Stephanie Akin

‘You took off our Post-its?’ Capitol Hill officials tell Ocasio-Cortez to move her sticky notes
Capitol Hill officials complained they blocked a name plaque by the door, according to N.Y. Democrat’s office

The brightly colored sticky notes that for weeks have marked the entrance to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Cannon Building office have been removed after Capitol Hill officials complained they blocked a name plaque by the door, according to the New York Democrat’s staff.

The move apparently came as a surprise to Ocasio-Cortez, who returned to her office as an aide was busily moving the notes to a wall inside. “You took off our Post-its?” she exclaimed.

House Democrats to consider publishing internal caucus rules ‘in short order’
Progressive groups have called out secrecy surrounding how Democrats govern themselves

House Democrats will consider making public their internal party rules after pressure from outside groups who say such a move would exemplify the party’s “commitment to open government.” 

“We believe in transparency and accountability,” Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries wrote Thursday in a letter obtained by Roll Call, “and in that spirit, this issue will be presented to the Caucus for consideration in short order.” 

Elizabeth Warren planned fanfare, but instead she’s getting panned
Warren’s anticipated 2020 campaign rollout overshadowed by reports renewed criticism over Native American heritage claim

Elizabeth Warren planned to spend the week gearing up for a “big announcement,” in her home state of Massachusetts followed by a ceremonial tour of Iowa.

Instead, she has been overwhelmed yet again with criticism about her claims of Native American heritage. It is the latest in a series of unforced errors that have destabilized Warren, as she attempts to roll out one of the most highly anticipated presidential campaigns in a competitive Democratic field. 

No ‘material impact’ of foreign interference in 2018 elections, Trump administration finds
Report is second to probe foreign meddling in midterms

A Trump administration report found “no material impact of foreign interference,” in the 2018 elections, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday. 

The report, by Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen, is classified. But a Department of Justice press release said it, “concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. ”

Democratic leaders called out for secrecy surrounding internal party rules
Progressive groups want Democrats to publish caucus rules on the internet

House Democratic leaders are under pressure to publish their internal party rules — a deceptively dry set of policies that can determine how power is distributed among members, how the party responds to scandal, and what issues the party will prioritize on the chamber floor. 

Those guidelines “have a significant impact on the legislative process,” according to 11 progressive and civil rights groups, who wrote a letter to party leaders Thursday asking for the rules to be published on the internet. The letter points out that House Republicans have published their caucus rules for “several” Congresses. It comes as Democratic leaders tout a sweeping overhaul bill, HR-1, that they say would set the stage for a new era of transparency in Congress. 

Long waits are over for some House staffers seeking day care spots
Expanded House day care opened in January with doubled capacity

House staffer Michelle Vanek wasn’t even pregnant yet when she signed up for employee day care. Four years later, she got the call: her 1- and 3-year-old children could enroll.

Another aide’s three years on the waiting list started shortly after her wedding and spanned the first 16 months of her daughter’s life. She got a spot last week. 

Anti-legalization group releases first pot lobby tracker
Political donations to federal candidates mark growth in industry, shift in focus from states

A group opposed to the legalization of marijuana on Tuesday unveiled a tool to track industry donations to federal candidates. 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, is the first major opposition group to attempt to quantify the industry’s federal-level lobbying efforts,a sign of the growing profile of the legalization movement.

Vote Mama helps moms with young children to run for office
New York’s Liuba Grechen Shirley launches PAC to support progressive candidates

Liuba Grechen Shirley attracted national attention when she persuaded federal election officials to allow her to use money she raised for her 2018 congressional campaign to pay for babysitting expenses.

She still lost her 2018 House campaign. So did the six other women with children under 2 who ran for Congress last year, she said, in spite of what has been universally recognized as a watershed moment for women in politics.

New members, meet the ‘slush fund’
Many Hill freshmen are already establishing leadership PACs despite association with abuse

The newest class of congressional lawmakers — some of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate influence in politics — is rapidly adopting a practice that critics say is among the swampier in Washington.

More than two dozen new members of the House and Senate — including prominent freshmen such as New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — have established so-called leadership PACs, according to data compiled by government watchdog group Issue One. Leadership PACs are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to raise money for their colleagues and candidates.

To Prevent Election Meddling, Invest in Black Voters, Groups Say
Russian disinformation campaign seized on long history of suppressing black votes

Political leaders seeking to prevent future meddling in American elections could take a lesson from the Russians: Invest in black voters.

That’s one takeaway from reports this week that Russian operatives disproportionately targeted African-Americans during the 2016 election, according to groups that seek to increase black participation and representation in American politics. 

Driverless Industry Surges Forward While Hill Hiccups on Regulation
Two years after Sen. Thune’s test drive, still no laws from Congress

Sen. John Thune was test-driving a car of the future when he ran into a very 20th-century problem: traffic.

In 2016, Washington’s local laws forced Thune’s autonomous-capable Chrysler sedan to motor into neighboring Virginia before it could show off the no-hands navigation. That’s where the South Dakota Republican got stuck in a tide of commuters.

