It's a regular hoopla, all right, and a lucrative one.
A spate of Democratic lawmakers are using March Madness to raise some campaign funds as the NCAA men's basketball tournament arrives in the nation's capital.
Those hosting their fetes at the Verizon Center -- about 10 blocks from the White House -- are commanding up to $5,000 a person from donors who want to share b-ball, good eats and convivial politics for a few hours.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland host two events on Thursday and Saturday; ditto Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia, though neither has a team in the competition. The price? The range is $1,000 to $2,000 a person.
Reps. Bruce L. Braley of Iowa and Eliot L. Engel of New York, meanwhile, are hosting single events on Thursday; Mr. Braley has the most expensive ticket at $5,000.
The Grand Old Party did not overlook a few grand old parties either. Though these were not at the Verizon Center. Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho and John Thune of South Dakota hosted previous March Madness-themed fundraising events at private locations in the Washington area.
"Recent studies show March Madness can lead to millions of lost dollars for businesses. It can also lead to huge profits -- for lawmakers, that is," points out Louis Serino, an analyst with the Sunlight Foundation's Party Time, a watchdog which tracks the influential fetes and soirees of candidates, including those who use basketball as a centerpiece.
Mark the calendars, get out the noisemakers.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has declared Thursday to be the "National Day to Demand Action." He's recruiting anyone and everyone to call, email or Tweet their lawmakers and demand a fix of "our broken gun laws," this following a $12 million ad buy in a dozen states touting the very same cause. Mr. Bloomberg also is pushing a terse public petition that simple reads "Members of Congress: Take action to end gun violence," showcased on a new activist website demandaction.org.
"We demanded a plan and we got one. We demanded a vote and we'll get one," says Mr. Bloomberg, who paid for the ads out of his own pocket and is co-chairman of the 900-member Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
"While they are home for this recess, members of Congress will hear directly from their constituents who support sensible gun law reforms like expanded background checks," said fellow co-chairman and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
TARGETS OF YORE
"Politicians can be quite disarming."
(Headline from a National Rifle Association print advertisement in The Washington Post, April 5, 1990)
TAKE POT FOR GRANITE
"The New Hampshire House of Representatives adopted a "Live Free and Get High" mantra Thursday, decriminalizing possession of less than a quarter ounce of marijuana," proclaims The Nashua Telegraph, a New Hampshire newspaper.
"Live free or die," of course, has been the Granite State's official motto since 1945.
But never mind retooling the license plates, which bear the phrase. Outside of medicinal use, Gov. Maggie Hassan opposes the bill, says her spokesman Marc Gregory.
WOE IS US
"By 2016, the United States will no longer be the world's No. 1 economy. That title will be handed over to none other than the current No. 2: China. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris said in report published this week that China was on course to surpass the U.S. economy in just three short years," says Kenneth Rapoza, a contributor to Forbes magazine.
"That's about the time President Barack Obama will end his second term. The next president will potentially be the first one since World War II that didn't govern the world's most powerful economy," he notes.
One California lawmaker has discovered that there is still public fascination about the late Andrew Breitbart. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher hosted a screening of "Hating Breitbart," a documentary about the media maven and provocateur. Several hundred enthusiastic fans showed up at the Costa Mesa, Calif., event.
"The film was both entertaining and inspiring. We know that we have lost a great champion of truth, but we also know that it's up to us to let his courage and commitment to truth inspire us to carry the torch forward," Mr. Rohrabacher reports.
The film will be released May 17 in select theaters across the U.S. and on DVD and video on demand.
"We wanted to capture Andrew as he was: loud, passionate and occasionally profane when he saw liberal hypocrisy in the mainstream media," director Andrew Marcus told the assembled crowd. "But we also wanted to make sure that all Americans can see what a fascinating man he was and why his messages of media corruption and the rising tide of citizen journalism are even more important today than when he passed away."
POLL DU JOUR
• 85 percent of U.S. voters favor requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers; 83 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats agree.
• 72 percent overall favor "mental health checks" on all gun buyers; 64 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats agree.
• 54 percent overall favor banning high-capacity ammunition clips; 41 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats agree.
• 51 percent overall favor banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons; 33 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree.
• 51 percent overall support armed guards in schools; 59 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats agree.
• 37 percent overall say "better parenting" will reduce gun violence; 52 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Fox News poll of 1,002 registered U.S. voters conducted March 17 to 19.
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