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Dec 1, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak.

🚨 Breaking: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) warned President Biden about nominating Richard Cordray to a top Fed job, Axios' Hans Nichols scooped tonight.

  • The back-and-f0rth between Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), took a jarring turn tonight, Axios' Sophia Cai and Andrew Solender wrote.

Smart Brevity™ count: 1,092 words ... 4 minutes. Edited by Glen Johnson.

1 big thing: Clinton Foundation donations plummet

Chelsea, Hillary and Bill Clinton appear at the 2018 Clinton Global Initiative conference, staged by the Clinton Foundation. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Donations to the Clinton Foundation plummeted to $16 million last year, down nearly 75% from the organization's peak when former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for president, records reviewed by Axios' Lachlan Markay and Hans Nichols show.

Why it matters: The foundation was a financial juggernaut in the years after Bill Clinton served as president and while his wife led her own political career. In the time since, COVID-19 shuttered the sort of public events that had driven millions to the group — although Clinton loyalists expect increased donations this year.

  • While contributions have declined since Hillary Clinton's failed run in 2016, the foundation has built up a substantial endowment — which increased during the pandemic's equities boom.
  • That allowed it to cash out $15 million last year to help offset lost contributions.
  • The foundation's financial travails were felt across the nonprofit sector last year.

By the numbers: The foundation received about $16.3 million in contributions during 2020, according to a new annual tax filing.

  • That was down from $29.6 million in 2019, and the peak of $62.9 million in 2016.
  • Some large donors of prior years continued giving in 2020, including the government of Norway; the Walton family, founders of Walmart; and longtime Clinton supporters Haim and Cheryl Saban, according to disclosures on the foundation's website.
  • It also reported $11.6 million in capital gains on its substantial investment portfolio in 2020, an increase of more than $1.3 million over the year prior.
  • That was on top of the $15 million it drew down from its endowment, which grew by more than $30 million per year in 2020 and 2019, and ended last year with a value of more than $235 million.

What they're saying: Last year "was a difficult year for philanthropy," wrote foundation CEO Kevin Thurm in a letter accompanying its annual financials. "Across the sector, resources were stretched thinly and fundraising activities were impacted."

Keep reading.

2. Centrist Dems push gas-tax suspension

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Centrist Democrats are pushing President Biden to suspend the federal gas tax as a way of showing concern about inflation, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

Why it matters: It's the strongest response yet from Democrats as Republicans make inflation a key part of their 2022 campaign messaging — but so far it's largely coming from candidates, not party leaders in Washington.

  • Historically, opponents of the federal gas tax have argued it's regressive and disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class, as well as people living in rural parts of the country.
  • Now, supply chain disruptions and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic economy have led to higher consumer prices across the country on things like food, gas and holiday gifts.

Driving the news: Just before the Thanksgiving recess, former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) encouraged suspending the gas tax to help "hurting working families" in Iowa.

  • She's running for U.S. Senate next year against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, and was one of the House Democratic candidates who won in 2018 and helped her party take back that chamber of Congress.
  • Former Republican Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida is now seeking his state's governorship and running as a Democrat. He called for a temporary end to the gas tax as a way to curb inflation's effects on Floridians.
  • Similarly, former Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) — who lost re-election last cycle and now is seeking the governorship in South Carolina — asked the state's General Assembly to end the gas tax until the end of the fiscal year.
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) have introduced bills to address U.S. supply chain issues, although neither includes a gas-tax holiday.

What they're saying: "It’s a common-sense step to put more money in people’s pockets without jeopardizing infrastructure projects," Cunningham said in a tweet praising Crist for supporting the same measure in Florida.

Keep reading.

3. By the numbers: Infrastructure hype
Expand chart
Data: Quorum; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Both of the Democrats' vulnerable Arizona senators have been some of the most active lawmakers in hyping "infrastructure" in their press releases, newsletters, tweets and Facebook posts, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

Why it matters: Democrats are hopeful their successes on roads, bridges — and, possibly, expanding the social safety net — will lessen losses they're expecting in the 2022 midterms. The social media activity has been tracked since the president signed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package into law.

By the numbers: Quorum analyzed all congressional press releases, newsletters to constituents, floor statements, tweets and Facebook posts with mentions of "infrastructure" since Nov. 15.

  • The total number of mentions: 3,168.
  • Nine of the top 10 members of Congress with the most mentions are Democrats, with Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican who is retiring, coming in 10th.
  • Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who is facing a tough re-election campaign, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has faced criticism from progressives for her role in trimming the president's spending plans, also place in the Top 10.
  • When including "federal executives" in the search, Vice President Kamala Harris came in 13th for most mentions of "infrastructure" in public statements, posts and releases.
4. The NDAA and women's rights

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

While debate over this year's defense bill is dominated by topics like China, Afghanistan and a president's authority to declare war, a quieter experiment is also playing: Advocates are using the legislation to test expansions of protections for women in the military, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

Why it matters: The Senate resumed consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act this week. Democrats and Republicans continue to squabble over key amendments to the bill, threatening to delay the must-pass legislation.

  • Once the Senate completes its work, a conference committee must resolve differences with the version already passed by the House.

What we're watching: Several efforts to better accommodate women, or deal with issues that disproportionately impact them, are noteworthy in that their backing is markedly bipartisan — an aberration these days:

  • Parental leave: Both the Senate and House versions of the bill include provisions expanding paid-leave benefits for service members, including up to 12 weeks of parental leave in the case of birth, adoption or long-term foster placement of a child.
  • Women and the Selective Service: The bill includes a provision requiring all Americans ages 18-26 to sign up — regardless of their gender identification — to register for a military draft, but some conservative Republicans are pushing to strip the provision.
  • Sexual assault reform: The bill contains a bundle of provisions implementing the main recommendations suggested by a Pentagon-commissioned panel in just six months.

Keep reading.

5. Pic du jour

Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

A supporter of Roe v. Wade stands outside the Supreme Court on the eve of it hearing a case concerning Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.

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