Politics 2014: Of PACs, political candidates, pot and phones

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  June 23, 2013 at 5:01 AM
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Senator ahead of the pack in endorsing PAC supporting the so-far non-candidate Hillary Clinton ... Parties see candidates file to succeed retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. ... Granite State may soon be 19th state legalizing medical marijuana ... Groups ask FCC to ban same-day distribution of Lifeline phones to reduce fraud ... news and views you may have missed ...

Claire McCaskill first lawmaker to endorse Ready for Hillary PAC

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is the first lawmaker to endorse the Ready for Hillary super-PAC, meaning she is the first lawmaker to back an effort meant to push former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

McCaskill said the super-PAC's efforts were "critical" to electing Clinton, should she decide to seek the Democratic nod, The Hill reported.

When Clinton left the State Department earlier this year, she said she was done with public life and had no interest in trying another run at the presidency. She waged a fierce yet unsuccessful campaign against Barack Obama to capture the party nod in 2008.

"Hillary Clinton had to give up her political operation while she was making us proud, representing us around the world as an incredible secretary of state, and that's why Ready for Hillary is so critical," McCaskill said of the former first lady and U.S. senator from New York.

"It's important that we start early, building a grassroots army from the ground up and effectively using the tools of the Internet --all things that President Obama did so successfully -- so that if Hillary does decide to run, we'll be ready to help her win," McCaskill said.

Ready for Hillary is the main political action committee unofficially backing a possible bid by Clinton, The Hill said, focusing primarily on grassroots organizing and fundraising. Its founders are Clinton backers who helped on previous campaigns.

Even before supporting Ready for Hillary, McCaskill has been an early supporter of Clinton. She endorsed Clinton's potential presidential run the day Clinton retired as secretary of state. At the time, McCaskill said in a statement, "[If] her future plans include seeking the presidency, which I hope they do, then I look forward to being on her team and working my heart out to see her elected."

Candidates file to succeed retiring Michele Bachmann

Names are being added to party ballots in the 2014 battle to succeed Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who announced she wouldn't seek re-election after eight years of representing Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.

So far, two people announced their bids to replace Bachmann -- one-time gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah.

Emmer, a lawyer who served three terms in the state House, gained statewide exposure as the 2010 GOP nominee for governor in a race he lost to Democrat-Farm-Labor candidate Mark Dayton by less than half a percentage point after a recount.

Democrat Jim Graves, who nearly ousted Bachmann in 2012, dropped out of contention several days after Bachmann announced her retirement, saying his only reason for running was to defeat her.

After Graves bowed out, Democratic environmental activist Judy Adams announced her candidacy.

The 6th Congressional District, which was remapped to extend from the St. Croix River Valley near the Wisconsin border through the northern suburbs to St. Cloud in the north and Carver County in the south, is the reddest of Minnesota's eight congressional seats. The St. Paul Pioneer Press said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the district with 56 percent of the vote in 2012.

A Pioneer Press analysis of the 2010 election indicated 57 percent of the district's voters lean Republican.

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates this race as Republican Favored.

New Hampshire may be 19th state to legalize medical marijuana

Medical marijuana moved a step closer to becoming legal in New Hampshire.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said she'd sign the legislation after the state Senate removed -- and the House later concurred -- provisions that would allow qualifying patients to grow their own marijuana and would permit doctors to prescribe it to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We applaud state lawmakers for coming together to ensure the passage of this important legislation, and we are pleased to hear Gov. Hassan intends to sign it into law," Matt Simon, a New Hampshire legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a release. "This commonsense legislation will make New Hampshire a safer and healthier place not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all of us."

If lawmakers pass and Hassan signs as she promised, New Hampshire would be the 19th state -- and last New England state -- to legalize medical marijuana, the Concord Monitor reported. The law would allow as many as four marijuana dispensaries to open as soon as 2015.

Groups ask FCC to ban same-day distribution of Lifeline phones to reduce fraud

Six organizations representing consumers, veterans and rural Americans asked the Federal Communications Commission to help limit potential abuse of the wireless Lifeline phone subsidy program by banning the practice of same-day distribution of the phones.

One letter, filed by Community Action Partnership, Consumer Action, Maryland Creating Assets, Savings and Hope Campaign, the National Association of American Veterans and the National Consumers League, said changes enacted last year "have shown success in reducing fraud rates, problems with the program persist," the organizations said in a release. "To ensure the continued success of the Lifeline program, more reforms are in order."

Lifeline provides telecommunications access to seniors, veterans and low-income Americans in all states, territories and commonwealths.

They also lauded TracFone's filing that recommends the FCC should require eligible telecommunications carriers to provide handsets to Lifeline subscribers through the mail or other delivery system only after the provider verified the applicants' eligibility.

The groups said they agreed with a statement TracFone made in its petition that "[prohibiting] in-person wireless Lifeline handset distribution would materially reduce the incidence of fraudulent enrollment caused by unscrupulous providers or overzealous agents enrolling customers in Lifeline programs without properly verifying customer eligibility."

The second letter, filed by the National Grange, also said it agreed with TracFone's petition.

"We believe that the commission should require [providers] to send handsets to the Lifeline subscribers via U.S. mail or approved delivery service after the [provider] has verified the applicants' eligibility in accordance with commission rules."

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