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Cruz and Crayons

The Ted Cruz Coloring Book

A St. Louis company has published a coloring book about the Texas senator—and it just may be the perfect holiday gift for children of all ages.

Looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who loves both crayons and conservatism? Look no further—the Ted Cruz coloring book is here.

Just in time for the holiday season, Really Big Coloring Books from St. Louis, Missouri has produced a 24-page Ted Cruz coloring book. Available for only $4.99 (and even cheaper with a bulk discount), the book features the freshman Texas senator hunting, speaking on the Senate floor, and sitting with family in scenes that children of all ages can color in.

According to the publisher, “The Cruz to the Future™ book is a non-partisan, fact-driven view of how Texas Sen. Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz became a U.S. senator and details, through his quotes and public information his ideas for what he believes will help America grow.” The company maintains that it “created this comic coloring and activity book not as an endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz but rather as an educational tool to be used in schools and perhaps as a handout for groups, clubs and organizations…He is a positive role model worthy of study in any school.”

Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, has long been considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016 and has made several visits to Iowa. He reached national prominence with his 21-hour speech on the Senate floor on the eve of the government shutdown.

RIP

Washington Mourns Top Diplomat

Former top Romney foreign policy advisor Rich Williamson died on Sunday at the age of 64.

The DC foreign policy community reacted with shock and sadness Monday to the unexpected death of Rich Williamson, a long time American diplomat and Republican foreign policy operative, who died Sunday due to complications from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 64.

Williamson most recently served as a top foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney and helped shape the 2012 GOP nominee's policies on international affairs. But Williamson's resume also included stints as a diplomat, political candidate, academic, lawyer, human rights activist, and key figure in the foreign policy staffs of leading Republican politicians including Sen. John McCain. Williamson also worked on two presidential campaigns for Ronald Reagan and was a junior staffer in the Reagan White House.

Among his many titles, Williamson served as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under Reagan, as assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs under George H.W. Bush, and was appointed by George W. Bush as ambassador to the U.N. for special political affairs and ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. He was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 1992 and authored 8 books as well as hundreds of articles.

At the time of his death, Williamson was a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on International Affairs, ran his own consulting firm called Salisbury Strategies, and served as vice-chairman of the International Republican Institute, an NGO focused on democracy and human rights promotion abroad. 

No-Win

How the USA Lost Its Syrian Allies

As the Geneva peace talks loom, the Obama administration has been forced to reach out to the very Islamist groups it once hoped to marginalize.

As the United States moves forward with a summit it hopes will end the civil war in Syria, the Obama administration finds itself alienated from the opposition forces it tried and failed to cultivate for the last two years.

In turn, the Obama administration has begun reaching out to Syrian rebels who espouse an Islamist agenda and draw support from American allies in the region like Saudi Arabia as opposed to the United States directly.

Peace talks scheduled for next month in Geneva will involve the U.S., Russia, the United Nations, the regime of Bashar al Assad, various parts of the fractured Syrian opposition—and perhaps even Iran. But for those talks to work, all sides will have to agree to a ceasefire.

In the last peace conference in Geneva in June 2012, the United States had some leverage with Syria’s opposition and persuaded moderate rebel leaders to accept something known as the Geneva Communique, a document that purports to set the groundwork for Syria’s transition to a post-Assad government.

Presidential Candidate?

Rand Paul: Wife Decides If I Run

The Kentucky Senator let slip in a speech on Friday that he wants to run for President. He simply needs his wife to agree

In a question and answer period after his speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was asked if he would run for President in 2016. His answer was equivocal as Paul said his wife didn't want him to run. However, the Kentucky Senator made clear that he was game for a presidential campaign.

When asked if he would run, the Kentucky Senator quipped "where's my cellphone. I need to call my wife." Paul went on to explain that "There's two votes in my family, my wife has both of them, both are no votes right now." However, he said that he hoped to persuade her to change our mind. Needless to say, that statement indicates Paul has already decided that he wants to run for president in 2016; he just needs to get his family to support him in that effort. 

