A few days ago, the 2013 fourth quarter fund raising totals were released for the MI-3 congressional district by Rep. Justin Amash and his challenger, former East Grand Rapids school board member, Brian Ellis. For those following the campaign, Ellis is also personally wealthy and has said he is committed to self-financing up to $1 million of his own money in order to defeat the two term incumbent. However, I imagine after seeing the fund raising numbers from last quarter he may be having second thoughts.
The fourth quarter numbers show a stark contrast (much as many expected including me) on the breadth and depth of the support for the candidates. I reporter earlier here and here that I expected Amash to raise about $300,000 based on his money bomb and that Ellis needed a minimum of $200,000 from donors other than himself in order to keep pace and have a chance at attracting national and PAC money and into the race for a chance to knock off a liberty candidate and chalk up a win for the establishment.
Fortunately, for Ellis, he managed to raise nearly $308,000 from individual donors which would ordinarily give him a great cushion in fund raising against an incumbent who struggles to gather PAC money. However, Amash shattered my expectation that he would pull in about $300,000 or so and managed to raise $518,000! More stunning perhaps is that $497,000 of that raised was from individuals with an average donation of $156. Meanwhile, Ellis' average donation during the same time was nearly $2000.
Deeper examination of the fund raising totals tells an even more disturbing tale for the Ellis campaign as well. Not only have most of the donors butted up against the campaign contribution limit ($2600 per election cycle - both primary and then general) but many are close family members or family members of those previously announced "prominent" businessmen who sent letters to all of their friends around Michigan and the country soliciting donations. Aside from the Endico family from New York, the Martin couple from Duke University, a few donors from Gross Pointe Farms, and a few others - all the money donated to the campaign are from locals.
Ellis' base is small. The prospect of Amash who (assuming he couldn't get any new donors) could tap all his donors (nearly 3200 with 2400 of which he reported as new donors) for up to $2450 each would yield nearly $8 million. Ellis' donors on average can give only $600 each leaving him with a paltry $120,000. He may be self-funding his campaign and he could very well sink another $800,000 into his campaign. However, I suspect that his commitment to putting one or two million dollars into his election might hinge in large part on a win and his ability to pay off the debt afterwards with a national outpouring and K street buying influence.
To make matters worse for Ellis, the Club for Growth made a modest media buy of $100,000 to attack his record on the East Grand Rapids school board (really, can you actually have a record at a school board?). Although the attack probably won't be terribly effective against Ellis, it sends a message that Club for Growth is not messing around and is willing to spend its millions freely to defend one its most prominent fighters in the House of Representatives.
Finally, Ellis' campaign has had a very disjointed message as it tries to simultaneously portray Amash as a liberal who sides with Obama and an ultra conservative. Couple this with Ellis' rather strange statement that it is not the role of the members of Congress to worry about the constitutionality of legislation because that is the role of the courts. Obviously, this contradicts Ellis' claims that he opposes abortion (Roe v. Wade made this the 'law of the land') or his opposition to Obamacare which the Supreme Court mostly upheld in 2012.
To my knowledge, there haven't been any polls conducted on the primary race but I suspect that Ellis is in serious trouble. Both in finding a message that he can consistently use to win in a Republican primary without alienating large swaths of the primary electorate (on either the center or right) and that he faces potentially a disastrous fund raising deficit that he will be unable to compensate for with his own personal fortune.
As I reported earlier, current MI-3 Congressman Justin Amash is probably on the verge of reporting a large fund raising quarter to end 2013 of between $250,000 and $300,000 based on his two day money bomb of $100,000. It will give him a nice war chest to go along with the recent Club for Growth attack ads on his former East Grand Rapids school board challenger for the GOP primary.
It is up to Ellis to respond and keep pace with Amash. Ellis had seven prominent businessmen from the district commit to support him financially. Their contribution would be about $72,000. One would assume if Ellis is to be viable he will have to show that he has support from many more than those seven businessmen. Anything less than $200,000 in individual contributions (not money from Ellis himself) has to be an absolute minimum which is still less than twice what he should get from those seven individuals alone.
