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Sunday, December 17, 2017
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  • Atomic! Messer options; tax teeter; Putin's No. 1 enemy

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis
    1. Speaker Ryan and Chairman Messer
    Here are your final power lunch talking points for a memorable week: With Politico reporting that House Speaker Paul Ryan will likely step down after the 2018 elections, could that open up career options for U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, who chairs the Republican conference? HPI columnist and former congressman Mark Souder sees the conference chair position as not a traditional path, with John Boehner and Mike Pence discovering it was not an easy springboard to speaker. “Messer is well liked by colleagues but is not a decisive leader,” Souder explained. “There are numerous possibilities, withTrey Gowdy being the frontrunner if he'd want it. That said, given the current state of affairs, Messer would be a plausible candidate if he wanted the post. The Senate primary will be difficult and his wife's employment (when combined with his residency question, it is the combo punch that is politically potent) will be powerful fodder for the Dems’ national ads even if Donnelly doesn't use it. In other words, seeking this position would provide a graceful primary exit. He certainly would have a chance of winning. And, if the Republicans become the minority, he would be potentially in a position to move up or hold his post. 
    Souder added, “The loss of Alabama has made Indiana a critical state for winning. The National Republicans will have a lot of influence on whether Messer stays in the race, as will – given his comments about desiring to have dinner with his family and tuck his kids in at night – the advantages of being a senator as opposed to a congressman.” Politico’s Tim Alberta questioned on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today whether Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise had enough votes to secure the top job.
    2. Tax reforms teeter
    With votes scheduled on the Republican tax reforms early next week, the legislation is teetering, with Sens. “Little Marco” Rubio and Mike Leesaying they could be “nays,” with Rubio holding out for increased child credits. Additionally, Sen. Jeff Flake (or “Flakey” as President Trump calls him) and Susan Collins could be holdouts over health and deficit concerns. Then there are the ailing caucus, with an increasingly frail Sen. John McCain at Walter Reed dealing with cancer treatment complications, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who has been missing votes due to ill health. Sen. “Liddle” Bob Corker is already a no vote, so the loss of two more could sink the legislation Trump needs to keep from being a “loser” in 2017.
    While the big GOP donors would fume if this thing fails, a Republican running in 2018 might actually be better off without this bill that hands massive tax breaks to the wealthiest 5%. A Quinnipiac Poll this week showed 55% against and 26% support while a Marist Poll shows that 52% of Americans believe the tax bill will hurt them and 60% believe it mainly helps the wealthy. We were struck by an observation from FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten earlier this week: “Major tax cut plans are usually more popular than unpopular. Heck, even some tax hikes have been more popular than the current GOP bill.” 
    3. Bill Browder: Putin enemy No.1
    The importance of the Mueller investigation and the sinister nature of the Putin regime came into clearer focus with Bill Browder’s appearance onMorning Joe today. At one time Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia. He explains, “My lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was killed, I should saytortured to death in a Russian prison in 2009 for uncovering a massive Putin/Russian government corruption scheme. They killed him effectively as my proxy. They killed him because he worked for me. That’s a big responsibility. I made a vow to his memory, his family and myself that I would go after the people who killed him to bring justice.” The Magnitsky Act has visa restrictions and asset seizures for Putin’s inner circle. “This month, more names get added to the list,” Browder said, who estimates Putin’s wealth at $200 billion and his oligarch circle at $1 trillion. “Trump will either do that as it is scheduled in the law or he won’t do that. This is a very significant moment.” Browder also claims that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others at Trump Tower in 2016, “was acting as an agent for President Putin. We know that for sure.” Browder was asked if he’s been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. “I can only talk about what I’ve done publicly,” he responded.
    4. House exodus reaches 11 as Kersey retires
    The legislative exodus continues as State Rep. Clyde Kersey told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star he won’t seek reelection. "While I have served all those years, people would tell me I would know when it is time. I have decided the time is right. I will serve out my term through November 2018, but will not seek reelection." He joins Reps. Scott Pelath, Kathy Kreage Richardson, Greg Beumer, Charlie Brown, Wes Culver, Mike Braun, Lloyd Arnold, Linda Lawson, Steve Stemler and Thomas Washburne in the House and Sens. Doug Eckerty and Jim Smith in the Senate headed toward retirement.
    5. Tavis Smiley defiant

    Talk show host Tavis Smiley, an IU and Maconaquah HS grad, is fighting back against sexual misconduct accusations that resulted in PBS suspending distribution of his late-night talk show, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a Facebook video posted Wednesday evening, the “Tavis Smiley” host said that he was shocked by the announcement. “I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth,” Smiley said. “To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering six networks over 30 years. If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us. This has gone too far. And, I, for one, intend to fight back.” The Bloomington Herald-Times reports that IU is reconsidering the naming of the Smiley atrium at the SPEA.
    Have a great weekend, folks. It’s The Atomic!

  • RYAN PLANNING TO LEAVE CONGRESS IN 2018: Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker (Alberta and Bade, Politico). He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018. Ryan was tiring of D.C. even before reluctantly accepting the speakership. He told his predecessor, John Boehner, that it would be his last job in politics—and that it wasn’t a long-term proposition. In the months following Trump’s victory, he began contemplating the scenarios of his departure. More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority—all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season.

    RYAN RETIREMENT COULD OPEN UP MESSER OPTIONS: With Politico reporting that House Speaker Paul Ryan might step down after the 2018 elections, could that open up career options for U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, who chairs the Republican conference? Howey Politics Indiana columnist and former congressman Mark Souder sees the conference chair position as not a traditional path to speaker. “Messer is well liked by colleagues but is not a decisive leader,” Souder explained. “There are numerous possibilities, with Trey Gowdy being the front-runner if he'd want it. That said, given the current state of affairs, Messer would be a plausible candidate if he wanted the post. The Senate primary will be difficult and his wife's employment (potent when combined with his residency question, it is the combo punch that is politically potent) will be powerful fodder for the Dems national ads even if Donnelly doesn't use. In other words, seeking this position would provide a graceful primary exit. He certainly would have a chance of winning. And, if the Republicans become the minority, he would be potentially in a position to move up or hold his post.” Souder added, “The loss of Alabama has made Indiana a critical state for winning. The National Republicans will have a lot of influence on whether Messer stays in the race, as will - given his comments about desiring to have dinner with his family and tuck his kids in at night - the advantages of being a senator as opposed to a congressman.”Politico’s Tim Alberta questioned on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today whether Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise had enough votes to secure the top job.

    UPCOMING GENERAL ASSEMBLY COULD BE A WILD ONE: The upcoming edition of the Indiana General Assembly could be a wild one if a legislative preview on Wednesday is any sign of what to expect (Cook & Lange, IndyStar). During one panel discussion, House Speaker Brian Bosma quarreled with Rep. Linda Lawson over a proposal to repeal Indiana's handgun carry permitting requirement. In another room, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott accused Attorney General Curtis Hill of grandstanding on marijuana issues. And during a discussion of the state's alcohol laws, Sen. Ron Alting and alcohol reform commission chairwoman Beverly Gard quibbled over whether the state's liquor store industry has a monopoly on cold beer.

    GOP LEADERS SAY COLD BEER RULES LIKELY TO REMAIN: Republican leaders cast doubt Wednesday on the likelihood of overturning an Indiana law that grants liquor stores what is essentially a stranglehold on the ability to sell carryout cold beer (Slodysko, Associated Press). Though that effort appears doomed during the legislative session that begins in January, the same GOP leaders widely anticipate that there will be support to overturn a Prohibition-era ban on carryout Sunday alcohol sales. "Hoosiers want it, policymakers want it – it's not that big of a deal, and it should happen," GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said at a conference.

    A WAY FORWARD ON COLD BEER: A study committee recommended against expanding cold beer sales in Indiana (Berman, WIBC). But a less-talked-about recommendation could eventually change that "no" to "yes." The panel has recommended higher permit fees to sell alcohol, higher fines for violations, and higher fines for alcohol-related crimes like DUI. The committee estimates that would raise more than two-million dollars a year, which it suggests should be split evenly between helping counties to establish "problem-solving" courts for people with drug and alcohol issues, and beefing up the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission's enforcement ability. Committee chair and former Greenfield Senator Bev Gard... says it's conceivable the state could revisit the question of allowing more stores to sell beer cold if it has the resources to conduct compliance checks and improve its ability to compile and review data.

    KERSEY WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECT IN HD43: Indiana Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, will not seek re-election in 2018 (Greninger, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Kersey, 80, has represented HD43 since 1996. "It was a hard decision to make," Kersey said this afternoon. "While I have served all those years, people would tell me I would know when it is time (not to seek re-election). I have decided the time is right. I will serve out my term through November 2018, but will not seek re-election."

    RUBIO, LEE MAY VOTE AGAINST TAX REFORMS: Sen. Marco Rubio informed Senate leaders Thursday he intends to vote against Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax plan unless it includes a larger expansion of a child tax credit (Washington Post). “I understand that this is a process of give and take, especially when there’s only a couple of us fighting for it, the leverage is lessened,” Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday in the Senate. “But given all the other changes made in the tax code leading into it, I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase [the child tax credit], and there’s ways to do it and we’ll be very reasonable about it.” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rubio’s partner in pushing for the expanded child tax credit, is undecided on whether to support the Republicans’ final tax bill, according to a Lee spokesman. Republicans control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and they need 50 to pass their bill, with Vice President Pence potentially breaking a tie. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) voted no on the Senate version and is expected to vote against the final bill.

    PENCE DELAYS TRIP TO MIDDLE EAST: Vice President Mike Pence began planning a Christmastime trip to Jerusalem weeks before President Donald Trump decided to upend decades of U.S. policy by formally recognizing the city as Israel’s capital (Politico). The visit, which Pence announced at a ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the United Nations vote establishing Israel as a sovereign state, was designed not just as a move to reaffirm ties with a key ally but as a victory lap for Pence, who was instrumental in lobbying Trump to stick with his campaign promise on Jerusalem. But Pence on Thursday delayed the trip by three days, bowing to the reality that he can’t go anywhere until Trump’s top priority—tax reform—gets a Senate vote, expected to happen early next week. While the vice president’s office framed the change of plans as a desire to be present for a “historic” vote, Pence may be called in to break a tie in the Senate and get the legislation through at all.

    SMILEY DEFIANTLY PUSHES BACK AT ALLEGATIONS: Tavis Smiley is fighting back against sexual misconduct accusations that resulted in PBS suspending distribution of his late-night talk show (Los Angeles Times). In a Facebook video posted Wednesday evening, the “Tavis Smiley” host said that he was shocked by the announcement from PBS, stating that Variety knew before he did.  “I have the utmost respect for women and celebrate the courage of those who have come forth to tell their truth,” Smiley said. “To be clear, I have never groped, coerced, or exposed myself inappropriately to any workplace colleague in my entire broadcast career, covering six networks over 30 years.” “Never,” Smiley added. “Ever. Never.” Smiley contended that PBS investigators interviewed him only after he learned of the inquiry secondhand. “If having a consensual relationship with a colleague years ago is the stuff that leads to this kind of public humiliation and personal destruction, heaven help us,” Smiley said. Smiley contends that the PBS investigation was sloppy and has tarnished a reputation he has worked a lifetime to establish. “This has gone too far,” Smiley said. “And, I, for one, intend to fight back.”

    FCC RESCINDS NET NEUTRALITY: The Federal Communications Commission Thursday voted to roll back far-reaching rules governing how internet-service providers treat traffic on their networks, a move expected to empower cable and wireless providers and transform consumers’ online experience (Wall Street Journal). The 2015 “net neutrality” rules were one of the signature regulatory actions of the Obama administration, requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or slowing content, or providing fast lanes for favored sites and services. Republicans say the shift will unwind what they consider to be a regulatory overreach, restoring vitality to the broadband economy and benefiting consumers with more choices and lower prices. The commission’s vote was 3-2, along party lines, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the two fellow Republicans on the panel backing the change. The dismantling of the Obama-era rules isn’t expected to change the delivery of web content to consumers overnight. But internet-service providers such as Comcast Corp. or Verizon Communications Inc. would be free to make all sorts of big changes.

    PUTIN DEFENDS TRUMP; LEADERS CHAT: At his annual end-of-year press conference, a marathon question and answer session where he takes questions for hours, Russian president Vladimir again dismissed suspicions of possible collusion between Russia and members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, saying they were “invented” by Trump’s opponents. “This is all invented by people who oppose Trump to give his work an illegitimate character,” Putin said, answering a question from ABC News’ Terry Moran. President Trump spoke by phone with Putin on Thursday, talking about how they can work together to resolve the situation involving North Korea's nuclear program, the White House said. Trump also used the call to thank Putin for “acknowledging America's strong economic performance in his annual press conference,” according to a White House read out of the call. National security adviser H.R. McMaster didn't participate in the call, a White House official said.

    OBAMACARE SIGNUP ENDS TODAY: Today is the last day Americans can choose 2018 health insurance plans offered through the federal Affordable Care Act, but that does not mean those who miss the sign-up deadline will lose their insurance. People currently enrolled in 2017 coverage and who don't pick a plan for next year will be automatically re-enrolled in comparable plans (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). “They don't need to do anything, so they don't do anything,” Steve Smitherman, executive director of CareSource Indiana, said Thursday in a telephone interview. “They just stay with us and wait for us to send them their first invoice and then pay it.” CareSource and Celtic Insurance Co./MHS, doing business as Ambetter from MHS, are the only insurers selling 2018 federal marketplace coverage in Indiana after the withdrawals of Anthem and MDwise. About 77,000 Anthem and MDwise customers will be reassigned to CareSource and Ambetter unless they select plans on their own. Smitherman said those reassignments should boost CareSource enrollment from about 34,000 currently to roughly 70,000 by January.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Our bet is that despite the obstinance of Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee over parts of the tax reform bill heading for votes early next week, this unpopular piece of legislation (unless you’re a Republican in Congress) will pass. It’s not a sure thing, however, with the health of Sens. John McCain and Thad Cochran potential lost votes and we’re keeping an eye on Sens. Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, who could also defect. A Quinnipiac Poll this week showed 55% against and 26% support while a Marist Poll shows that 52% of Americans believe the tax bill will hurt them and 60% believe it mainly helps the wealthy. We were struck by an observation from FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten earlier this week: “Major tax cut plans are usually more popular than unpopular. Heck, even some tax hikes have been more popular than the current GOP bill.” - Brian A. Howey

  • JONES WINS AS VOTERS REBUKE MOORE, TRUMP AND BANNON: Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama on Tuesday scored an upset win in a deeply Republican state, capturing the U.S. Senate seat here in a special election that drove a wedge within the Republican party and gave Democrats another burst of momentum ahead of the 2018 midterm races (Wall Street Journal). The result was a defeat for President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Republican Roy Moore, and for his former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, who had made this the first major test of his strategy of supporting anti-establishment candidates to challenge the GOP old guard. It was also the second potent signal, after Democrats swept the Virginia legislature races a month ago, that Democratic enthusiasm in the 2018 midterms could produce the sort of election wave that could flip control of Congress. Mr. Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor, won in part by appealing to voters who believed the allegations of sexual misconduct and assault on teenage girls when Mr. Moore was in his 30s were an embarrassment to the state and disqualifier for office. “This entire race has been about dignity and respect,” Mr. Jones said at his boisterous victory rally in Birmingham. “This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency.” Mr. Jones pulled off his win due to high turnout by black Democratic voters and suburban Republicans who were put off by the Moore campaign travails. The sexual-misconduct allegations also seemed to create a drag for the Mr. Moore as turnout dipped in the largely white, rural counties that Republicans have counted on as a large part of their base.

    HOW JONES WON: Voters in Alabama’s cities and most affluent suburbs overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Moore’s candidacy, an ominous sign for Republicans on the ballot next year in upscale districts (New York Times). In Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham and some of the state’s wealthiest enclaves, Mr. Jones, the Democratic candidate, captured more than 68 percent of the vote. And in Madison County, home to Huntsville and a large NASA facility, Mr. Jones won 57 percent of the vote. Black voters turned out in force, handing Mr. Jones a decisive lead in Alabama’s cities and predominantly black rural counties. In Jefferson County, home to Birmingham and its whiter suburbs, turnout exceeded the 2014 governor’s race by about 30 percent, and Mr. Jones nearly matched Hillary Clinton’s vote total there. Other populous, heavily African-American counties, including Montgomery and Dallas County, where Selma is, also exceeded their 2014 turnout. Immediately after Mr. Jones’s victory, establishment-aligned Republicans in Washington were assailing Mr. Moore and Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, as having handed a Senate seat in the reddest of red states to the Democrats. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco,” said Steven Law, who runs a “super PAC” controlled by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

    A LOUSY NIGHT FOR GOP: Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate election in Alabama was never destined to bring good news for the Republican Party, no matter the outcome. But the stunning victory by Democrat Doug Jones was a devastating blow to a party wracked by divisions and intraparty rivalries and a humiliating defeat for President Trump (Balz, Washington Post). For some Republicans, the fact that the controversial and flawed Roy Moore will not be their new senator from Alabama came with some measure of relief. But the consequences of that outcome will reverberate over the coming months in one legislative battle after another. An already razor-thin margin in the Senate becomes even more tenuous for the party in power.  Beyond that, the tumultuous election served to expose further the fissures, fault lines and rivalries that have only widened in the 13 months since Trump captured the White House. The election provided the capstone to a year of tumult inside the GOP, and at a time when the party controls the levers of power in Washington and states across the country, the Alabama campaign was one more reminder that this is a party facing a major identity crisis and no easy answers for how to resolve it.

    LEGISLATIVE MATH JUST GOT TOUGHER FOR GOP: The most immediate implications of the race will be in Congress, where Republicans have been struggling painfully to pass major legislation. They failed by single-vote margins to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate only narrowly approved a deep tax cut whose final details are now being negotiated with the House of Representatives (New York Times). Mr. Jones’s arrival in Washington will only make that math more daunting. Seizing on his victory, Democrats quickly insisted that Republicans should not vote on a final version of their tax plan until Mr. Jones is sworn into office later this month. Senator Kamala Harris of California tweeted overnight, “Doug Jones should be seated immediately — before we vote again on the tax bill.”

    REPUBLICANS CLOSE IN ON TAX REFORM DEAL:  Republican lawmakers, scrambling to reach agreement on a final tax bill that they hope to pass next week, are coalescing around a plan that would slightly raise the proposed corporate tax rate, lower the top rate on the richest Americans and scale back the existing mortgage interest deduction (Washington Post). In a frenzy of last-minute negotiations, Republicans drew closer to agreement on nudging the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, up from the 20 percent in the bills that passed the House and Senate but still lower than the current 35 percent corporate rate, according to a lawmaker and a person briefed on the discussions. They are also considering lowering the top individual tax rate to 37 percent, from the current top rate of 39.6 percent, to assuage concerns from some wealthy taxpayers who fear that their tax bills could rise under the current legislation, which eliminates a host of individual tax breaks. Another closely watched change centers on the ability to deduct the interest on mortgage debt. Lawmakers are discussing limiting the deduction to mortgage debt of up to $750,000 for newly purchased homes, a higher cap than the $500,000 limit in the House-passed bill but lower than the $1 million limit that currently exists and remains in the Senate-passed bill, according to Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana.

    HILL OP-ED SEEKS TO CLARIFY CBD OIL CONFUSION: Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released an op-ed on Tuesday regarding the state's current standing on cannabidiol (CBD) oil after he says "certain misperceptions" still exist (WTTV). "On occasion, when questions arise, the Attorney General provides legal opinions on proper interpretation of Indiana statutes," Hill wrote. "This is precisely what transpired regarding the laws pertaining to CBD oil. No merit, then, should be attached to suggestions that CBD oil now is illegal in Indiana because the Attorney General has declared it to be so... Under existing laws, however, the amount of THC in CBD oil — even if it contains none at all — is not the determinant of its legal status. Rather, the determinant is whether a substance is produced from the floral bracts, resin and leaves of the Cannabis plant – and scientific literature confirms that cannabidiol cannot be distilled in sufficient amounts from inert parts of the plant such as the sterilized seeds or mature stalks... Many people might believe this standard to be illogical. Many people might believe THC content ought to be the standard by which a product's legality is determined. Nevertheless, the current law states what it states — and simply ignoring existing law is ill-advised..."

    STATE TROOPER SHOT IN JEFFERSONVILLE: An Indiana State Police trooper was shot in southern Indiana Tuesday evening (Fox59). The shooting occurred just after 7 p.m. near East Park Place and Main Street in Jeffersonville, which is located in Clark County along the Ohio River. The incident began as a traffic stop, which led to a chase. The trooper was grazed in the head, according to ISP, and was alert and conscious while en route to University Hospital in Louisville. His injuries are not expected to be life-threatening. Sources at the scene say the trooper returned fire and hit the suspect, who was then taken into custody.

    A RECORD YEAR FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The state is reporting a record year for job commitments and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. says the plans totaling 30,158 new jobs are heavily driven by one industry typically tied to the state and another that's rapidly gaining ground (McGowan, Inside Indiana Business). Manufacturing, which is Indiana's traditional economic bread-and-butter, continued to lead the way in expected job commitments with 10,885. Job commitments in technology -- driven in large part by a 2,000-job announcement from India-based Infosys in Indianapolis and 400 jobs from Knowledge Services in Fishers -- rose year-over-year to more than 7,600.

    TRUMP AIMS SUGGESTIVE TWEET AT GILLIBRAND: President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash (Washington Post). “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!” The tweet came as Trump is already facing negative publicity from renewed allegations from three women who had previously accused him of sexual harassment, which are coming amid the #MeToo movement that is roiling the nation and forcing powerful men accused of sexual misbehavior from their posts.

