to my inquiries.
The far-right congressman and his campaign team wouldn't respond to the New York Times' inquiries, but they did share some additional information with a conservative media outlet.
Rep. Don Young leaves a closed-door Republican strategy session dealing with the the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on July 31, 2014.

Don Young rattles students with impertinent remarks

10/22/14 10:01AM

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has had quite an interesting year. In fact, just over the last four months, the Republican congressman has been caught manhandling a Capitol Hill aide who bothered him, threatening his Democratic challenger, and even clowning around on the House floor while a Republican colleague delivered remarks honoring a fallen American soldier.
 
But the Alaska Dispatch News, the state's largest paper, reported the other day on Young's appearance at a Wasilla High School assembly last week, which apparently didn't go well.
Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.
 
"We really spend a lot of time at our school talking about how we treat each other," Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo said Tuesday afternoon. "We just don't talk to people that way."
 
More concerning, school officials say, Young made what they called hurtful and insensitive statements about suicide just days after a Wasilla student took his own life.
Two weeks ago, a student at the school took his own life, and with the school still coming to grips with the tragedy, Don Young reportedly told students that suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family -- which is largely the opposite of what professionals had told them.
 
"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say."
 
According to the Alaska Dispatch News' account, Young, whose appearance was not recorded, proceeded to use "salty language" with the minors and "told a story that involved flying to Paris to get drunk."
 
Perhaps talking to students isn't the ideal forum for the longtime congressman?
Donald Trump addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, La., Friday, May 30, 2014.

Donald Trump, Steve King together at last

10/22/14 09:16AM

We've seen press conferences with television personality Donald Trump. And we've seen press conferences with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). But our friends at Right Wing Watch reported yesterday on one of those rare moments in which the two joined together for one special media event in the right-wing congressman's home district.
The two heaped praise on one another, with Trump calling King "a special guy" and "a smart person with really the right views on almost everything" and King gushing that "time after time, when the hand of Donald Trump reached out and touched something, it turned into something good for America."
 
And they tried to outdo each other with criticism of President Obama, as Trump evaded questions about his own plans to run for president while blaming Obama for such offenses as turning major U.S. airports into "third-world airports."
Hunter joked, "If Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King had not planned a press conference together, we probably would have had to launch a Kickstarter campaign supporting the idea."
 
King took full advantage of the opportunity: "In video captured by the Iowa Republican, King went on a long tirade claiming that America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS, a childhood respiratory illness that has spread in recent weeks, and the Ebola virus. The ISIS and respiratory disease claims are based on unsubstantiated reports in the right-wing media, while there is absolutely no link between border enforcement and Ebola or the Oklahoma beheading incident."
 
The congressman then said President Obama wants "to treat people in Africa as if they were American citizens," before adding that the president "has pitted people against each other."
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, right, shakes hands with Republican challenger Scott Brown on Oct. 21, 2014 in Concord, N.H.

Scott Brown tries to fake his way through a debate

10/22/14 08:43AM

About 20 years ago, there was a great episode of "Cheers," featuring a city councilman who goes to the bar to ask voters for support. "Kevin Fogarty, City Council. I hope I have your vote on election day," he says. Frasier Crane asks, "And why exactly should I vote for you, Mr. Fogarty?"
 
The councilman replies, "Well, because I'm a hard worker, and I take a stand." Crane adds, "On what, exactly?" "The issues of the day," Fogarty replies. "Which are?" Crane asks. "The things that concern you and your family -- the most," the councilman concludes.
 
The folks in the bar thought this was a great answer, failing to notice that the candidate clearly had nothing of substance to say, and was simply faking his way past the questions, hoping no one would notice.
 
The "Cheers" episode came to mind last night watching Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) debate former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in New Hampshire. At one point, for example. moderator Chuck Todd asked about climate change -- Brown believes some of the crisis is "natural" -- and pressed the candidates on how best to reduce carbon emissions.
 
"I'm not going to talk about whether we're going to do something in the future," Brown replied, apparently confused about the purpose of a political campaign.
 
