David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The "Fast and Furious" gun-walking controversy is back in the headlines.
This time, a Justice Department Inspector General's report says that a former top federal prosecutor decided to get back at whistleblower John Dodson by leaking a story that Dodson also supported allowing guns to get into the hands of U.S. criminals and Mexican drug cartels.
Former Arizona prosecutor Dennis K. Burke told the Justice Department that he gave Fox News an internal memo, stating that Dodson, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Special Agent, supported walking guns along the Southwest border.
In actuality, Dodson proposed going undercover in 2010 as a straw purchaser and delivering firearms to suspected traffickers. He later criticized the operation to Congress.
Burke said that he didn't think he did anything illegal by leaking the document implicating Dodson. Meanwhile, he also turned over documents to The New York Times that one of the guns used in the "Fast and Furious" operation was at the scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent had been murdered.
The prosecutor and several other officials resigned as a result of the botched operation in which law enforcement officials lost track of hundreds of firearms.
Meanwhile, Burke has since joined a global security firm.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Patrick Smith/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans say that President Obama really has his work cut out for him during his second-term, largely because of scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department subpoena of Associated Press phone records and last year’s deadly attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
A new USA Today poll released Monday finds that 31 percent of respondents believe the controversies will make it much harder for the president to accomplish his agenda while 42 percent say they’ll at least make things a little harder for Obama.
Only 21 percent believe the scandals will have no effect on the president’s performance while 6 percent expressed no opinion.
In other findings, 53 percent think that politics was behind the IRS decision to scrutinize Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations despite White House denials. In addition, 50 percent contend that the president should shoulder at least a little or a lot of the blame while 44 percent say he had nothing to do with it.
As for the Sept. 11, 2012 siege in Libya that left four Americans dead, 40 percent claim the administration is covering up the facts about the attack and its aftermath but 45 percent assert there was no cover-up.
Meanwhile, the public seems overwhelmingly in the media’s corner when it comes to the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records after the AP published a story regarding the CIA foiling an al Qaeda bomb plot one year ago.
Sixty-two percent say the media should report stories that are in the national interest without government interference while 23 percent claim the government should censor news stories that potentially threaten national security.
Interestingly, there could be a partisan element involved in the response to that question. In 2006, when there was a Republican administration, 53 percent identifying themselves with the GOP said the government should be able to censor stories. Now, 53 percent believe the media should be able to report news as it sees fit.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll sharply reject the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, suspect an administration cover-up of the Benghazi incident and express substantial distrust of the federal government more generally.
Yet the national survey also finds no backlash against Barack Obama, at least at this point. His job approval rating is stable, albeit at a tepid 51 percent; he’s aided by accelerating economic optimism as well as by comparison with the much less-popular Republicans in Congress.
Longer-term impacts of contentious current issues remain to be seen, but there’s potential for significant damage to the administration. Americans by a vast 74-20 percent see the IRS’ behavior as inappropriate, with most feeling that way strongly – and 56 percent see it as a deliberate attempt to harass conservative organizations, not a mere administrative error.
The public divides on whether or not the administration is honestly disclosing what it knows about the IRS’ actions; 45 percent suspect a cover-up, 42 percent instead see full transparency. And more than a third overall in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, think these actions not only are inappropriate, but illegal.
Further, on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, suspicions of a cover-up rise to a majority, 55 percent. And in this case only a third of Americans are persuaded that the Obama administration is disclosing honestly what it knows about what occurred.
Beyond this negative view of the administration’s disclosure on Benghazi, Americans divide evenly on whether Republican criticisms on the issue reflect legitimate concerns or “political posturing.” But Hillary Clinton’s reputation thus far is largely intact: Despite criticisms of her handling of the incident, 62 percent approve of her work as secretary of state overall, down a bit from about six months ago but still a strong rating.
DISTRUST – Another result underscores the level of general distrust of the federal government. Americans by 54-38 percent say they think the government is doing more to threaten the rights of average Americans than to protect those rights. That’s not IRS-specific, however, since it was about as high in a similar Pew Research question in January.
There’s a high level of partisanship in suspicion of the government: Seventy-one percent of Republicans see it more as threatening than as protecting their rights, while just 31 percent of Democrats agree. But the balance is tipped by political independents, among whom a clear majority (61 percent) sees the government more as a threat than a source of protection.
Beyond politics, there’s an apparent economic element to trust in government, suggesting a perceived right to economic opportunity. People who see or expect economic recovery are much more likely than economic pessimists also to think that the government is protecting rather than threatening most people’s rights – regardless of their political or ideological preferences.
