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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Good Tuesday morning.
Monday night’s enormous Politico scoop by Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward – that the Supreme Court has privately voted to overturn Roe v. Wade – is one of the most impactful domestic political stories in years.
The report immediately changed the debate in Washington. Within hours of the story being published, there were hundreds of pro and anti-abortion rights protestors gathered on the steps of the high court – including several Democratic candidates for Senate – chanting and praying, exchanging taunts and insults, a sign of the huge impact of this story.
The Supreme Court rarely leaks (although it did happen with the original Roe v. Wade decision), let alone allow draft opinions to get into the public realm. So this is largely unprecedented.
But this episode transcends the who-did-it nature of a typical Washington leak. The possibility that the Supreme Court would scrap Roe v. Wade – the great fear of Democrats during Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings right before the 2020 election – has now moved into the realm of the increasingly imminent.
If Roe is overturned, individual states would be allowed to decide their own abortion laws, and women across huge swathes of the United States could find themselves hundreds of miles from abortion services.
Such a ruling in this Mississippi abortion case also would deepen the already yawning ideological and cultural gap between red and blue states. To be sure, several states have already enacted significant restrictions on abortion rights, led by Texas’ six-week abortion ban. The Mississippi law under review by the Supreme Court would ban abortions after 15 weeks. More than a dozen states have immediate abortion bans that would be “triggered” in the event that Roe is overturned, while others have “pre-Roe” abortion bans still on the books, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights group.
This draft decision, authored by Justice Samuel Alito and reportedly backed by Coney Barrett and Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, gives states the ability to ban abortions even in the case of rape or incest, an extreme position that most Americans reject. This issue isn’t mentioned in the draft document, but since the presumption is that these decisions would be left to state governments, they could do so.
Politically, this leak ensures that the right to an abortion will be a major debate for the rest of 2022, as we’re just 189 days out from the midterms. It will dominate Capitol Hill this week as senators will face a barrage of questions from reporters over the Feb. 10 draft document.
From a legislative point of view, the issue of scrapping the legislative filibuster will once again move to the forefront of the Senate’s agenda. Congress can codify the legal principles in Roe v. Wade, although to do so would require the Senate to get rid of the 60-vote threshold for passing legislation. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has previously said he wouldn’t lower that threshold to 50 votes unless it was part of a bipartisan compromise. Republicans will overwhelmingly oppose such a move, as they did earlier this year when Democrats sought to eliminate the filibuster.
GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) are in favor of abortion rights, but they would have to agree to blow up the filibuster to codify Roe into law. Collins is actually working on a bill to codify Roe. However, it’s unclear – and seems unlikely – that the GOP pair would agree to get rid of the filibuster to do so.
Top Democratic lawmakers, joined by progressive and women’s rights groups, quickly expressed outrage at the draft decision and urged their supporters to mobilize politically to fight it. Vice President Kamala Harris, released from isolation after contracting Covid-19, will speak at an Emily’s List meeting today.
“If the report is accurate, the Supreme Court is poised to inflict the greatest restriction of rights in the past fifty years – not just on women but on all Americans,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. “The Republican-appointed Justices’ reported votes to overturn Roe v. Wade would go down as an abomination, one of the worst and most damaging decisions in modern history.”
More Pelosi and Schumer:
“Several of these conservative Justices, who are in no way accountable to the American people, have lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation – all at the expense of tens of millions of women who could soon be stripped of their bodily autonomy and the constitutional rights they’ve relied on for half a century.
“The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has now completely devolved into the party of Trump. Every Republican Senator who supported Senator McConnell and voted for Trump Justices pretending that this day would never come will now have to explain themselves to the American people.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for the Senate to immediately end the filibuster in order to codify Roe. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the draft decision was “Bullshit,” while Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – like many other Democrats – urged abortion rights supporters to mobilize around the issue.
“It’s time for every single person—in every single state—to realize this impacts you, your choices, your rights. It’s not happening to someone else, in some other state—it’s happening everywhere, and the highest court in the land is preparing to rip away your rights at this very moment. We need to fight back with everything we’ve got right now.”
Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion rights organization, said as many as 26 states could enact some type of abortion restrictions, although it noted that “Abortion is legal. It is still your right.”
“Understand that Planned Parenthood and our partners have been preparing for every possible outcome in this case and are built for the fight,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, the group’s president and CEO. “Planned Parenthood health centers remain open, abortion is currently still legal, and we will continue to fight like hell to protect the right to access safe, legal abortion.”
Republicans, for their part, attacked the leak as an attempt to undermine the Supreme Court and its decision in this case, which wasn’t expected to be released for two months.