When Todd asked the Republican to explain the metrics he'd use to determine whether the U.S./Mexico border is secure, Brown replied, "You know it's secure when people don't come across it."
 
Remember, border security is one of the issues Brown claims to care the most about.
 
All of which led the challenger to make a striking claim.
Scott Brown's strategy in his New Hampshire Senate campaign has focused on claims that securing the border would prevent Islamic State militants from crossing into the United States. But when asked on Tuesday for evidence, Brown denied he ever made such statements.
 
"With respect, I did not say that -- what I have said is ISIS is real," Brown, a Republican, said during the first televised debate of the New Hampshire Senate race.... "Is there a possibility?" he added. "It's been raised that there are opportunities for people to come through that border. What are their intentions, I'm not sure, but they have made it very clear that they want to plant a flag in the White House."
He added, "I'm not fear mongering."
Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, left, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott shake hands before their live television debate on Oct. 21, 2014 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Florida's Scott on minimum wage: 'How would I know?'

10/22/14 08:00AM

For the second time in five days, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) faced off in a televised debate against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), and this time, the incumbent didn't hide backstage over the use of an electric fan. Then again, given how the debate went, maybe he should have.
 
The two covered quite a bit of ground over the course of the hour, but one of the more memorable exchanges came on the issue of the minimum wage. Moderator Jake Tapper raised a question of increasing importance in contemporary Republican politics: whether the minimum wage should exist.
TAPPER: Governor Scott, you have said that you oppose raising the minimum wage because you think it would be a job killer. Clarify something for Florida voters, do you support the principle of a minimum wage? Do you support the concept of a minimum wage?
 
SCOTT: Sure.
 
TAPPER: What should it be?
 
SCOTT: How would I know? I mean, the private sector decides wages.
It's amazing to see this issue trip up so many Republican governors. Just over the last week or so, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) stumbled, saying about the minimum wage, "I don't think it serves a purpose." Yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told powerful corporate allies that he's annoyed by the debate itself. "I gotta tell you the truth: I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage," Christie said. "I really am."
 
But in Florida, Rick Scott seems more confused than his GOP brethren. Asked if he supports the minimum wage on a conceptual level, the governor said, "Sure." But asked what that wage should be, Scott says that's up to the private sector -- in the process making the case against minimum wage on a conceptual level.
 
Given how popular a minimum-wage increase is, and the number of Floridians struggling in low-paying jobs, it's remarkable the governor and his aides didn't have a better response prepared for this perfectly sensible question.

Ebola patient cleared and other headlines

10/22/14 08:00AM

NBC News freelancer declared free of Ebola. (NBC News)

Investigators question Secret Service assignment that sent a "Prowler" unit to handle a private dispute. (AP)

Official autopsy shows Michael Brown had close-range wound to his hand. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

White House Chief of Staff negotiating redaction of CIA torture report. (Huffington Post)

Koch-allied group urges young voters to support weed candidate. (National Journal)

Did Tom Cotton pay more than $300,000 to a group that does not exist? (NY Times)

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'Just show up' becomes key to 2014 debates

'Just show up' becomes key to 2014 debates

10/21/14 11:26PM

Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, talks with Rachel Maddow about the odd trend in 2014 debates of candidates threatening not to show up, or, in the case of Kay Hagan in North Carolina, literally giving the platform to her opponent alone. watch

'America's newspaper editor,' Todd on Bradlee

'America's newspaper editor,' Todd on Bradlee

10/21/14 11:25PM

Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, reflects on the legacy of Ben Bradlee, former editor of The Washington Post who died tonight, and points out his importance as a role model to editors and producers in the news media today. watch

ISIS claims possession of airdropped weapons

ISIS claims possession of US airdropped weapons

10/21/14 11:22PM

Rachel Maddow reports on a claim made in an ISIS propaganda video that the terrorist group is in possession of weapons dropped by the U.S., meant for Kurdish fighters opposing ISIS. The claim is unconfirmed though the U.S. says part of the drop went... watch

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