TPM News

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) was asked by NBC this morning if President Obama "said anything last night that you and your colleagues will support."

And Cantor answered in great detail ... which must mean he caught Obama's press conference on TiVo during breakfast. Because the rising GOP star went straight from a campaign fundraiser to Britney Spears' sold-out D.C. concert last night.

Here's how Cantor's office explained it to Wonkette, which first reported this fact today:

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The New York State Board of Elections is nearing a final resolution with the Justice Department in a lawsuit over this Tuesday's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, a board spokesman tells TPM.

The DOJ filed a lawsuit yesterday, complaining that the state didn't allow enough time under federal law for overseas voters to get their ballots in. The ballots were sent out about two weeks ago, and the election is this Tuesday, while the federal government is calling for at least 30 days.

Board spokesman John Conklin informs TPM that the state is now hammering out a consent decree with the DOJ to extend the window of time for accepting overseas ballots, which under New York law are normally required to arrive by up to one week after the election. Six additional days will be added on to that window, though voters must still mail their ballots by this coming Monday.

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Jon Cannon, President Obama's nominee to become deputy chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, withdrew from consideration today with a veiled reference to "scrutiny" of his association with America's Clean Water Foundation (ACWF) -- a group that the EPA inspector general cited in 2007 for steering federal grant money to the livestock industry.

ACWF has not made the news or attracted congressional criticism for any recent misdeeds. In fact, its attorneys told the EPA in 2006 that the entire group had abruptly dissolved, disappearing into thin air as the inspector general advised the government to claw back more than $21 million in federal grant money that had gone from ACWF into the hands of the National Pork Producer Council.

What did Cannon have to do with that shady move on ACWF's part? Nothing, according to his statement, released today through EPA:

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A new poll of North Carolina from the Civitas Institute (R) confirms that GOP Sen. Richard Burr is in serious danger for 2010. When matched up against possible Democratic candidate Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General, Burr is trailing by a 41%-38% margin, within the ±4% margin of error.

Last week, a survey from Public Policy Polling (D) put Burr narrowly ahead of a generic Democrat, though PPP didn't test Cooper specifically.

The pollster's analysis from Civitas shows that both of these candidates remain largely unknown to the general public -- even though Burr is the incumbent U.S. Senator. Burr's favorables are actually a little better than Cooper's, but he's trailing in a direct match-up. The analysis concludes that Burr in and of himself polls well, compared to Cooper, but putting it on a partisan ballot is a different scenario.

On the one hand, this shouldn't be too surprising after last fall, when Kay Hagan won a landslide Senate victory and Barack Obama narrowly carried the state. On the other hand, things sure have changed when the inherent advantage is in being a Democrat in a race for federal office in North Carolina.

Late Update: It's worth noting that PPP did test Cooper against Burr back in December, and also showed him narrowly ahead with a high undecided number.

As I mentioned earlier, today's breaking budget news is that the congressional budget committees released their budget blueprints. There are some notable differences between the House and Senate resolutions, and both differ from the president's proposal--the House plan, for instance, will drop the deficit to $600 billion over five years, compared to the $500 billion in the Senate plan, whereas the Congressional Budget Office predicted higher deficits under Obama's outline. Still the administration and congressional leaders are playing these differences down.

There's some good reason for that, but the bigger issue still looms in the background: reconciliation. Reconciliation enables certain types of fiscal legislation--including, significantly, some of Barack Obama's major agenda items--to be bundled together and voted on immune from the threat of filibuster.

Republicans see this as a major threat and for the last several days have been lividly decrying the entire process, threatening to respond to any attempts to put health and energy reforms into a reconciliation bill by going 'nuclear'. Nuclear in this instance has nothing to do with atomic physics or with filibustering judges but instead with a senatorial tendency to indulge in hyperbole when describing their powers.

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The NRCC has this new attack ad in the special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, accusing Dem candidate Scott Murphy of being part of the Wall Street-AIG bonus crowd -- and even giving illegitimate bonuses in his own business work:

"AIG. Wall Street. Scott Murphy," the announcer says. Which brings us a big irony in this race -- that the Republican is running a populist campaign, and accusing the Democrat of being a Wall Street fat cat. If it works, the GOP will be using this theme for some time to come.

The claim itself was previously fact-checked by the Albany Times-Union, who didn't have a high opinion of it. Murphy did award $1.2 million in bonuses to executives at a technology company, in a year when they were $1.6 million in the red -- but it was at a time when there was definite upward progress going on, with almost three times the net sales from two years earlier. And furthermore, it's not uncommon for tech companies to run losses for years before making it into the black.

Is the momentum building for an investigation into the real beneficiaries of AIG's latest bailout?

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department announced it was rescuing the fallen insurance giant yet again, bringing the total amount of taxpayer assistance given to the firm since last September to $170 billion. It soon became clear that much of that money -- over $49 billion, to be exact -- was going right through AIG to the counter-parties on its credit default swaps, both American banks like Goldman Sachs, and foreign ones like DeutscheBank.

Defenders of the move have argued that not giving the counter-parties this indirect bailout would have risked a wider financial collapse.

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Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will be back before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow to outline his plea for emergency powers to take over and wind down foundering non-bank financial firms -- but he may leave unanswered the question of how to fund his plan.

Early leaks of Geithner's request, which is slated to head to Capitol Hill in draft form later today, suggest that the emergency "resolution authority" would be paid for either by a mandatory congressional appropriation or by charging the private companies covered by the change.

The latter of those two options could be a non-starter with the financial industry, which is unlikely to welcome a new government fee, while the former could face resistance from members of Congress who would prefer to use the FDIC's deposit insurance fund (reliant on payments from banks) as a model. Either way, as the WSJ reports, we know two things for sure:

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Yes, that was an actual sentence spoken -- or more specifically "groused" -- by an anonymous Wall Street executive concerned for his "personal safety," though not enough to be dissuaded from attending or talking to a reporter at yesterday's Wall Street Journal 'Future Of Finance' Conference, where the future sounded like it had gone back in time and purchased a hundred billion dollars worth of extra credit protection, which is to say suspiciously like Finance Past.

It looks like Wall Street, no doubt emboldened by the recent 20% runup in the S&P 500, the fourteen bucks in matching leverage the government is offering them for every dollar they invest in toxic/"legacy" assets and the prospect of better-than-awful numbers at Citigroup and Credit Suisse, got its hubris back along with its proverbial groove. In the six months since it nearly triggered global financial Armageddon, the investment banking community has seemed, if not quite chastened, at least somewhat subdued amidst the nation's ever-heightening awareness that their industry engineered the ever-intensifying economic morass. But not anymore!

This morning the New York Times ran as an op-ed the resignation letter of one Jake DeSantis, a securities trader and executive vice president at AIG's infamous financial products division and recipient of one of those million dollar bonuses ($742,006.40 after taxes.) That's right: he's keeping it. And don't ask him if he feels guilty about it because he will tell you: NO.

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The Democratic National Committee released this statement today, in response to Bobby Jindal's remarks last night attacking Democrats for demanding that Republicans not want President Obama to fail:

"We understand that Governor Jindal has had some problems with public speaking lately, but turning to Rush Limbaugh to be your new speechwriter doesn't help. What we know has failed is the reflexive partisan politics of the past that Rush Limbaugh and his Republican party continue to be mired in. Rather than rooting for failure, we urge the Republican party to play a constructive role in moving the country forward and offer a budget proposal," said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan.

The Dems clearly like calling the Republicans the Party of Limbaugh -- and the Republicans keep on giving them the openings to do it.