Paul was speaking in Detroit to outline his plan for the Republican Party to engage in outreach to the African American community and tout legislation that he will introduce on Monday to create Economic Freedom Zones in poverty-stricken areas to spur business growth. 

Bachmann Scandal

FBI Searches Bachmann Aide House

The Iowa home of Kent Sorensen, a former Iowa state senator who allegedly received illegal payments from Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign was searched by the FBI last month.

Last month, the FBI spent hours searching through the home of Kent Sorensen, a former Iowa State Senator and top aide to Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign and confisicated a variety of material, including computers.

According to the Des Moines Register, the federal law enforcement agency executed a search warrant at Sorensen's house on November 20 in connection to an ongoing investigation of "presidential campaign politics." In particular, accusations that Bachmann was illegally paying Sorensen for his endorsement and that the then-Iowa state senator stole an email list of conservative parents who home school their children for the Bachmann campaign.

None of this would have likely come to light, save for the fact that three days before the 2012 Iowa Caucuses Sorensen dramatically defected to the Ron Paul campaign. Bachmann claimed that Paul had paid off Sorensen to leave her campaign and endorse him, something investigators have subsquently found evidence of. This, combined with a complaint about Sorensen's conduct while on the Bachmann campaign, sparked an ongoing investigation by the House Ethics Committee into Bachmann as well as an inquiry by the Federal Election Commission in addition to the FBI's investigation.

Jason Chaffetz, a Tea Party congressman from Utah, raised eyebrows by appearing at a late November fundraiser for a local elected official in Iowa.

Why is Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appearing at a fundraiser for a local elected official in Iowa?

Chaffetz, a rising conservative star who was first elected to Congress in 2008, was in Iowa on November 21 for a fundraiser for Chad Airhart, the county recorder in Dallas County, Iowa, which consists of fast-growing Des Moines suburbs. The Utah congressman headlined Airhart's "Blue Jean Bash" at Jethro's BBQ and Jambalaya in West Des Moines. Before being elected to maintain local land records and other paperwork in 2010, Airhart was a Republican operative in the state who worked for George W. Bush, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.

Normally, there's only one reason why an ambitious politician travels to Iowa in late November to help out a local county official, the Iowa caucuses. After all, it's unlikely Chaffetz was inspired by a passionate belief that it is imperative for Dallas County residents to have a Republican file the deed to their homes. 

However, the Utah Congressman seems an unlikely presidential candidate for 2016. After all, he's still only in the House of Representives, which is a poor launching pad for a presidential bid (the last sitting congressman to be elected President was James Garfield in 1880). Plus, being only 46 years old, Chaffetz is in no hurry and should have plenty of political opportunities in the future (including a possible Senate bid in 2018 assuming Orrin Hatch, who will then be 84, decides not to seek re-election).

Deal

Up to Speed: Iran Nuke Deal

Six world powers reached a deal on Sunday morning in Geneva to lift some sanctions on Iran.

Iran reached an interim agreement Saturday with the United States and five other great powers. The deal would begin lifting some financial sanctions on Iran in exchange for a cap on Iran’s overall production of nuclear fuel. This not-so-grand bargain is meant to create trust for continued negotiations to finally end Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon.  

What Did The West Get? In the deal Iran will have to cap the total amount of low enriched uranium it produces. Enrichment is the process of creating nuclear fuel from uranium needed for peaceful reactors and nuclear weapons. Iran has also agreed to stop enriching uranium above five percent, a level that is not suitable for nuclear weapons. The deal will also require Iran to halt work on a heavy water plutonium reactor in Arak, an alternative path to making nuclear fuel. In addition to these steps, the deal would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency more access for its inspectors to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities. Those concessions are significant, but they also represent a significant climb down from earlier conditions spelled out in U.N. Security Council resolutions that require Iran to stop enrichment altogether.

