GOP on los­ing side of birth con­trol

30% in party back Obama’s stance

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Their fight with Pres­i­dent Obama over con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age is be­com­ing a los­ing bat­tle for Repub­li­cans, a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of whom re­ject GOP lead­ers’ stance that it’s a fight about re­li­gious lib­erty, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Washington Times/jz An­a­lyt­ics poll.

While a ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans side with their party’s lead­ers, a strik­ing 30 per­cent agree with Mr. Obama’s stance that his con­tra­cep­tion man­date is about women’s health.

Re­gard­ing young vot­ers, the poll has even worse news for the GOP.

“Drop this baby right now. Drop it. This is not a win­ner,” John Zogby, the poll­ster who con­ducted the sur­vey, said by way of ad­vis­ing the GOP. “I don’t know if the White House was smart enough to box Repub­li­cans into a corner on this — I don’t know if it was by plan — but I think it worked out that way.”

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and lead­ers in Congress say Mr.

ergy chal­lenges,” Mr. Boehner said. “That’s why we’ve also been dis­turbed by reg­u­la­tions pro­posed by your ad­min­is­tra­tion, such as the Util­ity-mact rule, that would in­crease costs and limit the sup­ply of other do­mes­tic sources of en­ergy.

“These rules, the most ex­pen­sive in EPA his­tory, stand to cost 180,000 Amer­i­can jobs per year and would force the pre­ma­ture re­tire­ment of 12 per­cent of Amer­ica’s coal-fired en­ergy gen­er­a­tion,” he said.

Mr. Boehner’s com­ments were based on a re­port spon­sored by the Amer­i­can Coali­tion for Clean Coal Electricity and re­leased in Septem­ber.

In late Fe­bru­ary, a bi­par­ti­san group of 219 mem­bers of Congress led by Reps. Ed Whitfield, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can, and John Bar­row, Ge­or­gia Demo­crat, sent a let­ter to the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get call­ing for a stop to the EPA’S green­house gas rule-mak­ing.

“Af­ford­able, re­li­able electricity is crit­i­cal to keep­ing and grow­ing jobs in the United States, and such a stan­dard will likely drive up en­ergy prices and threaten do­mes­tic jobs,” they wrote. “Forc­ing a tran­si­tion to com­mer­cially un­proven tech­nolo­gies could send thou­sands of jobs over­seas and raise electricity rates on fam­i­lies and se­niors at a time when the na­tion can least af­ford it.”

The reg­u­la­tions

In Au­gust, the EPA is­sued a rule aimed at re­duc­ing power-plant emis­sions that cross state lines. It was sup­posed to take ef­fect at the be­gin­ning of this year, but the D.C. Cir­cuit Court in late De­cem­ber stayed the rule while it hears chal­lenges.

The rule at­tempts to re­duce ozone and fine-par­ti­cle pol­lu­tion and as­sign state-by-state emis­sions caps to pre­vent the in­ter­state trans­port of pol­lu­tion and help down­wind states meet na­tional air qual­ity stan­dards. It would re­quire power plants in 28 states to re­duce ni­tro­gen ox­ide and sul­fur diox­ide emis­sions — both prod­ucts of coal burn­ing — that cross state lines.

In­dus­try, la­bor groups and some states are fight­ing the rule, ar­gu­ing that it should have been im­ple­mented through state law rather than fed­eral reg­u­la­tions and is more strin­gent than nec­es­sary to main­tain air qual­ity stan­dards.

A sep­a­rate set of reg­u­la­tions to cut mer­cury pol­lu­tion — an­other prod­uct of coal burn­ing — is sched­uled to go into ef­fect in 2015.

Genon En­ergy Inc., the third­largest U.S. in­de­pen­dent power pro­ducer by mar­ket value, last week said it ex­pects to shut about 13 per­cent of its gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity by May 2015, in­clud­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ohio and New Jer­sey, be­cause of en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

Over the past few years, en­ergy com­pa­nies have closed or made plans to re­tire more than 30,000 megawatts of coal-fired gen­er­a­tion be­cause of the tougher reg­u­la­tions, as well as a surge in a nat­u­ral-gas-fired gen­er­a­tors as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive.

