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Of Green and Greene
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Of Green and Greene

The 2024 financial picture and a spurious censure resolution in the House.

Happy Friday to all, especially Georgia Rep. Rich McCormick, the thrill-seeking Capitol Dome gym hero we didn’t know we needed.

Up to Speed

  • The Republican National Committee is in dire financial health. Its latest Federal Election Commission filing revealed that 2023 was the RNC’s worst fundraising year since 1993 in inflation-adjusted dollars, with the party having raised just $87 million against $93.5 million in expenses, ending the year with just $8 million cash on hand.
  • Although Donald Trump remains the GOP’s biggest fundraising juggernaut, his legal woes have made a heavy dent in his own financial books. As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out, “two of Trump’s political action committees spent a combined $55.6 million on legal costs in 2023,” about a quarter of the money raised by all Trump’s fundraising entities that year. 
  • Senate negotiators plan to release the final text of their border-security compromise package “no later than Sunday,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday, as the Senate strives to assemble the package pairing border measures with Ukraine and Israel aid that President Joe Biden has sought for months. But House Speaker Mike Johnson has taken a firm stance against the expected border package based on reporting of its general contours, insisting that the border-security component of the deal is insufficiently muscular and would be “dead on arrival” in the House. (For more on the latest negotiations, read John McCormack on the site today.)
  • Weeks after stepping down from Congress, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has reportedly turned his attention to a new project: ousting the Republican lawmakers who led the charge to boot him from the speakership. McCarthy has tapped a top ally, Brian O. Walsh, to recruit primary challengers against the eight Republican representatives who voted to remove him last year. “These traitors chose to side with Nancy Pelosi, AOC and over 200 Democrats to undermine the institution, their fellow Republicans, and a duly elected Speaker,” Walsh told Politico, which broke the story. “There must be consequences for that decision.”
  • Democratic Rep. Cori Bush is facing an investigation from the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission for allegedly using campaign money to fund her personal security, Bush said this week. The congresswoman denied any wrongdoing, adding she is “fully cooperating in this investigation.”

Green Shoots for Biden and Trump (and Haley) 

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally at George Mason University on January 23, 2024 in Manassas, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Nine months before Election Day, President Joe Biden’s bid for a second term is in jeopardy. Voters are concerned about the 81-year-old’s age; former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, has led the incumbent in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls for months; and the coalition that propelled the Democrat to the White House in 2020 is fraying. But one problem Biden doesn’t have is resources to fuel his campaign.

Federal Election Commission filings show that Biden began this year with a hair under $46 million in cash on hand, outpacing Trump’s war chest by nearly $16 million. The president is supported by an additional $24 million from Future Forward, his designated super PAC—a second pot of cash that’s expected to grow. The group recently booked $250 million in television and digital advertising to run beginning in late August, immediately upon the conclusion of the Democratic convention in Chicago. 

Meanwhile, the primary Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc., ended 2023 with reported cash on hand of $23.3 million. The former president raised money at a healthy clip throughout 2023, powered by grassroots donors who gave in small amounts and—in the case of his super PAC—some wealthy Republican financiers who wrote big checks. 

But a significant portion of what Trump raised into his campaign committee and super PAC—$50 million, according to The New York Times—went to foot the bill for the lawyers and expenses related to his indictment in four criminal cases.  Indeed, as NBC News reports, Make America Great Again Inc. “spent more than it raised in the last six months of 2023,” as did Trump’s campaign committee. Voters who support the former president do not seem to mind funding his legal defense. 

Trump is poised to secure his third consecutive Republican nomination. Only Nikki Haley stands in his way. If her longshot bid comes up short, as expected, a lack of resources won’t be the main culprit, although she entered the election year with a war chest—$14.6 million—that is less than half of the size of Trump’s $33.1 million. The former president’s super PAC posted an even bigger cash advantage over Haley’s super PAC, SFA Fund Inc., to start the year.

SFA Fund Inc ended 2023 with just $3.5 million in the bank after raising more than $50 million from July 1 through December 31. 

However, the group’s chief strategist, Mark Harris, has told reporters SFA Fund Inc. raised “millions” in January. On Thursday, Harris declined to specify to The Dispatch how many millions of dollars SFA Fund Inc. collected last month but reiterated that the group was spending $1 million to advertise in South Carolina this week and said it would spend at a similar clip in the Palmetto State in the weeks ahead. `                                                  

Other notable FEC filings include those from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his supportive super PAC, Never Back Down.