    SANDERS RESPONDS WITH ‘MINDS IN GUTTER’: President Donald Trump was not making a sexual reference when he wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand “would do anything for” political donations, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her afternoon press briefing (Politico). “I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way,” Sanders said.

    MORELL CITES COATS AS TRUMP RESTRAINT: Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections was an intelligence failure in multiple ways, former longtime CIA deputy director Michael Morell told Global Politico in an interview published on Monday. Morell, who twice served as the CIA's acting leader, and was President George W. Bush's personal daily intelligence briefer during the period leading up to and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said the overwhelming shift in emphasis toward counterterrorism after that led a failure to focus on the threat posed by Russia under President Vladimir Putin until it was too late. "As we were trying to protect the country from terrorists, we became more blind to what was going on in the rest of the world, both from a collection perspective and from an analytic perspective," he said. "And that was a cost…. When you make choices, you leave significant risk on the table." When asked if Trump has been as bad as he feared, Morell said, "I think that his instincts have been as bad as I feared. I think that we are very lucky to have people like Jim Mattis, and people like H.R. McMaster, and people like Dan Coats and others, who are able to pull him back from where his instincts are. "In some cases, they haven't succeeded, like on Paris. In other cases, they pulled him halfway back, like on Iran… I think on issues like Afghanistan, they've pulled him all the way back to — I think his initial instinct on Afghanistan was to get out, and they pulled him all the way back to a long-term commitment."

    QUARTER OF MALLS EXPECTED TO FOLD: The worst is yet to come for American shopping malls. As Macy's, JCPenney, Sears and other major department stores close their doors, the malls that housed those stores are facing a serious crisism (CNN/Money). That's because when so-called anchor tenants leave a mall, it opens the door for other stores to break their leases or negotiate much cheaper rent. As one big store closes, it can take several smaller stores along with it like a house of cards. Experts predict that a quarter of American malls will close in five years -- around 300 out of 1,100 that currently exist. "When anchor stores close, it causes big problems for mall owners and other retailers in the mall," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of New York-based retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates. "And I'd say this problem is only in its second inning."  Sears (SHLD), which had operated nearly 3,800 stores as recently as a decade ago is now down to 1,104 stores. Macy's (M) closed 68 stores this year, and JCPenney (JCP) was set to shutter 128.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: There were a couple of stunning numbers from Alabama. First, President Trump’s approve/disapprove in NBC exit polling stood at 48/48%. In Alabama! And we’re seeing similar numbers here in Indiana. African-American turnout was at 30%, at Obama 2008 levels. A number of disgusted Republicans either stayed home and some 22,000 (about the margin of victory) wrote in someone other than Roy Moore. And Democrat Doug Jones won a Senate seat in the most crimson of red states with the help of suburban Republicans, particularly with women with children. These are all warning signs for Republicans “comfortable” with a creature like Roy Moore. Many Republicans here punted, saying it was up to the voters of Alabama and those voters spoke in a manner similar to what we witnessed in Virginia last month. So the siren lights are flashing about the toxicity of Trump, his plethora of lies and his alienation of most voting blocs other than his beloved base. Following Trump and Steve Bannon is to book a flight to the dustbin. As former congressman Mark Souder told me this morning, the fight ahead looks much tougher for Republicans, “But, honestly, had Judge Moore prevailed, he might have been a millstone that took everyone down with him.  Democrats were just deprived of a huge potential asset.” - Brian A. Howey

  • INDIANA IN AMAZON RUNNING? ‘WE BETTER BE’ SAYS HOLCOMB: In our year end interview with Gov. Eric Holcomb, Howey Politics Indiana asked the $64,000 question: Are we in the running for Amazon? Holcomb responded, “We better be. It’s a no-brainer for me. We are short-term and long-term a very attractive place, when you think about the world class colleges and universities, the pipeline we offer for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. This is a long-term investment. This is not a one-term deal. This is evolution and growth. Amazon has revolutionized and they’re just getting started. Think about what they’re going to be doing in 15 years.” Look for the entire HPI interview with Holcomb in Thursday’s weekly edition.

    INDEMS SLAM ROKITA OVER 'COMFORT' WITH MOORE: The Indiana Democratic Party criticized U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) for his expressed support for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama (Howey Politics Indiana). "Congressman Rokita flip-flopped yesterday and expressed support for Roy Moore, the bigoted alleged pedophile running for Senate in Alabama, comparing him to himself and criticizing Republicans who donated to his opponent," a news item stated... "Just how much is Roy Moore like Congressman Rokita? Are they alike in that they both believe that America was at its best when slavery was still legal? Are they alike in that they both think the 14th Amendment doesn't need to exist?," said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, Senior Media Strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party. "He may be comfortable with Roy Moore, but after deciding to put a hardline bloc of supporters who are out of step with the vast majority of voters before basic decency, he's shown a craven lack of morality that Hoosiers are decidedly uncomfortable with."

    100 WOMEN COMPLETE CANDIDATE BOOT CAMP AT STATE DEMOCRATIC CAMP - According to a news item posted to the website of the Indiana Democratic Party, more than 100 women completed a joint candidate training held in partnership with Emerge America (Howey Politics Indiana). A news item stated women from around the state learned best practices on how to campaign for, and win races for elected office. The one-day boot camp is an event Indiana Democratic Party Executive Director Brittany Solis hopes to hold again soon.

    ALABAMA SENATE RACE ENDING IN A BLUR: In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy S. Moore raced on Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama’s special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their party’s most loyal voters (New York Times). The trajectory of the campaign has grown cloudier, rather than clearer, with the approach of Election Day. Mr. Moore, a Republican former judge, and Mr. Jones, a former prosecutor who is the Democratic nominee, have seesawed in the polls. Strategists on both sides acknowledge that it is exceptionally difficult to predict who will show up in an unusual December vote.

    FOX NEWS HAS JONES UP 10%: Democrat Doug Jones holds a 10-point lead over Republican Roy Moore among likely voters in deep red Alabama (Fox News). Greater party loyalty plus higher interest in the election among Democrats combined with more enthusiasm among Jones supporters gives him the advantage in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That’s according to a Fox News Poll of Alabama voters conducted Thursday through Sunday using traditional polling techniques, including a list-based probability sample with both landlines and cellphones. Jones receives 50 percent to Moore’s 40 percent, with 1-in-10 undecided (8 percent) or supporting another candidate (2 percent) -- which could make a difference Tuesday. That’s even truer with such an unconventional election with unconventional candidates. Other recent polling has found Mr. Moore ahead, and private Democratic polling shows a closer race (New York Times).

    USA TODAY POLL SHOWS 32% SUPPORT TAX REFORMS: A new USA Today-Suffolk poll finds that only 32 percent of Americans support the GOP tax plan, while 48 percent oppose it. And: A 53 percent majority of those surveyed predict their own families won’t pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53 percent say it won’t help the economy in a major way. …  only 35 percent believe that the bill will boost the economy, and 31 percent that their own families’ tax bills will be lowered as a result. Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, say the wealthy will get the most benefits; just 17 percent say the middle-class will. USA Today also notes that this comprises the lowest level of public support of “any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades.” As Harry Enten recently pointed out, this bill is not only one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in history, it’s less popular than bills that raised taxes (Washington Post).

    TREASURY ACKNOWLEDGES TAX CUTS WON’T PAY FOR THEMSELVES: The Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself (Politico). Tax cuts alone aren't enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy. The analysis assumes that an economy led by Republicans would boost revenues by $1.8 trillion over a decade — more than enough to pay for the roughly $1.5 trillion in tax cuts envisioned by Republicans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been saying for months that his department would produce an analysis that proved the tax cuts would be fully paid for, and other top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have insisted they have no doubt that would be the case.

    3 WOMEN URGE TRUMP HARASSMENT PROBE: Three women who previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct or harassment in the years before his election are calling for Congress to investigate the allegations against him after a week in which three members of Congress stepped down over similar claims. Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Samantha Holvey appeared at a news conference Monday (ABC News). "I ask that Congress put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump's history of sexual misconduct," Crooks said. Crooks alleged that Trump "has escaped his past unscathed, but over a dozen women have come forward about his sexual misconduct, and we have video proof of him promoting such behavior," referring to an "Access Hollywood" recording from 2005. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doubling down on her argument that Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory “answered” groping allegations made during the campaign (Politico). “The people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process,” Sanders told reporters Monday. “The American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we’re ready to move forward in that process.”

    AMBASSADOR HALEY INFURIATED TRUMP: The president's advisers were stunned Sunday when one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration [Nikki Haley] broke with the White House line and said the accusers' voices “should be heard” (Associated Press). Ambassador Haley's comments infuriated the president, according to two people who are familiar with his views but who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. CBS News reported the opposite this morning, saying that Trump and Haley talked twice and the president praised her remarks.

    JOINT CUSTODY LAWS CHANGING IN 20 STATES: The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively (Washington Post). Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states this year considering bills that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption — even when parents disagree. Kentucky this year passed a law to make joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard for temporary orders while a divorce is being finalized. Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill last year to presume equal time for child custody plans, but it was vetoed by the governor. And in Michigan, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the starting point for custody decisions.

    OLD POINT TAVERN TO CLOSE: Serial restaurateur Mike Cunningham plans to add to his stable of Massachusetts Avenue eateries by taking over the space that the watering-hole warhorse Old Point Tavern has occupied for more than a century (IBJ). Old Point owners Patti and Chip Perrin, who also own the three-story building at 401 Massachusetts Ave. that’s occupied by the bar, are finalizing a lease with Cunningham for a restaurant to take the place of their longtime establishment, Cunningham said. It’s unclear when Old Point will close, although a source said it’s likely to be in early January. The Perrins have operated Old Point for about 25 years, although the tavern’s history extends far beyond that period. Old Point first obtained its liquor license in 1887. That makes it the second-oldest bar operating in Indianapolis, behind only the Slippery Noodle Inn, which began serving in 1850. Cunningham, owner of Indianapolis-based Cunningham Restaurant Group, has in the last decade opened some of the city's best-reviewed and most popular restaurants. They include Bru Burger (which is directly across Massachusetts Avenue from the Old Point Tavern), Mesh, Livery, Union 50 and Vida—all of which are either on Massachusetts Avenue or within a few blocks.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: My downstairs neighbors, the Old Point Tavern, are calling it a wrap, without the turkey. Here’s my big cheers for Patti and Chip Perrin who fueled Howey Politics Indiana with a steady flow of Old Point club sandwiches and chili over the years. We’ll look forward to seeing what Mike Cunningham comes up with for this venerable space below our desks. On another front, Happy Hanukkah, folks! - Brian A. Howey

  • GOV. HOLCOMB FINDS FIRST YEAR ‘FULFILLING’ AND ‘HAUNTING’: With almost a full year in office behind him, Gov. Eric Holcomb toldHowey Politics Indiana that it’s been a year of extreme emotion, most coming with dealing with the state’s crushing opioid crisis. “It’s been such a fulfilling experience and one that I underestimated the profoundly personal interactions,” Holcomb said. “It’s been very gratifying and haunting at times.” HPI asked, “How haunting?” Holcomb responded, “Because you see the darker side of lives. You wonder about humanity and what some do. At the very same time, you see people rush to help. You see extreme good and bad, all in a day.” He said that epidemic “reveals the darker side” and yet the response of key state officials like Dr. Jennifer Walthall of FSSA, drug czar Jim McClelland and Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter “are making a big difference. We have a long way to go. A long way.” Asked about reports this past week that the state will not seek additional funding to combat the opioid crisis during next year’s General Assembly short session, Holcomb explained, “That narrative is a little misleading. Funding comes from different places. We’re still expecting another $10 million from the CURES Act. We’re still seeking in the HIP waiver … another $60-$65 million that we’ll know by the end of January. We’re seeking that right now. We’re spending $100 million statewide on this epidemic through various agencies. We have Indiana University stepping up and saying, ‘Here’s another $50 million.’ This is real money that is going to be added into this effort. This money is going to be going directly to treatment. That’s where we need the help right now.” Look for HPI’s full interview with Gov. Holcomb in Thursday’s weekly edition.

    MUELLER TRACKING FLYNN’S WHITE HOUSE DAYS: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what transpired inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter (Lee & Ainsley, NBC News). The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller's investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.".

    WHAT DOES FLYNN INDICTMENT MEAN FOR PENCE? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has a theory on why he was replaced by Mike Pence as head of Donald Trump’s presidential transition. Christie told reporters Wednesday he thinks his opposition to naming retired Army general Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security adviser was a “significant reason” for his ouster (Groppe, IndyStar). Putting Flynn in that sensitive position was a “big mistake,” Christie says, one that the country is paying dearly for. Whether Pence himself also has to pay a legal or political price for his association with Flynn is not yet clear. Flynn, who plead guilty this month to lying to the FBI about prior contacts with Russia’s ambassador, could have evidence that Pence knew more than what he’s said. So far, Pence’s regular response to revelations about interactions between Flynn and other members of the Trump team with Russian operatives is that it’s news to him. “Don’t forget Flynn may well have highly incriminating evidence about VPOTUS Mike Pence, who claimed that Flynn misled him about (Russian Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak,” Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe tweeted after Flynn pleaded guilty. “Perhaps Pence wasn’t as clueless as he claims.” But Andy Wright, who was a lawyer for Vice President Al Gore and for President Barack Obama, said it’s too soon to tell what Flynn’s indictment, and other developments in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, may mean for Pence. “I think they have raised questions that Pence will have to answer,” Wright said. “But, right now, I haven’t seen anything that suggests his legal liability, absent more information.”

    SEN. BLUMENTHAL WANTS PENCE TO TESTIFY: Vice President Pence has not been interviewed by Special Counsel Mueller. He also hasn’t talked to any of the congressional committees investigating Russia’s election interference. But Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Pence should testify before that panel (IndyStar). “I want answers to some of the questions that logically flow from the Flynn guilty plea, such as what did he know about Flynn’s contacts with the Russians during the transition, when he was a very key figure,” Blumenthal told CNN Tuesday. Even before Flynn’s indictment, Blumenthal was seeking answers from Pence. He sent Pence a letter at the end of November asking for information on the role Flynn played within the transition team on issues affecting Flynn’s lobbying clients. “It is imperative that we learn the full extent of Mr. Flynn’s hidden lobbying for special interests or foreign interests while on the transition team and in the White House, as well as any undisclosed work he did for the Russian or Turkish governments, so that we may know his legal liability,” Blumenthal wrote.

    PENCE HEADS TO ISRAEL: With President Trump's announcement on Jerusalem lighting up the Middle East, Vice President Mike Pence embarks this Saturday on his first trip to Israel since taking national office (Axios). The vice president will be gone for a week, with stops in Egypt and Germany: Pence takes off from Washington, lands in Tel Aviv and goes straight to Jerusalem for a bilateral meeting with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. Pence then will light a menorah at the Western Wall. An aide said that Pence's message in Israel will be that Trump, as he said in his speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, is committed to working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Pence will use his meetings with leaders in the region to reaffirm the administration's commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East and to "defeat radicalism." On Sunday, Pence will give the signature speech at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. The speech will be aimed at the region overall. Pence will emphasize that he is there on behalf of the president, and detail why Israel is a most cherished ally of the United States. Pence will then fly to Cairo for a bilat with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The two will discuss security and joint efforts to fight ISIS. Pence will visit the pyramids and will talk with media with the ancient wonders as a backdrop. Pence will fly home through Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and will do a meet-and-greet with troops.

    TRUMP HARASSMENT ACCUSERS GAINING ATTENTION: At 9 a.m. today on NBC, Megyn Kelly will conduct a live, sit-down interview with three women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct: Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks (Allen, Axios). A news release for "Megyn Kelly TODAY" say the women "will share their claims, which President Trump has denied, and stories together for the first time on television." Trump is having a #MeToo moment. The accusers, whose stories got little attention in the fracas of the campaign, suddenly have more of a platform: Yesterday, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), asked about the accusers by NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press," said: "Should people who have been victimized have an opportunity to have their day in court or their day presenting their information? I have no problem with that issue." Trump could be called to testify in a lawsuit in New York state by Summer Zervos, a former "Apprentice" contestant who charges Trump groped her in 2007. Trump's lawyer is arguing for immunity, saying that a trial would improperly interfere with his duties as chief executive.

    HALEY SAYS TRUMP ACCUSERS SHOULD BE HEARD: Women who accuse men of sexual misconduct “should be heard,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Sunday morning, including those who have leveled such allegations against President Donald Trump (Politico). “Women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with,” Haley told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.” Allegations of sexual misconduct against the president, which first emerged during last year’s presidential campaign, have been given renewed attention in recent weeks as a tidal wave of prominent men in the worlds of politics, entertainment and media have been accused of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Last year, Trump dismissed the allegations, which came from at least 16 women, as false and instead pointed the finger at former President Bill Clinton, the husband of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct, including rape.

    SEN. SHELBY SAYS ‘ALABAMA DESERVES BETTER’ THAN MOORE: When Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama came hat in hand to Capitol Hill last month to ask his state’s senior Republican for help raising money, Sen. Richard C. Shelby had a blunt reply. “I told him he could raise it himself, you know like I did, you know like everybody else,” said Shelby, who has about $10 million cash in his campaign account, with no prospects of a competitive reelection. “He thrives on controversy, seems to me. And I think you can’t be a formidable, effective senator if you’re so controversial your colleagues avoid you,” Shelby told the Washington Post in an interview last week, after casting an absentee ballot for an unnamed Republican write-in candidate instead of Moore. “That’s the bottom line.” Shelby took that same message to the national airwaves on Sunday, telling CNN’s State of the Union that the accusers against Moore, including a woman who says he touched her sexually when she was 14, “are believable.” “I think Alabama deserves better,” Shelby said.

    LUGAR SEES ‘EXTREME PARTISANSHIP’: Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, 85, took questions from the students and shared his opinions on any issue they raised at his annual symposium for high school students Saturday at the University of Indianapolis (Renze-Rhodes, IndyStar). Defunding Planned Parenthood? He’s opposed.  Climate change? It’s real, he said. And Lugar believes it’s a considerably manmade problem. Partisanship?  “Partisanship has always been with us. But at this particular time, we have extreme partisanship,” Lugar said. “The Supreme Court decision (the so-called Citizen’s United case that found that limiting political campaign donations was a free speech restriction) that ended any limits on donating to political campaigns … created blocs within the Republican Party and within the Democratic Party.” Now party leaders have a near impossible task of trying to bring even members of their own parties together, Lugar said, because of special interest groups and the funding they can provide to campaigns large and small. “We have a long way to go to straightening this out,” Lugar said. 

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Let’s revisit U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita’s mind-blowing rationale for saying he would be “comfortable” serving with a “U.S. Sen. Roy Moore” when he appeared on Fox59’s INFocus. "I'd be comfortable with whoever the voters of Alabama send to the Senate, that's whose decision this is, and I'd be comfortable with Roy Moore. This is a man who's 100 percent pro-life like myself.” The logic Rokita is using is that because Moore is pro-life, voters should overlook the allegations of pedophilia and sexual assault, let alone his comments that most of the constitutional amendments (including the 13th and 14th) should be removed, or that a Muslim like U.S. Rep. Andre Carson should be prohibited from Congress, or the fact that Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice to disobeying the rule of law. That should be an affront to the pro-life movement. A question for Rokita: Would you be “comfortable” with a daughter or niece interning for a Sen. Moore? For context, we find Republican Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby calling Moore’s accusers “believable” while stating he voted against Moore, and added, “I think Alabama deserves better.” So does America. And Hoosiers deserve public servants with moral clarity, something Rep. Rokita has abjectly failed to demonstrate in this case. - Brian A. Howey

  • TRUMP STUMPS FOR MOORE: President Trump went all in for Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore in Pensacola on Friday (Howey Politics Indiana). “We want people coming into our country who love our people, support our economy, and embrace our values. It's time to get our priorities straight. This guy is screaming, we want Roy Moore. He is right,” Trump said. “We love our veterans. We want conservative judges, like Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. Doing a great job, too. We want people that are going to protect your gun rights, great trade deals instead of the horrible deals. And we want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.” The Alabama election is Tuesday. A WBRC-TV poll on Wednesday had Moore leading 50-43, but a Gravis Poll on the same day had Jones up 48-44. The Real Clear Politics poll composite has Moore leading by 2.3%.

    ROKITA ‘COMFORTABLE’ IF MOORE WINS: With just days remaining until the special election for Alabama's open Senate seat, some Republicans are warming to embattled candidate Roy Moore, who has been hampered by allegations of sexual misconduct with minors (Fox 59). "I'd be comfortable with whoever the voters of Alabama send to the Senate, that's whose decision this is, and I'd be comfortable with Roy Moore," said U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita. "This is a man who's 100 percent pro-life like myself, what we shouldn't be doing is what (Arizona senator) Jeff Flake did, this stunt he pulled where he gave a check to the other guy (Doug Jones), a pro-abortionist. So really it's up to the voters in Alabama, that's where the decision lies, and that's where it should be."

    RECORD NUMBER OF WOMEN RUNNING FOR CONGRESS: As of Thursday, 369 women were running or planning to run for Congress in 2018, according to Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, (Axios). That would be the most women House candidates ever. One reason: Following Trump's election, and particularly since the Women's March the day after his inauguration, women have been more "energized" and "driven to get involved," per the N.Y. Times. Another factor is the sexual harassment awakening that has taken the country by storm. In Indiana, Liz Watson is seeking the 9th CD Democratic nomination and and Courtney Tritch is seeking the 3rd CD Democratic nod.

    INDIANA DEMOCRATIC ‘LUGAR SERIES’ COMING: Informed and reliable sources tell Howey Politics Indiana that a Democratic version of the Lugar Series for Public Service will be rolled out in the near future. The Lugar series began in 1990 and counts 489 graduates as a female leadership development program. Democrats have incorporated their version of the program.

