In it, but not of it. TPM DC

If you're interested in the question of whether Barack Obama can change the culture of Washington, one of the things worth looking at is the lobbying efforts over the F 22 Raptor. The decision of what to do with this fighter aircraft is one of the more important defense procurement questions the administration will face. And, like all defense issues, it's wrapped up in politics especially in a deep recession when jobs are scarce and good-aying jobs are even scarcer.

Some background: Over decades, weapons systems have taken on a life of their own and proven hard to halt even when the Pentagon is ambivalent about having them. My former TIME colleague, Mark Thompson, a veteran defense correspondent, has, for instance, written at length about the problems bedeviling the V-22 Osprey aircraft and why, despite its woes, billions have been pumped into the project.

When it comes to the F 22 Raptor, the administration is facing a March 1 deadline to decide how many more F22s to order. Lockheed is supposed to deliver the last of the current batch of 181 on order in 2011. The argument against ordering still more F22s is that the Pentagon already has a similar aircraft, the F 35 Joint Strike fighter online and, besides, the more pressing issue for the U.S. is not air superiority in a conventional war but rooting out terrorists in the Khyber Pass. The Air Force has indicated that it would like a total of 381 but several senior Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have hinted that they'd like far fewer if not to put the kabosh on the program entirely. The Pentagon "has not demonstrated the need or value for making further investments" in the plane, the Government Accountability Office found.

So not surprisingly there's a lot of lobbying going on to keep the F 22 rolling. Northrop and Lockheed Martin are lobbying heavily to keep the plane in production and there's a large press availability this week where reporters can sit in simulators and learn all about the 95,000 jobs the plane's advocates say are at state. Any state where there's work related to the Raptor is lobbying for it. "With rising unemployment, we need to make sure that we're not making a knee-jerk reaction and we keep this program going strong," Keith Scott, president of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce told the Baltimore Sun. Our point is, No. 1, this preserves jobs, and No. 2, it is immediate. You don't have to develop anything," Lawson said. "This is 'shovel ready.' "

According to the Los Angeles Times
, the F-22 program is directly responsible for 25,000 jobs at Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin and its major suppliers. But Lockheed officials say when jobs from sub-suppliers are added in, the F-22 program maintains 95,000 jobs in 44 states. Among the firms helping Lockheed in Washington is Public Strategies, home to George W. Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon. In Congress, prominent senators from Ted Kennedy to Judd Gregg to Dianne Feinstein signed a letter back in January urging then President Elect Obama to keep the F22 going. Not surprisingly there's a website, www.preserveraptorjobs.com that's just part of the lobbying campaign being waged by the Lockheed, Boeing and other suppliers of the jet fighter. We'll know soon whether their efforts have been successful.

So with the stimulus bill now fully passed and signed into law, are there still any Republican governors who might actually go so far as refuse some or all of the cash, even if it goes against the immediate interests of their states? The answer is Yes.

Most Republican governors are now going ahead and figuring out how to spend the money, even if a bunch of them were opposed to the bill itself. But there are still some holdouts, people who are making noise about turning down a check from Washington.

First up is the most prominent anti-stimulus governor of all, South Carolina's Mark Sanford. In response to critics of his public position to not spend the money, Sanford wrote an op-ed piece for The State: "The bailout approach undermines what has historically been the ultimate source of economic stimulus -- the American worker and entrepreneur."

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Accused $8 billion fraudster Allen Stanford is making headlines today, but he's no stranger to D.C. politics. After government officials caught wind of Stanford's cozy relationship with the government of Antigua, where he maintained his offshore banking operations, the flamboyant Texas financier worked hard to make friends in Congress.

Between July 2000 and July 2001, Stanford was the single largest contributor to the unregulated "527" fundraising groups run by then-Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (SD) and then-House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (TX), according to the watchdog group Public Citizen.

Stanford's company "gave soft money to Daschle, Frost, and the party committees at a time when it had only one lobbying objective," Steve Weissman, who was Public Citizen's legislative representative during that period, told me. "The people who received the money basically did nothing to advance the money laundering bill that was from the Clinton administration. Even if they were Democrats and it was the Democratic Clinton administration that wanted to push the bill, they complied with what the donor wanted."

Frost, now a lobbyist in D.C. and president of America Votes, recalls meeting with Stanford as well as taking no action on his fellow Texan's concerns. Their interaction was wholly routine, as the former lawmaker described it.

