In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Washington can have a woefully short memory. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) remember what TPMDC reported on just last month: their proposal to force bailed-out companies to rescind executive bonuses could have made it into the stimulus bill, but was stripped out by Democratic leaders at the last minute.

Wyden and Snowe are now asking Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to support their bailout bonuses measure, which could have prevented much of the current AIG flap and was scored as a money-maker for the U.S. government.

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The Family Research Council (FRC) and Concerned Women of America (CWA): You know them well as some of the most vocal right-wing groups in the nation, the types that push against President Obama's agenda as hard as they can, from his nominees to his executive orders.

And guess where the two groups are headed today ... to the White House, to meet with Obama's director of faith-based initiatives about finding common ground on religious-related issues.

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It seems there's no end to the frustration on Capitol Hill over the behavior of bailed-out banks. On a day when AIG remained the No. 1 target of populist wrath from both parties, 43 House Democrats dashed off a letter to JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, blasting the bank's plan to spend $400 million on expanding its Indian IT workforce.

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), whose state has 15,000 JP Morgan Chase employees, can be found after the jump, along with the names of co-signers (including Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank [D-MA]).

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House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) just finished a press conference on AIG, where he divulged a new wrinkle in the ongoing push to recoup the company's lavish bonuses.

The U.S. government apparently added "covenants" to its deal with AIG to cede some of its rights as the majority owner of the company, Frank said, adding in plain English: "It's time to act as the owner."

Frank declined to elaborate further on the nature of the limits that were set "restraining [the government's] influence" over AIG, but he said he'd be taking the issue up further with the Obama administration later today.

And he reminded reporters that Congress had no control over the AIG bailout, which was conducted via the Federal Reserve rather than the legislation that set up the TARP program late last year. "Remember, the legislative authority for this is essentially the 1932 statute" that set the Fed's lending rules, Frank said.

Asked about the idea picking up steam in the Senate as well as the Joint Economic Committee to tax AIG's bonuses as 100%, Frank demurred to Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-NY) Ways and Means Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over taxation.

Late Update: Here's the video of Frank's comments today.

Minnesota Democratic spokesman Eric Fought gave TPM this statement, in response to the repeated invocation of Bush v. Gore by Senate Republicans regarding the Minnesota Senate race:

"Minnesota isn't Florida. Minnesota has a long and proud tradition of conducting meticulously fair elections and has rightfully earned a reputation of having one of the best election systems in the country. Attacking the hard-working men and women who conduct our elections does nothing but show the desperation these Washington insiders are experiencing.

"It's very telling that Republicans are talking about appeals before this case has been decided. They know what Minnesotans know -- that Al Franken received the most votes on Election Day. And while Norm Coleman and his friends in Washington may want to drag this out for as long as possible, Senator-elect Franken is prepared to get to work for the people of Minnesota."

A new poll for NPR, conducted jointly by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, finds a clear majority of Americans preferring Democratic positions over the Republican ones on the various issues surrounding the federal budget.

The poll presented likely voters with a statement of what Republicans will say about budget issues pertaining to taxes, health care, energy and the deficit, rotated with Democratic statements about those same topics. The Dem positions were ahead 52%-43% on taxes, 53%-42% on energy, 53%-42% on health care, and 51%-45% on the deficit.

And when respondents were asked whether they favored President Obama's plans on the budget, it was 50% approval to 41% opposition.

But it's still a center-right country, right?

As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) has had a front-row seat for the fireworks over the financial bailout -- and he's not convinced that the new administration has changed the Treasury Department.

"I want change I can believe in," he told me in an interview late yesterday. "I don't think I have change I can notice."

Miller's chagrin over Treasury's lack of responsiveness and transparency signals a distressing trend for the Obama administration. As the nation seethes with anger over lavish spending at bailed-out banks -- particularly AIG's $450 million in bonuses to the same executives who bankrupted the company -- a number of lawmakers from both parties are pointing out that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's team could have clamped down on the excess earlier.

And Miller is no gadfly; he has worked with colleagues on predatory lending and mortgage bankruptcy measures that have become top-tier priorities thanks to the financial crisis. He was candid in calling out Geithner for failing to fully inform Congress about his management of the bailout: "I don't feel a lot of confidence in all of this, because I don't have much idea what they're doing ... I'm a fairly conscientious member of the Financial Services Committee, and I haven't found out."

One thing Miller is sure of is that Goldman Sachs, the alma mater of Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, "had a lot of influence over" the decision to rescue AIG's counterparties (among which Goldman was No. 1).

