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Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey this year, is facing a new line of attack from Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, based on Christie's recently-revealed conversations with Karl Rove: That he may have potentially violated the Hatch Act.

A longstanding government ethics law passed in 1939, the Hatch Act forbids government officials from engaging in political activity on government time, as well as preliminary activities to set up a campaign. After an Associated Press report noted that Christie's conversations with Rove years ago may have violated the act (because the two of them discussed a possible Christie bid for governor) Corzine picked up on the theme.

"The Hatch Act is very clear in saying political activities are off limits," Corzine said yesterday afternoon. "It is very hard to understand how someone who is responsible and mission is law enforcement should be violating -- potentially violating -- laws like the Hatch Act."

The Rove attack has two damaging aspects for Christie. First, it could potentially hurt Christie's clean-government, corruption-busting image, which has helped him take a substantial lead over Corzine in the polls. And furthermore, it serves to remind New Jersey voters that Christie worked in the Bush administration, which was hardly well-liked in this liberal state.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just told a crowd of skeptical progressives that he's willing to take up and dispel the death panel rumor with perhaps its most respected proponent: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Specter said he'd call Grassley from back stage and tell him "it's not a death squad."

Progress. Earlier this week, Grassley endorsed the false rumor that Democrats were proposing a "pull the plug on granny" provision in their health care reform legislation, then turned around and scotched an end of life counseling measure the Senate Finance Committee's bill, alleging that it could be "misinterpreted" by the public.

Late update: Awwww. How sad. Seems Grassley didn't pick up the phone when Specter called him. Wonder if he got tipped off!

Just a quick data point. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) fielded questions at a Netroots Nation panel this morning about whether he'd encourage his colleagues to support cloture on Democratic bills. Though he elided the specific question, he did say that, unless Democrats flew off the handle and began trying to limit the first amendment, or civil rights for gays, he will vote with the party to bring legislation to the floor for an up or down vote. Specifically, he said he'd support cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act, even if he disagrees with the underlying bill.

He's also recently assured labor organizers that they'd "like" how he votes on EFCA. Before he switched parties, and even for a while thereafter, he said exactly the opposite.

Late update: Specter also said that he never asked President Obama to clear the primary field for him.

Late late update: Here's video.

A leaked memo sent by an oil industry group reveals a plan to create astroturf rallies at which industry employees posing as "citizens" will urge Congress to oppose climate change legislation.

The memo -- sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters -- urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will "put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy," and will urge senators to "avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill."

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A new Research 2000 poll reaffirms what a separate Rasumussen poll found earlier this week: that in the last month Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has made serious gains on his Pennsylvania Senate primary opponent, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).

Specter now leads Sestak 48-33 among likely voters. But that 15 point margin is down by 30 from May when Specter lead 56-11. And 40 percent of voters still don't know who Specter is.

Meanwhile, according to R2K, both men still lead Pat Toomey--Specter 45-40, and Sestak 42 41. Both men have lost ground in recent weeks, though. Specter was throttling Toomey 55-31, and Sestak enjoyed a more comfortable 37-32 margin three months ago.

Though Toomey's clearly gaining ground, Rasmussen recently found that Toomey had actually surpassed both of his potential rivals.

Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), who won a stunning upset victory last December in the solidly Democratic New Orleans district against scandal-plagued Dem incumbent Bill Jefferson, made a very stunning announcement for a House Republican, the Times-Picayune reports: That he's leaning towards supporting the House Democrats' health care plan.

"The word is 'leaning,'" Cao told a town hall in the district. He has various conditions, such as prohibiting any government funding for abortion, and the effects on the budget and the overall economy.

Overall, he's keeping his options open: "I don't believe in too much federal intervention. I don't believe in inadequate federal action. The question is to find the right balance."

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The coal industry lobbying group on whose behalf those forged letters were written has responded in part to a congressional inquiry about the matter -- but won't offer any details.

Roll Call reports (sub. req.) that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity last night wrote to Rep. Ed Markey, who last week asked for answers from the group about the episode. But ACCCE wouldn't make its letter public, nor would it say whether it had found any additional forged letters, beyond the ones already reported on.

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Dem Congressman: Obama Willing To Be One-Term President Over Health Care Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) told a local town hall meeting that President Obama told him he would deal with health care -- even if it cost Obama re-election. Said Boswell: "And he said, 'No, if it makes me a one-term president, I'm going to, we're going to take it on because the country is in need of us taking this on.' I respected that very much."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and the First Lady will depart from the White House at 10:40 a.m. ET, arriving at 2:30 p.m. ET in Belgrade, Montana. Obama will hold a town hall at 2:55 p.m. ET, on health insurance reform.

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President Obama and Vice President Biden applaud as then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House after the announcement of her nomination to the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009.

White House/Chuck Kennedy




Celina Sotomayor, the mother of Sonia Sotomayor, in the audience when President Obama nominated her daughter to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter on May 26.

White House/Lawrence Jackson




A tour group watches as workers at the White House prepare for the announcement event on May 26.

White House/Chuck Kennedy




Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, and Senior Advisor David Axelrod stand by while President Obama makes calls to members of Congress to discuss Sotomayor's nomination on May 26.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama watches testimony during Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearing on a television in the Outer Oval Office on July 14.

White House/Pete Souza




Sotomayor attends a party in her honor in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building one day after the conclusion of Senate confirmation hearings on July 17.

White House/Samantha Appleton




Senator Leahy (D-VT) presents Justice Sotomayor with the framed final vote tally from the Senate vote confirming her to the Supreme Court at the White House on August 12.

White House/Chuck Kennedy




President Obama congratulates Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during a reception in the East Room of the White House on August 12.

White House/Chuck Kennedy




Justice Sotomayor and her mother Celina during a reception in the East Room of the White House on August 12.

White House/Pete Souza




President Obama and the First Lady talk with Justice Sotomayor in the Green Room of the White House.

White House/Pete Souza






White House/Pete Souza




A supporter wears a Sonia button during a confirmation reception for Justice Sotomayor in the East Room of the White House on August 12.

White House/Samantha Appleton

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