The mandatory reporting period is coming up in a few weeks (mid-February). I expect Ellis to report a big number but much of it will be inflated by self-funding. The key number to pay attention to is the individual donation amounts. Drawing significant local support will be critical to his viability in the eyes of national donors and lobbying money (PACs). If he can only raise money by self-funding, his campaign will be over before it really begins and he will have seven businessmen with a serious case of buyer's remorse.
To anyone in the liberty movement within the GOP who has been paying attention it is very clear that there is a struggle between the liberty wing (libertarian, Tea Party, etc.) and the established or governing wing. After the 2010 and 2012 elections where scores of liberty aligned GOP candidates won primaries and general elections - their presence is starting to be felt in Congress and state houses all over the country.
The "establishment", which can best be described as those in the positions of power within both parties who seek to maintain the status quo in government (perpetual growth and spending) do not appreciate the challenge to their smoothly running machine. Those who benefit the most from the status quo (large businesses that get special government privileges, private government contractors, politicians, and government employees and pensioners) are understandably upset about this challenge to their system. And they will not stop until they have marginalized and squashed the opposition.
Much has been written about the "business community's" pushback against some of these candidates like Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Tim Huleskamp, and Rep. Justin Amash. The driving force behind these challenges is similar - to get someone who will work with the system and 'get things done.'
How serious is this challenge?
That is the hardest part to evaluate. Without doubt, these three are troublemakers for the House leadership as they all voted against Speaker John Boehner in defiance with the usual protocol for majority party members. In fact, Amash has often been cited as one of the ringleaders of the coup and was stripped of some committee assignments because of his unwillingness to agree with many of the House GOP's plans to increase spending and raise the debt limit.
So his race is probably the best way to gauge the strength of the establishment of the GOP. He already struggles to raise any significant money from PACs precisely because of the way he votes and legislates (no point paying for influence if it doesn't buy you any). Therefore, he is relegated to raising his funds almost entirely from individuals. This is an extremely difficult thing to do for a member of Congress who is new (second term) and has no large personal fortune. And unfortunately for Amash, he has drawn a personally wealthy primary challenger who has the apparent support of some prominent businessmen from his district.
His opponent, local school board member and financial advisor, Brian Ellis has said he is willing to commit one to two million dollars to his campaign to unseat Amash. He has shown his willingness to spend already by putting up billboards and large buys on talk radio attacking Amash for months.
So the first and most important test for Amash is whether he will be able to raise money?
If he can raise money and raise it early enough it will send a resounding rebuke to the established wing of the party both locally, at the state level, and nationally. It would also show that it is possible to survive politically (even thrive?) by setting your own agenda and taking on the true beasts of government. His current crusade against the security state and the National Security Agency's blatant disregard of the Bill of Rights is going to be successful and certainly makes him enemy number one, two, and three for the established types.
In only a few days, the last quarter of 2013 fundraising will come to a close. Simply put, Amash needs to show that he can raise money and raise lots to put away his challenger. The campaign might take between $1-2 million to defend in the primary meaning Amash needs to already have raised a decent sum to show his contributors that he can successfully defend himself.
Simply put, Amash needs to raise at least $250-300 thousand for the last quarter. Anything over $400 thousand would lay an imposing foundation for his challenger to overcome. The grassroots in the district is certainly behind him and he will have a sizable advantage with name recognition.
It's hard to know how well he has done but we do know from his recent money bomb on December 16-17 that he raised a little over $100,000. According to his campaign coordinator, they received donations from over 1600 individuals from every state, DC, and Puerto Rico (not Guam or Palau?). That also means the average donation was less than $100 leaving him a large reservoir to tap aver the following eight months before the August primary.
The real question will be if the money bomb will be the bulk of his quarter or only a fraction. If it's a fraction of his total haul then Ellis' local business backers may be experiencing a serious case of buyers' remorse.
One of liberty's brightest rising stars in the US House was kicked off the House Budget committee along with his friend and fellow conservative, Tim Huelskamp this week. This follows the ejection of two other conservative lawmakers (Walter Jones and David Schweikert) who were removed for "not voting with leadership on key votes."
The budget committee is really a mostly ceremonial committee assignment as it has no control of purse strings like Ways and Means nor does it really control policy like the Foreign Affairs or Banking committees. Budget is primarily used to formulate plans but has little influence. Amash and Huelskamp have gained far more from being kicked off the committee than they ever did trying to resist the Ryan budgets proposed that balanced the budget in 28 years.
