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The Miami Herald reports that Michael Steele urged state party activists in Florida to more aggressively register voters, to directly serve communities, and to reach out to blacks and Hispanics.

"Please send some folks to the convention that look like Florida," said Steele. "Could you help a brother out? No more national conventions with [only] 36 people of color in the room."

Here's the thing: In many ways, Steele is right.

Yesterday we puzzled over the mixed messages we were hearing from Obama officials over the veracity of a Washington Post report that it was using Enron-style "special purpose vehicles" to undermine executive pay restrictions on bailed out banks: senior adviser David Axelrod sheepishly defended the strategy on one Sunday talk show, while Tim Geithner denied it altogether on another. But newly-promoted House Oversight Chairman Ed Towns is getting to the bottom of it, reports the Post today, in a story that sheds some much-needed light on the conflicting stories: the strategy began with the Treasury Department's $1 trillion consumer and business lending initiative, which is in part an expansion of the Federal Reserve's Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which is open to the American subsidiaries of foreign banks, which Treasury presumably wants to participate in the programs without having to deal with the added diplomatic headache of subjecting foreign bankers to rules designed to satisfy American voters. Unsurprisingly, not everyone in Congress is opposed to that.

A senior House aide said he agreed with the Treasury's policy and that he believed a recent vote by the House on another piece of executive compensation legislation showed that Congress did not intend the restrictions to apply to firms that did not receive direct capital injections. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.
Oversight sees things differently, however.

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A mere fortnight ago Bill Gross, who manages the world's largest bond fund PIMCO, was singing the praises of the Treasury Department's newly-unveiled Public Private Investment Program in the media, which the media in turn credited for the stock market rally that immediately followed. But in any event, Gross's endorsement of the plan hardly a surprise, since 1. PIMCO holds more than $118 billion in mortgage-backed securities 2. including one fund that has lost 34% of its value since its 2007 inception and 3. oh yeah, the plan was in part Bill Gross's idea. By the time the week was out PIMCO was being dubbed the fourth branch of government.

Now PIMCO is not very subtly distancing itself from the PPIP, which has only gotten less popular as its details have emerged. This morning, on the heels of yesterday's stock market selloff that accompanied the Treasury Department announcement that it was extending the deadline for PPIP applications and clarifying that applicants would be considered "holistically" (i.e. that demonstrated ability to raise $500 million requirement is now more like a rule of thumb) PIMCO Chief Investment Officer Mohammed Al-Arian went on Squawk Box to talk markets with celebrated (by CNBC anyway) stock picker Mario Gabelli, who couldn't resist getting in a dig at PIMCO for the plan's self-defeating "competitive restraint." The fun starts about 7:54 in, transcript after the jump.

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In the wake of the charges being dropped agaisnt Ted Stevens, is pressure building on the Justice Department to make a similar decision on behalf of Don Siegelman?

A lawyer for the former Alabama governor -- who last week told TPMmuckraker that the misconduct in his own case "dwarf[s]" that in Stevens' -- sent a letter Friday to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking that Holder review the evidence of "serious and pervasive" prosecutorial misconduct in Siegelman's case.

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If Republicans truly plan to filibuster Dawn Johnsen--Obama's Office of Legal Counsel chief-designate--Democrats will be able to point to a long record of Republican statements decrying the very idea of obstructing a President's prerogative to choose his cabinet officials and advisers. The group People for the American Way is circulating a document quoting several high profile Republicans who once decried the practice in no uncertain terms.

When President Bush nominated the fairly controversial John Ashcroft to be his Attorney General, Republicans raced to his defense. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee--took to the Senate floor to argue that Democrats "must afford the President a significant degree of deference to shape his Cabinet as he sees fit."

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At post-court press conference, lead Franken attorney Marc Elias commented that the election contest is essentially over, with Al Franken the winner after the court had 351 previously-rejected ballots counted, which boosted Franken's lead from 225 votes to 312.

"Today is a very important step, as we now know the outcome of the election contest," said Elias, "and that is the same outcome as the recount, which is that Al Franken has more votes than Norm Coleman."

When asked whether he expected Coleman to appeal, Elias said: "That's a question at this point for former Sen. Coleman. I guess I would say the same thing about his appeal as I said about his case: That the U.S. court system is a wonderful thing, as it's open to people with non-meritorious claims."

In all seriousness, Elias also said that Coleman had weeks to lay out his case, call witnesses and produce evidence that he was the winner, in a very transparent process that involved members of all parties -- and that he has failed to do so, losing net votes at every stage of the process.

At one point, a reporter asked Elias what would happen if he found himself in front of Justice Scalia a year from now, arguing about Coleman's claims of equal protection. What would he say? "The only chance I'll wind up before Justice Scalia talking about equal protection a year from now is if we meet in a diner in Bethesda," Elias said, to the laughter of the reporters. "So I don't think that is at all a likelihood."

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It looks like Judge Emmet Sullivan didn't just leave things at a few harsh words for those government prosecutors who botched the Ted Stevens case by failing to hand over evidence.

Politico reports that the judge will seek contempt charges against the six-person prosecution team for their misconduct. That team includes William Welch, the head of the Public Integrity Section, Brenda Morris, the lead prosecutor in the case, and trial lawyer Nicholas Marsh, all of whom were replaced earlier this year, as a result of the missteps.

Sullivan also appointed a lawyer, Henry Schulke, to investigate the Justice Department in relation to the contempt issue. DOJ has said that its Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting its own probe of the misconduct, but clearly Sullivan wants an independent inquiry.

This could get interesting...

Minnesota has just finished counting the 351 previously-rejected ballots approved by the three-judge panel as having been legally cast and rejected in error. The numbers: Al Franken 198, Norm Coleman 111, Other 42.

This means that Al Franken's lead has increased from the 225 he had going into today, up to 312 votes out of roughly 2.9 million. We still need to wait for the judges to rule on the remaining issues, but the vote-counting during the election contest-proper is done.

The only way for Coleman to overcome this lead would be to win an appeal against the election court's prior rulings in favor of strict standards to let in new ballots, or to somehow win his much more far-fetched proposal to retroactively declare a number of absentee votes illegal and deduct them from the totals based on countywide averages. The first one is more likely in terms of feasibility, and even that's a long shot, leaving the Coleman camp at their other proposal to "set aside" the election result entirely.

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The judge in the Ted Stevens case has granted the government's motion to drop the charges against the former Alaska senator -- but not before slamming the government prosecutors on the case.

"In nearly 25 years on the bench, I've never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I've seen in this case," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said at a hearing on the government's motion, reports the Associated Press.

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