TPM News

The Hill reports today that the House Office of Congressional Ethics has asked lobbyists for information and documents relating to eight House members: five Republicans and three Democrats.

The members are Reps. John Campbell (R-CA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Christopher Lee (R-NY), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Tom Price (R-GA) and Mel Watt (D-NC). All of them serve on either the Financial Services Committee or the Ways and Means Committee.

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Former Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who retired in 2008 while under investigation as part of the probe of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, announced last week that the Department of Justice has closed its investigation of him and will not press charges.

The DOJ declined to comment to TPMmuckraker.

Abramoff had hired Doolittle's wife's firm for event planning work; Abramoff gave Doolittle's office $140,000 over the years; and Abramoff allegedly gave gifts like tickets to the Washington Redskins to Doolittle's staff in exchange for legislative favors.

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's switch from Republican to independent is still having some after-effects in state politics, the St. Petersburg Times reports, with Crist's appointees to the state GOP executive committee now being dismissed from their posts.

Under Florida law and the party's rules, the governor gets to appoint ten at-large members to the executive committee of his state party. But since Crist is no longer a Republican at all, his ten appointees have now been removed.

We asked Florida GOP spokesperson Katie Betta whether any of the ten individuals had expressed a desire to remain in their positions with the party. "I don't believe we encountered an instance where this was a problem, because these positions no longer exist on the committee," said Betta. "And those members who served on the committee serve with an understanding of the constraints of that position."

The Louisville Courier-Journal has a much-discussed story today about Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul and his lack of certification from a mainstream ophthalmology board.

As we reported last month, Paul is the founder and president of the National Board of Ophthalmology, a certifying board for eye doctors that has left little public record, and whose legitimacy seems unclear at best. He hasn't been certified by the mainstream board since 2005. He is certified by the NBO.

The Courier-Journal points out today that Paul's board "is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, which works with the American Medical Association to approve such specialty boards."

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One of President Obama's most influential advisers has softened his position on derivative reform, suggesting for the first time that he might be amenable to Sen. Blanche Lincoln's plan to force major financial institutions to spin off their lucrative swaps desks. The development comes as members of Congress who back Lincoln's plan push to preserve it as part of Wall Street reform legislation. But aides on the Hill who back the plan remain skeptical.

According to the Financial Times, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker has opened somewhat to the Lincoln plan, provided it not ban banks from hedging their own risk, or that of their customers, by trading in derivatives.

Just a month ago, though, Volcker, who chairs Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, had a fairly cut and dry view: "I am...aware of, and share, concerns about the extensive reach of Senator Lincoln's proposed amendment," Volcker wrote in a letter to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd. "[M]y sense is that the understandable concerns about commercial bank trading in derivatives are reasonably dealth with in...your reform bill as presently drafted."

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American geologists who assessed Afghanistan's mineral deposits realized the potentially vast economic benefits of the minerals as far back as 2007, according to U.S. Geological Survey documents from that time.

The New York Times story this morning reporting the "discovery" in Afghanistan of a $1 trillion trove of minerals like lithium has already been the focus of plenty of scrutiny from journalists questioning how new this discovery, which was presented by the Obama Administration as a potential game-changer, really is.

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Alvin Greene, as you probably know, didn't do any campaigning before getting nearly 60% of the vote in the South Carolina Democratic primary for Senate. He didn't have yard signs or a web site, and he didn't attend the state party's big political events, including the convention and the Galivants Ferry Stump.

His opponent, Vic Rawl, did campaign, and now he's alleging possible wrongdoing in the primary and protesting the results.

But something that's been all but ignored over the past week is the fact that, for all his campaigning, Rawl had no more name recognition than Greene.

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South Carolina Judge Vic Rawl -- who was beaten badly by the unheard of Alvin Greene in last week's South Carolina Democratic Senate primary -- announced today that he's filed a protest of the election results with the state party.

"We have filed this protest not for my personal or political gain, but on behalf of the people of South Carolina," Rawl said in the statement. "There is a cloud over Tuesday's election. There is a cloud over South Carolina, that affects all of our people, Democrats and Republicans, white and African-American alike."

Since Greene's surprising victory last week, the unemployed Army vet has made the cable news rounds -- and has come across as thoroughly not ready for prime time. Watch the highlights. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) has gone so far as to suggest that Greene may be a "plant."

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