TPM News

The other day, two allies of Donald Rumsfeld spoke to US News, to trash the Pulitzer committee for awarding an investigative reporting prize to the New York Times' David Barstow, for his story on the Pentagon's use of retired military analysts to publicly cheerlead for the Iraq war.

"Does the Pulitzer give prizes for works of fiction? Perhaps they just got the wrong category," scoffed former Pentagon Assistant Secretary Dorrance Smith.

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Harry Reid had a fascinating interview today on MSNBC, discussing Arlen Specter:

Some highlights:

• Andrea Mitchell asked about a line from Reid's new book, in which he said that then-Republican Specter "is always there when we don't need him." Reid responded: "Well, I hope he's gonna be with us when we need him. I'm comfortable that's the case, I'm happy he's with us. We've got another Senator coming soon -- but everyone should understand, the difference between 58, 59, 60 Senators is just fairly illusionary, because we still have to work on a bipartisan basis with whatever we get done."

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Last week we introduced you to Marc Correra, a longtime ally of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who appointed his wife Claudia Correra in 2004 to be the state's first "international protocol officer." Last month Correra's name surfaced as the most successful in a list of dozens of "placement agents" paid by hedge funds and other money managers to secure investments in the state teachers' retirement fund; he was listed as having netted at least $11.5 million in fees for channeling around a billion dollars in pension investments to various money mangers -- including a controversial $90 million investment in a near-worthless "toxic waste" tranche of a subprime mortgage-backed CDO. The CDO, Vanderbilt Financial Trust, was put together by a Chicago firm called Vanderbilt Capital Group.

At the time the state said it did not know Correra's fee for the transaction, and his attorney strenuously denied his involvement whatsoever with Vanderbilt in the Albuquerque Journal:

"That did not happen," Bregman said Friday. "Marc Correra never received a fee for that transaction. He was not involved in that transaction in any way, shape or form."
But that's not what Vanderbilt told New Mexico, according to a document the state released yesterday.

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It's been just over a week since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) switched parties, and already progressive activists are taking the temperature in Pennsylvania to see if the climate's right to retire him. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with some of the Netroots' most visible blogs, is conducting a week-long straw poll to determine both the level of progressive grassroots support for challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 primary, and whether the challenger should be Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

The development resembles in some ways the early days Ned Lamont's successful campaign--backed by the progressive grassroots--to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut primary. Lieberman, of course, turned around and beat Lamont in the general election by running as an Independent, but election laws in Pennsylvania would prevent Specter from doing the same thing.

For his part, Sestak seems to be positioning himself to become Netroots darling. In the last week he has grown more and more critical of both the party establishment for thoughtlessly backing Specter, and of Specter himself, who he says is an unreliable representative for Pennsylvania Democrats.

So, as the New York Times has reported, the Pentagon's Inspector General has taken the unusual step of withdrawing a report into the department's use of retired military analysts to tout Bush administration policies on network news shows.

The report, released just days before the Bushies left office in January, found that DOD didn't violate prohibitions on using public funds for propaganda, as part of a program that was exposed by David Barstow's Pulitzer-winning New York Times story.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has put out this statement on his committee assignments:

"Senator Reid assured me that I would keep my committee assignments and that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980. It was understood that the issue of subcommittee chairmanships would not be decided until after the 2010 election. Some members of the caucus have raised concerns about my seniority, so the caucus will vote on my seniority at the same time subcommittee chairmanships are confirmed after the 2010 election. I am confident my seniority will be maintained under the arrangement I worked out with Senator Reid. I am eager to continue my work with my colleagues on the various committees on which I serve and will continue to be a staunch and effective advocate for Pennsylvania's and the Nation's priorities."

Harry Reid appeared on CNN this afternoon, and apparently indicated that he may be trying to cut a deal to get Arlen Specter some important committee position.

"Arlen is a senior member of the Senate, and that's significant. I think also we can try to work something out with individual chairmen, and I'm certainly doing that," said Reid. "But I think everyone should just kinda relax and understand that he's a Democrat. We're doing our best to make him happy as a Democrat. I think he is, I've talked to him often. And any other situation I think is something that's kinda being made up."

John Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, has signed a law legalizing gay marriage.

"I have followed closely the debate on this issue," Baldacci said. "I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

The move represents a change in the governor's thinking. "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

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On Monday we brought you news that the Chrysler bond-holding hedge funds courageously defending the U.S. Constitution by holding out for a bigger payout in bankruptcy court were appealing to have their names sealed after receiving death threats.

Blaming a "hostile climate" perpetuated by the Obama administration "publicity campaign," Tom Lauria, the attorney representing the group of twenty hedge fund calling themselves the "Chrysler Non-TARP Lenders," filed a motion to seal claiming the hedge funds "targeted by the president" -- presumably Oppenheimer Funds and Stairway Capital, since those were the only funds associated with the group -- had "received various threats, including dozens of death threats directed to their employees."

But today bankruptcy court Judge Arthur Gonzales denied the motion, seeing "no evidence that authorities found the threats bona fide" -- maybe because the only evidence of said threats cited in the motion was a printout from the comments section of the Washington Post website.

We've excerpted the relevant portion of the motion after the jump, so we'll leave it to you to determine the seriousness of these elusive zealots operating pseudonymously under enigmatic handles (e.g. "jerkhoff").

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Labor organizations may be unsure whether their old allegiances to Sen. Arlen Specter can withstand his new anti-Employee Free Choice stance. But Pennsylvania Democrats aren't nearly as conflicted--they're welcoming the new Republican with open arms, despite an older allegiance to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)

"He's our incumbent senator," noted Abe Amoros, Acting Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Democratic party. "We've welcomed him with open arms."

"Congressman Sestak is one of the hardest working congressmen in Pennsylvania," Amoros said, but, he adds, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Ed Rendell "have promised to back Specter and raise money for him and make campaign appearances throughout the state."

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