Analysis | Ron DeSantis isn’t returning Log Cabin Republicans’ calls

Analysis | Ron DeSantis isn’t returning Log Cabin Republicans’ calls

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In today’s edition …  Attempting to expunge a punishment has precedent …  Matt Viser on the annual congressional picnic …  The thin line between Trump’s campaign and defense teams …  How much K Street is making … but first …

Ron DeSantis isn’t returning Log Cabin Republicans’ calls

Six questions for … Charles Moran: We talked with the president of Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBTQ Republicans, about House Republicans’ effort this week to strip earmarks for three LGBTQ centers from the federal budget. He also discussed a recent video from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign that was widely criticized as homophobic, how he views new laws that Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed and whether Republicans are backsliding on their support for LGBTQ rights.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: What did you think of the move to cut earmarks for LGBTQ centers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts?

Moran: The president of our Philadelphia chapter was scheduled to give a speech [in 2020] about being a gay conservative and being a gay Republican at the William Way [LGBTQ Community] Center. And after some drag queen threw a stink about it, he was summarily disinvited. His speech was canceled. I don’t know why we in the federal government are okay with funding a facility that discriminates against people for their political ideology and beliefs. 

[Ed.: Here’s how the William Way Center described its reasoning for canceling an event with Rob Jordan of Log Cabin Republicans’ Philadelphia chapter: “We failed to fully recognize the impact this program would have on our most marginalized communities, specifically Black and Brown LGBTQ people, and trans and nonbinary people. That was a mistake.”]

The Early: So you think it was the right move to strip those earmarks?

Moran: I do. I don’t believe that federal dollars should be spent supporting places that are promoting discrimination.

The Early: A Gallup poll last month found that 41 percent of Republicans view gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable, down from 56 percent last year, although other polls haven’t found a similar decline. Do you see any backsliding on LGBTQ rights among Republicans?

Moran: What I’m seeing is a very bright line being drawn between generic LGBT rights and radical gender theory and cultural Marxist gay policies.

I will also refer back to the situation [last month when Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis’s campaign amplified that ad that was just a total miscalculation. It went after Caitlyn Jenner, it went after drag queens. And summarily the conservative movement and the Republican Party rejected it. One of the best things that I saw was an interview that [former Arkansas governor] Mike Huckabee did, where Huckabee basically said, ‘Look, you win elections through inclusion, not exclusion.’ [Ed.: Huckabee told Fox Business earlier this month, “There are many people in that community who are conservative and vote Republican. You want those voters.]

The Early: Log Cabin Republicans said DeSantis’s video “ventured into homophobic territory.” What was your reaction when you first saw it?

Moran: It was kind of a disbelief. Half of it was homophobic, and the other side was almost homoerotic. It was such an odd mélange of videos and images and imagery — it was just very, very strange.

The Early: Did you try to talk with his team?

Moran: I had people privately who had relationships with the governor’s office and at the campaign backchannel and none of those have been responded to. And then publicly in a number of my interviews I’ve left the door open for a conversation. And that hasn’t been taken advantage of, either.

The Early: You told WBUR last month that you didn’t think recent laws passed by Republican state legislatures banning youth transgender care and restricting drag shows were “targeting gay and trans people.” But “there are certain pieces of legislation that are bad, and our organization does call out those pieces of legislation — things that are sloppily written or way too broad.” What are some examples you think crossed the line?

Moran: I was enraged earlier this year that the state of Tennessee returned federal block grant funding for HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education to the federal government because some of that money would have been through a Planned Parenthood center and a trans outreach center at [Vanderbilt University]. Republicans for the last 20 or 30 years have been leaders on funding HIV/AIDS education and treatment. And you’ve got a Republican governor and a Republican legislative majority returning money to the federal government for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment because of this Planned Parenthood situation.

There was a bill that was moving, also in Tennessee, that required any place that does drag to have the same license as, like, a bathhouse or a brothel. That’s ridiculous. Drag is not inherently sexual. Drag doesn’t always have to be inherently gay. It’s just sloppy. [Ed.: A federal judge last month struck down a Tennessee law restricting drag shows for violating the First Amendment.] This makes Republicans who push this and advocate for this type of legislation look ridiculous and ignorant. I am trying to advise Republicans to not go down that road. 

