Review Category : Poltics

When Kids Attack: Campaign 2014′s Youngest Combatants

Matt Bevin For Senate(WASHINGTON) — Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, wants voters to know that his opponent is telling lies about him.

And in a new campaign ad out this week, Bevin lets his nine children do the talking.

“Mitch McConnell is telling a bunch of lies about my dad,” one of his daughters says directly into the camera in the 30-second spot. “Don’t be fooled.”

The ad amounts to a smiling montage of children in the Bevin family home who each offer testimonials about their father.

“Matt Bevin is my dad. He’ll make a great U.S. senator,” another one of his daughters adds, “and I should know, I’ve known him my whole life.”

With his wife and children — four of whom are adopted from Ethiopia — surrounding him, Bevin tells the audience he approves this message and “I approve these messengers too.”

In Montana, another U.S. Senate candidate has also given his kids a starring role in his campaign.

Rep. Steve Daines, R.-Mont., features his daughters, Annie and Caroline, in a recent campaign ad.

“Like me, dad went to Montana State. He majored in mechanical engineering,” Annie says in the ad just before Caroline chimes in: “Not like all those lawyers in Washington, D.C.”

Daines, himself, makes only a brief cameo, appearing in the final five seconds of the one-minute spot to tell voters he approves the message “because I wanted you to meet my daughters.”

Bevin and Daines are just the latest in a long line of American politicians who have sought to appeal to voters by enlisting youthful surrogates. But the tactic, which is now on full display during the 2014 midterm election cycle, leads to tricky questions about what role children should play in campaigns, if any, and the costs and benefits for politicians who choose to thrust kids into the spotlight.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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McConnell’s GOP Challenger Caught Attending Cockfighting Rally

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — The Tea Party candidate challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a primary challenge has been caught in an undercover video attending a cockfighting rally last month and there is evidence that he lied repeatedly about the event.

Matt Bevin, who is seeking to wrest Kentucky’s Republican Senate nomination from McConnell, and his campaign have said they thought it was a state’s rights rally he attended in Corbin, but in the undercover video from WAVE 3 News it’s clear what the event is about with signs supporting the legalizing of cockfighting. Bevin even speaks right after a cockfighting activist who explained clearly why they were: “For the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level.”

The video emerged less than a month before the May 20 primary vote.

Bevin’s campaign press secretary Sarah Durand sent ABC News a statement on Friday, but it did not respond to why Bevin attended the rally and then denied knowing it was a rally to support cock fighting.

“This is just a rehash of an old story,” Durand said. “Primary voters will have a choice on May 20 between a veteran, small business owner, father of nine who will fight for our conservative values in Matt Bevin, or more of the same old liberal policies from Mitch McConnell. Since McConnell can’t defend his record, all he can do is try to make his opponent look worse. Instead, we should be addressing the core issue –– that the federal government has gotten too big, too intrusive, and needs to be reined in.”

In recent weeks, Bevin insisted it was a rally for states’ rights, not cock fighting. He told WHAS TV, “So, people at the first rally were there to discuss state’s rights, everything from probably cockfighting, I don’t know because I was gone, to helmet laws to growing of hemp etc.” And he told the Courier-Journal, “It was a states’ rights rally.” In an interview with the News Journal, Bevin said he “did not realize the event had anything to do with cockfighting.”

But in the WAVE 3 News video of the rally, Gamefowl Defense Director Dave Devereaux asks Bevin: “Will you vote to support the effort to legalize gamecock fighting in the state of Kentucky?”

“I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s,” Bevin replied. “Criminalizing behavior, if it’s part of the heritage of this state, is in my opinion a bad idea. A bad idea. I will not support it.”

In a later interview with the reporter, Bevin says he wasn’t “paying attention” to the speakers and when asked if he stands behind his support for cockfighting, Bevin says, “What I stand behind is people’s ability to examine their First Amendment rights to speak about whatever they want to speak about.”

Earlier this month on WHAS radio Bevin again defended cockfighting, as well as dog fighting, by citing its historical roots in the state and in the nation’s founding.

“You look at cockfighting and dog fighting as well, this isn’t something new. It wasn’t invented in Kentucky for example,” Bevin said. “I mean the founding fathers were all, many of them, very actively involved in this and always have been. These things are part of a tradition and a heritage that go back for hundreds of years and were very integral early on in this country.”

McConnell’s team put out a scathing statement saying, ”Matt Bevin’s cockfighting episode will go down in history as one of the most disqualifying moments in Kentucky political history.”

“Twenty years from now, we will all remember the time when the East Coast con-man thought so little of Kentuckians that he pathologically lied to us about absolutely everything until an undercover camera caught him red-handed at a cockfighting rally,” McConnell press secretary Allison Moore said.