Beyond a sense of general distrust, there’s broad public concern about press freedoms, an issue related to federal prosecutors obtaining Associated Press telephone records in an effort to find the source of classified information about terrorism that was leaked to the news agency. Americans by 69-29 percent in this poll say they’re concerned that in trying to protect classified information the federal government will improperly intrude on the freedom of the press.
Specific to the AP issue, however, the public by 52-33 percent says prosecutors were justified in obtaining phone records via a court order, with results, in this case, similar across partisan and ideological lines. That may be because the leak related to terrorism, an issue on which the public tends to side with investigative efforts over privacy rights. Further, it’s not clear if the administration used a court order or instead a grand jury subpoena, which is not technically a court order but has a similar effect. Specifics on this issue, as well as other particulars of the case as they become known, could influence public attitudes.
OBAMA/ECONOMY – None of these issues appears to have impacted views of the president’s job performance; his approval rating, now 51 percent, has been essentially unchanged after slipping in March from a brief post-election foray into the mid-50s. An open question, though, is whether the president may have gained ground had these controversies not arisen.
In any case, strong sentiment about the president now divides evenly, after tilting slightly more negative in March and April. Moreover, the partisan gap in views of his performance, while still vast, is its smallest since December 2011, and Obama has majority approval among men for the first time since December 2010. Both may reflect the effects of an improving economy.
On that score, 56 percent of Americans now say the economy is beginning to recover, up by a dramatic 20 percentage points in the past year and a half, to the most since ABC and the Post first asked the question in late 2009. The change is broadly based, but strongest among financially better-off adults.
Additionally, more than half, 53 percent, now say they’re optimistic about the economy’s prospects in the year ahead, a majority for the first time in four years. (A steadier majority, two-thirds, expresses optimism about their own finances.)
These economic views, as noted, are closely related to political sentiment; Obama’s rating is far higher among those who see economic gains.
None of this means the economy’s in great shakes; Americans divide evenly, 48-48 percent, in approval or disapproval of how Obama’s handled it overall, with more “strongly” negative views than strongly positive ones. But that’s still one of his best scores on the economy since mid-2009. A little more than a year ago, by contrast, more disapproved than approved by a 21-point margin.
THE GOP – Obama also benefits from a comparative advantage vs. the Republicans in Congress. Regardless of his own rating on the economy, he leads the GOP in trust to handle it by 46-37 percent. That’s fluctuated; it’s a bit better for the president now than in March, but down from his wider 18-point advantage on the economy during his post-election bump in December.
Obama has a larger advantage in a more general question: Fifty-one percent of Americans say he is “mainly concentrating on things that are important to you personally.” That’s 8 points more than say the same about the Democrats in Congress – and 18 points more than say so about the Republicans.
Notably, Obama also is well ahead of his predecessor. At about this point in George W. Bush’s second term just 41 percent said he was focused on issues important to them, 10 points weaker than Obama’s score. Similarly, at that point 55 percent said Bush had done more to divide than to unite the country; 45 percent say the same about Obama now, with more undecided.
TEA TIME – In one division of interest, this poll finds a continued roughly even split in views of the Tea Party political movement, with 40 percent of adults saying they support it overall, 43 percent opposed. “Strong” support for the movement, at 10 percent, is numerically its lowest on record, and just about half the level of strong opposition, 22 percent.
Sizable majorities of Tea Party supporters and opponents alike say it was inappropriate for the IRS to single out conservative groups for extra scrutiny on their applications for tax-exempt status. At the same time, Tea Party aficionados are much more apt than its critics to think the IRS’ actions constituted intentional harassment, were illegal and are the subject of an attempted cover-up by the Obama administration.
ONWARD AND (POLITICALLY) DOWNWARD? – This survey, in sum, finds items for individuals across the political spectrum to enjoy, and others for them to worry about. After years in the tank, views on the economy unabashedly are improving, a positive result any way you slice it. That’s helping to support the president’s ratings, as are his comparisons to the long-lagging GOP. But the IRS issue, in particular, looks to pose a real risk to the administration, given the depth and breadth of criticism about it.
Most threatening, perhaps – to both sides of the aisle – is the public’s political mood more broadly. Views of the government as a threat ebb and flow, but are not new; as long ago as 1995, 55 percent in a Los Angeles Times poll said the government’s activities threatened their constitutional rights. But the return to that sentiment is a clear negative.
There are others: Even with improving economic views, 57 percent in this poll say the country continues to head “seriously off on the wrong track.” And while a majority now expresses economic optimism, when Americans are asked the likelihood that Obama and the Republicans will work together in the year ahead, the response is pessimistic by a resounding 2-1 margin.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(CONCORD, N.H.) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made another stop in an early voting state Monday evening, continuing to feed the speculation that he will possibly run for president in 2016. Just 10 days after stopping in the first caucus state of Iowa, he visited the first primary state of New Hampshire to address a GOP fundraiser and said the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS was “un-American.”
