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WGBH News: Politics



Politics News from WGBH, Boston



Published: Sun, 02 Dec 2012 12:14:00 EST

 



Latino Voters: Seen, But Will They Be Heard, In 2012?

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:57:00 EST

Now the fastest growing voting group, Latinos have never been so heavily courted in a presidential race. They could play a key role in battleground states in the 2012 elections.If young voters were the breakout stars of the 2008 presidential election, then Latino voters may take center stage this year.Every other week or so, it seems, a new poll gauges Latinos' opinions about the candidates, the issues and their level of engagement. Both parties are pouring millions into their Latino outreach. Latino politicians have assumed prominent roles in the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. And a Latino senator is on the short list of potential running mates for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.Latino voters arguably never have received this much attention so early in a presidential election. It's a new reality for America's largest minority group and fastest growing bloc of voters.But, for Latino advocates, the heightened interest won't matter much if their concerns don't move to the front burners of the two parties."If you are truly looking to be competitive at the national level, there's no way you can continue on the path of ignoring Latino voters," say Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration and national campaigns for National Council of La Raza, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the U.S. "Latinos now are asking the question, 'OK, so what are you going to do? We appreciate you stopping by. We had the pictures [taken]. We had the words in Spanish [from candidates]. When do we get to the policy stands that are actually acted upon?' "A Focus Beyond ImmigrationLatinos are frustrated with both parties for failing to enact an immigration overhaul, one of candidate Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promises. They are also angry at the Obama administration for processing a record number of deportations over the past three years.On Thursday, coordinated protests planned in presidential battleground states will demand that Obama exempt Dream Act-eligible young people from deportation. (The Dream Act, which failed to pass the Senate last year, would provide a path to citizenship for young people brought illegally to the U.S. as children if they attend college or serve in the military.)Education is another issue important to Latinos but not prominent so far on the campaign trail. A poll released Tuesday, by the American Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), found that 58 percent of Latinos in five battleground states want to "hear more from the presidential candidates on how they will improve education." By comparison, only 49 percent of all respondents agreed."There's much more to gaining ground with Latino voters than immigration," Albert Collazo, spokesman for HCREO, told reporters.Latinos polled also ranked the economy and jobs as their top concerns, followed by the federal deficit and education.An estimated 22 million or more Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2012. Many projections put their voter turnout in November as high as 12 million, which would be a record and a 26 percent increase from 2008.Latinos could be especially important in battleground states with large Hispanic populations, such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, where their strong turnouts on Election Day could determine outcomes in congressional races as well as the presidential contest."I think Latinos have been accustomed to the attention of candidates since the late 1990s and then them disappearing after," says Stanford University political scientist Gary Segura, a principal in the polling group Latino Decisions. "The 2012 emphasis may be a function of what happened in 2010 - the only places where Republicans lost [elections] were in places with huge Latino numbers, like in Colorado, California and Nevada."Unprecedented Steps To Reach Latinos President Obama was the first in U.S. history to win the office without capturing a majority of white voters. Given his unpopularity among white men, he's pinning his re-election hopes again on a coalition anchored by Afr[...]



Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of government," Mark says. "It's inevitably going to be negative and a contrast between the candidates."Mark, a senior editor at Politico, says Romney learned from his first [...]



Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of government," Mark says. "It's inevitably going to be negative and a contrast between the candidates."Mark, a senior editor at Politico, says Rom[...]



Biden On Bain: Romney 'Thinks This Experience Will Help Our Economy'?

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:21:00 EST

The Obama campaign on Wednesday escalated its attack on Mitt Romney's business career, with Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to aggressively question how Romney's management of the private equity firm Bain Capital might translate into running the U.S. economy.

The Obama campaign on Wednesday escalated its attack on Mitt Romney's business career, with Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to aggressively question how Romney's management of Bain Capital might translate into running the U.S. economy.

On Monday, Obama's re-election campaign unveiled a new swing state ad questioning Romney's assertion that he was a job creator while running the private equity firm. The Romney campaign countered later in the day with its own ad.

On Tuesday, the Obama campaign's mantra was picked up by the pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA Action, in what was officially (and by law) an uncoordinated ad - albeit, one with a very similar storyline.

And on Wednesday, Biden is scheduled to take the fight directly to Romney during a speech in Youngstown, Ohio.

