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Warner builds '08 operation through PAC

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor


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Mark Warner

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just look at former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's (D) fundraising as of late and there is no question he is running for president.

Warner raised more than $1.1 million last month for his Forward Together political action committee and he has $4 million in the bank to help pay for travel, staff and make strategic contributions to candidates in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as he explores a White House bid. (See below for the Latest 2008 PAC rundown).

He also unveiled a new networking effort Wednesday that will eventually give 10 Democratic candidates $5,000 each with one of them getting the "grand prize" of having Warner host a fundraiser. Modeled after the NCAA March Madness college brackets, Warner's political supporters will choose five winners each from the East and West and from this pool a grand prize winner will be announced.

"Mark Warner is building a presidential campaign that involves raising a lot of money early and spending some money," said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report and a columnist for Roll Call. "This is the only vehicle for Mark Warner to raise money so this is where we see he is running for president and putting together a national operation."

Rothenberg is referring to the fundraising efforts by other potential 2008 Democratic candidates such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who are raising money in other federal accounts. For example, Clinton only has $100,000 in her PAC, but she has about $20 million in her Senate campaign account. And while Kerry's PAC shows a balance of $500,000, he has more than $14 million in other federal accounts.

On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) have most actively employed their leadership PACs to explore presidential bids. (See below for the Latest 2008 PAC rundown).

Rothenberg describes these "leadership" PACs as "getting around money ... to help collect chits and show the flag around the country."

Getting around is precisely what Warner needs to do in the coming months as he tries to build a national base and position himself as the alternative to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York). Today, Warner kicks off the NDN's annual meeting in Washington.

The latest 2008 PAC rundown

Federal political action committees are often used by potential presidential candidates to help pay for travel, staff and as a pool of money to make donations from to candidates in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. CNN's Robert Yoon gives Grind readers the latest look at some possible 2008 candidates' leadership PACs.

Raised in May 2006


Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $25,544

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $122,479

Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund $270,968

John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $270,848

Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $1,129,893


Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $466,211

Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $159,022

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $19,469

John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $488,214

Spent in May 2006


Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $57,805

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $150,235

Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund: $112,402

John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $256,897

Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $508,060


Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $449,052

Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $141,390

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $60,400

John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $803,517

Cash on hand as of May 31, 2006


Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $16,101

Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $100,240

Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund: $545,628

John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $501,869

Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $4,079,249


Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $659,490

Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $241,294

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $138,617

John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $761,845

Knitting together the Democratic factions

Once a political action committee dedicated to electing centrist Democrats, the NDN has transformed itself in recent years into a center to bring the various factions of the Democratic Party together. Today, the organization kicks off a two day conference and will hear from three potential presidential candidates: former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) as well as liberal blogger Marko Moulitsas and Service Employees International Union official Eliseo Medina.

"We believe the only way we are going to succeed as modern progressives or new Democrats is by the whole progressive movement succeeding," NDN President Simon Rosenberg said in an interview with the Grind earlier this week. "We are really trying to help everyone work together. Our ideas and values are not going to win the big debate right now unless the whole progressive movement wins."

And Rosenberg said he thinks Democrats want to hear potential presidential candidates explain their plan of "how we are going to get back into power."

"Democrats want to win and there is a lot of optimism about '08 being a good year," he said.

Lincoln saves Clinton

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) owes Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) a bowl of Senate bean soup for helping her dodge questions last night about a possible 2008 presidential run. Clinton and Lincoln appeared alongside the seven other Democratic women senators to discuss politics and policy on CNN's "Larry King Live." But when King asked the senators if they would support Clinton if she decided to run for the White House, the New York Democrat unsuccessfully tried to steer the conversation in another direction. That is when Lincoln stepped in.

"She wants to take one step at a time and get it right," Lincoln said, referring to Clinton's Senate re-election campaign.

The comment gave Clinton the split second time she needed to regroup.

"We want to focus on what we can get done in this Congress," Clinton said. "And then we need to focus on our elections in November because, as you say, we're running for re-election."

