TPM News

New battlelines are being drawn over offshore drilling in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida, and Democrats are attempting to get a political boost from Republican divisions on the issue.

From the Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek to rank-and-file state lawmakers, the Democrats are hammering at Republican Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent. They paint Rubio as an unflinching and foolish member of the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd and Crist as a political opportunist for considering their proposed ban on drilling. (Even though, of course, they want him on their side.) The issue is all the more messy thanks to the massive oil spill and the upcoming Senate race.

A Democratic source in the Florida legislature said Crist has been telling state lawmakers that he is strongly considering their request to hold a special session examining whether to ban certain offshore drilling. But of course that's all political too, since the main advocates for the ban of drilling within 5 miles of the coastline are running for statewide office. Alex Sink is running for governor and state Sen. Dan Gelber is running for attorney general. The Democrats held a press conference Thursday asking for Crist to order the session so they can craft language to put on the November ballot.

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George Rekers, a leader of the ex-gay movement who was caught recently employing a male escort, paid the escort $75 a day for his services during a 10-day trip to Europe, which included carrying luggage and daily one-hour massages, according to a contract obtained by CNN.

The escort, "Lucien," gave AC360 a copy of the contract, which also stipulated that Rekers would pay for his airfare. Lucien, which is not his real name, will appear on the show tonight.

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The Obama Administration is applying an old exception to the Miranda rule in a new way in order to interrogate terrorism suspects before reading them their rights, several experts tell TPMmuckraker, finding what one law professor calls a "middle ground" between those who want suspects put through the criminal justice system and those who believe they should be classified as "enemy combatants."

Federal agents questioned both Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of planting a makeshift bomb in Times Square, and Umar Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas Day bomber, under the so-called public safety exception to the Miranda rule for substantial periods before informing the men of their right to remain silent, and to an attorney.

Information gleaned during questioning under the public safety exception -- in which police "ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety," according to the 1984 Supreme Court case that recognized the exception -- is admissible at trial.

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Senate candidate Sue Lowden (R-NV) has a new ad responding to the attacks over her promotion of the barter system -- and the use of chickens therein -- to lower healthcare costs, claiming that it's all a dirty trick that took her statements out of context.

"They want to make this about chickens and checks, a check I wrote decades ago, and a statement they've taken out of context," Lowden says, referring both to Dem attacks over the "Chickens For Checkups" fiasco, and to attacks from her GOP opponents over a contribution she made to Harry Reid many years ago. "That's what's wrong with Washington -- lies and dirty tricks."

But was the chickens statement taken out of context? Let's look at what Lowden said about three weeks ago: "Let's change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I'm telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I'll paint your house."

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Sen. Bob Bennett's (R-UT) political life is on the line tomorrow, with a state Republican convention that has the power to deny him even any chance to fight for the GOP nomination in a primary -- and a party base that has been dissatisfied and sees him as being too settled in Washington after three terms.

Bennett, who for his part has a conservative voting record, has been targeted for defeat by the right for not being conservative enough. In addition to grassroots angst with his vote for the TARP bailout, the Club For Growth has also targeted him for having briefly worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on a health care bill, though he ultimately voted against the bill that passed a month and a half ago. At the party caucuses in March, many supporters of challenger candidates won delegate seats for the convention thanks to a heavily increased turnout.

Bennett faces a total of seven challengers at the convention, but three are the most significant: Attorney Mike Lee, businessman Tim Bridgewater, and businesswoman Cherilyn Eagar. A Mason-Dixon poll from two weeks ago, of a sample of convention delegates, gave Lee 37%, Bridgewater 20%, and Bennett only 16%, with Eagar at 11%.

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The new Muhlenberg tracking poll of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary shows Rep. Joe Sestak closing fast on incumbent Democratic (and former Republican) Sen. Arlen Specter, with the two of them tied in today's numbers.

Specter and Sestak are now at 43% apiece. In the May 2 poll, the most recent day that does not include any overlapping data, Specter was ahead by 48%-42%. The poll of likely Dem primary voters has a ±5% margin of error.

The TPM Poll Average for this primary gives Specter a lead of 46.6%-37.1%. The notable thing is that Specter's support has stayed more or less within the same narrow range since last year, while Sestak has been climbing up since February. The primary will be held on May 18.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Attorney General Eric Holder, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Adm. Thad Allen.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

• Fox News Sunday: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Attorney General Eric Holder.

A municipal court judge in New Jersey resigned this week after the state Supreme Court advised him not to promote his new movie -- a satire about President Obama's life that depicts him making a deal with the devil in order to become a communist dictator.

"It put me in an impossible position," the ex-judge, Kenneth Del Vecchio, told TPM in an interview today. "I had two choices: Either I could remain as a judge and shut up and have no free speech rights whatsoever ... or I had to resign."

Del Vecchio, a prolific filmmaker and author, produced, wrote and stars in "O.B.A.M. Nude," a movie about a coke-addled college student who sells his soul to the devil in order to impose his socialist will on the country. Satan starts him out by hooking him up with the "Righteous Reverend," a "close friend" of the devil's.

An excerpt from the trailer:

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Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-AR) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over racially-tinged attack ads in which Indian actors thank Halter for helping to get them jobs.

The conservative group Americans For Job Security paid for the ads, which Halter opponent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) denounced as "offensive" -- before launching an India-themed mailer of her own.

The TPM Poll Average for the May 18 Arkansas Democratic Senate primary shows Lincoln leading Halter 45.2% to 31.8%.

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