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The GOP Hopes an Oregon Scandal Yields a House Pickup
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The GOP Hopes an Oregon Scandal Yields a House Pickup

Plus: House lawmakers want Biden to reverse his Israel weapons policy.

Happy Friday! If the Trump and Biden campaigns are interested in scheduling more debates to give the voters a chance to hear their positions, we have people who are ready and willing to serve as moderators.

Up to Speed

  • More details emerged since Wednesday about former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s debates scheduled for June and September. CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate their network’s June 27 debate. To qualify, candidates will need ballot access in enough states to reach the threshold of 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. They will also need to present four polls that meet the outlet’s standards. The two major party candidates easily qualify, and it is not impossible, but not likely, that independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will make it—though Kennedy has said he will meet the criteria. ABC announced similar qualification standards for its September 10 debate and revealed that David Muir and Linsey Davis will moderate.
  • In more debate news, Vice President Kamala Harris accepted a CBS offer to debate Trump’s to-be-announced running mate on either July 23 or August 13. Trump’s campaign has yet to comment on the invitation, which it also received. CBS has not revealed details such as format, moderators, and qualifications for its contest.
  • Several more congressional Republicans joined Trump at his trial in Manhattan Thursday, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Ralph Norman, Andy Ogles, and Michael Waltz. This week’s Collision newsletter has a lot more about how the courthouse at 100 Centre Street in New York has become the destination for Trump allies in Congress and elsewhere.
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will hit the road on a tour in the coming months to help Biden turn out black voters, Punchbowl News reported Thursday. Stops on his trip will include the battlegrounds of Michigan, Arizona, and Nevada, as well as Ohio, which appears to be a safe state for Trump. The news about Clyburn comes after the Biden campaign announced that it will focus this month on mobilizing minority voters highlighting the issue of health care.
  • Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee for Maryland’s Senate seat, clarified his position on abortion in a Thursday interview with the New York Times. Though he called himself “pro-choice” and called for the reinstatement of Roe v. Wade, he rejected the Women’s Health Protection Act—a Democratic bill that would not only reestablish abortion rights but also prohibit states from implementing a number of abortion restrictions. Hogan instead sided more with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ bill to reinstate Roe, which would prohibit any restriction that puts an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Hogan’s comments put him to the right of Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, the Democratic nominee for Senate, who has said she would co-sponsor the Women’s Health Protection Act.

A Brewing Scandal Could Aid a GOP House Pickup in Oregon

Rep. Val Hoyle (right) walks into the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on Thursday, April 20, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rep. Val Hoyle (right) walks into the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez on Thursday, April 20, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Republicans in Oregon are setting their sights on the state’s 4th Congressional District as a key pickup opportunity in the House while its Democratic incumbent has reported lackluster fundraising amid a lingering scandal.

One-term Democratic Rep. Val Hoyle has the least cash on hand of any incumbent in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s target list, and she is second-to-last on that list in fundraising for the first quarter of 2024. On top of that, Hoyle’s campaign recently paid more than $17,000 in legal fees—likely to deal with an investigation into a scandal from her time as an Oregon state official.

Republicans are attempting to capitalize on all of that to flip the seat, but they have their work cut out for them. The Cook Political Report rates the race as “Likely Democrat,” and President Joe Biden won the district by almost 13 points in 2020. House GOP leadership has rallied behind attorney and retired Air Force colonel Monique DeSpain, the leading Republican in the May 21 primary contest, as the candidate with the best chance to take on Hoyle. Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik have all endorsed her bid.

“I’ve been taking on challenges my whole career. There’s an urgent need that I’m qualified to meet,” DeSpain told Dispatch Politics. “The kicker is that this incumbent is under federal investigation.”

That’s not entirely accurate, but the feds do appear to be interested in Hoyle’s tenure as commissioner of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. In that role, Hoyle personally advocated to send a state grant of more than $554,000 to a cannabis company headed by two people who donated to her campaign, which the Daily Beast and several local outlets reported on. After Hoyle entered Congress last year, an investigation from an Oregon news outlet  revealed that La Mota, the company that received the grant, was mired in financial troubles, leading Hoyle’s successor to cancel the funding, which turned out to be illegal in the first place.

Since then, Hoyle has battled with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries as it has asked her to turn over communications from her time leading the department. After nearly 11 months, Hoyle turned over part of the records through her attorney, Emily Matasar, whom she hired to review those records related to the dispute. Hoyle’s campaign on March 1 then made a payment of $17,688.33 to the firm that employs Matasar, according to Federal Election Commission records. That payment came after the Department of Justice in late January issued a subpoena to the Oregon Bureau of Labor in late January, indicating possible interest in the matter—though Hoyle has said she has not been contacted by DOJ.