Attempting to expunge a punishment has precedent

House Republicans on Thursday largely shot down the idea of voting to expunge former president Donald Trump‘s two impeachments.

Some said it would be problematic politically for Republicans who represent districts that Biden won in 2020, and others said it would be problematic legally, our colleagues Mariana Alfaro and Marianna Sotomayor report.

Reversing a punishment — albeit not an impeachment but a censure — imposed by the House has been tried before. 

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who was censured by the House for ethics violations in 2010, sued the House four years later to reverse his punishment. Rangel retired from Congress in 2017.

The lawyer arguing for the House at the time, Isaac Rosenberg, assistant counsel for the House of Representatives, argued that undoing a punishment would be “extraordinary, unprecedented and ultimately unconstitutional.” 

The D.C. Circuit Court dismissed the case, arguing that the speech or debate clause of the Constitution, which governs legislative immunity, “prevents” the court from reversing his punishment.

At the annual congressional picnic, the only red meat was on the grill

White House reporter and renowned Bidenologist Matt Viser files this week’s Notebook:

It is the kind of event that is rare these days, in a capital with its ever-present partisan vibes. 

But that seemed to be shed, however fleetingly and however thinly, for the span of a few hours on Wednesday night on the South Lawn of the White House where the annual congressional picnic was held.

  • A live band played. Beer and soft drinks were served and various boxes of food were offered (although, perplexingly, on National Hot Dog Day, Sen. Mitt Romney’s favorite meat was nowhere on the menu). The color of the tablecloths — red and blue — sought to channel a bipartisan mood. 

Over here is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), dressed casually in shorts, chatting with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Over there is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), smiling big and sporting a pale pink suit with his wife, Ginger, by his side. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) was there with his daughter, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had his grandson, instructing him to tell reporters where he was from (“Brooklyn!”)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) enjoyed an orange popsicle off to the side. At one point, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was spotted playing corn hole.

‘We got to be friends’

President Biden took the stage and remarked, “Every time I hear ‘Hail to the Chief,’ I turn around and say, ‘Where is he?’ I’m getting used to it, though.”

He recognized House and Senate leadership from both parties (“Speaker McCarthy — I don’t want to hurt his reputation, but I actually like him.”) 

  • At one point he paused and said, “Hey Tommy! How are you?” (The Tommy in question did not appear to be Tuberville, the Republican senator from Alabama who White House officials have been railing against for his blockade on military nominations and promotions). While White House officials said all members had been invited, Tuberville was not on the list of expected attendees (although the list included Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del)).

Biden kept his remarks remarkably brief — “God bless America. Let’s get going,” he said, five minutes after taking the stage. 

He stayed for another hour and a half, lingering on the rope line and talking to members of Congress and their families. 

It seemed, briefly, like a bit of the Washington of yore that Biden grew up in. 

“You know, for all the disagreements we have, we got to remember: At the end of the day, we’re friends,” he said. “That’s how it’s always been. We got to be friends, good to each other. I mean it. And I think we’re getting there.”

You can read all of Matt’s work here and follow him on Twitter here.

The thin line between Trump’s campaign and defense teams

Our colleagues Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey examine the vanishing distinction between Trump’s presidential campaign and his criminal defense.

  • “To illustrate how Trump’s criminal defense is swallowing his campaign, just over half of the money he raised last quarter went not to the campaign itself but to an affiliated PAC that is footing the legal bills. Of more than $35 million raised between March and June, the campaign received $17.7 million, according to the latest report to the Federal Election Commission. The rest went to the Save America PAC, which will report its latest finances on July 31 but has been spending millions on lawyers representing Trump and allies in the multiple ongoing cases, according to FEC disclosures.”
  • “As the legal and political efforts merge, the campaign is no longer enforcing traditional boundaries between the teams, with the understanding that aides’ involvement in discussions about the cases could lead them to face their own subpoenas or liability down the road. Their arguments in court are now mirroring Trump’s remarks on the trail — emphasizing the prosecution of a leading opposition candidate by the incumbent administration.”
  • Campaign spokesman Steven Cheung told our colleagues the political and legal efforts are blending together because Trump and his supporters view the prosecutions as Biden’s effort to stop him.

