TPM News

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who is on the cusp of leaving the Republican Party and running for Senate as an independent, will be giving partial refunds to donors who ask for their money back, the St. Petersburg Times reports.

One donor who will be wanting his money back: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Cornyn gave Crist $10,000 last year from his leadership PAC.

Up through this the end of the first quarter of this year, the Crist campaign had $7.6 million in cash on hand, compared to $3.9 million cash on hand for his Republican rival Marco Rubio and $3.7 million cash on hand for Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.

Forensic auditors going through the books of the Florida Republican Party recently discovered that a close friend of Gov. Charlie Crist was paid over $350,000 for unspecified consulting work that no one seems to have known about. But, the former No. 2 at the state party tells TPMmuckraker, that revelation may be only the beginning.

"I think there were a lot of cronies that were receiving pay washed through the Republican Party of Florida," says Allen Cox, who stepped down as vice chair of the party in January after going after chairman and Crist ally Jim Greer, who was ousted soon after, for financial mismanagement.

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At a D.C. breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor today, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that Arizona's controversial new immigration law is "an act of frustration" sparked by "the federal government's unwillingness to deal with border security."

"I don't think it's as onerous as it's been represented," he said of the law.

Cornyn also said he doesn't "believe that the time is right" to tackle comprehensive immigration reform -- though he says he supports such an initiative generally. He also suggested that the GOP must "address this issue respectfully" if they want to try and win Latino voters.

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Sen. John McCain is ahead of his challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth -- by either a decent-sized margin, or a really big one, depending on which recent poll one looks at. But he also still faces some potential pitfalls.

The new survey of Republican primary voters from Public Policy Polling (R) has McCain ahead by 46%-35%, with a third candidate Jim Deakin -- who is running to the right of Hayworth, -- at 7% support. The margin of error is ±5%.

On the other hand, the new Rocky Mountain Poll gives McCain a much heftier lead of 54%-28% against Hayworth among Republicans and independent GOP primary voters, with Deakin not included in the poll.

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California state Sen. Leland Yee (D) doesn't want Texas teaching his state's kids.

Yee has introduced a bill that would require California's board of education to review in-production textbooks before they're purchased and reject any that have been influenced by Texas' new conservative standards.

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The giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which administration officials described as "extraordinarily serious," will reach the coast by late tomorrow. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will fly to the coast tomorrow to oversee cleanup efforts, joining Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is already there.

President Obama is "actively following the BP oil spill," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a press briefing today. "The president has directed responding agencies to use every resource available," he said, including resources under the Department of Defense if necessary.

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After dodging a series of questions from reporters today, regarding his position on a controversial new immigration law in Arizona, House Minority Leader John Boehner categorically declared comprehensive immigration reform dead in Washington.

"There is not a chance that immigration is going to move through the Congress," Boehner said at his weekly press conference. "Even the President last night admitted that this wasn't going to happen."

Boehner went on:

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Sen. Chris Dodd was looking at an ugly reelection fight despite a three-decade Senate career, but with January retirement looming and a potential big win on financial reform, he's trying to leave the chamber on a high note.

"There is no next year for Chris Dodd," a top financial industry lobbyist told me in an interview.

A Republican leadership aide told me that the GOP believes Dodd keeps pushing for bipartisanship to make what will be a career-defining bill as strong as possible. "It's hard to have a good legacy bill when it passes by 60 votes," the aide said. Sources close to Dodd said cementing such a legacy is one reason Dodd repeatedly went back to Republicans in hopes of getting the bill to the floor, a task that finally prevailed last night. It's a long way before passage of the measure, but friends and colleagues told me they think Dodd's quest is about more than good legislation.

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When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted with Republicans three times to block financial reform legislation from coming to the Senate floor for debate, many -- including TPM -- pointed out that Berkshire Hathaway, the company of Omaha investor Warren Buffett, had pushed hard for a provision that would have protected existing derivatives from certain regulations. Nelson, who owns millions in Berkshire stock, had supported the provision, a provision that had been stripped from the bill in negotiations.

Yesterday, Nelson lashed out at what he called the "cesspool of gotcha politics" and defended his votes.

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