In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A few more points from the Minnesota trial today, besides the huge mess involving breached donor data from the Coleman campaign:

• After Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton announced that the campaign was postponing the resting of their case, from today to some time tomorrow, lead Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg asked for another day to begin his rebuttal. The judges said no, they expect a rebuttal to begin tomorrow, as well.

• The Coleman lawyers have served subpoenas to local officials, seeking more evidence on voters who were among the 3-A ballots, to be presented during their rebuttal. The Franken camp moved to quash the subpoenas, and argued a motion in limine to prevent such evidence from being admitted on the grounds that Team Coleman has rested their case, and previously gave no indication that they wanted to leave the case open in this respect. A judgment from the court is still pending.

Read More →

Check out this line from Michael Steele, in an interview with GQ, discussing the rap artists that he's listened to over the years:

Who do you listen to?
I actually listen to a cross section, because I like to hear what the medium is saying, what the voice is.

But do you have a favorite?
P. Diddy I enjoy quite a bit.

Do you want to rethink that?
[laughs] I guess I'm sorta old-school that way. Remember, I came of age with the DJ and all this other stuff, so I'm also loving Grandmaster Flash, and that's not hip-hop, but... Um, you know, I like Chuck D. And I always thought Snoop Dogg was--he just reminded me of the fellas back home. So I've always thoroughly enjoyed him.


This is not to say he is any kind of poser -- maybe he does listen to those acts, and we should take him at his word.

But now take a look at his statement that he's a big fan of Frank Sinatra and the other guys in the "Pack Rats":

Who else?
I like Sinatra. I like old-school. You know, Bing Crosby, Sinatra, Dean Martin. Love Dean Martin. He was one of these guys who just didn't give an F. He just didn't. Life was a party, and you either want to party or you don't. But yeah, I like those. I'm a big Pack Rat. I love the Pack Rats from the 1950s--Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, those guys.

You mean the Rat Pack.
The Rat Pack, yeah.


So Steele doesn't just sound like a middle-aged man trying to talk to his kids and failing to sound cool. He's also trying to talk to his parents and failing to sound cool.

Norm Coleman just delivered a statement outside the Minnesota courtroom, addressing the breach of security on his online donors' data -- and putting the blame squarely on political opponents, who are allegedly attempting to scare Coleman's supporters out of donating.

"It is obviously an attack on this campaign," said Coleman. "But beyond that, just in terms of the campaign we're involved in a very expensive legal proceeding. Online fundraising is a very critical element of that, and clearly the theft of this information, the publication of this information undermines that. But this is more about my campaign or the ability to fund a legal effort or campaign. We do so much online. Politics today relies on online fundraising, and unfortunately we find ourselves in a situation where the level of trust and confidentially in that information is severely undermined."

Coleman attorney Fritz Knaak took questions from reporters, and claimed that the campaign became aware of a possible data breach in late January, which was investigated by the Secret Service and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, whose analysis found that no downloads had taken place -- which leads him to believe that further hacking has taken place over time.

"We thought that we had fended off an effort at that point," said Knaak. "Clearly more efforts have occurred. Still we have every reason to believe that what was attempted in January was not successful."

The accusation made by Wikileaks.org is that the data wasn't actually hacked, but that the campaign for a few hours in January stored the entire unencrypted database of their site in a publicly-accessible location. Noah Kunin, a reporter at The Uptake, also just announced that he personally knows people who had downloaded it and told him about it at that time, and who posted the news online.

Read More →

As he signed a $410 billion spending bill that Republicans hammered for its thousands of earmarks, President Obama unveiled new proposals to shed sunlight on the practice that's known as either "pork" or "congressionally directed spending" -- depending on whether you're talking to its critics or its defenders.

Earmarks have undoubtedly been misused and abused over the years, both by disgraced lawmakers (see Cunningham, Randy "Duke") and lobbyists (see Abramoff, Jack). The process' inherent risk of influence-peddling makes it no easy task to defend earmarks -- and sure enough, Obama's attempt to defend the practice fell flat with its chief Senate critics, Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ).

Feingold and McCain's unmoved reactions to the presidential earmark fueled some critical media coverage, with the Politico headlining its story "Obama goes soft on pork".

Did Obama offer little more than a band-aid on the growth of earmarks?

Read More →

South Carolina Republican chairman Katon Dawson has moved to quash a report that he's behind an effort to kick out Michael Steele, sending this statement to Jim Geraghty:

I support Michael Steele. Our Committee elected him knowing that he can lead us during this critical time for our Party. The people behind this anonymous rumor are clearly intent on dividing the Republican National Committee and our Party at a time when we need to be united.


It may well be true that Dawson isn't behind any attempt to boot Steele. On the other hand, he hasn't done a particularly sterling job of supporting him, either, recently telling the Politico that he would be doing things differently -- that it wouldn't have taken him as long to transfer some money to the House and Senate campaign committees. And Geraghty has heard conflicting accounts from GOP insiders -- that Dawson either doesn't seem inclined to challenge Steele, or that he's likely to do it.

But again, it is absolutely true that saying you'd be doing a better job is not necessarily the same as actively plotting against somebody.

