TPM News

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who launched his campaign for president yesterday, is now set to embark on a week-long tour of the key first caucus state of Iowa.

As the Des Moines Register reports, Gingrich will make 17 stops next week, from Monday through Saturday.

The cities and tows that Gingrich will visit are: Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Mason City, Waterloo, Marshalltown, Ames, Carroll, Atlantic, Council Bluffs, Onawa, Sioux City, Le Mars, Storm Lake, Holstein, Orange City, and Sheldon.

In a rare move, leaders of the Senate Ethics Committee will take to the Senate floor this afternoon to inform their colleagues about their two-year investigation into the sex scandal and legal issues surrounding it that lead Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) to resign earlier this month.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the ethics panel, and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the ranking member, are scheduled to give a floor speech about their findings in the case against the Nevada Republican who admitted to having an affair with a former campaign aide, Cynthia Hampton, and then helping her husband, also a top aide, establish a brief lobbying career.

Formal accusations and charges have focused on the great lengths -- and potentially illegal steps -- Ensign took to keep the affair quiet, including having his parents (wealthy Las Vegas casino owners) pay the Hamptons $96,000 in hush money.

Ensign was also accused of knowingly helping Doug Hampton violate the one-year lobbying ban by helping him set up a short-lived job on K Street.

If the ethics committee has found any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, they must forward that evidence to the Justice Department for further investigation.

In March federal prosecutors charged Doug Hampton with seven counts of violating conflict-of-interest laws. In December Ensign said the Justice Department had told him he was no longer a target in its probe, but shortly after the Ethics Committee's hiring of a special counsel to continue its investigation, Ensign said he would retire instead of seeking reelection.

The Federal Election Commission said the $96,000 payments did not violate campaign-finance law because they were paid in installments to the Hamptons and their children in amounts allowed under U.S. tax law.

Still insisting he did nothing wrong, in announcing his resignation in April, Ensign said he decided it was time to go after the Ethics Committee named a special prosecutor to continue looking into the matter, even though he believed the Justice Department had dropped its case and the FEC has dismissed the accusations against him.

Executives of the five largest U.S. oil companies received a harsh public flogging for near-record gas prices coupled with high profits for the first quarter of the year at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday.

Democrats excoriated the executives for rejecting calls to end tax breaks for the industry when they stand to make record profits and gas prices are reaching an all-time high at the pump.

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Republican Jane Corwin and Democrat Kathy Hochul, who are running to replace resigned GOP Rep. Chris Lee in New York's 26th district, faced off in a debate Thursday morning, sparring over entitlements, spending, and at one point their husbands' cars.

Democrats have sought to turn the race into a referendum on the House GOP's proposal to privatize and cut Medicare and Hochul repeatedly brought up Corwin's support for the Republican budget.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor Thursday to condemn waterboarding and other torture techniques, saying that the debate over these techniques is ultimately "about morality. What is at stake here it the very idea of America."

"The America," he continued, "whose values have inspired the world and instilled in the hearts of its citizens the certainty that no matter how hard we fight, no matter how dangerous our adversary, in the course of vanquishing our enemies we do not compromise our deepest vlaues."

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) appeared on Sean Hannity's TV show Wednesday night to talk about his newly-launched campaign for president. And when asked how he arrived at the decision, Gingrich came to the conclusion that all his credibility as a citizen was riding on it.

"And so you face a choice in your life, and Callista and I really had to sort of sit down and look at citizenship," said Gingrich, as part of his answer about the issues facing the country. "You know, are you prepared to do what it takes to offer to your fellow citizens a vision of a better, healthier, safer, more prosperous America? And are you prepared to spend a year and a half of your life seeking that office?

"And we reached a crossroads of saying, either I really believe the things I've said my whole life, or I'd be a fraud. All my life, I've preached citizenship. I've preached the duty to go do things."

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Stephen Colbert offered Herman Cain on Wednesday night a golden opportunity to win the presidency, saying the former pizza CEO should come on his show and get the coveted Colbert bump.

Colbert made his offer after he noticed that Cain speculated in a tweet that he'd already received the Colbert bump when he was mentioned on the program earlier this week.

"Woah, woah, woah, put your cane back in your pants, Herman," Colbert said.

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