TPM News

I just got off the phone with Massachusetts state Sen. Richard Tisei, the leader of the minority Republicans in the state Senate, and he confirmed to me that the GOP is not ruling out a court challenge against any possible new law to quickly fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat through an interim appointment.

Tisei said that when Democrats changed the law in 2004 to provide for special elections instead of gubernatorial appointment -- when John Kerry was running for President and Republican Mitt Romney was Governor -- the GOP offered an amendment to have interim appointments. The Democrats, he said, are all on record shooting it down back then. And Tisei says that Dems can't change the rules to fit the new circumstances of a current vacancy.

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Bonner & Associates, the DC 'strategic grassroots' firm facing a Congressional investigation for sending forged letters opposing the climate bill to members of Congress, is instituting a new No Forgeries ethics program to get out in front of the emerging scandal and ensure its astroturf campaigns are not tainted in the future.

"This is a very rare occurrence," says a Bonner spokesman who asked that his name be withheld as a condition of talking to TPMmuckraker. "In response to it, as of August 11, the company has introduced a five-point check against this sort of thing. And every employee at Bonner has signed it and dated it."

Rule number one: no forged letters.

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is raising money on a survey created by the Republican National Committee, which alleges that GOP voters will be denied care in a reformed health system.

"[T]he RNC is actually suggesting that health insurance reform is a Democratic plot to deny health care to Republicans using voter registration data," reads a letter to supporters.

[I]t is just a preview of the falsehoods, fabrications and outright lies Republicans will be pushing when Congress returns in September. We must be prepared to fight back hard and respond immediately to these outrageous attacks.

Help us reach our $100,000 goal before the August 31st FEC deadline.


H/T Glenn Thrush.

An RNC spokesperson yesterday admitted it was "inartful" to suggest that health care providers would, either voluntarily or by act of law, deny health care to Republican voters--an allegation that the AMA also swatted down.

Yesterday, we got new details on Allen Stanford's alleged $8 billion fraud, with the release of the plea deal signed by the Texas banker's number 2 man.

Jim Davis, Stanford's college roommate and the CFO of the Stanford Financial Group, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction charges. He told prosecutors that the company was a sham from the start, using money from new investors to pay off old ones. Davis also described how for years he helped cover up the scheme, and helped bribe a top Antiguan regulator to keep the SEC off the scent.

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The national Democratic Party is now going there in the fight against Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): Directly attacking the staunch conservative for having taken in the services of prostitutes. And not just that, but the Dems are raising money off of it.

The DSCC has sent out a new e-mail to its supporter list, going after Vitter and hailing his Democratic opponent, Blue Dog Rep. Charlie Melancon. The e-mail has a list, "FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SENATOR DAVID VITTER," and then goes through various follies of his.

Last on the list: "5. David Vitter Confessed to Using D.C. Escort Service. In a revelation embarrassing to the entire state of Louisiana, Vitter in 2007 admitted to being a client of the infamous "D.C. Madam" after his phone number showed up in her records. He later apologized for his "very serious sin."

Check out the full e-mail, after the jump.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) held a packed town hall meeting on health care in her district yesterday afternoon, with special guest Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), with hundreds of people turning out on a weekday afternoon from both sides -- with a lot of interesting stuff said by everyone

Bachmann and Burgess took questions from people both in favor and opposed to President Obama on health care. On multiple occasions, Bachmann thanked all the people who turned out, regardless of where they are on the issues, because they care about the direction of the country -- and it really sounded like she meant it with all sincerity.

And things sure were interesting, with talk about whether the Obama administration will ever leave office, whether Bachmann has given birth more times than a male questioner -- and whether Republicans could have supported a public options in exchange for a carrot to call their own.

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Last night, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos appeared on The O'Reilly factor and echoed a growing conventional wisdom.

"It's pretty clear right now that there aren't the votes in the senate to pass a public health insurance option as much as a majority of Democrats in the House would like it," he said. "It's not going to get through the Senate right now and I think that what Democrats may try to do is remind people of another side of the Kennedy legacy. That was Kennedy the compromiser. Kennedy the negotiator. The man who was willing to take a portion, incremental gain even if he couldn't get everything he was calling for."

Both of those ideas--that the Senate will not pass a public option, and that Ted Kennedy would support giving up on it--are pretty deeply seeded in the media at this point. But compare that to Lawrence O'Donnell--chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee during the Clinton Care years--who says that's all wrong.

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The story of those forged letters to lawmakers sent by a Washington lobby firm has taken another interesting turn.

Bonner and Associates, the firm that sent the letters on behalf of a coal industry client, is now trying to imply that the employee responsible deliberately engineered the episode to discredit Bonner -- but is offering no evidence to support that notion.

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Rex Rammell, a long-shot in the 2010 Idaho governor's race, made a joke about hunting President Obama at an event Tuesday night.

Rammell was speaking to a local Republican group about the state's wolf hunt, for which hunters must pay for "wolf tags." An audience member shouted out a question about "Obama tags."

"Obama tags? We'd buy some of those," Rammell responded.

Rammell said he won't apologize for the comments, but insists he was just joking.

(Late update: Rammell tweeted today about the controversy. "Obama hunting tags was just a joke! Everyone knows Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in Washington D.C.," he wrote.)

The Idaho Democratic Party, of course, is up in arms, and a spokesman for the Idaho Republican Party released a statement that the party "does not condone Rex Rammell's comments, whether in jest or not."

But at least one local Republican defended Rammell.

"It's kind of the bad joke that you laugh at and then move on from. Nobody was going to dwell on it, that's for damn sure," said Terry Kramer, a Republican Twin Falls county commissioner. "It's being blown out of proportion; it was just a one-liner out of the audience."

Rammell later used an interview about the joke to attack Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for not buying the first wolf tag, as he had said he would earlier in the year. When the tags became available, on Monday, the governor was speaking at the funeral of Bruce Sweeney, a 10-term state legislator who served while Otter was lieutenant governor.

"That's a lame excuse," Rammell said.

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OK, just to put the nail in the coffin of any claims that the decision by the Justice Department to drop the pay-to-play investigation of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was political:

The New York Times reports that the U.S. attorney's office sent an official letter to witnesses before the grand jury, informing them that charges would not be brought against Richardson or his aides. "Top Justice Department officials," added the Times, "concurred with Mr. Fouratt's decision to drop the inquiry."

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