TPM News

A shadowy conservative group is backing off its effort to undermine state laws restricting robo-calls.

Lawyers for American Future Fund Political Action (AFFPA) informed the FEC yesterday afternoon that they were withdrawing their request for an advisory opinion on whether those state laws were pre-empted by a less restrictive federal law. AFFPA had argued in its request that the state laws were indeed pre-empted, and indicated that it planned a barrage of robo-calls for 2010.

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When Republicans gather for a key strategy meeting later this month in Hawaii, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will be the great big elephant in the room.

But RNC members who have cringed as Steele has publicly admonished them for questioning his new book and paid speeches are still weighing if they are actually going to do anything about it.

TPMDC has spent the last several days speaking with Republican sources who mostly believe Steele's job is safe. They said the frustration over some of Steele's gaffes and what's widely viewed as camera-hogging is outweighed by the party's successes of late and the growing feeling that Republicans might actually bank solid wins in November's mid-term elections.

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The prime minister of Haiti, Jean-Max Bellerive, told CNN today that hundreds of thousands of people have died following the catastrophic earthquake that struck near the capitol of Port-au-Prince yesterday.

Although many communications are down, photos, videos and eyewitness accounts from the island nation have trickled in, showing devastation in Haiti.

President Obama this morning pledged humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams, which will begin arriving in Haiti this afternoon.

The Red Cross has estimated that about 3 million people, out of a total population of 9 million, have been affected by the earthquake. Port-au-Prince has a population of about 2 million.

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In what has got to be some kind of milestone in the privatization of government security functions, an Ohio firm has turned to online classifieds service Craigslist to recruit guards for the U.S. embassy in Brazil.

An ad from the Whitestone Group, of Columbus, OH, was posted on Craigslist in Miami under the "security jobs" category. Candidates must have not only "experience managing people," but also "Secret Clearance with ability to obtain Top Secret Clearance."

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The Massachusetts AFL-CIO is mobilizing in the Massachusetts Senate special election, with a new mailer get-out-the-vote effort to stop Republican candidate Scott Brown, and elect Democratic candidate Martha Coakley.

The new mailer warns voters that Brown would create a repeat of the Bush years: "Tax cuts for the wealthy. Economic deregulation. Party-line votes. Scott Brown wants to make history repeat itself."

In an e-mail to reporters, national AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale claimed that the AFL-CIO has tens of thousands of volunteers who will be phone-banking and canvassing through the election, and the unions will also be doing robocalls.

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Former WWE executive Linda McMahon, who's running as a Republican for Chris Dodd's Senate seat, has been forced multiple times to explain why she's given thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and groups --- including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a hated figure on the right.

A video surfaced this week of McMahon explaining the donations to Emanuel and his PAC, which total $7,800, at a recent meeting with the Republican Town Committee in Enfield, Conn.

As she explained, Ari Emanuel, Rahm's brother and a famous Hollywood agent, represented World Wrestling Entertainment and often asked McMahon for donations to different causes. Ari Emanuel also gave money to the WWE at times.

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The new Rasmussen poll of Nevada finds that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) already-bad re-election numbers have gotten even worse. This is the first poll released since the controversy over Reid's private comments during the 2008 campaign, about Barack Obama and racial politics.

Reid trails former state GOP chair Sue Lowden by 48%-36%, down from 49%-43% a month ago. He trails former UNLV basketball player Danny Tarkanian by 50%-35%, down from 49%-43% a month ago. And he trails former state Rep. Sharron Angle by 44%-40%, compared to a 47%-43% Angle lead from a month ago.

From the pollster's analysis: "Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Nevada voters say they have followed news reports about Reid's comments about Obama, including 55% who have followed very closely. But his bigger problem appears to be his championing of a health care plan that remains unpopular in his home state."

The organizer of the National Tea Party Convention, at which Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann will speak next month, cynically took advantage of conservative activists' willingness to work on behalf of the Tea Party cause in his bid to launch a money-making enterprise, according to one fellow Tea Partier.

Kevin Smith told TPMmuckraker that Judson Phillips, the Nashville defense lawyer behind the upcoming National Tea Party Convention, abruptly turned Tea Party Nation into a for-profit corporation last year, shocking fellow activists who had discussed setting up the fledgling group as a non-profit.

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President Obama this morning announced that the U.S. is sending humanitarian aid and rescue teams to Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake yesterday devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

"I want to extend to the people of Haiti the deep condolences and unwavering support of the American people," Obama said, calling pictures coming out of the country "truly heart wrenching. Indeed, for a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible."

"I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives," he said. The U.S. Agency for International Development is working with the departments of State and Defense, he said, and the effort will be overseen by USAID administrator Rajiv Shah.

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