Retiring Kansas Lawmaker Opens Lobbying Shop While Still in Office
Watchdogs say Lynn Jenkins’ new business flouts ethics laws

Retiring Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins launched a new lobbying firm in her home state weeks before she officially steps out of public office, according to a local media report published Friday.

Lawmakers are restricted from working as lobbyists until they have been out of office for a year. But the federal law that restricts their activities is porous, and former lawmakers routinely find ways to trade their influence before the prohibition expires.

How Climate Cause Could Boost Future Democrats
Pollsters find local environmental issues proved winning midterm strategy in Montana, New Jersey and California

Democratic candidates who focused on local environmental issues were able to sway swing voters and pull ahead in several key midterm races, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a group of left-leaning pollsters and strategists.

“The top takeaway from 2018 is quite simple: that the environmental message works and is politically salient,” said Joe Bonfiglio during a briefing of research from Global Strategy Group, a consulting group that works with Democratic campaigns. Bonfiglio is the president of EDF Action, the advocacy arm of the Environmental Defense Fund.

These House Newbies Are Already Fundraising for 2020
Just weeks after midterms, some candidates have started raising money for the next round

New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew just got elected to Congress. He won’t be sworn in until Jan. 3. But his campaign is already working to keep him there.

Just weeks after he flipped a South Jersey seat that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, Van Drew joined a handful of other newly elected lawmakers in making appeals for donations for their next campaigns.

Party Leadership Duped Voters With Millions for ‘Dubious’ Midterm Ads, Report Finds
Congress, FEC could close loopholes so voters know who is paying for campaigns, group says

Newly elected members of Congress benefited from millions of dollars indirectly tied to party leaders in Washington. But much of that money was spent on ads that appeared to be from local groups, according to a study released Thursday.

The tactic is legal, thanks to campaign finance laws that have not been updated since the dawn of the digital age and Supreme Court rulings that have struck down limits on money in politics. But such strategies, laid out in the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center’s “Dodging Disclosure” report, represent the acceleration of “big money trends” that have given deep-pocketed groups outsize influence over elections and made the 2018 midterms the most expensive in American history, the report said.

How FEC Babysitting Decision Could Pave Way for More Hill Diversity
Candidates, advocates say barrier has been broken for young mothers and middle-class candidates

Amy McGrath broke records with the millions of dollars she raised in her congressional bid in Kentucky. But for most of her campaign, the first-time Democratic candidate struggled to pay for one critical expense: the $15-per-hour babysitter that federal officials said she had to pay from her own pocket.

So she did what dozens of other candidates with young children do. She brought plastic cars and old puzzles to her campaign headquarters for after-school entertainment. She brought her kids to her stump speeches. And every time she was expected to attend an evening campaign event with her husband, she paid from a family budget already stretched to its limits, or she stayed at home. 

Black Voters Propelled Blue Wave, Study Finds
African-Americans increasingly associate GOP with Trump, racist rhetoric

Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms were driven largely by African American voters — particularly black women — who increasingly associate the GOP with President Trump’s perceived hostility toward people of color and immigrants, according to an analysis released Monday.

The report by the NAACP, the racial justice nonprofit Advancement Project, and the political action group African American Research Collaborative found that across competitive elections 90 percent of black voters supported Democratic House candidates, compared to 53 percent of voters overall. It also found 91 percent of black women, 86 percent of black men and 50 percent of white voters believe Trump and the GOP are using toxic rhetoric to divide the nation.

Time Running Out on Hill Sexual Harassment Reforms, Former Staffers Warn
One year after #metoo movement spurred Congress to action, House and Senate bills could expire

Congress will forfeit a passed bill from each chamber aimed at curbing sexual harassment unless lawmakers can come together before year’s end.

“Time is running out,” said Kristin Nicholson, co-founder of Congress Too, a group of former Hill staffers that has sought to reform the way Congress approaches staff training and response to sexual harassment allegations. “We really want all that progress not to go to waste, and for that to happen, we need something to be passed this year.”

Women Won at the Ballot in Record Numbers. Here’s What’s Next
4 things we’ll watch as the ‘Year of the Woman’ matures

Historic wins for women in the midterm elections drove home the interpretation that 2018 was, indeed, the “Year of the Woman.” But it remains unknown whether women’s political capital will continue to rise.

The 101 women and counting who won House races face numerous obstacles to standing out in a divided Congress where seniority often plays more of a role in determining political power than success at the ballot box or legislative ingenuity.

Veterans Still Outpace Civilians in Congress, But Declines Continue
Midterms saw House increase in Democratic Vets, women with military experience

The number of military veterans in both chambers of Congress will at best remain unchanged despite a midterm cycle featuring dozens of candidates with military experience on both sides of the aisle.

Seventy-four veterans won House seats Tuesday night. Eight others were locked in races still too close to call Wednesday afternoon. In the Senate, a projected win for retired Air Force office Martha McSally in an Arizona race would bring the number of veterans in the next Congress to 17 — the same number that finished the 115th Congress. Even if veterans win all the outstanding races in the House, the percentage of House lawmakers with military experience will remain unchanged: 19 percent.