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As Super Tuesday gets going, it's worth reflecting that so far, it's been a remarkably clean election. Sure, there have been some bumps -- a few million robo calls here, a fringe swift boating group there -- but all in all, it's been pretty easy going. Which is sure to make the general election all the more jarring by contrast.

We've already gotten a few glimpses of it. There are sure to be hordes of outside groups, funded by tens of millions of dollars, making their presences known throughout the country, not only in the presidential contest, but also in Congressional races. As for now, the groups are mostly revving their engines.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on the legal efforts of a veteran Clinton-hating outfit, Citizens United, to promote their straightforwardly titled documentary, "Hillary: The Movie" without constraints (not to worry, Obama supporters: the group is working on "Obama: The Movie" too just in case). It's a fight that, if successful, could liberate what few restrictions these sorts of groups have to deal with:

"Hillary: The Movie" includes a series of interviews with Clinton critics, including Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich and Dick Morris. "If you want to hear about the Clinton scandals of the past and present, you have it here!," Citizens United, Bossie's group, says on its website.

The group, a nonprofit corporation, is free to promote its movie and sell DVDs on itswebsite. But one provision of McCain-Feingold makes it illegal to use corporate or union money for "any broadcast, cable or satellite communication" if it "refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office" within 30 days of a primary election or a convention or within 60 days of a general election....

The McCain-Feingold Act, which went into effect in 2002, was written broadly to bar such election-eve ads. It covered nonprofit corporations as well as moneymaking firms. And it was triggered by the mere mention of the candidate's name.

That posed an obvious problem for [David] Bossie and his group:

"How can you advertise this movie without mentioning the name 'Hillary'?" asked James Bopp Jr., a 1st Amendment lawyer representing Citizens United....

In December, the group said it wanted to run 30-second ads on Fox News and other television outlets calling attention to the movie and went to court seeking an order that would shield it from the law. Bopp argued that what he termed "core political speech" deserved full free-speech protection under the 1st Amendment.

Bopp literally got laughed out of court when he tried to argue to an appeals court that the movie was a news documentary in the mold of 60 Minutes and Nova. But he's appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, where he hopes at least to strike down a provision that would force him to disclose the group's contributors. The court will decide later this month whether they'll hear the case.

Whether Bopp succeeds or not, it's an indication of what's to come. And keep in mind that even the Federal Election Commission, the notoriously feeble watchdog for this sort of stuff, has been shut down for the foreseeable future. So it's bound to be a bumpy ride.

Yeesh. There's muck and then there's Alaskan muck.

Bill Allen, the former CEO of Veco, has been the government's star witness in a number of corruption cases against state lawmakers, and he would surely be at the heart of any case against Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and his son Ben, should the current grand jury investigation result in an indictment. So a checkered past would be sure to come up.

This would surely qualify. The Anchorage Daily News has the whole sordid tale, and I won't recount it here. Suffice it to say that the central allegation concerns whether Allen had a sexual relationship with a crack-addicted 14 year-old named Bambi Tyree back in the mid-90s; Allen is said to have provided a stream of gifts to her and her family, ranging from a car to $5,000. The main fact witness for that allegation seems to be another drug addict who was Tyree's boyfriend when she was 18 (he was 36). It's not clear what Tyree herself says about it. And Allen's lawyer denies that there was ever any such relationship.

In any case, Anchorage police began investigating anew late last year. A prior investigation was dropped in 2004 at the request of federal prosecutors, who were investigating a broader sex and drug ring. Why has it started again? "To make sure there's nothing else out there that we're missing," says one police captain. Somehow I've gotta believe it's more complicated than that.

The Senate has just renewed debate on the surveillance bill, but it appears that the most anticipated votes will occur at the very earliest tomorrow morning, or as late as Wednesday.

The two sides have yet to hash out the timing, but we hear that the two amendments dealing with retroactive immunity -- that's both the Feingold/Dodd amendment to strip retroactive immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program and the Specter/Whitehouse amendment that would substitute the government in lawsuits related to the program -- will be offered at the earliest tomorrow morning. But votes on the measures could come as late as Wednesday.

Once again, we'll keep you updated as some of the other amendments are considered and things develop.

How do you hold on to office after a sex and perjury scandal goes kablooey?

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick seems to be a believer in the say you're real sorry and hope no other damning revelations emerge strategy. But that hasn't been working so well, as the scandal seems to have spurred new curiosity about the past. And the past hasn't disappointed.

Last Wednesday night he, accompanied by his wife, gave a live radio and TV address to the city from a room in his church with no audience or press allowed.

“I’m sorry,” he said, apologizing for “the embarrassment and disappointment the events of the past few days have caused you.”

Kilpatrick spoke about his personal trials and the suffering of his family, but said nary a word about the $9 million that his attempt to cover up his affair cost the city. He did, however, promise to continue “in charge of the city…. I would never quit on you.”

Despite his heartfelt contrition, the Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym Worthy, on Friday began an investigation into possible criminal charges against Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff/mistress Christine Beatty.

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He tends not to get the credit that he deserves, but HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson really is a remarkable example of the Bush administration's premium on loyalty.

