TPM News

Bill Halter has a new ad in the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary runoff, touting his opposition to privatizing Social Security and accusing incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln of voting to cut the program.

The ad features friends and family members of Halter, most notably his father Bill Halter, Sr. "Bill fought Bush's plan to privatize it," says one of his friends. "And Bill will never do what Blanche Lincoln did," another friend says, followed by another: "Vote to cut Medicare and Social Security."

The ad's press release includes a speech that Halter, a former Deputy Commissioner of Social Security, gave in 2002 while stumping for Mark Pryor's Senate campaign: "If you divert a sixth of the Social Security payroll tax into private accounts and out of the Social Security trust fund, you've just created more than a trillion dollar hole in the trust fund."

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Several military service chiefs have written to Congress to lay out their opposition to the new compromise on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The chiefs, of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army, have opposed DADT repeal in the past. In their new, separate letters they wrote that the deal, which would repeal the law now but allow the Pentagon to implement repeal after they complete a policy review, undermines the policy.

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Progressives are hoping to keep congressional Wall Street reform negotiators on their best behavior as they iron out the difference between House and Senate legislation. But they fear that at least one Democratic conferee might be a bit meddlesome: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the fourth ranking member on the Bankng Committee, who, despite close ties to Wall Street, laid very low during the financial reform floor fight, raising his head only occasionally to support fellow Democrats as they worked to advance and improve the bill.

Now suddenly he's one of only a small number of legislators who will get to influence the final product.

"It did surprise me," said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's future. "I didn't expect him to be on it, I have to admit. I assume he must have really asserted himself to get that position."

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So often on Capitol Hill, legislators spend weeks or months creating bills under a fair amount of public scrutiny, only to cut a deal behind closed doors in the final hours and push it through both the House and the Senate before reporters and experts have had a chance to examine it. The Wall Street reform bill is supposed to be different: it will be completed in a formal House-Senate conference, in front of cameras and with all votes recorded, thanks to conference chairman Barney Frank. But aides on the hill and outside progressive groups both say there's still too much room for funny business and are pressing Congress to make the end-stage negotiations even more transparent.

"The key thing we want is we want the legislation put online, the differences put online, the issues they're going to talk about put online," says Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. "We don't want them to make decisions--to take stuff off the table--without doing it in public."

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The new survey of California from Public Policy Polling (D) gives Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer a very low approval rating -- but she's still narrowly ahead of her Republican challengers.

Boxer's approval rating is only 37%, with disapproval of 46%. however, she leads former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina by 45%-42%, leads former Rep. Tom Campbell by 47%-40%, and is ahead of state Rep. Chuck DeVore by 46%-40%. The survey of registered voters has a ±3.2% margin of error. The TPM Poll Average gives Boxer a lead of 45.6%-40.0% over Fiorina, with similar leads over Campbell and DeVore.

"It definitely looks like this will be Barbara Boxer's toughest fight for reelection to date," writes PPP president Dean Debnam. "Once again though she is helped by the fact that even if she's not too popular, her opposition isn't either."

A new CNN poll shows that support has grown to near-universal levels for an increase in security at the Mexican border -- but at the same time, there is also wide support for some compromises on illegal immigration.

The poll found 88% support for putting more Border Patrol and federal law enforcement agents on the southern border, with only 12% against it. This is up from the already very high 74%-25% in October 2006. The poll of American adults has a ±3% margin of error.

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Is Washington state about to go the way of Florida and Kentucky? There's a battle brewing now that Republican Dino Rossi has officially jumped into what was already a crowded primary field to challenge Sen. Patty Murray (D) this fall. Rossi is up against a tea partier backed by Sarah Palin and several others who don't want to make way for the D.C. favorite, who announced his candidacy this morning.

The national Republican establishment has gone all out to court Rossi, with NRSC Chairman Sen. John Cornyn telling reporters recently that Rossi is "exactly the kind" of candidate that could beat Murray and do well in competitive races. Cornyn (R-TX) said last month that Rossi can beat Murray, adding that the new candidate can help "rebuild the Republican brand nationally." He said the NRSC would "do whatever it takes to help him." Sound familiar? As we've written, Cornyn has been a bit regretful about backing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist early in the primary, saying he had no way of knowing Marco Rubio would wipe away Crist's hopes of being the GOP nominee. In Kentucky, Cornyn didn't officially back Rand Paul, but it was clear that D.C. preferred Trey Grayson to the tea party favorite.

The TPM Poll Average of a race pitting Murray against Rossi has the senator leading him 45.5 to 40.6. percent.

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Conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe and three compatriots today pleaded guilty to entering real property belonging to the United States under false pretenses for the January incident in which they entered Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office and claimed to be from the telephone company, the Times-Picayune reports.

O'Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service. The others -- Stan Dai, Joseph Basel, and Robert Flanagan -- got the same fine, two years of probation, and 75 hours of community service.

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