Coal ac­counts for more than half of the na­tion’s electricity gen­er­a­tion, and 21 states de­pend on it for more than half of their electricity com­pared with their use of gas, nu­clear and re­new­able en­ergy sources, ac­cord­ing to a re­port last year in Elec­tric Power Monthly.

The top coal-de­pen­dent states in­clude eight 2012 bat­tle­grounds or must­win states for Mr. Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign: Colorado, In­di­ana, Iowa, Michi­gan, Mis­souri, Ohio, New Mex­ico and Wis­con­sin.

In ad­di­tion, Penn­syl­va­nia, a big coal­pro­duc­ing state and an­other key swing state, de­pends on coal for 48 per­cent of its electricity needs.

Rhetor­i­cal shift

As a for­mer se­na­tor from Illi­nois, where coal ac­counts for 47 per­cent of the electricity sup­ply, Mr. Obama has been a pro­po­nent of the coal in­dus­try and a strong sup­porter of clean-coal tech­nolo­gies.

Even as Mr. Obama has em­braced the idea that burn­ing fos­sil fu­els threat­ens ma­jor cli­mate change and has backed ef­forts to re­duce global warm­ing, he had not sup­ported a ban on new coal de­vel­op­ment. In­stead, he backed poli­cies that dis­cour­aged the fur­ther use of in­ef­fi­cient fa­cil­i­ties while en­cour­ag­ing plants to be retro­fit­ted with coal­cap­ture and seq u e s t r a t i o n tech­nol­ogy.

In the first three years of his pres­i­dency, Mr. Obama con­sis­tently in­cluded coal when­ever speak­ing about the need to har­ness all of Amer­ica’s mul­ti­ple en­ergy re­sources. But as en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions have ramped up against the coal in­dus­try this year, the pres­i­dent has not men­tioned coal in re­marks or speeches.

In some cases, the shift is stark. In 2010, he touted the U.S. as the “Saudi Ara­bia of coal.” In mid-jan­uary, he al­tered the state­ment to say the coun­try is the “Saudi Ara­bia of nat­u­ral gas.” He also omit­ted the word “coal” from his State of the Union ad­dress for the first time this year.

Most re­cently, dur­ing a speech de­voted to en­ergy pol­icy Thurs­day in New Hamp­shire, Mr. Obama ad­vo­cated “an all-of-the-above strat­egy that de­vel­ops ev­ery sin­gle source of Amer­i­can en­ergy,” but he made no men­tion of coal.

The White House did not respond to an in­quiry about whether the omis­sion of coal and clean-coal tech­nol­ogy in re­cent speeches marks a pol­icy shift.

Green op­po­si­tion

Coal in­dus­try lead­ers closely watch­ing the elec­tion-year en­ergy de­bate have sus­pi­cions about the si­lence and worry that Mr. Obama has dropped his sup­port for cleaner coal in re­sponse to pres­sure from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists who call the very idea of “clean coal” a myth.

For ex­am­ple, a 2007 Sierra Club study blamed emis­sions from coal­fired power plants for con­tribut­ing to at least 24,000 pre­ma­ture deaths a year in the U.S. and ac­count­ing for 36 per­cent of over­all re­leases of car­bon diox­ide.

“Clean coal is sort of like healthy cig­a­rettes or limited nu­clear war or fat free donuts. It’s one of the great oxy­morons of our time,” au­thor Jeff Goodall wrote in his book “Big Coal, the Dirty Se­cret Be­hind Amer­ica’s En­ergy Fu­ture.”

In years past, Mr. Obama didn’t seem to share those be­liefs. While in the Illi­nois leg­is­la­ture, he voted to use sales taxes to help re­open closed coal mines and cre­ate in­cen­tives to at­tract busi­nesses that use coal. In 2001, he voted for leg­is­la­tion that pro­vided $3.5 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees to con­struct coal-fired power plants.

