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If only it were that cheap. ABC is now picking up on the claim that the House Democrats' health care reform bill will cost a made-up number.

A couple things stand out here. First, the ABC reporters who wrote the piece--Jonathan Karl, Z. Byron Wolf, and Huma Khan--seem to be basing their article a couple Associated Press pieces which peg the legislation at $1.5 trillion...based on the contention of one anonymous Democratic aide. For whatever reason, the AP isn't relying in this instance on the Congressional Budget Office--or other, on the record House Democrats--which prices the bill at about $1 trillion. That's without taking into account revenue-generating measures.

Second, they're using the word "billion" instead of "trillion"--a three-order-of-magnitude difference notwithstanding all the problems with the number "1.5".

That now makes two news organizations--Time, and ABC--along with Newt Gingrich who have taken this AP number and run with it. How far will it go?

Karenna Gore Schiff will not run for Rep. Carolyn Maloney's (D-NY) seat, a Gore family spokeswoman confirms.

"Karenna Gore Schiff has no intention of running for the House of Representatives. She's currently working on a documentary and spending time as a full-time mom," Kalee Kreider told TPMDC.

Roll Call reported speculation this morning that Al Gore's oldest daughter was eyeing Maloney's seat. Maloney is reportedly planning a primary run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010.

We've seen it happen before: disinformation, disseminated for political reasons, becomes a talking point, and then, maybe, conventional wisdom. And there's a real risk of this happening with respect to the House's health care proposal.

Time's Mark Halperin is linking to this morning's Associated Press story, which repeats the claim--based on the claim of one anonymous Democratic aide--that the bill will cost $1.5 trillion. But the Congressional Budget Office--normally the arbiter of these things for reporters--says the bill will cost significantly less. One trillion dollars, specifically. And that's the number House health care leaders--and most reporters--cite on the record when asked.

Not the AP, though. They seem to be standing by their flimsy story. Flimsy or not, though, it's starting to take hold.

Since the news broke (sub. req.) at the start of the week that CIA director Leon Panetta had pulled the plug on a secret program to assassinate or capture al Qaeda leaders, we've been raising questions about one key aspect of the story. In particular, what was it about the program that was so shocking that Dick Cheney reportedly ordered it kept secret from Congress, Panetta quashed it as soon as he heard about it, and Congressional Democrats risked being painted as soft on terror by shrieking about being kept in the dark?

We may have gotten a good piece of the answer here: The Washington Post reports today on how the program had been revived and then put on hold several times since 2001. But it also says, referring to the "presidential finding" with which President Bush authorized the program in 2001:

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Karenna Gore Schiff, the oldest daughter of Al Gore, is reportedly eyeing a seat in the House of Representatives.

"Gore Schiff is openly discussing the possibility of running," reports Roll Call, citing anonymous Democratic operatives.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) will challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the Democratic nomination in 2010, a senior adviser told the Daily News. An official announcement is expected this week.

Her departure would lead to the first open-seat House race in Manhattan since 1976.

Gore Schiff, 35, is a lawyer and serves on the board of the Association to Benefit Children.

Late Update: The rumors are false. Gore Schiff is not running, confirms a family spokeswoman.

I reported Tuesday that the House is moving swiftly to complete work on its health care reform legislation. By the end of the day, all three committees of jurisdiction will have at begun marking up the legislation, and one--the Education and Labor Committee--may have completed its work. You can watch that panel's mark up live at this link.

The Ways and Means Committee is also getting busy--live coverage here; amendments here.

Rounding things out, the longest mark up will occur in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which will begin work this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, and wrap up next Wednesday. Those proceedings will also be streamed live online. And, if you're hungry for more, you can follow this Twitter feed.

When that's done, the different titles of the bill can be stitched together and the House can debate and vote on the entire package.

In case you want more evidence that AP's curious characterization of the cost of health care legislation is becoming a GOP talking point, you need look no further than Newt himself, who admits as much.

Here's how he defends himself.

"CBO score of $1 trillion does not include medicare and medicaid components which democratic leaders have not yet had scored."

Ummmm...ok. But here's what the CBO itself has to say about that: "The analysis issued today does not take into account other parts of the proposal that would raise taxes or reduce other spending (particularly in Medicare) in an effort to offset the federal costs of the coverage provisions."

Funny that. Newt's right that the CBO didn't score the bill. But the sections they haven't scored will actually decrease the overall cost of the bill. In fact, if Democratic legislators get their way, it'll probably cut the price in half. That's $500 billion less than $1 trillion. Not $500 billion more. Assuming this is an example of innumeracy and not mendacity (Newt would never lie!) it says a lot about Republicans that this is the figure they hold forth as their "big ideas" guy.

Yesterday, we noticed something strange about the Associated Press' coverage of the House's health care bill unveiling. A preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis pegged the price of that legislation at about $1 trillion, and by and large, that's how reporters characterized the cost of the bill. But not the AP, which, relying seemingly on the good faith of an anonymous Democratic aide, said the bill would actually cost $1.5 trillion. Soon, Newt Gingrich picked up that ball and ran with it, and Democratic health care leaders and their aides were fuming.

But that hasn't stopped AP, which is at it again. "Votes were planned Thursday in the Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees on a $1.5 trillion plan that majority House Democrats presented this week," reports Erica Werner. As I reported Tuesday, the first part of that sentence is true. The second part, however, is not.

So what's going on over at Ron Fournier's shop?

Between Ensign, Sanford and Palin, we've had our hands full of scandal. But we'd like to dive into the conflict-of-interest issues surrounding Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who apparently intervened to get his Hawaii bank TARP money -- a bank in which he'd invested most of his wealth and helped to found.

As ProPublica first reported, the bank, Central Pacific Financial, received $135 million in bailout funds after one of Inouye's staffers called the FDIC to inquire about the application.

Central Pacific had lost $146 million in the second quarter of 2008, more than the profits of its last three years, and those losses were depleting its capital reserves. It failed to win a favorable recommendation for bailout funds from the FDIC.

The institution applied for the money in October. When there was no word by late November, a bank official called Inouye's office for help. The next day, an aide called the FDIC and, according to Inouye, left a voicemail.

The application was approved soon after.

"This single phone call was the entire extent of my staff's contact with regard to Central Pacific Bank, to any outside agency," said Inouye, who hasn't given interviews on the subject, in a press release.

At the end of 2007, Inouye reported Central Pacific shares worth $350,000 to $700,000. He was one of the founding members of the bank, which opened in 1954 to cater to Japanese-American residents of Hawaii.

Even if he did intervene on behalf of the ailing bank, it wouldn't be a violation of Senate ethics rules. And other senators pulled for home state banks -- but none, it seems, where their own money was invested.

We're going to be keeping our eye on this one and delve in a little deeper. But we wanted to get you all up to speed in the meantime.