 What Did Iran Get? Under the interim agreement Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium at low levels. Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif said the deal recognized his country's nuclear program. This is a major victory for Iran whose leaders have insisted for nearly a decade that it has the right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Officially, the Obama administration has not recognized that any country has this right under the treaty. It has argued that Iran has to adhere to the terms of prior U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran from enrichment. On Saturday, Obama was vague on this point, saying “Iran, like any nation should be able to access peacefully nuclear energy.” But in 2010, Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, let it slip that a final deal could allow Iran to enrich. “They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations,” Clinton told the BBC at the time  

What Does This Mean For Israel And Saudi Arabia? In the past three weeks, America’s closest allies in the Middle East have made the case that the interim deal just reached in Geneva is a bad one. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has gone public, calling a proposed agreement the “deal of the century” for Iran. Behind the scenes, Western diplomats told The Daily Beast that Saudi envoys have warned European powers and the United States that the deal to allow Iran to keep its centrifuges in place runs the risk that Iran could make weapons grade fuel at a time of its choosing. Obama appeared to try to pre-empt this point on Saturday when he stressed that the sanctions relief offered to Iran in this interim deal would not corrode core sanctions that have isolated Iran’s banks and oil industry from the international economy. He also pledged to vigorously enforce the existing sanctions on Iran. The Daily Beast reported earlier this month however that the Treasury Department has only designated ten new violators of sanctions on Iran since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in June.

Retiring In '18?

Last Term For Dianne Feinstein?

Veteran California Democrat Dianne Feinstein hinted that she might not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2018 on Thursday.

Is this Dianne Feinstein’s last term in the U.S Senate?

The 80-year-old Feinstein, (D-CA), who is currently the oldest member of the Senate, hinted on Thursday that her current term may be her last on Capitol Hill.  While talking to reporters about her support for filibuster reform on Thursday, Feinstein said:

“Now I recognize I could be back in the minority again but that’s ok if that happens but I want for the remainder of my 5 plus years to be able to get something done to be able to get to get nominees approved, to be able to get bills moving, to be able to pass an intelligence authorization bill, a cyber bill whatever it is.”

In a statement, Tom Mentzer, press secretary for Feinstein insisted “The senator was speaking of the five years left on her current Senate term, nothing more.” However the elegiac tone of Feinstein’s statement does lend credence to the idea that the current Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is not likely to seek re-election in 2018 at the age of 85. 

Reid Goes Nuclear on Filibusters

Ding Dong, the Filibuster Is Dead

In a high-stakes vote this morning, Senate Democrats drastically cut Republicans' ability to block federal appointments, evoking the so-called nuclear option in a 52-48 vote.

Boom!

The Senate just went nuclear. On Thursday morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid secured an unprecedented fix to the chamber's rules that will drastically change how the Senate considers nominees. The so-called nuclear option eliminates the use of the filibuster on all presidential appointments save those to the Supreme Court and ending what has become a de facto requirement of a 60-vote super majority.

In remarks on the floor, Reid bemoaned what he described as the gridlock in Washington and proclaimed: "The Senate is a living thing, to survive it must change." The majority leader went on to describe what he characterized as unprecedented Republican obstruction to the Obama administration's nominees. As examples, Reid cited Republican opposition to three nominees to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most important federal appellate courts. 

After a series of procedural votes, the Senate finally voted to change the rules, which was accomplished by appealing a ruling of the Senate parliamentarian, by a vote of 52-48. All 45 Republicans were opposed, along with three Democrats: Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mark Pryor (D-AR).

Going to Rehab

Cocaine Congressman Won’t Quit

Trey Radel has pleaded guilty to cocaine possession—but he’s not resigning. The Republican congressman from Florida says he’ll take a leave of absence from Congress.

Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession Wednesday, held an emotional press conference several hours later to announce that he would not resign from Congress. Instead Radel, a first-term Tea Partier from southwest Florida, said he would take a leave of absence to seek inpatient treatment for what he obliquely referred to as “his disease.” The congressman, who was sentenced to a year’s probation and paid a $250 fine in a Washington, D.C., court, had previously said in a statement to the press that he was an alcoholic. 