    WEIGH IN ON HPI POWER 50 LIST: Tis the season to think about the Howey Politics Indiana annual Power 50 list, which will be published in early January. It’s our annual assessment on who is most likely to play the most significant roles in politics and policy for the coming year and HPI subscribers play a major role in creating the list. Compile your own list or nominate individuals and send them to Brian Howey at

    NET NEUTRALITY CHANGE COULD HURT RURAL INDIANA: Residents of smaller cities and rural areas would be especially hard hit by the Federal Communications Commission’s expected repeal of net neutrality with a vote scheduled for Thursday, but every American who uses the internet would be affected, according to technology experts (Taylor, Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Only a handful of companies provide internet service, meaning competition is limited even in the largest urban areas and “half the market isn’t able to make a choice,” said Sid Stamm, associate professor of computer science and software engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. “I can select really poor options that give me really slow internet; I don’t consider that an option,” he said. Service is limited in rural areas because of the cost of running fiber optics and other components of the required infrastrucure, Stamm said. “It has become increasingly expensive … to build out infrastructure where there aren’t a lot of people. We’re disenfranchising the people who are building our food.” “Many Americans now lack access to low-priced, ubiquitous, world-class fiber optic services,” said Dennis Trinkle, director of the Center for Information and Communication Sciences at Ball State University. “The proposed changes will make this problem worse and add content limitations to the equation.”

    TRUMP’S HOURLY QUEST FOR SELF PRESERVATION: Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day (New York Times). Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in night clothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls. As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress. For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.

    3 MEDIA SCREW-UPS PLAY INTO TRUMP’S HANDS: Three media screw-ups in eight days on one investigation. The bad week for big news has President Trump feeling that he has moved the "fake news" argument from the fringe to the conservative mainstream, according to close Trump associates (Allen, Axios). Why it matters: The mistakes — ABC's Brian Ross on Michael Flynn's plea, financial outlets on a Mueller subpoena of bank records, and CNN on an email about WikiLeaks — give Trump fodder for one of his favorite, and most damaging, tropes. His argument isn't broadly true: Most reporters work hard to be fair and accurate. And national outlets have risen to this historic era with unprecedented resources and consequential journalism. But, but, but: The foil helps Trump keep his rock-solid base, despite his broad unpopularity. A source close to the White House told me: "He just hammers something into submission, whatever it may be. ... With the media, he just wears it down, wears it down, then somebody slips and makes a mistake." This is a battle of epic proportions. We have a president waging a relentless war against all media, minus Fox News and pro-Trump organs. The vast majority of one of our two political parties agrees with him and increasingly sees media as an enemy of the state.

    TAX CUT DIVERGES FROM TRUMP GOALS FOR MIDDLE CLASS: The GOP tax plan on the cusp of becoming law diverges wildly from the promises President Trump and top advisers said they would deliver for the middle class — an evolution that shows how traditional Republican orthodoxy swamped Trump’s distinctive brand of economic populism as it moved through Washington (Washington Post). The bill was supposed to deliver benefits predominantly to average working families, not corporations, with a 35 percent tax cut Trump proposed on the campaign trail as part of the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act.” “The largest tax reductions are for the middle class, who have been forgotten,” Trump said in Gettysburg, Pa., on Oct. 22, 2016. But the final product is looking much different, the result of a partisan policymaking process that largely took place behind closed doors, faced intense pressure from corporate lobbyists and ultimately fell in line with GOP wish lists. As top lawmakers from the House and the Senate now rush to complete negotiations to push the tax plan into law, it amounts to a massive corporate tax cut, with uneven — and temporary — benefits for the middle class that could end up increasing taxes for many working families in future years. All told, the plan would cut taxes for businesses by $1 trillion, would cut an additional $100 billion in changes to the estate tax for the wealthy, and spreads the remaining $300 billion over 10 years among all households at every income level.

    INDIANA WATER ISSUES SURFACE: Indiana officials are trying to head off a water disaster as both supply and infrastructure are inadequate for future needs (Kelly, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Gov. Eric Holcomb recently added a plank to his agenda that would establish a multi-agency working group to develop strategies to manage the state's water resources and infrastructure, and support development of asset management plans for high-need water and wastewater utilities. That group would likely prepare recommendations for the legislature in 2019 – a long budget session. “We're trying to avoid a crisis from happening,” said Greg Ellis, vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The chamber kicked off the discussion in 2014 when it issued a report calling for the development of a statewide water resource plan to better conserve and manage the state's water supply. Without it, the chamber warned, “a large portion of the state likely won't have the local water resources needed to meet growing needs.” Northeast Indiana was found to have plentiful water sources and central Indiana was stable but could see large usage increases in the future. In southern Indiana, local water supplies are insufficient for future needs, the study said. Lawmakers pushed the Indiana Finance Authority to investigate further and a 2016 survey found that Indiana utilities have an immediate need for $2.26 billion to replace water meters, hydrants, water mains, treatment plants, wells and other physical infrastructure.

    OBAMA SAYS ‘TEND TO GARDEN OF DEMOCRACY’: Former President Barack Obama says Americans must be vigilant in their defense of democracy or risk following the path of Nazi Germany in the 1930s (CBS News). At a speech earlier this week, the former president told the Economic Club of Chicago that "things can fall apart fairly quickly" if Americans don't "tend to this garden of democracy."  During the speech Tuesday, Obama pointed to Hitler's rise to power in Germany as he implored the audience to "pay attention ... and vote." Obama also defended the media. He said the press "often drove me nuts" but that he understood that a free press was vital to democracy.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: With support for Roy Moore most likely understated in many polls, it looks as if the former judge is going to end up in the U.S. Senate with Tuesday’s election. This will pose a challenge for not only Republican senators, but the party as a whole as a potential debate ensues over whether he will be seated or expelled. Women are running in record numbers across the nation, so these issues are not going to go away. - Brian A. Howey

  • COULD BE A ‘GOODIN YEAR’ IN SCOTT COUNTY: Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer said the GOP will target new House Minority Leader Terry Goodin in 2018, but local sources tell Howey Politics Indiana it could be a difficult task. There is local speculation that two-term Scott County Sheriff Dan McClain might be considering a challenge to Goodin. But Rep. Goodin’s twin brother Jerry, a 27-year Indiana State Police trooper, is running for Scott County sheriff in 2018. “Two Goodins on the ballot could be a problem any place else but Scott County,” said Curt Kovener, publisher of the Crothersville Times. “There, it could bring out more Dem votes.” Kovener noted that Goodin easily dispatched Joseph Van Wye, described as a Tea Party Republican 15,939 to 10,484 during the Trump landslide in 2016. As for State Rep. Steve Stemler, who is retiring and HD71 one Hupfer’s target list, he faced only a Libertarian in 2016, winning by more than 13,000 votes.

    HOLCOMB JOINS GOP GOVERNORS URGING TAX CUTS: Gov. Eric Holcomb joined 20 other Republican state chief executives Thursday calling on Republican congressional leaders to approve "meaningful tax reform legislation and send it to the president's desk." (Carden, NWI Times). In a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the governors claim numerous state examples confirm the notion that reducing tax rates produces an economic boom. "We've proven in our states that you can cut taxes, create jobs and generate budget surpluses all at the same time. If it can work in our states, it can work for America," Holcomb and the other governors said.

    COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT NAMED TO HEAD INDY FBI OFFICE: FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has appointed a counterterrorism expert to be the top bureau official in Indianapolis (Associated Press). Wray this week named Bradley "Grant" Mendenhall as the special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Division beginning in February. He most recently served as the assistant director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. Mendenhall joined the FBI as a special agent in 1990. The Indiana native and 1986 Ball State University graduate also has held FBI leadership positions in the Salt Lake City Division, the Washington Field Office, as the FBI on-scene commander in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and as the deputy legal attache in Baghdad, Iraq. In Indianapolis, Mendenhall will succeed Jay Abbott, who's retiring at the end of January.

    TRUMP'S APPROVAL HITS NEW LOW IN PEW POLL: President Trump's approval rating has hit a new low, according to a national poll released Thursday (Carter, The Hill). The Pew Research Center poll finds that just 32 percent of Americans polled approve of how Trump is handling his job as president, while 63 percent say they disapprove. Trump's approval rating is down 2 points from the previous Pew poll conducted in October, which was itself down from the 39 percent in polls going back to February. Meanwhile, the 63 percent of Americans who disapprove of Trump's job as president is the highest Pew has measured in the poll, topping a previous high of 59 percent in Pew's October survey. Trump's approval rating among Republicans and GOP-leaning voters has fallen from 84 percent in February to 76 percent in the latest poll.

    DEFIANT FRANKEN RESIGNS SENATE: In a stunning close to his congressional career, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday announced that he will resign amid multiple allegations that he touched women inappropriately, becoming the second lawmaker to step aside over such accusations in three days (Washington Post). Yielding to pressure from other Democrats, Franken said he will leave Capitol Hill in the “coming weeks,” but he continued to deny allegations of groping and unwanted advances from more than a half-dozen women. The former rising Democratic star used his resignation speech to take aim at President Trump and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who have not been forced aside despite facing arguably more serious allegations of sexual misconduct. “There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor.

    REP. FRANKS RESIGNS OVER SURROGACY DISCUSSIONS: Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) announced Thursday that he would resign from office as of Jan. 31, 2018, after discussing surrogacy issues with female staffers (Politico). “I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable,” he said in a statement. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress.” Franks’ announcement shocked Capitol Hill. He has been a vocal social conservative since being elected to Congress in 2002, and has authored numerous anti-abortion bills. He is married, with twin children. In a lengthy statement, Franks said he wanted to take “full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable.” He said he and his wife had “long struggled with infertility” and gone through three miscarriages. They tried to adopt children multiple times, only to have the birth mothers renege before giving birth.

    CONGRESS WARDS OFF SHUTDOWN FOR 2 WEEKS: Congress on Thursday passed a two-week stopgap spending bill, deferring until later in the month a bigger fight over what issues should be resolved before lawmakers leave Washington for the year (Wall Street Journal). The spending patch, which will keep the government funded through Dec. 22, avoids a partial government shutdown just over a day before its current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning. The bill passed in a 235-193 vote in the House, with 221 Republicans supporting it and 18 opposed. That marks a victory for House GOP leaders, who spent much of the week wrangling with conservatives who had initially balked at a two-week spending bill. It later passed the Senate in an 81-14 vote. “We’ll be working together in the next two weeks to find a long-term solution to our funding needs while maintaining fiscal discipline,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said in a statement after the House vote.

    PALESTINIANS WON’T MEET WITH PENCE: A senior Palestinian official says the Palestinians will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his upcoming visit to the region because of the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital announced by President Trump Wednesday (CBS News). The official, Jibril Rajoub, said Thursday, "We will not receive him in the Palestinian territories." Rajoub also calls for Arab officials not to meet with Pence. Pence is expected to visit the region later this month. He plans to travel to Israel and to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It was not clear what Rajoub's remarks meant for the West Bank portion of Pence's trip. However, the vice president still intends to meet with Abbas and Palestinian leaders and thinks any decision to pull out of the meeting would be counterproductive, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

    VANDERBURGH CORONER SAYS OPIOID CRISIS GROWING WORSE: Last year, the coroner's office worked 50 fatal drug overdoses (Webb, Evansville Courier & Press). This year? "We're way up," Steve Lockyear said. "We were past the 50th at the beginning of November." As of Tuesday, the coroner's office had worked 65 confirmed fatal drug overdoses; 24 came from heroin or fentanyl. The majority of the others were opiate-based as well, but they also covered everything from cocaine to K2 to helium. A lot of victims, he said, had multiple drugs in their system. And there are still several pending cases. "I would say that we'll hit, at least, 70 this year," he said. "At the rate it's going, I'd be naïve to think we won't. That's about one every five days. … It doesn't take very long for you to find somebody that has, or knows somebody that has, a family member that's overdosed or died."

    LoBIANCO TO WRITE BOOK ON PENCE: Tom LoBianco, an AP White House reporter, has signed a deal to write a book on Vice President Mike Pence (Politico Playbook). LoBianco has covered the former governor of Indiana for multiple news organizations, including the AP and the Indianapolis Star, since 2011. The book was sold by Bridget Matzie of Aevitas Creative Management to Julia Cheiffetz of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Axios reports that Neil King, former Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief, tweets that he's hearing the total number of congressmen with sexual-harassment skeletons "may top 40." Many lawmakers are scared that Sen. Al Franken set a new threshold for resignation. And yet, Alabama voters appear to be ready to send Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate. GOP sources tell Axios if Moore wins, senators are highly unlikely to fight to boot him. So the partisan divide in Washington grows. - Brian A. Howey

  • INDIANA GOP TO CONDUCT SENATE RACE STRAW POLL: Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer told Howey Politics Indiana that the party will conduct a U.S. Senate race straw poll during its annual Congress of Counties event on Jan. 13 at the Crown Plaza in Indianapolis. The party is also invited the candidates that include U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, along with Mike Braun, Andrew Takami and Mark Hurt to take part in a joint appearance. Look for a thorough update on where the Indiana Republican Party stands on fundraising and candidate recruitment in our exclusive HPI Interview with Hupfer in Thursday’s weekly edition of HPI.

    29% BACK TAX REFORMS: Less than one-third of Americans approve of the Republican tax plan, Quinnipiac figures show (CNN). The same poll put President Donald Trump's approval rating at 35%, and Gallup's daily tracking poll reported the same percentage. In the Quinnipiac poll, conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 -- before the US Senate passed its version of the tax bill in the early hours of Saturday -- almost two-thirds (64%) of people surveyed said the bill would benefit the wealthy most, while just 24% said they believe the middle class would benefit the most. Twenty-nine percent of Americans approve of the Republican plan, according to the poll. Additionally, 41% believed the plan would raise their taxes. Before the House of Representatives passed its version of the tax plan, just 35% thought they would see a tax hike. Trump's approval rating remains below 40%, a mark he hasn't hit in the Quinnipiac poll since June. According to a November 9 CNN poll, Trump's approval rating was 36%, while in October it was 37%.

    EXPERTS SAY TAX PLAN RIDDLED WITH GLITCHES: Republicans’ tax-rewrite plans are riddled with bugs, loopholes and other potential problems that could plague lawmakers long after their legislation is signed into law (Politico). Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. Their plans to cut taxes on “pass-through” businesses in particular could open broad avenues for tax avoidance. Others would have unintended results, like a last-minute decision by the Senate to keep the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to make sure wealthy people and corporations don't escape taxes altogether. For many businesses, that would nullify the value of a hugely popular break for research and development expenses. Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities’ endowments. The legislation H.R. 1 (115) doesn’t explain what’s considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts. In many cases, Republicans are giving taxpayers little time to adjust to sometimes major changes in policy. An entirely new international tax regime, one experts are still trying to parse, would go into effect Jan. 1, only days after lawmakers hope to push the plan through Congress. “The more you read, the more you go, ‘Holy crap, what’s this?'” said Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Department. “We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast.”

    RIGHT SCRAMBLES GOP BUDGET STRATEGY: House GOP leaders' strategy to avert a government shutdown was thrown into uncertainty Tuesday amid growing demands from conservative hard-liners and defense hawks (The Hill). While no final decisions had been made as of late Tuesday, one option gaining traction would be for lawmakers to pass a two-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through Dec. 22. Under that scenario, the House then would pass a longer-term defense spending bill before the end of the year. The measure would move in tandem with another short-term patch to fund the government through late January. But leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who threatened to derail a procedural tax vote on Monday night to gain more leverage in the spending talks, have been pushing for an initial CR that lasts through Dec. 30, warning that lawmakers would face far greater pressure to accept a bad spending deal right before Christmas.

    PENCE SPOKESMAN SAYS ATLANTIC ARTICLE UNTRUE: A new report says Vice President Mike Pence considered a push to top the Republican ticket after the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tapes came out (Rader, WTHR-TV). The bombshell accusations come from a recent article published in The Atlantic... Former Pence spokesman Marc Lotter denied the allegations on MSNBC. "Catagorically untrue," Lotter said. "This is just information trying to drive a wedge between the President and the Vice President where one does not exist. There is absolutely no truth to it."

    KAREN PENCE FOUND TRUMP ‘VILE’: President Donald Trump has been questioning the validity of his infamous Access Hollywood tape, but his vice president’s wife reportedly has her own opinion of the man caught boasting of sexually harassing women: “reprehensible—just totally vile" (Newsweek). “Karen (Pence) in particular was ‘disgusted’” by the tape, a former campaign aide told The Atlantic. “She finds him reprehensible—just totally vile,” the aide said. Pence's press secretary Alyssa Farah denied that claim in a tweet after the magazine's article posted online Tuesday morning. "Regarding The Atlantic’s tired, false claim about the VP during the campaign -- we denied this in the article and deny it again today. Didn’t happen."

    YOUNG SIGNALS SIGNIFICANT CONCERNS OVER TILLERSON'S STATE DEPT: While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson fends off rumors he could be out of a job within weeks, he is also facing growing criticism from diplomats and lawmakers in both parties over his management of the department (Gramer, Foreign Policy). The latest salvo came on Tuesday, when Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) sent Tillerson's deputy, John Sullivan, a sharp letter expressing "significant concerns" over Tillerson's plans to redesign the State Department and urging Tillerson and his deputy to lift the department's hiring freeze. They urged Tillerson and his team to "reassess the assumptions guiding the reform effort."

    OLYMPICS SUSPEND RUSSIA: The International Olympic Committee suspended Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics for its alleged state-sponsored doping schemeat the 2014 Sochi Olympics, saying it would permit some Russian athletes to compete neutrally by invitation only (Wall Street Journal). The ruling is an unprecedented penalty against a nation accused of drug cheating in international sports. Some Russian politicians immediately called for a boycott of the Pyeongchang games, although the president of the Russian National Olympic Committee apologized for doping violations. The decision also scrambles the outlook for the Pyeongchang Games just two months ahead of their opening. By suspending the Russian Olympic Committee, the IOC is punishing one of its most prominent medal-winning powerhouses and stepping headfirst into political tensions between Russia and the West.

    ELKHART POLICE CHIEF URGES CHIP RENEWAL: It's the case that created a permanent memory for Elkhart Police Chief Ed Windbigler (Powell,WSBT-TV). "We had a call of neglect and abuse. We were investigating it. We had CPS involved with it," said Windbigler. "What caused the incident is the child couldn't say a word right," said Windbigler. "Ended up getting thrown down the steps of a second story apartment and ended up dying. And if that family would've had the help and if they would've listened, it may have changed that whole thing and that child may still be here today." He's put his pain on paper, reaching out to local lawmakers to ask them to renew funding for one of two programs under the Child Health Insurance Program. The Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides free support to families--mostly first-time parents who need parenting and coping skills.

    RURAL ELECTRIC CO-OP MAY OFFER SERVICE TO SOUTHERN AREAS: The electric company that serves the vast majority of Brown County homes will decide in the next few weeks whether it will begin offering high-speed internet to its customers (Clifford, Brown County Democrat). The board of directors for South Central Indiana Rural Electric Member Cooperative will make a decision by the first part of next year, said Maura Giles, SCI-REMC's manager of cooperative relations. "Hopefully, by the end of January we should have a 'yes' or a 'no' if we're going to go forward, and where it will go and when it will start, things like that," she said. The company is keenly aware of the need rural residents have for high-speed internet. She likened it to the need for electricity back when the co-op formed in 1939.

    TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO REVIEW BUMP STOCKS: Two months after a gunman used bump stocks to shoot hundreds of people in Las Vegas, the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it's reviewing whether the federal government should ban the device (CBS News). In a joint statement from the Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that possessing firearm parts that are used to convert a weapon into a machine gun is illegal, except for "limited circumstances." "Today we begin the process of determining whether or not bump stocks are covered by this prohibition," Sessions said. "We will go through the regulatory process that is required by law and we will be attentive to input from the public. This Department is serious about firearms offenses, as shown by the dramatic increase in firearms prosecutions this year."

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: I attended the IU-Iowa game Monday night and found the Assembly Hall upgrades to be a nice touch. Kudos to A.D. Fred Glass for bringing these improvements to one of college basketball’s great cathedrals.  - Brian A. Howey

  • TEAM PENCE CLAIMS IGNORANCE WITH FLYNN: As the White House contends with questions about who knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn lying to the FBI, people close to Vice President Mike Pence are trying to make clear that President Donald Trump’s No. 2 knew nothing at all (Politico). He was at a homeless shelter in Indiana, clad in an apron and doling out hot meals, the day last December when Egypt submitted a U.N. resolution that drew Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner into international back-channel dealing. He was celebrating his son’s wedding a week later when President Barack Obama slapped sanctions on Russia over its election meddling, setting off a chain of events that would culminate with Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials. Pence’s aides have maintained for months that their man was out of the loop, blissfully ignorant of contacts between the Trump campaign and various foreign actors, from the Russian ambassador to WikiLeaks. “It’s remarkable, as close as he was to the transition, as close as he was to the president, [that] at least what’s come out so far very little that puts him in key places at key times,” said William Jeffress, the attorney who represented Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby during the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. Within Pence’s circle, there have been efforts to frame Friday’s indictment of Flynn as a vindication of the vice president. Pence had initially defended Flynn during the transition, dismissing the notion that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador as false. When the content of those conversations was later revealed, Flynn was fired for having misled the vice president. Friday’s revelation that Flynn lied to the FBI was seen in Pence world as additional evidence of the former national security adviser’s mendacity. It was the latest example of the Pence team deploying a playbook that has kept the vice president clean so far. The strategy seems to have kept Pence out of the cross hairs of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. While he has retained outside counsel, he has yet to be interviewed by investigators.

