Daniel Strauss

Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Daniel

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) warned that there's "no such thing as free lunch" for school children in Georgia, but he seems to have enjoyed a few.

An investigation by Georgia's WSAV channel 3 found that Kingston, who is currently running for Senate and recently suggested students work cleaning cafeterias in exchange for lunch, had expensed as much as $4,182 worth of lunches for his office over the past three years.

"Kingston and his staff expensed nearly $4200 in meals for business purposes to his congressional office, paid for by the American taxpayer," WSAV 3's Dan Kartunen reported. The amount could have purchased nearly 2,000 Georgia school lunches.

WSAV also found that Kingston also racked up $4,289 of free meals paid for by third-party groups like the Georgia Bankers Association and the Congressional Institute. Kingston has also travelled to a handful of continents on congressional business racking up $24,313 in costs. Those expenses include more than just meals. What's more, Kingston also expensed $145,391 worth of meals for campaign events.

In December Kingston, who is against a federal lunch program, also argued that poor students should sweep floors in exchange for lunch.

"But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money," Kingston said. "But think what we would gain as a society in getting people —getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch."

Kingston was widely criticized for the remark. He defended the proposal as a "discussion about the work ethic in America."

The percentage of Americans identifying as liberal ticked up to a new record high, according to a new poll released Friday.

The new Gallup poll found that 23 percent of Americans identify as liberals, the highest number since Gallup started asking the question in its current form in 1992.

That finding is still eclipsed by the percentage of Americans identify as conservative. The Gallup poll also found that 38 percent of Americans identify as conservative, down from in 2010 when 40 percent said they identify as conservative. Thirty-four percent of Americans identify as moderate, the poll also found.

Another recent Gallup report found that in 2013 a record low number of Americans identified as Republicans.

The latest Gallup poll surveyed 18,871 adults aged 18 and older. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

Image: Shutterstock/ Eugenio Marongiu

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) released a new campaign ad Friday in which he completely ignores primary challenger Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) and instead attacks the Obama administration.

The 30-second ad, titled "Astonishing," attacks the "astonishingly liberal" President Barack Obama and said the conservative, pro-life Cornyn has stood up to the president. The ad will be airing statewide.

"Astonishingly liberal. An administration that has squandered our trust. Using backhanded methods to change the very fabric of American life. Who stands up to him? John Cornyn," a narrator in the ad said. "Conservative. Pro-life. Lives the Second Amendment. Fights for truth from a dishonest Administration. He stands up to Obama every day. Pushes back. John Cornyn’s for us - for Texas."

Notably, the ad does not address or even allude to Stockman, who's running a long shot primary challenge against Cornyn. Stockman has been trying to gain traction against Cornyn since he jumped into the race by painting him as a secret liberal. But Stockman has been unable to win over any significant conservative support thus far.

Watch the new Cornyn ad below:

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie plans to formally challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) as early as next week, according to The New York Times.

Gillespie, now a lobbyist, had previously strongly hinted that he would challenge Warner, who has amassed an impressive $7.1 million war chest for his re-election.

Gillespie is considered a top-tier candidate among the potential Republican bench but still, it is likely an upward battle for him to defeat Warner.

A September Quinnipiac poll found Warner with 61 percent job approval and 22 percent disapproval. Even 52 percent of Republicans in the poll approved of the job he's doing as senator.

According to the Times, Gillespie doesn't seem to be planning to run a tea party-style campaign. Instead he'll try run shake off a number of high profile GOP losses in 2013 including for the governor's office and attorney general. But to do that, Gillespie will have to win over tea partiers and far-right voters in the state that are skeptical of his candidacy because he was a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform. Gillespie is conservative on a number of other issues though, including abortion.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) used Republican challenger Bruce Rauner's proposal to lower the state minimum wage to compare the GOP candidate to Montgomery Burns, the evil wealthy nuclear power plant owner in the cartoon The Simpsons.

In a fundraising email sent out by Quinn's reelection campaign on Thursday, Quinn said Rauner, a private equity executive, and the rest of the GOP gubernatorial primary field "have all the compassion of C. Montgomery Burns."

"Putting more money into the pockets of those who are living paycheck to paycheck is not only the right and decent thing to do, it's good for the economy," Quinn said. "Everyday people don't admire the extra money they earn in the bank - they spend it in the local community, creating more jobs."

Quinn's fundraising email came a day after news broke that Rauner, on a local radio show, argued that Illinois's minimum wage should be lowered from $8.25 an hour to $7.25. That comment was met with negative pushback and Rauner quickly apologized saying he's actually for tying the state's minimum wage to the national minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour.

