By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- GOP ACCUSES NETWORKS OF ‘PUTTING A THUMB ON THE SCALES’ OF 2016: The Republican National Committee sent a message to NBC and CNN yesterday: If they don’t pull their planned Hillary Clinton miniseries and movie, then no RNC partnered 2016 debates for them, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus fired off a letter to the heads of both networks yesterday to “express his deep disappointment” in their decision to either air a miniseries in NBC’s case or a movie in CNN’s, writing that the networks are “promoting former Secretary Hillary Clinton ahead of her likely candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. “As an American company, you have every right to air programming of your choice,” Priebus wrote. “But as American citizens, certainly you recognize why many are astounded at your actions, which appear to be a major network’s thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.” http://abcn.ws/13fEruJ
- PROGRAMMING NOTES: NBC announced its miniseries last month, WALSHE notes. It is a four-parter starring Diane Lane with no set air date. CNN announced last week it was planning a feature-length movie on the former secretary of state’s life to premiere in movie theaters and television next year. Both networks have said the programs will have no effect on the news or reporting sides of the networks. “NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment, and has no involvement in this project,” Erika Masonhall, a spokeswoman for the network told ABC News. CNN responded with a statement asking the RNC not to rush to judgment. “Instead of making premature decisions about a project that is in the very early stages of development and months from completion, we would encourage the members of the Republican National Committee to reserve judgment until they know more,” the CNN statement said.
- THREAT LEVEL: The RNC letter ends with a threat: “If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s summer meeting on Aug. 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2015 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.” Of course, both networks can easily partner with other Republican groups, other media organizations or hold Republican debates on their own. This would only eliminate partnering with the RNC for any party sanctioned primary or general election 2016 Republican debates. RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski responded to the networks last night: “In response to our letter today, NBC is trying to make a distinction without a difference — I’ll remember that next time I’m asked to respond to a Republican candidate or elected official. CNN wants us to wait until the damage has been done but either way they are giving special treatment to a likely presidential candidate. Why her? Why now?” http://abcn.ws/13fEruJ
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The Republican Party’s quest to win control of the Senate next year hinges to a great degree on the outcome of races like the one in Arkansas, a red state with a Democratic senator. The contest begins today, with Tom Cotton, a Republican congressman and Army veteran, formally announcing his candidacy and trying to unseat Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat running for his third term. The headwinds have always been challenging for Pryor and other Southern Democrats, who are becoming something of an extinct species. But toppling an incumbent is never easy. What type of statewide candidate Cotton becomes and the appetite of voters to separate Pryor from the president’s party will play a key role in answering the question of whether Democrats can maintain their grasp on the Senate in 2014.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: A Democrat running state-wide in Texas? Surely Wendy Davis is of the wrong generation for her party in her home state, history sandwiching her between the LBJ and Ann Richards eras and the Castro brothers’ emerging Lone Star State. Indeed, a Davis run for governor is based more on liberal daydreams, among Texas Democrats and national donors and supporters, than it is based on realistic assessments of 2014 politics. But that’s not to say even a losing bid wouldn’t serve a purpose, in Texas and beyond. Firing up red-state machinery well in advance in 2016… engaging donors who are used to seeing their money flee other states… capturing party excitement in a place it was long thought lost but can yet be regained… a new-era celebrity running to cap an unlikely rise to prominence… it all points to a Davis run, even if her pink sneakers wear out in the process.