They dared question spending and the sacred cows: Medicare, Social Security, and Defense. Hopefully, the media play and outrage from conservatives nationally will help Amash in his standing amongst Republicans on a national stage.
Who, you might ask is Ted Yoho? Ted, God bless him is not really important to know unless you're from north central Florida or a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. But Ted is an example of what is happening to the GOP all over the country whether the establishment likes it or not.
I will admit that until a few days ago, I had never heard of Ted Yoho or that there was even a primary held recently in Florida. Yoho is important to know because he defeated 12 term Republican Congressman Charles Stearns in a safe Republican district. Rep. Charles Stearns is a pretty decent 12 term conservative Republican according to the Heritage Foundation with a score of 80% (average for House GOP is 65%) and 7th out of 25 from the Florida delegation. By comparison, Allen West has a score of 69%.
Yet, on August 14th, Ted Yoho, a large animal veterinarian and political newcomer defeated this 12 term incumbent running by attacking the NDAA, Patriot Act, neoconservative strains in the GOP, and out-of-control spending. Yoho points to his reading of the Federalist Papers, taking courses at Hillsdale College, and studying the US Constitution as motivations for his run for Congress (and the fact that he thought Stearns was not schooled on these issues).
Yoho represents a much larger trend that is not just a Tea Party trend within the GOP. The Tea Party story is, in my eyes, partly a reflection of the reactivation of conservatives to get engaged in the GOP but also something much, much more. There is something so much bigger that is beginning to percolate that even those of us within the movement itself have probably failed to grasp and recognize as well.
The libertarian view of government is beginning to take over the GOP. It is decidedly not Tea Party in the sense of what those in the mainstream press and many who call themselves Tea Party activists call it. Rather this new insurgent philosophy of government, that used to be relegated to the sidelines of mainstream political thought, has hit critical mass. It is popular and it is about to explode.
The philosophy of limited government and general distrust that large human institutions are any more capable of ruling lives than the individuals living them is taking hold in America. This is certainly not a new philosophy as many will point out when discussing the origins of the Revolutionary War and the philosophical discourse at the nation's founding. But the modern libertarian view of politics is different in ways that reflect real world experience watching socialism, fascism, keynesianism, and an ever expanding police state all over the world. With the power of the internet used to spread the ideas of libertarianism and, perhaps more importantly, show abuses of government power, people are being introduced and buying into the philosophy in larger numbers than ever before.
The story of Ted Yoho is becoming more and more common. In fact, it is so common that I don't even notice it even though it is everywhere. If it is present in congressional and senate races then you can be certain that it is even more prevalent at the state, county, and municipal level. I know of scores of state representatives in my state of Michigan that would be described as libertarian or at least with a strong libertarian bend which was not the case even 5 years ago.
Everyone who visits this blog is very familiar with Rep. Ron Paul who has been a consistently lonely congressman for nearly his entire career. Suddenly, and almost inexplicably in 2007 after launcing a quixotic presidential campaign on a shoestring budget his support exploded to the point that he could raise millions of dollars in one day! Then, in 2010, his son Rand Paul wins a senate seat in Kentucky. State representative Justin Amash wins a congressional seat in west Michigan. Now in 2012 libertarians are coming out of the woodwork. Michigan will soon have its second libertarian GOP congressman when Kerry Bentivolio wins the 11 district seat. Thomas Massie is all but assured a win in Kentucky.
There are probably many, many more who I am failing to mention which leaves only one question - is this a temporary flash in the pan or the future? The answer to that question is purely demographic and, as I'm sure anyone who follows Ron Paul or Justin Amash will tell you, the people in this movement are almost all under 40 with those under 30 being even more prevalent. From my experience, young people entering the GOP are comprised of two types: those who are libertarian leaning and those who find politics fun and want to stick with winners. That is a demographic trend that suggests we are just seeing the leading edge of the movement.
Our future is bright and it is officialy time for the GOP establishment to worry. We are coming and we are growing.