    RNC REINSTATES SUPPORT FOR MOORE AFTER TRUMP ENDORSEMENT: The Republican National Committee is reinstating its support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after initially cutting ties over allegations of sexual misconduct, two sources confirmed to The Hill Monday (Thomsen & Beavers, The Hill). Breitbart News first reported that the RNC had decided to step back into the race just hours after President Trump fully endorsed the controversial candidate. "We can confirm our involvement in the Alabama Senate race," an RNC official told The Hill. A second source close to the RNC told The Hill that "the Breitbart story is real." But even as senior Republicans again coalesced around Mr. Moore, there were reminders that the party’s internal divide over its nominee remained (New York Times). Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, warned that Mr. Moore’s presence in Congress would be “a stain” on Republicans and the country. “No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity,” Mr. Romney wrote on Twitter.

    INDY COUNCIL REDUCES MILLER'S ROLE: Jeff Miller on Monday made an awkward return to the Indianapolis council, greeted by colleagues with handshakes, shoulder pats and a hug — as well as a diminished role and renewed calls for him to step down (Briggs & Martin, IndyStar). Council leadership on Monday removed Miller from the three committees on which he served, effectively limiting Miller's role to debating and voting on proposals during full council meetings, which occur once or twice a month. Although all 10 of Miller's Republican colleagues have called on him to step down, the second-term councilman has signaled he isn't going anywhere. Earlier Monday, Miller appeared for his initial court hearing on the child molestation charges in front of Hendricks Superior Judge Mark A. Smith, who was appointed special judge by the Indiana Supreme Court. Neither Miller nor his attorneys commented on the charges, which were detailed in a probable cause affidavit filed in Marion Superior Court. One girl told investigators Miller gave her massages and would "accidentally" touch her skin under her shirt and "where the legs meet the groin." Court documents say that Miller,  told investigators he did not intend for his touching to be sexual.

    TRUMP THREAT TO TAKE DOWN GOP STILL STANDS: “First of all,” David Bossie recalls Donald Trump telling his inner circle, “I’m going to win. And second, if the Republican Party is going to run away from me, then I will take you all down with me. But I’m not going to lose” (Politico). That was during the weekend last October when the “Access Hollywood” tape broke and Trump lashed back at Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for telling him he should either drop out or prepare to go down in a landslide. People will dissect sentences and paragraphs of “Let Trump Be Trump,” the new “Game Change”-style insider book from Bossie and Corey Lewandowki. They’ll point out that parts aren’t true and other parts can’t be true, or just how much acrobatic hagiography is required to spin stories of a petulant, often raging candidate into tales of a man who just cares so much, and understands things so well. They describe a man whose own loyalty flares and fades, while insisting that aides and Republicans overall owe loyalty to him. His threat to take down the GOP if it resists, Bossie and Lewandowski told me in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast, still stands. They wouldn’t answer if they think the president will stay a member of the Republican Party, let alone committed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “When you are fighting the establishment—not just the Democrats, but there are some within the party and the deep state,” Bossie said, “you’re going to fight all of that and you’re going to get some people, even in your own party, who don’t like what you’re doing.”

    LEGAL SCHOLARS DISPUTE PRESIDENTIAL OBSTRUCTION CLAIM: The brazen assertion Monday by one of President Trump’s lawyers that a president cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice signaled a controversial defense strategy in the wide-ranging Russia probe, as Trump’s political advisers are increasingly concerned about the legal advice he is receiving (Washington Post). Trump tweeted over the weekend that he knew then-national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before firing him in February — and before FBI Director James B. Comey said Trump asked him to be lenient while investigating Flynn. Experts said the president’s admission increased his legal exposure to obstruction-of-justice charges, one of the core crimes under investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd sought to excuse the president’s tweet in part by telling Axios and NBC News on Monday that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.” “We have a president, not a king,” said Sam Berger, senior policy adviser at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

    SURGEON GENERAL ADAMS SAYS MEDICAL POT SHOULD BE STUDIED: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said medical marijuana should be studied and treated like other pain relief drugs but said he could not favor legalizing its recreational use (Miley, CNHI). "Under medical marijuana, I believe it should be like any other drug," Adams said Friday in Indianapolis. "We need to let the FDA vet it, study it, vet it. The FDA has actually approved cannabidiol oil and some derivatives of marijuana, Marijuana is not one substance. It's actually over 100 different substances, some of which benefit, some of which are harmful." Adams, the former Indiana state health commissioner who was sworn in as surgeon general in September, acknowledged that his national post has typically opposed tobacco smoking, a position that fits into his opposition to marijuana for recreational use.

    TIPPECANOE COUNTY REAUTHORIZES NEEDLE EXCHANGE: The Tippecanoe County commissioners have voted 2-1 to reauthorize the county health department’s syringe exchange program for another year (Associated Press). The vote Monday in Lafayette follows recent decisions in Lawrence and Madison counties to end needle exchange programs there. Tippecanoe is among fewer than 10 Indiana counties offering needle exchanges for intravenous drug users. Tippecanoe Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler sought the extension, telling the commissioners the program needed more time because the county has had 154 new cases of hepatitis C this year. He says 37 of the 111 participants have tested positive for the disease. Adler says the program has distributed more than 8,100 needles and has collected nearly 9,400 as of Nov. 30. The program began Aug. 11 after a search for a location delayed its opening for months.

    ROKITA BILL WOULD IMPRISON SANCTUARY CITY OFFICIALS: Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita introduced a bill Friday that could imprison and fine public officials $1 million if they obstruct federal immigration authority efforts (Lange, IndyStar). The legislation targets sanctuary cities, which shelter undocumented immigrants or don't cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under Rokita's Stopping Lawless Actions of Politicians (SLAP) Act, violators could face up to five years of prison time and a fine of up to $1 million for ignoring the federal government's requests for custody of undocumented individuals.

    YOUNG PRESSES TRUMP OVER SAUDI BLOCKADE OF YEMEN: One Republican lawmaker is waging a quiet battle to persuade the Donald Trump administration to pressure Saudi Arabia to end its stranglehold on aid to Yemen, which is facing a spiraling humanitarian crisis with millions of lives threatened by disease and hunger. A Saudi-imposed blockade on fuel and other supplies is the main cause of the man-made catastrophe, aid agencies say, as Riyadh pursues its war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen (Luce & Gramer, Foreign Policy). Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, is holding up the confirmation of the State Department’s nominee for legal advisor, former George W. Bush official Jennifer Newstead, until the Trump administration takes steps to force its Saudi ally to ease the blockade and allow more humanitarian aid into Yemen. “The senator has been pretty clear about what he’d like to see in order to support her nomination,” a congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy. “The senator is not ready to support a vote on her nomination on the floor.”

    TRUMP TO MEET WITH DEMS TO AVOID SHUTDOWN: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday they will meet with President Donald Trump to resume high-stakes negotiations to avoid a government shutdown at week’s end (Politico). The Thursday sit-down at the White House with Trump and GOP leaders would amount to a do-over of the meeting Democrats ditched last week over a fiery Trump tweet that slammed the Democrats and cast doubt on the prospect of reaching a deal. The boycott caused a political spectacle and temporarily halted talks on a broader spending deal congressional leaders have been negotiating behind the scenes. “We hope the President will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can’t be reached beforehand,” the Democratic leaders wrote in a joint statement.

    McCONNELL INSISTS TAX REFORM IS ‘REVENUE NEUTRAL’: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is countering an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation -- a non-partisan committee responsible for issuing reviews on all revenue-related legislation -- that says the Senate tax bill could rack up around $1 trillion in federal deficits over the next decade (CBS News). During an interview with John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" Sunday, McConnell said the GOP tax bill is "deficit neutral" and dismissed criticism that the Republican Party had abandoned its long-held political priority of fiscal responsibility. "I'm not somebody who believes you can just cut taxes everywhere and get more revenue. I'm closer to the position of a deficit hawk," McConnell said.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The Republican National Committee … the RNC … is now backing Judge Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate race. He is a candidate at least nine women have said were sexually harassed or assaulted by him. The campaign has said, “We don’t believe these women.” So does the Republican National Committee as well as President Trump. If you donate to the RNC, your resources are now backing an accused pedophile. In Indianapolis, Republicans are trying to remove a councilman facing similar charges. - Brian A. Howey

  • TRUMP INDIANA APPROVAL AT 47%; HOLCOMB AT 61%: President Donald Trump’s Indiana approval stands at just 47%, with 51% disapproving in a Public Opinion Strategies Poll conducted on behalf of Indiana Realtors (Howey Politics Indiana). The poll shows that 41% “strongly disapprove” of Trump, while the national right/wrong track numbers stand at 36/57%. Gov. Eric Holcomb enjoys much broader support with his approval at 61% and disapproval at 20%. The poll conducted by Gene Ulm shows a hint of a potential wave, as on the generic General Assembly ballot, 40% would vote Republican and 37% Democrat. On coming issues, 71% favor a new hate crime law while 24% disapprove. On the constitutional gun carry issue, 25% support and 73% opposed, with 59% strongly opposing. On last session’s landmark highway road funding plan that included a gas tax increase, 67% support and 30% oppose. On the property tax caps which have been in place for nearly a decade, 75% support and 15% oppose.

    MOORE LEADS IN CBS POLL: A CBS News poll found 92 percent of Republicans who don't believe the allegations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore say the Democrats are behind the charges, and 88 percent say newspapers and the media are behind them.  Multiple women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriately pursuing or touching them when they were teenagers. The Senate contest looks to be highly dependent on turnout. Moore has a lead over Democrat Doug Jones, 49 percent to 43 percent, among the likely voters who are most apt to vote on Dec. 12. Among all registered voters, the contest is even. And nearly a quarter of voters still describe themselves as "maybe" or "probably" going to vote.  A majority of Alabama Republican voters (53 percent) say the allegations against Moore are a concern, but that other things matter more. One-third of Republicans say the allegations are not a concern to them. The poll describes a picture of many Republican voters choosing based on other issues: Half of Moore's supporters say they are backing him mainly because they want a senator who will cast conservative votes in the Senate, rather than because they think Moore is the best person for the job. 

    TRUMP LAWYER SAYS HE KNEW FLYNN HAD LIED TO FBI: President Trump’s personal lawyer said on Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador (Washington Post). Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official. The vice president said publicly at the time that Flynn had told him he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian diplomat — a statement disproved by a U.S. intelligence intercept of a phone call between Flynn and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Trump was aware of the issue a couple of weeks before a conversation with then-FBI Director James B. Comey in which Comey said the president asked him if he could be lenient while investigating Flynn, whom Trump had just fired for misleading Pence about the nature of his conversations with the Russian. According to notes kept by Comey, Trump asked if he could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” Trump fired Comey in May. In a pre-dawn tweet Sunday, Trump issued a fresh rebuttal to Comey, writing: “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” The tweet was part of a running commentary from Trump that began Saturday, a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and indicated he would cooperate with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Trump’s Saturday tweets had stoked controversy, as he wrote that “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Previously, the White House had cited only the false statements to Pence as a rationale for dismissing Flynn. Dowd confirmed Sunday that he had drafted the tweet for Trump and acknowledged that it was sloppily worded

    TRUMP SAYS FBI IN ’TATTERS’: As the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation draws closer to him, President Trump on Sunday unleashed an extraordinary assault on the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, calling it a biased institution whose reputation for fairness was “in tatters” (New York Times). In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump said the F.B.I.’s standing was now the “worst in history.” The attack was one of the harshest in a generation on an independent agency that two days earlier had helped secure a guilty plea and a pledge of cooperation from the president’s first national security adviser. Current and former F.B.I. officials, historians and lawmakers rebuked the president over his efforts to undermine the F.B.I.’s credibility as it investigates whether his campaign colluded with Russian officials to sway the 2016 election. A president who has positioned himself as devoted to law and order is now in a public dispute with the country’s top law enforcement agents. Thomas O’Connor, the president of the association representing F.B.I. agents, defended their integrity in a statement. “F.B.I. agents are dedicated to their mission,” he said, asserting that they demonstrated “unwavering integrity and professionalism” on the job. “Suggesting otherwise is simply false,” he added.

    TRUMP TWEETS CREATE ANXIETY AMONG SENIOR ADVISERS: It took nearly 24 hours for President Donald Trump to tweet about the news that his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents — a delay that Trump's advisers said was not uncommon for the president, who often tweets after catching up on cable news (Politico). Many Republicans at first saw the radio silence as a welcome sign of restraint. But by Sunday, the notoriously hot-headed president had already claimed Flynn was fired earlier this year in part for lying to the FBI and had moved on to accusing the nation’s top law-enforcement agency of being “in tatters.” “Worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” he tweeted. The tweets all combined to reignite fears among people close to Trump that the president is not taking the special counsel’s investigation seriously enough and is getting bad advice from his legal team. “There’s no quarterback. There’s no strategy. They’re literally making it up as they go along,” said one of the people. “We’re in very dangerous territory.”

    TRUMP LAWYER SAYS HE CAN’T BE GUILTY OF OBSTRUCTION: John Dowd, President Trump's outside lawyer, outlined to me a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice (Allen, Axios). The "President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case," Dowd claims. Dowd says he drafted this weekend's Trump tweet that many thought strengthened the case for obstruction: The tweet suggested Trump new Flynn had lied to the FBI when he was fired, raising new questions about the later firing of FBI Director James Comey. Dowd: "The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion." Why it matters: Trump's legal team is setting the stage to say the president cannot be charged with core crimes discussed in the Russia probe: collusion and obstruction. Presumably, you wouldn't preemptively make these arguments unless you felt there was a chance charges are coming. One top D.C. lawyer told me that obstruction is usually an ancillary charge rather than a principal one, such as a quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russians. The Articles of Impeachment against Nixon began by saying he "obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice."

    PARANOIA GRIPS WHITE HOUSE STAFF: Paranoia is enveloping the White House and President Donald Trump's network of former aides and associates as Robert Mueller's Russia probe heats up (Politico). Former national security adviser Michael Flynn agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of the plea deal he reached last week, adding to the worry already inside Trump's circle surrounding the secret deal struck earlier this summer by former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, whose cooperation was kept quiet for months before being unsealed in late October. Both cases raise the possibility that other current or former colleagues have also flipped sides - and they're prompting anxiety that those people could be wearing wires to secretly tape record conversations. 'Everyone is paranoid,' said a person close to Trump's White House. 'Everyone thinks they're being recorded.' Mueller is doing little to abate those suspicions. Tucked inside last week's 10-page plea deal Flynn struck with government prosecutors is an agreement that the former White House national security adviser could avoid a potential lengthy jail term in part by 'participating in covert law enforcement activities.'

    BILLY BUSH SOUNDS OFF SAYING ‘HE SAID IT’: Billy Bush — former co-host of "Access Hollywood" and "Today" — writes in New York Times op-ed of President Trump: ‘He said it. ‘Grab 'em by the pussy.’ Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America's highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real. We now know better. Today is about reckoning and reawakening, and I hope it reaches all the guys on the bus.”

    MAKEOVER FOR HOLIDAY PARTIES WITH CURBS ON BOOZE: Office holiday parties get a makeover amid scandals, per AP Business Writer Marley Jay: There will be less booze at many. Don't hang mistletoe, the National Federation of Independent Businesses say in an annual warning. Some companies will have party monitors, keeping an eye out for inappropriate behavior. A survey by Chicago-based consulting company Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that only 49% of companies plan to serve alcohol at their holiday events. Last year that was 62%, the highest number in the decade the firm has run its survey

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: I believe I enrolled in the Obamacare Marketplace last night, though confirmation and an account number remain elusive and will require a follow-up call TO CareSource, one of two remaining Indiana providers. In the year before Obamacare went into effect, I paid $444 per month. I’m now on my fourth different Obamacare plan (after MDWise, Anthem and IU Health which have all pulled out of the market), and I’ve seen my monthly premium go to $680 for a silver plan, then to $790, to $681 this year, and for for 2018 (drum roll) I’ll be paying $881, which includes a $3,500 deductible and $7,350 max out of pocket cost. Do you think I’m happy about that? No, I’m not. I’m pretty steamed. I’m a small businessman and was never a big Obamacare fan other than it ended the annual pre-existing condition nightmare. Through no fault of my own, I’m getting hammered on the monthly premiums, analysts say it’s going to get worse in the coming years, and I’m really angry that two presidents and an inert and embarrassing Congress haven’t been able to get their act together to put in place sensible, affordable health care. I also vote and talk to a lot of other voters. - Brian A. Howey

  • ALCOHOL COMMISSION FALLS SHORT ON COLD BEER: The Alcohol Code Revision Commission voted 8-7 in favor of cold beer sales on Friday, but that wasn’t good enough (Mays, Statehouse File). The committee, which has been reviewing the state’s alcohol laws since late summer, needed a majority of the 17 members or nine votes. Because two members were absent the measure failed to pass. So the report that will go to the Indiana General Assembly will not recommend that state laws are changed to allow businesses outside of package liquor stores to sell refrigerated beer. “I think there were a number of close votes and I think that’s reflective of what you see in the General Assembly as well on a lot of these issues which shows how tough these issues really are,” said Beverly Gard, chair of the commission. In a previous meeting, lawmakers agreed that Indiana should allow alcohol sales on Sunday, but disagreed about who should be able to sell cold beer. Indiana is the only state that regulates beer based on temperature. “It’s my feeling that if we don’t go ahead and pass some proposed legislation dealing with cold beer that the Legislature is just going to keep kicking the can down the road,” said Gard. “I watched that happen for 24 years.” Jay Ricker, owner of the Ricker's convenience-store chain, went before the committee to express his support for cold beer sales. “From the very beginning of this discussion our position has been very clear, we only want the right to expand the options we offer to consumers, not to have new products, just to sell it cold,” Ricker said.

    HOLCOMB MAKES ATC CHANGES: Several key people at the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission are leaving or are being replaced, following criticism from lawmakers regarding some of the agency's decisions to confiscate a cannabis-extracted oil from stores and expanding cold beer sales to a convenience store chain (Lange, IndyStar). Last spring, the agency was chastised by GOP leaders for its approval of Rickers convenience stores' restaurant liquor licenses, allowing the stores to sell cold beer and step into territory primarily reserved for liquor stores. The ATC again was scrutinized after its law enforcement arm seized Cannabidiol products at nearly 60 stores throughout the state this summer, prior to any firm legal directive from Attorney General Curtis Hill or Gov. Eric Holcomb. In the coming month, the agency will have a new media relations employee and a new prosecutor and will have to fill the duties of a departing high-level staffer.  Holcomb announced he was appointing ATC commissioner David Coleman as a new prosecutor to the ATC commission on Tuesday, replacing prosecutor Mark Mader.  John L. Krauss, an attorney with Krauss Group LLC, will be replacing Coleman as a commissioner. Following the confiscations and subsequent confusion over the legality of the product, the agency was scrutinized by both lawmakers and parents of epileptic children. “It sounds like we’ve got an agency that is out of control,” said Rep. Jim Lucas, R- Seymour.

    MERRITT SAYS STATE WON’T SEEK MORE OPIOID FUNDING: Lawmakers and Gov. Eric Holcomb are in agreement: Fighting the opioid epidemic needs to remain a priority next legislative session. That does not mean, however, the state will be putting more money toward ending the epidemic (Lange, IndyStar). Currently, the state designates $5 million a year for Indiana’s drug czar to dedicate to drug abuse. Other departments deal largely with the opioid epidemic, too, and are given money, such as the Department of Corrections. Sen. Jim Merritt, who was responsible for much of the opioid legislation last legislative session, and Holcomb's appointed drug czar, Jim McClelland, say $5 million a year just isn’t enough. “It’s not really a large pot of money we have here,” McClelland said. “We want to be really careful and we want to use that where we believe we have the potential of the greatest impact.” Holcomb made fighting the opioid epidemic one of his five priorities for 2018. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, both stated it was a priority during their speeches on the ceremonial start of the session. Merritt and McClelland won't be pushing for more money because the upcoming legislative session is not a budget session. Indiana has a two-year budget cycle, so the next budget won't be debated and adopted until 2019.  Instead, Merritt is drafting legislation that would increase sentencing for drug dealers and bills focused on prescription reform.

    5K RAPE KITS GO UNTESTED: There are 5,396 sexual assault kits held in police custody that have not been tested, according to the results of an Indiana State Police audit (IndyStar). State senators had adopted a resolution in April that urged State Police to count the number of untested sexual assault kits throughout the state and determine reasons why they were not tested. The report, which was released Friday, provides only a snapshot of the prevalence of untested kits in Indiana. The audit did not determine the total number of sexual assault kits that were collected but never submitted for testing over a particular time period. It only included the number of untested kits that remain in police custody today. Other kits may have been destroyed or lost. Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, who authored the resolution to audit untested kits, said he will push for testing of all kits that are eligible. "Every one that is close to being appropriate for testing should be being submitted to the lab,” he said. “Each one of those kits represents some lady’s life."

    DONNELLY DEFENDS VOTE V. TAX REFORM: U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, explained why he voted against the Senate Republican tax plan Friday after it passed 51-49 with only Republican Sen. Bob Corker breaking with his party (Howey Politics Indiana). “From the beginning I’ve been willing to partner with Republicans, with Democrats, with the president, with this Administration,” Donnelly said in a video.” I agreed with President Trump’s stated goals of supporting the middle class and keeping jobs here in America. I strongly believe tax reform can be done in a way that’s good for working Hoosier families. Unfortunately, this tax hike bill from Senator McConnell does not reflect the priorities the president and I discussed on numerous occasions, including when I traveled with him on Air Force One to Indiana recently—and that is why I couldn’t support this bill. It results in a tax hike for nearly a million middle class Hoosier families in the coming years and it fails to address the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries. In addition, this bill takes away health care and raises costs for millions of families. Here’s the bottom line: I opposed Mitch McConnell’s bill because it is not tax reform, it’s a partisan tax hike on Indiana’s middle class, it does nothing to prevent outsourcing of US jobs to foreign countries, and it’s a giveaway to Wall Street and other big money interests.” -

    ROKITA ASSAILS DONNELLY: U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, a potential challenger to Donnelly in 2018, reacted to Donnelly’s no vote on tax reform, saying , “Joe Donnelly failed Hoosiers today by voting against tax cuts. Donnelly chose to side with the liberal elites in DC when it mattered most and rejected a tax reform plan that would put more money in the pockets of Hoosiers. Despite Donnelly's 'no' vote, we are now one step closer to delivering on President Donald Trump's promise of tax cuts for Hoosiers" (Howey Politics Indiana).

