House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia appears at a House Republican Conference Wednesday, June 24, 1998 on Capitol Hill where he talked about his plan to cut the capital gains tax. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Photo: RON EDMONDS/AP
Photo: RON EDMONDS/AP

The Jolt: Happy birthday, C-SPAN. Or maybe not

Tuesday will mark the 40th anniversary of C-SPAN. Feel free to celebrate -- or shake your head.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post put out a worthwhile column over the weekend, summarizing how the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network upended life on Capitol Hill, which is certainly worthy of your time

Tumulty writes about how the network made new stars of junior lawmakers. 

One of those new members, U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., was sworn in just two months before the network began carrying House floor proceedings into the living rooms of countless Americans.

In 1995, the year he became House speaker, Gingrich appeared 205 times on C-SPAN.

In an op-ed marking C-SPAN's big birthday, Gingrich recounts the House floor exchange with then-Speaker Tip O'Neill that first put him on the national radar. The network, Gingrich wrote in Newsweek, "gave conservatives an opportunity to express themselves directly to the American people without liberal editing or distorting."

This view isn’t universal.

When he was in the U.S. Senate, Saxby Chambliss would often tell us that C-SPAN is one of the things that had ruined Washington as a place where deals could be struck.

Through the magic of cable TV, House members could now make endless addresses aimed not at colleagues (the chamber is often empty) for the sake of persuasion, but at home constituencies.

These “Buncombe” speeches, named after the North Carolina county often addressed by a 19th century member of Congress, tend to cement representatives into positions from which there’s no retreat.

We found this 2012 clip of Chambliss explaining the situation to Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” (Both were first elected to the U.S. House in 1994.) Said Chambliss:

“I don’t think there’s any question but what it’s worse. I think one thing that’s made it that way is C-Span, very honestly. You’ve got folks on TV and now, instead of doing political commercials, they rant and rave during dinner time on the east coast, and at nine o’clock, you’ll see the west coast guys up there.

“Being able to portray back home, ‘I’m fighting,’ is the kind of mantra a lot of people have now.”

Watch here:

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Also over this Beto O’Rourke weekend, Dan Balz of the Washington Post pondered the future of Democrat Stacey Abrams and whether she, too, would enter the race for president. This quote from the former candidate for governor stood out:

“I think that I am a skilled communicator,” she said. “I think I’m a very good thinker. No, I know I’m a good thinker. I know I have policy chops. I have foreign policy experience. . . . I’ve done a great deal of work on a number of issues. But I need to make certain that I am the best person at this moment for that job and that’s what I need to think about.”

The claim of foreign policy experience was new to us – diplomatic expertise isn’t required of Georgia governors.

In an email, Lauren Groh-Wargo, the former campaign manager, told us that Abrams:

“[I]s a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where she serves on the subcommittee on diversity. As a Next Generation Fellow of the American Assembly on U.S. Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions, she also served as a discussion leader, contributor to and editor for a collection of essays.

“… Her international policy travel includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.”

Groh-Wargo also listed a number of international fellowships Abrams has gathered up, which can be found here. 

***

Jumping the gun? Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger put out a request for proposal on Friday for a $150 million new statewide voting system of touchscreen machines that spit out paper ballots. 

The problem with starting the footrace among vendors: Gov. Brian Kemp still hasn’t signed the legislation that would codify the change. 

We know there’s little doubt he will -- his hand-picked commission backed the overhaul -- but the timing is bound to spark blowback from Democrats and other critics who support a hand-marked system.

The bidding will be open through mid-April. Presumably, Kemp will sign the legislation by then. A March 28 conference for potential vendors has been scheduled.

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Gun rights supporters in the state Capitol are keeping a close eye on Senate Bill 72 during the final weeks of the legislative session - and so are advocates who want new firearms restrictions. 

The legislation, which has passed the Senate, lifts penalties for hunters using silencers and suppressors on their weapons. 

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a measure in 2014 that allowed the use of noise suppressors for hunting on private property with the permission of the landowner. Violators currently can be charged with a misdemeanor.

This year’s effort, now pending in the state House, removes all trace of the language threatening penalties for those caught using silencers.

And since it deals with firearm regulations, the bill also could be a particularly juicy target for late amendments and other attempts that seek other, more sweeping changes to gun rules.

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Several years ago, after UGA tailback Todd Gurley was suspended by the NCAA for taking cash payments in exchange for autographs, the General Assembly made it a crime to knowingly entice a college student athlete to jeopardize his or her eligibility as an amateur.

Over at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Guerry Clegg writes of a congressional effort in a different direction:

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican from North Carolina, has a different idea. He wants to change the NCAA’s archaic rules that define amateurism. Last week, Walker and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) introduced The Student-Athlete Equity Act that would penalize the NCAA if they restrict athletes from earning money on their own time. It would jeopardize the NCAA’s tax-exempt status, a substantial penalty given that college sports rakes in roughly $1 billion in revenue.

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