TPM News

The cause of Employee Free Choice been dealt a number of difficult blows in the last several weeks, but perhaps the hardest came from Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in early April when she came out against EFCA. At the time she said, "[I] cannot support that bill in its current form. Cannot support and will not support moving it forward in its current form."

Deliberations are underway between labor groups and key legislators who seek a compromise bill with enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster. But Lincoln, whose constituents include Wal-Mart, is situated to drive a hard bargain.

That is, of course, unless she thinks her job might be at stake. And it could be--or, at least, some influential people want her to think it could be. One senior labor official close to the situation told TPMDC that a general election challenge could be in the works. "I think that's a line people are preparing to cross."

Read More →

Today was a surreal day in the surreal case of accused (though not yet criminally-charged) Texas ponzi schemer Allen Stanford, even by the standards of Stanford. First came a credulity-straining BBC report that Stanford somehow bought himself 10 years of amnesty from SEC scrutiny by serving as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Then Fox Business News piped in, excerpting a strange paragraph from a letter it had received as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from someone claiming that two of Stanford's clients were part of the Venezuelan mafia. CNBC replayed the segment of its interview with Stanford in which reporter Scott Cohn asks if the disgraced financier had ever assisted "federal authorities" -- to which Stanford blurts out "You mean the CIA?" before declining to comment further. (It's embedded after the jump.)

But not everyone in the Stanford family cooperates, and tomorrow we may finally get some clarity on this bizarre scam in the form of a "global indictment," if reports from Fox Business News are accurate. Stanford himself still isn't getting charged, though; the feds are coming down again on his glamorous chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt, who was already arrested and charged with obstruction of justice in the scheme -- and last week denied every allegation against her. The Fox clip, also after the jump.

Read More →

I know what you're all thinking. You're thinking that if the Minnesota Supreme Court next month determines that Al Franken should be seated, the national Republican Party will graciously accept their decision, and Norm Colemen will offer up a kind and thoughtful concession speech.

"[N]o, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it's going to get bumped to the next level," said RNC chairman Michael Steele.

So you were all wrong. "This does not end until there's a final ruling that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted, Steele added. "And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that."

Somewhat implicit in that last sentence is the assumption that Coleman will ultimately lose. And implicit in that implication is the idea that the Republicans are doing this to keep another Democrat out of the Senate for as long as possible, and depriving Minnesotans of dual representation in the process.

Assuming the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with Franken, the question of whether to seat him, even if provisionally, will fall to Gov. Tim Pawlenty--a presidential hopeful who, as we've noted before, will face tons of pressure from his party not to certify the victory at all. If this is any indication, the GOP is already turning up the heat.

Earlier today, Ben Smith reported that McCain research director-cum-press secretary Brian Rogers will begin working as the research director for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. On the campaign trail, Rogers worked alongside deputy communications director Michael Goldfarb, who responded to today's announcement with poise and professional courtesy. "Everybody knew Rogers was a tree-hugger," Goldfarb noted by email, "but I didn't think he'd take it this far. He's dead to me."

This has been today's edition of "fun quotes from people who wanted to run the country." But thinking critically for a moment it's not clear how accurate Goldfarb's charges are. Notwithstanding all the 'Drill Here, Drill Now' strangeness, McCain--though nowhere near Al Gore territory--has generally been more progressive on the climate change issue than has the rest of his party. So on the one hand it's not all that surprising that he'd have an environmentalist on his staff.

On the other hand, though, this is the same Brian Rogers who, in an earlier edition of "fun quotes from people who wanted to run the country" once said of Barack Obama, "In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story." Tree-huggers are traditionally believed to enjoy arugula as much as pointy-headed professors, and there is, of course, significant overlap between the two groups. Perhaps he's super green after all.

Bob Graham, the Democratic former Florida senator, has said he has no memory of being told in a briefing about waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques, as a recently released CIA document indicates.

Graham told Greg Sargent this afternoon: "I do not have any recollection of being briefed on waterboarding or other forms of extraordinary interrogation techniques, or Abu Zubaydah being subjected to them."

Read More →

On Saturday night, May 9th, President Obama took the stage at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. "Tonight, I'm going to speak from the heart, and speak off the cuff ..." Obama said, as a teleprompter rose into place.

Newscom/PHL

Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless Michael Kors shift dress. From Obama's opening remarks: "[Michelle] has helped to bridge the differences that have divided us for so long because no matter which party you belong to, we can all agree that Michelle has the right to bare arms." (h/t NY Mag)

Newscom/UPI

"Michael Steele is in the house tonight," the president said in his opening remarks, "Or as he would say, 'In the heezy.'"

Newscom/KRT

The black tie dinner was attended by a mix of politicians, journalists and celebrities. Pictured here: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Newscom/UPI

Michelle Obama gives a congratulatory fist bump to a scholarship award winner.

Newscom/UPI

President Obama with Jennifer Loven, President of the White House Correspondents Association.

Newscom/PHL



Newscom/UPI

Comedian Wanda Sykes gave the keynote address.

Newscom/Sipa

Bill O'Reilly.

Newscom/CNP

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Newscom/CNP

From left to right: CNN's Ed Henry, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, President Obama, and NBC's Brian Williams.

