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Politics 2014: Supreme Court DOMA ruling affects campaigns

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   July 14, 2013 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

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Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, campaign finance guidelines for gay candidates and their spouses could vary from state to state.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent an advisory opinion request to the Federal Election Commission, asking the federal election watchdog to afford married same-sex couples and candidates the same rights as married opposite-sex couples, Roll Call reported.

"Now that DOMA has been invalidated, the commission must look to state law to provide the meaning of the term 'spouse,'" Marc Elias, one of the top campaign finance attorneys in country, wrote in a request on behalf of the DSCC.

If the FEC agrees with the request, one expert sees a murky situation.

"The FEC is likely to conclude that it's governed by state law," former FEC Chairman Michael Toner told Roll Call. "Then you will have different fundraising rules for different states."

Roll Call cited as an example, Democrat Sean Eldridge, who's expected to challenge Republican Rep. Chris Gibson in New York's 19th Congressional District. Eldridge is married to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, whose worth was estimated at about $700 million in 2011.

Before the court's opinion, Hughes could contribute a maximum of $2,500 per election to Gibson's campaign. Now ... if the FEC agrees with the DSCC advisory opinion request, Eldridge could use "jointly held assets" as "personal funds" under the same guidelines as married heterosexual couples.

But not always.

If Eldridge and Hughes lived in one of the 37 states where gay marriage is not allowed, stricter limits would apply.

Roll Call also noted that under state law, married same-sex couples with only one income could potentially contribute more to candidates -- just as married heterosexual couples can -- meaning a married gay couple in California could give more than a gay couple in neighboring Oregon where gay marriage is against the law.

Toner says the FEC could pass its own regulation concerning spouses, but Toner told Roll Call that was unlikely.

"The FEC historically has not tried to reinvent the wheel on property rights," he noted.

The commission has 60 days to respond, but an advisory opinion request needs to first be taken up in an open meeting. The DSCC request was not on the July 11 meeting agenda, leaving two more opportunities this summer (July 25 and Aug. 22). The FEC could add a meeting, but it usually sticks to the previously determined schedule, an FEC spokesman said.

Conservative activists urged former Republican Rep. Doug Ose to keep on the sidelines in California's 7th Congressional District race, threatening to come at him with both barrels if he jumps in, a letter obtained by Roll Call indicated.

"It has come to our attention that you are considering running for Congress in California's 7th Congressional District," said the letter signed by conservative and Tea Party activists from Northern California. "We have also heard that you do not want to see a 'bloody primary' for the Republican nomination.

"We agree," the letter said. "That's why we are writing today to encourage you not to run."

While respecting his commitment to public service, the letter-writers said, "your record in Congress would leave us no choice but to actively oppose your candidacy should you decide to run."

Ose, who represented California in Congress from 1999 to 2005, is mulling a comeback bid against freshman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif. The 7th District is a key target for Republicans, who lost the seat in 2012 after Bera defeated Republican Dan Lungren in one of the closest contests of the cycle.

The gloves are off in Kentucky, where Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her plans to run for U.S. Senate against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?" the voiceover in the ad asks before text "not ready for prime time" appears.

The ad highlights Grimes' allegiance with the Democratic Party and her inexperience. Among the lines that rhymes with Grimes are "sticks to party line" and "left-wing mime." It also superimposes her head on talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as she was dancing with President Obama during "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

But Grimes' announcement didn't go off without a hitch either, The (Louisville) Courier Journal reported. The secretary of state didn't inform Gov. Steve Beshear in advance of her plan to run for the U.S. Senate seat and she didn't invite him to the news conference when she announced her plans.

No matter, Beshear said, he'll support her candidacy.

"It is time to bring Mitch McConnell home," he said. "You know, after 30 years of obstruction and 30 years of do-nothing in the United States Senate, we need somebody up there that is going to represent Kentucky."

Grimes spokesman Jonathan Hurst told The Courier Journal there wasn't any intention to keep Beshear out of the loop.

Family members of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said they're backing U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone in the Aug. 13 Democratic primary to fill the open seat and bashed Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the process.

"Frank Pallone knows that gimmicks and celebrity status won't get you very far in the real battles that Democrats face in the future," members of Lautenberg's family said in a statement. "While it may not always attract glamorous headlines, Frank knows that to be effective you must put New Jersey and your principles first, not your own glory."

And Pallone, the family statement said, would best carry on Lautenberg's legacy, Politico reported.

Front-runner Booker has about 52 percent support, a recent Quinnipiac University poll indicated.

Former Alaska Gov. and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is mulling a return to the political arena via a challenge to Alaska's Democratic U.S. senator, Mark Begich.

Palin said she has a "heart for service" and would consider returning to politics if she could "help the cause," The Hill reported.

Alaska's Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller have both announced they will challenge Begich.

Two developers of President Obama's grass-roots campaign organization have attached their names -- and campaign prowess -- to the pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC. And she hasn't even announced whether she will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart said their consulting agency will work with the Ready for Hillary PAC, the super PAC devoted to drafting the former secretary of state to run for president in 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported last week. They'll handle daily operations for Ready for Hillary's field programs, volunteer recruitment and training, and constituency engagement.

Clinton, so far, has maintained she isn't interested in making another run at the presidency.

While an aide said he couldn't confirm whether Sen. Marco Rubio was sponsoring a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks nationally, several analysts told Politico such a move may be a way for the Florida Republicans to get back in conservatives' good graces, given their ire at his championing the bipartisan immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

A July 2 article in the online Weekly Standard reported Rubio "agreed to be the lead sponsor of a Senate bill to ban abortion after an unborn child is 20 weeks old."

When the adviser eventually talked to The Weekly Standard, the adviser "couldn't confirm" the story, Politico reported.

"When I did talk to them, I told them the same thing I told everyone: '[Pro-life groups] have been asking since April,'" the adviser told Politico.

If Liz Cheney decides to seek a Senate seat in Wyoming, where her dad, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was a U.S. representative, she could set off some party hand-wringing, The Hill and other media reported.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee told The Hill it would back Sen. Mike Enzi if he faces a primary challenge from Cheney, a contributor on Fox News Channel and a former State Department official.

"The NRSC's main responsibility is to ensure the re-election of Republican senators on the way to the majority. We would obviously support Sen. Enzi if a challenge arises," NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring said Tuesday.

Enzi has said he's likely to run for a fourth Senate term but hasn't made an official announcement.

The Hill says while the NRSC says it will support Enzi, party committees typically loathe spending money on contested primaries in states such as the deeply red Wyoming where the GOP primary winner is a virtual lock to win the general election.

A primary tilt between Enzi and Cheney would bring about "the destruction of the Republican Party of Wyoming," Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from the state, told The New York Times. "It's a disaster -- a divisive, ugly situation -- and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years."

Then there's Rick Perry, who announced he won't seek a fourth term as Texas' governor. Will he or won't he make another run at the White House in 2016 after his failed attempt to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012?

He's not tellin'.

In his announcement last week, Perry noted, "any future considerations I will announce in due time and I will arrive at that decision appropriately."

But before he said he would be leaving the governor's mansion in 2014, Perry spoke of a possible candidacy in 2016, saying: "Certainly that's an option out there, but again, we've got a lot of work to do in this building right behind me over the course of the next couple weeks that have my focus substantially, more than even 2014 or 2016."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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