TPM News

A top activist with the anti-tax Tea Party movement has had a personal brush with federal tax collectors. Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder and national co-ordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, owed, with her husband, over half a million dollars to the IRS when the pair filed for bankruptcy last year, according to filings examined by TPMmuckraker.

The couple's bankruptcy filing, made in August 2008 to the US Bankruptcy Court for Georgia's Northern District, stated that Martin and her husband Lee Martin, of Woodstock, Georgia, owed the IRS $510,000, after making a payment of $16,640 that June. The couple also owed just over $71,000 to Ford Motor Credit, the automaker's financing arm.

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The new SurveyUSA poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race gives Republican nominee Chris Christie a narrow lead over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, confirming the trend of polls that have shown this race becoming very tight.

The numbers: Christie 43%, Corzine 40%, and independent Chris Daggett with 14%, with a ±4% margin of error. There is no prior SurveyUSA poll of this race for direct comparison.

The poll finds a sharp gender gap, with men going for Christie by 48%-35%, plus 16% for Daggett, and women for Corzine by 46%-37%, with 13% for Daggett. Keep in mind that Corzine has been attacking Christie among women voters on the issue of insurance company coverage of mammograms.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) want to amend the pending Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill (which funds NASA and the census, among other things) to force census takers to ask immigration status.

The amendment ties funding for the census bureau to asking of the question on "all future" decennial censuses.

Vitter said because some states have included illegal immigrants in their counts, that's led to more Congressional seats.

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In a press conference today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to a statement from Republicans that Gen. Stanley McChrystal should "put her in her place," saying "that language is something I haven't even heard in decades."

"I'm in my place. I'm the Speaker of the House, the first woman Speaker of the House. And I'm in my place because the House of Representatives voted me there," Pelosi said.

"They really don't understand how inappropriate that is," she said.

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Someone forgot to remind Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that it's the Democrats' job to make Granny's life tougher. On the Senate floor yesterday, Coburn blocked a vote that would have prevented a reduction in Social Security payments next year.

Coburn stood in the way of unanimous consent to a House bill setting 2010 Medicare premiums at 2009 levels. As the National Journal reports (sub. req.), Coburn's move means "seniors are facing uncertainty over Medicare costs next year" and that "would see a net reduction in their Social Security benefits."

The back story:

The House bill, which passed 406-18 on Sept. 24, is needed to freeze monthly Part B insurance premiums, which pay for seniors' physician visits, at $96.40 next year. Those premiums are usually deducted from Social Security checks.

But because of deflation, there is no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment planned for 2010 -- yet Medicare premiums are set to rise anyway to keep pace with the program's overall costs. Thus, seniors would see a net reduction in their Social Security benefits without the fix.

Asked during the briefing just now about the idea of an opt-out public option, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was pointedly non-committal.

"I have not talked to them about that but I can certainly ask if that's something that's been evaluated," Gibbs said, presumably referring to the White House policy shop.

Asked again what President Obama thought about the idea, Gibbs offered one of his most frequent dodges: "I have not talked with him."

Gibbs added the White House is "pleased" with the progress on health care and said when the legislation finally makes it to the Senate floor, "There will be a lot in the legislation that we hope members representing a lot of different constituents can support. I think they will, and I think we'll get health care reform done this year."

White House aides haven't responded to questions about the new idea today.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried during this afternoon's press briefing to draw a distinction between al Qaeda and the Taliban. While it's hardly a sure thing, it's possible that such a distinction might foreshadow a shift in U.S. strategy focusing more on counterinsurgency against al Qaeda than traditional military operations against the Taliban.

"There are differences between al Qaeda and the Taliban," he said.

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The new Democracy Corps (D) poll of New Jersey gives Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine a narrow lead over his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

The numbers: Corzine 41%, Christie 38%, and independent Chris Daggett 14%, with a ±4% margin of error. Two weeks ago, Christie led with 40%, Corzine at 39%, and Daggett with 11%. The result is within the margin of error, but this also means that there have been two separate polls this week showing Corzine with some kind of lead, following a Fairleigh Dickinson poll from two days ago.

The pollster's analysis suggests that Corzine's attacks against Christie over mammogram coverage are working among women voters: "He [Christie] now posts a net favorability rating of -19 with women, down from -7 two weeks ago. Among independent women, the drop is even more pronounced: from -7 two weeks ago to -34 today, with half of independent women giving him an unfavorable rating. This has clearly benefited Corzine in the vote as the governor now leads among women by 14 points (up from 6 points two weeks ago)."

Marco Rubio, the man who hopes to deny Gov. Charlie Crist the Republican Senate nomination in Florida next year, is blasting his party's leadership in Washington for "shrill" rhetoric that he blames on "laziness."

In an interview with TPMDC this morning, Rubio said he's gaining traction against Crist because he's taking a different tack from national Republicans.

"In essence, that shrillness is a product of laziness," he said. "It's a lot harder to defeat people intellectually than it is to smear them. That's true on both sides, by the way."

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I just caught up with Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and asked him about a new idea floating around the Hill that would give states the choice to opt out of a national public option. Just, how nascent is the idea?

Here's what he said: "I've heard about it, I've not seen one...I was in a group like this somebody talking to somebody else, kind of raising it."

Does it sound like something that you could support?

"Honestly, I just don't know enough about it," he said.

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