The campaign has already put out a radio ad this week using comedian Stephen Colbert making fun of Bevin over the cockfighting rally with the narrator saying, “Matt Bevin keeps making national headlines…but not in a good way,” before mentioning some other low points in Bevin’s campaign.

“Matt Bevin — a comedy of errors. But don’t let the joke be on you,” the narrator says.

Polls show Bevin lagging behind McConnell ahead of the May 20 primary, but the ad shows they are still taking Bevin’s campaign seriously. Whoever wins the primary will take on Democratic candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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(HFR 4/25 6 a.m.) White House to Focus on Improving Teacher Preparation

(WASHINGTON) — The White House will announce plans to improve teacher preparation Friday morning, focusing on President Obama’s overarching goal to put a great teacher in each classroom.

The mission will be to track successful and unsuccessful teachers back to their preparation programs, and then address the problems in unsuccessful teacher training programs.

“Today, unfortunately too many teacher prep programs get little or no information about how their grads are doing once they enter the profession,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “That is unacceptable and must change.”

A rough draft of the plan will be released in the summer, when leaders will hold an open discussion. They hope to have a final plan in about a year.

“We know that when teachers enter the classrooms, students flourish,” said Cecilia Muñoz, White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council. “When they enter the classrooms underprepared, they struggle and their students struggle.”

The Department of Education will work collaboratively with the states, so Duncan doesn’t see a major cost to the initiative.

“We don’t see this as being a high cost item at all,” he said.

Duncan pointed out that the United States trails other developing nations in education, acknowledging that America doesn’t compensate or recognize teachers in the same ways as other countries.

“The level of respect teachers get in other countries is often different than the respect they get in the United States,” he said. “We need to elevate the teaching profession here.”

Duncan said one major problem is that teachers have too much education in history and theory, and not enough practical, hands-on experience.

“Every school I go to, when I ask teachers if they were prepared, there’s a fair amount of nervous laughter,” he said.

Duncan continued to say that teachers also don’t have the necessary experience with technology that’s used in the classroom.

“At the heart of the agenda has been placing a great teacher in every classroom,” said Muñoz. “Teachers matter and a great teacher makes all the difference.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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GOP Senators Express ‘Grave Concerns’ Over Pending Immigration Review

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Republican senators wrote a letter to President Obama on Thursday expressing “grave concerns” over the Department of Homeland Security’s upcoming immigration review.

In the note, they accuse Obama of “astonishing” disregard for the Constitution and say the changes under consideration “represent a near complete abandonment of basic immigration enforcement.”

“Clearly, the urgent task facing your administration is to improve immigration enforcement, not to look for new ways to weaken it,” the letter reads.

The 22 senators go on to say that the Obama administration issued policy directives “incrementally nullifying” immigration enforcement in the U.S, “to the point that unless individuals in the country illegally are apprehended, tried, and convicted for a felony or other serious offense, they are free to live and work in the country.”

The three-page letter included signatures from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee.

The president ordered a review of deportation policy after criticisms from immigration activists. Some Democrats and supporters argue deportations from the administration are tearing families apart, while others feel current policies allow the occurrences of preventable crimes.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Police Shut Down Protest Over Keystone Pipeline

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Activists from the Cowboy and Indian Alliance gathered at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Thursday in protest of the Keystone Pipeline. However, efforts were thwarted by police ordering them to stop an attempt at stretching a blow-up pipe across the water.

The group of ranchers, farmers, and leaders of several Native American tribes planned to pump air into the mock pipeline, but only got as far as rolling it out. Police put a halt to the actions, telling them to shut off their generators.

Two protesters were able to make their way into the middle of the pool to hold up a sign, undisturbed by officers. Wizipan Little Elk, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and farmer Art Tanderup gave speeches about the pipeline threatening their lands. One speaker said his tribe “would spill their own blood” before allowing construction of the system.

Protests against the oil pipeline across Canada and the United States started after the State Department announced Friday that it would extend review of the project indefinitely. Critics argue the system will make it more difficult for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels, while supporters feel it will generate construction jobs and assist in the acquisition of oil.

The Cowboy and Indian Alliance is scheduled to protest in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s home on Friday, with other events set near the White House during the weekend.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Michelle Obama’s Graduation Speech Moved Following Criticism

Samantha Appleton / The White House(WASHINGTON) — First lady Michelle Obama will deliver a commencement speech for Kansas high school seniors a day earlier than originally planned.

The first lady was initially scheduled to speak at the combined graduation ceremony for four area high schools on May 17, the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Now, Obama will speak to students the day before at a “Senior Recognition Day,” according to the White House.

The change follow backlash from families who felt Obama’s presence would take attention away from the graduating students. In response, the Topeka public school district pledged “at least six tickets” for graduates.