“The left continues its assault on the Supreme Court with an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, clearly meant to intimidate,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said on Twitter. “The Justices mustn’t give in to this attempt to corrupt the process. Stay strong.”
Hawley later called on the Supreme Court to release the decision immediately: “The Court should not abide this coordinated assault by the Left. Issue the decision now.”
“This was an utter disgrace in terms of how this was released,” added Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a one-time Alito law clerk, during an appearance on Fox News. “This entire kerfuffle has been brought about as a result of an unscrupulous person trying to subvert 235 years of tradition, trying to subvert the way the Supreme Court operates.”
Supreme Court watchers lamented the leak as potentially a serious – perhaps fatal – blow to the high court’s ability to function in a comparative collegiality.
“It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the Court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the Justices and staff. This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin,” SCOTUSblog tweeted.
→ NYT: “What Would the End of Roe Mean? Key Questions and Answers,” by Claire Cain Miller and Margot Sanger-Katz
→ AP: “Court that rarely leaks does so now in biggest case in years,” by Jessica Gresko
→ CNN: “Supreme Court abortion bombshell suggests a staggering change in American life,” by Stephen Collison
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Eighty-five. That’s the percentage of American voters who agree that producing natural gas and oil here in the U.S. would help lower energy costs for consumers and small businesses, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. By wide margins and across party, age, education, marital status and more, Americans view U.S. natural gas and oil production as essential to our energy security and economic strength. Learn more here.
Washington Press Club Foundation’s headline speakers
News: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) will be headlining the Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual dinner May 11 — one week from tomorrow. The two rising stars – both serve as vice chair in their party leadership – will deliver lighthearted speeches as reporters and members gather for a good cause for the first time in three years.
Punchbowl News is a proud supporter of the dinner, whose proceeds fund internships and educational programs for women and minority journalists. Punchbowl News will be hosting a VIP reception ahead of the big event.
THE CRYPTO CAMPAIGN
Inside Sam Bankman-Fried’s money drop
Sam Bankman-Fried is the world’s first cryptocurrency billionaire — and the newest major player in Democratic mega-donor circles.
The 30-year-old FTX CEO, who amassed his wealth by trading Bitcoin, gave millions to President Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020. But now, the entrepreneur is going local by pouring his money into a Democratic super PAC spending huge sums of cash in a seemingly random assortment of House primaries.
Protect Our Future PAC, backed by at least $14 million from Bankman-Fried, is running ads backing House candidates in Ohio, Texas, Oregon, North Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky ahead of this month’s primaries. The organization bills itself as a group supporting “candidates who take a long term view on policy planning.” Pandemic preparedness — a passion of Bankman-Fried and his brother, Gabriel — is mentioned in the PAC’s mission statement, but there’s no overtly stated crypto connection to the endorsements.
The infusion of money from the Bankman-Fried bankrolled PAC is significantly changing the dynamics in these little-known races. His newfound political activity hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s become an issue in some of the races, where opponents on the other side of Protect Our Future’s ad dollars are taking shots at Bankman-Fried.
So what does Bankman-Fried want?
Little seems to tie together the candidates Protect Our Future is backing, beyond their lack of seniority. Two of the candidates — Reps. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) and Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) — are first and second-term legislators, respectively. The rest have never served in Congress. The candidates getting support on the airwaves are both moderates and progressives. The PAC is not targeting any competitive districts. The three races are open, safe seats created by the retirements of longtime Democrats.
Bankman-Fried has been increasingly visible in political circles following his $5.2 million donation to Biden last year. He testified on the Hill twice during the past six months, first before the House Financial Services Committee and then in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The billionaire and his associates have also been meeting with senior House Democrats on the Hill, according to lawmakers and aides.
And Bankman-Fried hobnobbed with House Democrats during their retreat in Philadelphia in March, speaking at a cryptocurrency panel hosted by House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).
Bankman-Fried popped up at the New Dems Coalition retreat in Cambridge, Md., in April too. Appearing on a panel with his brother Gabriel, the billionaire raised the alarm that the United States isn’t ready for a future pandemic, a topic he and his brother are particularly interested in. Lawmakers in attendance viewed Bankman-Fried with interest and bemusement. The young CEO’s outfit of jeans and flip-flops seemed out of place among more buttoned-up members of the House.
It’s important to remember: Bankman-Fried is a billionaire. Many times over. Funneling tens of millions of dollars into Protect Our Future is chump change for someone like him. He runs one of the most valuable companies in crypto, FTX, which has received billions of dollars in venture capital funding. Some in the crypto world surmised that as soon as the company started drawing regulatory heat, Bankman-Fried would ramp up his political donations. The same pattern has played out for many successful tech startups over the last two decades.