"Hey GOP! You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
On December 15, 2011 Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which contained a provision giving the President of the United States the authority to indefinitely detain Americans who were classified by the President as terrorists or provided material support for terrorists or terrorist organizations. This is the story of how one man (and his office staff) helped expose this dangerous provision and has nearly killed it.
The NDAA is an annual bill that works its way through the Armed Services Committee and includes all the mundane funding and provisions outlining military spending, personnel strengths, and procedures for the country's national defense. The act works its way through the Senate and House committees and then goes to the floor of each chamber for passage and is signed by the president. It is not unusual for there to be arguments about funding issues and discussions about how the military operations/wars are being conducted, but there is usually very rarely Constitutional 'controversial' material that ever comes to light. [It is worth noting that Don't Ask Don't Tell came through these committees but I don't find that a Constitutional question but I recognize that it was very controversial]
Last year, that all changed.
The NDAA had worked its way through the appropriate committees in the Senate and House with little resistance.It moved through the House committee chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon (R) on a 60-1 vote and became HR 1540. The bill then passed the House on May 25 on a vote of 322-96 (only 6 dissenting Republicans). It passed through committee on November 15th in the Senate chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D) on a 26-0 vote and became SB 1867.
Freshman Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI3) has made it a habit of reading all the legislation that he votes on and posting all of his votes and reasoning on Facebook. He began this process when he served in the Michigan State House of Representatives and has continued it now in Congress. He and his office in reviewing the NDAA recognized that Sections 1021-1024 of the NDAA of 2012 contained new 'clarification' of what the President's new powers were to be. As a lawyer, Amash quickly recognized the vagueness of the wording within the new provision and saw that it could be construed as giving the President broad new detention privileges while denying the defendant any legal recourse.
Now before we go any further it is important to point out that Amash is a freshman legislator in Congress. This is in a chamber where seniority rules decisively and completely. Rarely are freshmen allowed to introduce legislation. They serve on the lowliest committees and are expected to follow along and not cause trouble. The new Congressmen also know virtually no one in the chamber except maybe fellow members from their home state so their ability to find the 'go-to' guy or gal is almost zero. Finally, since they have barely been serving (in Amash's case in this example May of 2011 he'd been in Washington only 4 months) they certainly don't know anyone in the Senate either.
In May this NDAA of 2012 which includes the provision in Sections 1021-1023 for indefinite dentention passes the House with minimal resistance - especially from Republicans. Rep. Amash recognizes the danger of the law and also opposed Section 1034 which gives the President sweeping ability to conduct extended military operations. With the military operations in Libya hot on the minds of Americans this was probably seen as a good way to get some public opposition to the NDAA.
Over the next few months Amash begins to meet more of his colleagues and develops a friendship with Senator Rand Paul (a clear ally politically both on governing principles and he is the son of Rep. Ron Paul who endorsed Amash in the August 2010 Republican primary). Amash describes the potential risk for the new provision and Paul convinces a few Repbulicans and Democrats in the Senate to oppose the law.
By this point, Amash is recognizing that the indefinite detention rule is a nonpartisan issue that people from all over the political spectrum should rightly oppose. He then goes on the offensive both on Facebook and (allegedly) during the House Republican strategy conference where he actively opposes House Armed Services Chair and long time member Buck McKeon.
Imagine the scene if you will. In December, before most of the Republican delegation of Congress (Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy, etc.) Amash rises and addresses the group to explain how the NDAA Section 1021-23 provides for the power of indefinite detention of American citizens. He cites the specific language and tries to convince people who probably have little knowledge of him that the nearly 20 year veteran and chair of the powerful Armed Services Committee is mistaken. McKeon counters that Amash is flat out wrong.
The battle then leaves the room and heads to the ethernet.
McKeon writes a rebuttal to all of the 'misinformation' about the provision and has it posted at Redstate.com. Amash counters with this post rebutting the rebuttal. Amash manages to sway a few more Republicans including Representatives Huizenga and Walberg who are also new members from Michigan.
Amash starts hitting the ether hard on Facebook calling all of his 'followers' to call their representatives knowing that many are not his constituents. Still, he only has 18,000 followers or so in a nation of 310 million people to put the heat on Congress.