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We know that Allen Stanford, the Texas financier accused of a multi-billion-dollar fraud yesterday, helped send several amenable members of Congress to soak up the sun in Antigua. But Stanford first got involved with Washington policy-making long before 2003, when the first reported congressional trips took place.

Our tale begins in the Clinton administration, when the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa helped jump-start a legislative push to crack down on international tax havens. At that time, Jonathan Winer, a senior State Department official under Clinton, was well aware of Stanford's offshore activities.

"In the late '90s, Stanford came to my attention ... because he was reaching out to people in our government to say he was a good guy and we should be comfortable with him," Winer, now a senior vice president at APCO Worldwide in Washington, told me.

"He hired people to reform Antigua's banking system, which was overwhelmed by offshore banks and shell banks [but] he was also regulated by the entity governing the sector that he was spending money to organize in what was characterized as a clean-up. We thought that was a conflict and inappropriate."

Meanwhile, as Time reported three years later, the attempt to tighten money laundering rules got pushback from ... guess who? (emphasis mine)

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Norm Coleman is off to a rough start this morning, with the Minnesota election court having just formally denied his request for them to reconsider their ruling last week to stop him from advocating for certain rejected absentee ballots.

This isn't a big surprise, but it has some interesting ramifications. The court handed down a ruling on Friday that Coleman didn't like, because it immediately cut off about a thousand ballots that he wanted to put in the count. He then immediately turned around and asked them to change their minds, arguing that other ballots like these are already in the count, and the court didn't do it.

The important part here is that Coleman is establishing a record of this court shooting him down on matters of law -- which he will be practically certain to appeal should the trial end with him still losing the race. And remember that the Coleman camp is already calling out the vote count as "fatally flawed," hinting that one contingency plan for after this trial could be to seek a do-over election.

Conservative commentators are going wild over the small number of journalists who have chosen to go into the Obama administration. It's proof, they say, of the media's liberal bias. Michelle Malkin goes into a rant on this. Oh, please.

We're in economic chaos and print media is in free fall. I have no doubt that if John McCain had won, you would have seen some journalists head into the administration. In case, you missed it, no shortage of reporters love the guy.

As for the bias of those who've gone into the administration, let's take them one by one. There's my old Time colleague, Jay Carney, who is working for Biden. I don't think I'm giving away a state secret to say that more than a decade ago, as I recall, McCain had some interest in hiring Carney and the two have been friendly personally even while occasionally battling it out in print. Carney is probably one of the least partisan people I know. Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune, after all, went to work for Ray LaHood, the Republican Secretary of Transportation from Illinois who she knew well from writing for the state's largest daily. Peter Gosselin of the L.A. Times, the widower of the late and much liked New York Times reporter, Robin Toner, who passed away recently, should hardly be begrudged for giving up the maelstrom of the Tribune company and Sam Zell to go work for Tim Geithner who was Hank Paulson's partner as much as he is Barack Obama's. In other words, big deal.

And even if they'd gone to work for more partisan figures or had more partisan leanings themselves, so what? I'm not sure it's a bad thing.

Besides, I'm of the school that service in government is good for journalists. I worked at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after college and the experience has always given me a more supple understanding of how government works. Many of my colleagues from the center-left The Washington Monthly where I began my career in journalism--James Fallows, Walter Shapiro, Paul Glastris, Steven Waldman and the magazine's founder, Charles Peters--have all worked in government.

I see no one on the right complaining about Michael Gerson having gone from U.S. News & World Report to the George W. Bush administration or William Safire's exodus from the Nixon administration to The New York Times. (I realize I'm conflating columnists and reporters here, but still, the point is the same.) Left and right can bitch about the MSM but I really don't think government service, whether it's Jay Carney or Tony Snow or Chris Matthews, should really be condemned. Geoff Morrell of ABC News went to work as the Pentagon spokesman under W. Now he's still there under Bob Gates who obviously stayed. Am I supposed to be alarmed by that?

Media bias is a perennial debate and I know how many TPM readers, I'm sure, see a right leaning bias in the MSM. But it strikes me that bias and government service are different questions, each worth parsing on their own.

Labor Group Airs Ad Celebrating Stimulus Passage The labor-backed political group Americans United For Change is already going on the air with this new pro-stimulus ad, seeking to claim the political narrative in the wake of the bill's final passage into law:



The ad is running on national cable and in the D.C. media market -- so it's essentially aimed at the political classes, with the key message that there remains more work to be done.

