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At the Races: Bank shots

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The collapse of financial institutions 15 years ago helped spark a political realignment that fueled populist movements across the ideological spectrum and bolstered the fortunes of politicians from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders

While the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank are unlikely to set off a similar upheaval, the closures have led to finger-pointing on Capitol Hill, much of it centered on a 2018 law that loosened some of the requirements of the Dodd-Frank banking overhaul passed in response to the 2008 crisis. The ’18 law, which eased capital requirements for midsize banks, was supported in the House and the Senate by moderate Democrats as well as Republicans and was signed by Trump. 

It has now emerged as a flash point in the Arizona Senate race, in which Democratic contender Rep. Ruben Gallego is attacking independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for her support of the measure. “When the bank lobby asked me to weaken banking regulations, I said no,’’ Gallego tweeted. “When they asked Sinema, she asked how much — and then voted yes. This is the consequence of choosing to side with Wall Street banks.” Sinema on Thursday announced she’s cosponsoring legislation that would claw back profits from bank executives who received bonuses or earned profits on stock sales within 60 days of a bank failure.

This week, the Biden administration acted to rescue SVB. For some Republicans, the government’s reaction has reignited the populism of 2008, especially since the California bank’s high-tech depositors were classically left coast and its management was accused of having woke tendencies because of the diversity of its board members. Both the tea party movement and the liberal Occupy Wall Street were born out of anger over the federal government’s bipartisan Troubled Asset Relief Program, which activists on the left and right viewed as a bailout for big banks.

Sen. Steve Daines, the Montana Republican who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is focused on thwarting his Democratic colleague Jon Tester’s reelection next year, blasted the Biden administration’s response to SVB’s failure. “Why is it that well-managed and sound Montana banks that didn’t fail are going to be on the hook to pay for a mismanaged Bay Area bank that did?” Daines said in a news release. “The last thing the federal government should be doing is taking the side of wealthy elites, over hard working Montanans.”

On the left, the goal was different but the tone was strikingly similar. “Now is the time to … break up too big to fail banks and address the needs of working families, not vulture capitalists,’’ Sanders, I-Vt., said in a news release. “We cannot continue to have more and more socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.”

Starting gate

The map: The House battlefield has come into focus in recent days as Democrats named 29 Frontliners to their incumbent-protection program and Republicans made public the 37 districts they have their sights on flipping in 2024. Outside groups also got into the action: The abortion rights organization EMILY’s List made its first round of congressional endorsements, backing 18 Democratic women, with most also on the Frontline and GOP target lists.   

In memoriam: Pat Schroeder, the first woman elected to represent Colorado on Capitol Hill and one of 14 women in the House when she joined the chamber in 1973, died this week at age 82. For comparison, there are 154 women in the 118th Congress, according to a Congressional Research Service report, released Monday, that relies on research from our CQ members team. 


She’s running: Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said she will run in a special election in the 1st District to replace Rep. David Cicilline, who is set to leave Congress later this year. Matos said she will formally launch her campaign next month.

NY focus: House Majority PAC, a super PAC with ties to House Democratic leadership, is launching a rapid response war room in New York as part of a $45 million effort to oust GOP House members from the state. 

Endorsement watch: Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy has endorsed Ron DeSantis for president, although the Florida governor has yet to announce a run. Trump’s allies, meanwhile, are arguing that DeSantis’ noncandidacy is a ruse that violates campaign finance rules.

Wired up: Democrat Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist who lost two bids for governor in Georgia, is joining Rewiring America, a climate nonprofit that works to expand the use of electricity, as senior counsel. Hooking cars and homes to the electric grid is an economic and climate good, Abrams said in a blog post announcing the move.

She’s not running: Pennsylvania Republican Kathy Barnette said she will not run for Senate next year, after placing third in last year’s GOP Senate primary following a late surge of support. “Instead of playing coy, I wanted to come out and say I am not interested,” Barnette told Politico.

Comstock’s new gig: A new group, the American Consumer & Investor Institute, launched recently with former Virginia GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock as executive director. The group will advocate for “American consumers and investors who participate in U.S. financial markets,” according to a news release.  

SKDK moves: The Democratic strategy firm SKDK announced promotions this week, including making Oren Shur, whose recent campaigns have included that of now-Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland, a partner. Pia Carusone, who worked for Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly’s 2022 reelection, will serve as president, the former role of the firm’s CEO, Doug Thornell. Liz Kenigsberg, who runs the firm’s cybersecurity and technology practice, will serve as managing director. SKDK also elevated Andrew Shipley, Erin Weinstein and Michelle Peters Wellington to the rank of executive vice president, while Marvin McMoore, Jason Novak and Jack Sterne have become senior vice presidents. Kevin Gerson, Jennifer Lee, Alyssa Villanueva, Will Whitmire and Matt Kreps are new vice presidents.

