In it, but not of it. TPM DC

My colleague, Elana Shor, has an excellent item up on the lack of mass transit in the stimulus bill. In that same vein, Phillip Longman has a persuasive cover story in the new issue of The Washington Monthly, arguing that freight rail deserves big attention in the bill because it would be good for the economy, get trucks off the roads, and so on. I'm sure Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern will be sending the piece around but that doesn't make it wrong.

Last week, the folks at Politics magazine, also known as Campaigns & Elections, asked me to host their Reed Awards which are given out to political consultants in catagories ranging from Best Independent Expenditure Radio Ad in a Statewide Race to polybag inserts and yard signs. A few years ago I hosted the Pollies, which is a rival set of awards given out by the Association of Political Consultants. There were fewer awards at that one and I got to do more shtick, like how Frank Luntz would advise Saddam Hussein (it's been a few years as I said.) "People don't see Saddam, the family man....Try do more events with your wives." This time the buzz of awards meant less shtick and more handing them out.

One can have a laugh at the whole thing, but the fact is that in an era of McCain-Feingold, political consulting and messaging remains a part of life and it's not going to away. The bipartisan panel of judges doles out awards on the basis of effectiveness and not ideology or, dare we say, truth in advertising so the evening had a kind of moral neutrality about it that would probably infuriate TPM readers about all that's wrong with Washington. One of the awards went to an ad for Alaska Rep. Don Young. That said, what the judges came up with was the panoply of the American political adviertisement. My favorite was the's local voices spot which, I think, historians may look at to understand how Obama won. It also won the equivalent of Best Picture, i.e. Best TV Ad in the Presidential Race.

See it here:

The Minnesota election trial just had a truly brutal moment, one that could undermine the credibility of Norm Coleman's whole case.

The Coleman campaign summoned political director Kristen Fuzer up to the stand to testify to the provenance of the photocopies of rejected absentee ballots that they've submitted in their efforts to get those ballots counted. You may recall that the Franken campaign last week pointed to some apparent alterations in the photocopied envelopes.

Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg briefly interviewed Fuzer. Then it was Franken lawyer Marc Elias' turn.

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Al Franken's lawyer Kevin Hamilton just finished his opening arguments against Norm Coleman's lawsuit to contest the results of the Minnesota Senate race. His case boils down to this: Norm Coleman is suing because he lost, and is searching for things to complain about.

Hamilton said that Coleman has failed to meet the very burden that is necessary to win an election contest -- that is, to overturn the presumption of regularity on the part of the state and local officials -- and is instead set on finding little errors that may still exist out there. "It's better than most," Hamilton said of Minnesota's election system, "but it's not immune."

Hamilton also pointed to Coleman having reversed his position on the crucial issue of improperly-rejected absentee ballots, noting that his campaign litigated during the recount to keep ballots out -- but are now trying to get up to 5,000 ballots put in. "Against that history, against that backdrop, it's simply stunning to see the most recent position," said Hamilton.

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Norm Coleman's attorney Joe Friedberg just finished his opening statements in the election-contest trial, and he said his case hinges almost entirely on one issue: Another review of rejected absentee ballots that will get another 4,500-5,000 votes into the pool.

Friedberg said that some ballots were rejected in one area of the state, while ballots with similar minor perceived errors were accepted elsewhere -- a violation of equal protection. As such, he wants the judges to review these ballots again, after local officials have looked at them a few times before, and level the playing field by approving ballot envelopes if one like it was already accepted.

And again, Friedberg insisted that the campaign is not cherry-picking the ballots -- though he seemed to concede that the campaigns have had experts hard at work on that question.

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One of the issues we'll be following in the new administration is the EFCA or, as it's more commonly known, "card check." The bill would make it much easier for unions to organize and already its defeat is the rallying cry for business groups inside the Beltway who agree on little else. I argue in favor of the bill in the latest issue of Condé Nast Portfolio and so does T.A. Frank in The Washington Monthly (although with less enthusiasm) where I'm an alumnus and contributing editor. I'm not willing to give unions a free ride on their many mistakes or excesses over the years but on balance I think the playing field has been tilted against union organizing and EFCA would help arrest the decline in union membership.

Thus far, EFCA opponents have won the battle for elite opinion. The Washington Post has weighed in against the measure as has George McGovern who is surely a bygone figure but whose condemnation of the bill has been used by the right to great effect as proof that the measure is way outside the mainstream. In fact, if you talk to labor advocates, they'll concede that anti-EFCA ads like this one and these ones have been very effective, at least with the chattering classes, in portraying to the bill as anti-democratic. In fact, if anyone has been more guilty of intimidation over the years its been the corporations trying to crush union organizing.

"They've done a good job," says one labor ally characterizing the business opposition. As for the larger public, there's some debate over whether the public is pro or anti-EFCA.

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As rational individuals everywhere cheer today's White House move to expedite California's auto emissions standards, there comes another encouraging sign from inside the Environmental Protection Agency.

As reported late Friday night by Carbon Control News, a subscription-only website that reports on D.C. climate change issues:

Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling, the lead author of plaintiffs' briefs in the landmark Supreme Court case that found EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, has taken a job with EPA to advise incoming Administrator Lisa Jackson on how to address climate change, according to a knowledgeable source. ...

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