Today’s Washington Post story really brings it home. Consider: in April of 2006, Jackson created a minor storm by declaring to a Texas audience, "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

Only months later, according to today’s piece, which stems from a civil suit by the Philadelphia Housing Authority against Jackson, Jackson weighed in to make sure that a Republican buddy got control of a Philadelphia public housing property. And according to the suit, he retaliated when Philadelphia didn't fall in line. That’s what I call chutzpah.

That buddy is Kenny Gamble, the songwriter behind The O’Jays’ “Love Train,” among other soulful hits. He is also, not coincidentally, an active Republican (who, for instance ,spoke at the RNC convention in 2000). Carl Greene, the Philadelphia House Authority’s director, says that Gamble fits the profile of Jackson’s cronyism:

Greene, who is black, said Jackson is seeking to help specific black-owned businesses and is sending a message to other housing authorities that they had better not defy him on that agenda. "His wish is to eliminate all resistance to his desire to take care of all these politically connected African American contractors," he said. "I don't see that as my duty."

Greene said, "I'm experiencing what happens when you really say no to the secretary."

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OK, we've got most of the kinks worked out now with the new site.

As you can see to the right, we're now linked up with TPMCafe reader posts. So reader bloggers' mucky content will now be featured here.

And for those of you who wrote in about having to log in anew for each of the TPM sites, that problem has been fixed.

If you encounter a glitch, it would be a big help to us to write in to help(at) We're working to get all the kinks out and can use all the reader help we can get. And many, many thanks for your patience.

An article forthcoming in the journal IEEE Security & Privacy says that the Bush administration's wiretapping program could be used as a weapon by terrorists if they are able to hack into or infiltrate the system. By concentrating so much information in so few locations, the administration's program, if breached, could give potential attackers the ability to exploit the U.S.'s intelligence capabilities against itself. "When you build a system to spy on yourself," the article states, "you entail an awesome risk." (ABC's The Blotter)

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan are surging by 20-33%, according to statistics from the multinational International Stabilization Force. General Carlos Branco, the spokesman for NATO in Afghanistan admitted that violence against international troops and the Afghan government is rising, but asserts that the use of suicide bombs indicates the desperation of the Taliban. (The Guardian Unlimited)

Last week was bleak for representative Tom Cole (R-OK), who serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Five House Republicans announced that they will not seek re-election (bringing the total count in this cycle to 28) and Cole was forced to announce “irregularities in our financial audit process” that may include “fraud.” (The Hill)

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At the very least, if the Bush Administration expires and we are still at war only in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can count ourselves lucky.

The New York Times reports on the latest treasure unearthed by Wikileaks, a 2005 27-page document showing the U.S. military's Rules of Engagement in Iraq. Most worrying of all, the rules allowed for cross-border raids into Iran or Syria:

In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush.

But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein’s government or terrorists....

It stated that the American commander engaged in the pursuit, however, should consult with top commanders in Baghdad, “time permitting.”

The Times notes that it's unknown whether this ever happened or whether the rules are any different now. Hold your breath.

But there are other interesting aspects to the document. Certainly the preoccupation with former members of Saddam Hussein's government, rather than foreign terrorists, was not reflected in the administration's rhetoric at the time.

And then there's this:

Apparently in a carryover from the intelligence failures of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, the document says the United States Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, gave American commanders in Iraq the authority to attack mobile “W.M.D. labs”; such labs for making germ weapons were later determined not to exist.

As expected, the CIA announced the results of its probe of the CIA's inspector general John Helgerson, who has raised hackles in the agency for his investigations into counterterrorism policy and detainee interrogations. Among the fixes:

[CIA Director Michael] Hayden said Helgerson has appointed an ombudsman to represent the interests of CIA officers under IG investigation. He agreed to make a "greater effort" to include the views of those officers in his final reports, and to allow officers to review draft reports. He also agreed to help officers find attorneys with security clearances to represent them if they choose. Officers will be told when interviews are being recorded, and investigations will be conducted more swiftly.

Finally, Helgerson agreed to an internal watchdog of his own, a "quality-control manager" who will ensure that all exculpatory and mitigating information about the subjects of IG investigations is included in final reports.

Notes the AP, "The CIA has declined to specify why the IG review was undertaken. The results suggest CIA officers were concerned there was a presumption of guilt and they were not treated fairly by Helgerson's team of investigators."

We'll keep you updated as to whether the watchdog's watchdog will get a watchdog.

Continued fallout from the U.S. attorneys scandal. From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved the payment of legal fees for Georgia Thompson, a state employee whose conviction for mishandling a contract was overturned by a federal appeals court....

Senators voted 32-0 to pay $228,793 for Thompson's legal fees; the bill now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to pass. There was no debate on the bill, but Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit) said it was the "least we can do" for Thompson, who served time in a federal prison before the appeals judges ordered her released.

Of course, the appeals court's decision to immediately overturn the case was remarkable in itself. But here you have a state legislature working to redress the wrongs of a federal prosecutor. Has this ever happened before? It strikes me as a rather unique situation.

And remember that efforts by Congress to investigate the Justice Department's handling of the case -- in addition to other possible cases of selective prosecution -- have been firmly rebuffed (with the exception of the disclosure of one telling email).