TPM News

After a health insurer group was caught bribing Facebook users with virtual cash to write anti-health care letters to Congress, a prominent health care supporter is trying to turn the stunt against them.

Health Care for America Now tells TPM it has taken out ads on the Facebook game Mafia Wars, calling out the group for its astroturfing.

The ads read, "Insurance companies are bribing players on Mafia Wars & Farmville to claim that they oppose health care reform. Join us and fight back!" The ads will run in "liberal cities," HCAN says.

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A judge has put an injunction on Congress's ban on ACORN funding.

U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon today ruled to put a preliminary injunction on the Congressional resolution that barred ACORN or its affiliates from receiving federal funds, according to a press release from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who blasted the move. Congress had acted in the wake of the scandal in which ACORN employees were caught on camera giving advice on how to break the law to two people posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

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Republicans on Capitol Hill were overjoyed today by a new Department of Health and Human Services audit of the Democratic health care reform bill in the Senate they say shows the reforms will weaken America's health care system rather than strengthen it.

"This report should put the dagger in the heart of the Reid bill," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters this afternoon.

But the Democrats and the White House say Republicans are just reading the report wrong to further their plans to scuttle the bill.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement on the declaration the European Council issued about Iran's nuclear weapons program. It pointedly mentions human rights.

The United States echoes the grave concerns expressed by the European Council today regarding Iran's nuclear program, and is united with our international partners in calling on Iran to comply fully with its international obligations.

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This afternoon, the House of Representative passed the most expansive financial regulation bill since the Great Depression. But before the bill went to a final vote, its sponsor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), took to the House floor to address what he dubbed the "wildly excessive hyperbole" of Republican lawmakers.

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Here's how Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) characterizes the behind-the-scenes discussions that could very well result in a change in the abortion language in the Senate health care bill.

"There are a lot of people talking. So there might be something that comes up, and there might not. I've been very vocal about the Stupak-type language, and I haven't seen anything yet that would adequately replace the Stupak language at this point in time. That doesn't mean that people aren't going to continue to work on it, and perhaps they'll find it."

Not a definitive statement, but seems like leadership is looking into it.

Vice President Biden attended a fund-raiser in Hartford today for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who's facing a tough re-election campaign next year -- and he didn't sound too optimistic about his friend's chances.

"Chris is getting the living hell beat out of him, the living bejesus beat out of him,'' Biden said, according to the pool report. "Why? Because he's being a leader. This is going to be a hell of a race and it's an uphill race, but Chris Dodd will prevail.''

Dodd was scheduled to attend the $500-a-ticket fund-raiser, but stayed in Washington instead for votes.

Dodd has taken a big hit for his role as chairman of the banking committee through the time of bailouts and TARP. He had also been accused receiving sweetheart mortgages from Countrywide, although the Ethics Committee found he did nothing wrong.

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As I noted earlier, the Democrats' self-imposed Christmas deadline to pass health care reform is very much in doubt. But if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does push the issue, he may lose one key health care swing vote, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"The more they try to, sort of, drive this process in an unrealistic timeframe, the more reluctant I become about whether or not this can be doable in this timeframe that we're talking about," Snowe told reporters today.

Throughout the health care debate, Snowe has often pushed the principals to slow things down. So what might make her less reluctant?

"There's always January," Snowe said. "Frankly, I understand the value of deadlines, but this is getting, I think, unrealistic in terms of where we stand today. I mean you have to start filing cloture votes just to get done by Christmas. That's going to have to happen pretty soon. Like maybe Wednesday."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), a candidate for Governor of Hawaii in 2010, is resigning from Congress.

Abercrombie said he is resigning in order to "allow someone to be elected who will carry on the work of this office." An effective date for his resignation has not yet been announced.

Democrats should probably hold on to this district pretty easily, in heavily Democratic Hawaii. The district voted 55%-39% for Al Gore in 2000, 52%-47% for John Kerry in 2004 -- and then for Barack Obama by a whopping 70%-28% in 2008.

Two Democrats and one Republican were already running for the open seat, and could potentially be running in the special election: Former Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa on the Democratic side, and Republican Honolulu city councilman Charles Djou.

Late Update: Those three candidates are officially in. Also, we got this comment from Stephanie Lundberg, press secretary for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), on the timing of Abercrombie's resignation: "It is our understanding that Rep. Abercrombie will be present to take the vote on final health reform legislation."