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During the debate over mass-transit funding in the stimulus bill, TPMDC highlighted the puzzling disconnect between the Obama administration's calls for investment in sustainable transportation and its low level of actual money to modernize the system.

Now that modernization debate has moved into its next phase, with Congress poised to take up its five-year transportation authorization bill later this spring. The prospect of kick-starting a true greening of U.S. transportation policy has prompted lawmakers to introduce two bills that form a progressive marker for that coming debate.

The first is known as Complete Streets, offered last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). It would ensure that federal transportation spending is apportioned to benefit not only auto drivers but pedestrians and bike riders as well. Complete Streets initiatives have been launched at the state and local level in Minnesota, New York, Washington, California, and elsewhere.

The second green-transit marker bill, known as CLEAN TEA, highlights a growing schism over the distribution of revenue from a possible cap-and-trade climate change regulatory system. CLEAN TEA would ensure that 10% of the revenue from auction of carbon emissions permits goes toward green transportation projects.

The Obama administration has suggested that as much as 20% of auction proceeds could go towards green transit, but Republicans are mounting an early pushback to that effort by insisting that 100% of the proceeds from the system be given back to taxpayers. Look for this question to become a flashpoint during the climate change debate, if and when it finally occurs later this year.

Yesterday we laid out some preliminary evidence that AIG execs -- led by Joseph Cassano, who ran the firm's financial products unit -- may have committed criminal fraud in connection with those credit default swaps that brought the company down. And as we noted, federal investigators have been probing that very question.

A former federal fraud prosecutor confirmed to TPMmuckraker today that criminal fraud occurs when someone willfully misstates the facts about a company's position in any public statement -- such as an SEC filing, an earnings release, a presentation to investors, or even a press conferences -- and when there's a clear financial motive for doing so. The former prosecutor further confirmed that the facts of the AIG case as currently known -- in which Cassano and other AIG execs made what turned out to be incorrect public statements, which had the effect of concealing from investors the company's true exposure to losses on its swaps -- could potentially lead to such charges, but declined to go further without access to the details of the investigation.

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The House has just voted 328-93 to pass the 90% tax on bonuses over $250,000 at financial institutions receiving bailout money.

We'll keep an eye out for when the roll call vote is posted on the House's site, in order to answer the question: Who were the 93 that voted No?

Late Update: The roll call vote has been posted. Among Republicans, 87 voted No, 85 voted Yes, and six did not vote. A full list of the No voters is available after the jump.

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A new Rasmussen poll, regarding the AIG bonuses, would seem to contradict David Axelrod:

1. How closely have you followed news stories about bonuses paid to executives at American International Group, the firm know as AIG that received a $170-billion government bailout?

55% Very closely
33% Somewhat closely
8% Not very closely
2% Not at all
2% Not sure


The poll also finds that 76% of adults believe the AIG executives should be required to give the money back, to only 17% against the idea. And 65% say the bailout will benefit Wall Street more than the U.S. taxpayer, compared to only 18% who say the taxpayer is the greater beneficiary.

And the narrative in this story has clearly gotten through, with this question: "Is most of the bailout money going to the people who created the economic crisis?" This one comes up as Yes 68%, No 18%.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, just pointed out the potential for loopholes to be opened in the AIG-inspired bonus taxation bill that his party is about to push to passage today.

Sherman, who warned TPMDC early on that executive-pay limits in the stimulus bill would be watered down, called today's bonus taxation bill "a step in the right direction" -- but noted that it would allow companies to still pay lavish bonuses while merely changing the terminology used to describe them.

But the most nagging question Sherman raised in his statement this afternoon relates to language in the Democratic bill that limits any bonus taxation to firms getting "capital infusions under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." Sherman interprets this language as applying to the preferred-stock purchases that were authorized under that law, which provided the first round of bailout funds nearly six months ago.

So would today's AIG-inspired bill apply to Citigroup, which last month converted its preferred stock to common stock and a "trust preferred security" with the government's blessing? And if 18 other banks follow Citigroup's lead by trading in their preferred stock -- they're all eligible to do so, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month -- would that exempt those banks from today's bill as well?

Given the vaunted skill of internal counsels in the financial industry, one suspects they're working on making that potential loophole larger. You can read Sherman's full statement after the jump.

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A new CNN poll finds widespread approval for President Obama's Iraq withdrawal plan.

The question: "Barack Obama has announced that he will remove most U.S. troops from Iraq by August of next year but keep 35,000 to 50,000 troops in that country longer than that. Do you favor or oppose this plan?"