President Barack Obama and national Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and Quinn wants to raise Illinois's minimum wage to $10 an hour. The other three candidates in the GOP primary do not support raising the minimum wage but have not said it should be lowered either.

"As long as I'm governor, I will never stop fighting until we raise the minimum wage in Illinois," Quinn continued in the email.

To former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) passed "the test" with an exhaustive press conference responding to new details about the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Reacting to the presser, Brown, speaking on Fox News on Thursday, said Christie's response was "refreshing."

"So, yes, it was refreshing. I think he certainly addressed it, and he's not done," Brown said. "Obviously, he still has to do his due diligence, and that's what you're looking for in a leader, I don't care if it's Democrat or Republican. He did pass the test."

Brown went on to say that he expected Christie to survive the scandal.

"So as long as he continues to do his job and do it well like he's done and take the blame, like he's done, I think he'll, obviously, move forward and move through it pretty well," Brown added.

Democrats were far less forgiving. The Democratic National Committee panned the press conference as an ego trip for Christie.

"Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ," DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said in a statement on Thursday.

The Democratic National Committee was quick to blast New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie's (R) exhaustive press conference responding to the George Washington Bridge scandal by arguing that it was just an ego trip for him.

The statement, by DNC communications director Mo Elleithee, came just a few minutes after Christie's hour-plus long conference.

Elleithee said "it’s clear that Chris Christie absolutely created and fostered a culture in his office where this type of conduct was considered appropriate."

"Today’s spectacle by the Governor has left many questions still unanswered," Elleithee continued.

"But there’s one thing that was crystal clear today — Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ."

Here is Elleithee:

For nearly two hours today, Chris Christie stood up and repeatedly made himself out to be the victim. He lauded himself for swift action in firing staffers for lying to him. And he argued that this was not reflective of the culture he’s created in his office.

But Chris Christie is not the victim. The people of New Jersey who trusted him are.

He didn’t take ‘swift action’. He ignored questions and responsibility for more than 120 days, until his administration was finally caught red-handed.

The fireable offense should not be that his team lied to him — it’s that they took actions that hurt the people of New Jersey.

And it’s clear that Chris Christie absolutely created and fostered a culture in his office where this type of conduct was considered appropriate.

Today’s spectacle by the Governor has left many questions still unanswered.

But there’s one thing that was crystal clear today — Chris Christie needs to focus less on his ego, and more on the people of NJ.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has asked his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to remove his name from the running to be chairman of the state's Republican Party and has also asked him to step down from his consultancy role with the Republican Governors Association.

Christie made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday. Stepien, a longtime adviser to Christie, had previously been said to have survived the fallout of revelations that top Christie aides seemed to have been involved in the New Jersey bridge scandal. Christie said he could not have someone at the top of his political operation who he did not "have confidence in."

"As a result, I've instructed Bill Stepien to not place his name in nomination for state party chairman and he will not be considered for state party chairman and I've instructed him to withdraw his consultancy with the Republican Governors Association."

Christie said by 7 p.m. on Wednesday night Stepien was asked to withdraw his name for chairman and step down from the RGA.

Stepien has been a longtime confidante of Christie, the chairman of the RGA. Christie mentioned Stepien's work for him in his announcement on Thursday.

"There’s no doubt that Bill has been one of my closest advisers for the last five years," Christie said.

This post was updated.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the scandal surrounding the closure of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey "deeply troubling."

"The communications that were revealed yesterday were deeply troubling. There is an important investigation under way at the state level that I will continue to monitor closely," Booker said in a statement on Thursday. "In the Senate's Commerce Committee, we have asked the Transportation Department for information to get to the bottom of the lane closures. I am awaiting and will evaluate additional facts."

Booker's statement came in response to newly surfaced emails from high level staffers in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration suggested that they were involved in discussions to close lanes of the bridge in September.

Booker's colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez (D) called the new revelations "troubling" and "disturbing."

(H/t: Mike O'Brien)

The Political Director for the Madison Project, a conservative outside group, called Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a "tool" after the junior senator from Kentucky took a very subtle jab at the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Ryun's dig is in response to Paul, in a Politico profile of Senate Conservatives Fund executive director Matt Hoskins, saying that the outside group's tactics are "unusual."

"I would say it doesn't create a lot of extra happiness around here when people are opposing people in a primary," Paul said.

Paul's comments are perhaps one of the more direct (although far from aggressive) criticisms he's made of SCF. Other critics have been far more vocal about SCF and The Madison Project, among others, for spending resources attacking Republicans rather than Democrats. In the same article, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who's been the target of SCF called the group "very destructive."

The "McConnell machine" Ryun mentions is a reference to Paul being endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who founded what would become SCF, in the 2010 Republican primary. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) endorsed Republican Trey Grayson over Paul in the primary.