    SO DOES MESSER: U.S. Rep. Luke Messer today applauded the United States Senate for voting to pass President Trump’s tax cut plan (Howey Politics Indiana). “This is a great day for working Hoosiers,” Messer said.“The Senate has finally passed President Trump’s tax plan that will cut taxes for middle class Hoosiers, bring back jobs from overseas and get our economy moving again.” Messer also blasted Indiana’s Senator Joe Donnelly for his vote in opposition. "Typical Joe Donnelly... he says he is bipartisan but votes with his party’s liberal leadership to block the President’s agenda," Messer said. "Hoosiers know that actions matter more than words. Once again, Senator Donnelly has made his choice, siding with Chuck Schumer over Hoosiers."

    YOUNG LAUDS TAX REFORM PASSAGE: U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) today issued the following statement regarding passage of the Senate’s tax reform bill. The bill passed by a 51-49 vote (Howey Politics Indiana). “This is a big win for Hoosiers. Not only did we repeal the oppressive individual mandate tax of Obamacare, but we acted on tax reform for the first time in 30 years that will ensure Hoosiers have a code that is fairer, that is simpler, and that allows them to keep more of what they earn. “Many American workers have not seen a pay raise in a decade. And over 50 percent of American families are living paycheck to paycheck. Repealing the Obamacare tax, doubling the standard deduction, doubling the Child Tax Credit, and lowering rates for middle-income Americans will provide needed relief.”

    ROKITA BLASTS ‘TAX HIKE MIKE’ BRAUN: Rep. Todd Rokita has started a new feud in Indiana's bitter Republican Senate primary, attacking a rival — whom he calls "Tax Hike Mike" Braun — over the former state lawmaker's vote for a GOP-backed infrastructure plan that raised fuel taxes (Slodysko, Associated Press). The issue offers considerable upside for Rokita, a Munster native who is trying to present himself as a conservative outsider despite nearly 20 years in elected office. There's just one problem: It wasn't long ago that Rokita called for the same kind of tax increase. That opens Rokita up to charges of hypocrisy as he campaigns against Braun, fellow Republican Rep. Luke Messer and several others. Already he's been accused of a willingness to do — or say — anything to win the race that will decide who faces Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly next year. "Todd Rokita attacked Mike Braun for supporting a permanent solution to fix Indiana's roads and bridges," said Braun spokesman Josh Kelley. "It is typical of career politicians like Todd Rokita to say one thing and do another." Indiana's neglected infrastructure became a political fiasco in August 2015. An Interstate 65 bridge in Rokita's district sank several inches, forcing a month-long emergency closure.

    TRUMP TWEET CHANGES STORY ON RUSSIA: President Trump shifted his story Saturday on why he fired Michael Flynn, lumping in the retired Army lieutenant general's lies to the FBI along with his untruthfulness with Vice President Mike Pence. The president's initial explanation was that Flynn had to go because he hadn't been straight with Pence about contacts with Russian officials. Lying to the FBI is a crime, and one that Flynn acknowledged Friday in pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel's Russia investigation (Associated Press). "Trump tweeted Saturday: ' I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!' Amid questions raised by the tweet, Trump associates tried to put distance Saturday evening between the president himself and the tweet. One person familiar with the situation said the tweet was actually crafted by John Dowd, one of the president's personal attorneys. Dowd declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press on Saturday night.

    U.S. STEALTH FIGHTERS ARRIVE IN SOUTH KOREA: Tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated over the weekend as US stealth fighters moved into the region and official sources from both North Korea and the US said the chances of war are growing (CNN). The bellicose rhetoric from North Korea came in two phases: On Saturday, a statement from its Foreign Ministry said US President Donald Trump is "begging for a nuclear war" through what it called an "extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean Peninsula.” A day later, a commentary from Pyongyang's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, said US-South Korea joint air exercises scheduled for Monday to Friday are a "dangerous provocation" pushing the region "to the brink of a nuclear war."

    GRAHAM SAYS WAR LIKELY; URGES U.S. FAMILIES TO LEAVE: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said the United States is "running out of time" when it comes to North Korea and that pre-emptive war is "becoming more likely" as the country's weapons technology "matures." "We're getting close to a military conflict because North Korea's marching toward marrying up the technology of an ICBM with a nuclear weapon on top that cannot only get to America but deliver the weapon. We're running out of time," Graham said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "The policy of the Trump administration is to deny North Korea the capability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile. Not to contain it," he said. "Denial means preemptive war as a last resort. That preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures. Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon, means the marriage is more likely." Graham said Sunday that he believes it's time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict. "It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour," the South Carolina Republican said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea."

    McMASTER SAYS WAR CHANCE INCREASING ‘EVERY DAY’: The threat emerging from North Korea’s rogue regime is “increasing every day,” according to White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster (ABC News). "I think it's increasing every day," McMaster told moderator Bret Baier Saturday afternoon at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA. Referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, McMaster added, “Every time he conducts a missile launch and nuclear test, he gets better. And whether it's a success or a failure isn't as important as understanding that over the years he's been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us.”

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Talking to local officials on the front lines of the opioid crisis and the nearly unanimous sentiment is, “We need more money.” But the Holcomb administration and key legislators are signaling that seeking more funds won’t come during the non-budget 2918 General Assembly session. The problem there is that crisis doesn’t operate on a schedule. - Brian A. Howey 

  • McCONNELL WORKS TO SALVAGE STALLED TAX BILL: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has his work cut out for him to save the Senate tax bill, which stalled Thursday evening after three GOP rebels threatened to effectively kill it (Bolton, The Hill). After weeks of careful negotiations, Senate Republicans are locked in a huge behind-the-scenes fight over what the tax bill should look like. To pass the bill, McConnell and his leadership team will have to craft substantial revisions and they have only 24 hours to do it, give or take, or otherwise postpone the effort altogether until next week. To appease Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), McConnell would have to reduce the total size of the $1.4 trillion tax package by $350 billion to $450 billion. But that approach isn't sitting well with many Republican senators.

    TAX DEBATE CONTINUED INTO TODAY: Senate Republicans are pushing work on their tax bill into Friday as they try to address concerns over the deficit (Carney, The Hill). For the information of all senators, the Senate will continue to debate the bill tonight. [But] the next roll call votes will be at 11 a.m tomorrow morning," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday night. The decision to skip a late-night session on Thursday comes as deficit hawks, led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), push for a guarantee that the Senate tax legislation won't increase the deficit. They had demanded the inclusion of a "trigger," but were told by the Senate parliamentarian on Thursday that it didn't comply with the Senate rules.

    PLAN WOULD ADD $1T TO DEFICIT: Senate Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax cut would not “pay for itself” according to a report released on Thursday by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The report is a significant setback for Republicans, who have asserted that the tax cuts would grow the economy enough to cover the cost of the plan (New York Times). In the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Senate tax bill, the cuts would add $1.414 trillion to the deficit by 2027. That estimate does not include the amount that would be offset by the economic growth spurred by tax cuts.

    GOP MAY HAVE TO RETURN TO OBAMACARE REPEAL: Republicans have been asking themselves what they'll turn to next, after their tax overhaul wraps up. If they repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, there's a good chance the answer will be health care — whether they like it or not (Baker, Axios). What they're saying: President Trump has said several times that he wants to take another crack at repeal-and-replace after the tax bill, but, notably, GOP leaders in the House and Senate have not echoed that plan. And that makes sense — their health care adventures did not succeed and did not poll well, either. It's a hard issue. Yes, but: If Republicans do end up repealing the individual mandate, insurance markets will begin to feel the effects quickly, leading to almost immediate nationwide upheaval that will be impossible to ignore — especially in an election year. The timing: The disruption caused by repealing the individual mandate would start early next year and intensify at the 2018 midterm elections.

    TRUMP SAYS SHUTDOWN MIGHT BE GOOD FOR HIM: President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently (Washington Post). Over the past 10 days, the president has also told advisers that it is important that he is seen as tough on immigration and getting money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two people who have spoken with him. He has asked friends about how a shutdown would affect him politically and has told several people he would put the blame on Democrats. Trump’s mixed messages on a partial government shutdown could hamper the ability of congressional Republicans to negotiate with Democrats, whose support they need to pass spending legislation in coming weeks.

    TRUMP PRESSED TOP REPUBLICANS TO END RUSSIA INQUIRY: President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides (Martin, Haberman & Burns, New York Times). Mr. Trump's requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end. "It was something along the lines of, 'I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,'" Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that "when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish." In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Mr. Trump told Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is a former chairwoman of the intelligence committee, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump's requests were "inappropriate" and represented a breach of the separation of powers.

    TILLERSON, COHN, SHORT MAY LEAVE WHITE HOUSE: The White House is facing the prospect of another round of senior departures in the coming weeks as President Donald Trump approaches his one-year anniversary in office, according to several administration officials (Wall Street Journal). Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief executive who has struggled to mesh with Mr. Trump during their first year in office, is the most likely to leave, according to White House officials. Senior officials say there is a lengthy list of White House aides and cabinet members potentially on their way out, with the first anniversary of the administration in mid-January serving as a natural off-ramp. “There will be significant turnover at the one-year mark,” one senior administration official said. Another added: “You’re going to see plenty of movement.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday, “there are no personnel announcements at this time.”  White House spokesman Raj Shah said talk of any specific departures was “pure speculation” and declined to comment further. Among the names viewed by administration officials as possible departures are National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short. Asked by a reporter whether he wanted Tillerson to stay on the job, Trump was coy, merely pointing out that Tillerson was in fact in the building. “He's here. Rex is here,” the president said.

    ANDRE LACY DIES IN MOTORCYCLE CRASH IN BOTSWANA: Andre B. Lacy, whose name is on Butler University's business school and whose philanthropic footprint can be found throughout Indianapolis, was killed Thursday in a motorcycle crash in Africa (Ryckaert & Gilmer, IndyStar). Lacy, 78, died after the motorcycle he was riding crashed while on a private tour in Botswana, Emily C. Krueger, vice president of administration for LDI Ltd., said in an email to IndyStar. He died doing what he loved to do, motorcycling in foreign places, said attorney and friend Anne De Prez, who served on the Christ Church Cathedral Foundation with Lacy.

    JIM NABORS DIES: Jim Nabors made good on his last name when he brought Gomer Pyle to “The Andy Griffith Show.” His big-hearted, ever-cheery gas-pump jockey was a neighborly fit in the easygoing town of Mayberry (Associated Press). But when Gomer enlisted in the Marines for five TV seasons, he truly blossomed. So did the actor who portrayed him. Nabors, who died Thursday at 87, made Pvt. Gomer Pyle a perfect foil for the immovable object of Marines boot camp: Grinning, gentle Gomer was the irresistible force. In Indiana, Nabors was a beloved figure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where, starting in 1972, he sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start of the Indianapolis 500. That first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn't forget. “I've never thought of (the audience reaction) as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.” He sang at the track 36 times over more than four decades. His last appearance was in 2014.

    RUSSIA TO USE MILITARY BASES IN EGYPT: Egypt, in what appeared to be a snub to the Trump administration, has reached a preliminary agreement to allow Russian military jets to use its airspace and bases, both sides said Thursday (New York Times). If finalized, the agreement would give Russia its deepest presence in Egypt since 1973, when Cairo expelled the military of the Soviet Union and instead became Washington’s closest Arab ally. The United States has provided Egypt more than $70 billion in aid in the four decades since, at a rate of more than $1.3 billion a year in recent years. The cost is often justified in part by the argument that it secures the use of Egypt’s airspace and bases for the American military.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The tax plan that stalled in the Senate has had no hearings. There has been no regular order. It falls about $1 trillion short in paying for itself. Senators and the public don’t really know what’s in the plan. It is poised for wide ranging impacts on higher education, home building, and families who have relied on mortgage, student loans and medical deductions. Some 60% of the tax cuts go to the top 20% while the average middle class family would get about an $850 tax cut. As we’ve noted before, it took President Reagan and a bipartisan team in Congress almost three years to achieve the 1986 tax reforms. This is happening in less than two months. What could possibly go wrong? - Brian A. Howey

  • REP. BEUMER WON'T SEEK REELECTION: State Rep. Greg Beumer (R-Modoc) said Monday he will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives after his term expires next year (Radford, Winchester News-Gazette). Beumer informed The News-Gazette that his decision was based on "nothing specific." "Once you serve, you know when it's your time to move on," Beumer said. "It just feels right to me to allow someone else to serve."

    LEGISLATIVE EXODUS TAKING SHAPE: There is a retirement exodus taking shape at the Indiana General Assembly (Howey Politics Indiana). On Wednesday it was Rep. Greg Beumer who announced he’s not running in 2018. On Tuesday, State Reps. Charlie Brown and Wes Culver joined State Reps. Scott Pelath, Steve Stemler, Thomas Washburne and State Reps. Doug Eckerty and Jim Smith announcing they won’t seek reelection in 2018, all for personal and professional reasons. They join former Reps. Mike Braunand Lloyd Arnold, who quit to run for the U.S. Senate and take a job at DNR and Sen. Luke Kenley who retired in September. Our sources say thatState Rep. Linda Lawson is likely to join Club Retirement while Rep. Jim Baird is seeking the 4th CD nomination and State Sen. Mike Crider is seeking the 6th CD, but is not up for reelection. Baird has time to file for reelection if his campaign doesn’t have traction come mid-February. On the watch list are State Sens. Joe Zakas and Mike Delph, though majority caucus sources say both are preparing reelection bids. The Senate Majority Caucus polled Delph’s race against GOP primary foe Corrie Meyer, who has 9% name ID, and Delph had a 56-9% lead in the district and 56-13% in Hamilton County. Delph’s job approval stood at 61%. Meanwhile, Zakas has a Dec. 5 fundraiser scheduled for Indianapolis.

    OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT UP 29% IN INDIANA: Enrollment in health insurance plans offered through the federal Affordable Care Act jumped 29 percent in Indiana during the first four weeks of the abbreviated sign-up period (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Wednesday that 43,364 Hoosiers selected coverage plans from the federal insurance marketplace between Nov. 1 and Nov. 25. For the same four weeks a year earlier, 33,707 Indiana residents chose plans. Nationwide, enrollment for the first four weeks grew from 2.1 million last year to nearly 2.8 million this year, a 30 percent increase. The number of new customers rose 38 percent, from 519,492 last year to 718,285 this year. Enrollment has a long way to go to match the 12.2 million Americans, including 147,000 Hoosiers, who selected insurance plans during the 2015-16 sign-up period, which lasted three months. This year's period runs only six weeks, ending Dec. 15.

    HALEY SAYS U.S. ‘CLOSER TO WAR’: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday that North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile — which some observers believe could reach the Eastern U.S. — “brings us closer” to a war the U.S. isn’t seeking (Associated Press). Nikki Haley, speaking at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, said that if war comes as a result of further acts of “aggression” like the latest launch, “make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” “The dictator of North Korea made a decision yesterday that brings us closer to war, not farther from it,” Haley said. “We have never sought war with North Korea and still today we do not seek it.”

    TAX REFORM CLEARS KEY HURDLE: Senate Republicans are considering whether to cut the corporate tax rate less deeply than President Donald Trump has demanded, a move that could make it easier to pass the tax bill they voted to begin debating Wednesday (Wall Street Journal). One of the most significant unresolved issues is whether the corporate tax rate should be set above the 20% threshold Mr. Trump has sought and how aggressively the administration would fight an attempt to set it higher. A final vote in the Senate could come as early as Thursday night. Bumping that rate to 21% or 22% is attractive to Republicans looking for money to expand the child tax credit, preserve a property-tax deduction or make other changes. Each point raises about $100 billion over a decade. Under current law, the corporate tax rate stands at 35%. “Twenty-two percent doesn’t make this a horrible bill,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). “It’s like making a cocktail. If you’ve got to add more of this and less of that, I’m fine. Failure is not an option.” But going higher than 20% for the corporate rate could split the party. White House spokesman Raj Shah said Wednesday that the president “would not support raising the corporate rate as outlined” in an amendment aimed at boosting the child tax credit. The 52-48 procedural vote on party lines late Wednesday was an early show of GOP unity. It came after Republicans said they were backing a larger tax cut for pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S corporations that pay taxes through their owners’ individual tax returns.

    TAX BILL HAS WIDE RAMIFICATIONS: The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care (New York Times). Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements. Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right. With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington. The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic. All of this is taking shape at such extraordinary velocity, absent the usual analyses and hearings, that even the most savvy Washington lobbyist cannot be fully certain of the implications.

    AN UNTHINKABLE 96-HOURS FOR UNSTABLE TRUMP: We just witnessed the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump's reign: He called for a probe of the chairman of NBC News, a boycott of CNN, global skepticism of CNN International, and a public contest to crown the king of Fake News (Allen, Axios). He told friends that the "Access Hollywood" tape may have been doctored, and that former President Obama may have been born abroad. He re-tweeted conspiracy theorists. He unapologetically circulated videos aimed at demeaning Muslims. He sent his press secretary out to argue it doesn't matter if the tapes are fake, because the threat is real. Be smart: Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it's simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on. Case in point: Amid all of this, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) calls Trump "one of the best presidents I've served under." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gushed that he's never seen Trump in finer form than digging into the tax bill this week.

    TRUMP FEELS ‘IMPERVIOUS’: President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified ¬≠anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.” Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes (Washington Post). If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the ¬≠highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions. Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.

    TRUMP TWEETS OUT RACIALLY CHARGED VIDEOS: President Trump touched off another racially charged furor on Wednesday by sharing videos from a fringe British ultranationalist party purportedly showing Muslims committing acts of violence, a move that was swiftly condemned by Britain’s prime minister as well as politicians across the spectrum (New York Times). Mr. Trump retweeted the video posts from an ultranationalist British party leader, Jayda Fransen, who has been charged in the United Kingdom with “religious aggravated harassment.” The videos were titled: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” At least one of the videos, however, did not show a “Muslim migrant,” as it claimed, but a teenage boy who was born in the Netherlands, according to Dutch authorities. The other two showed incidents in Syria and Egypt in 2013 without any explanation of the context of the political unrest then taking place in those countries. No modern American president has promoted inflammatory content of this sort from an extremist organization.

    SANDERS DEFENDS TWEET, SAYING ‘THREAT IS REAL’: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended President Donald Trump's decision to retweet a series of anti-Muslim videos from a British far-right account on Wednesday morning, telling reporters he circulated them to start a conversation about border security and immigration (Politico). Sanders also said she doesn't know how the videos got in front of Trump and wouldn't say whether they were real. "Whether it is a real video, the threat is real," Sanders told a small group of reporters after appearing on Fox News. "That is what the President is talking about, that is what the President is focused on is dealing with those real threats, and those are real no matter how you look at it."

    TRUMP QUESTIONS ‘MYSTERY’ DEATH OF SCARBOROUGH AIDE: President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to note the firing of Matt Lauer at NBC News — and, in the process, took aim at MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough over a death that occurred at Scarborough’s Florida office when he was a member of Congress (Washington Post). Following Lauer’s firing over what NBC News described as “inappropriate sexual behavior,” Trump wondered when executives at the network and its corporate owner, Comcast, would be terminated for “putting out so much Fake News.” Then he wrote: “And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the ‘unsolved mystery’ that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!” The president appeared to be referring to the 2001 death of Lori Klausutis, a 28-year-old aide who worked for Scarborough at the time, when he represented Florida’s 1st congressional district. But Klausutis’s death is not an unsolved mystery: Authorities determined 16 years ago that she died after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm and collapsed, striking her head. She was discovered in Scarborough’s office in Fort Walton Beach, laying on her back with her head near a desk, according to a 2001 police report. No foul play was suspected, and her death was ultimately ruled an accident by the medical examiner. After Trump’s insinuation that Scarborough had something to do with Klausutis’s death, the “Morning Joe” co-host refused to engage the president, tweeting: “Looks like I picked a good day to stop responding to Trump’s bizarre tweets. He is not well.”

    CLAPPER QUESTIONS TRUMP’S JUDGMENT: David Lammy, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party said, “Trump sharing Britain First,” he wrote. “Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours” (New York Times). This reaction is exactly what James R. Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said he feared when he saw the president’s Twitter posts. “It has all kinds of ripple effects, both in terms of perhaps inciting or encouraging anti-Muslim violence, and as well causes, I think, our friends and allies around the world to wonder about the judgment of the president of the United States,” Mr. Clapper told CNN on Wednesday.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: So here we are on the brink of nuclear war and historic tax reform votes, and President Trump has time in the middle of the day to tweet out racist videos from a fascist fringe group that have rattled the British prime minister and earned the praise of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. - Brian A. Howey

  • REPS. BROWN, CULVER WON’T SEEK REELECTION: Two House veterans announced Tuesday that will not stand for reelection in 2018. Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, said they plan to retire (Howey Politics Indiana). Brown has served in the House of Representatives for 35 years, but will step down and will instead turn his attention toward county government as he launches a bid for the 3rd District Lake County Council seat. Brown said Tuesday he made his decision not to run again at the state level some time ago, but delayed in making the announcement. "I believe I have fought the good fight for a long time, but the time has come to stop these frequent drives up and down I-65," Brown said (NWI Times). "With my health quite good, my mind still working overtime and my passion for good government still burning brightly, as I return to Lake County there is one more job I should do, God and the voters willing. One more thing — with my experience and intellect I could do very well for the people — one more time." Culver told the Goshen News, "I have decided not to run for another term. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have served the people of my district, however, after 10 years (I'm) ready to move onto something new." Culver was first elected and served in the Indiana House in 2008. He represents House District 49, which covers the eastern portion of Elkhart County.