"I don't want to sound like a right-wing conspiracy theorist who thinks the Trilateral Commission controls the world, but it seems [Goldman] had a lot of influence over this," he said, citing the Obama administration's decision to waive ethics rules to bring in a former Goldman lobbyist as Geithner's chief aide.

Miller was particularly aghast at AIG's suggestion that its Financial Products employees would sue if they were denied their retention bonus payments. "I've been wracking my brain thinking of ways we can sue them," he quipped.

Miller's not alone. After the jump, you can read more skeptical reaction to the Obama administration's sudden -- and likely ineffective -- change of heart on AIG's bonuses.

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Three words seem to be on the minds of Senate Republicans, looking for a way to get a Norm Coleman victory: "Bush v. Gore."

This all comes from the case made by the Coleman campaign that Minnesota's county officials committed a constitutional violation by varying in different ways from the state's official uniform standards of admitting or rejecting absentee ballots. Indeed, the Coleman legal team alleges that the counties violated the equal protection clause, and that the judges violated the due process clause by imposing strict standards for any additional ballots during the trial.

The Politico reports that NRSC chairman John Cornyn said: "The Supreme Court in 2000 said in Bush v. Gore that there is an equal protection element of making sure there is a uniform standard by which votes are counted or not counted, and I think that's a very serious concern in this instance." Other Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham, have also spoken approvingly of a Bush v. Gore approach.

This is actually different from the cited issue in Florida in 2000 -- which involved a lack of uniform standards to determine voter intent on disputed ballots -- because Minnesota law already solved that problem by sending challenged ballots to the state canvassing board for adjudication last December. And on top of that, this issue goes back to Election Day itself, not just the recount. On the other hand, though, it does provide an opening for more litigation.

Another fun thing about the Bush v. Gore ruling is that the majority opinion contains the following: "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." In plain English, the five Supreme Court Justices declared that their ruling was not to be taken as a precedent for interpreting the law in the future. We may well find out just how binding that statement was.

Biden: Obama Inheriting Tougher Problems Than FDR Faced Speaking last night at a DNC event, Vice President Biden said: "This president has inherited the most difficult first 100 days of any president I would argue including Franklin Roosevelt - let me explain what I mean by that. It was clear the problem Roosevelt inherited. This is a more complicated economic [problem]. We've never ever been here before - here or in the world. Never ever been here before."

Obama's Day Ahead: The Budget, Defense, And St. Patrick's Day President Obama and Vice President Biden are meeting at 9:20 a.m. ET with with Senate Budge Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC). At 9:40 a.m. he will give a statement to the press. At 10:50 a.m. Obama and Biden will meet with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland Brian Cowen. At 11:35 a.m. the three of them will attend the Shamrock Ceremony, at 11:45 a.m. Obama will meet with officials from Northern Ireland, and at 12:30 p.m. ET the president will speak at Nancy Pelosi's St. Patrick's Day Lunch. At 4:30 p.m. ET, Obama will meet with Robert Gates. And Obama will attend St. Patrick's Day receptions at 7:45 p.m. ET and 8:10 p.m. ET.

Biden's Day Ahead Vice President Biden will be attending Obama's various meetings mentioned above. He will also be meeting in the afternoon with Treasury Secretary Geithner and White House Economic Advisory Larry Summers, to discuss financial institutions.

WaPo: AIG Bonuses A Threat To Obama's Political Capital The Washington Post warns this morning that the AIG bonuses pose a serious danger to President Obama's political standing: "President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda."

Poll: More Americans Fear Return Of Great Depression A new CNN poll finds that 45% of Americans think another Great Depression will likely occur in the next year, compared to 38% who thought so this past December. The poll described the conditions of the Great Depression to respondents -- and a good number of them thought that situation was on its way back.

NYT: Obama To Make Appeals Court Appointment The New York Times reports that President Obama is poised to make his first appointment to a federal appeals court, picking federal trial court Judge David Hamilton of Indiana for the appeals court based in Chicago. Hamilton is a former counsel to Evan Bayh, and nephew of Lee Hamilton, and will have the support of both Bayh and GOP Senator Dick Lugar.

CQ: Obama Administration Begins Outreach To Evangelical Groups CQ reports that Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will hold a meeting today with representatives of the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America and other evangelical groups, part of the White House's outreach to conservative Christian groups.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, has a novel solution to the AIG bonuses flap: levy a 100% tax on the company's senior executives for every bonus payment that's not related to a commission.

Maloney is introducing legislation that would institute the tax, and apply it to any recipient of bailout money where the U.S. government has become the majority shareholder. After the jump, you can read her letter to fellow lawmakers urging them to sign on to her effort.

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