At a 10:30 p.m. press conference, Radel started off by saying: “I’m sorry. I have no excuse for what I’ve done, I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses.” He added: “I hope I can be a role model for millions of others struggling with this disease.” After his statement, Radel, a former journalist and radio show host, took relatively softball questions from local reporters, acknowledging that he had been “dealing with this off and on for years” and that his mother was also an alcoholic.

It's unclear what the long-term consquences will be for Radel’s political career. The first congressman to plead guilty to a drug charge in more than 30 years, he was previously a relatively obscure backbencher best known for being a self-proclaimed “hip-hop conservative.” Already, a number of other Republicans in Radel’s safe red district are making noises about mounting a primary challenge against him. 


‘Had Some Fun’

Congress’s Cocaine Cowboy

He loves rap music, the Tea Party, and Cartagena, Colombia. Now Florida’s self-described ‘hip-hop conservative,’ Trey Radel, faces an arraignment on misdemeanor cocaine charges.

At 2:44 p.m. on October 29, freshman Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) tweeted that he “had some fun in the past few wks.”

131119-congressman-cocaine-cheat

Drew Angerer/Getty

What kind of fun was he having? “On or about October 29, 2013, within the District of Columbia, Henry J. Radel III did unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally possess a quantity of cocaine, a controlled substance,” a charging document alleged Tuesday. The congressman has been formally charged with misdemeanor cocaine possession and will be arraigned Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court.

Prior to his arrest, Radel, 37, was best-known for self-identifying as a “hip-hop conservative.” In an essay for BuzzFeed, he described his love for the rap group NWA as a teenager in suburban Cincinnati and explained his philosophy:

article

GOP Defies Obama on Iran Sanctions

On the eve of talks the president hopes will halt Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, six Republican senators are trying to introduce new sanctions.

Defying the wishes of President Obama, six Republican senators Tuesday proposed an amendment to a defense spending bill that would introduce a new round of sanctions on Iran on the eve of diplomatic talks the president hopes will end Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Il.) and co-sponsored by five other Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as well as Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), would target the remaining money Iran has in overseas bank accounts, most of which comes from the sale of oil. It would be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that directs spending and policy for the U.S. military.

A draft of the amendment, obtained by The Daily Beast, would sanction any bank that allows Iran to spend revenue in overseas accounts on items besides food and medicine and lays out what steps Congress would need to see in any interim agreement with Iran.

The amendment also states any such interim agreement must require Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium, a condition of earlier U.N. Security Council resolutions. The administration has hoped to fudge this issue so far and has been discussing a temporary agreement that would allow Iran to do some enrichment while the larger deal is negotiated over a six-month period.

Tragic

A Father Stabbed, a Son Shot

Creigh Deeds, the 2009 Democratic nominee for Governor of Virginia, was stabbed at his home Tuesday, while a gunshot wound left his son dead.

Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, who was the Democratic guberntorial nominee in 2009, was stabbed in his home in Bath County on Tuesday morning. Deeds's son, Gus, was found dead of a gunshot wound inside the home as well. Deeds is currently in critical condition at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. Police were called to Deeds's residence at 7:25 a.m. and found the lawmaker with serious injuries to his head and upper torso sustained in an assault. NBC Washington is reporting that Gus Deeds stabbed his father before taking his own life. In a statement, Corrine Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police said that while it was not "an absolute determination," police were investigating this as an attempted murder and a suicide.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Gus Deeds, a 24-year-old who had recently withdrawn from the College of William & Mary, received a mental health evaluation on Monday after an emergency custody order was issued. He was then released because no psychatric beds were available. 

Deeds' condition has been updated to fair at UVA Medical Center and the state senator has been talking to investigators. According to reports, he was able to leave the house and walk down his driveway to a state highway where he was spotted and picked up by a cousin. The cousin then drove Deeds to his farm and the wounded state senator was flown to the hospital from there.

