TPM News

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

• CBS, Face The Nation: White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod; plus a debate on guns with Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) and NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; Gov. David Paterson (D-NY).

• Fox News Sunday: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

• NBC, Meet The Press: National Economic Council Director Larry Summers.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) just held a conference call with reporters to discuss the nomination (and threatened filibuster) of Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's designated chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council.

Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly spoken out on Johnsen's behalf. Though it's uncertain whether Republicans will ultimately seek to block Johnsen's nomination, Whitehouse is prepared in the event that they do. "I actually have a little bit of ammunition gathered in the event that I happen to be...on the floor defending this," Whitehouse said.

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The major question mark that still remains in the NY-20 special election, where Democratic candidate Scott Murphy currently leads Republican Jim Tedisco by 264 votes, is how those absentee ballots that are being kept out the count because of challenges by one campaign or another will ultimately add up.

A Democratic source tells me that the total number of challenged absentee ballots comes in at 1,579 -- of which 1,025 were lodged by Tedisco. This number has some plausibility to it, as there are already about 200 more Tedisco challenges each in Columbia and Warren counties, based on my own discussions with local elections officials. The big question is the breakdown in Saratoga County, which hasn't divulged the makeup of its 740 challenges.

Assuming this data is correct, and also that most campaign-launched challenges are overruled and the envelopes opened and counted, this would mean that Murphy could gain about 500 more net votes after these are all sorted out. The review process will begin in court on Monday.

The blogosphere has been abuzz about a reported filing by Republican Congressional candidate Jim Tedisco, asking to be declared the winner in the NY-20 special election. Does the filing really say that he should be declared the winner, notwithstanding the fact that he's down in the count?

Not exactly. I've now had the chance to look through the filing, and what it really does is formally state Tedisco's goal of being declared the winner -- after all, you can't go to court without some kind of specified goal -- and then it goes into the various complaints that Tedisco has, mainly relating to challenges against Murphy voters as being allegedly ineligible to vote in the election.

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Steve Rattner, the money manager who is Obama's top adviser on bailing out the auto industry, is uncomfortably close to a criminal investigation into the New York state pension fund, newspapers reported today.

In October 2004 Rattner, the private equity investor and former New York Times reporter who is leading (if not quite the "czar" of) the Obama administration's task force to save the auto industry, met with David Loglisci, the recently-indicted chief investment officer of the New York General Pension Fund to solicit an investment in his private equity fund Quandrangle, according to news reports in today's New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. By January Rattner's fund had allegedly signed a written agreement to give a 1.1% cut of whatever investment Quadrangle received from the fund to Henry Morris, the (also recently indicted) former aide to the disgraced former state comptroller Alan Hevesi. A few days later, as if to sweeten the deal, Rattner agreed to meet with Loglisci's brother and wound up investing $88,841 for the DVD distribution rights to a movie that had grossed barely a third of that during its brief release in theaters through a Quadrangle affiliate called GT Brands. (The brother produced the movie, Chooch.) Three weeks later, Loglisci the CIO "personally informed" Rattner that Quadrangle would be getting a $100 million investment from the pension fund -- and over the next two and a half years Morris would in turn collect over a million dollars in "finders fees" for the transactions.

Those, at least, are the allegations of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the SEC against Morris, Loglisci and two of their associates in the latest development in the protracted pay-to-play probe of New York state pension funds. The lawsuit only makes reference to a "Quadrangle executive" but the Times and the Journal quote sources confirming the executive is Rattner. Both papers also specify that Rattner is not himself a target of the probe, and that he told the administration about the investigation when he took the job.

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A British professor whose research on sleep was cited in one of the just-released Bush administration torture memos has expressed outrage that his work was used to justify extreme sleep deprivation, including keeping subjects awake for up to 11 days.

In an interview with TPMmuckraker, James Horne, a leading authority in the field of sleep research, said he was "surprised and saddened" to see Bush officials "misrepresent" his research to argue that such sleep deprivation does not cause serious harm to its subjects.

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand can rest easy, at least for now: Her absentee ballot in the NY-20 special election, which had been challenged by the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco, has been counted, and is included in the current vote totals that put Democrat Scott Murphy ahead by 264 votes.

However, this is not quite the end of the story, and the potential remains for it to be un-counted later on, though it doesn't seem likely that such a thing would actually happen.

Tedisco's campaign alleged on Tuesday that Gillibrand was ineligible to vote absentee because she was in her home county on Election Day. Gillibrand denies that she was there when the polls were open -- that she only arrived after the polls had closed. And it's also worth noting that the current governing case law in New York says that the ballot would still be counted.

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In huge news for environmentalists (and, more generally, anybody who worries about the fate of human life), the EPA, with the support of the White House, has determined that greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health. This has been coming down the pipe for some time, but now that it's official, it opens the door for the EPA to begin regulating Carbon Dioxide. But before they do, the House and Senate will probably take a stab at climate change legislation, and this ruling will no doubt affect the speed and thoroughness with which they act.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) responded with typical couth. "Today's action by the EPA is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America's global competitiveness," Inhofe said. "It's worth noting that the solution to this 'glorious mess' is not for Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, which replaces one very bad approach with another. Congress should pass a simple, narrowly-targeted bill that stops EPA in its tracks."

We await the introduction of that legislation.

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough went on quite a rant this morning, attacking President Obama's decision to release the torture memos.

He ended up by calling for an honest (kind of) debate: "If you'd like Washington DC and Los Angeles to be obliterated by a nuclear blitz [rather than permitting the use of waterboarding], I respect your opinion."


Good old liberal MSNBC.

It's no surprise that Republicans have supported Norm Coleman's (now all but doomed) effort to be reelected in Minnesota. After all, the Senate's closely divided and Republicans hate Franken who has been tweaking them for a decade. But at some point, I think, Republicans will give up the fight not only because there will be pressure on them to do so but because they'll realize that they are better off with Al Franken in the Senate than without.

I also think the fact that Coleman, who no doubt would like to run again someday, will bow to Minnesota's good-government culture and not stretch this thing out, thereby giving Pawlenty the space to certify Franken. I could be wrong. Maybe they'll make this a scorched earth policy for months to come, the opposite of Gore's exit after the legal battle was lost. But I don't think so. Coleman's self preservation instincts will combine with the need of GOP's consultant culture to put Franken in the Senate. Mitch McConnell won't like it but I think he'll be stuck with it.

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