"He thinks that because he spent his career as a 'businessman,' he has the experience to run the economy. So let's take a look at a couple of things he did," Biden is to say, according to excerpts released by the campaign.

Romney has defended his work at Bain as - among other things - helping struggling companies and helping to create jobs in total. He also has acknowledged that not all of Bain's efforts were successful, and has said he welcomes the focus on economics in a faceoff with President Obama.

But the Bain-specific attacks mirror some charges made before Romney's 1994 loss to Sen. Edward Kennedy in Massachusetts, and others from early in this year's GOP primary campaign.

Biden, in the noon speech, is to say: "Folks, this election is going to create a stark and fundamental choice between two different economic philosophies. ... In the 1990s, there was a steel mill in Kansas City, Mo. It had been in business since 1888. Then Romney and his partners bought the company. Eight years later it went bankrupt."

While Romney worked at Bain when GST Steel was acquired, he had left Bain to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City two years before GST Steel went bankrupt.

The Biden excerpts also say: "Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules, he ran massive debts, and the middle class lost. And, folks, he thinks this experience will help our economy? Where I come from, past is prologue. So what do you think he'll do as president?"

Romney is campaigning in the swing state of Florida on Wednesday, and the Miami Herald's Adam C. Smith reports that the Obama campaign's anti-Bain attacks are taking place on a state level as well.

"At the heart of Romney's presidential campaign is an argument that his successful business record makes him best equipped to turn around the economy. Democrats are aiming to turn his strength into a vulnerability - a strategy that has worked before," Smith writes.

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:46:00 EST

Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American heritage seem uneasy to swallow. But why? What does it take to be considered an ethnic minority, and what does the controversy say about the way we judge ethnic backgrounds?Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren isn't backing down from her claim of Native American ancestry, despite the apparent lack of primary documents proving that she's 1/32nd Cherokee.The controversy surrounding Warren's heritage led us to wonder - how much of a racial or ethnic heritage constitutes minority status? Should percentages of a bloodline matter at all?The Census Bureau lets individuals self-identify. Since the 2000 count, people have been permitted to check multiple boxes for race or ethnicity. But history has shown a wide variance in how people of different backgrounds come to be identified as part of ethnic groups.Notably, the issue of racial identity surfaced recently following the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was African American. The boy's shooter, George Zimmerman, initially was identified as white, prompting accusations that he racially profiled Martin. Once it was reported that Zimmerman's mother is Latino and his father is white, he was identified as Hispanic and later as white Hispanic.The early 20th century's "one-drop rule" stated that a person with a single drop of African blood in their lineage was considered black, and the classification was used for discriminatory purposes."This is the story of the tragic mulatto, right? A person who looks totally white was denigrated as a black person," said Anne Cheng, a professor who specializes in race studies at Princeton University.For generations, people have used their mixed-race background to gain advantages in society. Many of those who were half-black, for instance, "passed" for white to avoid discrimination.Today, some people have flipped the "one-drop rule" to claim minority status to try to gain perceived advantages in scholarships, college admission and in the workplace. In response, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color passed a resolution last year urging law schools to treat the practice of "box checking" as "academic ethnic fraud."So the question of membership in a distinct racial or ethnic group matters to those both inside and outside the groups. But the ways we define minority status are as diverse as the people defining themselves.Among the 400-plus federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S., questions about the authenticity of people's tribal memberships have led to power struggles and in some cases, expulsions."It's an answer all over the place," said Michael Woestehoff of the National Indian Gaming Association. "I'm Navajo. To be considered Navajo, it's up to 1/32nd ... [but] for elections and holding office, my tribe requires you to speak fluent Navajo."A similar percentage standard is used by the Cherokee Nation, of which Warren's campaign says her great-great-great-grandmother was a part. Mother Jones' Tim Murphy waded in earlier this month:Prior to 1963, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians granted tribal membership to anyone who could prove he was 1/32 Cherokee. ...For those who applied after 1963, the standards went up to 1/16. Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation-an umbrella group which includes the Easter Cherokee - is 1/32 Cherokee, which was the subject of a minor controversy prior to his election, but obviously not a deal-breaker. In other words, without wading too deeply into ongoing debates within the Native American community, Warren could make a fairly a legitimate claim to the title.Different tribes handle the question in differently, especially when it comes to health care and education benefits tribe members receive and how tribes use profits from tribal gaming businesses, which generate an average of $26 billion in revenue a year.For the Salt River Tribe of Phoenix, which runs two casinos in Ariz[...]



