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Much of the day will no doubt be spent gaming the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Is it good for Democrats? For Republicans? Who will Obama nominate? How quickly and ferociously will charges of socialism and judicial activism begin to fly? And would Specter have switched parties if he'd known that he'd have had a golden opportunity to obstruct an Obama Supreme Court appointee in order to shore up his right?

All worthy questions, but all impossible to answer. At least for now.

What I want to focus on is a bit deeper in the weeds, but could prove very important, and, for Republicans, a potential source of poetic justice. (No pun intended.)

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The AIPAC case -- which provided the backdrop for the current flap over Jane Harman's wiretapped conversation -- has been dropped, reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

A source with intimate knowledge of the case against two ex-AIPAC staffers accused of passing along classified information says the case has been dropped.

Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former Iran analyst, and Steve Rosen, its former foreign policy chief, were charged under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and distribute closely held defense information. Both men were later dismissed by AIPAC, with the organization claiming the two had violated its rules; Rosen, in turn has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against AIPAC.

Federal prosecutors reportedly had been considering dropping the criminal case in the wake of a number of recent judicial decisions that make the prosecution more difficult. Among these was an appeals court rejection of a prosecution request to review the trial judge's order that prosecutors make the case that the defendants harmed the United States and not merely benefited Israel. Some Democrats see the case as a piece with Bush-era efforts to expand government secrecy powers, but the Post quoted its sources as saying that the review would have occurred whether or not Barack Obama had won election as president.


More on this and its significance in a little while...

WaPo: Biden In Charge Of Search For SCOTUS Nominee The Washington Post reports that Vice President Biden has been tasked with with drawing up a list of potential Supreme Court nominees to replace Justice David Souter, whose retirement has not yet been officially announced but is widely reported to be a settled issue. Souter will reportedly step down after this current court term ends in June, effective upon confirmation of his successor. The next term begins in October.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with his cabinet at 11:15 a.m. ET. AT 12 p.m. ET, he will have lunch with Vice President Biden, and it's not unreasonable to imagine that the Supreme Court will be a key topic of discussion. At 1 p.m. ET, he and Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano will attend a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members, with Napolitano swearing them in as citizens and Obama presenting an Outstanding American by Choice Award. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will attend a ceremonial swearing-in of Commerce Sec. Gary Lock and Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, with Biden delivering the oath of office.

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"If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing." ~Jack Abramoff, March 2006

Newscom/Roll Call/Zuma

Ralph Reed, boy-king of the Christian right. Killer quote, from a letter from Ralph to Jack, 1998: "I need to start humping in corporate accounts! . . . I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts." We're thinking James Spader or Kevin Bacon. Though for a sleaze factor, it's hard to beat Jason Bateman.

Newscom/Zuma

Grover Norquist, the President and Founder of the non-profit Americans for Tax Reform-- which he used to wash money for Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed. Though Phillip Seymour Hoffman seems ripe for the part, others have suggested Seth Rogen. Thoughts?

Newscom/Zuma

Abramoff business associate "Evil elf" Michael Scanlon. It looks like Hayden Christensen of Star Wars fame has been signed to play Scanlon. But we think they could do better. Tobey Maguire or Christopher Guest certainly deserve an audition.

Newscom/Roll Call

Former (indicted) Republican Congressman from Texas and Abramoff supporter Tom DeLay. Said Abramoff of Delay: "We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf." The fact is, Oliver Platt would make the perfect Delay, but ubiquitous character actor Spencer Garrett has reportedly already accepted the role.

Newscom/UPI

Former senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) lost his 2006 bid for reelection most likely due to his close connections to Abramoff. Money quote: "I wouldn't know this Abramoff from a bale of hay." We're seeing Tom Wilkinson here.

Newscom/Roll Call

Former Rep. Bob Ney. Oops moment: stuffing his pockets with gambling chips in a London casino, a bribe from a Syrian businessman known as "The Fat Man." Drew Carey, anyone?

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Former Congressman from California, John Doolittle. Jack Abramoff once referred to him as a "Hero." Oh, I don't know, maybe the guy who played Jerry Seinfeld's neighbor and nemesis Newman.

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Steven Griles, the Former Deputy Interior Secretary and Italia Federici's lover. Brian Cox?

Newscom/Roll Call

Kevin Ring, the middleman between John Doolittle and John Abramoff from 2002 to 2004. Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid could each play a good, though very different, Ring.

Newscom/CQ

Italia Federici, the former president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (and Griles' love interest), pleaded guilty in 2007 to tax evasion and obstruction of Congress for her connection to Jack Abramoff. Drew Barrymore?

Newscom/Roll Call

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) may be a lone critic of Sen. Arlen Specter among Pennsylvania Democrats and party leaders, but if he looks past his colleagues he'll find a natural (though perhaps convenient and temporary) friend in labor. For now, Sestak is sending warning shots at Specter, pressuring him to get with the program, and groups like AFL-CIO and SEIU are doing the exact same thing. Especially vis-a-vis issues like health care and employee free choice.