One student launched a petition on change.org, asking the district to reconsider the plans and adhere to “normal” graduation ceremonies, even suggesting that the first lady’s speech be recorded.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Christie: Accusations that Office Culture Inspired Lane Closures ‘Factless’

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(BRICK, N.J.) — Chris Christie gave some advice to a constituent Thursday and sent a message to his critics about how he views the George Washington lane closures scandal, calling the accusations that a culture in his office allowed it to happen “factless.”

An attendee at his town hall Thursday asked Christie how he should “defend to my friends and relatives” allegations that say the New Jersey governor was behind a negative “culture” in his office that would have “approved of such behavior” that led to the lane closures known as “Bridgegate.”

“I think the best way to defend against factless accusations is to answer it with the facts,” Christie told the man at a middle school in Brick, N.J., adding that the same people who originally accused him of being behind the lane closures are now saying he “created the culture.”

Christie then launched into a lengthy defense of the “culture” of his office, saying it “produced unprecedented bipartisan cooperation.”

“If in fact I created a culture where people were going after each other than how did we do all these things together with Republicans and Democrats?,” he asked. “The allegation that somehow this was a culture that was created just doesn’t have any basis in fact. These folks who are making these allegations are folks who couldn’t get a political advantage out of one tactic so now they are trying to get a political advantage out of the other.”

Christie even cited the over 60 mayors and other Democrats who endorsed him in his re-election bid as evidence that he did not create a “culture of divisiveness.”

Emails released in January indicated top Christie aides closed down lanes leading to the world’s busiest bridge as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who chose not to endorse Christie in his re-election bid.

In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last month, Christie also stressed he ”did nothing to create the environment” that prompted some of his former top aides to cause the traffic nightmare.

Wearing a bright blue T-shirt Thursday that read “man enough to be a Girl Scout” given to him earlier in the town hall by a Girl Scout leader, Christie told the crowd he expects the criticism and they won’t “hear me complain about it.”

“I am a big boy and I understand this business and I understand when you are the guy, you are the governor, you are the guy carrying the ball, you are the guy they are going to try and tackle and I get that and I have to live with it, that’s the way it goes,” Christie said, noting sometimes it does not bother him, but acknowledging “some days it really gets me upset.”

He said that he has taken responsibility for it happening on “his watch,” but he won’t “take responsibility for every fantasy that somebody who wants to be partisan is going to come up” with, promising again he had no prior knowledge of the closures and if he did he would have stopped them.

“We will cooperate with all the appropriate investigations anybody wants to do because in the end what I know is the truth, which is it was a stupid thing to have done, I knew nothing about it, had nothing to do with it and if anybody had ever come to me and said to me they were going to do this I would have stopped it,” Christie said.

He added that since the scandal broke, concerned supporters have come up to him to ask if he is “OK,” but despite the “bumps in the road” there has not “been a day I regret having the job I have.”

“I never told you that I was going to be perfect or all the people who worked for me were going to be perfect,” Christie said. “We are all human beings and that means inherently we are imperfect and mistakes will be made, what matters when mistakes are made no matter what they are is how do you react to them…we are always judged not by the fall, but how we get up.”

A Christie-ordered internal review released earlier this month cleared him of any wrongdoing. Two other investigations — by a state legislative panel and the U.S. Attorney’s office — are ongoing. The state investigation subpoenaed four current and former officials to testify next month.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Why the Koch Brothers Are Tangling with ‘Jungle’ Jack Hanna

ABC/Fred Lee(WASHINGTON) — Hold your horses, Jack Hanna: the Koch brothers just threw a monkey wrench into a May ballot proposal to increase funding for the Columbus Zoo in Ohio.

Less than two weeks from a vote on the proposal, Americans for Prosperity, an interest group financed in part by the conservative Koch brothers, is reaching into the debate over a local tax levy in Franklin County, Ohio.

The move is expected to keep Jack Hanna — the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo who is commonly known as “Jungle Jack” — and his allies busy as a bee in this dog-eat-dog political face-off.

“It’s the most curious thing I’ve ever seen in Franklin County politics,” John Kulewicz, co-chair of the movement to pass the tax hike, told ABC News. “Everyone I know is wondering why [the Koch brothers] are getting involved. What does this have to do with anything?”

Much to the chagrin of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional Democrats, Americans for Prosperity has been a major player in U.S. Senate races across the country, taking particular aim at President Obama’s signature health care law and Democrats who supported it.

But Eli Miller, the Ohio state director of Americans for Prosperity, said his organization works at the local, state and federal level, and this involvement wasn’t uncommon for the interest group.

“A lot of our activists in Franklin County reached out to us on the issue that their voices were not being heard on this tax increase,” said Miller. “If you’re going to raise taxes at any level, you’re going to hear from us.”

Americans for Prosperity mailed out ads urging voters to “stop the money grab,” featuring a gorilla hand holding a $100 bill. Miller said the group has also gone door-to-door with its campaign.