In fact, on the vote in December to adopt the Senate version (which was basically the same as HR 1540) Amash succeeds in getting 43 Republican defections instead of the previous 6.The bill still easily passes the House and becomes law after President Obama signs it a few weeks later. If this were the end of the story, it could almost be viewed as a Don Quixote mission where we might give the Congressman an "atta boy, thanks for trying, keep your chin up."
But the story was only beginning.
Through those 18-20,000 followers there was intense outrage. They did call their Representatives. And told their friends. And those friends told their friends. And... well you get the picture.
Suddenly, at town halls Congressmen were getting questioned about their NDAA vote and pilloried if they voted for it or praised for voting against. The NDAA issue was showing up in the presidential campaign as Ron Paul would use it to point out the growing power in Washington and it even came up at a presidential debate where all the candidates except Huntsman and Paul said they would have signed it (as Obama did).
Stories about the NDAA and its detention provisions are no longer just contained on ACLU and InfoWars websites but it's also appearing in the Washington Post and International Business Times. There is a definite possibility that the Armed Forces Committees in both chambers will have to revise or potentially remove the provisions entirely from the NDAA 2013 bill!
The indefinite detention provision is close to dead. I believe we have reached critical mass and one man has maintained just a little bit of our liberty. It is very important to recognize that even one person can have a profound impact if they are tenacious and don't settle on 'just voting' or just speaking out once or twice. I am proud to say that Justin Amash is my personal Congressman but hope that you see he is defending the liberties of not just my district in West Michigan but those of all Americans.
Keep up the heat until the indefinite provision is killed. Call your Senators and Representatives today and tell them to axe this un-Constitutional provision from this year's NDAA and beyond. Here is the Congressional Switchboard #1-866-220-0044 and here is a little 'how-to' when calling Washington D.C.
Don't forget to wish Rep. Amash Happy Birthday on April 18th on Facebook. You might even want to send him your two cents (maximum donations up to $2500 I'm sure would be accepted as well.)
This is a question a lot of the fans of the Republican Congressman from Texas have been asking themselves for the last few weeks. The overall strategy of the Ron Paul for President campaign has been difficult to discern in many ways.
For instance, why does it seem like Ron Paul is attacking every other candidate in the race from Perry to Gingrich to Santorum to Huntsman but using kid gloves on the strongest candidate - Romney? Why does Paul not seem to be bothered at the prospects of a third place finish in Iowa or a likely second in New Hampshire?
I believe the Ron Paul campaign is moving in much the way that the campaign team originally planned when developing its strategy probably some time in early Spring. To understand the campaign strategy I believe it is important to understand how unconventional Dr. Paul's plan is compared to the traditional Republican presidential campaign. It is also important to recall the nature of the 2008 campaigns for the Democratic and to a lesser extent Republican parties.
Reason to Run for President Ron Paul is not your typical Republican candidate running for president. In fact, I'm not sure any candidate of any prominence recently has run not be president as much as a way to promote a message. Presidential campaigns are a way to bringing new ideas to the party's grassroots. This is probably a clumsy way of accomplishing this goal, but for someone as far out of the mainstream of his party and leadership as Paul is, it is really the only way to express his views on foreign and monetary policies.
This singular motive completely changes your strategy for waging a presidential campaign and, I think, explains the unusual nature of the Paul campaign. It fundamentally alters how you approach debates, advertisements, and campaigning within states. It is also completely different from the traditional Republican campaigns where one looks to score some early decisive wins, show an ability to raise money, and then finish off your rivals on Super Tuesday.
It's about Ideas, not the Office If your goal is to change the way the party and the country look at issues then your focus is on more than the short term goals of a presidential campaign. Clearly, it would be best for your promotion to win the nomination but a realistic view of the electorate - especially the Republican electorate - would show that Paul's ideas are out of the mainstream. They are growing in prominence (just look at his showing at the Iowa Caucuses from 2008 to 2012 with over 100% growth) but they are at most a large minority within the party probably no more than 25%.
Assets in Place Despite what many inside the media perceived, Ron Paul had massive assets coming into the campaign. To outsiders, Paul was seen to have a few rabid fans and a large donor base who were small contributors. What they missed was the Campaign for Liberty.