DeSantis ended last year with $9.7 million in his campaign account. 

Never Back Down, which essentially functioned as the governor’s campaign operation and focused almost exclusively on running the governor’s voter turnout program for the January 15 Iowa caucus, spent more than $130 million in 2023, a whopping figure dedicated to a small pool of voters in a single state. But DeSantis ultimately finished a distant second in Iowa, garnering 21.2 percent (23,420 votes.) He suspended his campaign just prior to the January 23 New Hampshire primary.

Lost in Translation

It isn’t every day you hear members of Congress daydream wistfully about a world where they could deport a foreign-born colleague. But yesterday was that kind of day.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took to the House floor Thursday morning to introduce a censure resolution against “Rep. Ilhan Omar of Somalia—I mean, Minnesota.” Omar, the Georgia Republican alleged, had made “treasonous statements” while speaking to a group of her Somali-American constituents last week.  

“The U.S. government will only do what Somalians in the U.S. tell them to do,” Greene quoted Omar as saying. “They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders.”

“I would love to expel her,” Greene told reporters later of Omar. “I think she should be deported.”

One problem with this: Omar is a U.S. citizen. Another: It’s highly dubious Omar said anything of the sort.

In her resolution, Greene quoted from a video clip that had gone viral among conservatives days before, originally posted by an official of Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia that has proclaimed itself an independent state. The video is an authentic clip of Omar speaking in the Somali language last week to a group of supporters in Minneapolis. Most people who saw the viral clip had to rely on its captions to understand her comments.

This, it transpired, was a mistake. Two local papers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Minnesota Reformer, each commissioned independent translations of Omar’s remarks; both concluded that the most inflammatory passages from the clip’s captions had been mistranslations. The section quoted by Greene in her censure appeared to be fabricated from whole cloth. (The Star Tribune has a paywall, but anyone can read the Reformer’s full transcript of Omar’s translated remarks here. For more on this, you can read The Dispatch’s fact check on the subject here.)

In her remarks, Omar did assure her Somali listeners she shared their concern for Somalia and the current instability in its regional neighborhood: Landlocked Ethiopia, which borders Somalia, last month signed an agreement that would recognize Somaliland as an independent nation in exchange for sea access to the Gulf of Aden through the breakaway state.

“When I heard that people who call themselves Somalis signed an agreement with Ethiopia, many people reached out to me and said I needed to talk to the U.S. government,” she said, continuing:

They asked, what would the U.S. government do? My answer was that the U.S. government will do what we tell the U.S. government to do. That is the confidence we need to have as Somalis. We live in this country. This is the country where we pay taxes. This is the country that has elected a woman from your community. For as long as I am in Congress, no one will take over the seas belonging to the nation of Somalia and the United States will not support others who seek to steal from us. Feel comfortable, Somali Minnesotans, that the woman you sent to Congress is aware of this issue and feels the same way you do.”

In context, it’s plain Omar was simply telling her constituents she intends to represent their foreign-policy views in government—the very job they elected her to do. Those foreign policy views may not be Greene’s, but they hardly constitute “treason.”

Notably, the two papers’ corrected translations were both published before Greene introduced her resolution—the Star Tribune’s a full day before, the Reformer’s the morning of.  The Dispatch reached out to Greene’s office to ask whether her apparent reliance on distorted quotes would affect her desire to censure (or deport) After we published this newsletter,  her office responded with the following statement: “The question that needs to be asked of Ilhan Omar: Do you deny that you are acting on behalf of Somalia inside the House of Representatives? Every translation thus far shows she said she is doing just that.”

In some respects, the whole affair is a sideshow: A censure resolution is just a formal statement of displeasure, and this one is unlikely to pass when the House votes on it next week.

But it’s also a bleak illustration of several of the pathologies of our hyperpartisan internet-age politics, where both total fabrications and sly half-truths can go mega-viral among members of a given political subculture with little chance the full truth will ever even cross their screens, let alone balance their perspective. For as long as those pathologies exist, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see lawmakers like Greene who cater to them.

Notable and Quotable 

“I truly do not care about what that insane woman does.”

 —Rep. Ilhan Omar, asked to comment on Rep. Greene’s censure resolution, February 1, 2024

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.