Clinton cash machine causing woes for Hillary

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Buzz Cut:
• Clinton cash machine causing woes for Hillary
• New poll shows surge in ISIS worries, support for ground troops
• Jeb echoes brother on Iraq war missteps
• Walker staffs up in New Hampshire
• ‘Highway to Hell’ perhaps?

Democrats may not be in love their presumptive nominee, but their belief in Hillary Clinton’s inevitable victory (and the absolute desert of other options) propels her forward. That sense of inevitability, though waning, is substantially rooted in her ability to raise obscene sums of money. She and her husband have perfected the art of buck-raking over the past 30 years, building and tapping a huge network of wealthy patrons, supplicants and friends. They have amassed in this way not just an eye-popping personal fortune but also funded a family foundation, two Senate runs and now, a fourth presidential campaign. But as been the case since even before the days of Charlie Trie and sketchy Chinese soft money in the 1996 campaign, the powerful suction created by the Clintons’ fundraising efforts has drawn in plenty of trouble, too. And as she tries to bunker out this phase of her campaign, the Democratic frontrunner is again suffering for her family’s deep enthusiasm for getting money from other people.

[Ron Fournier writes: “This is sleazy and stupid. Just as Hillary Clinton is getting ready to run for president again, her family's charitable foundation secretly lifted a ban on accepting money from foreign governments.”]

Overlap - After the news this week from WSJ that the Clintons’ foundation has gone back to accepting donations from foreign governments, WaPo went looking to see just how much: “Since its creation in 2001, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has raised close to $2 billion from a vast global network that includes corporate titans, political donors, foreign governments and other wealthy interests, according to a Washington Post review of public records and newly released contribution data. The total, representing cash and pledges reported in tax filings, includes $262 million that was raised in 2013, the year Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped down as secretary of state and began to devote her energies to the foundation and to a likely second run for president…Nearly half of the major donors who are backing Ready for Hillary, a group promoting her 2016 presidential bid, as well as nearly half of the bundlers from her 2008 campaign, have given at least $10,000 to the foundation, either on their own or through foundations or companies they run.”

Clinton campaign seeks media help in squelching leaks - National Journal has the story of how the Clinton campaign is working to identify and silence those who are muddling the message of the presumptive nominee: “‘There are three parties to this equation: we’re one, the source is two, and the media is three. And arguably we have the least amount of influence on any of this,’ said longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines. … Asked how the campaign could get a handle on all the anonymous outside chatter, Reines placed much of the blame back on the media for being willing to grant anonymity to sources who don’t know what they’re talking about. Unless the unnamed ‘advisers’ stop talking to reporters, or reporters stop quoting them, Reines added, there’s no way to get the issue under control. ‘What gets lost is there are no consequences for [the source or the media] when they're wrong—there just aren’t,’ he said.”

CBS News: “Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat - up from 58 percent in October - while another 18 percent view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (61 percent) and independents (57 percent) view ISIS as a major threat. With concern about ISIS growing, support for the use of U.S. ground troops in the fight against ISIS has risen. For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. In October, Americans were divided (47 percent favored and 46 percent opposed), and in September these numbers were reversed (39 percent favored and 55 percent opposed).”

“Unfortunately, the president and this administration dogmatically refuse to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’  You cannot defeat an enemy if you refuse to acknowledge what it is.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on “The Kelly File” Watch here.

Blaster master - Daily Beast: “While Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government presses the West for more and newer weapons to advance its war against the so-called Islamic State, one Kurdish craftsman is taking matters into his own hands. Bakhtiar Sadradin Aziz's weapons are cobbled together from bits and pieces of old rifles and pistols into Franken-guns that look like something out of Mad Max. But they have proved a hit for Peshmerga soldiers unsatisfied with their standard-issue Kalashnikovs and aging American surplus M16s.”

Rudy Giuliani
, appearing on “Fox and Friends” this morning, clarified remarks he made reportedly questioning President Obama’s patriotism at a private dinner in Manhattan.  “First of all, I’m not questioning his patriotism. He’s a patriot, I’m sure,” the former New York mayor said. “What I’m saying is that in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things that I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents.”  Giuliani’s dinner remarks, first reported by Politico, were made at an event for potential 2016 contender Gov. Scott Walker.