Neither John Edwards Nor His Mistress Will Testify At Corruption Trial

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:40:00 EST

His attorneys also will not call Edwards' adult daughter to the stand. He's accused of using campaign funds to try to hide his affair and a daughter Rielle Hunter delivered.

The campaign corruption trial of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards will not reach a dramatic climax with testimony from the former senator or the mistress he's accused of trying to hide with 2008 campaign funds.

According to The Associated Press, Edwards' attorneys said in court today that they will not be calling Edwards or Rielle Hunter to the stand and that they expect to rest their case later today.

They also won't be calling Edwards' adult daughter Cate to the stand, AP says.

As the wire service reminds us:

"Edwards is accused of masterminding a plan to use money from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress during his bid for the 2008 White House. Edwards faces six counts of campaign finance violations. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison."

Edwards has said he did not break campaign finance laws. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Little-Known Lawmaker Upsets GOP's Senate Plans In Nebraska

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:49:00 EST

Republican voters in Nebraska defied the expectations of pundits and the intentions of outside groups and nominated a little known rancher and state lawmaker to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. Deb Fischer, 61, will face a former governor and former senator, Democrat Bob Kerrey, in November.

Republican voters in Nebraska Tuesday defied the expectations of pundits and the intentions of outside groups and nominated a heretofore little-known rancher and state lawmaker to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Democrat Ben Nelson.

Deb Fischer, 61, rode a last- minute surge in support to defeat the establishment-favored candidate, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. In the November general election, she will face a former governor and former senator - Bob Kerrey - who easily won the Democratic nomination.

Fischer had lagged behind Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the polls and in fundraising for the race. But her candidacy caught fire going into the campaign's final days, after receiving an endorsement from Sarah Palin.

Fischer also benefited from a $200,000 ad buy last weekend from a superPAC led by Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs. The ad questioned Bruning's character and financial dealings.

Fischer also lucked out in her opponents' strategy. Stenberg had the support of the conservative Club for Growth and South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservative Fund, both of which also launched a string of negative attack ads against Bruning, who had a wide lead in the polls throughout the campaign. But rather than aid Stenberg, the ads ultimately helped Fischer, who largely remained above the fray.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Palin - the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate - said Fischer as recently as a week ago had been "dismissed by the establishment. Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys' permanent political class."

Palin said: "The message from the people of Nebraska is simple and powerful: America is looking for real change in Washington, and commonsense conservatives like Deb Fischer represent that change."

Now Fischer faces Kerrey, an experienced campaigner, who has won three statewide races in Nebraska, but who also has been absent from the state for the past 12 years, after he moved to New York City to take the presidency of The New School.

In remarks Tuesday night, Fischer made clear she intends to make Kerrey's residency an issue in the general election, saying "we need somebody who's different. Somebody's who's tough. Somebody who's a Nebraskan."

Fischer's has been a member of Nebraska's unique unicameral legislature since 2004, focusing largely on education issues. Her only other political experience was a stint on the local school board. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Bush Says 'I'm For Mitt Romney,' But He Likely Won't Play Role In Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:47:00 EST

As an elevator's doors closed, former President George W. Bush confirmed the obvious. But Romney's campaign doesn't see Bush playing an important role in the 2012 campaign.

"I'm for Mitt Romney."

With four words, said to an ABC News reporter as an elevator's doors closed, former President George W. Bush on Tuesday confirmed what was pretty obvious - he is supporting his fellow Republican's bid for the White House.

But as The Associated Press reports:

"Romney's campaign doesn't foresee the 43rd president playing a substantive role in the race. Aides are carefully weighing how much the former president should be involved in the GOP convention - and for good reason. The Bush fatigue that was a drag on GOP nominee John McCain four years ago, and on the country, still lingers, including among Republicans."

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Debt Ceiling Debate Is Revived In Washington

Wed, 16 May 2012 05:52:00 EST

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned on Tuesday that the U.S. will likely hit its debt limit sometime before the end of the year. At the same event in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner promised that any increase in the nation's debt ceiling would have to be accompanied by corresponding budget reductions. .




