TPM News

Notorious Republican political operative Roger Stone is getting involved in the New York gubernatorial race. But he's got nothing good to say about the Republican frontrunner in the race. No, Stone told me today, in one of the state's darkest hours New Yorkers should turn to the woman Eliot Spitzer called when he was feeling down -- convicted madam Kristin Davis.

Davis has said she was one of the madams Spitzer dealt with before he resigned from the governor's office in 2008. She spent four months in jail for her crimes and is still in probation. Now, Stone said she's got the platform to shake up the race for Spitzer's old job. He describes it as "pure libertarianism."

"Prostitution, marijuana, gay marriage and guns," Stone said, listing the things Davis would push to legalize if elected.

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Some of the business interests that had abandoned their traditional conservatism to flirt with the Obama agenda may now be shifting back towards the GOP -- another sign that the president's standing is badly weakened a year after taking office.

During 2008 and much of 2009, Obama enjoyed an unusual amount of support for a Democrat from the business community, much of which had grown disillusioned with President Bush and hoped for a return to the steady growth of the Clinton years. But after a string of political setbacks, high-lighted by Scott Brown's win last month in the Massachusetts Senate race, some key business groups and sectors appear to be shifting back to the GOP column.

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There's a key point in danger of being lost in all the he-said-he-said froth over what Congressional Republicans were told in the hours after the failed Christmas attack: none of the GOP leaders disputes that an Obama aide informed them that suspect Umar Abdulmutallab was being held in FBI custody.

The real dispute is over what flows from that fact. John Brennan, Obama's national security adviser, said on Meet The Press Sunday that he called four Republicans -- Sens. Mitch McConnell and Kit Bond and Reps. John Boehner and Pete Hoekstra -- the night of the attempted Christmas attack.

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The Obama administration has been decrying a California insurer's 39 percent rate hike as an example of why health care reform is so important, and today they put some muscle behind the complaints.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebeilus wrote a letter to Anthem Blue Cross today insisting they have an obligation to explain why the "extraordinary" increases are justified.

Sebelius writes: "Your company's strong financial position makes these rate increases even more difficult to understand. As you know, your parent company, WellPoint Incorporated, has seen its profits soar, earning $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone."

An Anthem spokeswoman has not returned our calls.

The full letter after the jump.

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Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has died at the age of 77, after serving in Congress for 36 years.

Murtha had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit last week due to complications following a gall bladder surgery.

Murtha's office released the following statement this afternoon:

Congressman John P. Murtha (PA-12) passed away peacefully this afternoon at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA. At his bedside was his family.

Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in February of 1974, Murtha dedicated his life to serving his country both in the military and in the halls of Congress. A former Marine, he became the first Vietnam War combat Veteran elected to the U.S. Congress.

This past Saturday, February 6, 2010, Murtha became Pennsylvania's longest serving Member of Congress.

A complete biography is available on his website.

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Top Democratic aides and health care reformers are of basically a single mind about President Obama's planned February 25 health care summit: Why the heck not!

Moments after Obama made the announcement in an interview with Katie Couric, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued pre-cooked statements supporting the President's call, suggesting a high degree of co-ordination. That could ease the concerns of liberals, some of whom worried that Obama might be repeating the same mistakes he made last year in a quixotic quest for bipartisanship.

"If this is what it takes--if doing this will make Democrats say, ok, go ahead and use their majorities to pass reform, then do it," said Richard Kirsch, director of the reform campaign Health Care for America Now.

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Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito may not have wanted to hear it during the State Of The Union address, but a new poll shows the majority of Americans agree with President Obama's take on the Citizens United ruling. More than 60 percent of respondents say it was a bad idea.

The opposition was found across party lines, and according to the pollsters was especially common among independents -- the group both parties have desperately fought over for a decade now. The pollsters said that result suggests that the parties would be well-served to take on the ruling and reinstate campaign finance regulations canceled out by the ruling with new law.

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Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) fired back today at the assertion yesterday by John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, that four Republicans didn't object when Brennan told them in December that suspected Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was being held in FBI custody.

Hoekstra didn't dispute Brennan's account that he was one of four Republicans who was briefed by Brennan shortly after Abdulmutallab's arrest. But Hoekstra maintained that they were only told that Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody.

"We weren't told that he was going to be read his Miranda rights," Hoekstra said.

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Birther queen Orly Taitz reappeared recently to bring the birther movement -- which questions the president's birthplace and citizenship -- to a new frontier, Russian TV. On her way to this weekend's National Tea Party Convention, she sat down for an interview with 'Russia Today.' In it, she stressed the presence of fellow tea partying birthers, saying concern about the legitimacy of Obama's presidency is 'widespread' in the tea party movement.

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In her keynote address Saturday night to the National Tea Party Convention, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin encouraged competitive primaries in 2010 races, calling for conservative candidates to challenge the Republican establishment.

"This year there are gonna be some tough primaries, and I think that's good. Competition in these primaries is good. Competition makes us work harder and be more efficient and produce more," she said.

"And I hope you'll get out there and work hard for the candidates who reflect your values, your priorities. Because despite what the pundits want you to think, contested primaries aren't civil war. They're democracy at work, and that's beautiful," she continued.

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