Officially, AFL-CIO say they "look forward to continuing an open and honest debate with Senator Specter about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania and America."

"Sen. Specter," they say, "has said all along that he recognizes the need to reform our broken labor law system and we will continue to work with Congress to give workers back the freedom to form and join unions and pass legislation that stays true to the principals of the Employee free Choice Act."

And their Pennsylvania president agrees.

But Stewart Acuff, AFL-CIO's Director of Organizing hasn't been so timid.

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Will Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will step down from his position as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and become the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee? A lot of signs point to yes, and that has reformers on the Hill and elsewhere--who prefer Grassley's record to that of his potential replacement--pretty worried.

If it happens, it will be thanks, indirectly, to Sen. Arlen Specter's defection into the Democratic party. Specter was the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and his big move on Tuesday created an opening that has yet to be filled. As I reported earlier this week, though, the committee's senior Republican--Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--is prohibited by Senate Republican Conference rules from taking over the committee. And only two of the three eligible senators--Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA)--make much sense.

Of those two, Grassley has some advantages: He's a more senior on the committee, for instance, and he isn't as controversial or conservative a senator as Sessions is. But he is ranking member of the Finance Committee--a committee with tremendous power, particularly with health reform on the horizon--and he'd have to leave that post if he were to take over for Specter.

So why would he do it?

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I have now had the chance to read through Norm Coleman's brief in his appeal of the Minnesota election trial -- check out Rick Hasen's take on it here -- and it sets up a coherent formulation of many of his previous arguments, boiling down to a few options Coleman wants the state Supreme Court to consider: To preferably count more ballots that are presumably for Coleman, or else subtract ballots that are presumably for Franken, or declare the whole election null.

The main focus of the brief is its argument that the trial court wrongly established a strict standard for admitting in any absentee ballots that had been previously rejected by local officials, as opposed to a more lenient standard that was the de facto standard for most jurisdictions across the state on Election Day. And these local standards are themselves deeply flawed, Team Coleman says, due to varying interpretations and applications of the state law by the human beings conducting the election from one place versus another.

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Building off our post from yesterday -- in which we noted the interesting timing of the original 2006 report about the investigation into Jane Harman's AIPAC ties -- Foreign Policy's Laura Rozen has put together, on her personal blog, what amounts to a complete theory of the case. And it's a theory that implicates the Porter Goss camp right from the start.

So we thought we'd follow that road a bit further. It's not news that Harman and Goss haven't exactly been best buds, either while Goss chaired the House intelligence committee and Harman was its ranking Democrat, or later when Goss led the CIA from 2004 to 2006.* One former intel committee staffer explained the relationship to TPMmuckraker this way: "Jane is an assertive person. And Porter struck me as someone who wanted to avoid conflict. I would not say they were good friends."

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New York AG Andrew Cuomo added a new name to the growing list of indictments in the New York Pension Fund scandal: Saul Meyer, the (youthful-looking) 38-year-old founder of the private equity fund Aldus Equity. Meyer won't be the last, Cuomo assured reporters at a press conference announcing the charges today:

"I believe we are disclosing a national network of actors who often acted in concert and did this all across the country," Mr. Cuomo said. "They collaborated, they often partnered and victimized states and taxpayers across the country. It's also an ongoing scam."
We said as much yesterday, when we showed you how a key figure in the pension scandals in New Mexico and New York was a direct descendant-in-law of a key figure in a California pension scam of the nineties. And we told you about Aldus, a key name linking the New York fraud to a suspected scheme to scam the teachers' retirement fund in New Mexico and possibly other public pension funds, last week.

Aldus's usual business was advising state pension funds on private equity investments. But it went a step further in New York, using its access to the pension's billions to arrange a $375 million investment to create its own private equity fund. The idea was hatched by Hank Morris, the top adviser to former state comptroller Alan Hevesi who is charged with defrauding the pension fund in a scheme to collect phony "finder's fees." According to the indictment, Aldus paid Morris about $320,000 to secure itself a $375 million investment from the pension fund. Not bad for a private equity firm that, according to this Dallas Business Journal puff profile that ran (all of) two months ago: "started in 2003 with no clients."

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Ok, quick twitter post and then back to...serious...business. Several weeks ago, those of us who (for reasons unclear) communicate with friends, colleagues, and complete strangers on Twitter, began scratching our heads when we noticed various conservatives were ending their "tweets" with a puzzling hashtag: "#tcot".

(For the uninitiated, the "#" allows twitterers to code their messages in a way that makes them all easily accessible--all tweets appended with "#tcot" can be found by searching for the term at this website.)

What could "#tcot" mean, we thought? Teabagging Conservatives' Organizing Tool? Tremendous Collection of Ornery Tweets?

In fact, it stands for "Top Conservatives On Twitter," and it is, in a way, a perfectly accurate moniker.

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