TPM News

In his appearance today on the David Letterman show, airing tonight, President Obama brushed off the talk that opposition to his agenda is motivated by racism. Watch the video below.

"I think it's important to realize that I was actually black before the election," Obama said.

The audience laughed, and Letterman followed up with another question: "How long have you been a black man?"

Federal prosecutors have accused a major Democratic fundraiser with ties to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that involved swindling several major banks out of hundreds of millions of dollars, and using some of the proceeds to fund political candidates and PACs.

According to a Justice Department press release, Hassan Nemazee was indicted this afternoon by a grand jury, charged with using fake documents and signatures to bilk Citibank, Bank of America, and HSBC out of over $290 million, in an alleged scheme that dates back to 1998. Nemazee alleged used the Citibank money to repay the B of A loan, and vice versa. And even after being questioned by FBI agents about the Citibank loan last month, Nemazee allegedly went to HSBC to fraudulently draw down a line of credit, which he tried to access funds to pay back Citibank.

You can read the indictment here.

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Speaking at a fundraiser for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords today, Vice President Biden warned that Republicans will try to "break the back of our effort" in the 2010 elections by trying to win 35 seats from traditionally Republican districts that are now held by Democrats.

"It's not that Republicans are bad guys. This is just the bet they've made. They're going to put their chips on movement in the 35 seats in the House that have been traditionally Republican districts and trying to take them back," Biden said, according to the White House pool report.

"If they take them back, this the end of the road for what Barack and I are trying to do. This is their one shot," he went on. "If they don't break the back of our effort in this upcoming election, you're going to see the things we said we're for happen."

If Democrats can keep those seats, he said, Congress will finally see bipartisanship.

"All the hidden Republicans that don't have the courage to vote the way they want to vote because of pressure from the party," Biden said, "it will break the dam and you will see bipartisanship."

The mud is continuing to fly in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. During this round, it's the Republicans throwing it at Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, while also firing back at Dem attacks over GOP nominee Chris Christie's very spotty driving record.

The Star-Ledger reported that Corzine may indirectly have a financial interest in casinos, though even here it's not all that solid. The issue is that Corzine has hedge fund holdings in a company that also own casinos -- and it's against the law in New Jersey for state officials to have business relationships with casino operators.

The hedge fund's parent company says that the casino operations and the hedge fund are managed "totally independently," though the Ledger points out that they share the same address and some of the same staff. The Corzine camp says that Corzine has fully reported his assets in the hedge fund, and that he is not in violation of any laws.

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Cathy Maples beat out 60 others in a charity auction for a dinner with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, bidding a whopping $63,500.

Maples appeared on MSNBC today to talk about her winning bid, which got her a dinner for five with Palin and her husband Todd.

"Sometimes I would like [to hear] her political views on things, and other times I think, just leave politics out of it, have a good dinner and a good conversation 'cause I already know her views," she said.

Maples said she wanted to help out the charity, Ride to Recovery, which provides bicycles and arranges cycling outings for wounded veterans.

She also said she'd vote for Palin in 2012.

"I don't think she lies to get votes," Maples said. She lives in Huntsville, Ala., and said she didn't know if the dinner would be near her or in Alaska, adding the details would be worked out in the next few weeks.

The same auction featured a lunch for three with Karl Rove. That one brought in $7,500 for the charity.

Some Republican foes of ACORN have been calling since last week for a Justice Department investigation of the beleaguered group, in the wake of the now-famous hidden camera scandal.

And it looks like a DOJ probe, of a kind, will indeed go forward.

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Marco Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker and current conservative insurgent GOP candidate for Senate, seems to still have some life in him, despite the rush of money and establishment GOP support to moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that former Gov. Jeb Bush, a hero of the state's conservatives, told a local Republican club that while he is not endorsing either candidate, he does object to the national GOP's support of Crist in the primary over Rubio.

"I think he [Rubio] should be given a chance," said Bush. "I think that the idea that the national party would pick a winner a year and a half before an election is the wrong way to go."

Rubio is also aiming to get some mileage out of the latest right-wing target: ACORN.

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Finally making use of First Lady Michelle Obama's immense popularity, the White House pulled her into the fight for health care reform on Sept. 18, with a speech to women's rights activists. An April poll found 72 percent of Americans view her favorably. So we wondered, why -- despite criticism of her bared arms, despite last year's attacks on her patriotism -- she's become so beloved in the eyes of so many.

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Every First Lady takes on certain causes, and one of Obama's is healthy eating. Here, the First Lady attends the opening of a new farmers' market near the White House on Sept. 17. "Farmers' markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals. They help America's family farmers ... That's the good thing about farmers' markets. You get to know the people who grow your food," she said.

Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




Obama works with students at the White House vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden. The garden, she says, has "been one of the greatest things that I've done in my life so far.'' The first thing world leaders ask her about, she says, is the garden.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




Obama plants trees in honor of the Edward M. Kennedy National Service Bill in April. Both Obamas have spoken highly of the values of community service.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




In June, Obama volunteers at the Capitol City Food Bank with congressional spouses.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




Obama and her husband (not pictured) paint at a Habitat for Humanity house on Sept. 11, a national day of service, along with students at George Washington University. The First Lady has promised to speak at the college's commencement if students perform 100,000 hours of community service.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




The First Family stuffs backpacks with books, food and pictures of Bo for troops at Fort McNair in June.

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Michelle Obama announced early on that one of her personal causes would be supporting military families. Here, she speaks to sailors and their families at an event marking the homecoming of the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in July.

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The First Lady greets military families at the White House on the Fourth of July.

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With all her campaigns, however, Obama says her first duty is as "mom-in-chief."

Newscom/2009 Black Star




She's also taken up the push to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. Here, she practices fencing as part of a demonstration with Olympic athletes on the White House lawn on Sept. 16.

Newscom/Sipa Press




With degrees from Princeton and Harvard, the First Lady often extols the virtues of a good education. Here, she reads with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, to children at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

Newscom/2009 Black Star




Obama gives a commencement address at the University of California at Merced.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




At a meeting with board members of Communities In Schools. The board room is a familiar setting for the former hospital executive, lawyer and member of several boards.

Newscom/Samantha Appleton/White House Photo




She also fulfills a more traditional role as patron of the arts. Here, she applauds during a jazz performance at the White House in June. She's also held a poetry jam (a White House first) and a country music performance.

Newscom/UPI Photo




The First Lady cuts the ribbon at the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new American Wing.

Newscom/Anthony Dixon/WENN.com




Another traditional role: First Hostess. Here, she greets well-wishers on the day after her husband's inauguration.

Newscom/2009 Black Star




With the President at a black-tie gala for the country's governors in February.

Newscom/2009 Black Star




Obama has tried to open up the White House more than her predecessors. Here, she invites culinary students into the White House kitchen.

Newscom/UPI Photo




The First Lady welcomes VIPs such as President Clinton and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

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The First Couple.

Newscom/Pete Souza/White House Photo

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today that, contrary to claims made by his predecessor Tom Ridge, he never felt political pressure to raise the terror alert level.

"I can tell you unequivocally," he told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, "I never got any political pressure of any type ... No one raised the political issue in any way, shape or form."

In a new book, Ridge claimed he was "strongly urged" to raise the terror alert right before the 2004 elections, and that he wondered, "'Is this about security or politics?" Days after its release, Ridge appeared on several TV shows to counter his own claims, saying, "There was no pressure at all."

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