The Franken legal team is postponing the resting of their case -- which lead attorney Marc Elias had announced yesterday evening would be happening today -- due to logistical difficulties in bringing in some witnesses.

Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton told the judges that he has another absentee voter whose ballots has been rejected, ready to come in tomorrow. And he's been trying to line up testimony by the Clay County auditor.

"We would be prepared to provisionally rest at some point tomorrow," Hamilton said, "once we get that remaining testimony in, and allow the case to move forward."

On the one hand, a couple loose ends have introduced a slight delay into the process. But on the other hand, this is still way ahead of when anyone would have predicted the Franken camp resting their case.

Also, the court has just handed down a ruling to allow the counting of 14 ballots from a petition brought by a group of Franken-voters. There were 61 people involved in the original petition, for which the court initially granted permission to 24 a month ago, then rescinded permission on three a little over a week ago, and is now adding in 14 after additional evidence was submitted -- a total of 35 Franken-voters in this action who have been granted permission for now to have their ballots opened and counted at a later date.

The Obama administration has ordered a wide-ranging review of the signing statements that his predecessor frequently used to sidestep congressional edicts -- but that's not stopping the president from issuing one of his own.

After Obama signed the $410 spending bill that keeps the government funded until October, the White House released a statement outlining its take on the constitutionality of several of the bill's provisions.

Perhaps the most notable portion of the statement gives Obama room to reallocate money as he sees fit without abiding by the spending bill's requirement to first get approval from Congress:

Read More →

If I was a gambling man, I would bet that Michael Steele is going to make it.

I realize that he's not popular, that a lot of people in the Republican Party would like to see him go and as Josh Marshall pointed out he doesn't have a single, solid constituency like the conservative Christian activists or state party chairs united behind him.

But look at Roland Burris. I point to him not because of race, although surely the forcible removal of the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee would have racial overtones. Burris is arguably much less popular among his peers than Steele is with the Republican National Committee members who elected him RNC Chairman in January. Burris seems like a goner just a few weeks ago. Now, he's a Senate regular and his ouster seems unlikely in the extreme.

Still it's worth examining just what the party rules say about removing a chairman if it comes to that. If you look at Rule 5 of the RNC rules it says explicitly: "The chairman or co- chairman may be removed from office only by a two- thirds (2/3) vote of the entire Republican National Committee." The ballot has to be open under Roberts Rules of Order which is the playbook for RNC rules--which is kind of amusing given the opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. That is a pretty high bar.

And the vote could only come--as best I can tell; I have a call into the RNC-- at one of the two semiannual meetings of the RNC. Thus, you couldn't have a phone coup d'etat or the Executive Committee of the RNC lead the fight.

Can Steele hold a third of RNC members? My bet is yes although the fact that it's even a question is pretty amazing.

By the way, the shortest chairmanship of the RNC ever was C. Wesley Roberts of Kansas who served four months as chair in 1953. According to Wikipedia, Alvin Scott of The Kansas City Star won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for local reporting for a series of articles that drove Roberts to resign. Roberts was accused of collecting a $10,000 commission on the sale of a hospital to the State of Kansas which the state already owned. His son, interestingly, is U.S. Senator Pat Roberts.

Remember Ted Haggard, the politically powerful megachurch pastor from Colorado who's career came crashing down in a male-prostitution scandal in late 2006? Haggard has since moved on -- he's no longer a preacher, but is instead working as an insurance salesman -- and seems to be adjusting to an undesired place in pop culture.

Time Out New York reports that Haggard attended the performance of a play called The Beautiful City, all about evangelical culture in Colorado. And an important plot point in the play is...the downfall of Ted Haggard.

Haggard kept a low profile, with the cast not knowing he was there, although the crew knew about it. Artistic director Steven Cosson said: "And they would come back and say, 'Oh, he laughed at this line. He smiled at that. He's sticking around for the second act.'"

Haggard and his wife were also accompanied to the show by a friend of theirs: Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, who made the HBO documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard, plus Alexandra's husband.

Haggard didn't bask in any limelight, though. He, his wife and the Pelosis were the first to leave the theater after the play was over, and Pelosi was overheard saying, "I didn't understand the point."

Three House Democratic committee chairmen -- Henry Waxman (CA) at Energy & Commerce, Charles Rangel (NY) at Ways & Means, and George Miller (CA) at Education & Labor -- have just sent a letter to President Obama vowing to work together on health care reform legislation that can become law this year.

The letter is notable for its emphasis on a uniform, coordinated timetable to ensure that turf battles over committee jurisdiction do not slow down the debate over health reform. The still-unwritten climate change bill, by contrast, is already the subject of some jockeying for position by Rangel and Waxman.

Also, the House chairmen's letter contains stronger indications of a coordinated effort than a similar missive sent to Obama by the Senate's key chairmen on health care, Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

The senators declared their "continuing commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform this year," while their House counterparts committed specifically to "work from a harmonized approach [in their committees] to ensure success." There was some initial concern on the Hill that Baucus and Kennedy would butt heads as both committees moved forward with health care, but the Boston Globe reported this week that the two are working well together.

You can read the House chairmen's full letter after the jump.

Read More →

TPMLivewire