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A new group called Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR) is about to launch the opening salvo in the fight to sink President Obama's health care plan.

CPR is running TV, radio, and web ads that attempt to stoke irrational fears of "a central national board" in charge of medical decision-making, asking Americans to envision a world where "bureaucrats decide the treatments you receive, the drugs you take, even the doctors you see." Of course, that vision has nothing to do with the president's health care plan, but the truth shouldn't be an impediment to CPR's dream of killing health care reform.

After all, the group has hired Creative Response Concepts, the same PR firm that represented the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential race. The "media relations" contact number listed on CPR's website, (703) 683-5004, is the same phone number as Creative Response Concepts, as one liberal organization discovered when researching the new health care group.

Creative Response's past clients also include the Christian Coalition, the right-leaning National Taxpayers Union, and USANext, the front group that led George W. Bush's failed push to privatize Social Security. Hilariously, Politico could only bring itself to observe that CPR has hired "veteran Republican consultants" for its new anti-Obama effort.

No group of congressional Democrats is better at getting under progressives' skin than the House Blue Dogs, the caucus of conservative Democrats that excels at grabbing headlines while watering down and delaying liberal priorities.

But the simmering debate over the so-called "cramdown" proposal, which would change the law to permit loan modifications on primary residences for homeowners declaring bankruptcy, has minted a new villain for many liberals: the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate group of free-traders that claimed White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as one of their own until recently.

The progressive case against the New Dems predated the cramdown scuffle, but tempers flared last week when Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to delay consideration of a broad foreclosure-aid bill in order to modify the provision on mortgage-holders declaring bankruptcy.

Now, the cramdown plan is a no-brainer and a definite benefit to the nation's at-risk homeowners -- but were the New Dems really trying to kill it?

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Some EFCA updates:

Looks like the Employee Free Choice Act could get introduced as early as next week. It'll easily pass the House when it comes up for a vote, just as it did last year, but passage in the Senate will be hard and it doesn't help that the Minnesota seat remains unresolved.

Tomorrow, Vice President Joe Biden is supposed to give a full-throated defense of the act when he speaks to top AFL officials at their meeting in Miami.

Meanwhile, in the hotly contested House race to replace New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the Republican, Jim Tedisco was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today in no small part because his opponent is supporting EFCA.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the DSCC, has released this statement in response to the Coleman legal team's suggestion that the Minnesota election court could throw out the whole result:

"Today Norm Coleman's camp has reached a new low. After five weeks in court, they are now asking for the results of the election to be thrown out. That's not how we do elections in this country. Minnesota's hand-recount has been one of the most careful and thorough in the history of the United States. When you are behind in the vote, you can try to pretend the election never happened, but for the sake of the people of Minnesota - and the country - it is time to stop throwing gas on the fire and allow everyone to move on, so that Minnesota has full representation, the Senate has all of its members, and we can get done the work we were all elected to do."

The Franken legal team has written a letter to the judges in the election case, sharply rebutting the Coleman camp's new idea to nullify the whole election.

The letter mainly rebuts the Coleman camp's call to retroactively un-count a number of absentee ballots on a geographically-targeted basis. Team Franken argue that the binding case law says this is not a viable option, and that the court is not allowed to calculate that any illegal ballots favored one candidate over another -- that would be relieving Coleman of his responsibilities under the burden of proof.

Then they get to the proposition about throwing the election out:

Contestants' alternative and even more untimely suggest--that the election be set aside--fails as well. Not only has this remedy been applied primarily when there is evidence of fraud or systemic irregularities...but this Court lacks the authority to set aside the election. Its jurisdiction is limited to deciding which party received the highest number of legally cast votes, and therefore is entitled to receive the certificate of election... Any other remedy lies within the jurisdiction of the United States Senate.


And let's make no mistake, by the way. After this thing crisscrosses its way through the legal system, the United States Senate is probably where the fight will end up next, in light of the increasing noise from the Coleman campaign that the election is invalid.

Some followup by the New York Times on the Bush-era OLC memos released yesterday by the Justice Department...

Department officials have told the paper that they may soon release more secret opinions about counter-terror tactics. Those that contain classified information will need to be cleared with other government agencies before they can be released.

Separately, some Democrats are jumping on the controversial memos to bolster their argument for a commission to look into the Bush administration's counter-terror policies.

Senate Judiciary chair Pat Leahy, who has called for such a commission, put out a statement Monday that praised the Justice Department for releasing "some of these long-secret opinions." But it also argued that a "fuller review of these policies" by the new Obama team was needed.

And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said: "These memos appear to have given the Bush administration a legal blank check to trample on Americans' civil rights. We need to get to the bottom of what happened at O.L.C. and ensure it never happens again."

Also, the Times picks up on that footnote in the Steven Bradbury memo that we highlighted earlier. Reports the paper:

In a footnote to Mr. Bradbury's Jan. 15, 2009, memorandum sharply criticizing Mr. Yoo's work, Mr. Bradbury signaled that he did not want his repudiation of the legal reasoning employed by Mr. Yoo to be used against Mr. Yoo as part of the ethics probe.

