4

Hillary Clinton had a hell of a good week.

After a summer of uneven, if not rather calamitous, performance on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton had a hell of a good week.

Democratic also-rans Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee dropped out – not that they’d made enough ground for Clinton to care, but their absence reduces some of the white noise from the race and from the second debate, scheduled for Nov. 6.

Vice President Joe Biden ended months of speculation Wednesday by announcing he won’t run – a huge boon for Clinton, as his path forward would’ve been to peel away her supporters and donors.

Hillary Clinton at Benghazi hearing 10-22-15 (AP photo)And Thursday’s Benghazi hearing brought nothing new, even by chairman Trey Gowdy’s own admission – 11-plus hours without a solid punch landed, without a gaffe, without Clinton losing her cool.

House Republicans long have wanted to pin Clinton with having ignored intelligence that an attack was coming, or with having stood in the way of sending aid during the attack; neither has been borne out by facts, so they’ve the cover-up narrative is what’s left. Thursday’s hearing probably cemented Republicans’ criticism that she wasn’t completely straight with the public in the days right after the September 2012 attack, but there are more than just political reasons why that might’ve been so. Might not a balance between intelligence, diplomacy and military action sometimes require not publicly tipping your whole hand right away, especially if some misdirection might provide time and space to identify and strike back against those responsible? And if the administration’s comments in the first few days after the attack were motivated only by presidential election politics, wouldn’t they have tried to maintain the charade longer, rather than acknowledging before that month’s end that the evidence supported a premeditated attack? Still, the information she and others put out in the first few days was wrong, and that’s been aired again.

Meanwhile, Democratic primary voters saw an all day-marathon of Clinton looking calm, cool, collected and thoughtful, which is what most want in a presidential candidate. She’s not out of the woods yet – trustworthiness and transparency issues raised by her overall email situation will continue to plague her – but she’s on the path.

Clinton already was trending upward in the polls at this week’s start, based on her performance in last week’s Democratic debate. I expect to see a more dramatic increase next week, as she gains support from many who had been holding out for Biden and as the dust settles from Thursday’s hearing.

3

Draft Biden group launches national TV ad

With speculation reaching a fever pitch over whether Vice President Joe Biden will jump into the 2016 presidential race, the national organization seeking to draft him has released its first national television ad.

Draft Biden says the ad “will run on national cable with a six-figure buy.”

Conceived and produced by one of President Obama’s lead media consultants, Mark Putnam (who also worked on Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1987), the ad aims to parlay Biden’s personal tragedies and hopes for the future – as described during a Yale University commencement address – into a sense of authenticity and likeability that many believe current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton lacks.

Biden is rumored to be ready to make a decision this weekend or early next week, Politico has reported. The Democratic presidential candidates’ first televised debate is scheduled for Tuesday night in Las Vegas; the criteria announced by CNN would let Biden participate even if he declares candidacy earlier that same day.

1

Who is funding Draft Biden 2016?

The steady stream of emails I get from the Draft Biden 2016 super PAC inspired me to take a gander at its most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission – and that turned out to be interesting indeed.

Curtis BlockThe effort to draft Vice President Joe Biden into the 2016 presidential election may have some grassroots support, but it’s not rolling in dough: the super PAC raised $78,841.22 and spent $69,369.26 in this year’s second quarter, leaving $16,002.95 cash on hand as of June 30.

Its receipts include almost $4,600 in “in-kind” donations of time, office supplies, event and travel expenses, and so on from PAC executive director William Pierce III of Chicago.

Only five Californians contributed to the PAC, but three were substantial enough to account for a significant percentage of the total:

  • Dr. Howard Mandel, OB/GYN, Los Angeles, April 16 – $5,000
  • Elise Kroeber, retiree, San Francisco, April 20 – $250
  • Clare Springs, attorney at Titchell, Maltzman, Mark & Ohleyer in San Francisco, May 5 – $1,000
  • Richard Alexander, attorney at Alexander, Hawes & Audet in San Jose, May 18 – $1,000
  • Robert Farnsworth, retiree, Sacramento, June 23 and 30 – $220
  • A few notes about these: Springs listed Titchell Maltzman was listed as Springs’ employer, but that firm was dissolved in 2008 and she founded her own firm that same year. Mandel served on Obama for America’s Health Policy Advisory Committee and was previously an advisor to then-Senator Biden on health care issues during his presidential campaign.

