Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has received an A rating and, between 2008-16, $4,000 in contributions from the National Rifle Association for the Huntington Beach Republican’s “pro-gun rights voting record.”
But at the NRA’s next weekend shoot ‘em up, Rohrabacher had better pray members who are packing don’t take aim at the target drawn on his back.
-The national Democratic Party views Rohrabacher as vulnerable, the Washington Post reported Thursday in "A Republican weak spot in 2018: Longtime lawmakers in shifting districts."
Collectively, Democrats are much more focused on dozens of seats held by relatively new Republicans who have never run into the head winds of midterm elections with their own party’s president facing deep unpopularity.
But Democrats have also turned a powerful spotlight on a collection of veteran GOP lawmakers whose districts have changed underneath them, even while these districts continued, all the way to 2016, to reelect their representatives by wide margins.
They’re Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), who told The Washington Post over the weekend that he hoped the conspiracy theory concerning the slaying of a DNC staffer might be true. First elected in 1988, Rohrabacher won reelection by almost 17 percentage points last fall, even as Trump lost the district to Hillary Clinton.
The same piece also singles out Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), whose district takes in part of South Orange County. Poll watchers from both parties were shocked in November when Issa won reelection by just 0.6 percent.
-The End Citizens United (ECU) political action committee, which claims more than 3 million members, identified Rohrabacher as one of eight Republicans targeted with paid advertising seeking support for the Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act (H.R. 1615). Introduced in March and is sponsored by 33 House Democrats (including author Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland), the bill would ban campaign money from corporations whose stock is more than 20 percent foreign-owned. The threshold would be 5 percent for ownership by a foreign government entity. Also banned would be campaign money from any corporation in which foreigners have “power to direct, dictate or control” decisions about the company’s U.S. interests or its activities regarding federal, state or local elections."
Besides Rohrabacher, two other Orange County Republican congressmen are targeted with the ads the ECU announced May 30: Issa and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). Among the four other GOP members of the House is Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
The PAC is motivated by a recent Time magazine revelation that Russian agents bought ads on Facebook to disseminate propaganda to influence the 2016 election, Bloomberg reports.
-Indivisible OC-48, one of the grass-roots groups concerned about Rohrabacher's stands on issues ranging from climate change to the Affordable Care Act, has regularly called, emailed and gathered at the congressman's district office in Surf City to demand a town hall meeting (which has yet to happen).
These activists have been re-charged by a recent New York Times story reporting Rohrabacher was thought to be too close to Russian influences and that the FBI had even warned him in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to influence him as a "person of influence."
That came on the heels of the revelation of a previously secret recording, where GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells Ryan and others in leadership that he believed Rohrabacher was on Russian President Vladimir Putin's payroll. "Two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” said McCarthy, and after that brought laughs he added, “Swear to God.” Ryan, McCarthy and the Republican leadership first denied this ever happened and then, when the recording was produced, they claimed it was a joke.
-Tyler Law, national press secretary with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claims "there are deadly serious reasons why Rohrabacher has been labeled 'Putin’s favorite congressman,' and the fact that he sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee is a detriment to our national security and America’s global standing."
Law, whose DCCC has been pouring money into Orange County congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in November (including those of Rohrabacher, Issa, Royce and Mimi Walters, R-Irvine), compiled a list of "five of the most disturbing reasons why McCarthy’s statement is no joke:"
1.) Rohrabacher consistently opposed, voted against sanctioning Russia. In 2014, after its invasion of Crimea, Rohrabacher voted against sanctioning Russia and providing aide to Ukraine. More recently, Rohrabacher opposed legislation sanctioning Russian weapon suppliers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly war machine.
2.) Rohrabacher used Kremlin propaganda to derail legislation Russia opposed in Congress. According to Politico, “Rohrabacher went to great lengths in an unsuccessful attempt to derail legislation that Russia opposed in Congress. He even used information provided directly from the Russian government to make his case.”
