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Cathy Maples beat out 60 others in a charity auction for a dinner with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, bidding a whopping $63,500.

Maples appeared on MSNBC today to talk about her winning bid, which got her a dinner for five with Palin and her husband Todd.

"Sometimes I would like [to hear] her political views on things, and other times I think, just leave politics out of it, have a good dinner and a good conversation 'cause I already know her views," she said.

Maples said she wanted to help out the charity, Ride to Recovery, which provides bicycles and arranges cycling outings for wounded veterans.

She also said she'd vote for Palin in 2012.

"I don't think she lies to get votes," Maples said. She lives in Huntsville, Ala., and said she didn't know if the dinner would be near her or in Alaska, adding the details would be worked out in the next few weeks.

The same auction featured a lunch for three with Karl Rove. That one brought in $7,500 for the charity.

Some Republican foes of ACORN have been calling since last week for a Justice Department investigation of the beleaguered group, in the wake of the now-famous hidden camera scandal.

And it looks like a DOJ probe, of a kind, will indeed go forward.

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Marco Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker and current conservative insurgent GOP candidate for Senate, seems to still have some life in him, despite the rush of money and establishment GOP support to moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that former Gov. Jeb Bush, a hero of the state's conservatives, told a local Republican club that while he is not endorsing either candidate, he does object to the national GOP's support of Crist in the primary over Rubio.

"I think he [Rubio] should be given a chance," said Bush. "I think that the idea that the national party would pick a winner a year and a half before an election is the wrong way to go."

Rubio is also aiming to get some mileage out of the latest right-wing target: ACORN.

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Finally making use of First Lady Michelle Obama's immense popularity, the White House pulled her into the fight for health care reform on Sept. 18, with a speech to women's rights activists. An April poll found 72 percent of Americans view her favorably. So we wondered, why -- despite criticism of her bared arms, despite last year's attacks on her patriotism -- she's become so beloved in the eyes of so many.

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Every First Lady takes on certain causes, and one of Obama's is healthy eating. Here, the First Lady attends the opening of a new farmers' market near the White House on Sept. 17. "Farmers' markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals. They help America's family farmers ... That's the good thing about farmers' markets. You get to know the people who grow your food," she said.

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Obama works with students at the White House vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden. The garden, she says, has "been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far.'' The first thing world leaders ask her about, she says, is the garden.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo

Obama plants trees in honor of the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Bill in April. Both Obamas have spoken highly of the values of community service.

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In June, Obama volunteers at the Capitol City Food Bank with congressional spouses.

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Obama and her husband (not pictured) paint at a Habitat for Humanity house on Sept. 11, a national day of service, along with students at George Washington University. The First Lady has promised to speak at the college's commencement if students perform 100,000 hours of community service.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo

The First Family stuffs backpacks with books, food and pictures of Bo for troops at Fort McNair in June.


Michelle Obama announced early on that one of her personal causes would be supporting military families. Here, she speaks to sailors and their families at an event marking the homecoming of the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in July.

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The First Lady greets military families at the White House on the Fourth of July.

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With all her campaigns, however, Obama says her first duty is as "mom-in-chief."

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She's also taken up the push to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. Here, she practices fencing as part of a demonstration with Olympic athletes on the White House lawn on Sept. 16.

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With degrees from Princeton and Harvard, the First Lady often extols the virtues of a good education. Here, she reads with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

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Obama gives a commencement address at the University of California at Merced.

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At a meeting with board members of Communities In Schools. The board room is a familiar setting for the former hospital executive, lawyer and member of several boards.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo

She also fulfills a more traditional role as patron of the arts. Here, she applauds during a jazz performance at the White House in June. She's also held a poetry jam (a White House first) and a country music performance.

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The First Lady cuts the ribbon at the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new American Wing.

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Another traditional role: First Hostess. Here, she greets well-wishers on the day after her husband's inauguration.

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With the President at a black-tie gala for the country's governors in February.

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Obama has tried to open up the White House more than her predecessors. Here, she invites culinary students into the White House kitchen.

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The First Lady welcomes VIPs such as President Clinton and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

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The First Couple.

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today that, contrary to claims made by his predecessor Tom Ridge, he never felt political pressure to raise the terror alert level.

"I can tell you unequivocally," he told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, "I never got any political pressure of any type ... No one raised the political issue in any way, shape or form."

In a new book, Ridge claimed he was "strongly urged" to raise the terror alert right before the 2004 elections, and that he wondered, "'Is this about security or politics?" Days after its release, Ridge appeared on several TV shows to counter his own claims, saying, "There was no pressure at all."

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Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin, a central figure in the 2007 U.S. Attorney firings, is now running for Congress against Rep. Vic Snyder (D-AR).

"The people of Central Arkansas deserve a congressman who shares their values and represents their views," Griffin told the Politico. The incumbent Snyder has not had a close race since his initial 52%-48% win in 1996, and has been easily re-elected ever since. On the other hand, the district voted 54%-44% for John McCain in 2008, and Snyder could possibly be vulnerable to a strong challenger.

Griffin had a previous career in the 1990's working on Republican legal investigations of prominent Democrats, and worked in opposition research for the Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and was a protégé of Karl Rove. In September 2006 he became a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, and was then appointed to replace his fired predecessor in December 2006, at the urging of Rove. Griffin was never confirmed by the Senate -- his appointment was done in such a way as to circumvent the confirmation process -- and he resigned in June 2007 in the wake of the controversy.

Late Update: A fun video that TPM produced in 2007, explaining who Tim Griffin was during the U.S. Attorney scandal, is available after the jump.

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The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts state Senate is set to move tomorrow on the bill to provide for a temporary appointment to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat -- meaning that the seat could potentially be filled by a caretaker Democrat by the end of the week.

Republicans had delayed the measure on Friday, and did so again today. However, they only have the ability to delay one more time -- but they say they won't actually do it.

"I don't know that there's a lot to be gained by continuing to delay just to delay it," said state Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei. "That's not what we're about. We're trying to give people time to weigh in. We got the weekend out of it."

By my count, Democrats have offered three different amendments that, if approved, would result in the adoption of a public health insurance plan. The first, proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) calls for the creation of a fairly robust public option much like the plan originally drafted by the House of Representatives. It would pay providers Medicare rates plus a small bonus for those practitioners who already take Medicare patients.

That will be a telling vote, but more telling will be the votes on the other two public option proposals. The first, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would create a so-called "level playing field" public option, which wouldn't be permitted to set rates. The second, offered by Schumer and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), would create a very similar public option, this one imported from the Senate HELP committee's bill.

Rockefeller's plan would please reformers and liberals, and substantively makes more sense on a cost control level. But what makes the other two amendments more politically interesting is that they put conservative Democrats--particularly Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--on the spot. No longer will they be able to simply dismiss the public option by saying it doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate. And they won't be able to honestly oppose these plans on big government grounds.They'll actually have to go on the record one way or another. And a lot of eyes will be on them when they do.