    But the report’s most interesting revelation is that more than half the PAC’s money essentially came from a single, mysterious source.

    Curtis Block, president of Madison & Monroe in Pompano Beach, Fla., gave $5,000 on May 18, and then Madison & Monroe gave $38,000 on June 12. We’ve been unable to determine who Block is – there don’t appear to be any prior legal, business or other records for him – or what Madison & Monroe does; their address is a post box at Parcels Plus, and the business was only just incorporated on June 2 to conduct “any and all lawful business.”

    I asked the Draft Biden 2016 staffers to shed some light on this – but they declined.

    “I reached out to Curtis on your behalf and he’s asked that we only give out the personal information he was required to provide for the FEC report,” spokeswoman Sarah Ford said in an email Friday morning.

    6

    Draft Biden 2016 names California chapter leader

    A Riverside County woman will lead the California effort to draft Vice President Joe Biden into the race for 2016’s Democratic presidential nomination.

    Linnie Frank BaileyDraft Biden 2016 on Wednesday announced the creation of state chapters across the nation, and named Linnie Frank Bailey of Corona, as the California chapter’s leader.

    “I am supporting Joe Biden for President because of his experience and ability to understand the issues of everyday Americans,” Bailey, 59, said in a news release. “I think he can bring civility back to our political discourse with a focus on strengthening our country rather than dividing us.”

    A 2008 Washington Post story outlined Bailey’s evolution from a small donor to Barack Obama’s campaign to a local and regional grassroots organizer to a Democratic National Convention delegate. She is a communications consultant, magazine editor and youth program coordinator.

    “In addition to our work in Iowa and New Hampshire, we have solidified numerous state chapters across the nation with many more in the works,” Draft Biden 2016 Executive Director William Pierce said in the release. “Following the Organizing for America model, we are working to build a grassroots base in anticipation of Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement.”

    A story in the New York Times this week implied Biden, still shaken by the recent death of his son, hasn’t made up his mind about his political future but has not made preparations for a presidential run.

    0

    ‘Draft Biden 2016’ to accept bitcoin

    In apparent nod to the hot tech buzz of 2013, the Draft Biden 2016 committee announced Friday that it’s the first national Democratic movement to accept the bitcoinvirtual currency, effective immediately.

    “This is in keeping with Vice President Biden’s strong support of technology and innovation throughout his career,’’ Joseph Schweitzer, the group’s finance director, said in a news release. “Ready your mobile wallet and you’ll be able to simply scan-and-donate. There’s no hassle with a card number, no delay, and unparalleled cryptographic security.’’

    The Federal Elections Commission last year approved bitcoin fundraising as a type of in-kind donation. But “due to lingering questions in the wake of the FEC ruling, Draft Biden 2016 will limit bitcoin donations to $100 per person and require donors to fill out an online form identifying themselves,” the news release said.

    The Draft Biden 2016 super PAC was formed in mid-March, and had about $6,500 banked at the end of that month, its FEC report shows.

    2

    Joe Biden to visit San Francisco, Oakland this week

    Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the Bay Area this week.

    The White House announced Tuesday that Biden will arrive in San Francisco on Thursday for a political event, and on Friday is scheduled to visit a PG&E center in Oakland to discuss the importance of workforce development and investing in job-training programs across the country.

    His wife, Jill Biden, is coming as well, and plans to visit De Anza College in Cupertino to highlight the administration’s commitment to community colleges and their importance to the nation’s future.

    The vice president last visited San Francisco in early October to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and before that in late May.

    More details to come…