    NBC TERMINATES MATT LAUER OVER SEXUAL HARASSMENT: For the second time in two weeks, a network TV morning host has been terminated over sexual harassment allegations (Howey Politics Indiana). NBC announced it has terminated “Today Show” host Matt Lauer this morning. “As I can assure you this is devastating. We are heartbroken. Matt is my partner and dear, dear friend. This is long over due, as painful as it is in our culture, it had to happen,” said a stunned and tearful co-host Savanah Guthrie just moments ago. NBC said Lauer had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, saying it “may not be an isolated incident. We are deeply saddened by this turn of events.” Lauer follows CBS morning show host Charlie Rose, who was terminated last week over a series of similar allegations.

    GOP RAMS TAX BILL THROUGH COMMITTEE; YOUNG, DONNELLY SPLIT: Senate Republicans rammed forward President Donald Trump's tax-cut bill on Tuesday in an abrupt, partisan committee vote that set up a full vote by the Senate as soon as Thursday, although some details of the measure remained unsettled (Reuters). Republican committee members quickly left the room after the vote as Democrats complained about a lack of discussion on a bill that would overhaul the U.S. tax code and add an estimated $1.4 trillion to the $20 trillion national debt over 10 years. U.S. Sen. Todd Young, despite past concerns about the size of the federal debt, is strongly leaning toward supporting the bill (IndyStar). “My objective here is to try to come up with tax legislation that is fair, that is simpler, that allows Hoosiers to keep more of what they earn,” Young said. “At least in its current form, I think this legislation does that, and I hope it passes.” While Young has previously said he doesn’t want to “blow a hole in the budget” with a tax package, he said Tuesday the bill’s economic effects have to be looked at past the 10-year budget window used to put a price tag on the bill. “There are different provisions that will lead to an investment in the capital equipment that will make American workers more productive,” he said. Young is the target of a TV ad campaign by Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform, which shows Young talking about “handing a financial death sentence” to future generations. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly doesn’t see how Hoosiers would be better off under a proposed overhaul of the federal tax code. Donnelly, who has been alternately wooed and pressured for months by the Trump administration, said Tuesday the bill doesn’t include the components he told the president were needed to win his support. “I think there’s a tremendous well of support for a tax bill that helps keep jobs in America, focuses actually on the middle class and doesn’t explode the debt,” Donnelly said. “That’s not what this is.”

    GOP SUPPORT FOR TAX PLAN SHARPLY ERODES: Republican voter support for the House GOP tax plan eroded sharply in the past week, and ticked down among all voters, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult tracking poll. While Republicans still mostly back the plan, their support dropped to 59 percent from 66 percent based on what they generally know about it. GOP opposition grew to 12 percent from 9 percent, and the GOP undecided grew to 28 percent from 25 percent. The number of registered voters overall who said they support the bill, which passed the House earlier this month, fell to 36 percent from 39 percent, while opposition rose to 36 percent from 31 percent. Democrats continue to be overwhelmingly opposed to the plan — 58 percent, up from 52 percent the week before. Support among independents stood at 30 percent, which was unchanged.

    DEMOCRATS SAY GOP IGNORED THEIR TAX IDEAS: A few hours before Republicans secured the votes they needed to advance a tax-cut bill to the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) gathered more than a dozen Democratic colleagues to explain why none of them could vote yes. Manchin, who has voted with the Trump administration more than any other Democrat in Congress, described a repetitive drama that had played out for months (Weigel, Washington Post). He'd sit for productive conversations with the Trump administration, then watch as none of his ideas appeared in the Republican product. For a short while, some progressives worried that Manchin, and perhaps Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) would break and give Republicans some bipartisan cover. Those three Democrats, widely seen as the most vulnerable in 2018, had backed Neil M. Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination; they had played ball with Trump when he delivered speeches in their states, with Heitkamp even joining him on Air Force One. For weeks, they participated in talks with the White House, reporting back positively on what they'd discussed. But to progressives' delight, the White House never brought the red state Democrats on board. The problem was simple: White House negotiators would sound open to what the Democrats suggested, and then House and Senate Republicans would rush ahead with completely different ideas.

    ODDS OF GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN RISING: The odds of a government shutdown grew dramatically Tuesday as President Trump tweeted that he saw no path to a year-end deal with Democrats "Chuck and Nancy," who then promptly backed out of a meeting at the White House (Wong, The Hill). Shortly after Trump's "I don't see a deal!" tweet, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said they didn't see the point of sitting down with Trump. "If the President, who already said earlier this year that 'our country needs a good shutdown,' isn't interested in addressing the difficult year end agenda," the Democrats said in a statement, "we'll work with those Republicans who are, as we did in April." Later, at the White House, flanked by empty chairs with name cards for Schumer and Pelosi, Trump said he was "not surprised" by the move and accused the Democrats of being "all talk" and "no action."... The president said he would blame Schumer and Pelosi if the government shuts down... The blow-up sent shockwaves through Washington as lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and reporters openly wondered whether the coming holiday season would be consumed by a new crisis over government funding.

    HOLCOMB SAYS WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT STATE'S ACHILLES HEEL: Gov. Eric Holcomb called workforce development Indiana's Achilles heel Tuesday at a luncheon with the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce (Fulmore, Indiana Public Media). He says he hopes to increase workforce development by providing resources to create a talent pipeline in Indiana's schools. "I want local and regional communities to not just have the flexibility but the funding to be able to support the programs that are specific to your area," Holcomb says. Holcomb says it's time to focus on the 92,000 unfilled high demand jobs and giving students who attend college in Indiana an incentive to stay.

    AUTOMATION WILL REPLACE A THIRD OF JOBS BY 2030: A McKinsey Global Institute study out this morning says that massive government intervention will be required to hold societies together amid labor disruption over the next 13 years, Axios future editor Steve LeVine writes: Up to 800 million people — including a third of the work force in the U.S. and Germany — could be made jobless by 2030, the study says. Up to 30% of the hours worked globally may be automated by 2030. The bottom line: The economy of most countries will eventually replace the lost jobs, the study says. But many of the unemployed will need considerable help to shift to new work, and salaries could continue to flatline. Michael Chui, the report's lead author, tells Axios: "It's a Marshall Plan size of task."

    HOLCOMB GIVES STORES 60 DAYS TO PULL CBD OIL FROM SHELVES: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is directing state excise police to resume checking stores for marijuana-derived oils after the state's attorney general declared them illegal with one limited exception (Associated Press). Holcomb said in a statement Tuesday that excise police will "perform normal, periodic regulatory spot checks" of cannabidiol, or CBD, products. He says those checks will focus on products that contain THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The Indianapolis Star reported stores have 60 days to pull the products from their shelves. The recent opinion from Attorney General Curtis Hill states that substances containing CBD are illegal to possess, make and sell in Indiana under state and federal law. The opinion said the exception is CBD products that can be used by people with epilepsy who are on a new state registry.

    NORTH KOREA FIRES OFF FIRST MISSILE IN 2 MONTHS: North Korea test-fired a single ballistic missile towards the east in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time, South Korean authorities said, ending a more than two-month hiatus from Pyongyang and threatening to increase tensions with the U.S. and in the region (Wall Street Journal). The missile launch comes weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the region and roughly a week after he redesignated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror. Within six minutes of the North’s launch, South Korea responded with a simultaneous test-firing of surface, sea and air missiles, calibrated to the distance to the North Korean launch site but aimed towards the waters between Korea and Japan, the South’s Joint Chiefs said.

    NAVAJO NATION PRESIDENT BLASTS TRUMP ‘POCAHONTAS’ SLUR: The leader of the Navajo Nation said Tuesday that President Donald Trump used an ethnic slur when he called Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” during a White House event honoring Native American veterans (Politico). Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye told CNN that the president’s injection of a political attack during a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers was “uncalled for.” “This was a day to honor them, and to insert something like that — the word ‘Pocahontas’ as a jab to a senator — you know, that belongs on the campaign trail,” Begaye said. “That doesn’t belong in the room when our war heroes are being honored.” Trump, standing in front of a painting of President Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act, thanked the code talkers on Monday for their contributions to World War II and acknowledged that Native Americans “were here long before any of us were here — although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”

    SEN. GRAHAM SAYS U.S. HURTLING TOWARD WAR: Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday warned that the U.S. could be hurtling toward a war with North Korea “if things don’t change” after the country’s latest weapons test (Politico). Graham, an outspoken defense hawk, told CNN during an interview that he believes “every test puts them closer” to a military conflict. “We're headed toward a war if things don’t change,” he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

    TRUMP’S ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE: Advisers say [Trump] continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact," the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin report on A1: In recent months, ... Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud. Trump's journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain. Trump's friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, ... and of receiving 52 percent of the women's vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him. Questioning the "Access Hollywood" tape: Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording's authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign ... Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: President Trump now needs the votes of at least three Republican senators who he has spent much of the year insulting. His leading economic adviser Larry Kudlow declares in a Politico podcast “this is not a true tax reform bill,” the very bill that appears to be sucking in Sen. Todd Young who spent the early part of his career warning of large budget deficits. Trump insults Democratic congressional leaders with yet another ill-timed tweet, then holds a meeting aimed at heading off a government shutdown with two empty chairs beside him, and Republican leaders Ryan and McConnell arms length away and looking uncomfortable. Sen. Lindsey Graham warns that the United States is hurtling toward war with North Korea after Kim Jong Un fires off an incrementally longer—range missile. And the New York Times reports that Trump exists in an alternative universe, his mind mired in old conspiracy theories and insisting it’s not his voice on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video. As Rex Early might say in the alternative universe, “Wuh-oh.” - Brian A. Howey

  • SOURCES SAY GIAQUINTA MAY HAVE MOMENTUM TO REPLACE PELATH: Eight days after House Minority Leader Scott Pelath resigned his leadership post, House Democrats are expected to select a successor today and several sources say State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta may be in the best position (Howey Politics Indiana). They caucused on Organization Day last week but sources tell HPI no one had consolidated enough support to win the post. Those vying for the post are believed to be State Reps. Cherish Pryor, Ed DeLaney, Dan Forestal from Indianapolis, GiaQuinta from Fort Wayne, Terry Goodin from Crothersville, and Chuck Moseley from Portage. Reliable sources tell HPI that GiaQuinta appears to have late momentum to get to the necessary 15 votes. Pelath has told HPI sources he is as “neutral as Switzerland” and he will not vote “even though it’s a secret ballot to avoid even the appearance he has a favorite.”

    INTERNET IS ABOUT TO CHANGE: Everything from the way you use banking apps to the speed of your Netflix stream could soon be changing, if all goes to plan for the Federal Communications Commission (NBC News). The FCC's mission — essentially gutting the internet as we know it — would allow service providers to create so-called fast and slow lanes for subscribers. Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, announced on Tuesday a plan to put an end to what he called the federal government's "micromanaging" of the internet. Details of the proposal will be released on Wednesday, three weeks before it will be put to a vote by the FCC on Dec. 14. In short, net neutrality rules treat the internet like a utility, helping to control what consumers are charged and ensuring there is no paid prioritization — where internet service providers would be free to create so-called fast and slow lanes, allowing them to choose whether to block or slow certain websites and to charge more for better quality. "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet," Pai said in a statement. "Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."

    STATES BEGIN WINDING DOWN CHIP AS CONGRESS STALLS: Officials in nearly a dozen states are preparing to notify families that a crucial health insurance program for low-income children is running out of money for the first time since its creation two decades ago, putting coverage for many at risk by the end of the year (Washington Post). Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to extend funding for CHIP, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program is known. Nearly 9 million youngsters and 370,000 pregnant women nationwide receive care because of it. Many states have enough money to keep their individual programs afloat for at least a few months, but five could run out in late December if lawmakers do not act. Others will start to exhaust resources the following month. The looming crunch, which comes despite CHIP’s enduring popularity and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, has dismayed children’s health advocates. “We are very concerned, and the reason is that Congress hasn’t shown a strong ability to get stuff done,” said Bruce Lesley, president of Washington-based First Focus, a child and family advocacy organization. “And the administration is completely out, has not even uttered a syllable on the issue. How this gets resolved is really unclear, and states are beginning to hit deadlines.” Indiana would run out of funding next March, according to the Post.

    SENATE LEADERS DON’T HAVE 50 VOTES FOR TAX REFORM: With the Senate aiming for a tax vote late this week, White House and Senate aides express constant behind-the-scenes concern about three senators who are a) worried about the deficit, (b) wholly unbeholden to leadership and (c) relish the opportunity to snub President Trump (Swan, Axios). Sens. John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake all despise Trump, and aren't likely to face voters again. Senate leaders recently added a new name to the problem list: Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. He hasn't gone public with his concerns, but is withholding his support for the bill because he believes it favors corporations over other types of businesses. Other holdouts who are being lobbied: Susan Collins (Maine) and Ron Johnson (Wis.). Collins has constituents who love it when she bucks the party line. WashPo just posted a good piece on changes being considered to win over holdouts. Why it matters: Lose any three of those six — and several could move together — and tax cuts are dead. The bottom line: GOP leaders hoped to lock all of these folks down before Thanksgiving. But that didn't work: Leadership doesn't yet have 50 votes.

    CBO SCORE ON TAX REFORM PREDICTS $1.4T DEFICIT; POOR WORSE OFF: The Senate Republican tax plan gives substantial tax cuts and benefits to Americans earning more than $100,000 a year, while the nation's poorest would be worse off, according to a report released Sunday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (Washington Post). Republicans are aiming to have the full Senate vote on the tax plan as early as this week, but the new CBO analysis showing large, harmful effects on the poor may complicate those plans. The CBO also said the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade, a potential problem for Republican lawmakers worried about America's growing debt.

    YOUNG SAID TO VOICE CONCERNS ABOUT DEFICITS: Sen. Jeff Flake and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, another independent-minded Republican not running for reelection next year, have been among the most outspoken with their deficit concerns. So too, has Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a major wildcard for GOP leadership in the tax fight (New York Magazine). But other Republicans have gradually become more vocal about their own deficit worries, with Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and James Lankford of Oklahoma among them. GOP leaders can only lose two votes before the tax bill tanks. “My concern is, if you slow down to actually implement it, that’s one thing,” Lankford said. “But when you assume a sunset on something that you may or may not actually sunset, you may set up other tax fights that you have in the future, or set up additional deficit.”

    TRUMP TO MEET WITH LEADERS TO HEAD OFF SHUTDOWN: Congress will return to Washington, D.C., this week to confront a series of highly charged partisan issues as a deadline for extending government funding approaches, raising the specter of a December government shutdown (Washington Post). Leaders of both parties have publicly played down the possibility of a showdown next month. Funding expires Dec. 8, and both sides have floated the possibility of a short-term stopgap to push negotiations until just before Christmas. “There shouldn't be any discussion about shutting down the government. We can make this thing work. We just need to get people at the table, negotiate it,” Sen. John Thune, S.D., the third-ranking Republican senator, said on “Fox News Sunday.” But informal talks have been abortive, and bitter partisan divides over spending, health care and immigration threaten to set up an impasse. The tone could be set quickly. Congressional leaders of both parties are set to meet Tuesday with President Donald Trump at the White House in a summit that could smooth the path for the month ahead – or inflame simmering fights.

    GOP SENATORS REBUKE TRUMP ON MOORE: President Trump on Sunday drew criticism from fellow Republican lawmakers for his apparent support of Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, who has refused to drop out of the special election race despite mounting accusations of sexual misconduct (The Hill). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a prominent critic of Moore, described a losing situation for the GOP in the Alabama race, where Moore is slated to face off against Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12. “If you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you’re mistaken,” Graham said in a message to Trump during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Graham said the decision to back Moore is ultimately up to Trump, and said the president appears to be tossing “a lifeline” to Moore. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in his own Sunday interview stuck to the position that Moore should exit the race, saying he would back a Republican other than Moore if he were an Alabama voter. “I think that'd be better for the country and, you know, the election’s in a few weeks here, or in a couple weeks maybe, and, you know, there is a possibility for folks to do write-in candidates, so we’ll see but, no, I think it’d be best if he stepped aside,” Portman told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    TRUMP TWEETS SUPPORT FOR MOORE: Trump is arguing the GOP cannot afford to lose the Alabama seat currently held by Sen. Luther Strange. “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY. Jones would be a disaster!” Trump wrote on Twitter early Sunday.

    MORE CAPITOL HILL SEXUAL HARASSMENT SCANDALS COMING: Capitol Hill veterans expect that "a lot more" sexual-harassment settlements by lawmakers will be uncovered. So now there's a race to strengthen workplace rules that are scandalously archaic (Allen, Axios). The existing system is a racket: Settlements are secret, and the Ethics Committee is notorious for protecting its own. We — as in all of us taxpayers — pay the hush money, because that's who foots the bills for these settlements. Only a few lawmakers have publicly pushed for broad, quick change.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Hiking Prairie Creek State Park in the heart of Redwood country in Northern California was a virtual religious experience for me. The climax forests of the Midwest and particularly here in Indiana are only a tiny fraction of virgin acres still standing. Donaldson Woods Nature Preserve at Spring Mill State Park and Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula evoke are examples of old growth to climax forests that evoke passion. So it is worth questioning why the state would allow an old growth forest once protected at Yellowwood to be harvested, for a paltry sum of $108,000. Bobby Bartlett of Castlewood Corp. has offered the state $150,000 to preserve the 300-acre parcel where logging hasn’t occurred in the past 90 to 150 years. According to the Indiana Forest Alliance, 228 Hoosier scientists are urging this tract’s preservation, as well as tourism alliances in Indiana and Brown County, over concerns that Indiana is pre-empting the intermediate stages of forest growth, denying future generations the experience of walking climax forests. Gov. Eric Holcomb would be wise to walk these acres, take in the canopy, and talk with folks about what’s at stake. We’re not talking about tree-hugging here, but preserving a tiny portion of our natural history for our grandchildren. - Brian A. Howey

  • BRAUN RICHEST OF SENATE CANDIDATES: A candidate for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat representing Indiana reports assets ranging from roughly $37 million to nearly $95 million (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Former state representative Mike Braun of Jasper, who runs a nationwide auto parts distribution business, is by far the wealthiest of six Senate hopefuls in next year's election, according to the candidates' financial disclosure reports. Braun's estimated average net worth is nearly $66 million. The combined net worth of the other five candidates, including Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, is about $1.8 million, dragged down in large part by mortgage liabilities on several houses. Braun is founder and chief executive officer of Meyer Distributing and owner of a related trucking and warehousing company, Meyer Logistics. His net worth was exceeded by that of only four senators in 2015, according to rankings compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and based on financial disclosure reports required by Congress. Braun's report is for calendar year 2016. “I started my business over 35 years ago in my hometown with fewer than a dozen employees. As the result of hard work and God's blessing, my company expanded nationwide and helped thousands of families put food on their tables,” Braun said in an email to The Journal Gazette. “The American people need more businessmen and fewer career politicians serving them in Washington.”

    MADISON COUNTY CHAIRMAN ENDORSES ROKITA FOR SENATE: The chairman of the Madison County Republican Party has endorsed Todd Rokita for the party's nomination to oppose incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald Bulletin). Russ Willis announced Wednesday that he is endorsing Rokita for the nomination. Rokita, Luke Messer, Mike Braun and Mark Hurt are all declared candidates for the May primary election. "I believe Rokita is the best candidate," Willis said. "He has won two statewide races and did an excellent job as Secretary of State."

    GOP LOSSES IN VIRGINIA BUOY INDIANA DEMOCRATS' HOPES: There were no elections in November in Indiana, but Naomi Bechtold watched with excitement from her Hamilton County home as returns rolled in from Virginia (Colombo, IBJ). Bechtold is mounting a first-time and long-shot bid for the Legislature in 2018, taking on incumbent Rep. Donna Schaibley in a district that hasn't had a Democratic challenger in several cycles. On Nov. 7, Virginia gave Bechtold—and other Democrats across Indiana—reason to hope. Democrats there outperformed expectations, picking up at least a dozen seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and grabbing the attention of political observers nationwide. Bechtold—who said she's been "building the plane as I've been flying it"—found the results encouraging. "There's a tremendous amount of opportunity to eliminate the [GOP] supermajority in our Statehouse," said Bechtold, a Purdue Extension educator.

    PROSECUTOR URGES CHANGE IN SEXUAL BATTERY LAW: The timing might be less than perfect for Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold's call to potentially reduce penalties faced by some sex offenders (Walker, Muncie Star Press). Since allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein were made public in October, seemingly every day national media reports have focused on another politician, Hollywood star or news personality who has become the target of claims of inappropriate sexual conduct. “No means no,” he said. “Everybody needs to understand that.” In many such cases, the applicable crime under Indiana law would be sexual battery, a felony. And state law also mandates that anyone convicted of sexual battery be required to register as sex offender, in the communities where they live and work, for a decade. “It is an automatic registry crime,” Arnold said. “If you're convicted of that, you’ve got to register as a sex offender. “That’s pretty harsh for a party where things got out of hand, in my opinion. ... When I see a consensual use of drugs and alcohol from both sides, I think you have to take that into consideration.” He believes prosecutors should have an option to file a sexual battery count as a misdemeanor, with the felony charge reserved for the more egregious of offenders. He also feels in sexual battery cases, judges should determine whether defendants are placed on the statewide registry.

