Yellen promises further beneficial ownership regulations later this year
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen appeared before the House Financial Services Committee last Wednesday to testify about the state of the international financial system. Sanctions on Russia dominated the discussion, but Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) pressed the Secretary for information and commitments about the rulemaking to implement the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, which requires disclosure of the beneficial owners of an entity to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for comment last December, with comments due by February 7, but Maloney said this was only “half a rule,” and that Treasury had missed its statutory deadline by three months. She asked Secretary Yellen to promise to publish a proposed rule on access to the beneficial ownership database within a month. Yellen said she could not do that, but that the regulations would be complete before the end of the year.
A CBDC would take years, not months, says Yellen
In a wide-ranging speech at American University, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sounded open to the possibilities offered by digital assets and the potential benefits of a central bank digital currency (CBDC), but cautioned that “a CBDC would likely present a major design and engineering challenge that would require years of development, not months.” Yellen said the financial system had benefited from responsible innovation, and she believes that the regulatory structure for digital assets should follow their functions and uses rather than their technological attributes. But regulation must keep up with innovation, she said, because experience shows that slow regulatory responses to market changes hurt the most vulnerable people most. Stablecoins, specifically, “are currently subject to inconsistent and fragmented oversight.” President Biden’s Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets, issued last month, directing Treasury and other federal agencies to develop a “coordinated and comprehensive approach to digital asset policy,” with reports due to the President in September.
President signs postal reform law, House panel argues about USPS fleet
A bipartisan group of House and Senate members came together last Wednesday for the signing of HR 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022, which repeals the pre-funding requirement for USPS retirees’ health benefits and makes other changes to bolster the Postal Service’s finances. Before that cordial event, though, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform spent four hours arguing about the USPS’s plans to update its service fleet at a hearing last Tuesday. The Postal Service’s fleet of roughly 230,000 vehicles is aging, and many of these trucks are overdue to be replaced. Tuesday’s hearing reviewed the contract the USPS signed with Oshkosh Defense to build the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said it was “simply unacceptable” that only ten percent of these vehicles will be zero-emission battery electric vehicles (BEVs), while ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-WV) said this criticism was part of the Democrats’ “radical green agenda.” Victoria Stephen, Executive Director of the Postal Service’s Next Generation Delivery Vehicle program, said that in fact, twenty percent of the first order would be electric, but the vehicles’ purchase price was too high to justify a greater percentage. She also noted that BEVs would not be appropriate for every postal delivery route.
FTA publishes infrastructure funding tables
Last week the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published apportionment tables for its 30 programs for Fiscal Year 2022. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized 58% more funding for this year’s programs, which the funding bill enacted in March has made available. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg described it as “the largest investment in public transit in our nation’s history.” FTA has issued Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) for the FY 2022 Tribal Transit Competitive program and the Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program and Low or No Emission Grant Program. Witnesses at a hearing last Wednesday told the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development that small cities and rural areas need technical assistance and other support to access some of this funding, especially when 50% matches are required.
CFPB says that state laws on extended payment plans aren’t working
Of the twenty-six states that license payday lenders, sixteen require the lenders to offer no-cost extended payment plans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published a report that found that few borrowers are taking advantage of these plans. Instead, most borrowers roll over these loans, incurring additional fees and interest. Eligibility requirements for the no-cost payment plans vary from state to state, and the report said the CFPB knew of no studies showing how many borrowers know these plans are available.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
As expected, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) has resigned his seat in the House of Representatives. A special election will choose his successor, but because filing deadlines have passed, Fortenberry remains on the ballot for his district’s Republican primary on May 10.
Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) announced that he would not seek a seventh term in office. He chaired the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment from 2011 to 2017, and currently serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), one of the longest-serving members of the House of Representatives, will retire at the end of this term. Upton worked for the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan before his election to the House in 1986. He chaired the House Committee on Energy & Commerce from 2010 to 2016.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX) resigned to take a job in the private sector. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to call a special election for the remainder of the Vela’s term, but due to redistricting, incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) will be running for that seat in November.
The Week Ahead in Washington
Both the House and Senate are in district work periods until April 25. Barring unforeseen developments, The Golden Apple won’t publish next week, April 15, and might not return until April 29.
The Ellis Insight
Jim Ellis reports on political news
Nevada: A new Blueprint Polling survey (3/21-24; 671 NV likely general election voters; live interview) finds Republican former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt now pulling ahead of first-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) by a relatively substantial 47-40% margin. Blueprint Polling is a Democratic research firm, but indicated that no candidate or interest group sponsored this poll. The Nevada Senate race is one of the key 2022 point races that will determine the next Senate majority.