“Any person who would use the power or abuse the power of government to go after their political opponents, I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, to take that brute force, that bullying force of government and to use it against your opponents, there is something distinctly and profoundly un-American about that,” Paul said at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party in Concord, N.H.
The Republican senator joked that the trio of scandals hitting the Obama administration -- the IRS’s admitted targeting of tea party groups, increased criticism and outrage at the administration’s response to last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, and news of the Department of Justice’s seizure of phone records of the Associated Press, as well as spying on a Fox News reporter as part of a leak investigation -- all reminded him of the children’s song “Old MacDonald.”
“Old MacDonald’s Farm of Scandals: here’s a scandal, there’s a scandal, everywhere a scandal,” Paul said. “So it’s hard to know which scandal we want to talk about, but I think they all sort of stem from one problem and that’s the government has accumulated too much power, the president has accumulated too much power. Not just this president, but maybe the last 10 presidents, because we allowed that power to go from Congress to the presidency. We’ve allowed the presidency to become too strong.”
Paul said the revelations from the IRS scandal will create “such a level of distrust” that there is “going to have to be some kind of independent commission” to investigate.
“I don’t see any way the president can gain back trust, and for goodness sake, somebody’s got to get fired or go to prison,” Paul said to cheers.
He repeated some of the themes from his speech at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earlier this month, repeating his criticism of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in September that killed four Americans, blaming her for not providing adequate security and repeating that if he was president at the time he would have “relieved” Clinton “from office,” adding, “It’s inexcusable.”
“Benghazi should have be treated, and still to this day should be treated, like Baghdad,” Paul said. “It should be under military control, not State Department control.”
Paul continued his call for the GOP to broaden its outreach, saying Mitt Romney is an “upstanding” person, “but as a party we need to grow bigger.”
“If you want to be the party of white people, we’re winning all the white vote,” Paul said. “But we are a diverse nation. We are going to win when we look like America, we need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with ponytails, without ponytails, with beards, without beards. We need to look like the rest of America.”
Paul didn’t hide his libertarian streak when talking about the prosecution of the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. Although other Republicans have said Dzhokar Tsarnaev should have been held longer without being read his Miranda Rights in order to get more information for the investigation, Paul recounted a conversation with a first responder in Boston in order to prove his point.
“He said, ‘What separates us from them is that when we did finally capture him...we sent the suspect to a hospital, he’s going to be tried in a court of law, he’s going to have an attorney,’” Paul said. “If this had been their country, he would have been dragged through the streets if he were an American...and beaten to death with a tire iron. We are different than they are.”
The speech wasn’t all serious, though. He earned some laughs at the beginning when he seemed to be talking about “border control.” He was, but not the border the crowd may have been thinking of.
“We’ve got to keep those people in Massachusetts out of New Hampshire,” Paul said to cheers.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus spoke before Paul, calling him a “great leader.”
Priebus also had some tough words for the recent scandals embroiling the Obama administration.
“It’s the IRS that is going to enforce Obamacare, the same people that targeted conservative groups and it wasn’t just conservative groups it was any person or any group that had something critical to say of the current administration,” Priebus said. “A president that touts ego, power, and a hatred for dissent above everything else, that’s Barack Obama, that’s the leader of this country. I don’t think this administration realizes that the First Amendment wasn’t a suggestion. The Bill of Rights is not a wish list, it’s a set of non-negotiable limits on the federal government.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In yet another Justice Department leak investigation of journalists, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly seized emails and phone records of Fox News correspondent James Rosen, and even tracked his comings and goings into the State Department by tracking when he scanned his ID at the building’s entrance.
The story was first reported Monday by The Washington Post.
Court documents in the case quote extensively from Rosen’s personal emails in making the case against the alleged leaker, former State Department adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. The New Yorker has posted the documents online.
It was all part of an investigation into a story Rosen did in 2009 about intelligence officials warning that North Korea was likely to respond to U.N. sanctions with more nuclear tests. Kim was one of 95 people who saw the intelligence report.
For First Amendment advocates, the most chilling part of the court documents is the suggestion by DOJ that Rosen was, “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator in the crime” because he was trying to get the information, which was classified, from his source. Seeking sensitive and secret information is something reporters do every day.
The Rosen story comes after news the Justice Department had also subpoenaed the phone records of 20 employees of The Associated Press a different leak investigation.
