Nov 18, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌞 Happy Monday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,175 words ... 4½ minutes.

🏀 Congrats to heroic ODU basketball coach Jeff Jones on his 500th career win.

  • Top Hampton Roads sportswriter Harry Minium: "When I texted Jones to ask him to talk about winning his 500th game, he called back and said 'I thought it was 400.'"
1 big thing: California's boardroom "women quota"

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

California’s unprecedented law requiring all public companies headquartered there to have at least one female board member by 2020 is drawing lawsuits, reports Axios' Courtenay Brown.

  • Why it matters: Pressure to diversify corporate boards has historically come from shareholders and special interest groups. With California's law poised to take effect — and at least three states weighing similar legislation — critics are raising the question of government overreach.

The law sets a penalty of $100,000 in fines for public companies that don't have at least one woman on their board by the end of 2019.

  • Opponents are hoping to block the law before it gets stricter: By 2021, companies with five-person boards will have to have at least two women, while boards of six or more will have to have three.
  • Companies that refuse to comply more than once will be fined $300,000 per seat that should be filled by a woman.

The other side: A coalition led by the California Chamber of Commerce, said in a letter to lawmakers that by focusing "only on gender," the law "potentially elevates it as a priority over other aspects of diversity."

  • In one of the ongoing lawsuits, the lead lawyer told the AP: "The law mandates exactly what the equal protection clause forbids — taking into account things like sex or race" in hiring.

The big picture: Most big companies subject to the law — like Google, Wells Fargo and Disney — have had women on their boards for years, prodded, in some cases, by backlash against all-male boardrooms.

  • 70 of the 602 publicly traded companies headquartered in California were not in compliance as of July, according to research by Clemson University and the University of Arizona.

What’s next: Lawmakers in other states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington, hope to follow California's lead.

2. ⚖️ Impeachment sneak peek: House Rs seek senator's account
Rep. Devin Nunes (left) speaks with Rep. Jim Jordan during the first public impeachment hearing, as GOP counsel Steve Castor leans out. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Republicans are asking Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) for "firsthand information" about Ukraine-related meetings, briefings and conversations with President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

  • A letter from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who's leading the GOP case, and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, asked Johnson for his recollections after attending the inauguration of Ukraine's president in May.

The senator said yesterday on "Meet the Press" that he had received the letter, and said he'd be working over the weekend on preparing his "telling of events."

  • "I will lay out what I know," Johnson said. "They're not going to call me, because certainly Adam Schiff wouldn't want to be called by the Senate. There’s going to be a separation there. But I think I will reply to that."

Read the letter.

3. FAA may change plane certification

Boeing's 737 MAX airplanes sit idle after leaving the assembly line. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

"U.S. air-safety regulators are considering ways to alter fundamentally how they certify aircraft in the wake of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX crisis," FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson told the Wall Street Journal (subscription).

  • Dickson floated the idea of "the FAA being involved in the design of a new plane from the outset."
  • "The current approach is you’re answering all these questions and then it’s, ‘OK FAA, here’s my final exam. Grade my paper.' ... The holistic approach is more of a dialogue as you go through the process," he said.
4. Trail pics du jour
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke at Nevada Democrats' event for 2020 candidates yesterday at the Bellagio in Vegas, ahead of its Feb. 22 caucuses.

Photo: John Locher/AP

Above: A cardboard Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — who also appeared live.

Below: The real Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Photo: John Locher/AP

And this is the cover of today's N.Y. Post:

5. Trump vaping reversal

President Trump reversed course on a plan to ban most flavored vaping products "because he feared it would lead to job losses," report WashPost's Josh Dawsey and Laurie McGinley.

  • Why it matters: "It was the latest example of the chaotic way policy is made — and sometimes unmade — in a White House where the ultimate decider often switches gears after making a controversial vow."

"He didn’t know much about the issue and was just doing it for Melania and Ivanka," a senior administration official told the Post.

  • "Officials said the blowback to Trump’s vow to ban most flavored e-cigarettes had rattled him."
  • "His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, privately warned the ban could hurt him in battleground states."
6. "The Iran Cables": Hundreds of leaked intelligence reports
Screenshot: The Intercept

The Intercept tells the story behind its publication of a trove of secret Iranian intelligence cables: "The source said they wanted to 'let the world know what Iran is doing in my country Iraq.' They sent ... 700 pages of secret intelligence reports from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security."

  • "[W]e approached the New York Times and proposed a reporting partnership. The article we jointly published with the Times is the product of months of collaboration, in which Intercept and Times reporters verified the authenticity of the documents."

Why they matter, per the Times: The documents expose "Tehran’s vast influence in Iraq, detailing years of painstaking work by Iranian spies to co-opt the country’s leaders, pay Iraqi agents working for the Americans to switch sides and infiltrate every aspect of Iraq’s political, economic and religious life."

7. 🇨🇳 Ian Bremmer warns of "tech Cold War"

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, warned at the consulting firm's annual GZERO Summit in Tokyo today that a rising "tech Cold War" between China and the West poses "the greatest threat to globalization since the end of World War II."

  • "Beijing is building a separate system of Chinese technology — its own standards, infrastructure, and supply chains — to compete with the West," Bremmer said.
  • "Make no mistake: This is the single most consequential geopolitical decision taken in the last three decades."

Bremmer says these "parallel technology systems" are more worrisome than China's military threat, which is "smaller than many in Washington believe":

China has even less interest in going to war with the U.S. than the U.S. has in going to war with China. China is a regional, but not a global, military power. ...
The greatest source of U.S.-China conflict comes from technology. Here, China is, today, a true superpower. Here, the U.S. does have an interest in seeing China fail, because China's technological development poses a foundational challenge to the values on which global stability and prosperity depend.

Read the speech.

8. Global warming's debate stage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The real debate on climate change is happening in the courtrooms, writes Axios' Amy Harder in her "Harder Line" column.

  • The big picture: With federal policy gridlocked, advocates are pushing an ever-growing list of long-shot lawsuits blaming Big Oil companies and the government for the planet's hot mess.

Three big cases to watch:

  1. A ruling is expected next month on a closely watched fraud lawsuit from the New York attorney general alleging ExxonMobil misled investors on its handling of climate-change costs. Massachusetts' AG just filed a similar lawsuit.
  2. Several lawsuits blaming a handful of Big Oil companies for rising temperatures are moving forward across the country.
  3. A three-judge federal panel has yet to rule on a high-profile case where children are alleging the government failed them on climate change.

Go deeper.

9. 🏈 Shakeup atop college football
Expand chart
Data: AP. Table: Axios Visuals
10. 1 car thing

Courtesy Ford

Ford unveiled a high-performance electric SUV, the Mustang Mach-E, ahead of the LA Auto Show, a sign of its new approach to electrification, reports Axios' Joann Muller.

  • Why it matters: Instead of building econo-boxes no one wants, Ford says its strategy going forward is to "play to its strengths" by adding electric powertrains to its best-selling vehicles, including the Mustang, F-150 pickup and its extensive lineup of SUVs and commercial vans.
Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP
Mike Allen

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