What we’re reading

Trump tops among Golden State GOP: While some Republicans are lining up behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, GOP stalwarts in California are standing by Donald Trump. Cal Matters interviewed attendees at the California Republican Party convention last week and found strong support for the former president.

Rising fortunes: The Guardian looked at what happened to the Republicans who promoted Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Many of them, from members of Congress to state party officials, saw their political fortunes rise in 2022. 

Redacted addresses: In response to growing threats against members of Congress, lawmakers in Maine are considering a bill that would keep the home addresses of congressional candidates off of official campaign paperwork, according to the Sun Journal of Lewiston

Sheriff of the Senate?: David A. Clarke Jr., Milwaukee’s self described “balls-to-the-wall” cop, is stoking rumors that he’s considering taking on Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2024. “Clarke would never take anything off the table as it relates to his future,’’ his spokeswoman told the Daily Beast.

Jurors speak out: Five members of the Fulton County, Ga., grand jury investigating whether Trump illegally interfered in the state’s 2020 presidential election spoke anonymously with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, including our friend Tamar Hallerman, about their experiences, including not-yet-public details about a recorded call they heard between Trump and the late Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

The count: $8.94 billion

That is how much money went to political advertising in the 2021-22 election cycle, according to a new tabulation from AdImpact. That number came in lower than AdImpact’s final estimated prediction, from August 2022, that campaigns and political groups would spent $9.67 billion during the cycle. The actual amount of $8.94 billion amounted to 92 percent of what AdImpact had expected. “​​We have spent the last several months analyzing what occurred to draw conclusions that can inform future projections and increase our understanding,” AdImpact said in the new report. AdImpact noted the challenges of forecasting advertising spending in the 2023-24 cycle but said it expects “to put out our most accurate projections ever in 2023.” 

Nathan’s notes

Along with the race ratings he teased last week in this space, Nathan L. Gonzales’ look at the House landscape for 2024 highlighted a stat that will probably be repeated a couple of times: “In the modern era (going back to 1946) the GOP has never gained House seats in three consecutive election cycles.” 

Candidate confessions

“Going forward, I think the years of the 250-seat, 240-seat majority, they’re gone. You went from 85 swing seats roughly — seats that can flip 5 points either way every two years — to about 51,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer tells our colleague Jim Saksa in a recent interview. “The playing field has narrowed. And with that narrower field, a ‘big’ majority is going to probably be 230 to 240.” The former NRCC chair was optimistic about what that dynamic meant for his party: “I think Republicans are uniquely positioned to hold that majority,” he added.

Shop talk: Micaela Isler

Isler serves as executive director of the National Association of Business Political Action Committees, which represents company and association PACs. 

Starting out:  “I guess you could say the political bug bit me in sixth grade when our class went door knocking for Chuck Robb in the mid-’80s when he ran for governor of Virginia,” Isler recalled. “Years later, while in college at the University of Texas at Austin, I had an opportunity to volunteer for a railroad commissioner statewide race in Texas, and the rest, as they say, is history.” Her first job out of college was working in fundraising for the Texas GOP. “I also had the unique opportunity to manage the 1996 state party convention, with 16,000 delegates and alternates, which was an incredible experience, especially at 22 years old.” 

Most unforgettable campaign moment:  “I think the biggest moments for me were connecting to the communities we were working in and realizing just how much of an impact candidates truly have, or can have if elected, on thousands upon thousands of constituents,” she said, noting that campaigns had to reach out without today’s technology. “Campaigns are such a grind as it is, but even more so without cellphones, social media or even email. I am shocked at what we accomplished back in the day, mostly due to good old-fashioned hard work and grit,” she added.  “I was in awe of the people and the families who were so invested in making a positive difference for the state and our country. It was eye-opening for me. What we were doing really did matter.”

Biggest campaign regret: “During my short campaign experience, I learned about the business of politics and the entire ecosystem surrounding it, which, as a young professional, was exciting to realize there were so many opportunities before me,” Isler said. Looking back over her almost 30 years running PAC and grassroots programs and lobbying at the state and federal levels, she said she sometimes misses doing campaign work for a specific candidate. “I regret that life got in the way of my love of campaign work over the years, but I am excited to jump back in, even if in small ways,” she said. 

Unconventional wisdom: After getting her start in state politics, working in 18 states and traveling around the country, Isler said she finds it inspiring to work in Washington, D.C. But she has a word of caution: “It is so important to understand how different the sentiments are outside of our D.C. bubble.” The issues gripping D.C. often “simply aren’t on the radar or matter as much everywhere else,” she said. “Even in my current role as executive director at NABPAC, our members are engaged with their employees or their own members on issues that impact their daily lives. They understand the importance of engagement and want to support efforts to better their communities and livelihoods. These are the voices we need to hear more from in D.C.”

Coming up

House Republicans head to Orlando, Fla., from Sunday through Tuesday for a policy and messaging retreat.

Photo finish

Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., holds a picture of a stamp commemorating the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage as she and Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., stand in Statuary Hall in the Capitol on Sept. 13, 1995. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

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