Representatives from Protect Our Future PAC declined a phone interview.
Another way Sam Bankman-Fried is flexing his political muscles is through his role as a major donor to his brother Gabriel’s pandemic advocacy work. Gabriel, a former aide to Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), founded Guarding Against Pandemics to urge lawmakers to dedicate serious attention to stopping the next pandemic. Gabriel told us pandemic prevention is a key focus of Sam’s and that his brother intends to give as much of his fortune away as possible.
There has been for speculation that Sam’s initial interest in pandemic prevention is the first step in a longer play to parlay his D.C. influence into receiving favorable cryptocurrency regulation,
“That would be an absurd plan,” Gabriel told us. “And it is definitely not his. And if it is, he’s never told me about it. So I’m certainly not going to help him carry out that plan.”
Those who know Bankman-Fried say his interest in politics may be traced back to his mother, Stanford professor Barbara Fried. Fried is the co-founder of Mind the Gap, a liberal group that uses statistical models to determine how the dollars of Democratic donors can have the “greatest marginal impact.” Launched to flip the House for Democrats in 2018, the group was a major player among liberal Silicon Valley donors during 2020.
Bankman-Fried’s exposure to his mother’s organization, in addition to his belief in effective altruism — the philosophy that philanthropic donations should be given to causes that will yield the highest possible impact — can partially explain Protect Our Future’s donation strategy. A couple of million dollars in an under-the-radar House primary can make a bigger splash than dropping ten million dollars in an already saturated swing-state Senate race.
– Max Cohen
The candidates benefitting from Protect Our Future crypto-fueled ad dollars
What’s still unclear is the connection between Sam Bankman-Fried’s interests — in crypto and pandemic prep — to the Protect Our Future ad spending. The Democratic candidates supported by Protect Our Future have no discernible cryptocurrency connections. What’s more, with the exception of Democrat Carrick Flynn in Oregon, no Protect Our Future-backed politicians have played a notable role in the pandemic preparedness world.
Here’s how Gabriel Bankman-Fried — who stressed he had no connection to Protect Our Future — explained his brother’s political donations.
“One of the reasons that [Sam] tried to become so successful and make money was to donate all of it to causes that he thought can most effectively improve the world,” Gabriel said. “And that was always the plan from the beginning, and he’s now in a privileged enough position to be able to make that happen. There’s a lot of causes on that list for him, but one of them is pandemic prevention.”
The millions of dollars in ads from Protect Our Future, however, make no mention of the pandemic. Instead, the TV spots focus on typical Democratic issues such as expanding access to health care, protecting Social Security and introducing the biography of the candidates. This isn’t a total surprise, to be fair — there aren’t many one-issue Democratic primary voters focused on pandemic funding.
Below is a look at the candidates benefiting from TV ads run by Protect Our Future and their key messaging:
→ Carrick Flynn, Oregon. Primary date: May 17
The race: Flynn is running in Oregon’s newly created 6th district and is facing a number of challengers who have banded together to protest the PAC’s support of Flynn. Out of all the candidates supported by Protect Our Future, Flynn has the strongest connections to the pandemic space.
The ad: There are a whole lot to choose from. Protect Our Future has run eight ads in favor of Flynn — more than half of the 15 total ads they’ve run all cycle.
Almost every ad mentions Flynn’s humble upbringing, his pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare and lower prescription drug costs. Not a single ad brings up the pandemic at all, but two of the spots reference Flynn’s career in international economic development and how “he directed a billion dollars to children’s health programs.”
Reaction to Protect Our Future PAC funding: Flynn told the Washington Post: “I’d heard of Sam Bankman-Fried, but I’d never met him or talked to him.”
→ Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio). Primary date: May 3.
The race: Brown beat progressive Nina Turner in last summer’s primary for the seat held by the retiring Rep. Marcia Fudge, who moved into Biden’s cabinet as HUD secretary. The race was viewed as a proxy battle between the moderate and progressive wings of the party. The two are squaring off in a rematch today.
The ad: A spot plays up Brown’s bipartisan chops by saying she’s “not afraid to work with people whose views are different than her” — an implicit shot at Turner’s antipathy to moderate leaders within the Democratic Party. In a constant refrain of Protect Our Future ads, the narrator highlights Brown’s desire to support Medicare and Social Security and lower prescription drug costs.
→ Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.). Primary date: May 24.
The race: Protect Our Future is backing McBath, the progressive-aligned candidate in the member-on-member primary against Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.). McBath and Bourdeaux were forced into the same district following the 2020 census.