New Hampshire: St. Anselm’s College released their quarterly poll of Granite State voters, and while the Democrats have a slightly improved standing from the initial 2022 study (3/23-24; 1,265 NH registered voters; online), they are still badly underwater (21% USA on right track; 68% wrong direction). Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), however, leads in the latest ballot tests even though she has an upside down job approval rating (46:49%).
In the hypothetical head-to-head contests, Sen. Hassan leads state Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) 43-36%, former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, 44-34%, and tops retired Army General Don Bolduc, 44-39%. While the Senator has a comfortable lead over largely unknown candidates, the fact that she is well below 50% in all situations suggests weakness.
North Carolina: WPA Intelligence released their new survey of the North Carolina Republican electorate, this one for the Club for Growth organization (4/3-5; 510 NC likely Republican primary voters; live interview), and becomes the fourth consecutive pollster to find US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) topping former NC Governor Pat McCrory for the Republican US Senate nomination.
The WPAi numbers project Rep. Budd’s margin at 44-31% over Mr. McCrory, with former US Rep. Mark Walker posting 11% and author Marjorie Eastman at 3% support. This result largely confirms what Emerson College, Cygnal, and Vitale & Associates also found in late March and early April polling.
Ohio: Two new Republican US Senate primary surveys were publicly released. The first, from Moore Information for the Jane Timken Campaign (4/3-4; 2,500 OH Republican primary voters; interactive voice response system), produced ballot test results showing businessman Mike Gibbons leading former state Treasurer Josh Mandel 20-16%, with Ms. Timken close behind at 15%. This poll also detects a bump for state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) as he moves into range at 13% support. On the other hand, author J.D. Vance, drops to last place with a 10% preference figure.
Conversely, the Ohio Values PAC, an organization supporting Mr. Vance, released the results of their Fabrizio Lee survey that comes to a wholly different conclusion. In this ballot test (3/30-31; 800 OH likely Republican primary voters), the top three candidates, Messrs. Gibbons and Mandel, and in this instance, Mr. Vance, are tied with 18% support, apiece. Ms. Timken trails with half that figure, 9%, as does Sen. Dolan. The data suggests this race is wide open as we enter the final month of campaigning before the May 3rd primary.
Pennsylvania: A trio of surveys was released in the highly important Pennsylvania Republican primary race, and each produces a different scenario at the top. The most recent poll, from Public Opinion Strategies (for the Honor Pennsylvania PAC; 3/29-4/3; 600 PA likely Republican primary voters) posts former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick leading Dr. Mehmet Oz, Trump campaign activist Kathy Barnette, former US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands, and ex-Lt. Governor nominee Jeff Bartos, 22-16-13-11-8%.
Emerson College, polling independently, (3/26-28; 372 PA likely Republican primary voters) finds Mr. McCormick and Dr. Oz tied at 14% apiece, with Sands and Barnette both pulling 6% support, and Bartos posting 5% preference. The final poll, and earliest of this group of three from Basswood Research (3/19-21; 800 PA likely Republican primary voters), saw Dr. Oz finishing first with 25%, three points ahead of Mr. McCormick’s 22%, while Ms. Sands, Ms. Barnette, and Mr. Bartos all trailed with 13, 11, and 5%, respectively.
AL-AK: Former Republican Vice Presidential nominee and ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin filed at the candidate declaration deadline to enter the special primary election being held June 11 to replace the late at-large Congressman Don Young (R-AK). Along with Ms. Palin, 47 others also qualified for the ballot. In addition to the former Governor, some of the key candidates include Dr. Al Gross, who was the Democratic nominee for Senate in 2020 and raised and spent almost $20 million in his unsuccessful challenge of Sen. Dan Sullivan (R). In this special election, Dr. Gross is running as an Independent.
Should no one from the top four who advance to the special general reach the 50% threshold, the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) system will then be utilized to determine a winner. The special general will be run concurrently with the Alaska regular primary election on August 16.
The Democratic survey firm Change Research tested the race prior to the April 1 special election candidate filing deadline. According to the poll (3/25-29; 728 AK likely special election voters; online) Dr. Gross would lead the field with 33% preference. Ms. Palin would finish second with 30%. In a ranked choice runoff, after the two other finalist candidates are eliminated, Ms. Palin would edge Dr. Gross, 42-40%.
CA-22: Voters in California’s Central Valley went to the polls after others had mailed their ballots for the past couple of weeks to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), but it won’t be until April 14 until we see certified results under the state’s elongated ballot counting system. Votes can still come into county election centers through the mail but must be postmarked, April 5, in order to be counted.