Those who favor the plan come in at 70%, with only 29% opposing it.

The data released so far doesn't tell us how many people oppose it from the right for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and how many oppose it from the left for not going far enough. Then again, the makeup of the opposition doesn't appear to be much of a concern if it's only at 29%.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the bailout, told Congress this morning that he'll probe the AIG bonuses -- including what role the Treasury Department played.

In words that may send a chill up Tim Geithner's spine with their invocation of Watergate, Barofsky, asked specifically by Republicans about the Treasury Secretary's role, said his probe would seek to find out "who knew what, when and why," in regard to the bonuses.

He continued:

Preliminary information we have seen indicates that the TARP contract between AIG and Treasury that was entered into back in November specifically contemplated the payment of bonuses and retention payments to AIG employees, including AIG's senior partners.


Barfosky added that he'd work with Justice Department, as well as the office of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is probing the bonuses, to look at ways that the money can be returned to taxpayers.

Grover Norquist, the top anti-tax activist in the Republican Party, has given ABC an answer about whether Republicans can vote for the AIG-bonus tax and still be in accordance with the anti-tax pledge that the vast majority of them have signed with Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform.

The answer: Yes, you can -- but only if it includes additional offsetting cuts in taxes or spending, too. Norquist seems to acknowledge here that the AIG tax is itself a kind of spending decrease -- the government is taking back money it already spent -- but he wants more tax decreases, too.

"If your goal is to recoup the resources that you've given people that you hadn't thought would be spent this way, you can make it not a tax increase simply by having an offsetting tax cut on honest taxpayers," Norquist explained. "Or you could do the same thing by cutting the amount of money that you were going to give AIG in the next tranche that they'll demand, so you can have the withdrawal of the resources done in less spending."

He does get in a nice populist note: "However, I would prefer to raise the money by raising taxes on the idiot Senators and Congressmen who voted to give the money to AIG in the first place."

This should go down well.

Citigroup, which has gotten $45 billion in bailout money, plans to drop around $10 million on constructing new offices for CEO Vikram Pandit and other execs, Bloomberg reports, after examining documents filed with the New York City Department of Buildings.

It sounds like the new offices will be pretty sweet:

Plans and instructions for the bank's contractors, on file with the city, specify the installation of at least one Sub-Zero Inc. refrigerator and icemaker in the renovated space, along with "premium grade" millwork and Madico Inc. "Safety Shield 800" blast-proof window film. The project encompasses 17 private offices, each with space for administrative assistants, as well as two conference rooms and open areas with "soft seating," according to the plans.


Former Merrill CEO John Thain has been widely slammed for spending $1.2 million on a 2007 redecoration of his office suite - the same year his company suffered massive losses and needed to be rescued by Bank of America*.

As for Pandit, in January he canceled an order for a corporate jet after it drew outrage, and later told Congress:
I get the new reality and I'll make sure Citi gets it as well.


* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.

Washington's most powerful lawmakers are morphing into kitchen-table populists this morning with neck-snapping speed, as the House prepares to vote on a bill that would slap a 90% tax on AIG's infamous executive bonuses.

Republicans, while openly wavering on whether their anti-tax creed would allow them to back the AIG tax bill, are pushing an alternative plan crafted by two of their freshmen, Leonard Lance (NJ) and Erik Paulsen (MN).

The GOP bill would force a recouping of 100% of the AIG bonuses -- and the party clearly smells blood in the water as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) becomes a scapegoat for the executive-pay debacle. Here's how House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) describes the Lance-Paulsen bill this morning:

Let's be honest. The legislation House Democrats are bringing to the floor today, which they claim is the best way to recover the AIG bonuses, is a sham. In a perfect world, it would lead to partial recovery of the bonuses a year or more from now - when the executives get around to paying their income taxes. And because the legislation is so riddled with loopholes, it wouldn't even lead to the recovery of all of the bonus dollars.

How is that a fair deal for taxpayers?

Don't taxpayers deserve to get 100 percent of their money back?

After all, they aren't responsible for the AIG executives getting the $165 million; Democrats in Congress and the Administration are. They're the ones who rushed through the trillion-dollar "stimulus" spending bill that allowed the bonuses to be paid in the first place.


In reality, the AIG bonuses were agreed to in the first quarter of 2008, and it's not clear whether Dodd's concessions to the Treasury Department on his CEO-pay amendment would have made any difference in getting the money back. Meanwhile, an amendment that would have punished AIG for its free spending, from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), was turned back by the administration during conference talks on the stimulus.

TPMLivewire