White House spokesman Jay Carney was peppered with questions about this at Monday’s briefing, beginning with this exchange with ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl:
KARL: And just one more question. Does the president approve of the Justice Department’s handling of the Jin-Woo Kim leak investigation? We now know that the FBI investigators in this case not only seized James Rosen’s phone records, they went through and read his emails, they tracked his comings and goings inside the State Department. Does the president approve of that kind of action by the Justice Department against a reporter?
CARNEY: I will refer you to what the president said in response to a question about another matter along these lines, and that is that he is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be able to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information.
He is also, as a citizen and as commander in chief, insistent that we protect our secrets, that we protect classified information, and that leaks -- that we take very seriously the leaks of classified information because leaks can endanger the lives of men and women in uniform and other Americans serving overseas for our country.
And that is a balance he seeks, and it is reflected in the media shield law that his administration negotiated with the Senate in 2009 and which the president is very happy to see the Senate take up again. That’s a balance that was endorsed at the time by -- you know, from media organizations to federal prosecutors. I cannot, of course, comment on a specific ongoing criminal investigation.
Q: Jay, do you, as a former reporter, approve of those kind of tactics -- reading through the emails of a reporter?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I cannot comment on a specific ongoing investigation. I certainly share -- and I think most Americans do -- the president’s belief that we need to have, you know, a press that is able to pursue investigative journalism and that we have to defend the First Amendment. I also think it’s very important, as I think members of both parties have said, that we need to make sure that leaks are not tolerated, because leaks that can endanger the lives of our men and women and endanger our national security need to be taken very seriously. But that is, again, not a comment on a specific case, because I cannot comment on a specific case.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- The White House answer to “who knew what and when?” shifted again Monday as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and “other members of the senior staff” knew about the investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups last month.
While President Obama said he only learned about the IRS targeting after the story broke on May 10, several of his top advisors knew about it more than two weeks earlier.
Carney said Monday that White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler was told on April 24 that the IRS Inspector General “was finishing a report” about “IRS employees improperly scrutinizing” organizations applying for tax exempt status by using words like “tea party" and “patriot.” Ruemmler then informed McDonough and other members of the president’s senior staff, Carney said.
That seems to contradict what Carney said last week both about who was informed of the investigation and what they were told.
“My understanding is that the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22nd of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati,” Carney said on May 13. “But that’s all they were informed as a normal sort of heads up.”
And on May 14, Carney said: “We found out about it just a few weeks ago, and only — and when I say ‘we,’ I didn’t, the president didn’t, but the White House Counsel’s Office only found out about the review being conducted and coming to conclusion by the Inspector General.”
Carney said on Monday it would have been inappropriate for the White House to take action before the report was finalized and released and there was no need to inform the president.
“We knew the subject of the investigation and we knew the nature of some of the potential findings,” Carney said. “But we did not have a copy of the draft report, we did not know the details, the scope or the motivation surrounding the misconduct, and we did not know who was responsible.”
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Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senators amended the bipartisan immigration bill on Monday to require all non-U.S. citizens to be fingerprinted when leaving the U.S. through the country's 30 busiest airports.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved several changes to the bill during a markup session that's expected to stretch into the evening. The fingerprinting system, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), is a gesture towards Republicans who favor stronger enforcement methods against unauthorized immigration. It passed on a bipartisan 13-5 vote.
The Hatch proposal would require the so-called "biometric" entry/exit system to be put into place at the 10 U.S. airports with the highest volume of international air travel within two years of the bill's passage. After six years, the system would be expanded to 30 airports, pending a study of the system's effectiveness.
Non-citizens entering the country are already required to submit fingerprints, but federal officials currently rely on a combination of flight records and databases to determine who has left.
Last week, the Senate panel rejected a broader biometric system backed by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a chief opponent of the Gang of Eight bill.
Supporters of the biometric system say the language is necessary to enforce a law that's been on the books since 2001 to track foreign citizens entering and leaving the country. An estimated 40 percent of the undocumented population in the U.S. entered legally on visas, but overstayed them.
However, members of the Gang of Eight, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), said that a full biometric tracking system could cost as much as $25 billion to implement, and would thus prove too expensive. Schumer supported the more limited Hatch proposal on Monday.
"Moving to a biometric system at our airports will bolster our national security," Schumer said in a statement. "It will not be easy to get this cutting-edge system up and running at all 30 of the biggest airports, but we believe it's doable in the next five years."
Sen. Marco Rubio, a key Republican member of the Gang of Eight, said he would fight to include a biometric system in the bill after the Sessions amendment failed last week. In a statement Monday, he applauded the amendment as a "good start" but indicated he would push for further biometric provisions.
"I will continue to fight to make the tracking of entries and exits include biometrics in the most effective system we can build when the bill is amended on the Senate floor," he said.