President Obama
travels to Chicago today to announce he’s establishing three new national monuments, among them the city’s Pullman Historic District, home to the first African-American labor union. What key House Republicans are calling Obama’s latest “land grab,” has been labeled in the local press as a presidential “bro-hug” for his former White House chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The designation of the Pullman District will appeal to African-America voters, a key voting block that is has been tepid toward Emanuel, just five days before the mayoral election. The boost may be decisive for Emanuel with the latest poll showing him shy of the 50 percent majority needed to avoid a runoff – a runoff that could galvanize voters behind a single challenger.

Backs scratched - While a decision on the location of the Obama presidential library is expected in March, the beat goes on in the University of Chicago’s controversial bid, which includes building on parkland it doesn’t own. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he was committed to “moving heaven and earth” to land the library, pushed through a plan to transfer the parkland if UC wins. But hold on, the Friends of the Parks group recently sent a letter to President Obama threatening a lawsuit to block the plan. Obama’s alma mater, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii are also still technically under consideration. Stay tuned.

THE JUDGE’S RULING - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano writes a tribute to his odd-couple rapport with “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. “[Jon] is the progressive Jewish funnyman with a tongue as sharp as a serpent’s tooth, trying to sound smart. I am the libertarian traditionalist Catholic defender of the Constitution, trying to be funny. Well, a strange thing happened. We agreed more than we disagreed, and I learned what most of his fans do not know: Jon does not need to try to sound smart; he may be the smartest personality on television. He is as well read in the works of those with whom he disagrees as he is in the works of those who reinforce his own views.”

Barbara Follett
was on track to becoming the next great American author but what became of her is a great unsolved mystery. Lapham’s Quarterly shares the riveting story of the child prodigy once likened to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The daughter of literary editor Wilson Follett, Barbara took to the written word at a very early age. At just 12 years old, Barbara was launched into the stratosphere with her book, “The House without Windows.” She continued to write, but shortly before her second book went to publication, her father abandoned his family, relegating Barbara and her mother to poverty. Continuing to write whenever she could, Barbara picked up a secretarial job to pay the bills eventually married Nickerson Rogers. Life seemed good for the first five years until she left after a fight with Rogers. In events eerily similar to those that befell the main character in her first book, Barbara was never to be seen or heard from again.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 45.2 percent//Disapprove – 50.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 34.4 percent//Wrong Track – 57 percent

Yahoo News: “Jeb Bush continued his introductory tour of the American political scene Wednesday, giving his third major speech in less than a month and dealing for the first time as a likely presidential candidate with his brother’s legacy in Iraq…In response to a question about instability in the Middle East, Bush unilaterally steered the conversation to the matter of the Iraq War, which was overseen by his older brother, former President George W. Bush. ‘Well, let’s go to Iraq,’ Jeb Bush said, speaking before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. ‘There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure.’ Jeb Bush cited two examples of missteps in Iraq … which were the same two errors that George W. Bush himself admitted to in his 2010 memoir ‘Decision Points.’

Hard hit - Conservative group ForAmerica is going hard in its first ad attacking Jeb Bush, which declares him “unelectable” for his ties to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The ad highlights the praise Bush heaped on Clinton at the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal Ceremony on the eve of the first anniversary of the Benghazi attacks.

Jeb: ‘I don’t understand the debate’ over NSA domestic surveillance - WSJ:“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2016, said Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program that collects bulk telephone records was ‘hugely important,’ throwing his support behind the practice as Congress debates whether to reauthorize or limit it. At an event on foreign policy hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Mr. Bush, a Republican, said, ‘For the life of me, I don’t understand the debate’ over the metadata program.

WMUR: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has expanded his political team to New Hampshire, hiring a senior adviser to lead his efforts in the early primary state as he moves closer to a likely 2016 presidential run. Walker's political fundraising committee confirmed Wednesday that Republican consultant Andy Leach, who has worked on New Hampshire campaigns since 1992, has been hired as senior adviser in the state. Day-to-day-operations will be handled there by Michael Bir, who led programs for the Republican National Committee in Ohio in 2010 and 2012. … Leach served as the New Hampshire Republican Party's executive director in the 2006 and 2010 election cycles. He also worked for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Sen. John E. Sununu, and on Scott Brown’s Senate campaign in Massachusetts in 2014. Leach left Ayotte’s office in January to start his own political consulting firm.”

