In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The political watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington has sent a letter to the FEC opposing Norm Coleman's request to use campaign money to pay for his legal costs in connection with the Nasser Kazeminy case.

This involves a lawsuit in Texas where Coleman himself has not been directly accused of wrongdoing, but could be called as a witness, and contains an allegation that a Coleman donor conspired to funnel money to him when he was a Senator. CREW says that Coleman should not be able to use campaign money in this matter -- or at the very least, that he cannot use money from his special recount committee for anything other than the recount and related litigation.

The Minnesota Democrats filed a complaint against Coleman on this very subject a month ago. These sorts of things usually go nowhere quickly, but who knows -- over the long haul, this could perhaps turn into another headache for Coleman to worry about.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in this year's election for Governor of New Jersey, appeared on Sean Hannity's show Monday night and agreed with governors who reject stimulus money, saying governors should have the ability to decide how to spend it:

"I think it makes sense," said Christie. "If they're going to put strings on that money, that are gonna to tie your hands and make you expand programs, and not be able to have the freedom of choice that the people elected you for, then you shouldn't take the money."

Those Gitmo prisoners don't know just how good they've got it!

At a press conference by Republican Senators opposed to closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) elaborated on what a humane environment Gitmo is: "anyone, any detainee, over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy."

"Now none of them take 'em up on it, because once they explain what it is, none of them want to do it," Inhofe added. "But nonetheless it's an opportunity that they have."

In a widely expected move, the Senate has voted overwhelmingly to block the $80 million President Obama requested to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The roll call here. The margin was 90-6.

Yesterday, Senate Democratic leaders announced that they wouldn't hand over the money needed to close the facility until Obama releases a comprehensive plan detailing what the administration will do with remaining detainees. We'll have more on the breakdown between Congress and the White House later today.

Tomorrow, Obama will deliver a major national security address in which he is expected to address Guantanamo and a number of other controversial issues.

Congressional Republicans have released an outline of what they call the Patients' Choice Act--their alternative to health care legislation due shortly out of both the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. They will refer to this in the coming weeks as they attempt to defeat Democratic reform efforts, and, at the very least, it's a much more thorough document than was, say, the House GOP's alternative budget, which was mocked loudly all across the capital.

More on the merits later. (As a sneak peak, the PCA, like the Republican budget, includes a predictable scheme to turn Medicare into a boon for private insurers.)

But of course, with Republicans out of power, this plan is mostly meant to serve rhetorical purposes--it's not really a plausible direction for health reform under Democratic rule. If you're looking for some insight into how they plan to attack the forthcoming legislation, though, it's a pretty good primer.

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The Republican establishment is continuing to line up for Gov. Charlie Crist's (R-FL) bid for the open GOP-held Senate seat in Florida, with John McCain now endorsing Crist's candidacy.

Crist was endorsed by the NRSC right after he declared his candidacy, and he has a wide lead right now in the latest poll against his more conservative primary challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. Crist endorsed McCain shortly before the 2008 Florida primary, in which McCain's win solidified his momentum for the nomination.

"Now more than ever, we need leaders who are committed to lower taxes, limiting government spending, and fighting for the people are needed in Washington," McCain said in the statement -- a bit ironic, in light of Crist's vocal support for the stimulus bill that McCain and the overwhelming majority of Republicans have opposed.

You can't help but get the feeling that Republican donors to Norm Coleman's legal fight really do like the fact that this is preventing the Democrats from seating a 60th Senator.

Greg Sargent reports that Dirk Van Dongen, who heads up the "Team Coleman" group of lobbyists raising money for Norm, said that the group is having some trouble getting more and more money as the donors max out. Van Dongen insists, of course, that the real purpose of this effort is to get Norm Coleman in the Senate.

But check out this line: "Is it better empty than in Franken's hands? Hell, yeah."

Here's the full text of DNC Chairman Tim Kaine's letter to Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), asking the Republican governor to urge Norm Coleman to concede the state's disputed Senate race.

The key quote is this, making clear that Dems intend to hang this thing around belligerent GOPers' necks as a destructive, anti-democratic event: "To allow this to process to continue into the federal courts for no other reason than to deny for as long as possible the seating of another Democratic Senator would make what has been a bad situation for Minnesotans even worse. I urge you to do everything within your power and influence to bring this process to an end."

Dear Governor Pawlenty:

It has now been six months since Minnesota voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in a hard fought election for the United States Senate. No one will deny that the race was incredibly close - but after an official recount, an extensive legal process and a clear and definitive ruling by the three judge panel, it is all but indisputable that Democrat Al Franken won and will be the next Senator from Minnesota.

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Yesterday, Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell offered an update of sorts on the progress of a long-awaited repeal of the Pentagon's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which forbids openly gay troops from serving in the military.

"I do not believe there are any plans under way in this building for some expected, but not articulated, anticipation that don't ask-don't tell will be repealed," Morrell said at a press briefing. Pentagon leaders, he said, are "aware of where the president wants to go on this issue, but I don't think that there is any sense of any immediate developments in the offing on efforts to repeal don't ask-don't tell."

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The new Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey shows Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in continued trouble for his re-election campaign this year, essentially unchanged from previous polls. Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the choice of the Republican establishment, is pulling away in the GOP primary for June 2.

In the general election match-ups, Christie leads Corzine by 45%-38%, the same margin as a month ago. The insurgent conservative candidate, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, edges Corzine 42%-40%, compared to a 41%-41% tie a month ago. The margin of error is ±2%.

In the Republican primary, Christie has gained a 56%-33% lead over Lonegan, compared to a 46%-37% lead a month ago.

The big question here is whether Corzine can successfully reassert a common pattern in New Jersey politics -- that many people don't like their politicians, but in the home stretch the undecided voters can quickly align for the Democrat or simply against the Republican.