Rubio does not have a seat on the Judiciary Committee, which is considering the amendments.
The committee approved another GOP-backed amendment that would terminate the asylum or refugee status of individuals residing in the U.S., if they returned to their countries of origin "without good cause," as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Gang of Eight member, sponsored the proposal and called it a necessary change in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The accused bombers were of Chechen ethnicity and their father reportedly sought asylum status to move his family to the U.S.
But immigration-reform advocates were frustrated by the amendment, especially since it included a carve out for Cubans, who are automatically granted legal status if they reach the shores of the United States.
Immigrant rights activist Gaby Pacheco tweeted that "folks in the audience all jumped" out of frustration when the amendment passed.
"OH MY WORD! How in the world did that pass? Graham 1? #Fearshouldneverdrivelegislation," she continued. "Now, Sen. Graham is a friend, & I love my Cuban community (husband is Cuban) but excluding Cuban's just doesnt seem fair Graham 2 #CIRMarkup."
The committee has hours of work left to go and some of the most controversial amendments have yet to be addressed. That includes a provision backed by Hatch, a potential swing vote, that would expand the number of H-1B visas available for high-skilled workers. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) the chairman of the judiciary committee, is also pushing an amendment that would allow gay and lesbian Americans in a long-term relationship to sponsor foreign partners for green cards.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Stronger Than The Storm(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family are starring in television commercials that are part of a publicly funded $25 million tourism campaign to encourage people to visit the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy, but Democrats say they are simply taxpayer-funded campaign ads.
The ad campaign called “Stronger Than The Storm” launched last week with its first ad, but five more begin Monday. Supporters of Christie note the ads are not just running in New Jersey, but out of state as well.
In the first ad, Christie and his family are visible at the end of the 30 second commercial. First lady Mary Pat Christie says, “The Jersey Shore is open.” Christie’s son Andrew then says: “The word is spreading” before Christie himself says, “We’re stronger than the storm,” followed by his daughter Bridget saying, “You bet we are!”
The six ads are part of a television and radio roll out that includes a digital campaign, billboards in high-profile spots like Times Square and the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as an official roll out May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. The kick off is a five mile ribbon cutting that spans across Seaside Heights, around the businesses and down the shore. Simultaneously, other parts of the shore will hold similar ribbon cuttings. They believe it will break the Guinness World Record for ribbon cutting.
According to Shannon Eis of MWW, the firm that won the bid to make the ads, they will run in New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and other parts of Pennsylvania as the primary push. The secondary markets are Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, upstate New York, and eastern Canada. The ads provide Christie extra face time in the pricey New York and Philadelphia markets through July, the markets that New Jersey residents are included in. They will run in a scaled-back schedule the rest of the summer in August and September.
The campaign of Christie’s gubernatorial opponent Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono say these are just campaign ads charged to the taxpayer. In a statement Buono said “the hard-working and resilient people who have rebuilt their businesses and homes after Sandy should have been the star of these ads.”
“That Gov. Christie would allow $25 million in federally-funded ads to feature him in the middle of an election year is both supremely arrogant and wildly inappropriate,” Buono said.
The Democratic Governor’s Association is also making their displeasure known with spokesperson Danny Kanner saying, “Chris Christie loves to promote a ‘New Jersey Comeback’ that never happened, but his use of Sandy recovery dollars to promote his own re-election campaign is nothing short of shameless.”
The money is coming from part of the $60 billion in federal emergency disaster funding earmarked for New Jersey and other Northeastern states ravaged by Sandy. The package was approved by both Congress -- over the cries of some Republicans who called it wasteful -- as well as the Obama administration.
Christie defended himself at a campaign event, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger, which first reported the existence of the ads, saying, “I’m happy and proud to have me and my family in those ads and I hope that what they do is they bring people to the Jersey Shore. There’s nothing political about the ads.”
Eis recounted for ABC why they decided to go with Christie as opposed to another face of New Jersey. She said there were “no shortage of celebrities” that offered their services, but even before they pitched the idea to the governor’s office they did consumer research that she said made it clear Christie would be the most effective choice.
“We had to think about who is the most effective person to…literally wave the flag that we are back,” Eis said, noting that research showed that even months later Christie’s call to “get the hell off the beach” is what people remembered.
“The governor’s voice came through loud and clear,” Eis said, noting they were fighting a “massive consumer perception” that the beach is still closed due to the storm.
Christie’s spokesperson Colin Reed said the decision to include Christie and his family was a “creative decision by the Stronger Than The Storm campaign.”
“They are in a uniquely qualified position to tell a very wide audience beyond New Jersey that our state and our Shore is open for business,” Reed said in a statement.
