TPM News

The race to find a challenger for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is going to be an expensive one. Yesterday, former Rep. Rob Simmons (R) announced he raised nearly $1 million in the fundraising quarter ending tomorrow. The same day, Linda McMahon, one of his challengers in the GOP primary, told reporters she's pumped $3 million of her own money into the race -- and spent $2M of it on ads that are already running.

Running in the Nutmeg State is always a pricey prospect -- eventually, candidates have to run TV ads in the ultra-expensive New York City television market. But with McMahon spending so much so early, Simmons will likely need to start putting his own money where is mouth is before he planned. His fundraising total means suggests he's serious about challenging the self-funding McMahon and has the base of support to make a go of it. So look for big spending by him sooner rather than later.

By the time either of these candidates gets to Dodd in the general next year -- a race national Republicans think they can win and so will probably spend party money on -- the Senate race will have already become a serious cash cow for consultants and media buyers.

Four House Republicans are charging that the Council on American Islamic Relations is infiltrating Capitol Hill with undercover interns, and they're basing the charge on a WND-published book that itself is based on the work of a man who posed as a Muslim to infiltrate CAIR as ... an intern!

In other words, it's Intern Spy vs. Intern Spy.

As Greg Sargent notes, the office of Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) does not have a list of the "Manchurian Interns" that she claims may have penetrated national security-related committees.

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Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said on MSNBC this afternoon that she has not been threatened with punishment by her party for voting with Democrats to pass the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill.

"No, they have never indicated that to me," she told Chris Matthews. "And I've had very constructive and positive conversations with Leader McConnell and others. I've never been threatened. I obviously know that they would have preferred that I voted otherwise. But I have no reason to believe the rumors that have been prevailing with respect to that. I obviously have to focus on what's right."

Matthews then suggested that she might be honored with a Profiles in Courage award from "the Kennedy organization up at Harvard."

Besides that comment about potential punishment from her party, Snowe didn't make much news in back-to-back interviews on CNN and MSNBC. The public option is still essentially a deal breaker for her -- "I would find that very difficult to support" -- and "it's hard to say" whether any other GOP senators might support health care reform on the Senate floor.

Today the House Financial Services Committee began its mark up of a bill intended to impose new regulations on the over-the-counter derivatives market -- whose abuses, excesses and lack of regulation are largely seen as contributing to the financial crisis. While Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) promised before the meeting that "everything" in the "derivative area will be forced onto an exchange" where they'd be traded openly and under the watch of regulators, pro-reform activists aren't taking Frank at his word.

On two conference calls with reporters and bloggers today, Heather Booth, director of the national coalition Americans for Financial Reform, emphasized the need for real reform and cautioned that "the big banks are throwing their weight around in Congress." She urged voters in key districts and states to push their representatives for tough new financial regulations.

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told Neil Cavuto on Fox News a few minutes ago that not only does he not support the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill -- but that there are moderate Democrats who also may not.

"A lot of individual colleagues in the Democratic caucus have big questions about this," the former Democratic vice presidential nominee said. "So this isn't over by any means."

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On October 13, 2009, the White House hosted "Fiesta Latina" music night on the South Lawn. This was the third event in a musical event series launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, and celebrated Latin musical heritage. In his remarks at the event, President Barack Obama said of the genre: "In the end, what makes Latin music great is the same thing that's always made America great -- the unique ability to celebrate our differences while creating something new."

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive on the South Lawn for the Fiesta Latina music night.

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Actor Jimmy Smits -- who played the president of the United States on The West Wing -- attended the event.

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Mexican pop singer Thalia.

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Three-time Grammy Award-winning rock band Los Lobos.

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Performers Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.

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Performers Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.

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Actress Eva Longoria Parker.

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President Obama said that Latin music "moves us, and it tends to make us move a little bit ourselves."

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Comedian George Lopez and actress Eva Longoria Parker hosted Fiesta Latina. They suggested that President Obama is really Latino, just doesn't know it. Added Lopez: The President "lives in a house that's not his...says he's gonna change and nobody believes him -- very Latino."

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Gloria Estefan and Jose Feliciano perform at the event.

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Sheila E. also takes the stage with Estefan.

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Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) was among audience members on the South Lawn of the White House.

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Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) speaks to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar before the performances begin.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn /Pool via CNP




Malia and Sasha Obama whisper in the audience during the performance.

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First Lady Michelle Obama.

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Sasha Obama.

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President Obama wants Congress to approve another year of stimulus payments to 57 million people including seniors, the disabled and veterans, the White House announced today.

The $250 payments would be equivalent to a 2 percent increase in Social Security benefits for the average retiree, according to the White House. The proposal would be an extension of relief for most recipients, but would also benefit 1 million public employee retirees who didn't qualify for previous benefits.

The total cost of the proposal would be $13 billion.

And tomorrow, the Social Security Administration will announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2010.

This may not get the same amount of press attention as the damning--though ultimately flawed--AHIP/PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the impact of reform measures on the price of premiums. But White House officials are already decrying a new insurance company report alleging that health care reform will cause premiums to spike.

BlueCross BlueShield has sent an analysis to members of Congress--along with a letter, which you can read here--that reaches a similar conclusion to the PwC analysis: The provisions of the health care reform proposals on Capitol Hill that BlueCross don't like will cause people's premiums to skyrocket.

An administration official scoffed at the findings: "This report isn't quite as egregious as the AHIP report...if the AHIP report was a $3.50 bill, this one's a $3.00 bill."

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President Obama will be campaigning next Wednesday for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, the Corzine campaign has just announced.

The event will be held at the Rothman Center on the Metropolitan campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, with the doors opening at 3 p.m. ET. (When the line forms is probably beyond the campaign's control, though.)

Corzine is in a tough fight against Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, but has been catching up in the polls after having trailed by wide margins all year. Obama's popularity could potentially make the difference for Corzine in this Democratic-leaning state.

Late Update: The Corzine campaign gives us this comment: "We are thrilled that President Obama is returning to New Jersey to stand with Governor Corzine and Senator Weinberg. Like President Obama, Governor Corzine has been fighting for what matters for New Jersey families- getting health coverage for nearly 100,000 more kids, supporting a woman's right to choose, and passing paid family leave that allows workers to care for their loved ones."

In the hard-fought New Jersey governors race, Democrats are pushing hard on the AP report yesterday that Republican candidate Chris Christie went over the government lodging allowance on 14 of the 16 trips he took last year while he was U.S. attorney,

But an examination by TPMDC of Christie travel recrods from 2004-2008 paints a more nuanced picture than the one of a extravagant federal prosecutor that Democrats are trying to paint.

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