TPM News

A new Rasmussen poll in New Jersey finds Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) in trouble for his re-election bid this November against either of the potential GOP nominees -- but on the other hand, a Republican victory is not any sure thing.

The numbers: Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie leads Corzine by 47%-38%. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the conservative insurgent candidate against Christie in the June 2 Republican primary, now edges Corzine by 42%-41%. The margin of error is ±4.5%. As the pollster's analysis notes, however, this is an improvement for Corzine -- in March, he trailed Christie by 15 points, and Lonegan by eight.

Rasmussen, who like myself is a New Jerseyan, is also very cognizant of a pattern in state politics: "New Jersey polls often shows Republican candidates polling well in the spring and then shows Democrat gaining ground in the fall." Essentially, there tend to be a lot of reluctant Democratic voters who hold off as undecideds for a while, and then give in on Election Day.

In what New York AG Andrew Cuomo is hailing as a "revolutionary" agreement, Carlyle Group agreed to pay a $20 million settlement to "resolve its involvement" in former New York state comptroller adviser Hank Morris's alleged scheme to collect bribes from hedge funds and private equity firms in exchange for state pension fund investments. As part of the deal Carlyle will agree to Cuomo's new code of conduct banning the use of "placement agents" like Morris, who allegedly collected $13 million in sham fees from Carlyle for steering $730 million in state pension fund investments to the firm.

Carlyle admitted no wrongdoing and announced it was suing Morris and the firm he worked for, Searle & Co., for $15 million. The code of conduct could indeed prove pretty revolutionary in the industry if Cuomo succeeds in making similar settlements with other money managers, which he said was his intention. Whether it marks a considerable change at Carlyle is another matter; after all, if you can name one politically-connected private equity firm it is probably the Carlyle Group.

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Here's the full video of that remarkable 19 and a half minute appearance by Nancy Pelosi this morning, in which she reads a statement and then takes questions -- and accuses the CIA of lying to Congress about torture.


Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the Houston Chronicle that his co-Senator, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, could potentially resign her Senate seat pretty soon in order to campaign full-time in her GOP primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

"My guess," Cornyn said, is that Hutchison will resign "this fall sometime."

A resignation at that point in time would allow Perry to appoint an interim Senator who would serve until a May 2010 special election -- an affair that Cornyn would very much prefer to avoid, given the potentially strong Democratic campaigns of Houston Mayor Bill White and ex-Comptroller John Sharp.

My requests for comment from Hutchison's office were not returned.

Dick Cheney's request to have declassified two CIA documents that he says will prove torture is effective has been denied.

In a letter obtained by both Steven Hayes of The Weekly Standard and Greg Sargent of the Plumline, the CIA wrote to the National Archives that saying that the documents are the subject of the a Freedom of Information Act request, and therefore can't be released.

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The president is at a high school in New Mexico today attacking predatory financiers -- and, we imagine, silently thanking the deities his cabinet is not inhabited by a certain friend of predatory financiers accused of booking huge fees bilking the retirement funds of the state's school teachers. No, Bill Richardson is still in the governor's mansion, and he doesn't seem happy about it. On Monday we read that Richardson had actually "rolled his eyes" in response to a reporter's question about noted that he'd :

When asked recently if he had set the tone for his administration, which has been criticized for sometimes moving quickly on programs and for having a blind spot for details, Richardson rolled his eyes. The governor, who had just gotten into a black state SUV, didn't answer the question as the door closed and the vehicle drove off.
If Richardson does indeed set the tone for his administration, that tone has changed considerably of late. The expanding pension probes in New York have state officials suddenly taciturn -- after spending most of the year in hard-core attack mode.

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House Republican Leader John Boehner says it's "hard for me imagine" that the CIA would ever mislead Congress, as Nancy Pelosi has claimed.


Yes, we too would be shocked to learn that our nation's spy agency is ever less than entirely forthcoming.

According to the Associated Press, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) announced Thursday that the "prospects are pretty good" for an Employee Free Choice compromise.

"[H]e said he's been meeting with labor leaders and fellow senators in hopes of coming up with a compromise he could support."

The details of that compromise will be crucial, and, for labor to be happy, would probably have to be pretty cosmetic. But, as the AP reminds us, "Specter has said he opposes the "card check" and arbitration provisions of the bill, [leaving] the door open to other changes that would help unions, such as speeding up the election process and giving unions more access to campaign at work sites."

"Card check" and arbitration are the key components of the bill, and Specter, who was once and EFCA co-sponsor, knows how important they are. It would be hugely disappointing to labor if he didn't come back around to supporting both provisions, at least in watered down forms. But if Specter went from full support of a bill to no support of the same bill in the span of a few months, it stands to reason he could turn right back around and support it all over again. We may have an answer soon.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the FBI has expanded its probe of ethics allegations that dogged Norm Coleman during the final days of the 2008 campaign (insofar as that campaign can be said to have ended!), relating to whether wealthy donor Nasser Kazeminy paid for clothes for Coleman and his wife Laurie at Neiman-Marcus:

The questioning of at least one person in Minnesota within the last two weeks -- and the topic of clothing -- signifies an expansion of an FBI inquiry that touches Coleman. In December, a different source told the Pioneer Press that FBI agents had talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas following allegations, contained in a pair of lawsuits, that Kazeminy had tried to steer $100,000 from a Houston firm he controlled to Coleman via Coleman's wife's employer in Minneapolis.

The Colemans have not been accused of wrongdoing, and they, Laurie Coleman's employer and Kazeminy have all denied doing anything wrong.

When asked whether Coleman himself had been contacted by the FBI, Coleman's spokesman Tom Erickson did not answer Wednesday evening. Instead, he said: "The senator called for an investigation by the appropriate authorities and has promised to cooperate fully with them. To that end, any further comment is not necessary."

House Republican Leaders have sent President Obama a letter seeking "common ground" on the issue of health care. Obama has insisted that his efforts to reach out to members of the Congressional minority are sincere, and this letter largely mimics that language.

The signatories say they agree with Obama that a health reform plan ought to pave the way for all citizens to enjoy coverage, while allowing Americans, if they choose, to keep their existing, employer-based health insurance, and and achieving savings through wellness initiatives.

Unfortunately they want to accomplish this without ceding any ground on other key issues.

We believe it is possible, and necessary, to achieve these objectives through common sense reforms without rationing care, eliminating employer-sponsored health benefits for working families, raising taxes, or empowering government bureaucrats at the expense of patients and doctors. We also believe these goals can be accomplished through health reform that maintains current law provisions regarding restrictions on federal funding of abortion services, restricts federal funds from flowing to abortion providers, and does not impose mandates either on insurance carriers or medical providers to participate in activities that violate their religious and moral beliefs.

There's a lot of code in there, but a loose translation suggests that they still oppose a public plan, and want the government to pay for up-front costs either by slashing spending elsewhere, or by magic. You can read the full letter below the fold.

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