Buono is out with her own digital ad Monday aiming to introduce herself to New Jersey voters, while poking fun at the pronunciation of her own last name.
Christie’s ad controversy may be getting some heat from Democrats, but he is still beating Buono by a wide margin in recent polls. A poll out earlier this month from NBC News/Marist has Christie up 34 points over Buono 62 percent to 28 percent.
It comes at the same time former Democratic governor of New Jersey Brendan Byrne has publicly called for Buono to think about withdrawing from the race due to her poor poll numbers and dismal fundraising. In a New Jersey Star Ledger conversation with another former New Jersey governor Sunday, Tom Keane Byrne noted Buono is “way behind.”
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vapolitics.us(WASHINGTON) -- This weekend, Virginia Republicans found their candidate for lieutenant governor in E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake, Va. pastor who has compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan and also suggested that black Americans are being enslaved by the Democratic Party.
“It is time to end the slavish devotion to the Democrat[ic] Party,” Jackson, who is African American, said in a 2012 YouTube video. “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the Democrat[ic] Party and their black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide.”
“The Democrat[ic] Party has created an unholy alliance between certain, so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions,” he added.
The statements have been catnip for Democrats eager to jump on the opportunity to label Jackson as “extreme” and link him to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is the Republican nominee for the closely watched gubernatorial race.
“This choice highlights just how out-of-touch the Republican Party of Virginia has become,” wrote Aneesh Chopra, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, in a prepared statement. “Jackson’s extreme views are far to the right of Virginia voters. In fact, Jackson is far more extreme than Ken Cuccinelli -- which is quite a feat.”
The emergence of Jackson’s video isn’t the result of opposition research. It was put on the Internet by Jackson’s own campaign long before this weekend’s Republican Party of Virginia Convention. In fact, the video has been around long enough that it was reported on in 2012, when Jackson’s race for a U.S. Senate seat received almost no notice.
Then, Jackson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and graduate of Harvard Law School, lost 95 percent of the Republican vote in his bid for the Senate nomination and the video became a casualty of post-election amnesia.
The video, and Jackson, have since re-emerged, mostly because being nominated as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor is far easier than winning a statewide primary.
Because of the quirkiness of Virginia’s electoral system, which allows lieutenant governors to be elected separately from governors, and the Virginia Republican nomination process, which produces a nominee who wins a majority of only 13,000 possible delegate votes, Jackson could end up as Virginia’s lieutenant governor whether Cuccinelli wins or loses.
Jackson has compared Planned Parenthood’s support for abortion to genocide, railed against homosexuality, suggested that gay activists harbor an anti-black agenda and said that the Democratic Party is anti-Israel.
The question is whether efforts to link Jackson to Cuccinelli will be successful.
Democrats point out that Cuccinelli endorsed Jackson as a “powerful fighter and communicator for first principles.”
But asked for comment on Monday, Cuccinelli’s camp did not immediately respond.
The Republican Governors Association declined to comment on Jackson’s controversial statements.
“Ken Cuccinelli is running a focused campaign on job growth and pocketbook issues that are important to voters in the Commonwealth,” said Jon Thompson, the RGA’s spokesperson. “We are confident that come Election Day, voters will elect Cuccinelli as governor based on his ideas and his proven record of fighting for all Virginians.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
State Dept Photo(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave annual remarks at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington on Monday, giving new Foreign Service Officers a final pep talk after their security training before they are deployed overseas.
Many of the officers will be going to what are termed “high-threat” posts, similar to Afghanistan and Libya.
“In the shadows of the attack in Afghanistan and Ankara, and of course last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, we all understand it is indelibly imprinted on us how important it is to protect our people in our facilities,” Kerry told the crowd.
“That is why as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate I held both classified and unclassified briefings to make sure we understood what went wrong and to ensure that it will never happen again. That is why as secretary of state I am committed to implementing every single one of the recommendations of the report Accountability Review Board, and doing more,” he continued.
Kerry said that the report made it clear that the risks can never be eliminated, but that actions could be taken to mitigate the risks. Kerry went through the litany of the what steps were already being taken, some of which involve more cooperation with the Pentagon, and rethinking the long-standing policy that marines at posts are there solely to protect classified documents.
“We are working to upgrade our capacities. We’re bringing on more security personnel, we’re enhancing our training, we’re putting more marines at our high threat diplomatic posts, and we’re making sure that their first responsibility is protecting our people, not just classified materials,” said Kerry. “We’re working more closely with the defense department, with our partners. Linking our embassies with various military commands to make emergency extradition more central to our military mission. We’re upgrading our facilities and we’re building new embassies and consulates, and we’re making sure the safety and security always gets the attention that it needs and deserves.”