DeSpain has made Hoyle’s controversy a focal point of her campaign, introducing herself as “a believer in openness and transparency” in her campaign launch video. She has also launched a website with a petition visitors can sign to demand that the DOJ formally investigate Hoyle, accompanied by a list of events in the grant saga.

Hoyle’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

But DeSpain still needs to compete with Hoyle on the money front. While Hoyle’s fundraising is lackluster compared to other vulnerable Democrats, she has outpaced DeSpain, having raised almost $1.3 million since the cycle began, compared to Despain’s approximately $212,500. The DeSpain campaign noted that DeSpain outraised Hoyle in April, though Hoyle had almost $550,000 more in cash on hand at the end of the month.

DeSpain is expected to sail through Tuesday’s primary against Amy Ryan Courser, who previously lost as the Republican nominee for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District in 2020 before finishing third in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District in 2022. Though she has endorsements from National Right to Life and other pro-life organizations in her state, Courser raised less than $12,000 in the first quarter and had just more than $2,000 on hand at the end of April.

Lawmakers From Both Parties Divided Over Biden’s Israel Stance

President Biden’s announcement last week that he is withholding certain weapons from Israel in order to deter it from invading the Gazan city of Rafah is facing blowback in Congress, and not just from Republicans.

The House of Representatives voted 224-187 on Thursday to reverse Biden’s policy, with 16 Democrats joining all but three Republicans to pass the legislation. 

On the site this week, John McCormack reports about how Biden’s Israel policy is playing on the Hill, with plenty of Democrats voicing concern about the policy even as most of the party is behind the president:

“There’s people in the House and the people in the Senate that have been willing to screw Ukraine over, and now you have members of my party that are willing to screw Israel over,” Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman told The Dispatch. “So it’s a strange situation.” Asked about the Senate version of Calvert’s legislation introduced by Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, Fetterman said: “I’m not exactly sure what the mechanism is, but there should be no condition, so I would want to see those munitions delivered.” The Pennsylvania Democrat went on to criticize “the public sandbagging of Israel right now,” adding that “Israel should be allowed the opportunity to win or at least prosecute this war the way they feel they need to.”

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he’s “totally opposed” to Biden’s policy but had not yet seen Cotton’s legislation. “You’ve got to support your allies,” Manchin told The Dispatch.

Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel of North Carolina told Axios on Wednesday that he was “strongly leaning towards voting for” Calvert’s bill. “I’m really concerned that if Trump becomes president, he could do the same thing to Ukraine,” the North Carolina Democrat said.

Nickel was not among the 16 Democrats who voted for the bill Thursday.

And there’s one more small divide among GOP lawmakers. While several Republicans are clamoring for Biden to be impeached for his decision to withhold weapons, Sen. Mitt Romney said there’s no equivalence with what President Donald Trump was impeached for in 2019:

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican in Congress who voted to convict Trump in his first impeachment, was sharply critical of Biden’s new policy toward Israel, but he rejected the notion that Biden’s conduct is similar to Trump’s treatment of Ukraine. “I don’t see any equivalency at all,” Romney told The Dispatch on Wednesday. In the Trump-Ukraine scandal, Romney noted, “the former was withholding weapons in order to get them to do an investigation of his political opponent. That’s obviously inappropriate.” While withholding military aid from Ukraine in 2019, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” investigating Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Romney argued Biden was implementing a bad policy out of bad motives. “I think he’s trying to placate the left-wing of his party, and I think it’s damaging to our credibility around the world,” Romney said. “You stick with your friends, and you let them conduct the war as they feel best. They’ve been attacked. Hamas declared war on Israel, killed its citizens, took hostages, [committed] war crimes, and Israel is defending itself.” 

Nevertheless, Romney said Biden’s actions don’t rise to the abuse of power for which he voted to convict Trump. “If politicians are going to be impeached for doing things that are politically attractive, we’re all guilty,” he said.

Read the full story here.

Notable and Quotable

“I would have no problem if he got whatever the threshold is. But he’s very low and seems to be heading in the other direction, in the wrong direction.”

–Donald Trump, to political correspondent Charles Benson, on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. being allowed to join the CNN presidential debate, May 16, 2024

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

John McCormack is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was Washington correspondent at National Review and a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. When John is not reporting on politics and policy, he is probably enjoying life with his wife in northern Virginia or having fun visiting family in Wisconsin.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.