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More stories this week about the delay in Treasury appointments, most notably someone to run the Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, a prominent Wall Street executive was approached about the job--I'm now told a number of times--because he was that rare fit. He'd been at a big firm but he left to start his own boutique investment house before the s**t hit the fan financial troubles last fall and thus wasn't tainted by the most recent problems on Wall Street. He turned Geithner down and so Neel Kashkari, the Bush holdover, continues to hang on.

At this point, something will have to give. Either the administration and Congress and the public will have to accept people coming straight from the tainted financial firms or give the jobs to the Christina Romers of the world, academics who don't have the Wall Street taint and don't consider making less than $200K to be a dramatic lifestyle change.

Academics are fine but it would help to have some financial types in there who know the firms and where the bodies are buried. Lee Sachs, a Clinton veteran remains over there at Treasury, but more ex-Wall Streeters are going to have to come in at some point. Obama bent his lobbying rules to allow Mark Patterson, the former Goldman Sachs lobbyist, to become Geithner's chief of staff. More rule bending is on its way.

The stimulus bill is about to be signed into law, but debate continues to rage over the executive-pay limits that were inserted into the measure by Senate Democrats.

As we reported yesterday (and Politico follows on today), the Obama administration has several options to slow down or revise the new compensation caps. Issuing a signing statement to invalidate enforcement of the limits are the most unlikely outcome -- purely due to the political blowback that would result if Obama borrowed such a famous Bush-era tactic.

Which leaves the year-long window for the Treasury Department to release rules implementing the new pay caps. That certainly sounds like a long enough time to devise a way around the limits, but the financial industry is calling for Treasury to step in much more quickly ... in fact, before the week is out.

"The next step is to go to Treasury, so that's where we're going to focus on," Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, told me. "They have a year to write the regulations, [but] we need guidance now ... ideally by the end of the week."

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Norm Coleman's legal team is clearly getting an early start on a very important task: Laying the groundwork for an appeal.

Yesterday they asked the court to reconsider their ruling to not count certain categories of rejected ballots. And today they've continued to submit evidence from one of those categories into the record, ballots for which the voter failed to sign the application form.

The reason you would continue to submit evidence in a rejected category, to put it simply, is to make an appeal much easier. Coleman's team is building up the evidentiary record that can be used in an appeals court -- or perhaps the Senate itself -- and the evidence will be assembled in case a higher judge rules with them as a matter of law that they should be counted.

So there you go.

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Allen Stanford, the billionaire Texas banker, has been charged with orchestrating a fraudulent, multibillion dollar investment scheme, the SEC announced in a press release this morning.

An SEC spokeswoman called it "a fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world."

There's also more detail on Stanford's alleged scheme, which seems to have involved selling certificates of deposit worth $8 billion based on fraudulent returns.

From the release:

The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in Dallas, alleges that acting through a network of SGC financial advisers, SIB has sold approximately $8 billion of so-called "certificates of deposit" to investors by promising improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates. These rates were supposedly earned through SIB's unique investment strategy, which purportedly allowed the bank to achieve double-digit returns on its investments for the past 15 years.

According to the SEC's complaint, the defendants have misrepresented to CD purchasers that their deposits are safe, falsely claiming that the bank re-invests client funds primarily in "liquid" financial instruments (the portfolio); monitors the portfolio through a team of 20-plus analysts; and is subject to yearly audits by Antiguan regulators.


There's also a possible connection to the Bernard Madoff case. The release continues:
Recently, as the market absorbed the news of Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme, SIB attempted to calm its own investors by falsely claiming the bank has no "direct or indirect" exposure to the Madoff scheme.


The release does not give details as to the nature of that exposure.

But there are other details reminiscent of Madoff:

Others charged along with Stanford are James Davis, the chief financial officer for Stanford International Bank (the wing of Stanford's financial empire implicated in the alleged fraud) and Laura Pendergest-Holt, chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group.

According to the release, Pendergest-Holt had no financial services or securities industry experience before joining Stanford. And Davis was Stanford's college roommate.