3.) Rohrabacher tried to shield Russia from being labeled a human rights abuser, defended Putin-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rohrabacher said it’s “baloney” that Russia is a major human rights abuser and downplayed such abuses the country has committed in the past. Most alarming, Rohrabacher defended Kremlin-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying he’s “not such a bad guy” and Syria is “not our enemy.”
4.) Rohrabacher has a relationship with an ex-Kremlin spy who now lobbies on behalf of Russian interests. Among his multiple rendezvous with an ex-Kremlin spy who now lobbies on behalf of Russian interests, Rohrabacher secretly discussed an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Russian money laundering, after which he advocated against legislation related to the case in favor of Russian interests.
5.) Rohrabacher advocated against investigating Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia and met with Paul Manafort when he was a lobbyist for Putin-Backer Victor Yanukovych. After National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned due to his communications with Russian officials, Rohrabacher advocated against investigating him further, saying he “didn’t think additional investigations into Flynn’s communication with Russian officials were necessary.” As if defending one Russia-connected Trump official wasn’t enough, it was also revealed that Rohrabacher met with Paul Manafort when he was a lobbyist for Victor Yanukovych right before Rohrabacher opposed aide for Ukraine.
-Trying to make hay out of all this at the local level is businesswoman and longtime Newport Beach resident Laura Oatman, who has announced her intention to run as a Democrat for the 48th Congressional District seat Rohrabacher has been warming for decades. It extends from Laguna Beach to Seal Beach and inland to Aliso Viejo and Santa Ana.
“Even House Republican leadership jokes that Rep. Rohrabacher is too close to Russia," Oatman says, "with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying, 'There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.' Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who has been called 'Putin’s favorite congressman,' must support the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, into Russian interference in our election.
"With campaign donations from disgraced former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and dubious ties to Russia, the citizens of the 48th District also deserve answers from Representative Rohrabacher on his shadowy Russian dealings.”
-Besides Oatman, Laguna Beach businessman Harley Rouda, Laguna Beach real estate broker Boyd Roberts and Huntington Beach airline pilot Tony Zarkades say they will seek the Democratic nomination for Rohrabacher's seat in 2018. So has Corona del Mar investment firm executive Brandon Reiser, as a Libertarian. Waiting in the wings on the Republican side is Scott Baugh, Orange County's former GOP chairman and the state Assembly's former GOP leader out of Huntington Beach. He's already raised more than half a million for a run should Rohrabacher retire.
While these announced candidates are buoyed by Rohrabacher's Russian entanglements and Hillary Clinton having outpolled Donald Trump in the 48th Congressional District, the California Target Book, which analyzes and handicaps races statewide, does not show the so-called Surfin' Congressman being vulnerable.
That is because no other Republicans other than Trump lost among district voters, a pattern that was repeated in all but two California districts, neither of which is in Orange County, say California Target Book's political prognosticators Darry Sragow and Rob Pyers.
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Martin Wisckol, writing in his weekly Orange County Register political news column The Buzz, agrees with Sragow and Pyers when it comes to Rohrabacher's seat, noting that while GOP voter registration edge in the 48th has fallen from 16 percent in 2012 to 11 points today, that gap is still "considerable." (Where Wisckol does take issue is in Issa's district, where despite a 9-point GOP advantage he just barely won his 2016 race.)
-The gap is not so considerable, according to other election watchers. -As previously reported in my "Putin Payin' Dana? Rohrabacher Claims He Man Crushes on Vlad for Free," which you can also link to through the last item in my even more recent "A Dana Rohrabacher Reader: 21 Years of Articles on OC's Grossest, Whiniest Congress-Loser:"
Sabato’s Crystal Ball, one of the nation’s leading elections forecasting blogs, recently announced that Rohrabacher is more vulnerable to being turned out by voters than ever. The new ratings have his district shifting from "Likely Republican" to "Leans Republican."
It's enough to make a certain, almost age 70 politician—who we saw as a glassy-eyed "leaning Republican" at the 2004 GOP election night party—wish he'd have won that coveted presidential appointment. Fingers crossed Putin has something else in mind for him.