TPM News

At 9:30 tomorrow morning the NRSC is calling on Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) to help the group raise a little money from some high-dollar donors. Ensign -- whose $50.00 in first quarter fundraising for his own campaign might call into question his ability to bring in the bucks for anyone these days -- will be the "draw" at this month's regular NRSC coffee for high-dollar donors.

According to an invitation to the event obtained by TPMDC, Ensign will be the guest of honor when Policy Board Members (those who gave at least $15,000 to the NRSC in the last year) gather at NRSC headquarters for coffee. But you don't need to have 15 grand lying around to grab breakfast with Ensign in D.C. tomorrow morning. The cost for other guests is $250.00 for individuals, and $500.00 for PACs. But don't clear your calendar -- the NRSC says Ensign's coffee is already sold out.

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On the heels of new public polling showing Gov. Charlie Crist (I) leading the Florida Senate race -- mostly thanks to Democrats and Independents, who seem to be choosing Crist over Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) -- comes confirmation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reached out to Crist by phone recently.

The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the call this morning. The paper said that news that Reid is communicating with Crist, who will be looking for a party to caucus with if he gets to the Senate, is evidence that Reid might be hedging his bets in the contest.

Nonsense, Reid's office told TPMDC.

"Sometimes a phone call is just a phone call," Reid spokesperson Jim Manley said.

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Of the handful of Supreme Court hopefuls said to be on President Obama's short list, Elena Kagan was thought by the administration to be one of the safer picks: much less outspoken ideologically, and able throughout her career to swim among conservatives and liberals alike. That reasoning may have paid off on day one: GOP senators have been congratulatory, and in some cases positive, about her nomination. But, as is common for the minority during Supreme Court fights, they are leaving themselves plenty of room to revisit their position, if and when they decide to turn the debate over the nomination into a full-bore political fight.

Take for instance Republican Whip Jon Kyl, who cast doubt on the likelihood that Republicans will obstruct Kagan's confirmation, telling reporters this afternoon, "there won't be a Republican position. It's hard for me to see--though we have to look at all her record--that there would be grounds for filibustering her nomination."

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On Tuesday officials from some of the major companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will face senators for the first in a long series of congressional hearings.

First up, at 10 a.m. ET, the presidents of BP and Transocean, the rig owner, as well as a top official with cementing services provider Halliburton, will appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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How does the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary end? Last month, most observers could have told you: with a decisive victory by Sen. Arlen Specter. But things have changed dramatically since then, setting the stage for a knock-down, drag-out final push to the May 18 primary with a final result that's anyone's guess.

Insiders on both sides agree that the public polls are accurate, in as much as they show Rep. Joe Sestak has the momentum moving into the final two weeks of campaigning. So Specter's gone negative, launching an attack on Sestak's Naval career supporters of the former Admiral are calling another Swiftboating.

Here's how the race plays out moving forward: Sestak will systematically try to dismantle Specter's historical advantages, claiming that his past as a Republican means he can't be trusted with the Democratic agenda. Meanwhile, Specter will continue to suggest that Sestak is a foolish -- and perhaps even dangerous -- choice.

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Tea Party activists have now taken control of the official GOP platform in even the blue state of Maine -- but it remains to be seen whether this will have any actual influence on the state party's politicians.

At the Maine GOP convention on Saturday, Tea Party activists succeeded in substituting their own platform, stating that "The Tea Party movement is reminiscent of the principled revolt that led to the birth of the Republican Party in 1854," in place of the party establishment's original draft.

Among the policies the new platform calls for: "Direct the State of Maine to join with other states in asserting our 10th amendment sovereignty rights which protect us from unconstitutional federal government intrusions"; "Return to the principles of Austrian Economics, and redirect the economy back to one of incentives to save and invest"; and "Pass and implement Fed bill #1207 (Introduced by Ron Paul), to Audit the Federal Reserve, as the first step in Ending the Fed."

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Republicans and Democrats are unanimous: the end of Bob Bennett's career is a loss for the Senate--perhaps for the country. In fact, it is with almost a sense of reluctance that GOP leaders say they'll support the eventual winner of the Republican primary in Utah--likely a Tea Party-backed insurgent candidate with no experience in politics.

Part of that sentiment, no doubt, has to do with the myopic and inward-looking culture of the Senate itself. Bennett, for better or worse, was part of the club, and the club protects its own. But Bennett--no centrist, he--was, by all accounts ousted thanks to conservative anger over of a handful of instances in which he worked with Democrats, or cast difficult, but perhaps necessary, votes. He voted for TARP, for instance, and he co-authored a far-reaching health care reform bill with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

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Audra Shay, the chairman of the Young Republicans National Federation, resigned today, citing personal reasons.

"Recently the stress of running a national organization has begun to take a major toll on my personal, and professional, my health mentally and physically," she wrote in a letter to board members. "The responsibilities or running this organization without a salary or full time staff has become overwhelming. I have recently lost two of my family members and found out yesterday that a third has 3 months to live. With these circumstances I have spent many hours praying as to what my path was to be. Today I am letting you know the answer to that question is that I will be resigning as YRNF Chairman."

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The state of Florida paid George Rekers -- the anti-gay leader recently caught with a male escort -- $120,000 to testify against allowing gay couples to adopt children, testimony that was deemed not credible by the judge.

Rekers was paid a $60,900 retainer. He also received a $59,793 payment for hourly billing, according to document provided to TPMmuckraker by the Department of Children and Families. That comes out to 402 hours at about $150 per hour. The payments were made by the office of the Florida attorney general, Bill McCollum, which was defending the DCF's policy.

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