TPM News

In a bulletin distributed to police departments and obtained by the AP, the FBI concludes that in the wake of the arrests of members of the Hutaree militia "the likelihood of violent conflict from the remaining group members or other militia extremists" is "low."

The FBI has seen an increase in "chatter" from militias and other extremist groups. But the fact that the arrests of the nine Hutaree members -- charged in an alleged plot to kill police -- went smoothly eased authorities' concerns of any blowback, according to the AP.

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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) said in a radio interview today that some incidents, including the intentional plane crash into an Austin IRS building and the murder of three police officers in Pittsburgh, would qualify as acts of domestic terrorism.

Hoekstra, the ranking member on the intelligence committee and a candidate for Michigan governor, has attacked the administration for its handling of terrorism suspects, notably the man who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. (He also took some heat for using the attempted attack in a fund-raising letter.)

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The former chair of the Florida GOP -- a close ally of Gov. Charlie Crist -- is said to be under criminal investigation for a contract worth around $200,000 that he awarded to himself and his executive director. The news was revealed today by the state party, which says it uncovered the contract in the course of its annual financial audit, and referred the matter to authorities.

Jim Greer was appointed to run the state GOP by Crist in 2007, but was forced out of the job in January, after reports of lavish party spending, much of which went on the credit card of the party's executive director, Delmar Johnson.

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) released the following statement earlier today in response to President Obama's announcement to permit offshore drilling for oil and gas:

"Drilling off the Virginia coast would endanger many of New Jersey's beaches and vibrant coastal economies," stated Lautenberg. "Giving Big Oil more access to our nation's waters is really a Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars. Offshore drilling isn't the solution to our energy problems, and I will fight this policy and continue to push for 21st century clean energy solutions."

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Today, President Obama rolled out new plans for an expansion of offshore oil drilling, but also pushed Congress to move forward on comprehensive climate legislation, noting that "drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and that for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now."

Republicans have been pushing for the President to open up offshore drilling for a while now, even adapting "drill baby, drill" as their veritable climate legislation slogan. Obama's new plan, which Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton describes as "'drill where it's responsible," puts GOPers in the awkward position of basically agreeing with something the President has proposed.

Here's a roundup of Republican reactions to the announcement...

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Mike Ormsby, President Obama's nominee to be U.S. Attorney in eastern Washington state, is being called unfit for the job by critics of his role in a 1990s bond deal that ultimately resulted in Ormsby's firm paying $1.4 million to the IRS.

Ormsby's critics, who include the former mayor of Spokane, sent a letter to President Obama and Senate leaders about a year ago when Ormsby's name was first floated for the job. Now, with Ormsby's formal nomination earlier this month, the issue is surfacing again.

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will spend $50 million on an election campaign around bashing health care reform that the Wall Street Journal called "an aggressive strategy to blunt the impact of the new law." The new push for the 2010 midterm elections adds to a more than $144 million ad campaign the chamber mounted on behalf of its business membership in the last year against passage of the measure.

The Wall Street Journal detailed a letter that Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue sent board members outlining the strategy. "The Chamber is going to carry a message across the country that says the health care debate is not over," Mr. Donohue wrote, according to the Journal. He wrote members that the chamber will put together a team of staffers to evaluate the federal regulations included in the law.

The chamber was a major player in ad spending and campaigns to challenge health care reform during the long debate in Congress, and the news is a signal that won't let up any time soon. As we've been reporting, health care and charges to repeal the law or declare reform unconstitutional in court have emerged as a key 2010 campaign theme.

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