The published results show former state Assembly Republican Leader and ex-Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway leading the field of six candidates with 22,175 votes or 34.8%. The next closest competitor is Democrat Lourin Hubbard, a California state water official, posting 19.7%, or 12,546 votes. It is likely that Ms. Conway and Mr. Hubbard will advance into the special general election to be held concurrently with the California jungle primary on June 7.
IA-1: Two years ago, then-state Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) won her 2nd District congressional campaign by just six votes in the current 2nd District. Iowa redistricting has changed the CD somewhat and re-numbered it as District 1.
A just-released Public Policy Polling survey that the liberal organization 314 Action commissioned (4/5-6; 534 IA-1 registered voters) finds Rep. Miller-Meeks topping state Rep. Christina Bohannan (D-Iowa City) by a slight 43-42% margin. Both Rep. Miller-Meeks and Ms. Bohannan are unopposed in their respective Republican and Democratic primaries scheduled for June 7th.
MI-6: Facing a paired incumbent situation in a new 4th District as a result of Michigan losing a congressional seat in national reapportionment, 18-term veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), the former House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, announced that he will retire at the end of the current congressional session. Mr. Upton’s decision brings to an end what will be a 36-year career in the US House.
Rep. Upton retiring averts an intra-party incumbent pairing with fellow GOP Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland). The Congressman’s decision to not seek re-election does not yield another open seat since Rep. Huizenga now becomes the 4th District’s lone incumbent.
OH-7: In a surprise move, since he had already filed for re-election and early voting began, six-term Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) announced that he is ending his re-election campaign. Mr. Gibbs now becomes the 22nd Republican US House member to not seek re-election. A total of 31 Democrats are not running. Adding the new and redistricting created open seats, it appears we will see at least 58 open US House campaigns. Mr. Gibbs expressed outrage at the state Supreme Court for their laxity in ruling on the latest congressional map, and further complained that only 10% of his current district remains in the new 7th.
Considering this late withdrawal, Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced that Mr. Gibbs’ name cannot be removed from the ballot, and any vote cast for him would now not be counted. The move puts former Trump White House aide and Marine Corps veteran Max Miller in the favorite’s position for the Republican primary. The new OH-7 rates a relatively strong R+14 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization.
TX-34: Somewhat surprisingly, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called a special election to fill the seat from which Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) recently resigned. It was thought that the Governor could leave the seat vacant for the remainder of the year. Instead, he called a special primary election for June 14th, in which all candidates will be placed on the same ballot. If no one receives 50%, the Governor will then schedule a runoff election.
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) has already won the 34th District Democratic primary for the regular term, so this is another instance where we will see at least a Democratic candidate running to serve only the balance of this year. Former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez announced for the Democrats, as did Republican Mayra Flores who won the regular election primary back in March; therefore, her running in the special election makes sense.
The 34th’s current version leans more Republican than does the new seat, so Ms. Flores’ chances in the low turnout special election are much better than in the general election.
Maryland: After a state court judge rejected the Democratic legislature’s congressional map as a partisan gerrymander, the members began to re-draw the plan while the Democratic Attorney General announced that the state would appeal the ruling. Then, the Democratic leadership and Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reached an agreement.
The legislative leaders and Governor said they would urge a legislative vote to support a plan that creates six solid Democratic seats, one strongly Republican district, and a western state 6th CD of Rep. David Trone (D-Potomac) that becomes significantly more competitive. Rep. Trone would still be favored, but even he admitted in an interview that his re-election will be more difficult. As part of the agreement, the state will drop its appeal of the judge’s ruling.
New York: The New York state legislature’s Democratic leadership officially appealed a state court judge’s ruling that rejected the enacted 22D-4R congressional map. Under New York legal procedure, the filing of an appeal stays the previous ruling. While the initial decision may or may not be upheld by a higher court, the stay action suggests that the rejected map will be reinstated at least for the 2022 election.
If the map is ultimately disqualified, it will likely not happen until much later in this cycle, if not next year. This means any change in the map will likely take effect for the 2024 election cycle.
Ohio: Akron University (Conducted by the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research for the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics; 2/17-3/15; 1,550 OH registered voters; online), tested the state’s Governor’s race featuring incumbent Mike DeWine (R) seeking a second term. This poll finds the Governor topping former Congressman Jim Renacci 46-17% on the initial GOP ballot test, and expanding to 51-23% when adding leaning responses. For the Democrats, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley establishes a small lead over former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, 17-13%, and 22-18% with leaners.