Ad watch: The spot highlights McBath’s personal story and focuses on how she’s protecting health-care coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, fighting to fully fund Medicare and Social Security and lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Reaction to Protect Our Future PAC funding: Bourdeaux’s campaign has seized on the PAC’s spending and issued a press release condemning what they labeled a “cryptocurrency billionaire’s interference.”
→ Jasmine Crockett in Texas. Primary runoff date: May 24.
The race: Crockett, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, is running to succeed Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the Dallas-area district. Crockett advanced to a primary runoff following the March 1 primary and was endorsed by Johnson last November. Most other establishment Democrats in the state have endorsed her opponent, Jane Hamilton.
The ad: In Protect Our Future PAC’s first expenditure of the cycle, Crockett is portrayed as a progressive champion who led a movement against voter suppression in Texas.
Reaction to Protect Our Future PAC funding: “The fact [that] they are putting this kind of money behind my candidacy only speaks to the strength of my candidacy,” Crockett told the Texas Tribune, referring to financial backing from both Protect Our Future PAC and Web3 Forward PAC, a separate cryptocurrency group.
→ Morgan McGarvey in Kentucky. Primary date: May 17.
The race: McGarvey is running to succeed Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) in the safe Democratic seat in Louisville. McGarvey has been the Democratic minority leader in the Kentucky Senate since 2019. McGarvey received Yarmuth’s endorsement and is running against progressive Attica Scott.
The ad: The ads center on McGarvey’s pledge to expand access to affordable health care and reduce prescription drug prices.
→ Valerie Foushee in North Carolina. Primary date: May 17.
The race: In the district where Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) is retiring, Protect Our Future is backing Foushee over Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam (who’s endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders) and American Idol star Clay Aiken. Foushee, a state senator, has deep experience in elected office in North Carolina.
The ad: The spot focuses on her political experience and her work protecting voting rights and women’s right to choose and fighting to expand Medicaid.
Reaction to Protect Our Future PAC funding: Foushee wouldn’t comment on the spending when asked by INDY Week, a Durham alternative newspaper.
–– Max Cohen. Graphic by Leigh Steinberg
→ This is interesting. J.R. Majewski, who is running in a primary today for the right to take on longtime Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), has a new ad running in Toledo. The ad, of course, features former President Donald Trump. But it also has Majewski strolling through a warehouse with a gun as he says he will do “whatever it takes to return this country back to its former glory.”
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PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
American voters to policymakers: Develop our own energy. Learn more.
All times eastern
10:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will leave the White House for Andrews, where he’ll fly to Montgomery, Ala. Jen Psaki will gaggle on board Air Force One. Biden will arrive at 12:55 p.m.
2 p.m.: Senate Republicans and Democrats will gaggle after their respective party lunches.
2:20 p.m.: Biden will visit a Lockheed Martin factory in Troy, Ala., which makes the Javelin anti-tank missile.
3 p.m.: Biden will speak in Troy about the “security assistance” the U.S. is providing to Ukraine.
5:15 p.m.: Biden will leave Montgomery for Andrews. He’ll arrive at the White House at 7:35 p.m.
→ “In Ohio Senate Fight, G.O.P. Shows Strains of Its Identity Crisis,” by Jazmine Ulloa and Jonathan Weisman in Cleveland
→ “National Democrats Make Last-Gasp Push to Keep N.Y. District Maps,” by Nick Fandos
→ “Accusations against Rep. Madison Cawthorn multiply,” by Marianna Sotomayor, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Mike DeBonis
→ “Ukraine Says It Sank Two Russian Naval Boats, and Moscow Targets Odessa,” by Yaroslav Trofimov, Laurence Norman and Matthew Luxmoore
→ “‘DeSantis seems unstoppable’: Florida Dems worry they can’t beat the governor,” by Matt Dixon in Tallahassee
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
America’s energy security is neither complicated nor partisan. In fact, few topics on the policy landscape spur voters of all backgrounds to quickly discard partisan divisions than energy costs and reliability.
Recent polling conducted by Morning Consult bolsters this assertion. Most Independents, Democrats and Republicans surveyed in eight key battleground states agreed that:
→ America should develop its own energy rather than relying on other nations for vital resources.
→ Producing natural gas and oil here at home could help lower energy costs while strengthening America’s national security.
→ Increased American oil and natural gas production helps protect our nation and our allies from adversarial actions by other countries such as Russia.
Now is the time for the Biden administration to advance policies to incentivize U.S. production and send a clear message that America is open for energy investment. Learn more here.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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