ABC’s MICHAEL FALCONE: In early April, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg formed a political action committee aimed at changing the nation’s immigration policy, which he called “unfit for today’s world.” In the nearly four months since, Zuckerberg has not spoken out about the issue or the new group, FWD.us, even as he took a beating from some liberals over his organization’s tactics. All that changed last night in San Francisco when Zuckerberg delivered his first speech (albeit a short one) on immigration issues to roomful of technology executives, elected officials, reporters and some of the immigrants whose lives would change if the Facebook executive and his supporters can persuade lawmakers in Washington, DC to see things their way. But Zuckerberg, who spoke at the West Coast premiere of the film, “Documented,” written and directed by immigration reform activist Jose Antonio Vargas, chose to make largely personal rather than political remarks. He recalled how he met undocumented immigrants while teaching a class a local high school in the Bay Area. “People often talk about two part of the issue — high skilled H1B visas that tech companies have and full comprehensive immigration reform — as if they’re two completely separate issues,” Zuckerberg said. “But anyone who knows a DREAMer knows that they’re not. The students who, no matter where they were born, coming into this country are going to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and the people creating jobs in this country.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Last night at Montclair State University all four candidates for the U.S. senate in New Jersey faced off and despite Cory Booker’s massive lead they were surprisingly cordial to him. Fireworks and piling on were expected, but besides some jabs at his relationship with Christie and for missing the last debate there was only some good natured ribbing from Rep. Rush Holt who said in his opening remarks that he has “never run into a burning building,” teasing Booker for his rescue of a neighbor from a house fire last year, which earned him “hero” headlines. Holt added that, unlike Booker he doesn’t have “one million Twitter followers” and isn’t “friends with Mark Zuckerberg.” Holt may have just been ribbing Booker at the debate, but he isn’t holding his fire on television releasing an ad this week hitting the Newark mayor and saying he might be the frontrunner, but he is “no progressive.” Polls have found Booker holding a wide lead in the race. A Quinnipiac poll from last month showed Booker with 52 percent, Pallone with 10 percent, Holt with 8 percent, and Oliver with 3 percent. http://abcn.ws/186EUTo
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
–MEDIA GROUP OF AMERICA ANNOUNCES BOARD MEMBERS, NEWS HIRES. Media Group of America co-founders Alex Skatell and Phil Musser annoucned today the appointment of an 8-member board of advisers “to help advise and manage the company’s strategic growth, as well as additional new hires to senior leadership positions at the company,” MGA officials tell The Note. The new board members, elected to a two-year term, are: Political consultant Alex Castellanos; Former White House political director Sara Fagan; Digital strategist Mindy Finn; Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno; Immediate past president of the Florida State Senate, Mike Haridopolos; CEO of Jordan Winery and GOP donor John Jordan; Chairman of the Thayer Lodging Group Fred Malek; Digital Media expert Brandon Paine. New hires include: Linlee DuBard, currently the director of Marketing at Townhall.com, who joins MGA as director of marketing and brand development; and Ryan Coyne, a former investment banker with JP Morgan who will serve as Chief Financial Officer. “The trajectory of our business out of the gate has been really phenomenal, and we are very grateful and humbled that this diverse and experienced group would join our team,” MGA Co-Founder Phil Musser said in a statement. Fellow co-founder Alex Skatell said he “couldn’t be more excited about the team and the opportunities ahead to grow our company.”
–EMILY’S LIST ANNOUNCES FIRST ROUND OF 2014 CONGRESSIONAL ENDORSEMENTS. Today Emily’s List, the group devoted to electing pro-abortion rights women to office, announced the endorsements of six women for Congress: Staci Appel (IA-03); Erin Bilbray (NV-03); Ann Callis (IL-13); Gwen Graham (FL-02); Eloise Reyes (CA-31); and Martha Robertson (NY-23). “These six rising stars have demonstrated unwavering commitment to their communities as local reformers, state legislators, educators, and attorneys,” Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily’s List said in a statement. “Staci Appel, Erin Bilbray, Ann Callis, Gwen Graham, Eloise Gomez Reyes, and Martha Robertson are experienced public servants and glass ceiling breakers with proven records of fighting for women and families. The Emily’s List community, now more than two million members strong, is thrilled to help send these fantastic candidates to Washington.”
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
RELATING TO MITT ROMNEY: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT HOW THE GOP LOST THE 2012 ELECTION. It was too little, too late. Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz, whose new book Collision 2012 provides in-depth reporting and analysis of the last presidential election, says the Romney campaign’s failure to humanize Mitt Romney was an important factor in sealing the candidate’s loss. Balz tells “The Fine Print’s” JEFF ZELENY that the more he reported on the campaign, the more “baffled” he became by the Romney team’s “inability to humanize Mitt Romney throughout the entire campaign.” Balz recalls that it wasn’t until the last night of the Republican National Convention that the campaign revealed the more human side of Romney, when members of his church told a story about Romney helping their son, who had died of cancer. “Mitt Romney became his friend, helped him write a will,” Balz recalls. “This was as poignant and human a testimony as we ever saw.” But even after that testimonial, Balz says, “the campaign never did anything with it. They never put it in an ad. They didn’t take opportunities.” WATCH: http://yhoo.it/13XzPZn
OBAMA: ON THE ROAD AGAIN. President Obama will outline his plan to overhaul the nation’s housing finance system today during a visit to Phoenix today, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. The president will put forth his plan to boost private lending and ultimately replace Fannie and Freddie during remarks at 4:05 pm ET. Today’s proposal comes two and a half years after the White House first outlined three different options to replace Fannie and Freddie. The president will also renew his call for lawmakers to make it easier for homeowners to refinance at lower rates. Later, the president travels to Los Angeles, where he sits down for an interview with Jay Leno.