Fischer, Kerrey Win Senate Primary In Nebraska

Wed, 16 May 2012 05:23:00 EST

Steve Inskeep has the latest on the Nebraska Senate race where state Senator Deb Fischer won the Republican nomination yesterday. She will face former Senator Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who represented the state from 1988-2000.




'Joe The Plumber' Race A 'Microcosm' Of 2012 Politics

Wed, 16 May 2012 03:02:00 EST

The conservative known for his role in the 2008 presidential election is taking on a veteran Democrat in a new Ohio district. An analyst calls the race a microcosm of "the culture wars that are going on in the country right now." Most of the candidates' funding is coming from outside the state.In Ohio, a new congressional district that stretches along Lake Erie between Toledo and Cleveland has become a political portrait of polarized America.The 9th District is one of the results of Ohio's loss of two representatives following the last census. The primary for the redrawn district pitted two longtime Democratic incumbents against each other. Now the victor, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, is taking on a Republican known for his role in the 2008 presidential election.In his working-class Toledo neighborhood, Joe Wurzelbacher can point out the very spot where, four years ago, he stepped in front of a TV camera trained on presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was in town canvassing for votes.He told Obama that he was getting ready to buy a company that made more than $250,000 a year. "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" he asked.Candidate Obama proceeded to explain his tax plan, at one point saying that it was important to "spread the wealth around." That remark didn't play well for the Democrat, who was accused by GOP rival John McCain of being out of touch with the tax burden borne by working-class America - exemplified by "Joe the Plumber."Four years later, Wurzelbacher has ridden his fame as "Joe the Plumber" into the role of GOP standard-bearer against Kaptur.Dave Cohen of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics says the candidates offer voters a stark choice."Marcy Kaptur represents, really, the consummate insider politician. She's been a fairly moderate Democrat, very strong on defense. And Wurzelbacher, he represents, really, the Tea Party movement - anti-establishment - and is very much respected and somewhat beloved by social conservatives," Cohen says. "The 9th District race is really a nice microcosm of the battles and the culture wars that are going on in the country right now."Raising MoneyThe battle for the 9th District also demonstrates the financial challenges of mounting a modern political campaign. Kaptur says raising money is tough."We now have to advertise in two media markets, Cleveland and Toledo, and Cleveland is five times more expensive than the western part of the state," she says. "So, it's quite a daunting task, and there's never enough."While Wurzelbacher can't match Kaptur's accumulated war chest and national contacts, he's using his renown as "Joe the Plumber" to attract campaign dollars."We have an online presence that's pretty huge," he says. "Part of that, obviously, comes from my run-in with Barack Obama. So, we can reach pretty much all of the country and fundraise."Outside DollarsBut reaching all over the country has meant that more than three-quarters of each candidate's funding has come from outside Ohio, according to an NPR analysis of Federal Election Commission reports this cycle."That might show you how bad the economy is around here and how tight it is," Wurzelbacher says. "People don't want to give money; it's very difficult for them."Kaptur argues that most of her funders, even those with outside addresses, have roots in Ohio. Still, she's concerned about how much of her time is devoted to fundraising."It's turned into an endless campaign, where you're having to raise all these very egregious amounts of money just to be able to compete," she says. "When you have some campaigns where you're raising 20 and 30 times more than the job pays, it's out of bounds."And when the majority of that money is coming from outside donors, instead of constituents, it's likely to change the nature o[...]



Coming To A Political Campaign Near You: Outside Money, And Lots Of It

Wed, 16 May 2012 03:00:00 EST

Congressional candidates are increasingly raising money from supporters and groups who are ideological and outside their district - leaving some to say local voters and local issues are playing second fiddle to these donors' ideologies.

It's happening in several congressional races, in states like Nebraska, Montana and Ohio - millions of dollars from out-of-state donors and outside groups are fueling candidates' war chests.

Last week in Indiana, outside money helped Richard Mourdock beat out six-term incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary.

On Wednesday, WCPN's David C. Barnett reports for NPR's Morning Edition about the congressional race in Ohio's 9th District. The Republican challenger there is Joe Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," the guy who rose to fame in 2008 by tangling with then-candidate Barack Obama. The incumbent Democrat is Marcy Kaptur, and $3 out of every $4 in the race has come from donors who don't live in Ohio's 9th.

When did so many Americans decide races outside their backyards were important enough to back financially?

NPR's science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam stopped by Morning Edition with recent social science research that could provide some answers.