But we must note, Clinton never ruled out running for the White House in 2008.

Edwards poverty crusade

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) continues his crusade to end poverty today outlining a plan to do so over the next 30 years during a lunchtime speech at the National Press Club. Edwards, who is considering another run for the White House, will also speak to the current debate among Democrats about the future direction of the party.

"I believe in a party willing to take stances that are right, whether or not they are popular," Edwards will say, according to advanced excerpts of his speech provided to CNN. "This is the tradition of America, fighting for what is right regardless of the odds, regardless of the power of those on the other side. It is what the Democratic Party I believe in is all about. We do not have to posture or to accept mediocrity or compromise our values. We can decide to be great, we can address great problems, we can see great possibilities."

Edwards will also say that if Democrats want to be leaders, "we have to represent something greater than our own self-promotion.

"We have to believe that our country is more important than ourselves," Edwards will say. "These times are critical, so let me be clear: in this battle for the soul of our Party, no less than the future of America and the future of the world are at stake."

The vote to pull out of Iraq

The Senate is scheduled to vote around 11 a.m. on two different Democratic proposals concerning U.S. troops in Iraq. The first amendment -- that is supported by the Democratic leadership -- calls for the beginning of redeploying troops by year's end and requires President Bush to submit a more detailed redeployment plan to Congress. The second plan -- being advanced by Sens. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) -- calls for the withdrawal of troops by July 1, 2007. Both amendments are expected to fail with the leadership backed plan getting close to 40 votes and Kerry-Feingold attracting as many as 15 supporters, Democratic sources tell the Grind.

"Today, the real choice facing this body is a choice between doing nothing Čthe so-called 'stay the course' option the President and his supporters advocate Čor changing the course and providing our troops and the Iraqi people a way forward," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will say just before the vote, according to excerpts of his speech provided to the Grind. Reid will not vote for the Kerry-Feingold amendment.

DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...

  • President Bush is in Budapest, Hungary, meeting with political leaders and making a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of that country's uprising against the Soviet Union's occupation. He returns to Washington, D.C. tonight.
  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and resumed debate over the Defense Authorization bill. The Senate will vote on two Democratic amendments, one that calls for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 and another that requires the beginning of a redeployment of troops by the end of the year. The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET.
  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an on-camera Q&A with reporters at 10:30 a.m. ET in the House Radio & TV Gallery.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) holds an on- camera Q&A with reporters at 10:45 a.m. ET in room H-206 of the Capitol.
  • The Democratic organization NDN kicks off its annual meeting at 12 p.m. ET with a speech by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), who is considering running for president.
  • Vice President Cheney delivers a 12:20 p.m. ET speech at the U.S.-India Business Council's 31st Anniversary Leadership Summit being held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), a potential presidential candidate, discusses his plan to end poverty in a 12:30 p.m. ET speech at the National Press Club.
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at 1 p.m. ET at the group's annual conference being held in Dallas, Texas. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean addresses the group later in the day.
  • The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee holds a 1 p.m. ET conference call to discuss the presidential nominating calendar.
  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) holds a 2:15 p.m. ET news conference on border security in the House Radio & TV Gallery.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the "South Carolina Upstate Republican Run-Off Rally" in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 5:30 p.m. ET.

    Compiled by CNN's Stephen Bach

    U.S. WANTS ANSWER FROM IRAN NEXT WEEK; AHMADINEJAD SAYS MID-AUGUST: Speaking firmly but softly, the Bush administration is looking for an answer from Iran as early as next week on a package of inducements designed to halt its development of what the United States fears are nuclear weapons. The U.S. and its partners are holding open the option of seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution to force Iran's hand if Tehran does not respond or if its response is unacceptable. By making a public show of unity with the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, the administration is both signaling Tehran there is little to be gained by trying to promote division and also closing ranks for any U.N. drive for sanctions against Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his country would respond in mid-August to the package of incentives. AP via Yahoo! News: White House seeks prompt reply from Iranexternal link