In the same vein, the agency notes that the investment committee for Stanford International Bank "is comprised of Stanford; Stanford's father who resides in Mexia, Texas; another Mexia resident with business experience in cattle ranching and car sales." That committee is charged with managing the bank's multi-billion dollar portfolio of assets.

And according to the New York Times' examination of the complaint itself, the SEC acted after it subpoenaed Stanford and Davis for testimony and documents that would help account for $8 billion in assets, and received no response.

As for Pendergast-Holt, the chief financial officer, she claimed that only Stanford and Davs had access to the bank's assets.

Separately, Reuters just reported that about 15 people, some wearing jackets identifying them as U.S. marshals, were seen entering Stanford's Houston office this morning.

Reuters reports:

Federal agents with the U.S. Marshals Service entered the Houston office of Stanford Financial Group Tuesday, according to a Reuters eyewitness on the scene.

Mum's the word for George Will and the Washington Post when it comes to explaining how misinformation on global warming got into Will's most recent column.

Yesterday morning we called Will to ask him about the misrepresentations in his Sunday column. We also called Fred Hiatt, the editor of the paper's editorial page, to ask about the editing process that the Post's editorial page employs. Neither chose to answer our questions.

As we reported yesterday, Will twice misrepresented the facts in his Sunday column, to make it appear that there's no expert consensus that warming is happening.

In one case, Will wrote that the respected Arctic Climate Research Center had found that global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979. But within hours, the ACRC had put up a statement saying those levels have in fact significantly decreased, and adding: "We do not know where George Will is getting his information."

In the second, Will, apparently seizing on a year-old (and since corrected) BBC story, wrote: "[A]ccording to the World Meteorological Organization, there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." That's technically true, since 1998 was a particularly hot year. But the implication was that the organization doesn't believe warming is occurring. Will didn't tell readers that the WMO had followed up by confirming its uncontroversial view that global warming is continuing, and making clear that gauging climate change by looking only at one year is all but useless.

So there's no question that, whatever Will's intention, his column misinformed readers. But here's what happened when we tried to talk about all this yesterday morning with Will and Hiatt:

Will's assistant told us that Will might get back to us later in the day to talk about the column. And Hiatt said he was too busy to talk about it just then, but that he'd try to respond to emailed questions. So we emailed him yesterday's post, with several questions about the editing process, then followed up with another email late yesterday afternoon.

But still nothing from either of them, over twenty-four hours after the first contact was made. Nor has the online version of Will's column been updated, even to reflect the fact that the ACRC has utterly disavowed the claim Will attributes to it.

We're hearing that the Post's editing process for opinion pieces is virtually non-existent. Maybe that makes sense in some cases -- it certainly seems reasonable to give most columnists a freer hand than straight news reporters get. But it's difficult to know for sure when the Post won't talk about it. And that approach sure didn't serve the paper well here.

As for Will, it's not hard to understand why he wouldn't want to discuss a column as misleading as Sunday's.

Disappointing advocates of stricter gun laws, the Obama Justice Department is defending a midnight regulation that allows concealed firearms in national parks. Three groups, including the Brady Campaign, have filed a lawsuit to overturn the law. The Obama administration has countered that the rule will not affect the environment, public health or safety. Nonetheless, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has asked for a review of the rule. (Washington Post)

Texas state Rep. Lon Burnam (R) filed a resolution Monday to impeach a judge on the state's Supreme Court. Burnam became concerned after Judge Sharon Keller refused to keep court offices open after five o'clock on the day that an inmate was scheduled to be executed. The inmate's lawyer was unable to file an appeal in time and the man was executed. Burnam is seeking an investigation into Keller for gross neglect of duty. (Associated Press)

A conservative watchdog group has announced that it is suing the federal government to get access to details of how TARP funds were spent last fall. Freedom Watch founder Larry Klayman explained in a press release his concern that money was doled out to banks based on political influence, fueled in part by failure of the government to respond to a request for details filed under the Freedom of Information Act in December. (The Hill)

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It's hard to envision a president more sharply divergent from his predecessor than Barack Obama is from George W. Bush. But Obama seems to share at least one personality trait with Bush -- the propensity to bestow nicknames on his advisers.