"Across the United States, money is pouring into congressional races that comes from outside the congressional district, and there's another thing that's happening at the same time, which is a lot of the money is increasingly coming from donors who identify themselves as strongly partisan," Vedantam explains.

He points to an article in the latest issue of American Politics Research by Ray La Raja and David Wiltse.

In 1972, 40 percent of donors to congressional and presidential races identified themselves as liberals or conservatives. Today, the number is about 60 percent, says La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Along with that partisan spike comes a similar trend in political contributions: Donors are using their money to weigh in on ideological national issues, such as abortion, gay marriage and foreign policy, instead of focusing solely on local issues.

"What La Raja's research seems to suggest is that Washington's polarization came first, and starting in about 2002, there has been this really growing polarization among the voters, which is translating into more partisan donors in politics," Vedantam says.

And, why is 2002 so important to La Raja's findings? He says that's when political campaigns really began to focus on online fundraising.

"Now, you're sitting in front of your computer, you get an email that says, 'Look what those people are doing to us in Washington.' You have your credit card ready, the people who are motivated by that are passionate about the issues, they're ideological. They send money," La Raja says.

Campaign fundraising has become a "self-reinforcing system," Vedantam says, where politicians appeal to those partisan contributors who are likely to give money to a particular cause or campaign, and the cycle encourages itself again and again over each political year. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Court Action May Lift Anonymity For Some Campaign Donors

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:46:00 EST

As of now, nonprofit groups that want to run campaign ads within two months of the general election will have to reveal the names of their donors. That's because a federal appeals court refused to stay a lower court's ruling on the matter. A full appeal could be heard this fall.

Nonprofit groups that want to run campaign ads within two months of the general election have to reveal the names of their donors. That's the result of a federal appeals court action on campaign finance law.

Several weeks ago, a federal court in Washington told the Federal Election Commission it could not allow the buyers of tens of millions of dollars' worth of ads to remain anonymous.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late Monday, on a 2-to-1 vote, refused to grant a stay of that decision pending appeal. It ordered the full appeal to be heard sometime this fall.

At issue is the ability of tax-exempt groups that run political ads within two months of the general election - or within one month of a primary - to keep secret the names of their donors. Such groups spent some $80 million in the 2010 congressional elections, primarily supporting conservative candidates or attacking their opponents. The donors behind less than 10 percent of that amount were ever disclosed.

"It's a very important victory in the battle to end the secret contributions that are currently being funneled into federal elections," said Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, the liberal group that worked with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., to sue the FEC.

The ruling applies specifically to so-called electioneering communications. Not addressed were nonprofit groups that make what are called "independent expenditures" in campaigns. Those are covered in a different section of campaign finance law.

Wertheimer says his group is contemplating a second lawsuit seeking to disclose the donors who finance those forms of ads as well.

S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor for NPR's Washington Desk. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Records Show Edwards Paid Mistress $9,000 A Month

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:46:00 EST

The trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards continued Tuesday in North Carolina. Edwards is accused of accepting almost a million dollars in secret payments to cover up an affair with his pregnant mistress. North Carolina Public Radio's Jeff Tiberii talks to Melissa Block about the case.




Group Backing Third-Party Candidates Struggles

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:46:00 EST

The non-partisan group Americans Elect had hoped to start online voting already to pick a presidential candidate outside the two major parties. Instead, the group has been unable to get a single candidate to get over its 10,000 supporter threshold. Andrea Seabrook talks to Melissa Block about the group.




It's ScuttleButton Time!

Tue, 15 May 2012 13:06:00 EST

Think of all the money JP Morgan wasted with bad investments. Now think of all the time you've wasted each week by solving the latest ScuttleButton puzzle. Still, there's this week's offering to figure out.

I'm less concerned about why JPMorgan lost $2 billion on ScuttleButton futures than I am about you solving this week's puzzle.

ScuttleButton, as you know, is the once a week waste of time exercise in which each Monday or Tuesday (whatever) I put up a vertical display of buttons on this site. Your job is to simply take one word (or concept) per button, add 'em up, and, hopefully, you will arrive at a famous name or a familiar expression. (And seriously, by familiar, I mean it's something that more than one person on Earth would recognize.)