    DOE WARNS OF FUNDING SHORTFALL: The state Department of Education is warning Indiana public schools that they could receive less money than expected because of an unanticipated increase in statewide student enrollment (Associated Press). A department memo described a shortfall of $9.3 million in per-student funding because the Legislature underestimated the number of public school students by about 6,000 when it approved the $7 billion K-12 education budget for this school year. Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith said some districts—especially those in rural areas—will truly suffer as a result. "Any cut is a cut, at this point, that I don't think they can withstand," she said. "The Legislature needs to fund the commitment made to public schools." Senate President Pro Tem David Long said Tuesday that he expected the Legislature to address the shortfall during the session starting in January, even though the state's two-year state budget was adopted in April. "We're going to have to wait and see some numbers and verify some things," Long said. "But we have every intention of trying to fix that problem for our schools." Schools have reported about 6,000 students more than the some 1 million projected when the Republican-dominated General Assembly approved the state budget. The potential shortfalls vary widely, with the state's two largest school districts—Indianapolis Public Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools—projected to lose about $300,000. Smaller districts could lose less than $20,000.

    MANUFACTURERS PROPOSE WORKER INCENTIVES: The 3.9 percent unemployment rate Indiana is making it difficult for manufacturers in the state to find workers, especially those qualified in the in the high-tech field. The NWI Times reports the Indiana Manufacturers Association proposed giving people incentives to move to the state to solve their workforce woes. The association's president, Brian Burton, recently proposed the idea at the 2017 Northwest Indiana Business Roundtable and Construction Advancement Foundation's Business & Economic Outlook at Ivy Tech in Valparaiso. The association says it also plans to lobby the legislature next year for financial incentives like state income tax credit for people to relocate to Indiana to work in high-demand industrial areas. It also seeks to further develop the workforce by encouraging high school career counselors to push students toward manufacturing.

    DECEMBER COULD MAKE OR BREAK TRUMP PRESIDENCY: Donald Trump is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office. Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark, especially if they came into office with unified control of the government, as Trump and his party did (Lizza, New Yorker). Presidents in the first year of their first term are often at the peak of their popularity, have the biggest margins in Congress, and are free from the scandals and intense partisanship that start to gather around them later and make governing ever more difficult. By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump is governing well below the optimal levels of recent successful first-year Presidents. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. And he, so far, has no major legislative accomplishments. He looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. All of this makes December crucial for the White House. From now until the New Year, Congress will be jammed with legislative activity that may make or break Trump’s first year in office. Most of the attention has focussed on Trump’s tax-cut legislation, which is deeply unpopular according to public-opinion polls but which Republicans believe is essential to pass in order for them to have something to show for the year. But there are many other politically consequential bills that must be passed in the weeks ahead. On December 8th, the money to fund the federal government runs out.

    SENATE TO VOTE ON TAX PLAN THIS WEEK: As Congress returns from Thanksgiving break, lawmakers face a busy week with an expected Senate vote on tax legislation, a visit from President Donald Trump and continued headlines over allegations of sexual assault (Associated Press). Trump will make the short trip on Tuesday to Capitol Hill to address Senate Republicans at their weekly policy lunch, where he'll address the tax bill and other items on the fall legislative agenda. This will mark his third appearance before Republicans at the Capitol in a little over a month.

    TRUE SENATE DEFICIT HAWKS FRET OVER TAX BILL: The GOP has yet to resolve an internal clash over whether expiring tax cuts will really expire, potentially threatening the party’s push for a desperately-needed legislative achievement (Politico). On one side are the White House and top congressional Republicans, who argue that ultimately all the tax cuts in their plan will be extended, even the ones slated to lapse. But that’s exactly what the party’s small, but mighty, bloc of deficit hawks is afraid of. And as the Senate steams toward a vote next week on its massive tax overhaul, the fight over the bill’s true sticker price may be the deciding factor for the bill. It was bad enough, in the deficit hawks’ view, that key provisions in the House bill expire in five years and that lawmakers already assume they’ll get extended. But their concerns multiplied after the revised Senate GOP tax plan proposed winding down a host of popular tax cuts for individuals after 2025. The tax cuts were made temporary to trim the official cost of the bill, but deficit hawks fear Congress will simply extend them — further adding to the government’s red ink. “The savings, the score, it just isn’t valid because you know that they’re not going to follow through,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an avowed fiscal conservative, said in a recent interview. “You can’t assume that we’ll grow a backbone later. If we can’t do it now, then it’s tough to do it later.”

    BUSH41 LONGEST LIVING PRESIDENT: Former President George H.W. Bush can check off his list another milestone: As of Saturday, he became the longest-living president at the age of 93 years and 166 days (ABC News). The 41st president surpassed Gerald Ford, who lived to be 93 years and 165 days, according to Gabe Fleisher of the "Wake up to Politics" newsletter, who was first to point out the presidential milestone on Twitter. Among living presidents, Jimmy Carter is not far behind, clocking in at 93 years and 55 days.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: This is a big week for Congress with the Senate poised for a vote on tax reform and conversations get serious about avoiding a government shutdown. But the moose on the table are the array of investigations on sexual harassment by members of Congress, and it will be fascinating to see if that eclipses policy making. - Brian A. Howey

  • HOUSE DEMOCRATS IN NO HURRY TO REPLACE PELATH: When Speaker Michael K. Phillips was upset in the 1994 general election, John Gregg and his team secured the top Democratic leadership post before the sun rose the next morning. But on Tuesday at Organization Day just two days after Minority Leader Scott Pelath announced he would step down, no new leader emerged. It’s not even clear if a vote was taken (Howey Politics Indiana). State Rep. Earl Harris Jr., told HPI that the decision was delayed with next Monday the projected caucus date. Sources tell HPI that it appears none of the contenders - State Reps. Cherish Pryor, Ed DeLaney, Dan Forestal, Phil GiaQuinta, Terry Goodin and Chuck Moseley - could muster enough votes. “We gave them a speech today, our caucus, on how to be nice to one another, how to treat one another. It may not be our candidate but we’re in this together,” Minority Floor Leader Linda Lawson told Indiana Public Media. If there was any unanimity on Tuesday, it was Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma who praised Pelath. “In contrast to Washington D.C., we have focused on policy and not disagreement,” Bosma said. “Thanks to you for working together.” The chamber then gave Pelath a standing ovation.

    PRESIDENT SIGNS DONNELLY'S VETERAN OPIOID ABUSE BILL: Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), and in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-2) and Congressman Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), was signed into law by President Trump, Donnelly's office announced (Howey Politics Indiana). The VA Prescription Data Accountability Act will clarify current law to allow the VA to share data with state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) for patients who are prescribed opioids by VA providers, including both veterans and their dependents.

    LONG, BOSMA AGREE OPIOID CRISIS IS A TOP PRIORITY: Senate President David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma both told their chambers on Organization Day that the opioid crisis poses severe challenges for the state and both anticipate working with Gov. Eric Holcomb (Howey Politics Indiana). “The opioid crisis is a huge issue for us. This is an unprecedented problem,” Long said. “We all have to be all in on this as a society. We need more treatment centers. We need more programs to spur recovery. We need to crack down on dealers, gangs and cartels who are pouring heroin over our borders. And, yes, we need more money to deal with the problem. This will be an issue that will be a burden on all of us and all of society for years to come. We must all do what we can do.” Bosma told his chamber, “We have a real opioid crisis and mental health crisis in this state right now. If we don’t have enough workers who can pass a drug test, we still have a big problem. Roughly 100 Hoosiers die each month, most from opioids.”

    LAWMAKERS TO TARGET SCHOOL FUNDING GAP: The state needs to shuffle money during the upcoming legislative session to meet school funding needs it failed to foresee. Due to an unexpected increase in public school enrollment, lawmakers have to fill a more than $9 million gap (Lindsay, Indiana Public Media). Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says it’s a top priority once the session begins. “It’s not a bad problem – we have more kids going into to public schools than we did last year,” Long says. “But it’s a challenge for us only in the sense we need to adjust our numbers.” Lawmakers had previously estimated lower enrollment during last year’s budget session. But Long added that a number of factors could have contributed to the unexpected increase. “We don’t know if it’s coming from public school transfers with people coming from private schools, just from an unusual birth rate that year and more kids are coming into school this year than anticipated,” he says.

    HPI WEEKLY COMING NEXT TUESDAY: The next weekly edition of Howey Politics Indiana will be published next Tuesday morning. This will be the final HPI Daily Wire of this week as we take a break to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and friends. The HPI website will be updated throughout the holiday weekend. Have a great and safe holiday, folks, and thanks for reading.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL HILL SAYS CBD OIL ‘ILLEGAL’: Attorney General Curtis Hill declared that CBD oils are illegal in Indiana (Howey Politics Indiana). “Over recent weeks, I’ve worked with my staff to develop an advisory opinion regarding the status under Indiana law of the chemical compound cannabidiol – better known as ‘CBD.’ Cannabidiol is one of the most prevalent chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, otherwise known as marijuana. This issue has drawn public attention this year following law-enforcement actions against Indiana stores marketing and selling ‘CBD oil,’ a substance delivered to consumers in dropper bottles, sprays or mists – all generally to be taken orally. My task at this juncture is not to express my personal view of what I believe the law ought to stipulate. My task, rather, is to help provide clarity regarding what the law already says as written. There is no doubt, as a matter of legal interpretation, that products or substances marketed generally for human consumption or ingestion, and containing cannabidiol, remain unlawful in Indiana as well as under federal law. Indiana law does allow for a limited and focused exception created by House Enrolled Act 1148, signed earlier this year, aimed at individuals battling treatment-resistant epilepsy. This legislation pertains specifically to individuals properly added to the newly created Indiana State Department of Health Cannabidiol Registry.”

    SENS. TOMES, DORIOT TO RESPOND WITH CBD LEGISLATION:  State Sens. Jim Tomes and Blake Doriot responded to Attorney General Hill’s CBD ruling by saying they will file legislation to “clarify” the issue (Howey Politics Indiana). In a joint statment, Tomes and Doriot said, “Today, Attorney General Curtis Hill released an opinion stating the chemical compound cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD oil, and the products or substances marketed for human consumption containing CBD oil remain unlawful. The only exception are those individuals who are battling epilepsy and are on the newly created Indiana State Department of Health Cannabidiol Registry. There is still a lot of misunderstanding regarding what CBD oil is, where it comes from and what it does. CBD oil does not create a “high,” but what it can do is help those who suffer from multiple seizures a day. There will be legislation introduced in the upcoming 2018 legislative session to clarify who can sell and buy CDB oil, in addition to expanding limitations to those with a treatment resistant medical condition.”

    TRUMP THROWS ROY MOORE A LIFELINE: President Trump was asked about whether he was backing Republican Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, a man whom nine women, including one who was age 14 at the time, have accused of either sexual harassment or assault (Howey Politics Indiana). Trump responded, “If you look at what is really going on, and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him also. I do have to say, 40 years is a long time. He has run eight races, and this has never come up." Trump is siding with an alleged pedophile over a “Democrat” because he needs the votes in the Senate to pass his tax reform plan. “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat Jones — I've looked at his record,” Trump said. “It's terrible on crime. It's terrible on the border. It's terrible on the military.” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway adds, “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.” The media asked him about whether this was a “pivotal moment in sexual assault” on American women, with a PBS/NPR/Marist Poll showing that 35% have been sexually harassed in the workplace. President Trump responded, “Women are very special. I think it’s a very special time, a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society and I think it’s very very good for women, and I’m very happy these things are coming out.”

    ‘WE DON’T BELIEVE THESE WOMEN’ SAYS MOORE CAMPAIGN: Spokespeople for Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore denied the allegations against the candidate at an event on Tuesday, refusing to answer questions as women come forward about Moore's past (CNN). "We believe Judge Moore," Moore campaign strategist Dean Young said. "We don't believe these women. It's just that simple. And y'all can keep trotting them out if you want to." Ben DuPré, who identified himself as a longtime Moore ally and billed the event as a news conference, said the former judge is "above reproach." "We don't believe a word of these lies," DuPré said of the allegations.

    CBS, PBS FIRE CHARLIE ROSE: PBS said Tuesday it was parting ways with Charlie Rose and CBS announced it fired the 75-year-old broadcaster for “extremely disturbing and intolerable behavior” following an extensive Washington Post report that detailed his alleged unwanted sexual advances toward women (Washington Post). His firing was announced by CBS News President David Rhodes, who wrote in a midday memo to the network’s staff that it was “effective immediately.” “Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace — a supportive environment where people feel they can do their best work,” Rhodes wrote. “We need to be such a place.” PBS terminated its relationship with Rose and canceled distribution of his programs “in light of yesterday’s revelations,” spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne said in a statement.

    PENCE VISITS COST COLUMBUS: There's pride in being the hometown of the vice president. But there's also a cost. The Columbus police and fire departments are running out of budgeted overtime pay to cover visits by Vice President Pence (IndyStar). The city council will consider Tuesday an ordinance increasing the overtime budgetsfor the departments by a combined $70,000. That's about an 18 percent increase in the $390,388 initially approved for overtime pay this year. The ordinance says the extra funding is needed because of "unanticipated overtime events related to vice-presidential visits to our city." But Columbus Mayor James Lienhoop said only about half the extra cost is related to Pence visits. And, he added, the expense is "well within our ability to manage." "It’s a good problem to have," Lienhoop said. "We’re proud of Mike and pleased to be able to participate in some small way to his service to our country."

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Americans have often looked to the White House for civic and moral clarity or reassurance. President Trump was asked about whether he was backing Republican Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, a man whom nine women, including one who was age 14 at the time, have accused of either sexual harassment or assault. Trump responded, “If you look at what is really going on, and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen." So Trump is siding with an alleged pedophile. The media asked him about whether this was a “pivotal moment in sexual assault” on American women, President Trump responded, “Women are very special. I think it’s a very special time, a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society and I think it’s very very good for women.” Meanwhile, the Moore campaign flatly states “We don’t believe these women.” So there you go. These will be the soundbites of 2018. If Republicans are wondering why female challengers are coming out in droves for the 2018 mid-terms, finding real traction earlier this month in their Virginia House of Delegate races, here’s your Exhibit A. - Brian A. Howey

  • PELATH WON’T ENDORSE SUCCESSOR: Out-going House Minority Leader Scott Pelath will not endorse a successor who will be chosen during Organization Day on Tuesday. But the Michigan City Democrat believes his timing to step down from leadership was right, the caucus has a deep bench, and his party can retake the majority if an anti-Trump wave develops and enough challengers wage credible campaigns leading into November 2018 (Howey Politics Indiana). “You have to remember five years ago Glenda Ritz won 74 different House districts,” Pelath said of former the former superintendent who upset Republican incumbent Tony Bennett in 2012. “There’s a lot of places where people are willing to vote for the right kind of Democrat who matches the district. Sen. Donnelly won half of the Indiana legislative districts in the House when he ran the last time. So what’s key is you have to create a larger vision and a broader environment and sometimes that argues for a little less targeting, having a lot of good people running in a lot of areas. Given the frustrations with Washington, some of them are going to win if they just run a good race.” Asked by HPI if he would endorse a successor, Pelath said, “No, I’m not, for a very simple reason there are many people who I know very well who have all the right capabilities to do the job.  They all have different skill sets like all human beings have pluses and minuses and it’s up to the caucus to pick what pluses they want. And then it’s up to the other caucus members to help with the minuses. That’s what a team is and none of these things work without a team, regardless of how good of a leader you have.” Pelath defended his decision, saying, “I will not sell out my caucus with a lame duck leader. It’s an extraordinarily important election cycle and I knew unambiguously that  was the right thing to do. When everyone knows you’re not coming back, people stop listening to you as much, they’re not exactly who they’re supporting and that uncertainty is not good. Even for the caucus members sorry to see me go I made it very clear that was the right decision. They will pick a new and energetic leader and that will be good for the caucus.”

    NO CLEAR FAVORITE FOR TODAY’S DEM CAUCUS: Pelath shocked his party on Sunday when he announced he was stepping down from leadership and would not seek reelection in 2018. His decision set off a scramble with a number of Democratic sources telling HPI that State Reps. Cherish Pryor, Ed DeLaney and Dan Forestal of Indianapolis, Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne, Assistant Minority Leader Chuck Moseley of Portage and Terry Goodin of Crothersville are in the running. House Whip Terri Austin told the Anderson Herald-Bulletin she will not seek the post.  As of Monday afternoon, no clear favorite had emerged. The Black Caucus is expected to back Pryor, sensing its first opportunity to hold one of the four caucus leadership positions in the state's 201 year history. Forestal is seen as an energetic rising star, Austin and Moseley are running as a continuum of current leadership and Goodin is one of the few Democrats representing a rural district. Legislative Democrats have been mostly relegated to Indianapolis, Lake and St. Joseph counties, and university cities.

    BOSMA BACKS SUNDAY SALES: House Speaker Brian Bosma said Monday that he backs Sunday alcohol sales (Howey Politics Indiana). “I’m anxiously awaiting the commission’s findings on all of those issues. Last year we enacted that legislation and I don’t want to make pronouncements to try and set the agenda,” Bosma said. “I have long been a proponent of Sunday sales. There is no good reason for us to not allow that in some fashion. Actually I enjoy a cold beer every once in awhile and did so yesterday when I was cleaning out my garage.” As for cold beer, Bosma said, “I’m smart enough to buy it at a package store Monday through Saturday.”

    HOUSE GOP TAX BILL ADDS $1.3 TRILLION TO DEFICIT: The tax reform bill House Republicans passed last week would not produce enough economic growth to fully offset the more-than-trillion-dollar revenue losses produced by the measure, according to an analysis from the Tax Policy Center (Jagoda, The Hill). The cost of the legislation would go from $1.436 trillion before accounting for economic growth to $1.266 trillion after factoring them in, the TPC said in a report released Monday. The TPC's findings contrast with comments Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made in the past; Mnuchin and other GOP officials have argued that tax legislation would pay for itself through growth and eliminating deductions.

    BROOKS, ROKITA EXPECT TAX REFORM TO PASS: Two members of Indiana's congressional delegation are optimistic tax reform legislation will be enacted before the end of the year (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald Bulletin). Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th District, and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th District, both expect the first tax reform legislation to be adopted in three decades will provide a savings to middle-class families and small businesses. Brooks was in Pendleton on Monday to meet with area residents and believes the momentum from the House passage of tax reform legislation last week will carry over to the Senate. "I'm very optimistic," she said. "I think the Senate will pull together. There is a good chance of passage because, unlike health care reform, the leadership in both chambers are in sync when it comes to timing." Rokita said the Senate shouldn't change a thing in the bill passed by the House. "This will create jobs and is targeting working families making less than $50,000," he said.

    MICHIGAN VOTE LIKELY ON LEGALIZING RECREATIONAL POT USE: Organizers of a ballot drive to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan submitted 365,000 signatures to the state Monday, which appears to be more than enough to qualify the initiative for a statewide vote in 2018 (Eggert, South Bend Tribune). The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said the prohibition against recreational marijuana is "a massive failure." Michigan has allowed medical marijuana use for nearly a decade. If the new proposal were to make the ballot and win voter approval, it would make Michigan the ninth state to legalize the drug for recreational use.

    CORFMAN DESCRIBES MOORE ASSAULT: One of the women accusing Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when she was in her teens is calling him out on his denials (CNN). After Leigh Corfman told The Washington Postthat Moore molested her when she was 14 and he was in his 30s, Moore claimed that he didn't know her. "I wonder how many me's he doesn't know," Corfman responded on NBC's "Today" Monday morning. Moore has continually denied allegations from a number of women who have come forward accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct. "They're not only untrue, but they have no evidence to support them," Moore said in Birmingham, Alabama on Friday. On "Today," Corfman described two encounters with Moore, who brought her to his home. "I wouldn't exactly call it a date. It was a meet. At 14, I was not dating. At 14, I was not able to make those kind of choices," she said. On a second "meet," Corfman said Moore "laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to seduce" her, touching her inappropriately and eventually trying to get her to touch him. Corfman said she spoke with family and friends years before speaking to the Post. Between 2000 and 2001, she approached her children about possibly confronting Moore about the incident. She said, "they were afraid that, with all of their social connections that they would be castigated from their groups."

    CONWAY SAYS TRUMP NEEDS MOORE’S VOTE ON TAX REFORM: During an interview in which White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was attacking Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones, she was asked by Fox News' "Fox & Friends" whether she was saying Alabamans should vote for Moore (CBS News). "Folks, don't be fooled. He'll be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime. Weak on borders. He's strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners," Conway told Fox & Friends. "And Doug Jones is a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he's not saying anything and why the media are trying to boost him."  Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked her, "So, vote Roy Moore?" "I'm telling you, we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through," Conway responded,

    8 WOMEN ACCUSE CHARLIE ROSE OF GROPING, HARASSMENT: Charlie Rose is the latest public figure to be felled by sexual misconduct allegations, with PBS halting distribution of his nightly interview show and CBS News suspending him Monday following a Washington Post report with the accusations of eight women (Associated Press). The women, who all worked for Rose or tried to work for him, accused the veteran newsman of groping them, walking naked in front of them and telling one that he dreamed about her swimming nude. Rose, 75, said in a statement that he was “deeply embarrassed” and apologized for his behavior. “PBS was shocked to learn today of these deeply disturbing allegations,” the public broadcasting service said in a statement. “We are immediately suspending distribution of ‘Charlie Rose.'” Three women went on the record in the Post’s deeply-reported story. Reah Bravo, a former associate producer for Rose’s PBS show who began working for him in 2007, told the newspaper: “He was a sexual predator, and I was his victim.” She said Rose groped her on multiple occasions and once, during a business trip to Indiana, called her to his hotel room where he emerged from a shower naked. Kyle Godfrey-Ryan, one of Rose’s former assistants, was 21 when she said Rose repeatedly called her to describe his fantasies of her swimming naked at the pool at his Long Island home while he watched from his bedroom. She said she was fired when Rose learned she had spoken to a mutual friend about his behavior.

