TPM News

From federal prosecutor to accused violent gangster, pimp, and drug-dealer...That's the unusual career trajectory taken, say the Feds, by Paul Bergrin, who was indicted earlier this month in a 39-count racketeering indictment.

In a drama that could have been made for HBO, Bergrin -- a white-collar defense lawyer who once represented, pro bono, a solider accused of abusing Abu Ghraib detainees -- seems to have allowed his gangster clients to drag him into a world of violent crime. And he may have gone a lot further than Maury Levy ever did for Stringer Bell.

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When President Obama likes a magazine article, White House staffers had better read it.

Obama's must-read is Ron Brownstein's Saturday blog post "A Milestone in the Health Care Journey" at the Atlantic's political Web site.

Politico noted today that Obama found the article, which lauds Max Baucus' approach to health care, a good summary of the cost controls in the health care bill.

An administration official tells TPMDC that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel assigned the article as homework during a recent meeting.

According to the official, Emanuel told senior staffers "not to come back to the next day's meeting if they hadn't read the article."

Staff of the Southern Voice, a gay weekly in Atlanta and one of the handful of publications shut down abruptly by parent company Window Media last week, have received a $12,000 matching grant to start a new publication.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Lloyd E. Russell Foundation, which provides grants to organizations in the LGBQT and leather communities, will provide the matching grant to the Voice's founder and former owner, Chris Cash, and its erstwhile editor, Laura Douglas-Brown.

Cash and Douglas-Brown have been raising money through a new web site, Their yet-to-be-named publication will have both print and online editions.

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Doug Hoffman, the unsuccessful Conservative Party candidate in the recent NY-23 special election, will reportedly not ask for a recount in the race, says News 10 Now.

I called Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan, asking for confirmation or other comment, and he said simply that a statement will be released later today.

The latest results, with 628 absentee ballots left to be counted, have Democrat Bill Owens beating Hoffman by 48.3%-46.0%, with a raw-vote margin of 3,397 votes.

Owens was sworn in two and a half weeks ago, after Hoffman had conceded the election. The correction of routine clerical errors, however, narrowed Owens' margin from 5,000 votes to about 3,000, leading Hoffman to take back his concession. Wednesday night, Hoffman charged that the election was stolen: "ACORN, the unions and Democratic Party were scared, and that's why they tampered with the ballots of voters in NY-23."

Pretend for a moment that you're Michael Steele. You won the RNC chairmanship earlier this year, and have been at the helm of the GOP for months as it has waged a fierce internal battle over the future of the party. You also have a reputation for being a bit of a buffoon. So the off-year elections roll around, and things go OK. Dede gets Scozzafav'd, but for the most part the media trains its eyes on gubernatorial pick ups in New Jersey and Virginia and declares victory for the GOP.

You might think that's a pretty good outcome. But Steele apparently wanted more credit for the Christie and McDonnell wins. So what's a political chief to do?

According to Politico the answer he arrived at was 'fire my communications director and fill the void with CNN's celebrity GOP talking head Alex Castellanos."

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Over the weekend, Washington Times employees wondered what was going on when a group of men began hauling boxes out of the large executive office that was used by former Executive Editor John Solomon, a newsroom source tells TPM.

The four middle-aged men closed the blinds in the office and stayed in it for at least two hours, the source says. They left carrying a small box and some other items, in plain view of staffers on weekend duty. Then a pair of men went into the office suite used by Solomon and his assistant, on the mezzanine level of the paper, and carried out several moving boxes on a cart, according to the source.

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A new survey of Wisconsin by Public Policy Polling (D) finds Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold ahead of former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who has been mulling a possible challenge to the three-term incumbent.

The numbers: Feingold 50%, Thompson 41%, with a ±3.5% margin of error. Feingold is also tested against the two lesser-known Republican businessmen currently in the race, leading Dave Westlake by 47%-32% and Terrence Wall by 48%-34%.

Feingold has an approval rating of 45%, with a disapproval of 37%, and President Obama's rating is tied at 47%-47%. Thompson, despite having been elected governor four times in the 1980's and 1990's, has not fared well since he left office to become Georg eW. Bush's first Secretary of Health and Human Services, and later an unsuccessful presidential candidate -- his favorable rating is in negative territory, at 38%-45%.

"A lot of Democrats were scared yet another of their seats would go on the vulnerable list when Tommy Thompson said he was interested in running for the Senate last week," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the pollster's analysis. "But Thompson's popularity is not what it used to be, and it looks like Russ Feingold is in a solid position."