TPM News

Remember that ongoing FBI investigation of PMA, the lobbying group with close ties to Democratic power-broker Rep. John Murtha?

Well, up until now, House Democrats -- led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who's a close ally of Murtha, the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee chair -- have been successful on fending off GOP calls for a congressional probe of the matter. But that may be changing...

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It's an admittedly over-simplified question, but one that's lingered in the background today after the Obama administration insisted on the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner: Is the government insisting on stronger concessions from Detroit than it is from Wall Street, despite the latter's receipt of a far bigger taxpayer bailout?

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) just told reporters that he believes there has been "a double standard for a long time in terms of the treatment of the financial industry, compared [with] the way the auto industry has been treated. It's something we've fought against ... but something we've got to live with and deal with."

Levin added that it would be a distraction to lament banking CEOs' ability to keep their jobs while boasting managerial records nearly as dismal as Wagoner's (Bank of America chief Ken Lewis and Citigroup chief Vikram Pandit are the names that often spring to mind).

When the senator was asked if he advised the president not to fire Wagoner, however, Levin offered a curious demurral:

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Last week we reported that the House Financial Services committee's ranking member, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) is asking chairman Barney Frank and the Treasury department to look into the cases of smaller U.S. banks that are allegedly being stiffed on their loans to an AIG subsidiary while its major CDS counterparties are paid off in full.

In a story that may shed some light on his complaint, the Wall Street Journal reports today on the cases of two businesses who partnered with AIG on real estate development projects and are now fighting to get AIG to contribute its share of cash to pay project expenses:

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Al Franken addressed the Minnesota Young DFL convention in St. Paul on Saturday, thanking everyone, especially young voters and supporters, for all their help in bringing him to his super-narrow win:

"First of all, thank you. You know, when you win by 225 votes, it's fair to say that no effort really went to waste," said Franken, as the audience laughed. He then thanked everyone for all the great victories that Minnesota Democrats had in electing Barack Obama, increasing their majorities in the state legislature, and sending their five House members back. "And yes -- we took Paul Wellstone's seat back," he added, before being answered by applause.

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We should have seen this one coming -- government officials who helped respond to the financial crisis, now cashing in by helping private sector clients "navigate the new world of finance."

That's what David Nason, a former assistant treasury secretary under Hank Paulson will be doing for clients of Promontary Financial Group, which he's joining as a managing director, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Nason, who had a major hand in drawing up Treasury's bailout plan last fall, "is expected to advise big financial institutions on everything from how to participate in the government's rescue programs to meeting regulatory requirements."

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As he rolled out one last reprieve for the nation's troubled automakers, President Obama also restarted a legislative push that ran out of gas during last month's stimulus talks: a $10,000 rebate offer to car owners who traded in their old models for more fuel-efficient wheels.

The "cash for clunkers" plan was originally proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), at a total cost of about $16 billion. It was dropped from the stimulus amid GOP opposition, but Obama said today that he would "work with Congress to identify parts of the recovery act that could be trimmed to fund such a program and make it retroactive starting today."

Could that strong presidential endorsement give the rebate plan the momentum it needs to win quick congressional approval? Stay tuned... Late Update: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who sponsored a $4,500 version of the "cash for clunkers" rebate alongside Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), has just released a statement promising to work quickly on complying with the president's request:

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Check out the opening line of this new fundraising e-mail from the DSCC, officially authored by DSCC chairman Bob Menendez, seeking to bring in some last-minute cash for the end of the quarter:

Dear Friend,

The Republicans think that betting against America is the way to beat us on Election Day. I know that betting on you is a surefire way to prove them wrong.

(Emphasis in the original.)

The Democrats are now running on flag-waving and running down the other guy's patriotism. What an amazing time we live in.

The Obama administration's candid "viability assessments" of GM and Chrysler emphasize one unsurprising but unfortunate theme: Both auto companies have contributed to their own financial demise by relying on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs instead of cultivating more fuel-efficient cars.

Here's the relevant excerpt from GM's White House status report:

GM earns a disproportionate share of its profits from high-margin trucks and SUVs and is thus vulnerable to energy cost-driven shifts in consumer demand. For example, of its top 20 profit contributors in 2008, only nine were cars.

And the administration's take on Chrysler was even more grim:

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Following in the footsteps of martyr to truth Jake DeSantis, another AIG Financial Products exec just can't help himself from going public about how unfairly he's being treated by just about everyone from his employer, to Congress, to Andrew Cuomo. But a blog post by his wife may be even more interesting....

The blog Clusterstock has posted a long rant from London-based Paul Harriman, which originally appeared on the site Live Journal. The predictable gist: Harriman complains that without his bonus, he won't be able to afford his $10,000 a month apartment and his kids' school fees.

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Check out this obviously uncomfortable exchange between Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in tomorrow's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, and a reporter from this past Thursday night. Tedisco tried to deny that he'd referred to the stimulus bill as pork -- even though he and his campaign have done so on multiple occasions.

Tedisco was asked about two things, essentially -- characterizing the stimulus bill as containing $300 billion in pork or wasteful spending, and his attack that Dem candidate Scott Murphy should have read the whole bill due to the AIG bonus flap:

For the record, a Google search shows Tedisco or his campaign spokesman being directly quoted using the word "pork" here and here. Indeed, before he had officially announced his opposition to the bill, he had been referring to aspects of it as "Washington-style, Mickey-Mouse pork barrel politics at its worst," in this press release on his campaign's Web site.

Check out the relevant transcript, after the jump.

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