We have just gone through a year full of outrage, melodrama and shenanigans — and quite a few victories for President Trump, despite it all. Congratulations on making it this far, hopefully with some optimism toward the future. What follows is a small sampling of Inside the Beltway items which appeared throughout 2019, reflecting the current political landscape — with 2020 just around the corner.
Reported Jan. 24, 2019: While discord and controversy rages in the Capitol, a watchdog has a reminder about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s travel habits. For more than a decade, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton has tracked Mrs. Pelosi’s use of military aircraft for travel, using Defense Department documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“We have long noted Pelosi’s abuse of the perks of public office that granted her access to luxury military travel,” Mr. Fitton wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. “We reported in 2010 that Pelosi’s jet travel cost the Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period — $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.”
The average cost of such a congressional delegation trip was $228,563.33. Of the 103 trips that Mrs. Pelosi led, 31 included members of her family. Mr. Fitton also cited one journey to the Middle East for lawmakers and spouses that cost $17,931 per hour for the aircraft alone. There were other things.
“Purchases include Johnnie Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewar’s scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Corona beer and several bottles of wine,” Mr. Fitton noted.
THE HIDDEN TRUMP FANS
Reported Dec. 20: The happy, jumbo-sized campaign rally has become President Trump’s signature event, well known for upbeat energy and huge crowds. Some 10,000 to 14,000 Trump fans are typically inside the host arena, with thousands more outside watching the event on multiple Jumbotron screens.
Now comes a report that a fifth of these rally audiences are made up of Democrats.
“Absolutely, this is a trend we are seeing. As we go to rallies, we get reports as to who is attending these rallies. Close to 20% of our rally attendees are Democrats because this president transcends party lines,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told Fox News.
VIP: THE NEW JOE BIDEN
Reported Feb. 26: A South Florida Sun Sentinel scribe managed to get a peek at the contract between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, where he made an appearance last week before an audience of 2,000. The conclusion: Mr. Biden is now a “VIP Veep.” A few pertinent details:
“Biden was represented by the mega-talent Creative Artists Agency, and the contract left little to chance. Biden’s meal was spelled out in the documents: angel hair pomodoro, Caprese salad and raspberry sorbet with biscotti. Dressing rooms for Biden and his staff were to be stocked with bottled water, Coke Zero, regular Coke, orange Gatorade and black coffee. Snacks were mixed nuts and a fruit plate,” noted Anthony Man, a political writer for The Sun Sentinel.
“And Biden’s dressing room was to be labeled ‘VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN.’ The contract shows he got a $150,000 fee for the event,” he adds, noting that Mr. Biden’s questions for the discussion had been submitted two weeks in advance.
BILL MAHER’S IDEAL DEMOCRAT
Reported Sept. 15: Forget the data-driven strategies of high-end political consultants. Bill Maher has offered a description of the Democratic hopeful who will win the White House.
“People don’t vote on policy. I don’t think a lot of them know a lot of the policy. I think they look for strength versus weakness and what they perceive as strength. So that’s what I’m always looking for in the Democrat. That’s what I think they like about President Trump. They see him as strong because he is blustery and he never backs down and he looks like Henry VIII, and he acts like it. So for me, a Democrat who can project that I think is our best bet,” Mr. Maher tells MSNBC.
THE $10 BILLION ELECTION
Reported Sept. 22: A blockbuster election is on the way. Group M, a media investment adviser, recently estimated that the 2020 election would generate $10 billion in political advertising, up 59% since 2016, when the number was a mere $6.3 billion — and far outpacing 2002, when the total was $2.1 billion.
It’s a quirky, insular business, though. Kantar, an ad analysis group, predicts that 43% of all that political advertising in 2020 will be seen in battlefield states.
On a historical note, a learned source has pinpointed the dawn of negative political advertising — and it is a lot earlier than we thought.
“The origins of negative campaigning probably concur with the emergence of political competition and electoral campaigns. Sources go back to 64 BC, when Quintus Tullius Cicero, probably among the first spin-doctors in the world, drafted a letter of advice to his brother, Marcus Tullius Cicero, then running for the consulate. He insisted on including ‘negative campaigning’ in the campaign, to remind the people ‘of what scoundrels your opponents are and to smear these men at every opportunity with the crimes, sexual scandals, and corruption they have brought on themselves,'” notes a new analysis from French Politics, an academic journal.
THE BLOOMBERG TOUCH
Reported Nov. 21: Democratic presidential hopeful Michael R. Bloomberg has donated millions of dollars to cities that are likely campaign stops, according to a New York Post investigation of the candidate’s tax filings from 2017 and 2018.
“There’s evidence of the Bloomberg philanthropic footprint nearly everywhere he goes,” writes analyst Carl Campanile. “The Mike Bloomberg Family Foundation has poured money into a slew of programs in cities where the presidential candidate is now stumping for votes.”
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