Obama Delivering Speech Today On Mortgage Relief President Obama is spending the morning in Phoenix, Arizona, where he will deliver a 12:15 p.m. ET speech on his mortgage relief plan, which would reportedly involve the government setting out to reduce foreclosures by providing subsidies and other incentives to help lower payments costs, and to encourage the renegotiation of loan terms. He will then head back to Washington, with a scheduled 5:45 p.m. ET arrival back at the White House.

Biden Meeting With Middle Class Task Force -- And Ryan Crocker Vice President Biden is having lunch today with members of the Middle Class Task Force, the White House effort chaired by Biden to study everyday economic conditions and make policy recommendations. Then in the afternoon, he will be meeting with Ryan Crocker, the Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, for a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation in that country.

WaPo: Palin Caught Between Alaska, National Politics The Washington Post takes a look at Sarah Palin's political life these days, revealing a pol who is caught between the competing pressures of her state and national political lives, and whose every moved is analyzed with an eye towards 2012. "There's nothing we can do to stop it," said Palin aide Joe Balash. "People wonder why she's doing something or not doing something."

Two Ohio Dems Jump Into 2010 Senate Race Ohio Democrats now have a primary for the open Senate seat of retiring GOP Senator George Voinovich, with both Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher both declaring their candidacies yesterday. Both of them should be considered serious candidates for the primary and general elections, while the Republicans have rallied around former Rep. Rob Portman.

GOP Leaders Talk Up Pro-Life Issues, Ahead of Pelosi's Papal Visit Roll Call reports that John Boehner and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) have sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praising Cardinal Justin Rigali for his work on pro-life issues -- and which just so happens to have been sent ahead of Nancy Pelosi's upcoming visit with the Pope. A GOP source told the paper that that the letter "certainly points to the very real difference" between political leaders who side with the church's teachings and those who ignore them.

GOP Candidate On The Air For Gillibrand's House Seat The Republican National Committee has launched this ad for Jim Tedisco, the GOP candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat:



Tedisco has a serious chance of winning the March 31 special election, as he goes into the race with much higher name recognition as the state Assembly minority leader than does Democratic businessman Scott Murphy. If the GOP can pick up the seat, they'll be able to claim a significant boost in their desired narrative of a party staging a comeback.

Today's developments in the Minnesota election trial make even clearer the extent to which the Coleman team are casting doubt on the whole election result -- indeed, they're using the sort of language that could lead one to believe they'll try for a do-over.

At Coleman lawyer/spokesman Ben Ginsberg's post-court press conference today (c/o The Uptake), unveiled this new line: "You saw today in the testimony of Scott and Carver counties, why Al Franken's current lead -- and I use that term euphemistically -- is based on illegal votes."

Ginsberg also said that the variation across the state in how absentee ballots were screened for acceptance or rejection made this "a fatally-flawed election."

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Poor House Republicans. They were pretty psyched yesterday about that new troops-rallying video from Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) that used Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" to declare that "The House GOP is back" thanks to the party's unanimous opposition to the stimulus.

But unfortunately, Aerosmith wasn't feeling the love. Cantor's clip has been pulled from YouTube after a copyright infringement claim made by Stage Three Music, which owns the rights to "Back in the Saddle."

The GOP's use of the tune "was something we, as the publishers, didn't approve and would not have approved without going to the writers," Connie Ashton, director of copyright and licensing at Stage Three, told me. "Aerosmith did not approve of its use and also wanted to have it taken down," she added.

Ashton added that House Republicans never contacted Stage Three to put in a request for use of "Back in the Saddle." Maybe they assumed it was okay because Joe Perry endorsed McCain last year.

As the Los Angeles Times' report yesterday observing liberals' frustration with President Obama echoes elsewhere in the mainstream media, it's worth noting that some groups on the left are maintaining a healthy independence from the administration.

One good example: Obama announced today that he will send upwards of 10,000 troops to Afghanistan before the conclusion of his internal strategy review on the state of the so-called "forgotten war" in South Asia.

Former Maine Democratic congressman Tom Andrews, now the chair of the Win Without War coalition, thoughtfully asked Obama today to consider whether adding more troops amounts to "digging an even bigger hole" in Afghanistan despite diplomatic urging to reconsider a military escalation. Here's Andrews' statement in full (followed by Obama's statement on the troop increase):

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Ted Cruz: Thanks, Obama

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