“I am a strong sup­porter, I think, of down­state coal in­ter­ests and our need to prop up and im­prove the out­puts down­state,” Mr. Obama said at the time.

Dur­ing his 2004 cam­paign for U.S. Se­nate, he de­clared his long-term sup­port for the in­dus­try, say­ing that “there’s al­ways go­ing to be a role for coal” in Illi­nois.

But when Mr. Obama got to Washington, he en­coun­tered strong re­sis­tance from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

In 2007, Sen. Jim Bun­ning, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can, in­tro­duced the Coal-to-liq­uids Fuel Pro­mo­tion Act, and Mr. Obama signed on as a cospon­sor. The bill was sup­posed to help ex­pand meth­ods of pro­duc­ing cleaner coal through tax in­cen­tives and public-pri­vate part­ner­ships, but was lam­basted by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and died in com­mit­tee in the Demo­crat-con­trolled cham­ber.

“Al­most 90 per­cent of dis­tricts are one-party dom­i­nated. The only chance for a com­pet­i­tive elec­tion is in the pri­maries, but 9 out of 10 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers don’t par­tic­i­pate,” said Cur­tis El­lis, a spokesman for the Cam­paign for Pri­mary Ac­count­abil­ity, a su­per PAC that has been the most ac­tive in­de­pen­dent group in Tues­day’s pri­maries, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral records.

Those races also are the most ig­nored, ex­cept by those with an in­ter­est in main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo.

“County com­mit­teemen, peo­ple who de­pend on pa­tron­age from the party, gov­ern­ment jobs. Those are the only peo­ple who par­tic­i­pate, and they’re go­ing to pull the lever faith­fully for who the party lead­ers tell them to vote for — and that will al­ways be the in­cum­bent,” Mr. El­lis said.

Pre­cisely be­cause of the nearly per­func­tory way in which the small por­tion of vot­ers in House pri­maries come out to check the names of their party’s in­cum­bents, though, out­side groups sense a chance to make a dif­fer­ence well ahead of Novem­ber’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Mr. El­lis’ group has spent $315,000 in re­cent weeks on ad­ver­tise­ments tar­get­ing mem­bers of Congress who are plagued by poor per­for­mance or ethics is­sues, yet rep­re­sent dis­tricts that would never vote for a can­di­date from the op­pos­ing party.

With all eyes on the pres­i­den­tial con­test, that kind of money be­ing spent qui­etly on lesser races could be enough to have sig­nif­i­cant im­pact where low-rank­ing law­mak­ers have enough cash to shut out a chal­lenger with­out as­sis­tance, but not enough to make them en­tirely in­vin­ci­ble.

The po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee has the rare qual­ity of true bi­par­ti­san­ship. In Ohio, it has at­tacked Rep. Jean Sch­midt, a three-term Re­pub­li­can who has au­thored only three bills, two of which are thinly veiled ear­marks for top cam­paign con­trib­u­tors, The Washington Times found in a re­view of pro­posed leg­is­la­tion and con­trib­u­tor records.

“She squeaked in be­cause she was lucky, but she got in, so she’s stayed,” Mr. El­lis said.

It also has run ads to un­seat Rep. Jesse L. Jack­son Jr., Illi­nois Demo­crat, who “has a mis­tress and a host of eth­i­cal prob­lems,” Mr. El­lis said.

The group started when Leo Lin­beck III, a wealthy con­ser­va­tive en­gi­neer, teamed up with Eric O’keefe, who in the 1990s cru­saded for the in­tro­duc­tion of term lim­its.

‘A bet­ter way’

“He now sees this as a bet­ter way. We have term lim­its: It’s called elec­tions,” Mr. El­lis said. “The key is they’ve been vot­ing in the wrong elec­tions.”

Oth­ers who were “more about gov­er­nance than pol­i­tics” chipped in, in­clud­ing J. Joe Rick­etts, an owner of the Chicago Cubs, who gave a half-mil­lion dol­lars.

That kind of ac­tiv­ity across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum might be im­pos­si­ble to fi­nance un­der old rules, where mem­bers of a long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal class gave the max­i­mum $5,000 con­tri­bu­tion to clearly de­fined ide­o­log­i­cal pushes.