    THE GREAT RECKONING: In 12 short hours, elites lost their star anchorman, the New York Times benched a star Trump reporter, and Congress moved one step closer to losing a star Democratic senator — and possibly inheriting a Republican senator who may be booted. Plus the longest-serving Democratic congressman used money to hide harassment charges (Allen, Axios). All from sexual impulses and actions, uncontrolled and unwanted. Spoiler alert: Many more allegations are coming. The morning began with a second accuser of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who had already been resisting calls to resign from "deeply disappointed supporters" and prominent party members back home. At 10:30 a.m., during a weekly news meeting of the N.Y. Times Washington bureau, Vox published its long-rumored article on Glenn Thrush, who was suspended and says he "will soon begin outpatient treatment for alcoholism." His paper reported: "The meeting came to a halt as everyone stopped to read the article." Then, the bookend ... At 4:45 p.m., a Washington Post news alert: "Eight women say longtime TV host Charlie Rose sexually harassed them — with nudity, groping and lewd calls." Rose has a uniquely broad empire, but instantly lost control: PBS and Bloomberg suspended distribution of his shows, and CBS suspended him as morning co-anchor. His 6 p.m. airing on Bloomberg TV was replaced by "Daybreak Asia." A Roy Moore accuser went on air with the "Today" show — but Moore keeps tacit backing from the White House, which says the voters of Alabama should decide his fate. And last night, BuzzFeed posted: "Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not 'succumb to [his] sexual advances.'" Why it matters: The speed and sweep of this are unmatched in social history.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Whew. The sexual harassment social paradigm is now spinning in ways few could have imagined just weeks ago, particularly when the Charlie Rose news hit with a thunderclap Monday afternoon. This “reckoning” has been a long time coming, but having said that, some of these instances are not just black and white situations, but contain a lot of gray area. What are the emerging standards for proof and corroboration? Do we treat Al Franken’s groping the same as Roy Moore, an alleged pedophile? Note the word “alleged,” a staple of responsible journalist designating that a charge remains without demonstrable proof. Is there room for redemption for ribald events occurring 30 years ago when social norms were different? When both men and women acted differently from how they conduct themselves today? Many women I know believe this reckoning is long overdue and deserved, having experienced awkward and painful situations. And yet, I know some women who could act in a vindictive manner for political or professional payback. In this environment, an allegation has the potential of ending a career. I’m not trying to equivocate here, just raising the complexities of an emerging scenario, something that deserves much thought. - Brian A. Howey

  • PELATH RESIGNS FROM LEADERSHIP; WON’T SEEK REELECTION: House Minority Leader Scott Pelath announced Sunday afternoon he will resign his leadership position this week. The announcement also said he would not seek reelection in 2018 (Howey Politics Indiana). In a letter emailed to House Democrats today, Pelath said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He and his wife Laura just had a new baby boy, Leo. “I have always viewed the position of leader as pure service, not one of grandiosity or ambition,” he said. Pelath was first elected to represent the 9th District in 1998. Almost immediately, he made a mark in the Legislature as a procedural expert guiding the flow of legislation, and through his service on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he was instrumental in overseeing funding for countless state priorities. In 2012, he was elected House Democratic Leader by his colleagues. His legislative highlights include passage of the Great Lakes Water Use Compact, which helps protect the water in every state and Canadian province that border the Great Lakes. During the past session, Pelath was instrumental in passage of legislation designed to enhance economic opportunities along the South Shore Line in Northwest Indiana. He works as a human resources director at the Swanson Center in Michigan City.

    GIAQUNITA, PRYOR, FORESTAL CONTENDERS: Informed and reliable Democratic sources tell Howey Politics Indiana that State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne, and Rep. Cherish Pryor of Indianapolis could be leading contenders, although the current leader views Indianapolis Rep. Dan Forestal as a rising star. Pryor could have an edge as the Black Caucus will likely view this as an opportunity to break into General Assembly leadership that has been dominated by white males in modern Hoosier politics. The NWI Times reports that others likely up for the job include Democratic Whip Terri Austin, D-Anderson; state Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis; Assistant Floor Leader Chuck Moseley, D-Portage; and Bauer. The stakes for the next leader are huge. Democrats must make inroads into the House and Senate where the party holds just 30 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate. While Senate Democrats appear to be making credible runs in five or six districts, Indiana Democrats haven’t been able to provide a list of emerging House Democratic challengers to HPI, though Chairman John Zody is promising such a disclosure soon. “He’s been out there on the stump recruiting candidates,” Friedman said. “Hopefully they will be make disclosure soon.” Friedman said that Pelath told him a couple weeks ago that “He thought very much with the wind at our backs, it’s critical to field candidates in all these districts. He said, ‘If you catch lightning in a bottle, you’re back in the majority.’” The “lightning in a bottle” is the kind of wave elections that occurred with the LBJ landslide in 1964 or the anti-Watergate lashback in 1974 where Indiana Democrats went from puny minorities to retaking chambers. The election in Virginia earlier this month where Democrats stormed back to erase a huge GOP majority in the House of Delegates has Democrats hopeful for 2018. President Trump is mired in the mid-30th percentile in job approval and there is the Russia collusion scandal brewing, and legislative failures on health care.

    PELATH EXITS AT CRITICAL TIME FOR DEMOCRATS: Sunday’s bombshell that House Minority Leader Scott Pelath would step down from that post and not seek reelection next year comes at an absolutely critical time for General Assembly Democrats. They face two critical election cycles in an attempt to erase Republican super majorities in the House and Senate and then the redistricting process in 2021 (Howey Politics Indiana). With a potential anti-Trump wave poised for 2018, Pelath was seen as a critical player in this comeback. But this weekend, Pelath was consumed by family issues with a new baby son and his mother Becky in declining health after suffering a stroke. “He told me he was strongly considering it on Saturday,” said former LaPorte County Democratic chairman Shaw Friedman. “He confirmed it to me this morning. He has served with extraordinary dedication and commitment, but it is understandably difficult with a new young son and his mother’s declining health and that was becoming a real problem for him. The fatigue and travel for this job are extraordinary.” “I have always viewed the position of leader as pure service, not one of grandiosity or ambition,” said Pelath, who will leave his leadership post on Tuesday during Organization Day and not seek reelection in 2018. Pelath was elected to HD9 in the Michigan City/LaPorte area in 1998, then was elected caucus leader in 2012 after Democrats deposed long-time leader B. Patrick Bauer, temporarily installing State Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond. Pelath was then elected by the caucus with Lawson’s blessing. Lawson is expected to retire, with sources telling HPI she is recruiting a successor.

    LAWSON PLEADED WITH PELATH TO STAY ON: State Rep. Linda Lawson said Minority Leader Scott Pelath's decision to quit as leader puts House Democrats in a difficult spot going into the 2018 election cycle, which had looked like a promising opportunity to grow the caucus toward regaining a majority — provided it successfully raised money throughout the year (Carden, NWI Times). "Scott has been our leader and he's got a good name with labor and other contributors, so it would be great if he stuck around until (next) November," Lawson said. "I pleaded with him and it didn't do any good so we have to move on from that." Lawson said she understands Pelath's desire to spend more time at home and his reluctance to continue as leader because, "It's a big job." "It's not just raising money, it's dealing with staff issues, it's dealing with the legislators themselves and their personal issues and their concerns, it's traveling all over the state and it's keeping your own life in order," Lawson said. "It's multifaceted and it's huge."

    MULVANEY COUNTS ON ‘GIMMICK’ TO GET TAX REFORM PASSED: The White House budget director on Sunday said Republicans may need to "game the system" to get their tax plan through the Senate (NBC News). The Republican tax plan, which passed the House on Thursday, now faces major hurdles in the Senate partially stemming from a provision to repeal the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said on CNN Sunday that the Trump administration is open to dropping the mandate repeal if impedes passing the legislation. Under the GOP tax plan, tax cuts for corporations would not have an expiration date, but the cuts for individuals expire after ten years – a fact Mulvaney admitted on Sunday was a “gimmick” to ensure the legislation adheres to the Senate’s strict rules that allow them to pass it with 50 votes instead of 60. “In order to do that, the certain proposals can only have certain economic impact,” Mulvaney said on “Meet The Press.” “One of the ways to game the system is to make things expire," Mulvaney said. "The Bush tax cuts back in early 2000 did the same thing. They supposedly would expire after nine years. What we tell folks is this is if it's good policy, it will become permanent. If it's bad policy, it will become temporary.” "A lot of this is a gimmick. Obamacare was a gimmick to get through these rules in the Senate. And what you should really be looking at is the policies themselves. And we think these are excellent policies," Mulvaney added.

    EXPLODING COSTS OF OPIOID CRISIS: The White House says the true cost of the opioid drug epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, or roughly half a trillion dollars (Associated Press). The Council of Economic Advisers says the figure is more than six times larger than the most recent estimate. The council said a 2016 private study estimated that prescription opioid overdoes, abuse and dependence in the U.S. in 2013 cost $78.5 billion. The council said its estimate is significantly larger because the epidemic has worsened, with overdose deaths doubling in the past decade, and that some previous studies didn't reflect the number of fatalities blamed on opioids, a powerful but addictive category of painkillers.

    CBS ‘SUNDAY MORNING’ FEATURES CONNERSVILLE SCHOOLS: A ”CBS Sunday Morning" segment by correspondent Lee Cowan that was loaded with eye-opening changes aimed at reducing "lunch shaming" of poor, hungry kids (Allen, Axios): This is smart: In Connersville, Ind. (Fayette County schools), every school starts every day offering every child a free breakfast, regardless of family income. Students eat in the classroom, not in the cafeteria. The high school offers a Second Chance Breakfast for teens who get hungry later in the morning. And there's an after-school supper program: "Elementary school kids get a hot dinner, and a movie while they eat.

    CHARLES MANSON DIES: Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83 (Associated Press). Manson, whose name to this day is synonymous with unspeakable violence and madness, died of natural causes at Kern County hospital, according to a California Department of Corrections statement. A petty criminal who had been in and out of jail since childhood in Indianapolis, the charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of L.A.'s rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song "Helter Skelter." The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California's Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement and seemed to mark the death of the era of peace and love.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: We published a Sunday HPI Daily Wire yesterday, part of our product expansion, providing additional coverage of political events over the weekend. It’s the beginning of an array of new HPI services, contributors and events that will be unveiled in the coming days and weeks. Don’t forget to go to the Apple App Store or Google Play and download the new HPI Mobile, where you can read today’s HPI Daily Wire formatted for your smartphone. It’s free for HPI subscribers. - Brian A. Howey

  • TOP NUKE COMMANDER PREPARED TO PUSH BACK AT TRUMP: The top US nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against an order from President Donald Trump for a nuclear strike if it were "illegal" (CNN). Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada, Gen. John Hyten, who is the commander of US Strategic Command, shared what would happen if he were ordered to launch a nuclear strike. "I provide advice to the President," Hyten said. "He'll tell me what to do, and if it's illegal, guess what's going to happen? I'm gonna say, 'Mr. President, that's illegal.' Guess what he's going to do? He's going to say, 'What would be legal?' And we'll come up with options of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that's the way it works. It's not that complicated." While the President retains that authority, Hyten publicly emphasized that the US military always has the obligation to follow only legal orders, including those entailing the launch of nuclear weapons.

    TAMM, MONAHAN DEFEND ALCOHOL DEAL: Grant Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council and Patrick Tamm of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers explained their deal on Sunday sales to Gary Dick’s Inside Indiana Business on Sunday, saying they believe it will end the “alcohol wars at the Statehouse” (Howey Politics Indiana). “Our members, we listened to our consumers,” Tamm said. We’re working together for Hoosier consumers to deliver Sunday sales. We have a very straightforward Sunday sales bill,” Tamm said. Monahan of the Indiana Retail Council said, “Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week. It makes no sense at all why Hoosiers families shouldn’t be able to pick up a bottle or wine or a six pack of beer on Sunday. We’re glad to work with Patrick and his leadership to get that done. I think this puts to the end the alcohol wars at the Statehouse.” Rickers CEO Jay Ricker called it a “corrupt bargain.” Tamm explained, “Hoosiers want solutions and what we’re doing here and taking two trade associations … and we’re looking for solutions. What we’re delivering here is Sunday sales.

    75K OPIOID USERS CAST INDIANA JOBS PROBLEM: During an annual economic outlook panel at Indiana University Kokomo last week, economists analyzing local, state and national economies expressed optimism on all fronts, although not without reservations (Neuenschwander, Kokomo Tribune). A crowd including area business people, elected officials, students and more gathered for a breakfast followed by a panel discussion reviewing 2017’s economic qualities and predicting what’s to come in the next year. On a state and local level, Alan Krabbenhoft, dean of IU Kokomo’s School of Business, and Ryan Brewer, associate professor of finance for Indiana University, both stated the opioid epidemic casts somewhat of a shadow on a growing labor force. Ongoing downtown development in Kokomo could translate to more construction jobs in 2018, said Krabbenhoft. Additionally, a proposed hotel and conference center downtown may boost jobs in the local hospitality industry. “Again though, the question will be … what will be the requirements of expectations for those individuals to take those positions, because if they’re dealing with significant skills gaps or we’re dealing with significant issues with regards to passing drug tests as a result of the opioid crisis, we could have some real challenges … it could be extremely expensive to find employees that you might need,” said Krabbenhoft. Brewer, citing statistics saying there are between 66,000 and 75,000 opioid misusers in Indiana, said drug abuse takes a cut from the workforce, and when paired with the costs of incarceration, death and treatment of addicts, translates to a $1.5 billion loss in gross state product. “It’s already hard to find people, and if you take several more of them out of the labor market, it’s already going to get harder and harder,” said Brewer, referencing a much higher unemployment rate among opioid misusers than the state’s actual unemployment rate.

    SCHOOLS PONDER NARCAN: School districts across Indiana are considering stocking up on a drug antidote amid the state’s opioid epidemic. While overdoses on public school property aren’t common in the state, districts are still weighing having naloxone because of protections from a new law, the IndyStar reported. “You can potentially save a life,” said Larry Perkins, student assistance coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated Schools’ property. “You can also save young people from that trauma of witnessing young people dying in front of them.” Under the law, which took effect in July, school districts are allowed to stock naloxone as an “emergency medication,” the same category as albuterol for severe asthma and auto-injectable epinephrine for severe allergies.

    RESIDENCY ISSUE SWIRLS BETWEEN MESSER, ROKITA: A campaign stop for Rep. Luke Messer in his bid for Senate involves traveling from his family’s home in suburban Washington back to Indiana, where he typically stays overnight with his mom (Slodysko, Associated Press). Messer’s family lives in McLean, Virginia, keeps a vacation house in Dandridge, Tennessee, yet sold their home in Indiana two years after his election to Congress in 2012. They now say a two-bedroom house Messer co-owns with his mom in Greensburg is the family’s Indiana residence. One of his chief primary rivals, fellow Rep. Todd Rokita, has already seized on that as a line of attack. “Luke Messer doesn’t live in the state — I do,” Rokita told Indianapolis-based WXIN-TV in July. “I’m accountable to voters and taxpayers here. I live among them every week.” For his part, Messer says he relocated his family in order to stay close. He was raised by a single mother and wanted to be engaged in his three kids’ day-to-day lives, unlike his own father. Plus, his family’s move to Virginia was well known and never a secret, he said. “I am proud to serve our state, but being a dad comes first,” Messer said in a statement Wednesday. “My opponents think that’s gonna cost me this election. If it did, I would never regret it.”

    TAX REFORM ROADBLOCKS IN SENATE EMERGING: GOP leadership is confronting mushrooming demands from individual senators with much more power to bollix up the tax plans, thanks to the party’s super-thin majority (Politico). Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has already said he won’t vote for his colleagues' proposal because of how it treats small businesses, leaving Republicans with just one vote to spare when the plan hits the Senate floor after Thanksgiving. Deficit hawks like Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are worried the plan will cost far more than advertised thanks to its liberal use of “temporary” tax provisions that will likely be eventually extended, and say they are working on changes to bring down the cost. Moderate Susan Collins (R-Maine) has her own concerns, including with plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to have health insurance as part of tax reform. Others like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have been wildcards, avoiding taking a public position on the proposal. By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time. Murkowski told Roll Call on Thursday that if lawmakers are going to repeal the individual mandate as part of the tax plan, they "absolutely" must pass separate health legislation aimed at stabilizing health care markets and controlling costs.

    SOUTHERN INDIANA OFFICIALS DON’T LIKE TAX BILL: Real estate sellers and homebuilders in Southern Indiana are concerned the tax relief bill passed by the House will depress the housing market, which has gradually increased since the 2008 economic downturn (Martin, Evansville Courier & Press). The legislation passed 227-205, largely along party lines. Eighth District Rep. Larry Bucshon joined most of his Republican colleagues in voting in favor. Highly complex, the bill purports to cut what the government collects in taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. The House bill preserves property deductions but caps them at $10,000. It also doubles the standard deduction from $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers. “It removes incentives for itemizing,” said Bill Pedtke, executive director of the Southwestern Indiana Homebuilders Association. “I suspect there will be major changes to that as it goes forward through the Senate. I have tried to make everybody aware that (the House version) would lessen the incentive for home ownership, not just home building.” National associations of homebuilders and Realtors describe the House version of tax reform as friendly to corporations and not to young singles or families looking to enter the housing market.

    PROSECUTORS CHARGE COUNCILMAN MILLER WITH MOLESTATION: Prosecutors on Friday charged Indianapolis City-County Councilman Jeff Miller with three counts of child molestation, records show (IndyStar). Miller faces three level 4 felony counts of child molestation, according to online records court records. He has not yet been arrested. He resigned from the council on Friday. Police recently searched Miller's property as part of an investigation into the molestation of a child. The search took place a day after an allegation that a 10-year-old girl had been fondled at Miller's Fletcher Place address on Oct. 20, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report. Police were looking for massage tools, oils and other items in the Oct. 21 search, according to a search warrant filed with the Marion County Clerk's Office.

    FEARFUL GOP GOVERNORS VENT, WARN PENCE: For nearly a decade, meetings of the Republican Governors Association were buoyant, even giddy, affairs, as the party — lifted by enormous political donations and a backlash against the Obama administration — achieved overwhelming control of state governments (New York Times). But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018. “I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,” said Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. “There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.” In a series of closed-door meetings, governors tangled over how best to avoid being tainted by Mr. Trump, and debated the delicate task of steering Mr. Trump’s political activities away from states where he might be unhelpful. Several complained directly to Vice President Mike Pence, prodding him to ensure that the White House intervenes only in races in which its involvement is welcome. A larger group of governors from agricultural and auto-producing states warned Mr. Pence that Mr. Trump’s proposed withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement could damage them badly.

    MOORE SCANDAL METASTASIZING BEYOND ALABAMA FOR GOP: Roy Moore's sexual misconduct scandal is metastasizing beyond Alabama into the 2018 battle for Congress (Politico). Democrats have quickly seized on accusations that the Republican Senate hopeful assaulted and harassed teenage girls, trying to lash other GOP hopefuls to the reeling Alabama candidate and use the outcry to raise money. "This is precisely what we've warned about when discussing the importance of election quality candidates in GOP primaries," said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to McConnell. "The opposition will ascribe their liabilities to candidates all across the country."

    EUROPE BYPASSING TRUMP FOR STATES, CITIES: California Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent trip to the capital of the European Union had all the trappings of a visit by a head of state — he even got an upgraded title (Washington Post). “Mr. President, welcome in Brussels,” Brown (D) was told this month as he exited his Mercedes van in front of the European Parliament in the spot usually reserved for national leaders. Then he was whisked off to a day of hearings, testimony and high-level meetings in the heart of European power. Nearly a year into the Trump presidency, countries around the world are scrambling to adapt as the White House has struggled to fill key government positions, scaled back the State Department and upended old alliances. Now some nations are finding that even if they are frustrated by President Trump’s Washington, they can still prosper from robust relations with the California Republic and a constellation of like-minded U.S. cities, some of which are bigger than European countries.

    HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: We are now beginning to publish a Sunday HPI Daily Wire that covers evens in Indiana and across the nation over the weekend, including a roundup of Sunday talk shows. Also, don’t forget to go to the Apple App Store or Google Play and download the new HPI Mobile, where you can read today’s HPI Daily Wire formatted for your smartphone. It’s free for HPI subscribers. - Brian A. Howey

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  • Bonaventura resigns from Dept. of Child Services
    “I am grateful to Director Bonaventura for her service at the Department of Child Services over the past five years. She has demonstrated unwavering commitment to keeping Hoosier children safe and has led this important state agency in the midst of a growing opioid epidemic that has impacted so many families.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, reacting to the resignation of Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura on Friday.
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  • Trump continues attacks on FBI
    President Trump continued his war with the FBI on Friday, days after he described the agency as in “tatters” on Twitter. It’s leading to speculation that Trump and allies on Capitol Hill are waging war on the agency as a precursor to discrediting the Mueller investigation and possibly dismissing the former FBI director. “It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” Trump said before heading to the FBI Academy at Quantico. “It’s a very sad thing to watch.”

    Trump suggested the public has a “level of anger” at the FBI and labeled recent text messages from agents on the Mueller investigation as “disgraceful.” Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired an agent from the probe last summer after learning of disparaging tweets of Trump and support for Hillary Clinton. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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