Launched in 2008, the Campaign for Liberty was a way to keep Ron Paul supporters from 2008 engaged with the Congressman's activities and help promote his views within Congress. This was best exemplified with the push and eventual passage of the Federal Reserve Audit in both the House and Senate. But more importantly, the Campaign for Liberty provided the superstructure for converts to Paul's crusade to network with each other and plan... for 2012.
Although not affiliated with any official Ron Paul campaign, the Campaign for Liberty was the resting home for all of Paul's campaign apparatus which he would need in a 2012 bid for president. Not surprisingly, a strong emphasis was placed on building up the Iowa and New Hampshire Campaign for Liberty teams and successfully getting friendly people put in place within the local and state GOPs. For instance, unofficially, the Paul camp had achieved securing over half of the county GOP chairs or leaders and many on the state's central committee in Iowa.
Most important to realize is that the Campaign for Liberty is a truly national organization with its reach in every state. This means that Paul has de facto campaign bases in each and every state making him competitive on a national scale - not just early primary and caucus states.
An Unorthodox Approach Because of his unique assets and his even more unusual goals, Rep. Ron Paul, I believe, is engaged in a very unorthodox presidential campaign. He recognizes that although his message is very popular and growing within a section of the electorate - it is by no means a majority position. His plan then is to wage a long drawn out process that relies more on looking towards delegate acquisition than on outright victory - perhaps even winning a single state.
Clearly, winning all the delegates in a state is a goal and will very likely be accomplished in many of the caucus states where Paul's organization and zealous supporters will have the most impact. Winner-take-all primary states are the least desirable for a campaign like Paul's where they feel their message will be viewed in a hostile manner by a majority of the GOP base who receive much of their information from the establishment and its mouthpieces like Levin, Savage, Hannity, and Limbaugh.
The established portions of the party will resist Paul's forces and will probably succeed in many of the caucus states, especially as it becomes more obvious what Rep. Paul is up to. Overall, the primary focus is gaining delegates to gain prominence going into the convention.
The Not-Romney Candidate What is becoming increasingly clear, is that the Paul campaign is looking to become what has been termed the "Not-Romney" candidate. Tea Partiers, and the Republican base is definitely disappointed with Romney as their nominee. National polls have shown him to struggle breaking above 30%. Romney represents the liberal East Coast establishment candidate similar to John McCain (who although from Arizona was the epitome of a big government squishy Republican).
The Paul campaign recognized early on that the only candidate that would compete long term was Romney. Therefore, they looked to eliminate the 'chaff' in order to become the de facto 'Not-Romney' candidate. The sooner they can take down the other candidates, the better as it allows them to accumulate a larger share of the delegates.
The Other Not-Romney Candidates A quick look at the other candidates trying to make the race a two man race shows how Paul's strategy has been working perfectly. Cain is out. Bachmann is out. Huntsman looks increasingly like a one state wonder who will drop out soon. Perry is limping into NH polling at 1% and around 5% in SC. His future is dim. Gingrich can potentially last a few more weeks but with little funding his earned media will dwindle and he will possibly last a few more states through Florida but he is not on the ballot in his home state and has no funding to compete in a national super Tuesday contest.
That brings us to Santorum who has no funding or organization and will attempt to use his social conservative credentials to sell himself in the South. He will be target number one from the Paul campaign as he is the one who could potentially carve into their delegate count on Super Tuesday if he is still viable - especially if his funding picks up and he is able to run more television spots in Florida and beyond.
I believe the Paul campaign is looking to make the race a two man race as soon as possible. This is probably their schedule:
Since the other candidates by this point will have lost nearly every contest to Romney their funding and ambition will have dried up and they will be unable to push on to Super Tuesday. Only Paul will remain as the alternative. Obviously, they will endorse Romney to get a plum cabinet spot and Paul will be all that's left.
From there, Paul and his forces will be an enormous thorn in the side of Romney unless he cuts Paul a deal. Whether that is a prime speaking spot at the convention, a VP slot for Rand, a cabinet position, or some other combination. Romney is a man who deals and will want to save his resources and shift his campaign's focus against Obama as soon as possible. This strategy, although not a 'winning one' is one that will have a lasting legacy and impact within the Republican party.