Kasich ‘not even close to making a decision’ - Columbus Dispatch: “He looked the part of a presidential candidate: talking about balanced budgets and immigration before a large crowd in an early-primary state; having his photograph taken with enthusiastic Republicans; and chatting with national and Ohio reporters. But for those thinking that Gov. John Kasich would announce a bid for next year’s Republican presidential nomination, his answer Wednesday night was clear: Not yet. ‘All options are on the table, and I’m not even close to making a decision on this,’ Kasich told reporters.”

[Kasich continues his national push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution tour with stops in Columbia, South Carolina and Charleston, West Virginia today.]

Marco Rubio and the difference between pessimism and surrender - Talking to reporters on a visit to early primary state Nevada, 2016 hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio offered a grim assessment of Republican chances to break a Democratic filibuster of funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The Florida senator said he didn’t see a way to push through legislation that would undo President Obama’s temporary amnesty and for illegal immigrants. Rubio also deemed a funding lapse for the agency unacceptable. The author of an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal assumed this meant Rubio was calling for Republicans to abandon their fight. The story ricocheted around the Internet like a super ball in an empty fish tank Rubio spokesman Alex Conant would later explain that his boss “does not support a clean DHS funding bill that does not repeal the president’s unconstitutional executive order on immigration,” but was rather lamenting Democratic intransigence. The lesson: musing on procedure is a pursuit best confined to Capitol Hill, not the campaign trail.

[Rubio continues his early-state swing with stops in South Carolina today.]

Cruz scorches Dems on amnesty - The Hill: “Sen. Ted Cruz [R-Texas], a leading critic of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, said Wednesday that Democrats will bear the blame if a fight over those orders shuts down the Department of Homeland Security. Cruz touted a decision Monday by a federal district court in Texas halting Obama’s unilateral action from November as more reason for Democrats to accept a House-passed homeland security funding bill. “Right now Senate Democrats are filibustering to try to kill funding for the Department of Homeland Security in order to hold DHS hostage and force the president’s executive amnesty program onto the American people,” Cruz said at a press conference at the Texas Capitol alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state GOP officials.”

Christie looking for Cash in Bush country - NYT: “Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, struggling to catch up to the early financial gains of his potential rival Jeb Bush, made an aggressive fund-raising push last week in Greenwich, Conn., the affluent enclave where residents have been part of the Bush family donor network for years…On Feb. 13, Tom Foley, who served as ambassador to Ireland under Mr. Bush’s brother George W. Bush, hosted an event for Mr. Christie at his home in Greenwich, according to a person close to Mr. Christie…And on Feb. 10, Mr. Christie was the featured guest at a meet-and-greet at the Greenwich home of Steven A. Cohen, the head of Point72 Asset Management. The firm, formerly known as SAC Capital, was hit with a federal indictment in 2013 and settled insider trading charges in 2014. Mr. Cohen was never criminally charged by federal prosecutors, and an S.E.C. civil administrative hearing he is facing has not been held.”

[Christie is slated to be in D.C. today to give the keynote address tonight at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Walk to Washington” event.]

Perry makes West Coast swing - Houston Chronicle: “Former Gov. Rick Perry is visiting California this week in his latest trip geared toward laying the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign…Perry privately met Wednesday with members of the RickPAC Advisory Board, which includes dozens of well-known Republican donors. Several of them are based in California. Perry is billed as a special guest Thursday at the Kern County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner in Bakersfield…On Saturday, Perry is slated to speak at the Unite IE Conservative Conference, a gathering of prominent Republicans in Riverside. Also scheduled to address the conference are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in California in 2010.”

[Watch Fox: Carly Fiorina is the latest potential 2016 contender featured on “Special Report with Bret Baier” tonight at 6 p.m. ET.]

Police in Australia reported an unusual incident on the freeway when highway patrol officers received calls about a black Toyota sedan driving erratically toward the city center of Hobson’s Bay. When officers caught up with the vehicle they were shocked to find the driver playing a trumpet as he drove over the Westgate Bridge. Police intercepted the car and issued the 27-year-old Portarlington man with a $354 fine for careless driving. Senior Constable Adam West said, “Highway Patrol officers would like to thank the members of the public who reported the incident as they believe they stopped a potential accident.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.