TPM News

The campaign of Senate candidate Sue Lowden (R-NV) is continuing to stand by Lowden's call for the use of the barter system as a means to bring down health care costs.

On Monday, Lowden doubled down on the barter idea: "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I'll paint your house."

We asked Lowden spokesperson Crystal Feldman how this could ever be a workable policy, in an era of costly procedures, tests, pharmaceuticals and provider networks? "Americans are struggling to pay for their health care, and in order to afford coverage we must explore all options available to drive costs down," Feldman told TPMDC in an e-mail.

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The House Ethics committee has opened a "full and complete investigation" into the sexual harassment and improper payment allegations involving former congressman Eric Massa, it just announced.

The allegations surrounding Massa "are serious and warrant a full and complete investigation," the committee announced. The New York Democrat stepped down last month amid allegations that he sexually harassed staffers. Since then, questions have been raised about a $40,000 payment made to Massa's top aide, Joe Racalto. Racalto had confronted Massa about the harassment allegations, and last week filed a complaint charging that he too had been sexually harassed.

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New York state Rep. Dede Scozzafava, a Republican who dramatically withdrew from last year's NY-23 special election and then endorsed Democrat Bill Owens, has announced that she will not run again for her seat in the legislature.

"If you go back to the run for Congress, I was really looking to do something different and go in a different direction and be challenged differently," said Scozzafava, the Watertown Daily Times reports. "That hasn't changed. As much as I've enjoyed my time in the state Assembly, I think it's time for me to take a breather and go in a different direction."

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We already told you that Sen. John Ensign's campaign has raised only $50 -- all from one contributor -- this year. But his political action committee is doing even worse.

The Nevada Republican's Battle Born PAC has taken in a grand total of $0 so far this year, according to FEC records examined by TPMmuckraker. By comparison, the PAC for Ensign's fellow conservative GOP senator, Jon Kyl of Arizona, has raised $38,000 in 2010, records show. Both men would face re-election in 2012.

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Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who's been in financial reform talks with chairman Chris Dodd, tells TPMDC's Brian Beutler that an agreement is close at hand.

"We're very close to a deal and there will be a substantial number of Republicans that go along with it," Shelby said.

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The Senate Agriculture Committee today approved a derivatives regulation bill which will be merged with the banking committee's financial reform bill. The vote was 13 to 8.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joined the committee's Democrats in voting yes on the bill, which was written by chairman Blanche Lincoln.

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So is Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) about to leave the GOP and run for Senate as an independent, or not?

Matt Towery of InsiderAdvantage reported that "reliable sources" said Crist was preparing a speech in which he would announce his switch from Republican to independent.

However, a source close to Crist tells TPMDC, "there is no speech." Another GOP source tells TPMDC that they have not heard about it.

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The only person to contribute to Sen. John Ensign's re-election campaign this year says he thinks the scandal-plagued lawmaker is "a really good guy."

"He did some bad things with his personal life," Robert Donald, a Las Vegas retiree, told TPMmuckraker. "But as a senator, he's doing the right thing. He votes the right way."

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