TPM News

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is responding to Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY), without naming him directly, over his recent prediction that she would be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

In an interview with USA Today, Ginsburg explained why she made sure to attend President Obama's speech to Congress last week. "First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn't all male," the lone female justice said of the evening event Feb. 24. "I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I'd be dead within nine months."

Bunning made his remarks while speaking to a local GOP event back home in Kentucky, in explaining the importance of his commitment to appointing conservative judges, and how this would be an issue soon.

Josh observed earlier that the International Swaps & Derivatives Association was one of the major lobby groups helping to ensure that derivatives contracts got special repayment privileges from creditors under the 2005 bankruptcy bill. Which got me wondering ... the ISDA must be shaking in its loafers over the possibility of stronger regulation passing Congress this year. Which D.C. lobbyists are in their corner?

Here's what I found: a healthy $1.9 million in lobbying spending for 2008, more than twice as much as embattled bank UBS and comparable to the lobby bills of Credit Suisse, one bank heavily tied to derivatives trading and other complex financial instruments.

The lobbyist lineup for ISDA looks like a staff alumni list for top GOPers (and a few Dems):

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So what's the significance of the court ruling upholding most of the bribery and corruption charges on which former Alabama governor Don Siegelman was convicted?

Siegelman's appeal wasn't primarily focused on the allegations that his prosecution was politically motivated. (Bill Canary, the husband of Leura Canary, the US Attorney on the case, was a state GOP operative and close associate of Karl Rove, who had run the campaign of Siegelman's gubernatorial opponent.)

Still, today's ruling did touch tangentially on that set of issues. One of Siegelman's arguments on appeal was that there had been inappropriate contacts between jurors and prosecutors during the trial. That claim was of a piece with several allegations of prosecutorial misconduct detailed in an internal DOJ report -- including evidence that Leura Canary kept advising junior prosecutors on the case, even after recusing herself.

But the court appears to have rejected that claim, upholding a district court's opinion that no significant misconduct occurred.

As for Rove's alleged ties to the prosecution -- a witness has given sworn testimony that Rove was involved -- we'll hear his side of the story in the coming weeks, when he sits down with the House Judiciary committee to talk about both Siegelman and the US Attorney firings.

The court that's hearing Don Siegelman's appeal of his conviction on bribery charges has reversed two of the counts of which the former Alabama governor was found guilty -- but upheld several others.

In an order issued today, a US appeals court reversed two counts related to Richard Scrushy's activities while on the state board to which Siegelman appointed him.

However, it upheld the several charges related to Siegelman's appointment of Scrushy to the board in the first place, which was found to have come in exchange for campaign contributions -- the heart of the case against Siegelman.

The court also ordered a new sentencing hearing, in light of the reversal of the two counts. It's unclear as yet how those reversals will affect Siegelman's sentencing.

We've put in calls to Siegelman and his lawyers, and will be back with more soon.

All signs are pointing to an accommodation of the standoff over Cuba policy that jeopardized a few key votes on the $410 billion 2009 spending bill (and trapped a couple of science nominations in limbo).

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is reported to be working with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to assuage his concerns that elements of the spending bill would excessively relax the trade embargo against Cuba. But interestingly enough, another senator with identical concerns over the Cuba language, Bill Nelson (D-FL), was prepared to vote for the spending bill last night*, his spokesman told me.

The key for Nelson was not removing the Cuba provisions at issue, but rather "making sure they don't have unintended consequences," Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said.

The apparent disconnect between Nelson's and Menendez's positions notwithstanding, here's the skinny on what specifically alarmed the senators.

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So when exactly will Karl Rove have his big sit-down with the House Judiciary committee to reveal what he knows about the White House's involvement in the US Attorney firings?

According to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, not for "several weeks." That's how long it will likely take, Luskin told TPMmuckraker, for both Rove and the committee to review the relevant documents and schedule the testimony. Luskin declined to give a more specific time frame.

The agreement securing Rove's testimony, announced Wednesday between Congress and the Bush administration, acknowledged this need for deliberation, declaring: "The interviews will be conducted as soon as possible consistent with needed preparation time and the availability of the witnesses and their counsel."

But Luskin did defend Rove's comments to, published yesterday, in which he warned of a "show trial" and said that Democrats "would love to have me barbecued."

Arguing that Rove had legitimate concerns about the fairness of the process, Luskin referred to a comment made about Rove by Judicary chair John Conyers -- "someone's got to kick his ass." Luskin also said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had told Rolling Stone that Rove might have to go to jail. (In fact, Pelosi said she foresaw Rove being prosecuted.)