How much K Street is making

Turns out divided government hasn’t been too bad for K Street.

Many of Washington’s top firms reported record or near-record lobbying revenue in the second quarter, according to estimates shared with The Early ahead of Thursday’s reporting deadline.

At least five firms — Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Holland & Knight, Cornerstone Government Affairs and BGR Group — reported lobbying revenue of at least $10 million in the quarter, with a sixth, Invariant, close behind.

Those numbers are only a little less impressive adjusted for inflation. Cassidy & Associates, for instance, reported record lobbying revenue of nearly $5.7 million. That’s up slightly from $5.5 million in the second quarter of 2022 — but it’s flat when adjusted for inflation.

Lobbyists say appropriations, the annual defense policy bill and the implementation of the climate law Democrats passed last year are driving business, along with the possibility that Congress will take up artificial intelligence legislation and permitting later this year.

“Looking forward, we expect a very busy fall with a high-stakes series of legislative battles to fund the government, extend expired tax breaks, and to reauthorize the Defense Department, the [Federal Aviation Administration], and Farm Bill programs,” Brian Pomper, the co-leader of Akin Gump’s lobbying and public policy practice, said in a statement.

Here are second-quarter revenue numbers for 20 of Washington’s top firms:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $13.4 million (versus $13.3 million in Q1 2023 and $12.8 million in Q2 2022)
  • Alpine Group: $4.7 million (versus $4.6 million in Q1 2023 and $4.3 million in Q2 2022)
  • Ballard Partners: $4.6 million (versus $4.5 million in Q1 2023 and $4.9 million in Q2 2022)
  • BGR Group: $10.3 million (versus $10.2 million in Q1 2023 and $9.6 million in Q2 2022)
  • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $15.7 million (versus $15.8 million in Q1 2023 and $15.3 million in Q2 2022)
  • Capitol Counsel: $6.5 million (versus $6.2 million in Q1 2023 and $6.3 million in Q2 2022)
  • Cassidy & Associates: $5.7 million (versus $5.3 million in Q1 2023 and $5.5 million in Q2 2022)
  • Cornerstone Government Affairs: $10.6 million (versus $9.8 million in Q1 2023 and $9.3 million in Q2 2022)
  • Crossroads Strategies: $6.3 million (versus $5.9 million in Q1 2023 and $5.9 million in Q2 2022)
  • Fierce Government Relations: $3.3 million (versus $3.2 million in Q1 2023 and $3.2 million in Q2 2022)
  • Forbes Tate Partners: $6.1 million (versus $6.1 million in Q1 2023 and $6.2 million in Q2 2022)
  • Holland & Knight: $12 million (versus $10.8 million in Q1 2023 and $10.8 million in Q2 2022)
  • Invariant: $9.7 million (versus $9.7 million in Q1 2023 and $9.4 million in Q2 2022)
  • K&L Gates: $4.1 million (versus $5.5 million in Q1 2023 and $5.4 million in Q2 2022) 
  • Mehlman Consulting: $6.6 million (versus $6.4 million in Q1 2023 and $6.6 million in Q2 2022)
  • Monument Advocacy: $4.3 million (versus $3.9 million in Q1 2023 and $3.3 million in Q2 2022)
  • Squire Patton Boggs: $5.8 million (versus $5.8 million in Q1 2023 and $6.8 million in Q2 2022)
  • Subject Matter+Kivvit: $4.8 million (versus $4.8 million in Q1 2023 and $4.9 million in Q2 2022)
  • Thorn Run Partners: $7 million (versus $6.5 million in Q1 2023 and $6.7 million in Q2 2022)
  • Tiber Creek Group: $6.1 million (versus $5.8 million in Q1 2023 and $6.4 million in Q2 2022)

Happy Barbenheimer Weekend!

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @LACaldwellDC.

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