In its profile today of White House economic counselor Larry Summers, the New York Times notes that Obama jokingly refers to the former Harvard University president as "Professor" and occasionally addresses his economic aides as "propeller-heads" (likely not a reference to the British pop-music act).

And Obama's team has embraced the nickname, according to the Times, with budget director Peter Orszag distributing "propeller-head hats" during a recent fiscal policy meeting. Aside from that piece of color, the profile is notable for the contentious questions it did not tackle: Summers was not asked about his reported shouting match with a senior House Democrat over infrastructure funding, nor about his efforts to remove stringent executive pay limits from the stimulus bill.

So how are the political fortunes right now for New York Governor David Paterson and the newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand? The answer, according to a new Quinnipiac poll: Horrible, with both of them trailing potential challengers in the Democratic primary in 2010.

The poll says that Paterson would lose nomination against state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo by a whopping 55%-23%, while Gillibrand is behind Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a champion of gun control, by 34%-24%.

In a general election, Paterson is tied 43%-43% with Rudy Giuliani, while Cuomo has a 51%-37% lead over Rudy. Gillibrand is still ahead in a general election against Republican Congressman Peter King, with a 42%-26% lead. Unfortunately, there is no match-up of McCarthy against King for comparison.

It gets worse for Paterson. Only 35% approve of how he handled the process of picking a new Senator, with 52% disapproving. Those numbers are distributed pretty evenly across all party lines. Gillibrand herself gets a better approval number on her own specific appointment, with 45% approving of her selection and 33% disapproving, again distributed evenly across party identification.

The primary is a certainly a while from now, and a lot of things can change. But this is not a good starting point.

Obama Signing Stimulus Bill Today, In Denver President Obama is scheduled to leave Washington at 10 a.m. ET, en route to Colorado. He will arrive in Colorado at 1:30 p.m. ET, where he will conduct a 2:15 p.m. ET tour of a solar panel installation in Denver -- and then at 2:40 p.m. ET, he will sign the stimulus bill into law at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Afterwards, he'll leave for Phoenix, Arizona, where he will talk about the housing crisis tomorrow.

Obama Giving Interview With Canadian TV, Ahead Of Visit This Thursday President Obama is also preparing for his first trip to another country, namely Canada, with an interview set for this morning at 9:25 a.m. ET with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. During Thursday's visit, Obama will meet Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal opposition leader Michael Ignatieff, with trade issues expected to be a major point of discussion.

Japanese P.M. Will Be First Foreign Leader To Visit Obama Hillary Clinton has announced that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso will be the first foreign leader to visit President Obama at the White House. The meeting will happen next week.

WaPo: Geithner's Bailout Speech Spoiled By Last-Minute About-Face The Washington Post reports that Tim Geithner's speech last week on the revamped financial bailout -- which was heavily criticized for a lack of detail -- happened that way because of a last-minute decision to drop the whole plan he'd been working on: "They needed an alternative and found it in a previously considered initiative to pair private investments and public loans to try to buy the risky assets and take them off the books of banks."

NYT: Obama Fights With Congressional GOP -- And Gets Help From Republican Governors The New York Times says that the stimulus bill has shown a split between the Congressional Republicans and the party's governors -- that is, the GOPers who actually have real political power right now have almost entirely supported the stimulus bill. Florida Governor Charlie Crist told the Times: "As a governor, the pragmatism that you have to exercise because of the constitutional obligation to balance your budget is a very compelling pull."

Pope To Meet With Pelosi Nancy Pelosi will be meeting Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI, as part of her official trip this week to Italy. The Pope is officially receiving Pelosi in her capacity as a head of state, but The Hill points out there could be some friction -- Benedict has endorsed religious sanctions, from denying communion to full-blown excommunication, against pro-choice Catholic politicians.

Steele Reaches Out To The Online "Rightroots" As part of his efforts to modernize the Republican Party's organization and reach out on the Internet, Michael Steele and former RNC rival Saul Anuzis held a meeting with 300 conservative techies this past Friday morning. "When we get to 2010, I want my campaigns here," Steele declared, holding up a BlackBerry. A tip for Steele: Don't seek out any advice from this man.

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