Inside Washington: June 30, 2012


Bad news for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama: They can run TV ads, but they can no longer hide them. In elections past, presidential contenders could pull off the seemingly paradoxical feat of keeping million-dollar attack campaigns relatively low profile. They could run a slashing ad in a swing state like Ohio or Florida without announcing it to the national media, and it wouldn't create a splash.

But keeping biting criticism on the down low is suddenly much harder. Why? Two reasons. One, social media. It's so easy these days for people to instantly tell the world that they've seen an attack ad. Two, Virginia. The Old Dominion is arguably this election's quintessential swing state and is in line for tens of millions of dollars in over-the-air spending. The problem for campaigns is that some of those ads air in the Washington media market, home of the national press corps. According to ad-buying statistics compiled by The Hotline, Romney and Obama have already dropped more than $16 million on TV ads in Virginia. Obama launched a Virginia-specific ad just this week attacking Romney on outsourcing.

Alex Roarty


Senate Democratic leaders aren't leaping to take advice from the White House on legislative maneuvering. In meetings last week, White House senior adviser David Plouffe, Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, and legislative liaison Rob Nabors suggested that the Senate counter a July vote planned by the House GOP to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts with a proposal to extend the breaks for one year just for people with annual incomes under $250,000 and to tie it to a delay of the defense and domestic spending sequester for six months, according to Hill staffers.

The White House team argued that the votes might force Republicans to choose between extending all of the tax cuts and preventing hits to the defense budget. But Hill Democrats are cool to the idea, aides said. The leaders want to retain the leverage of sequestration to force Republicans to let some of the Bush cuts expire, and they are wary of introducing the option of delaying the sequester too soon. Senate Democrats are more likely to hold a vote to simply extend the Bush tax cuts for those who earn less than $250,000, without linking it to the sequester.

Dan Friedman


Making His Move The 2012 election is four months away, but the jockeying for leadership posts has already begun. Among those eyeing spots is Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who proclaimed this week that he'll likely seek the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee — assuming he is reelected and the GOP holds the House. Party rules bar Judiciary's current chairman, Lamar Smith of Texas, from seeking another term at the helm. Goodlatte, a senior member of the panel, has been active on tech issues. He helped draft the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which derailed in January after stirring up a major backlash from tech firms and Internet activists.

Blog Rant? Justice Antonin Scalia's raging dissent in the Supreme Court's immigration decision has topped the "OMG, must read this" list for Washington insiders. Scalia opens by citing a 1782 letter from James Madison discussing "the intrusion of obnoxious aliens," implies that President Obama lied when he said the new White House policy of not deporting undocumented youth would save money, and ends by suggesting that the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention would have "rushed to the exits" if they knew the Court would say that immigration is a federal matter. "We should cease referring to [Arizona] as a sovereign state," the justice grouses.