But Kulewicz said that he doesn’t understand why the conservative group is getting involved with an issue that pertains to the zoo’s well-being.

“All we know is it’s an outside special interest group from northern Virginia with deep pockets,” Kulewicz said. “I’m not aware that they have any interest in the zoo at all. I know people in Franklin County are up in arms about it.”

Miller wouldn’t comment on how much the group has spent so far on the initiative, but said that they “are going to spend as much as it takes to educate Franklin County constituents.”

“We decided to help educate the public on this issue so Franklin County residents can decide,” Miller said. “As with any tax increase, this is really going to hurt those who can’t afford it.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Girl Surprises Michelle Obama with Unemployed Dad’s Resume

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When it comes to the job hunt, they say, it’s all about who you know.

And one little girl, a guest at the White House’s annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” seized the opportunity to get her father’s resume into some powerful hands on Thursday.

When Michelle Obama called on her during a question-and-answer session in the East Room, instead of asking a question, the girl gave the first lady a copy of her dad’s resume.

“My dad’s been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his resume,” she said.

“Oh my goodness,” murmured Mrs. Obama as she wrapped the little girl in a hug.

“Well, it’s a little private, but she’s doing something for her dad, right?” the first lady said to the audience, which were children of Executive Office employees.

“Got it,” she said to the girl, brandishing the resume.

Mrs. Obama took the folded resume with her when she left the event.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Democratic Lawmakers Start to Run on Obamacare

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — As she seeks to emerge from a crowded Democratic primary field in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Alyson Schwartz is among the first prominent Democrats to take President Obama’s advice and defend the new health care law.

“It’s a major accomplishment of the president’s,” Schwartz told reporters on a call Wednesday. “It is something I think all of us should be proud of.”

In a new television ad that debuted Tuesday, Schwartz not only celebrated the Affordable Care Act, but highlighted her role in passing it.

“I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to call Americans,” the ad said.

Schwartz served on the House Ways and Means Committee during the initial construction of the health care legislation, and the ad included photographs of the president and Schwartz together.

“It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions,” the ad continues.

This week, Schwartz called on other Democrats, particularly in her race, to “speak up” about the successes of the law and criticized them for “vagueness” on the issue.

“[They should] express their pride and commitment to implementing this law,” she said on the call.

Nationwide and in Pennsylvania, the health care law remains largely unpopular, though public opinion is trending — slowly — in the law’s favor. According to Gallup’s most recent data from earlier this month, 43 percent of Americans now approve of the law, the highest percentage since last October. In addition, the number of respondents who said the law has helped them in their own lives rose to 15 percent, up from 9 percent in November.

According to Schwartz, she hears stories of people “every day on the campaign trail” who have been helped by the law.

More importantly for her campaign right now, Democrats still overwhelming support the law. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from March, 76 percent of Democrats nationwide approve of the law.

With the hope of appealing to Democrat primary voters, the ad will run only in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both Democratic Party strongholds.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, another Democratic candidate is on the health care offensive. Elisabeth Jensen, who hopes to oust freshman Republican Andy Barr and become the state’s first female Democrat in Congress, released her own radio ad earlier this month attacking Barr for his votes to repeal the law.

Jensen’s ad equated the federal health care law with Kentucky’s own health insurance marketplace, Kynect, one of the most successful state-run marketplaces launched last fall, with 400,000 enrollees, according to the governor.

“I learned congressman Andy Barr voted 19 times to repeal health care reform. I was disappointed,” Jensen’s ad said. “Thanks to Gov. Beshear, Kentucky Kynect provides health care to Kentuckians who had no insurance. But Barr, along with Mitch McConnell, voted to end Kynect and let insurance companies drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.”

An anti-repeal message could be a safe compromise for Democrats still struggling to talk about Obamacare. A Kaiser Family Foundation Poll from March found that only 29 percent of Americans were in favor of repealing the law, including both those that favored repealing and replacing the law with a GOP alternative (18 percent) and repealing the law and not replacing it with new legislation (11 percent).

Another strategy among Democratic candidates has been to attack Republican governors for hampering the law’s implementation. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election, repeatedly has said while campaigning that “the law is not perfect.” But she is also vocal about her support for pending legislation in the state that would obligate Louisiana to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the new law, a move the governor so far has rejected.

Similarly, Schwartz’s ad directly criticized incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, who has also chosen not to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania. On the press call, Schwartz said Pennsylvanians are “outraged” that the governor refused the federal funds to expand coverage. In the ad, she promised to reverse that decision.

“As governor I will take the Medicaid expansion, because 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health care coverage,” she said in the ad.

Corbett’s campaign was quick to respond, saying Schwartz had “embraced an extreme liberal agenda.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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