Fast Start

Amy McGrath has gotten off to a rousing start in her Senate race in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell.

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised more than $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign against Mitch McConnell — over $1 million of it coming in just the first five and a half hours after she announced, according to her campaign.

McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas said it’s the most ever raised in the first 24 hours of a Senate campaign. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the next closest was former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised $1 million in his first day of his campaign in Arizona.

The haul is a sign of just how deep Democratic antipathy toward McConnell, the Senate majority leader, runs in the Trump era.

All of the $2.5 million came in online donations with an average donation of $36.15, her campaign manager said. The $2.5 million total doesn’t include any additional traditional fundraising money that may have been raised in the form of checks or promised campaign contributions.

McGrath’s race against McConnell promises to be one of the most expensive Senate races of the 2020 election cycle. McConnell, as the Senate majority leader, has a formidable fundraising machine — in 2014, he raised and spent over $30 million in his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Add in all the usual caveats about early money not meaning a lot later on (e.g. President Phil Gram), but it does indicate that an attractive and strong candidate has a lot of potential.

Democrats Keep On Winning

Another special election, another Democrat flips a GOP seat.  And this time in Florida.

Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election.

Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed Donald Trump for president in 2016 by more than four points.

The upset is likely to reverberate through the two major parties as they gear up for the midterm election cycle. Although Republicans have been buoyed in recent weeks by the sense that their tax legislation will be popular among voters, and by new polling showing that Trump’s popularity has ticked up, Tuesday’s outcome offers yet another data point that voter enthusiasm lies with Democrats.

“They’re winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, at a Sunday afternoon rally for the Republican candidate. “We’ve seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We’ve seen them win big mayor’s races in New Hampshire. Fifty seats have already changed hands, from Republicans to Democrats, since President Trump took office. Make no mistake: The Democrats are unified.”

Gee, Corey, I wonder what it could be that has the Democrats unified?  Could it be that the Republicans are falling in behind a sexist, racist, narcissistic vulgarian who was elected with the help of a global adversary and who, when confronted by a choice of good for the country or good for him, always goes with the latter?

As for Trump’s popularity ticking up, it’s because he’s offered goodies and temptations, the same way a predator offers candy to get into his windowless van.  Most people catch on pretty quick.

But one of the overriding factors may be that the Democrats at long last are running candidates who not only are a stark contrast to the fear, loathing, and racially-tinged message of Trump, but who offer something to vote for.  It also doesn’t hurt that they’re raising a ton of money and outspending the Republicans.  You can have the best message in the world but it won’t do you any good if nobody hears it.

This time they did.

Jack In The Pulpit

Part of the Trump/GOP tax plan is the repeal of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and religious organizations from endorsing political candidates.

This is seen as big wet kiss to the Religious Right, who have been skating around the edge of violating the law since Jerry Falwell and the ironically-named Moral Majority got a boner for Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s.  These “family values” folks have been doing it ever since, fighting against Roe v. Wade, gay rights, women’s rights, language on TV, and just about anything else you can think of that might upset Aunt Pittypat, all with little or no success: abortion rights are under attack but Roe v. Wade is still standing, same-sex marriage is just plain marriage, and you can say “penis” on “The Big Bang Theory.”

So whether or not the Johnson Amendment’s repeal will either make any difference on the Religious Right’s crusade to be America’s busybodies and boost the prospects of anti-abortion candidates who pay for their mistress’s D&C or keep the raging homophobes with a MANHUNT.net account out of elective office is an even bet.

I do think, however, that rubber hose is on to something: be careful what you wish for, Pat Robertson.

If that Amendment were repealed, the biggest change would be that other religious groups–groups that have not been trying to circumvent the Johnson Amendment–would finally be unshackled to oppose the religious right’s agenda. The only reason the religious right is pushing for a repeal is because it thinks this is a Christian majority country (which is true), that they represent most Christians (which, I think, is false), and that there are enough of their kind of Christians to overwhelm other Christians plus members of other religions (which is definitely false).

Not just Christians, either.  There are any number of religious groups in this country who could stand up and be counted: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and so on would be free to make themselves heard and endorse candidates who oppose the Jesus-shouter agenda.  (Quakers have been doing it for decades; we’ve just kept comparatively quiet about it.)

Put that in your collection plate.

Cracks In The Foundation

Finally.

Those in Donald Trump’s orbit appear to be nervous about the swirling scandal around the Trump Foundation—and they should be: The stakes are incredibly high.

The allegations of a quid pro quo between Trump and Florida Attorney General, improper use of the charity for personal benefit, and employment of the charity for political purposes have serious penalties beyond mere campaign optics—the possible consequences range from hefty fines to jail time.

The last seven days has been all bad news on the Trump Foundation front: House Democrats have publicly sought a Justice Department investigation into the charity, while left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleged that Trump appeared to have bribed Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi by giving her a $25,000 contribution so that she would not join a lawsuit against Trump University.

And a New York Times investigation this past week showed that Trump had personally signed the check that constituted the illegal campaign contribution from his charity to Bondi.

Add this to a dose of personal animosity: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told CNN this week that “we have been looking into the Trump Foundation to make sure it’s complying with the laws governing charities in New York.” The Trump camp already despises Schneiderman due to his legal crusade on the controversial Trump University business.

“This reaches above a distraction for them due to the legal implications of it and long litigation possibility,” a former senior aide to Trump said. “Look, Donald signed those checks… he’s on there. He’s liable.”

As one wit noted, “But Hillary Clinton used the wrong emoji on her e-mail, so it’s all the same thing.”

It would be too much to hope that all of this blows up into a huge deal that not only brings down some garbage on the Trump three-card monte but also takes out the Florida Attorney General as well.  But a guy can dream.

Buying In Bulk

We know that Donald Trump paid off Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi so that she wouldn’t join in the lawsuit against Trump University.  But she wasn’t the only one.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.

Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.

That story is from June, but along with this story about Trump donating to Chris Christie around the time of a settlement regarding New Jersey casinos, and you’re beginning to see a pattern here: buy in bulk and save.