outside groups

Driverless Industry Surges Forward While Hill Hiccups on Regulation
Two years after Sen. Thune’s test drive, still no laws from Congress

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., prepares to ride in the 2014 Chrysler 300c, during an exhibition of self-driving cars for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on March 15, 2016. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. John Thune was test-driving a car of the future when he ran into a very 20th-century problem: traffic.

In 2016, Washington’s local laws forced Thune’s autonomous-capable Chrysler sedan to motor into neighboring Virginia before it could show off the no-hands navigation. That’s where the South Dakota Republican got stuck in a tide of commuters.

Kevin McLaughlin Returns to the NRSC as Executive Director
McLaughlin served as the committee’s deputy executive director in 2016

Incoming NRSC Chairman Todd Young, R-Ind., is welcoming a new committee executive director, Kevin McLaughlin. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Kevin McLaughlin is returning to the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its new executive director, Chairman Todd Young announced Friday.

McLaughlin was the committee’s deputy executive director for the 2016 cycle, when Young was elected to the Senate in Indiana, and he served as a senior adviser in the 2014 cycle. Like 2016, Republicans are largely on defense in 2020. Twenty-two GOP senators are up for re-election compared to 12 Democrats.

Florida Republican Not Even Sworn In, Facing Campaign Finance Questions
New reports raise questions about Ross Spano super PAC coordination, 2012 campaign

Rep.-elect Ross Spano, R-Fla., has not been sworn into Congress yet, but already faces bipartisan calls for an inquiry into his alleged campaign finance violations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The campaign finance issues looming around Rep.-elect Ross Spano, R-Fla., have grown more troublesome in recent days with new questions about the role of a longtime friend in funding his campaigns and hiring his new Congressional staff.

Spano has not been sworn into Congress yet, but already faces bipartisan calls for inquiries by the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee into how he funded his campaign to replace in Rep. Dennis A. Ross in the 15th District.

Trump Wants New Chief of Staff Who ‘Believes in What We’re Doing’
Sarah Sanders suggests John Kelly should have hashed out gripes ‘behind closed doors’

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly waits to speak as press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduces him during a White House briefing in October 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s top spokeswoman suggested her boss grew frustrated with outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly disagreeing with his policies — and sometimes taking disputes public.

“I think he brought a lot of structure to the White House that was needed at the time he came in,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of his second chief of staff. “That being said, I think the president is looking for somebody who believes in what we’re doing.”

The Future of Ads Is Digital — But Not Quite the Present
Some say campaigns are still slow to shift to digital-focused strategies

An iPhone captures then-presidential candidate Donald Trump after the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate in early 2016. (Meredith Dake-O’Connor/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There were plenty of signs that Democrats found success online this election cycle: catchy videos went viral; a burgeoning army of small-dollar donors produced eye-popping fundraising numbers; and voters targeted online showed up at the polls. 

But for some in the party, their digital efforts left much to be desired. Television ads still dominated campaigns, and Republican outside groups outpaced Democrats in digital ad spending. 

At the Races: Newsflash! GOP Women Call Their own Shots
Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns

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Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. We want to hear what you think. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

Progressive Groups Crash Historic Harvard Bipartisanship Forum for New Members
Groups are holding an ‘alternative orientation’ outside to challenge ‘middle of the road’ policymaking

Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., promised to push forward “unprecedented legislation” in a speech outside Harvard University on Tuesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A prestigious orientation at Harvard University that has for 50 years coached incoming members of Congress on the values of civility and compromise has for the first time gotten some counter programming from the left. 

Most incoming freshman congressman attend the storied Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress hosted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. Sessions began Tuesday and run through Thursday. Since 1972, Harvard has hosted more than 700 current and former representatives, according to the school’s website.

Dan Conston Takes Helm of Top House GOP Outside Groups
Conston will lead the Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network

Interns work the phones at the Congressional Leadership Fund office in GOP Rep. Steve Knight’s district in Lancaster, Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The two major GOP outside groups involved in House races are getting a new leader. Dan Conston will take over as the president of both American Action Network and its related Super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the groups announced Tuesday. 

The move comes after Republicans lost 40 seats in the midterm elections, meaning Republicans will shift from defense to offense in the upcoming 2020 elections. Conston will replace Corry Bliss, who oversaw record fundraising for the group and the creation of a new Congressional Leadership Fund field program with offices in 40 districts. Bliss will remain an advisor to both groups.

Elise Stefanik Wants to Play in Primaries to Help Republican Women
NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer thinks playing in primaries is a “mistake”

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik is stepping back from her role at the NRCC. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik recruited more than 100 women as the first female head of recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee. But only one of them prevailed, with many failing to make it through their primaries.

So Stefanik is stepping back from the NRCC to be involved where she thinks it matters.

Democrats Go Into 2019 With Ethics Blazing
Pelosi, Sarbanes tease dark money overhaul as the party’s grand opening salvo

Campaign finance is high on Democrats’ agenda. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rolled out some details last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A collection of House Democrats is working behind the scenes to tee up the party’s first order of business in the new Congress: a big overhaul of campaign finance, voting and ethics laws.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes offered a sneak peak Friday of what will likely be christened HR 1 in the 116th Congress. Instead of starting from scratch, the bill will draw from numerous existing proposals — including some that have languished for years during GOP control.