For years, a correct answer chosen at random would get his or her name posted in this column, an incredible honor in itself. Now the stakes are even higher. Thanks to the efforts of the folks at Talk of the Nation, that person also hears their name mentioned on the Wednesday show (by me) and receives a Political Junkie t-shirt in the bargain. Is this a great country or what?

You can't use the comments box at the bottom of the page for your answer. Send submission (plus your name and city/state - you won't win without that) to politicaljunkie@npr.org.

And, by adding your name to the Political Junkie mailing list, you will be among the first on your block to receive notice about the column and the puzzle. Sign up at politicaljunkie@npr.org. Or you can make sure to get an automatic RSS feed whenever a new Junkie post goes up by clicking here.

Good luck!

By the way, I announce the winner on Wednesday's Junkie segment on TOTN. But with a new puzzle up every Monday or Tuesday, depending on my mood, you should get your answer in as soon as possible.

Here are the buttons used and the answer to last week's puzzle:

Change the Scene with Gene - Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, a strong opponent of the Vietnam War, challenged President Lyndon Johnson for renomination in 1968.

Coe for Governor - Earl Coe lost the 1956 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Washington.

Senator D Huddleston - Where would ScuttleButton be without the perennial use of this button? Huddleston, a Kentucky Democrat, served two terms before losing to Mitch McConnell in 1984.

Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise - An essential condiment.

So, when you combine Scene + Coe + D + Mayo, you may just very well end up with ...

Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican holiday, celebrated on, well, May 5th, that dates back to 1862.

This week's winner, chosen completely at random, is ... Kevin Cross of Baltimore, Md. Kevin gets a TOTN Junkie t-shirt.

Don't forget to check out this week's Political Junkie column, which focuses on President Obama's decision to embrace same-sex marriage. You can read the column here. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Ron Paul Spokesman: Candidate Unlikely To Ever Endorse Romney

Tue, 15 May 2012 13:02:00 EST

Presidential candidate Ron Paul is not expected to ultimately endorse presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul's chief strategist said Tuesday. "Never say never, but I don't believe that's likely," said Jesse Benton.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul is not expected to ultimately endorse presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul's chief strategist said Tuesday.

"Never say never, but I don't believe that's likely," said Jesse Benton, during a half-hour-plus give-and-take with reporters, when asked about a future Romney endorsement.

And there's also no chance, he said, that Paul, who is remaining in the race in an effort to collect delegates to the Republican National Convention, will endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Or that he would endorse anyone outside the Republican Party, he said. Unless his supporters are treated badly.

During the call, in what appeared to be a direct message to Paul supporters, Benton repeatedly emphasized that the campaign expects its delegates to the national convention to act with "decorum and respect."

"Our supporters are going to get an excessive amount of blame for problems that arise in heated moments" during the August convention in Tampa, Fla., he said, calling for "respect and civility" among those participating.

"They're going to be under a microscope," Benton said.

The Paul campaign estimates that it already has secured about 100 national convention delegates committed to Paul, a Texas congressman, and an additional 200 supporters who are delegates bound to Romney.

On Monday, Paul announced that his campaign would no longer invest in presidential primary states, and Benton said that the campaign had turned down the Republican National Committee's offer to set up a joint general election fundraising committee, as it has with Romney.

But Paul is expecting to pick up additional national convention delegates this weekend at the Minnesota state GOP convention, and in coming party conventions in Washington, Missouri, Louisiana, and Iowa, Benton said.

The delegates are serving as Paul's leverage to influence the party's convention platform, and party rules going forward. Benton said the campaign has been in contact with Romney campaign officials about the platform, and they've "agreed to be helpful."

Paul's platform focus includes Federal Reserve transparency and accountability, monetary reform, Internet freedom, and opposition to indefinite detention.

"There have been no discussions [about] whether Ron will speak or not speak" at the convention, he said.

As to whether Paul supporters would get behind Romney once he secures the nomination, Benton had this to say: "I think that's still up for grabs. The ball is in the court of the Republican Party, and in the court of Mitt Romney."

It depends, he said, on whether Paul supporters and their ideas are treated "seriously and with respect."

"In a nutshell, we want to do things that open up the party," he said, and that prevent the party establishment from "locking the party down and benefiting the people who are already inside the tent."

Is Paul concerned that if he doesn't endorse Romney, the expected GOP nominee might lose to President Obama?

"That is not going to figure into Dr. Paul's calculus," Benton replied. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]