    BUSH CALLS "THREAT" COMMENT "ABSURD": With thousands of anti-American protesters crowding Vienna's streets, an irked President Bush snapped yesterday at a suggestion U.S. foreign policy has become a threat to global security. "That's absurd," Bush barked at an Austrian reporter during a press conference with European Union President and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. "We'll defend ourselves, but at the same time, we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy.... It's an absurd statement." Europe's anti-Americanism flooded Vienna, where more than 3,000 Austrian police expected about 10,000 protesters at multiple demonstrations coinciding with the U.S.-EU summit. New York Daily News: No welcome mat for Wexternal link

    GOP NOW "EMBRACES" IRAQ AS ELECTION ISSUE: Just a few weeks ago, some Republicans were openly fretting about the war in Iraq and its effect on their re-election prospects, with particularly vulnerable lawmakers worried that its growing unpopularity was becoming a drag on their campaigns. But there was little sign of such nervousness on Wednesday as Republican after Republican took to the Senate floor to offer an unambiguous embrace of the Iraq war and to portray Democrats as advocates of an overly hasty withdrawal that would have grave consequences for the security of the United States. Like their counterparts in the House last week, they accused Democrats of espousing "retreat and defeatism."New York Times: Rallied by Bush, Skittish G.O.P. Now Embraces War as Issueexternal link

    SENATORS TO VOTE ON WITHDRAWAL PLANS: Senators today will be forced to take a position on two different proposals for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the votes coming in an election year where polls show support for the conflict is steadily declining. Democrats are sponsoring both plans, one to start a "phased redeployment" by Jan. 31, the other to pull out combat troops by July 1, 2007. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, spent most of last night arguing for his pullout measure, offered as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. He said the money and resources used since the Iraq war began in March 2003 have distracted the United States from the war on terror. "We want their government to stand up. The best way to stand it up is to shift responsibility," he said.Washington Times: Senate to vote on Iraq pulloutexternal link

    LARGE PROFITS RESULT OF EARMARKS? House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) made a $2 million profit last year on the sale of land 5 1/2 miles from a highway project that he helped to finance with targeted federal funds. A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns. In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments. But for watchdog groups, the cases have opened a fresh avenue for investigation and a new wrinkle in the ongoing controversy over earmarks -- home-district projects funded through narrowly written legislative language. Washington Post: Lawmakers' Profits Are Scrutinizedexternal link

    SPECTER TO HOLD HIS OWN IMMIGRATION HEARINGS: One day after Republican leaders in the House of Representatives announced they will put a sweeping Senate immigration bill under summer-long scrutiny with a series of public hearings, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., countered with plans for hearings of his own. Specter said his sessions, beginning July 5 and lasting through the summer, will highlight "the need for a comprehensive bill" instead of the more narrowly focused border-security legislation that the House approved last December. USA Today: Republicans plan dueling hearings on immigrationexternal link

    BLOOMBERG, WILLIAMS TALK TERROR CUTS ON THE HILL: Protecting major American cities against terrorism requires investing federal dollars not just in high-tech gadgets but also in police officers working in uniform and under cover, the mayors of New York and Washington told a House committee on Wednesday. The joint message, from Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Anthony A. Williams of Washington, came as the two protested a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to cut grants to the cities by 40 percent in the coming year... [T]heir allotments were cut, at least in part, because of plans to use the money to pay police officers instead of investing in antiterrorism tools or training, Mr. Bloomberg told the House Committee on Homeland Security, calling such a choice shortsighted. New York Times: Mayors Protest Cuts in Antiterrorism Fundsexternal link

    WILLIAMS' LAST CANNONBALL: D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams made his last cannonball dive into a city swimming pool Wednesday morning. Since 1999, Williams has marked the beginning of the city's summer parks and recreation program with a dive into a city pool. News4's Tom Sherwood reported Wednesday that Williams probably holds the record for mayoral cannonballs, eight in eight years. "I'm hoping that my legacy will be that my successor, whoever that successor is, will do an annual cannonball," said Williams. NBC4: Mayor Makes Last Cannonball To Open Poolsexternal link

