As wall funding talks sputtered over the weekend, we received word that U.S. David Perdue, R-Ga., will be touring a stretch of Texas today. His office says he'll be visiting "illegal crossing hotspots" and getting briefed by border patrol agents.
An immigration hawk, Perdue has urged his ally President Trump to hold firm on wall funding in recent weeks. And he's defended the president's intention to declare a national emergency to get the money if Congress opts not to give it to him. Perdue's visit to Texas comes the same day Trump is slated to drop in for a campaign rally in El Paso.
David Perdue isn't a member of the 17-member congressional committee tasked with negotiating wall money, but his U.S. House colleague Tom Graves is. The Ranger Republican was at Camp David over the weekend, huddling with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers that also included retiring Rep. Rob Woodall. The meeting had no set agenda, according to the White House, and it was technically separate from the border talks. But Graves emerged from the confab warning that the "goalposts have been moving" on the latter in recent days.
"We were progressing well. I thought we were tracking pretty good over the last week. It just seems over the last 24 hours or so the goalposts have been moving from the Democrats," Graves said on ABC’s “This Week.” "And at the end of the day we have an obligation -- that's to protect our nation, provide the proper border security. And as long as the goalposts continue moving, there's really no way we can lock in on an agreement."
Matching diversity with diversity: On his Facebook page, Narender Reddy, an Indian-American businessman and board member on the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, says he's mulling a GOP run for the Seventh District congressional seat being vacated by Republican Rob Woodall.
John Eaves has raised some eyebrows with a Facebook post announcing he was moving 35 miles to the north - and taking up residency in Gwinnett County. The Democrat and former chairman of the Fulton County Commission, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Atlanta in 2017, posted a pic of his brand-new Gwinnett license plate and said he was excited about his "new chapter" in the 'burbs. And we heard from a handful of politicos, who wondered whether this was a prelude to a run for political office -- county commission? Seventh District? -- in his new home.
A dozen years ago, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed landed in hot water when it was discovered that he was organizing grassroots opposition to casinos in several states – at the behest of Native American casino operators who had hired Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff to fend off competition. A healthy chunk of Reed's money was laundered through the Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform.
Last Friday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing that featured Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. If you follow Georgia politics, there were two points of interest. The first was the debut of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the ranking member on the Democrat-led committee, as the Trump administration’s chief defender.
"This hearing is pointless," Collins said. "If this is the way we’re going to go, then we’ll have plenty of stunts, we’re going to have plenty of theatrics. Bring your popcorn. I'm thinking we just set up a popcorn machine in the back, because that's what this is becoming. It's becoming a show.”
But there was another topic. U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., wanted to know why the U.S. Department of Justice, during the recent federal shutdown, backed off a 2011 interpretation of the Federal Wire Act – which had said a ban on online gaming applied only to sports betting. The new interpretation widens the ban to include all online forms of gambling. Possibly even state lotteries.
Behind the DOJ shift is a campaign financed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a funder of Republican causes and owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which has destination casinos in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore. From the Huffington Post:
The 85-year-old billionaire argues that the legalization of online gaming will hurt the bottom line for casinos. Banning or restricting online gaming, on the other hand, would hurt his competitors like MGM that invested in the new industry after the 2011 ruling.
So Adelson launched the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and hired a bevy of revolving-door lobbyists, including former Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and former Republican Gov. George Pataki of New York. Social conservatives like Ralph Reed were encouraged to rally the grassroots. The lobbying group doesn't campaign on the grounds that Adelson's hefty pocketbook may suffer from online gaming. Instead, the coalition argues that online gaming is bad for the children.
The difference between 2005 and 2019: This time, the money’s out in the open.
Collins is on the opposite side of the issue from Adelson. The four-term congressman has assured backers of Georgia's HOPE scholarship that the Justice Department's updated interpretation of the Wire Act shouldn't jeopardize the lottery or the local students who rely on it. "I believe that states still have the ability to regulate gaming within their own borders, and I'll keep working to make sure that Georgians' right to make these decisions for themselves isn't curbed," said Collins, who helped guide HOPE legislation as a member of the Georgia Legislature.
Last week, we made a couple references to state Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, who cast one of only two votes against a House resolution to name a new judicial complex after Nathan Deal, who made criminal justice reform a priority during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Moore told an AJC reporter that he didn't want Deal to become "the symbol of justice in Georgia."
Over the weekend, the Chattanooga Times Free Press added a little meat to Moore's sketchy antipathy toward the former governor:
Moore, whose father was convicted of marijuana distribution in Dade County in 1999, argued that Deal's efforts were motivated by the financial picture instead of changing how the state's police and prosecutors work. He believes some members of law enforcement are still too eager to harshly punish defendants. He also said the number of people in the state under supervision for convictions is still too high.
"They didn't get to the root of the criminal justice problem," Moore said.
He also criticized an ethics probe into Deal's 2010 campaign, which centered on how money was spent. Moore further said the governor should have testified in the December 2017 trial of Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist who was arrested after refusing to stop filming a Republican Party Campaign rally in Dawsonville, Georgia. Deal was at the event.
Democrat Stacey Abrams will be back in Washington on Friday with a gig at the Brookings Institute. She's part of the liberal think-tank's Black History Month celebration: 'Abrams will discuss the increasing political power of African-Americans after the 2018 elections and the tensions that may arise as the African-American electorate and candidates claim more political space."
U.S. Rep. John Lewis will join former Vice President Joe Biden as one of the speakers Tuesday's funeral mass for former congressman John Dingell. Former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. House speaker John Boehner will be among the eulogists at a Thursday service in Washington. Dingell was the longest serving member of Congress in history. A World War II veteran, he is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.