He told the officers that despite the risks, their job is to continue to practice “foreign policy outdoors,” to continue reaching out and being representatives of America. Kerry pointed to the late Ambassador Stevens as the example.
“Chris Stevens...enjoyed and he respected the people that he met, whether it was in this country or abroad. Wherever he went he made lasting friendships built on mutual respect,” said Kerry. “When Chris Stevens strolled down the street he greeted strangers with a friendly American smile, Libyans got a glimpse of the best of the United States. Decency and a respect for others regardless of religion, race or cultural beliefs.”
Kerry reminded the officers that despite the risks, there is a privilege to being able to live around the world representing the United States.
“Chris was fortunate for the chance to live around the world, as I consider myself to have been and as you are,” said Kerry. “Most people don’t have the opportunity to do what you do.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Last week might have seemed like the longest one ever for the Internal Revenue Service, but this one isn't looking much better, with another congressional hearing scheduled to probe the agency's targeting of tea party groups.
Two senior IRS officials have already resigned: Steven Miller, the agency's acting commissioner, and Joseph Grant, the commissioner for tax-exempt and government agencies.
At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last Friday morning, lawmakers indicated that they believe more departures are necessary.
And this week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will call additional witnesses from the IRS to find out more about what happened.
Here are three names you're likely to hear more about this week:
Lerner is the director of tax-exempt organizations and is the official who chose to reveal the scandal by answering a question she planted at the American Bar Association on May 10. Lerner is the official directly in charge of the unit responsible for implementing policies that targeted conservative groups based on their names.
Even though an inspector general investigation found that when Lerner first became aware of the practice in June 2011, she ordered the criteria changed to focus on general political activity or lobbying, many in Congress say she should not get a free pass.
Lerner will testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
Miller took most of the heat in the House Oversight Committee hearing last Friday, but his predecessor, Shulman, would have been the agency's top official during the time when the IRS singled out conservative groups.
Already, there are signs that Democrats and Republicans will fight about exactly how much blame falls on Shulman's lap for the leadership failures at the agency, which the IRS inspector general's report exposed.
Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, is no longer with the IRS since he left the agency Nov. 9, 2012.
He is expected to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
Sarah Hall Ingram
Now the director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act office, Ingram held the title of commissioner of tax-exempt and government entities for much of the past three years.
The IRS insists that Ingram has not actually been responsible for the day-to-day operations of the tax-exempt office since late 2010, when she moved over to the Affordable Care Act Office. But she held the title of commissioner until 2012, according to testimony she made to Congress.
Republicans, who have sought to link this IRS scandal with the Affordable Care Act for days, will continue to ask whether the agency can be entrusted with fairly implementing the law in light of this scandal.
Ingram was mentioned several times during Friday's House proceedings, and Miller defended her performance as a "superb civil servant."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- What is the next step for the tea party groups who feel they were unfairly scrutinized by the Internal Revenue Service? For many of them, it may be lawsuits against the agency.
Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said the group will be bringing a lawsuit on behalf of many of those groups next week.
"It's the logical next step," he said.
"The admission and apology by the IRS that the criteria used [in tea party applications] was not correct and inappropriate" is grounds for a suit, Sekulow said in an interview with ABC News, because groups he represents are "still getting letters requesting information" and he believes "if we don't file suit we won't bring an end to this."
ACLJ represents 27 tea party organizations that feel they were unfairly targeted by the IRS. Ten of the groups ACLJ represents still have pending applications to get tax-exempt status, while 15 did receive tax-exempt status.
ACLJ is preparing a lawsuit against the Department of Treasury and the IRS on behalf of at least 17 of those groups, Sekulow said -- and more groups, possibly even potential new clients beyond the 27 the ACLJ currently represents, could be added.
Sekulow said he plans on filing the suit this week.
"We are going to focus on a lack of standards and the treatment they were given and the wrong criteria utilized, much of what was in the IG report," Sekulow said.
Other government officials might be added to the suit, he said, including IRS agents named in the documents and department heads.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the chair of the Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is railing against the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups, saying: “clearly, this had political implications…that would benefit President Obama.”
“Over and over and over, the common thread is the Obama administration was too willing to use the government to advance their agenda, their political agenda,” Bachmann tells ABC News.
Bachmann says individuals in the Tea Party have been voicing concerns to her about getting “ridiculous questions” from the IRS for quite some time and asserts that other groups, in addition to the Tea Party, were also targeted.
“The IRS couldn't do enough to part the waters to make sure that every progressive, left-wing leaning organization got their new tax-exempt status,” she says. “So they were able to get a favorable tax treatment, while Christians, pro-Israel, conservative, Tea Partiers, pro-growth, pro-job, pro-business, they were hurt.”