    BID TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE KILLED IN SENATE: A battle over whether to raise the minimum wage is spilling into the hard-fought congressional races, with several Democratic challengers staging campaign events on the issue and Democrats promising to increase the wage as one of their first acts should they win control of Congress... The fight heated up Wednesday as the Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. The vote was 52-46 in favor of the higher wage, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to back the change, but that left proponents eight votes short of the 60 necessary to prevail under a parliamentary deal between the two parties. Chicago Tribune: Senate kills minimum pay boostexternal link

    MOLLOHAN HELPED WIN CONTRACTS FOR HIS CHARITY'S BENEFACTORS: Representative Alan Mollohan helped funnel at least $179 million in U.S. government contracts over the last six years to companies that gave to the West Virginia Democrat's family-run charity, tax records and other documents show. The money went to 21 companies and nonprofit groups that contributed $225,427 to the Robert H. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation in 2004 -- almost half of the charity's revenue, according to the documents. The congressman, an Appropriations Committee member whose finances are under federal investigation, is the secretary of the foundation, which is named for his father. The charity, which distributes scholarships to West Virginia students, raises most of its money from corporate sponsors of an annual golf tournament attended by Mollohan, 63. The event gives company executives an opportunity to meet with him in a casual setting without having to report the donations as lobbying expenses. Bloomberg: Mollohan Helped Steer U.S. Contracts to Family-Charity Donorsexternal link

    AG. DEPT. HIT BY HACKER: A hacker broke into the Agriculture Department's computer system and may have obtained names, Social Security numbers and photos of 26,000 Washington-area employees and contractors, the department said Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said the department will provide free credit monitoring for one year to anyone who might have been affected. The break-in happened during the first weekend in June, the department said. Technology staff learned of the breach on June 5 and told Johanns the following day but believed personal information was protected by security software, the department said. AP via Yahoo! News: Hacker enters Agriculture dept. computersexternal link

    SENATORS REFRAIN FROM PICKING A FAVORITE '08 COLLEAGUE: By the time the smoke clears from the 2006 elections, Senators on both sides of the aisle will be confronted with an unwelcome question: Who are you backing for president? For now, though, most of them are running away from the question of which Senator, of the 12 potential candidates now being talked about, gets their endorsement for president. "I don't expect to be picking a horse," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). "It's really not my vote that counts. It's the vote of the Republican primary voters." "They're working very hard to get people on board," said one GOP Senate aide of the would-be presidents. "But unless it's a home-state Senator, they're asking a lot this far out. Tough to stick your neck out like that this early." Roll Call: Who's Your Favorite? Senators Stay Mumexternal link

    SPITZER LEADS BY AT LEAST 40 IN NY: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is holding on to a huge lead over his two opponents - Republican John Faso and Democrat Tom Suozzi - in the race for governor, a new poll yesterday showed. The Quinnipiac University survey found Faso making no significant gains against Democrat Spitzer since knocking former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld out of the GOP primary earlier this month. Democrat Spitzer led Faso, a former Assembly minority leader, by a lopsided 66-20 percent, compared to the 67-16 percent lead he held a month ago. The poll of 1,204 registered voters also found Spitzer leading Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, 76-13 percent, compared to a 73-13 percent lead held by Spitzer four weeks ago. New York Post: Spitzer Miles Ahead in Pollexternal link

    MI GOV RACE NEARLY TIED IN POLLS: Michigan's gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Jennifer Granholm and Republican challenger Dick DeVos is close, according to a poll released Wednesday. Forty-six percent of 600 likely voters said they would vote for DeVos, while 44 percent said they would vote for Granholm. Ten percent were undecided. The poll, by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Poll shows Michigan governor race closeexternal link

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