TPM News

At just about every stage of the Senate financial reform process, the changes to the bill have trended towards the left--and that may well be borne out again if Democrats successfully add provision to the bill that will, among other things, ban big banks from using their own capital to engage in market speculation.

The provision is called the Volcker Rule--named after former Fed Chair Paul Volcker who now heads the President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Currently, two Democratic senators--Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR)--are pushing to add the rule to the Wall Street reform legislation and have built up quite a head of steam. That development was not a sure thing even a few days ago but with the political climate so anti-Wall Street even progressives' failures can turn into successes, which is what sort of happened with the Volcker Rule.

Last week, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ted Kauffman (D-DE) pushed hard to get their very progressive 'too big to fail' amendment passed. Even though it failed it helped pave the way to enshrining the Volcker rule in the bill.

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Yet another poll is set to show Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) leading in his Democratic primary challenge against the former GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who for his part has the support of President Obama and the entire Democratic establishment.

Greg Sargent reports that tomorrow's Franklin & Marshall poll will show Sestak ahead of Specter by about the same margin as other recent polls that have put Sestak ahead by around five points. The TPM Poll Average gives Specter a narrow lead of 44.7%-40.0%, but Sestak has been closing fast, and the most recent data points have put Sestak ahead. The primary is Tuesday next week.

Poll director Terry Madonna explained why undecideds have been quickly closing around Sestak: "If they hadn't agreed to vote for Specter after 29 years, why are they going to change in a month?"

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Alabama gubernatorial candidate Artur Davis (D) has called on primary opponent Ron Sparks to denounce race-tinged campaign tactics.

A recent letter from a Sparks support to state Democrats asked "Can Artur Davis get 30% of the white vote in Alabama?" Davis, who is black, said the "Sparks campaign better distance itself from it or we have to assume they are driving it."

The TPM Poll Average gives Davis a lead of 38.0%-28.0% over Sparks in the Democratic primary, which will be held on June 1.

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The man most associated with the GOP's last Congressional takeover in 1994, Newt Gingrich, says recent developments in two House special elections set the stage for some Republican Revolution deja vu in 2010. Speaking before a group of GOP state party chairs this morning, Gingrich said recent developments in two Democratically held districts currently holding special elections -- Hawaii's First and Pennsylvania's Twelfth -- raise expectations of for a good Republican year even higher. What's more, he said, they could put embattled GOP chairman Michael Steele in some pretty select Republican company.

"With your help, and the help of the American people, Chairman Steele stands on the edge of being the most successful RNC chair since Haley Barbour in 1994," Gingrich said after Steele introduced him to the audience at this year's GOP national state party chair meeting in Maryland.

Gingrich said that developments in the races to replace the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) and fill the open seat left by Rep. Neil Abercrombie's (D-HI) resignation, both of which will be decided this month, bode well for big GOP gains in November.

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Democrats have gotten their favored candidate to run for the northern Wisconsin House seat held by retiring Democratic stalwart David Obey, with state Sen. Julie Lassa entering the race on Monday.

Last week, when Obey announced his surprise retirement, Lassa's name was at the top of the list of potential candidates. In addition, the party made it clear its intention to a) get a candidate quickly, within ten days of Obey's announcement, and b) to coalesce around that candidate and avoid a primary. Lassa's likely Republican opponent is Sean Duffy, the Ashland County district attorney and a former cast member on MTV's The Real World reality show.

Some of the Dems who had been mentioned as potential candidates, such as state Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and State Sen. Pat Kreitlow, have endorsed Lassa, but two other Dem names are still floating out there: Former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski, and state Rep. Louis Molepske. A Dem source in Wisconsin told TPMDC: "Julie stepped up and announced her intentions within just a few days of Dave Obey's retirement. I think other people can still run, but everything I've heard makes me think that Julie will run a very strong campaign and be the nominee."

George Rekers resigned this morning from the board of NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, amid a gay escort scandal.

NARTH vice president of operations David Pruden tells TPMmuckraker that Rekers first offered his resignation last Thursday, and officially resigned today.

NARTH is a group that promotes the idea that homosexuality can, and should, be cured.

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California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has a word she'd like you to associate with her GOP primary opponent: liberal.

In a new Whitman ad aimed at state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a narrator ominously asks, "How liberal is Steve Poizner?" before rattling off a long list -- He supported Al Gore! He supported higher sales taxes! -- before the narrator declares:

"Liberal on taxes. Liberal on spending. Just another liberal Sacramento politician."

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The conservative advocacy group American Future Fund is attacking Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul (R) in a new TV ad that warns "Kentucky values are being threatened" by Rand's campaign.

The TPM Poll Average gives Paul a lead of 42.3%-25.3% over Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the Republican primary, which will be held on May 18.

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The Senate today voted overwhelmingly to adopt an amendment, authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), forcing a comprehensive review of the Federal Reserve's emergency lending activities. The amendment passed by a 96-0 vote.

Though the measure was always popular, it faced extraordinary opposition from the White House, Wall Street and the Fed itself. Late last week, in a move that defused the opposition, and may have saved Wall Street reform legislation, Sanders agreed to limit the scope of the audit to emergency lending only, exempting other Fed activities.

That preserved the broad intent of the plan, which was always aimed at bringing the Fed's shadowy activities during the financial crisis into the daylight. Under the terms of the proposal, the Fed will also be required to make public which companies received upwards of $2 trillion in aide from the Fed, and under what terms.

In December, the House of Representatives adopted a similar provision--authored by Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Ron Paul (R-TX)--that would have required a comprehensive Fed audit. But though Grayson still supports a full audit, he applauded the steps that the Senate is taking in a statement last week. "There is deep bipartisan support for a full audit of the Federal Reserve, in both the House and the Senate," Grayson said. "The Sanders Amendment takes a significant step in that direction. I will work hard to help Dr. Paul and Senator Sanders to get a full Fed audit in the final bank reform bill. It is time for America to know what happened to our money."

Reporting by Brian Beutler.

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