Tom Price, the former U.S. representative from Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and President Donald Trump’s first secretary of health and human services, now wants to start a think tank. But the Roswell Republican’s plan to fund it with nearly $1.8 million in leftover campaign cash hit a snag with the Federal Election Commission. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Capitol Recap: Ex-Georgia rep’s idea for think tank still just a notion

For his next endeavor, Tom Price wants to start a think tank.

The Federal Election Commission is still thinking about it.

Price, who used to represent the 6th Congressional District before he became President Donald Trump’s first secretary of health and human services, wants to start a nonprofit that would focus on health care and the federal budget. (Back when he was representing a chunk of Atlanta’s northern suburbs in Congress, Price also rose to lead the House Budget Committee.)

His plan is to spend nearly $1.8 million in leftover campaign cash to get the operation going.

That would veer from the normal ways to dispose of federal campaign funds. Usually, they’re spent in pursuit of another federal office, or they are given away, either to a charity, other candidates or political parties. Personal spending is taboo.

The Center for Public Integrity reported division among the FEC’s members over Price’s plan to form what his lawyer, former Deputy White House Counsel Stefan Passantino, called a “social welfare” group. One concern was that such groups don’t face the kind of restrictions put on charities.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, is not a fan of the plan.

“If we were to approve this advisory opinion, it would extend the ‘personal use’ exemption to 501(c)(4) organizations in a way that the commission has not done before, that I’m not willing to do,” Weintraub said, referring to the federal tax code that applies to social welfare groups.

The FEC’s two Republican commissioners liked what they were told by Passantino, who used to handle ethics questions in the Trump White House. He said Price would not use the campaign money for personal uses, and the nonprofit would not spend the money in directly advocating for politicians or to lobby them.

Ultimately, the FEC did nothing because its decision would require unanimous support.

Climate change change: Republican pollster Frank Luntz once advised his party on the issue of global warming that “the scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed.”

In a 2003 memo for the George W. Bush administration, Luntz pressed to keep that window open. He said there was still time “to challenge the science” and that voters didn’t believe the issue had been resolved “within the scientific community.”

Luntz even made sure that there wouldn’t be a consensus on what to call it. He coined the phrase “climate change.”

And, now, Luntz says there is nothing left to debate.

“It’s happening,” he said during a recent special hearing called by U.S. Senate Democrats.

Luntz is not the only one who thinks that way, he said.

“America believes climate change is real, that it is man-made, and that both political and business leaders need to do more, right now, to address it,” Luntz said.

He cited a May poll that said 69% of Republicans worry that the GOP’s stance of resistance to climate change science will hurt the party’s standing with younger voters.

Luntz offered to help Democrats make climate change a bipartisan issue and even handed out the type of advice he once reserved for Republicans.

Don’t use terms like “sustainability,” which he called a “buzzword of environmentalists.”

The focus, he said, should be on what Americans will get by taking steps to fix the problem — “a cleaner, safer, healthier world” — not on the scary results that would come with inaction.

If the science is wrong, Luntz said there are still benefits: “We get cleaner air, we get less dependence of foreign fuels and enhance national security, we get more innovation in our economy and more jobs, and (we) create new careers.”

And if it’s right, he said, “we get all of those things and begin to solve what could be the most catastrophic environmental problem that any of us have ever faced.”

A King and a president: Alveda King, a conservative activist and niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., met this past week with President Donald Trump and several African American pastors.

The gathering followed a weekend when the president faced some heat after condemning a leading critic, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as well as the congressman’s hometown, Baltimore.

King, a Trump ally, said the president “is concerned about the whole nation, about everybody in the nation.”

She told reporters: “I want us to remember, that we’ve been designed to be brothers and sisters. One member of the human race. Not separate races. The same blood. And so I was just rejoicing to be able to pray here today. And to believe that America will come together.”

Seeking strength: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, at least for a Georgia Democrat, jumped into the presidential endorsement game pretty early when she chose last month to back former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bottoms recently explained her support, saying, “I think it’s important that we go in with our strongest fighter.”

She seems to think the 2020 race will look a lot like the 2016 contest.

“We know (Biden is) strongest in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,” Bottoms said. “We know that those states are the reason that Donald Trump is president.”

Bottoms offered praise when asked about another candidate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who recently gained the endorsement of state House Minority Leader Bob Trammell. But she didn’t hold out much hope for Harris’ prospects.

“I just don’t think Kamala will carry the states that I mentioned,” Bottoms said, “and I don’t think she’s our strongest candidate to take out Trump in November.”

Bottoms also made it clear that beating Trump is far more important than the struggles currently on display within the Democratic Party between its moderate and liberal wings.

“That has to be the No. 1 priority, to remove Trump,” she said. “At the rate we’re going, if Trump remains president, there may not be a Democratic Party. There may not be an America as we know it. This man is dangerous. He is a danger to our sense of this country and to this world.”

Border scuffle: U.S. Rep. Jody Hice hit the road, and then he hit his Democratic colleagues over whether migrants at the southwest border are being mistreated.

The Republican from Monroe visited a detention camp near El Paso, Texas.

He then posted videos and a little commentary in a tweet. “The falsehoods from @HouseDemocrats that migrants don’t have access to basic supplies like toothpaste and soap are flat out wrong,” the House Freedom Caucus member wrote. “Today, I stood in a warehouse full of these items.”

Hice then sent a follow-up tweet: “Migrants have potable water, have shelter, and are being fed. The constant attacks against our brave border patrol agents must stop!”

That caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who went to Twitter to say that Hice, a fellow member of the House Oversight Committee, was “lying about this.”

Hice then sent another tweet offering to meet with the New York Democrat once Congress is back in session to “discuss truly resolving the border crisis and fully funding our immigration agencies.”

“I’m here to see the reality of the southern border crisis firsthand & share factual details with the American people,” he wrote.

Looking up as numbers fall: Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren handed out the numbers after 10 years of participating in the 287(g) program, a partnership between his department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Business is declining, he said with some pleasure.

Over the 10 years, Warren’s deputies have turned over 11,737 foreign-born nationals to ICE, The Marietta Daily Journal reported.

The yearly numbers have dropped with the passage of time.

In 2008, the Cobb jail booked 5,382 foreign nationals, and it turned over 3,180 of them to ICE.

In 2018, the jail booked 1,931, and it turned over 553 to ICE.

For the family: The Georgia House has put in place a paid family leave policy for its employees.

The program will award three weeks of paid leave to employees who add to their families either through childbirth, adoption or foster care.

Employees become eligible for the leave once they’ve worked a year for the House. The policy has no effect on vacation or sick leave.

State House Speaker David Ralston said the policy will help the House attract and retain “the highest caliber staff to serve Georgia’s citizens.”

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Lindsey Acciarito, who works for a nonprofit that helps veterans and military spouses find civilian jobs, is running as a Democrat in state Senate District 45. The seat is currently held by state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who is leaving the Senate to run in the 7th Congressional District.

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