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Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."

When pressed further by reporters, Boehner promised that Republicans would release their actual budget within the next few days and pointed a finger back at the president.

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Michele Bachmann's office is now clarifying her proposed legislation to require that the dollar remain the currency of this country, rather than switching to some kind of global money.

This comes after Bachmann questioned Tim Geithner over China's proposal to adopt a global currency -- more accurately, an exchange unit made up of a basket of individual countries' currencies -- rather than relying on the dollar as a reserve currency. You might recall that Bachmann interpreted this to mean the United states could abandon the dollar.

So is Bachmann trying to legislate against other countries and the global economy adopting different exchange mechanisms or reserve currencies? The answer is no. "She's talking about the United States," Bachmann spokesperson Debbee Keller told Greg Sargent. "This legislation would ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States."

Of course, nobody was even remotely pitching the idea of replacing the U.S. dollar here in the United States.

Bloomberg has some good details about Jim Davis, Allen Stanford's Number 2 man, who, along with his boss, has been charged with orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme.

In mid-January, Davis -- who still lives in the region of northern Mississippi where he was born -- sent a text message to the youth pastor of a local church he helped start, telling him: "I'm praying for you."

Among church congregants, Davis, known by some as Mr. Jim, was viewed as God-fearing and honest, according to Ethan Nanney, an elder at the church. In fact, Nanney told Bloomberg, Davis started the church, whose pastor is black, because he wanted a place where black and white people could come together. Davis is also on the board of Memphis's National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

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Now this is odd. After Quinnipiac came out with a poll showing Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) losing his 2010 primary to likely challenger Pat Toomey, now Franklin & Marshall College has a survey showing...Specter ahead?

The numbers: Specter 33%, Toomey 18%, plus Peg Luksik, a right-wing activist who has already declared her candidacy, at two percent. By contrast, Quinnipiac had Toomey up 41%-27%.

One possible cause of the difference could be that Quinnipiac didn't include Luksik, so the addition of a third candidate's name could cause anti-Specter voters to shift to the undecided column -- and it's not a great sign that an incumbent is stuck in the 30s in a good poll. Either that, or one or both of these polls are just totally wrong.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Specter is sounding out GOP state Senators back home, about the idea of the state switching from a closed-primary system to an open primary that allows independents in. This would greatly benefit Specter by creating a Republican primary electorate that goes beyond just the conservative base. And a bunch of legislators are strenuously opposed to it.

No really, AIG Financial Products chief Gerry Pasciucco told a meeting of his European based derivatives gurus that the money vortex CEO Ed Liddy's request that they return their bonuses amounted to "blackmail." That's according to a London-based recipient of one of the bonuses -- London, you'll recall, is where the inimitable Joseph Cassano was employed -- who furnished the news agency with emails showing that AIG compliance officer David Haig had actually asked the country's Serious Organised Crime Agency to probe whether the (voluntary) requests could be legally considered extortion. Well what a fascinating use of government-bankrolled hours for the taxpayers of both countries!! But wait, don't shoot yourself, hear the anonymous employee out...

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The very tight special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat ran into another wrinkle yesterday, with Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall getting kicked off the ballot with only days to spare, after the State Elections Board ruled that he didn't have enough valid petition signatures under the law's strict requirements.

The complaint was brought by two voters who were registered with New York's Republican and Conservative parties.* As such, some Democrats believe this was really engineered by the GOP side. As one Dem source told us: "The only reason the Republicans fought to keep Eric Sundwall off the ballot is because they knew he was stealing from their flawed candidate's fading support."

Adam Kramer, the spokesman for Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, denied that their campaign had any involvement. "Jim welcomed Mr. Sundwall to the race," said Kramer. "Our campaign was not involved in the complaint against Mr. Sundwall's petitions."

One Republican source told TPM that the board's decision was probably helpful to their side, but on the other hand there are people who would have voted for a third-party candidate because they didn't like either of the major two.

(*Note: New York uses a fusion voting system, leading to the proliferation of smaller parties who supplement and often work within the big two.)

Earlier in the hearing (i.e. before the Bachus query), Geithner had an interesting exchange with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) about what regulatory requirements the Geithner plan would impose on Hedge funds.



Ellison: Could you discuss in greater detail how a capital adequacy regime would work for [hedge funds]?

Geithner: We did not propose to establish capital requirements for hedge funds. What we are saying, though, is that the large institutions, principally the banks and the major large complex regulated financial institutions, are held to a set of requirements on capital, liquidity, reserves, risk management, that are commensurate with the risk they pose. And because their risks are greater and because the consequences of their failure is greater they need to be subject to a higher set of standards and greater constraints on leverage. But we're not proposing to establish cap requirements for the broad universe of hedge funds and private pools of capital that exist in our markets. We want them to register with the SEC if they reach a certain scale and in the future if some of them individually reach a size where they may be systemic, then at that point we believe they should be brought within a regulatory framework that's similar to that which exists for banks.


There were obviously a lot of reasons Bernie Madoff got away with his Ponzi scheme for as long as he did. But it's probably fair to say that if he'd been held to hard capital requirements he'd have had a harder time getting his scheme off the ground, or his jig would likely have been up much more quickly.

Video shortly.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) just raised a new objection to the AIG counterparty payments--specifically that while AIG used government money to pay off their CDS obligations dollar-for-dollar to major (sometimes foreign) financial institutions, it repaid smaller U.S. institutions that made secured loans to AIG subsidiaries at a rate of only about 20 to 30 cents on the dollar.

Video forthcoming, but Geithner had no immediate answer to the query, which, to amateur ears anyhow, sounds like an interesting one. We'll follow up.

Late Update:

That AIG Financial Products trader who resigned -- and stridently refused to return his million dollar bonus -- in yesterday's New York Times, apparently gave some notice. Yesterday, in latest installment of the Wall Street Ends Its Contrite Silence trend we highlighted yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reports, he showed up for work to a standing ovation! And conspicuously not sitting out the ovation was AIG FP president Gerry Pasciucco. Wow it is just like that scene in Dead Poet's Society!

A less inspiring trend DeSantis' resignation highlights is this: AIG is hemorrhaging executives as fast as it is money, and if the company is to be believed the losses will cost the system hundreds of billions more dollars. In fact, the loss of two Paris-based executives, James Shephard and Mauro Gabriele, could trigger nearly a quarter trillion dollars in defaults. Say that again?

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One of the few growth industries in the current economic climate? Fraud investigators.

Allegations of fraud are increasing, as the financial crisis drags on. As a result, reports the New York Times, people who are skilled at following the money have rarely been more in demand.

The FBI is recruiting new hires to work on a glut of cases -- it had more than 1600 open mortgage-fraud investigations at the end of fiscal 2008, almost twice as many as two years earlier.

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