Newscom/PHL

Gov. Sarah Palin withdrew from the dinner at the last minute, and her husband Todd "First Dude" Palin went in her place (with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News). During the keynote address, Wanda joked: "You know, somebody should tell her [Palin] that's not how you really practice abstinence."

Newscom/SPN



Newscom/PHL

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Newscom/UPI

Colin Powell.

Newscom/SPN

Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Newscom/CNP

The New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier (left) and Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council.

Newscom/CNP

Meghan McCain.

Newscom/SPN

Will Arnett and Amy Poehler.

Newscom/SPN

Alan Greenspan and wife Andrea Mitchell.

Newscom/CNP

Michael Bloomberg.

Newscom/CNP

Steve Forbes.

Newscom/CNP

Paul Volcker.

Newscom/CNP

James Franco

Newscom/SPN

Joe Klein and Colin Powell.

Newscom/CNP

Barbara Walters.

Newscom/SPN

George Lucas and Samuel L. Jackson.

Newscom/SPN

David Axelrod (left) and Wolf Blitzer (right).

Newscom/CNP

Al Sharpton.

Newscom/SPN

Kyle MacLachlan and Dana Delany of "Desperate Housewives."

Newscom/UPI

Newt and Callista Gingrich.

Newscom/SPN

Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and Wolf Blitzer.

Newscom/SPN

It looks Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the man taking over as the new top commander in Afghanistan, was a key player in one of the more shameful episodes of the Bush administration's war on terror -- though it's unclear exactly how much blame, if any, he himself deserves.

In 2007, the Associated Press reported that McChrystal suspected when he approved a Silver Star citation for Pat Tillman that the former NFL star killed in Afghanistan may have been felled by friendly fire. McChrystal told military investigators that that suspicion had led him to send a memo to top generals, urging them not to say publicly that Tillman was killed under "devastating enemy fire."

Read More →

Last Friday Citigroup email-blasted borrowers of its student loans entreating them to write Congress and sign online petitions saying they opposed Barack Obama's plan to do away with the private student loan business in the name of "consumer choice."

We thought the email was funny because, sort of like AIG's bailout-funded legal battle to reclaim $329 million penalties it paid the IRS, it was a case of a company transparently working to undermine the agenda of its parent company the U.S. Treasury. But it gets better!

As it turns out, Citigroup's biggest competitor in private student loans, Sallie Mae, sold out the rest of the industry last month by agreeing to go along with the Obama Administration's plan. Two weeks ago the company told analysts that while it did not intend to be a "Thanksgiving turkey for the government" it was content shifting its strategy from the lucrative government-subsidized lending business that made its CEO Al Lord a centimillionaire many times over to being a fee-for-service government contractor. It circulated some suggested changes to the Obama proposal and left its smaller competitors, like Citigroup's Student Loan Corporation and First Marblehead Corporation to fend for themselves.

In a conference call with analysts last month, Lord said his reasoning for the change of heart was simple: student loans were not as profitable as they once had been, following a string of conflict-of-interest scandals in 2006 and 2007 that galvanized support around a series of cuts in the federal subsidies bankers received for extending such loans -- so charging the government to service the loans was a better business to be in. "I don't think there's anyone in this building...that's not a capitalist," Lord told an analyst. The trade group representing Citi and other private lenders, however, the Consumer Bankers Association, had some harsh words for this rationale in a Washington Post story this morning.

Read More →

Earlier today, President Obama welcomed a motley crew of health reform stakeholders to the White House for a summit of sorts. On hand were representatives of a number of health care industry lobbies--including America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association--and, on the other side of things, representatives of the Service Employees International Union.

The groups are pledging to support cost-reducing measures that, at least in theory, dovetail with an Obama-backed health care plan and which would incur saving that could potentially be construed as part of the up-front investment comprehensive reform will require.

Paul Krugman is pleased by this development. So is health wonk Jonathan Cohn, and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. Ezra Klein is somewhat less enthused. For their part, the administration is playing portraying today's development as something just shy of a watershed moment. But is there reason to be skeptical of the Kumbaya chorus?

Richard Kirsch of the group Health Care for America Now cautions that "the groups did not agree to anything specific whatsoever."

Read More →

We may not get to enjoy the spectacle of a Toomey-Ridge battle-for-the-soul-of-the-GOP in Pennsylvania next year, but as a consolation prize, we'll get to see a similar fight play out in Florida. Eric highlighted this in the Morning Roundup, but it's worth reiterating. Governor Charlie Crist will announce tomorrow that he intends to run for Senate in 2010 against conservative Marco Rubio.

Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce Tuesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate, setting off a high-stakes game of musical chairs that will completely overhaul the top echelon of state government in 2010.

Crist's former chief-of-staff, George LeMieux, confirmed late Sunday that the governor will make an announcement at a ''low-key'' event Tuesday in Tallahassee.

LeMieux and Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, have been dropping hints about Crist's decision for the past week.


Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) is retiring at the end of his term, and the popular Crist will surely be the front runner, both in the (closed) primary and in the general election. Crist has been criticized on the right for, among other things, joining the majority of Floridians in support of the President's stimulus bill.

TPMLivewire