“Most peo­ple are in­ter­ested in ad­vanc­ing Team D or Team R, but we can raise as much as we want from even one per­son” for a more nu­anced mis­sion, Mr. El­lis said, ac­knowl­edg­ing that the over­all ef­fect of re­laxed cam­paign fi­nance rules had been to bol­ster the po­si­tions of peo­ple al­ready well-rep­re­sented.

“All the other su­per PACS are ba­si­cally re­in­forc­ing the sys­tem. This is the only one us­ing the new money to re­form the sys­tem,” he said.

As the Cam­paign for Pri­mary Ac­count­abil­ity tar­gets poor-per­form­ing law­mak­ers of both par­ties, other ad­vo­cacy groups are spend­ing money to push their par­ties fur­ther to ex­tremes, sens­ing an op­por­tu­nity to lever­age the new cam­paign fi­nance laws to over­come the ad­van­tages of in­cum­bency.

The Club for Growth for years has aimed to “re­place Repub­li­cans with con­ser­va­tives,” with a tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee that has spent $190,000 and a newly added su­per PAC arm that has spent $575,000 on the pri­maries this year.

“Some in­cum­bents haven’t had pri­mary chal­lenges for years and years. They’ve been able to stock­pile cash,” said Bar­ney Keller, a spokesman for the group. “The su­per PAC has been an in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive tool.”

The Karl Rove-linked Free­dom­Works, mean­while, has spent nearly $400,000 on its Re­tire Or­rin Hatch ini­tia­tive, de­signed to get rid of the Utah Re­pub­li­can who has served in the Se­nate since 1977, and re­place him with some­one more friendly to the tea party move­ment.

“There are hun­dreds of lob­by­ists in D.C. whose jobs de­pend on their re­la­tion­ship with [Sen. Richard G. Lu­gar, In­di­ana Re­pub­li­can] and his staff or Or­rin Hatch. You’re talk­ing about vested in­ter­ests,” the group’s Bren­dan Stein­hauser said about the dif­fi­culty in un­seat­ing an in­cum­bent.

Re­shape Congress

De­spite dis­ap­point­ment with the sta­tus quo, many groups seek­ing to re­shape the face of Congress through pri­mary elec­tions would pre­fer that the num­ber of peo­ple in­volved re­main tiny.

“Peo­ple may not even know there is a pri­mary chal­lenger. So our job is to say who are the Re­pub­li­can su­per­vot­ers? There are a cer­tain num­ber of peo­ple who are go­ing to show up, and you can deal with the rest later,” Mr. Stein­hauser said.

Mr. El­lis said that kind of con­ven­tional wis­dom means there is no po­lit­i­cal in­cen­tive for in­ter­ests to in­volve more vot­ers in sparsely at­tended but im­por­tant con­tests.

“Po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants would rather deal with the small­est sub­set be­cause they don’t have un­lim­ited money. If you haven’t voted in a pri­mary be­fore, no one’s go­ing to en­cour­age you to,” he said.

But, he noted, be­cause those who haven’t voted be­fore aren’t fer­vent about pol­i­tics, they can be per­suaded to vote against the in­cum­bent.

While Mr. El­lis ac­knowl­edged that chang­ing long-stand­ing be­hav­iors won’t be easy, “turnout is so low that if we in­crease it by even a mea­ger per­cent­age we can have a dra­matic in­flu­ence,” he said.

A pledge to vote in pri­mary elec­tions has so far been signed by 150,000 peo­ple, he said, may of them first­time vot­ers.

“Peo­ple are trained to think we go to the polls in Novem­ber. In a pri­mary, they say, ‘You know a Re­pub­li­can’s go­ing to win, so why come out? I just want to make sure my team wins,’ “Mr. El­lis said.

“Twelve in­cum­bents were re­placed in pri­maries and 13 died in of­fice” from 2002 to 2008, he said. “God re­calls more peo­ple in pri­maries than we do.”

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