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At last, the torture debate looks to be heading toward what's been the big question lurking in the background all along: was the Bush administration using torture in large part to make a political case for the invasion of Iraq?

Writing on The Daily Beast, former NBC producer Robert Windrem reports that in April 2003, Dick Cheney's office suggested that interrogators waterboard an Iraqi detainee who was suspected of having knowledge of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

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A new SurveyUSA poll, conducted for the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities, finds that Minnesotans don't want Norm Coleman to take his case against the Senate election results to federal court in the event that he loses his appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The poll asks: "If the Minnesota Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that certified Al Franken as the winner of the U.S. Senate race, what should Norm Coleman do? Appeal the decision? Or concede the race?" The numbers are overwhelming, with only 27% for an appeal, to 70% who would want him to concede.

Democrats would quite understandably want a concession by a 94%-5% margin. Republicans are for an appeal, but by a weaker margin of 58%-37%, showing some fatigue with even the GOP base. Independents would favor a concession by 65%-29%.

The DSCC is offering a new incentive for small-money donors to contribute to the Dems' 2010 Senate efforts: A chance to attend a big fundraising dinner and have your picture taken with President Obama.

A new fundraising e-mail offers donors of only $5 or more to be entered into a drawing for a trip to Washington -- with airfare and hotel included -- to attend the June DSCC dinner and get the photo with Obama.

This is the sort of privilege usually reserved for big-money donors (and there can be no doubt it will continue in that department) but the Dems are offering even the small donor a chance at it. Obviously, the wager here is that the sweepstakes will bring in more money than the cost of the lucky winner's airfare and hotel.

Full letter after the jump.

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Over 3000 members of the nearly three million-member strong Chamber of Commerce have sent a letter (PDF) to Congress expressing "strong opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act."

EFCA has three provisions, each of which we oppose. The first provision would require union recognition based on authorization cards signed by a majority of employees. This provision would allow organizing to be conducted in secret, would effectively eliminate the secret ballot election, and would hinder or even eliminate an employer's ability to tell its side of the story and correct misleading union rhetoric. Card check recognition also would effectively disenfranchise employees who oppose unionization and, as courts have repeatedly recognized, is inherently less reliable than traditional election processes for determining whether employees wish to have union representation.

The second provision would enable a union seeking a first contract to require the employer to enter into binding interest arbitration if a collective bargaining agreement were not reached within as little as 130 days.... The third provision would significantly increase penalties on employers for certain violations of labor laws.
That's just about every provision of the bill.

On the one hand, 3100 signatories represents a very, very small percentage of the Chamber's members. On the other hand, there are a lot of big names on this list, including General Electric and, crucially, Wal-Mart. And there's little doubt that the business community is pulling out all the stops on EFCA.

On the third hand, the letter itself runs one page, and the list of signatories goes on for 30 more. And that strikes me as a huge waste of paper.

A new Rasmussen poll in New Jersey finds Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) in trouble for his re-election bid this November against either of the potential GOP nominees -- but on the other hand, a Republican victory is not any sure thing.

The numbers: Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie leads Corzine by 47%-38%. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the conservative insurgent candidate against Christie in the June 2 Republican primary, now edges Corzine by 42%-41%. The margin of error is ±4.5%. As the pollster's analysis notes, however, this is an improvement for Corzine -- in March, he trailed Christie by 15 points, and Lonegan by eight.

Rasmussen, who like myself is a New Jerseyan, is also very cognizant of a pattern in state politics: "New Jersey polls often shows Republican candidates polling well in the spring and then shows Democrat gaining ground in the fall." Essentially, there tend to be a lot of reluctant Democratic voters who hold off as undecideds for a while, and then give in on Election Day.

In what New York AG Andrew Cuomo is hailing as a "revolutionary" agreement, Carlyle Group agreed to pay a $20 million settlement to "resolve its involvement" in former New York state comptroller adviser Hank Morris's alleged scheme to collect bribes from hedge funds and private equity firms in exchange for state pension fund investments. As part of the deal Carlyle will agree to Cuomo's new code of conduct banning the use of "placement agents" like Morris, who allegedly collected $13 million in sham fees from Carlyle for steering $730 million in state pension fund investments to the firm.

Carlyle admitted no wrongdoing and announced it was suing Morris and the firm he worked for, Searle & Co., for $15 million. The code of conduct could indeed prove pretty revolutionary in the industry if Cuomo succeeds in making similar settlements with other money managers, which he said was his intention. Whether it marks a considerable change at Carlyle is another matter; after all, if you can name one politically-connected private equity firm it is probably the Carlyle Group.

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Here's the full video of that remarkable 19 and a half minute appearance by Nancy Pelosi this morning, in which she reads a statement and then takes questions -- and accuses the CIA of lying to Congress about torture.

Watch:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the Houston Chronicle that his co-Senator, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, could potentially resign her Senate seat pretty soon in order to campaign full-time in her GOP primary challenge against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

"My guess," Cornyn said, is that Hutchison will resign "this fall sometime."

A resignation at that point in time would allow Perry to appoint an interim Senator who would serve until a May 2010 special election -- an affair that Cornyn would very much prefer to avoid, given the potentially strong Democratic campaigns of Houston Mayor Bill White and ex-Comptroller John Sharp.

My requests for comment from Hutchison's office were not returned.

Dick Cheney's request to have declassified two CIA documents that he says will prove torture is effective has been denied.

In a letter obtained by both Steven Hayes of The Weekly Standard and Greg Sargent of the Plumline, the CIA wrote to the National Archives that saying that the documents are the subject of the a Freedom of Information Act request, and therefore can't be released.

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The president is at a high school in New Mexico today attacking predatory financiers -- and, we imagine, silently thanking the deities his cabinet is not inhabited by a certain friend of predatory financiers accused of booking huge fees bilking the retirement funds of the state's school teachers. No, Bill Richardson is still in the governor's mansion, and he doesn't seem happy about it. On Monday we read that Richardson had actually "rolled his eyes" in response to a reporter's question about noted that he'd :

When asked recently if he had set the tone for his administration, which has been criticized for sometimes moving quickly on programs and for having a blind spot for details, Richardson rolled his eyes. The governor, who had just gotten into a black state SUV, didn't answer the question as the door closed and the vehicle drove off.
If Richardson does indeed set the tone for his administration, that tone has changed considerably of late. The expanding pension probes in New York have state officials suddenly taciturn -- after spending most of the year in hard-core attack mode.

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