The congresswoman says the recent controversy highlights her broader concerns that the IRS may gain access to people’s medical information under the Affordable Care Act.
“When people realize that their most personal, sensitive, intimate, private healthcare information is in the hands of the IRS that's been willing to use people's tax information against political opponents of this administration, then people have pause and they pull back in horror,” Bachmann says.
The Obama administration has refuted the claim that the IRS will handle people’s medical records, but Bachmann is not convinced. The long-time critic of the president’s health care plan led a vote in the House last week calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“Well the ball is in Harry Reid's court now, because the House of Representatives has done its part,” Bachmann says of the measure that passed the House but is not expected to gain traction in the Senate.
While the former presidential candidate says she isn’t thinking about running for president again, she isn’t exactly ruling it out either, saying: “you never know.”
“My calculus never has been about politics,” Bachmann says. “It’s really about the issues. And I will tell you, the reason why I ran for president is because I knew I had the backbone and the spine to repeal Obamacare.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- President Obama said on Sunday he remains optimistic about the prospects for his second term agenda despite what he called a “shortage of common sense” in the nation’s capital.
“We’ve got good, common-sense solutions that we can implement right now. The bad news is, is that there’s a shortage of common sense in Washington,” he said at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “What’s holding us back is a tendency in Washington to put politics ahead of policy, to put the next election ahead of the next generation. And that mind-set is what we need to change."
“Despite sometimes the doom and gloom of what you hear emanating out of Washington, you should be optimistic about this country. I sure am,” Obama added.
The president did not mention any of the political scandals his administration is currently dealing with, but he joked about the state of his hair as he acknowledged that the “rough and tumble” of politics has taken its toll on his hair color.
“If you get in this business, folks are going to take their shots at you, and I’ve got the gray hair to prove it,” Obama said. “But that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me, and I know it doesn’t bother others who are in elected office, if we feel like we’re getting stuff done. If we feel that at the end of the day when we look back on our public service, we can say, you know what, this country is stronger, better positioned for the future than it was before.”
In the first of six DSCC fundraisers he’s expected to attend this year, the president spoke to approximately 100 people at the Arthur M. Blank Family Office. Attendees paid $10,000 per couple, while hosts paid $32,400 per couple, according to a DSCC official.
Obama was in Atlanta to address the Morehouse College commencement ceremony earlier in the day.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post(ATLANTA) -- President Obama said Sunday that he is motivated by the knowledge that “but for the grace of God … I might have been in prison,” in a commencement address at historically black Morehouse College, where he spoke frankly about race and young men’s responsibilities to 500 male graduates.
In his second commencement address of this graduation season, the president called on the graduates to set examples for others and reach out to those who need help, telling them that as a black man he felt a unique connection to assist those in need because he could have faced similar circumstances.
“There but for the grace of God go I, I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison,” he said at the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College. “I might have been unemployed, I might not have been able to support a family, and that motivates me.”
The president said that many young black men “make bad choices,” but told the graduates, “We’ve got no time for excuses,” because the difficulties they’ve faced “pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured, and if they overcame them, you can too.”
“Growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is that there is no longer any room for excuses,” he said.
The president spoke in extremely personal terms about growing up without a father present in his life, attributing his upbringing to his “heroic single mother,” and said that his legacy will be defined by his success as an active father and husband, a role he encouraged the graduates to adopt in their own lives.
“My whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me,” he said. “I want to break that cycle where a father’s not at home, where a father’s not helping to raise that son or daughter. I’ve tried to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
“I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave; I will not be thinking about the Nobel Prize I received,” he said. “I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I’ll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I’ll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I’ll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.”
The president, who received an honorary degree from the school, honored one of the college’s famous graduates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who “helped to forge the intellect, the discipline, the compassion, the soul force that would transform America.”
“He, in turn, taught others to be unafraid. And over time he taught a nation to be unafraid and over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear, and their cynicism, and their despair, barriers have come tumbling down and new doors of opportunity have swung open,” he said. “Laws, hearts, and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as president of these United States of America.”
Rain poured down on the crowd throughout the ceremony, forcing many in attendance to don plastic ponchos, and thunder rang out and lightning flickered in the sky as Obama wound down his speech. The president stayed dry on stage but sympathized with the rain-soaked graduates and attendees, even noting that his wife, Michelle Obama, would not be pleased with the rainy day because of what it would do to her famous hair.
“You all are going to get wet, and I’d be out there with you if I could, but Secret Service gets nervous. So I’m going to have to stay here dry, but know that I’m there with you in spirit,” he said. “Michelle would not be sitting in the rain. She has taught me about hair.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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