Mr. Bradbury wrote that his retractions were not "intended to suggest in any way that the attorneys involved in the preparation of the opinions in question" violated any "applicable standards of professional responsibility."

At today's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked by the NBC correspondent, Tom Costello, to respond to the complaints of CNBC's Jim Cramer, made on NBC's "Today" show that the president is scaring investors. Anyone who has listened to Jim Cramer already has plenty of reason to be scared because his advice has been so consistently wrong. Anyone listenting to Tom Costello might think that NBC is in the business of self promotion. Anyone listening to Gibbs respond might thing that the White House loves to use goofballs as strawmen.

This comes on the heels of the administration responding to Rush Limbaugh--and elevating his status to leader of the Republican party--and the White House using CNBC's Rick Santelli as a foil. Before we have the president responding to Glen Beck or Erin Burnett, can we have a ban on reporters asking the White House to respond to a blowhard and can the White House stop using blowhards as a foil?

Norm Coleman is continuing to speak up and question whether it's possible to tell who won this election, and whether such a conclusion is even legally possible, after his lawyers pitched the judges on the possibility of throwing out the whole result.

Coleman took questions from reporters very briefly this afternoon, and declared: "Clearly, there is a question whether this court can certify who got the most legally-cast ballots."

Norm did add, however, that the court still has an opportunity to deal with the problem of illegal votes -- an apparent reference to his legal team's new push to declare illegal an unknown number of absentee ballots from Election Day, and then attempt to un-count them through proportionate reductions.

Last week, Norm began floating the idea of holding a new election.

Earlier today -- before Norm's presser -- DFL spokesman Eric Fought sent us this comment:

Former Senator Coleman has taken five weeks in court to make his case. He hasn't proven anything to say he won in November and he knows he lost. So now he's asking the court to do something so radical that it has no basis in Minnesota law. Al Franken--who has already won the recount, will soon win this election contest and begin representing Minnesota in the Senate--after a scrupulously fair and transparent process that has done Minnesota proud.


(Coleman presser c/o The Uptake.)

The identities of the counterparties who stand to benefit from the government's huge new bailout of AIG are remaining frustratingly secret, as Josh pointed out this morning, even as taxpayers ensure that AIG's partners in deal-making get paid. But at least one member of Congress isn't satisfied with the explanation coming out of the Federal Reserve and Treasury.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pressed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hard in the Budget Committee this morning on the need to identify AIG's bailed-out counterparties. After Bernanke replied that "under normal conditions, [the counterparties] would have presumption to privacy about their commercial decisions," Wyden sounded extremely displeased:

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Just as happened in the Bernard Madoff scandal, we're now starting to hear some heart-wrenching stories from the victims of Allen Stanford's alleged fraud.

One older couple told their tale of woe to a North Texas TV station:

Marsha and Arlie Carter always planned to live out their golden years in Rainbow, Texas, outside Dallas. They sold their software company -- the business they built together from nothing -- to finance their dream.

"We hoped to pass it down to my kids and grandkids," Marsha said.

Then, last month, they turned on the news and learned the company their broker worked for was entangled in a case of massive alleged fraud. All the money associated with Stanford Financial Group was frozen, including about 30,000 brokerage accounts.

That's where the Carters were keeping most of the money they had saved.

"There's a possibility that we might lose the house if we can't have enough income to make the payments on it," Marsha Carter said.


Less tragically, the Dallas Morning News reports that many clients who had brokerage, money-market or mutual fund accounts with Stanford can't get to their money because those accounts have been frozen by a court-appointed receiver.

Reports the paper:
Mark Choate, chief executive of an irrigation landscape company, has a brokerage account that's been frozen for two weeks. "During that time," Choate says, "the stock market has been dropping like a rock, and I haven't been able to do anything about it."


A lawyer for clients like these tells the DMN:
A guy called me Thursday who has all of his net worth tied up in a construction project and meets his payroll through his Stanford accounts. He said, 'Larry, if I don't have access to that money, all these people aren't going to get paid. My construction project will go kaput, and my whole life will be in ruin.'


There's even a suggestion that Stanford may have swindled some of those West Indian cricket players who "won" $1 million each after beating England in a Stanford-organized match last year. In an interview conducted before Stanford's alleged fraud came to light but published this week, one player told (sub. req.) the New Yorker that he had left his prize-money in Stanford's bank, after the billionaire assured him and other players that he would keep it safe.

Meanwhile, a showdown has quietly been brewing, reports the Associated Press, between that court-appointed receiver, Texas lawyer Ralph Janvey, and the government of Antigua, where the Senate voted Friday to seize Stanford's property.

Stanford is Antigua's largest private employer, with about 800 people working for him. So the country's officials are anxious to keep Stanford's businesses in operation, rather than allowing Janvey to use the assets to pay back swindled investors.

Looks like this story could be with us a while...

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