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First Read: Money-in-Politics Stories to Watch for 2016

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Two other money-in-politics stories to watch in the 2016 race

With all the attention on the Clinton Foundation story -- and with its potential conflicts of interest (see our piece on it yesterday) -- there are two other money-in-politics that should be on everyone’s radar screens:

  1. The Koch and Adelson Primaries: On Monday, the NYT reported that the Koch Brothers had settled on their preferred 2016 candidate – Scott Walker. Then Koch World pushed back on that story, saying they are still holding auditions for their favorite 2016 candidate. But here is a key question: If the Koch Brothers (and their network of wealthy donors) are going to dole out millions and millions of dollars and they’re currently auditioning candidates, what are they getting in return for that support? Check out this quote from Charles Koch: "We're telling [GOP candidates] that if they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies … will benefit them and will benefit all America." What policies are those? Here’s NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell on Scott Walker’s ties to the Koch Brothers.

And it’s just not the Koch Primary. This coming Saturday, at least two Republican presidential contenders -- Ted Cruz and Rick Perry -- are going to Las Vegas to speak at the Sheldon Adelson-backed Republican Jewish Coalition confab. In the 2012 cycle, Adelson and his wife donated nearly $100 million to GOP outside groups, including Super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

2. Jeb Bush in uncharted Super PAC waters: On Tuesday, the AP reported that Jeb Bush plans to outsource his TV ads, direct mail, and data gathering to his Super PAC, Right to Rise. What’s noteworthy here is that, according to campaign-finance laws, there is supposed to be NO coordination between a candidate and a Super PAC. But Jeb Bush is exploiting a loophole -- and potentially violating at least the SPIRIT of these laws -- because he’s not officially a presidential candidate. So he’s raising money for this Super PAC and putting his key personnel there. The moment he declares his candidacy (in June?), he’ll stop his role with the Super PAC. But by then, it will have all the money (through unlimited donations) and infrastructure it needs.

Bank on it: The Super PACs will outspend the campaigns -- at least during the primary season

When it comes to Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, maybe the biggest consequence of it is that, in 2016, we’re going to see the Super PACs outspend the actual campaigns, at least during the primary season. As the New York Times’ Nick Confessore points out, the Romney campaign spent about $76 million in the 2012 primary season, while the main pro-Romney Super PAC spent $49 million. As Confessore mused, it’s easy to see how that ratio shifts for Jeb Bush -- and perhaps the other GOP candidates as well.

Obama visits Florida Everglades to mark Earth Day

USA Today: “President Obama spends Earth Day on Wednesday in the Florida Everglades, promoting his climate change policies. After touring Everglades National Park in the afternoon, Obama will speak ‘on the threat that climate change poses to our economy and to the world,’ says the White House schedule. The president will stress his efforts to reduce carbon emissions, while criticizing congressional Republicans for opposing his environmental policies.” Obama delivers his remarks at 3:55 pm ET.

Hillary vague on trade deal

Turning back to the 2016 race, Hillary Clinton was incredibly vague when talking about the political fight over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. "Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security," she said in New Hampshire yesterday. "And we need to do our part to make sure we have the capacity and the skills to be competitive." As we’ve written before, this trade deal -- as well as a battle over “fast-track” trade authority for President Obama -- puts Hillary in a tough spot. Does she back Obama and her husband Bill? Or does she side with organized labor, as well as the likes of Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, who have come out against it? Other questions: Will Hillary be able to look credible if she opposes the TPP? Would it add to a perception she'll say or do anything? Could the better position for her actually be supporting it, showing that she's willing to buck her base (especially since Obama is for it)? Also on the trade-deal front, here’s a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz supporting giving Obama fast-track authority.

Walker comes out against LEGAL immigration?

Don’t miss this piece by MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s newfound skepticism of legal immigration levels is a potential turning point in the still nascent presidential race, potentially dragging the Republican Party further to the right than Mitt Romney’s hardline immigration platform in 2012. ‘In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying – the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages,’ Walker said Monday in an interview with Glenn Beck. ‘It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today – what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.’” A Walker spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein: "Gov. Walker supports American workers' wages and the U.S. economy and thinks both should be considered when crafting a policy for legal immigration. He strongly supports legal immigration, and like many Americans, believes that our economic situation should be considered instead of arbitrary caps on the amount of immigrants that can enter."

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