Deeds, who was first elected to the Virginia state senate in 2001, was considered a rising star in the state's Democratic Party but twice lost bids for statewide office. In 2005, Deeds was his party's nominee to be the state's attorney general against Republican Bob McDonnell and fell short by a mere 323 votes. Four years later, Deeds won a three-way primary to become the Democratic nominee for governor but lost to McDonnell again, this time by a 59-41 margin. Deeds, who is the father of three daughters in addition to his son, was divorced from his first wife shortly after the 2009 election and has since remarried.

501(c)4

Chamber Spent Big In 2012

The pro-business lobbying group spent almost $54 million as a tax-exempt nonprofit in the 2012 election.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce spent a lot of money on the 2012 election. The organization, which is a 501(c)6 tax exempt trade organization, spent $53.8 million on “direct and indirect campaign activities” according to a tax form obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics and provided to The Daily Beast. 501(c)6 are able to maintain their tax exemption as a “trade organization” provided they spend less than half of their money on political activity. The pro-business lobbying group, which gives almost entirely to Republicans, was one of the three biggest political nonprofits in the last election cycle.

In a statement to the IRS, the Chamber explained its political spending by saying that it “engaged in public education activities in support of its mission, which includes advancing the interests and concerns of business, economic growth and the free enterprise system. In pursuit of these goals, the Chamber spends funds directly or works with other organizations with similar missions.”

The group also spent lavishly on some of its high-ranking executives. At least six employees made over one million dollars in 2012. In contrast, this is even more millionaires than at least one Major League Baseball team employed in 2013, the Houston Astros . The only difference is that Astros had a far better won-loss record. In fact, while Houston’s baseball team finished with a dismal winning percentage of .315 in the most recent season, it still exceeded the Chamber of Commerce’s mark in the 2012 election cycle when, according to Bloomberg News, it finished with 14-36 record, a .280 percentage.

The Chamber of Commerce only made two direct political donations. It gave $50,000 apiece to two different groups, Parents for Education Reform and Yes For Idaho Education, which were campaigning against referendums to overturn laws passed by the legislature that limited collective bargaining and instituted merit pay for Idaho teachers. Needless to say, the Chamber’s effort in this race was for naught and voters rejected both of these laws by significant margins.  

Dems' Dark Money

Top Liberal Group Spent Big In '12

The League of Conservation Voters, a tax exempt 501(c)4 spent nearly $15 million on the 2012 election.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) spent more money than any other liberal nonprofit in 2012 election cycle according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In fact, according to a tax document obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics and provided to The Daily Beast, the group, which is a tax exempt 501(c)4 and not required to disclose donors, spent nearly $15 million on “direct and indirect political activities” in 2012. 501(c)4s are able to maintain their tax exemption as a “social welfare organization” provided they spend less than half of their money on political activity. Overall, the group took in nearly $37 million in 2012, after raising only $11 million the year before, and spent about $35.7 million in total.

LCV described its goal in a filing to the IRS and stated  “As part of its efforts to secure sound environmental policies and help secure the environmental future of the planet, the League of Conservation Voters seeks to elect pro-environmental candidates supportive of such policies and defeat those who stand in the way of them; these efforts are conducted through communications to the public including mail, email, phone, door-to-door and advertisements.”

In a statement to the Daily Beast, Jeff Gohringer, the LCV’s press secretary, said “We’re very proud of the money that we spent last year. We built on our long history of advocating for environment policies and holding lawmakers of both parties accountable. LCV has been around for more than 40 years and works closely with more than 30 state partners to pass environment laws at state and local levels and our funding comes from more than half a million supporters across the country.”

Josh Rogin: Hope Is Not a Policy

After President Obama announced a shift in approach to the conflict in Syria, Josh Rogin joins ‘The Daily Rundown’ on MSNBC to offer his take on whether the move was too little, too late.

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