"If you were the subject of that, you'd worry about the process too," said Luskin.

Luskin also confirmed to TPMMuckraker that he had played no role in the agreement, and was not kept closely informed about the progress of negotiations.

Is this the end for Jeff Frederick, the colorful (and bungling) Virginia Republican Party chairman? NBC reports that state GOPers are mobilizing to try to fire him at the next state committee meeting, due to the various misfortunes the state GOP has suffered over the last year.

It will be tough, though, as the rules require a three-quarters vote to oust a chairman in midstream. However, they do appear to have some momentum, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the move has been essentially endorsed by the de facto Republican nominee for governor this year.

Frederick is perhaps best known now for Twittering an announcement that a Democratic state Senator was about to switch parties and give the GOP control -- a misstep that was blamed by some for derailing the whole scheme, though the claim of any deal has been denied by the Dem legislator in question.

But Frederick's also done a lot more than that, too. Back in October, he famously compared Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, while briefing campaign volunteers on the talking points they could employ while going door to door.

It didn't help, apparently: Not only did Barack Obama carry Virginia -- the first Democrat to do so since the 1964 LBJ landslide -- but Dems also knocked off two incumbent House Republicans and picked up another open seat, and gained a Senate seat in a landslide.

The WSJ has a great piece today on the troubled history behind the Food and Drug Administration's approval of Menaflex, a medical device intended to help heal injured knee tissue.

The FDA ended up approving the device under fast-track rules after two of its staff scientists turned down Menaflex, thanks to an "aggressive" and "adversarial" lobbying effort by its maker, ReGen Biologics, according to the Journal. And New Jersey's congressional delegation lent a hand as well:

After the FDA's second rejection of fast-track status, in September 2007, ReGen asked lawmakers from New Jersey, its home turf, for help. Supporters included Democrats Sen. Robert Menendez; Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Rep. Steve Rothman of Hackensack; and Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Messrs. Menendez, Lautenberg and Rothman signed a letter to the FDA in December 2007 asking for Dr. von Eschenbach, the FDA commissioner, to review the issue personally. Mr. Menendez talked with the commissioner by phone, his office said.

Later in the story, we hear from a ReGen lobbyist, Michael Hutton, who talked about the device company's very specific criteria for scientists who would sit on the panel evaluating Menaflex for fast-track approval:

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The slowdown in approval of President Obama's economic team, both at Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisers, is getting a lot of attention today. But let's not forget that two senior White House science adviser-designates are still going nowhere: John Holdren, named to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Jane Lubchenco, named to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, remain in limbo.

The likely source of the culprit would seem to be the Senate Commerce Committee, although that panel approved the nominations last month. "I am unaware of any GOP Commerce Committee members who are raising questions," one Senate source said via email.

But other sources pointed me to Commerce -- so just in case, I reached out to all the Republicans on that committee. The next likely source of the slowdown would be GOPers on the Senate environment committee, particularly given Holdren's progressive views on climate change, but Sen. Jim Inhofe's (R-OK) office did not return a request for comment on the nominations.

Rest assured, however, that we'll stay on this story.

Late Update: A source close to the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there is, right now, no hold from Menendez on the nominees. It remains unclear when the hold evaporated -- sometime between the WaPo's original report on Tuesday and today, it seems. But either way, the nominees would have been quickly cleared if Menendez were the only original objector. So the search goes on...

We didn't get to this yesterday afternoon... but it looks like Bank of America is going to the mat to avoid telling Andrew Cuomo's investigation who got those controversial Merill Lynch bonuses.

B of A, reports Bloomberg, filed court documents yesterday claiming that revealing the identities of the lucky bonus recipients would cause "grave and irreparable harm" to the firm, because it would let competitors know which areas of B of A's business the company considers most valuable, and would therefore make it easier to steal B of A's top talent. It would also create "internal dissension and consternation," and could even create security risks for those named.

In other words, if it became known who we gave huge bonuses to in a year when Merrill collapsed, people would be so mad they'd physically attack them.

Does any of this even pass the laugh test?

Former Merrill CEO John Thain has already talked to Cuomo's team about the bonuses, after a judge ordered him to do. But its not clear what he said. B of A CEO Ken Lewis refused last week to turn over a list of who got the bonuses.

Merrill gave out the awards on an accelerated schedule last December, just weeks before the failed firm came under the control of B of A. Thain has since been fired.