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D.C. Memo: Running against no one

I’m sure many of you have heard by now that the Washington Football Team has finally been renamed, but it seems that with D.C.’s changing economy a lot of landmarks seem to be for sale.

President Joe Biden speaking about the Special Forces operation in Northern Syria against ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
President Joe Biden speaking about the Special Forces operation in Northern Syria against ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me thinking about names. Particularly the new names of D.C. spaces and teams: The District is now home to the Bezos Auditorium at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the Bloomberg Trail, and the Washington Commanders. I’m sure many of you have heard by now that the Washington Football Team has finally been renamed, but it seems that with D.C.’s changing economy a lot of landmarks seem to be for sale. With Amazon expanding its footprint here with its HQ2, I expect to see a lot more of Bezos’ name around town. Here’s what else happened in Washington this week: A U.S. ground operation led to the death of  a top ISIS leader, interpreting 2021 campaign finance results and Rep. Pete Stauber takes a stand against basic income programs.

U.S. operation leads to death of ISIS leader in Syria

The big news out of Washington early Thursday morning was a victory for U.S. forces charged with fighting terrorism. President Joe Biden said Thursday morning that Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Purayshi, the leader of the Islamic State, died during a pre-dawn attack in northwest Syria. 

U.S. Special Operations commandos performed the maneuver, and rescue workers said women and children were among at least 13 people killed during the raid; a result of a suicide bomb detinated by the ISIS leader. 

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President Biden released a statement Thursday morning announcing the ISIS leader’s death. In his preliminary statement, Biden said that the operation “sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: We will come after you and find you.”

Fourth District Rep. Betty McCollum (D), who chairs the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, released a statement Thursday morning saying that she was briefed by the Pentagon on the raid. 

“I want to commend President Biden, Pentagon leadership, and our courageous Special Operations forces for successfully completing this mission and returning safely,” McCollum said.

It’s campaign finance season

Campaign finance results for all congressional hopefuls were released this week, leading to reporters around the country scrambling to make conclusions about who top contenders may be based on who’s amassed the most funds so far. 

At MinnPost, we set up a campaign finance dashboard that has a searchable run-down of financial reports for all congressional districts as well as other statewide races. We’ll be updating this dashboard every quarter as new data is published.

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Here are some conclusions that your trusted MinnPost Washington Correspondent (that’s me) has made after going over the numbers:

  • Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s race is looking pretty good for him. That’s because no one has announced that they’re running against the Republican for the First District seat. Hagedorn’s numbers weren’t that great, though — he only raised $780,000 in 2021 as compared to the millions that some of his counterparts have raised. (All the same, $780,000 looks pretty good when you’re the only one running for your district.)
  • Rep. Betty McCollum faces a fairly strong opponent from the left. Although Fourth District Democrat McCollum is seen as one of the more progressive members of Congress, a Minneapolis Democratic organizer is running against her this year, saying she’s not progressive enough. Amane Badhasso has raised $308,000 compared to McCollum’s $821,000, but that gap is closer than a lot of other district races.
  • Rep. Angie Craig’s campaign is (comparatively) flush with cash. Rep. Craig (D-2nd) is outperforming the rest of Minnesota’s congressional delegation by a lot: She raised more than $2 million in 2021 and has nearly $3 million in cash on hand. The next closest is Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5th), who raised $1.6 million, but she only has about $400,000 cash on hand. 
  • The Seventh District primary should be interesting. Though Rep. Michelle Fischbach’s (R) district has been trending redder for the past few years, she has quite a few Democratic hopefuls (and one Libertarian) vying for the chance to run against her this year. Three Democrats and one Libertarian candidate have announced a run for the Seventh District.

Amane Badhasso, who is running against McCollum for the Fourth District, issued a press release explaining some of her numbers:

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“Campaign finance reports filed last night for the Congressional race in Minnesota’s 4th district showed first time candidate Amane Badhasso outraising 22 year incumbent Betty McCollum. McCollum reported raising $218,212.17 from September 1st to December 31st of 2021, compared to Badhasso’s haul of $308,218. Additionally, McCollum received $99,900 in PAC contributions, while Badhasso’s contributions came from grassroots donors.”

Bitcoin bro

Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer (R) has been big on cryptocurrency for a while now, and has been pushing for other members of Congress to accept crypto’s growing presence in the U.S. and start crafting legislation to regulate it and make the U.S. a haven for crypto miners.

This week, during  an appearance on the web show “The Best Business Show,” Emmer said he would be open to receiving a portion of his congressional salary in Bitcoin. 

“I wanna make it clear: I wouldn’t restrict Bitcoin … The idea that we can start to bring crypto into the mainstream, whether it’s by converting some of our salary to that or by allowing organically … I think if we allow this to be the opportunity, I think yes, I would take advantage of it.” 

Some members of Congress (including Emmer) already accept campaign donations in Bitcoin, so perhaps salary is the next step. I could see it happening at a tech company; however I doubt Congress will be one of the first places to start issuing salaries in cryptocurrency.

Stauber creates bill to stop federal COVID-19 relief

Eighth District Republican Rep. Pete Stauber introduced the Stop Disincentivizing Work Act this week, a bill that would prevent federal COVID-19 funding from being used to create “long term government handout programs.” Stauber pointed to the guaranteed basic income pilot programs being implemented in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minnesota’s other three Republican representatives, Jim Hagedorn, Tom Emmer and Michelle Fischbach, are cosponsors of the bill.

“I have heard firsthand accounts from countless small businesses [sic] owners who are struggling to find workers to fill their job openings,” Stauber said in a press release announcing the bill. “This massive labor shortage was a preventable problem caused by policies that disincentivized work. Federal dollars cannot be going towards programs that will only exacerbate this problem. It is far past time we fully reopen our economy and get people back to work. I will not sit by as Democrats across the nation continue to pay able-bodied people with our taxpayer dollars not to work.”

The St. Paul People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income pilot program launched in 2020 and provides 150 families with $500 per month for 18 months and is designed to help low-income families with children and people living with disabilities.

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What I’m reading

  • “Read the books that schools want to ban,” The Atlantic. Some schools around the country have begun to ban books or put them on watch lists, with many of the books dealing with ethnicity and LGBTQ+ issues. If you’ve been wondering about which books are on ban lists now or why schools might want to get rid of them, this is a pretty interesting list. Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one said book. Personally, I remember this book doing a lot to shape how I viewed the world when I was a kid. If you want to rebel against current-day book bannings, check out the books on this list.
  • “Do animals understand what it means to die?” Vice. At the risk of being morbid, I’m recommending this fascinating look into the psyche of animals and how they deal (or don’t deal) with the concept of death. It’s fairly common that many species of animals understand when another is dead, but only a few species — primarily primates — have been studied enough to know that they sometimes perform rituals or express emotion after the death of another member of their group.

That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or books you’re trying to read this month to ahackett@minnpost.com, or find me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of D.C. Memo indicated a drone strike killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Purayshi. That is incorrect, as it was a ground forces operation and officials say the ISIS leader killed himself and others – including civilians – with a bomb.