WENDY DAVIS ‘THINKING VERY CAREFULLY’ ABOUT RUN FOR TEXAS GOVERNOR. If not now, when? If not Wendy Davis, then who? Those are among the questions at the forefront of the minds of national Democrats and supporters inside the state of Texas who are eagerly awaiting the Texas state senator’s decision about whether she will run for governor next year, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP reports. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday, Davis, 50, said she’ll make her decision “hopefully in just the next couple of weeks.” “I’m thinking very carefully about it for myself and my family,” the Democrat told a group of reporters after her speech. “Obviously, it’s a huge task to take on and I want to make sure it’s the right thing for me, and also is something hopefully our state would want to see.” Davis catapulted to national fame for her 13-hour June filibuster against an anti-abortion bill that called for a 20-week ban on abortions and regulations for abortion providers that abortion rights advocates said put all but a handful of clinics in the state at risk of closing. The Texas legislature eventually passed the bill after Texas Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session to push the bill through. http://abcn.ws/18ZiynK
DECISION DAY: Davis, who holds one of Texas’ only competitive state Senate districts, will decide whether to carry the mantle for Democrats in Texas in the governor’s race or defend her Republican-leaning seat that includes Fort Worth and parts of Arlington. Davis added that in order to be in the best position to launch a statewide run, she would need to decide within the next four to six weeks. http://abcn.ws/18ZiynK
JEFF BEZOS ON WASHINGTON POST PURCHASE: ‘THERE WILL, OF COURSE, BE CHANGE.’ Why would a billionaire buy a newspaper? Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos now joins the ranks of Rupert Murdoch, Red Sox owner John Henry and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, ABC’s SUSANNA KIM notes. About Bezos’ $250 million purchase of The Washington Post newspaper and affiliated publications, Morningstar equity analyst Liang Feng said non-financial motivation is probably a “major component” of his purchase. In a letter to employees of the Washington Post, Bezos wrote, “There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs.” Though the Washington Post Company has a market capitalization of over $4 billion, the firm’s newspaper business has either generated minimum profitability or lost money in recent years, in part due to pension buyout charges. In addition to the flagship newspaper, the sale includes the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing. http://abcn.ws/1c4LEad
AT DEBATE, BOOKER SAYS RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRISTIE IS A REASON VOTERS SHOULD SEND HIM TO SENATE. Republican Gov. Chris Christie was front and center at a debate last night among the Democratic candidates for the open Senate seat in New Jersey, with Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s opponents attacking him for his apparent friendship with the governor, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. Booker, the frontrunner in the race, countered that his relationship with Christie was a reason New Jersey voters should send him to Washington. The Newark mayor, who skipped the last debate, said he “found it surprising” that his three Democratic opponents, Rep. Rush Holt, Rep. Frank Pallone, and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, “counted as a criticism that I worked with Gov. Christie” and instead stressed how his ability to work across the aisle would make him a more effective U.S. senator. “The truth is he and I disagree on most everything from marriage equality frankly to the issue of giving women access to preventative care, but despite our differences, I am the mayor of the largest city in the state, I’ve got to work with the governor to get things done,” Booker said. http://abcn.ws/186EUTo
HOUSE REPUBLICANS TOUR SOUTHERN BORDER. As the House of Representatives assesses its strategy to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, a group of Republican congressmen are starting their August recess with a tour of the southern border, ABC’s SERENA MARSHALL notes. Unlike a border tour last March for a bipartisan group of senators, the House’s current three-day tour features only Republicans: House committee on Homeland Security chairman Mike McCaul of Texas, former House “Group of Eight” member Raul Labrador of Idaho, Trent Franks of Arizona, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Rick Crawford of Arkansas and Richard Hudson of North Carolina. The group is accompanied by Border Patrol Chief Michael Fischer. The group of eight began their tour of the 1,969-mile-long border Sunday in San Diego, followed by a visit to Tucson, Ariz. yesterday, with a trip to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas scheduled for Tuesday. In a recent statement, McCaul said the trip was important “for Members to see the Southwest border terrain and security technology first-hand.” http://abcn.ws/16q0hOv
GOP AD HITS MCAULIFFE OVER INVESTIGATION OF HIS OLD COMPANY. The Republican Governors Association unveiled a new television ad yesterday using the revelation that the electric car company founded by Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Committee, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE writes. The ad, titled “Shift,” ends with the narrator reading, “He’s desperate to shift attention away from the news about this federal investigation. A possible visa-for-sale scheme, with the Chinese financing McAuliffe’s own business. Terry McAuliffe, you just can’t trust him.” The RGA wouldn’t say how much the buy is other than to say it is “significant.” The ad is referring to the news that GreenTech Automotive, the company McAuliffe founded and headed until last year is under federal investigation over its use of a foreign investor visa program, according to Department of Homeland Security documents released by the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. http://abcn.ws/15BEPt4
@daveweigel: Only seven more days for someone to publish a “Frank Pallone: The Next Scott Brown?” piece, before Booker turfs him.
@brianstelter: CNN changes: “Crossfire” starts Sept. 16 at 6:30pm, shrinking “Situation Room” a bit. Blitzer adds 1-2pm. “AC360 Later” at 10pm Mon-Thur.
@Timodc: Media members seem to be really interested in who owns media companies.